Friday, October 12, 2007

[G] Our advertising policies and political speech

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Google Public Policy Blog: Our advertising policies and political speech

A recent article about our treatment of a political ad placed on Google suggested that we make decisions about advertising content based on the political viewpoint of the advertiser and the ad. This is simply untrue. We do not accept or reject ads based on the political opinions expressed in the ads or the political views of the advertiser.

Let me explain the facts behind the matter and the policy behind the decision.

Recently, representatives of Senator Susan Collins' Senate re-election campaign tried to place an ad on Google that included a reference to, a political group. The text of this ad was rejected by our system because of our trademark policy, not because of its political content.

Under our trademark policy, a registered trademark owner may request that its mark not be used in the text of other parties' ads. Some time ago, submitted a request to Google that its trademark not be used in any ads, and as a result our advertiser support team offered instructions on how Senator Collins' campaign could edit and resubmit its ad.

Any company or organization -- regardless of political affiliation -- could do what MoveOn did and thereby prevent advertisers from running ads that include their trademarks in ad texts. And that's very important. The ad in question could have said that was great, or even just so-so, and our policy would have resulted in the same outcome; Google would have asked the advertiser to drop the trademarked phrase.

Our trademark policy is considered one of the least restrictive in the industry. It strikes a balance among the interests of users, advertisers, and trademark owners by leaving it up to trademark owners to notify us of restrictions on their registered trademarks. Any entity that demonstrates to us that it owns trademark rights can request that its trademarked terms not be used in the text of Google ads.

Finally, it was claimed that "Google routinely permits the unauthorized use of [other] company advocacy ads." In fact, if ads are running on Google that include trademark terms in their text, either the trademark owner has not submitted a complaint, or the advertiser has been authorized to use the trademark.

We are committed to fairness and freedom of expression, and we recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate. We look forward to engaging in this debate in an open and transparent fashion, and we encourage political candidates and campaigns to contact our elections team with any questions they may have about our policies.


[G] Blogger Play, in Gadget Form

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Blogger Buzz: Blogger Play, in Gadget Form

Have you been enjoying Blogger Play? We introduced it here last month and so far it's been mesmerizing viewers across the Internet with the latest photos as they're uploaded to Blogger blogs.

Today we're letting you take Blogger Play with you to your iGoogle homepage with the Blogger Play Google Gadget:

Add to Google
Click the button to get Play on your homepage!

We also took the opportunity to add keyboard control to the big version of Blogger Play: spacebar plays and pauses, and the left and right arrow keys move backwards and forwards.


[G] Zoom in on Google Maps

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Google LatLong: Zoom in on Google Maps

Remember what would happen as the Six Million Dollar Man chased after bad guys and needed a closer view of the action? The "na na na na... " sound effect would come on and then he would use his bionic eye to zoom in to see what was going on. Well, now we've given you a bionic eye on Google Maps! OK, not a literal bionic eye, as Steve Austin had. But you can zoom in even closer to areas all around the globe for a more-detailed view of all of the imagery in our database.

Here are some examples of things you can now see:

Life-size Chess Board

Elephants in Africa

Hippos in Africa


[G] AdWords Optimization Tips: Brainstorming new keyword ideas

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Inside AdWords: AdWords Optimization Tips: Brainstorming new keyword ideas

Welcome back to our series on AdWords Optimization Tips. We recently received an email from an Inside AdWords reader, asking how to keep up with the latest trends in her ever-evolving industry of cosmetic dentistry. She wanted to make sure that her keywords were capturing all of the new, different ways potential customers are searching for her business. Previously, we covered how to first develop your core keywords and then create a list of modifier keywords. Today, we will discuss some other ways you can continually brainstorm new keyword ideas.

Google Trends
Have you tried Google Trends yet? As an advertiser, you can use Google Trends to look at the search volume for different keyword ideas. Perhaps a new medical procedure was introduced to your field -- you can use Google Trends to figure out how users are searching for it. On the same page, you can also read the latest articles related to your industry so you can keep up to date on all the important, well, trends. Simply enter any search query or compare two or more queries and Google Trends will return a graph of search volume and related articles. Google Trends statistics are updated daily and you can look at specific periods dating back to 2004. You can read more about how Google Trends works here.

Search Query Reports
The Search Query Report shows performance data for the search queries that triggered your ads that received clicks. Since this report includes search queries and their corresponding performance data, you can use this report to fine-tune existing keyword lists. Specifically, you can use this report to identify both new keywords and negative keywords that you'd like to add to your account to better control when you would like your ad to appear. You might also want to enter these terms in the Keyword Tool and see if users are searching for other similar terms. You can find a step-by-step guide on how to run a Search Query Performance report here.

Forums and Wikipedia
Discussion forums related to your industry and online information sources like Wikipedia are other ways to learn how the general public perceives your product or service. Browsing different discussion forums is a great way to keep track of all the buzz related to your industry. If there are misconceptions about your industry, you can use this information to your advantage. Say you work in healthcare, and you realize that many are concerned about a new treatment option -- you can then try to address these concerns in your campaigns.

Google Search
Last but not least, use Google search to your advantage. Perform Google searches to see what the most relevant results are for both natural and sponsored search results. You can check out the sponsored results to see what other people are advertising and use natural search results to find sites you can browse for new ideas. Looking at these results can also help you brainstorm new negative keyword ideas so that you can better target your audience.

We hope you've found these tips to be helpful. And as always, please let us know which optimization tips you would like to read about.


