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Over the last month, more than 7,700 Googlers helped serve their communities across 400 different projects as part of GoogleServe, an employee-driven initiative organized almost entirely by volunteers. Through partnerships with nonprofits, schools and local governments, Googlers from 119 cities in 36 countries helped communities in need with projects ranging from educating youth about online bullying to cleaning up local rivers and parks.

GoogleServe began in 2008 and has become an annual company tradition. Giving back to our communities not only revitalizes and strengthens our connections with the cities and towns in which we live and work, it also brings us closer together as a global team. Each year the event has grown in size and scope and this year’s GoogleServe was our largest yet. Here’s a sampling of some of the projects we participated in this time around:
While GoogleServe is an annual celebration of community service, employees donate both time and money to organizations and causes throughout the year. You can find opportunities to serve your local community at All For Good.

Here are some photos of our team in action:



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Starting today, you might begin noticing that things look a little different across Google products. We’re working on a project to bring you a new and improved Google experience, and over the next few months, you’ll continue to see more updates to our look and feel. Even our classic homepage is getting a bit of a makeover:

New Google homepage with a smaller logo and links moved to the top and bottom edges of the browser for a cleaner look

The way people use and experience the web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on. The new Google experience that we’ve begun working toward is founded on three key design principles: focus, elasticity and effortlessness.
  • Focus: Whether you’re searching, emailing or looking for a map, the only thing you should be concerned about is getting what you want. Our job is to provide the tools and features that will get you there quickly and easily. With the design changes in the coming weeks and months, we’re bringing forward the stuff that matters to you and getting all the other clutter out of your way. Even simple changes, like using bolder colors for actionable buttons or hiding navigation buttons until they’re actually needed, can help you better focus on only what you need at the moment.
  • Elasticity: In the early days, there was pretty much just one way to use Google: on a desktop computer with an average-sized monitor. Over a decade later, all it takes is a look around one’s home or office at the various mobile devices, tablets, high-resolution monitors and TVs to see a plethora of ways to access the web. The new design will soon allow you to seamlessly transition from one device to another and have a consistent visual experience. We aim to bring you this flexibility without sacrificing style or usefulness.
  • Effortlessness: Our design philosophy is to combine power with simplicity. We want to keep our look simple and clean, but behind the seemingly simple design, use new technologies like HTML5, WebGL and the latest, fastest browsers to make sure you have all the power of the web behind you.
Constant revision and improvement is part of our overarching philosophy. For example, last year we introduced an updated look and feel to our search results, and if you compare the original Google homepage to today’s version, you’ll see that a makeover every so often can certainly be refreshing:

Original Google homepage in 1997

Starting today and over the course of the next few months, look for a series of design improvements across all our products, including Google Search, Google Maps and Gmail.

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Update: For our international readers, this post is also available in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. - Ed.

Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day.

Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.

In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.

We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project:




+Circles: share what matters, with the people who matter most
Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers:
  • It’s sloppy. We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time.
  • It’s scary. Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright.
  • It’s insensitive. We all define “friend” and “family” differently—in our own way, on our own terms—but we lose this nuance online.
In light of these shortcomings we asked ourselves, “What do people actually do?” And we didn’t have to search far for the answer. People in fact share selectively all the time—with their circles.

From close family to foodies, we found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So we did the only thing that made sense: we brought Circles to software. Just make a circle, add your people, and share what’s new—just like any other day:




+Sparks: strike up a conversation, about pretty much anything
Healthy obsessions inspire sharing, and we’ve all got one (or two, or three...). Maybe it’s muscle cars, or comic books, or fashion, but the attraction is always the same: it comes up in conversation, we immediately jump in, and we share back and forth with other fans. Often for hours. The trick is getting things started, and getting over that initial hump. Fortunately, the web is the ultimate icebreaker.

The web, of course, is filled with great content—from timely articles to vibrant photos to funny videos. And great content can lead to great conversations. We noticed, however, that it’s still too hard to find and share the things we care about—not without lots of work, and lots of noise. So, we built an online sharing engine called Sparks.

Thanks to Google’s web expertise, Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet. On any topic you want, in over 40 languages. Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share—with just the right circle of friends:




+Hangouts: stop by and say hello, face-to-face-to-face
Whether it's inside a pub or on a front porch, human beings have always enjoyed hanging out. And why not? It's how we unwind, recharge, and spend unscheduled time with old and new friends alike. Hanging out is deceptively simple though, and the nuance gets lost online.

Just think: when you walk into the pub or step onto your front porch, you're in fact signaling to everyone around, “Hey, I've got some time, so feel free to stop by." Further, it’s this unspoken understanding that puts people at ease, and encourages conversation. But today’s online communication tools (like instant messaging and video-calling) don’t understand this subtlety:
  • They’re annoying, for starters. You can ping everyone that’s “available,” but you’re bound to interrupt someone’s plans.
  • They’re also really awkward. When someone doesn't respond, you don't know if they’re just not there, or just not interested.
With Google+ we wanted to make on-screen gatherings fun, fluid and serendipitous, so we created Hangouts. By combining the casual meetup with live multi-person video, Hangouts lets you stop by when you're free, and spend time with your Circles. Face-to-face-to-face:




+Mobile: share what’s around, right now, without any hassle
These days a phone is the perfect sharing accessory: it's always with you, it's always online, and it's how we stay close with our closest friends. We didn’t want “just” a mobile experience, however, so with Google+ we focused on things (like GPS, cameras, and messaging) to make your pocket computer even more personal.

+Location, location, location
In life, the places we visit shape conversations in lots of meaningful ways. If we call John from the airport, he’ll likely ask about our trip. Or if Jane texts from a nearby restaurant, we might join her for dessert. With Google+ you can add your location to every post. (Or not. It’s always up to you.)

