Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Surfacing forum posts in search results

Today, we introduced a new search feature that makes it easier for you to find forum posts or discussions related to what you're searching for. This new addition to Google search results applies to sites that tend to have a large number of posts on a specific topic. When several different discussions on a site are relevant to your query, we indent them under the primary result and include the date of each post.

So for instance, if you search for [getting from rome to florence] you will see, below the third result, a list of relevant discussions on various ways to get between these cities.


It's always nice to know what others are saying about the best ways to get around (by boat or train) and how recent those comments are — especially if it's your first time traveling to Italy.

We hope this feature gives you a deeper view into the relevant content available on sites throughout the web — even when that content spans multiple pages or discussions.
At the same time, the main search results are diverse as always — so if you can't pinpoint a useful comment there's a list of relevant sites there to help.

Translate your website with Google: Expand your audience globally

How long would it take to translate all the world's web content into 50 languages? Even if all of the translators in the world worked around the clock, with the current growth rate of content being created online and the sheer amount of data on the web, it would take hundreds of years to make even a small dent.

Today, we're happy to announce a new website translator gadget powered by Google Translate that enables you to make your site's content available in 51 languages. Now, when people visit your page, if their language (as determined by their browser settings) is different than the language of your page, they'll be prompted to automatically translate the page into their own language. If the visitor's language is the same as the language of your page, no translation banner will appear.


After clicking the Translate button, the automatic translations are shown directly on your page.


It's easy to install — all you have to do is cut and paste a short snippet into your webpage to increase the global reach of your blog or website.


Automatic translation is convenient and helps people get a quick gist of the page. However, it's not a perfect substitute for the art of professional translation. Today happens to be International Translation Day, and we'd like to take the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of translators all over the world. These translators play an essential role in enabling global communication, and with the rapid growth and ease of access to digital content, the need for them is greater than ever. We hope that professional translators, along with translation tools such as Google Translator Toolkit and this Translate gadget, will continue to help make the world's content more accessible to everyone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surf's up Wednesday: Google Wave update

Starting Wednesday, September 30 we'll be sending out more than 100,000 invitations to preview Google Wave to:
We'll ask some of these early users to nominate people they know also to receive early invitations — Google Wave is a lot more useful if your friends, family and colleagues have it too. This, of course, will just be the beginning. If all goes well we will soon be inviting many more to try out Google Wave.

Some of you have asked what we mean by preview. This just means that Google Wave isn't quite ready for prime time. Not yet, anyway. Since first unveiling the project back in May, we've focused almost exclusively on scalability, stability, speed and usability. Yet, you will still experience the occasional downtime, a crash every now and then, part of the system being a bit sluggish and some of the user interface being, well, quirky.

There are also still key features of Google Wave that we have yet to fully implement. For example, you can't yet remove a participant from a wave or define groups of users, draft mode is still missing and you can't configure the permissions of users on a wave. We'll be rolling out these and other features as soon as they are ready — over the next few months.

Despite all this, we believe you will find that Google Wave has the potential for making you more productive when communicating and collaborating. Even when you're just having fun! We use it ourselves everyday for everything from planning pub crawls to sharing photos, managing release processes and debating features to writing design documents. In fact, we collaborated on this very blog post with several colleagues in Google Wave.

Speaking of ways you could potentially use Google Wave, we're intrigued by the many detailed ones people have taken the time to describe. To mention just a few: journalist Andy Ihnatko on producing his Chicago Sun-Times column, filmmaker Jonathan Poritsky on streamlining the movie-making process, scientist Cameron Neylon on academic papers and lab work, Alexander Dreiling and his SAP research team on collaborative business process modelling, and ZDNet's Dion Hincliffe on a host of enterprise use cases.

The Wave team's most fun day since May? We invited a group of students to come spend a day with us at Google's Sydney office. Among other things, we asked them to collaboratively write stories in Google Wave about an imaginary trip around the world. They had a ball! As did we... 



Finally, a big shoutout to the thousands of developers who have patiently taken part in our ongoing developer preview. It has been great fun to see the cool extensions already built or being planned and incredibly instructive to get their help planning the future of our APIs. To get a taste for what some of these creative developers have been working on, and to learn more about the ways we hope to make it even easier for developers to build new extensions, check out this post on our developer blog.

Happy waving!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Keep up with the latest trends using Google Search

Today, we're launching a new web search feature that will help you stay in touch with the latest trends on the web.

You might already be familiar with Hot Trends, which lists the fastest rising searches on the web at any given hour. Now, when you search Google.com and your query matches one of the top 100 fastest-rising search terms, we'll show you a graph at the bottom of page, with more information — like how popular the query is, how fast it's rising over time, and other useful data.

Below is a picture of what you'd find today if you searched for [reina capodici], who just wed American Idol star Justin Guarini. Or try another example: [gotthard base tunnel], which is set to become the longest tunnel in the world. (But make sure you search for these examples today — nothing stays hot for long.)


To coincide with this change, we've also reduced the number of trends listed on the Google Hot Trends homepage to 40 from 100. This feature, however, will show up for any query that matches the top 100. We hope this change will make for a simpler user experience, and help you focus better on the top, most interesting content.

