Friday, December 14, 2007

[G] When giving is fun

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Official Google Blog: When giving is fun

Many of us are familiar with Batman or Spiderman and their super attributes from multiple film and comic book incarnations. But you might not be as familiar with a superhero swathed in aquamarine Lycra, sporting appropriately heroic pecs emblazoned with an iconic 'G.' Yes, that's Googleman, who manifested in various colorful forms at last week's 'Superhero' day at our London office.

While Google may be a famously fun place to work, last Friday was especially fun -- with a purpose. London Googlers donned costumes and partook in themed activities to raise money for two local charities: Kids Company establishes educational and therapeutic programs for at-risk children, and Refuge offers shelter, support and counseling for those affected by domestic violence.

Although many of our Londoners arrived at work in hero attire (and we can just imagine the reaction of fellow commuters on the Tube), those without a superhero alter-ego could select underwear (to be worn over their pants, naturally), masks and other paraphernalia, and transform themselves at the office. Please note that not everyone defined "superhero" as a masked, caped and Spandexed defender of justice; the entire cast of Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget, and even Jesus were on hand. And to commemorate their heroic personas, there was an improvised blue screen for 'flying' photo ops.

Googlers dined on superfoods -- antioxidant-rich eats that include salmon, spinach and broccoli -- and donated money based on the cost of such a lunch. Book and T-shirt vendors were on hand for those wishing to do a little holiday shopping, with 10 to 20% of the proceeds earmarked for the charities. Those wishing to move their own undesirable gifts along participated in a re-gifting sale, in which re-gifts were sold with all proceeds going to the chosen causes. A bike auction rounded out the day's fundraising events to bring the grand total for the charities to £1200 or more. Scroll through this photo album to have a giggle, and perhaps to be inspired for your own fun with giving.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

[G] FYI on Google Toolbar's latest features

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: FYI on Google Toolbar's latest features

The latest version of Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer (beta) just added a neat feature to help users arrive at your website, or at least see your content, even when things go awry.

It's frustrating for your users to mistype your URL and receive a generic "404 - Not Found" or try to access a part of your site that might be down.

Regardless of your site being useful and information-rich, when these issues arise, most users just move on to something else.  The latest release of Google Toolbar, however, helps users by detecting site issues and providing alternatives.

Website Optimizer or Website Optimiser? The Toolbar can help you find it even if you try "google.cmo" instead of "".

3 site issues detected by Google Toolbar

  1. 404 errors with default error pages
    When a visitor tries to reach your content with an invalid URL and your server returns a short, default error message (less than 512 bytes), the Toolbar will suggest an alternate URL to the visitor. If this is a general problem in your website, you will see these URLs also listed in the crawl errors section of your Webmaster Tools account.

    If you choose to set up a custom error page, make sure it returns result code 404. The content of the 404 page can help your visitors to understand that they tried to reach a missing page and provides suggestions regarding how to find the content they were looking for. When a site displays a custom error page the Toolbar will no longer provide suggestions for that site. You can check the behavior of the Toolbar by visiting an invalid URL on your site with the Google Toolbar installed.

  2. DNS errors
    When a URL contains a non-existent domain name (like, the Toolbar will suggest an alternate, similar looking URL with a valid domain name. 

  3. Connection failures
    When your server is unreachable, the Google Toolbar will automatically display a link to the cached version of your page. This feature is only available when Google is not explicitly forbidden from caching your pages through use of a robots meta tag or crawling is blocked on the page through the robots.txt file. If your server is regularly unreachable, you will probably want to fix that first; but it may also be a good idea to check the Google cache for your pages by looking at the search results for your site.

Suggestions provided by the Google Toolbar

When one of the above situations is found, the Toolbar will try to find the most helpful links for the user. That may include:
  • A link to the corrected URL
    When the Toolbar can find the most probable, active URL to match the user's input (or link they clicked on), it will display it right on top as a suggestion. The correction can be somewhere in the domain name, the path or the file name (the Toolbar does not look at any parameters in the URL).

  • A link to the cached version of the URL
    When Toolbar recognizes the URL in the Google cache, it will display a link to the cached version. This is particularly useful when the user can't access your pages for some reason. As mentioned above, Google may cache your URLs provided you're not explicitly forbidding this through use of a robots meta tag or the robots.txt file.

  • A link to the homepage or HTML site map of your site
    Sometimes going to the homepage or a site map page is the best way to find the page that a user is really looking for. Site map pages (these are not XML Sitemap files) are generally recognized based on the file name; if the Toolbar can find something called "sitemap.html" or similar, this page will probably be recognized as the site map page. Don't worry if your site map page is called something else; if a user decides to go to your homepage, they'll probably find it right away even if the Toolbar doesn't spot it.

  • A link to a higher level folder
    Sometimes the homepage or site map page is too far out and the user would be better off just going one step up in the hierarchy. When the Toolbar can recognize that your site's structure is based on folders and sub-folders, it may suggest a page one step back.

