Monday, April 30, 2012

Supporting data innovation in journalism throughout Europe


Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog

The digital age generates reams of raw data. Much of that data is interesting or important, but since there’s a lot of it out there it’s often hard to find and analyze. This is where journalists can help. Journalists are experts at delving into complex issues and writing stories that make them accessible—essential skills for dealing with the data deluge of the digital age. In order to support and encourage innovative data journalism, we’re sponsoring a series of prizes all across Europe.


Let’s start in the Nordics, where we recently partnered with Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information and Southern Denmark University’s Center for Journalism to sponsor the Nordic News Hacker 2012 contest. Contestants were asked to create and submit a piece of data journalism—anything from a data mash-up to a new mobile app.

This year’s winner is Anders Pedersen. Ander’s project, Doctors for Sale, inspired by Pro Publica’s Docs for Dollars investigation in the United States, used raw data to uncover doctors who receive money from the pharmaceutical industry. He wins a $20,000 scholarship to work with the Guardian Data Blog in London for one month to further his investigative skills.

Several thousand kilometers south of Denmark at the International Journalism Festival, the Global Editors Network announced the 60 shortlisted projects for the Google-sponsored Data Journalism Awards. Some 320 projects were submitted from a diverse group of applicants including major media groups, regional newspapers, press associations, and entrepreneurial journalists from more than 60 countries. Six winners will be announced during the News World Summit, on May 31, 2012 in Paris.

In Vienna, the International Press Institute recently announced the winners of their News Innovation contest, sponsored by Google. Fourteen projects were selected, including digital training in the Middle East, corruption chasing in the Balkans, and citizen photojournalism in the UK. All use digital data and new technologies to tell stories or reach new audiences. The winners received a total of more than $1.7 million.

Congratulations to all the journalists and publications who are embracing the digital world!

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Nashville, the sweet sound of entrepreneurship

Nashville and Silicon Valley have a lot in common. They're both filled with smart, creative people building businesses together. Nashville's start-up scene may be less well known, but it's bursting with energy and creativity like the rest of the city, and on April 19, we brought our Google for Entrepreneurs program down to the home of honky tonks to learn more about how we might help out.

Event crowd in our rustic music hall venue.

Google for Entrepreneurs was a full day of sessions exploring topics from how to use Google+ and Youtube to publicize your content, to ads and analytics tools for businesses to our various platforms for developers. The crowd of 430 attendees ranged from tech startups like Populr.me, which is building a beautiful HTML5 micropublishing app, to ArtistGrowth, which is creating a platform for artists to organize and monetize a music business from their phone. A group of eight enterprising Googlers led conversations on getting your business on the global map, while the Creator’s Freedom Project hosted a panel of local artists discussing how creative people can make a living using today's technology. We closed the day by discussing how music and tech can work together to make the Internet awesome. Then, naturally, it was time to let the live music and beverages flow. For more photos, check out our web album here.

Google panel taking any and all questions.

We’d like to thank all our partners Flo {thinkery}, Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Technology Council and Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission, as well as Karl Dean, the Mayor of Nashville and Beth Harwell, Speaker of the House (Tenn.) for making this event truly memorable. In one amazing day, we came together to bring the magic of Google to Nashville and made friends with one talented city. We look forward to connecting with more entrepreneurial cities around the country, and the world.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breaking down the language barrier—six years in

The rise of the web has brought the world’s collective knowledge to the fingertips of more than two billion people. With just a short query you can access a webpage on a server thousands of miles away in a different country, or read a note from someone halfway around the world. But what happens if it’s in Hindi or Afrikaans or Icelandic, and you speak only English—or vice versa?

In 2001, Google started providing a service that could translate eight languages to and from English. It used what was then state-of-the-art commercial machine translation (MT), but the translation quality wasn’t very good, and it didn’t improve much in those first few years. In 2003, a few Google engineers decided to ramp up the translation quality and tackle more languages. That's when I got involved. I was working as a researcher on DARPA projects looking at a new approach to machine translation—learning from data—which held the promise of much better translation quality. I got a phone call from those Googlers who convinced me (I was skeptical!) that this data-driven approach might work at Google scale.

I joined Google, and we started to retool our translation system toward competing in the NIST Machine Translation Evaluation, a “bake-off” among research institutions and companies to build better machine translation. Google’s massive computing infrastructure and ability to crunch vast sets of web data gave us strong results. This was a major turning point: it underscored how effective the data-driven approach could be.

But at that time our system was too slow to run as a practical service—it took us 40 hours and 1,000 machines to translate 1,000 sentences. So we focused on speed, and a year later our system could translate a sentence in under a second, and with better quality. In early 2006, we rolled out our first languages: Chinese, then Arabic.

We announced our statistical MT approach on April 28, 2006, and in the six years since then we’ve focused primarily on core translation quality and language coverage. We can now translate among any of 64 different languages, including many with a small web presence, such as Bengali, Basque, Swahili, Yiddish, even Esperanto.

Today we have more than 200 million monthly active users on translate.google.com (and even more in other places where you can use Translate, such as Chrome, mobile apps, YouTube, etc.). People also seem eager to access Google Translate on the go (the language barrier is never more acute than when you’re traveling)—we’ve seen our mobile traffic more than quadruple year over year. And our users are truly global: more than 92 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States.

