Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Have you ever noticed that in waiting rooms, the section of the newspaper you most want to read is either missing from the magazine rack, or someone else is reading it? It’s made me a real master of finding all the hidden pictures on the covers of Highlights magazine. Don’t even try asking me Where’s Waldo? I've found him 10 times already.
That’s what’s cool about Google News for mobile devices. You can access the news you want, whenever you want, by using a search box, top headline listings, and browsable news categories. Just type google.com on your web-enabled phone, and click the link to Google News. Goodbye, Waldo. Hello, everything else.
Updated with Wikipedia entry to Waldo/Wally.
Friday, February 24, 2006
There's been a lot of interest and speculation about what Google is doing with payments. We thought we'd give you a quick update on what we've done so far and what we see down the road.
If you take a look at the history of Google's advertising programs and online services, one thing you notice is that online billing and payments have been a core part of our offerings for some time. To run our ad programs, Google receives payments every day from advertisers, and then pays out a portion of those funds to advertising partners. Over the past four years, Google has billed advertisers in 65 countries more than $11.2 billion in 48 currencies, and made payments to advertising partners of more than $3.9 billion. When one of our consumer services requires payment to us, we've also provided users a purchase option.
As the number of Google services has increased, we've continued to build on our core payment features and migrate to a standard process for people to buy our services with a Google Account. Examples of this migration include enabling users to buy Google Video content, Google Earth licenses, and Google Store items with their Google Accounts. We also just began offering similar functionality on Google Base.
Looking ahead, we want to continue building payment services that meet the needs of Google users and advertisers. We expect to add payment functionality to Google services where our users need a way to buy online. For us, it's all about bringing our users a better online experience whether they're searching or buying.
In junior high, I learned about most of history's greatest moments through the least engaging media possible: the yellowed pages of outdated textbooks or the unfocused projections of film strips on my classroom walls. For many momentous events, words and pictures don't transmit the full sense of what has transpired. To see for one's self, through video and audio, brings an event to life. Over 70 years ago, the National Archives was founded with the express purpose of preserving these moments in their full glory, serving America by documenting our government and our nation. This includes truly momentous events like the moon landing, as well as rare historical footage like government documentaries from the 1930s and battlefield stories from World War II.
Today we're very pleased to tell you that we're helping the National Archives take one step closer to realizing its vision. Together, we're launching a pilot program to digitize their video content and offer it to everyone in the world for free. I think both students and teachers can agree that any of these would make for an exciting day in the classroom:
- Allied patrols in action on Anzio beach
- Reclamation and the Arid West
- The Eagle Has Landed 1969
It's so refreshing to see history conveyed with more clarity than a filmstrip can offer.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Q. Which fruit was not an iMac color: Blueberry, Lime, Strawberry, Orange, Grape?
Q. Which phrase is not originally from Steve: "insanely great," "There's one more thing," or "Great artists steal"?
Q. Where did the famous 1984 commercial air?
A. The orange iMac was called "tangerine."
A. Although Steve has been known to use "Good artists create. Great artists steal," that second sentence originated with Pablo Picasso.
A. Half-credit if you named Super Bowl XVIII on January 24, 1984. The commercial also aired in Twin Falls, Idaho to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.
If you correctly answered these questions, chances are good you want to know about three Mac Dashboard Widgets that Google has created for OS X Tiger. The Blogger Widget enables quick and easy posting to your blog. Checking your Gmail inbox becomes a matter of pressing F12 with the Gmail Widget. And the Search History Widget allows you find that website you saw last week while searching Google. We'd also like to acknowledge the many great Google widgets people have already created, available on the Apple downloads page.
These widgets, which sprang from the brains of some engineers in their 20% time, are a small step towards bringing our software to a variety of platforms. Want to play? Check out our job listings and come build more Mac stuff with us.
Did you know that it's National Engineers Week in the U.S. -- and that February 23 is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day? The week-long celebration aims to raise public awareness of the many contributions engineers have made to our quality of life, and intrigue young students with the many wonders and possibilities in an engineer's work.
Throughout this week, several Google offices, including New York, Kirkland and Mountain View, have been hosting a couple of hundred girls from local middle schools and high schools to come visit us for the day. The girls have the unique opportunity to shadow a Google engineer or two, go to interactive workshops, eat in our yummy cafes (the pizzas are a hit!) and get an insider's tour of the Google offices.
We hope these girls get a real-life sense of what it's like to work here, and more important, that we've piqued their interests and ultimately help steer them toward future careers in math, science and engineering. Let's hear it for the girls!
A lot of our work in the mobile space has been about delivering quick answers to everyday questions. Services like Google SMS, Personalized Home, and Local for mobile bring you movie times, phone numbers, the latest news headlines and directions from point A to point B.
But what about those problems that are a little less everyday? What if, say, you're out somewhere and absolutely must know if that new Super Monkey Ball game for the Nintendo DS is in stores yet?
If you search for [Super Monkey Ball DS release date] in an ordinary web browser on your PC, your first result is this complex, graphics-rich page. Search that same phrase on Google with your mobile phone, though, and your top result is this lightweight, phone-friendly version of the same page. That's because now whenever you click on a Google search result through your mobile web browser, Google automatically translates the page's layout to make it as easy as possible to read on a small screen. We also break long-winded web pages into smaller pieces and do our best to show you the portion that's relevant to your query, first.