This new feature is available in the U.S. and Japan. We hope it will help you keep up with everything there's to know about the latest trends online. No more being out of the loop at your office watercooler!


Back to school with Google Docs

As interns on the Google Docs team this past summer, we were excited to be able to work on making Google Docs that much more useful for students like us. We've now added a bunch of back to school features which should help our fellow students make the transition from summer to school that much easier — and we hope they'll be useful to you non-students as well!

We created an equation editor so you can easily complete problem sets online or write papers that include equations. If you're taking math, you can now take notes in class or answer questions using Google Docs.


In the same vein, we also added superscripts and subscripts — perfect for expressing chemical compounds or algebraic expressions:



For language enthusiasts, we integrated translation features into Google Docs. You can translate either a single word or an entire document — handy for making sure you're on the right track when writing those foreign language essays.

For those of you conducting surveys, we added a "Go to page based on answer" option in Google forms, making it easy to show participants only those questions that are relevant to them.


We also came up with a few features for humanities buffs. To make outlining term papers more customizable, we made it easy to select different bulleting styles for lists by adding an option to the format menu. And when that paper is written and ready to turn in, you now have the option to print footnotes as endnotes for a cleaner-looking paper.

We hope these new features make collaboration in Google Docs even more convenient, whether you're editing group presentations from across campus or collecting survey data from friends. In fact, we've created this video to show how collaboration can even help you out with your "extracurricular" activities:



More insight into claimed content on YouTube

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Biz Blog)

We announced last week that we now have over 1,000 partners using our content identification and management tools to control how and where their videos are distributed on YouTube. Every major U.S. network broadcaster, movie studio and music label is using Content ID to identify user-uploaded versions of their videos, and decide whether they to want block, track or make money from them. As Content ID is proving to be an effective way for media companies to control, promote and monetize their content on our site, we're always thinking about how we can make these tools even more valuable for content owners of all kinds.

Today, we're excited to integrate Content ID with YouTube Insight. Previously, when you claimed a video with Content ID, we were only able to show you basic information (like view counts and tags) associated with the video you claimed. But now, all the statistics and data we share directly with uploaders in YouTube Insight is available to Content ID partners too, making our content management tools more useful than ever — especially for partners whose claimed user videos generate lots of views for them. For example, using Insight with claimed content, Sony Music learned that the JK Wedding Entrance Dance video is currently the music label's 8th most popular video on YouTube.

In addition to rankings, you can also learn about demographics, discovery sources and other metrics for videos that you've claimed, and then compare them to your own uploads. Do the audience demographics of a claimed video differ from those of the official version? What websites or search terms drive the most traffic to user uploaded versions of your content? We think integrating Content ID and Insight can help answer questions like these and will be very helpful as you think about distributing, marketing and making money from your content online.

If you're a Content ID partner, you can find this new information in the Reporting section of your CMS (Content Management System) account.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jump to the information you want right from the search snippets

For most search results, Google shows you a few lines of text to give you an idea of what the page is about — we call this a "search snippet." Recently, we've enhanced the search snippet with two new features that make it easier to find information buried deep within a page.

Normally, a search snippet shows how a page, as a whole, relates to a your query by excerpting content that appears near and around where your query terms show on the page. But what if only one section of the page is relevant to your search?

That's where these new features can help, by providing links within the snippet to relevant sections of the page, making it faster and easier to find what you're looking for. Imagine, for example, that we're researching trans fats and cholesterol, and their effects on the body. If we start with a generic query like [trans fats], Google returns several results with lots of information about trans fats in general, including this result from Wikipedia:

Now, included with the snippet are links to specific sections within the page, covering different subtopics of trans fats. Since we're particularly interested in what's healthy and what's not, "Nutritional guidelines" is probably where the most relevant information is. Clicking this link will take you directly to that section, midway down the page.

Now imagine we're particularly interested in learning about good cholesterol and what levels of it are healthy, so we try a more specific query, [good cholesterol level]. The top result is from the American Heart Association and has tons of information about cholesterol levels. The specific information about good (HDL) cholesterol, however, is contained in one section titled "Your HDL (good) cholesterol level"‎. Since the query was more specific, the snippet for this result now provides the option to "jump to" just this section of the website.


Clicking on "Jump to Your HDL (good) cholesterol level" takes you directly to the most relevant information on the page:


Clicking on the title of the snippet ("What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean") still takes you to the top of the page, as always.

If you're a webmaster and would like to have these links appear for your webpages, take a look at the Google Webmaster Central Blog for info on some of the things you can do. And in the meantime, we hope these enhancements help you find the information you're looking for faster.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Place Pages for Google Maps: There are places we remember!

Google Maps is a great tool for exploring places — you can pan around the map, zoom in and see nearby places, look around in Street View and search for whatever you want. But what I always wanted to do is be able to get a clear understanding of what a place is all about. Instead of doing the research all over the web, wouldn’t it be great to see all the information about one place in...one place?

Starting today, you can do that on Place Pages for Google Maps. A Place Page is a webpage for every place in the world, organizing all the relevant information about it. By every place, we really mean *every* place — there are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.

You can get to a Place Page by clicking on "more info" in search results, or by clicking "more info" in the mini-bubble. Now, instead of just getting a slightly bigger bubble, you'll get an entire page of rich details, like photos, videos, a Street View preview, nearby transit, reviews and related websites.


