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Google+ Auto Awesome is all about fun surprises that bring your photos to life. And whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch at the Oscars or Michelle Obama at the White House, a celebrity photobomb is the ultimate surprise, turning an ordinary photo into something extraordinary.

Now with Auto Awesome Photobombs, you too can get a celebrity photobomb—no red carpet required. We’re starting with surprise appearances by +David Hasselhoff, everyone’s favorite crime-fighting rockstar lifeguard.

Watch your step! The Hoff joins these adventurous hikers at Machu Picchu
The Hoff rides the waves in Big Sur
The Hoff enjoys a breezy afternoon by the San Francisco Bay 

Upload a new self-portrait, or a group photo with friends, and leave some room for The Hoff. He might just make your photo a little more #Hoffsome.

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While we’ve always known how important transparency is when it comes to government requests, the events of the past year have underscored just how urgent the issue is. From being the first company to disclose information about National Security Letters to fighting for the ability to publish more about FISA requests, we’ve continually advocated for your right to know.

Today, we’re updating our Transparency Report for the ninth time. This updated Report details the number of government requests we received for user information in criminal investigations during the second half of 2013. Government requests for user information in criminal cases have increased by about 120 percent since we first began publishing these numbers in 2009. Though our number of users has grown throughout the time period, we’re also seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.

We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach. That’s why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency. We’ve all been sharing best practices about how to report the requests we receive, and as a result our Transparency Report now includes governments that made less than 30 requests during a six-month reporting period, in addition to those that made 30+ requests.

Also, people have been asking about how we respond to search warrants in the U.S., so we’ve created an entertaining video to explain in plain language how this process works. We apply the same rigorous standards presented in this video to every request we receive, regardless of type.

You deserve to know when and how governments request user information online, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure that’s the case.

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Since getting online, Green Mountain Bee Farm in Fairfax, Vt. experienced a 5x increase in sales, and Christine Fitzpatrick Hair and Makeup in Birmingham, Mich. attracted 50 percent more clients. Getting online can make a big difference for small businesses—and stronger businesses makes for stronger communities. Online businesses are expected to grow 40 percent faster and create twice as many jobs as those that aren't online,* but more than half of America’s small businesses currently don't have a website.

That’s the inspiration behind Get Your Business Online Week, when we come together with local partners to get businesses in our communities online and growing. Starting today, we’ll broadcast free virtual workshops for business owners, available to anyone with an Internet connection. Here’s a glimpse of what you can look forward to:

  • Conversations with businesses that have prospered online, like Barkbox, GoldieBlox and Dollar Shave Club
  • Step-by-step demos on building a website and getting found on Search and Maps
  • Interviews with small business experts like SmallBizLady Melinda Emerson
  • Workshops on Google tools for businesses (Google Apps, Google Trends, Google Alerts), online advertising (AdWords), and measuring your success online (Analytics)
  • Free help and advice from experts over Helpouts by Google

We’re also teaming up with small business organizations across the country including local chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers and SCORE chapters to host live broadcasts of our trainings. You can find a screening closest to you on our website.

We’re excited to welcome small business everywhere to join us for this special week. Even if you don’t own a business, we encourage you to take part by spreading the word and inviting your favorite businesses to sign up.
See you on the web!



*Source: BCG Report, "The Connected World: The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity," March 2012

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The Google Journalism Fellowship connects students interested in using technology to tell stories in new ways to the organizations that are pushing the boundaries of newsgathering and reporting. Over 10 weeks, Fellows work on projects ranging from building interactive news apps to researching stories, finding data and writing code. In this post, one of last year’s Fellows, Jan Lauren Boyles, shares her perspective on the benefits of the program and what this year’s Fellows stand to get out of it. -Ed.

At first, I thought it was just my imagination.

In the middle of my exams for my doctorate at American University last year, I got a call from the Pew Research Center offering me a Google Journalism Fellowship. Low on sleep, my first thought: "Was this offer all just a reverie, rendered by my foggy mind?"

In some ways, it turned out that that call really was the beginning of a dream.

I had applied for the Fellowship because I wanted to work with the brightest minds in media research and broaden my understanding of the intersections between journalism and technology. I was thrilled to work with leading experts at Pew Research to collect and analyze data that examined how social media is transforming the way Americans consume and share news. I also had a chance to learn from Google’s own mapping and data visualization specialists. But I never imagined we’d also shadow an editorial meeting at The Miami Herald, discuss the future of news with Knight Foundation staff, talk directly with news startup leaders and take part in a design sprint at a CIR/Google conference around data and the news.
The 2013 Google Journalism Fellows. The author is third from the right.