The whole idea is to get you the information you want as quickly as possible, so you can spend less time downloading and scrolling through long documents on a pocket-sized screen, and more time (what else?) playing Super Monkey Ball.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
We are excited to announce the appointment of Larry Brilliant as executive director of Google.org. Google is extremely fortunate to have found in Dr. Brilliant the combination of experience in building and scaling successful programs and ventures in the fields of medicine, philanthropy and technology. His passion for making an impact by tackling some of the most difficult international health issues facing humanity is exactly what we hope he will bring to bear as he helps shape Google’s philanthropic mission and strategic goals.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Monday, February 20, 2006
"At this time, the hogs of the region ran wild, as they do now in portions of the border states. Some of them were savage, and all, after the manner of swine, were difficult to manage...All the ordinary resources were exhausted in the attempts to get them on board. There was but one alternative, and this Abraham adopted. He actually carried them on board, one by one. His long arms and great strength enabled him to grasp them as in a vise, and to transfer them rapidly one by one from the shore to boat."It's the early 1800s, and the "Abraham" in question is Abraham Lincoln, whose superior hog-handling skills are described at length in J.B. McClure's Anecdotes of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's Stories, one of the many public domain books you can browse using Google Book Search.
Why are we paging through presidential history? Today is Presidents Day -- or, to be more accurate, Washington's Birthday. What we now call Presidents Day was first celebrated on February 22, 1796, commemorating George Washington's birth in 1732. But according the calendar that was in use when Washington was born, his birthday was on the 11th, not the 22nd. When he was a young man of 20, Great Britain and her colonies adopted the modern Gregorian calendar, skipping 11 days and making January, not March, the first month of the year.
That's right – over the course of Washington's life, the times quite literally changed. And to make things even more complicated, in 1968 Congress passed a law making the third Monday in February a holiday commemorating Washington's Birthday, regardless of the date. Since then, historically minded sorts have suggested it be called "Presidents Day" to account for Lincoln's February 12 birthday too; today many people associate the third Monday in February with both Washington and Lincoln.
What hasn't changed, of course, is our fascination with the presidency. So on this Presidents Day we dug up a few gems from the "West Wing" of the Google Books Library Project. Enjoy.
The Washington Yearbook (Compiled by William Rice,1908)
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Edited by H.A. Washington, 1859)
The Rough Riders (Theodore Roosevelt, 1899)
Biography of Andrew Jackson (Phlio A. Goodwin, Esq., 1832)
The Writings of James Monroe (Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, 1898)
Update: Due to copyright regulations in your jurisdiction, if you live outside of the U.S. you may not be able to see the Full Book View for some of the titles above.
Recently I’ve been working with libraries on something we’re excited to announce for Google Scholar users. Libraries are fantastic repositories of scholarship, and we want to make them as visible and accessible as possible. We’ve just expanded our Library Search program in Google Scholar to help people around the world find works of their interest in local libraries. That program now includes links to libraries in Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.
If for example you're a student in Sweden searching Google Scholar for [chemistry], you can click the “Library Search (Sweden)” link underneath the book titled "Principles of polymer chemistry" to see the list of Swedish libraries that hold the book. Then just pay a visit to one of those libraries to reserve it. If you’re outside Sweden, you can activate the Swedish library catalog links from the "Library Links" box in the "Scholar preferences" by searching for Sweden.
If you are a library patron and can't find the books from your library, ask your local library to participate in this program. If you are a librarian and would like to work with us to help users find scholarly literature in your library, please contact us.
We'd like to thank our union catalog partners for helping to make this happen. Here's hoping researchers worldwide will use it to find and build on the amazing collections in the world's libraries.
Friday, February 17, 2006
In August, Google was served with a subpoena from the U. S. Department of Justice demanding disclosure of two full months’ worth of search queries that Google received from its users, as well as all the URLs in Google’s index. We objected to the subpoena, which started a set of legal procedures that puts the issue before the Federal courts. Below is the introduction to our response to the Department of Justice's motion to the court to force us to comply with the subpoena. You can find the entire response here. (This is a 25-page PDF file.)
Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box, not only will they receive back the most relevant results, but that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason. The Government's demand for disclosure of untold millions of search queries submitted by Google users and for production of a million Web page addresses or "URLs" randomly selected from Google's proprietary index would undermine that trust, unnecessarily burden Google, and do nothing to further the Government's case in the underlying action.
Fortunately, the Court has multiple, independent bases to reject the Government's Motion. First, the Government's presentation falls woefully short of demonstrating that the requested information will lead to admissible evidence. This burden is unquestionably the Government's. Rather than meet it, the Government concedes that Google's search queries and URLs are not evidence to be used at trial at all. Instead, the Government says, the data will be "useful" to its purported expert in developing some theory to support the Government's notion that a law banning materials that are harmful to minors on the Internet will be more effective than a technology filter in eliminating it.
Google is, of course, concerned about the availability of materials harmful to minors on the Internet, but that shared concern does not render the Government's request acceptable or relevant. In truth, the data demanded tells the Government absolutely nothing about either filters or the effectiveness of laws. Nor will the data tell the Government whether a given search would return any particular URL. Nor will the URL returned, by its name alone, tell the Government whether that URL was a site that contained material harmful to minors.
But, the Government's request would tell the world much about Google's trade secrets and proprietary systems. This is the second independent ground upon which the Court should reject the subpoena. Google avidly protects every aspect of its search technology from disclosure, even including the total number of searches conducted on any given day. Moreover, to know whether a given search would return any given URL in Google's database, a complete knowledge of how Google's search engine operates is required, inevitably further entangling Google in the underlying litigation. No assurances, no promises, and no confidentiality order, can protect Google's trade secrets from scrutiny and disclosure during the course of discovery and trial.
