Wednesday, February 28, 2007
There's nothing worse than getting stuck in traffic when you have some place to go, so I'm happy to tell you about a new feature on Google Maps that can help. For more than 30 major U.S. cities, you can now see up-to-date traffic conditions to help you plan your schedule and route. If you're in San Francisco, New York , Chicago, Dallas, or any of the other cities we now include, just click on the traffic button to show current traffic speeds directly on the map. If your route shows red, you're looking at a stop-and-go commute; yellow, you could be a little late for dinner; green, you've got smooth sailing.
We can't make traffic go away, but we hope Google Maps traffic info helps you avoid it whenever possible.
Friday, February 23, 2007
From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see—tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.
Conducting research from the comfort of one's office or home is a wonderful convenience, but it's especially rewarding when you need to go the extra mile in accessing research publications.
When I was a graduate student at Cornell, I needed to go to the library with a reader (yes, an actual live human, not a computer:-)), find the relevant publications, and then arrange to have what I judged to be the most relevant articles read to me. Occasionally, I would scan the printed articles to OCR them and have my computer read it aloud to me. Mostly this was a failure since the articles I wanted to read were in the fields of math or computer science, and OCR dealt poorly, if at all, with technical material. More often than not, I would write to the authors of the publications in the hope of getting access to online versions so that I could save on reader time.
Turning the clock forward to today, equivalent access is a Google Scholar search away. What's more, thanks to publishers like the ACM who making journal publications available online, one can access the complete publication directly from within the search hits. Since the advent of Google Scholar, I have not had to send out email requests to authors asking for access to the electronic versions. And where authors have made these available from their websites, Google Scholar links to those as part of the result set.
So I wish I had had this as a graduate student. Though I have to say working at Google does feel like being in graduate school (but with better food and more money)—so maybe my wish has been granted.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
This is the second in a short series of posts about the Robots Exclusion Protocol, the standard for controlling how web pages on your site are indexed. This post provides more details and examples of mechanisms to control access and indexing of your website by Google.
In the first post in this series, I introduced robots.txt and robots META tags, giving an overview of when to use them. In this post, I'll look at some examples of the power of the protocol. These examples illustrate the detailed and fine-grain control online publishers have over how their websites are indexed.
Preventing Googlebot from following a linkUsually when the Googlebot finds a page, it reads all the links on that page and then fetches those pages and indexes them. This is the basic process by which Googlebot "crawls" the web. This is useful as it allows Google to include all the pages on your site, as long as they are linked together. Let's say you run the TheHighsteadPost.com website. Here's a map of part of the site:
When Googlebot crawls the index.html file, it finds the links to breakingnews.html and articles.html. From breakingnews.html, it can find valentinesday.html and promnight.html and so on.
What if you didn't want valentinesday.html and promnight.html appearing in Google's index? The articles in the Breaking News section may only appear for a few hours before being updated and moved to the Articles section. In this case you want the full articles indexed, not the breaking news version. You could put the NOINDEX tag on both those pages. But if the set of pages in the Breaking News section changed frequently, it would be a lot of work to continually update the pages with the NOINDEX tag and then remove it again when they moved into the articles section. Instead, you can add the NOFOLLOW tag to the breakingnews.html page. This tells the Googlebot not to follow any links it finds on that page, thus hiding valentinesday.html and promnight.html and any other pages linked from there. Simply add this line to the <HEAD> section of breakingnews.html:
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOFOLLOW">
However, there is an important caveat to NOFOLLOW that you should know about. It only stops Google from following links from one page to another. If one of the linked pages is also linked from somewhere else, Google can still find and index that page via that other link. For example if promnight.html is also linked from HighsteadCourier.com, Google can still find and index promnight.html when it indexes HighsteadCourier.com and follows the link from there to promnight.html.
Using NOFOLLOW is generally not the best method to ensure content does not appear in our search results. Using the NOINDEX tag on individual pages or controlling access using robots.txt is the best way to achieve this.
Controlling Caching and SnippetsThe Robots Exclusion Protocol allows you to specify, to some extent, how you would like your web pages should appear in Google's search results. Usually search results show a cached page link and a snippet, two features that our users tell us are very useful. Here, for example, is the first result I got when I searched for "Mallard duck":
Underneath the snippet is the URL of the page followed by the "cached" link. Clicking on this link takes you to a copy of the page stored on Google's servers. This is useful in a number of cases: for sites that are temporarily unavailable; for news sites that get overloaded in the aftermath of a major event, for example, 9/11; for sites that are accidentally deleted. Another advantage is that Google's cached copy highlights the words a person searched for, allowing them to quickly see how the page is relevant to their query.
