Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Google Offers beta starts in Portland, Oregon tomorrow

(Cross-posted on the Commerce, Places, Retail and Small Business Blogs)

Portlanders know how to mix the urban (killer coffee, music and art) and the small-town (easy walking, biking and socializing). There’s no end to the city’s great restaurants, coffee shops, hot spots and places to explore. That’s why, when we started planning the Google Offers beta, we knew Portland was the ideal place to get it all kicked off.

Today, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius announced at the D9 Conference that we’re launching Google Offers beta in Portland, Ore. tomorrow.

Our first Google Offer will be from beloved local java shop Floyd’s Coffee. Husband-and-wife team Jack Inglis and Cris Chapman opened Floyd’s seven years ago, offering up espresso, coffee, breakfast burritos and more. They now have two convenient locations—one cozy, brick-lined shop in Old Town and another Stumptown watering-hole in Buckman.


With Google Offers, we’re working with great local businesses like Floyd’s Coffee, Le Bistro Montage, Powell’s Books and Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade to help them reach more Portlanders. We hope to bring Google Offers to other cities soon, with New York City and the San Francisco Bay area as our next stops.

You can learn more about Google Offers and sign up at google.com/offers. If you’re a business interested in participating in Google Offers, you can let us know too. Finally, if you’re at the Portland Rose Festival this Saturday, visit our Google booth at CityFair to say hello to our team and learn more about Google Offers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Using search patterns to track dengue fever

(Cross-posted on the Google.org Blog)

What does baseball have in common with gazebos? We’re not sure, except that people search on Google for both terms in similar patterns. Last week we introduced Google Correlate, an experimental tool enabling researchers to model real-world behavior using search trends. We’ve heard from many researchers who want to mine this data for new discoveries about economics and public health—much like we designed Google Flu Trends to give an early warning about flu outbreaks. We hope they’re able to make useful discoveries with Google Correlate.

While building Google Correlate, we used it to create an early warning system for another important disease. Google Dengue Trends in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore provides an additional surveillance tool for a disease that affects about 100 million people each year. Dengue is a virus spread through mosquito bites that creates symptoms including high fever, severe headache and pain, rash and mild bleeding. There is no vaccine or treatment, so public health efforts are largely focused on helping people take steps to prevent being infected with the disease.

Singapore has an impressively timely surveillance system for dengue, but in many countries it can take weeks or months for dengue case data to be collected, analyzed and made available. During the dengue outbreak at last year’s Commonwealth Games, we discussed the need for timely dengue information. With help from Professor John Brownstein and Emily Chan from HealthMap, a program at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, we were able to create our system. Using the dengue case count data provided by Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, we’re able to build a model that offers near real-time estimates of dengue activity based on the popularity of certain search terms. Google Dengue Trends is automatically updated every day, thereby providing an early indicator of dengue activity.

The methodology for this system is the same as that for Google Flu Trends and is outlined in a newly published article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

We hope the early warning provided by Google Dengue Trends helps health officials and the public prepare for potential dengue outbreaks. For those who live in places where dengue is present, remember to follow the advice of health officials to prevent infection by wearing mosquito repellent and emptying any containers that lure mosquito larvae by gathering standing water.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our 2011 EMEA Faculty Summit

(Cross-posted on the Google Student blog)

Earlier this month, we held our fourth Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Faculty Summit at our Zurich office, Google’s largest engineering center in the region. This was EMEA’s biggest Faculty Summit to date, with some of EMEA’s foremost computer science academics (103, to be exact) from 73 universities representing 28 countries, plus more than 60 Googlers in attendance. Over the course of three days, participants chose from 48 different sessions, technical streams and tech talks (given by both Googlers and academics) that covered a variety of computer science topics including privacy, software engineering and natural language processing.


The Faculty Summit is a chance for us to meet with computer science academics to discuss operations, regional projects and ways we can collaborate via our our university programs. These programs include our Focused Research Awards, which, to date, are nearing €3.7 million with recent awards in Europe given to researchers exploring privacy, fact discovery, test amplification, optimization and security, among other topics. We also have an academic research initiative to understand market algorithms and auctions, the Google European Doctoral Fellowship and the general research awards program.

This year’s jam-packed agenda included a welcome address by Yossi Matias, senior director and head of Google’s Israel Research and Development Center, covering Google’s engineering activity and recent innovations in EMEA; a presentation by Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special initiatives, on our approach to research and innovation; and a presentation by Nelson Mattos, vice president of EMEA product and engineering, on exciting developments and opportunities in Africa and the Middle East. David Konerding presented Google’s Exacycle for Visiting Faculty, a grant program for high-performance, CPU-intensive computing where we’ll award up to 10 qualified researchers with at least 100 million computing core-hours each, for a total of 1 billion core-hours. Professor Claudia Eckert, a guest visiting from the Technical University of Munich, gave an insightful presentation on security, privacy and the future of the internet.


We also held one-on-one break-out sessions where academics and Googlers could meet privately and discuss topics of personal interest, such as how to develop a well-constructed research award proposal, how to apply for a sabbatical at Google or how to gain Google support for a conference in a relevant research area.

The Summit provides a great opportunity to build and strengthen research and academic collaborations. Our hope is to drive technology forward by fostering mutually beneficial relationships with our academic colleagues and their universities.

Stay tuned for more details about the North America Faculty Summit in New York, July 13-15.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

YouTube highlights 5/26

This is the latest in our series of YouTube highlights. Every couple of weeks, we bring you regular updates on new product features, interesting programs to watch and tips you can use to grow your audience on YouTube. Just look for the label “YouTube Highlights” and subscribe to the series. – Ed.

One busy six-year-old
The first video posted on YouTube.com was a 19-second video called Me at the Zoo. Six years later, more than 48 hours of video are uploaded every single minute, representing a 100% increase over last year alone. As YouTube continues to grow, we’re invested in bringing you more content, innovative tools and an increasingly effective platform to tell your stories. Read more about the past six years of YouTube on our blog.