Finally, the Government's subpoena imposes an undue burden on Google without a sufficiently countervailing justification. Perhaps the Government can be forgiven its glib rejection of this point because it is unfamiliar with Google's system architecture. If the Government had that familiarity, it would know that its request will take over a week of engineer time to complete. But the burden is not mechanical alone; it includes legal risks as well. A real question exists as to whether the Government must follow the mandatory procedures of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in seeking Google users' search queries. The privacy of Google users matters, and Google has promised to disclose information to the Government only as required by law. Google should not bear the burden of guessing what the law requires in regard to disclosure of search queries to the Government, or the risk of guessing wrong.
For all of these reasons, the Court must reject the Government's Motion.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
There's nothing we love more at Google than a public event that gives us an excuse to trot out some celebratory bells and whistles. Case in point: the 2006 Winter Games, now playing in Torino, Italy and on a wide-screen TV and, yes, computer screen very near you. How can Google help enhance your enjoyment of the world's finest athletes competing in one of the world's most gloriously wintry natural settings without actually getting up out of your office chair? Let us count the ways...
To begin with, our man Dennis is publishing a series of Torino-themed doodles showcasing the different events; check back with our home page early and often over the next couple weeks to see how the series progresses -- and for the historically minded, take a look at earlier doodles for Sydney '00, Salt Lake '02 and Greece '04.
Our intrepid in-house satellite globetrotters, meanwhile, have updated Google Earth and Google Local with high resolution imagery of the Torino area; you can read more about what the Earth folks have in store for you just below.
Speaking of vicarious thrills: want to surf the same web pages the athletes themselves will be perusing? The Lenovo i.lounge Start Page is the official homepage at the
Finally, if you're from Italy, France, Great Britian, Switzerland, Austria, Greece or Spain and are interested in employing your geek skills to win a Fiat Sedici, throw yourself headlong into the Fiat/Google Earth Contest, which involves using Google Earth to sniff out a Torino location big enough to hide a car but (presumably) small enough to not be totally obvious within a few minutes. Those who aren't fortunate enough to reside in one of those countries can still enter to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy for a Ferrari 360 Experience (I don't know exactly what that is, but it certainly sounds cool).
Good luck to fanatical Fiat finders and to all the athletes at the Winter Games.
At today's hearing before the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives, we provided the following testimony:
Committee on International Relations, United States House of Representatives
February 15, 2006
Vice President, Global Communications
and Public Affairs, Google Inc.
My name is Elliot Schrage and I am the vice president for global communications and public affairs at Google. My role is to help shape and explain the decisions Google makes as a company in its efforts to provide global access to information as quickly, conveniently, usefully, and comprehensively as possible.
I'm here today to answer any and all questions you might have about how we are attempting to do business in China. I certainly don't – my colleagues certainly don't – expect everyone to agree with our decision to launch a new service inside this challenging, complex, promising market. I hope my testimony will help explain how we came to our decision, what we're seeking to accomplish, and how we’re seeking to accomplish it.
At the outset, I want to acknowledge what I hope is obvious: Figuring out how to deal with China has been a difficult exercise for Google. The requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship – something that runs counter to Google’s most basic values and commitments as a company. Despite that, we made a decision to launch a new product for China – Google.cn – that respects the content restrictions imposed by Chinese laws and regulations. Understandably, many are puzzled or upset by our decision. But our decision was based on a judgment that Google.cn will make a meaningful – though imperfect – contribution to the overall expansion of access to information in China.
Until a few weeks ago, Google has been serving Chinese Internet users the same way we serve all Internet users worldwide since the company was founded in 1999. Though we had no operations or employees in China, we were able to provide a Chinese-language version of Google.com that, thanks to the global nature of the Internet, could easily be reached by users inside China. In 2002, we started to learn that Google was sporadically unavailable to Chinese users. In the fall of that year, we awoke one morning to emails from Google users in China informing us that our service was completely unavailable. We faced a choice at that point: hold fast to our commitment to free speech (and risk a long-term cut-off from our Chinese users), or compromise our principles by entering the Chinese market directly and subjecting ourselves to Chinese laws and regulations. We stood by our principles, which turned out to be a good choice, as access to Google.com was largely restored within about two weeks.
However, we soon discovered new problems. Many queries, especially politically sensitive queries, were not making it through to Google’s servers. And access became often slow and unreliable, meaning that our service in China was not something we felt proud of. Even though we weren’t doing any self-censorship, our results were being filtered anyway, and our service was being actively degraded on top of that. Indeed, at some times users were even being redirected to local Chinese search engines Nevertheless, we continued to offer our service from outside China while other Internet companies were entering China and building operations there.
A bit more than a year ago, we decided to take a serious look at China and re-assess whether our approach there was the best strategy. We spent a lot of time talking to Chinese Internet experts and users, scholars and academics inside and outside China, respected “China hands,” human rights groups and activists, government officials, business leaders, as well as our own Chinese employees. From those discussions, we reached the conclusion that perhaps we had been taking the wrong path. Our search results were being filtered; our service was being crippled; our users were flocking to local Chinese alternatives; and, ultimately, Chinese Internet users had less access to information than they would have had.
Let me dig a bit deeper into the analytic framework we developed for China. Google’s objective is to make the world’s information accessible to everyone, everywhere, all the time. It is a mission that expresses two fundamental commitments:
(a) First, our business commitment to satisfy the interests of users, and by doing so to build a leading company in a highly competitive industry; and
(b) Second, our policy conviction that expanding access to information to anyone who wants it will make our world a better, more informed, and freer place.
Some governments impose restrictions that make our mission difficult to achieve, and this is what we have encountered in China. In such a situation, we have to add to the balance a third fundamental commitment:
(c) Be responsive to local conditions.
