Friday, October 19, 2007

[G] Site maintenance on Saturday, October 20th

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Inside AdSense: Site maintenance on Saturday, October 20th

This Saturday, October 20th, we'll be performing routine site maintenance from 10am to 2pm PDT. You won't be able to sign in to your account during this time period, but rest assured that your ads will still appear and your earnings will continue to be tracked in your account. Here's the start time converted for various cities around the world:

London -- 6 pm Saturday
Athens -- 8 pm Saturday
New Delhi -- 10:30 pm Saturday
Kuala Lumpur -- 1 am Sunday
Sydney -- 3 am Sunday

We hope the down time gives you more time to work on your Halloween costume. If you're all out of costume ideas, how about dressing up as an ad unit? We suggest the medium rectangle for maximum visibility :)

Have a great weekend!


[G] Google News goes social

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Google News Blog: Google News goes social

Whether it is from our homepage, one of our RSS feeds, or on a mobile device, Google News seeks to connect people with the news that matters to them -- wherever they may be. As part of that goal we are pleased to announce the Google News Application for Facebook. This experimental application enables users to create custom sections or select from a set of pre-defined topics, then browse and share stories with their friends on Facebook. We are trying a couple things differently with this application, and it is still in beta, but we think that it adds value to the Facebook experience and to users' overall news experience. Enjoy!


[G] Recap of Google's International Cleanup Weekend

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Google LatLong: Recap of Google's International Cleanup Weekend

Well, the numbers are officially in for International Cleanup Weekend. When the dust settled, we looked at the map and found that cleanups were planned in 35 countries, involving over 3,000 participants in almost 300 cleanup projects. Now that's a lot of trash and a lot of cleaning up.

When we started crafting our plans, we expected to see cleanups in the 15 countries where the 'My Maps' tab in Google Maps is available. We were pleased -- and surprised -- to find cleanups in many more countries than that, and even one that took place underwater. Our thanks go out to the 41 environmental organizations around the world that joined the cause, and to the United Nations Environment Programme.

And our biggest thank you goes out to everyone who participated. We know that picking up trash isn't the most exciting thing to do with your weekend, but you can give yourself a pat on the back for helping to make a difference. Of course, we also hope that your efforts won't end with this project. Whether or not you organized a cleanup last weekend, we hope you'll consider making a map for another project that will make a difference close to home. Remember, changing the world starts with you.

Take a peek at some of our favorite cleanup projects from the weekend, all created within Google Maps:


Thursday, October 18, 2007

[G] Blast from the past

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Blast from the past

Written by Sahala Swenson, Webmaster Tools Team

As you know, the queries used to find your website in search results can change over time. Your website content changes, as do the needs of all the busy searchers out there. Whether the queries associated with your site change subtly or dramatically, it's pretty useful to see how they transform over time.

Recognizing this, Top Search Queries in Webmaster Tools now presents historical data and other enhancements. Let's take a closer look:

Up to 6 months of historical data:
Previously we only showed query stats for the last 7 days. Now you can jump between 9 query stats snapshots ranging from now to 6 months ago. Note that the time interval for each of these snapshots is different. For the 7 day, 2 week, and 3 week snapshots, we report the top queries for the previous week. For the 1 to 6 month snapshots, we report statistics for the previous month. And still others of you who log in may notice that you don't have query stats data going back to 6 months ago. We hope to improve that experience in the future. :)

Top query percentages:
You might have noticed a new column in the top query listings. Previously we just ranked your query results and clicks. While useful, this didn't really tell you to what extent one query was ranked higher than another. Now we show what percentage each query result or click represents out of the top 20 queries. This should help you see how well the result or click volume is distributed in the top 20.


Since we're now showing historical data on the Top Search Queries screen, we figured it would be rude to not let you download it all and play with the data yourself (spreadsheet masochists, I'm looking at you). We added a "Download data" link that lets you download all the stats in CSV format. Note that this exports all query stats historical data across all snapshots as well as search types and languages, so you can slice and dice to your satisfaction. The "Download all stats (including subfolders)" link, however, will still only show query stats for your site and sub-folders for the last 7 days.


We've improved data freshness in Webmaster Tools a couple of times in the past, and we've done it again with the new Top Search Queries. Statistics are being now updated constantly. Top query results and clicks may visibly change rank a lot more often now, sometimes daily.

So enough talk. Sign in and play around with the new improvements for yourself. As always we welcome feedback (especially in the form of beer), so feel free to drop us a note in the Webmaster Help Group and let us know what you think.


[G] Introducing Code Search Sitemaps

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Introducing Code Search Sitemaps

The Sitemaps team is continuing its trend of extending the Sitemap Protocol for specific products and content types. Our latest work with the Google Code Search team now enables you to create Sitemaps that contain information about public source code you host and would like to include in Code Search. There's more information about this new functionality on the Google Code blog. If you're eager to get going, take a look at our Help Center documentation, create a Code Search Sitemap, sign into Google Webmaster Tools, and submit a Sitemap for Code Search!


[G] Webmasters can now provide feedback on Sitelinks

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Webmasters can now provide feedback on Sitelinks

Stacey Kuznetsov, Search Quality

Sitelinks are extra links that appear below some search results in Google. They serve as shortcuts to help users quickly navigate to the important pages on your site.

Selecting pages to appear as sitelinks is a completely automated process. Our algorithms parse the structure and content of websites and identify pages that provide fast navigation and relevant information for the user's query. Since our algorithms consider several factors to generate sitelinks, not all websites have them.

Now, Webmaster Tools lets you view potential sitelinks for your site and block the ones you don't want to appear in Google search results. Because sitelinks are extremely useful in helping users navigate your site, we don't typically recommend blocking them. However, occasionally you might want to exclude a page from your sitelinks, for example: a page that has become outdated or unavailable, or a page that contains information you don't want emphasized to users. Once you block a page, it won't appear as a sitelink for 90 days unless you choose to unblock it sooner. It may take a week or so to remove a page from your sitelinks, but we are working on making this process faster.

To view and manage your sitelinks, go to the Webmaster Tools Dashboard and click the site you want. In the left menu click Links, then click Sitelinks.

