Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekly Google Code Roundup: JavaScript and GData can now write home, Gadget Ads, presentations, and more.

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Google Code - Updates: Weekly Google Code Roundup: JavaScript and GData can now write home, Gadget Ads, presentations, and more.



We had a really fun week with launches and news across a myriad of products. From a technical perspective, it was really exciting to see the launch of a new GData JavaScript library that enables full CRUD access from the browser. No need for proxies. Jun Yang, engineer on the GData team, sat down to explain the API and how it works. People will remember when the mainstream thought it was impossible to do full read/write authenticated cross domain access in a secure way.

Jason Cooper, of the Google Mashup Editor team, took the new API that works with Google Calendar, and provided a mashup that is able to create new events in your calendar.

Speaking of JavaScript APIs, The Digg Oracle is a new Google Gears application that showcases the pattern of sucking down data, and allowing you to do local manipulations and data filtering in the client. It makes heavy use of the WorkerPool and the local database. See it in action.

The Google Maps API has also gotten some new features and news. First, a new IP based limit is coming soon, and new enhanced map tiles are available. You can also use custom map types via the Google Maps API Open Source Utility Library.

In the land of open source, Leslie showcased the summer of coders of 2007, and released a podcast on all things GCC. We also discussed our thoughts on the ISO decision on OOXML, and the Google Code for Educators program released a series of lectures on MapReduce.

The Google Gadget and AdSense universes combined for the introduction of Google Gadget Ads, which are customized "mini-sites" that run as ads on AdSense publisher websites. These ads are interactive, engaging, and will appeal to your users, simultaneously providing value to advertisers while getting visitors to stick around your site. The end result is that advertisers get more engaged users, users have a richer ad experience, and publishers opted in to image ads may see increased competition for their ad space.

When you check out your ads, you can watch what is going on via Google Analytics, and the team has created a series of videos to teach you about many advanced features.

These videos could have included a presentation, and now you can create presentations from within Google Docs itself. Now we the great collaboration experience that we have for docs and spreadsheets can be had for your presentations. Please use this power for good, and no slides with 20 bullet points!

To finish up, I can get quick access to results from two of my favourite sports. A quick cricket search gives me all of the Twenty20 scores, and iGoogle gives me the rugby world cup results.

All in all a great week! As always, check out the latest tech talks, subscribe to the Google Developer Podcast and visit the Google Code YouTube channel.

URL: http://google-code-updates.blogspot.com/2007/09/weekly-google-code-roundup-javascript.html

ROI: why it matters and how to track it -- part 2 of 3

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Inside AdWords: ROI: why it matters and how to track it -- part 2 of 3

Last week we introduced Fred Vallaeys, Product Evangelist for AdWords, and turned him loose on a topic that is likely to be of particular interest to just about every advertiser: Return on Investment (ROI). Today, Fred is back with part two of this three part series:

In part one of the series, I explained that it's important to measure ROI because this metric gives you the complete picture about the profitability of the keywords in your AdWords account. This week, I'll cover how to start collecting ROI data in your own AdWords account. Since ROI depends on how often you convert clicks into customers and how much profit you make on every transaction, you'll need to enable conversion tracking with conversion values in your account. Let's take a look at how to do this.

Conversion tracking is a free tool available in every AdWords Standard Edition account, and can be found by clicking on the 'Tools' link under the 'Account Management' tab. Once there, to start tracking ROI, click 'Start Tracking Conversions' on the Conversion Tracking page. In the two screens that follow, select the type of conversion you wish to track and the colors for the text block on your conversion page. The third page in the setup process is where you set the monetary value of the conversion by clicking the link 'Advanced option: conversion value' and entering your profit for the conversion.

You may remember from last week that we defined ROI as your profit divided by the cost of AdWords. AdWords will automatically track the amount spent on ads but you, as the business owner, must define the profit every time a conversion takes place. If every transaction has the same profit (e.g. when you sell a subscription for a fixed price), you can always set the same numeric value that represents your profit for the conversion. When you're selling items with different profits, you can set a different value for every transaction. Calculate the value to set by subtracting the cost of the item from the price for which you sold it. Note that your numeric value should not include a currency symbol and needs to use the decimal separator appropriate for your interface language. More details on entering your conversion values may be found here.

Your webmaster, or the person in charge of your website, can also use dynamically generated values to set the right profit value every time a conversion happens. We've documented the details of this process in the conversion tracking setup guide (.pdf).