Here are some of my favorite places, and what you can discover about them using Place Pages:

Tartine Bakery: My favorite bakery in the world. The "Place Summary" section compiles voices from all over the web praising the desserts but warning you about the lines. The "Details" section aggregates material from over 500 authoritative sources; for example, you can find the menu from Zagat.com. The "Related Maps" sections shows user-created maps that include this bakery, such as this delicious California dessert map.



Yoda statue: One of my childhood heroes in real size! The "User Content" section shows excerpts from all over the web describing this hidden little gem; "Nearby Transit" helps you find the best way to get there by public transport; and there’s even some useful local ads in case you want to get one of these at home.

Tokyo: I've spent a lot of time here lately as it's home to part of the Place Page team. On the city's Place Page, you can find out the most popular hotels, parks and major landmarks in Tokyo, browse local photos and videos, see what other people are searching for and access maps about the city from all over the web.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof: I’ve traveled through the central train station in Zurich several times over the last year, visiting the local team that made Place Pages possible. Place pages for transit stations are particularly useful because they'll show you a list of all the lines serving that station, as well as provide a timetable of upcoming departures. 



As the Beatles' song in this post's title suggests, we want to make it easy to remember places: pages will come with a friendly URL that is easy to remember and link to under google.com/places. For example, the San Francisco Place Page will be found at google.com/places/us/california/san-francisco-city. Right now we include cities and most businesses, but we're working hard on bringing this to all Place Pages.

We want there to be a Place Page for every place in the world, but we might be missing a few places here and there. If you're a business owner, you can add or update your business details through the Local Business Center. This allows you to make sure your Place Page reflects the most accurate, authoritative and recent information about your business. And if you don’t have a business, but you discover a place that doesn’t have a Place Page, you can add it through community edits or Google Map Maker, depending on the country you’re in.

Whether you're searching for a great local florist or planning a trip across the globe, we hope Place Page for Google Maps makes your explorations easier and happier.

Announcing Project 10^100 idea themes

Late last year we announced Project 10^100, a call for ideas to help as many people as possible, and a program to bring the best of those ideas to life with a total of $10 million. We hoped to capture the imagination of people around the world and offer a way to bring their best ideas to fruition. We were overwhelmed by the response — you sent us more than 150,000 ideas (approximately 10^5.2) in more than 25 languages and it took more than 3,000 Googlers in offices around the world to review the submissions. (The review process took us much longer than we expected and we appreciate your patience!)

Some ideas we received suggested broad areas of investment, others were very specific technology or implementation proposals, and many of the ideas shared overlapping elements. So rather than posting individual idea submissions, we've decided to do something a little different. We've pooled similar ideas into a set of 16 top idea themes aimed at addressing some important common goals, from making government more transparent to driving innovation in public transport. Every theme has different possible implementations and we intend to consider all reasonable possibilities. But we need your help.

Over the next two weeks we'll be gathering your votes to help inform an advisory board that will then choose up to five winning ideas that will receive funding. After that, we'll present the finalists and ask for proposals from individuals or organizations that can implement these ideas.

It has been a long road for those of us who have worked on this from the beginning. Although it took a lot longer than we first planned, we're pleased with the outcome. In the end, we followed the tried-and-true Google method of "launch and iterate." We enjoyed going through so many interesting proposals and adapted to the massive volume of ideas. We are incredibly proud to be able to put these 16 ideas in front of you to see what you think. Let the voting begin!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fast.Forward. Connecting marketers with innovative ideas (and other marketers)

In this ever-changing digital environment, it can often be tough for businesses and marketers to keep up and maintain relevance to consumers. To help out, we've partnered with The Wharton School to launch Fast.Forward. This site is full of helpful content, including more than 100 videos from leading industry experts — like our own CEO, Eric Schmidt — and academics like Jerry Wind, Lauder Professor at The Wharton School, offering their perspectives on the changing world of marketing.

You can read all about it on our YouTube Biz Blog.

Help and learn from others as you browse the web: Google Sidewiki

As you browse the web, it's easy to forget how many people visit the same pages and look for the same information. Whether you're researching advice on heart disease prevention or looking for museums to visit in New York City, many others have done the same and could have added their knowledge along the way.

What if everyone, from a local expert to a renowned doctor, had an easy way of sharing their insights with you about any page on the web? What if you could add your own insights for others who are passing through?

Now you can. Today, we're launching Google Sidewiki, which allows you to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page.



In developing Sidewiki, we wanted to make sure that you'll see the most relevant entries first. We worked hard from the beginning to figure out which ones should appear on top and how to best order them. So instead of displaying the most recent entries first, we rank Sidewiki entries using an algorithm that promotes the most useful, high-quality entries. It takes into account feedback from you and other users, previous entries made by the same author and many other signals we developed. If you're curious, you can read more on our Google Research Blog about the infrastructure we use for ranking all entries in real-time.

Under the hood, we have even more technology that will take your entry about the current page and show it next to webpages that contain the same snippet of text. For example, an entry on a speech by President Obama will appear on all webpages that include the same quote. We also bring in relevant posts from blogs and other sources that talk about the current page so that you can discover their insights more easily, right next to the page they refer to.