So with that framework in mind, we decided to try a different path, a path rooted in the very pragmatic calculation that we could provide more access to more information to more Chinese citizens more reliably by offering a new service – Google.cn – that, though subject to Chinese self-censorship requirements, would have some significant advantages. Above all, it would be faster and more reliable, and would provide more and better search results for all but a handful of politically sensitive subjects. We also developed several elements that distinguish our service in China, including:
- Disclosure to users -- We will give notification to Chinese users whenever search results have been removed.
- Protection of user privacy -- We will not maintain on Chinese soil any services, like email, that involve personal or confidential data. This means that we will not, for example, host Gmail or Blogger, our email and blogging tools, in China.
- Continued availability of Google.com -- We will not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Chinese-language Google.com service.
We believe that our current approach to China is consistent with this mantra. Our hope is that our mix of measures, though far from our ideal, would accomplish more for Chinese citizens’ access to information than the alternative. We don’t pretend that this is the single “right” answer to the dilemma faced by information companies in China, but rather a reasonable approach that seems likely to bring our users greater access to more information than any other search engine in China. And by serving our users better, we hope it will be good for our business, too, over the long run.
To be clear, these are not easy, black-and-white issues. As our co-founder Sergey Brin has said, we understand and respect the perspective of people who disagree with our decision; indeed, we recognize that the opposing point of view is a reasonable one to hold. Nonetheless, in a situation where there are only imperfect options, we think we have made a reasonable choice. It’s a choice that has generated enormous attention – vastly more, indeed, than our earlier decisions not to cross the line of self-censorship. We hope that the ensuing dialogue will lead to productive collaboration among businesses and governments to further our shared aim of expanding access to information worldwide.
We think we have made a reasonable decision, though we cannot be sure it will ultimately be proven to be the best one. With the announcement of our launch of Google.cn, we’ve begun a process that we hope will better serve our Chinese users. We also hope that we will be able to add new services, if circumstances permit. We are also aware that, for any number of reasons, this may not come to pass. Looking ahead, we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives I’ve outlined above, we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.
In the remainder of my written testimony below, I set forth the situation in China as we see it, the debate over the options we confronted, the substance of what Google has decided to do there, the reasoning behind that decision, and some ideas for both industry and governmental actions that could make a useful contribution to the objective of expanding access to information in every corner of the globe.
The Big Picture: The Internet is Transforming China
The backdrop to Google’s decision to launch Google.cn is the explosive growth of the Internet in China. To put it simply, the Internet is transforming China for the better. And the weight of the evidence suggests that the Internet is accelerating and deepening these positive trends, even in an imperfect environment.
Viewed broadly, information and communication technology – including the Internet, email, instant messaging, web logs, bulletin boards, podcasts, peer-to-peer applications, streaming audio and video, mobile telephones, SMS text messages, MMS photo-sharing, and so on – has brought Chinese citizens a greater ability to read, discuss, publish and communicate about a wider range of topics, events, and issues than ever before.
There are currently more than 105 million Internet users in China.1 Nearly half of them have access to broadband connections – an increase of 41% since 2003.2 Even so, Internet deployment in China is at a very early stage, reaching only about 8% of the population.3 Among those under 24 years of age, more than 80% are Internet users.4 By 2010, China will have more than 250 million Internet users.5 And already, there are more than 350 million mobile phones, a number growing by roughly 57 million annually.6
A recent and well-respected study by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) documents some interesting, and perhaps surprising, findings about the views of Chinese Internet users:7
- Most Chinese Internet users believe that the Internet is changing politics in China. Internet users tend to agree that it will increase political transparency and expand discourse: 63% believe that citizens will learn more about politics by going online, 54% of users believe the Internet provides more opportunities for criticizing the government, and 45% believe that the Internet provides more opportunities to express political views.
- Large majorities of Chinese believe that certain kinds of Internet content, including pornography and violence, should be controlled. However, only 7.6% believe that political content on the Internet should be controlled.
- By a 10:1 margin, Chinese Internet users believe that the Internet will make the world a better, rather than worse, place.
The Problem: Access to Google in China is Slow and Unreliable
Since 2000, Google has been offering a Chinese-language version of Google.com, designed to make Google just as easy, intuitive, and useful to Chinese-speaking users worldwide as it is for speakers of English. Within China, however, Google.com has proven to be both slow and unreliable. Indeed, Google’s users in China struggle with a service that is often unavailable. According to our measurements, Google.com appears to be unreachable around 10% of the time. Even when Chinese users can get to Google.com, the website is slow (sometimes painfully so, and nearly always slower than our local competitors), and sometimes produces results that, when clicked on, stall out the user’s browser. The net result is a bad user experience for those in China.
The cause of the slowness and unreliability appears to be, in large measure, the extensive filtering performed by China’s licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs). China’s laws, regulations, and policies against illegal information apply not only to the Internet content providers, but also to the ISPs. China has nine licensed international gateway data carriers, and many hundreds of smaller local ISPs. Each ISP is legally obligated to implement its own filtering mechanisms, leading to diverse and sometimes inconsistent outcomes across the network at any given moment. For example, some of Google’s services appear to be unavailable to Chinese users nearly always, including Google News, the Google cache (i.e., our service that maintains stored copies of web pages), and Blogspot (the site that hosts weblogs of Blogger customers). Other services, such as Google Image Search, can be reached about half the time. Still others, such as Google.com, Froogle, and Google Maps, are unavailable only around 10% of the time.
Even when Google is reachable, the data indicates that we are almost always slower than our local competitors. Third-party measurements of latency (meaning the delay that a user experiences when trying to download a web page) suggest that the average total time to download a Google webpage is more than seven times slower than for Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine.
