Monday, June 30, 2008

Google learns to crawl Flash



Google has been developing a new algorithm for indexing textual content in Flash files of all kinds, from Flash menus, buttons and banners, to self-contained Flash websites. Recently, we've improved the performance of this Flash indexing algorithm by integrating Adobe's Flash Player technology.

In the past, web designers faced challenges if they chose to develop a site in Flash because the content they included was not indexable by search engines. They needed to make extra effort to ensure that their content was also presented in another way that search engines could find.

Now that we've launched our Flash indexing algorithm, web designers can expect improved visibility of their published Flash content, and you can expect to see better search results and snippets. There's more info on the Webmaster Central blog about the Searchable SWF integration.

Making it better



Over the summer solstice weekend, Seattle/Kirkland Googlers posed this question to people attending the Fremont Fair: "How would you make our world, or our city, better?" The goal of the Fremont Fair "Make it Better" Project was to engage the Seattle community in an active discussion around improving our world. This is the second year we've partnered with Solid Ground to participate in the fair, a free event organized by The Workshop to benefit local efforts to address homelessness, hunger and racism. Check out the video responses to our question that were just posted on the Solid Ground YouTube channel.

Whether it's about ending poverty, improving equal access to education or any of the myriad of other challenges our world faces, we want to use our technology to stimulate creative discussion about the ideas that are important to Seattle-area citizens and to local Googlers.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I got married... with Google



We love hearing stories about how our products help people, and let's face it -- weddings are one time when help is needed. For many couples, planning a wedding can be an organizational nightmare. But for David and Bergin Boyle, the planning turned into a fun experiment on the web.

The Boyles used Google Calendar to pick a wedding date that fit both of their schedules. They created to-do and RSVP lists with Google Docs and shared them with their relatives and friends. And they created a site containing the wedding details for their guests, complete with a personalized Google Map featuring the local Stonington, Conn., sights as well as places of note in the surrounding metropolitan areas.

As a result, David reports he was undaunted by the planning process. And with the help of Blogger's "future-dated posts" feature, the couple was able to post their wedding story on the groom's blog at the same time that they strolled down the aisle. Here's the full story in their own words. Our best wishes to the Boyles!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Using data to fight webspam



This post is the latest in an ongoing series about how we harness the data we collect to improve our products and services for our users. - Ed.

As the head of the webspam team at Google, I'm in charge of making sure your search results are as relevant and informative as possible. Webspam, in case you've never heard of it, is the junk you see in search results when websites successfully cheat their way into higher positions in search results or otherwise violate search engine quality guidelines. If you've never seen webspam, here's a good example of what you might see if you click on a link in the search results that's spam (click on the image to see it larger).



You can see how unhelpful such a page would be. This example is filled with almost no original content, irrelevant links, and information that is of little use to a user. We work hard to ensure you rarely see search results like this. Imagine how annoyed you would be if you clicked on a link from a Google search result and ended up on a page like this.

Searchers don't often see blatant, outright spam like this in search results today. But webspam was much more of an issue before Google became popular and before we were able to build effective anti-spam methods. In general, webspam can be a real annoyance, such as when a search on your own name returns links to porn pages as results. But for many searches, where getting relevant information is more critical, spam is a serious problem. For example, a search for prostate cancer that's full of spam instead of relevant links greatly diminishes the value of a search engine as a helpful tool.

Data from search logs is one tool we use to fight webspam and return cleaner and more relevant results. Logs data such as IP address and cookie information make it possible to create and use metrics that measure the different aspects of our search quality (such as index size and coverage, results "freshness," and spam).

Whenever we create a new metric, it's essential to be able to go over our logs data and compute new spam metrics using previous queries or results. We use our search logs to go "back in time" and see how well Google did on queries from months before. When we create a metric that measures a new type of spam more accurately, we not only start tracking our spam success going forward, but we also use logs data to see how we were doing on that type of spam in previous months and years.