  • A search within your site for keywords found in the URL
    It's a good practice to use descriptive URLs. If the Toolbar can recognize keywords within the URL which the user tried to access, it will link to a site-search with those keywords. Even if the URL has changed significantly in the meantime, the search may be able to find similar content based on those keywords. For instance, if the URL was it will suggest a search for the words "party", "gifts" and "holidays" within the site

  • An open Google search box
    If all else fails, there's always a chance that similar content already exists elsewhere on the web. The Google web search can help your users to find it - the Toolbar will help you by adding the keywords found in the URL to the search box.

Are you curious already? Download the Google Toolbar for your browser and give it a try on your site!

To discuss how this feature can help visitors to your site, jump in to our Google Webmaster Help Group; or for general Google Toolbar questions, try the Toolbar group for Internet Explorer or the Toolbar group for Firefox.


[G] OpenID Commenting

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Blogger Buzz: OpenID Commenting

After just two short weeks of testing on Blogger in draft, OpenID commenting is now available for all Blogger blogs. This means that your friends and readers can leave authenticated comments on your blog using their blog URLs from OpenID-enabled services such as, LiveJournal, and AOL Journals, or with their AOL/AIM accounts.

We've chosen a few popular OpenID providers to highlight on the comments form, but OpenID is, well, "open"! You can use any OpenID service to post a comment by choosing "Any OpenID" and filling in your OpenID URL.

You'll see the OpenID icon (OpenID icon) next to the names of commenters who posted with their OpenID. This icon assures you that the person who posted the comment is the same person blogging at the URL their name links to. Say goodbye to comment spoofing!

Turning on OpenID commenting on your blog

If you've set your "Who Can Comment?" setting to "Anyone," OpenID will be enabled on your comments pages right now! To change your comments settings, go to your blog's Settings | Comments tab in Blogger, and select "Registered Users" or "Anyone" in the Who Can Comment setting:

Getting an OpenID URL for your site

Blogger provides helpful shortcuts to, LiveJournal, TypeKey, and AOL, but you can use any URL that you control as your OpenID URL by using delegation.

For example, say you have a LiveJournal account with the username "brad." This gives you an OpenID URL at You could comment with this URL, but you'd rather have your comments link to your homepage at

By copying two lines of HTML into the <head> tag of, you can turn it into an OpenID URL. Then, you can use to sign your comments, while logging in to LiveJournal when you do so.

Delegation gives you complete control over what URL you use to represent yourself online, and complete control over what service you want to use to login with. Sam Ruby wrote a great article about OpenID delegation that we recommend if you're interested.

LiveJournal, AOL,, and TypeKey aren't the only OpenID providers out there. If you need an OpenID account, you can also get one from myOpenID, Verisign, or any other service that implements OpenID.

The "Other" URL field

Right now, the only way to add a URL to your name when commenting is to sign your comment with OpenID. We apologize for removing the URL field from the comments form prematurely two weeks ago. That was a mistake on our part that came from launching OpenID support on Blogger in draft.

Ironically, our testing of OpenID, a feature that lets you use accounts from all over the web to comment on Blogger, made it appear that we were trying to force you into getting a Google Account. We regret this appearance, since we're strong supporters of OpenID and open web standards in general.

If you haven't set up OpenID, you can still link to your blog — or any webpage, for that matter — by using the standard <a> tag inside the comment form.


[G] Encouraging people to contribute knowledge

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Official Google Blog: Encouraging people to contribute knowledge

The web contains an enormous amount of information, and Google has helped to make that information more easily accessible by providing pretty good search facilities. But not everything is written nor is everything well organized to make it easily discoverable. There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal.

Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling "knol", which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word "knol" as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we'll do the rest.

A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

Knols will include strong community tools. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Once testing is completed, participation in knols will be completely open, and we cannot expect that all of them will be of high quality. Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge. We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledge.

We do not want to build a walled garden of content; we want to disseminate it as widely as possible. Google will not ask for any exclusivity on any of this content and will make that content available to any other search engine.

As always, a picture is worth a thousands words, so an example of a knol is below (click on the image twice to see the page in full). The main content is real, and we encourage you to read it (you may sleep better afterwards!), but most of the meta-data -- like reviews, ratings, and comments -- are not real, because, of course, this has not been in the public eye as yet. Again, this is a preliminary version.


[G] Confessions of a search box

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Google LatLong: Confessions of a search box

Believe me, it's not easy being the search box on Google Maps. I sit at the top of the page answering millions of local queries every day. To tell you the truth, sometimes I get a little bored -- I mean, how many times can I search for pizza places? I'm always happy to pick up some new tricks, which is why I'd like to share with you what I've learned recently that makes my life much more interesting.