Thanks for your feedback and stay tuned for more updates!


[G] Upcoming Website Optimizer online seminars

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Inside AdWords: Upcoming Website Optimizer online seminars

There's been a lot of buzz around Website Optimizer lately -- last month, we announced some new features and we also outlined some tips and a new testing strategy. Now, to answer even more questions you might have, we're inviting you to join Website Optimizer's Product Manager, Tom Leung, for two online seminars. Registration is free, and open to everyone.

The first online seminar, Introduction to Website Optimizer, will be geared towards those who are unfamiliar with website content testing and optimization. Tom will discuss the importance and benefits of optimizing your website design and content, and he'll provide a detailed introduction to Website Optimizer and review the product's latest features.

The second online seminar, Website Optimizer: Creating & Launching Experiments, builds on the first and is designed for those who have previous experience with Website Optimizer or other site testing tools. Tom will deliver a step-by-step demonstration of how to successfully launch multivariate and A/B Split experiments, and he'll also answer your questions.

Google's Website Optimizer experts will be available during both online seminars to chat individually with attendees, and to answer questions in real time. We also encourage you to submit ahead of time any questions you'd like Tom to discuss.

Online seminar schedule and registration information:

Introduction to Website Optimizer (New or inexperienced users)
Tuesday, October 30th, 2007 10:00 - 11:00am PDT
Register to attend.

Website Optimizer: Creating & Launching Experiments (Intermediate and advanced users)
Thursday, November 1st, 2007 10:00 - 11:00am PDT
Register to attend.

Once you've registered, you'll receive an email from WebEx with participation details. We look forward to seeing you there!


[G] Get your iGoogle in 42 languages

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Official Google Blog: Get your iGoogle in 42 languages

Earlier this week, iGoogle launched in 13 new languages, bringing the total number of supported languages to 42 and the total number of country domains supported to over 70. For those of you who don't know, iGoogle is a personalized version of the Google homepage that lets you select the content that matters to you most from across the web and arrange it in a way that you find useful and fun. People rely on iGoogle to save time by putting all the information and services they need in one place. They also use it to discover new content through the iGoogle gadget directory.

With this launch, more than 99% of Internet users can take advantage of these features in their native language, which is really exciting for us. We're particularly curious to see what iGoogle ends up looking like in these new languages. For example, who would have guessed that 'Tu Nombre en Japonés' (Your name in Japanese) would be among the top 20 gadgets in Chile and Spain? (Mine is Jえすしか, by the way.) Because users and developers ultimately decide what iGoogle will look like in each of these new domains, we can't be sure what will be popular, which is part of the fun.

If you're a developer who speaks one of the languages below, now is a great opportunity to get your cool gadget idea out to a fresh audience. For more information, visit our Gadget APIs page. Who knows, maybe it'll be the next 'Tu Nombre en Japonés.'

Here's a list of the new languages available:

* Arabic
* Bulgarian
* Catalan
* Croatian
* Icelandic
* Indonesian
* Latvian
* Lithuanian
* Malay
* Serbian
* Slovak
* Slovenian
* Tagalog


[G] Your feedback at work

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Your feedback at work

We pay close attention to the feedback we get from merchants in discussion boards, blogs, and email, and we are always working to improve Checkout in response.

The most recent example: today we launched a new report so you can easily review and download your previous orders. Go to your Merchant Center inbox and find the "Download data to spreadsheet (.csv)" link -- clicking the link will download a comma-separated file that lists order-specific information. (Please note there is a 30-minute delay between orders in your inbox and orders appearing in the report.)

Another new feature suggested by merchants is the ability to access your buyer's ship-to phone numbers via the Merchant Center, in case you want to make sure your special delivery truly arrives on time. And these launches follow other recent releases including line-item shipping, carrier-calculated shipping, and simplified buy buttons.

We hope these enhancements make the lives of our merchants easier -- so give them a try and keep that feedback coming!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

[G] Helpful suggestions around the globe

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Official Google Blog: Helpful suggestions around the globe

In addition to constantly improving our search algorithms to provide the best answer to your queries, we also look for ways to help when you don't know what exactly to type into the search box to get to the perfect result. When you are looking for information on a specific topic, we offer query suggestions on the search results page that you can click on to find information faster. Sometimes, the suggestions enable you to quickly narrow down the search. Sometimes, we present interesting related concepts that encourage you to explore further.

You won't see these suggestions all the time; we only present them when we think they are relevant and useful.

We launched search suggestions in a set of countries a while ago, and even wrote about them in Australia, Brazil and Mexico. Now, we've expanded our coverage to a much larger set of languages. Now, when you're searching on Google you're likely to see suggestions in your local language.

For help with local travel, Hungarians can get some great suggestions on Budapest, Slovaks may want to go to bratislava, and Romanians can find helpful information on bucuresti. In Thailand, you're probably interested in relaxing on a beach in phuket. If you are in Vietnam, you might search the popular tourist destinations Nha Trang or Hoi An.

If you are in soccer-crazed (read, football crazed) Europe, you can look up your favorite football topics on Google. Check out how your local Moscow футбол team, спартак is doing. Turkish fans can also search local stars from galatasaray or beşiktaş.

Looking for a local entertainment update? Look up your favorite singers שלמה ארצי in Israel, and ibrahim tatlises in Turkey. Russians, you could be interested in the popular Russian TV series Кадетство.

Query suggestions are now available in about 40 languages worldwide. If you don't see them in your country, we're working on getting them to you soon.

When you don't know quite what you're looking for, let us help you with suggestions.


[G] AdWords system maintenance on October 20th

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Inside AdWords: AdWords system maintenance on October 20th

The routine AdWords system maintenance originally scheduled for October 13th, has been rescheduled to occur occur this coming Saturday, October 20th. The AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT on that day. While you won't be able to sign in to 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 times mentioned above -- with an occasional exception as noted here. We'll continue to update you via the blog 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] Australian and New Zealand pricing data

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Google Finance Blog: Australian and New Zealand pricing data

We're pleased to announce the availability of pricing data for Australian (ASX) and New Zealand (NZX) listings on Google Finance. We've always had descriptive data and news for these listings -- now we have all that plus intra-day market data and pretty charts. You can search for companies by name using the search box. Alternatively, you can search by ticker. For example, if you'd like to find the current price for stock in the Auckland International Airport, you can search for it by name, as AIA.NZ, or as NZE:AIA. Similarly, if you'd like to find the current price for stock in Billabong, you can search for it by name, as BBG.AX,or as ASX:BBG.

