Friday, November 16, 2007

[G] 5 little-known Gmail features you may not yet know about

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Official Gmail Blog: 5 little-known Gmail features you may not yet know about

When we began rolling out a new Gmail code architecture a few weeks ago, we also launched some new features to help improve the speed and convenience of managing email. I've been using several of these new additions over the last few weeks, and while they might seem small on their own, they really can add up to save you a lot of time and hassle. That's why I decided to list my five favorite new features that are so new, you may not have noticed them. We are still rolling them out to IE6, international and Google Apps users, but for those of you who noticed a new contact manager among other recent improvements in our latest version, here they are:

5. "Archive and next" shortcut
We added a bunch of new shortcuts to Gmail, but one that I've found to be a true time-saver is what I call the "archive and next" shortcut. When I have a lot of mail, it can be really annoying to have to open a message, click "Back to Inbox" and then select the next email I want to read. So once you enable shortcuts in Settings, you can simply press the left bracket key "[" while viewing a message to archive it, and then immediately open the next oldest one. When I see a long list of unread messages, I like to open the first one and then just hit "[" to swiftly move through my mail and archive as I go. (P.S. By clicking the right bracket "]" you can also move the other way if you want to open newer messages after you archive).

4. Share mail searches with friends
How many times do your friends tell you, "I can't find that email you sent me." Now you can prove that you did indeed send that message, despite the accusations. All you have to do is search for the message using your expert mail searching skills, and when you find it listed in the results, just copy and paste the URL and email it to your friend. When he or she goes to that link while in Gmail, your friend's Gmail will run the same search you ran and will be able to locate that "lost" email instantly. For example, if you wanted to share a search for "pick me up at airport," so flight information can be located, you would send over this URL:

3. Browser navigation and history
Your web browser is now a great way to navigate Gmail. Instead of having to find the right links on the page to move from inbox to messages to other Gmail views, you can use the browser navigation buttons (back and forward) to jump back and forth between emails. You can also open your browser history and click on specific emails that you've read to go right back to them. This allows you to quickly access certain emails without having to re-read your inbox. Browser history is something that often doesn't work well on complex web apps like Gmail, but we've gone to great lengths to make it work right.

2. Bookmark emails
I frequently need to save a single email for a period of time, such as a message that includes an important phone number. But I don't want to create a separate label for one message, and I also don't want to archive all the email that comes in after that message just to keep that thread near the top of my inbox--and hopefully the top of my mind. This problem is now easily solved by a new ability to bookmark specific emails. All emails now have dedicated URLs, so just by adding a browser bookmark while viewing a message, you can return to it whenever you want, just like a regular web page--although you will still have to log in to Gmail if you've signed out.

1. "Filter messages like this"
I find filters to be one of the most useful features in Gmail, but sometimes it can be hard to set them up quickly. So we added a new capability that makes a filter based on the message you are reading, so you can keep track of future similar emails. By clicking on the dropdown menu in the upper right-hand corner of every email (the upside-down triangle), you can now see the option to "Filter messages like this." Not only can you easily create a filter based on the sender, but this is especially handy if you are trying to filter emails sent to mailing lists. We automatically set up a filter for you based on the "list ID" header, which does a better job of finding emails sent to mailing lists.


[G] Complimentary campaign optimizations -- at your request

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Inside AdWords: Complimentary campaign optimizations -- at your request

We're excited to let you know that the AdWords Optimization Team is offering a new round of campaign optimizations. As we've mentioned in a recent post on the subject, requesting an optimization is easy. Simply fill out this request form and tell us about your specific business and advertising goals. Our optimization team will review your website, campaign structure, ad text, and keywords -- then, within 10 day or less, they'll send you customized recommendations to help you reach your goals. You'll have complete control over which of these recommendations you choose to implement.

If you've had us complete an optimization before, we encourage you to submit a different campaign now. Whether you are a first time or a repeat customer, please be sure to specify which campaign you'd like the team optimize. You can do this in the 'Your Advertising Goals' section of the request form. Also, please keep in mind that this service is currently available for advertisers in the U.S. and Canada, for campaigns in English.

Depending on your business, it may be a bit late in the game to request an optimization for a campaign focused on the winter holidays. If the timing makes sense for you, though, please be sure to let us know of the seasonal nature of your campaign.

The optimization team is looking forward to hearing from you.


[G] Teaching a thing or two

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Google LatLong: Teaching a thing or two

Rounding out our celebration of Geography Awareness Week, I'd like to point you to some Google Earth and Maps educational applications that recently caught my attention:

Here in the United States, Tim Hunter of the Advanced Technology Environmental Energy Center (ATEEC) brought together over a dozen educators to develop a virtual field trip that explores political and environmental issues in the Arctic. The purpose of this National Science Foundation-supported project is to explore fossil fuels, discuss sustainable sources of energy, and explore the Alaskan wilderness.

Across the pond in the UK, middle school geography teacher Noel Jenkins created a lesson plan that combines fiction with film-making and climatology. Acting as location scouts, students use Google Earth to find ideal spots for filming the movie version of Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass. They need to read the text carefully, but the decision-making process is also based on how they interpret the landscape.

And schools across the globe have joined forces to commemorate the 2007-2008 International Polar Year. In this initiative, environmental science, history, anthropology, and technology come together to immerse students in the world of geography. Check out which schools have launched virtual balloons to mark their participation.