[G] GOOG-411 graduates from Labs

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Official Google Blog: GOOG-411 graduates from Labs

A few years ago, my younger brother won a car in a raffle. He wanted to share this good news with the entire family, so he decided to keep it a secret until we were all together at dinnertime. But good news is hard to keep; he couldn't wait, and by lunchtime we all knew about our new car. And now we have some exciting news of our own that we just can't contain any longer.

Many of you explored Google Labs and discovered a local business info service that's totally free. It's called GOOG-411 and it helps callers find and connect with local businesses just by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411. It's a voice-based local search service, which means it uses speech-recognition algorithms to recognize what a caller is saying and then finds the local business information he or she is looking for. These algorithms had to be trained with real utterances, much like how a baby learns language by listening to its parents. Since its unveiling in April, GOOG-411 has successfully served millions of callers. And we owe a big thanks to everyone who took our speech recognition algorithms from infancy to adulthood!

People have been spreading the word about GOOG-411 to their friends and families. And now we're happy to report that our local business info service has officially graduated from Labs. To mark the occasion, we're celebrating with a brand new website that includes this fun video:

When you watch the video, pay extra attention to the people you meet at the end. One of them is the real voice behind GOOG-411. Think you can guess who it is? When you call 1-800-GOOG-411, listen closely and see if you can identify which team member shown in the video is the voice. Then, post your answer as a comment on our YouTube page.


[G] Google Desktop for Linux 1.1 Beta

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Inside Google Desktop: Google Desktop for Linux 1.1 Beta

When we released the first version of Google Desktop for Linux this past June, we signaled a commitment to the Linux community: to develop for the platform and to support our Linux users. Since then, we have been hard at work to improve and refine our product. Today, we'd like to share what we've created by releasing Google Desktop for Linux 1.1 Beta.

Feedback from people like you shaped this update. Because many people wanted to search and launch applications, we added that functionality to the product. Desktop for Linux now supports many more image formats and will show better thumbnails for them in your search results. You can also customize the hotkey used to launch the quick search box. And most importantly, Desktop for Linux now searches the content of Microsoft Office documents - our most requested feature.

Please download the latest version and give it a spin. We hope you like it.


[G] Getting more quality inventory for publishers

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Inside AdSense: Getting more quality inventory for publishers

We're always working on new ways for you to get quality ad inventory, as well as developing safeguards to ensure that the conversions generated on publisher sites are valid. As you may know, referral ads are paid on a conversion basis; a conversion is considered a specific action defined by the advertiser. That action might be a sale, a clickthrough to a specific page on an advertiser site, or an online sign-up for a promotion.

We've recently made a change to help make sure that the conversions generated by referral ads are valid. For some publishers who display referrals for non-Google products, the earnings you receive for the ad may now be less than the maximum referral value displayed for that ad. This is because our system will initially place a restriction on referral earnings as we monitor click and conversion data to determine that the conversions generated are valid. Once this validation period ends, you'll begin earning the maximum value of the conversions as displayed in your account.

We can't say precisely how long the validation period will last, but will make every effort to ensure that it's as speedy as possible. It will vary by publisher since site activity is different for everyone, and we anticipate that the majority of you will be minimally affected. However, advertisers will only be charged the maximum referral value once a publisher has completed the validation period.

Our goal with this change is to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the referrals program for both publishers and advertisers. By increasing the value and quality of the referral network, we believe we'll attract more advertisers and provide more opportunities for you to earn.


[G] If you build it, they will eat it

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Official Google Blog: If you build it, they will eat it

To commemorate the first anniversary of our New York office in its current space, we decided to think big -- a giant scale-model cake of the entire block-long building. Our facilities manager, Laura Gimpel, and I came up with a plan to construct this tasty treat and serve it at last Thursday's anniversary celebration.

Our first step was to use Google Earth and Street View to get aerial views and photos of the building. Spanning an entire city block, the massive structure was originally constructed in 1932 to house the Port Authority of New York; today, it's Manhattan's second-largest building in square footage. Next, our pastry chef, Danita Holt, drew up the blueprints. After a few weeks of developing the plans, it was time to start pouring the foundation. The actual production took four days, with seven of us (two sous chefs, two pastry chefs, our executive chef, a line cook, and me) working on it. In total, we used 630 eggs, 105 pounds of sugar and 20 pounds of butter. The finished product was five feet long, three feet high and two feet wide. Now that's a lot of cake!

Perhaps even more challenging, we had to make sure there was no waste -- every last bite had to be eaten. The day after the celebration (when we did make a sizable dent), we served cake 'donuts' for breakfast. We got even more creative for lunch and offered an anniversary cake trifle and an amazing Oreo-infused anniversary cake pudding. Throughout the day, we put platters of leftover cake in the micro-kitchens, game room and library. The last of our creation was consumed on the balcony on Friday night around 7 p.m. by a group of hungry engineers.

This was one of the most memorable projects I've worked on so far. I can't wait to see what we do when our office turns two.


[G] Candidates at Google: Mike Gravel

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Google Public Policy Blog: Candidates at Google: Mike Gravel

Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK, 1969-1981) may have felt like a "potted plant" during the YouTube debate, but during his visit to the Googleplex Wednesday he was the center of attention. Senator Gravel became the sixth presidential candidate to visit (following Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson and John Edwards).

Google's Andrew McLaughlin wasted no time getting to the heart of Gravel's candidacy: his fervent opposition to the war in Iraq. Out on the campaign trail, Gravel is quick to mention his 1971 one-man, five-month filibuster that helped end the draft during the Vietnam War, but few have noticed that during Gravel's 1968 campaign for the Senate he ran a television ad opposing withdrawal. McLaughlin played the ad, and Gravel answered with a discussion about his political past and how he has changed. "That young man was very ambitious. This young man is very mature," he said.