+Instant Upload
Getting photos off your phone is a huge pain, so most of us don't even bother. Of course pictures are meant to be shared, not stranded, so we created Instant Upload to help you never leave a photo behind. While you're snapping pictures, and with your permission, Google+ adds your photos to a private album in the cloud. This way they're always available across your devices—ready to share as you see fit.




+Messenger
Coordinating with friends and family in real-time is really hard in real life. After all, everyone's on different schedules, in different places, and plans can change at any moment. Phone calls and text messages can work in a pinch, but they're not quite right for getting the gang together. So Google+ includes Messenger, a group messaging experience that lets everyone inside the circle know what's going on, right this second.




Starting today Google+ is available on Android Market and the mobile web, and it’s coming soon to the App Store.

+You: putting you first, all across Google
That’s the Google+ project so far: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts and mobile. We’re beginning in Field Trial, so you may find some rough edges, and the project is by invitation only. But online sharing needs a serious re-think, so it’s time we got started. There’s just one more thing—really the only thing: You.

You and over a billion others trust Google, and we don’t take this lightly. In fact we’ve focused on the user for over a decade: liberating data, working for an open Internet, and respecting people’s freedom to be who they want to be. We realize, however, that Google+ is a different kind of project, requiring a different kind of focus—on you. That’s why we’re giving you more ways to stay private or go public; more meaningful choices around your friends and your data; and more ways to let us know how we’re doing. All across Google.

When your invite arrives we hope you’ll join the project. But it’s entirely up to +You.

Update Sept 20: Made changes to reflect the new name for group messaging (Messenger).

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More than a thousand Googlers participated in Pride celebrations in a dozen cities to support equality and remember the sacrifices of those who have made life better for members of the LGBT* community today. While we celebrated the legalization of marriage equality in New York, the state where the gay rights movement in the United States began more than 40 years ago, our participation was especially global this year: we were at Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia for the first time and supported Pink Dot in Singapore. From San Francisco to Dublin to Tel Aviv to Boston, we stepped out in large numbers for Pride parades around the world in a colorful swirl of Gaygler and Android Pride t-shirts. As in years past, we featured a month-long easter egg in our search results worldwide to celebrate Pride, adding a rainbow next to the search box for a number of Pride-related queries including [lgbt], [marriage equality] and [pride 2011].

But it’s not just during Pride week that we celebrate and promote equality and diversity. We’ve partnered with various organizations and earlier this year employees contributed their stories to the It Gets Better project.

In addition to our external efforts, we’re also working from within. Recently, we extended domestic partner benefits in regions such as China and Hong Kong. Last year, Google adopted a policy promoting benefits equality through a gross-up on imputed taxes for health insurance. We provided the equivalent of the Family and Medical Leave Act for same-sex domestic partners and updated the definition of infertility. Happily, over the last year we’ve been approached by many organizations looking to do the same.

Gayglers around the globe created this video to increase awareness about the LGBT community at Google, and we're happy to share it with you today.






Posted by Cynthia Yeung, Strategic Partner Development Team

*LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender but, without letting the acronym get too unwieldy, is also intended to include people who identify as queer, asexual or intersex, amongst others.

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At Google, we’re committed to using technology to solve one of the greatest challenges we face as a country: building a clean energy future. That’s why we’ve worked hard to be carbon neutral as a company, launched our renewable energy cheaper than coal initiative and have invested in several clean energy companies and projects around the world.

But what if we knew the value of innovation in clean energy technologies? How much could new technologies contribute to our economic growth, enhance our energy security or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Robust data can help us understand these important questions, and the role innovation in clean energy could play in addressing our future economic, security and climate challenges.

Through Google.org, our energy team set out to answer some of these questions. Using McKinsey’s Low Carbon Economics Tool (LCET), we assessed the long-term economic impacts for the U.S. assuming breakthroughs were made in several different clean energy technologies, like wind, geothermal and electric vehicles. McKinsey’s LCET is a neutral, analytic set of interlinked models that estimates the potential economic and technology implications of various policy and technology assumptions.

The analysis is based on a model and includes assumptions and conclusions that Google.org developed, so it isn’t a prediction of the future. We’ve decided to make the analysis and associated data available everywhere because we believe it could provide a new perspective on the economic value of public and private investment in energy innovation. Here are just some of the most compelling findings:
  • Energy innovation pays off big: We compared “business as usual” (BAU) to scenarios with breakthroughs in clean energy technologies. On top of those, we layered a series of possible clean energy policies (more details in the report). We found that by 2030, when compared to BAU, breakthroughs could help the U.S.:
    • Grow GDP by over $155 billion/year ($244 billion in our Clean Policy scenario)
    • Create over 1.1 million new full-time jobs/year (1.9 million with Clean Policy)
    • Reduce household energy costs by over $942/year ($995 with Clean Policy)
    • Reduce U.S. oil consumption by over 1.1 billion barrels/year
    • Reduce U.S. total carbon emissions by 13% in 2030 (21% with Clean Policy)
  • Speed matters and delay is costly: Our model found a mere five year delay (2010-2015) in accelerating technology innovation led to $2.3-3.2 trillion in unrealized GDP, an aggregate 1.2-1.4 million net unrealized jobs and 8-28 more gigatons of potential GHG emissions by 2050.
  • Policy and innovation can enhance each other: Combining clean energy policies with technological breakthroughs increased the economic, security and pollution benefits for either innovation or policy alone. Take GHG emissions: the model showed that combining policy and innovation led to 59% GHG reductions by 2050 (vs. 2005 levels), while maintaining economic growth.
This analysis assumed that breakthroughs in clean energy happened and that policies were put in place, and then tried to understand the impact. The data here allows us to imagine a world in which the U.S. captures the potential benefits of some clean energy technologies: economic growth, job generation and a reduction in harmful emissions. We haven’t developed the roadmap, and getting there will take the right mix of policies, sustained investment in technological innovation by public and private institutions and mobilization of the private sector’s entrepreneurial energies. We hope this analysis encourages further discussion and debate on these important issues.

