Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The next stage in our redesign

Six months ago we started rolling out a new look and feel for Search, News, Maps, Translate, Gmail and a bunch of other products. Our goal was to create a beautifully simple and intuitive user experience across Google.

We’re now ready for the next stage of our redesign—a new Google bar that will enable you to navigate quickly between our services, as well as share the right stuff with the right people easily on Google+.


Instead of the horizontal black bar at the top of the page, you’ll now find links to your services in a new drop-down Google menu nested under the Google logo. We’ll show you a list of links and you can access additional services by hovering over the “More” link at the bottom of the list. Click on what you want, and you’re off.

To find out more about the new Google bar, take a look at this video or read our Help Center article.



Making navigation and sharing super simple for people is a key part of our efforts to transform the overall Google experience, which is why we’re very excited about this redesign. Enjoy!

A new frontier for Google Maps: mapping the indoors

“Where am I?” and “What’s around me?” are two questions that cartographers, and Google Maps, strive to answer. With Google Maps’ “My Location” feature, which shows your location as a blue dot, you can see where you are on the map to avoid walking the wrong direction on city streets, or to get your bearings if you’re hiking an unfamiliar trail. Google Maps also displays additional details, such as places, landmarks and geographical features, to give you context about what’s nearby. And now, Google Maps for Android enables you to figure out where you are and see where you might want to go when you’re indoors.



When you’re inside an airport, shopping mall or retail store, a common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map directory or ask an employee for help. Starting today, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android, that directory is brought to the palm of your hands, helping you determine where you are, what floor you're on, and where to go indoors.



Detailed floor plans automatically appear when you’re viewing the map and zoomed in on a building where indoor map data is available. The familiar “blue dot” icon indicates your location within several meters, and when you move up or down a level in a building with multiple floors, the interface will automatically update to display which floor you’re on. All this is achieved by using an approach similar to that of ‘My Location’ for outdoor spaces, but fine tuned for indoors.


Mall of America in Minneapolis before and after, with a floor selector



San Francisco International Airport before and after, with 3D tilt


We’ve initially partnered with some of the largest retailers, airports and transit stations in the U.S. and Japan, including:
  • Mall of America, IKEA, The Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Daimaru, Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi locations and more. Watch an IKEA demo here.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Narita International (NRT), among others.
  • JR and Tokyu Corporation
For a detailed list of participating locations, please visit our help center. And this is just the start--we’ll continually add new indoor maps to public buildings across the world. If you’re a business owner interested in getting your location’s floor plan included in Google Maps, visit maps.google.com/floorplans.

We’re thrilled Google Maps continues to provide you with new and helpful perspectives—whether you’re rushing through the airport or finding your way around a mall. To visit our website and learn more about indoor Google Maps and other features, start here.



(Cross-posted on the Lat Long Blog)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Magic moments in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, thanks to the web

Today more than 50 million Egyptians started heading to the polls to cast their votes for an independent Parliament, many for the first time in their lives. The revolution in Egypt, which captured the attention of the world beginning in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011, made this possible by opening the floodgates of political participation.


With the free flow of information online, people can connect and engage in a open dialogue about the future of Egypt. The web is enabling many new voters to become better informed on their choice of candidates, and letting politicians reach electors in new and exciting ways.

Getting information about the new rules and the new players is no small feat for Egyptians: there are nearly 11,000 candidates vying for 498 seats across 27 governorates nationwide during a multi-stage election that started today and lasts until March 2012. We’re doing our best to organize information to make it easier for voters to find everything they need in one place. For example, millions of Egyptians have learned where they can vote through our landing page, www.google.com.eg/elections.


We’ve also worked to give a voice to thousands of candidates to reach voters through interactive video. The YouTube Townhall includes nearly 400 videos posted by candidates and political parties explaining where they stand on issues from education and the economy to health care and political reform, sparking vibrant conversations in cafés from Alexandria to Aswan.

We’re helping voters and politicians connect not just in Egypt, but throughout the entire Middle East and the world. For Tunisia’s recent parliamentary elections, we partnered with startup news portal Tunisia Live to offer a training workshop in Tunis on Google tools and social media for politicians. In France, we set up a special YouTube site for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Internet is playing an increasingly significant role in Egypt. It’s bolstering civic engagement and becoming a powerful mechanism for information sharing—crucial to helping the nation make the tough transition to democracy.

Five tips for stress-free holiday shopping

Today, on Cyber Monday—the biggest online shopping day of the year—digi-savvy shoppers will take to the web to get ahead on their holiday shopping. You’ve managed to avoid the Black Friday crowds, but are your online shopping skills up to snuff? Just in the nick of time, here are five tips on how to use Google tools to save time and money this holiday shopping season.

Tip #1. Avoid the lines and parking nightmares—shop from your couch with Google Catalogs
Today we’re announcing a version of Google Catalogs for Android tablets, available for free in Android Market. Now shoppers can browse Google Catalogs on both iOS and Android tablets. With over 125 of your favorite brands and 400 issues across a myriad of categories, Google Catalogs puts all your favorite print catalogs right at your fingertips. You’ll find pages of gift and decorating ideas and get a head start on your holiday shopping list.

Browse Pottery Barn’s Christmas 2011 catalog on Google Catalogs - now available for Android tablets.

Tip #2. Let Google Product Search do your research for you
With so many brands, models and features to choose from, sometimes finding the perfect gift—especially when it comes to electronics and gadgets—can be overwhelming. Google Product Search gives you detailed product information, reviews and price comparisons for all the gifts on your list.

We recently launched a new comparison feature for electronics that lets you quickly see how a particular product stacks up against other similar models and brands. For example, on the Nikon D3100 product page, you can now see—at a glance—feature comparisons between the D3100 and other Nikon models as well as cameras from other brands. Read more about other recent Product Search updates on the Google Commerce blog.