In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books. To put it another way: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, our system translates in roughly a single day. By this estimate, most of the translation on the planet is now done by Google Translate. (We can’t speak for the galaxy; Douglas Adams’s “Babel fish” probably has us beat there.) Of course, for nuanced or mission-critical translations, nothing beats a human translator—and we believe that as machine translation encourages people to speak their own languages more and carry on more global conversations, translation experts will be more crucial than ever.

We imagine a future where anyone in the world can consume and share any information, no matter what language it’s in, and no matter where it pops up. We already provide translation for webpages on the fly as you browse in Chrome, text in mobile photos, YouTube video captions, and speech-to-speech “conversation mode” on smartphones. We want to knock down the language barrier wherever it trips people up, and we can’t wait to see what the next six years will bring.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

From countering radicalization to disrupting illicit networks: What’s next for Google Ideas

What do a former violent jihadist from Indonesia, an ex-neo-Nazi from Sweden and a Canadian who was held hostage for 15 months in Somalia have in common? In addition to their past experiences with radicalization, they are all also members of Against Violent Extremism (AVE), a new online network that is launching today from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) with support from our think/do tank Google Ideas, the Gen Next Foundation and other partners. This is the first time that former extremists, survivors, nonprofits and private sector leaders from around the world are combining forces and using online tools to tackle the problem of violent extremism.

The idea for this network first came about last summer when we hosted the Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin. We wanted to initiate a global conversation on how best to prevent youth from becoming radicalized. In some ways, it was a bit of an experiment to see if we could get so-called “formers”—those who had renounced their previous lives of violent extremism—and survivors of such violence to come together in one place.

To reframe the issue of counter-radicalization, we decided to spotlight formers as positive role models for youth. We also knew that there has traditionally been an over-reliance on governments to tackle these problems, so we wanted to see what diverse groups outside the public sector could offer. Finally, we needed to go beyond the in-person, physical conversations we had at the summit into the realm of the virtual, using the Internet to ensure sustained discussion and debate.

Until now, there has never before been a one-stop shop for people who want to help fight these challenges—a place to connect with others across sectors and disciplines to get expertise and resources. The AVE web platform contains tools for those wanting to act on this issue, forums for dialogue, and information about the projects that the network has spawned. The site, which is in beta, will be managed by ISD, a London-based think tank that has long worked on issues surrounding radicalization. AVE’s seed members are a global network of formers, survivors of violent extremism, NGOs, academics, think tanks and private sector execs—all with a shared goal of preventing youth from becoming radicalized. You can hear from some of the participants in this video here:


Working with the formers over the past several months has turned out to be an exploration of a kind of illicit network: violent extremism. But it’s touched on other types of illicit networks too—such as drug smuggling, human trafficking and the underground arms trade. With the launch of the AVE network, we plan to turn much of our attention over the next several months to these other areas. This afternoon as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, I will be moderating a panel discussion, Illicit Networks: Portrayal Through Film, talking to a former child soldier, a farm laborer who’s gone undercover to investigate modern-day slavery, a survivor of trafficking and abuse, and a former arms broker. We’ll be watching various movie clips and discussing what people learn from Hollywood when it comes to the mysterious and misunderstood world of illicit networks.

This will be an early look at what’s to come this summer when we will again partner with Tribeca Enterprises and the Council on Foreign Relations (as we did last year in Dublin) to convene the Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition (INFO) Summit. We plan to bring together a diverse cross-section of activists, survivors, policymakers and engineers to come up with creative ideas about how technology can disrupt some of the world’s most dangerous illicit networks. We want to look not only at how technology has been part of the problem, but how it can be part of the solution by empowering those who are adversely affected by illicit networks. We look forward to sharing with you what we learn.

The Google Photography Prize 2012 winner

Last week we shared the names of the 10 Finalists for the Google Photography Prize 2012. Today we’re delighted to announce the winner: Viktor Johansson from Sweden.

Viktor is a 24-year-old student at the Swedish photography school Nordens Fotoskola Biskops-Arnö. The judges were captivated by his series that focused on Christoffer Eskilsson, Sweden’s best male diver from 10 meters. Viktor spent three days with Christoffer in Eriksdalsbadet, Stockholm where Christoffer trains and perfects his craft. Viktor came to realize that training to become the number-one male high diver in Sweden is a lonely pursuit.

Viktor has chosen to show us an alternative perspective on the life of a professional athlete—a view that we’re not used to seeing from sport photography in the media. Instead of glamorous action shots of an athlete in competition, he’s produced arresting and unexpected photographs that focus on the long, lonely hours of repetitive training and practice that it takes to excel in a field.



In addition to the exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London, Viktor will go on a once-in-a-lifetime photography trip to a destination of his choice with a professional photography coach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Introducing Google Drive... yes, really

Just like the Loch Ness Monster, you may have heard the rumors about Google Drive. It turns out, one of the two actually does exist.

Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.