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The Google Goggles team has worked with The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to “Goggles-enable” their permanent collection of paintings. Now you can use the Google Goggles app on your phone to take a photo of any of the paintings in the Getty’s permanent collection and instantly access information about the work from both the Getty’s mobile-optimized webpage about the painting and from around the web. Instead of being limited to the amount of information that fits on the wall next to a painting, Getty museum staff can now share a fuller story that all visitors can enjoy online.

From your phone you can read and hear commentary from artists, curators, conservators or the works of art themselves, such as the anthropomorphic voice of the pig in the Adoration of the Magi. Snap a quick shot of the artwork and have an interactive experience with what is on the wall in front of you—all in in the palm of your hand (just remember to respect museum photography rules and to turn off your flash).

 

Google Goggles results and the Getty webpage for Portrait of the Sisters Bonaparte

If you want to take your art history lesson home with you, you can store a record of the art you captured by enabling Search History on your Android phone. In fact, anytime you stumble across a piece of art, whether it be a reproduction on a poster or a print in a book, you can take a photo with your phone and Goggles will recognize it and supply you with rich info.

Download Google Goggles for your Android or iOS device as part of the Google Search app, and give it a try if you stop by the Getty. You can also view the J. Paul Getty Museum collection online at http://www.getty.edu/art. For more information about the Getty-Goggles project, visit mobile.getty.edu/gettygoggles or scan the QR code below.


Posted by Shailesh Nalawadi, Product Manager

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We recently held an Innovation Workshop for the 2011 Google Science Communication Fellows, a group of early to mid-career PhD scientists chosen for their leadership in climate change research and communication. The Fellows spent three days together alongside Googlers and external experts at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. exploring the potential of information technology and social media to spur public engagement.

All 21 of the 2011 Fellows are experienced science communicators, trained in using traditional media to bridge the gap between complex science and the general public. This workshop was an opportunity for them to explore new media communications optimized for the age of the web; or, as as I like to say, learning how to “web” the gap between the science community and the larger world in the digital age.
We organized the workshop around three themes:
  1. Understanding the public. This session introduced trending tools— like search, Google Trends and Correlate—that can be used to gather data from search queries and online discussions. If you’re curious, watch Google user experience researcher, Dan Russel, give the Fellows a 101 on how people search, and what they’re looking for.
  2. Documenting your science story. Here, the Fellows played around with Google Earth, Fusion Tables and YouTube to learn how to create interactive and engaging stories with science data, which could then be shared with a broad audience. For more on this, visit the Science Communications Fellows talks page on YouTube.
  3. Joining the conversation. In this session, Googler Chris Messina, a developer advocate, took the Fellows on a journey into the social web, illustrating by examples the power of the crowd in shaping ideas and building understanding across diverse social networks. You can view Chris’s outstanding talk here.
Several external experts participated in the workshop as well, including Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger and senior fellow of environmental understanding at Pace University. Andy gave a thought-provoking keynote the first evening, which also included a self-composed ditty about the fossil age (look out Schoolhouse Rock!).

Armed with new knowledge on “webbing the gap,” the Fellows are now developing project proposals to put what they learned into practice. Proposal selections will be made later this summer. You can learn more about tools for science communication in the digital age and the innovation workshop at our site here. Stay tuned for future opportunities for participating in this program.

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Our Transparency Report discloses the information that governments have asked for over the past six months. For our latest batch of data, covering July through December 2010, we wanted to improve the way we give you the information, so we’ve updated the look of the report and added more details.

We've highlighted some significant changes in the data and provided context about why those changes may have occurred during this reporting period. We’ve also made it easier for you to spot trends in the data yourself. For example, we’ve changed the format so you can now see data on a country-by-country basis. We’re also clearly disclosing the reasons why we’ve been asked to remove content—such as an allegation of defamation or hate speech.


For the first time, we’re also revealing the percentage of user data requests we’ve complied with in whole or in part. This gives you a better idea of how we’ve dealt with the requests we receive from government agencies—like local and federal police—for data about users of our services and products.

Our goal is to provide our users access to information and to protect the privacy of our users. Whenever we receive a request, we first check to make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. When possible, we notify affected users about requests for user data that may affect them. And, if we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.

We hope that our website improvements help you to see more clearly how the web is shaped by government influence and how Google responds to requests for information and removals.

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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.

There’s no slowing down as we head into summer. In the last couple weeks, we made improvements to Google Sync for iOS devices, streamlined collaboration in Microsoft® Office files, added mobile display options for Google Sites and welcomed many big organizations, including the state of Wyoming, onto Google Apps.

Search all email from iOS devices, and more
Google Sync brings your email, calendar and contacts to four popular phone platforms. Last Wednesday, we improved Google Sync for iOS devices in three ways. One, you can now search all of your Gmail from your iPhone or iPad, beyond just the messages stored on your phone. Two, you can accept, decline and edit calendar events from your device, and three, you can send email from a custom email address if you use Gmail’s “Send mail as” feature. This is useful if you like to manage email in Gmail, but want emails you sent to look like they’re coming from a school or business email address.


Paste images into Gmail messages
As of Monday, if you use the latest version of Chrome, you can now paste images into Gmail’s compose window right from your clipboard. If you copy an image from the web or another email, it’s a cinch to paste it directly into a message.