Users trying to get to Google will have different experiences at different times of day, and from different points on the Chinese network. For example, access to Google appears to be speedier and more reliable in Beijing than in Shanghai, and generally better in the largest cities compared to smaller towns, suburbs, and villages.
Based on our analysis of the available data, we believe that the filtering performed by the international gateway ISPs is far more disruptive to our services than that performed by smaller local ISPs. Because Google’s servers have, to date, been located exclusively outside China, all traffic to and from Google must traverse at least one of China’s international gateway ISPs. Accordingly, Google’s access problems can only be solved by creating a local presence inside China.
Operating without a local presence, Google’s slowness and unreliability appears to have been a major – perhaps the major – factor behind our steadily declining market share. According to third-party estimates, Baidu has gone from 2.5% of the search market in 2003 to 46% in 2005, while Google has dropped to below 30% (and falling).9 The statistics are even more dire among the college-age young, who use Baidu even more, and Google less, than their elders. Part of this has been due to improvements in Baidu’s services and a major marketing campaign (funded by the proceeds of its successful IPO in the US), but the leading cause seems to be the Chinese users’ annoyance at the persistent slowness and unreliability of Google.
Google’s Calibrated Approach
In light of the chronic access problems that have plagued Google in China, Google’s management set out more than a year ago to study and learn about China, to understand and assess our options, to debate their relative merits, and to make a decision that properly weighs both business and ethical considerations.
There is no question that, as a matter of business, we want to be active in China. It is a huge, rapidly growing, and enormously important market, and our key competitors are already there. It would be disingenuous to say that we don't care about that because, of course, we do. We are a business with stockholders, and we want to prosper and grow in a highly competitive world.
At the same time, acting ethically is a core value for our company, and an integral part of our business culture. Our slowness and unreliability has meant that Google is failing in its mission to make the world’s information accessible and useful to Chinese Internet users. Only a local presence would allow Google to resolve most, if not all, of the latency and access issues. But to have a local presence in China would require Google to get an Internet Content Provider license, triggering a set of regulatory requirements to filter and remove links to content that is considered illegal in China.
So we were confronted with two basic options –  stay out of China, or  establish a local presence in China – either of which would entail some degree of inconsistency with our corporate mission. In assessing these options, we looked at three fundamental Google commitments:
(a) Satisfy the interests of users,
(b) Expand access to information, and
(c) Be responsive to local conditions.
The strongest argument for staying out of China is simply that Google should not cross the line of self-censorship, and should not be actively complicit in imposing any limits on access to information. To be clear, the persistence of severe access problems amid fierce competition from local alternatives suggests that the consequence of this approach would be the steady shrinking of Google’s market share ever closer to zero. Without meaningful access to Google, Chinese users would rely exclusively on Internet search engines that may lack Google’s fundamental commitment to maximizing access to information – and, of course, miss out on the many features, capabilities, and tools that only Google provides.
On the other hand, we believe that even within the local legal and regulatory constraints that exist in China, a speedy, reliable Google.cn service will increase overall access to information for Chinese Internet users. We noted, for example, that the vast majority of Internet searches in China are for local Chinese content, such as local news, local businesses, weather, games and entertainment, travel information, blogs, and so forth. Even for political discussions, Chinese users are much more interested in local Chinese Internet sites and sources than from abroad. Indeed, for Google web search, we estimate that fewer than 2% of all search queries in China would result in pages from which search results would be unavailable due to filtering.
Crucial to this analysis is the fact that our new Google.cn website is an additional service, not a replacement for Google.com in China. The Chinese-language Google.com will remain open, unfiltered and available to all Internet users worldwide.
At the same time, the speed and technical excellence of Google.cn means that more information will be more easily searchable than ever before. Even with content restrictions, a fast and reliable Google.cn is more likely to expand Chinese users’ access to information.
We also took steps that went beyond a simple mathematical calculus about expanding access to information. First, we recognize that users are also interested in transparency and honesty when information has been withheld. Second, users are concerned about the privacy, security, and confidentiality of their personal information. Finally, users want to have competition and choices, so that the market players have a strong incentive to improve their offerings over time.
Transparency. Users have an interest in knowing when potentially relevant information has been removed from their search results. Google’s experience dealing with content restrictions in other countries provided some crucial insight as to how we might operate Google.cn in a way that would give modest but unprecedented disclosure to Chinese Internet users.
Google has developed a consistent global policy and technical mechanism for handling content deemed illegal by a host government. Several of the countries in which we operate have laws that regulate content.In all of these countries, Google responds similarly. First, when we get a court order or legal notice in a foreign country where we operate, we remove the illegal content only from the relevant national version of the Google search engine (such as Google.fr for France). Second, we provide a clear notice to users on every search results page from which one or more links has been removed. The disclosure allows users to hold their legal systems accountable.
This response allows Google to be respectful of local content restrictions while providing meaningful disclosure to users and strictly limiting the impact to the relevant Google website for that country. For China, this model provided some useful guidance for how we could handle content restrictions on Google.cn in way that would afford some disclosure when links have been removed.
Privacy and Security. Google is committed to protecting consumer privacy and confidentiality. Prior to the launch of Google.cn, Google conducted intensive reviews of each of our services to assess the implications of offering it directly in China. We are always conscious of the fact that data may be subject to the jurisdiction of the country where it is physically stored. With that in mind, we concluded that, at least initially, only a handful of search engine services would be hosted in China.
We will not store data somewhere unless we are confident that we can meet our expectations for the privacy and security of users’ sensitive information. As a practical matter, meeting this user interest means that we have no plans to host Gmail, Blogger, and a range of other such services in China.