Interviews in outer space
Last Thursday, Space Shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station astronauts answered questions submitted by YouTube fans during their first live interview from space shuttle STS-134. The astronauts answered questions ranging from social media and new technology to the challenges of leaving family behind—and they even performed a group somersault. Watch the full interview presented by PBS on YouTube.



Caps, gowns and pearls of wisdom
Graduation season is here, which means lots of commencement speeches. YouTube houses a vast repository of commencement addresses, and through YouTube EDU, colleges and universities have uploaded more than 1,600 videos to their own channels. Pick up some sage advice by checking out these star-studded commencement speeches.



The value of views
We announced a change to the way advertisers pay for Promoted Video ads on YouTube. Rather than paying on a per click basis, we’ll move this ad format to a cost-per-view (CPV) basis, meaning advertisers only pay when viewers click on their ad and watch the featured video. We hope CPV formats help to better align video ads with advertisers’ goals of driving trackable video viewership. Read more here.

This week in trends
Here are two of our favorite videos this week:

Coming soon: make your phone your wallet

(Cross-posted on the Google Commerce Blog and Google Mobile Blog)

Today in our New York City office, along with Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint, we gave a demo of Google Wallet, an app that will make your phone your wallet. You’ll be able to tap, pay and save using your phone and near field communication (NFC). We’re field testing Google Wallet now and plan to release it soon.

Google Wallet is a key part of our ongoing effort to improve shopping for both businesses and consumers. It’s aimed at making it easier for you to pay for and save on the goods you want, while giving merchants more ways to offer coupons and loyalty programs to customers, as well as bridging the gap between online and offline commerce.

Because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will do more than a regular wallet ever could. You'll be able to store your credit cards, offers, loyalty cards and gift cards, but without the bulk. When you tap to pay, your phone will also automatically redeem offers and earn loyalty points for you. Someday, even things like boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys could be stored in Google Wallet.


At first, Google Wallet will support both Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you’ll be able to fund with almost any payment card. From the outset, you’ll be able to tap your phone to pay wherever MasterCard PayPass is accepted. Google Wallet will also sync your Google Offers, which you’ll be able to redeem via NFC at participating SingleTap™ merchants, or by showing the barcode as you check out. Many merchants are working to integrate their offers and loyalty programs with Google Wallet.

With Google Wallet, we’re building an open commerce ecosystem, and we’re planning to develop APIs that will enable integration with numerous partners. In the beginning, Google Wallet will be compatible with Nexus S 4G by Google, available on Sprint. Over time, we plan on expanding support to more phones.

To learn more please visit our Google Wallet website at www.google.com/wallet.

This is just the start of what has already been a great adventure towards the future of mobile shopping. We’re incredibly excited and hope you are, too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inside the Big Tent

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

At our European Zeitgeist event, held annually near London, we traditionally erect a large marquee for a partner dinner and entertainment. This year we wondered if there was anything else we could do with the space once Zeitgeist was over. In that instant, the Big Tent was born.

Canvas aside, the term "big tent" has, of course, a political connotation. Wikipedia defines it as "seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints...does not require adherence to some ideology as a criterion for membership." That just about sums up the idea behind last week’s Big Tent conference, which focused on debating some of the hot issues relating to the internet and society.

We invited the advocacy groups Privacy International and Index on Censorship—both of whom have criticised Google in the past—to partner with us in staging the debates, and sought diverse viewpoints among the speakers and the delegates.

Topics on the agenda included: what was the role of technology in the revolutions in the Middle East? What are the limits of free speech online? Do we need tougher privacy laws or are we in danger of stifling innovation? Can technology and access to information be used to help prevent conflict?

The result was a stimulating day of debate featuring the likes of Big Brother television producer Peter Bazalgette, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts and the U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt alongside Googlers including Eric Schmidt, Google Ideas’ Jared Cohen and the Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, and a highly engaged and knowledgeable audience of NGOs, policy advisers, tech businesses and journalists.



You can watch highlights on YouTube and see event feedback on Twitter. We hope to bring the Big Tent to other regions over the coming year.

AdMob celebrates one year at Google as mobile growth accelerates

As we approach the first anniversary of AdMob’s arrival at Google this Friday, it’s amazing to look at how much the mobile industry has grown since last year: an estimated 300 million smartphones were shipped, average smartphone data-usage doubled and hundreds of thousands of new mobile apps have been created.

Many thousands of mobile publishers and developers use ads to support their businesses, so we’re excited to see rapid growth in mobile advertising, too. For example, in the last year, traffic on the AdMob network has grown more than three and a half times, and we now get more than 2.7 billion ad requests every day. We have thousands of advertisers both large and small getting great results every day on AdMob’s network of more than 80,000 mobile apps and sites. To celebrate AdMob’s first year at Google, today we’re introducing a set of new products and features for mobile advertisers and publishers.

New ad formats for tablets
In the last six months alone, traffic from tablets on the AdMob network has increased by 300 percent. To help advertisers better connect with tablet users, today we’re launching a variety of new, tablet-specific rich media ad formats. These new HTML5-based ad formats are built specifically for tablets’ larger, high-definition screens, and make use of features like touch, tap and swipe. Together, these features will enable advertisers to develop rich, engaging campaigns and run them across multiple mobile platforms.



Enhanced tools for mobile app developers
To help app developers grow their app businesses, we’re releasing a significant upgrade to our AdMob “House Ads” product, which developers can use to promote their own products within their mobile apps. The new version includes improved campaign management, new ad formats and better ad targeting options.

In the coming months, we’ll also improve mobile app developers’ ability to use AdMob to deliver the most valuable ad by integrating a new “mediation” feature that selects the best ad from multiple, competing ad networks directly into the Google AdMob Ads SDK.