Improvements to Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office
With Google Cloud Connect, you can collaborate with others simultaneously through Google’s cloud in Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without sending attachments back and forth. People told us they wanted a faster way to open files with Google Cloud Connect so on Tuesday we streamlined that process. Now you can open native Office files saved in Google Docs right from Word, Excel and PowerPoint.


Mobile rendering for Google Sites
It’s important that you can be just as productive on your phone’s small screen as on a full computer display, so yesterday we made Google Sites work even better on mobile devices. You can now configure your sites to automatically render for smaller screens on Android and iOS devices, making the content much easier to read and navigate. In addition, you can also browse and search the sites that you manage through an interface that’s also been optimized for a mobile device’s smaller screen.


Who’s gone Google?
It’s been another bumper couple weeks with tens of thousands more organizations moving to Google Apps. This week, the State of Wyoming became the first to move all state government employees to Google Apps. Matt Mead, Governor of Wyoming, was on-hand for a “cable cutting” ceremony to celebrate the 10,000 user transition to the cloud, which was managed smoothly by deployment partner Tempus Nova.

In the private sector, all 8,400 employees at The McClatchy Company are “going Google” across the business’ 30 newspapers. The company is anticipating a stack of benefits from Google Apps, including standardization on a single email solution, simpler shared calendaring, improved collaboration even when mobile, significant cost savings and a level of service that they weren’t seeing from their historical provider, not to mention great employee enthusiasm for the IT group’s decision.

Even though it’s summer vacation, we saw many schools keeping busy by moving to Google’s cloud. A warm welcome goes out to the Wisconsin K-12 school system (900,000 users), CSU Monterey Bay (10,000 users) and the Indian Youth Congress (28,000 users). Schools will be able to enjoy even more Gmail storage now too; we’re bumping up the quota to 25GB for all education accounts!

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.

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In the coming months, we’re going to retire two products that didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped, but did serve as influential models: Google Health (retiring January 1, 2012; data available for download through January 1, 2013) and Google PowerMeter (retiring September 16, 2011). Both were based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home. While they didn't scale as we had hoped, we believe they did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.

We’re making this announcement well in advance to give you plenty of time to download the information you might have stored in either product or to transfer it to another service, and we’re making it easy for you to do it in a variety of formats. More on how that works below.

More broadly, we remain committed as always to helping people around the world access and use information pertinent to them. We’ll continue to pursue this goal and to encourage government and industry to do the same.

Google Health
When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information. We wanted to translate our successful consumer-centered approach from other domains to healthcare and have a real impact on the day-to-day health experiences of millions of our users.

Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people. That’s why we’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue the Google Health service. We’ll continue to operate the Google Health site as usual through January 1, 2012, and we’ll provide an ongoing way for people to download their health data for an additional year beyond that, through January 1, 2013. Any data that remains in Google Health after that point will be permanently deleted.

If you’re a Google Health user, we’ve made it easy for you to retrieve your data from Google Health any time before January 1, 2013. Just go to the site to download your information in any of several formats: you can print and save it, or transfer it to other services that support industry-standard data formats. Available formats include:
  • Printable PDF including all the records in your Google Health profile
  • Industry-standard Continuity of Care Record (CCR) XML that can be imported into other personal health tools such as Microsoft® HealthVault™
  • Comma-separated value (CSV) files that can be imported into spreadsheets and database programs for ongoing tracking and graphing
  • HTML and XML versions of the original “data notices” sent to your Google Health profile by linked data providers
  • A unified ZIP archive that includes all files you’ve uploaded to your profile, plus all of the formats above
Over the coming weeks we’ll also be adding the ability to directly transfer your health data to other services that support the Direct Project protocol, an emerging open standard for efficient health data exchange. And while we’ll discontinue the Google Health service at the beginning of 2012, we’ll keep these download options available for one more year, through the start of 2013. This approach to download and transfer capability is part of Google’s strong commitment to data liberation principles: providing free and easy ways for users to maintain control of their data and move it out of Google’s services at any time.

In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care. We continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health, and we’re always working to improve our search quality for the millions of users who come to Google every day to get answers to their health and wellness queries.

Google PowerMeter
We first launched Google PowerMeter as a Google.org project to raise awareness about the importance of giving people access to data surrounding their energy usage. Studies show that having simple access to such information helps consumers reduce their energy use by up to 15%; of course, even broader access to this information could help reduce energy use worldwide.

Since our launch, there’s been more attention given to this notion of people easily accessing their energy data. The installation of smart meters and other home energy devices is picking up steam, and states like California and Texas are moving forward to finalize policies and programs in this area. Earlier this month, the White House announced a goal of giving all consumers access to their energy usage in computer-friendly formats as part of a national plan for modernizing the electricity grid.

We’re pleased that PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance of this access and created something of a model. However, our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service. PowerMeter users will have access to the tool until September 16, 2011. We have made it easy for you to download your data: simply log in to your account and go to "Account Settings” to export to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. We will be contacting users directly with more information on this process.

Momentum is building toward making energy information more readily accessible, and it’s exciting to see others drive innovation and pursue opportunities in this important new market. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with PowerMeter and look forward to what will develop next in this space.

By helping people make more informed decisions through greater access to more information, we believe Google Health and PowerMeter have been trailblazers in their respective categories. Ultimately though, we want to satisfy the most pressing needs for the greatest number of people. In the case of these two products, our inability to scale has led us to focus our priorities elsewhere.

As always, we welcome your feedback; please share your thoughts and opinions with us at health-feedback@google.com or powermeter-feedback@google.com. We won’t be able to respond to every email, but we promise we’ll listen.

Update 7/15/11: We've now added the ability to directly transfer your health data out of Google Health via the Direct Project protocol.

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At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first. We aim to provide relevant answers as quickly as possible—and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. Still, we recognize that our success has led to greater scrutiny. Yesterday, we received formal notification from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it has begun a review of our business. We respect the FTC’s process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services.