We're releasing Google Sidewiki as a feature of Google Toolbar (for Firefox and Internet Explorer) and we're working on making it available in Google Chrome and elsewhere too. We also have the first version of our API available today to let anyone work freely with the content that's created in Sidewiki.

We've been testing Sidewiki with several experts and news organizations for a while and are happy to hear their positive responses. We hope you'll try it for yourself, follow our Twitter feed, and let us know what you think!

If you're ready to start exploring the web with Google Sidewiki, visit google.com/sidewiki to download Google Toolbar with Sidewiki and contribute your own entries alongside pages on the web.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Picasa 3.5, now with name tags and more

Today, I'm happy to announce that we're releasing Picasa 3.5, a new version of our free photo editing software. This version gives you the ability to add name tags to your photos, using the same facial recognition technology that powers name tags on Picasa Web Albums. Name tags are designed to help you organize your photos by what matters most: the people in them. Picasa identifies similar faces and puts these into an "Unnamed People" album. From there, you can easily add a name tag by clicking "Add a name" and typing the person's name. After you've added name tags to some photos, you can use your tags to do creative things, like quickly find all the photos with the same two people in them, make a face collage with just one click or upload and share people albums with friends.

In addition to name tags, Picasa 3.5 has integrated Google Maps, so you can easily geotag your photos or view the locations of already-tagged photos on a map. And using our totally redesigned import process, you can now import photos from your camera and upload the photos to Picasa Web Albums in one easy step.



Picasa 3.5 is available for both PC and Mac, in English for now. You can download and try it today at picasa.google.com.

Google climate change tools for COP15

In December of this year, representatives from nations around the globe will gather in Copenhagen to discuss a global agreement on climate change. The objective is to reduce global warming emissions sufficiently in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change and to support the global community in adapting to the unavoidable changes ahead. Denmark will act as host for this fifteenth Conference of the Parties under the United Nations’ Climate Change Convention, known as COP15.

In collaboration with the Danish government and others, we are launching a series of Google Earth layers and tours to allow you to explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet and the solutions for managing it. Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century. Today we are unveiling our first climate tour on Google Earth: "Confronting Climate Change," with narration by Al Gore. Stay tuned for more tours in the coming weeks!

Together with the Danish government, we're also launching our YouTube COP15 channel. On the channel, you can submit your thoughts and questions on climate change to decision-makers and the world through an initiative called "Raise Your Voice." These videos will be broadcast on screens around the conference in December and rated by viewers of the channel. The top-rated contributions will be aired globally during the COP15 CNN/YouTube debate on December 15th, and the top two submissions will win a trip to Copenhagen. We look forward to seeing your videos!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A mysterious series for H.G. Wells

You might have noticed an unexplained set of doodles on the Google homepage and a couple tweets from our official Twitter stream, @google, over the last two weeks. On September 5th, we posted a doodle with the abduction of our second 'o' and a coded tweet from its alien captors: 1.12.12 25.15.21.18 15 1.18.5 2.5.12.15.14.7 20.15 21.19, which translates into "All your O are belong to us" (a nod to the Japanese video game, Zero Wing).


We were delighted that people around the world played along with us and shared their theories for why we would have posted this "unexplained phenomenon."

Ten days later, the UFO returned. This time, it was to leave its mysterious mark on the fields.


While the link from the doodle to a search for "crop circles" didn't provide any more clues, we also tweeted the lat/long coordinates of Horsell Commons, the location of the first alien landing in H.G. Wells 1898 classic, The War of the Worlds. Some of you figured out what we were doing, but we weren't ready to reveal it all just yet.

Now, we're finally acknowledging the reason for the doodles with an official nod to Herbert George, who would be 143 years old today. 


Inspiration for innovation in technology and design can come from lots of places; we wanted to celebrate H.G. Wells as an author who encouraged fantastical thinking about what is possible, on this planet and beyond. And maybe have some fun while we were doing it.

The invasion of the logo by alien crafts and pods makes our series complete, but you'll have to read the book to find out how Wells' story really ends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The DoubleClick Ad Exchange: growing the display advertising pie for everyone

Hundreds of thousands of advertisers use search advertising — short, highly relevant text ads alongside search results on Google and other search engines — to grow their businesses. Thanks to a decade of innovation, search advertising is an open platform that allows businesses to easily connect with customers.

As you browse the web today, you'll also see "display advertising," such as videos, images and interactive ads. Like search ads, these connect users with products, services and ideas that interest them. For advertisers, display ads are vital in boosting awareness and sales. For websites and online publishers, they help fund investments in online content and the web services that we all use.

But with a multitude of display ad formats, and thousands of websites, it often takes thousands of hours for advertisers to plan and manage their display ad campaigns. With this complexity, lots of advertisers today just don't bother, or don't invest as much as they would like.

On the other side of the equation, some publishers are left with up to 80% of their ad space unsold. It’s like airlines flying with their planes mostly empty. And for the ad space that they do sell, publishers also have to deal with the complexity of managing thousands of advertisers and campaigns.

We believe that a better system built on better technology can help grow the display advertising pie and benefit everyone.

