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The North Pole air traffic control elves have just notified us that Santa has taken off! For the next day, you can visit the Google Santa Tracker to see where Santa’s headed next and keep tabs on how many presents he’s delivered. You can also keep up with him on your smartphone and tablet with the Android app, in your browser with the the Chrome extension, and even in 3D with Google Earth and Google Earth mobile (look for it in the Tour Guide feature with the latest version of Google Earth).



And follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s journey around the world.

Ho ho ho! Happy holidays everyone!

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We hope you’ve had a chance to try the new Google Maps app for iPhone (announced last week and available for download in the Apple App Store). The app is designed to be simple—just to work whenever you need it. Still, we have a few tips to make finding things with Google Maps even faster and easier. All the tips are collected on our site but here a few of my favorites:
  • Swipe to see more. In Google Maps a wealth of information is often just a swipe away. Whether you’re looking at search results or directions, you can swipe the bottom info sheet left and right to see other options. To get more details on any of the results, swipe that info sheet upward (or just tap it—that works too). Even with the info sheet expanded, you can swipe to see those other results.
  • Place a pin. Get more information about any location by just pressing and holding the map. The info sheet that pops up tells you the address, lets you save or share the place, and best of all, brings up...
  • Street View. By far the easiest way to get to Street View is placing a pin. Tap the imagery preview on the info sheet to enter into Street View, then explore! I recommend the look-around feature (bottom left button) which changes what you’re looking at as you tilt and move your phone.
Want to learn more? See the rest of our tips on the site. And as you explore the app on your own, share your own tips using #googlemaps. Most of all, enjoy discovering your world.


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In 2007, 33-year-old Vuyile moved to Cape Town from rural South Africa in search of work. Unable to complete high school, he worked as a night shift security guard earning $500/month to support his family. During the rush hour commute from his home in Khayelitsha, Vuyile realized that he could earn extra income by selling prepaid mobile airtime vouchers to other commuters on the train.

In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.

Nomanini, a startup based in South Africa, built a device that enables local entrepreneurs like Vuyile to sell prepaid mobile services in their communities. The Lula (which means “easy” in colloquial Zulu), is a portable voucher sales terminal that is used on-the-go by people ranging from taxi drivers to street vendors. It generates and prints codes which people purchase to add minutes to their mobile phones.

Today, Vuyile sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.

Vuyile prints a voucher from his Lula

Nomanini founders Vahid and Ali Monadjem wanted to make mobile services widely available in areas where they had been inaccessible, or where—in a region where the average person makes less than $200/month—people simply couldn’t afford them. By creating a low-cost and easy-to-use product, Nomanini could enable entrepreneurs in Africa to go to deep rural areas and create businesses for themselves.

In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications. They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.

Last month, 40,000 people bought airtime through the Lula, and Nomanini hopes to grow this number to 1 million per month next year. While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine. Vahid tells us: “We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”

To learn more about the technical implementation used by Nomanini, read their guest post on the Google App Engine blog.

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You can now discover Spain’s Jewish heritage on a new site powered by comprehensive and accurate Google Maps: www.redjuderias.org/google.

Using the Google Maps API, Red de Juderías de España has built a site where you can explore more than 500 landmarks that shed light on Spain’s Jewish population throughout history. By clicking on a landmark, you can get historical information, pictures or texts, and a 360º view of the location, thanks to Street View technology. You can also use the search panel on the top of the page to filter the locations by category, type, geographic zone or date.

Toledo, Synagogue Santamaría la Blanca

Information is included on each landmark

This project is just one of our efforts to bring important cultural content online. This week, we worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of more than 5,000 scroll fragments, and last year we announced a project to digitize and make available the Yad Vashem Museum’s Holocaust archives. With the Google Art Project, people around the world can also view and explore more than 35,000 works of art in 180 museums.

Read more about this project on the Europe Blog. We hope this new site will inspire you to learn more about Spain’s Jewish history, and perhaps to visit these cities in person.

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While millions of people eagerly await Christmas Day, Santa and his elves are keeping busy at the North Pole. They’re preparing presents, tuning up the sleigh, feeding the reindeer and, of course, checking the list (twice!) before they take flight on their trip around the world.

While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve. On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at google.com/santatracker.

Simulating Santa's path across the world—see it live Dec 24

In addition, with some help from developer elves, we’ve built a few other tools to help you track Santa from wherever you may be. Add the new Chrome extension or download the Android app to keep up with Santa from your smartphone or tablet. And to get the latest updates on his trip, follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Get a dashboard view of Santa's journey on Google Maps

The Google Santa Tracker will launch on December 24, but the countdown to the journey starts now! Visit Santa’s Village today to watch the countdown clock and join the elves and reindeer in their preparations. You can even ask Santa to call a friend or family member.

We hope you enjoy tracking Santa with us this year. And on behalf of everyone at Google—happy holidays!

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A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

Today, we’re helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before. The texts include one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world; and hundreds more 2,000-year-old texts, shedding light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.

The Ten Commandments. Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Part of the Book of Genesis. Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution. The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.

This partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is part of our ongoing work to bring important cultural and historical materials online, to make them accessible and help preserve them for future generations. Other examples include the Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection, Google Art Project, World Wonders and the Google Cultural Institute.

We hope you enjoy visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, or any of these other projects, and interacting with history.