We'll keep you posted on more educational resources as we hear about them. And be sure to visit the Google Earth for Educators page and the Google Earth Community for additional lesson plan ideas and discussion forums.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

[G] Accidental clicks fade into the background

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Inside AdSense: Accidental clicks fade into the background

Earlier this year we stepped back to examine the value users, advertisers, and publishers derive from clicks on content ads. As you integrate ads with your site's content and navigation, we want to ensure a positive user experience. We identified a few areas for improvement and began implementing changes, starting with our new ad formats in April.

Continuing these improvements, we've just changed our text ads slightly to help reduce accidental clicks. In the past, users could click on both the background and full text of an ad, but now they can click only on the title and URL of a text ad. By allowing users to click only on the ad title and URL, we aim to decrease accidental clicks, better aligning visitor behavior with their intent. Overall, the decrease in accidental clicks will keep users on your website, interacting your content, until they intend to click on an ad.

In addition, this new clickable format better aligns with the text ad formats shown on We hope this format change contributes to a better, more consistent user experience.

Finally, this change won't just improve user experience on your site; it benefits advertisers as well. We currently monitor clicks on Google ads for accidental clicks, and the format change complements our monitoring system by further ensuring advertisers only pay for meaningful clicks. By reducing accidental clicks, we hope to increase advertiser campaign value and satisfaction, encouraging additional spend and facilitating higher monetization for all publishers.


[G] A change to text ads on the content network

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Inside AdWords: A change to text ads on the content network

We're pleased to announce a change that we've made to the incidence of clicks on text ads on the Google content network. Previously, users could click anywhere on text ads running on the content network, including the ad's background and any part of the ad text, for their click to be registered. Now only clicks on the title or URL of text ads will be counted.

This change better aligns what is considered a click for ads on the Google content network with what is considered a click for ads shown on By changing the clickable area on text ads, we hope to increase user satisfaction with both our advertisers and our publishers.

As a result of this change, some advertisers may notice a decrease in both the number of clicks and the clickthrough rate (CTR) in content network campaigns -- along with an increase in the average return on investment (ROI) of content network traffic. For insight into the ROI you receive from your AdWords ads, you can install conversion tracking or Google Analytics to measure whether the clicks your ads receive lead to valuable actions on your site. If you use a third-party tracking service, you can use ValueTrack tags to identify the traffic coming to your site from the Google search and content networks.

We hope that this change will result in better user experience with Google content network ads, along with potentially improved ROI for advertisers. If you have any comments on this change, please let us know and we will forward your thoughts to the content network team.


[G] To sign in, or not to sign in: that is the question

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Google News Blog: To sign in, or not to sign in: that is the question

If you rely on getting your daily dose of news from your personalized Google News homepage, here are a couple of things you can do to access it from anywhere in the world. In case you're not familiar, personalizing your Google News homepage allows you to create custom sections that contain stories on a specific topic. You can also add standard sections (such as Business or World) from other regional and language editions. It's a great way to get all of the news you want in one place!

The easiest way to manage your personalized News page is by signing in to your Google Account. This will allow you to access your news page from any computer in the same way you would log in to your Gmail account. Signing in also lets you switch across to our other services quickly and easily. For instance, if you've just finished checking your messages on Gmail and want to switch to reading the latest news, all you need to do is click on the News tab that is displayed at the top of the page and you'll be redirected to your personalized Google News page.

The neat thing about Google News is that it lets you personalize your News page even if you decide not to sign in to your Google Account. However, keep in mind that by choosing this option, you'll only be able to save and view your personalized News page only from the computer you're using. Therefore, if you've personalized your News page on your work computer, you won't be able to view it using your home computer.

Another limitation of not signing in to your Google Account is that you'll lose all the settings and changes made to your news page any time you clear your cookies. To prevent this from happening, after you're done customizing your news page, you can click on the link at the bottom of the homepage that says "Share your personalized News with a friend" and send it to yourself. By saving the URL of this version of Google News in your Inbox, you can access your personalized Google News page from other computers by simply retrieving the email that was sent to you. Just remember to resend this link to yourself anytime you make changes to your news page so that you'll always have the most up-to-date URL of your personalized Google News homepage.

If you feel this is too much of a hassle, then I recommend you sign in to your Google Account to create your personalized News page. It's easier, faster and only one click away from Gmail and all other Google products.


[G] Map of the day: My Maps for teaching Physics and Literature

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Google LatLong: Map of the day: My Maps for teaching Physics and Literature

In my time spent combing through all of the amazing customized maps created by our users, I've been pleased to find many maps that illustrate the usefulness of My Maps in a classroom setting. For example, I recently found two great ones that illustrate how tools in the My Maps tab can be used by teachers in two very different subjects: Physics and Literature.

For one, check out this cool map created by a Physics teacher who has been teaching his 9th grade students about speed, velocity and displacement. In an effort to make the class more interesting, he had his students pair up and use map-making tools in the My Maps tab to plot out different bus routes in the area. Each route was labeled with the average time needed for a bus to make a complete loop and the average speed of the bus. Pretty cool, huh? You can read more about it on his blog .