A quick comparison shows the differences in resolution and other camera features.

Tip #3. Bring Google Shopper along as your mobile shopping assistant
Have you ever found yourself standing in a store, trying to decide between, say, two blenders, and wishing you could consult an expert? Google Shopper can help. Wherever you are, this free mobile app for Android and iPhone lets you scan a barcode or search by voice or text to get detailed product information, read reviews and compare prices online and at local stores. You can also use Google Shopper to see if a product is in stock nearby.

Research, share and find products near you with Google Shopper.

Tip #4. Take advantage of holiday savings with Google Offers
Before you hit main street for a shopping extravaganza, check out Google Offers for great deals on local places to eat, shop and play. Google Offers has teamed up with a number of great retailers this holiday season, making it easy to save while you shop. You can also find and buy great deals from Google Offers with the free Android app.

Tip #5. Simplify your online and offline shopping experience with Google Wallet
Save time and money by shopping with Google Wallet — a smart, virtual wallet that stores your payment cards, offers and more on your phone and online. When you shop with merchants that accept Google Wallet online just use your Google Wallet username and password to complete your purchase—there’s no need to pull out your credit card or enter your shipping address with every transaction. If you’re at the register at stores like American Eagle, Macy’s, Gap, Inc or any of our other merchant partners, take a minute to try the Google Wallet app, available on Nexus S 4G for Sprint, to tap, pay and save.

I hope these tips and Google tools help to make your shopping experience a little easier (and fun!) this Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday season.



(Cross-posted on the Commerce blog)

Celebrating innovation in digital journalism

Journalism is changing fast as media businesses adapt and experiment with ways of gathering and reporting the news in the digital age. Here’s news of two contests we’re sponsoring to help stimulate innovation in digital reporting.

IPI News Innovation Contest
We’re pleased to congratulate the first three winners selected by the Vienna-based International Press Institute in its News Innovation Contest. The prizes are part of a $5 million global contest launched by Google last year.

Today’s winners, who will receive grants totalling $600,000, are:
  • World Wide Web Foundation for its Voice-based Citizen Journalism project in France, the Netherlands and Mali. The project will enable voice-based citizen journalists to gather and deliver news in rural areas through community radio and mobile phones.
  • Internews Europe for its crowd-sourced journalism project in five African countries. The project aims to promote expertise in crowd-sourced journalism techniques to contribute to press freedom.
  • Journalism Leaders Programme at the University of Central Lancashire, for its digital media training programme for the U.K. and Turkey. The project will focus on training in data journalism skills and the fundamentals of digital business aimed at disseminating learning to the wider news industry.
This is just the first round of the contest. In 2012, the IPI will consider a new set of proposals and award the remainder of the grant. More details are available at www.ipinewscontest.org.

GEN Data Journalism Awards
In Hong Kong, at the News World Summit hosted by the Global Editors Network, we're announcing a partnership on a new data journalism contest. GEN’s Data Journalism Awards will celebrate the best examples of this new form of journalism from established news organisations and newcomers.


The winners will be chosen by an international jury and prizes awarded at the next GEN conference in Paris next year. Details on how to take part are at http://www.globaleditorsnetwork.org/djawards/.

We look forward to seeing the impact these initiatives will have on digital journalism and hope they will encourage continued experimentation at every level of the media.



(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

The evolution of search in six minutes

This summer we posted a video that takes a peek under the hood of search, sharing the methodology behind search ranking and evaluation. Through this methodology, we make roughly 500 improvements to search in a typical year. As we often discuss, that’s a lot of change, and it can be hard to make sense of it all.

Following up on our last video, we wanted to share with you a short history of the evolution of search, highlighting some of the most important milestones from the past decade—and a taste of what’s coming next.


Our goal is to get you to the answer you’re looking for faster and faster, creating a nearly seamless connection between your questions and the information you seek. That means you don’t generally need to know about the latest search feature in order to take advantage of it— simply type into the box as usual and find the answers you’re looking for.

However, for those of you looking to deepen your understanding of how search has evolved, the video highlights some important trends:
  • Universal Results: With Universal Search—which returns results like images, videos, and news, in addition to webpages—we’re helping you find all different kinds of information in the same place. We’ve continued to make search more comprehensive, enabling you to find products, places, patents, books, maps and more.
  • Quick Answers: Today on Google you’ll find more than just a list of links to websites. You’ll find Quick Answers at the top of the page for a wide variety of topics, including flight times, sports scores, weather and dozens more. As our technology gets better, we’re beginning to answer harder questions for you, right on the search results page.
  • The Future of Search: We’ve also been focused on developing faster ways to search and save time, whether we’re shaving seconds off searches with Google Instant or helping you search from your phone with Voice Search. Searching should be as easy as thinking, and the future looks bright!
As part of making the video we also created a timeline of search features. It’s not the first timeline we’ve done, but I think this one does a nice job of categorizing the different kinds of Universal Results and Quick Answers we’ve added over the years:

The timeline depicts the approximate dates when we launched particular search feature enhancements. You can also download a larger image by following this link.
It’s been exciting to be part of the evolution of search over the past decade, and we’re thrilled about what’s in store next. If the past is any indication, we don’t know what search will look like in 2020, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it looks nothing like it does today.



(Cross-posted on the Inside Search blog)

Friday, November 25, 2011

DatenDialog - Big Tent goes to Berlin



In May, we held our first Big Tent conference near London, where we debated some of the hot issues relating to the Internet and society with policy-makers, academics and NGOs. The term "big tent” not only described the marquee venue but also our aim to include diverse points of view.

After the U.K. success, we decided to export the concept. Yesterday we welcomed more than 200 guests in Berlin, Germany to the second Big Tent event, entitled DatenDialog.

