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Google loses two execs: one for Messaging and Workspace, another for Payments

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Google had a pair of high-ranking executives leave this week. The first was Bill Ready, Google’s “President of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users,” who left to become CEO of Pinterest. The second big departure is Javier Soltero, who was vice president and GM of Google Workspace, Google’s paid business app, and was the leader of Google Messaging. Both executives made big changes to Google in their nearly three-year stints at the company. Now that they are leaving, it’s unclear what the future of their respective products holds.

Ready was only at Google for two-and-a-half years, where his highest-profile move was presiding over the disastrous rollout of a significant Google Pay revamp. The new Google Pay app was spearheaded by Ready’s payments team, led by another recently ousted executive, Caesar Sengupta. The Google Pay revamp brought an app originally developed for India to the US, where the requirement for phone number-based identity came with a huge list of downgrades: The Google Pay website had to be stripped of payment functionality, the app no longer supported multiple accounts, and you couldn’t be logged in to multiple devices.

The rollout of the new app was also clumsy. Slowly, over a month or two, users were kicked out of the old Google Pay and had to transition to a new app. The new identity system wasn’t backward compatible with the old Google Pay, though, which meant users still on the old app couldn’t send money to users on the new app.

According to Pulse network (a wing of Discover card) Google Pay has 3 percent of the entire US NFC market. Keep in mind Google entered this market years before Apple.

According to Pulse network (a wing of Discover card) Google Pay has 3 percent of the entire US NFC market. Keep in mind Google entered this market years before Apple.

The new Google Pay was announced one year into Ready’s tenure at Google and launched in March 2021. The app initially came with big plans for expansion, including a wild announcement of Google-branded bank accounts. Sengupta left Google one month after the US launch of the new Google Pay, which triggered an “exodus” of employees, according to Insider. The report said, “Dozens of employees and executives” left the payments team after Sengupta’s departure, with one employee saying there was “frustration” the new Google Pay “wasn’t growing at the rate we wanted it to.”

What happened afterward seems like a complete scrapping of the original “New Google Pay” game plan. Google generally launches a product in the US first and then slowly rolls it out to the rest of the world, but after the initial poor reception, the new Google Pay never saw a wide rollout outside of the US. Google canceled its heavily promoted plans for a Google bank account, even though, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company already had 400,000 curious users sign up for the public waitlist.

Ready appointed a new leader of Payments this January, a move Bloomberg described as a “reset” of Google’s payments strategy. Ready also made headlines at the time by saying, “Crypto is something we pay a lot of attention to,” though no Google product has emerged.

Four months later, at Google I/O 2022, another revamp of Google Pay was announced, re-branding the product to “Google Wallet.” That’s right, after a big revamp of Google’s payment app in 2021, there’s now another new revamp in 2022. Ready is now leaving five months after appointing a new Payments lead and setting these plans in motion, but he won’t be around for the launch of Google Wallet. Between the departure of old Payments lead Sengupta, Sengupta’s boss, Ready, and “dozens” of team members, it sure seems like the payments team ended up cleaning house.

This nightmare of a map has the US with Google Pay and Google Wallet co-existing, while the rest of the world gets a cleaner solution of one payment app: Wallet.

This nightmare of a map has the US with Google Pay and Google Wallet co-existing, while the rest of the world gets a cleaner solution of one payment app: Wallet.

Google

At the heart of Google’s payments turbulence is probably the fact that most estimates put Google Pay at 3-4 percent of the US NFC payments market, which is way behind Apple’s nearly 92 percent market share. It’s an embarrassing loss considering Google was a pioneer in NFC payments and entered the market three years before Apple.

A big part of Google’s payment problems is this kind of instability, with Google’s payment app running through four different brands in 10 years (Google Wallet, then Android Pay, then Google Pay, now Google Wallet again). It still doesn’t seem like the company has arrived at a great solution with the new Google Wallet. The current plan—which could change once Ready’s replacement is hired—is for Google Wallet and Google Pay to co-exist in the US. In the rest of the world, there will be one payment app, Wallet, which sounds like a clean, reasonable offering. In the US and Singapore, though, Google doesn’t want to kill the widely panned new Google Pay app, so Google Wallet and Google Pay will be available. Why? If Wallet is rolling out to the rest of the world, the codebase clearly has the full payment feature set, why not just roll it out everywhere?

