Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sparking a better conversation with Wildfire

Businesses around the world—from neighborhood restaurants to major retailers—are embracing social media to share information and forge stronger relationships with their fans and customers. We know because we are one of those businesses—on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Indeed, a social presence can complement all marketing campaigns—search, display, video, mobile, offline ads and more.

With this in mind, today we’re happy to share that the Wildfire team will be joining Google. Their co-founders, Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard, launched their startup just four years ago. Since then, they and their team have built a service that helps businesses like Virgin, Cirque du Soleil, Gilt Group and Spotify manage their social efforts across numerous social websites. It’s a platform for brands to manage their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads, promotions and more, all in one place.

The ultimate goal is better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions. People today can make their voices heard in ways that were previously impossible, and Wildfire helps businesses uphold their end of the conversation (or spark a new one).

In a complex and changing landscape, businesses want to manage and measure these efforts in an integrated way. We’ve been working towards this end for some time. For example, Google Analytics helps businesses measure the contribution of hundreds of social sites; our Admeld service has helped to serve ads in Facebook developers’ social apps; and our DoubleClick platform enables clients to run and measure ads across social websites. On Google+, brands use services like Vitrue, Buddy Media and others to manage their pages, with many more to come.

With Wildfire, we’re looking forward to creating new opportunities for our clients to engage with people across all social services. We believe that better content and more seamless solutions will help unlock the full potential of the web for people and businesses.

Update August 15, 2012: Our acquisition of Wildfire has now closed.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Make your mark on Google with Handwrite for Mobile and Tablet Search

Unlike searching on a desktop or laptop computer, when you're searching on a touch-screen mobile device it’s often inconvenient to type. So we strive to give you a variety of ways to interact with Google, be it by speaking your queries, getting results before you finish typing, or searching by image. Now there’s a new way for you to interact with Google: Handwrite for web search on mobile phones and tablets.

Say you’re standing on a busy street corner, in a bumpy taxi ride, talking with a friend, or sitting on the couch with your tablet. Handwrite enables you to search by just writing letters with your finger most anywhere on your device’s screen—there’s no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing.



Getting started is easy: go to Google.com in your mobile browser, tap on “Settings” at the bottom of the screen and enable “Handwrite.” Note that after you've saved the setting, you may need to refresh the homepage to see the feature.


On tablets, the Search settings are available as an option behind the gear icon.


Once the feature is enabled, tap the Handwrite icon on the bottom right corner of your screen to activate the writing surface. Write a few letters and you’ll see autocomplete options appear below the search box. If one of the options is what you’re looking for, just tap it to search. For longer queries, you can continue writing and use the arrows next to the autocompletions to move the right one into the search box. Since you can write anywhere, you don’t have to look back and forth repeatedly from the keyboard to the search box.


For more tips and tricks on how to use Handwrite, see our Help Center article. To make accessing Google.com faster, be sure to bookmark it and add it to your home screen.

We designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing: with the feature enabled, you can still use the keyboard at any time by tapping on the search box. Handwrite is experimental, and works better in some browsers than others—on Android devices, it works best in Chrome. For now, we’ve enabled Handwrite for iOS5+ devices, Android 2.3+ phones and Android 4.0+ tablets—in 27 languages.

Have fun with this new way of searching!



(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog)

Super fast fiber for Kansas City

Our goal is to build products that will help improve our users’ lives. And when it comes to Internet access, it's clear what provides a better user experience:
  • Fast is better than slow. On the web, nobody wants to wait for a video to buffer or a website to load.
  • Abundance is better than scarcity. There’s a plethora of rich content available online—and it’s increasingly only available to people who have the speeds and means to access it.
  • Choice is better than no choice. Competition and choice help make products better for users.
With that in mind, we embarked on a journey to bring ultra-high speeds to Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. And today, we’re excited to announce Google Fiber. Google Fiber is 100 times faster than today’s average broadband. No more buffering. No more loading. No more waiting. Gigabit speeds will get rid of these pesky, archaic problems and open up new opportunities for the web. Imagine: instantaneous sharing; truly global education; medical appointments with 3D imaging; even new industries that we haven’t even dreamed of, powered by a gig.



When we asked people what they value in their Internet service, the majority of them simply said, “choice.” So we listened. Kansas Citians will choose where we install and when. We’ve divided Kansas City into small communities we call “fiberhoods.” To get service, each fiberhood needs a critical mass of their residents to pre-register. The fiberhoods with the highest pre-registration percentage will get Google Fiber first. Households in Kansas City can pre-register for the next six weeks, and they can rally their neighbors to pre-register, too. Once the pre-registration period is over, residents of the qualified fiberhoods will be able to choose between three different packages (including TV).