I can now search for geotagged photos from Panoramio, such as Big Ben in London and Pyramids in Egypt, as well as videos from YouTube (our own Google Geyser and Base jumping in Rio). I can even look up books from Google Book Search! (Try Christmas books in Jerusalem). Those results will appear as blue markers on the map. As always, if you don't see results on the top, you can scroll down and click on the "see community maps" link to see more content from other Maps aficionados.

So feel free to search for whatever you want. Just type it in and I'll do my best to help. Here are some of my favorites:
Stones in Stonehenge , New 7 wonders of the world.


[G] President Kalam's vision of a "knowledge society"

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Google Public Policy Blog: President Kalam's vision of a "knowledge society"

How many heads of state, both present and former, can boast an engineering degree, claim responsibility for the development of a national space program, and cite a professorship at a premier academic institution - all prior to assuming office? Just one that I know of: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, who recently spoke to Googlers here in Hyderabad.

Before his talk, President Kalam lamented the dramatic drop in support staff since leaving the presidency in July and thanked Google's search engine for being a trustworthy "friend" throughout the transition. Though President Kalam's lecture touched on many topics, he focused on how the ability to access, comprehend, and effectively utilize information can be "an instrument of economic growth and national development."

The former president argued that delivering valuable information over the Internet can be an important way to boost creativity, innovation, and competitiveness in a given society, leading to the creation of a what he referred to as a "knowledge society." Said President Kalam: "The challenge is not the technology alone, but how the application and service are facilitated or delivered to the people as per their requirements."

Along these lines, he offered three recommendations to the information communications and technology industry: first, industry should lead society's key stakeholders in broadly accepting the Internet as "the new way of living, the way of learning, the way of trading and business, the way of socializing and the way of governance."; second, he encouraged the ICT industry to facilitate the creation of local content online that could bring economic prosperity to a particular region; and third, he asked industry to promote public policy changes that address issues such as authentication, security, intellectual property rights, and the prevention of abuse on social networking sites.

In closing, President Kalam urged Googlers to tackle some big problems: the development of speech-recognition and speech-production technologies that would create "language-independent access to knowledge and information"; the creation of digital libraries of information for science and engineering students in the developed anddeveloping worlds; and the building of a system that generates, collects, and distributes clean energy.

Here's the complete video of former President Kalam's talk.


[G] Introducing the Ad Review Center

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Inside AdSense: Introducing the Ad Review Center

In an effort to provide you with more transparency and control over the ads appearing on your pages, we've developed the Ad Review Center. This new feature, which we'll be rolling out to publishers over the next few months, will allow you to review ads placement-targeted to your site and ensure those ads are relevant to your site's users.

When you first opt into the Ad Review Center, you'll be able to see all placement-targeted ads currently targeted to your site, and a couple of days later you'll be able to review placement-targeted ads that have previously run on your site. If you think an ad is not relevant for your users, you can prevent it from appearing again by blocking it in the Ad Review Center. We recommend you carefully consider the revenue impact of blocking an ad, since blocked ads won't compete in the auction on your site, and advertisers whose ads you block may choose not to target your site again in the future.

In addition to letting publishers weigh in on the relevance of placement-targeted ads, the Ad Review Center will also help advertisers improve their placement-targeted ad campaigns. When you block an ad, you'll be prompted to select a reason. We'll share this constructive feedback with advertisers so they can use it to improve the quality and relevance of future ad campaigns.

As we've done with past features, we're gradually launching the Ad Review Center to all publishers over the next few months. When it has been enabled for your account, you'll see a green notification box at the top of your 'Competitive Ad Filter' page, located under the 'AdSense Setup' tab. By default, the Ad Review Center will let you review all placement-targeted ads after they have run on your site. However, if you have a strong need to manually review ads before they appear on your site, you may do so by clicking on the 'update settings' link in the Ad Review Center. You'll then have 24 hours to review ads before they are automatically allowed to run on your site. Please note that you can also return to the Ad Review Center and allow a previously blocked ad, or block a previously allowed ad.

We strongly recommend you keep your review preference set to 'auto-allow' and review ads after they have run. Ads don't participate in the auction while they are awaiting review, and ads that you have blocked cannot compete in the auction either. The actual revenue impact will vary in each publisher's situation, but when using the Ad Review Center, please consider the revenue effects of blocking ads or switching from the auto-allow setting.

To learn more about the Ad Review Center, please visit the Help Center. We hope you find this new feature useful and look forward to hearing your feedback.


[G] New: Content analysis and Sitemap details, plus more languages

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: New: Content analysis and Sitemap details, plus more languages

We're always striving to help webmasters build outstanding websites, and in our latest release we have two new features: Content analysis and Sitemap details. We hope these features help you to build a site you could compare to a fine wine -- getting better and better over time.