With Google Drive, you can:
  • Create and collaborate. Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, so you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
  • Store everything safely and access it anywhere (especially while on the go). All your stuff is just... there. You can access your stuff from anywhere—on the web, in your home, at the office, while running errands and from all of your devices. You can install Drive on your Mac or PC and can download the Drive app to your Android phone or tablet. We’re also working hard on a Drive app for your iOS devices. And regardless of platform, blind users can access Drive with a screen reader.
  • Search everything. Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time.
You can get started with 5GB of storage for free—that’s enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on. You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.



Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience. You can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+, and soon you’ll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail. Drive is also an open platform, so we’re working with many third-party developers so you can do things like send faxes, edit videos and create website mockups directly from Drive. To install these apps, visit the Chrome Web Store—and look out for even more useful apps in the future.

This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come.

Get started with Drive today at drive.google.com/start—and keep looking for Nessie...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

YouTube Marketing Ambassadors play big at Google

From time to time, we post about how entrepreneurs have used Google tools to build successful businesses—both on and offline. Today, we’re recognizing a group of businesses that have used a particular online platform—YouTube—to grow their customer base. - Ed.

You’d be hard pressed to run into someone who hasn’t heard of a musician or two that have gotten their big break on YouTube (Justin Bieber ring a bell?). But success on YouTube isn’t limited to aspiring celebrities: we’ve also seen a growing number of businesses that have either gotten their start on YouTube or grown an existing business with video.

To recognize these businesses and their work in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship on YouTube, we’re introducing our first ever YouTube Marketing Ambassadors—a group of outstanding organizations that have used YouTube to drive sales and grow operations. We’ve invited nine businesses from across the country to participate in this program, and last week our YouTube Ambassadors joined us at our headquarters for a two-day summit to meet with executives and learn more about online tools for businesses.

Hanging out with our Ambassadors at the YouTube headquarters. Check out more photos on Google+. Photo credit: Bryan Davis.

Our Ambassadors span a variety of industries, from knitting to motorcycle gear to musical education. Each has a unique customer base and distinct business objectives, and yet, video has helped each and every one of them achieve their goals:

Find new customers from around the corner and across the world
  • BerkleeMusic.com (Boston, Mass.) - Berkleemusic.com is the award-winning online extension school of Boston's Berklee College of Music. To encourage enrollment for online courses, this renowned school posts video music lessons and in-depth clinics with professors to give prospective students a true-to-life preview of online study with Berkleemusic.com. Bringing access to Berklee’s acclaimed curriculum to students around the world, Berkleemusic.com has taught over 30,000 students from 135 countries since 2002.
  • Undercover Tourist (Daytona Beach, Fla.) - If you’ve ever planned a theme park vacation and wanted more than what’s offered in travel guides, you’re not alone. This travel business uses first-person videos to show the rides, shows and experiences offered at their partner destinations in Florida to potential customers around the world. The destinations now attract approximately 14% of their customers from the U.K., Australia, and Germany.
  • VeryPink.com (Austin, Tex.) - Owner Staci Perry discovered a global classroom on YouTube, and now she offers knitting instruction classes and patterns online as a full-time business. Thanks to Google Translate and closed captioning on her videos, she has students in Greece, Turkey, Thailand, Italy, India and Syria—just to name a few.
Spark a conversation
  • ModCloth (San Francisco, Calif.) - ModCloth, an online retailer selling vintage-inspired clothing, engages fans with how-to tutorials, behind the scenes tours and DIY videos (ever try your hand at DIY studded socks?). Their video contests have earned them nearly a million video views from happy ModCloth brand evangelists.
  • Richard Petty Driving Experience (Concord, N.C.) - To show that there’s nothing quite like being behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car, the Richard Petty Driving Experience team records celebrity customers’ reactions after their final lap around the racetrack and uses the videos as compelling testimonials.
  • Rokenbok (Solano Beach, Calif.) - This toy company transformed itself into an e-commerce powerhouse, gaining 50% of all customers from their YouTube videos. They also encourage fans to upload their own videos, which they regularly feature on their YouTube channel.
Launch a new product
  • BBQ Guys (Baton Rouge, La.) - To showcase their collection of high-end BBQ grills, the BBQ Guys film video reviews of new products so customers can get a personal walk-through of all the features and how they perform in action.
  • RevZilla (Philadelphia, Pa.) - RevZilla co-founder Anthony Bucci deconstructs highly technical motorcycle gear through simple video reviews, giving tips on sizing and features. They’ve filmed more than 1,400 videos to help motorcyclists shop with confidence.
  • Zagg (Salt Lake City, Utah) - ZAGG drives traffic to their website with engaging scratch test TrueView video ads showcasing their clear protective shield for electronics. Their iPhone 4 Scratch Test alone has more than two million views.
We’ve awarded these Ambassadors with a badge for their YouTube channel and retail storefront, and will feature them on the YouTube homepage. To pay it forward, each Ambassador will mentor a nonprofit organization of their choice on how to get started with a video presence on YouTube. They’ll also host Google+ Hangouts throughout the year to share their strategies. To find out when the Ambassadors will be hosting a Hangout, stay tuned to our YouTube for marketers Google+ page.


Meet one of our Ambassadors, Rokenbok toy company

To learn more about how to bring your business to life with YouTube, visit the Get Started page, or if you already have a video and want to learn how to promote it, read about the new AdWords for video on the YouTube blog.