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary high-speed Internet access was in the 1990s. Not only did broadband kill the screeching sound of dial-up, it also spurred innovation, helping to create amazing new services as well as new job opportunities for many thousands of Americans. But today the Internet is not as fast as it should be. While high speed technology exists, the average Internet speed in the U.S. is still only 5.8 megabits per second (Mbps)—slightly faster than the maximum speed available 16 years ago when residential broadband was first introduced. Access speeds have simply not kept pace with the phenomenal increases in computing power and storage capacity that’s spurred innovation over the last decade, and that’s a challenge we’re excited to work on.

To find out more about the different service packages and the pre-registration process see our Google Fiber Blog, which we’ll regularly update with new information over the coming weeks. This is an exciting new project for Google and we can’t wait to get homes connected to Google Fiber in Kansas City—because we’re pretty certain that what people do with a gig will be awesome.



(Cross-posted from the Google Fiber Blog)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The winners of the 2012 Google Science Fair

Twenty-one of the world’s brightest young scientists gathered at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View today to celebrate their achievements and present their projects to a panel of renowned judges at the Google Science Fair finals.

Chosen from thousands of projects from more than 100 countries, these top 15 projects impressed the judges and public with their breadth of topics: from cancer research to vertical farming, 3D electronics to dementia. It was a tough decision, but we’re proud to name these three projects the winners of this year’s Google Science Fair:
  • 13-14 age category: Jonah Kohn (USA)—“Good Vibrations: Improving the Music Experience for People with Hearing Loss Using Multi-Frequency Tactile Sound.” By creating a device that converts sound into tactile vibrations, Jonah’s project attempts to provide the hearing impaired with an improved experience of music.
  • 15-16 age category: Iván Hervías Rodríguez, Marcos Ochoa and Sergio Pascual (Spain)—“La Vida Oculta del Agua (The Secret Life of Water).” Iván, Marcos and Sergio studied hidden microscopic life in fresh water, documenting the organisms that exist in a drop of water, and how those organisms influence our environment.
  • 17-18 age category AND Grand Prize Winner: Brittany Wenger (USA)—“Global Neural Network Cloud Service for Breast Cancer.” Brittany’s project harnesses the power of the cloud to help doctors accurately diagnose breast cancer. Brittany built an application that compares individual test results to an extensive dataset stored in the cloud, allowing doctors to assess tumors using a minimally-invasive procedure.


Each of the winners will receive prizes from Google and our Science Fair partners: CERN, LEGO, National Geographic and Scientific American. This evening, we also recognized Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela, from Swaziland, the winners of the Scientific American Science in Action award.

The judges were impressed with the quality of all the projects this year—and by the ingenuity, dedication and passion of the young scientists who created them. We applaud every contestant who submitted a project to the 2012 Google Science Fair and look forward to seeing the innovations, inventions and discoveries of young scientists in the years to come.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadan traditions with a digital twist

Today, more than a billion Muslims around the world begin to observe the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn to sunset. This year, we’re bringing some of the most venerable Ramadan traditions online.

We’re sharing the Islamic prayers live from Mecca on a dedicated YouTube channel. Millions of people from around the world will be able to experience and comment on the event by tuning in via video.

Ramadan is about more than just prayer; it is also a special moment to gather with friends and family. Muslims gather to watch special television shows produced for the holiday and shown only during Ramadan. Often the shows overlap in scheduling. This year, for the first time, YouTube is enabling people to watch their favorite shows anytime, anywhere. A new YouTube Ramadan channel lets viewers see more than 50 premium Ramadan shows the same day they air. In the clip below, famed Syrian actor Jamal Suliman appears in a drama:



Ramadan’s tastiest tradition is the food. After fasting through the day, families gather for evening break-the-fast meals called Iftar. Through Google+ Hangouts, we’re hosting 30 virtual get-togethers in the 30 days of Ramadan, in which celebrity chefs will share their favorite recipes and doctors will give tips on eating healthy.

The hangouts will engage people in subjects far beyond eating. Actors will talk about their favorite Ramadan shows. Poets will discuss literature inspired by the holiday. Religious figures will answer questions. Stay tuned to the Google Arabia page on Google+ for more details and join in.

We hope you enjoy experiencing your favorite Ramadan traditions with a digital twist this year. Ramadan Kareem!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Explore “This Exquisite Forest” with Chrome and London’s Tate Modern

This morning, in partnership with the Tate Modern in London, we released an online art experiment called This Exquisite Forest, which lets you collaborate with others to create animations and stories using a web-based drawing tool.