Competition and Choice. Internet users in China, like people everywhere, want competition and choices in the marketplace. Without competition, companies have little incentive to improve their services, advance the state of the art, or take innovative risks. If Google were to stay out of China, it would remove powerful pressure on the local players in the search engine market to create ever-more-powerful tools for accessing and organizing information. Google’s withdrawal from China would cede the terrain to the local Internet portals that may not have the same commitment, or feel the competitive pressure, to innovate in the interests of their users.
The Decision: What Google Is Doing in China
The deliberative process and analysis outlined above led to the following decisions.
(1) Launch Google.cn.
We have recently launched Google.cn, a version of Google’s search engine that we will filter in response to Chinese laws and regulations on illegal content. This website will supplement, and not replace, the existing, unfiltered Chinese-language interface on Google.com. That website will remain open and unfiltered for Chinese-speaking users worldwide.
(2) Disclosure of Filtering
Google.cn presents to users a clear notification whenever links have been removed from our search results in response to local laws and regulations in China. We view this a step toward greater transparency that no other company has done before.
(3) Limit Services
Google.cn today includes basic Google search services, together with a local business information and map service. Other products – such as Gmail and Blogger, our blog service – that involve personal and confidential information will be introduced only when we are comfortable that we can provide them in a way that protects the privacy and security of users’ information.
Next Steps: Voluntary Industry Action
Google supports the idea of Internet industry action to define common principles to guide the practices of technology firms in countries that restrict access to information. Together with colleagues at other leading Internet companies, we are actively exploring the potential for guidelines that would apply for all countries in which Internet content is subjected to governmental restrictions. Such guidelines might encompass, for example, disclosure to users, protections for user data, and periodic reporting about governmental restrictions and the measures taken in response to them.
Next Steps: U.S. Government Action
The United States government has a role to play in contributing to the global expansion of free expression. For example, the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative should continue to make censorship a central element of our bilateral and multilateral agendas.
Moreover, the U.S. government should seek to bolster the global reach and impact of our Internet information industry by placing obstacles to its growth at the top of our trade agenda. At the risk of oversimplification, the U.S. should treat censorship as a barrier to trade, and raise that issue in appropriate fora.
1 “China Online Search Market Survey Report,” China Network Information Center (CNNIC) (August 2005) (“CNNIC Search Engine Study”).
2 Guo Liang, “Surveying Internet Usage and Impact in Five Chinese Cities,” Research Center for Social Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (November 2005) (“the CASS Internet Survey”), at iii. The CASS Internet Survey is a statistically rigorous survey of Internet users in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Changsha.
4 Id., at iv.
5 “15th Statistic Survey Report on the Internet Development in China,” China Network Information Center (CNNIC) (2005).
6 From statistics published by China’s Ministry of Information Industry.
7 CASS Internet Survey., at iv-ix, 93-100.
8 Id. at 100.
9 CNNIC Search Engine Study.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
My first post to my blog was a little paragraph about my obsession with cycling, and I remember feeling a little ... let down. Sure, it was remarkably easy. Write. Click a button. Reload. Cool! But then what? It wasn't until someone left a comment that I was hooked. An audience! Someone is reading!
It was this feeling that led to the idea of Measure Map. Our goal has been to use the power of web analytics to help bloggers feel that same sense of connection with their audience. Today, as the Measure Map team joins Google, our mission remains the same: to build the best possible user experience so people can understand and appreciate the effect their blogs - their words and ideas - can have.
I have to admit I'm addicted now. I bet I check my stats a half-dozen times a day, anxious to see if anyone has linked to me or see what posts are most popular today. Our users agree -- whether their audience is just friends and family or thousands of readers -- they're having more and more fun with their blogs and investing more time in them. And that means content across the web is getting better.
Bringing Measure Map to Google is an exciting validation of the user experience work I've been doing with my partners at Adaptive Path for years. By opening up the app to more bloggers through Google, we hope to help even more people become passionate about their blogs.
It has worked for me; I'm still posting about cycling. I wonder if wearing this is too much for my first day at Google?
When I started at Google a few months ago, I moved to California and was really excited to explore the area. But at the same time, my girlfriend moved 1,000 miles away -- to Aspen, Colorado. (I'm sure she's a professional snow-bunny by now.) We both use Gmail all the time and are total chat junkies. So when I got the chance to work on emoticons for Gmail Chat, I knew just what to do: <3 Hearts!
So this Valentine's day, be sure to send your loved ones some low-fi <3 hearts. Of course they're free, and if you're using Gmail Chat, they're even pink.
We all get better with practice. And while our enterprise search business more than doubled last year, we're always looking for ways to improve. So we're happy to welcome BearingPoint, one of the largest IT and management consulting firms on the planet, as a partner. They're putting Google search into practice -- a new Search Solutions Practice group, that is. With more than 100 people already trained on Google technology, we're confident BearingPoint will demonstrate that practice makes perfect sense for business.
Friday, February 10, 2006
San José City College (SJCC) has embarked on a technology improvement program, and for the first time will be offering student email accounts. That's where we come in. We're testing a new service with the school by hosting Gmail accounts with SJCC domain addresses (like email@example.com), plus admin tools for efficient account management. Massive storage and features that tame the most unruly inboxes, like powerful mail search, conversation view for messages, and a fast interface, make Gmail very handy for students. Together, we're pleased to provide this channel for better communications and a stronger community for all 10,000 SJCC students.