Usually you want Google to display both the snippet and the cached link. However, there are some cases where you might want to disable one or both of these. For example, say you were a newspaper publisher, and you have a page whose content changes several times a day. It may take longer than a day for us to reindex a page, so users may have access to a cached copy of the page that is not the same as the one currently on your site. In this case, you probably don't want the cached link appearing in our results.
Again, the Robots Exclusion Protocol comes to your aid. Add the NOARCHIVE tag to a web page and Google won't cache copy of a web page in search results:
<META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="NOARCHIVE">
Similarly, you can tell Google not to display a snippet for a page. The NOSNIPPET tag achieves this:
<META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="NOSNIPPET">
Adding NOSNIPPET also has the effect of preventing a cache link from being shown, so if you specify NOSNIPPET you automatically get NOARCHIVE too.
Learn moreAs usual the Google Webmaster Help pages have a lot of useful information:
Next time...The final post in this series will take some common exclusion problems that webmasters have told us about and show how to solve them using the Robots Exclusion Protocol.
When people share their stories about how Google search has made a difference in their lives, we know we're doing our job. It's also given us an opportunity to learn about the breadth of information that you can find on Google. Such as how to find a lost tortoise -- as Jim Lyness did. Here's his story:
"After Christmas, my son Sam wanted a turtle. We bought a Russian Tortoise instead and named him Rocky. Well, one day, we let Rocky out for a stroll around the house. We could not find him that night and into the afternoon the following day. After the boys went to school, my wife, Susan, and I were stumped. Did Rocky get out the front door? My wife told me I was crazy. Susan googled [how to find a Russian Tortoise] and bang -- we had a game plan. Russian Tortoises like warm, dark spaces. We started in the boys' bedroom, again. We pulled the bunk bed back and there was Rocky at the head of the bed. Case solved. When we tell friends and family about googling How to Find a Russian Tortoise, they bust a gut in laughter!
p.s. While our lawyers may not be happy with Jim's use of 'googled' and 'googling', we are very pleased that Jim and Susan were able to find what they needed by searching on Google.
Back in 2005, Google Apps was conceived in a few lines of code, and then it was born in February 2006. Our team has had such a close relationship with it, you might understand how we have nurtured it as we would a child.
So first there was Gmail for your domain -- a limited service that helped organizations like San Jose City College offer personalized Gmail inboxes to all their users. As our little guy picked up new skills (Calendar, Talk, and Page Creator) it grew out of its old name and into Google Apps for Your Domain.
A quick learner, by October Google Apps had perfected 17 more languages, so we could help bring our communication tools all around the globe. Later in the fall, we improved our organizational skills with the Start Page, which brought all the Apps together into a centralized place. Then it was time to start school. Google Apps entered Arizona State University and stood out as one of those high achievers. Today, students and administrators at large universities like ASU and Lakehead are raving about Apps -- how it saves money and IT resources, plus make students lives easier with bigger spam-free mailboxes and a set of tools for working together.
Now, I'm excited to tell you that our baby has finally graduated and is entering the business world. Google Apps Premier Edition is a new version designed to take on all the challenges presented by businesses with complex IT needs. For $50 per account per year, you get the whole Google Apps package plus many new business-oriented features, including access to our APIs and partner solutions (so it’s easy to integrate with existing systems), conference room scheduling for Calendar, 10GB of inbox storage, extended business hours phone support, and mobile access to your email on BlackBerry devices (just in case you can't get enough at the office).
Already, companies big and small, like Procter & Gamble, General Electric Corporation, Prudential, and SF Bay Pediatrics, are talking about how this new version of Google Apps makes it easy to offer low-cost communication and collaboration tools to all their employees so they can get on with what they do best.
Google Apps also won't forget its roots anytime soon. The Standard and Education Editions will continue to be offered for free, and we'll keep working on all three flavors of Google Apps with the help of feedback from all of you. As a start, we’ve just integrated Google Docs & Spreadsheets in all three editions so that everyone can share and edit documents online. Since August, we’ve also added five more major features you've requested, including customized service URLs (mail.yourcompany.com) and domain registration for organizations that don’t yet have a custom domain. Our appearance has matured too, with updates to the administrator control panel that make it easier to setup and manage your services.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
It's that time of year: to celebrate the engineers who create the new technologies that revolutionize our world. Their work changes the way we work, play, learn, and communicate with each other.
As part of our ongoing commitment to raise awareness of these contributions (here's more on our our K-12 initiatives), and to get young students interested in engineering, we're hosting a Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 22nd in several of our U.S. offices, including New York, Kirkland, and our headquarters in Mountain View.