It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you’re looking for—buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding—we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map.

Instant answers. New sources of knowledge. Powerful tools—all for free. In just 13 years we’ve built a model that has changed the way people find answers and helped businesses both large and small create jobs and connect with new customers.

Search helps you go anywhere and discover anything, on an open Internet. Using Google is a choice—and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information: other general-interest search engines, specialized search engines, direct navigation to websites, mobile applications, social networks, and more.

Because of the many choices available to you, we work constantly on making search better, and will continue to follow the principles that have guided us from the beginning:
  • Do what’s best for the user. We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.
  • Provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible. Today, when you type “weather in Chicago” or “how many feet in a mile” into our search box, you get the answers directly—often before you hit “enter”. And we’re always trying to figure out new ways to answer even more complicated questions just as clearly and quickly. Advertisements offer useful information, too, which is why we also work hard to ensure that our ads are relevant to you.
  • Label advertisements clearly. Google always distinguishes advertisements from our organic search results. As we experiment with new ad formats and new types of content, we will continue to be transparent about what is an ad and what isn’t.
  • Loyalty, not lock-in. We firmly believe you control your data, so we have a team of engineers whose only goal is to help you take your information with you. We want you to stay with us because we’re innovating and making our products better—not because you’re locked in.
These are the principles that guide us, and we know they’ll stand up to scrutiny. We’re committed to giving you choices, ensuring that businesses can grow and create jobs, and, ultimately, fostering an Internet that benefits us all.

To learn more about our business, please visit google.com/press/competition.

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(Cross-posted on the Google News Blog and the Google Public Policy Blog)

Over the past few months, we’ve announced $5 million in grants to be distributed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the International Press Institute—two non-profit organizations developing new approaches to journalism in the digital age—and we’re pleased to congratulate the first initiatives that have been selected as part of that funding.

Today at M.I.T., the Knight Foundation showcased 16 projects selected as the winners of the 2011 Knight News Challenge. Now in its fifth year, this media-innovation contest included $1 million in support from Google. As you’ll see in the full list of winners, these initiatives come from organizations large and small and are reminders that entrepreneurship can be sparked anywhere. Here are just a few examples of the creative ways the journalism community around the world is merging traditional skills with an online landscape:
  • At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, OpenBlock Rural will use its seed money to work with local governments and community newspapers across the state to collect, aggregate and publish data.
  • In Virginia, the Miller Center Foundation’s State Decoded will serve as a platform to display state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make government more understandable to the average citizen.
  • The Chicago Tribune will collaborate with the Investigative Editors & Reporters organization and The Spokesman-Review on a set of open-source, web-based tools that make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data.
  • Liverpool, U.K.-based ScraperWiki will bring its experiences with public data to journalism camps in 12 U.S. states.
  • Chile’s El Mostrador will develop an editorial and crowdsourced database to bring greater transparency to potential conflicts of interest.
  • Ushahidi will build off its past crisis efforts to improve information-verification across email, Twitter, web feeds and text messages.
Other winning proposals tell rich multimedia stories, bridge the gap between traditional and citizen media and further improve the utility of data to journalists. Our sister program in partnership with the International Press Institute is also well underway. The entries in that competition are now in and the winners will be announced later this summer. We look forward to seeing the impacts these initiatives have on digital journalism and hope they encourage continued experimentation and innovation at the grassroots level.

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Q: What do national parks, female governors and Google Apps have in common?

A: Wyoming was the first state in the country to have each of them.

This morning, Governor Matt Mead announced that the state of Wyoming has completed its transition to Google Apps for Government. Since the state first declared its intention to go Google eight months ago, Wyoming has worked quickly to move all 10,000 state employees onto Google Apps.

For the first time ever, Wyoming’s entire state government now shares a common email, calendar and document system, making it easier for employees to find and collaborate with one another. By going Google, the state is also saving taxpaying Wyomingites approximately $1 million annually. Who knows which next great “first” they’ll put these savings towards?



You can view the live stream of the Governor’s announcement starting at 8:00am MT.

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(Cross-posted on the Translate Blog and Research Blog)


 

Beginning today, you can explore the linguistic diversity of the Indian sub-continent with Google Translate, which now supports five new experimental alpha languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. In India and Bangladesh alone, more than 500 million people speak these five languages. Since 2009, we’ve launched a total of 11 alpha languages, bringing the current number of languages supported by Google Translate to 63.

Indic languages differ from English in many ways, presenting several exciting challenges when developing their respective translation systems. Indian languages often use the Subject Object Verb (SOV) ordering to form sentences, unlike English, which uses Subject Verb Object (SVO) ordering. This difference in sentence structure makes it harder to produce fluent translations; the more words that need to be reordered, the more chance there is to make mistakes when moving them. Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are also highly agglutinative, meaning a single word often includes affixes that represent additional meaning, like tense or number. Fortunately, our research to improve Japanese (an SOV language) translation helped us with the word order challenge, while our work translating languages like German, Turkish and Russian provided insight into the agglutination problem.

You can expect translations for these new alpha languages to be less fluent and include many more untranslated words than some of our more mature languages—like Spanish or Chinese—which have much more of the web content that powers our statistical machine translation approach. Despite these challenges, we release alpha languages when we believe that they help people better access the multilingual web. If you notice incorrect or missing translations for any of our languages, please correct us; we enjoy learning from our mistakes and your feedback helps us graduate new languages from alpha status. If you’re a translator, you’ll also be able to take advantage of our machine translated output when using the Google Translator Toolkit.

Since these languages each have their own unique scripts, we’ve enabled a transliterated input method for those of you without Indian language keyboards. For example, if you type in the word “nandri,” it will generate the Tamil word நன்றி (see what it means). To see all these beautiful scripts in action, you’ll need to install fonts* for each language.