If your school, business or organization is interested in following SJCC's lead, let us know.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Since most of us will be watching the upcoming Winter Games on TV, we thought we'd give you a taste of what it would feel like to be in Torino, Italy, so we've updated Google Earth
To really appreciate the scenery, make sure you enable the Terrain layer and take advantage of the tilt view control in Google Earth:
For example, here's the mountain behind Sestriere where some of the alpine skiing events will occur:
We've also generated street maps for Torino, which are available in the Google Maps API
Update: Reposted with correct date/time.
In v.1 of Google Desktop, we focused on helping you quickly find existing information on your own computer. In v. 2, it became easier to organize and find new personalized information from all over the web via the Sidebar. Now there's v.3, in which you can also search across multiple computers to find your information. You don't have to worry about where it lives; it's available anywhere you are. If you've ever created a document but forgot whether it's on your laptop or desktop, then you can appreciate why we built this feature.
And if you find something interesting in the Sidebar (an interesting newsbit, weekend weather, a hot stock), now you can right-click on the item and send it directly to your friend's Sidebar. Or hey, just play Tic-Tac-Toe with your pal (another Sidebar newbie). And speaking of pals, we're keen to see what other collaborative panels the developers among us can come up with (I'd love to see a chess game!). Anyone who can write a web page can write a panel, so head to the developer site to try your hand.
The only catch with having desktop tools is that they take up valuable screen real estate. Now you can undock Sidebar panels and keep them floating wherever. Bring panels forward by hitting "Shift" twice, clicking the "Panels" button, or keep them always visible by selecting "Stay on top."
We hope you enjoy all the new features and find them truly useful. Please contribute your ideas via the Google Group for Desktop.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
On Monday, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman gave a moving speech to the AAP (American Association of Publishers) about the reasons why the university is participating in the Google Book Search Library Project. She explained how copyright law supports fair use, and eloquently observed that the loss of books, whether due to natural disasters or inevitable physical decay, is a significant cultural loss.
"Nature, politics and war have always been the mortal enemies of written works," she said. "Most recently, Hurricane Katrina dealt a blow to the libraries of the Gulf Coast. At Tulane University, the main library sat in nine feet of water -- water that soaked the valuable Government Documents collection: more than 750,000 items -- one of the largest collections of government materials in Louisiana -- 90 percent of it now lost."
President Coleman went on to note that together with Google "the University of Michigan is involved in one of the most extensive preservation projects in world history. ... By digitizing today's books, through our own efforts and in partnership with others, we are protecting the written word for all time."
In the recent debate over making books discoverable online, the value of preserving our culture, knowledge and history has often been ignored. We're honored to partner with institutions like the University of Michigan that staunchly defend this shared heritage.
You can watch her speech on Google Video.
Update: Reposted with working links and Google Video link.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
When we launched Google Talk, some people told us what a great idea it'd be to add chat to Gmail. True that. So a couple of us Google Talk engineers approached the Gmail team. They were excited about the idea, and we got to work immediately -- spending a lot of not-so-lazy Sundays huddled in a conference room.
At the start, I thought a lot about all the things that bother me about chats. My own chats contained a lot of important information that was always getting lost. I found myself cutting, pasting and emailing important chats to myself so I could find them later. Another thing that bothered me is that whenever I wanted to get in touch with someone, I had to pick a specific application. For email, I'd have to sign into Gmail. For IM, I had to choose between the two or three programs I used regularly.
It seems these things didn't bother only me, but a lot of other people too. Which is why, within a few weeks, when you log into Gmail you'll find a list of your most important contacts on the left-hand side of the window, and you can chat right away with those who are online. You can also save, search for, and view your chat histories just like your Gmail messages.
In line with our belief that communication networks should be open, my fellow geeks will be happy to know that Gmail is now just another XMPP client that connects to the Google Talk network. So Gmail users will be able to chat with any of the millions of users on the Google Talk and Jabber networks.
Now that it's launching, we're going to quit working Sundays. Maybe even throw back a few Mr. Pibbs and celebrate with Red Vines.
Vint Cerf has already written about network neutrality, and he just testified on this important subject in Washington. Here's his statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Updated with working link to statement.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Until I was ten, I thought the Super Bowl was a contest between two teams of beer bottles. They would scuttle up and down the field, their glass necks miraculously unscathed despite the fact that each bottle wore no padding or protection (except for a tiny helmet). The game was always exciting, with one side hoisting the Bud Bowl trophy in the final moments of that last commercial break.
Even after I realized who was really playing the game (it's hard being a Vikings fan), I still tuned in for the commercials. What's more interesting: a 3-hour game or 30 seconds of Jessica Simpson arguing with Miss Piggy? I think we all know the answer to that one! After all, we live in an era in which a company will pay $2 million so the world can watch a sock puppet.
Which is why I'm excited that this year everyone can see the Super Bowl commercials on Google Video. Finally, a way to enjoy the ads without having to fast-forward TiVo through the game.
UPDATE: We've added a few more (2/7).
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
In recent years, my window shopping has moved to the web, and Froogle has been there to help me shop smarter. But one thing Froogle couldn't fix was my lack of a short term memory. That's one reason we recently integrated Froogle with Personalized Search. Now you can view and manage your history of Froogle searches and the products you've looked at, just as you already can do with Web Search, Image Search, and News.
Just sign up for Personalized Search and make sure you're signed in to your Google Account when searching on Froogle. If you're like me, that means you'll never have to worry about forgetting Darth Tater's name - ever again.
For today's Member Briefing of the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus on "Human Rights and the Internet -- The People's Republic of China," we've submitted the following statement:
“Human Rights and the Internet – The People’s Republic of China”
Submission of Andrew McLaughlin, Google Inc.