The IP and cookie information is important for helping us apply this method only to searches that are from legitimate users as opposed to those that were generated by bots and other false searches. For example, if a bot sends the same queries to Google over and over again, those queries should really be discarded before we measure how much spam our users see. All of this--log data, IP addresses, and cookie information--makes your search results cleaner and more relevant.

If you think webspam is a solved problem, think again. Last year Google faced a rash of webspam on Chinese domains in our index. Some spammers were purchasing large amounts of cheap .cn domains and stuffing them with misspellings and porn phrases. Savvy users may remember reading a few blogs about it, but most regular users never even noticed. The reason that a typical searcher didn't notice the odd results is that Google identified the .cn spam and responded with a fast-tracked engineering project to counteract that type of spam attack. Without our logs data to help identify the speed and scope of the problem, many more Google users might have been affected by this attack.

In an ideal world, the vast majority of our users wouldn't even need to know that Google has a webspam team. If we do our job well, you may see low-quality results from time to time, but you won't have to face sneaky JavaScript redirects, unwanted porn, gibberish-stuffed pages or other types of webspam. Our logs data helps ensure that Google detects and has a chance to counteract new spam trends before it lowers the quality of your search experience.

Update: Enlarged image.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Free cross-product webinar for webmasters



Three of our most useful products for website owners are Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, and Google Website Optimizer. On July 8, we're joining forces to bring you a free webinar about all of them so you can learn more about how they can boost your website when used together.

Here's the trifecta:

Google Webmaster Tools is a resource to gauge the visibility of your pages on Google. It shows you which of our search queries drive traffic to your site and lets you see where your site is included in the top search results. You'll even be able to identify your top content and view the words that other sites use to link to it.

Google Analytics provides further insight on how people land and navigate on your site, regardless of whether they arrive through Google search, pay-per-click ads, or other means. You can see which geographical regions people come from, view your top landing pages, and compare the effectiveness of all your ads, e-mail newsletters, affiliate campaigns, referrals, and keywords on Google and other search engines.

Google Website Optimizer then enables you to act on the information you've gathered about your site and make concrete improvements. After identifying your high-traffic but low-converting pages, you can test different combinations of content to determine which one most yields the outcome you're looking for.

To be clear, we keep a strict wall between search and ads; your site ranking won't affect your ad placement and vice versa. Still, by using all three tools together, you'll gain a complete, detailed picture of how your site's visitors arrive, interact, and respond to changes in content or design. And if you're already using one tool, you can use your same login for the others.

Our first-ever joint webinar for Webmaster Tools, Analytics, and Website Optimizer will take place:

DATE: Tuesday, July 8
TIME: 9:00 a.m. PT (Pacific Time)
JOIN US: Register to attend

If you can't make that date, you'll be able to access an archived version of the presentation via the same registration URL. And lest you forget, you can always visit Google Webmaster Central to see everything we offer to help you build and maintain your best site.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keeping kids safe in a digital world



In the spirit of National Internet Safety Month, we welcomed Ernie Allen, co-founder and president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to the Googleplex last week to discuss child protection issues.

For those not familiar with it, NCMEC works closely with federal law enforcement across the U.S. to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation and to help find missing children. From serving as the clearinghouse for reports of online child pornography to issuing Amber Alerts when children go missing to reuniting families in the wake of Katrina, NCMEC is at the forefront of efforts to protect society's most vulnerable members.

In a policy talk called "Beyond Milk Cartons: Keeping kids safe in a digital world", Ernie provided an overview of NCMEC's work and chatted with Googlers about the ever-changing landscape of child protection challenges shared by parents, educators, advocacy organizations, and technology companies like Google as we work to help families make smart choices online. Watch Ernie's talk on YouTube.

Technology is an invaluable tool for addressing some of these challenges. In a recent example, a team of Google engineers dedicated their 20 percent time over the last year and a half to build cutting-edge software for NCMEC that uses image and video recognition technology to help NCMEC analysts more effectively sort and review incoming reports of child exploitation. NCMEC analysts sort through tens of millions of images in child sexual abuse investigations, and we've tried to leverage our expertise in organizing huge amounts of data to help make their important work more automated and efficient.