As always, if you notice any problems, please let us know. It may take us longer than we'd like to resolve reported problems, but we do read every report.


[G] Put yourself on the map

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Google LatLong: Put yourself on the map

Who knows your neighborhood better than you? That's why we've been releasing features that let you add your own content to Google Maps. For example, you can use our map-creation tools to make maps of recommended places to visit or leave ratings and reviews for your favorite restaurants. Your maps and reviews will be seen by the millions of people who use Google Maps every day.

Starting today, you can find out more information about the people behind these contributions through their user profile pages. For example, if you stumble upon a cool map of a bike route, you can hover over the creator's nickname and see a snippet of information about them.

If you click on their name, you'll see their profile page, which includes links to all the content that they have authored on Google Maps, including the maps they've created and the reviews they've written. If you liked the bike route you were looking at, chances are they mapped out some other cool bike routes as well.

To create your own profile, simply sign in to Google Maps and click on the My Profile link in upper right hand corner.

If we haven't convinced you yet, check out this cool video we put together outlining how to work on your own personal profile today!


[G] Docs on the go

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Official Google Docs Blog: Docs on the go

I track a lot of work related tasks on spreadsheets that are shared with other engineers, and I often like to know if anyone has updated them while I'm away from my computer. Until now, this was pretty much impossible.

Enter Google Docs for your mobile phone. If you have an iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Mobile device, you can now point your phone's browser to to view (no editing yet - sorry), mobile-optimized versions of your docs, spreadsheets, and even presentations (for iPhone only for now). You might have to squint a little, and it's only for English-language users for now, but the information is all there, in your pocket, wherever you are. Now you'll have no excuse not to pick up the milk that was added to that shared grocery list while you were out (huh? You don't have a shared grocery list yet?)

It was a real challenge coming up with useful views, especially of spreadsheets, that would work on the inherently limited screen size and the (um, how to say it nicely) often finicky mobile browsers - but go ahead and give it a shot, and please tell us what you think on the help group.

We've also introduced a few other features... Now you can format spreadsheet cells based on rules. For example, the cell could turn red if it contains a date prior to today. It's a really nice way of quickly seeing the state of a complex or quickly changing sheet - works great for all my overdue tasks! We've also (finally) introduced a way of hiding (and un-hiding) rows and columns. It's always nice to eliminate clutter. Check out all the recent changes on the description on the help group or our new features page.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

[G] Raising the limits for KML on Maps

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Google LatLong: Raising the limits for KML on Maps

There's so much of the world to see, and sometimes it just doesn't all fit onto a map at once. Previously, people have written custom Mapplets or Maps API pages to visualize their dense geographic databases, and that's still what we'd recommend if you are a web developer and want the full interactivity of JavaScript. If you don't need that functionality, however, Google Maps now offers a better view of KML files of similar density and richness, especially when they contain <NetworkLink>s whose servers' results are tailored to the part of the world that is in view. For example:

If you like these examples, try the 'Save to My Maps' link, just under the 'My Maps' tab, to keep them around so you can do things like view Panoramio photos while searching for hotels near a potential holiday destination.


[G] Meet the AdWords Tech B2B team in NYC

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Inside AdWords: Meet the AdWords Tech B2B team in NYC

If you're a Business to Business (B2B) advertiser, one of your biggest marketing challenges may be finding the right leads and filtering out consumer traffic. The AdWords Tech B2B team knows this isn't always easy, and they're happy to help. The team will be at the Interop conference, in New York City, on October 24th and 25th -- to share how Google advertising can help your technology B2B company generate more qualified leads.

If you're interested in chatting about B2B advertising with someone from AdWords Tech B2B, please let us know via this short form. Whether or not you choose to meet with someone from the team in person, you'll still receive a code for a free expo hall pass, or 20% off of the regularly priced conference pass when you fill out the form. (Please note that the code cannot be retroactively applied.)

The team looks forward to meeting you in NYC.


[G] Map of the day: Celeb spotting in New York City

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Google LatLong: Map of the day: Celeb spotting in New York City

I know this isn't the kind of star gazing we usually report on around here, but for those of you who follow celebrity gossip, here's your chance to spot celebrities in real life. Top 50 Places to See Celebrities in NYC is a user-created map that lists all the hottest restaurants, clubs, bars and hotels in New York where you're most likely to run into celebrities like Nicole Richie, Jay-Z, J.Lo, Paris Hilton and Bruce Willis. For example, the Tribeca Grill is owned by Robert DeNiro and is frequented by his actor pals like James Gandolfini. Meg Ryan gets her famous shag haircut at the Sally Hershberger salon. And I think I once saw Julianne Moore at French bistro Pastis, which is right near the Google office.

For more examples of celebrity sightings on Google Maps, try searching for [celebrity sightings in New York]. Click on 'See community maps' to see more user-created maps.


Monday, October 15, 2007

[G] AdSense Publisher Stories:

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Inside AdSense: AdSense Publisher Stories:'s Tim Carter is one publisher who's been able to do great things with AdSense. Here's his story on moving from building houses to building websites and how AdSense has helped him along the way.

The AdSense Story Contest

Now that you've heard Tim's story, we want to hear about your experience with AdSense. We've heard from publishers who've been able to keep their site free to users, quit their jobs, and even pay for their wedding! What have your AdSense earnings enabled you to do? Whether you have a blog, a small website, or an entire company, we want to hear your story. There's no need for a production crew or studio; you can create the video at home with a webcam.