Many of the inaugural class of Google Fellows has gone on to carve out careers in the newsrooms of the 21st century. The Fellowship helped me land a full-time position at the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project as a research associate—a dream job, where I’ll use various research methods—from surveys to content analysis to good ol' reporting—to help examine how news and information functions today. One key project that I’ll work on this year will be a deep examination of the flow of local news in society today.

Now a new class of Google Fellows gets a chance to fulfill their own dreams. These 11 students are people to watch—young scholars, computer scientists and practitioners who will likely create new journalism products and platforms that will change our engagement with news in the digital age.

This year’s organizations and Fellows are:


Congratulations to this year’s Fellows! We look forward to the energy you’ll bring to the host organizations this summer—and to watching your dreams become a reality.

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Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us. As you go about your day reading, writing and checking messages, there are tons of security measures running behind the scenes to keep your email safe, secure, and there whenever you need it.

Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers—no matter if you're using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100 percent of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail's servers, but also as they move between Google's data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations.

Of course, being able to access your email is just as important as keeping it safe and secure. In 2013, Gmail was available 99.978 percent of the time, which averages to less than two hours of disruption for a user for the entire year. Our engineering experts look after Google's services 24x7 and if a problem ever arises, they're on the case immediately. We keep you informed by posting updates on the Apps Status Dashboard until the issue is fixed, and we always conduct a full analysis on the problem to prevent it from happening again.

Our commitment to the security and reliability of your email is absolute, and we’re constantly working on ways to improve. You can learn about additional ways to keep yourself safe online, like creating strong passwords and enabling 2-step verification, by visiting the Security Center: https://www.google.com/help/security.



Cross-posted from the Official Gmail Blog

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Superheroes, cliff divers, fearless reporters or pop icons—whatever you like to watch, Chromecast makes it easy to bring it from a phone, tablet or laptop to the biggest screen in your house: the TV. Since announcing Chromecast in the U.S., we’ve grown to include more of your favorite apps and websites. Those numbers will continue to grow, and we want to bring Chromecast to more people around the world. Today Chromecast is available in an additional 11 countries—Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.

In addition to your favorite apps like YouTube, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music and Netflix (where available), we’re working with local content providers to bring even more of the movies and TV shows you love to Chromecast. Apps will start rolling out today, and include BBC iPlayer in the U.K.; France TV Pluzz and SFR TV in France with CANALPLAY coming soon; and Watchever in Germany with Maxdome coming soon. So instead of huddling around your laptop to watch Sherlock solve the next crime or getting caught up on all the workplace drama in Stromberg, you can cast it, sit back, and watch together on the big screen.

Chromecast will keep getting better. We recently opened up Chromecast to developers, and in a few short weeks more than 3,000 developers worldwide have signed up to bring their apps and websites to Chromecast. You’ll soon have more TV shows, movies, videos, sports, music and games to choose from. Stay up-to-date on the latest apps that work with Chromecast at chromecast.com/apps.

So if you’re in one of these 11 countries, look for Chromecast starting today at Amazon, Google Play, Currys PC World, Elkjøp, FNAC, Saturn, Media Markt and other retailers.

Happy casting!

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Most of us are rarely without our smartphones in hand. These powerful supercomputers keep us connected to the world and the people we love. But we're only at the beginning; we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with mobile technology. That’s why we’re so excited about wearables—they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.

Android Wear: Information that moves with you 
Today we’re announcing Android Wear, a project that extends Android to wearables. And we’re starting with the most familiar wearable—watches. Going well beyond the mere act of just telling you the time, a range of new devices along with an expansive catalogue of apps will give you:
  • Useful information when you need it most. Android Wear shows you info and suggestions you need, right when you need them. The wide variety of Android applications means you’ll receive the latest posts and updates from your favorite social apps, chats from your preferred messaging apps, notifications from shopping, news and photography apps, and more. 
  • Straight answers to spoken questions. Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions, like how many calories are in an avocado, what time your flight leaves, and the score of the game. Or say “Ok Google” to get stuff done, like calling a taxi, sending a text, making a restaurant reservation or setting an alarm. 
  • The ability to better monitor your health and fitness. Hit your exercise goals with reminders and fitness summaries from Android Wear. Your favorite fitness apps can give you real-time speed, distance and time information on your wrist for your run, cycle or walk. 
  • Your key to a multiscreen world. Android Wear lets you access and control other devices from your wrist. Just say “Ok Google” to fire up a music playlist on your phone, or cast your favorite movie to your TV. There’s a lot of possibilities here so we’re eager to see what developers build. 


Developer Preview 
If you’re a developer, there’s a new section on developer.android.com/wear focused on wearables. Starting today, you can download a Developer Preview so you can tailor your existing app notifications for watches powered by Android Wear. Because Android for wearables works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well. Look out for more developer resources and APIs coming soon. We’re also already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year.