Three principles underpin our approach to the display advertising field:

1. Simplify the system for buying and selling display ads: For example, our DoubleClick ad serving products help advertisers and publishers manage campaigns and ad formats across thousands of websites and from thousands of advertisers.

2. Deliver better performance that advertisers and agencies can measure: We're building a host of new features to help advertisers to run display ad campaigns across the Google Content Network (comprising hundreds of thousands of AdSense partner sites) and on YouTube. We're also developing better measurement and reporting technology so they can figure out what's working and what's not.

3. Open up the ecosystem: We want to democratize access to display advertising and make it accessible and open, like search advertising. We recently launched the Display Ad Builder to help businesses easily set up and run display ad campaigns. 80% of advertisers who use that product have never run a display ad campaign before.

We've been working hard to put these principles into practice, and today we're excited to announce the new DoubleClick Ad Exchange, a step towards creating a more open display advertising ecosystem for everyone. The Ad Exchange is a real-time marketplace that helps large online publishers on one side; and ad networks and agency networks on the other, buy and sell display advertising space.

These publishers and ad networks manage and represent large volumes of ads and ad space from lots of advertisers and websites. By bringing them together in an open marketplace in which prices are set in a real-time auction, the Ad Exchange enables display ads and ad space to be allocated much more efficiently. This improves returns for advertisers and enables publishers to get the most value out of their online content.

An explanation of the Ad Exchange is here (PDF). You can read in more detail about the features of the new DoubleClick Ad Exchange on the DoubleClick blog.

AdWords advertisers will be able to run ads on sites in the Ad Exchange, using their existing AdWords interface. This means more high quality sites for AdWords advertisers to run display ads on. Similarly, our AdSense publishers will benefit from more high-quality display advertisers coming through the Ad Exchange. You can read more about these benefits on the AdWords Blog and the AdSense Blog.

To find out more about our overall display advertising vision and the many services and features we've been investing in across the Google Content Network, YouTube and DoubleClick, check out the video below:



We believe that growing the display advertising pie for everyone will greatly enhance the web experience for advertisers, publishers, and ultimately users. The DoubleClick Ad Exchange will help create a more open marketplace and is a major step towards that vision.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New AdWords bidding tutorial

(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords Blog)

Last month we launched a new feature of AdWords called Bid Simulator. Bid Simulator takes some of the guess work out of cost per click (CPC) bidding by estimating the number of clicks or impressions you could have received if you had used a different maximum CPC bid. Today, I thought I would take the opportunity to help you make the most of this new feature by explaining how to use the data from Bid Simulator to maximize the profit from your marketing investment.

In general, when you increase your maximum CPC bid for keywords on search you are able to generate more clicks to your site. This may be because your new bid qualifies you to appear higher up in the Sponsored Links on the search results page, or because your higher bid qualifies your ad to appear in new, more expensive auctions. The goal for you as an advertiser is to decide whether or not these additional clicks come at a cost that is still profitable for you.

To make this decision, you need to compare your expected value per click to your incremental cost per click. Your value per click is how much a click for a particular keyword is worth to you, on average. Your incremental cost per click is how much extra you are paying, on average, for the extra clicks you are getting from your higher bid. When your value per click is higher than your incremental cost per click it makes sense to increase your bid. On the other hand, if your value per click is lower than your incremental cost per click, you probably want to decrease your bid.

To learn more, you can watch the tutorial video below. In the video, I'll show you how to calculate these values, how to interpret them and how to use the data to maximize the profit from your marketing investment. My team and I are always looking for ways to help make the AdWords auction easier to understand so if you have other topics that you'd like us to address, please leave a comment on the video and we may be able to make it a topic for a future video.



Watch it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRx7AMb6rZ0

Teaching computers to read: Google acquires reCAPTCHA

The image above is a CAPTCHA — you can read it, but computers have a harder time interpreting the letters. We tried to make it hard for computers to recognize because we wanted to give humans the scoop first, but we're happy to announce to everybody now that Google has acquired reCAPTCHA, a company that provides CAPTCHAs to help protect more than 100,000 websites from spam and fraud.

Since computers have trouble reading squiggly words like these, CAPTCHAs are designed to allow humans in but prevent malicious programs from scalping tickets or obtain millions of email accounts for spamming. But there’s a twist — the words in many of the CAPTCHAs provided by reCAPTCHA come from scanned archival newspapers and old books. Computers find it hard to recognize these words because the ink and paper have degraded over time, but by typing them in as a CAPTCHA, crowds teach computers to read the scanned text.

In this way, reCAPTCHA’s unique technology improves the process that converts scanned images into plain text, known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This technology also powers large scale text scanning projects like Google Books and Google News Archive Search. Having the text version of documents is important because plain text can be searched, easily rendered on mobile devices and displayed to visually impaired users. So we'll be applying the technology within Google not only to increase fraud and spam protection for Google products but also to improve our books and newspaper scanning process.

That's why we're excited to welcome the reCAPTCHA team to Google, and we're committed to delivering the same high level of performance that websites using reCAPTCHA have come to expect. Improving the availability and accessibility of all the information on the Internet is really important to us, so we're looking forward to advancing this technology with the reCAPTCHA team.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing Google for the Public Sector

(Cross-posted with the Google Public Policy Blog)

The 2008 elections demonstrated how technology can increase political participation, and now we're beginning to see the power of Web 2.0 come to government.