Deeper integration with Google advertising products
Many advertisers, agencies and publishers use DoubleClick’s ad serving and measurement tools to manage their digital ad campaigns. We envision a single platform that enables seamless management of ads across desktop, video, mobile and tablets. Our announcement earlier this week about the availability of DoubleClick Rich Media ads on the AdMob Network on the AdMob network is one example of this commitment. In a few weeks, we’ll also add support for mobile to our DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) Small Business ad serving product, which thousands of web publishers use today to manage ads that appear on their sites.

The last year has seen incredible growth, but it’s just the beginning. We believe that the products we’re announcing today will further accelerate the growth of mobile advertising, enable marketers and developers to rapidly grow their businesses and help to fund more great mobile content and apps for users.

Mining patterns in search data with Google Correlate

It all started with the flu. In 2008, we found that the activity of certain search terms are good indicators of actual flu activity. Based on this finding, we launched Google Flu Trends to provide timely estimates of flu activity in 28 countries. Since then, we’ve seen a number of other researchers—including our very own—use search activity data to estimate other real world activities.

However, tools that provide access to search data, such as Google Trends or Google Insights for Search, weren’t designed with this type of research in mind. Those systems allow you to enter a search term and see the trend; but researchers told us they want to enter the trend of some real world activity and see which search terms best match that trend. In other words, they wanted a system that was like Google Trends but in reverse.

This is now possible with Google Correlate, which we’re launching today on Google Labs. Using Correlate, you can upload your own data series and see a list of search terms whose popularity best corresponds with that real world trend. In the example below, we uploaded official flu activity data from the U.S. CDC over the last several years and found that people search for terms like [cold or flu] in a similar pattern to actual flu rates. Finding out these correlated terms is how we built Google Flu Trends:


You can also enter a search term such as [ribosome] and find other terms whose activity corresponds well over time with the one you’re interested in:


It turns out cell biology isn’t all too popular in the summer time (sorry biologists!). What’s interesting is that the ups and downs of web search activity for cell biology terms is unique enough that searching on Correlate for [ribosome] brings up searches for other biology terms, such as [mitochondria]. Of course, correlation isn’t the same thing as causation, so we can’t explain why two terms follow the same pattern. But my guess in this case is that both terms are popular when schools teach these concepts.

Search activity is an incredible source of data that may lead to advances in economics, health and other fields; but we need to handle that data with privacy controls in mind. With this system, we don’t care what any one person is searching for. In fact, we rely on millions of anonymized search queries issued to Google over time, and the patterns we observe in the data are only meaningful across large populations.

We encourage you to read our white paper describing the methodology behind Google Correlate. Or for lighter reading, check out our comic! We’ve enjoyed uploading different data sets to see fascinating and sometimes perplexing correlations. Plug in your data and let us know what you find.

Thanks, YouTube community, for two BIG gifts on our sixth birthday!

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

In May 2005, the YouTube founders launched YouTube.com, providing people with a platform to broadcast themselves to the world. Six years on, the world is watching and we wanted to say thank you to the YouTube community for a couple of amazing birthday presents.

First, your video. Back in November we challenged you to up the volume of videos you uploaded to the site. And boy, did you take the bait. Today, more than 48 hours (two days worth) of video are uploaded to the site every minute, a 37% increase over the last six months and 100% over last year. From videos documenting a baby’s first steps in San Francisco, Calif., to a protest in Syria, to a commencement speech at Yale University, we’re continually impressed and inspired by the quality and breadth (in addition to quantity) of videos that you upload to the site every day. On our end, we're constantly evolving to provide the best video sharing and viewing experience for you from faster processing of uploads to longer video lengths to the launch of self-service live stream capabilities to partners.



What can happen in two days, you ask?
  • You could drive non-stop across the country from our office in San Bruno, Calif. to New York City
  • You could undertake a massive movie marathon by watching the entire Back to the Future trilogy eight and a half times (we’d recommend you do that at YouTube Movies)
  • An ambitious cheetah (the fastest land animal at an average running speed of 75 mph) starting in South Africa could traverse 3600 miles of the African continent and reach Egypt
The other great birthday present? Your views. We’re amazed that over this last weekend, you drove YouTube past the 3 billion views a day mark, a 50% increase over last year. That’s the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population watching a YouTube video each day, or every U.S. resident watching at least nine videos a day.

The first six years of a person’s life are incredibly important for development. The same could be said for a company. For the last six years we’ve grown and evolved in our quest to push video forward and deliver the best possible experience to you. So when will we reach 72 hours a minute, or 4 billion views a day? That’s up to you. For our part, we'll continue to work at delivering the diversity and quality of content you're asking for, from live streams of music festivals to campaigns around social inspiration and change, rockstars in education to citizen-journalist coverage of global events and YOU showcasing your own talent. You’ve made YouTube successful because it’s a reflection of you and your world. If this is what we’ve accomplished together in six years, we can only imagine where you’ll take us in the next six!

Update 8:09am: This post was originally published in a slightly different form and has since been updated. No content has been changed; just rearranged.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hacking for humanity in Silicon Valley and around the globe

(Cross-posted on the Code Blog and Google.org Blog)

Two years ago representatives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, NASA and the World Bank came together to form the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) program. The idea was simple: technology can and should be used for good. RHoK brings together subject matter experts, volunteer software developers and designers to create open source and technology agnostic software solutions that address challenges facing humanity. On June 4-5, 2011 we’ll hold the third Random Hacks of Kindness global event at five U.S. locations and 13 international sites, giving local developer communities the opportunity to collaborate on problems in person.


The RHoK community has already developed some applications focused on crisis response such as I’mOK, a mobile messaging application for disaster response that was used on the ground in Haiti and Chile; and CHASM, a visual tool to map landslide risk currently being piloted by the World Bank in landslide affected areas in the Caribbean. Person Finder, a tool created by Google’s crisis response team to help people find friends and loved ones after a natural disaster, was also refined at RHoK events and effectively deployed in Haiti, Chile and Japan.