Content analysis

To help you improve the quality of your site, our new content analysis feature should be a helpful addition to the crawl error diagnostics already provided in Webmaster Tools. Content analysis contains feedback about issues that may impact the user experience or that may make it difficult for Google to crawl and index pages on your site. By reviewing the areas we've highlighted, you can help eliminate potential issues that could affect your site's ability to be crawled and indexed. This results in better indexing of your site by Google and other search engines.

The Content analysis summary page within the Diagnostics section of Webmaster Tools features three main categories. Click on a particular issue type for more details:

  • Title tag issues
  • Meta description issues
  • Non-indexable content issues

content analysis usability section

Selecting "Duplicate title tags" displays a list of repeated page titles along with a count of how many pages contain that title. We currently present up to thirty duplicated page titles on the details page. If the duplicate title issues shown are corrected, we'll update the list to reflect any other pages that share duplicate titles the next time your website is crawled.

Also, in the Title tag issues category, we show "Long title tags" and "Short title tags." For these issue types we will identify title tags that are way too short (for example "IT" isn't generally a good title tag) or way too long (title tag was never intended to mean <insert epic novel here>). A similar algorithm identifies potentially problematic meta description tags. While these pointers won't directly help you rank better (i.e. Pages with <title> length x aren't moved to the top of the search results), they may help your site display better titles and snippets in search results, and this can increase visitor traffic.

In the "Non-indexable content issues," we give you a heads-up of areas that aren't as friendly to our more text-based crawler. And be sure to check out our posts on Flash and images to learn how to make these items more search-engine friendly.

content analysis crawlability section

Sitemap details page

If you've submitted a Sitemap, you'll be happy when you see the additional information in Webmaster Tools revealing how your Sitemap was processed. You can find this information on the newly available Sitemap Details page which (along with information that was previously provided for each of your Sitemaps) shows you the number of the pages from your Sitemap that were indexed. Keep in mind the number of pages indexed from your Sitemap may not be 100% accurate because the indexed number is updated periodically, but it's more accurate than running a "" query on Google.

The new Sitemap Details page also lists any errors or warnings that were encountered when specific pages from your Sitemap were crawled. So the time you might have previously spent on crafting custom Google queries to determine how many pages from your Sitemap were indexed, can now be spent on improving your site. If your site is already the crème de la crème, you might prefer to spend the extra free time mastering your ice-carving skills or blending the perfect eggnog.

Here's a view of the new Sitemap details page:

Sitemaps are an excellent way to tell Google about your site's most important pages, especially if you have new or updated content that we may not know about. If you haven't yet submitted a Sitemap or have questions about the process, visit our Webmaster Help Center to learn more.

Webmaster Tools now available in Czech & Hungarian
We love expanding our product to help more people and in their language of choice. We recently put in effort to expand the number of Webmaster Tools available languages to Czech and Hungarian, in addition to the 20 other languages we already support. We won't be stopping here. Our desire to support even more languages in the future means that if your language of choice isn't currently supported, stay tuned -- there'll be even more supported languages to come.

We always love to hear what you think. Please visit our Webmaster Help Group to share comments or ask questions.


[G] The results are in

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Official Google Blog: The results are in

Every year we put out the Year-End Zeitgeist, a look at the most popular and fastest-rising search terms in hopes of telling us something about what's been on our (collective) mind. This was my first year working on this project, and I'm here to report I was pleasantly surprised by many of the findings. Yes, 2007 was a big year for U.S. politics, and, of course, there were several peaks coinciding with the indiscretions of a few starlets -- but what I found particularly interesting were some of the timeless themes that surfaced: what is love, who is god and how to kiss, to name a few. No matter how much changes over time, these questions seem to be constants. I don't know about you, but I hope we never get to the bottom of them. Searching for an answer is half the fun.

If you haven't already done so, be sure to check out our complete list for 2007.


[G] Postini looks back on 2007

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Official Google Blog: Postini looks back on 2007

For years now, anti-spam efforts have been like a game of checkers played at night. The bad guys make their move, Postini responds, and the majority of our customers are pleasantly oblivious to the fact that as much as 90 percent of their incoming mail is spam. This year, it became a game of chess. Data from Postini data centers shows that virus attacks hit record levels, spam percentages in Europe are catching up with global trends, and the volume of spam became more volatile as spammers dramatically varied their tactics, as seen in this graph:

To find out what made 2007 really different from any earlier year, and to see some forecasts for 2008, check out the the Google Enterprise blog.


[G] Announcing new graphing tools, ga.js tracking, and six new languages

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Google Analytics Blog: Announcing new graphing tools, ga.js tracking, and six new languages

Today, we're adding several updates to Google Analytics including the ability to graph multiple data points at once, ga.js tracking, and six new languages.

All accounts have access to a new beta feature that allows you to graph two metrics against each other and see how they correlate. For example, you might want to see how your AdWords traffic compares with your site average or how one conversion goal compares to another over time. Here are the instructions on how to access this new graphing feature.