On the heels of last week's Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, D.C., we're excited to launch Google for the Public Sector, a one-stop shop of tools and tips that local, state and federal government officials can use to help promote transparency and increase citizen participation.

The site helps government agencies:
  • Make your website, and the information it offers, easier to find. For example, in less than 50 technical staff hours, Arizona's Government Information Technology Agency made hundreds of thousands of public records and other webpages "crawlable" to search engines and visible in Google search results.
  • Visualize your information and tell your story in Google Earth & Maps to the hundreds of millions of people who use them. The State Department runs an interactive Google Map of Secretary Clinton's travels, which shows where she has been and includes photos and videos.
  • Use the power of online video to engage millions of potential viewers and give constituents a voice. In the U.S. alone, the Senate, House of Representatives, White House, and federal government, among others, all have YouTube channels.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly four out of five American Internet users go online to find government information. Technology will help play a key role in making this information accessible, useful and transparent.

Google Chrome after a year: Sporting a new stable release

At Google Chrome's first birthday just two weeks ago, we looked forward to an action-packed year for the browser and the web. Thanks to a full year of great feedback from our users, we're kicking off our second year of Google Chrome with a brand new stable release. This release comes hot on the heels of 51 developer, 21 beta and 15 stable updates and 3,505 bugfixes in the past year.

For you, that means significant speed improvements for the browser as well as a fresh redesign of some of its most loved features. To walk through the top highlights in the spirit of a September of epic sporting tournaments, here's a play-by-play comparison of our brand new release against our previous releases.

A wicked serve, volley, and return: Fast, fast and fast

This new release of Google Chrome is faster than ever, as we continue to provide a modern browser that starts up quickly from your desktop, and is fast to load web pages and web applications.

Notably, we've improved by more than 150% in Javascript performance since our very first beta, and by more than 25% since the most recent stable release.



The V8 and SunSpider benchmarks measure Javascript performance for browsers

Your playbook for the web: The New Tab page

When you download and fire up this latest release of Google Chrome, you'll notice that the New Tab page sports a new look:


The redesigned, new New Tab page

The old New Tab page, which we're now retiring

We've redesigned the New Tab page so that it's easy to use and easily customizable, following some rigorous testing on the most recent beta channel release. Now you can rearrange thumbnails of your most-visited websites by simply clicking and dragging your mouse. Additionally, you can pin thumbnails to a spot so they don't disappear even if your browsing habits change. This way, you can easily get to the websites you care about with just one click.

You can do even more to customize your New Tab page — for example, you can hide parts of the page you don't want to see, or even opt for a simple list view of all your most visited websites. In addition, we've added handy tips to the bottom of the New Tab page to help you get the most out of Google Chrome.

As we bid adieu to the old, New Tab page, let us know what you think about the redesigned New Tab page — we'd love to hear your feedback.

With just a few deft strokes: The Omnibox

We've also improved one of the most used and loved features of Google Chrome, the Omnibox. Because it's a search bar as well as the web address bar, the multi-talented Omnibox helps you get to the sites you're looking for with just a few keystrokes. With this release, we've optimized the presentation of the drop-down menu and added little icons to help you distinguish between suggested sites, searches, bookmarks, and sites from your browsing history.

The new Omnibox drop-down menu

Bringing the cutting edge to the field: HTML5 capabilities

We're very excited about HTML5 becoming standard in modern browsers, and continued to add HTML5 capabilities to this stable release. We're particularly excited about the <video> tag in HTML5, which makes embedding videos in a page as simple as embedding regular images. The <video> tag also allows video playback without a plug-in.

You can give the <video> tag a whirl in Google Chrome and also check out our 50th Chrome Experiment, which uses HTML5 <audio> and <canvas> tags. It's great to see the great innovations that come from the use of open standards, and we'll continue to bring the latest and greatest in web technologies quickly to users through Google Chrome.

And finally, a photo finish with style: Deck your browser with Themes

After testing out Themes for Google Chrome in the beta channel, we're finally releasing it in this stable release. Themes allow you to deck out your browser with colors, patterns and images. We'll be bringing more Themes for the browser soon, but in the meantime, you can change the theme of your browser by visiting the Themes Gallery.

Theme preview: Star Gazing

If you haven't tried Google Chrome recently, we invite you to download and browse the web with this new stable release. Many of the improvements in this release were inspired by the responses from users, so we're all ears if you have any feedback. If you're already using Google Chrome, you'll be automatically updated to this new version soon, but if you're itching to try this right away, download the latest version at google.com/chrome.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Read news fast with Google Fast Flip

One problem with reading news online today is that browsing can be really slow. A media-rich page loads dozens of files and can take as much as 10 seconds to load over broadband, which can be frustrating. What we need instead is a way to flip through articles really fast without unnatural delays, just as we can in print. The flow should feel seamless and let you rapidly flip forward to the content you like, without the constant wait for things to load. Imagine taking 10 seconds to turn the page of a print magazine!

Today we're adding a new experiment to Google Labs: Google Fast Flip, accessible at fastflip.googlelabs.com. Fast Flip is a new reading experience that combines the best elements of print and online articles. Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.