We’re inviting all developers, designers and anyone else who wants to help “hack for humanity,” to attend one of the local events on June 4-5. There, you’ll meet other open source developers, work with experts in disaster and climate issues and contribute code to exciting projects that make a difference. If you’re in Northern California, come join us at the Silicon Valley RHoK event at Google headquarters.

And if you’re part of an organization that works in the fields of crisis response or climate change, you can submit a problem definition online, so that developers and volunteers can work on developing technology to address the challenge.

Visit http://www.rhok.org/ for more information and to sign up for your local event, and get set to put your hacking skills to good use.



Investing in the Alta Wind Energy Center

(Cross-posted from the Google Green Blog)

The Mojave Desert might be best known for its scorching sun and scary sidewinders, but the wind blows hard where the Mojave sands meet the Tehachapi Mountains in southern California, making it a great spot for wind turbines. It’s the site of the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC), which will generate 1,550 megawatts (MW) of energy when complete, making it one of the largest sites in the country for wind energy generation—enough to power 450,000 homes. Renewable energy developer Terra-Gen Power is constructing the site in several phases and we’ll provide $55 million to finance the 102 MW Alta IV project. Citibank, which has underwritten the equity for Alta Projects II-V, is also investing in this project.

We’re always looking for projects that are uniquely positioned to transform our energy sector. As part of the new 4,500 MW Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP), AWEC uses some of the first transmission lines developed specifically to transport renewable energy from remote, resource-rich areas (like the Mojave) to major population centers.

The Alta Wind Energy Center under construction

The Alta projects also employ an innovative financial structure called a leveraged lease, which has been used previously in the solar industry but has only recently become an option for wind projects. Under the leveraged lease, Google and Citi are purchasing the Alta IV project and will lease it back to Terra-Gen, who will manage and operate the wind projects under long-term agreements. We hope this structure encourages more investment by enabling other types of investors who might not typically consider wind projects.

The first five Alta projects are already operational, delivering 720 MW of energy to Southern California Edison, which will receive all 1,550 MW when completed, under a power purchase agreement signed with Terra-Gen in 2006. While Google won’t be purchasing the electricity from this project, AWEC will help California meet its ambitious renewable portfolio standard of 33 percent clean power by 2020. The whole site will boost California’s wind generation by 30 percent.

With this deal, we’ve now invested more than $400 million in the clean energy sector. We hope AWEC’s success, with its unique deal structure and renewable energy transmission, encourages more financing and development of renewables that will usher in a new energy future.

Update 6/22: Today, we’re increasing our investment in the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) in Tehachapi, Calif. by providing another $102 million to finance the 168 MW Alta V Project. This adds to the $55 million investment we announced here last month for the 102 MW Alta IV project. We’ve now invested $157 million in 270 MW of clean, wind energy generation at AWEC. And that brings our total invested in this sector to more than $780 million, with over $700 million invested this year aloneall in projects that not only provide us strong financial returns, but also help to accelerate the deployment of over 1.7 GWs of clean renewable energy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The votes are in for the Google Science Fair Finalists and People’s Choice Award Winner

(Cross-posted from the Google Science Fair Blog and on the Google Students Blog)

From winged keels to water turbines, from prosthetic limbs to programming in pure English, it’s been a fascinating two weeks for our Google Science Fair judges. It was no easy task to select 15 finalists out of the 60 semi-finalists—all of the students’ projects asked interesting questions, many focused on real-world problems and some produced groundbreaking science that challenged current conventions.

After much deliberation we’re happy to announce the 15 finalists:

Age 13 - 14
Anand Srinivasan, USA
Daniel Arnold, USA
Lauren Hodge, USA
Luke Taylor, South Africa
Michelle Guo, USA

Age 15 - 16
Dora Chen, USA
Gavin Ovsak, USA
Harine Ravichandran, India
Naomi Shah, USA
Skanda Koppula, USA

Age 17 - 18
Christopher Neilsen, Canada
Matthew Morris, USA
Shaun Lim Hsien Yang, Singapore
Shree Bose, USA
Vighnesh Leonardo Shiv, USA

In July, these finalists will come to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to present their projects to our panel of finalist judges, including science luminaries, technology innovators and one Nobel laureate. They’ll compete for prizes that include $100,000 in scholarship funds, real-life experiences at CERN, Google, LEGO and Scientific American, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands courtesy of National Geographic Expeditions. The winners will be announced at our celebration gala that same evening, beginning at 6:00 p.m. PDT July 11. The event will be streamed live on our YouTube channel so make sure to tune in.

In addition, over the past two weeks people around the world have had the opportunity to vote for their favorite projects in our online voting gallery. We’ve had more than 100,000 votes and the competition was really tight, but we’re happy to announce that Nimal Subramanian is the People’s Choice Award winner. Nimal will receive a $10,000 scholarship. Congratulations Nimal—the public really loved your project!

Congratulations to all the finalists and the People’s Choice Award winner. We look forward to meeting the finalists at Google in July.

Bringing tech knowledge to nonprofits through HandsOn Tech

Community service has always been important to us. When thinking of ways we can give back, we often focus on where our strengths lie—namely, in technical knowledge. More and more frequently, Googlers who volunteer note that many incredible nonprofits around the U.S. lack the tech knowledge or resources that could immensely help their operations and their cause.

With this in mind, we got together with the HandsOn Network, the volunteer arm of Points of Light Institute, to create HandsOn Tech, an initiative designed to help nonprofits effectively use technology to further their missions. Our funds will create 24 new AmeriCorps*VISTA positions, which you can apply for online now at HandsOnNetwork.org.

These AmeriCorps*VISTA members will work full-time for one year developing introductory seminars and involved in-person trainings for smaller nonprofits that are working to lift people out of poverty. HandsOn Tech will start in September with a one-week training at our campus in Mountain View, learning about both our nonprofit tools and cloud-based offerings from other technology companies like Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Once they are armed with tech know-how, they’ll spend the rest of the year in three-person teams serving nonprofits in the Bay Area, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

Placing AmeriCorps members around the country for in-person support provides a much-needed complement to programs like Google for Nonprofits, which makes it easy for nonprofits to take advantage of offers like $10,000 a month in advertising on Google AdWords to reach more donors and free or discounted Google Apps to cut IT costs.