Google is still searching for a VP to replace Bill Ready, but the interim Payments president will be longtime Googler Nick Fox. Fox was previously front and center in the Google tech landscape as the head of Google messaging when the company produced Google Allo. Allo was Google’s main messaging app from 2016-2018, lasting about 576 days on the market. Since Allo, Fox has been running Google Search.

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Microsoft trackers run afoul of DuckDuckGo, get added to blocklist

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Aurich Lawson

DuckDuckGo, the privacy-minded search company, says it will block trackers from Microsoft in its desktop web browser, following revelations in May that certain scripts from Bing and LinkedIn were getting a pass.

In a blog post, DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg says that he’s heard users’ concerns since security researcher Zach Edwards’ thread that “we didn’t meet their expectations around one of our browser’s web tracking protections.” Weinberg says that, over the next week, the company’s browser will add Microsoft to the list of third-party tracking scripts blocked by its mobile and desktop browsers, as well as extensions for other browsers.

“Previously, we were limited in how we could apply our 3rd-Party Tracker Loading Protection on Microsoft tracking scripts due to a policy requirement related to our use of Bing as a source for our private search results,” Weinberg writes. “We’re glad this is no longer the case. We have not had, and do not have, any similar limitation with any other company.”

There are a lot of pervasive, identifying things that load up on most modern webpages. At issue in DuckDuckGo’s apps was its default blocking of scripts from companies like Facebook and Google loading on third-party websites. DuckDuckGo, which uses Microsoft’s Bing as one of its sources for search results, had to allow some of Microsoft’s trackers to load “due to a policy requirement.” In a Reddit response at the time of the revelation, Weinberg noted that Microsoft’s trackers were still blocked in most ways, like utilizing third-party cookies for fingerprinting visitors.

There’s more to the delicate dance between DuckDuckGo and Microsoft than just trackers, however. Microsoft also provides ads that run on DuckDuckGo’s search results. To allow advertisers to see when someone has clicked an ad on DuckDuckGo and arrived at their page, the DuckDuckGo apps won’t block requests from bat.bing.com. Weinberg notes that you can avoid this by turning off ads in DuckDuckGo search entirely. The company is working on validating ads in ways that can be non-tracking, Weinberg writes, akin to similar efforts by Safari and Firefox.

Finally, DuckDuckGo aims to be more open about its tracker blocking. The company committed its tracker blocklist to a public GitHub repository yesterday and published a new help doc on its tracking protections.

It can look like a lot of work over two scripts, but then DuckDuckGo lives inside the tricky balance of trying to make its search product convenient and relevant while offering its users as much privacy as websites can stand before breaking. And the 15-year-old company from Paoli, Pennsylvania, can’t just leave Bing behind entirely. Weinberg noted in his May Reddit response that most of its traditional search results and images come from Bing. “Really only two companies (Google and Microsoft) have a high-quality global web link index” due to the billion-dollar cost, Weinberg wrote. Every company that wants to provide search to the world faces either a duopoly or a very long journey.

Microsoft, meanwhile, continues to expand its advertising markets, most recently to Netflix, and, potentially, into its own operating system. Its advertising revenue was $3 billion for the quarter ending June 30, an increase of 15 percent year over year but the lowest growth rate in more than a year.

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Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t need easily legible legends on his mechanical keyboard

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Enlarge / Sonic the Hedgehog mechanical keyboard.

When you’re a beloved blue eulipotyphla with the speed of a race car, all the golden rings, a pal like Tails, and even a pair of hit feature films, you start feeling like you can do anything. That includes typing on a truncated mechanical keyboard without letters, numbers, or any other legends written on the top of the keycaps.