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‘Tis the season for tree trimming, gift giving, recipe sharing and catching up with loved ones over a cup of eggnog. For families that are spread out over cities or even countries, it can be a challenge to get everyone together during the holidays. This year, we’ve teamed up with the creators of Wallace and Gromit to add a little extra holiday magic to Google+ Hangouts with a custom invitation builder and a Holiday Effects app.

Click this link to schedule your holiday family hangout and we’ll send all your invitations out with a custom Wallace and Gromit video. Since Hangouts let up to 10 people video chat at once, right from Google+ or Gmail, you can invite the whole family to join—and maybe a few friends too.



Don’t forget to put on a Santa hat, reindeer antlers or even wear Gromit’s ears by adding the Holiday Effects app to your family hangout.


Happy holidays from the Google+ and Gmail teams!



(Cross-posted on the Gmail Blog)

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Yesterday, the heads of Japan’s eight most popular political parties held eight consecutive Google+ Hangouts to engage with citizens across the country ahead of Sunday’s general election—arguably the largest (and longest) series of Hangouts with politicians ever! Each of the leaders held a Hangout, including incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda from the Democratic Party Japan and Shinzo Abe from the Liberal Democratic Party.

Voters asked questions that reflected the most pressing issues on the Japanese people’s minds: the ailing economy, social security and the future of energy programs. For instance, one 21-year old student asked a politician about welfare and economic self-reliance, in response to which the politician explained his vision to create more opportunities for young people.

After announcing these Hangouts on November 29, we invited citizens to upload their questions on to Google+ using the hashtag #政治家と話そう (“talk to politicians”). Ten participants representing a cross-section of voters across Japanese society—including a college student from Tokyo, a housewife from Mie prefecture, and a businessman from Shizuoka prefecture—were chosen to join the Hangouts. People who tuned in said that it gave them a chance to witness an in-depth conversation between politicians and voters up close, which is rare in Japan’s incredibly short and intense campaign season of 12 days.


These Hangouts are part of Google Japan’s effort to help voters get information about the candidates before they head to the polls on December 16. To help voters get access to information about more than 1,000 candidates and 12 political parties, we launched our Japan elections site, called Erabou 2012 (“Choose 2012”), at google.co.jp/senkyo. This site serves as a hub for all latest elections-related information, pulling together candidate profiles and party platforms. If you missed the Hangouts live, you can also watch the recordings there and on the Japan Politics YouTube Channel.

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If you’re a student journalist looking to harness the power of technology to tell stories in new and dynamic ways, then the first ever Google Journalism Fellowship could help make the summer of 2013 one to remember.

We recognize the value that quality journalism plays in a functioning society and would like to help the next generation of reporters gain valuable skills and experience on the path to creating great content.

This 10-week program will give eight students the opportunity to contribute to a variety of organizations—from those that are steeped in investigative journalism to those working for press freedom around the world and to those that are helping the industry figure out its future in the digital age. Throughout, fellows will gain skills and contacts to help them as they move forward with their careers.

This program will be of particular interest to students studying data journalism, online freedom of expression or new business models for the industry.

Our partners in the first Google Journalism Fellowship are:
For more information, visit our website and apply. The deadline for applications is January 31, 2013.

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Last January, we renewed our resolution to focus on creating beautiful, useful products that improve millions of people’s lives every day. To make the most impact, we need to make some difficult decisions. So as 2012 comes to an end, here are some additional products, features and services we’re closing:
  • On January 4, 2013, we’ll be shutting down several less popular Google Calendar features. You’ll be unable to create new reservable times on your Calendar through Appointment slots*, but existing Appointment slots will continue working for one year. In addition, we’ll discontinue two Calendar Labs—Smart Rescheduler (we recommend Find a time view or Suggested times as alternatives) and Add gadget by URL. Finally, Check your calendar via sms and Create event via sms (GVENT)—U.S.-only features for creating and checking meetings by texting information to Google—will be discontinued today, as most users prefer mobile Calendar apps.
  • Google Sync was designed to allow access to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols. Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement.
  • In addition to Google Sync, we’re discontinuing Google Calendar Sync on December 14, 2012 and Google Sync for Nokia S60 on January 30, 2013. We’re also ending service for SyncML, a contacts sync service used by a small number of older mobile devices on January 30, 2013.
  • The Issue Tracker Data API allows client applications to view and update issues on Project Hosting on Google Code in the form of Google Data API feeds. We’ll shut down the Issue Tracker API on June 14, 2013.
  • Punchd is an app that keeps loyalty punch cards on your smartphone. On June 7, 2013, we will discontinue the Punchd Android and iOS apps, and merchants will no longer honor Punchd loyalty cards. Users can continue to earn punches and redeem rewards at participating businesses until June 7, 2013. We remained focused on developing products that help merchants and shoppers connect in new and useful ways.
Technology offers us a way to make a big impact on the world. In 2013, we’ll keep working hard to build a seamless, amazing Google experience for you.

*Update January 17, 2013: We'll continue to support appointment slots in Calendar for all Google Apps for Business, Education and Government customers.

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Entrepreneurship is alive in South Korea. Their tradition of outstanding math and science education has fostered a strong developer culture as well as a thriving design community.