If you’re passionate about both technology and giving back, then we hope you’ll apply to be part of HandsOn Tech.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Google Apps highlights – 5/20/2011

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

Over the last few weeks, we made improvements to instant messaging, increased capacity for saved contacts, added powerful data analysis with pivot tables in spreadsheets and introduced more flexible management tools for Google Apps customers.

Better AIM interoperability in Gmail and beyond
Google Talk is built on open protocols for instant messaging, making it possible for other IM networks to connect seamlessly with Google Talk. Yesterday we rolled out improvements to make chatting with your AIM buddies even easier in Gmail, iGoogle, Orkut and Google Talk on Android devices. Now you can invite your AIM buddies to chat from any of these places just by entering their AOL screennames, even if you don’t have or use an AIM account.


Room for 15,000 more contacts in Gmail
We’ve heard from a surprising number of super-connected people who wanted to save more contacts in Gmail than its 10,000-contact limit allowed, so a couple weeks ago we made Gmail better by supporting up to 25,000 contacts. You can also save even more information with each contact, so if you were previously bumping up against the limits, you should have a whole lot more extra space for your contacts now.


Pivot tables in Google spreadsheets
Google spreadsheets now has another tool to help serious dataheads make sense from large data sets: pivot tables. With pivot tables, you can easily summarize rows and columns of information, helping you quickly spot patterns in the information that you might not have noticed otherwise. If you’re new to pivot tables, we made a short video to show what you can do.



Customizable administration options for Google Apps customers
IT staff members in large organizations don’t all need the same level of control in their Google Apps environment. For example, a university IT help desk should be able to reset lost passwords for students, but probably doesn’t need to modify school-wide email settings. On Monday, we made Google Apps much more flexible by introducing delegated administration, which lets full administrators assign partial administration privileges to other individuals.


Who’s gone Google?
In the last three weeks, we’ve seen more than 60,000 organizations choose our cloud products for their communication and collaboration needs, and this week a couple international customers stood out from the crowd. Oxygen Design Agency based in Toronto, Canada chose Google Apps and avoided a big investment in traditional email servers when their previous email solution started to break down. With Google Apps, their downtime woes have disappeared, designers can stay in contact when they’re meeting clients and the system is much simpler and more affordable to manage.

EAT. has more than 100 restaurant locations and 1,700 employees in the U.K. They serve fresh, healthy food—as well as kilobytes to customers through technology programs like an iPhone ordering app, free in-store Wi-Fi, a Twitter feed and a tap-to-pay system. EAT. selected Google Apps to replace their old system to get away from complex, costly upgrades, achieve hassle-free scalability as their business expands and securely support a wider array of mobile devices.



I hope these product updates and customer stories help you and your organization get even more from Google Apps. For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Japan Prize honors Googler Ken Thompson for early work on UNIX

This week, our own Distinguished Engineer Ken Thompson was awarded the Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in science, in the category of Information and Communications. Established in 1985, the Japan Prize is awarded annually to esteemed scientists around the world for outstanding achievement in the field of science and technology that also aids in the advancement of peace and prosperity.

Ken shares the prize along with his former collaborator, Dennis Ritchie, for their development of the operating system UNIX. They both worked at Bell Labs in 1969, when they began developing an open source operating system that emphasized portability, small modules and superior design. UNIX served as a core infrastructure element in the information field, including the Internet, and operating systems carrying on the UNIX philosophy are now being used everywhere from mobile phones to supercomputers. As Foundation Chair Hiroyuki Yoshikawa noted, UNIX has been “a major driving force behind the development of the information age” with clear overarching benefits to society.

Traditionally, the Japan Prize is awarded during a week-long celebration in Tokyo—even their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, participate. Given the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan two months ago, the Foundation understandably concluded that the ceremonies should not be held this year. However, the Emperor insisted that the Foundation should travel to the U.S. to present the award to Ken and Dennis.

At the May 17 ceremony at the Googleplex, Ken received his recognition in front of a packed room of appreciative Googlers. The Foundation also recognized our crisis response team for their Person Finder project among other contributions, which helped Japanese citizens trying to locate lost friends and family after the March devastation.

From left to right: Vint Cerf, Ken Thompson, Hiroyuki Yoshikawa

In a short video about Ken and Dennis shown during the ceremony, Ken made this observation: “Research and development are two different things. Development has clear goals, but research is goal-less because it is the act of discovering something new. My advice to researchers is to continue enjoying the research at hand....UNIX resulted from research into new things we were merely interested in. We were very lucky it turned out to be very fruitful.”

In his acceptance remarks, Ken told one of the funniest stories I have ever heard about a pet alligator that he brought to Bell Labs and that later got loose. It is on the recording of the ceremonies—watch it here. Congratulations again to Ken and all the other Japan Prize winners and here’s to continued innovation in science and technology that fosters peace and prosperity around the world.

Join us at Maker Faire

(Cross-posted on the SketchUp Blog)

Creativity at Google isn’t just limited to the time we spend in front of our keyboards—many of us are also enthusiastic about making things with our hands. At our Google Workshops, for example, employees have the chance to use sophisticated tools and machines to physically prototype their ideas. The Street View trike and several components of our self-driving cars were built in these workshops. It’s also not unheard of for Googlers to build their own zip-lines, perform crazy experiments with giant lenses and just get plain silly.

This weekend, we hope to bring this spirit of creativity and experimentation to attendees of Maker Faire Bay Area, whose mission is to "celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.”

Our own Maker Faire theme is simple: “Dream, design, build. Repeat.” At the event, we’ll demonstrate how Google technologies, like SketchUp and the Android Accessory Development Kit (ADK), can help you take your project from idea to object.