When it comes to keeping kids safe on the Internet, we believe that education for families, support for law enforcement, and empowering technology tools, like our SafeSearch filter and the NCMEC software, are all critical pieces of the puzzle.

Tackling online child safety issues is no small task, but we'll continue our collaboration with organizations like NCMEC, along with other partners in schools, government and industry, to take collective strides in the right direction.

More real-time quotes on Google Finance



We're excited to let you know we're adding more real-time market data to Google Finance, Google.com and other Google properties. Starting today, you'll have access to real-time, last sale prices from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), along with those from NASDAQ, which we recently launched. Here's the NYSE press release.

What this means is that you can now get the latest real-time stock quotes on Google for free. Wondering what Ford (F) is trading at today? Search for it on Google or Google Finance and keep the page up to have the quotes stream live.

If you use iGoogle, add the Google Finance portfolio gadget to your homepage, and monitor all your NYSE and NASDAQ traded stocks in real time throughout the day.


And if you're on the road with no access to a computer, real-time, up-to-the-second price quotes from these two exchanges are available from your mobile phone as well:


We hope this makes it easier for you to track your investments and make more informed and timely financial decisions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Get outdoors with GO Georgia!



Our Atlanta office recently teamed up with the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to support an initiative called Get Outdoors Georgia (GO Georgia). An effort to help Georgians get outdoors, get fit and enjoy their diverse natural resources, the initiative focuses on family-friendly, nature-based, healthy outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the state. As a founding sponsor of the program, Google will offer consultation on products including AdWords, Analytics, Maps, Earth, Picasa, Gadgets and a branded YouTube channel

According to a 2007 report from the Trust for America's Health, Georgia is one of the "heaviest" states in the union, ranking 14th for adult obesity and 12th for overweight children (16+ percent of its youth overweight or obese). We're pleased that our products will play a part in an historic effort to improve the health and well-being of all Georgians. And today, we're expanding our relationship with GO Georgia by spending a day in Panola Mountain State Park. Atlanta Googlers will help to restore the park and remove growth not indigenous to the area, improving the experience for Georgians and other visitors when they get out and visit the park.

For more info on this forward-looking new program, visit the GO Georgia site.

Google Code Jam is back



If you're a great sprinter, you've probably been in a few races. And if you're a great chess player, you've probably had your share of matches. But what do you do if you're a great programmer?

Well, if you're looking for the rush of competition, the feeling of matching your mind up against the greatest in the world, you can't do better than Google Code Jam. The contests are intense: you'll have two short hours to solve some fiendish algorithmic challenges. You'll read a problem, write your code, download our test cases, and tell us what you think the right answers are. If you're right, it's time to move on to another problem -- but if you're wrong, it's time to make a decision. Debug, or look for an easier challenge...?

Registration is now open, so you can find out more about the contest, and practice on some sample problems. Practice hard! If you make it to the top 500, you'll travel to a nearby Google office for our semifinal round. If you're in the top 100, we'll fly you to our Mountain View headquarters to compete with the world's very best.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Elections in the Internet era



Days after the close of the U.S. presidential primaries, political pundits, campaign strategists, journalists, technologists, and others gathered at our Washington office to discuss how the "first 21st century campaign" is changing politics as we know it. Topics ranged from the democratization of voices in the media to the power of small donors and community organizers to Lindsay Lohan's political clout.

"Obama Girl" producer Ben Relles gave us a sneak peek at his upcoming YouTube video. Lizz Winstead, co-creator of the Daily Show, gave her thoughts on TV journalism today, and why it gave rise to political comedy online and on television. Christopher Hitchens shared why he thinks everyone wants to vote in an American election. And the Internet directors from the McCain, Obama, Romney and Clinton campaigns assessed the role of technology in getting out the vote.

Visit our YouTube channel to see all of the panel discussions in their entirety (Pop Culture Politics, Running the 21st Century Campaign and Covering the 21st Century Campaign) and Citizentube for 1-on-1 interviews with panelists. And special thanks to our friends at C-SPAN for recording and broadcasting the panels.

Check out some photos from the event, which we hope contributes to the conversation about the Internet's growing influence on American democracy.