Over the past year, the Google for Entrepreneurs team has partnered with Global K-Startup, a competition aimed at finding and supporting the next generation of international-ready startups. The competition received 246 applications, and the 30 top teams were incubated and mentored. In October, venture capitalists from around the world gathered to hear pitches from the top teams and select six to go on a trip to Silicon Valley and London. The Google for Entrepreneurs team helped select the finalists, and was thrilled to host the winners at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. and at Campus London. Check out the winners:

  • BrainGarden - vocabulary learning mobile application with social game feature
  • Whatugot - social networking mobile application for collection and sharing favorites
  • WATCHA - movie recommendation application with personal collection gallery features
  • KnowRe - innovative adaptive learning solution focused on math education
  • Alarmmon - mobile gaming alarm application with various character branding
  • Classting - web/mobile application for classroom management and inter-class connection and collaboration

2012 Global K-startup winners visiting Google campus in November

Starting in 2013, we’re growing our support of South Korean startups with the help of the technology innovation hub AppCenter, the Kstartup accelerator program, and the Korean Communications Commission. Together, we’ll bring tech entrepreneurs more community events, workshops, and contests. We’re also improving the Android and Google TV device testing library. To kick things off, Kstartup is opening applications for its new class of startups. Apply today or find out more about upcoming events and opportunities with AppCenter and Google for Entrepreneurs.

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People around the world have been asking for Google Maps on iPhone. Starting today, we’re pleased to announce that Google Maps is here—rolling out across the world in the Apple App Store. It’s designed from the ground up to combine the comprehensiveness and accuracy of Google Maps with an interface that makes finding what you’re looking for faster and easier.

The app shows more map on screen and turns mobile mapping into one intuitive experience. It’s a sharper looking, vector-based map that loads quickly and provides smooth tilting and rotating of 2D and 3D views. The search box at the top is a good place to start—perhaps by entering the name of a new and interesting restaurant. An expandable info sheet at the bottom shows the address, opening hours, ratings and reviews, images, directions and other information.


At the heart of this app is our constantly improving map of the world that includes detailed information for more than 80 million businesses and points of interest. Preview where you want to go with Street View and see inside places with Business Photos to decide on a table or see if it’s better at the bar. To get you there, you’ve got voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation, live traffic conditions to avoid the jams and if you want to use public transportation, find information for more than one million public transit stops.



The world around us is constantly changing and, thanks to feedback from you, we make tens of thousands of daily updates to keep Google Maps accurate and comprehensive. Here’s a helpful hint for the new app: if you see something off, simply shake your phone to send us feedback.

To complete the Google Maps ecosystem, we’re also releasing the Google Maps SDK for iOS, and a simple URL scheme to help developers use Google Maps when building their beautiful and innovative apps.

The new Google Maps app is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch (4th gen) iOS 5.1 and higher, in more than 40 countries and 29 languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Please note some of the features mentioned in this post aren’t available in all countries.

Visit the App Store today and download the new Google Maps app. We believe this delightful new experience is a great starting point—and we’ll continue to improve Google Maps for you, every day.

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This is the first in a series of posts profiling Googlers who facilitate classes as part of our “Googlers-to-Googlers” program (known internally as “g2g”). The g2g community consists of a group of Googlers who are passionate about teaching, sharing and learning from one another. Regardless of role, level or location, g2g's community-based approach makes it possible for all Googlers to take advantage of a variety of learning opportunities. Our philosophy is: the best teacher you've ever had could be the one in the cube next to you. - Ed

For most people, the term “CSI” evokes images of crime scene investigators solving murder mysteries, like on the popular TV series. But I hadn’t heard of the TV show when I created the CSI:Lab at Google. This program on Creative Skills for Innovation is taught through our “Googlers-to-Googlers” (g2g) program—where Googlers teach other Googlers about topics that interest them. We don’t lift fingerprints or take down criminals, but like the show, CSI:Lab is all about reaching an end goal through brainstorming, getting your hands dirty and an “ensemble” performance.

Here I am welcoming a CSI:Lab

Over the course of my travels a few years ago, I had the opportunity to observe a variety of diverse places and cultures, from Shanghai to Capetown. Experiencing dissimilar cultures allowed me to see how people from different walks of life innovate to survive and thrive, and deepened my interest in the topic of innovation. One of the reasons I was drawn to Google was its unique innovation culture. Soon after arriving here in February 2010, I began to delineate what was tangible about that aspect of the Google culture and was determined to figure out how I could immerse both myself and others in it more. This led me to think about how I could use the knowledge I gathered on innovation from my travels to teach those with different occupations and mindsets—from a salesperson to a project manager to an engineer—to think more about how to be innovative and to ignite change in a company.

In my 20 percent time, I decided to develop a class with a “lab” component to show Googlers how to “experience innovation.” I wanted to get a diverse group of people together in one room to solve challenging problems by learning from each other’s experiences, and by developing their own inner strengths. The goal was to enable Googlers to experience an approach to innovation where one learns by doing, rather than by listening.

CSI:Lab is user-centered and prototype driven. In each class, small groups are formed to answer a broad challenge that entices folks to think big—such as, “How would you change the commuting to work experience?” Participants are asked to interview potential “users” of their solutions to generate insights. After the surveys, all the ideas are posted on a white board. For example, in this case individual hi-tech jet packs or “Marty McFly” skateboards might reduce commute time and aid the environment. Ultimately, one idea is chosen and the group then develops a physical prototype (think Play-Doh and pipe cleaners) of their solution, to learn and prove how and why it is the best. Each class is intentionally made up of groups of Googlers from varying parts of the company—for example, engineering, global business, or project management—to encourage the groups to collaborate and learn from each other’s experience.

CSI:Lab brainstorm session. The prompt: Re-imagine advertising.

Googlers developing their solution’s prototype to the challenge: 
What is the learning space of the future?