This dialogue about data tackled the issue of online privacy from a variety of angles. It was appropriate to hold it in Germany, which is a pacesetter both in its concern about privacy and its ideas for safeguarding personal data. During the one-day event, we debated questions such as: what does responsible collaboration between the tech industry and the data protection authorities look like? Do we need new regulation to manage the Internet and the large amount of data produced in the online world? Who is responsible for educating users and how does the tech industry make sure it builds privacy controls into its products?

Speakers included the German State Secretary for the Interior Cornelia Rogall-Grothe and the Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar, alongside international authors and bloggers Cory Doctorow and Jeff Jarvis who appeared via live video chat from the U.S.



The debate was always lively, sometimes polarised—Cory likened amalgamated data to nuclear waste while Jeff appealed to governments not to regulate for the worst case—but all seemed to agree that it was a worthwhile and timely exercise to explore these important issues.

You can watch the highlights soon on our Big Tent YouTube channel, and stay tuned for more Big Tents on a range of topics around the world in the coming months.



(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lego robots and their young inventors come to Google

“He makes his way down the field, finds his target, aims—can he make it before time runs out?”

Nope, we’re not at a sports game, but rather watching a robot, made of Legos, and built and programmed by a team of young students, compete at the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) robotics tournament. Last Saturday, November 19, marked our sixth year hosting a qualifying tournament at Google headquarters. This year, 16 Bay Area teams made up of 9-14 year olds participated, energizing our campus with their enthusiasm and even a spontaneous conga line or two.

I’m a software engineer with a longtime personal interest in LEGO robotics and, even more, in getting kids excited about doing science and technology. When fellow Google engineer Albert Bodenhamar and I heard about the tournament awhile back, we put together a team of volunteers at Google, got in touch with the FLL regional coordinators—the nonprofit group Playing at Learning—and held our first tournament. Now we host the event every year, with a cadre of 25-30 Googlers, spouses and friends who spend the day volunteering as judges and referees and help with all of the set-up and logistics.

The center of the action during tournament day was the two ping pong-sized tables where these homegrown robots raced against the clock to complete various physical tasks, all related to the tournament theme of food safety. The tables were covered with small “props” the robots would need. For example, at one point, the robots had to scoop up, carry and then empty dispensers of little plastic "bacteria" into a miniature plastic sink at the opposite end of the table. Referees in black-and-white striped shirts started and stopped the clock and kept their eyes out for penalties while the MC gave play-by-plays of the action. Meanwhile, parents and coaches crowded around, cheering and taking photographs, and the action was broadcast on a jumbo screen for all to see.

When not competing at the tables, teams met with three different sets of judges. One panel of judges asked students about their robot (how they designed it, how it worked), while another set asked about core values (how they worked together as a team, the learning process, camaraderie). In front of the third set of judges, the teams presented their research projects and answered questions. The research project, while unrelated to robotics, aims to incorporate research and problem-solving—keys to the success of any real-world engineering team—into the competition.

At the end of the day, we announced awards. The team Nibbles & Bytes took home the Core Values award, Decon Droids won the award for best Research Project, Xtreme Creators won for Robot Design and the Flying Cougar Cyborgs won for Robot Performance. The LegoNauts took home the Champion’s award. Seven teams advanced to the district championship, which will take place in Redwood City, Calif. in January. Eventually, the tournament reaches the national, and then international, level.



It’s important, not to mention fun, to support creative outlets for young people to get involved in computer science and technology. Competitions like FLL introduce a whole new generation to the world of technology and engineering, and it’s always a blast to support the students who are participating—even if I am a bit exhausted after that conga line.


If you want to get involved with FLL, you can check the website to find out if a team exists in your area, or register a new one.

More spring cleaning out of season

This is our third blog post in our off-season spring cleaning series. To recap, we’re in the process of shutting a number of products which haven’t had the impact we’d hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward. Overall, our aim is to build a simpler, more intuitive, truly beautiful Google user experience. In terms of the details, here is the latest update:
  • Google Bookmarks Lists—This is an experimental feature for sharing bookmarks and collaborating with friends, which we’re going to end on December 19, 2011. All bookmarks within Lists will be retained and labeled for easier identification, while the rest of Google Bookmarks will function as usual. As Lists was an English-only feature, non-English languages will be unaffected.
  • Google Friend Connect—Friend Connect allows webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding a few snippets of code. We're retiring the service for all non-Blogger sites on March 1, 2012. We encourage affected sites to create a Google+ page and place a Google+ badge on their site so they can bring their community of followers to Google+ and use new features like Circles and Hangouts to keep in touch.
  • Google Gears—In March we said goodbye to the Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers. On December 1, 2011, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will stop working across all browsers, and later in December Gears will no longer be available for download. This is part of our effort to help incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5, and we’ve made a lot of progress. For example, you can access Gmail, Calendar and Docs offline in Chrome.
  • Google Search Timeline—We’re removing this graph of historical results for a query. Users will be able to restrict any search to particular time periods using the refinement tools on the left-hand side of the search page. Additionally, users who wish to see graphs with historical trends for a web search can use google.com/trends or google.com/insights/search/ for data since 2004. For more historical data, the "ngram viewer" in Google Books offers similar information.
  • Google Wave—We announced that we’d stopped development on Google Wave over a year ago. But as of January 31, 2012, Wave will become read-only and you won’t be able to create new ones. On April 30 we will turn it off completely. You’ll be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. If you’d like to continue using this technology, there are a number of open-source projects, including Apache Wave and Walkaround.
  • Knol—We launched Knol in 2007 to help improve web content by enabling experts to collaborate on in-depth articles. In order to continue this work, we’ve been working with Solvitor and Crowd Favorite to create Annotum, an open-source scholarly authoring and publishing platform based on WordPress. Knol will work as usual until April 30, 2012, and you can download your knols to a file and/or migrate them to WordPress.com. From May 1 through October 1, 2012, knols will no longer be viewable, but can be downloaded and exported. After that time, Knol content will no longer be accessible.
  • Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C)—This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts. We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy—including our on-campus efforts, procuring renewable energy for our data centers, making our data centers even more efficient and investing more than $850 million in renewable energy technologies.
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations & Google Fellow

Which came first, the turkey or the hand?