And then there's an English teacher who got his students (and me!) hooked on a reading assignment by mapping out a novel's plot points. In the book Whirligig by Paul Fleischman, main character Brent travels to the four corners of the U.S. on a Greyhound bus. Tom used My Maps to plot out the character's entire route, highlighting key placemarks and engaging students along the way. And be sure to read more about the assignment on his blog.

Teachers, what are you waiting for? On your marks... get set... map!


[G] Getting to know the candidates

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Official Google Blog: Getting to know the candidates

Yesterday Senator Obama became the latest U.S. presidential candidate to visit Google headquarters in Mountain View for a talk and then Q&A. We're heartened to see how most every candidate is taking full advantage of the Internet, by making good use of YouTube together with their own websites, blogs and social networks to inform voters of their positions and share more of their thinking than traditional campaigns ever allowed.

The next big event we're looking forward to is the November 28 CNN/YouTube Republican debate. Stay tuned for that, and if you'd like to watch the talks other candidates have given at Google, here they are.


[G] Google Checkout badges for non-profits

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Official Google Blog: Google Checkout badges for non-profits

You may have heard about the recently launched Google Checkout for Non-Profits, which is a fast and easy way to make online donations to your favorite non-profits. Now we'll begin displaying the Google Checkout badge on the AdWords ads of non-profits, which will help connect donors with the organizations they'd like to support. Visit our Checkout Blog for more details.


[G] Candidates at Google: Barack Obama

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Google Public Policy Blog: Candidates at Google: Barack Obama

Barack Obama added another "first" to his already notable list yesterday: he became the first U.S. presidential candidate -- and, I'm guessing, the first high-level elected official in any country -- to have a ready answer to a standard Google engineering interview question. Asked by Eric Schmidt about "the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers," Sen. Obama replied that "the bubble sort would be the wrong way to go." Though some might view this as shameless pandering to the bucket-sorting community, others will see a bold pragmatism.

Following Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Mike Gravel, Obama became the seventh presidential candidate to visit Google's main campus in Mountain View. Obama got a warm reception from an overflow crowd at Charlie's Cafe, with hundreds of employees watching via live webcast from forty remote locations. Looking out over the sea of t-shirts, Sen. Obama paid tribute to Silicon Valley style: "It's good to see Google is maintaining its strict dress code."

After a screening of his Monday Night Football clip and an introduction by Google's Senior VP David Drummond, Obama unveiled his new policy agenda on technology and innovation. He reaffirmed his support for network neutrality, saying:

The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history. We have to keep it that way.

Obama laid out a detailed package of technology policies designed to strengthen online privacy, increase government openness and transparency, put high-speed broadband within reach of all Americans, improve the delivery government services, drive America's competitiveness, reform our abuse-prone patent system, and free up wireless spectrum for new connectivity and public safety.

As part of his plan, Sen. Obama said he would use the Internet to give citizens better visibility into, and greater participation in, the workings of their government:

I'll put government data online in universally accessible formats. I'll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts. I'll let you participate in government forums, ask questions in real time, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made, and let you comment on legislation before it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting 21st century standards, I'll appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer.

After Obama finished his speech, Eric Schmidt joined him on stage for a "fireside chat" (except without the crackling fire). After a particularly open-ended first question ("What is it that you're going to do that's exceptional?"), Obama looked out and asked, "Is this the kind of interview that you guys went through?" (The answer is "yes," except we went through eight of them, and they focused more on how to sort 32-bit integers and less on how to counter the threat of global terrorism).

During the discussion, Obama made the case for his ability to bring Americans together, take on special interests, and bring new credibility to foreign relations. In about thirty minutes he covered a lot of ground: Iraq, Guantanamo, international relations and diplomacy, globalization, education, health care, college loans, Social Security, and race. Googler Ethan Beard asked Obama about fears that he lacks experience; he started his response by noting that Google founders "Larry and Sergey didn't have a lot of experience starting a Fortune 100 company."

The final question of the day was about political reform -- how to fix a broken system of political and government? Sen. Obama observed that the more people know, the more lawmakers and officials can be held accountable. He talked about his "Google for Government" bill, now law, to create a searchable database for every dollar of federal spending. He said, "If you give people good information, they will make good decisions."

Here's the complete video of Senator Obama's fireside chat:

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


[G] Google Checkout badges on non-profits' AdWords ads

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Google Checkout badges on non-profits' AdWords ads

One of the great things about working at Google is the opportunity to contribute to the company's support of the non-profit community. Google works with non-profits in a number of different ways, ranging from helping them increase their visibility and drive traffic to their sites through the Google Grants program, to providing them with special versions of products like Google Apps, Google Earth, and YouTube which help them take better advantage of new technology as they work to further their causes.

As a member of the Google Checkout team, I've been able to make a contribution by helping launch Google Checkout for Non-Profits, which enables non-profits to collect online credit card donations free of charge (and free of hassle) using Checkout. And today I'm happy to announce that we will now begin displaying the Google Checkout badge on the AdWords ads of non-profit organizations who use Checkout.

An important part of Google Checkout is matching up users with convenient, secure places to shop when they search, and the Checkout badge on AdWords ads is one of the ways we've been able to do that. In this same vein, we're adding the Checkout badge to non-profits' AdWords ads to help connect donors and non-profits more easily, and ultimately make donating to them as fast, simple, and secure as possible. And, of course, Google has committed to processing Checkout donations for free through at least the end of 2008, so donors can support their favorite non-profits knowing that 100 percent of their donations will reach those organizations.