While Gravel has made Iraq the center of his campaign, it didn't take long to discover that his true passion is his proposal for a national ballot initiative. Here in California we've had the ballot initiative since 1911, and it's safe to say we've had mixed results. Gravel assured Googlers that his national ballot initiative would be different because it would limit each initiative to one subject and cap the number of words at 5000.

Gravel wants to empower citizens to make laws, and he also wants to empower them to use currently-controlled substances (which could be an problematic combination). He said he supports ending the war on drugs and treating drug abuse as a public health problem. If he was president, he would allow marijuana to be sold "at the liquor store," while requiring a doctor's prescription for hard drugs like heroin and crystal meth. (He also gave a surprisingly detailed report on his own recreational drug use, which involved his son-in-law and ... you know, I'm not even going to try to summarize the story. Check the video.)

If Gravel's comments seem a little unusual for a presidential candidate, well, they are. The former Senator is running a unique campaign with limited funding. He has called his political opponents "gutless wonders" and published a popular video to YouTube in which he stares into the camera for one minute before dropping a rock into a lake. He expressed his appreciation to YouTube and the Internet for empowering him to get his message out.

Here's the complete video of Senator Gravel's town hall meeting:

Senator Gravel also sat for an interview with YouTube's Steve Grove, with the questions posed entirely by YouTube community members:


[G] Anita Borg Scholarships expand to Canada

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Official Google Blog: Anita Borg Scholarships expand to Canada

On my desk at work I have a little Canadian flag. I grew up in Toronto, Canada and attended school at the University of Toronto where I graduated with a degree in software engineering. Now I work in Mountain View designing tools to help improve our ads quality. But I've never forgotten where I'm from, and that's why I'm so excited that Google is announcing the expansion of our Anita Borg scholarship to Canada.

Dr. Anita Borg (1949-2003) devoted her adult life to revolutionizing the way we think about technology and dismantling barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. Her combination of technical expertise and fearless vision continues to inspire and motivate countless women to become active participants and leaders in creating technology. In honor of Dr. Borg's passion, for the past four years, Google has sponsored a scholarship program with the Anita Borg Institute for Women in the U.S., and more recently, in Europe and Australia.

This year, we're excited to announce the expansion of the program to include Canada, where we're very pleased to offer an opportunity to both undergraduate students and postgraduates, who may apply for CAD$5,000 scholarships. We're looking for women who will carry on the legacy of Dr. Borg, with strong academic backgrounds and demonstrated leadership qualities.

All scholarship recipients and finalists will be invited to visit the Google engineering office in New York City next April for a networking retreat featuring workshops with a series of speakers, panelists, breakout sessions and social activities.

Tell your friends, or apply yourself, at The deadline for the Canada program is Monday, February 4, 2008.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

[G] More Gmail storage coming for all

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Official Gmail Blog: More Gmail storage coming for all

When people ask me about my job, one of the common questions I get is, "Where does Gmail put all that mail?" I generally answer by pointing them to a web site like this one. While that's not exactly how it works, we do spend a lot of time working to make sure our users have all the space they need.

In April 2005, we started increasing Gmail storage as part of our "Infinity+1" storage plan. At that time, we realized we'd never reach infinity, but we promised to keep giving Gmail users more space as we were able. That said, a few of you are using Gmail so much that you're running out of space, so to make good on our promise, today we're announcing we are speeding up our counter and giving out more free storage.

And, just in case you are like my friend Miriam, whose sister sends minute to minute photo updates of her kids in RAW format, then we still have a paid storage program where you can get your fix, and we're giving you more space than before for the same price.

By the way, businesses, schools and organizations using Google Apps to get Gmail on their own custom addresses (like Google does for our accounts) will get a storage boost in the coming days, too. Standard and Education Edition storage (now at 2GB) will begin matching Gmail's counter, and Premier Edition users get a whopping 25 GB (up from 10 GB).


[G] Explore even more with Google Earth

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Google LatLong: Explore even more with Google Earth

We're always excited to see what our users do with KML files and Google Earth -- whether it's a timeline of the history of London, a tour of the works of Claes Oldenburg, or a virtual Namibian road trip. And we're always trying to make it easy to create and share interesting geographic content.

We've introduced a new feature that lets you much more easily search, browse and discover some of the best geographic content directly within Google Earth. Once you've downloaded the latest version of Google Earth, just click the 'Add Content' button in the 'Places' panel, and you can explore our gallery of KML files that have been submitted by users. See what's popular with other Earth users by browsing the 'Popular' category, or take a look at some of our favorite files by choosing 'Featured.'

If you have a KML that you'd like to share, we'd love to include it as well. Please submit any content using this form, and we'll add it to the directory (in a few weeks) so that other people can easily find it.


[G] Adventures in the culinary arts

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Official Google Mac Blog: Adventures in the culinary arts

Posted by Dave MacLachlan, Mac Software Engineer

How often do you get to cook fine cuisine for 800 people -- especially while learning from some of the finest chefs in the business? Our Google chefs offer a limited number of culinary internships, and I was lucky enough to win one. So one fine Thursday morning I got to spend 4 hours in the Google kitchens working with, and learning from, our amazing culinary engineers.

I arrived slightly late (stupid Bay Area traffic!) at 08:35 at Café 7 and Head Chef Eric grabbed me a hat and sent me over to Kelly to learn the ropes. The menu for the day was East Indian-inspired, and I was assigned to the vegetarian dishes. One was zucchini sautéed with some turmeric, and the other was a cauliflower-tomato curry. Sounds incredibly simple, but I had never really considered the scale that Google cooks for. A few hundred people can eat a lot of vegetables, and Cafe 7 is one of our smaller cafés.