Since April 2010, I’ve been humbled to run the Lab in 37 Google offices worldwide, and about 9,000 Googlers have participated. Today, we have more than 50 Googlers who act as ambassadors for the Lab, designing and facilitating more Labs as part of the g2g program. From New York to Tokyo to Sao Paulo, the different people and cultures of each lab offer a new perspective. And CSI:Lab inspires Googlers long after the sessions are over. One Googler told me that after the Lab, he used his experience to develop a prototype for a solution to one of his team’s issues. He described how good it felt to take a risk to reach a solution, and ultimately he convinced a team of other Googlers to work with him to refine and implement his idea. Ultimately, seeing these ideas absorbed by participants and put to use within the company is what CSI:Lab is all about.

Take a peek at five tips to help you embrace the CSI:Lab spirit and add more creativity and innovation to your everyday life—whether it be at home or at the office!
  1. Know and own what inspires you. Understand where your inspiration comes from and do it 10x more than you do now. For example, if your inspiration comes from museums, then go to museums 10x more often; if your inspiration comes from people, talk to 10 new people each week.
  2. Think like a child. Be open and question everything around you. Try not to pre-judge thoughts or ideas; develop them.
  3. Dive into something new. Involve yourself in areas at work where you’re unfamiliar with the content and want to learn more. People are generally happy to share their knowledge and you can often teach them something too just by bringing a fresh perspective to their work.
  4. Play with fun and unusual materials when developing an idea. We all constantly use our computers and paper and pen, so think outside the box to get your mind flowing. Want to “prototype” a solution you’ve thought of? Grab some pipe cleaners, construction paper, LEGO figures, feathers...you name it! See how the materials inspire you.
  5. Invest in your physical space. Having a supportive environment can make a big difference, so learn how what types of space inspire creativity. To create a more open, playful environment, try a flexible workplace with no offices. Or, help ideas flow more freely by making lots of whiteboard space easily accessible. For example, at Google’s Mountain View campus, we’ve created our own innovation space, called “The Garage” (a nod to the iconic Silicon Valley workspace). “The Garage” is big enough for 170 Googlers to use the area to create, collaborate and experiment.
A snapshot of the Garage

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As 2012 comes to a close, it's time for our 12th annual Year-End Zeitgeist—an in-depth look at the "spirit of the times" as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year.

On our 2012 Zeitgeist website, you can explore the most popular and hottest trending search terms from around the world. This year’s site is our most global to date, with a total of 838 lists from 55 countries. We’ve also added a number of new features, including an interactive map that shows where and when some of the hottest terms spiked around the world, and a Google Zeitgeist Android app coming out later today (with an iOS version coming soon too).

For a round-the-globe tour through 2012, take a look at our video:



So what kinds of things were top of mind this year? While there are perennial themes—“what is love?” topped the list in 10 countries—it’s the unusual and surprising that caught our attention in 2012.

Global superstar Whitney Houston topped many countries’ lists as well as three of our overall trending lists—her unexpected death surprising fans around the world. From Korea, YouTube sensation PSY’s “Gangnam Style” signature dance took the world by storm, landing him the #1 spot in many countries and making his song the second most trending query of 2012. (PSY’s video became the #1 most watched in YouTube history—stay tuned for YouTube’s Rewind for more.)


Then there was the superhuman. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall jump made him the #6 globally trending person of the year, while the 2012 Olympics and its various athletes made it into almost every country’s top trends. And NBA player Jeremy Lin also rose on the charts this year, making him the #1 trending athlete globally.

People researched a breadth of other topics, too. Web users took a serious interest in threats to the open Internet, with proposals like SOPA and ACTA both finding their way to the top of many countries’ lists. The U.S. elections brought attention to the candidates and issues, not least the presidential campaigns’ most notorious political gaffes. And while it might not be surprising to see that tragic natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy ranked highly (#3 on the global trending list), it is reassuring to find searches like [donate to Sandy] spiking as well.

We hope you enjoy exploring what people around the world were searching for in 2012. It’s quite a snapshot of what makes us human: a blend of guilty pleasures and higher pursuits.

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A few months ago we released This Exquisite Forest, a Chrome Experiment that lets you create collaborative animations using an online drawing tool. Since then, thousands of people from all over the world have contributed to the project, creating unique animations like Looking Up / Looking Down, Wine after Coffee and Animated Typography. For any of these animations, you can click the button in the lower right to add to the story and branch it in a new direction.


Today, we’d like to share The Endless Theater, a new way to wander the forest by viewing a continuous stream of different animations. In addition, now you can embed animations directly into your site or blog, so it’s even easier to share your work with the world. Just go into the lightbox view and click “Embed.”



A project of this scale and diversity is really only possible on the web, where people can view and contribute from all over the world using only a browser. Thank you all for making the forest so full of life. Please continue to explore, find your favorite animations, and add to the story.



(Cross-posted from the Chrome blog)

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From time to time we invite guests to post about items of interest and are pleased to have Linzie Venegas join us today. Linzie is head of sales and marketing for Ideal Shield, a manufacturing company in Detroit, Mich. that specializes in bumper post sleeves. Based in a city forged in tradition and steel, Ideal Shield has seen great success on the web—a story Linzie tells us in this post. -Ed.

When my great-grandparents moved from Mexico to Detroit in 1917, they were looking for a better life. They had no idea that one day their grandson, my father Frank Venegas, would invent a product and start a business that would help transform their adopted hometown. Thanks to my dad’s hard work and a little help from the web, that’s exactly what Ideal Shield has done.