Plug-ins converge on Washington




Last week Google.org and the Brookings Institution hosted a two-day conference in Washington to showcase plug-in electric vehicles and examine how the government can support their widespread adoption. An impressive lineup of Members of Congress, auto and utility executives, and technology experts spoke to a packed house about the potential of plug-ins to reduce oil dependence, lower the cost of driving, and fight global warming. Between panels, participants were treated to a display of the latest plug-in cars, including one of Google.org's RechargeIT cars, an electric sportscar, and Detroit's answer to high gas prices.

There appeared to be overwhelming agreement that government leadership is necessary to make this industry transformation a reality. (A recent poll commissioned by Google.org shows that voters agree.) A second theme was the need to modernize and green the power grid as the country moves toward electrifying transportation. But with gas prices at record highs and enthusiasm for the promise of electric cars growing, the feeling in Washington last week was that plug-ins' time has come.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our agreement to provide ad technology to Yahoo!



Today, we announced a non-exclusive advertising agreement that will provide Yahoo! with access to our AdSense for search and AdSense for content advertising programs on their U.S. and Canadian web properties. In addition, we will work to enable interoperability between our respective instant messaging services allowing users better, broader communication online.

We are proud of the advertising technologies we have built, which show users a relevant ad whether they are searching for a specific item or browsing the internet. This arrangement extends those benefits to Yahoo! and its many users, advertisers and publisher partners. We currently provide similar services to sites like AOL and Ask.com as well as many other partners, and we work closely with all of our partners to ensure that our partnership drives their long term success.

Why did we make this agreement? Quite simply, we think it is good for users, advertisers and publishers. By offering Google's industry-leading technology to Yahoo!, the whole system becomes more efficient, and everyone benefits:
  • Consumers will see more relevant ads when they are looking for information and browsing the web. And with interoperability between IM services, users will have easier access to even more of their contacts.
  • Publishers currently in the Yahoo! Publisher Network will benefit from Google's advertising technology, potentially increasing the revenue they earn from their sites.
  • Advertisers will have new ways to reach their target customers online more efficiently.
We also think this is good for competition. The truth is, this kind of arrangement is commonplace in many industries, and it doesn't foreclose robust competition. Toyota sells its hybrid technology to General Motors, even though they are the number one and number two car manufacturers globally. Canon provides laser printer engines for HP, despite also competing in the broader laser printer market. Google and Yahoo will continue to be vigorous competitors, and that competition will help fuel innovation that is good for users.

It is important to say what this agreement is not:
  • This is not a merger. Rather, we are merely providing access to our advertising technology to Yahoo! through our AdSense program.

  • This does not remove a competitor from the playing field. Yahoo! will remain in the business of search and content advertising, which gives the company a continued incentive to keep improving and innovating. Even during this agreement, Yahoo! can use our technology as much or as little as it chooses.

  • This does not prevent Yahoo! from making similar arrangements with others. This arrangement is not exclusive, meaning that Yahoo! could enter into similar arrangements with other companies.

  • This does not increase Google's share of search traffic. Yahoo! will continue to run its own search engine and advertising programs, and the agreement will not increase Google's share of search traffic.

  • This does not let Google raise prices for advertisers. Google does not set the prices manually for ads; rather, advertisers themselves determine prices through an ongoing competitive auction. We have found over years of research that an auction is by far the most efficient way to price search advertising and have no intention of changing that.
We have been in contact with regulators about this arrangement, and we expect to work closely with them to answer their questions about the transaction. Ultimately we believe that the efficiencies of this agreement will help preserve competition.

The Internet is a healthy, competitive environment where content creators, advertisers and users come together to access information, communicate and create new business opportunities. We think this deal extends these benefits -- it's good for users, advertisers and publishers and good for the industry.

Fresher related search suggestions



When you search on Google, we often offer you "related" search suggestions to help you find what you're looking for more quickly. We identify related search queries by evaluating data from multiple sources. Our algorithms try to ensure that we offer suggestions when they are most likely to help users. These algorithms also determine how many related search queries to display, and their location on the search results page. Therefore, you won't see related search suggestions for every query, and while they are usually shown below the search results, the algorithm sometimes causes them to display above the search results.