Planting some green this Earth Day

Cross-posted on the Lat Long and Google Green blogs

Since 1970, people all over the world have recognized April 22 as Earth Day, an opportunity to appreciate and generate awareness about the natural environment. Here at Google we strive to do our part to make sure our planet is healthy for years to come. From investing in renewable energy to building products that help people be greener in their own lives, we’re building a better web that’s better for the environment.

Today, we’re celebrating Earth Day in a variety of ways. The coming of spring inspired us to grow our annual Earth Day doodle right in our backyard. We planted seeds on a balcony at our Mountain View headquarters and watched them grow into what you see today. We’re also partnering with Friends of the Urban Forest to help make San Francisco schools a little greener.

To help you start a garden of your own, we’ve put together an Earth Day resource page. Explore community gardens and farmers’ markets on our interactive map, get discounted seeds to plant flowers, herbs and vegetables in your own backyard and connect with other gardeners for planting tips and inspiration.


We hope you find these resources useful and enjoy gardening as much as we do. On our Mountain View, Calif. campus, we have community gardens where Googlers can grow and harvest their choice of herbs and vegetables. Company-wide, we focus on getting organic, locally-grown produce for our cafes. We purchase food directly from farms near our campuses, and learn about how our suppliers raise, farm and harvest their food—all to ensure that we’re eating sustainably and being good to the environment.


We hope this Earth Day you are inspired to add a little green to the planet. Earth Day may only be a single day, but the actions we take can last for years to come.

Exploring Jerusalem’s Old City streets with Street View

Every year, 3.5 million people come to Israel to visit ancient sites that are holy to billions of people, to walk among the unique stone of Jerusalem, or to relax on the beaches of the Mediterranean.


To help you explore Israel’s history and present, we’ve launched imagery of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa on Street View. You can explore the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and each of its four quarters, walk along the Via Dolorosa and see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visit the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives. You can stop by the Biblical Zoo, then visit the Israel Museum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum—and explore more with the Art Project and the Yad Vashem photo archive. Or you can stroll through Tel Aviv’s bohemian Neve Tzedek neighborhood and the ancient port of Jaffa, and take a virtual trip to some of Tel Aviv’s scenic beaches or to Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens.



We hope you’ll use Street View to discover, explore and more. Some are already using the new imagery to help others—for example, Access Israel, an organization working to make Israel more accessible for people with disabilities, has embedded Street View in its accessibility mapping project of Israeli cities (note: in Hebrew).

We’ll be adding more Street View coverage of sites and streets in the coming months, and are hoping to bring Street View to more places around the region soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Inside view on ads review

This is the first in a series of posts that will provide greater transparency about how we make our ads safer by detecting and removing scam ads. -Ed.

A few weeks ago, we posted here about our efforts in fighting bad ads, and we shared a video with the basics of how we do it. Today I wanted to delve a little deeper and give some insight into the systems we use to help prevent bad ads from showing. Our ads policies are designed with safety and trust in mind—we don’t allow ads for malicious downloads, counterfeit goods, or ads with unclear billing practices, to name a few examples. In order to help prevent these kinds of ads from showing, we use a combination of automated systems and human input to review the billions of ads submitted to Google each year. I’m one of many engineers whose job is to help make sure that Google doesn’t show bad ads to users.

We’ve designed our approach based on a three-pronged strategy, each focused on a different dimension of the problem: ads, sites, and advertiser accounts. These systems are complementary, sharing signals among each other so that we can comprehensively attack bad ads.

For example, in the case of a site that is selling counterfeit goods, this three-pronged approach aims to look for patterns that would flag such a site and help prevent ads from showing. Ad review notices patterns in the ads and keywords selected by the advertiser. Site review analyzes the entire site to determine if it is selling counterfeit goods. Account review aims to determine if a new advertiser is truly new, or is simply a repeat offender trying to abuse Google’s advertising system. Here’s more detail on how we review each of these three components.

Ad Review
An ad is the snippet of information presented to a user, along with a link to a specific webpage, or landing page. The ads review system inspects individual ads and landing pages, and is probably the system most familiar to advertisers. When an advertiser submits an ad, our system immediately performs a preliminary examination. If there’s nothing in the ad that flags a need for further review, we tell the advertiser the ad is “Eligible” and show the ad only on google.com to users who have SafeSearch turned off. If the ad is flagged for further review, in most cases we refer to the ad as “Under Review” and don’t show the ad at all. From there, the ad enters our automated pipeline, where we employ machine learning models, a rules engine and landing page analysis to perform a more extensive examination. If our automated system determines an outcome with a high degree of confidence, we will either approve the ad to run on Google and all of our partners (“Approved”), approve the ad to show for appropriate users in specific locations (“Approved - Limited”) or reject the ad (“Disapproved”). If our automated system isn’t able to determine the outcome, we send the ad to a real person to make a final decision.