Ideal Shield specializes in manufacturing bumper post sleeves. You may have seen these around—they’re colorful covers that slide over the steel pipes that keep cars from running into buildings. As a young child, my first job at Ideal was to assemble mailers for potential customers. Our mailers were unique—I would place a pack of jelly beans into each envelope. Talk about a great way to get a high “clickthrough rate!” Today, I head sales and marketing for the company, and we’ve taken our family business online with phenomenal results.

Ideal Shield’s father-daughter team Frank and Linzie Venegas in the factory surrounded by bumper post sleeves and guard rails.

We began using Google AdWords in 2004 to help potential customers find our product because many people didn’t know what it was. We were drawn to AdWords because everyone could see our ads—but we only had to pay for the customers who clicked through to our website. We also found that the leads were very qualified and had a higher close rate than leads from other sources. So far this year, for every $1 we've spent on AdWords we’ve gotten back $22. We’ve been able to have great success—without jelly beans!—using Google AdWords.

The energy we’ve put into our online presence has produced tremendous growth for our business; we’ve been able to grow our workforce by 20 percent. We’ve also focused on building our local community of Southwest Detroit. Each year we hire many interns from the local high school, Detroit Cristo Rey, and teach them skills that will last a lifetime. We’ve outfitted the junior and senior classes at Detroit Cristo Rey with Chromebooks so that they’ll have access to the power of the web anywhere, and many teachers there use the free Google Apps for Education suite with their students. This year, we were proud to hear that Detroit Cristo Rey achieved a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. We also work with the Michigan Minority Business Development Council to teach other small businesses in the community the importance of an online strategy and how the web can help small businesses thrive.

My dad started Ideal with himself, my mother and a couple of laborers; today this family business has more than 35 employees and annual sales of $14 million. With help from the web, his hard work, determination and “out of the box” thinking have made Ideal a symbol of strength and renewal in Southwest Detroit. My father has always told me that if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you. Detroit is our community—it’s our heart, it’s our home. We’ve been surprised and delighted at how much the web has contributed to Ideal Shield, and we’re happy to share that success with Detroit. We can’t wait to do more!



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For many students and teachers, the hassles of traditional computing often prevent them from making the most of technology in the classroom. Schools that have adopted Chromebooks, however, have been able to bring the web’s vast educational resources—whether it’s conducting real-time research or collaborating on group projects—right into the classroom. Chromebooks are fast, easily sharable, and require almost no maintenance. Today more than 1,000 schools have adopted Chromebooks in classrooms, including some school districts like Richland School District Two (S.C.), Leyden High School District (Ill.), and Council Bluffs Community School District (Iowa) who have deployed Chromebooks to tens of thousands of students.

To help budget-strapped classrooms across the country, we’re working with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects donors directly to public school classroom needs. For the holiday season, teachers can request the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook—the most widely deployed Chromebook in schools—at a special, discounted price of $99 including hardware, management and support.

If you’re a full-time public school teacher in the U.S., visit DonorsChoose.org and follow the instructions to take advantage of this opportunity by December 21, 2012. Your request will be posted on DonorsChoose.org where anyone can make a donation to support your classroom. When you reach your funding goal, you’ll receive your Chromebooks from Lakeshore Learning, DonorsChoose.org’s exclusive fulfillment partner for this program.

If you’re not a teacher, please share this opportunity with the teachers who have made a difference in your life! Or if you’re interested in supporting a classroom directly, read through the list of Chromebook projects and donate what you can. Be sure to check back often for new projects.

Thank you for your support in giving the gift of hassle-free technology to teachers and students. Working together, we can ensure “The virus ate my homework” is never uttered in a classroom again, and we can help classrooms get off to a strong start in the New Year!

Happy holidays.


Update Dec 11: We’ve seen a tremendous response—thanks to all the teachers who have applied so far! Please check DonorsChoose.org for the latest status of the program.

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In March, we launched Campus London to help support the vibrant start-up community there and help energize the U.K. Internet economy. Today, we’re launching Campus Tel Aviv—a one-floor event & community space in downtown Tel Aviv, made available to early stage start-ups and developers.

With the Internet economy contributing 6.4 percent of Israel’s GDP and with the world’s second largest center of tech start-ups after Silicon Valley, it’s no wonder that Israel is commonly referred to as “start-up nation.” For some time now, we’ve been supporting Internet and mobile entrepreneurs in Israel with tech talks, events and hackathons. We hope that Campus Tel Aviv will enable us to do more to support local innovation.

The Campus space will be used by start-ups and partners for events, a “device lab” will give developers the chance to try out projects on a range of devices, and entrepreneurs will get access to Google’s teams and other experts. We’re also working with tech incubators, accelerator programs and other partners to bring their start-ups to Campus for an initiative called “Launch Pad.” It’s a two-week “bootcamp” for more than 100 start-ups each year, aimed at enhancing existing accelerator programs by providing expertise in user experience and design, product strategy, global marketing, business development and more.

At the launch of Campus Tel Aviv—from left to right, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister), Meir Brand (Managing Director, Google Israel, Greece, South & Sub-Saharan Africa), Yossi Matias (Head of Israel R&D Center).

In 1998, when Larry and Sergey founded Google, we were a start-up in a garage. In many ways, we remain a start-up at heart, and we’re committed to helping new entrepreneurs and developers around the world succeed. We hope that Campus Tel Aviv will contribute to future Israeli tech innovation and, in doing so, make the web and the mobile space better. You can find out more about Campus Tel Aviv on our website.