Seven renowned artists from Tate’s collection, including Bill Woodrow, Dryden Goodwin, Julian Opie, Mark Titchner, Miroslaw Balka, Olafur Eliasson and Raqib Shaw, have created short “seed” animations. From these seeds, anyone can add new animations that extend the story or branch it in a new direction. Or you can start a tree of your own with some friends. As more sequences are added, the animations grow into trees, creating a potentially infinite number of possible endings to each animation.



In addition to the website, an interactive installation will open on July 23 in the Level 3 gallery of Tate Modern. Trees seeded by Tate artists—and the contributions from the public—will be on display as large-scale projections. Gallery visitors may also contribute using digital drawing stations.


This Exquisite Forest uses several of Google Chrome’s advanced HTML5 and JavaScript features to produce a unique content creation and exploration experience. For example, the Web Audio API makes it possible for contributors to generate music to accompany their submissions. The project also runs on Google App Engine and Google Cloud Storage.

Please try it out at ExquisiteForest.com and contribute your own animation to help the forest grow.

More detailed maps in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia

Whether you’re travelling abroad or exploring your own city, the maps you carry with you should be comprehensive, accurate and easy to use. We're constantly making improvements to Google Maps to help you find and discover places that are meaningful to you no matter where you are. And today, we’re launching updated maps of Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lesotho, Macau, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore and Vatican City to do just that.

As was the case for past updates, our new maps are more detailed and precise. For example, in Ireland we now have excellent coverage of National Heritage Areas, as well as more detailed coastlines and bodies of water:


We’ve also added more accurate names and locations for major points of interest, such as airports, universities and public squares. Here you can see St. Mark’s Square in Venice, now with accurately aligned canals, 3D buildings and detailed labels of the countless number of places to be discovered.


We’ve also added better and more clearly labelled ferry routes in many places, such as the area below surrounding Naples, Italy. Traveling by ferry is one of my favorite ways to explore a city—I love looking back from the water at the cityscapes—and this improvement will help you find the ferry routes you need to do the same. You can even use Google Maps to get transit-based directions for ferries. We take into account ferry timetables to route you over water just easily as you might follow our driving directions over land.


In addition to the above changes, local roads on these maps are now more accurately distinguished from highways, and multi-lingual names are available for a larger proportion of roads in many of the updated countries. These improvements give you a better visual feel of the location, as well as make it easier to navigate the area when you're on the ground.

Of course, the world around us is always changing, so we’re making our “Report a problem” tool available in each of these countries as well. You can use it to send us a description of any corrections to be made, which we then incorporate into our maps, often within days.

Today’s improvements follow the recent expansion of our collection of Antarctic imagery, and are part of our ongoing effort to build maps that are comprehensive, accurate and easy to use. We've partnered with numerous authoritative sources to ensure that Google Maps is a living reflection of every corner of the globe. After all, a map is only as good as the data behind it. The maps that we've built will help ensure that you get correct and up-to-date information about the world around you.

Update 8:00pm: We're also making certain maps of the 11 countries listed above, plus Egypt, Poland and Ukraine, available offline in Google Maps for Android.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Web Lab: the magic of the Internet, brought to life

Inspiration comes in many forms and can influence you in unexpected ways. I can trace my own interest in programming to Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which fascinated me on my childhood visits to the Science Museum in London.

This idea that science and technology can inspire people is one that we hold close to our hearts. It’s also the thought behind a new exhibition we’re launching today online and at the Science Museum in London. We hope to inspire people around the world by showcasing the magic that the Internet makes possible.



Launching in beta, Web Lab is a set of five physical installations housed in the Science Museum in London. You can interact with them in person at the museum, or from anywhere in the world at chromeweblab.com. By opening up the museum experience to the world online, Web Lab doesn’t play by the usual rules—a visitor’s location and museum opening hours no longer matter.

Each of the five experiments—Universal Orchestra, Data Tracer, Sketchbots, Teleporter and Lab Tag Explorer—showcases a modern web technology found in Chrome to explore a particular theme in computer science. For example, the Universal Orchestra experiment uses WebSockets to demonstrate real time collaboration as people from around the world make music together on custom-built robotic instruments housed in the Science Museum.

Please join us online or at the Science Museum in London (entry is free), and let us know what you think. True to its name, the year-long exhibition is a working lab, and we’ll continue to tinker with it based on your feedback.

Here’s to the next wave of Internet invention!



(Cross-posted from the Chrome Blog)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Become an Antarctic explorer with panoramic imagery

In the winter of 1913, a British newspaper ran an advertisement to promote the latest imperial expedition to Antarctica, apparently placed by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. It read, "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success." While the ad appears apocryphal, the dangerous nature of the journey to the South Pole is certainly not—as explorers like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott and Shackleton himself discovered as they tried to become the first men to reach it.