To build Google Fast Flip, we partnered with three dozen top publishers, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Salon, Fast Company, ProPublica and Newsweek. These partners will share the revenue earned from contextually relevant ads. This gives publishers an opportunity to introduce new readers to their content. It also tests our theory that being able to read articles faster means people will read more of them, driving more ad revenue to publishers.

The publishing industry faces many challenges today, and there is no magic bullet. However, we believe that encouraging readers to read more news is a necessary part of the solution. We think Fast Flip could be one way to help, and we're looking to find other ways to help as well in the near future.

We've also made a mobile version of Fast Flip with tactile page flipping for Android-powered devices and the iPhone, so you can browse on the go. This is accessible at the same address.

Go to Google Labs and give Fast Flip a spin. If you have suggestions to make the service better, please let us know. We'll keep working on new ways to improve your news-reading experience. Happy flipping!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Make History with the National September 11th Memorial & Museum

The anniversary of September 11th evokes difficult memories here in New York and all over the world. The events of the day left an indelible mark on many New Yorkers, including me. The offices of my startup were at 30 West Broadway, right next door to 7 World Trade Center, so I was downtown that morning. I saw the planes hit and then watched, shocked, from the West Side Highway as the towers fell. It was a terrible day for all who were there, an impossible day for those who lost friends and loved ones and a shared experience of loss and grief for New York and the world.

Today I'm proud that Google is part of the launch of Make History, a website created by the National September 11th Memorial & Museum in partnership with design firm Local Projects. Make History is a participatory archive that invites people to share their experiences of 9/11 and its aftermath in an effort to preserve the memories of that time. The Museum has created a collaborative storytelling tool that makes innovative use of Street View through the Google Maps API. The Make History site allows people to place and then share their photos and videos in geographical context, collectively piecing together the history that was witnessed, one photo and video at a time.

To participate, simply go to the site and click "Add Your Story." You'll be asked to write about your experience of 9/11 and share your photos and videos, and then to place them at the spot where they were captured.





To power the Make History website, the Museum is using App Engine and leveraging the power of cloud computing. By taking advantage of the scalability of Google's infrastructure, the Museum can focus on building great applications and telling important stories — not on how many servers they will need.

The developer community that uses our tools and APIs is a source of inspiration for all of us at Google who work on platforms, partnerships and developer outreach — and Make History is a powerful example of why we all do what we do. This September 11th, as we sit with our memories of the day, we're honored to have been able to help enable the creation of such a significant and deeply moving archive.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Now S-U-P-E-R-sized!

Search, that is. For us, search has always been our focus. And, starting today, you'll notice on our homepage and on our search results pages, our search box is growing in size. Although this is a very simple idea and an even simpler change, we're excited about it — because it symbolizes our focus on search and because it makes our clean, minimalist homepage even easier and more fun to use. The new, larger Google search box features larger text when you type so you can see your query more clearly. It also uses a larger text size for the suggestions below the search box, making it easier to select one of the possible refinements. Over the past 11 years, we've made a number of changes to our homepage. Some are small and some are large. In this case, it's a small change that makes search more prominent.

Google has always been first and foremost about search, and we're committed to building and powering the best search on the web — now available through a supersized search box.


Before and after on Windows XP, running Google Chrome. Click on the image for a larger view.

Posted by Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Five million students going back to school are "going Google"

(Cross-posted on the Google Students Blog)

It's always tough to bid farewell to summer and hit the books again, but for a few million students this back-to-school season, things are looking up. As of this fall, over five million students at thousands of schools in more than 145 countries have "gone Google" and are actively using Google Apps Education Edition on campus. Since this time last year the number of students using Google Apps on campus has increased by 400%. Because more schools sign up for Apps everyday, we wanted to celebrate the start of the 2009 school year by launching a new site that shows off some of these schools, provides product tips and tricks, introduces a community discussion forum and more.

A snapshot of some of the thousands of schools "going Google" this fall. Every location in green indicates Apps users.

When you visit the site, you'll also find an interactive map packed with interesting trivia. For example, in addition to the 70,000 students using Apps at Temple University, their 5,000 staff and faculty were given a choice between Gmail and alternative vendor, and over 90% chose to go Google. Or when Kent State first deployed, they saw more than 700 students migrating each hour. And a single admin at Montana State successfully deployed over 30,000 accounts in less than 90 days. Or as we learned in the recent webinar from another school on the map — Notre Dame — they saved $1.5 million by switching to Apps. You can hear their full story in this video:



We hope more schools will continue to go Google and bring Apps to their campuses in an effort to improve communication and collaboration while cutting costs and resources. In the meantime, check out our site and find out what Apps has done for other schools and what Apps can do for your school — and if you're already a part of the movement, add yourself to the map!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Hood to Coast 2009

This past Monday, when my co-workers asked me what I did over the weekend, I casually mentioned that I ran a 197 mile race. Thankfully, Hood to Coast is a relay, so I finished with my legs intact after journeying from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon with 11 other Googlers.

Team Google One was comprised of Googlers from the AdSense, AdWords and engineering groups. We competed against more than 1,000 other teams, including blazing fast running shoe companies and other tech companies.