We are also rolling out the new ga.js page tag which we recommend you use for all new accounts and new profiles for new domains. Although your existing urchin.js page tags will continue to work, you may wish to update them to ga.js anyway. This will allow you to take advantage of the most up-to-date tracking functionality as it is added to Google Analytics. An immediate benefit you'll notice is that the ga.js tags allow you to track ecommerce transactions in a more readable way. And, we've created a special resource on the ga.js javascript for power users who want more control over Google Analytics tracking. If you do choose to update your site to ga.js, please note that the old tracking code (which uses urchin.js) and the new tracking code (which uses ga.js) will not work if placed on the same page together.

Finally, we begin supporting six additional languages: Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Czech, Hungarian, and Portuguese (Portugal). You can select any one of the 25 Google Analytics supported languages from the Language pulldown menu on the Analytics Settings-->My Account page.


[G] The Google Earth Outreach showcase

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Google LatLong: The Google Earth Outreach showcase

Launched in June of this year, the Google Earth Outreach program helps nonprofit organizations display their information in an engaging, geospatial environment. Our showcase highlights some of the fascinating and innovative KMLs being created by individuals and organizations working for the greater good.

So let's say you want your KML featured in the Outreach Showcase. How do you do it?

Well, first off, it's probably a good idea (and fun to do!) to explore the showcase, taking encouragement from the fact that many of these creators knew little about KML (Keyhole Markup Language). If you have an idea of what you want to do, but are unsure how to go about it, you can check out our tutorials. When you're happy with your final result, submit your KML for consideration, and you just may have people worldwide learn more about your organization. We welcome and encourage submissions from individuals and organizations worldwide.

The showcase is organized into six categories and highlights the breadth of work being undertaken with Google Earth. Some of my favourite KML examples are:

'The Edge of Existence,' which illustrates the need to protect and conserve endangered wildlife; an animation showing the spread of avian influenza; Australia's National Pollutant Inventory; elephant poaching in Zakouma National Park; and the layers included in the Global Awareness folder in Google Earth (like this World Wildlife Fund layer), which is where you'll find Outreach partner content.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

[G] Reader and Talk are Friends!

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Official Google Reader Blog: Reader and Talk are Friends!

There once was a Reader named Chrix, Who found himself in quite a fix: He'd fun stuff to share But no one was there, Now Reader shows friends when Chrix clicks!
One of my favorite uses for Reader is to share interesting stuff with my friends. I click "Share" whenever I find an interesting item, be it hilarious or serious. This way, all my friends can subscribe to my shared items (and I to theirs), and we can easily see if a friend has found something interesting. This can be inconvenient, as I have to distribute my shared items link to my friends and vice-versa. So, we've linked up Reader with Google Talk (also known as chat in Gmail) to make your shared items visible to your friends from Google Talk. Once you've logged into Reader and been notified of the change, these friends will be able to see your shared items in the Reader left-hand navigation area under "Friends' shared items". We've provided an option to clear your shared items in case you don't want your friends to see what you've shared in the past. We've also added a Settings page so you can choose which friends you see and invite friends who aren't yet sharing to try it out. We're really excited about adding friends, but want to make clear that this is a work in progress. We know you might not see every feature you want just yet, so we hope you will play with it and send us your feedback. For now, this is available only in English on I like friends! I like Reader! I hope you do too.


[G] Reader and Talk are Friends!

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Official Google Reader Blog: Reader and Talk are Friends!

There once was a Reader named Chrix, Who found himself in quite a fix: He'd fun stuff to share But no one was there, Now Reader shows friends when Chrix clicks!
One of my favorite uses for Reader is to share interesting stuff with my friends. I click "Share" whenever I find an interesting item, be it hilarious or serious. This way, all my friends can subscribe to my shared items (and I to theirs), and we can easily see if a friend has found something interesting. This can be inconvenient, as I have to distribute my shared items link to my friends and vice-versa. So, we've linked up Reader with Google Talk (also known as chat in Gmail) to make your shared items visible to your friends from Google Talk. Once you've logged into Reader and been notified of the change, these friends will be able to see your shared items in the Reader left-hand navigation area under "Friends' shared items". We've provided an option to clear your shared items in case you don't want your friends to see what you've shared in the past. We've also added a Settings page so you can choose which friends you see and invite friends who aren't yet sharing to try it out. We're really excited about adding friends, but want to make clear that this is a work in progress. We know you might not see every feature you want just yet, so we hope you will play with it and send us your feedback. For now, this is available only in English on I like friends! I like Reader! I hope you do too.


[G] Introducing AdWords Editor 5.0 for Windows and Mac

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Inside AdWords: Introducing AdWords Editor 5.0 for Windows and Mac

Today, we released version 5.0 of AdWords Editor, our free, downloadable campaign management application. Among other features, version 5.0 includes support for local business ads, an export picker that lets you select specific campaigns and ad groups to save to a CSV file, and the ability to save advanced search settings. You can read our release notes for a complete list of new and updated features.