Creating hand turkeys remains one of my favorite elementary school memories—glue on the table, colorful feathers stuck to your sleeve and glitter everywhere. This year, you have the option to skip the actual mess involved with making these classic Thanksgiving decorations and craft a unique turkey from the comfort of the Google homepage.

Whether you want to customize the headpiece, feet or individual feathers—or just prefer a random surprise by pulling on the turkey's wing—there are many ways to show off your creativity. We can’t stick your creations on our fridge, but thanks to a collaborative effort between our engineers and artists, you’ll be able to share your turkeys via Google+ or a shortened URL. This way all your friends and family, wherever they may be, can see your festive creation.

The doodle will be up from now until Thanksgiving in the United States, and you can make as many different turkeys as you like. With nearly three days to express your inner child or artiste and millions of possible combinations, you may find you unlock a surprise or two... or three... or 12!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Street View special collections: ski and snow edition

From the streets to the slopes, Street View in Google Maps recently updated its special collections to include a number of new ski resorts, so you can tour some of the world’s most beautiful ski terrain right from your browser. Whether you’re planning your annual trip to your favorite resort or hunting for an exciting new adventure, Street View can transport you to your desired destination. Tour a few of our favorite ski resorts below.

First stop off the ski lift is the world famous Squaw Valley, in northern California. Squaw Valley has been a ski destination since it hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1960.


Squaw Valley Resort - Going down Gold Coast Face

Following a record setting 519 inches of snowfall last season, Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Take a tour of this famous Colorado destination.


Breckenridge Resort, Looking down Four O’Clock

Last, but surely not least, you can tour Whistler Blackcomb, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We captured Whistler with our Street View cameras last year and made some recent updates. Located in the Coast Mountain range of British Columbia, Whistler, known for both its scenery and adrenaline-pumping runs, is one of the most famous ski destinations in the world.


Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Peak

All snow view imagery was captured by the Street View snowmobile which made its debut two years ago at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. To get a glimpse of a few more resorts you can go to the gallery or watch the video:

Whether you’re a snowbird, a beach bum, an urban adventurer or something else entirely, there’s something for everyone in our growing set of Street View collections. To see some of our favorite special collections, visit the Street View gallery.

Enjoy the slopes!



(Cross-posted on the LatLong blog)

‘Tis the season for Chromebooks

The Chrome team elves have been busy packing a few goodies into Chromebooks in time for the upcoming holiday season.

A simple, streamlined user interface

From the moment you hit the power button and watch your Chromebook boot up in eight seconds flat, you’ll notice that the operating system got a bit of a facelift. For example, the Chromebook now sports a fresh, clean login experience.



We’ve also revamped the New Tab page to make it easier to manage your apps, bookmarks and most visited sites. By popular demand, we’ve added a few handy new shortcuts to the New Tab page: a shortcut to the File Manager on your Chromebook, as well as to music apps and games in the Chrome Web Store.



You may have also noticed, we recently gave the Chrome Web Store a new look, so that you can easily scan the wall of images to discover fun and useful apps and extensions.

Hassle-free for the holidays

We’ve heard from many of you that one of the things you enjoy most about the Chromebook is its hassle-free simplicity. If you’re someone who’s often called upon to provide tech support when you’re home for the holidays like I am, you’ll be happy to know that the Chromebook gets your loved ones up and going on the web quickly, without the usual pains of computing like seemingly endless boot times and setup manuals. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few updates to the lineup of Chromebooks that make them more giftable to loved ones.

For folks in the United States, Samsung is introducing a sleek, black version of its Wi-Fi only Samsung Chromebook Series 5.



We’ve also been working closely with our partners to continually improve the overall Chromebook experience while making them even more affordable. So, we’re excited to share that beginning this week Acer and Samsung Chromebooks will be available starting at $299. The updated prices will be available through our online retail partners.

Lastly, if you’re in the U.S. and you’d like to take a Chromebook for a test drive, visit the Samsung Experience in New York City or check one out when flying with Virgin America. We’re excited to hear your feedback, as we continue to build a faster, simpler and more secure experience on a computer that always gets better. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with one in a series of new film shorts that highlight some of the reasons why we think Chromebooks make a great holiday gift.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Google Apps highlights – 11/18/2011

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.

The last few weeks have brought a fresh new look in Gmail, more mobile access options and simpler meeting scheduling tools. Millions of organizations using Google Apps can now use Google+ on their business and university accounts, and we launched a couple Apps-related Google+ Pages ourselves.

Gmail’s new look
Back in July we previewed Gmail’s new look, and a couple weeks ago we started letting people switch to the new design with one click. The refreshed interface makes it easier to follow conversations and spot the sender with profile pictures for each message. The new look also supports dynamic screen densities, so Gmail displays properly whether you’re viewing on a large desktop monitor or a smaller mobile screen. We also added a selection of beautiful HD themes to the existing gallery. Finally, we made it easier to perform advanced email searches using a panel of powerful search options that reveals with a single click.



Gmail app for iOS devices
This month we introduced the Gmail app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, complete with mobile alerts for new mail, a responsive touch screen interface and Gmail mainstays like fast search, conversation view and address auto-complete.


Suggested meeting times in Google Calendar
We’ve heard how frustrating it can be to spend 15 minutes finding a good time for people to convene for a 30 minute meeting, so we made it easier to find a good meeting time in Google Calendar. The suggested times feature automatically reviews the availability of meeting invitees, and proposes event times that work for the whole group.