Here's how it works:
  1. Shoot a video (2 minutes or shorter) about your story with AdSense.
  2. Fill out the submission form and submit your video as a video response to Tim's video on YouTube.
  3. We will review your submissions and pick a few videos to be featured on the AdSense blog in the coming weeks.
In your video, you may want to answer some of the questions below, but feel free to include others.
  • Where you are from and what you do for a living?
  • Why did you create your site, blog, or forum?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • How did you hear about AdSense?
  • How has AdSense helped you?
  • What are some useful AdSense tips you would give to other publishers so that they can see the same success?
When creating and submitting your video, here are a few important things to remember:
  1. You need to have a YouTube account to participate.
  2. Be creative! Use props, backgrounds, and sets; however, please do not use any trademarked logos, images, or copyrighted material for which you don't have permission to display in your videos.
  3. You can disclose gross earnings, but not any specific AdSense statistics such as clickthrough rate or eCPM.
  4. Feel free to talk about your site, but don't advertise or encourage users to visit your site and click on your ads.
  5. By posting your video you give Google the rights to display, reproduce, and distribute your content.
  6. Your video must adhere to both YouTube and AdSense Terms and Conditions. Google has the right to remove any video submission that does not comply with these terms.
Submission deadline is October 31st, so what are you waiting for? Create and submit your video today!


[G] Exciting Announcements at eMetrics Today

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Google Analytics Blog: Exciting Announcements at eMetrics Today

Today at the eMetrics Summit in Washington, D.C. Brett Crosby announced several Google Analytics features that will be rolled out over the coming weeks. Here's a rundown.

First, you'll be able to use Google Analytics to track site search activity. Simply edit any of your Google Analytics profiles to enable "Site Search" and you can find out what people search for on your site and where these searches lead. Located in the Content section of your Google Analytics reporting interface, Site Search reports show you the keywords and search refinement keywords people use, the pages from which people begin and end their searches. You can also see how search on your site affects site usage, conversion rates, and e-commerce activity. (BTW, if you don't have a search box on your site, you might want to try the free and newly launched Google Custom Search Engine.)

We'll begin a limited beta test of the new Google Analytics Event Tracking capability. These new reports are designed to help you understand how people use and interact with Ajax, Flash and multimedia on your site without artificially increasing your pageview metrics. In order to provide a way for you to define and track a wide variety of applications and interactions, there will be a new tracking module called ga.js. Using ga.js on your site instead of urchin.js means you can continue to take advantage of the latest advanced tracking enhancements (such as Event Tracking) as we release them. Although we suggest everyone upgrade to the new JavaScript, if you aren't interested in Event Tracking and you're already getting all the information you need from Google Analytics, you don't need to change your tags.

We'll also initiate a limited beta test in the coming weeks of our new Outbound Link Tracking feature. This feature will report on links visitors clicked on your site that direct them to another site. If you have already used the "Urchin Tracker" to track your outbound links, you may want to avoid changing your code twice by waiting to upgrade your JavaScript to ga.js until this feature is fully rolled out.

Finally, Brett announced the Urchin Software from Google limited beta. Urchin is a software product that you run on your own servers. Its reporting interface is similar to the previous Google Analytics interface. If you would like to participate in the limited beta, please contact one of our Authorized Consultants.


[G] Updated Gmail for mobile application

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Official Gmail Blog: Updated Gmail for mobile application

Accessing Gmail on my phone has become indispensable to me. So often, I need to do things like search through my archive to find the name of that coffee shop where I'm going to meet a friend, or to send a quick email when I don't have access to my laptop. Gmail for mobile helps make this all very easy and fast. I can access my whole archive, and send emails to anyone in my contacts list -- through an interface that's very familiar. We just released a new version with some updates that you can get by pointing your phone's browser to The new version works on most phones that are Java ME enabled. For BlackBerry devices, you can continue to download the previous version from the same site.

The new version of Gmail for mobile is faster than before -- and consumes a lot less data. It also has a number of new features, including:
  • more than 30 percent faster overall, and 80 percent faster for some tasks
  • a contacts viewer to view your all Gmail contacts and addresses
  • an outgoing mail footer to let your recipients know you've sent an email from a mobile device
  • click-to-call phone numbers which you can call without retyping the number
  • emails are saved for later re-editing if connection drops or if you want to perform another task before sending out the message
  • Gmail keyboard shortcuts to perform tasks faster (on phones with full keyboards).

Learn more about Gmail for mobile and other mobile services.


[G] New Mac Uploaders released

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Google Photos Blog: New Mac Uploaders released

Earlier today, our Mac team released version 1.1 of the Picasa Web Albums Uploaders. For Mac users, these tools provide the fastest, easiest way to share photos on Picasa Web Albums. Both an iPhoto plugin (which can upload pictures and albums from within iPhoto itself) and a standalone application are included in the same download.

This release adds support for Apple's iPhoto '08, along with a few other refinements, like an improved installer and the ability to convert keywords from iPhoto to tags in Picasa Web Albums. Under the hood, the uploaders were rebuilt using our public Google Data API, which will make it easier to integrate new features from Picasa Web Albums.

If you're a Mac user, give it a spin, and let us know what you think in the Picasa discussion group.


[G] International Cleaner-Uppers: Show us your rubbish!

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Google LatLong: International Cleaner-Uppers: Show us your rubbish!

In keeping with the environmental theme of the day, we're happy to announce that the first International Cleanup Weekend was a success! If you participated, please remember to add photos and videos to your cleanup map. Don't forget to check back on Thursday for a full summary of the weekend's achievements.


[G] Latest content ID tool for YouTube

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Official Google Blog: Latest content ID tool for YouTube

A few months ago, we announced the initial development of a highly complicated technology platform -- content identification tools for YouTube. Today, we are pleased to launch, in beta form, YouTube Video Identification.

Video Identification is the next step in a long list of content policies and tools that we have provided copyright owners so that they can more easily identify their content and manage how it is made available on YouTube.

Video Identification joins the following policies and tools:

  • Our strict repeat-infringer policy, which has been in place since our launch, terminates accounts of repeat infringers based on DMCA notices.
  • We take a unique "hash" of every video removed for copyright infringement and block re-upload of that exact video file prospectively.
  • We require a 10-minute limit on the length of content uploaded to the site.
  • We provide content owners with an electronic notification and takedown tool, to help them more easily identify their material and notify us to take it down with the click of a mouse.
  • We also publish copyright tips for users in plain English and clear, prominent messaging at the time of user upload.