If you'd like to learn more about how Google Checkout for Non-Profits might be able to help your non-profit organization, head over to


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

[G] Sky in the classroom

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Google LatLong: Sky in the classroom

Google products can be useful in many classes, but today I want to point out how they can be useful in my favorite high school class: astronomy!

When I studied astronomy, the teachers used to bring a gigantic star map to class, point at the stars, and tell us all those great stories about them. I always wanted to see deeper into the sky and know more about it, but I had to wait for the annual trip to the observatory to actually do that, unfortunately. With Sky in Google Earth you can do all of that and much more now without even leaving the classroom. Just open Google Earth, click on the new "Sky" button, and you'll see the very sky above your location. Here are some tips on how to get an astronomical education:

- To see a particular object, just search for it in the search box (for example, try searching "Betelgeuse"). If you want to know more about a particular star, just select the "backyard astronomy" layer from the layer panel and click on a star to get more details.

- To see a giant cosmic explosion in space, search for "crab nebula" and fly 6,300 light years in a second. Click on the icon to learn more. And you can explore other Hubble pictures using the layers panel.

- To explore the planets as they move across the sky, double-click the "planets" layer on the left panel and then press play on the time slider on the top-right corner. If you want to explore, say, the moon or Mars, just click on either one of them to land in a map. It's almost like being there ...

- Go to HeyWhat'sThat to access a night sky overlay in Google Earth and see what your sky will look like tonight.

- With planets and asteroids moving through our own solar system, and with exploding stars and mysterious flashes of gamma ray radiation, there are always new things to see in the night sky. At you can use Sky to find out whats new in the sky tonight and go and see for yourself.

- We also have special tours you can use: just click on the "User's guide to galaxies" or the "Life of a Star" tour on the layers panel, and then click on the star or galaxy icon to learn more. You can also create your own tour of Sky to share with friends or students, using the same tools in Google Earth. Here's a good tutorial.

Additionally, you can learn more about the planets through a new layer created by, which will show you all of the stars with planetary systems that we currently know about. Download it from the Google Earth gallery.

It's our hope that Sky will help educate kids around the world on the wonders of space. We encourage you to share your feedback with us in the Sky forum.


[G] Australia's election map redrawn

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Official Google Blog: Australia's election map redrawn

Australia's federal election is on 24 November 2007, and the campaign is well and truly in its final stages. Prime Minister Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd are adding final details to their policies and making their final appeal for votes.

You may recall that we launched an election site in September to help Australians stay informed. We've now updated the "Australian 2007 Election" feature in Google Maps so that, for all 150 House of Representatives seats, you can click on any candidate's name to see all their Google search results, or their YouTube channel. And with one click, you can now find an incredible array of information from across the Internet -- news stories, videos, personal websites, party websites, blogs, and all the rest -- about all 1,054 candidates for all 150 seats.

We've also added in all polling booth locations based on information from the Australian Electoral Commission, so voters can easily find their nearest polling booth on the map, together with opening hours and wheelchair accessibility. Voting in Australia is compulsory, so there's now no excuse not to turn up and have your say next Saturday.


[G] Free expression and controversial content on the web

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Official Google Blog: Free expression and controversial content on the web

Our world would be a very boring place if we all agreed all the time. So while people may strongly disagree with what someone says, or think that a particular newspaper article is total nonsense, we recognize that each of us have the right to an opinion.

We also know that letting people express their views freely has real practical benefits. Allowing individuals to voice unpopular, inconvenient or controversial opinions is important. Not only might they be right (think Galileo) but debating difficult issues in the open often helps people come to better decisions.

While most people agree in principle with the right to free expression, the challenge comes in putting theory into practice. And that's certainly the case on the web, where blogs, social networks and video sharing sites allow people to express themselves - to speak and be heard - as never before.

At Google we have a bias in favor of people's right to free expression in everything we do. We are driven by a belief that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual. But we also recognize that freedom of expression can't be -- and shouldn't be -- without some limits. The difficulty is in deciding where those boundaries are drawn. For a company like Google with services in more than 100 countries - all with different national laws and cultural norms - it's a challenge we face many times every day.

In a few cases it's straightforward. For example, we have a global all-product ban against child pornography, which is illegal in virtually every country. But when it comes to political extremism it's not as simple. Different countries have come to different conclusions about how to deal with this issue. In Germany there's a ban on the promotion of Nazism -- so we remove Nazi content on products on (our domain for German users) products. Other countries' histories make commentary or criticism on certain topics especially sensitive. And still other countries believe that the best way to discredit extremists is to allow their arguments to be publicly exposed.

All this raises important questions for Internet companies like Google. Our products are, after all, specifically designed to help people create and communicate, to find and share information and opinions across the world. So how do we approach these challenges?

It should come as no surprise to learn people have different views about what should appear on our sites. How and where to draw the boundaries is the subject of lively debate even within Google. We think that's healthy. And partly because of this, we realize that creating a flawless set of policies on which everyone can agree is an impossible task.