We hope that the launch of these new alpha languages will help you better understand the Indic web and encourage the publication of new content in Indic languages, taking us five alpha steps closer to a web without language barriers.

*Download the fonts for each language: Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada.

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(Cross-posted on the Google.org Blog)

Earlier this month, thousands of “hackers for good” gathered in more than 19 different global locations—from Berlin to Nairobi, and Sydney to Sao Paulo—to participate in Random Hacks of Kindness #3. These teams are now off and running, working with NGO and government advisors to finish their applications for humanity.

In partnership with Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, we founded RHoK in 2009 to build and support a community creating open source technology for crisis response. At RHoK #3, we expanded the mandate to include climate change, and we also recently announced that we’re broadening the scope in the future to tackle any development challenges.

Of the more than 75 solutions submitted for judging at this year’s global events, many are already on their way to making a difference around the world. The UN, in partnership with the Colombia government, is considering adopting the shelter management system developed at RHoK Bogota to aid the 3 million victims of winter flooding in South America. Of the nine hacks submitted for judging at RHoK Sao Paulo, two are already in use and two others may be further developed and incorporated into the restructuring of the National Weather Service. The winning application at RHoK Philadelphia, developed in response to a problem proposed by the World Bank Water group, is set for further development at the WaterHackathon, RHoK's first community-sponsored event, later this year.

At the RHoK Silicon Valley event at Google’s Mountain View campus, we selected three winners:
  • SMS Person Finder enables anyone with a phone to interact with Person Finder, a software application that Google built to help people connect with their loved ones following a disaster. The Google Crisis Response team is working with this group to integrate their application into future Google Person Finder deployments
  • Hey Cycle makes it easier for people to reuse and recycle items by setting up email alerts when free items that they’re looking for are entered on freecycle.org
  • FoodMovr connects people with excess food to others who need it through a simple live application
We’re proud to be one of the founding partners and ongoing sponsors of Random Hacks of Kindness and look forward to seeing these application make a difference. Stay tuned for future RHoK events, and follow the progress of the community at RHoK.org.

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Today is Father’s Day in many countries around the world, so whether your dad lives across the street, across the country or across the ocean, it’s a good day to let him know you’re thinking about him. Of course, email is a simple, quick way to check in with your old man, but it’s just as easy—and maybe even more meaningful—to call him right from Gmail.

If you’re in the U.S., you can use Gmail to make free domestic calls and calls to Canada. If your dad lives abroad, we have some of the best rates around, like two cents per minute to Australia, Argentina, France and many other parts of the world (unfortunately, those of you outside the U.S. will have to phone Dad the old-fashioned way).

And in case you don’t read this post in time, we've added a small note in the Gmail chat roster, right under the “Call phone” link, to remind you to give him a ring.

 
Happy Father’s Day from Gmail!

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On Tuesday, we held a media event in San Francisco to introduce new and faster ways to search using your voice, an image or Instant Pages. We also launched Inside Search, a new website that hosted a live stream of the event. Inside Search contains a wealth of information about search and we wanted to let you know more about it.

When providing detailed information about a new search feature, we often link to an official landing page from the blog post (such as this one for Google Instant or this one for Google Images with sorting). Since there wasn’t one central place you could find all that information, we created a one-stop shop for all search-related features, tips and tricks. Thus, following the release of the new Inside Search blog, we bring you a deeper look Inside Search.

Whether you’re a beginner to web search or a search master, you’ll find all the search shortcuts you need under the Features section of the site. For example, most people don’t realize that the Google search box is a calculator, a world clock and a unit converter. You can also discover tips like how to use translated sites to search for [crepe recipes] on French sites or how to use an asterisk in a phrase or question so Google can fill in the blanks.


In addition, if you ever wonder how search takes your query and delivers results, you can use Inside Search to get an under-the-hood look at the technology behind Google Search. There are interactive diagrams with information on how far every query has to travel to get an answer back to you, how often we run experiments (we ran over 6000 in 2010 alone), how much time has gone into developing the algorithm and more. We’ve also included the Search Globe, an interactive display of searches around the world, on this page.

Inside Search also takes advantage of HTML5 to create a more interactive experience throughout the site, so instead of just clicking to read a list of search facts, you can do something a little more fun, like pick up a test tube with your mouse and pour the solution onto the Google homepage to reveal interesting facts about search:


Finally, be sure to visit the Playground section of the site. There, you can try your hand at the A Google a Day trivia game, browse our gallery of past Google doodles and be on the lookout for new fun additions coming soon.


To learn new search tips, get a behind-the-scenes look at Google technology or find out more information about the announcements from Tuesday’s event, visit the new site at www.google.com/insidesearch.

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(Cross-posted on the YouTube and Lat Long blogs)

We’re always fascinated by the unique wonders of space and the world—what can we say, it’s the geek in us! Naturally, when we learned that part of the world will be treated to a rare 100-minute long total lunar eclipse starting at 11:20am PDT today, we were both excited and disappointed that this rare occasion wouldn’t be visible from our Mountain View campus like last year’s eclipse. We suspect we aren’t alone, so you’ll be glad to know that we’ve worked with Slooh Space Camera to let you experience the spectacle wherever you are in the world, in real time.

Slooh will host a live mission interface using Google App Engine that lets anyone not lucky enough to live in certain areas (South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia) take part in this rare astronomical event. It’s equipped with audio narrations from real-life astronomers so you can hear a firsthand, expert account of the event. You can also watch the live stream on the Google YouTube Channel or from the Sky layer in Google Earth (download this kml), while exploring the fascinating world that exists in our galaxy. Finally, those of you on the go can download the Slooh Space Camera Android app to view the images right on your phone.