Once conversion tracking is active, you'll see a few new columns in your account labeled 'Conv. Rate,' 'Cost/Conv.' (where Conv. is the abbreviation for Conversions) and 'Conversions'. Notice that ROI is not one of the new columns. To see your ROI based on your conversion tracking information you'll need to run a Keyword Performance report from the 'Reports' tab. Be sure to include the 'Value/cost' column (which is your ROI expressed as a percent) from the 'Add/Remove columns' menu. You'll probably want to save this report as a template and schedule it to run periodically. Note that you also have the opportunity to give your report/template a descriptive name, such as 'ROI Report by Keyword.'

For your reference, here is an example of such a report, with the Value/cost column highlighted:

(Click screenshot for a full-size image)

With your report in hand, you can see the ROI for every campaign, ad group and keyword. Any time the Value/cost is greater than 100%, you're making money, and the higher the value, the more profit you're making. This is powerful data that can help you optimize your account -- and next week I'll give some specific examples of how to use this data to give yourself an edge over your competitors.

URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/09/roi-why-it-matters-and-how-to-track-it_21.html

iGoogle tackles the Rugby World Cup

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Official Google Blog: iGoogle tackles the Rugby World Cup



Salut! You may have heard by now that France (relieved after our recent win over Namibia) is currently hosting the sixth Rugby World Cup, which is a gathering of the best rugby teams from around the world competing for the coveted Ellis Cup. You Yanks should imagine the Super Bowl, but held only once every four years, with 20 teams from around the globe -- and without padding or helmets!

Four years ago, when England won the last Rugby World Cup, we French Rooster fans began planning for the next global matchup. Meanwhile, our French superstar S├ębastien Chabal -- otherwise known as The French Beast, The Anesthetist, Attila or the Caveman -- has grown longer hair, a longer beard and bigger muscles. And he's back for this year's World Cup! To help track The French Beast's team's (or any other team's) progress towards victory, we created an iGoogle tab complete with a variety of gadgets that puts you in the middle of the action. The tab features live scores, group standings, a map of the venues, fan videos from YouTube, and a fun "make some noise" gadget that lets you cheer on your favorite team. With the iGoogle Rugby World Cup tab, you can experience the action in an entirely new way. Even if you've never used iGoogle before, you can add the tab here. Alternatively, type [rugby] into the Google search box and click on "add to my Google page."

In line with the international aspect of this sporting event, this tab is available in the following countries: USA, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, UK (Wales, Scotland and England), Romania, Georgia, Namibia, South Africa, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy and Argentina. Whether you're a fan of S├ębastian Chabal, Dan Carter or Stirling Mortlock, use the iGoogle Rugby tab to keep track of the action. And if these names don't mean anything to you, tune into the Rugby World Cup and they soon will!

URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/igoogle-tackles-rugby-world-cup.html

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Create your own newspaper ads

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Inside AdWords: Create your own newspaper ads

Back in July, we made Google Print Ads available to AdWords advertisers in the U.S. Today, we're happy to introduce a free tool that will make newspaper advertising even easier: an ad creation tool that lets anyone design a customized and professional-looking newspaper ad in minutes.

Simply plug the text of your ad, image, and contact details into pre-designed ad templates, and the tool will automatically generate multiple designs you can choose from. If you need to change your messaging or resize your image, you can edit individual ads directly in the interface. And any ad you create using this tool can be reused as many times as you need in future print campaigns.

This tool currently supports six ad sizes, ranging from 1 col. x 1 in. to 2 col. x 7 in. Below are some examples of different types and sizes of ads that might appear in your Print Ads account:

(Please click on the image to see the full size.)

If you are interested in Print Ads, you can read more details on this new ads creation tool here.

URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/09/create-your-own-newspaper-ads.html

First click free

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Google News Blog: First click free



As a college student, I use Google every day – email, news, documents and spreadsheets – you name the product, and I probably use it. This has made my summer internship with the Google News Support team even more illuminating. Though I thought I knew the ins and outs of many Google products (and there are lots of them), I'm actually only a beginner.

The News Support team interacts with users on a daily basis; we're the go-to people for help and troubleshooting for our readers and publishers. We work hard to provide a comprehensive experience for Google News readers - from occasional surfers to news junkies. Whether we're adding new sources or supporting new features (like video!), users are one of our primary concerns. Does a certain source have original articles that you will be interested in? Will you be able to access these articles?

One feature I've become more aware of is First click free. If you aren't familiar, First click free is a way for publishers to share their subscription-only content with Google News readers. All articles that are accessed from Google News are allowed to skip over the subscription page.

In practice, this means that when you click on a link from Google News, you'll be able to see the article without receiving a prompt to login. If you would like to read more from the same source and choose to click on another story, you'll be taken to a registration prompt. We like to think of First click free as a simple system that allows you to test drive a news source before signing up on their site.