If you haven't yet downloaded AdWords Editor, visit our website to get the latest version. If you're already using AdWords Editor, you'll be prompted to upgrade automatically.

Important note: To avoid losing unposted changes or comments, export an archive of your account before upgrading. After you've completed the upgrade, download your account then import the archive file to get your account up and running.

Version 5.0 is available now for Windows and Mac. For more information about AdWords Editor, visit the AdWords Editor Help Center.


[G] Set your Google Talk picture with a webcam

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Google Talkabout: Set your Google Talk picture with a webcam

Finding a good Google Talk picture can be a real chore. It's hard enough to find a photo of yourself where you're smiling and looking intelligent, without all the additional hassle of cropping, exporting, and manually uploading your picture. So I devoted a few cycles to solving this problem in a fun way. Today, we're launching a way for you to take your Google Talk picture directly from your webcam.

From the Google Talk gadget, click on your Google Talk picture, and select the "Take Photo" option. You'll see the image from your webcam appear, and you'll be able to take and retake pix to your heart's content. When you get that perfect shot, just click "Save" to set it as your picture.

Currently, this feature only works in the Google Talk gadget, but will set your picture across the Google Talk network, including in Gmail.

Have fun, and let us know what you think here.

Justin Uberti
Software Engineer


[G] Today: TV static. Tomorrow: broadband.

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Google Public Policy Blog: Today: TV static. Tomorrow: broadband.

Remember how, before cable and satellite TV became ubiquitous in our homes, we would have to turn the VHF dial on our old televisions to watch local channels? NBC might have been on channel 3, CBS on 10, and ABC on 17. And between those channels...was static.

Today, the spaces between those channels remain largely unused. But now a consensus is growing that those portions of TV spectrum -- known as "white spaces" -- could be used to expand Internet access through low power personal devices, akin to Wi-Fi. Best of all, new spectrum sensing technologies can ensure that this spectrum could be used for mobile broadband service without interfering one bit with television signals. Which means that not only would more Americans be able to reach the Internet, but also that I'll still be able to watch The Colbert Report (at least once the Hollywood writers' strike is settled).

Over the past few months, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House (by Reps. Jay Inslee and Nathan Deal) and Senate (by Sens. John Kerry and Gordon Smith) to open up this spectrum. We support these bills and thank their sponsors. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission is currently evaluating the technology concepts behind this issue. As part of that process, we met last week with some of the FCC's engineers and presented encouraging test results based on ongoing trials of wireless technologies.

Today, Google joined a broad-based coalition of technology companies, public interest and consumer groups, civil rights organizations, think tanks, and higher education groups to launch the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a new group to promote the numerous benefits that the "white spaces" can bring to consumers. The members of the coalition have already helped secure significant political support for our goals from Members of Congress, and we will be working over the next several months to educate more policymakers about the promise of white spaces. And while some have sought recently to politicize this process, we think the FCC should be allowed to conduct its analysis free of political considerations.

Between today's TV channels lies the opportunity for more Americans to enjoy the Internet's rich resources. We'll be working hard to make sure this debate is marked by more clarity, and less static.


[G] Google Toolbar: Take your tools with you

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Official Google Blog: Google Toolbar: Take your tools with you

I've started to notice something peculiar about the Toolbar team, and that's this: we literally can't seem to stop carrying the Toolbar around with us. When we moved to a new space in our Mountain View campus, we brought along a hallway-sized printout of it. For Halloween, eighteen of us dressed up as the different parts of the Toolbar itself.

And now with the latest beta release of the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, my fellow product manager Avni and I couldn't wait to point out the new features.

Maybe it's on our minds, because with the latest version of Toolbar, you can save your settings online, and then get all of your bookmarks, custom buttons and AutoFill information from your different computers -- like when you're at home, or at work, or if you get a new computer for the holidays. It's kind of like carrying your Toolbar with you, but without the hassle of cardboard and string, and a lot more useful.

And, yes, there are some new reasons for you to carry your Toolbar with you, too.

You can accessorize with Google Gadgets: We first released custom buttons with search and feed functionality, and now we've added support for many Google Gadgets. In Toolbar, gadgets can even interact with the pages you're on, like with the Google Product Search gadget, you can just highlight the name of something you'd like to buy on any page and do a quick price comparison right there.

Google Notebook is built in:
We realized that saving links as bookmarks to come back to is great, but not quite enough. So now you can collect text and images, too and put them into notebooks right from the Toolbar.

You'll get suggestions instead of error pages:
If you mistype a URL or a page is down, now the Toolbar will give you that familiar "Did you mean" with alternatives, like when you do a Google search.