Back in September 2010, we launched the first Street View imagery of the Antarctic, enabling people from more habitable lands to see penguins in Antarctica for the first time. Today we’re bringing you additional panoramic imagery of historic Antarctic locations that you can view from the comfort of your homes. We’ll be posting this special collection to our World Wonders site, where you can learn more about the history of South Pole exploration.


With the help of the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota and the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, we’ve added 360-imagery of many important spots, inside and out, such as the South Pole Telescope, Shackleton's hut, Scott’s hutCape Royds Adélie Penguin Rookery and the Ceremonial South Pole.

The ceremonial South Pole (View Larger Map)

The interior of Shackleton’s Hut demonstrates the host of supplies used in early 20th century Antarctic expeditions—everything from medicine and food to candles and cargo sleds can be found neatly stored inside. (View Larger Map)

With this technology, you can go inside places like Shackleton’s Hut (pictured above) and the other small wooden buildings that served as bases from which the explorers launched their expeditions. They were built to withstand the drastic weather conditions only for the few short years that the explorers inhabited them, but remarkably, after more than a century, the structures are still intact, along with well-preserved examples of the food, medicine, survival gear and equipment used during the expeditions. Now anyone can explore these huts and get insight into how these men lived for months at a time.

The landscape outside of Robert Falcon Scott’s supply hut conveys just how desolate the area is. For these early explorers, the supply huts were an oasis of warmth and comfort in a cold and inhospitable landscape. (View Larger Map)

This new imagery was collected with a lightweight tripod camera with a fisheye lens—equipment typically used to capture business interiors through the Business Photos program. We worked with this technology because of its portability, reliability and ease-of-use (our Street View trikes wouldn’t be much use in the snow).

The goal of these efforts is to provide scientists and travel (or penguin) enthusiasts all over the world with the most accurate, high-resolution data of these important historic locations. With this access, schoolchildren as far as Bangalore can count penguin colonies on Snow Hill Island, and geologists in Georgia can trace sedimentary layers in the Dry Valleys from the comfort of their desks. Feel free to leave your boots and mittens behind, and embark on a trip to Antarctica.

Posted by Alex Starns, Technical Program Manager, Street View

Monday, July 16, 2012

Google Ideas: joining the fight against drug cartels and other illicit networks

Violent illicit networks represent a trillion-dollar problem that affects every society in the world and claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. For example, more than 50,000 people have died in the past five years as a result of the ongoing war in Mexico between rival drug cartels. And although data on this subject is scarce and often unreliable, in 2003 the UN estimated the value of the illicit drug market to be nearly $320 billion, greater than the gross domestic product of 88 percent of countries in the world—and that was almost 10 years ago. It’s clear that illicit networks—particularly those that are violent and coercive like drug smugglers, arms dealers and human traffickers—have a devastating human and financial impact on every nation.

We think Google can help. Eighteen months ago we launched Google Ideas with the belief that Google is in the unique position to explore the role that technology can play in tackling some of the toughest human challenges in the world. Our first area of focus was counter-radicalization; last year we convened the Summit Against Violent Extremism with former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists and militants as well as survivors of violent extremism. Among the many outcomes of the summit was a platform that we established as a one-stop shop for tackling violent extremism through formers and survivors.

Recently, we’ve expanded our focus to include violent illicit networks such as narco-trafficking, human trafficking, organ harvesting and arms dealing. We believe that technology has the power to expose and dismantle global criminal networks, which depend on secrecy and discretion in order to function. And for the past few months, we’ve been working with people fighting on the front line to gain a better understanding of what drives these networks and how they function.

This week, in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Tribeca Film Festival, we’re convening Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition (or the INFO summit) in Los Angeles, Calif. Too often illicit networks are seen only in the silos of those who study them. This summit aims to break down those silos by bringing together a full-range of stakeholders, from survivors of organ trafficking, sex trafficking and forced labor to government officials, dozens of engineers, tech leaders and product managers from Google and beyond. Through the summit, which lasts until Wednesday, we hope to discover ways that technology can be used to expose and disrupt these networks as a whole—and to put some of these ideas into practice.

We’ll be uploading videos from the summit to our YouTube channel. Keep up with the Summit via @googleideas and #infosummit2012, or take a look at the video below for a sneak peek.



Maker Camp on Google+ will be a blast!