Site Review
A site has many different pages, each of which could be pointed to by different ads, often known as a domain. Our site review system identifies policy issues which apply to the whole site. It aggregates sites across all ads from all advertisers and regularly crawls them, building a repository of information that’s constantly improving as new scams and new sites are examined. We store the content of advertised sites and use both machine learning models and a rules engine to analyze the sites. The magic of the site review system is it understands the structure of language on webpages in order to classify the content of sites. Site review will determine whether or not an entire site should be disabled, which would prevent any ads leading to that site showing from any account. When the automated system isn’t able to determine the outcome with a high degree of confidence, we send it to a real person to make a decision. When a site is disabled, we tell the advertiser that it’s in violation of “Site Policy.”

Account Review
An account is one particular advertiser’s collection of ads, plus the advertiser’s selections for targeting and bidding on those ads. An account may have many ads which may point to several different sites, for example. The account review system constantly evaluates individual advertiser accounts to determine if the whole account should be inspected and shut down for policy violations. This system “listens” to a variety of signals, such as ads and keywords submitted by the advertiser, budget changes, the advertiser’s address and phone number, the advertiser’s IP address, disabled sites connected to this account, and disapproved ads. The system constantly re-evaluates all accounts, incorporating new data. For example, if an advertiser logs in from a new IP address, the account is re-evaluated to determine if that new signal suggests we should take a closer look at the content of the advertiser’s account. If the account review system determines that there is something suspect about a particular account with a high degree of confidence, it automatically suspends the account. If the system isn’t sure, it stops the account from showing any ads at all and asks a real person to decide if the account should be suspended.

Even with all these systems and people working to stop bad ads, there still can be times when an ad slips through that we don’t want. There are many malicious players who are very persistent—they seek to abuse Google’s advertising system in order to take advantage of our users. When we shut down a thousand accounts, they create two thousand more using different patterns. It’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse.

We’ve put a great deal of effort and expense into building these systems because Google’s long-term success is based on the trust of people who use our products. I’ve focused my time and energy in this area for many years. I find it inspiring to fight the good fight, to focus on the user, and do everything we can to help prevent bad ads from running. I’ll continue to post here from time to time with additional thoughts and greater information about how we make ads safer by detecting and removing scam ads.

Spring-cleaning … in spring!

Over the last six months we’ve done a lot of spring cleaning—though it’s all happened out of season. Spring has now arrived and we’re ready to close or combine another round of products. Focus is crucial if we are to improve our execution. We have so many opportunities in front of us that without hard choices we risk doing too much and not having the impact we strive for. Here are the details on the changes we’ll be making:
  • We are making a number of API changes, adopting a one-year deprecation policy for certain APIs and removing the deprecation policy for others. Additionally, we are retiring some old APIs with limited usage. We have also updated the deprecation policy for all APIs to be much clearer and more concise. Please see the Developers Blog for more information.
  • Google Flu Vaccine Finder was a maps mash-up that showed nearby vaccination places across the United States, built by a small 20 percent team during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic when there was a dire need for fast and accurate data on flu vaccination locations. Google Flu Vaccine Finder is now retired, but we’re pleased to pass the baton to the experienced team at HealthMap as they launch HealthMap Flu Vaccine Finder.
  • Google Related is an experimental browsing assistant launched to help people find interesting and useful information while they browse the web. The product isn’t experiencing the kind of adoption we’d like, and while we still believe in the value provided to our users, we’ll be retiring the existing product over the next few weeks, so the Related team can focus on creating more magic moments across other Google products.
  • Beginning June 1, 2012, we’re ending our support for Google Sync for BlackBerry. If you already have the app installed, you’ll still be able to use it; however it will not be available for download after June 1. Google Sync for BlackBerry will stop working on September 1, 2012. If you currently use Google Sync for BlackBerry, we encourage you to switch to BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) or the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server going forward. These alternatives offer a better overall experience, as you can sync your email messages, calendar and contacts through a single service.
  • We’re shutting down the mobile web app for Google Talk. For mobile users who want to continue using Google Talk, we recommend using the native Google Talk app on Android or any XMPP-compliant apps on other mobile platforms.
  • One Pass, our payment platform for online news publishers, has been shut down. We are working with existing partners to make the transition from One Pass to other platforms, including Google Consumer Surveys. While One Pass is going away, we will continue working with publishers to build new tools.
  • We're redirecting the old Patent Search homepage to google.com to make sure everyone is getting the best possible experience for their patent searches. Over the past few months, we've been making updates and improvements to the Patent Search functionality on google.com—not only are you able to search the same set of U.S. patents with the same advanced search options, the new experience loads twice as fast as the old Patent Search homepage, contributes to a unified search experience across Google, and sports Google Doodles as well. The team looks forward to including patents from other countries soon, and will be rolling out additional features to Patent Search on google.com in the future.
  • We launched a WINE-based version of Picasa for Linux in 2006 as a Google Labs project. As we continue to enhance Picasa, it has become difficult to maintain parity on the Linux version. So today, we’re deprecating Picasa for Linux and will not be maintaining it moving forward. Users who have downloaded and installed older versions of Picasa for Linux can continue to use them, though we won’t be making any further updates.
  • Starting today, the Picasa Web Albums Uploader for Mac and Picasa Web Albums Plugin for iPhoto will no longer be available for download. People can continue to use the uploader and plugin if they are installed. However, we’ll no longer maintain these tools. We strongly encourage people to download Picasa 3.9 for Mac, which includes upload and iPhoto import features.
Making changes to products or services is hard, but we do need to maintain our focus if we are to do important things that matter in the world. As we continue our clean-up, we look forward to creating a simpler, more beautiful user experience across Google.