We're always seeking new ways for technology to help people live their lives and this is just another step in that journey. Here’s to getting the most out of the many screens you use every day—whether in your car, in your pocket or, very soon, on your wrist.

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Today, residents of Vancouver, Canada, will notice a new addition to their scenic waterfront: an interactive artwork on one of the largest textile sculptures ever. The piece, entitled Unnumbered Sparks, is a collaboration between artist Janet Echelman and Google Creative Director Aaron Koblin, as part of TED’s 30th annual conference.

Echelman is known for building sculptures that respond to the forces of nature—wind, water and light—and this project is no exception. Made from ultralight fibers, the sculpture soars from the roof of a skyscraper over the water and walkways near the Vancouver Convention Center (site map). As visitors collaborate via mobile devices, they create colors and ripples that move over its surface.
Photo by Ema Peter

What's not obvious to the public is when you look at the sculpture, you're actually looking at a web browser. The interactive lighting is actually one giant Chrome window, stretched across the 300-foot long sculpture with the help of five high-definition projectors. To interact, visitors open a website using Chrome or other modern mobile browser on their smartphone or tablet. After selecting a color, they use their fingers to trace paths along the surface of their device, which are then projected onto the sculpture in real-time as colorful beams of light. The result is a crowd-controlled visual experiment on a giant, floating canvas.

Photo by Ema Peter

Watch this short documentary to get a quick look at the work involved in creating this project:


Art and technology are continuously evolving together, and we hope that this project showcases the opportunity for mobile devices and the web to play a part in that evolution. We all carry devices in our pockets that have the power to connect with people around the world, but rarely do we get a chance to use this incredible power to connect and create with the people standing next to us. With Unnumbered Sparks, we hope to turn strangers into collaborators, working together to create a single piece of art on this amazing canvas.

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Having launched Google Drive just two years ago, we’re excited that so many people are now using it as their go-to place for keeping all their files. Whether it's all the footage of your kids' baseball games, the novel you're working on, or even just your grocery list for the week, we all have files that are too important to lose. Today, thanks to a number of recent infrastructure improvements, we’re able to make it more affordable for you to keep everything safe and easy to reach on any device, from anywhere.

We've lowered the price of our monthly storage plans to $1.99 for 100GB (previously $4.99), $9.99 for 1TB (previously $49.99), and $99.99 for 10TB, with even more storage available if you need it. How big is a terabyte anyway? Well, that’s enough storage for you to take a selfie twice a day for the next 200 years and still have room left over for… shall we say… less important things. Like before, storage continues to work across Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos. And, of course, the 15GB plan remains free.

You can sign up for one of these new Google Drive plans at www.google.com/settings/storage. If you already pay for storage, you’ll automatically move to a better plan at no additional cost. You can visit the storage purchase page to make a change or review your account, and see the Help Center for more information on these simpler storage options.

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On the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, we’re pleased to share this guest post from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web. In this post he reflects on the past, present and future of the web—and encourages the rest of us to fight to keep it free and open. -Ed.

Today is the web’s 25th birthday. On March 12, 1989, I distributed a proposal to improve information flows: “a ‘web’ of notes with links between them.”

Though CERN, as a physics lab, couldn’t justify such a general software project, my boss Mike Sendall allowed me to work on it on the side. In 1990, I wrote the first browser and editor. In 1993, after much urging, CERN declared that WWW technology would be available to all, without paying royalties, forever.
The first web server, used by Tim Berners-Lee. Photo via Wikipedia

This decision enabled tens of thousands to start working together to build the web. Now, about 40 percent of us are connected and creating online. The web has generated trillions of dollars of economic value, transformed education and healthcare and activated many new movements for democracy around the world. And we’re just getting started.

How has this happened? By design, the underlying Internet and the WWW are non-hierarchical, decentralized and radically open. The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don’t need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.

So today is a day to celebrate. But it’s also an occasion to think, discuss—and do. Key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet are looming, and it’s vital for all of us to speak up for the web’s future. How can we ensure that the other 60 percent around the world who are not connected get online fast? How can we make sure that the web supports all languages and cultures, not just the dominant ones? How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public? These are some of my questions—what are yours?

On the 25th birthday of the web, I ask you to join in—to help us imagine and build the future standards for the web, and to press for every country to develop a digital bill of rights to advance a free and open web for everyone. Learn more at webat25.org and speak up for the sort of web we really want with #web25.

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Tobi Mueller started coding when his grandfather, who works in IT, gave him access to a spare PC. It was a sweet 286 machine which Tobi learned to program with the then-popular teaching language Pascal. He eventually became interested in free and open source software, but it was Google Summer of Code (GSoC) that helped transform Tobi into the free software contributor he is today.