Google is not, and should not become, the arbiter of what does and does not appear on the web. That's for the courts and those elected to government to decide. Faced with day-to-day choices, however, we look at our products in three broad categories: search, advertising and services that host other people's content.

Search is the least restricted category. We remove results from our index only when required by law (for example, when linked to content infringing copyright) and in a small number of other instances, such as spam results or results including unauthorized credit card and social security numbers. Where feasible, we tell our users when we remove results.

At the other, most restrictive, end of the spectrum, we have what might be called commerce products –- the text of the advertisements we carry, which are subject to clear ad content policies.

The most challenging areas are where we host other people's content -- offerings like Blogger, Groups, orkut and video. On the one hand, we're not generating the content and we aim to offer a platform for free expression. On the other hand, we host the content on our servers and want to be socially responsible. So we have terms that we ask our users to follow. (See Blogger and orkut for examples.)

So the question becomes: how do we enforce those terms? In general, Google does not want to be a gatekeeper. We don't, and can't, check content before it goes live, any more than your phone company would screen the content of your phone calls or your ISP would edit your emails. Technology can sometimes help here, but it's rarely a full answer. We also have millions of active users who are vocal when it comes to alerting us to content they find unacceptable or believe may breach our policies. When they do, we review it and remove it where appropriate. These are always subjective judgments and some people will inevitably disagree. But that's because what's acceptable to one person may be offensive to another.

We also face the added complication that laws governing content apply differently in the different parts of the world in which we operate. As we all know, some governments are more liberal about freedom of expression than others. These legal differences create real technical challenges, for example, about how you restrict one type of content in one country but not another. And, in extreme cases, we face questions about whether a country's laws and lack of democratic processes are so antithetical to our principles that we simply can't comply or can't operate there in a way that benefits users.

But it's not only legal considerations that drive our policies. One type of content, while legal everywhere, may be almost universally unacceptable in one region yet viewed as perfectly fine in another. We are passionate about our users so we try to take into account local cultures and needs -- which vary dramatically around the world -- when developing and implementing our global product policies.

Dealing with controversial content is one of the biggest challenges we face as a company. We don't pretend to have all the right answers or necessarily to get every judgment right. But we do try hard to think things through from first principles, to be as transparent as possible about how we make decisions, and to keep reviewing and debating our policies. After all, the right to disagree is a sign of a healthy society.


[G] Viva la via!

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Google LatLong: Viva la via!

A few months ago we added a simple and fun way to interactively modify the directions created by Google Maps. You can drag the endpoints of your route to change where the route starts or stops. You can also drag the route itself to modify how you get to your destination. Perfect, right? Well, almost. Our users have told us that, while they love dragging their routes to use the roads they want, they don't like that we add a new destination at the spot they dragged: I want to go via the I-90 bridge, not stop on it! We wouldn't want to either. So we've tweaked this feature by adding a "via" point to the spot where you dragged, rather than a whole new destination:

This also improves our directions: No longer will we suggest you stop on the bridge during your trip. Viva la via!


[G] Welcome, TigerDirect!

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Welcome, TigerDirect!

The Google Checkout team welcomes TigerDirect, a 20-year-old business that currently ranks as the #24 top retailer in Internet Retailer's 2007 Top 500 guide. TigerDirect offers digital and electronic equipment, ranging from large-ticket items such as desktop computers and laptops to smaller-scale purchases like digital cameras and PC components and accessories. In fact, you can find more than 25,000 TigerDirect items listed in our Product Search. By launching Google Checkout, TigerDirect has made the choice to provide their users with more choice when it comes time to check out.

So keep your eyes open during the rapidly approaching holiday season, as TigerDirect plants itself firmly in the Checkout fold.


[G] Global privacy standards should focus on preventing harm to consumers

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Google Public Policy Blog: Global privacy standards should focus on preventing harm to consumers

We're gratified that Google's recent call for global privacy standards has sparked a healthy debate. Nearly everyone agrees that factors such as globalisation, the growing recognition of privacy rights, and technological developments have accelerated the urgency of global privacy protection.

However, our support for the emergence of the APEC Privacy Framework has generated some criticism, which I'd like to address. The APEC Privacy Framework was inspired by the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and is concerned with ensuring consistent and practical privacy protection across a wide range of economic and political perspectives.

At the core of the APEC framework is an entirely new privacy protection principle that does not exist in the regulatory frameworks of the 80s and the 90s: the "preventing harm" principle. The starting point is that personal information protection should be designed to prevent the misuse of that information. Since the greatest risk of that misuse is harm to individuals, we need a set of rules that seek to prevent that harm.

Using the reasoning of the APEC framework, global privacy standards should take account of the risks derived from the wrongful collection and misuse of people's personal information and be aimed at preventing the harm resulting from those risks. Under the "preventing harm" principle, any remedial measures should be proportionate to the likelihood and severity of the harm. Some critics have said that the APEC framework is ambiguous and that the "preventing harm" principle does not look at privacy protection from the point of the individual. However, the focus of the "preventing harm" principle is precisely the individual and what is perceived as harmful by that individual.

Others see the APEC framework as the weakest international framework in this area and support the original OECD Privacy Guidelines because they are based on a simple approach to privacy protection. But is this approach a valid one to address the challenges of the Internet age? In today's world, virtually every organisation – public or private, large or small, offline or online – relies on the collection and use of personal information for core operational purposes.