Like many of these other policies and tools, Video Identification goes above and beyond our legal responsibilities. It will help copyright holders identify their works on YouTube, and choose what they want done with their videos: whether to block, promote, or even—if a copyright holder chooses to license their content to appear on the site—monetize their videos. In implementing this technology, we are committed to supporting new forms of original creativity, protecting fair use, and providing a seamless user experience—all while we help rights owners easily manage their content. Stay tuned … and for more information, check out our Video Identification page.


[G] Green with envy

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Google Finance Blog: Green with envy

You may have heard the idiom "green with envy". It refers to a strong feeling of desire to experience the same good fortune experienced by someone else.
I must admit: that's exactly how I feel with respect to what I call the "Green Stock Boom". And what better time to examine green energy investments, than today, Blog Action Day?

It's starting to feel a lot like 1999 in this industry, and it would pay to have some insight into who might be the next (AMZN), rather than a glitzy second-tier competitor who ultimately fails to grow its profits. At its very roots, I think, the Green Stock Boom is about human survival: we must avoid the fate of the Easter Island civilization, and many others like it, whose population collapsed amid resource wars spurred in the wake of exponentially expanding consumption in the presence of limited resources. But a growing segment of the population has been "thinking green" for decades. So why has the Green Stock Boom materialized, in earnest, in only the last few years?

I think the key is oil prices, and to a lesser extent, the backlash against CO2 emissions. Oil prices started to escalate in earnest early in 2003, as the invasion of Iraq migrated from rhetoric to reality. At the time, oil was around $32 a barrel. Now it floats around $85 a barrel -- a 166% increase in just under 5 years, which amounts to a compound annual return of roughly 22%! Almost in lockstep, Exxon (XOM) has followed with approximately the same return (or a bit more, if you account for dividends):

But what's the red line? That's Winslow Green Growth Fund (WGGFX). Winslow invests in green companies generally, not limited to the energy sector; it's the best proxy I can find for a green index with several years of history. As with XOM, Winslow's returns are artificially low due to the exclusion of dividends from the chart. But the implication is unchanged: the Green Stock Boom has tracked oil prices. And more recently, investors have made it clear that they see much more upside in its few profitable heroes, such as SunPower (SPWR), than Big Oil:

No doubt this relates to the concept of "Peak Oil": while it's true that "oil will never run out", oil production (that is, the rate at which it is extracted from the ground, in barrels per year) will inevitably reach a maximum. When this occurs, the world's economies will need to have some other way to sustain the usual few-percent-per-year growth in gross domestic product (GDP). At the same time, computer models of oil production in the years after Peak Oil suggest an annual decline rate on the order of 2% -- that is, only 98% as much oil will be produced in the year following the Peak Oil year, and so on in subsequent years. Without a viable alternative energy source, this could quickly become a catastrophic economic problem: how can we expect to sustain even modest GDP growth, while consuming a few percent less oil per year?

In this scenario, the gap between normal GDP growth and shrinking oil supply is around 5%: we want to continue to grow GDP at a comfortable 3%, while using 2% less oil. For the first few years following Peak Oil, this may not amount to much of a challenge. But the catch is that the problem compounds exponentially: the second year, we need to grow GDP by another 3%, while reducing oil consumption by another 2%, and so on. It doesn't take a math genius to understand that, at some point, without a sufficient alternative energy source, we'll be saving our pennies for the next grocery trip (in an electric car, by the way). Granted, oil supply and demand vary greatly over the course of a year, so these are only rough projections which pertain to multiyear time periods; the important part is that our traditional energy supply will grow with a negative exponent, relative to demand in the absence of an alternative, following Peak Oil.

Most Peak Oil proponents assume that it will occur in the 2008-2018 timeframe. Based on the numbers I've seen, I would have to agree. It is, in any event, inevitable. The question is, will we have sufficient affordable alternative energy in time?

But the financial urgency to find alternatives may explode much sooner than Peak Oil arrives: oil traders are well aware of the phenomenon, and have bid up the price of a barrel year over year at a superinflationary rate, occasional price drops notwithstanding. Oil wars, plant shutdowns, and rig-crippling ocean storms emboldened by a warming atmosphere don't provide price relief, either. The traders may become increasingly willing to hold their positions through downturns, realizing that until a viable alternative is found (or we all become backyard farmers who telecommute to work), the price will inevitably surpass its previous high.

If all this sounds like crazy talk, it's worth noting that it already happened. And I'm not talking about the American gas station lines of the 1970s, which were a modest inconvenience by comparison: when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost its main oil supplier. Fossil fuel input to the country was cut to about half of previous levels. A GDP collapse followed, dropping by about a third from 1989 through 1993. Even for a socialist state, the economic repercussions were staggering -- comparable to the travails of America's Great Depression. Today, it's little wonder that the country is a leader in local organic farming.

Today, ethanol is probably a key component of our escape from Peak Oil. At the moment, it's produced largely from corn, which is problematic because corn feeds humans and livestock. Other proposals for production include switchgrass, sugar beets, yard waste, and even sewage. But before you buy stock in an ethanol producer, consider that most of them appear to be stuck in the research phase, not unlike most Internet startups of the late 1990s. Established producers are generally dependent on commodities such as corn and sugar; as traders accumulate positions in those crops in anticipation of Peak Oil, they actually undermine the viability of ethanol producers by increasing the cost of their raw materials. Normally, the reduced demand would force traders to sell their positions and give way to lower prices. But unlike lumber, oil is not a renewable commodity subject to normal business cycles. Traders know this, and are therefore more willing to hold onto their positions (whether in oil, or obvious alternatives) until the energy crisis is firmly under control, perhaps decades from now.

So if the business case for corn-based ethanol is unclear, the case for solar is more compelling. With tremendous innovation occurring in the field, it seems inevitable that costs will soon become competitive with electricity generated from other sources, especially after accounting for the tax incentives. The problem is, among public solar companies, you find stratospheric P/Es, if earnings exist at all. And this early in the game, it's entirely possible that a no-name startup will invent a dirt cheap alternative to photovoltaic cells and capture the marketplace. Without a triple PhD in chemistry, electrical engineering, and economics, it's a very hard field to navigate.