Finally, if publishers of subscription-based sites aren't a part of our First click free program, we're still happy to include their content – we'll just tag the source as "(subscription)" to let you know that when you click on that article, you'll be directed to a subscription page.

If you love the current features of Google News like First click free (or if you don't) you can share your thoughts with us on the Google News group. We look forward to hearing from you!

URL: http://googlenewsblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/first-click-free.html

New GData JavaScript library enables full read and write access for your mashups

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Google Code - Updates: New GData JavaScript library enables full read and write access for your mashups



I am really excited to see the release of the GData JavaScript Client Library for Calendar that allows you to do a lot more with Calendar GData mashups.

Developers have been able to work with our GData feeds from JavaScript for over a year, but only in a read-only capacity. There are plenty of mashups that can be done that way, but what if you want an application that ties into personal content? What if you would like to write an Ajax client that can create, update, or delete entries as well as read it?

Now you can. This release allows you full read-write access to Google Calendar from JavaScript. Instead of requiring server-side proxies to do this for you, AuthSub is fully supported from within the pure JavaScript client.

You can login by doing something similar to:
function logMeIn() {
scope = "http://www.google.com/calendar/feeds";
var token = google.accounts.user.login(scope);
}

function setupMyService() {
var myService =
new google.gdata.calendar.CalendarService('exampleCo-exampleApp-1');
logMeIn();
return myService;
}
I got to sit down with Jun Yang, who worked on this code, and got his take on the new library:



Armed with this new functionality, I can only imagine how the mashups will become richer. I can't wait to see them!

URL: http://google-code-updates.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-gdata-javascript-library-enables.html

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Custom icons for your maps

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Google LatLong: Custom icons for your maps



When we first started developing the map creation tools in Google Maps, I found a turkey hiding among the Maps placemark icons, a Thanksgiving leftover, no doubt. I proposed we include it in our icon menu. For some reason, no one else on the team seemed to think that was a good idea. I'm guessing few of you have been clamoring for a turkey, but perhaps you have wished for some other symbol that we neglected to include.

Today we've added support for custom icons, so now you can use any image on the web for your placemarks. Just click on the new 'Add an icon' link in the icon menu, type the URL into the dialog box, and you're good to go. I typed in http://google.com/mapfiles/turkey.png to get my majestic bird.



You can also make up your own icons. Although many image formats will work, PNGs with transparent backgrounds look best on the map. Another idea is to use photo thumbnails. Here's a map showing where some of my teammates and I come from.



As an added bonus, all the new icons you add to a map are listed under the 'My icons' tab in the icon menu, making it easy to reuse them for other placemarks.

URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2007/09/custom-icons-for-your-maps.html

Google Analytics Videos On YouTube

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Google Analytics Blog: Google Analytics Videos On YouTube

We have put a tremendous amount of effort into making Google Analytics more intuitive and easy to use. The hard part is teaching people how to use their insights to drive action. We hope to change that with the introduction of our very own Google Analytics Playlist on YouTube. Here you can check out full-length presentations on advanced analytics implementation, best practices, how to create a data driven culture and more.

We have a solid lineup of videos to start with taken on August 1st when we held our first ever Google Conversion University event. It was attended by 100+ representatives from major companies across all major verticals. Attendees got the chance to share ideas, meet with our team, and listen to some great presentations on optimizing their web analytics experiences. You will find those presentations, filmed live in August, now on YouTube.

Those of you who want to pick up a few quick tips might be interested in 'Bounce Rate: The Simply Powerful Metric ', 'Non Ecommerce Sites: Beyond Averages...', and ' Context and Actionability in Web Analytics' by Avinash Kaushik, our resident Analytics Evangelist, blogger, and author of Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. We also have the complete sessions, including an introduction to Conversion University by Brett Crosby, Sr. Manager, which provides perspective on the evolution and direction of Google Analytics. Stephanie Hsu covers key reports for the optimal AdWords campaign. Alex Ortiz touches upon a number of advanced techniques such as segmentation through filters. And Tom Leung covered how to enhance your entire user experience using Website Optimizer.

In the future, you can expect more in-depth content about the Google Analytics product to be filmed and posted here in this Playlist. These videos are a great source of insight into how you can continually improve your web analytics practices, and even into our own team here at Google. We hope you enjoy them.


URL: http://analytics.blogspot.com/2007/09/google-analytics-videos-on-youtube.html

Introducing Google Gadget Ads

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Inside AdSense: Introducing Google Gadget Ads

Today we launched Google Gadget Ads, customized "mini-sites" that run as ads on AdSense publisher websites. These ads are interactive, engaging, and will appeal to your users, simultaneously providing value to advertisers while getting visitors to stick around your site. The end result is that advertisers get more engaged users, users have a richer ad experience, and publishers opted in to image ads may see increased competition for their ad space.