Kelly started me on my first of three trays of tomatoes, coring out the tops, and dicing them into cubes. All the ingredients were amazingly fresh, many of them having been delivered from the farm first thing that morning. Each of the Google cafés runs almost completely independently from the others, and each one has a different style and ambiance. The chefs even get to choose where their produce comes from.

Being a rookie, I had to wear a knife guard on my left hand to make sure the vegetarian dish stayed vegetarian. Kelly was flying through vegetables, cutting 4 tomatoes into perfect 1 cm cubes faster than I could cut 1 into randomly diced sizes. She told me all about being a chef at Google, and compared it to her several years working in high-end restaurants. We managed to get through all the tomatoes, and then started in on the onions. Kelly had lent me some of her knives, which were razor-sharp, so I was actually glad that I was wearing the knife guard. I didn't realize that the chefs at Google all have their own private knife set. Most of the tools are shared, but knives are all owned personally.

After all the vegetables were chopped up, we moved over to the massive steam ovens and steamed the vegetables. To keep them looking fresh, we steamed them and then immediately dropped them in sinks full of ice water to blanch them. At this point I moved over to sandwich duty, and we put together 15 or so large turkey, avocado and aioli sandwiches.

It was getting to be mid-morning, so it was time to cook up the vegetables. We headed over to the stoves where we sautéed the cauliflower and tomatoes in one pan and the zucchini and onions in another. For some reason, I was expecting Kelly to have an exact recipe, but she did pretty much everything off the top of her head, with a quick taste here and there to verify that things were going as planned.

Finally, once things were all cooked up, it was time to start serving. I was put on the line and started serving all the hungry Googlers who came in. Interestingly, it was a bit of a slow day, so I actually had a chance to chat with some of the folks as they went through. It's interesting how you become a different person standing behind the counter in the chef's jacket. I ended up serving two people that I know quite well, and they didn't recognize me at all.

After an hour behind the counter, it was time to head back to the office and get some of MY work done.

I'd like to thank Eric, Kelly, and all the chefs at Cafe 7 for being so great. I'd also like to thank Emily for arranging it all. It was a wonderful experience that once again puts me in awe of our incredible cooking staff.


[G] China in real time

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Official Google Blog: China in real time

Over the past few years, the Chinese stock markets have grown at a breathtaking pace. Not surprisingly, investors have demanded more access to data and information about Chinese stocks, particularly in real time. Google Finance has heard the clamor, and we're pleased to be able to improve our service for the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges by providing pricing data in real time. So if you're interested in Yunnan Copper, Bank of China, or you just want to search around, enjoy the additional data on Google Finance.

Now that the Chinese stock data is live, we're hoping our friends at the SEC will take note and approve the last sale proposal we announced in January. This proposal would allow us to offer our users free and unlimited access to real-time last sale prices for NYSE and Nasdaq stocks. As soon as the SEC approves, we'll flip the switch.


[G] Catching the news as it breaks

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Google News Blog: Catching the news as it breaks

I recently moved about two thousand miles across the country, and aside from the lack of good pizza, one of the most disorienting things about having moved is not knowing what's going on back home. That's why I'd like to tell you about one of my favorite Google tools, Google Alerts, which makes staying current as simple as checking your email every morning.

I use Alerts to keep track of news about Chicago politics, but the beauty of Alerts is that you can use it to look for anything that appears in a news story, blog post, Google Groups thread or anywhere else on the Internet. Just go to and enter the term or terms you're interested in, along with the sources you'd like to see results from, how often you want to receive the alerts and your email address. You can create up to 1,000 alerts per email address, and you can update your preferences at any time by following the links at the bottom of any Alerts email you receive.

However, you can use Alerts for much more than checking up on shenanigans in the 1st Ward. If you're in a media-sensitive environment, such as a political or public relations campaign, you can create alerts that let you know whenever you or your client appear in the headlines - as soon as the story breaks. You can be the first to know when something happens to your favorite baseball player, when a review appears for a new movie you'd like to see, or when a new lolcats site goes live.

But Alerts are also very useful for news publishers and webmasters who want to track the inclusion of their content in Google News. Using our search operators -- like the site: operator, which returns search results from a specific domain (i.e. searching for "" will return all articles from the New York Times) -- a news publisher can get a daily email listing a selection of articles from their site that made it into Google News. And of course, anyone can use Alerts to notify them when a new post goes live on their favorite news site, or when something happens involving one of their competitors.

With millions of pages being updated every day on the still-nascent Web, it can be difficult for mere mortals to stay up-to-date. Thankfully, with Alerts, you can rely on the world's largest search engine to help you out.


[G] Become a Google Earth Pro Expert!

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Google LatLong: Become a Google Earth Pro Expert!

Posted by James Therrien, Training Manager

A lot of people have been asking about ways they can familiarize themselves with the Google Earth Pro. Finally, we have a great set of classes to point them to.

Now, anyone interested in Google Earth Pro can sign up for a training class at one of the many course locations. For more information, check out this post on the Google SketchUp blog. And don't forget -- SketchUp training classes are offered too!

We look forward to seeing your progress.


[G] Our Corporate Equality effort

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Official Google Blog: Our Corporate Equality effort

Googlers care deeply about creating a workplace that affords equal treatment for all our staff, and while we do it regardless of any accolades we think our efforts might bring, recognition from outside organizations does mean a lot to us. Which is why we're really pleased about our strong performance in the U.S. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index for the second year in a row. It's particularly exciting given that this is a time of rapid growth for our population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees (whose group name is, naturally, Gayglers) around the world.