From time to time we invite guests to post about items of interest, and we’re pleased to have Dale Dougherty, publisher of MAKE Magazine, join us today to talk about Maker Camp. Maker Camp is a free, online camp that encourages 13- to 18-year-olds to get creative with up to 30 different types of fun projects themed around creativity and “the art of making.” -Ed.

In the words of young maker Joey Hudy: “Don’t be bored. Make something.”

That’s the idea behind Maker Camp, a new online “summer camp” on Google+. Over the course of six weeks, 13- to 18-year-olds (as well as their parents and teachers) will have the opportunity to collaborate with popular maker personalities—including Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing, Stephen and Fritz of EepyBird (the Coke and Mentos guys), Jimmy DiResta (co-host of Dirty Money on the Discovery Channel) and Limor Fried (founder of Adafruit)—and other creative teens on fun projects themed around “the art of making.” Our goal is to encourage everyone this summer to make something and share it with their friends and family.

Making is a wonderful way to experiment and explore, to try to do new things, and mostly to let your imagination get the best of you. Making is fun (and it’s also a great way to learn, even if it is summer!). Making can be done indoors—even in a small space, like a kitchen table—but it’s also great to go outdoors to make things you can play with in the backyard or park. Making could mean traditional arts and crafts projects, or science projects, but it could also use innovative technologies and processes that enable you to create something entirely new.

Every Monday through Thursday morning, beginning Monday, July 16, a Maker Camp counselor will post how-to instructions for a new project on g.co/makercamp and Makezine.com/go/makercamp. Some of these projects will overlap with ones in MAKE’s 3D “School’s Out” special issue, our first-ever summer issue devoted entirely to kids. These projects are great for families to do together or for teens to do on their own. Many of the projects involve materials and tools that you can find around the house. Junior counselors will host a Hangout On Air in the afternoon so campers can post questions and comments and share photos and videos of their projects.



The first project at Maker Camp is our popular compressed air rocket that we first introduced in Make: Vol 15 to huge response. We featured it again in the “School’s Out” summer issue and are delighted that rocket guru Rick Schertle is our guest counselor for this project and will be with us in New York to launch Maker Camp at the New York Hall of Science.

It wouldn’t be summer camp unless you were able to meet a lot of great, new friends who share your love of making. You’ll find that other campers will inspire you to come up with new ideas for projects.

Maker Camp is free, and open to everyone with a Google+ profile (you must be over 13 to have your own Google+ profile). To participate, simply follow MAKE on Google+.

Whether you build rockets or race cars, make T-shirts or experimental music, or discover nature or new things in the community where you live, I hope that you’ll have a blast at Maker Camp.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Street View goes on a road trip through California's national parks


One hot summer day in Yosemite National Park in Northern California, I sat under a tree along a lazy river in awe of the natural beauty around me. I looked out at the majestic granite mountains, the chirping birds and the rustling leaves, and thought about how they were the same that day as they had been thousands of years ago.





View Larger Map

People around the world can now appreciate the beauty and timelessness of the wilderness through Street View. We've recently added 360-degree panoramic imagery for five of California’s national parks—including Yosemite—to Google Maps. In addition, we've refreshed Street View imagery across most of the state. You can now take a virtual road trip practically the entire stretch of California from north to south.

Redwood National Park sits near the California-Oregon border and hugs the Pacific Ocean. It’s most famous for its giant redwood trees—the tallest trees on Earth. With Street View, you can now stare up at them without straining your neck:





View Larger Map

Inland, at Yosemite National Park, you can visit historic Inspiration Point, the site famously photographed by Ansel Adams in “Clearing Winter Storm”. Panning right from the same vantage point, you can see the cliffs of El Capitan and the picturesque Bridalveil Fall waterfall flanking iconic Half Dome, a granite rock formation almost 5,000 feet tall. You can also use Street View to venture into the valley, overlook Glacier Point (visited by John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903), explore the more remote upcountry along Tioga Pass road and see the Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove.





View Larger Map

You’ve seen the redwoods, now see more enormous trees with a visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, whose namesake trees are the most massive in the world. It would take almost 30 adults linking their outstretched arms to wrap all the way around the largest sequoias. These parks also offer rich and varied landscapes featuring everything from mountains to canyons to caverns.





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The name may be foreboding, but Death Valley National Park, which lies along the California-Nevada border and has the lowest elevation of any spot in North America, is home to a variety of flora and fauna and well worth a visit. With average summer temperatures in this desert environment soaring above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, most people visit in the winter, but Street View lets you check it out any time of year—no sunblock required.





View Larger Map

Slightly north of the U.S.-Mexico border is the fifth and final national park recently added to Street View: Joshua Tree National Park. The gnarly, twisted trees here seem like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Plan your escapades ahead of time from your browser, then pack up your hiking shoes or your mountain bike and hit the trails in this one-of-a-kind desert landscape.





