back to article Google DOG WHISTLING fails to send URLs across the room

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 …

  1. Andrew Jones 2

    Actually if you read the press release again - you will find that they EXPERIMENTED with high frequency tones and found them to not be very reliable because laptop microphones weren't designed for that frequency range and some speakers had trouble generating the sound. So they ended up using tones in the human range of hearing - since computer speakers and microphones are designed for that frequency range. Hence when you install the extension and press the tone button - you can hear the noise it makes and animals aren't bothered by it at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Gotta reserve those inaudible freqs for bridging air gaps.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      I wonder if you could use the sensor in a mouse to read QR codes off a screen?

      Would that be easier?

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      @Andrew Jones 2

      Actually if you read the article you will find that's what it says:

      Google tried dog-whistling, but found that PCs are set up for sound humans can hear, so reverted to a trilling series of notes.

      1. Andrew Jones 2

        Re: @Andrew Jones 2

        And if you had read the article that was published in the early hours of the morning - you would know that the article has since been changed as the original article claimed that Google were going to be annoying dogs across the land by using dog-whistle type tones to send URLs from one machine to multiple machines. This wasn't true - because Google decided against it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I want to keep my URLs secret, so I sit with my back the wall. Why would I want to broadcast my favorite xxx URLs to everyone in the room? Ok, some rooms, yes, but in the living room....nope.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Love it.

    *evil grin*

    Now that could be fun with a Altoids tin sized device designed to generate those tones, wandering past people's desks and sending their browsers to 'sites of interest'

    1. moiety

      Re: Love it.

      ...or set someone's ringtone to Goatse

      1. frank ly

        Re: Love it.

        Be very wary of anyone who can whistle complicated tunes quickly.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Love it.

          "Be very wary of anyone who can whistle complicated tunes quickly."

          I can see it now. Flocks of highly trained, lets say, North Korean Blackbirds being released. They make their way to a minuteman silo : a few specific birdsong tunes later, world war 3 starts. Perhaps penguins could be trained to launch Trident missiles. This is a clear and present danger to world peace. Wake up people!

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Love it.

      Setting that up might be an issue though:

      "Please install this Chrome plugin so I can fuck with your head."

      "Er, no.".

      What's needed to make this actually useful is a silent remote installation exploit........(!)

  4. Kaltern

    Google stealing other people's work, releasing it as their own.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      And other people's URLs

      "Google Tone temporarily stores a URL on Google’s servers"

      Of course they need to do this to work out which browsers are in the same room. They can't help themselves, they need to know every last thing on matter how inconsequential it is.

  5. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Full circle?

    So we've gone full circle now and are back to computing accompanied to tones similar to an acoustic coupler modem or a ZX Spectrum loading a game from tape?

    Somehow nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Full circle?

      "or a ZX Spectrum loading a game from tape"

      Or any other home computer from way back when. I'm glad I'm not the only one who made that connection as we see, yet again, something old becoming something new.

      Why not avoid the noise, by using a simple male/male 3.5mm jack lead - plug in one end to the sending computer's speaker socket, the other to the receiving computer's microphone.

      The next logical step after that? Plug the other end into the microphone socket of a cassette deck and record the tones. That way the URLs can be stored for later use, and even carried around if the intended destination computer is too far away to use the lead.

      Got that sorted? Great, now we can add other useful information to the tones. Use it to save whole swathes of data.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Full circle?

        Got that sorted? Great, now we can add other useful information to the tones. Use it to save whole swathes of data.

        Say, that would be rather useful for backing up a computer system! What will you call this new cassette tape backup storage system of yours?

        Oh, I'll get started on a program to digitally compress the data intended for the archived tape. It's going to be a work of art! A work of art, Carl!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Full circle?

        The really sad thing was that, if you played any particular game often enough, you knew when the loading had failed without looking at the screen.

        The negotiation tones of my old USR 56k modem still haunt me to this day.

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Full circle?

      I personally would have no problem if the sounds of the ZX Spectrum loading became something I would normally hear in daily life - just as long - as it didn't last 20 minutes at a time, accompanied by an expletive and a cry that "it got to 99% and just stopped!"

  6. RyokuMas Silver badge

    I can see it now...

    ... quietly browsing the web when all of a sudden a trill sounds from across the office and WAMMO! Full page advert.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: I can see it now...

      ... and just think of those offices/workspaces with some radio station playing in the background...

  7. sabroni Silver badge

    Google Tone temporarily stores a URL on Google’s servers

    Why? It broadcasts a URL using sound.

    It's compulsive with them. No matter how irrelevant to the job at hand they have to scrape our data.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Google Tone temporarily stores a URL on Google’s servers

      Yeah I thought that. I have a feeling it doesn't broadcast the URL at all, but some unique code that other Chrome browsers with the active Tone extension can use to lookup the shared URL. Otherwise why bother committing the URL to a server at all?

      Face it, it only needs to be a GUID or some other kind of fixed-length unique identifier. Fixed-length makes it much easier to pluck the codes from background noise. Broadcast-starting tones, ID, broadcast-ending tones. Keeps the message down to a short audio burst, and is more reliable than missing part of the URL in the broadcast. At worst Chrome can't find the URL corresponding to the code and reports this.