At the same time, regulators around the world are acknowledging the fact that they have limited resources to deal with all aspects of personal information protection. And three-quarters of the countries in the world still don't have meaningful privacy regimes in place. We believe that the APEC framework is the most promising foundation to advance privacy protections in those countries. What is wrong then with looking at this very practical challenge in a practical manner and trying to prioritise what really matters to people in an objective, yet flexible, way?

Fortunately, some regulators are also looking at the "preventing harm" principle as a valid way forward. The UK Information Commissioner recently published its data protection strategy which emphasises the need to make judgments about the seriousness of the risks of individual and societal harm, and about the likelihood of those risks materialising. The strategy document goes on to say that the UK regulator's actions will give priority to tackling situations where there is a real likelihood of serious harm.

Using this approach, the key issue for policymakers and regulators is to figure out what is (or can be) harmful and what isn't. Sure, identity theft and spam are bad. But is targeted advertising harmful or beneficial for consumers? What about the use of cookies to remember consumers' preferences or computer settings? Do they make life easier or are they a harmful consequence of our online activities?

The truth is that the newest generation of Internet users are in the best position to know what is good and what is bad -- what amounts to 21st century online interaction and what is a potentially harmful intrusion into their private lives. Their perception of what is justified and what is not should be a determining factor in the protection of their personal information so that the "preventing harm" principle is not seen as a weakness, but as an objective yardstick of how to protect people's privacy.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

[G] Google Maps comes to Switzerland

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Google LatLong: Google Maps comes to Switzerland

Falling in love with Switzerland just got even easier. Those romantic lakeside hotels, world-famous chocolate shops, and winding roads through the Alps can now be discovered using Google Maps for Switzerland. The all-new Maps service, developed right here in Zurich, will help people in Switzerland find and enjoy the businesses and services around them. It also includes easy-to-use driving directions and trip-planning public transport information. We worked with Swiss content providers, ranging from Swiss doctors to the Public Transit Authority, to provide a comprehensive one-stop-shop of local information. The same information can also be accessed from Google Earth.

So whether you're taking public transportation in Zurich, planning a family ski trip, or looking for a special place to stay in Geneva, Google Maps can help.


[G] Google Transit trip planning in Europe

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Google LatLong: Google Transit trip planning in Europe

We are very happy to announce the launch of Google Transit trip planner in Europe. For quite some time, Google Maps has featured transit stop icons with helpful information like lines serving a station and next departures for many cities. But now you can plan your entire journey using public transportation! So far we have information for the following places and transport companies:

- Travel South East, UK
- SBB, Switzerland (train, ferries and long distance bus coverage)
- VBZ, Zurich, Switzerland
- Turin, Italy
- Florence, Italy

Try it yourself: type your start and end address in the "get directions" boxes. The default results are driving directions, but in the areas that we have transit routing coverage, you can simply click on the "Take Public Transit" link.

We believe this is an important step in encouraging people to use public transit. We're hoping folks will decide to leave the car at home if they can easily discover a transit stop next to a business as they're searching for it, or if they realise it's easy to take a train as they plot their journey from point A to point B. We're always looking to improve our coverage and work with more partners -- we'll keep you posted as more places and transport companies are added.


[G] Senate helping make gov't more searchable

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Google Public Policy Blog: Senate helping make gov't more searchable

Let's say you're looking for some publicly available government information online. Maybe you're searching for property records or background on your local school district. Chances are, you'll start your quest not by typing in the URL of a government agency website, but by visiting Google or another search engine. Unfortunately, that may not produce the results you're looking for. In fact, much of the content that government agencies make available on the web (about half, by our estimates) doesn't appear in search results because of the way many government websites are structured.

Google has been working to make publicly available government information more accessible to the public. We're doing so by helping government agencies implement the Sitemap Protocol, a technical standard that makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index pages on a website. Tomorrow, a Senate committee will take another important step toward addressing this problem.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will consider S. 2321, which extends and updates the E-Government Act of 2002. Part of the bill directs the Office of Management and Budget to create guidance and best practices for federal agencies to make their websites more accessible to search engine crawlers, and thus to citizens who rely on search engines to access information provided by their government. It also requires federal agencies to ensure their compliance with that guidance and directs OMB to report annually to Congress on agencies' progress.

Implementing Sitemaps is an easy way for government agencies to make their online information and services more visible and accessible to the citizens they serve. We've already worked with states like Arizona, California, and Virginia, and federal agencies in the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Health and Human Services. We've also supported the sitemapping of large databases by Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration.

We welcome this Senate legislation and encourage governments at all levels to participate in this effort to become more transparent and accessible to citizens.


[G] Google content network tips: Part 1 - Recent improvements

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Inside AdWords: Google content network tips: Part 1 - Recent improvements

Many of our readers have emailed us asking for more information about the Google content network. As you ramp up your advertising efforts for the holiday season, we wanted to provide you with an overview of the content network, including recent improvements, tips, and examples of how others have used the content network to grow their business. Today's post is the first of a three-part series on the content network that we'll be sharing with you over the next few weeks.

The Google content network is a wide network of AdSense partners, ranging from household names such as the New York Times, to sites that cater to niche audiences, such as blogs, forums, and social networks. Together, these sites reach more worldwide Internet users than any other online property or network.