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This only scratches the surface of what California parks have to offer travelers looking to explore the great outdoors. We hope a virtual trip through Street View inspires you to visit these places in person as well. If you need some additional inspiration, I’ll leave you with a quote from naturalist and author John Muir:
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.





View Larger Map




Driving down Highway 1 through Big Sur is the ultimate road trip in California.




(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Google+ app for iPad available now in the App Store

In May, we redesigned the Google+ experience for iPhone, adding full bleed photos that fall into place and bold visual elements that bring your stream to life. Today, we’re introducing new features for iPhone and an iPad app that you won’t be able to put down.

A hands-on iPad experience
The Google+ app for iPad was designed with the device in mind. Your stream styles content based on popularity, type and orientation. We’ve also added unique ways to interact with the app—lean back and try these out:
  • Pinch and expand posts right in your stream to add your comments
  • Use two fingers to drag a post from your stream to easily re-share it
  • Start a Hangout from your iPad and stream it to your TV using AirPlay

Bring your Stream to life with the new iPad app

A new way to save the date on iPhone
We recently launched Events on Google+, and now you can create and manage them right from your iPhone. Post a comment, upload a photo or check out who’s going. Your past event invitations are saved with all the photos and posts shared by your friends, so you can relive the party anytime you want.


Plan your next event with Google+

Start a Hangout from anywhere
There’s nothing like catching up with friends face to face. Now you can start a video chat with up to nine friends anywhere, anytime with Hangouts on iPhone and iPad. Turn on ringing notifications so your friends know to join the Hangout.


Talk face to face to face from your iPhone or iPad

To get started, tap “Hangout” from the main menu, add some friends and tap “Start.” We'll ring their phones (if you want), and if someone misses the hangout, they can ring you back with a single tap.

These updates are available now from the App Store (version 3.0), so download Google+ and let us know what you think.

Indoor Google Maps help you make your way through museums

In the past, navigating through museums could be an art form in and of itself. But Google Maps for Android has got wayfinding inside your favorite museums down to a science. With indoor maps and walking directions for U.S. museums now available on your Android phone or tablet, you can plan your route from exhibit to exhibit, identifying points of interest along the way, including between floors.

Today, we’ve added more than twenty popular U.S. museums to our collection of over 10,000 indoor maps that we launched in November: the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cincinnati Museum Center, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and 17 Smithsonian museums—plus a zoo!
"My location" in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City

To access the floor plans, simply open Google Maps on your Android phone or tablet and zoom in on the museum of interest. To find the museum, either search for it by name using the magnifying glass icon or, if you’re already there, use the “My location” feature to orient yourself. With the “My location” feature enabled you can even get indoor walking directions.
Indoor walking directions in the National Air and Space Museum—Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

More museums are adding their floor plans to Google Maps for Android soon, including the SFMOMA, The Phillips Collection, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. If you’re interested in getting your museum’s floor plan included in Google Maps, visit the Google Maps Floor Plans tool.

Along with the Google Art Project, indoor mapping is one more way we’re working with museums to bring greater access to revered cultural and educational institutions around the world. Tap into the latest version of Google Maps for Android in Google Play, and enjoy exploring the art and science of the great indoors.



(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Big Tent Sendai: Smarter ways to share information in a crisis

As we’ve seen in the last decade, information technology can save lives in a crisis. But even as data becomes more crucial to rescue efforts, key information like evacuation routes, shelter locations and weather alerts often remains inaccessible to the public. Time is of the essence in the wake of a disaster, and it's critical for emergency information to be available in open standards and formats to enable instant communication among first responders and affected populations.

This was the theme of our first Big Tent in Asia, held yesterday in Sendai, Japan. The event brought together tech industry leaders, non-profits, volunteers and government officials to discuss how technology can better assist in preparing for, responding to and rebuilding from disasters. This is an extremely pertinent issue for the Asia-Pacific region, as nearly 70 percent of fatalities from natural disasters occur here. And with the earthquake and tsunami last year affecting the coastal regions of Northeastern Japan, Sendai was a particularly meaningful location to discuss new ways that technology can aid the efforts of responders to reduce the impact and cost of disasters.

During the panels, the audience heard stories about how two Pakistani volunteers mapped their home country so well through Google MapMaker that the UN’s mapping agency UNOSAT adopted the maps and provided them to aid workers during the Pakistan floods. Sam Johnson, Founder of the Christchurch Student Army and Young New Zealander of the Year, talked about using Facebook to quickly coordinate relief efforts on the ground after the earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. Twitter Japan Country Manager James Kondo talked about Japanese earthquake victims tweeting with the hashtag “stranded” in order to find help. Meanwhile representatives of open source project Ushahidi talked of “brainsourcing” reporters on the ground and remote volunteers to keep the world abreast of conditions in disasters such as the earthquake in Chile in 2010.