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Last year, a group of us were lucky enough to visit the U.K. Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, as part of the Silicon Valley Comes to the U.K. initiative. While there, we asked about some of the paintings on the wall. When we got to a large portrait of a regally dressed woman, our host said “and of course, that’s Lady Lovelace.” So much of world history leaves out or minimizes the contributions of women, and so “of course” most of us had no idea who she was. You can imagine our surprise when we learned she was considered by some to be the world’s first computer programmer—having published the first algorithm intended for use on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Lady Ada Lovelace, painted by Margaret Carpenter in 1836, from the U.K. Government Art Collection. Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born nearly two centuries ago in 1815. Her mother, mathematician Anne Isabelle Milbanke, was determined Ada would not fall prey to the same immoralities as Ada’s father, the “mad, bad and dangerous to know” poet Lord Byron. Thus, in an attempt to thwart any similar tendencies, she had Ada tutored in science and mathematics from a young age. It’s fair to say this did not completely work, as Ada went on to lead a rather colourful life. However it did fortuitously result in Ada becoming a mathematician like her mother, and pursuing what she termed “poetical science.”

After a chance encounter when aged 17, Ada became friends with Charles Babbage and grew fascinated by his idea to build an “Analytical Engine.” In 1843 Ada published a description of Babbage's machine. While partly a translation of an Italian work, Ada added voluminous self-penned notes, which made up the bulk of the document. Included in her notes were step-by-step instructions for how the machine could calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers, prepared in collaboration with Babbage. In effect, this was the world’s first published algorithm.

Most importantly, the notes set out Ada's far-reaching vision for what the Analytical Engine signified. While Babbage saw it as a mathematical calculator, Ada understood it had much more potential. She realised it was, in essence, a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with defined rules, and—crucially—that there was no reason the symbols had to represent only numbers and equations.
“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Ada Lovelace, 1843
As Ada eloquently argued, such a device could do far more than mathematics. She even mused about its potential to compose music:
“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
This was an astounding conceptual leap from calculation to computing. Ada envisaged a day when a single machine would be capable of a myriad of tasks, limited only by the creativity of its programmer. At the time—nearly a century before the first computers were built—it was a flash of brilliance.

After our visit to Downing Street, we returned to the U.S. determined to learn more about Ada, and to revive her memory. Today, her birthday, is an apt moment. In addition to this post, Google is honouring Ada with a doodle in recognition of her prophetic vision for computing.

Design of doodle by Kevin Laughlin

Unfortunately, Babbage's machines were never built in his lifetime, and Ada's vision of computing was lost to obscurity for more than a century. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Science Museum London built Babbage’s Difference Engine from his original drawings. That machine is now on show there, and a second one is now at the Computer History Museum in California. Plans are now afoot to build a replica of the Analytic Engine—so perhaps Ada’s algorithm will at last be run on the machine for which it was intended.

Ada's experience is sadly all too familiar. Too often, the contributions of women in science and technology are left untold, and to fade from view. While Ada’s story has been rediscovered, many others remain little known. That's why initiatives such as Ada Lovelace Day are so valuable, as a catalyst for raising the profile of women in science, past and present. Several wonderful biographies of Ada have been written already, and biographer Walter Isaacson has turned his attention to Ada as part of his next book.

Visibility is also the reason why we launched the Women Techmakers series on GDL, to help shine a light on the roles and contributions of the many talented technical women in our industry today. We hope our series will complement other efforts to raise the profile of women, such as the new AOL/PBS supported website and documentary Makers.com or the work of Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis on SeeJane to improve gender balance and reduce stereotypes in childrens’ television globally.

We hope today's doodle inspires people to find out more about Ada, and about the contributions made by women in general to science and technology.

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For our international readers, this post is also available in ChineseFrench, German, ItalianJapanese, RussianPortuguese and Spanish (Spain, Latin America). - Ed.

During the holidays we reconnect with loved ones and rediscover what makes us tick. And it's times like these that remind me why we started Google+ in the first place: to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing. Too often our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we've got a vibrant community to guide us.

Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever. More than 500 million people have upgraded, 235 million are active across Google (+1'ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search...), and 135 million are active in just the stream.

This enthusiasm, we think, stems from our building tools that build real relationships—in a live hangout, around a breathtaking photo, or with an inner circle of friends. So today we're launching two new improvements that help bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.

Google+ Communities: for all the people you ought to know
From photography to astronomy (and everything in between), Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people. What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. With Google+ Communities there’s now a gathering place for your passions, including:
  • Public or private membership to support all kinds of groups—from topics and interests to local neighborhoods to regular poker nights
  • Discussion categories to find the conversations you care about most
  • The option to start hangouts and plan events with community members
  • The ability to share with your community from any +1 button across the web



To give it a try just click on the new "Communities" icon (rolling out today), then create or join your favorite community. It’s only a preview, and mobile’s coming soon, so we’re keen to get your feedback.



Snapseed: beautiful photos with your mobile device
Great pictures aren’t taken, they’re made—and Nik Software has been helping people make awesome photos for years. Having welcomed Nik to the Google family, we're excited to bring their Snapseed app (last year's iPad app of the year) to Android. It includes:
  • Basic adjustments like tune, straighten and crop
  • Creative filters like drama, black & white, and vintage that you can apply individually or in combination
  • Control Point technology to selectively enhance your photo—to brighten just a face, for instance, or deepen just the sky
  • The ability to share your creations via Google+ and other services
Snapseed is rolling out now to Google Play and the App Store, and starting today, both versions are free.