As an advertiser, you can use the content network to achieve goals across the buying cycle, from raising awareness to driving conversions. However, the impact of your content network campaigns can extend beyond the content network -- these content network campaigns can raise awareness for your business and create demand among your potential customers that can be captured later by your search campaigns. Here is what we heard recently from an AdWords advertiser:

There is no doubt that if we were to take our clients' campaigns off of the content network today, we would see a decrease in their conversions on search tomorrow."

- Edward Llach, founder, SearchRev SEM agency.

You can read more about Search Rev's experience with the content network in this case study.

Over the past year, we've made numerous changes to the ways you can manage, monitor, and optimize campaigns on the Google content network. Here are the most notable features we've added recently, based on your feedback.

Transparent reporting
The Placement Performance report provides site-by-site performance metrics for your contextually-targeted campaigns -- tracking clicks, impressions, cost, and conversion data at the URL level. When coupled with Google's conversion tracking, the Placement Performance report becomes a powerful tool that can show you the placements where you're meeting your objectives, and those where you aren't. You can read tips on how to use these reports effectively to boost campaign performance here.

Targeting and pricing improvements
We're constantly making changes to our contextual targeting system to ensure that we place your ads next to the content most relevant to your message, and as a result, measured more than a 25% increase in well-targeted ads over the last year. We've also made improvements to our smart pricing technology, which discounts the price of clicks on specific sites based on their likelihood to result in strong advertiser ROI. All together, these changes have led to more relevant ads for users and better results for advertisers.

More bidding choices
As we mentioned last week, we also released cost-per-click bidding for placement targeting. You can now hand-pick the parts of the content network where you'd like your ads to appear and choose the bidding option (CPM or CPC) that fits your needs.

Let us know if there are specific topics on the content network that you would like to hear about. In the meantime, keep your eye out for posts in this series in the coming weeks.


[G] Site search for Checkout customers

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Site search for Checkout customers

If you're a Google Checkout merchant, you're probably interested in learning about other Google products that can help you run your website and increase sales. In particular, your website needs its own search engine so that visitors can find products that interest them; Google offers a number of solutions for this. Thousands of businesses use our hosted search and appliance solutions, but we've found that many Checkout merchants aren't as familiar with these products.

In July, we launched Custom Search Business Edition (CSBE), which enables you to quickly create a hosted search engine for your website that uses Google's index and relevance algorithms. CSBE has a number of great features, but perhaps most interesting is an XML API that allows you to completely customize the look and feel of your search results. Currently, CSBE does not allow you to directly control your search engine's crawler, so if you want to ensure that certain URLs are regularly indexed, you may want to consider using a Google Mini instead. The Google Mini is an integrated hardware and software solution for creating a search engine. Compare our site search solutions in more detail.


[G] Architect ideas with Project Spectrum

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Google LatLong: Architect ideas with Project Spectrum

It's always incredible to witness even the youngest children mastering sophisticated web applications at lightning speed. Not long ago, I was wowed to learn that many children with autism have proven to be particularly adept at creating 3D models using Google SketchUp. Last week on the Official Google SketchUp Blog, we announced the creation of Project Spectrum, a program dedicated to connecting the autistic community with free software and learning materials.

Project Spectrum was dreamed up by the Google SketchUp team in partnership with the Boulder, Colorado chapter of the Autism Society of America, the Boulder Valley School District, and the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design at University of Colorado. By connecting children with SketchUp tools and the know-how to use them, Project Spectrum makes it possible for kids with special abilities to create 3D models of anything from actual existing buildings to imagined dream homes. They can even show off their work in the 3D Warehouse, an online repository of 3D models in which users can publish the models they've created, as well as search and download models built by others. And what's even cooler, the best models in the 3D Warehouse are added to the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth, giving every child the opportunity to share their hard work with the whole world!

The creators of Project Spectrum have put together a very cool video to showcase ways in which autistic children can take advantage of SketchUp. Check it out:

It's especially inspiring to learn about Project Spectrum's launch right in the middle of Geography Awareness Week. We hope people continue using our products in such fun, educational ways. If you are an educator who would like to use Google Sketchup in the classroom, please visit our SketchUp for Education page.


Monday, November 12, 2007

[G] Calling aspiring tech policy wonks

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Google Public Policy Blog: Calling aspiring tech policy wonks

Fascinated by the twists and turns of the upcoming FCC spectrum auction? Can't get enough of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? Passionate about online freedom of expression issues? If you're a undergraduate, graduate, or law student interested in in the world of tech policy, or know someone who is, keep reading.

We're excited to announce the launch of the Google Policy Fellowship program, our effort to replicate the success of our Summer of Code program in the public policy sphere and to support students and organizations doing work important to the future of Internet users everywhere.

Those selected as fellows will receive a stipend to spend ten weeks contributing to the public debate on technology policy issues -- ranging from broadband policy to copyright reform to open government. Participating organizations for our beta summer of 2008 include the American Library Association, Cato Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Electronic Freedom Foundation, Internet Education Foundation, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and Public Knowledge.

Check out more details and the application, which is due by January 1, 2008. And please help us spread the word!