So what to do? Buy oil? At around $85 a barrel, it seems to have moved too far from OPEC's apparent $60-something comfort zone to sustain this level. But ultimately, oil prices are not under OPEC's control; it's the consumer vs. geology. Guess who wins.

The real winner is set to be alternative energy. If I'm wrong, we'll go extinct, and you won't need to worry about your investments. But I must confess: I'm stumped. How can I possibly find a winner among the thousands of unprofitable startups, plus a few established companies selling for enormous earnings multiples? For the meantime, I think there are better green investments closer to home.

If you're looking for a new house (which, in America, it's clearly a great time to do anyway), take time to learn about the energy efficiency and solar power options available, including any tax breaks that you might receive. Likewise, next time you purchase a car, think hard about how much it will cost you to operate it if gas prices continue to spiral out of control. If you have a job, see if you can arrange to telecommute a few times a month, like I am right now. (It helps to check out Google Docs, where you can edit the same document with several other people at the same time over the Web, for free. That's how we produce these blog entries.) Eat healthy and smart: buy locally grown organic veggies, which are free of the oil inputs required for pesticides, excessive packaging, and global distribution. Start a ride sharing program at your company, for which there are tax benefits in many states. Run a Google search for Peak Oil, and learn about ways to save serious money and reduce your dependence on external energy inputs. Even if Peak Oil doesn't arrive for another century, remember that the sooner you save money, the longer it can compound through investment.

As always, to keep things unbiased, I have no positions in any of the securities discussed. Like many investors, I do have oil positions which have enjoyed a good run. But I'd be much richer, had I invested in the heroes of the Green Stock Boom instead. So at this point, I would do well to heed my own advice.


[G] Celebrating Blog Action Day with Mongabay

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Inside AdSense: Celebrating Blog Action Day with Mongabay

It's Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers around the world take time to write about the environment. So, we thought it would be fitting to feature an AdSense publisher who has focused their site on increasing awareness and appreciation of the environment -- specifically, wild lands and wildlife., run by Rhett Butler, originally focused on providing information about tropical rainforests, a topic Rhett is personally familiar with through his travels to a Borneo rainforest that has since been destroyed. In recent years, however, the site has expanded to include environmental news on numerous topics ranging from climate change to green business. He's also added a kids' version of the site aimed to spark interest in youngsters to learn about and appreciate rainforests. Rhett hopes through his work with Mongabay that more people will become aware of the beauty and importance of the environment so they'll be motivated to preserve our remaining biodiversity for the future.

On, Rhett describes the concept of TREES, which are five basic steps we can take to saving rainforests:

Teach others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save rainforests.
Restore damaged ecosystems by planting trees on land where forests have been cut down.
Encourage people to live in a way that doesn't hurt the environment.
Establish parks to protect rainforests and wildlife.
Support companies that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment.

The revenue Rhett's sites generate through AdSense has allowed him to quit his 9-5 job and focus on growing his environmental effort: traveling around the world to gain a connection to the efforts he is passionate about, garnering hands-on experiences, and looking for conservation opportunities. This travel also enables him to take these experiences and add valuable content to his website and further educate his readers.

Thanks, Rhett, for raising awareness about the importance of rainforests both to the global ecosystem and to people everywhere.


[G] An Uploader Update

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Official Google Mac Blog: An Uploader Update

by Greg Robbins, Software Engineer

Today's release of version 1.1 of the Picasa Web Albums Uploaders adds support for Apple's new iPhoto '08. But under the covers, the new uploaders reflect some of the other ongoing work in Google's Mac team. For starters, this release installs and updates via Google Updater to ensure that you are running the latest version.

While our first release used a private API to talk with the Picasa Web Albums server, the new version is built on the public Google Data API interfaces and our Objective-C GData Library. This will make it easier for us to keep up with Picasa Web Albums' new features. For example, the iPhoto export plug-in now can convert keywords in iPhoto to tags in Picasa Web Albums.

Our goal is to keep the Uploaders as quick, straightforward utilities that make Picasa Web Albums readily available to Mac users. You can give us feedback about them at the Picasa Help discussion group.


[G] Today is Blog Action Day

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Official Google Blog: Today is Blog Action Day

Around Google we know firsthand the value that small changes, aggregated on a large scale, can bring to people everywhere. It's how our search engine and advertising system work: every click counts. Similar thinking — local action, global impact — is what made Cyan Ta'eed, her husband Collis Ta'eed, and Leo Babauta create Blog Action Day, a worldwide initiative to get blogs posting about a common cause: the environment. As Cyan has said of bloggers and readers around the world, "If they all made a very small change it could be very effective, and a small step but an important step" on the road to fighting climate change and other environmental challenges.

In this first year, more than 10,000 bloggers are participating in Blog Action Day around the world. We're pleased to be among them. Twelve of our corporate blogs are posting today, on topics varying from this weekend's International Clean-up Day to this year's Nobel Peace Prize recipients. Other blogs covered a competition for the best sustainable designs using SketchUp, green programs on YouTube and the efforts of the Bioneers to bring together thinkers from many disciplines to tackle environmental issues. We also enjoy various company-wide green initiatives, from offering employees shared hybrid cars on-site to serving organic food to installing solar panels.

We look forward to seeing the momentum of Blog Action Day, and we encourage you to join the many bloggers and citizens who are making their voices heard about environmental concerns.