Google+ for organizations using Google Apps
Businesses, schools and organizations with Google Apps can now use Google+. Employees and students can create profiles, +1 things they like on the web, share interesting content with their circles and have live multi-person video chats with classmates, colleagues and friends. Organizations can also create their Google+ Pages—an organization’s identity on Google+ for customers, students or fans. We’re using Google+ Pages ourselves, so take a look at the Gmail and Google Enterprise pages, and circle us if you’d like to stay in the loop.

24x7 telephone support and improved mobile device management
This week, we introduced a couple other new benefits for Google Apps customers. Organizations of all sizes around the world can now call our support hotline at any time for all core service issue. Also new this week, we improved our mobile device management capabilities with an interface for administrators to view and deny mobile devices connecting to Google Apps, granular mobile policy controls, and the ability to visualize mobile usage trends across the organization.


Who’s gone Google?
Organizations large and small continue to amass around Google Apps. We’re thrilled to welcome a whole host of new customers including the Trinity Mirror Group (Britain’s largest newspaper publisher), startups such as JobFlo and UserTesting, organizations including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and colleges like the University of Michigan and UT Austin. Welcome to all!

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.

Connect with your community on Google+

Did you know that every single major league baseball team has a Google+ page? Or that hundreds of professors across the country are using Google+ to hold virtual office hours? Or that every U.S. presidential primary candidate has agreed to participate in live hangouts with voters on television this election cycle?

As Google+ continues to grow, we’re seeing more and more communities develop on the platform. But we want to help more organizations, politicians, artists, celebrities, athletes, media companies and nonprofits use Google+ to share and interact with each other—and with Google+ users. That’s why we’re launching a series of community guides to help your organization thrive on Google+.


On the site, you can find out how to get your organization started on Google+, and learn how other groups like yours—universities, political organizations, nonprofits, sports, media companies and celebrities—are using the platform. You’ll find case studies and ideas for how organizations or individuals in each of these communities have used Google+ effectively. For example, you’ll see how NBC’s Breaking News Google+ page is using the platform to deliver breaking news; or how the Dallas Cowboys are using hangouts to connect with fans; or how celebrities like Conan O’Brien are announcing their Google+ pages to the world.

There are thousands of vibrant communities on Google+. We hope these new community guides will help you and your organization connect, follow and share with the communities you care about the most.

Finally, we’d love to hear how you’re using Google+ to engage with your communities. Make sure to share your greatest successes with us on the Google+ page.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Explore open source with the Google Code-in contest

Every time you send a text, check a webpage or post a status update, you are using open source software. The Internet is made of open source. But have you ever created any yourself? If you’re a pre-university student between 13 and 17 years old, now you can—and win prizes along the way. Our Google Code-in contest starts this coming Monday, November 21, and you can sign up now. During the contest, which lasts for 57 days, participants can work on cool online tasks for 18 different open source organizations. Possible challenges include document translations, marketing outreach, software coding, user experience research and a variety of other tasks related to open source software development.

Participants earn points for each task they successfully complete and can earn prizes like t-shirts, cash and certificates of completion. The ten participants with the highest points earned by the end of the competition receive a grand prize trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. next spring for themselves and a parent or legal guardian. They’ll spend the day getting a tour of campus, meeting Google engineers and enjoying other fun surprises.

Last year's winners at the Googleplex

Last year’s Google Code-in had 361 students from 48 countries completing 2,167 tasks over the course of the the eight-week contest. We hope to have even more students participate this year. Help us spread the word by telling your friends, classmates, children, colleagues, teachers—everyone!

If you’d like to sign up, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and the contest rules on our program site. You can also join our discussion list for any other questions. For details on important dates for the contest, see the timeline. You can go ahead and register for your account now on the program site so you will be able to start claiming tasks right away when the contest opens on Monday, November 21 at 12:00am (midnight) PST.

We hope you’ll spend your winter (or summer, for our friends in the southern hemisphere) learning about the ins and outs of open-source development through hands-on experience. On your marks...

Celebrating LEO, the world’s first business computer

This year marks the 60th anniversary of LEO, the world’s first business computer—built by J.Lyons & Co, a leading British food manufacturer at the time that also ran a famous chain of tea shops.

Lyons management had long been keen to streamline their back-office operations. In 1947, two Lyons managers visited the U.S. to learn about the latest business processes, including whether the electronic computers they’d heard about during their wartime service, like ENIAC, might be useful. (At the time, the closer-to-home advances at Bletchley Park were still a well-kept military secret.)

They returned inspired by the possibilities and keen to build a machine of their own. After several years of development, LEO, a.k.a. Lyons Electronic Office, took on its first office job on November 17, 1951—weekly valuations for the bakery division, calculating margins on Lyon’s output of bread, cakes and pies.



Until LEO, computing in a work setting was treated like a specialist bit of kit on a factory production line. Each machine was dedicated to a single task. In essence, they were narrowly defined calculating machines. The vision for LEO, in contrast, was bravely broad. LEO was a single computer capable of handling a whole swathe of accounting and bookkeeping tasks, as well as producing daily management reports.

LEO was such a success that Lyons set up a commercial subsidiary to sell spare time on LEO to other businesses, including the Ford Motor Company, which used it to process the payroll for the thousands of workers at its U.K. plant. Later, Lyons also built entirely new LEOs and sold them to other blue-chip companies of the era. In total, more than 70 LEO’s were built, with the last remaining in service until the 1980’s (not bad for a computer that took up an entire room!).

Today we view IT as critical to any enterprise, but in the 1950s, this was by no means a given, as evidenced by a quote from a 1954 issue of The Economist: “There are those who do not believe in the desirability of introducing anything as esoteric as electronics into business routine.” Things certainly have changed, and in a sense, all modern day businesses owe a debt to the LEO team.