Further, we have teams that help evaluate the quality of these related search suggestions, and the enhancements to the user experience. We're constantly running experiments in order to get data that will help improve the user experience.

Recently, we improved our algorithms to process new information faster, and the result is quite tangible -- you should now see fresher suggestions for queries on current topics of interest.

Because information on the web is constantly changing, we think this improvement will help you find relevant information faster. To give this a test drive, try searching for iphone. You should see related queries around the brand new 3G iPhone announced earlier this week.

If you search for tomatoes, you'll see suggestions around the recent salmonella outbreak.

If you search for us open, you'll get a direct lead to the ongoing U.S. Open golf tournament.

If you're interested in kung fu, you will be told of the new Kung Fu Panda movie!


The query big brown suggests queries around the mystifying performance of the horse at the Belmont stakes.


Try other queries that are relevant to current events you're interested in. You'll know when you trigger fresh suggestions! Some of these search suggestions are very timely, but could have a short shelf life as new information on a topic is processed, and other related queries may be considered more relevant. The examples in this post could "expire" soon as this feature is very dynamic, so we've included screenshots. Note that you will not see related searches if you enable strict SafeSearch filtering. We've currently launched this in the U.S. for English queries, and are working on enabling this for other languages as well.

As always, we'd be interested to know what you think.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A new flavor of Google Trends



The latest version of Google Trends is now live! If you've used it in the past, you know that Google Trends can be used to see how popular certain search terms are across geographic regions, cities, and languages. With our latest update, you can now see numbers on the graph download to a spreadsheet. (Note: Both these functions are available after you've signed in to your Google Account.)

Let's walk through an example of how these nifty new features come into play. With the hot summer months rapidly approaching in many parts of the world, many of us turn to the frosty treat of ice cream to cool off. But have you ever wondered which flavor people search for more frequently: vanilla or chocolate?

First, let's take a look at the searches for vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream separately. Here's what vanilla looks like on its own:



You'll notice a number at the top of the graph as well as on the y-axis of the graph itself. These numbers don't refer to exact search-volume figures. Instead, in the same way that a map might “scale” to a certain size, Google Trends scales the first term you've entered so that its average search volume is 1.00 in the chosen time period. So in the example above, 1.00 is the average search volume of vanilla ice cream from 2004 to present. We can then see a spike in mid-2006 which crosses the 3.00 line, indicating that search traffic is approximately 3 times the average for all years. Read more about how we scale the data.

Here's what chocolate looks like on its own:



Let's look at how vanilla compares with chocolate. Keep in mind that when you compare multiple terms, they'll all be scaled relative to the first term you've entered.


As the numbers on the top of the graph indicate, vanilla ice cream has about 30 percent less search traffic than chocolate ice cream (and it's no surprise that both flavors are more popular during the summer months!) You can also see that the data has been ranked by vanilla, because it was the first search term we entered. However, you can use the drop-down menu beneath the graph to change the ranking to chocolate instead.

Google Trends is not only a fun tool; it also offers some practical uses as well. Suppose you own an ice cream shop and don't know which flavors to serve, or suppose you're responsible for stocking supermarkets across the country; Trends can help you explore the popularity and seasonality of your products. To conduct your own, more detailed analyses, you can now easily export Trends data to a .csv file (a common format to import/export data), which can be opened in most spreadsheet applications. When you use the export function, you'll also have the choice of using either relative scaling (what we've shown here) or fixed scaling (scaled to a specific time range).



We hope you enjoy this new flavor of Google Trends. And of course, we want to know: which flavor of ice cream do you like best?

New third parties for the Google content network



About a month ago, we announced that we certified a number of third-party ad servers, rich media ad agencies, and research firms to serve and track display ads on the Google content network. Today, we're adding Atlas and Tumri to our list of certified third parties.

Atlas and Tumri customers can now save time by managing their Google content network campaigns and their other online campaigns through the same application. They can take advantage of more efficient planning, management, and measurement around their ad buy.