Higround, known for gaming gear, is releasing today a trio of 65 percent mechanical keyboards made in collaboration with Sega, as spotted by Nintendo Wire, as well as other Sega-focused gear, including keycaps and mousepads.

Dreamcast's <i>Sonic Adventure 2</i> mechanical keyboard.
Enlarge / Dreamcast’s Sonic Adventure 2 mechanical keyboard.

Pictures from the brand show a trio of keyboards coming to life with colorful details delivering nostalgic imagery anywhere from, depending on the keyboard, the loops and rings of the Green Hill Zone in 1991‘s Sonic the Hedgehog to the contrasting profiles of Sonic and Knuckles from 2001’s Sonic Adventure 2 to the rainbow-colored arrow keys mimicking console controller buttons in tribute to Sega’s last globally released console, the Dreamcast.

The PBT, dye-sublimated keycaps on the keyboards are 1.5 mm thick, according to Higround, and ditch informative legends on their topsides in favor of an artful appearance when viewing the keyboard from the top down. But from a typical seated position, you should be able to see legends side-printed on the front of the keycaps. You don’t have to be a touch typist to use the Sega keyboards, but if you’re not, they’ll be harder to use at first than the typical keyboard.

Sega Dreamcast mechanical keyboard.
Enlarge / Sega Dreamcast mechanical keyboard.

Sonic’s gotta go fast, so it’s fitting that the keyboards use Speed Silver linear mechanical switches from TTC. They’re specced for about 3.4 mm total travel, with a 1.08 mm actuation point and 45 grams of force to actuate (if you’re unsure of what that means, check out our mechanical keyboard guide). Those numbers make them a bit shorter to actuate and bottom out than the common Cherry MX Red switch (4mm / 2mm / 45gf); although, Higround could have gone shorter with low-profile mechanical switches to fit the speed theme even more.

The mechanical switches have Sonic-blue-like housing.

The mechanical switches have Sonic-blue-like housing.

If you’re looking for a speedy way to complete those spreadsheets, the Sega keyboards aren’t a winning fit since they lack a numpad.

Ultimately, you need a combination of Sega and linear typing fandom and the ability to work without a numpad (some touch-typing skills wouldn’t hurt either) in order for these keyboards to be something that can help you level up your productivity, rather than an interesting collector’s item.

But the keyboards aren’t as polarizing as they could be… at least they don’t make you type in Elvish.

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This 6-inch board turns a Raspberry Pi module into a DIY router

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Enlarge / Let your Pi do the work while the CM4 Router Board handles the connections.

If you’re intrigued by the prospect of building a DIY router, Seeed Studio has a board that’s just waiting to put a Raspberry Pi Computing Module 4 (CM4) to work. Assuming, of course, that you can find the Pi module.

Seeed’s CM4 Router Board adds two full-speed gigabit network ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD slot, an HDMI out, a GPIO interface for Raspberry Pi HAT add-ons, and a 0.91-inch OLED display to your Pi CM4. Having the CM4 at the system’s core gives you 32 different options for RAM, storage, and wireless capabilities on your homebrew router. The Router Board comes with OpenWRT installed, but it could run Ubuntu, Raspberry OS, or any other Pi-friendly system.

Seeed notes that beyond DIY routers, the CM4 Router Board could also become a gateway, mini-NAS, wireless network bridge, or mini-server. You can buy a Pi CM4 with wireless capabilities, but you’ll likely need (or prefer) a separate Wi-Fi setup connected to your DIY router.

Why not just plug a USB-to-Ethernet adapter into the Pi you already have? Seeed says its board’s RTL8111E controller chip “offers better performance, lower CPU usage, and higher stability for a long time work [sic] compared with a USB network card.”

The CM4 Router Board should be available for around $55 soon at both Seeed and Mouser Electronics, though the latter cites an 11-week lead time beyond its initial stock.

Those hunting for a Raspberry Pi CM4 board might consider Ars commenter MightyPez’s advice to keep an eye on Pi stock monitor Rpilocator, which offers RSS feeds. You can even set up push notifications with Rpilocator’s official Python script.

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