Design of our booth made in SketchUp

In keeping with the DIY vibe, our booth was constructed three full-size recycled shipping containers and outfitted with big screen TVs, 3D printers, CNC cutters and, most importantly—robots! Folks from the Google SketchUp team and the newly-formed Cloud Robotics team will be on hand to walk you through the steps of of designing, fabricating, building and programming your own robot.
SKPR Bot

Our booth will also have demos, games, giveaways, hands-on activities for both kids and adults and talks from folks like MAKE Editor-in-Chief Mark Frauenfelder. And to top it off, we'll open Maker Faire each morning with an Android-powered weather balloon launch at 10:00 am PDT (weather permitting).

See our Google at Maker Faire site for a full schedule of Google events, and make sure to follow @sketchup on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend.

Fellow Makers—we hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making financial comparisons easy with Google Advisor

Financial decisions may be some of the most difficult decisions we face—whether it’s finding the right credit card or understanding the impact of paying an extra point on a mortgage. And these days, it seems like we have more financial options than ever.

To help solve these problems, we began testing a mortgage comparison tool in 2009 and have added other financial products such as credit cards, CDs, checking, and savings accounts. Today, we’re rolling these tools into one place: Google Advisor, a site designed to help you quickly find relevant financial products from many providers and compare them side-by-side. Google Advisor is currently only available in the U.S.



With Google Advisor, you enter information about what you’re looking for in a mortgage, credit card, CD, or checking and savings account. We show you a list of the offers that match your criteria, along with rates and contact information. Google Advisor is designed especially to help you make these difficult financial decisions easily, with:
  • Speed: As you change your criteria, the results update instantly. You’ll still have a list of all your options in one place, so you can quickly compare different offers.
  • Trust: By setting your own search criteria, you’re able to see only those offers and rates that apply to you, which means you can compare applicable offers without even contacting a provider first.
  • Control: You only need to provide the minimum amount of information we need to show you offers that are right for you. You have full control over what you want to share, and which providers you choose to talk to—and you don’t have to submit any personal information until you’ve decided you’re ready to move forward.
For more information on how Google works with these financial providers, please visit our Help Center.

If you’re looking for a mortgage, a new credit card, or just want to see if your savings account gives you the best interest rate, visit advisor.google.com. We hope Google Advisor helps you easily make the decision that’s right for you!

Launch a mobile business with The Guide to the App Galaxy

The Guide to the App Galaxy, which we showed off last week at Google I/O, is designed to help mobile app developers—regardless of platform—navigate the complexities of launching an app and building a business on mobile. As you maneuver through the "galaxy” using the arrow keys on your keyboard, you’ll get the basics about app promotion, monetization and measurement—with tips from Google as well as successful developers.


There’s no exact blueprint for mobile app success and no developer’s journey is the same, which is why The Guide to the App Galaxy contains different advice and best practices from developers around the world. Here are some key insights from developers who have successfully built a business on mobile:

Rovio Mobile
Making money on mobile is not black and white—there's actually a lot of color. There are a number of business model options that aren't exclusive to any particular platforms.

Best, Cool & Fun Games
Offering your app for free lowers the barrier for users to download and try your app. The free version of Ant Smasher went viral because players could easily recommend the game to their friends through social media sites and word of mouth.

The Weather Channel
Don't forget to think beyond mobile. If you have a website or even a television channel, you can cross-promote your app with banner advertising or in-show mentions to drive downloads.





If you’re a developer who has successfully navigated the App Galaxy and launched your own app, you’ve probably picked up some tips of your own. Share your insights by creating your own journey and sharing it with your friends. We might even feature your story on The Guide to the App Galaxy.


The Guide to the App Galaxy is currently available in English, Japanese, Korean, French and German. We’re continuing to expand the guide to other developers around the world with new languages and new content like case study journeys. For more information about our solutions for mobile app developers, visit www.guidetotheappgalaxy.com/about.

Define, translate and search for words in Google eBooks

(Cross-posted from the Google Books Blog)

When bookworms stumble across a word we don't know, we face the classic dilemma of whether to put the book down to look up the word or forge ahead in ignorance to avoid interrupting the reading experience. Well, fret no more, readers, because today you can select words in Google eBooks and look up their definitions, translate them or search for them elsewhere in the book from within the Google eBooks Web Reader—without losing your page or even looking away.

The Web Reader works in all modern browsers and lets you read Google eBooks without having to download them. To select text in a Google eBook within the Web Reader, double-click or highlight it with your mouse and a pop-up menu opens with the following options: Define, Translate, Search Book, Search Google and Search Wikipedia. (Note: these features work in "Flowing text" mode, not "Scanned pages" mode. Switch to "Flowing text" in the Web Reader by clicking on the Settings menu labeled "Aa" and select it under the "Show" drop-down menu. Not all Google eBooks are available in "Flowing text.")


Define
Click “Define” and the pop-up now displays a definition of the word via Google Dictionary, without leaving the page you’re on in the Google eBook. Click on the audio icon to the left of the word you want defined to hear the definition pronounced aloud. If you decide you do want to leave the page, select “More” to go to the Google Dictionary page for the word, which provides additional information like usage examples and web definitions.


Translate
You can also translate a single word or several sentences of content into dozens of languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish, by selecting the "Translate" option. As with definitions, you'll see the translated text displayed in the pop-up window.



Search
By selecting one of the search options, you can search for the selected text in other places within the ebook itself or across the entire web.

“Search Book” brings up all the instances in which the selected text appears in the ebook. You can also access the search options by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Web Reader. Click on a search result to jump to that section.

“Search Google” and “Search Wikipedia” open up a new browser tab displaying the search results for that text on Google and Wikipedia, respectively.


Go ahead and give these new features a spin by reading a Google eBook.

Update 5:58 p.m.: Included details about "Flowing text" vs. "Scanned pages."