Learn more about third-party ad tags on the Google content network.

Friday, June 06, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish



You may have noticed that Google has a new favicon, the small icon you see in your browser next to the URL or in your bookmarks list. Some people have wondered why we changed our favicon -- after all, we hadn't in 8.5 years(!). The reason is that we wanted to develop a set of icons that would scale better to some new platforms like the iPhone and other mobile devices. So the new favicon is one of those, but we've also developed a group of logo-based icons that all hang together as a unified set. Here's the full set:



The design process we went through was rigorous and interesting, so we thought we would share more of it here. We tried in total more than 300 permutations. It was much harder than we thought at first. We wanted something distinctive and noticeable, so we aimed toward transparency or semi-transparency, so the image would have a more distinctive noticeable shape than just a block. We wanted something that embraced the colorfulness of the logo, yet wouldn't date itself. Since we don't really have a symbol that means Google, we felt it best to work with the logo and letters within it. Our design team tried literally hundreds of approaches. You can see some of our explorations here.


By no means is the one you're seeing our favicon final; it was a first step to a more
unified set of icons. However, we really value feedback from users and want to hear your ideas that we may have missed. If you have your own notions about the Google favicon, please send them to us. We'll do our best to work them in, and maybe your idea will be the one that people see billions of times per day.

Opening our doors in Lenoir



Whether you're shopping for shoes, planning a trip or watching a funny video, you probably don't think much about where that website you're on actually "lives." Though they seem just to exist in some "cloud" out there in "cyberspace," all websites are actually hosted on computers, similar to the one you have at home or work. But millions of websites processing terabytes of data every day -- all of those shopping and video queries -- require much more than a single machine, and they need to be housed somewhere. While some webmasters may run their website off of a small server in their basement, more commonly websites are run off of a stack of computers (a server rack), which lives in a warehouse-type building called a data center. Almost any company that stores or processes information either owns data centers or leases space in them, including banks, insurers, airlines and of course, technology companies. To process the millions of searches, emails, documents and more that come across our servers every day, and to keep all of our services both fast and reliable for our users, we require significant computing power, and have invested heavily in servers and data centers across the world.

On May 21st, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of our newest data center in Lenoir, North Carolina. The Lenoir facility has set a precedent for Google community involvement: hundreds of our closest friends -- the citizens of Caldwell County -- came on site for what we called a "Googley BBQ." Along with pulled pork from the locally-acclaimed Hannah's, attractions included Google-colored snow cones, cotton candy, a local cover band, Google demo stations, a "Meet-a-Googler" tent, and a kiddie area with face painting, stickers, crafts, and (of course) a bouncy house in Google colors.

Lenoir sits in the heart of Caldwell County, which is known for its spectacular views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, its close-knit communities, and its hard-working citizens, and is along the famous "20 miles of furniture" on N.C. highway 321. Though many furniture industry jobs in the area have been lost in recent years, now technology companies are moving to the region, and a focus on technology education is helping to usher Caldwell into the 21st century.

Several speakers at the ribbon-cutting, including the Mayor of Lenoir, David Barlow; County Commissioner Herb Greene; and the Governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, voiced this sentiment, each hopeful that other technology companies will consider Google's presence and set up shop as well. What's not to love about an area with a beautiful landscape, a home-town feel, and such a wonderful and welcoming community? Yeah, we couldn't find anything either.

Lenoir Googlers are still floating on at least cloud seven or eight about playing host at our new site. We couldn't have done it without the local firefighters, police, Chamber of Commerce and government representatives who went out of their way to make sure everyone had fun that day -- helped, of course, by the hundreds of folks who joined us in celebrating. But what's more, we are excited that we will soon be bringing this newest data center online, as another step to ensure that our services remain lightning fast and nearly 100% reliable, no matter where on the planet you may be.