What does a gadget ad look like? We're glad you asked. Below is a gadget ad that we've built to advertise our AdSense program.




Gadget ads can take a number of shapes, sizes, and formats. If you're interested in seeing other cool gadget ads, you can check out our Google Gadget Ad Center. Also, please rest assured that gadget ads must adhere to our editorial policies, so there won't be any distracting "punch the monkey" ads.

Ready to start displaying gadget ads on your website? While there's no guarantee that they'll appear on your site, you can increase the chances that they'll be shown by making sure you're opted in to image ads and using one of the image ad formats. Please note that the most popular sizes for gadget ads are the rectangle, leaderboard, and skyscraper formats.

Also, keep in mind that there are a few things advertisers look for when targeting their ads to specific sites.

Got questions about gadget ads? We've got answers -- check out our Help Center.

URL: http://adsense.blogspot.com/2007/09/introducing-google-gadget-ads.html

New Website Optimizer Strategy and Tips

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Inside AdWords: New Website Optimizer Strategy and Tips

Recently, we announced new features for Website Optimizer, including the ability to easily create and launch A/B split experiments. Today, we'd like to share with you a new testing strategy for Website Optimizer as well as two opportunities to hear Tom Leung, Product Manager on Website Optimizer, speak about these latest updates.

The Website Optimizer team has put together a new testing strategy called Time on page as a conversion goal. This strategy outlines how to set your conversion goal as a specific amount of time a visitor spends on your site. For example, if you want to test whether visitors to your site are watching a 30 second video in its entirety, Website Optimizer can accomplish this by recording each time a visitor spends 30 seconds on that page as a conversion. Full instructions on implementing this strategy and others are available on the Testing Guides and Strategies page.

If you'd like to hear more about these latest features, two of our Website Optimizer Partners recently sat down with Tom Leung, Product Manager for Website Optimizer, to chat about the new additions. You can sign up for a one-time replay of an hour-long webinar with Tom, which is scheduled for this Thursday, September 20th at 2pm EST. Alternatively, you can also listen to a 15 minute interview with Tom, available here.

We hope you'll find this material helpful. If you are looking for other creative ways to improve conversions with Website Optimizer, check out the Website Optimizer Help Center.

URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-website-optimizer-strategy-and-tips.html

Previewing content in Google Earth

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Google LatLong: Previewing content in Google Earth



You might go to Google Earth to look up something specific—your house, your next vacation spot or close-up pictures of elephants in Africa, for example. Or sometimes you might just feel like wandering the earth, diving in to find out more about a particular location or topic. But where do you start? There's so much fascinating content in Google Earth created by partners like National Geographic Magazine, the Jane Goodall Institute and NASA that it can be hard to get going. We're happy to announce that we've added a 'preview' layer, a selection of placemarks that highlight our many content layers, to help make this exploration easier. It's a new, easy way to see what's out there without getting overwhelmed.

Say, for instance, you're exploring the southwestern region of the United States, and you click on a National Geographic placemark over Arizona. And then, after reading about the Grand Canyon, you get curious about what other photos National Geographic has of the region. Just click on the 'Show this layer' link at the top of the bubble, and you'll be able to explore this area more fully.

Here's what you'd see in the National Geographic 'preview' layer:



And here's what you'd see after clicking on the 'Show this layer' link. When you're finished looking, you can click "Hide this layer" and the National Geographic icons will disappear.

URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2007/09/previewing-content-in-google-earth.html

Lessons in Building Scalable Systems

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Google Talkabout: Lessons in Building Scalable Systems

I gave a presentation about the Google Talk Service a while ago at the Google Scalability Conference hosted by Googlers in Seattle. You can watch the video below.

Here is the abstract:
Since launching Google Talk in the summer of 2005, we have integrated the service with two large existing products: Gmail and orkut. Each of these integrations provided unique scalability challenges as we had to handle a sudden large increase in the number of users. Today, Google Talk supports millions of users and handles billions of packets per day. In the presentation, I discuss several practical lessons and key insights from our experience that can be used for any project. These lessons cover both engineering and operational areas.



Posted by Reza Behforooz, Software Engineer

URL: http://googletalk.blogspot.com/2007/09/lessons-in-building-scalable-systems.html

Updates from the Django Sprint

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Google Code - Updates: Updates from the Django Sprint



More than 200 people around the world devoted their time and brainpower to improving the Django Web framework this weekend, during a scheduled Django coding sprint. On Friday, September 14th, the first day of the sprint, some Django developers gathered at Google's offices in Chicago and Mountain View for the benefits of in-person communication, camaraderie and, yes, free food.