This summer marked the first time Gayglers coordinated a presence at Pride parades globally. In San Francisco, New York, and Dublin, we had the largest (and perhaps rowdiest) presence of any corporation, and we went one further at Europride in Madrid where we were the only global company present among 45 floats. We had lot of fun at all of the marches, and it was a great way to bring Gayglers and their friends together in the communities we call home. We're passionate about our diverse workplace, and we hope anyone who shares our commitment to equality will consider joining us.


[G] Two more reasons to type in Hindi

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Official Google Blog: Two more reasons to type in Hindi

As some of you have already noticed, we've combined Google Suggest with our Indic transliteration technology to give you a new way to search the web in Hindi.

You can type your queries using a regular English keyboard, and we'll show you suggestions and completions of your query in phonetically equivalent Hindi. This means that you can type "amit" and see Hindi suggestions like "अमिताभ" and "अमिताभ बच्चन". Once you're happy with one of the suggestions, you can click it to get search results in Hindi. Try this out on the Google India Hindi homepage and explore all the Hindi content available on the web.

Quite a lot of people have also asked for a Googley way to scrap your friends on orkut in Hindi. You can now type in Hindi the same way you do in Blogger and on the Google India Labs page. If you have selected "Hindi" in the "languages i speak" field in your orkut profile, you'll see the "Type in Hindi" checkbox on the scrap pages. Just check the box to start scrapping in your favorite tongue.

We're eager to hear your feedback and suggestions, so please let us know what you think. Don't forget to visit the Google India Labs page to see what we've been working on.


[G] Now Playing: YouTube videos in Google Earth

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Google LatLong: Now Playing: YouTube videos in Google Earth

I love watching videos on YouTube. Every once in a while I'll see something so good that it makes me stop and wonder where it was recorded or how I can find more videos from that particular location. For instance, just the other day I stumbled upon a video of a man playing a guitar with his feet. The person who uploaded the video to YouTube geotagged it, so I was able to track the guitarist back to Balboa Park in San Diego, California.

Now you can find YouTube videos connected to specific locations right in Google Earth. Our new browseable layer of geotagged videos works a lot like our Google Book Search layer, only it shows you the locations referenced in specific videos instead of books. Let's say you're jetting off to Paris. Before you go, you can watch the sunset filmed from the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, among other clips of popular spots in the City of Lights.

You'll find this new layer in the 'Featured Content' folder in the left-side panel of Google Earth. Just click on the 'YouTube' button, and icons will begin to appear all over the globe. You can search for videos of your favorite places or browse videos of your dream vacation destination. More videos will appear as you zoom into a particular place. And you have the option of either playing them in Google Earth or viewing them on YouTube.

We've spent countless hours browsing these videos, and we look forward to seeing what other geotagged videos are to come. But we should warn you that if you do turn on this layer, you might not get any work done today! Take our word for it.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

[G] Real-time quotes for China!

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Google Finance Blog: Real-time quotes for China!

What's hot in the world of finance? At least one correct answer must be "China". Over the past several years, the world has seen the economy of this enormous nation grow at a breakneck clip. The local stock markets have followed, showing unparalleled growth in value within the global market. In some Chinese circles, individual investing has become a near obsession; the topic is rumored to dominate discussions at coffee houses and at the dinner table. These investors are demanding more data, and they are demanding it in real time. Google Finance has heard the clamor, and we're pleased to be able to improve our service for the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges by providing pricing data in real time.

Are you interested in intraday movements in the Bank of China? Or perhaps Yunaan Copper, a large Copper mining group listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange? Now you can get the answer, in real time. We hope you enjoy your new real-time Chinese listings.

By the way, we hope our friends at the SEC are watching. We've been waiting since January for the Commission to approve the last sale proposal, enabling us to offer our users real-time data on NYSE and Nasdaq stocks for free on Google. Transparency in the financial markets, led by access to real-time information, is critical for all investors. We hope to be able to deliver this information to you as soon as the SEC gives a thumbs up.


[G] Lesser-known (and secret) Picasa features, cont'd

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Google Photos Blog: Lesser-known (and secret) Picasa features, cont'd

Continuing Monday's discussion of Picasa's less-visible features, I thought I'd start by talking about Backup. This shouldn't be considered a minor detail, really -- keeping a backup archive is downright crucial.

If you tried our Backup feature in the past (look in 'Tools -> Backup') but had concluded that you no longer have enough blank CDs (or even 4.8-gigabyte DVDs) to easily store your growing photo collection, think again. Grab an external hard drive and try the 'disk to disk' backup, which eliminates the need to swap a big stack of CDs when creating your archive. (We built the 'disk to disk' feature to work over networks, too, so you can even use network-attached storage, like fancy RAID drives.)

It's faster than you'd expect. After you first create your archive, Picasa is smart enough to only backup the most recent changes the next time around. Using an external drive with our backup feature is also a great way to migrate to a new PC, since it preserves all of your albums and edits in Picasa.

Sometimes we build little features into Picasa that are essentially invisible -- they don't show up in the interface at all. The color engine in Picasa 2.7 is one of those changes; it's become far more adept at handling extra-orange or extra-blue photos. If you have some old 'problem photos' where the lighting just seemed hopeless, try going to the 'Tuning' tab and picking a neutral color with the picker. The color temperature slider in 'Tuning' also uses this new color model, and it can give you some wonderful results.