We kicked off the first leg near the top of Mount Hood at 6:45 pm last Friday, as our first runner barreled down 4,000 feet of elevation. During the relay, each team member ran three legs, varying in distance from three to eight miles. At exchanges, the current runner handed off a snap bracelet baton and cheered on his swiftly departing teammate. When not running, we wolfed down PB&J's, and slept in the vans or in massive congregations of sleeping bags along the road.

We started with the sun setting over dramatic gray-blue mountains and ran through the night as reflective vests became fireflies flickering down country roads. We finished at 2:25 pm Saturday afternoon in 19 hours and 40 minutes on the beach where a funk band was laying down some grooves. The time earned us eighth place overall and second place in the corporate division, according to the still unofficial results (PDF).

In addition to medals, we walked away with sore legs, cross-office friendships and some great stories.

Team Google One pauses for a moment as we prepare to descend Mount Hood

Helping create responsible digital citizens

With more and more kids going online, whether to connect over social networking sites, mingle in chat rooms or play games, it's become increasingly important for families, schools and service providers to work together to ensure that the younger generation understands their responsibilities while they explore the virtual world.

A few weeks ago, Google participated in the 21st Annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas, where over 3,500 members of law enforcement, child advocacy groups, the tech industry and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) convened to share ideas, discuss strategies and explore new technologies designed to combat the many and varied forms of crimes against children. We had the opportunity to describe some of the positive steps Google is taking to educate and safeguard minors who use our products and services, as well as the unique ways we support the individuals on our staff who do child exploitation-related work.

According to a recent NCMEC study in patterns and trends in online child victimization, the past few years have seen a 6% increase in reports of kids providing images and videos of themselves when asked by online acquaintances; sending naked photos of themselves through text messages ("sexting"); and cyber-bullying. This new trend underscores the need to educate our younger users, their families and teachers on ways to create and enjoy safe online experiences.

We're doing our part by working with child safety organizations and law enforcement around the globe to spread positive messages about life online. For example, in mid-September, we're launching a global training program on YouTube to help teens teach other teens about these issues. This is just one step among many that we're taking to help create a generation of responsible digital citizens.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Google Domestic Trends: tracking economic sectors

Today, we're really pleased to launch Google Domestic Trends on Google Finance.

Google Domestic Trends tracks Google search traffic across specific sectors of the economy. The changes in the search volume of a given sector on google.com may provide useful economic insight. We've created 23 indexes that track the major economic sectors, such as retail, auto and unemployment.

For example, the Google Luxuries Index tracks queries like [jewelry], [rings], [diamond], [ring], [jewelers], [tiffany] and so forth. As you can see from the screenshot below, this index has seasonal spikes in December — however, in the last two years there has been a pronounced decrease as the recession made consumers wary of spending on luxury items.


The Auto-Buyers Index is also interesting, especially the dramatic 40% increase correlated with the launch of the Cash for Clunkers program in the U.S.:


These charts let you easily compare actual stocks and market indexes to Google Trends. And the data for these indexes are available for download — so you can use it with your own models.

Read more about this on the Google Finance Blog, and be sure to check out the Google Research Blog for info on Hal's research on using Google Trends data to predict economic activities.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Happy 10th birthday, Blogger

Much has changed since Blogger was released in August of 1999. Writing about Blogger's founding in his book Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg describes the effect of Blogger simply: "It cleared the obstacles from the path between brain and Web page." As the phenomenon of blogging has grown and evolved over the past ten years, so too has Blogger, adapting to a world of fast-paced communication and allowing millions to tell their stories. When Google acquired Blogger in February of 2003, about 250,000 people visited Blogger per month. Today, that number is more than 300 million.

In our announcement about the Blogger acquisition, we said (somewhat ironically, not in a blog post — the Official Google Blog was still more than a year away): "Blogs are a global self-publishing phenomenon that connect Internet users with dynamic, diverse points of view while also enabling comment and participation." We're proud that Blogger continues to be a force for free expression worldwide and that it is growing quickly despite its maturity. In the past two years alone, the number of people contributing to a blog has more than doubled, and every second of every day, a new blog is created on Blogger.

To commemorate Blogger's 10th birthday, we've been releasing birthday presents as our way of saying thanks to the millions of users who have made Blogger what it is today. So far, we have released 5 presents and today we're announcing 2 more, courtesy of two Blogger partners:
  • Socialvibe: When Socialvibe approached us about finding a way to empower the Blogger community to help raise funds for charities, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to leverage Blogger's reach to do some good. Starting this week, Blogger users can show their support for charities and raise funds by adding a gadget to their blog. The Socialvibe team has challenged us to raise $50,000 for charity by the end of the year, and we're pretty confident we can beat that.
  • InfoThinker: If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch and a Blogger blog, you're in luck. The team at InfoThinker (makers of the iPhone app BlogPress) was eager to help celebrate Blogger's birthday. Earlier this week they submitted a free version of BlogPress that works only on Blogger to the iPhone App Store. Blogging on the go has never been so easy! Keep an eye out for the app.
Here is the full list of presents. We have more in store over the next couple weeks, and we're just as excited about a number of developments planned for later in the year. With thanks to Blogger founders Meg, Paul and Ev without whom we wouldn't have a 10th birthday to celebrate, and to the millions of people around the world who rely on Blogger to tell their story every day, here's to our next decade.