Sample image created with Snapseed; gallery available here

This time of year we honor the past, and imagine what’s ahead. So we want to thank you for lending your big hearts to this small project. And we invite you to a future where everyone’s cared for and comfortable in their own skin—in life and online. Let’s keep building Google+ together, and let’s be excellent to each other this holiday season.

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A year ago we released Street View imagery of areas in Northeastern Japan that were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Our hope was that the 360-degree panoramas would provide a comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use way for people around the world to view the damage to the region by enabling a virtual walk through of the disaster zones.

The panoramas were only the start of our digital archiving project. Last month we took the next step—using the technology behind Business Photos to photograph the inside of buildings in Northeastern Japan that were heavily damaged but still standing. We worked with four city governments in the Tōhoku area to photograph more than 30 buildings, and today we’re bringing this imagery to Google Maps and our Memories for the Future site. The new imagery enables you to walk through the buildings and switch between floors to get a first-hand glimpse at the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.



The timing of the project was critical. There has been a strong debate in these areas whether to keep the buildings up as a permanent reminder of the tragedy or to tear them down to allow emotional wounds to heal. After long consultations with their citizens, many local governments have decided to move forward with demolishing the buildings. Knowing this, we quickly moved to photograph the buildings before they started to be dismantled.

The panorama below shows an elementary school very close to the ocean. Thankfully, all the students survived the disaster as they had been well drilled to rush to escape at the sound of tsunami warnings.



Other sites include Rikuzentakata city public housing, a building that physically demonstrates the heights of the tsunami wave. Everything up to the fourth floor is completely ruined, but the fifth floor remains mostly unscathed.


Panorama of Rikuzentakata City Public Housing

We’ve also captured imagery of Ukedo Elementary School and a few other buildings in Namie Town—located in the restricted area (PDF) within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the elementary school, you can see holes in the gym floor, where a graduation banner still hangs in the gym, though the ceremony never took place.


Panorama of Ukedo Elementary School

We’ll continue to photograph more buildings in two Iwate Prefecture cities, Ōfunato and Kamaishi, over the coming weeks. By the end of the year, we also hope to complete the collection of imagery from five new cities in the Miyagi prefecture. We look forward to making this new imagery available as soon as it’s ready to pay tribute to both the tragedy of the disaster and the current efforts to rebuild. City governments in Northeastern Japan that are interested in this digital archiving project are welcome to contact us through this form.

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More than a billion people use Google Maps each month to find their way around town and around the world. To help these people get exactly the information they need, the Google Maps team works constantly to ensure that the geographic data behind our maps is comprehensive and accurate. As part of this ongoing effort, we’ve just released updated maps for 10 countries and regions in Europe: Andorra, Bulgaria, Estonia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Today’s update is part of a project called Ground Truth that began in 2008. Through this initiative, we acquire high-quality map data from authoritative sources around the world and then apply a mix of advanced algorithms, supplemental data (including satellite, aerial and Street View imagery), and human input to create a map that corresponds as closely as possible to the real-world facts that you’d find if you were to visit that location.

For example, this update adds a new 70-km section of Bulgaria’s Trakiya motorway, which opened recently to drivers but hasn’t been reflected on most maps of the region until now.


But roads and highways alone don’t define the character of a place, and they aren’t always sufficient to help you get around. So Google Maps also integrates information such as walking paths, ferry lines, building outlines, park boundaries, university campuses and more—providing a richer, more comprehensive and more realistic experience for locals, visitors and armchair travelers alike.

Our new map of Spain, for example, not only shows the famous Museo del Prado and Parque del Retiro in Madrid, but also includes additional building models in surrounding neighborhoods, the well-known “Estanque” (or pond) in the center of the park, and detailed walking paths throughout both the park and the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens.


Of course, the world is always changing, and we want Google Maps to change with it. So when you notice something on the map that needs updating, let us know through the simple “Report a problem” tool in the lower right corner of the map. We’ll make the appropriate changes to the map—often within just a few minutes or hours of reviewing and verifying your feedback! This tool launches today in the 10 places where we’ve updated our maps, and is already available in dozens of other countries around the world.

With today’s release, the maps that we’ve built through our Ground Truth initiative are now available in a total of 40 countries worldwide. To see the progress we’ve made to date, take a look at the image below (click for a full-size version).


We hope today’s launch of more comprehensive and accurate maps of Europe will help you explore amazing places from Barcelona and Budapest to Bratislava and beyond.

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Technology has dramatically improved our lives—from the speed at which we get things done to how we connect with others. Yet innovations in medicine, business and communications have far outpaced tech-enabled advances in the nonprofit sector.

Today we’re launching the Global Impact Awards to support organizations using technology and innovative approaches to tackle some of the toughest human challenges. From real-time sensors that monitor clean water to DNA barcoding that stops wildlife trafficking, our first round of awards provides $23 million to seven organizations changing the world.



charity: water: Real-time technology to monitor water and ensure it gets to more people
One in nine people across the globe lack access to clean water. At any given time, approximately one-third of water pumps built by NGOs and government groups in remote areas are not functioning. charity: water will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to install remote sensors at 4,000 water points across Africa by 2015, monitoring and recording actual water flow rate to ensure better maintenance of and access to clean water for more than 1 million people.