Update Jun 5: Starting September 1, 2012 Google Sync for BlackBerry will stop working. We encourage you to switch to BlackBerry Internet Service. Please contact BlackBerry for details on how to set up BIS.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making the web work for major brands

In the 1950s, major brand marketers, like movie studios and consumer goods companies, embraced television, helping spark a multi-billion dollar industry—and the beginning of TV’s golden age.

One reason these brands invested in TV was the emergence of new measurement tools, like TV ratings and market research, that helped show which ads were reaching the right audiences and having a positive impact.

Measurability is already at the heart of digital advertising—every second, businesses rely on insights from products like Google Analytics and Google AdWords to help them grow.

But major brands are interested in things like “brand recall” (such as whether consumers remember the name of your cereal), and “brand favorability” (whether they think positively about it), rather than just clicks and online sales. The metrics that the online advertising industry uses today aren’t always equipped to tell that fuller story. Many brands scramble together metrics like clicks, ad impressions, and numerous tools and measurement solutions, trying to make sense of them and—some time later—acting upon the insights they can glean.

The lack of these actionable, truly useful metrics is a key reason that many major brands have been cautious in embracing digital advertising over the past decade, even as high-quality content and millions of users have moved online.

We think that a new generation of measurement solutions will help brands quantify the benefits of investing online and will help to fund the next generation of great online content and services.

Today at the Ad Age Digital Conference we’re introducing the Brand Activate initiative, a new effort to re-imagine online measurement for brand marketers and—crucially—to help brands turn measurement into action, immediately. We're working with the industry and supporting the IAB's Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) coalition on this project.

We believe that the industry’s significant investment in these areas can substantially grow the online advertising pie, help major brands invest for growth, and fund new digital content and services.

Read all the details about this initiative, and the first solutions (Active GRP and Active View) on our Agency blog.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Celebrating the Google Photography Prize Finalists

Back in November we announced the Google Photography Prize 2012, a competition offering student photographers a chance to share their best photographs with the world.

Groundbreaking photographer Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs,” so we left the themes for submission suitably broad, with 10 categories that combined classic photography genres with online photography trends including “Night,” “Travel,” “Sound/Silence” and “Me.”

We were thrilled by the interest in the contest: nearly 20,000 students from 146 countries took part, of which 100 were shortlisted. You can see these in the gallery on our website.

Our judging panel of seven leading photography experts chose the 10 finalists whose work will be shown in our exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery. Today we’re announcing the finalists: Collin Avery (U.S.), Viktor Johansson (Sweden), Kyrre Lien (Norway), Alexandra Claudia Manta (Romania), Balázs Maté (Hungary), Adi Sason (Israel), Oliver Seary (UK), Dana Stirling (Israel), Sasha Tamarin (Israel), Zhao Yi (China). Here are examples of the finalists' work—you can see their full albums on their Google+ profiles.



If you’re in London, come to the Saatchi Gallery to see the work of our finalists displayed alongside a new exhibition of international photography, Out of Focus, starting April 25. The overall winner of the Google Photography Prize will be announced on April 24, and will go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a location of their choice with a professional photographer as their mentor.

We hope you enjoy these fantastic photos as much as we did.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Technologists and muckrakers pursuing a more perfect union

Today, roughly 200 reporters, editors and technologists are gathering at the Googleplex in Mountain View for our first TechRaking summit. Co-hosted with the Center for Investigative Reporting, the oldest nonprofit investigative reporting organization in the United States, this gathering is meant to inspire muckraking by exploring tools that help reporters tell stories with greater interactivity, opportunities for long-form journalism to thrive in new mediums, best practices for verifying information and fact-checking online and much more throughout the course of the day. Think of it as the intersection of science and art when it comes to converting information into knowledge.

Here are a few of the highlights in store:
  • The Center for Investigative Reporting will discuss its new Knight Foundation-funded investigative news channel on YouTube that will be a hub of investigative journalism. Expected to launch in July, the channel will feature videos from major broadcasters and independent producers globally—both nonprofit and for-profit—and is an example of the power of collaborations that can serve the public.
  • The Google Fusion Tables team will discuss tips and tricks for data-driven journalists with Wendy Levy and Jeremy Rue during an afternoon breakout discussion. In another step toward making it easier for people in any industry to discover, manage and visualize data, this morning we announced a new interface for Fusion Tables, which helps you better explore and collaborate on data, includes more visualizations under the “experimental” tab and has a new Fusion Tables API for developers.
  • Richard Gingras, head of news product at Google, is kickstarting the day with a series of questions for journalists, newsrooms and technologists to consider. Mary Himinkool, who leads global entrepreneurship, is delivering a rapid-fire seven-minute look at lessons learned from entrepreneurs around the world, and Brian Rakowski from Chrome is sharing the process involved in rethinking the modern browser.
We wish we could have welcomed an even larger crowd, but for those who weren’t able to join us in person, tune in to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Google+ page for updates from the day and highlights afterward. At 1:30pm PT we’ll broadcast a Hangout with Krishna Bharat (distinguished research scientist at Google and founder of Google News), Amna Nawaz (Pakistan bureau chief/correspondent at NBC News), Nic Robertson (senior international correspondent at CNN), Sarah Hill (news anchor at KOMU) and Sree Sreenivasan (dean of student affairs and professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism). You can also follow #techraking and participate on Twitter.