Tobi was a GSoC student in 2007 for GNOME, a free software desktop environment. He’s been a regular contributor to the GNOME community ever since—and in 2012, Tobi was elected to the GNOME Foundation board of directors.

Tobi is one of more than 7,500 students who have participated in Google Summer of Code program over the past nine years. Every summer, GSoC participants work with various organizations in the open source community, building important technical skills and gaining workplace experience. Students aren’t the only ones who benefit; their projects also give back to the open source community. Karen Sandler, GNOME’s executive director, told us how Google Summer of Code “encourages and empowers” new contributors and helps “invigorate projects.”
So if you’re a university student looking to earn real-world experience this summer, we hope you’ll consider coding for a cool open source project with Google Summer of Code. We’re celebrating the 10th year of the program in 2014, and we’d love to see more student applicants than ever before. In 2013 we accepted almost 1,200 students and we’re planning to accept 10 percent more this year.

You can submit proposals on our website starting now through Friday, March 21 at 12:00pm PDT. Get started by reviewing the ideas pages of the 190 open source projects in this year’s program, and decide which projects you’re interested in. There are a limited number of spots, and writing a great project proposal is essential to being selected to the program—so be sure to check out the Student Manual for advice. For ongoing information throughout the application period and beyond, see the Google Open Source blog.

Good luck to all the open source coders out there, and remember to submit your proposals early—you only have until March 21 to apply!

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Picture the women in your life—the women you admire. Your grandma. Your daughter. Toni Morrison. Maria Klawe. Temple Grandin. Malala. Somaly Mam. International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate these phenomenal women and all the others around the world—to recognize their impact on society, and to focus on what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality. Today, Google is joining in and showcasing inspiring women of the past and present through a series of events, new content on the Cultural Institute and—of course—a doodle. Join us in celebrating women worldwide!

Celebrating technical women on stage at global Women Techmakers events
To help increase visibility, community and resources for technical women, we’re launching a series of 100+ Women Techmakers events in 52 countries to celebrate and support passionate techmakers around the world. Starting today and throughout March, the event series will feature panel discussions with talented female technology leaders, hands-on career planning workshops, networking opportunities and more. To learn more about the program and find an event near you, visit g.co/womentechmakers.
Shining a light on women in history and their collective impact
The Google Cultural Institute is launching Women in Culture, a new channel featuring exhibits that tell stories of women—some familiar and some lesser-known—and their impact on the world. Starting today, you can browse 18 new exhibits, from both new and existing Cultural Institute partners, including:
Since history has so often been biased, leaving out or sidelining contributions from women, the channel is also integrated with the rest of the Cultural Institute collections, making it easier for people to discover even more amazing stories about women throughout history.

A homepage homage
Women have been underrepresented in the history-telling of almost all fields: science, school curricula, business, politics—and, sadly, doodles. In addition to our continued effort for doodle diversity and inclusion, today’s truly International Women’s Day doodle features a host of more than 100 inspiring women from around the world, including the President of Lithuania, a brave Pakistani education activist, the most recorded artist in music history, an ever-curious explorer and dozens more.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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At age 40, my mom quit her job to start an employment agency for people with disabilities. Over the next few years and without a college degree or any formal funding, she grew her business to employ more than 30 people and serve thousands of clients.

Though to me she's one-of-a-kind, it turns out there are other women like my mom out there. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, women make up 30 percent of U.S. business owners and employ nearly 7.8 million workers. Even though women-owned enterprises operate with far less capital, in the venture-backed tech industry, they produce 12 percent higher returns. That means that not only is supporting women in business the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.

In an effort to find new ways to advance female entrepreneurs, this week Google for Entrepreneurs is committing $1 million in aggregate to 40 startup-focused organizations, challenging them to increase the representation of women in their respective tech communities. From simply changing the times of events to accommodate busy moms to teaching young girls to see themselves as entrepreneurs, 40 of our partner communities will soon launch new programs and outreach initiatives to encourage women founders. We’re calling this collective effort #40Forward. Here are a few highlights from our global community:

  • 1871 in Chicago is launching a new accelerator program for women founded or co-founded companies that’s more flexible and family-friendly, with a customized plan for each startup.
  • Gaza Sky Geeks in Gaza is providing rewards for women attending startup events to demonstrate the economic value of them getting involved in tech to their families.
  • Startup Grind chapters all over the world are hosting Women Take the Stage fireside chats featuring successful women business leaders in their communities.
  • Outbox in Uganda is launching a year-long training to teach young women programming and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Astia is increasing female entrepreneurs’ access to capital by creating monthly opportunities for women-led companies to pitch to world-class investors.

Along with our 40 partners, we hope to create more inclusive networks and to move the needle for entrepreneurs like my mom—and young women like me who aspire to be like her. Follow and participate in the conversation throughout the month of March using #40Forward on Google+ and Twitter.