[G] Go Daddy and Google offer easy access to Webmaster Tools

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Go Daddy and Google offer easy access to Webmaster Tools

Written by David Sha, Webmaster Tools Team

Welcome Go Daddy webmasters to the Google Webmaster Tools family! Today, we're announcing that Go Daddy, the world's largest hostname provider in the web hosting space, is working with us as a pilot partner so that their customers can more easily access Google Webmaster Tools. Go Daddy is a great partner, and we hope to educate more webmasters on how to make their site more search engine-friendly.

Go Daddy users will now see our link right in their hosting control center, and can launch Google Webmaster Tools directly from their hosting account. And Go Daddy makes the Google Webmaster Tools account creation process faster by adding the site, verifying the site, and submitting Sitemaps on behalf of hosting customers. Our tools show users how Google views their site, give useful stats like queries and links, diagnose problems, and share information with us in order to improve their site's visibility in search results.

As a continuation of these efforts, we look forward to working with other web hosting companies to add Google Webmaster Tools to their products soon.

And in case you're wondering, Webmaster Tools will stay 100% the same for current users. If you have questions or suggestions about our partnership with Go Daddy, let us know in our Webmaster community discussion groups.


[G] Say hello to placement targeting

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Inside AdSense: Say hello to placement targeting

We wanted to let you know about two recent changes to our site targeting feature. As you may know, site targeting allows advertisers to select specific publisher sites on which to run their ads. Advertisers can target your site if they've determined a match between their offerings and the interests of visitors to your site.

The first change is that we've renamed 'site targeting' to 'placement targeting' to better reflect the variety of targeting options we offer. Advertisers can still target their ads to an entire site, but they can now also target your individual ad units or groups of pages based on how you've set up ad placements using custom channels. Over the next few weeks, we'll be updating references to 'site targeting' in your account and in our Help Center.

The second change is that advertisers can bid on placement-targeted ads (formerly known as site-targeted ads) on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. Previously, advertisers could only bid on these targeted ads on a cost-per-impression (CPM) basis. Just as with contextually targeted CPC ads, you'll generate earnings for valid clicks on placement-targeted CPC ads.

While you can also add the URLs of specific CPC placement-targeted ads to your filter list, please keep in mind that all placement-targeted ads will participate in the ad auction with contextually targeted ads. Allowing more ads into the auction will help increase competition and ultimately your revenue.

Finally, we'd like to leave you with a few reminders to help you maximize your revenue potential with placement targeting:
  • Turn your custom channels into ad placements. These ad placements will allow you to highlight specific sections of your site that may appeal to advertisers.
  • Enable text and image ads for your ad units. By opting in to different ad types on your site, you'll increase the competition in the ad auction, which can lead to additional revenue for your account over time.
  • Use the 300x250 Medium Rectangle. This ad format is one of our best-performing ad units, and many advertisers use it when creating rich media (image and video) campaigns. Again, you'll benefit from the increased competition for your ad space.


[G] Keep tabs on this blog by e-mail

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Google Public Policy Blog: Keep tabs on this blog by e-mail

Since this blog was officially born back in June, we've seen a great response from both Google users and policymakers around the world. Now we're giving you another way to keep track on the latest posts that appear here.

Over in the right hand column, under "Get Blog Posts by E-mail," you can sign up to, well, get new blog posts sent to you via e-mail (neat the way that works, huh?). Once you sign up, you'll receive each new blog post in your inbox minutes after they're posted to the blog.

We hope you enjoy this new feature.


[G] Calling all developers: $10M Android challenge

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Official Google Blog: Calling all developers: $10M Android challenge

Last week we announced the Open Handset Alliance, a group of mobile and technology leaders committed to improving the mobile experience and Android, the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.

Today, the team is releasing an early look at the Android SDK for developers interested in building applications for Android. To get things rolling, we've also announced the Android Developer Challenge, which provides $10 million in awards for developers who build great applications for Android. Read more on the new Android Developers blog to learn about this exciting mobile platform.

With so many brilliant minds striving to design engaging, innovative applications, mobile users around the world (3 billion and counting!) can expect phones equipped with dynamic and unprecedented applications very soon.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

[G] Geography Awareness Week

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Google LatLong: Geography Awareness Week

Which country is home to the world's oldest lake? Where is harissa (a porridge-like soup made from stewed chicken or lamb and coarsely ground soaked wheat) a national dish?

As you may have guessed, each of these questions is related to Asia. We've teamed up with My Wonderful World, a National Geographic-led campaign for geographic literacy, to give students, parents and geography enthusiasts a look at "Asia: Continent of Contrasts" during Geography Awareness Week. Held annually during the third week of November, Geography Awareness Week is an initiative to create awareness of the people, places and diversity of a specific world region.

Check out My Wonderful World's tours of Asia in Google Earth, featuring photos, videos and interesting tidbits about Asia -- its natural wonders, wildlife, art, cuisine and more. You can also test your knowledge with the "Ultimate Asia Challenge," where you'll find answers to the questions above and many more.


[G] Map of the Day: San Francisco Bay Oil Spill

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Google LatLong: Map of the Day: San Francisco Bay Oil Spill

Google Maps' map-making tools are often used by news agencies to report stories as they happen. This past week's oil spill in the San Francisco Bay is a good example. The San Francisco Chronicle's map provides numerous pictures of the slick and cleanup. The KCBS map also shows areas affected and roughly how far the oil has travelled.