TechRaking was born out of a lunchtime conversation at NewsFoo, another unconventional conference focused on moving forward the future of journalism and technology. We look forward to seeing the ideas and outcomes that emerge and develop from today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google

Update 5:49pm: for our international readers, this post is also available in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish (Latin America, Spain). - Ed.

More than 170 million people have upgraded to Google+, enjoying new ways to share in Search, Gmail, YouTube and lots of other places. It's still early days, and there’s plenty left to do, but we're more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google.

A critical piece of this social layer is a design that grows alongside our aspirations. So today we’re introducing a more functional and flexible version of Google+. We think you’ll find it easier to use and nicer to look at, but most importantly, it accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google.



Navigation you can make your own
One of the first things you’ll notice is a new way to get around the stream. Instead of static icons at the top, there’s a dynamic ribbon of applications on the left. This approach comes with lots of perks, but some of our favorites include:
  • You can drag apps up or down to create the order you want
  • You can hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions
  • You can show or hide apps by moving them in and out of “More”



Taken together, these powers make it easier to access your favorites, and to adjust your preferences over time. We've also built the ribbon with the future in mind, giving us an obvious (and clutter-free) space for The Next Big Feature, and The Feature After That. So stay tuned.

Conversations you’ll really care about
Once you’ve upgraded to Google+, it’s easy to share with your circles from just about anywhere. We’re dreaming bigger, though. We're aiming for an experience that fuses utility with beauty—one that inspires you to connect with others, and cherish the conversations that unfold. Today’s update is an important step in this direction, including:
  • Full bleed photos and videos that'll make you really proud to post
  • A stream of conversation "cards" that make it easier to scan and join discussions
  • An activity drawer that highlights the community around your content


Simply put, we're hoping to make sharing more awesome by making it more evocative. You know that feeling you get when a piece of art takes your breath away, or when a friend stops by with unexpected gifts? We want sharing to feel like that, every single time.

A new home for hanging out
Google+ Hangouts uses live video to bring people together, and the results range from heartwarming to breathtaking to music-making. Today we're adding a dedicated Hangouts page that creates even more opportunities to connect in person, including:
  • An always-updated list of invitations from the people in your circles
  • Quick access to every public and On Air hangout, for those times when you want to meet someone new, or watch a live broadcast
  • A rotating billboard of popular hangouts, pro tips and other items you don’t want to miss


By highlighting all the hangouts you can join, all over the world, it’s now easier to spend time together—even be there for each other. And with efforts like hangout apps already underway, you can expect more hangouts in more places in the future.

Getting there from here
Today's Google+ update extends beyond navigation, the stream and hangouts. For instance: there's a new Explore page that shows what's interesting and trending across the network. And a new profile with much bigger photos. And a new chat list that puts your friends front and center. And a whole lot more.

We're rolling out all of these improvements over the next few days, so please check back if you don't see them yet. In the meantime, you can visit this overview to learn more.



By focusing on you, the people you care about, and the stuff you’re into, we’re going to continue upgrading all the features you already know and love—from Search and Maps to Gmail and YouTube. With today’s foundational changes we can move even faster—toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.

Monday, April 09, 2012

One desk chair—hold the formaldehyde

Formaldehyde. Lead. Pesticides. Mercury. If building materials had nutrition labels, would you buy a product containing these toxic ingredients? There are more than 80,000 chemicals in the world, and we don’t fully know how they impact our health. And a surprising number of hazardous chemicals still make their way into everyday products we use, including furniture, paints, carpets and flooring. Whether it’s in the home or office, we shouldn’t have to worry that the chair we’re sitting in or the air we breathe contains harmful chemicals (PDF).

On my first day on the job at Google over six years ago, a co-worker asked me to sniff a carpet sample. I didn’t smell anything and was told, “That’s good!” We want to build a greener future and create the healthiest work environments imaginable for Googlers, which means we only use paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets, furniture and building materials with the lowest levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) possible.

A straw-hut style huddle room made with sustainably forested wood from Pescadero Willow Farm, bound by a saline-based, toxin-free solution

Unfortunately, the lack of clear and widely-available product ingredient information makes progress in this area challenging, so we’re asking the market to provide toxin-free products and make its contents an open book. We put all our products through a rigorous screening process to make sure they meet our healthy materials standards, and request full transparency from our vendors by asking them to share comprehensive product ingredient information.

This movement is also gaining momentum outside of Google. Recently, 30 leading building product manufacturers signed on to pilot the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard, the industry’s first common reporting standard for transparency around health impacts of building materials. Google is a founding endorser of the HPD, and we applaud these manufacturers for taking this important step. Continued leadership like this is needed for the product transparency revolution to gain real traction—not just for building materials but all types of products we consume or use.