17 people showed up at Google Chicago, which was a sort of ground zero for the sprint, with the project's BDFLs Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss in attendance. Another 7 people participated from Google's Mountain View office, which was linked with Chicago via videoconference.

Python creator (and Google employee) Guido van Rossum even stopped by via videoconference to give a pep talk about Django version 1.0 and share some of his experience running a large open-source project.

The sprint was intensely productive, with more than 400 tickets closed in the Django issue-tracking system, 300 new patches/ticket attachments and more than 200 commits to the Django code base. All told, there were more than 2,440 changes, including wiki changes, ticket changes, patch uploads and code check-ins.

Overall, the consensus was: "We should do this more often!"


The Chicago sprinters, hard at work (photo by Jacob Kaplan-Moss)

URL: http://google-code-updates.blogspot.com/2007/09/updates-from-django-sprint.html

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Websites that may merit a low landing page quality score

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Inside AdWords: Websites that may merit a low landing page quality score

Our landing page quality guidelines have always stressed the importance of directing users to easily navigable landing pages that are transparent about the advertiser's business and that contain relevant and original content. In our ongoing effort to provide advertisers greater transparency about our approach to landing page quality, we recently created a new FAQ in the AdWords Help Center outlining the types of business models that users have consistently commented on as providing a poor experience. You can find the new FAQ here -- and below, we've highlighted the most important points:

Types of websites that will be penalized with low landing page quality scores:
  • Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information
  • Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads
  • Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor's computer
If we receive user complaints about ads for the types of websites listed above, the advertisers of those websites may not be allowed to continue running AdWords ads for those websites.

The following types of websites are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. In addition, it's important for advertisers of these types of websites to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines regarding unique content.
  • eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware
  • 'Get rich quick' sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines
Please note that all of the above information, along with further details regarding landing page quality may be found in the AdWords Help Center.

Lastly, you may recall past Inside AdWords blog notices alerting advertisers about upcoming landing page quality updates. Since our systems frequently visit landing pages and update Quality Scores on a regular basis, we will no longer post advance notice of upcoming updates. We will, however, continue to inform you of any significant changes to landing page quality guidelines or the factors which are considered in calculating landing page quality.

URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/09/websites-that-may-merit-low-landing.html

Custom Search for Salesforce Developers

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Google Custom Search: Custom Search for Salesforce Developers

Posted by: Ryan Pollock, Product Marketing

I recently met with Adam Gross, VP of Developer Relations at Salesforce.com, to hear how developer.salesforce.com uses Google Custom Search. The company is building a community and knowledge base for developers on its Apex platform, and needs a search engine across a variety of content sites, including blogs and wikis. Adam says that Custom Search Business Edition is ideal for their needs, since it's easy to search multiple sites and access search results through an XML API. From the time he learned about Custom Search Business Edition, Adam says it only took a few days to install and create a look and feel for search results that matches the rest of the site.

To hear the story in Adam's own words, check out this video.

And if you're interested in hearing more about our work with Salesforce, we're at their Dreamforce conference this week, so come by to see us.


URL: http://googlecustomsearch.blogspot.com/2007/09/custom-search-for-salesforce-developers.html

Last call

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Inside AdSense: Last call

If you haven't yet enrolled in tomorrow's webinar, What's New with AdSense, it's not too late. Just visit the link below:

https://googleonline.webex.com/googleonline/onstage/g.php?t=a&d;=572956326

The webinar will take place online from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm PDT, and members of our team will be discussing the latest AdSense features. We look forward to seeing you there!

URL: http://adsense.blogspot.com/2007/09/last-call.html

Every percent counts

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Google LatLong: Every percent counts

Posted by Chris Harrelson, Software Engineer, Google Transit

The Google Transit team has been busy lately. In the last few weeks alone we've added trip planning coverage for:

- Buses and light rail in Dallas, Texas
- The Las Vegas Monorail
- Humboldt County, CA
- Thousand Oaks, CA
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)

I'm especially excited about this last one, since it's our first partner agency to serve my hometown of Berkeley, CA. Oh, and there's one more reason I like BART. As you may know, Google Transit began its life as a 20 percent project. Now, the fine folks at BART have furthered their collaboration with us in BART 1 percent time which is like 20 percent time, only, as our friends at BART explain, "it's one person and 19 percent less time." This data is available for anyone who wants to access it in the Google Transit Feed Specification, a creative commons-licensed data format we've developed to help facilitate sharing of data within the transit community.

There's also great news for Europe. We've added transit stop icons to Google Maps for a new batch of cities. In addition to Dublin, Ireland and Linz, Austria, the following 12 cities in Germany have also joined the club: Augsburg, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bunde, Dresden, Jena, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Lubeck, Mainz, Rostock and Trier.

URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2007/09/every-percent-counts.html

Google Reader goes multilingual

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Official Google Blog: Google Reader goes multilingual



I've been traveling a bunch in the past few days, and the one thing I've noticed is the variety of newspapers you're offered on every flight in Europe. In London, where I am now, my hotel has between 10 and 15 newspapers in the lobby from around the world in different languages. So I started thinking about how news plays an increasingly important role across the world.

Of course, blogs have also become an international phenomenon. They're not constrained by language or nationality — in fact, blogs have become an important way to bring rise to independent reporters and writers. And there are more and more people who wish to read blogs in other languages. Up until now, our blog and news site service, Google Reader, was only available in English. As of today, it supports these languages: French, Italian, German, Spanish, English (UK), Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Japanese, and Korean.

With this announcement (you might enjoy this take from the Reader blog), I'm also happy to tell you that we're removing the "Labs" label from Google Reader. It's a small textual change, but we believe it solidifies our commitment to make reading blogs and news sites easier than ever. So try Google Reader and get all your blogs and news sites in one place.

URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/google-reader-goes-multilingual.html

Monday, September 17, 2007

Quick security checklist for webmasters

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Quick security checklist for webmasters

Written by Nathan Johns, Search Quality Team

In recent months, there's been a noticeable increase in the number of compromised websites around the web. One explanation is that people are resorting to hacking sites in order to distribute malware or attempt to spam search results. Regardless of the reason, it's a great time for all of us to review helpful webmaster security tips.

Obligatory disclaimer: While we've collected tips and pointers below, and we encourage webmasters to "please try the following at home," this is by no means an exhaustive list for your website's security. We hope it's useful, but we recommend that you conduct more thorough research as well.

  • Check your server configuration.
Apache has some security configuration tips on their site and Microsoft has some tech center resources for IIS on theirs. Some of these tips include information on directory permissions, server side includes, authentication and encryption.

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest software updates and patches.
A common pitfall for many webmasters is to install a forum or blog on their website and then forget about it. Much like taking your car in for a tune-up, it's important to make sure you have all the latest updates for any software program you have installed. Need some tips? Blogger Mark Blair has a few good ones, including making a list of all the software and plug-ins used for your website and keeping track of the version numbers and updates. He also suggests taking advantage of any feeds their websites may provide.

  • Regularly keep an eye on your log files.
Making this a habit has many great benefits, one of which is added security. You might be surprised with what you find.

  • Check your site for common vulnerabilities.
Avoid having directories with open permissions. This is almost like leaving the front door to your home wide open, with a door mat that reads "Come on in and help yourself!" Also check for any XSS (cross-site scripting) and SQL injection vulnerabilities. Finally, choose good passwords. The Gmail support center has some good guidelines to follow, which can be helpful for choosing passwords in general.

  • Be wary of third-party content providers.
If you're considering installing an application provided by a third party, such as a widget, counter, ad network, or webstat service, be sure to exercise due diligence. While there are lots of great third-party content on the web, it's also possible for providers to use these applications to push exploits, such as dangerous scripts, towards your visitors. Make sure the application is created by a reputable source. Do they have a legitimate website with support and contact information? Have other webmasters used the service?

  • Try a Google site: search to see what's indexed.
This may seem a bit obvious, but it's commonly overlooked. It's always a good idea to do a sanity check and make sure things look normal. If you're not already familiar with the site: search operator, it's a way for you to restrict your search to a specific site. For example, the search site:googleblog.blogspot.com will only return results from the Official Google Blog.
They're free, and include all kinds of good stuff like a site status wizard and tools for managing how Googlebot crawls your site. Another nice feature is that if Google believes your site has been hacked to host malware, our webmaster console will show more detailed information, such as a sample of harmful URLs. Once you think the malware is removed, you then can request a reevaluation through Webmaster Tools.

  • Use secure protocols.
SSH and SFTP should be used for data transfer, rather than plain text protocols such as telnet or FTP. SSH and SFTP use encryption and are much safer. For this and many other useful tips, check out StopBadware.org's Tips for Cleaning and Securing Your Website.

Here's some great content about online security and safety with pointers to lots of useful resources. It's a good one to add to your Google Reader feeds. :)

  • Contact your hosting company for support.
Most hosting companies have helpful and responsive support groups. If you think something may be wrong, or you simply want to make sure you're in the know, visit their website or give 'em a call.

We hope you find these tips helpful. If you have some of your own tips you'd like to share, feel free to leave a comment below or start a discussion in the Google Webmaster Help group. Practice safe webmastering!

