Posted:
As the year turns, how about a stroll down Zeitgeist lane? Our annual collection of the most-visited names, images, and news stories from around the world is yours to peruse. If you use Flash, don't miss the Interactive Zeitgeist for a more dynamic look back. As for 2005, here's to your health and happiness.

The Google Blog team

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Like so many others around the world, we're following the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that has hit many parts of Asia and India. The only positive outcome of this sort of disaster is that people quickly swing into action. The Internet enables us all to get timely information from blogs like this as well as news sites, and by linking people to donation centers. Here are a few already set up to handle donations for victims throughout the region. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected.

- International Committee of the Red Cross

- Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) link updated
- (U.S. site) link updated

- Oxfam

- UNICEF

Karen Wickre
Google Blog team

Posted:
At Google we take user email seriously. If you ask us for help with a Google-related problem, we'll do our best to solve it. If you send us product feedback, we'll consider and perhaps implement your suggestion. And if you impugn the artistic integrity of the guy who draws the Google doodles, you can expect a very direct and very public smackdown.

Here's the doodle that graced our home page on Wednesday:



And here's an email received by our User Support team, along with the Blog's response:

In reference to holiday illustration #3, I am curious as to how the larger polar bear learned, over a period of a few days, how to roll blobs of snow in almost perfect spheres. I mean, wouldn't this require a few thousand years of mental evolution, not to mention the concept of throwing objects and the idea of guessing how much power to put behind their throw in order for the snowball to land in an acceptable radius of the target...

Dear User:

Thank you for your recent email. We appreciate your concern but must confess to considerable bewilderment with regard to various statements you make about the home page doodle of 12/22/04. First, what makes you assert that those are "almost perfect spheres?" If you look more closely, you'll see that the snowballs in question are in fact somewhat oblong, which is to say, wholly producible by a polar bear paw. Second, why would you assume that the polar bear threw the snowballs into that pile, when placing them there would be much easier?

...Well, we won't have to worry about this because apparently the larger polar bear got preoccupied with hosing down the O for no apparent or logical reason. And how exactly can this hose have running water if they are in the Arctic tundra? I'll give your illustrator the benefit of the doubt but come on... Unless the polar bears have developed a heating system for their water supply in order to prevent freezing, this wouldn't be possible. And please, don't use the common "well, they stole the hose from the humans which already have heating methods under development." That is such a cliché...

Again with the erroneous assumptions. In this case, you conclude that the presence of a heated hose derives not from nearby humans, but from some technologically advanced and therefore highly unlikely polar bear society, because having humans produce the hose "is such a cliché." Well, life is full of clichés; their prevelance, in fact, is precisely what makes them clichés. As for why the polar bear is hosing down the O: we expect that the past few days have by now made clear that this series of doodles is telling a story whose conclusion none of us have yet to grasp.

...Also, considering the size of the polar bear and the circumference of the hose, why would he or she even need help with controlling it? It just seems like the back polar bear is holding up the hose just for the sake of holding up the hose. I mean, these are powerful bears. They can control a small hose with a medium sized jet of water gushing out without requiring the assistance of another bear...

Well, this being a holiday doodle and Google being a family-friendly company, the polar bear story has a family-oriented holiday theme; i.e., the daddy polar bear is spraying down the O as part of a plan to (as you must by now realize) decorate it in a festive manner, and the baby polar bear is "helping."

...And where exactly did they learn that holding the back of the hose stabilizes the front part? I'm assuming there isn't a television anywhere close to them. Did they just somehow, by the luck of the draw, decide to hold the hose in that certain way which is so conveniently similar to the method fire fighters use to stabilize their hoses? One final observation: there are more snowballs in picture number 3 than there are in picture number 2. Where did the extra ones come from and why did the polar bear decide to leave them sitting there if he took the time to neatly organize his previously?

Dude, in the interim of time which elapsed between doodle #2 and doodle #3, they made more snowballs, okay? And in the interim of time which elapsed since we began this response, our attitude toward you, dear correspondent, has segued from righteous indignation at your illogical attack on our graphic designer to warm-hearted gratitude that you cared enough to write to us in the first place. We love all our users, especially those who take the time to brighten our day with such graceful, witty emails. Enjoy the rest of Dennis' holiday doodles. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Michael Krantz
Google Blog Team

Posted:
Ten years ago, when you named a new child, you just needed to make sure the moniker was easy to spell and didn't rhyme with "smelly" or any other schoolyard taunt. But now, you've got to consider the search engine effect: is the name easily located via a Google search, or will your kid be confused with a multitude of John Smiths?

The solution? A unique name for which the only possible search results would be related to your child. But not actually "unique," since Social Security records tell us that 239 girls named Unique were born in 2002 (scroll down to "popularity of a name"). Imagine a baby boy named "Angus Katzenjammer." He'd have a wide open field since that search currently doesn't return any results. Or perhaps a young lass is named "Humid Lipstocking." With the exception of Google helpfully asking "did you mean Humid Lipsticking," it would be perfect.

In reality, you don't need to be famous or have a weird name to increase the odds of appearing in Google's search results. Just start a blog or build a website and you should eventually find yourself in our index. In an interesting twist on self promotion, some people have even bought AdWords ads which would result in the display of small text ads next to search results for their name. Yes - it is truly a brave new world.