Hundreds of middle-school girls will come to these offices this week to buddy up with an engineer, attend interactive workshops, take a tour, and, of course, have lunch. (Just like last year - see photo.)
Here's hoping the day will spark the interest of these young women to learn more about science, math and engineering -- and maybe even inspire them to pursue engineering studies, so that they too can change our lives. Here's more for students to do, and a page for teachers too.
Friday, February 16, 2007
A big topic of discussion lately is the increasingly large influence media of all kinds can have in the lives of children and teens. Last week I participated in a conference in New York about this important issue, sponsored by CommonSense Media and The Aspen Institute together with several organizations that have a stake in child safety. (Here are videos of the speakers.)
The conference organizers convened a panel of experts and executives to address the question "Does the Internet Change Everything?" I approached this question by suggesting a framework of four scenarios that characterize the online interactions of children and the content they encounter:
- When a child isn't actively seeking objectionable content online, and doesn't encounter any, no action is needed.
- When a child isn't seeking objectionable content, but comes across it inadvertently, ISPs and other online services, like Google, and child safety organizations can provide tools and resources to help families effectively monitor their child's online interactions.
- When a child is actively seeking out objectionable content online and finds it, parents are primarily responsible for devising a solution.
- When a child isn't seeking out objectionable content, but someone deliberately forces such content on them, this amounts to exploitation -- and requires government involvement and cooperation by ISPs and other online services.
In connection with the second scenario, we have invested in developing family safety technology and tools, including SafeSearch, a filter that uses advanced technology to block pornographic and explicit content from Google search results. We've also partnered with child safety organizations to educate families about ways to use the Internet and other types of media safely. These efforts include joining forces with CommonSense Media to provide their movie reviews in Google search results to assist parents in identifying healthy content. We also work with organizations like i-Safe and iKeepSafe to provide online public service announcements that promote access to resources about Internet safety.
When the fourth scenario occurs, we work closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to identify, investigate and prosecute child pornography and exploitation. We remove child pornography immediately when we become aware of its presence on our search engine or content services, and report all instances of child pornography to law enforcement through the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC. We also respond to hundreds of child safety-related law enforcement requests each year, in addition to requests to preserve data related to these cases. Lastly, we donate hardware and software to improve NCMEC's ability to manage incoming reports of child exploitation and assist NCMEC in promoting its CyberTipline, a resource for reporting cases of online child sexual exploitation.
Keeping kids safe on the Internet is a huge task -- bigger than any single government, company or family. We're pleased to work with our industry partners, law enforcement and child safety advocates around the world (including the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK and the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia (FSM) in Germany) to address this issue.
As we develop new initiatives in this critical arena, we'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Gmail sign-ups are now open worldwide! No more waiting for someone to invite you—just create an account directly at www.gmail.com. What better way to share the love with the people you care about than with Gmail chat with <3. And Gmail is available in over 40 interface languages (though <3 needs no translation).
But seriously folks, good relationships are built on good communication. There's no reason you should struggle to reach the ones you love, and Gmail helps you communicate fast and easily.
Update: Just for the heck of it, we enlisted the help of an ensemble cast we think you'll enjoy. Check out our 4-part video.
You may have noticed today's Google Doodle on our homepage in celebration of romance and good food (something we consider extremely important).
When you look at the logo, you may worry that we forgot our name overnight, skipped a letter, or have decided that "Googe" has a better ring to it. None of the above. I just know that those with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety immediately. And if you're feeling grouchy today, may I suggest eating a strawberry.
A very happy Valentine's Day to everyone!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Today we heard that the Belgian court, which last year ruled against us in the Copiepresse case has reaffirmed its original decision. This judgment is clearly disappointing, and we intend to appeal it because we believe that Google.be and Google News are entirely legal and provide great value and critical information to Internet users. However, we are very pleased that the judge agreed Google should be given notice of articles and other material that content owners want removed. As we have in the past, we will honor all requests to remove such materials.
It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the web publisher's site where the information resides.
Here's a quick summary of the case: Copiepresse represents a number of newspapers in Belgium. It sued Google last August claiming that our search engine and news site breached these publications' copyright. In September, the court ruled in favor of Copiepresse, ordering us to remove these publishers' content from both Google.be and Google News. We complied with that order and also posted the ruling to both home pages.
Today's ruling does not affect the current content of Google News because the websites represented by Copiepresse have already been removed from Google News. In fact, hundreds of news publishers in Belgium and around the world are delighted to be included in Google News because it helps more people find their websites and read their articles. That's why Google receives far more requests for inclusion than requests for removal.