So whether you’re at the restaurant or hardware store, ask tough questions so you can make better-informed choices about products to help keep yourself and your families healthy. Your collective voice and purchasing power can make a huge difference.

As for Google, by setting high standards, asking difficult questions and encouraging transparency from our partners, we hope to show how other organizations can create their own healthy and sustainable work environments.

Google+ Hangout with the UN Secretary-General

We’re passionate about changing the world. But there’s another organization that’s equally passionate—and has been doing it a lot longer. For more than 60 years, the United Nations has worked to advance a global agenda on ending war and poverty, promoting human rights, protecting the environment and dealing with humanitarian crises—critical issues that will determine the quality of life for future generations to come.

So we’re delighted that on Tuesday, April 10, some of the voices of the next generation will have the chance to participate in an exclusive global conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon via a Google+ Hangout from the United Nations headquarters in New York. Six young people, selected in consultation with partners in civil society, academia and United Nations offices in the field, will join from the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, and have the opportunity to ask questions on the issues that matter to them.

The Google+ Hangout with the UN Secretary-General will be streamed live at 3:30pm ET on April 10 at youtube.com/unitednations. David C. Drummond, Google’s SVP of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, will moderate.



Technology has given us the chance to advance the important work of the UN, while ensuring that global politics is made more accountable to citizens. We’re thrilled that Google can help play a small part in this.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Celebrating six students receiving the AP-Google Journalism & Technology Scholarship

Last summer, we announced a joint scholarship program for aspiring journalists with the Associated Press, administered by the Online News Association. Congratulations to the six students who will each be receiving $20,000 to pursue degrees that lie at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media:
  • Emily Eggleston, 24, graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying journalism and geography.
  • Reginald James, 30, undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying political science and African American studies.
  • Katie Zhu, 20, undergraduate at Northwestern University, studying computer science and journalism.
  • Rebecca Rolfe, 25, graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, studying digital media.
  • Kevin Schaul, 20, undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, studying journalism and computer science.
  • John Osborn, 29, graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying journalism.
These students have big plans that range from producing hyperlocal data-driven stories, to developing open-source apps that allow for democratic news gathering and greater collaboration, to data visualization for current events and entertainment, to producing political news games and teaching journalists how to code.

We hope these scholarship winners, and their future projects, inspire the broader journalism community to keep rethinking how to report and share stories through new technologies.

For all undergraduate and graduate students already brainstorming ideas for next year, read more about the application process and eligibility on the scholarship program’s website. Thank you to the Associated Press and the Online News Association for making this scholarship program possible, and we look forward to seeing the impact these students have in their communities and in journalism.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Going global in search of great art

South African rock designs. Brazilian street graffiti. Australian aboriginal art. Today we’re announcing a major expansion of the Google Art Project. From now on, with a few simple clicks of a finger, art lovers around the world will be able to discover not just paintings, but also sculpture, street art and photographs from 151 museums in 40 countries.



Since we introduced the Art Project last year, curators, artists and viewers from all over the globe have offered exciting ideas about how to enhance the experience of collecting, sharing and discovering art. Institutions worldwide asked to join the project, urging us to increase the diversity of artworks displayed. We listened.

The original Art Project counted 17 museums in nine countries and 1,000 images, almost all paintings from Western masters. Today, the Art Project includes more than 30,000 high-resolution artworks, with Street View images for 46 museums, with more on the way. In other words, the Art Project is no longer just about the Indian student wanting to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is now also about the American student wanting to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.

The expanded Art Project embraces all sizes of institutions, specializing in art or in other types of culture. For example, you can take a look at the White House in Washington, D.C., explore the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and continue the journey to the Santiniketan Triptych in the halls of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi. In the United States alone, some 29 partners in 16 cities are participating, ranging from excellent regional museums like the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina to top notch university galleries such as the SCAD museum of art in Savannah, Georgia.

Here are a few other new things in the expanded Art Project that you might enjoy:
  • Using completely new tools, called Explore and Discover, you can find artworks by period, artist or type of artwork, displaying works from different museums around the world.
  • Google+ and Hangouts are integrated on the site, enabling you to create even more engaging personal galleries.
  • Street View images are now displayed in finer quality. A specially designed Street View “trolley” took 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries which were then stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums. You can also explore the gallery interiors directly from within Street View in Google Maps.
  • We now have 46 artworks available with our “gigapixel” photo capturing technology, photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution so you can study details of the brushwork and patina that would be impossible to see with the naked eye.
  • An enhanced My Gallery feature lets you select any of the 30,000 artworks—along with your favorite details—to build your own personalized gallery. You can add comments to each painting and share the whole collection with friends and family. (It’s an ideal tool for students.)



The Art Project is part of our efforts to bringing culture online and making it accessible the widest possible audience. Under the auspices of the Google Cultural Institute, we’re presenting high-resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, digitizing the archives of famous figures such as Nelson Mandela, and creating 3D models of 18th century French cities. Our launch ceremony was held this morning at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris:



For more information and future developments, follow the Art Project on Google+. Together with the fantastic input from our partners from around the world, we’re delighted to have created a convenient, fun way to interact with art—a platform that we hope appeals to students, aspiring artists and connoisseurs alike.