Here's a photo album from the day:

Get your transit schedules and directions with Google Maps for mobile



What with everyone thinking about ways to save on gas and avoid driving, one obvious tactic is to take public transportation. With that (and the environment) in mind, we continue to work with public transportation agencies to get bus and train schedules, and integrate this information into Google Maps. We just launched transit directions in Google Maps for mobile so that you can get transit directions while you're out and about in more than 50 cities worldwide. Right now transit directions are available on the latest Google Maps for mobile release on BlackBerry and many Java-based phones. We'll be adding support for other phones shortly.

To see how it works, read more on the Google Mobile Blog, and watch this demo:


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Explore Walt Disney World® Resort in 3D



Last May, Eric Schmidt and I met to talk about The Walt Disney Company’s focus on technology. We started to explore innovative ways we could work together to bring one of the world’s most magical destinations to Google Earth’s millions of users… and how our guests could be a mouse-click away from visiting the place where dreams come true.

The result is Walt Disney World® Resort in 3D, an interactive, virtual Walt Disney World completely recreated on Google Earth. This revolutionary project features 3D models of our four Orlando theme parks and more than 20 of Disney’s Resort hotels. Incredible in scope -- containing over 1,500 3D models -- Walt Disney World Resort in 3D is the most detailed 3D rendering undertaken on Google Earth to date.

From the summit of Space Mountain® to the watery confines of the Pirates of the Caribbean®, we invite you to explore the Walt Disney World Resort in Google Earth. It’s the next best thing to being there.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Does your password pass the test?



This post is the latest in an ongoing series about online safety. - Ed.

One of the things I work on is password security. And because I'm someone who pays close attention to passwords and how people use them, I sometimes hear interesting stories. For example, a couple of my colleagues are so careful about the security of their passwords that they generate a random eight-character string, memorize it, and then use it as their password for two to three months. After that time elapses, they start the process over again and generate a new random password.

Do we all need to be that careful about our passwords? Probably not. But passwords are one of the web's most important security tools. Whether it's for your Google account, your banking center, or your favorite store, choosing a good password and keeping it safe can go a long way toward protecting your information online.

So how do you choose a good password, and then keep it safe? A few of these tips can help:
  • Avoid common elements when choosing your password. Specifically, you should avoid using words or phases from the dictionary, especially things that are easy to guess, like "password," "let me in," or the name of the site you're logging into. You should also avoid using keyboard patterns, such as "asdf1234" or "aqswdefr," or personal information, such as birthdays, addresses, or phone numbers.
  • Make your password as unique as possible. Once you've settled on a good base for your password, you should go a step further and add in numbers and non-alphanumerical characters, mix in upper-case letters, or use similar-looking substitutions for parts of the password, such as "$" for "s," "1" for "l," and "0" for "o."
  • Create different passwords for different sites. Doing so will help ensure that if one password is compromised, the others will remain secure. You may not be able to have a unique password for every place you visit on the web (for some of us, that would be a lot of passwords to manage), but alternating between a set of different passwords across the web and making sure all accounts that contain highly sensitive information (like email accounts or online banking accounts) have unique passwords is a good place to start.
  • Don't share your passwords with anyone. Not family, not friends, not anyone. This may seem a little strict, but the reality is the more people you share your password with, the greater your chances of having that password compromised will be. Also, if you need to write your passwords down, keep them away from your computer, and never send them in emails. And if you suspect someone might have discovered one of your passwords, change it immediately.
  • Be careful how you share your information online. Some online services -- such as social networking sites and gadgets that scrape information from other products -- may ask you for a password or an API key. If you choose to use these kinds of services, take a few minutes to learn more about what they do to keep your sensitive information secure. And just like sharing passwords with other people, you should be aware that sharing this information increases the chances that it could be compromised.
Another thing that can help keep your password secure is choosing a good security question and answer on the sites that offer that option. You've probably seen this before: When you're creating an account on many sites, you will be asked to choose a question to verify your identity if you forget your password.

Some sites will let you write in your own question; in these cases, you should make sure the Q&A you create isn't something that's easy to guess or something that your family and friends would know. Other sites will present you with a list of preset questions to choose from, such as "What is your mother's maiden name?" These kinds of questions are less secure, as they're easier for other people to guess the answer. In these cases, you should find a way to make your answer unique -- whether it's using the tips above, or by adding in other information -- so that even if someone guesses the answer, they won't know how to enter it properly.