We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their websites. If publishers do not want their websites to appear in search results, technical standards like robots.txt and metatags enable them automatically to prevent the indexation of their content. These Internet standards are nearly universally accepted and are honored by all reputable search engines. In addition, Google has a clear policy of respecting the wishes of content owners. If a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News, we remove their content from our index—all the newspaper has to do is ask. There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs.
Friday, February 09, 2007
One of the things I love most about Google is that I get to learn little bits about human nature all the time. This Valentine's Day, the Checkout team wanted to better understand the habits of V-Day shoppers, so we worked with Harris Interactive to conduct a survey with a variety of folks. We found out all sorts of interesting things about the nature of the holiday, what people like to shop for, and who people shop for -- for instance, this year, the family dog is more likely to get a little something for V-Day than Dad is.
There's plenty more where that came from, and the findings might interest you. Read more on the Checkout blog.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I'm delighted to congratulate Alon Halevy and Peter Norvig, two Googlers who have been selected for the 2006 class of ACM Fellows.
This is a great honor, and a recognition of extraordinary contributions to the computing community. Peter, who was our first director of search quality and is currently director of Google Research, has been recognized for his many contributions to the disciplines of artificial intelligence and information retrieval. Alon, who recently joined us from the University of Washington and now leads one of our structured data initiatives, has been honored for his contributions in data integration and knowledge representation.
We'd like to thank each of them along with the other ACM Fellows for their hard work and innovative thinking. In many ways, these distinguished scientists and engineers have helped shape computing into something that affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people. They've also raised the bar on what it means to be a great computer scientist or a great engineer, which makes our work that much more interesting.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
For those of you who don't speak French: I don't either. But that's OK, because as I was writing this post in Google Docs & Spreadsheets, I simply added my French-speaking friend Nick, who confirmed that my two years of high-school French have not paid off. The title aside, we wanted to let you know that Google Docs & Spreadsheets, our handy online document and spreadsheet editor, now comes in 12 more languages. That's 11 if you don't count English for the UK, where the only difference is the word 'color' (colour).
The other languages we've added are: French, Italian, German, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Turkish, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese (Brazil) and Russian. If your favorite language isn't listed here, we've got an additional 18 languages in our spell-checker. Visit docs.google.com to try it out.
There's more: Google Toolbar 3 for Firefox is now out of beta and available in all the same languages. In this new version, you can open your documents and spreadsheets directly in Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Give it a try.
Monday, February 05, 2007
At Webmaster Central, we are all about communicating with webmasters about their sites in the Google index. We want to provide as much information as we can to help webmasters understand how their sites perform and how to improve their results. And we want to get input from the site owners, who after all know their sites best. We spend a lot of time talking with, and getting feedback from, webmasters. One request we hear a lot is to show which pages link to a site. You could always get a sub-sampled list of backlinks by using the link: operator, but now, as the owner of a site, you can get a much larger list in the Webmaster Tools component of Webmaster Central.
Head on over to this post on our Webmaster Central blog for all the details, and then log into Webmaster tools to see what sites link to you. We hope this gives you greater insight about your visitor traffic as well as how your site is linked throughout the web.
Many Australians have used our maps and satellite images, so today we're especially excited to launch Google Maps Australia. We've expanded service to include Australian business listings, driving directions, and support for Google Mobile Maps in Australia.
The next time you're looking for an address, tiger meat pie in Sydney, cafes in Melbourne, or how to get to the beach, Google Maps can help you find the answer. If you're at your computer, go to http://maps.google.com.au and start searching -- you can type addresses or business searches like [cricket near melbourne] all into the same search box. If you want to access Google Maps on your mobile device, go to http://www.google.com/gmm from your Java- enabled phone or Palm device to get started.
A good part of the Google Maps team works out of our Sydney R&D center, and we're really pleased to offer the full functionality of Google Maps to everyone down under. Please let us know what you think!
Friday, February 02, 2007
From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see—tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.
Wikipedia defines mashup in the context of web applications as a "(web application hybrid), a website or web application that combines content from more than one source."
More generally, web mashups are created by leveraging web APIs to present data in new and innovative ways—often, such innovation comes about by combining data from a multiplicity of sources. However, notice that combining multiple data sources into new and innovative views is not the only possible use of web APIs; in particular, you can also leverage these APIs to produce alternative views of a given data source. Newer uses of web APIs such as those provided by Google Maps, Google Calendar or Google Search often fall into this category of providing convenient user access. Thus, it is possible to embed a Google Calendar or the map for a given location into one's website.