Last week at the Science Museum in London, we were delighted to sponsor a small gathering of early LEO programmers  to celebrate their accomplishments and reminisce about their pioneering work. Today, on this 60th anniversary, we invite you to have a cup of tea and join us in toasting LEO—a remarkable ancestor in IT’s family tree.



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Google Music is open for business

Last May at Google I/O, we launched Music Beta by Google with a clear ambition: to help people access their music collections easily from any device. Music Beta enabled you to upload your personal music collection (up to 20,000 songs) for free to the cloud so you could stream it anywhere, any time. Today, the beta service evolves into a broader platform: Google Music. Google Music is about discovering, purchasing, sharing and enjoying digital music in new, innovative and personalized ways.



Google Music helps you spend more time listening to your collection and less time managing it. We automatically sync your entire music library—both purchases and uploads—across all your devices so you don't have to worry about cables, file transfers or running out of storage space. We’ll keep your playlists intact, too, so your “Chill” playlist is always your “Chill” playlist, whether you’re on your laptop, tablet or phone. You can even select the specific artists, albums and playlists you want to listen to when you're offline.

Purchase and share
We also want to make it easy and seamless for you to grow your music collection. Today, we added a new music store in Android Market, fully integrated with Google Music.

The store offers more than 13 million tracks from artists on Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, and the global independent rights agency Merlin as well as over 1,000 prominent independent labels including Merge Records, Warp Records, Matador Records, XL Recordings and Naxos. We’ve also partnered with the world's largest digital distributors of independent music including IODA, INgrooves, The Orchard and Believe Digital.

You can purchase individual songs or entire albums right from your computer or your Android device and they’ll be added instantly to your Google Music library, and accessible anywhere.

Good music makes you want to turn up the volume, but great music makes you want to roll down the windows and blast it for everyone. We captured this sentiment by giving you the ability to share a free full play of a purchased song with your friends on Google+.

Exclusively on Google Music
We’re celebrating our launch with a variety of music that you won’t find anywhere else, much of it free. There’s something for everyone, with a variety of free tracks to choose from:
  • The Rolling Stones are offering an exclusive, never-before-released live concert album, Brussels Affair (Live, 1973), including a free single, “Dancing with Mr. D.” This is the first of six in an unreleased concert series that will be made available exclusively through Google Music over the coming months.
  • Coldplay fans will find some original music that’s not available anywhere else: a free, live recording of “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”, a five-track live EP from their recent concert in Madrid and a remix of “Paradise” by Tiësto.
  • Busta Rhymes’s first single from his upcoming album, Why Stop Now (feat. Chris Brown), is available for free.
  • Shakira’s live EP from her recent concert in Paris and her new studio single, “Je L’Aime à Mourir” are both being offered up free.
  • Pearl Jam are releasing a live album from their 9/11/11 concert in Toronto, free to Google Music users.
  • Dave Matthews Band are offering up free albums from two live concerts, including new material from Live On Lakeside.
  • Tiësto is offering up a new mix, “What Can We Do” (feat. Anastacia), exclusively to Google Music users.
Artist hub
Whether you’re on a label or the do-it-yourself variety, artists are at the heart of Google Music. With the Google Music artist hub, any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans—essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store. This goes for new artists as well as established independent artists, like Tiesto, who debuts a new single on Google Music today.



Starting today, Google Music is open in the U.S. at market.android.com, and over the next few days, we will roll out the music store to Android Market on devices running Android 2.2 and above. You can also pick up the new music app from Android Market and start listening to your music on your phone or tablet today. And don’t forget to turn your speakers up to eleven.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Orabrush story: How a Utah man used YouTube to build a multi-million dollar business

From time to time, we post about how entrepreneurs have used Google tools to build successful businesses—both on and offline. In this post, you’ll read the story of how a Utah entrepreneur used YouTube to build a market for his tongue cleaner product, the Orabrush. Starting this month, CVS/pharmacy will begin carrying the product in stores across the United States. - Ed.

When Dr. Bob Wagstaff invented the Orabrush tongue cleaner, he tried all the traditional business strategies to sell his product. He invested $40,000 into a TV infomercial, approached retail shops to carry the Orabrush in stores and offered to sell his patent to other oral hygiene companies. None of it worked. The infomercial yielded only 100 orders, and people walked past the product in stores without a second glance.

As a final attempt to get his business off the ground, Dr. Wagstaff took the advice of Jeffrey Harmon, a local college student, and started marketing the tongue cleaners on YouTube. With a $500 budget, they produced and posted their first video introducing the Orabrush and offering the product for purchase online.



The quirky, commercial-style video explained that 90 percent of bad breath comes from bacteria on the tongue—hence the solution, the Orabrush tongue cleaner. Shot in a makeshift studio in the neighborhood pool hall (listen closely and you can hear the balls cracking in the background), the video went viral, rocketing to 16 million views.

Building a brand on YouTube
After the explosive reaction to their first video, Harmon took on the role as Chief Marketing Officer and began creating regular webisodes, introducing new characters like Morgan, the dirty tongue. Harmon then used YouTube video ads to reach more people and grow their fan base. The “Cure Bad Breath” videos built a loyal following, and their YouTube channel grew to nearly 40 million views.

After two years, Orabrush had sold more than a million tongue cleaners to people in 40+ countries. The Orabrush brand became so popular that local pharmacy store managers began contacting Orabrush directly, citing requests from customers who had heard about the brand online. This fall, Walmart began carrying the Orabrush tongue cleaners in its 3,500+ stores across the United States. And this week, CVS/pharmacy has added the Orabrush tongue cleaner to more than 7,000 stores across the country. That’s a lot of tongue cleaners!