If you're fortunate enough to be able to view this event in the sky, we hope you'll get the chance to step outside and indulge in the spectacle. For everyone else, we hope our moon madness helps brighten your day.

Update 11:23 PDT: Starting now, if you visit the Google homepage you’ll see a special interactive doodle, which will update throughout the day to show the latest state of the moon. Lunar imagery provided by Slooh.

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As much as technology has advanced, there are still many barriers between you and the answers you’re looking for—whether you’re juggling a clunky mobile keyboard or waiting for a website to load. Today we held a media event in San Francisco where we talked about some of the latest things we’re doing to tackle these barriers on mobile, announced that we’re bringing our speech recognition and computer vision technology to the desktop, and took the next step for Google Instant—Instant Pages.

The thirst for knowledge doesn’t stop when you step away from your computer, it continues on your mobile device. In the past two years, mobile search traffic has grown five-fold. Mobile search today is growing at a comparable pace to Google in the early years.

Here you can see that mobile search traffic growth over the past three years (the red line) is comparable to overall Google search traffic growth over the same duration (the blue line) but earlier in our history.

One of the technologies driving this growth is speech recognition. With Voice Search, you don’t have to type on a tiny touchscreen. You can just speak your query and the answer is on the way. We’ve invested tremendous energy into improving the quality of our recognition technology—for example, today we teach our English Voice Search system using 230 billion words from real queries so that we can accurately recognize the phrases people are likely to say. As the quality has increased, so has usage: in the past year alone, Voice Search traffic has grown six-fold, and every single day people speak more than two years worth of voice to our system.

We first offered speech recognition on mobile search, but you should have that power no matter where you are. You should never have to stop and ask yourself, “Can I speak for this?”—it should be ubiquitous and intuitive. So we've added speech recognition into search on desktop for Chrome users. If you’re using Chrome, you’ll start to see a little microphone in every Google search box. Simply click the microphone, and you can speak your search. This can be particularly useful for hard-to-spell searches like [bolognese sauce] or complex searches like [translate to spanish where can I buy a hamburger]. Voice Search on desktop is rolling out now on google.com in English, but in the meantime you can check it out in our video:



Searching with speech recognition started first on mobile, and so did searching with computer vision. Google Goggles has enabled you to search by snapping a photo on your mobile phone since 2009, and today we’re introducing Search by Image on desktop. Next to the microphone on images.google.com, you’ll also see a little camera for the new Search by Image feature. If you click the camera, you can upload any picture or plug in an image URL from the web and ask Google to figure out what it is. Try it out when digging through old vacation photos and trying to identify landmarks—the search [mountain path] probably isn’t going to tell you where you were, but computer vision may just do the trick. Search by Image is rolling out now globally in 40 languages. We’re also releasing Chrome and Firefox extensions that enable you to search any image on the web by right-clicking.



Whether you type, speak or upload a photo, once you’ve indicated what you’re looking for the next step in your search is to sift through the results and pick one. To make this faster, last year we introduced Google Instant, which gives you search results while you type. We estimated Google Instant saves you between two and five seconds on typical searches. But once you’ve picked a result, you click, and then wait again for the page to load—for an average of about five seconds.

We want to help you save some of that time as well, so today we took the next step for Google Instant: Instant Pages. Instant Pages can get the top search result ready in the background while you’re choosing which link to click, saving you yet another two to five seconds on typical searches. Let’s say you’re searching for information about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, so you search for [dc folklife festival]. As you scan the results deciding which one to choose, Google is already prerendering the top search result for you. That way when you click, the page loads instantly.



Instant Pages will prerender results when we’re confident you’re going to click them. The good news is that we’ve been working for years to develop our relevance technology, and we can fairly accurately predict when to prerender. To use Instant Pages, you’ll want to get our next beta release of Chrome, which includes prerendering (for the adventurous, you can try Instant Pages today with the developer version). It’s one more step towards an even faster web.

To learn more about today’s news, visit our new Inside Search website at www.google.com/insidesearch. There you’ll find a recording of the event (when it’s ready), answers to common questions and links to other blog posts about today’s news on the Mobile blog and Inside Search blog. The Inside Search website is our new one-stop shop for Google search tips, games, features and an under-the-hood look at our technology, so there’s plenty for you to explore.

We’re far from the dream of truly instantaneous access to knowledge, but we’re on our way to help you realize that dream.

Update 4:38p.m.: Watch the video and see a slideshow of today's event below.






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Today we're hosting a media event in San Francisco to talk about search and introduce some new search-related features. We'd like to invite you to tune in live from 9:30 - 11:00am PDT.

You can watch the live stream on our new Inside Search site or on the Google YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/google.

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(Cross-posted from the Green Blog)

Imagine sitting on your patio watching the sun’s rays pass overhead, knowing that they power your home with clean energy—at a cost that’s less that what you would have paid using just the grid. That’s what my colleague, engineer Michael Flaster, has been doing at his home in Menlo Park, Calif. since March of this year. He did it with the help of a company called SolarCity, which enables homeowners and businesses to begin using solar energy to power their homes and buildings.

Today, we’re announcing that we’ve investing $280 million to create a fund that will help SolarCity finance more solar installations across the country. This is our largest clean energy project investment to date and brings our total invested in the clean energy sector to more than $680 million. We’ve also launched a partnership to offer SolarCity services to Googlers at a discount.



In SolarCity’s innovative financing model, the company covers installation and maintenance of the system over the life of the lease. You can prepay, or pay nothing upfront after which you make monthly solar lease payments. All told, Michael will save $100 per month on his energy bills this year, and more than $16,000 over his 15 year lease, after factoring in his lease payment and lower energy bills.