Read more about choosing a good password and security question.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More on Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP)



Web publishers often ask us how they can maximize their visibility on the web. Much of this has to do with search engine optimization -- making sure a publisher's content shows up on all the search engines.

However, there are some cases in which publishers need to communicate more information to search engines -- like the fact that they don't want certain content to appear in search results. And for that they use something called the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP), which lets publishers control how search engines access their site: whether it's controlling the visibility of their content across their site (via robots.txt) or down to a much more granular level for individual pages (via META tags).

Since it was introduced in the early '90s, REP has become the de facto standard by which web publishers specify which parts of their site they want public and which parts they want to keep private. Today, millions of publishers use REP as an easy and efficient way to communicate with search engines. Its strength lies in its flexibility to evolve in parallel with the web, its universal implementation across major search engines and all major robots, and in the way it works for any publisher, no matter how large or small.

While REP is observed by virtually all search engines, we've never come together to detail how we each interpret different tags. Over the last couple of years, we have worked with Microsoft and Yahoo! to bring forward standards such as Sitemaps and offer additional tools for webmasters. Since the original announcement, we have, and will continue to, deliver further improvements based on what we are hearing from the community.

Today, in that same spirit of making the lives of webmasters simpler, we're releasing detailed documentation about how we implement REP. This will provide a common implementation for webmasters and make it easier for any publisher to know how their REP directives will be handled by three major search providers -- making REP more intuitive and friendly to even more publishers on the web.

To see the major REP features currently implemented by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, please see our detailed post on the Webmaster Central blog.

Google Site Search taps the power of the cloud



Search is never far from our minds -- not just on Google, but also for the millions of websites that don't yet have high-quality search. And since we've already built powerful search technologies into our computing infrastructure, site owners don't have to build it themselves. It's an aspect of something you might have heard about recently: "cloud computing".

Our ability to work in the cloud is one reason we've just announced Google Site Search with enhanced index coverage. Previously known as Custom Search Business Edition, this service gives any website the same relevance, ease of use and familiar search experience you get on Google.com. It takes just minutes to set up, and is hosted entirely by Google, so site owners can have great search capabilities with little or no maintenance and technical resources needed. We've also added enhanced index coverage and customization features that help us crawl and index all content (even pages deep within a site) -- and as a result, we can deliver comprehensive search results on any website.

It's not only webmasters who can take advantage of these features; so can site owners who want to maximize e-commerce opportunities and increase their conversions when they deliver a high-quality search experience to site visitors. Read more on the Google Enterprise blog to learn how you can offer better search on your site.

To see Google Site Search in action, watch this video featuring eHealthInsurance:

Monday, June 02, 2008

At long last, real-time stock quotes are here



We're very excited to tell you that real-time quotes on NASDAQ securities are now available on Google Finance. This is an important (and way overdue) development for everyone who consumes financial information. Historically, real-time stock data was not freely and widely accessible. Either buried behind subscription walls or brokerage sites, consumers typically had to live with 15 or 20 minute price delays. In the world of finance, time is indeed money, and it's critical to have timely and accurate data.

Providing free real-time stock quotes is consistent with our mission, and we'll continue to work hard to offer tools, features and more real-time data so investors can make informed and timely financial decisions.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Treasure Hunt: the last leg of the journey



Over the last few weeks, we've been keeping you updated on our Treasure Hunt competition — a puzzle contest designed to test your knowledge of computer science, networking, and low-level UNIX trivia. And now it's coming to a close. The fourth and final puzzle will be released at 1212448500. With it, we'll also be highlighting Google Developer Day, which is coming up on June 18 at Wharf 8 in Sydney.

We'll be announcing the contest winners (and their handsome rewards) once the results are tabulated, so keep your spyglasses here over the next few weeks. And, of course, all the prior weeks' puzzles are still available on the main page.

You've come this far... be ye real treasure hunters or just landlubbers in disguise?