We still have the original Toolbar features, like automatic form filling, pop-up blocking and spelling correction, too, so give it a try and let us know what you think at


[G] Farewell Onsite Advertiser Sign-up

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Inside AdSense: Farewell Onsite Advertiser Sign-up

We have high standards for the services we offer, which means we constantly reevaluate existing features to ensure they are effective as the AdSense product continues to expand.

Our recent findings indicate that the Onsite Advertiser Sign-up feature, which allowed advertisers to sign up for AdWords campaigns on your site, hasn't been performing as well as we had hoped. We've elected to gracefully retire this feature and focus our efforts on developing and supporting features that drive better monetization results for you. Call it time management, call it ROI, call it our unwavering commitment to our publishers. We want you to earn more revenue, and sometimes that means "sunsetting" certain features we created.

Please be aware that any links you've created that lead to a customizable Onsite Advertiser Sign-up page will soon re-direct to the main AdWords sign-up page. Of course, AdWords advertisers will still be able to target your individual sites by using placement targeting. Thanks for your support of this feature in the past. We hope its departure won't cause you any inconvenience.


[G] Free transaction processing beyond the holidays

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Free transaction processing beyond the holidays

As you merchants out there may know, we originally planned to transition back to Checkout's standard fee structure on January 1. Considering how busy this time of the year is for you, we're extending our free transaction processing offer an extra month -- to February 1, 2008.

After that, you'll still be able to earn free credit card processing by using AdWords, Google's performance-based advertising program. For every $1 / £1 you spend on AdWords, you'll be able to process $10 / £10 of sales through Checkout for free. For anything outside of that, you'll be charged 2.0% plus $.20 per transaction if you're in the US, and 1.5% plus £0.15 if you're in the UK.

So if you're an AdWords advertiser, make sure you link your AdWords account with Checkout by the end of January to earn free transaction processing moving forward. If you aren't an AdWords advertiser, learn more about AdWords and sign up to earn free transaction processing with Google Checkout.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

[G] Picasa Web Albums on the iPhone

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Google Photos Blog: Picasa Web Albums on the iPhone

If you've ever picked up an iPhone, you know that it's great for showing off digital photos. iPhones have a high-resolution screen that's big, bright, and crisp, and a first-class web browser that supports complex web technologies like AJAX. Put these two together, and it's probably fair to say that Apple's iPhone offers one of the best platforms for experiencing the mobile version of Picasa Web Albums.

Today, we're happy to tell you about an extra bonus for iPhone users who visit the mobile version of Picasa Web Albums. You'll see that we've completely redesigned and optimized the interface specifically for iPhones. Pictures are proportioned to fit the iPhone's screen dimensions, and we've tweaked the key buttons so they're easier to navigate with your fingertips. Best of all, we've launched a new iPhone-only slideshow feature that automatically flips through your favorite photo albums.

Of course, one underlying advantage of Picasa Web Albums for mobile remains the same on the iPhone as it does on any other Internet-enabled phone: Not only can you take your favorite photos with you anywhere, but you can also use Search and Favorites to browse shared or public photos from friends, family, and the entire Picasa Web Albums community.


[G] Haere Mai! Google Maps lands in New Zealand

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Official Google Blog: Haere Mai! Google Maps lands in New Zealand

Today we're pleased to announce the full launch of Google Maps in New Zealand. Although we've offered basic mapping in New Zealand for some time, today we're unveiling a localised and customised site for our users in New Zealand. We've added full local business search capabilities, plus the Local Business Centre, so that any Kiwi business can get a free listing.

While we know New Zealanders care about a lot more than rugby, racing and beer, we're pleased that now Google Maps can help you find the nearest place to do any of those things. Plus, you can find a cafe in Ponsonby, an Indian restaurant in Wellington , a plumber in Dunedin, or a great hotel for your next holiday. All available on a PC or mobile phone near you!

And of course, Kiwis can also use Google Maps to look up an address, get driving directions (and the ability to drag them around), browse our satellite imagery, and even create custom maps that you can share with friends, all using the simple interface.


[G] Holiday shopping with Product Search and Checkout

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Holiday shopping with Product Search and Checkout

When thinking about ways to help people use both Google Product Search and Google Checkout to do their holiday shopping this year, a few of us from these teams decided to have a little fun. The result is a short video featuring our very own Kristin and Brian in their holiday finery. So if this video inspires you to shop, make sure to visit our holiday special offers page. And happy holidays to you.


[G] Comments, ratings and top links for My Maps

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Google LatLong: Comments, ratings and top links for My Maps

Since the launch of the My Maps tab in April of this year, people have created over 7 million maps to share their places of interest. However, viewers of these maps haven't been able to connect with the map creators. You may have wanted to send some feedback or praise for a map, but didn't have a place to get in touch with the author. That's why today we've launched a special page for every user-created map where you can leave comments and star ratings. You'll also find a top links section that shows which websites and blogs are referring traffic to the map. If you're curious about where your map's huge number of views have been coming from, just check out your referrals.