      This way they get to track every URL shared this way and feed it into their advertising machine along with the IDs of everyone who viewed the shared URL, and where they went from there etc. But to be fair to Google, when do they not try to do that?

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Google Tone temporarily stores a URL on Google’s servers

      URL length doesn't seem to change the duration of the tones - so I'd assume the URL is first shortened (hence stored on a server) and then the shortened URL is converted to tones.

  8. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    What about the microphone that has to be constantly on ?

    Will it send everything it hears back to googles servers for analysis ?

    No thanks...

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: What about the microphone that has to be constantly on ?

      Good point. They say the mic is only used while the Tone extension is "active" but that could mean anything from "Hey Jimmy, turn on your tone thing I wanna send you this URL" to it starts when Chrome does and stays on until Chrome is shut down - which if you're anything like me and your browser is open all day means yeah, el Goog gets to hear everything trivial and pointless going on in my life. Well, they would if I used Chrome.

  9. Khaptain Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Ulterieur Motive

    So while you are surfing the web, Google will be communicating with your Fridge, Ipad, Hoover, Car, Wife's favourite electronic massage device etc....

    I couldn't possibly think of how this could be used against someone, no sirreee....

    Don't be evil !!!!!!!!

  10. Jay 2

    Copy then crush?

    If the BBC are to believed, then the Goog are just trying to do something Chirp, a UK-based firm, has already been playing with:

  11. Nifty

    Another airgap-proof virus vector?

    Nuff said

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Another airgap-proof virus vector?

      So how long before we have to keep secure systems in a vacuum box isolated from the outer box and running through 2 Ups systems and probably some other steps to keep it locked down?

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Another airgap-proof virus vector?

        running through 2 Ups systems

        Data security is all well and good, but using UPS to deliver packets of data by van is going incur unacceptable latency, isn't it?

        1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

          Re: Another airgap-proof virus vector?

          I bet I can get far greater bandwidth by UPS Van than most countries can afford.

          1. moiety

            Re: Another airgap-proof virus vector?

            ...if the useless bastards can find your house, that is.

  12. madmax4

    drive by

    That fateful night, Jimmy was staring through the shop display at all the nice computers for sale, running their demos. The shop next door was a pharmacy, and one of their computers was on too.

    Jimmy reached into his backpack and took out the small device he had assembled the night before from plans he had downloaded. He pushed the small button and the amplified speaker let out a shrill series of tones. He quickly looked around, but nobody had heard him. All the computers diligently downloaded the toolkit he had placed on a specially crafted website

    By tomorrow, Jimmy will be a millionaire as his trojan makes its way around the world. Mum would be proud, if she were still here. He slowly wandered off to return to his small wet space under Bridge Road, with his soggy sandwich in hand. Tonight's meal would be his last here. He smiled to himself and quickly looked up and whispered "thank you google".

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Already used for Chromecast

    This 'tone signalling' appears to have already been available and used for Chromecast setup.

    I guess it's a bit like configuring watches and other devices by holding them over a CRT and flashing pixels at them but using sound instead.

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Google sending audible URLs

    We need a name for that. Gurgle?

  15. wikkity

    if only there was some other way to send the url, imagine if they could just use a network connection

    1. craigb

      meh, been sending urls with sound since forever...

      Me: "Hey mate, check out"

      Mate: *upchucks*

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Maybe over some sort of system already set in place perfectly capable of sending sounds long distance. Possibly with some convenient connector to allow this transfer to take place.

  16. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Hands up

    Those who think that the URL, like TV voice commands, will be sent to Google servers to be encoded ... Oh wait ...

  17. Alistair Silver badge

    New name for hijacking your browser.

    I've been Budgied!

    <considering the vocabulary of cheeps, chirps, chortles, buzzes etc that those critters can imitate>

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just NO Google, absolutely NO!

    Don't even think of doing this for real Google. Even announcing a concept is dangerous. I already put tape over the video cam on the laptop, don't need Band-Aids over the mike too. No Android apps or Google plugin, NOTHING.

  19. Paratrooping Parrot

    How about Morse code?

    I remember years ago, there was a program in Windows that would listen to Morse code and write it on the screen. I then set up an Amstrad CPC 6128 to transmit Morse Code. We could send messages from the Amstrad to the PC using Morse code. :) It was brilliant!

  20. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "I want to keep my URLs secret, so I sit with my back the wall. Why would I want to broadcast my favorite xxx URLs to everyone in the room? Ok, some rooms, yes, but in the living room....nope."

    Umm, your watching porn while in a room full of people? Classy 8-) But seriously, I don't see the point of this either; the fact of the matter is, I don't think Google sees a point either, it's an experiment.

    I did have to ask, though, why would using this plugin involve "temporarily" storing URLs on Google's servers? Is a multi-ghz PC now not fast enough to do basic signal processing? Are they sending off the sent and received URLs (and/or sent and rececived sound when a URL is detected) to be able to analyze possible failure modes?

  21. Adolph Clickbait

    I do this often

    "oi Dave, look at this URL" also works down the phone

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