After the panels, conversations and debates, four key themes emerged. First, there is a conflict between traditional closed data architectures and emerging open models—and we need to close the gap between them. Second, we need to find complementary ways to embrace both authoritative data from official sources and crowdsourced data. Third, there’s a universal need for data, but they way it’s shared needs to be tailored to the local environment—for example, Internet-reliant countries vs. SMS-reliant countries. Finally, we were reminded that beyond the data itself, communication and collaboration are key in a crisis. Information isn’t worth anything unless people are taking that information, adapting it, consulting it and getting it to the people who need it.

One of the panels at Big Tent Sendai

Crisis response tools will continue to improve and more people across the globe will own devices to quickly access the information they need. But there are still major challenges we must address. As Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction said, we can now get quick warnings and alerts to many populations on their phones, but many who receive the alerts don’t know how to act.

To see clips from Sendai and previous events, visit the Big Tent YouTube channel, where you can also join in the debate via comments, get more information on the presenters and see how different communities approach many of the same issues. We’ll hold more Big Tents in Asia soon, so please check back on our website to learn more.

Celebrate freedom. Support a free and open Internet.

On July Fourth, America celebrates its independence.

In the summer of 1776, 13 disenfranchised colonies spoke. It took days for their declaration to be printed and distributed throughout the colonies, and it took weeks for it to be seen across the Atlantic.

Today, such a document could be published and shared with the world in seconds. More than any time in history, more people in more places have the ability to have their voices heard.

Powering these voices are billions of Internet connections around the world—people on their mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. The Internet is a powerful platform that makes it easier for people to speak, to assemble, and to be heard. This is true no matter where freedom is taking root.

Yet we’ve only just begun to see what a free and open Internet can do for people and for the freedom we cherish.



Today we’re sharing a video we made to celebrate our freedom and the tools that support it. Please take a moment to watch it, share it with your friends, and add your voice.

Join us in supporting a free and open Internet.

Spring cleaning in summer

Technology creates tremendous opportunities to improve people’s lives. But to make the most of them, we need to focus—or we end up doing too much and not having the impact we strive for. So last fall we started a spring clean, and since then we’ve closed or combined more than 30 products. Today we’re announcing a few more closures. Here’s a summary of the changes we’ll be making:

  • The Google Mini has been an important part of our Enterprise Search offering since it was first introduced in 2005. It’s had a good run, but beginning July 31 we’re discontinuing the product because its functionality can be better provided by products like Google Search Appliance, Google Site Search and Google Commerce Search. We will of course continue to provide technical support to Mini customers for the duration of their contracts, and will reach out to them shortly with more details.
  • Google Talk Chatback allowed websites to embed a Google Talk widget so that they could engage with their visitors. It’s now outdated, so we’re turning off Chatback and encouraging websites to use the Meebo bar.
  • Google Video stopped taking uploads in May 2009. Later this summer we’ll be moving the remaining hosted content to YouTube. Google Video users have until August 20 to migrate, delete or download their content. We’ll then move all remaining Google Video content to YouTube as private videos that users can access in the YouTube video manager. For more details, please see our post on the YouTube blog.
  • On November 1, 2013, iGoogle will be retired. We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down. Users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data.
  • We’ll soon be retiring our Symbian Search App to focus our efforts on our mobile web search experience. We encourage you to go to www.google.com and make it your homepage or bookmark it. Switching from the app to the web experience will enable users to make the most of the web-wide improvements we make for search all the time.

Closing products always involves tough choices, but we do think very hard about each decision and its implications for our users. Streamlining our services enables us to focus on creating beautiful technology that will improve people’s lives.

Monday, July 02, 2012

GoogleServe 2012: More skills-based service

This year we celebrated our fifth GoogleServe Global Week of Service—an annual tradition in which Googlers around the world join together in community service projects. Volunteering together helps to revitalize and strengthen our connections with the cities and towns in which we live and work, and also brings us closer together as a global team.

In the past we’ve done hundreds of projects that address local community needs and engage our hearts and hands. This year, inspired by Billion+ Change and Reimagining Service as well as industry research, we focused on incorporating more skills-based projects. Our goal is to use our professional skills to generate more value for the communities we serve and to give Googlers an opportunity to have an even more impactful and fulfilling volunteer experience.