[G] Environmental Blog Roundup

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Blogger Buzz: Environmental Blog Roundup

In honor of Blog Action Day, we wanted to highlight some of the many Blogger-powered blogs that are focused on the environment, climate change, and sustainability. Want to see more Blog Action Day participants from around the web? Find them on Blog Search.
  • Cleantech Blog - Commentary on technologies, news, and issues relating to next generation energy and the environment.
  • The Conscious Earth - Earth-centered news for the health of air, water, habitat and the fight against global warming.
  • Earth Meanders - Earth essays placing environmental sustainability within the context of other contemporary issues.
  • Environmental Action Blog - Current environmental issues and green energy news.
  • The Future is Green - Thoughts on the coming of a society that is in balance with nature.
  • The Green Skeptic - Devoted to challenging assumptions about how we live on the earth and protect our environment.
  • Haute*Nature - Ecologically based creative ideas, art & green products for your children, home and lifestyle, blending style with sustainability.
  • The Lazy Environmentalist - Sustainable living made easy.
  • Lights Out America - A grassroots community group organizing nationwide energy savings events.
  • The Nature Writers of Texas - The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State.
  • Rachel Carson Centennial Book Club - Considering the legacy of Rachel Carson's literary and scientific contributions with a different book each month.
  • Sustainablog - News, information and personal meanderings related to environmental and economic sustainability, green and sustainable business, and environmental politics.
  • These Come From Trees - An experiment in environmentalism, viral marketing, and user interface design with the goal of reducing consumer waste paper.


[G] Bioneers and Google Earth

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Google LatLong: Bioneers and Google Earth

What do you get when you cross a conservation biologist with an engineer? A "bioneer," of course. The Bioneers integrate ideas and practices from many disciplines and cultures, with the broad goal of restoring the Earth and its environment. Each year since 1990, the Bioneers have brought together leading thinkers (and doers) at their annual conference to exchange ideas, foster connections and build new skills.

In honor of Blog Action Day, we're excited to announce that, this year, the Bioneers have invited the Google Earth Outreach team to lead a series of demonstrations and hands-on tutorials on Google Earth/Maps. We will be helping them understand how to visualize their important ideas and projects in the context of the real Earth, to collaborate more effectively with one another and to communicate more powerfully with citizens and decision-makers around the world.

For those of you out there who also want to "save the planet," our Google Earth Outreach site offers online resources to help you get started -- such as video tutorials, case studies, and a showcase gallery of great public-benefit Google Earth projects. Our team also staffs a help forum to answer your technical questions.

The goal of Bioneers is ambitious -- going beyond "sustainability" to the more challenging task of actual restoration of the Earth. As they comment:

Restoration addresses the premise that "sustainability" is problematic in the context of an environment that is already depleted. As Paul Hawken has noted, sustainability is simply the midpoint between destruction and restoration. The goal of Bioneers is restoration, addressing the interdependent array of economics, jobs, ecologies, cultures, and communities.

The Bioneers 2007 Conference runs from October 19-21 in San Rafael, California. We hope to see many of you there!


[G] Taking action and going green

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Taking action and going green

Today is Blog Action Day. Thousands of blogs worldwide are posting news about how individuals and organizations are helping the environment in all kinds of ways. We thought this would be a great time to let you know about some of the ways in which Google Checkout is playing a role in the important work that many of these organizations do.

Renewable Choice Energy is an example of an innovative organization that is coming up with new and interesting ways to help the environment. People can buy wind power credits using Google Checkout, offsetting the energy that is used with an investment in environmentally friendly wind power. With each Wind Power Card purchase, Renewable Choice Energy is working towards decreasing our dependency upon fossil fuels.

We also just launched an easy way for all U.S. non-profits, including environmental organizations, to collect donations from their supporters. With Google Checkout for Non-Profits, IRS-certified 501(c)(3)s) receive the full amount of the donation, with no transaction processing fees. Organizations can leverage YouTube's non-profit channel to engage supporters and offer people a fast and easy way to make a contribution with Google Checkout.


[G] Vegging out with Google AdWords

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Inside AdWords: Vegging out with Google AdWords

Today is Blog Action Day, and we're excited to rally with hundreds of bloggers around the world to write about one topic: the environment. Since this issue is close to our hearts, we were very pleased to learn that some online advertisers were using AdWords to educate others about innovative ways to help green the planet.

Nate Petre, the CEO of Veggie Wheels, used AdWords to spread the word about the alternative energy movement. He ran ads alongside search results for his company on as well as on the Google content network, so that people looking to convert their diesel-run cars to run on vegetable oil could get connected to Veggie Wheels.

On his site, Nate explains why vegetable oil is the perfect ingredient to reduce climate change:

  • Sulfur, which causes acid rain, is eliminated
  • Co2 emissions, a major contributor to global warming, are nearly eliminated because vegetable oil is a renewable fuel
  • Emissions of others pollutants like HydroCarbons and Carbon-monoxide are reduced by about 30% - 50%
  • Black soot (particulate) is significantly reduced by 50-70%

Thanks to people like Nate for using Google in creative ways to connect others to eco-friendly solutions.


[G] Subscriber Stats, Summed Up

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Official Google Reader Blog: Subscriber Stats, Summed Up

There's been a lot of discussion this weekend about the subscriber counts that have recently appeared in Reader's search results. Leaderboards have been drawn up, numbers are being compared and in some cases there's confusion as to how these numbers compare with other subscriber metrics. Additionally, we've made changes (some as recently as today) as to how counts are being calculated. This is probably going to be pretty boring unless you're a feed publisher, but we thought it would be best to explain things a bit. Here are the various numbers you may come across, and what they all mean:

Google subscriber counts: These numbers include subscribers across all Google services, including Reader, iGoogle, and Orkut. You can see them in Reader's feed search results (pictured below) and the Google Webmaster Tools. Additionally, our crawler reports them to the publisher each time we fetch the feed. Reader's feed search was recently showing stale and incomplete data, but as of today (October 15) the numbers should be the same everywhere.

Google Blog subscriber counts

FeedBurner numbers: If you use FeedBurner to manage and track your feed, you will a subscriber count there that is attributed to "Google Feedfetcher." This number is a sum of all the feeds that you have redirecting to your FeedBurner feed URL. So if has 3 subscribers, has 7 subscribers and (where you redirect the other two feeds now) has 12 subscribers, then you will see 3 + 7 + 12 = 22 subscribers reported in the FeedBurner interface.

