Dark mode is not new, but it’s becoming really popular. With more people appreciating how easy it is to the eyes with a dark background, we get flooded with questions asking how to activate this mode. Facebook recently rolled out its dark mode feature for its popular Messenger app, which triggered the curiosity of clueless users.
Another well-known desktop application will soon have its official dark mode: Google Chrome. There’s no exact release date yet for the browser’s upcoming feature, but there are ways to experience it now. If you use Chrome, you might find these tips very useful.
Apply “Just Black” theme
There are a lot of black or dark themes on the Chrome Web Store. Even before dark mode was a thing, black themes were already available for Chrome, at least for its desktop version. Although, not all dark themes are created equal. There are some that aren’t dark enough and some are too complicated.
Thankfully, there’s no need to dig inside the Themes section of the Web Store because Google has its own dark theme called Just Black. The theme is available to download for free and it’s one of the 14 official themes made by Google’s Chrome team.
Like other themes available in the Web Store, the Just Black theme skins the surface of the browser including the title bar, start page, and tabs. What’s not darkened are the drop-down menus and the settings panel. If you want a deeper dark mode, check out the next option.
Try out Google Canary
In order to try out the official dark mode that’ll come to Chrome in the coming months, you’ll have to be adventurous and “get on the bleeding edge of the web.” I’m not talking about Chrome Beta or Chrome Dev; the official dark mode is in such an early stage that you’ll have to download Chrome Canary. This version of Chrome is experimental, but it’s usable.
Canary’s dark mode is dynamic and it adjusts accordingly to your operating system’s setting. Both Windows and macOS have their respective dark options, so you’ll have to turn them on in order to activate Canary’s dark mode.
As mentioned, the official dark mode of Canary goes deeper, which means even the settings panel and menus are darkened. It’s slightly different from the Just Black theme and is more similar to the dark mode of Android Pie and YouTube. The official dark mode has gray tones with blue highlights.
Chrome Canary can be very unstable, but it gives you an early look at the upcoming dark mode for Google’s well-loved browser.
One of the earliest and easiest tricks to enjoying a dark-themed Chrome is to hit Ctrl+Shift+N or select “New incognito window” from the browser’s menu. Incognito mode has been around for years and it saves us a trip to the delete button in the browser’s History section. 😉
If you’re using the default theme of Chrome, the instant dark theme of incognito also helps in distinguishing which of your Chrome windows is not recording your visits.
Bonus: Dark mode for all websites
Even if your theme is now dark, it doesn’t mean that the websites you’ll visit will darken as well. Most websites today have a plain white background (like ours) which means it’ll contrast with your dark theme. If you prefer to make the websites dark as well, there’s an extension for that.
The extension is aptly called Dark Mode and it’s free on the Chrome Web Store. It adds a toggle beside the browser’s omnibar. It works on most websites, but it’s not perfect in some cases. Still, it helps reduce eye strain when you’re browsing a website in the dark.
Google’s Emoji Kitchen will mash-up your favorite emojis
Rolling out on Gboard
Do you know that Merriam-Webster adds new words to the dictionary every year? Do you also know that the Unicode Consortium adds new emojis to everyone’s devices every year? Such is the way of language. New ways to communicate will always emerge out of nowhere. Usually, they form whenever two things combine into an all-new form. It’s easy enough to combine words together, but how do you do that with emojis?
Google is developing a way to fuse emojis into new ones. In an official blog post, the Android developer announced the new feature called Emoji Kitchen. A feature of Gboard, Emoji Kitchen unlocks a plethora of new emojis. How about a cowboy ghost? Or a crying robot? Or a kissing poop face?
Prior to the Emoji Kitchen, users already received access to emoji variants in the past. Today, you can select different skin tones for human emojis. With the Emoji Kitchen, you can mix existing ones with each other. Likewise, users can access the feature automatically by opening compatible emojis. Opening the cowboy emoji sub-menu, for example, will open up its different variants.
Naturally, Emoji Kitchen will combine only existing emojis. In other words, you can’t create an all-new emoji from nothing. All new emojis come from Google’s own designers. Still, the feature’s new combinations will come in handy. Especially when I feel like a… monkey cactus?
Emoji Kitchen is slowly rolling out to Gboard users starting today. If you don’t want to wait for an official version, you can sign up for the Gboard Beta program for instant access.
Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo joins Huawei’s effort to build a Play Store alternative
Preparing for a Google-less future
Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo recently collaborated with Huawei to build the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA). GDSA aims to create a single app store aimed at simplifying app uploads and downloads for developers and consumers.
At first glance, GDSA seems like a competitor for Google’s Play Store. Over the years, the rising hostility of the US towards Chinese tech companies led to tariffs and outright ban from using its technologies. For example, Huawei suffered an entity ban last 2018 due to suspicions of spying for the Chinese government.
Such precedence may have stoked fear among other Chinese companies that a ban could be leveraged by the US in the future. Dependence on Western technologies is crucial for these companies. As such, a ban would represent a great loss, considering that most of these companies have established markets in many countries.
To counter this scenario, these tech companies are slowly building their own alternatives to established apps and services. Huawei, for its part, had already pushed out AppGallery as an alternative to Google’s Play Store. Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have their own app stores in China due to a continuing ban on Google’s services in the country.
A unified app store
A unified app store will greatly simplify the process for developers who have to deal with these multiple app stores. GDSA will unify the backend of these app stores so developers can publish once and have their apps appear on the brands’ respective app stores.
For now, details about GDSA are scarce. Pilot countries for its deployment include 9 key regions including India, Russia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A prototype website has been set up, but developers cannot sign up for it yet.
But if GDSA really pushes through, Google will face some serious competition on Android app distribution. Furthermore, the issue of fragmentation will only deepen in the ecosystem as companies build their own version of Google apps.
Xiaomi already responded with a statement stating that they have no plans to position GDSA as a Play Store competitor. The company reiterated GDSA’s function to simplify the app uploading process. Furthermore, there was no mention of Huawei in their statement.
Huawei and Google have yet to release a statement. However, it is clear that Google will not welcome this development. Considering that Google has an iron grip on app store distribution outside China, a viable competitor will only compel the American company to further control the Android ecosystem.
With a tightening grip on Android, other tech companies will only intensify their efforts to build an alternative OS. Huawei, as an example, launched HarmonyOS for its devices in the future.
An alternative app store will also open up another potential avenue for hackers targeting users with malware. This will only contribute to security and privacy problems in Android, which has long been dealing with notorious malware and data breaches.
Grab Philippines ordered to suspend in-car recording and selfie verification
Due to violations in the Data Privacy Act of 2012
Last year, Grab Philippines tested new features to ensure passenger and driver safety. These new features are in-car audio and video recording, as well as selfie verification.
However, the country’s National Privacy Commission (NPC) ordered Grab to halt the rollout of these features. The commission stated that those features pose a privacy risk to passengers. A cease and desist order released by NPC cites violations within the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which governs the privacy and security of all digital data on the country.
NPC also stated in its Notice of Deficiencies that the ride-sharing company failed to assess the new features’ risk to passengers, taking only into account “the risk faced by the company”.
The notice also noted that there is no clear mechanism for informing passengers when recorded data gets sent to authorities. It also found out that there is ambiguity in opting out of recording.
As such, NPC gave Grab 15 days to address the deficiencies it found for both in-car recording and selfie verification. This is surely a welcome move for ensuring passengers’ privacy. However, the question remains on what measures Grab will implement in the future to protect its passengers’ safety.
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