These days Orabrush is taking a new approach to drive even more sales in stores. One of the first businesses to use YouTube TrueView video ads, Orabrush has created tailored endings to their videos that direct the viewer to the closest CVS/pharmacy carrying the Orabrush.

Elbow grease and a clever mascot
While Orabrush may have taken an unorthodox approach, their success came from old-fashioned elbow grease, perseverance and a bit of ingenuity.

“YouTube has helped normal people like Dr. Bob and a couple of college kids to take an idea, put it in front of people and get an honest response,” Harmon, now chief marketing officer at Orabrush, told us. “We can now play on the same terms as huge companies—and be successful.”

Hear more about Orabrush’s journey to success in this video:



Monday, November 14, 2011

Greater choice for wireless access point owners

From tagging a post with your location, to checking in to a restaurant, to simply finding out where you are, location-based services have become some of the most popular features of today’s Internet. One of the key ways technology companies are able to determine a location for these services is through a location database, which matches publicly broadcast information about local wireless networks with their approximate geographic location. By looking for wireless access points that are close to a user’s phone, location providers can return the approximate location you need. In addition, this method is a good alternative to other approaches, like GPS, because it’s faster, it works indoors, and it’s more battery-efficient.

The wireless access point information we use in our location database, the Google Location Server, doesn’t identify people. But as first mentioned in September, we can do more to address privacy concerns.

We’re introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server. To opt out, visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with “_nomap”.  For example, if your SSID is “Network”, you‘d need to change it to “Network_nomap”.

To get started, visit this Help Center article to learn more about the process and to find links with specific instructions on how to change an access point’s SSID for various wireless access point manufacturers.

As we explored different approaches for opting-out access points from the Google Location Server, we found that a method based on wireless network names provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse. Specifically, this approach helps protect against others opting out your access point without your permission.

Finally, because other location providers will also be able to observe these opt-outs, we hope that over time the “_nomap” string will be adopted universally. This would help benefit all users by providing everyone with a unified opt-out process regardless of location provider.

Update Nov 21: Edited punctuation to clarify the "_nomap" tag.



(Cross posted on the European Public Policy Blog)

Ten algorithm changes on Inside Search

We make roughly 500 changes to our search algorithm in a typical year. Our goal is to make search run so smoothly, you don't even notice the changes. That said, we like giving you insights into what we're doing behind the search results you see each day. Today on Inside Search, we've posted a recap of some of the algorithmic changes we’ve made over just the past couple weeks. These changes improve everything from translation, to snippets to autocomplete. For the complete list including descriptions of the changes, check out the post on the Inside Search blog.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bringing the very best of what we do to the veteran community

We believe that technology can be a force for good; one that builds and binds community. As a Googler, my proudest moments are when we take that technology and put it in the hands of people who can use it to communicate, collaborate, build and explore.

Today, on Veterans Day, I am proud to share a few Google tools and platforms for the military veteran community. They can be accessed on our website, Google for Veterans and Families, which was created by veterans and their family and friends, who work at Google. This single interface brings together Google products and platforms for servicemembers and their families. We believe it will be useful to all veterans, whether still in the service, transitioning out, or on a new path in their civilian lives. Here are some examples of what you’ll find on the site:
  • VetConnect - This tool helps servicemembers connect, communicate and share their experiences with others who have served using the Google+ platform.
  • Google Veterans Channel - A YouTube channel for discussion about military service for veterans, their families and the public. Veterans can share their experiences with each other as well as with civilians to help shed light on the importance and complexity of service. If you have not served, this is a great place to offer your thanks by uploading a tribute video.
  • Resume Builder powered by Google Docs - We found that Docs can be a particularly helpful tool to transitioning servicemembers seeking employment. Resume Builder generates an auto-formatted resume that can be easily edited, saved and downloaded to share with potential employers.
  • Tour Builder powered by Google Earth (coming soon). A new way to tell your military story. Today, you can view some sample “tours”— 3D maps of veterans’ service histories, complete with photos and videos. Stay tuned for more details and updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.
It’s been a proud month for those of us here at Google who are veterans or family of veterans.

In October, 100 Googlers visited the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at West Point to conduct resume writing workshops for members of the Warrior Transition Unit. And, just two weeks ago, we traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to teach wounded, ill and injured servicemembers how to use Google tools to stay in touch with their loved ones while in recovery.

Finally, this week, we introduced the Veterans Job Bank in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Job Bank is a customized job search engine in the National Resource Directory (NRD), which is powered by Google Custom Search technology and crawls the web for JobPosting markup from Schema.org to identify veteran-committed job openings.

Even playing a small part to serve those who have served has been an honor.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Raising awareness for breast cancer through the Pink Pin Initiative in NYC and beyond

Every October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when organizations and individuals around the world come together to raise awareness to support the fight against breast cancer.

This year, Google joined in and partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure on the Pink Pin Initiative, which challenged local businesses in New York City to rally their customers, friends and families around breast cancer awareness. Using Google’s products, including Maps, YouTube, Picasa and Google+, we made it easy for local businesses and New York residents to show their support for the cause. On an interactive website, pinkpin.com, people could register their businesses on the Pink Pin Map, share their experiences by uploading their own videos and photo stories, as well as donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

More than 300 businesses signed up to participate in the first 24 hours, and we saw an outpouring of public support from both businesses and individuals, demonstrating how small, random acts of participation can translate to larger scale impact. In fact, some businesses took it upon themselves to take Pink Pin a step further. One New York business offered $100 of free services for every $100 donated. A Brooklyn restaurant hosted a one-day “Dine-out” for Pink Pin, where a percentage of their earnings for that day went to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Pink Pin was a tremendous demonstration of what people will do if you give them the tools to use technology for good. We’re thrilled that Pink Pin has been so positively received by New Yorkers and hope to continue and expand our efforts next year.