Consortium for the Barcode of Life: DNA barcoding to identify and protect endangered wildlife
More than 2,000 endangered species are protected from illegal trade by UN regulations. Intercepting wildlife transferred across borders is critical to slowing illegal trade, but detection tools are expensive and unavailable. The Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for the Barcode of Life will use its $3 million Global Impact Award to work with researchers in six developing countries to create and implement “DNA barcoding,” a public library of DNA barcode tests that enforcement officials can use as a front-line tool.

DonorsChoose.org: New program to enroll more underrepresented students in advanced classes
In the U.S., girls and disadvantaged students are less likely to study math and science in college or pursue related careers, in part because they’re not exposed to advanced classes in high school. DonorsChoose.org will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to work with the College Board and provide public schools across the U.S. with the start-up materials needed to create 500 new AP science and math courses. DonorsChoose.org will also help successful teachers reinvest in their classrooms and students.

Equal Opportunity Schools: Data to identify high-performing yet underrepresented students
Every year, more than 600,000 low-income students in the U.S. miss out on advanced classes that provide college training. Using data analytics, Equal Opportunity Schools will use its $1.8 million Global Impact Award to identify 6,000 high-performing yet underrepresented students and move them into advanced classes.

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: Tools to analyze and promote gender equality in media
What kids see on screen has a profound effect on how they see the world, from body image to academic performance. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media will use its $1.2 million Global Impact Award to support the development of automated technology that analyzes female portrayals in children’s media.

GiveDirectly: Mobile technology to put money directly into the hands of the poor
Despite assumptions, direct cash transfers are a proven approach to lifting people out of poverty. Research documents substantial positive impacts on a wide range of indicators, including farm profits and infant birth weight. GiveDirectly will use its $2.4 million Global Impact Award to scale its model of direct cash transfers.

World Wildlife Fund: New technologies to advance anti-poaching efforts
The illegal wildlife trade, estimated to be worth $7-10 billion annually, devastates endangered species, damages ecosystems, and threatens local livelihoods and regional security. World Wildlife Fund will use its $5 million Global Impact Award to adapt and implement specialized sensors and wildlife tagging technology.


We invite you to learn more about Google’s new Global Impact Awards and the other ways we give. As we reflect back over this year, I’m proud to report that we’ve been able to support organizations changing the world with more than $100 million in grants, $1 billion in technology and 50,000 hours of Googler volunteering.

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It’s that time of year: school is in full swing, the holidays are just around the corner, and we’re once again accepting proposals for our Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) grants. CS4HS is a “train the trainer” program that aims to give teachers the tools they need in order to bring computer science and computational thinking into the classroom.

With a grant from Google, university, college and technical college faculty develop these three to five day workshops—hands-on, interactive opportunities for K-12 teachers to learn how to teach CS to their students. Some programs are geared toward CS teachers, while others are for non-CS teachers who want to incorporate computer science into their curriculum. No two programs are exactly alike, and it is the creative and passionate material that organizers develop which makes this program so unique—and successful.

2013 marks the fifth consecutive year for our CS4HS program, and we’ve grown significantly. Hundreds of students and thousands of teachers have been through these workshops to date, and our program has spread to include places in Africa, Australia, Canada, China, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and the U.S. Our alumni are connected to each other, other educators and organizers through our teacher’s forum, which also enables K-12 teachers interested in CS education to join the discussion and ask questions.



We’re accepting applications on our website from now until February 16, 2013. To qualify, you must work for an accredited university, college or technical school in one of the qualifying regions. Each region has a slightly different application process, so make sure to read up on your area at www.cs4hs.com.

If you’re not a university faculty member, but still want to be involved, reach out to a local area university and encourage the CS Chairperson to apply; peruse information on our K-12 educators page to start bringing CS into your classroom; and check for updates on our website starting in March to find a program near you.

We’re excited to help even more educators learn how to bring computer science to their students, whether they’re teaching CS, math, history, or any other subject. Together, we can start the next generation of CS professionals on their way.

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Starting in 1973, when my colleagues and I proposed the technology behind the Internet, we advocated for an open standard to connect computer networks together. This wasn’t merely philosophical; it was also practical.

Our protocols were designed to make the networks of the Internet non-proprietary and interoperable. They avoided “lock-in,” and allowed for contributions from many sources. This openness is why the Internet creates so much value today. Because it is borderless and belongs to everyone, it has brought unprecedented freedoms to billions of people worldwide: the freedom to create and innovate, to organize and influence, to speak and be heard.

But starting in a few hours, a closed-door meeting of the world’s governments is taking place in Dubai, and regulation of the Internet is on the agenda. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is convening a conference from December 3-14 to revise a decades-old treaty, in which only governments have a vote. Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries.

You can read more about my concerns on CNN.com, but I am not alone. So far, more than 1,000 organizations from more than 160 countries have spoken up too, and they’re joined by hundreds of thousands of Internet users who are standing up for a free and open Internet. On an interactive map at freeandopenweb.com, you can see that people from all corners of the world have signed our petition, used the #freeandopen hashtag on social media, or created and uploaded videos to say how important these issues are.


If you agree and want to support a free and open Internet too, I invite you to join us by signing the petition at google.com/takeaction. Please make your voice heard and spread the word.

Update December 15, 2012: At the conclusion of the ITU meeting in Dubai on Friday, 89 countries signed the treaty, while 55 countries said they would not sign or that additional review was needed. We stand with the countries who refused to sign, and with the millions of you who have voiced your support for a free and open web.