Google has released an experimental plug-in for Chrome that does something odd: sending URLs around the room using sound.
The Tone plugin puts a button in Google's browser that, when clicked, makes a sound that other Tone-using Chrome browsers within earshot will interpret as an instruction to open the URL in the Chrome tab you have open.
Google tried dog-whistling, but found that PCs are set up for sound humans can hear, so reverted to a trilling series of notes.
Google says “Tone turns on your computer's microphone (while the extension is on). Google Tone temporarily stores a URL on Google’s servers and uses your computer's speakers and microphone to send it to nearby computers connected to the Internet.”
Here's what Google has to say about security:
“Google Tone only broadcasts URLs, so recipients do not automatically gain access to a page to which they wouldn't ordinarily have access. If you broadcast your Gmail inbox URL, for example, recipients who click on the Google Tone notification will be prompted to log in to their Gmail. However, Google Tone broadcasts are public by design, so it's best not to use them to exchange confidential information.
Intra-office spamming is a possibility with this tool – Google says it was developed as an in-house plaything and resulted in lots of Rickrolling – but that it's not very robust.
“The orientation of laptops relative to each other, the acoustic characteristics of the space, the particular speaker volume and mic sensitivity, and even where you're standing will all affect Tone's reliability,” write Googlers Alex Kauffmann and Boris Smus, respectively an interaction researcher and a software engineer. “Not every nearby machine will always receive every broadcast, just like not everyone will always hear every word someone says.”
“Many groups at Google have found that the tradeoffs between ease and reliability worthwhile,” the pair write. “It is our hope that small teams, students in classrooms, and families with multiple computers will too.”
Sharing URLs is, of course, a colossal problem. Here at The Reg we suffer as we employ instant messaging tools or sometimes revert to the agony email. Our wheeled chairs also come in handy from time to time as we reach deep into our vocabulary of URL-sharing tools.
So thank you, Google, for dog-whistling up a new way to accomplish this productivity-killing chore. ®