Other goodies? To see captions and filenames under thumbnails, you can enable this via the settings in 'View -> Thumbnail Caption ->.' You can also turn your thumbnails into cool-looking 4x6 contact sheets (sometimes useful for archival purposes) by using the 'Print a Contact Sheet' function in the 'Album & Folders' menu.

And if you've made it this far, I probably owe you an Easter egg! Try this: Edit a picture in Picasa and choose the 'Effects' tab. Hold down 'Ctrl' while clicking on the 'Graduated Tint' filter, and you will find the 'Radial Tint' filter -- not listed anywhere else. You can make colored vignettes and really nice colored glows with this one. Enjoy!


[G] Community maps in your search results

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Google LatLong: Community maps in your search results

Posted by Lior Ron, Product Manager

It's no secret that our users are the true experts on local information. Sometimes a tip from a friend or a friendly local can make all the difference.

Over the last year, we've been working hard to organize this local wisdom; we've sifted through millions of My Maps, KML files and other information created by all of you in the geoweb. Starting today, community maps will be available in search results on Google Maps. Now you can find cool places to visit, go for a hike, walk your dog, or take a date using the help of other Google users.

The blue markers ('community maps') indicate relevant user-contributed results for your search. You can click on the 'see more community maps' link either in the community box or at the bottom of the page to see more user-contributed results.

Sharing local information with other Google users is easy. You can create your own map and make it public or use KML in your Maps API site to help people find what they're looking for.


[G] Google Search Appliance takes five

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Official Google Blog: Google Search Appliance takes five

Around here, we love celebrating birthdays, including those of our products. And so it was just about five years ago that the idea for the Google Search Appliance was born. It was simple: make search inside of businesses as easy and effective as searching on

The Google Search Appliance has matured quite a bit since then. We started with intranet web servers, added security and more than 220 different file types, and found hundreds of partners and thousands of customers. Now, we're embarking on a new phase: bringing universal search into the enterprise in order to break down the information silos that have developed around business networks and information.

It feels good to take five years of experience and put it to work in the next generation, but we know we have plenty of room for improvement. That's why we've also launched Google Enterprise Labs. So tune in for a even closer look at what's to come.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

[G] More Street View cities to explore (Update)

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Google LatLong: More Street View cities to explore (Update)

Posted by Brittany Bohnet, Associate Product Marketing Manager

As some of you may have already heard, we've added Street View imagery to six new cities in Google Maps: Chicago, Portland, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Tucson and Philadelphia. To celebrate, we've created a new video that follows the adventures of our lovable Street View character as he karaokes his way through our newly added cities.

If you're interested in making your own Street View video, don't forget to right-click and download this
free MP3. Reply with a video response for a chance to be featured as a YouTube karaoke star! Bonus points go to those of you who have the best Street View lyrics and costume.

And if you haven't already yet, be sure to check out our new Street View additions. We think they'll have you singing in the streets, too!


[G] AdWords system maintenance on October 13

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Inside AdWords: AdWords system maintenance on October 13

On Saturday, October 13th, the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT due to our regularly scheduled maintenance. While you won't be able to log into your accounts during this time, your campaigns will continue to run as usual.

AdWords system maintenance typically occurs on the second Saturday of each month during the above times. We'll continue to update you here as we always have, but you may want to take note of our intended dates and times to help you plan for any scheduled downtimes further down the road.


[G] Reach out and message someone

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Official Google Blog: Reach out and message someone

Technology has made staying in touch with your friends and family both easier and harder: living a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle is easier (and a lot of fun), but it's more difficult to keep track of everyone when they're running around at warp speed. That's why we're excited to announce that we've acquired Jaiku, a company that's been hard at work developing useful and innovative applications for staying in touch with the people you care about most -- regardless of whether you're at a computer or on a mobile phone.

Current Jaiku users can still use the service normally, and new folks can sign up for an invitation to the service when we're ready to expand. We plan to use the ideas and technology behind Jaiku to make compelling and useful products. Although we don't have definite plans to announce at this time, we're excited about helping drive the next round of developments in web and mobile technology.

We wish a hearty Google welcome to Jaiku, and are looking forward to working together on new and innovative ways of keeping people connected.


[G] PostSecret: A Lifetime of Secrets

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Blogger Buzz: PostSecret: A Lifetime of Secrets

Congratulations to Frank Warren, whose 4th PostSecret book, A Lifetime of Secrets, comes out today and is climbing up the Amazon bestseller charts (it's #50 as of this writing)!

Take a look at its trailer:

PostSecret is by far one of the most interesting blogs, a showcase of tiny, beautifully-presented personal stories. It has become a favorite Sunday read for many of us on the team. Read it!


Monday, October 8, 2007

[G] More Street View cities to explore

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Google LatLong: More Street View cities to explore

Posted by Stephane Lafon, Software Engineer, Google Maps

For those of you who have been eagerly awaiting new cities to be added to Street View in Google Maps, your patience is about to pay off. Today, we're announcing the addition of Street View imagery in not one or two but six new cities!

Now you can check out 360-degree views of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Tucson. As an added bonus, the images in Phoenix, Tucson and parts of Chicago are all in high resolution.

But wait! There's more. Ever wish you could pan up to the very top of a 50-story skyscraper using Street View? Well, prepare yourself for some serious sightseeing; we've introduced the ability to pan up in most new cities.

To get started, check out this incredible view of Sears Tower. (Remember to use caution if you have a fear of heights!)