URL: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/09/quick-security-checklist-for-webmasters.html

Breaking up isn't hard to do

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Official Google Reader Blog: Breaking up isn't hard to do

Dear "Labs",

Broken Heart Labs BeakerWe don't know how to tell you this, but it's time that we break up. It's just that we're different now. People can search. They can share what they read. They can even see trends about what they read, and how often they do it. There are all sorts of things we could do in the future to make feed reading awesome. And that means you just can't be around anymore.

But don't be sad. We'll always remember the good times: our first date, when we rolled out the new user-interface together, and the way sometimes we could just sit there and not talk at all because you are just a label.

When we get all teary-eyed and reminiscent we might even put on that mix tape you made us; the one with Paula Cole and Guster. We'll think of you.

Today is a big day for us. We learned to speak some new languages. And frankly, you don't translate well. But we both speak English, and we know that "u" and "I" are far apart in the alphabet. We're farther in real life.

It's not you. It's us.

Love always,

The Google Reader Team

Image based on a photo by CarbonNYC.

URL: http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2007/09/breaking-up-isnt-hard-to-do.html

Our feature presentation

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Official Google Blog: Our feature presentation



In April we announced that we were working to bring presentations to Google Docs. (Astute readers may recall learning about this even earlier, which caused a bit of excitement around here.) And today we're unveiling the new Google Docs presentations feature and invite you to try it at documents.google.com. Maybe more than any other type of document, presentations are created to be shared. But assembling slide decks by emailing them around is as frustrating as it is time-consuming. The new presentations feature of Google Docs helps you to easily organize, share, present, and collaborate on presentations, using only a web browser.

Starting today, presentations -- whether imported from existing files or created using the new slide editor -- are listed alongside documents and spreadsheets in the Google Docs document list. They can be edited, shared, and published using the familiar Google Docs interface, with several collaborators working on a slide deck simultaneously, in real time. When it's time to present, participants can simply click a link to follow along as the presenter takes the audience through the slideshow. Participants are connected through Google Talk and can chat about the presentation as they're watching. Not wanting anyone to feel left out, we've made the presentation feature available in 25 languages; Google Apps customers can also access it as part of Google Docs.

We hope the millions of people who already create and share documents and spreadsheets will find presentations a welcome addition to the Google Docs family, and we can't wait to add even more features and enhancements.

If you're new to Google Docs, watch this video to learn more about creating and collaborating on documents (and now presentations!).

URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/our-feature-presentation.html

And now we present...

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Official Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog: And now we present...



Earlier this year, we told you that in addition to documents and spreadsheets, we'd soon be adding support for presentations as well. We know you've been waiting, and today we're excited to invite you to try out presentations for yourself at http://documents.google.com.

Just like Google documents and spreadsheets, presentations are stored securely online, so you can access them from anywhere using only a web browser. Working together with one or more people to put together a killer presentation? Not a problem, just like with documents and spreadsheets, you can collaborate with others and see everyone's changes in real time. If you're new to Google Docs, check out this video to learn more:



If you're starting your presentation from scratch, you can pick from several pre-defined themes and layouts; if you already have a presentation, you can import that as well. Once you've started, you can easily add additional text and images, and of course, you can move and resize everything so that it looks just the way you want.

When you're ready to share your presentation with your friends, customers, or even the world, it's easy to do using the familiar Google Docs interface. You can even walk your audience through the slides online in real time. Participants simply click a link to join and follow along, and everyone can chat about the presentation together.

We're excited about making presentations available today in response to your requests, and we're looking forward to rolling out updates and improvements to this feature over the coming months. Or, as my son likes to say, "Google. Slide. Weee!" We hope you'll feel the same way.

URL: http://google-d-s.blogspot.com/2007/09/and-now-we-present.html

Here comes mobile

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Inside AdSense: Here comes mobile



We've just launched AdSense for mobile, which can help you expand your online content to new platforms. If you have a website optimized for mobile browsers, or are interested in creating one, you can start monetizing your mobile site by accessing a growing number of our mobile advertisers.

When you add the new AdSense for mobile code to your site, we'll display relevant ads using the same targeting technology that you are familiar with for existing AdSense products.

To get started:
1) Sign in to your account.
2) Select the AdSense Setup tab and click on AdSense for mobile.
3) Follow the instructions to customize your ad unit for AdSense for mobile.



For the time being, publishers are welcome to add one ad unit to any mobile website that complies with our program policies. For more information, including technical requirements, visit the AdSense Help Center.

URL: http://adsense.blogspot.com/2007/09/here-comes-mobile.html

AdWords Seminars: new locations and dates

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Inside AdWords: AdWords Seminars: new locations and dates

Do you love the tips you read on Inside AdWords but want to learn more?