With that in mind, our software engineers developed code to help make math formulas accessible to blind students with Social Coding 4 Good; with the Student Veterans of America recruiters led resume and interviewing skills workshops with veterans; and with the Branson Centre in South Africa sales and business development professionals trained entrepreneurs in online tools to grow and optimize their small businesses.

Overall, more than 5,000 Googlers helped serve their communities across 400+ different projects as part of GoogleServe this year. Here’s a sampling of some of the other projects we participated in:
See our Life at Google page for photos of some of our employees and partners in action. While we do set aside a week to focus on serving the communities in which we work and live, giving back is an ongoing effort here at Google. If you'd like to join us in using your skills for social good, check out All for Good, for opportunities to give back in your community year-round.


Our unique approach to research

Google started as a research project—and research has remained a core part of our culture. But we also do research differently than many other places. To shed more light on Google’s unique approach to research, Peter Norvig (Director of Research), Slav Petrov (Senior Research Scientist) and I recently published a paper, “Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research,” in the July issue of Communications of the ACM.



In the paper, we describe our hybrid approach to research, which integrates research and development to maximize our impact on users and the speed at which we make progress. Our model allows us to work at unparalleled scale and conduct research in vivo on real systems with millions of users, rather than on artificial prototypes. This yields not only innovative research results and new technologies, but valuable new capabilities for the company—think of MapReduce, Voice Search or open source projects such as Android and Chrome.

Breaking up long-term research projects into shorter-term, measurable components is another aspect of our integrated model. This is not to say our model precludes longer-term objectives, but we try to achieve these in stages. For example, Google Translate is a multi-year project characterized by the need for both research and complex systems, but we’ve achieved many small objectives along the way—such as adding languages over time for a current total of 64, developing features like two-step translation functionality, enabling users to make corrections, and consideration of syntactic structure.

Overall, our success in the areas of systems, speech recognition, language translation, machine learning, market algorithms, computer vision and many other areas has stemmed from our hybrid research approach. While there are risks associated with the close integration of research and development activities—namely the concern that research will take a back seat in favor of shorter-term projects—we mitigate those by focusing on the user and empirical data, maintaining a flexible organizational structure, and engaging with the academic community. We have a portfolio of timescales, with some researchers working with engineers to rapidly iterate on existing products, and others working on forward-looking projects that will benefit people in the future.

We hope “Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research” helps explain our method. We feel it will bring some clarification and transparency to our approach, and perhaps merit consideration by other technology companies and academic labs that organize research differently.

To learn more about what we do and see see real-time applications of our hybrid research model, add Research at Google to your circles on Google+.

Posted by Alfred Spector, Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives

The web is working for American businesses

The web is where we go to find things—that somewhere special to eat tonight, the directions to guide us there and suggestions for that one-of-a-kind present for the birthday girl. Ninety-seven percent of Americans who use the Internet are looking online for local goods and services using their computers and mobile devices.

The growth of our Internet use has naturally helped the ecommerce industry to expand rapidly over the past decade. But the web is also positively impacting brick-and-mortar businesses. According to Boston Consulting Group, American consumers who researched products online last year spent almost $2,000 actually purchasing those products offline. That’s almost $500 billion that went directly to main street retail. All in all, it’s clear that the economic impact of the web is huge; the Internet is where business is done and jobs are created.

We’re proud to be part of such a dynamic industry, and we’re committed to helping make the web work for American businesses. Through our search and advertising programs, businesses find customers, publishers earn money from their content and nonprofits solicit donations and volunteers. These tools are how Google makes money, and they’re how millions of other businesses do, too.

In fact, in 2011, Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $80 billion of economic activity for 1.8 million advertisers, website publishers and nonprofits across the U.S. You can see the state-by-state breakdown on our economic impact website.

Take one example: King Arthur Flour, a great New England baking company. King Arthur has been a well-known local company since George Washington was President, but has recently used the web to grow into an internationally-renowned baking business. Similarly, Nebraska’s 80 year-old Oriental Trading Company shifted some of its catalog-based marketing to the web, and now sells 80 percent of their toys and novelties online. Or consider New Jersey’s Bornstein Sons home maintenance and repair contracting business, which was founded 70 years ago and recently began to advertise online. They now get one in four of their new customers from the web.

These are just a few examples out of the hundreds of thousands of businesses who are growing and hiring thanks to the web. And Google is committed to getting even more businesses online. Over the past year, we’ve been traveling the country with our Get Your Business Online program, encouraging businesses throughout the U.S. to create free websites and reach more customers. So far, we’ve worked with thousands of businesses to launch their new websites.

It’s a fact that the Internet is creating jobs and helping the American economy grow. And we’re proud to be a part of that process.