Hunter Walk
(cursed by having a name consisting of two real words)
AdSense Partner Manager

Posted:
Nothing is more important to us than the security of the products we offer to our users. So we'd like to thank Professor Dan Wallach and his Rice University students, Seth Fogarty and Seth Nielson, for discovering and reporting a small flaw that existed in Google Desktop Search. When Desktop Search showed personal computer search results as part of users' overall web search results, there was a security hole that conceivably could have allowed a malicious site to access small portions of that information. To our knowledge, nobody was actually affected by this problem, and if you're currently using Desktop Search, your machine has been automatically updated with a software fix that ensures the security of your personal information. You can confirm this by going to the Desktop Search home page and clicking the "About" link. On the About Desktop Search page, you'll see that you're now using Beta 121004, which contains the security update. Finally, you can keep track of all the Google Desktop Search releases here.

Nikhil Bhatla
Product manager, Google Desktop Search

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Feel that hot breath on the back of your neck? That's the deadline for holiday shopping drawing closer, closer, ever closer. Panic not. Google will help. We've packaged all our software tools into a convenient holiday keepsake that fits nicely into a stocking or adds a festive touch to that new computer you're giving your beloved. It's absolutely free to download, free to install and free to use, so no mucking about with gift receipts. There's Google Desktop Search and the Picasa photo organizer and the Google Toolbar and the Google Deskbar -- a veritable cornucopia of time-saving Google products for the PC. And it's all yours for the giving with just one click. We've even provided festive gift certificates and handcrafted packaging artwork so you can burn your own gift CD. The Gift of Google is appropriate for all ages and connection speeds. Batteries not included.

Doug Edwards
Google Blog Team

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Some of us admit to a misspent youth lurking in libraries, devouring books on anything from "the survival of the fittest" or the explorations of Lewis and Clark to the essence of philosophy or Victorian detective yarns. This immersion has made us certain of one thing: there are a million and one books are out there waiting to be found (tens of millions, by some counts) - but library collections just aren't that easy to search.

Which is why we are thrilled to begin scanning book collections belonging to the University of Michigan, Harvard. Stanford, Oxford, and the New York Public Library, so that they become more searchable.

We launched the first part of Google Print in October to make the world of books more discoverable. The thing is, most books in the world are out of print. By working with libraries as well as publishers, we'll have access to millions of books, including many unique volumes that haven't been read in years. Soon a new generation will be able to discover them too.

Joseph O'Sullivan, Software engineer
Adam M. Smith, Business product manager
Google Print team

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Today we launched Google Suggest, a new Labs project that provides you with search suggestions, in real time, while you type. We've found that Google Suggest not only makes it easier to type in your favorite searches (let's face it -- we're all a little lazy), but also gives you a playground to explore what others are searching about, and learn about things you haven't dreamt of. Go ahead, give it a spin.

The project stemmed from an idea I had a few months ago, and since then I've been working on it in my 20% time, which is a program where Google allows their employees to devote 20% of their working hours to any project they choose. What's really amazed me about this project is how in a matter of months, working on my own, I was able to go from a lunch table conversation to launching a new service. In my opinion, this is one of the things that really makes Google a great place; that the company's systems, resources and, most important, people are all aligned to make it as easy as possible to take an idea and turn it into something cool.

Plus, we have Segways.

Kevin Gibbs
Software Engineer

Posted:
And so should news websites. So we've launched seven new editions of Google News; franchise operations, if you will, offering the usual wide (and occasionally startling) variety of stories which our computers think you'll be particularly interested in reading if you happen to live in, or otherwise care intensely about, Argentina, Chile, Canada Français, México, Österreich, Schweiz or Suisse. Vive la difference.

Michael Krantz
Google Blog Team

Posted:
Recently we relocated to Japan to take on the challenge of extending Google's global engineering organization by opening a new R&D center in Shibuya, Tokyo (co-located with the existing sales office). We've both been at Google for many years and hope to use our experience to transfer our culture and technical knowledge to a new place with a new group of engineers. It will be an exciting adventure. Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, over the years, we expect the Tokyo office will develop its own variation of Google's engineering culture.

Last week we officially opened our doors, and celebrated the occasion with a series of open houses (see pictures below), hosting more than 300 students, professors, researchers, professional engineers, media, and partners. Our goal here is the same as all the other engineering locations (Hi Bangalore! Hi Zurich!) - recruit great engineers from a diverse set of backgrounds (not just search!), give them a fun and exciting work environment and freedom to explore their ideas, and then watch them create innovative technology that impacts the world. If you, or your friends, think you might be a good fit for our Tokyo organization and enjoy a new adventure, drop us a note (with resume) at jobs@google.com or take a look at our jobs page.


Howard Gobioff, PhD
Mizuki McGrath
Engineering Directors
Tokyo R&D Center

Posted:
Are you interested in learning how to build a bird house, or discussing Linux with other partisans? Or maybe in your spare time you want to make single-layer graphene sheets using Chemical Vapor Deposition.

Whether your interests run to knitting or brain surgery, chances are good other people out there share them. The new Google Groups not only helps you find information on millions of topics; now you can actively share ideas and opinions with others about each and every obsession of yours.

And if you don't find a group already focused on your passion, by all means start one. Invite others to join your group so that all interested parties can read and respond to messages, share opinions and ideas via email or your own group's web page. If you're looking for a group to join, we could definitely use some thoughtful insight (or idle speculation) over at my space elevator group.

Shannon Bauman
Associate Product Manager, Google Groups

P.S. In related news, we have restored advanced date search to Google Groups. As for the post above, we had a publishing snafu last Thursday, so you may already have seen this item.