[G] AdSense goes straight to video -- units, that is

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Official Google Blog: AdSense goes straight to video -- units, that is

Nowadays, website publishers realize that getting people to visit your website is only half of the equation. Growing your audience is important, but keeping your audience engaged and staying on your site longer is just as important, if not more so. This is why we're excited to let you know about video units on Google AdSense. Video units enable AdSense publishers to display videos from several YouTube content partners. The video units are ad-supported, and the ads are relevant to both the video and the site content, as well as unobtrusive. AdSense publishers and YouTube content partners will receive a share of the ad revenue, so video units enable both groups to earn incremental revenue.

We're excited about video units because we see this as the first step in content distribution on AdSense and a great opportunity to foster the content ecosystem on the web. AdSense publishers can now enhance their sites with interesting videos, YouTube content partners benefit from a new distribution channel, advertisers have a new vehicle to distribute their messages to their target audiences, and people can tune in to interesting videos on sites they normally visit.

To learn more about video units, mosey on over to the Inside AdSense blog.


[G] Introducing video units

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Inside AdSense: Introducing video units

AdSense isn't just for ads anymore; it's also a place to get video content for your site -- and earn extra revenue at the same time.

We're excited about the launch of video units -- a new way to enrich your site with quality, relevant video content in an embedded, customizable player. Simply embed a snippet of code and have relevant YouTube partner content streamed to your site. You can choose categories of video to target to your site, select content from individual YouTube partners, or have video automatically targeted to your site content. Companion and text overlay ads are relevant and non-intrusive. To further blend the YouTube player into your site, you can also customize the color scheme and layout as well as choose from three different player sizes.

If you're looking to build "stickiness" with your visitors, show quality YouTube partner video on your site, and earn extra revenue along the way, and want to know more, then review our common questions about video units. You can also check out the video below to see how it works.

lEnWi5_gNslv2BhOScEbPdp1uM='>Watch the latest videos on

If you're ready to get started now, sign in to your AdSense account and head for the AdSense Setup tab. Click the video units link and you'll be on your way to setting up your first video unit.

See you later! We've got some videos to watch.


[G] Auditing open source software

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Google Online Security Blog: Auditing open source software

Google encourages its employees to contribute back to the open source community, and there is no exception in Google's Security Team. Let's look at some interesting open source vulnerabilities that were located and fixed by members of Google's Security team. It is interesting to classify and aggregate the code flaws leading to the vulnerabilities, to see if any particular type of flaw is more prevalent.
  1. JDK. In May 2007, I released details on an interesting bug in the ICC profile parser in Sun's JDK. The bug is particularly interesting because it could be exploited by an evil image. Most previous JDK bugs involve a user having to run a whole evil applet. The key parts of code which demonstrate the bug are as follows:

    TagOffset = SpGetUInt32 (&Ptr;);
    if (ProfileSize < TagOffset)
      return SpStatBadProfileDir;
    TagSize = SpGetUInt32 (&Ptr;);
    if (ProfileSize < TagOffset + TagSize)
      return SpStatBadProfileDir;
    Ptr = (KpInt32_t *) malloc ((unsigned int)numBytes+HEADER);

    Both TagSize and TagOffset are untrusted unsigned 32-bit values pulled out of images being parsed. They are added together, causing a classic integer overflow condition and the bypass of the size check. A subsequent additional integer overflow in the allocation of a buffer leads to a heap-based buffer overflow.

  2. gunzip. In September 2006, my colleague Tavis Ormandy reported some interesting vulnerabilities in the gunzip decompressor. They were triggered when an evil compressed archive is decompressed. A lot of programs will automatically pass compressed data through gunzip, making it an interesting attack. The key parts of the code which demonstrate one of the bugs are as follows:

    ush count[17], weight[17], start[18], *p;
    for (i = 0; i < (unsigned)nchar; i++) count[bitlen[i]]++;

    Here, the stack-based array "count" is indexed by values in the "bitlen" array. These values are under the control of data in the incoming untrusted compressed data, and were not checked for being within the bounds of the "count" array. This led to corruption of data on the stack.

  3. libtiff. In August 2006, Tavis reported a range of security vulnerabilities in the libtiff image parsing library. A lot of image manipulation programs and services will be using libtiff if they handle TIFF format files. So, an evil TIFF file could compromise a lot of desktops or even servers. The key parts of the code which demonstrate one of the bugs are as follows:

    if (sp->cinfo.d.image_width != segment_width ||
        sp->cinfo.d.image_height != segment_height) {
      TIFFWarningExt(tif->tif_clientdata, module,
        "Improper JPEG strip/tile size, expected %dx%d, got %dx%d",

    Here, a TIFF file containing a JPEG image is being processed. In this case, both the TIFF header and the embedded JPEG image contain their own copies of the width and height of the image in pixels. This check above notices when these values differ, issues a warning, and continues. The destination buffer for the pixels is allocated based on the TIFF header values, and it is filled based on the JPEG values. This leads to a buffer overflow if a malicious image file contains a JPEG with larger dimensions than those in the TIFF header. Presumably the intent here was to support broken files where the embedded JPEG had smaller dimensions than those in the TIFF header. However, the consequences of larger dimensions that those in the TIFF header had not been considered.

We can draw some interesting conclusions from these bugs. The specific vulnerabilities are integer overflows, out-of-bounds array accesses and buffer overflows. However, the general theme is using an integer from an untrusted source without adequately sanity checking it. Integer abuse issues are still very common in code, particular code which is decoding untrusted binary data or protocols. We recommend being careful using any such code until it has been vetted for security (by extensive code auditing, fuzz testing, or preferably both). It is also important to watch for security updates for any decoding software you use, and keep patching up to date.


[G] Blogging for the Environment

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Blogger Buzz: Blogging for the Environment

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day October 15, a week from today, is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment. If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it's important. Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you're into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

If you're game for participating, go register your blog with the 7,000+ other blogs (with 5 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.