And the 2011 U.S. Doodle 4 Google winner is...

With more than 5 million votes cast, the anticipation has been building in this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition. Today, the wait is finally over—seven-year-old Matteo Lopez of South San Francisco, Calif. is the national winner with his imaginative doodle, entitled “Space Life.”

Matteo, who attends Monte Verde Elementary School, submitted his design around his dream to “... become an astronaut and explore space life.” Matteo’s doodle of the Google logo artfully depicts a trip to space, walking on the moon, and even making friends with aliens. Matteo has already soared to great heights, rising to the top of the more than 107,000 submissions sent in from all over the country.


Matteo’s use of markers and colored pencils has won him a $15,000 college scholarship, a netbook computer and a $25,000 technology grant for his school. Matteo’s doodle will also be featured on the U.S. Google.com homepage tomorrow, May 20, for millions of people to enjoy.

With more doodles than we’ve ever received before, the crop of designs for this year’s theme “What I’d like to do someday...” was incredibly creative across all grade groups. In addition to selecting Matteo, more than 5 million public votes also helped us determine the three national finalists, each of which will receive a $5,000 college scholarship:
  • Grades 4-6: Joseph Eugene Miller, Grade 4, Andersen Elementary School, Wilmington, N.C., for his doodle entitled “My galaxy.” Joseph says, “I chose to draw this picture because when I grow up I would like to go to space. At night when I look at the stars they persuade me to go to space and explore the stars, planets and our galaxy.”

  • Grades 7-9: Justas Varpucanskis, Grade 7, Mokena Junior High School, Mokena, Ill., for his doodle entitled “The Majestic Sea.” Justas says, “What I'd like to do someday is to take part in the conservation of our underwater universe. There is no doubt the last decades were an environmental catastrophe. The underwater world is a haven for many sea creatures, thus being crucial to our existence. We need to preserve our underwater ecosystem.”

  • Grades 10-12: Hannah Newsom, Grade 11, Glenwood Homeschool, Fayetteville, Ark., for her doodle entitled “Illustration.” Hannah says, “Someday I would like to illustrate storybooks. I want my work to make stories come alive in the imagination with color, and light, and emotion deepening the imagination of the reader, I would want to brighten the world of the viewer and fill it with wonder and delight.”
As part of today’s announcement at an event in our New York office, all 40 Regional Finalists enjoyed doodle classes with our doodle team and mingled with some of this year’s guest judges who helped us select the top doodles. In addition to the fun on their trip to the New York office, all of the top 40 Regional Finalists will have their work publicly displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York through June 16 and at SFMOMA in San Francisco from May 20 through July 19.

Thanks to all of you who voted and helped us select this year's winner. Even more important, thank you to all of the students who submitted entries—it was an especially difficult task to select the winning doodles from among the amazing entries this year. Keep on doodling and we’ll see you next year!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing our official search blog

(Cross-posted from the Inside Search Blog)

The thirst for knowledge is as old as humanity. It's only in the past decade that the Internet has made knowledge ubiquitous, and we want to help you find the answers you’re looking for, whether it’s the best price on a new microwave, where to find a great bike ride—or even information about the Internet itself.

Generally, we help you answer questions by refining our algorithms, but today we’re taking a slightly different approach: we’re starting a blog—“Inside Search.” Here you’ll find regular updates on our algorithms and features, as well as stories from the people who work to improve Google every day.

In the past we’ve published information about search on the Official Google Blog (more than 400 posts about search and more than 50 weekly wrap-ups), and webmaster-oriented posts on the Webmaster Central Blog (more than 300 posts). We also operate a help center for search and another for webmasters. That’s not to mention the search help forums which have more than 50,000 discussions, and the webmaster central help forums with more than 90,000. Combine this with YouTube channels and search conferences, and it’s safe to say we talk a lot about search.

Even with all these channels, we still felt we were missing something. We didn’t want to flood the Official Google Blog with smaller stories and announcements, and the Webmaster Central Blog is really meant for, well, webmasters. We started our series “This week in search” to provide a way to share information about some of the smaller updates we’re making, but we got feedback that people wanted their search news and information as it happens, not just weekly. So, we’re starting Inside Search as a place where you can find regular updates on the intricacies of search and our team. We have more engineers working on search than any other product, and each one of us has stories to tell.

A glimpse inside the weekly search "quality launches" meeting, during which we approve the roughly 500 improvements we make to search every year.

On behalf of the team, welcome!

Bringing Google Apps educators together through regional user groups

From grading math quizzes with Google forms to plotting plant growth in a motion chart, teachers around the world are constantly generating new, creative ways Google Apps can improve instruction.

To make it easier for educators to share great ideas beyond their school walls, we’re introducing eight Google Apps Regional K-12 User Groups across the U.S. and Canada. These groups will enable educators and administrators to learn from one another and collaborate through community discussion forums, shared resources, events and webinars.

If you’re an educator interested in sharing and learning new ways to use Apps in your classroom, visit the Enterprise Blog for more information and to sign up.

YouTube Town Hall: where your views count

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

How would you vote if you focused purely on the ideas needed to make our country and our world a better place, rather than on the parties putting them forward? That’s a question that the new YouTube Town Hall seeks to answer.

YouTube Town Hall is an online platform for members of Congress to virtually debate and discuss the most important issues of the day. You can select an issue, watch two short videos of members of Congress expressing different perspectives on how to tackle this issue, and then support the one you agree with most. The most supported videos will be tracked on the YouTube Town Hall Leaderboard. After you watch the video, you’ll find out which party the representative comes from—and sometimes you might be surprised.


