Betting big on the ‘Next Billion Users’, search giant Google on Monday announced five new products, specifically tailored for users in the world’s second-largest Internet market.
So there’s YouTube Go, a new app, which will function even when there is poor connectivity or none at all; the Google Assistant in Hindi inside messaging app Allo; Google Station, a platform to roll-out Wi-Fi hot spots in places frequented by a large number of people, such as malls, cafes and universities; data-saving features in its Chrome mobile browser; and faster browsing for Google Play on 2G connections.
While Allo with the English-language based Google Assistant was launched a week back, the other features will be launched soon, the company said.
The internet giant has outlined three areas on which the company was working to provide connectivity -- access (connecting people to the internet), platforms (letting people and developers share and build upon the internet), and products (providing better and more relevant Google experiences for Indians).
Our goal has not just been to help more Indians get online — but also to help Indians create the online experience they want; one that serves their needs and enables them to have an impact on the entire world. We have been thinking about how to build products and services for this wave of new users — products that work for any level of connectivity, in local Indian languages, and across the devices that are most frequently used in India,” said Ceaser Sengupta, who heads Google’s Next Billion Users initiative.
Google has already partnered with RailTel to provide free wi-fi across rail stations. Project RailWire currently provides free wi-fi in 40 stations in the country, catering to 3.5 million monthly users. The target is 400 stations by 2017.
“Every three seconds an Indian is going online for the first time and the Station initiative is targeted at helping more users go online,” Sengupta said.
He also announced fast browsing in Google Play for people on 2G and other low-bandwidth connections. Fast browsing uses pre-loading on Wi-Fi to load the most popular parts of Google Play quickly. When an user on a low-bandwidth connection chooses to install an app, Google Play will offer a new “Wait for Wi-Fi” option, where the app will only install when the phone connects nest time to the wi-fi.
On YouTube Go, Johanna Wright, YouTube vice-president for product management, said: “YouTube Go was designed and built from the ground up with insights from India, in order to bring the power of video to mobile users in a way that is more conscious of their data and connectivity, while still being locally relevant and social.”
“YouTube Go allows users to save and watch videos smoothly even in poor connectivity, and also gives them transparency and control over how much data they consume on videos, allowing them to preview videos first and choose the video’s file size before they save it offline to watch later. They can also share videos easily with friends and family nearby, without using any data at all.”
On the cards is also something called a Google Accelerator, a book-shaped device which will contain top 100,000 videos on YouTube. The company plans to place them in cafes, restaurants and other public places to help people directly stream videos from the box.
YouTube currently offers an offline feature under which users can download video over wi-fi to view them later.
The company also made incremental changes to its Chrome browser to make user experience better on slow networks. “Data saver mode — which reduces the amount of data Chrome uses on Android mobile devices, computers, and Chromebooks — will now support MP4 videos, saving up to 67% of video data. Chrome on Android will also automatically optimise pages to their essentials when 2G-like networks are detected,” said Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, vice-president, product management, Chrome.
The company also said that it was going to launch the Google Assistant on Allo in Hindi by the end of the year. The beta edition of Google Assistant, which can converse in English, can be used in Allo. The Assistant can throw up smart replies, suggest searches and answer simple questions. According to the company, the number of local language internet users would jump to 400 million by 2020, from 150 million now.