Moving from the above scenario to leveraging web APIs in the context of mashups for enabling better accessibility is but one step away. As an example, envision a very basic Google Maps mashup that embeds a map on a web page—but with zoom level set to twice the normal default. This might make a very interesting starting point for a low-vision user. Given the expressiveness of web APIs, we can go a lot further. I believe web mashups provide a very rich platform for building creative accessibility solutions with the goals of:
- Providing the ability to build highly optimized custom views for cases where a "one size fits all" solution does not work
- Experimenting with different accessibility approaches to discover solutions that work for inclusion into the mainstream
Google's goal has always been to give you exactly the information you want right when you want it. With the growth of the Internet and all the new information coming online every day, this might sound hard.
We're constantly trying to improve the quality of your search results. One of the ways we're tackling this is by personalizing your search experience. After all, you're the only one who actually knows what you're really looking for.
We have two main ways of personalizing your Google experience. First, you can customize products and services like the Google Personalized Homepage. Personalizing your homepage gives you the at-a-glance information that you care about—such as your latest Gmail messages, news headlines, or to-do list—right at your fingertips, just the way you want it.
Second, we offer automatic personalization through things like personalized search and recommendations. Our goal with these types of technologies is to make your Google search experience better based on what we know about your preferences, without you having to do any extra work.
Today, we're taking another step toward making personalization more available to you by combining these two into a single signed-in experience. Now, when you're signed in, you'll have access to a personalized Google—one that combines personalized search results and a personalized homepage.
Keep in mind that personalization is subtle—at first you may not notice any difference. But over time, as the search engine learns your preferences, you'll see it. For example, I (Sep) am an avid Miami Dolphins fan (no joke). Searching for [dolphins] gives me info about my favorite football team, while a marine biologist colleague gets more information about her salt-water friends.
If you don't want to see personalized results, just sign out of your Google Account. After all, the goal is to give you what you want when you want it. So give it a whirl and let us know what you think.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Yesterday was National Gorilla Suit Day (NGSD). No, I'm not making this up--MAD Magazine cartoonist Don Martin did, back in 1964. Naturally, there's a full story behind this holiday, and it's been chronicled by my friend, writer Mark Evanier. If you've visited the right websites over the last week or so, you'll have seen various banners promoting National Gorilla Suit Day, which were provided by Mark.
Why, yes...yes, it would. Especially if they didn't know about it in advance.
So Wednesday morning our gorilla-suited singer serenaded a weekly meeting of Googlers, including ones videoconferencing in from Mountain View, Kirkland, and Dublin.
Mark also celebrated the day appropriately--by having Furrier Courier serenade the MAD Magazine offices.
Google doodle--oh well, next year.
We've all been obsessed lately with watching videos on the web. And when we come across something that strikes our fancy, we can't wait to share it with our friends. That got us thinking: rather than sending multiple emails and IMs to share the video URL, wouldn't it be nice to have a feature for sharing videos on orkut?
From now on, when you see that crazy video you feel is a must see for all your friends, now you can create your own video playlist on orkut to share with anyone who visits your profile. Just copy the video URL from your favorite YouTube or Google Video hosted videos, and your friends can enjoy watching your top videos through orkut. And because we know your friends will love your videos as much as you do, we've added an "Add to my favorites" button that lets you easily make your friend's favorite videos appear on your list.
So next time you log into orkut, sit back, relax, and break out the popcorn.
A few weeks ago we were delighted to support the New York Stock Exchange's proposal which would allow Google, including Google Finance, to display streaming real-time last sale prices to everyone. Today we're equally pleased that NASDAQ has a similar filing which would include both real-time last sale prices and volume. We think these proposals are steps in the right direction, and encourage the SEC to give them a big thumbs up so we can start giving you the data you want, when you need it.
User feedback is always an important part of our product development process, and for our latest version of Google Maps for mobile, we decided to put ourselves in the driver's seat. Hailing from London, I recently hopped across the pond with my fellow software engineer Jonathan Dixon to help test out the new features on the Windows MobileTM edition of Google Maps for mobile while visiting the Mountain View campus. I focused on staying on the right side of the road while Jonathan, oblivious to the sights around him, focused on trying out the satellite imagery on his mobile phone.
Like other versions of Google Maps for mobile, with this Windows Mobile version you can find businesses and see real-time traffic updates, along with unique features like contacts integration, GPS support, draggable maps, and tap and hold menus. The business search function proved particularly useful to find delicious Italian food in Half Moon Bay to sate our jet-lagged stomachs. You can download the application here and ActiveSync, or visit google.com/gmm for more information.
And remember -- you can see traffic delays, but don't cause them. Please don't use Google Maps while driving. Instead, give your passengers something fun to do.