We believe the world needs a wide range of clean energy options in the future, each serving different needs. We’ve already invested in several large-scale renewable energy projects, so we’re excited that this new partnership with SolarCity helps people power their homes directly with solar energy, too. We think “distributed” renewable energy (generated and used right at home) is a smart way to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to improve our power system since it helps avoid or alleviate distribution constraints on the traditional electricity grid.

Our investment is a quadruple-win for Google, SolarCity, its new customers and the environment. We continue to look for other renewable energy investments that make business sense and help develop and deploy cleaner sources of energy. Whether harnessing the sun on rooftops like Michael’s or in the desert sands of the Mojave, it’s all part of building a clean energy future.

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(Cross-posted on the DoubleClick Publisher Blog)

It’s now clear that investments in new technologies, new ad formats and improved buying and selling processes are helping to grow the display advertising pie. This benefits publishers who make more money from display ads, users who receive free ad-funded content and marketers who are able to grow their businesses online.

However, we often hear from major website publishers that ad management today is still mind-numbingly complicated and inefficient. We’ve been investing in our publisher tools to try and improve this landscape and have made great progress, but we think we can do even better. To help major publishers get the most out of the rapidly changing and growing display ad landscape, we’ve signed an agreement to acquire Admeld, a New York-based yield optimization firm.

Here’s a basic summary of the display ad industry, from the perspective of major publishers. There are lots of different ways that they can sell their display ad space. Often, they’ll sell space directly to advertisers or agencies, using an ad server to actually deliver and measure the ads (like Microsoft’s Atlas, AOL’s AdTech, DoubleClick's DFP, Yahoo’s APT, OpenX, Zedo, 24/7 Real Media and others). Alternatively, they’ll make their ad space available indirectly—to hundreds of ad networks (like Advertising.com, Specific Media, Collective, 24/7, ValueClick, Vibrant, AdSense, Undertone and others), each with thousands of advertisers, or to various advertising exchanges or technology platforms (like Yahoo’s Right Media, OpenX, DoubleClick Ad Exchange, ContextWeb, AdBrite, AppNexus and others) that match them with ad buyers (like ad networks and demand side platforms) who represent advertisers, in real-time marketplaces.

Some publishers also work with a “yield optimization” provider (such as Rubicon Project, Pubmatic and others) that supplies technology to select ads from across these many indirect options, while providing personalized service and support. In a very complex and rapidly growing display ad landscape, that’s what Admeld does.

Providing better ad management services to publishers is an area that has seen a huge amount of investment in recent months. Formed just over three years ago, the Admeld team is an example of the huge strides the industry is making—it has quickly developed a great service that is helping many major publishers manage their ad space more efficiently and profitably.

By combining Admeld’s services, expertise and technology with Google’s offerings, we’re investing in what we hope will be an improved era of flexible ad management tools for major publishers. Together with Admeld, we hope to make display advertising simpler, more efficient and more valuable, provide improved support and services, and enable publishers to make more informed decisions across all their ad space. These are all things our publisher partners have been asking us to further invest in. Of course, Admeld will continue to support other ad networks, demand side platforms, exchanges and ad servers, to yield the best possible results for publishers.

We believe that this investment will be an important step to help online publishers, and will further improve and grow the display advertising industry as a whole.

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Way back in 1946, the Philadelphia Warriors beat the Chicago Stags in the first professional basketball league championship. Plenty has changed since then, including the name of the league (BBA to NBA), the team names (who are the Stags?!) and the length of the uniform shorts. But there are still some certainties in hoops—the rim remains 10 feet high, there are still five guys per team on the court—and at its core, basketball remains the same.

In fact, sometimes it even repeats itself. This year’s finals series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat is a re-match from five years ago. When we take a look at the data in our Insights for Search tool, it seems that sports fans across the U.S. are much more interested in the match-up this time around, as searches for both teams are currently far outpacing their 2006 levels.


Basketball has always been a game of big stars—with just 10 players on the court at any one time, one player can change the game in a major way. Looking at players like [kobe bryant] and [tim duncan], we can see the professional league’s best players have shined during the NBA Finals. This year is proving to be no exception as the big names in the playoffs dominate people’s basketball searches. Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki is the most popular Maverick and Lebron bests his fellow super-stars, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, as well as the rest of the Heat players.



While Lebron “King” James and Dirk “The Diggler” Nowitzki are the top dogs on their respective teams, it’s another player, Jason Kidd of the Mavericks, who is really the breakout star of these Finals. The 17-year NBA veteran has visited the Finals before (with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and 2003), but he’s never won a championship; in fact, Kidd has played in more playoff games without winning a championship than any other active player. With his team currently up 3-2, this year might finally be his to win. While he’s had a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, the veteran has seen a resurgence in interest from U.S. sports fans this season, as you can see in the chart below.


Another way to look at NBA Finals search trends is geographically. As you’d expect, foreign-born players are seeing interest spike in their homelands. Dirk Nowitzki is popular in Germany and Joel Anthony, a Canadian playing center for the Miami Heat, is generating lots of interest from Canuck hoops fans.


It’s not just the two cities with teams left playing that are searching for info on the series. Cleveland—the jilted former home of Lebron James—has taken a bigger interest in the [nba finals] than ever before. It seems both lovers and haters are paying attention to their former star’s fate.


To understand the fan frenzy in Dallas, we need look no further than how the team stacks up to the traditional fare for most Texans: barbecue. In the Dallas area, [mavs] searches are currently outpacing [bbq] searches. When basketball is outpacing ribs in Texas, you know something big is going down in the Lone Star State.


Though I’m neither a Texan nor a Floridian, with just two potential games left in a neck-and-neck series I’ll be settling in to watch Game 6 this Sunday hoping for another historic NBA Finals moment.