Here's your opportunity to attend an AdWords Seminar taught by a search marketing professional. We are excited to tell you about the locations of the Beginner & Intermediate level AdWords Seminars for the upcoming season: San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. If you'd like to attend one of these sessions, you can find out more details including dates, course outlines, seminar leader bios, and registration instructions on the AdWords Seminars site. Register at least seven days in advance, and we'll even throw in a $50 AdWords credit.

If you don't see your city listed, and would like to be informed by email the next time an AdWords Seminar visits a city near you, you can let us know by filling out this form.

URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2007/09/adwords-seminars-new-locations-and.html

The FTC's close look at online advertising

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Google Public Policy Blog: The FTC's close look at online advertising



Online advertising is still a relatively new industry, and the recent flurry of acquisitions in this space – by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and other companies – has drawn even more attention to the issues it raises, including privacy. That's why we're glad to see that the Federal Trade Commission is planning a Town Hall for November 1 and 2 to look at some of the issues surrounding online behavioral advertising. The public discussion of behavioral advertising and its privacy implications is an important one, and we believe that it is one best had with a broad set of stakeholders and a full picture of the online advertising business.

With that in mind, late last week we sent comments recommending that the Town Hall address two additional topics. We did so in response to the FTC's request for suggested Town Hall topics in addition to the very timely questions it already plans to pursue. Specifically, our letter recommended that the FTC consider:
  • The rapidly changing business landscape of online advertising, and the role it plays in providing free, accessible, user-friendly, and high-quality content to consumers. Since 2000, annual online revenue in the U.S. alone grew from $8 billion to over $17 billion. The growth in online advertising has also spurred innovation, competition, and investment in the online advertising space – all of which produce consumer benefits in the form of more online resources and more relevant information. In our experience consumers value the advertisements that we deliver along with search results and other web content, which connect them to the information, products, and services they seek. Simply put, advertising is information, and relevant advertising is information that is useful to consumers.

  • The ways in which online advertising is contributing to a healthy and vibrant small business community. We know that many website owners can afford to dedicate themselves to their sites more fully – and sometimes full-time – because a significant percentage of the revenue we earn from advertising ends up in their hands as publishers of blogs and other websites and our advertising partners. In 2006, Google paid $3.3 billion in revenue to our partners. Our advertising network helps small businesses connect in an affordable and effective manner with otherwise unreachable consumers, including consumers in small, remote, or niche markets. An advertiser decides exactly how much money to spend on advertising, and can tie its spending directly to the response of a potential customer.

Of course, we continue to focus our attention on the privacy of our users, and privacy ought to be an important component of the Town Hall. We recognize that user, advertiser, and website publisher trust is critical to the success of our business, and we've taken a number of recent steps to help bolster our already strong privacy policies. We also think our acquisition of DoubleClick provides an opportunity for us to bolster privacy even further.

We're looking forward to talking more about these issues at the Town Hall.

URL: http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2007/09/ftcs-close-look-at-online-advertising.html

Information flow tracing and software testing

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Google Online Security Blog: Information flow tracing and software testing



Security testing of applications is regularly performed using fuzz testing. As previously discussed on this blog, Srinath's Lemon uses a form of smart fuzzing. Lemon is aware of classes of web application threats and the input families which trigger them, but not all fuzz testing frameworks have to be this complicated. Fuzz testing originally relied on purely random data, ignorant of specific threats and known dangerous input. Today, this approach is often overlooked in favor of more complicated techniques. Early sanity checks in applications looking for something as a simple as a version number may render testing with completely random input ineffective. However, the newer, more complicated fuzz testers require a considerable initial investment in the form of complete input format specifications or the selection of a large corpus of initial input samples.

At WOOT'07,I presented a paper on Flayer, a tool we developed internally to augment our security testing efforts. In particular, it allows for a fuzz testing technique that compromises between the original idea and the most complicated. Flayer makes it possible to remove input sanity checks at execution time. With the small investment of identifying these checks, Flayer allows for completely random testing to be performed with much higher efficacy. Already, we've uncovered multiple vulnerabilities in Internet-critical software using this approach.

The way that Flayer allows for sanity checks to be identified is perhaps the more interesting point. Flayer uses a dynamic analysis framework to analyze the target application at execution time. Flayer marks, or taints, input to the program and traces that data throughout its lifespan. Considerable research has been done in the past regarding information flow tracing using dynamic analysis. Primarily, this work has been aimed at malware and exploit detection and defense. However, none of the resulting software has been made publicly available.

While Flayer is still in its early stages, it is available for download under the GNU Public License. External contributions and feedback are encouraged!

URL: http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2007/09/information-flow-tracing-and-software.html