February 1, 2006
On behalf of Google, I would like to thank the Members of the Human Rights Caucus for inviting Google to participate in today’s Member Briefing on Human Rights and the Internet in China.
Though previously scheduled commitments prevent me from appearing in person today, I reiterate Google’s offer to participate in a Member Briefing on another date, to brief Members individually, and to continue briefing staff on our activities in China.
I. Google.cn in China
The rationale for launching a domestic version of Google in China – a website subject to China’s local content restrictions – is that our service in China has not been very good, due in large measure to the extensive filtering performed by Chinese Internet service providers (ISPs). Google’s users in China struggle with a service that is often unavailable, or painfully slow. According to our measurements, Google.com appears to be unavailable around 10% of the time. Even when users can reach Google.com, the website is slow, and sometimes produces results that, when clicked on, stall out the user’s browser. The Google News service is almost never available; Google Images is available only half the time.
These problems can only be solved by creating a local presence inside China. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people, infrastructure, and innovation within China, we intend to provide the greatest access to the greatest amount of information to the greatest number of Chinese Internet users. At the same time, the launch of Google.cn did not in any way alter the availability of the uncensored Chinese-language version of Google.com, which Google provides globally to all Internet users without restriction.
In deciding how best to approach the Chinese – or any – market, we must balance our commitments to satisfy the interests of users, expand access to information, and respond to local conditions. Our strategy for doing business in China seeks to achieve that balance through improved disclosure, targeting of services, and local investment.
A. Improved Disclosure to Users of Google.cn. In order to operate Google.cn as a website in China, Google is required to remove some sensitive information from our search results. These restrictions are imposed by Chinese laws, regulations, and policies. However, when we remove content from Google.cn, we disclose that fact to our users. This approach is similar in principle to the disclosures we provide when we have altered our search results to comply with local laws in France, Germany, and the United States. When a Chinese user gets search results from which one or more results has been filtered, the Google webpage includes an explicit notification – an indication that the search results are missing something that might otherwise be relevant. This is not, to be sure, a tremendous advance in transparency to users, but it is at least a meaningful step in the right direction.
B. Targeting of Services on Google.cn. Google.cn today includes three basic Google services (web search, image search, and Google News), together with a local business information and map service. Other products – such as Gmail and Blogger – that involve personal and confidential information will be introduced only when we are comfortable that we can provide them in a way that protects users’ expectations about that information. We are conscious of the reality that data is subject to the laws and regulations of the country in which it is stored, and we make decisions about where to locate our services with that reality squarely in mind.
C. Local Investment and Innovation. Looking beyond the Google.cn launch, we will continue to make significant investments in research and development in China. We believe these investments – and the innovations that will result – will help us to better tailor our products to user demands and better demonstrate how the Internet can help advance key objectives supported by the Chinese government, such as building stronger, more efficient, and more equitable markets, promoting the rule of law, and bolstering the fight against corruption.
While China has made great strides in the past decades, it remains in many ways closed. We are not happy about governmental restrictions on access to information, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information. Information and communication technology – including the Internet, email, instant messaging, weblogs, peer-to-peer applications, streaming audio and video, mobile telephony, SMS text messages, and so forth – has brought Chinese citizens a greater ability to read, discuss, publish and communicate about a wider range of topics, events, and issues than ever before. We believe that our continued engagement with China is the best (and perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
II. Next Steps
1. Expanded Dialogue and Outreach. For more than a year, Google has been actively engaged in discussion and debate about China with a wide range of individuals and organizations both inside and outside of China, including technologists, businesspeople, government officials, academic experts, writers, analysts, journalists, activists, and bloggers. We aim to expand these dialogues as our activities in China evolve, in order to improve our understanding, refine our approach, and operate with openness.
2. Voluntary Industry Action. Google supports the idea of Internet industry action to define common principles to guide technology firms’ practices in countries that restrict access to information. Together with colleagues at other leading Internet companies, we are actively exploring the potential for Internet industry guidelines, not only for China but for all countries in which Internet content is subjected to governmental restrictions. Such guidelines might encompass, for example, disclosure to users, and reporting about governmental restrictions and the measures taken in response to them.
3. Government-to-Government Dialogue. In addition to common action by Internet companies, there is an important role for the United States government to address, in the context of its bilateral government-to-government relationships, the larger issues of free expression and open communication. For example, as a U.S.-based company that deals primarily in information, we have urged the United States government to treat censorship as a barrier to trade.
On behalf of Google, I would like to thank the members of the Human Rights Caucus for their attention to these important and pressing issues.
The Google Foundation supports select organizations whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable. From time to time we invite guest bloggers from grantee organizations to tell their story. This is the second in a series of posts from Acumen Fund.
One of the lessons from Acumen Fund’s work is that people are as great a need as financial capital in building market-driven solutions to poverty. The world needs an "entrepreneurial bench” -- top talent with both the skills and the moral imagination to effect significant change. Which is why we're excited to announce the launch of the Acumen Fund Fellows Program. Our goal is to build a corps of leaders around the world with the imagination, skills and drive to add value to best-in-class organizations in both the social and private sectors.
The one-year, experience-based program begins first in New York, where fellows will build business skills, meet extraordinary leaders and grow their leadership abilities. Each Fellow will then spend nine months with a specific investment in the field, with a concrete set of deliverables. The program will finish with a final month in New York to share experiences and focus on potential job opportunities.
We are seeking extraordinary young professionals to make up our first cohort of Fellows. Applicants must apply by February 17. Fellows will be selected by mid-April, with the program beginning in September 2006.
We're extremely excited by the opportunity to lift a new generation of leaders, and will keep you posted on our progress.