Googlers also celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness month in 23 of our offices around the globe. In addition to health talks encouraging Googlers to learn more about breast cancer prevention, we heard a panel of survivors speak in Mountain View, held walk/runs in California, New York and Washington, and participated in flash mobs to raise awareness in Dublin and London. On Wednesday, October 19, we celebrated a global “Wear Pink, Think Pink Day.” We also encouraged donations (and gift matching!) to organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can see a photo album of all our activities below:



Supporting entrepreneurs around the world with Startup Weekend

We recognize the transformative power of startups and the entrepreneurs behind them that have the passion and courage to pursue a dream; the impact they can make on society can be significant. Google was once a startup in a garage, and Google Ventures is a testament to our ongoing commitment to entrepreneurialism. As we head into Global Entrepreneurship Week, it’s clear that having a robust community of entrepreneurs, mentors and educational resources can be a key ingredient in a startup’s success, and we’re excited to be part of that.

Today, we’re announcing a partnership with Startup Weekend—a global organization committed to promoting real entrepreneurship in local communities. In more than 200 cities and across six continents, Startup Weekend holds 54-hour startup creation events, bringing together entrepreneurs from engineering, product, design, marketing and business backgrounds. Participants gather on Friday, and by Sunday afternoon, they launch a product.

This partnership will help Startup Weekend expand to dozens of additional cities around the world and launch new vertical competitions focused on specific themes such as education, health or gaming.

In addition, we’ll be working to bring in Google’s developer community in the form of Google Technology User Groups as an additional resource to Startup Weekend participants. Started in early 2008, there are now more than 280 GTUGs in 86 countries that bring tech enthusiasts together via hundreds of events each month. GTUG members will receive discounted registration for Startup Weekend events and will help run pre-weekend local bootcamps on Google’s developer platforms and tools (e.g., App Engine, Android, Chrome).

We’ll start rolling out our product training and community events at Startup Weekends in the coming weeks and months. To learn more or find the next event happening in your city, visit startupweekend.org/google. Hope to see you at a weekend event soon!

Google Photography Prize: Looking for the photography stars of the future

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

We’re really excited about this, and think great art deserves great exposure. So we’re teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize, a chance for students around the world to showcase their photos on Google+ and have their work exhibited at a major art institution.

The contest is open to students around the world (some exceptions apply, see google.com/photographyprize for more details). From far-away places to up-close faces, there are 10 different categories to spark your imagination. And there are some great prizes to be won: 10 finalists chosen by a jury of renowned photographers will show their work at Saatchi Gallery, London for two months in 2012 alongside Out of Focus, a major photography exhibition, and win a trip to London to attend the exhibition opening event with a friend. One winner will go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an amazing destination with a professional photography coach.

It’s easy to enter: After you pick a category, upload your photos to Google+ and share them with the world as a public post, then visit the submission form on google.com/photographyprize by January 31, 2012 to enter.

Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their Google+ page for the contest, so add it to your circles if you want to see the great work that’s being submitted.

We can’t wait to see your photos!

Update Nov 14: We've had a few questions and comments about who can enter. The contest is open to all students in higher education, including but not limited to those studying photography. Please have a look at the eligibility criteria on the contest website.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Think Insights with Google is out of beta and packing a data punch

Quick pop quiz:
  1. Based on search history, consumer demand for pretzels peaks in what month of the year?
  2. How much (in $) does search add to the world’s GDP?
  3. In 2011, what percent of people dreamed and brainstormed about their next vacation?
  4. What percent of the daily queries on Google.com have never been seen before?
These are just a few questions that can be answered* on the new Think Insights with Google, our information and resource hub for marketers. The site is fresh out of beta and sporting a playful new look, helpful tools, more studies, the latest trends and exciting videos. We invite you to visit the site, take a look around and see what’s new.


If you only have a few minutes to spare, try playing with our new Real Time Insights Finder tool. With just a few clicks you can spot emerging trends and gain valuable consumer insights, all in real time. For example, the most popular video in common among males 25-34 in Italy and the U.S. is the Official Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game trailer.


Although we’ve made a lot of enhancements to Think Insights based on initial user feedback, we’re always trying to iterate and improve. So please don’t be shy! Join the conversation by adding the Think with Google page on Google+ to one of your circles, or stay tuned for updates by subscribing to our newsletter.

Think Insights is forward-thinking and rooted in data. We hope you’ll use it as a one-stop shop for consumer trends, marketing insights and industry research.

*Answers to pop quiz (they can all be found on Think Insights in less than 60 seconds):
  1. December, Real Time Insights Finder Tool
  2. $540 billion directly to global GDP, The Impact of Internet Technologies: Search Study, Jul 2011
  3. 50%, 5 Stages of Travel Interactive Infographic
  4. 16%, Search Fact & Stat

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Martha Stewart visits Google

Martha Stewart is a phenomenon. Each month, more than 37 million readers, users, viewers and listeners tune in to Martha in order to learn how to cook, entertain, garden, decorate, craft and organize to celebrate everything from holidays, to weddings to everyday living. Martha hosted me most graciously in her studio last December, so my team and I were delighted to welcome Martha to Google last Friday as part of our Authors@Google series.

Martha may be our most prolific Author@Google visitor yet. On November 1, Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations was published as her 75th(!) book. During her visit, Martha and I sat down to talk about her new book as well as how technology has affected her brand and business (she was an early adopter of Google+), the early days of her media empire, her advice for entrepreneurs and her most memorable Thanksgivings. We also chatted a bit about the upcoming holidays. Insightful, refreshing, candid and charming, it was a delight to speak with Martha and hear her story.

The full interview is below—complete with tips on how to fold fitted sheets!—and can also be found on our YouTube page.





(Cross-posted on the YouTube blog)