The first issues up for debate—budget, economy, energy, Afghanistan, education and healthcare—are those that were among the most popular on Google News and Google search over the past year. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask the questions you want members of Congress to answer. Every month, members of Congress will add new videos to the site answering a selection of the top-voted questions. So if you’re interested in lowering gas prices, reforming the tax system or making college more affordable, ask now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Google Translate: the remix

When we built Google Translate we thought it was a cool tool, but we have to admit we had fairly straightforward ideas about what it would be useful for (lowering language barriers and making more web content available to people around the world). As with many inventions, though, it turns out people have found uses for the tool that we never imagined. Recently, two clever Translate trends caught our eye—perhaps one of them will inspire you to come up with a fun Translate trick of your own.

First, some creative folks translated strings of consonants into German to create a new beatboxing tool. The phrase “pv zk bschk” didn’t initially make much sense to us, but a quick listen got us nodding our heads along to the beat.



Now it seems there’s a similar trend in Taiwan: using the spoken output of Google Translate as the vocals for self-composed songs or video spoofs. Recently, a video called “Google Translate Song” ratcheted up over half a million views and became one of the most popular YouTube videos in Taiwan this month.



Whether you’re laying down your next track, ordering take-out or communing with animals, we hope you’re having as much fun using Translate as we have building it.

Future female engineers come together in the Technovation Challenge

(Cross-posted on the Students Blog)

I was only 12 years old when I was introduced to BASIC, my first programming language, and it influenced my entire career path. Now working as a female engineer in a male-dominated industry, I recognize the importance of getting women interested in science and technology at a young age. In March, I decided to get involved as a mentor in the Technovation Challenge—an outreach program that gives high school girls a chance to explore computer science and engineering as well as grow their confidence and entrepreneurial skills while being guided by women mentors in the field.

The Technovation Challenge is a nine-week course for teams of high school girls to design a mobile app prototype, write a business plan and pitch their proposal to a panel of judges—which includes tech leaders and VCs—at one of many events held around the country.

One of the biggest obstacles in getting students involved in computing is the technical expertise that’s usually needed to program software. So I was excited to learn that App Inventor for Android, which makes it easy for anyone to create mobile apps for Android-powered devices, would be part of the Challenge this year. Rather than reading about CS, the girls were able to directly participate in engineering to quickly prototype mobile apps, without getting bogged down by the nitty-gritty of programming. Whether the girls were brainstorming ideas for their apps, fleshing out their business plans or hacking away at their prototypes, I was inspired by their creativity and determination.

A team of girls build their mobile prototype using Android App Inventor

At the regional pitch night in Mountain View in April, I was floored by not only my team’s presentations, but by all 50 girls competing. It was hard to believe that these confident young women—with their solid business plans and app prototypes—had joined the program just nine weeks ago with no background in entrepreneurship or programming. My team pitched a social education app—a chemistry-based game like Jeopardy! that students can play with friends in order to prepare for tests.

This Saturday, May 21, marks the culmination of the program, when the regional winners will convene on our Mountain View campus for the national pitch night. Here, they’ll compete to have their app professionally developed and distributed on the Android Market by demoing their prototypes, presenting their business plans and ultimately convincing industry leaders that their startup is worth investing in.

The Technovation Challenge tackles the computing world’s gender gap head on, giving girls early exposure to tech in a fun, engaging environment that develops their skills and confidence. I’m proud to mentor high school girls interested in engineering and technology, and I hope their experience in this program today will inspire them to become the tech leaders of tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Google’s 2010 U.S. Economic Impact

This week is National Small Business Week, an opportunity to celebrate the spirit and ingenuity of small businesses like Everblue, a start-up in North Carolina.

Everblue was founded in 2008 by veterans Chris and Jon Boggiano along with fellow entrepreneur Grant McGregor. The brothers’ goal was to make the U.S. more energy independent by helping people get certified in sustainable building practices. With old-fashioned hard work and some help from Google AdWords, their business has quadrupled in size. They now have 80 full time employees and instructors, and this year alone they’ll train tens of thousands of people—architects, engineers, electricians and others—to build smarter and greener.

Chris and Jon Boggiano, veterans and co-founders of Everblue, a training institute for sustainable building.

Today we’re announcing that Google provided $64 billion of economic activity to businesses, website publishers and non-profits in 2010. This is an 18% increase from the economic impact total in 2009. Here’s how it works: for every $1 a business spends on Google AdWords, they receive an average of $8 in profit through Google Search and AdWords.

We’re proud that Everblue and over one million American businesses use our advertising services to tell consumers about their products and services. Learn more at google.com/economicimpact.

Expanding Google News for more variety and multimedia

(Cross-posted from the Google News blog)

Every day, Google News crawls through thousands of news articles to present you with the most relevant and recent stories. For a long time, we’ve realized that bringing relevant news to the surface is only part of the puzzle—it should also be easy to scan for stories of interest and dig deeper when you find them.

The newly expandable stories on Google News in the U.S., released today, give you greater story diversity with less clutter.

Now you can easily see more content, see less of what you don’t use and have a more streamlined experience:
  • Click-to-expand: Each story cluster is collapsed down to one headline with the exception of the top story. When something grabs you, click nearby anywhere but the title to expand the story box.
  • Labeled diversity: For stories you’ve expanded, you’ll see genre labels for some of the additional articles that explain why they were chosen and how they add value. For example, you might see something labeled as an “Opinion” piece or an indication that an article is “In Depth.”
  • Multimedia and more: Within each expanded story box, you’ll find a sliding bar of videos and photos, links to related sections and easier-to-use sharing options, so you can quickly digest the sights and sounds of a news story, dig into different types of publications and share what you find interesting with one click.
  • Personalized top stories: The Top Stories section is expanded to six or more stories from three to give you more topic diversity. The first three stories remain unpersonalized and the same as before. The rest may be personalized based on your interests. To personalize your Google News experience you can click on “Edit” under “News for you.” You can choose the “Standard Edition” if you don’t want personalization.
  • Less is more: The default view is now the popular “One Column” (formerly “Section”) view. We merged List View into Top Stories, as described above. You can still switch to “Two Column” view, which resembles classic Google News.



We hope you like these changes—please share your feedback and visit our Help Center to learn more.