[G] Data freshness

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Data freshness

Common feedback we hear from webmasters is that you want us to improve the freshness of the data in Webmaster Tools. Understood. :) We've increased the update frequency for your verified sites' data, such as crawl, index, and search query stats. Much of this data depends on the content of your site. If your content doesn't change very often, or if you're not getting new links to your site, you may not see updates to your data every time you sign in to Webmaster Tools.

Please continue to post your Suggestions & feature requests in the Webmaster Help Group. It's one of our most important sources of feedback from the webmaster community. We seriously take it seriously.


[G] What Are You Doing This Weekend?

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Google LatLong: What Are You Doing This Weekend?

Posted by Steve Miller, Product Manager

Last week, Google announced an International Cleanup Weekend on October 13th and 14th, encouraging Googlers and Google Maps users around the world to head out and clean up local parks, beaches, trails, and other places close to home. To date, we have received more than 130 cleanup maps from people who have enlisted the help of their friends, family members and coworkers to make the world a cleaner, better place. That brings our total to more than 1,200 people.

If you haven't yet, we hope you'll join us in our efforts this weekend and post plans of your own. All you have to do is organize a cleanup event, log into Google Maps to make a map of it, and send it to us. Remember to keep your group small (groups of 6-10 people work best) and close to home, to simplify the planning process.

As Google Maps aficionados, we know that the best maps will likely come from you. Make sure to show off your savvy map-making skills by posting photos and videos to your map! Check out this example for inspiration:


[G] Lesser-known (and secret) Picasa features

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Google Photos Blog: Lesser-known (and secret) Picasa features

Every piece of software has a couple of features that its designers think are pretty important. You can usually guess what those are simply by examining the user interface -- the biggest, shiniest, and most prominent buttons tend to look that way because a developer thought, 'Here's something that'll get used every day.'

Other features tend to get buried in menus, or sub-menus, or maybe implemented only as an Easter egg. Now, good software teams will move things around little by little, as they get a better understanding of how people actually use the software. Done right, this can make an application more usable over time instead of more complex and crufty.

Most of you reading this are already very familiar with the 'big' features in Picasa, so I thought I'd write a couple of blog posts about Picasa's less-visible features, especially the ones you might not have discovered.

First up is search. Photos tend to be hard to search for, so we've been trying for a number of years to figure out what kinds of things users actually look for in their photos. Dates have turned out to be pretty important, so you can type 'December 2005' into Picasa's search box and it will show you photos you took that month. Of course, you can also search for folder names, filenames, descriptions, and locations, too. But we also index information about the camera that took each picture: search for 'Sony' or 'Canon' or 'Powershot' and you'll find the photos you took with each camera type. Or try this: 'Flash' will find photos taken with a flash, and 'focal:50' shows any pictures you took using a 50mm lens. Even 'iso:400' works as a search term.

For a little more fun, try searching for a color name, like 'color:red' or 'color:gray.' There's a full list of available colors in 'Tools->Experimental->Search for....' Try it against your photo collection and see what happens!

Here's another search feature that can be pretty useful: the ability to locate all duplicate photos on your hard drive. Try 'Tools->Experimental->Show Duplicate Files' to see this in action; the filter shows you only those files duplicated in more than one place on your hard drive. The neat idea here is that you can safely delete any file you see listed in these results, because there are at least two of them on your computer. (You might see both copies disappear from the list, but this simply means that the second copy isn't a dupe anymore.)

Tune in Wednesday as I'll tell you about a few other lesser-known features (and Easter eggs) that should please you, whether you're a power user or just a regular photographer.


[G] Let a thousand servers bloom

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Official Google Blog: Let a thousand servers bloom

Just as people are social animals, computers are social machines—the more, the merrier. Twenty or thirty years ago, large, centralized mainframes sat alone in sheltered bunkers in computer science departments and government offices alike, choking for hours on mere megabytes of data. Even with recent advances in server technology, large, centralized machines are still struggling to cope with today's modern computational challenges, which now involve terabytes of data and processing requirements well beyond a single CPU (or two, or four, or eight). One computer just won't hack it; these days, to support a new paradigm of massively parallel systems architecture, we need to break the machine out of its bunker and give it some friends.

In this age of "Internet-scale" computing, the new, evolving problems faced by computer science students and researchers require a new, evolving set of skills. It's no longer enough to program one machine well; to tackle tomorrow's challenges, students need to be able to program thousands of machines to manage massive amounts of data in the blink of an eye. This is how I, along with my good friend and mentor Ed Lazowska of the University of Washington's CSE department, started to think about CS curricula and the obstacles to teaching a practical and authentic approach to massively parallel computing.

It's no easy feat. Teaching these methods effectively requires access to huge clusters and innovative new approaches to curricula. That's why we are pleased to announce the successful implementation of our Academic Cluster Computing Initiative pilot program at a handful of schools, including the University of Washington, Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Maryland. This pilot extends our expertise in large scale systems to strong undergraduate programs at the pilot schools, allowing individual students to take advantage of the hundreds of processors being made available. As the pilot progresses, we'll work with our technology partner IBM to shake the bugs out of the system so that we can expand the program to include more educators and academic researchers.

The future of computing is already taking shape on campuses today, and Google and IBM are thrilled to help inspire a new generation of computer scientists to think big. All of the course material developed by UW as well as other tools and resources to facilitate teaching this cutting- edge technology is available at If you're a student wondering just what this sort of thing means for you, check out the five-part video lecture series (originally offered to Google Engineering interns) that introduces some of the fundamental concepts of large-scale cluster computing.