What this all means if you're a feed publisher is that if you're interested in getting the most comprehensive overview of your subscribers, you should be using a service like FeedBurner or Google Webmaster Tools. On the other hand, if you're a Reader user, we hope you take advantage of the numbers that we now show next to search results, so that you can pick the most appropriate feed to subscribe to.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

[G] Our Zurich hackathon

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Official Google Blog: Our Zurich hackathon

Among the many perks Googlers get, I like the 20% time rule the best. You can spend it on an existing project you'd like to learn more about or especially care about, or you can use it to start a new project. Among other things, Gmail, AdSense, Google News and Google Trends famously started life as 20% projects. But even with 20% time, there are always so many other interesting things to do that it's sometimes hard to focus on this great idea you had the other day at the coffee machine.

I work for the Zurich office, which incidentally was our first engineering office in Europe. As you must know, Switzerland has lots of mountains. Where better to be alone with your thoughts and ideas than the mountains? Well, when I started talking about the idea, a lot of people liked it and wanted to go, too. So never mind being alone with my thoughts: instead, over a four-day weekend, 16 engineers spent most of their waking hours coding up the ideas that had been plaguing us for a while.

In small groups and individually, we looked at things like how we can do a better job at personalization, experimented with different ways to render search results, and since we have quite a few maps engineers in Zurich, tried out some new ideas in that area too. Though we did get some nice demos out, they're not quite ready to launch, but keep an eye out on Google Labs and something will show up soon.

Sadly, we were almost completely oblivious to the extreme natural beauty surrounding our hackathon headquarters at the cube hotel in Savognin. Some of us did go up the mountain for some extra inspiration.

Another interesting accomplishment was the furniture tower we built after a long session of hacking. They had this stackable furniture in the lobby of the hotel and we had a beer or two, and just started to play around. Around 6am just before breakfast we reached the ceiling.

It was really great to see people work all out driven by nothing more than the will to create something new and cool and it was for me a great reminder in so many ways as to why I work for Google. If you want to join us on our next hackathon, you're in luck -- we're hiring in Zurich.


[G] Intermediary liability and the future of the Internet in India

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Google Public Policy Blog: Intermediary liability and the future of the Internet in India

"Intermediary liability" may sound like something you'd only hear about in a law school torts class, but its meaning is both important and easy for all Internet users to understand.

It's the principle that Internet middlemen -- like ISPs, website hosting companies, search engines, email services, social networks, and other neutral hosts of information sent, posted or uploaded by others -- should not be held legally liable for their users' content. Put another way, it's the principle that the person who created the content is the person deemed responsible for it, and that it would be both unjust and impractical to hold companies whose systems happen to automatically transmit or store the content responsible for words they didn't write, pictures they didn't take, or videos they didn't create.

Still puzzled? Think about the telephone system. We don't hold the telephone company liable when two callers use the phone lines to plan a crime. For the same reasons, it's a fundamental principle of the Internet that you don't blame the neutral intermediaries for the actions of their customers. Rather, the standard recognized worldwide is that Internet intermediaries are responsible to take action when they are put on notice of unlawful content through proper legal channels.

This principle has been the subject of much recent debate as India takes a fresh look at its technology laws.

The government of India is looking to amend the Information Technology Act of 2000, the law which governs the web. As I've written before, the Department of Information Technology's proposed amendment to Section 79 of the IT Act would mark a fundamental shift in Indian law as it relates to intermediary liability, and go a long way towards promoting innovation on the Internet.

Under the proposed amendment, intermediaries like Google would not be held responsible for problematic content on their systems that they did not create. Instead, intermediaries would be protected so long as they follow appropriate lawful process after being notified of the content in question (in the copyright context, this is known a "notice-and-takedown" regime). This principle has been embraced in all the leading democracies of the world.

Unfortunately, last month the Indian Parliament's Standing Committee on Information Technology issued its own report challenging this proposed amendment:

"...Under the proposed amendments, the intermediaries/service providers shall not be liable for any third party information data.... The Committee do not agree with this. What is relevant here is that when [the] platform is abused for transmission of allegedly obscene and objectionable contents, the intermediaries/service providers should not be absolved of responsibility. The Committee, therefore, recommend that a definite obligation should be cast upon the intermediaries/service providers in view of the immense/irreparable damages caused to the victims through reckless activities that are under taken in the cyberspace by using the service providers' platform. Casting such an obligation seems imperative...." (pp. 54-55)

While we thank the Committee for its hard work and thoughtful deliberations, we're troubled by this tone and line of thinking. If implemented, these recommendations would create a hostile environment in India for Internet services, and for the entrepreneurs and innovators working to create the next set of revolutionary Internet technologies for Indian users.

For intermediary websites to be held liable for the "reckless activities" of others is fundamentally unjust, ignores the origin of the content, misunderstands the size and scale of the Internet, and fails to appreciate the great benefits yielded to the vast majority of Indian users by these information platforms.

At Google we take issues like cybercrime, the transmission of illegal content, and its harm on victims very seriously. We work with government authorities to ensure Google's platforms in India are not used illegally and that they are in full compliance with our own terms and conditions. We also work diligently to ensure our own community standards (like orkut's, for example) are not violated on our sites.

It would be technologically infeasible for ISPs and web companies to pre-screen each and every bit of content being uploaded onto our platforms, especially as the amount of information coming online increases exponentially in India and around the world. More importantly, imposing such a burdensome standard would crush innovation, throttle Indian competitiveness, and prevent entrepreneurs from deploying new services in the first place, a truly unfortunate outcome for the growth of the Internet in India.

It is possible that this portion of the Committee's report is based on a misapprehension of the intent of the proposed amendment. Specifically, the Committee may have believed that the proposed amendment would provide absolute immunity to Internet intermediaries, and wished to stress the need for a clear obligation to react promptly when put on notice of unlawful content. If this was, in fact, the case, the Committee's intent, its report would be consistent with the proposed amendment, and in line with global best practices. If not, the Committee's position would likely result in the hobbling of the Internet in India. For that reason, we intend to seek clarification of the Committee's understandings and intent.

The choice for the Indian government is stark: If it wishes to enable Indians to have access to cutting-edge Internet services, and to promote innovation on the Internet, the Department of Information Technology should uphold the principle of qualified safe harbors for Internet intermediaries.