To get to the new comments page, just click on the new ratings and comments links on the My Maps pages (outlined in red below).

You'll reach a page that looks like the one below. To leave some comments for the folks at KPBS who created this San Diego wildfire map, go here.

You can also use comments to communicate with your collaborators on an editable map. For example, this recently-created European Travel Tips map is set to Open Collaboration, meaning anyone can edit it. If you wanted to discuss the best way to organize the map or just talk about European travel in general, the comments section would be a great place to do it.

Happy mapping!


[G] Statz 0.8.5

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Official Google Mac Blog: Statz 0.8.5

It's barely been a week since we launched Statz on the Google Mac Developer Playground, and it's already seen a couple of major updates. The new version now supports Ircle, Snak, Conversation, Twitter and Tumblr on top of the already-supported Adium, Colloquy, iChat and Skype. It also has a new AppleScript plugin API so you can add your own custom plugins for Statz. There's an example AppleScript plugin that shows you how you can SMS your status to anybody in North America. Finally, there have been a pile of bug fixes and optimizations. If you were having troubles launching earlier versions of Statz, hopefully all the major issues should be solved now.

And now, we're looking for translators. We've made headway on French, German, Dutch, Spanish and (believe it or not) Swahili, but we'd love to get more help. Please come join the statz-discuss mailing list and give us a hand. Also, if you've got a favorite service you would like us to support, let us know and we'll see what we can come up with. Of course code and patches are always happily accepted :).


[G] Candidates at Google: Chris Dodd

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Google Public Policy Blog: Candidates at Google: Chris Dodd

Though Senator Chris Dodd may not be attracting the same crowds as other presidential candidates, he has made his mark on the campaign trail with voters like myself who consider the protection of civil liberties to be a critical election issue. Dodd's visit to the Googleplex Monday focused on this topic, and it did not disappoint. He didn't pull any punches, even when that meant offering some candid criticism of Google.

Dodd's speech centered on his outspoken opposition to retroactive immunity for telephone companies who allegedly assisted President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. He has taken to the Web to make his case against letting the companies off the hook, including through this YouTube video with whistleblower Mark Klein, the retired AT&T technician who uncovered "a switch [at AT&T's facilities] that channeled Internet traffic culled from millions of living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and offices across the nation to a secret room operated by the NSA." Many lawsuits have been brought against AT&T and other carriers to stop this alleged cooperation with government surveillance of Americans, but immunity could stop these cases in their tracks.

While pledging to uphold Americans' constitutional liberties if elected president, Dodd also impressed upon Googlers that it is our responsibility to protect these sacred liberties as well. As he put it, Google's commitment to the free flow of information and powerful, speech-enabling technology provides the foundation for "a transformative power both vast and unprecedented - the capability to not only transform society but the very notion of society. Of community. Of democracy." At the same time, he challenged Google to do more to defend free expression and privacy both in the U.S. and abroad, directly questioning our decision to operate in Internet-restricting countries like China.

In Q&A with our General Counsel Kent Walker and audience members, Dodd canvassed a range of other issues, including net neutrality, energy policy and immigration.

View the whole video here:

And his interview with YouTube's Steve Grove:

Dodd was the eighth presidential candidate to stop by Google, and you can view videos of visits by Barack Obama, Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Mike Gravel.


[G] Above and beyond

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Google LatLong: Above and beyond

Be sure to check out the new "Earth From Above" layer featuring the stunning photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand in Google Earth today! You'll find it in the Global Awareness folder. You can also go to to view an interview with Yann or to download an iGoogle gadget that features a new photograph every day. Read more about it on the Official Google Blog.


Monday, December 10, 2007

[G] Senate testimony: Our efforts to better connect citizens to government

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Google Public Policy Blog: Senate testimony: Our efforts to better connect citizens to government

Last month we blogged about a big step forward towards making U.S. government more accessible to its citizens: the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's approval of the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007, which nudges federal government agencies to make their websites more accessible to search engine crawlers. Today, J.L. Needham, who leads Google's work with federal agencies to help Google's crawlers find their web content, is testifying before the committee about Google's work in this area (read his complete testimony here).

While search engines have made connecting to online government resources easier in recent years, certain barriers can still get in citizens' way. "The most common barrier is the search form for a database that asks users to input several fields of information to find what they're looking for," J.L. will say in his testimony. "Our crawlers cannot effectively follow the links to reach behind the search form."

In 2005, Google introduced the Sitemap protocol, an open standard for web sites that allows search engines to readily identify the location of all pages on the site, including database records lying behind a search form. The standard has been embraced by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, -- as well, the federal government's official search engine. As a result, any government site using this standard can reach Americans through all major search engines.

J.L. will also share Sitemaps success stories, noting that "the Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technology Information operates a large database that makes research and development findings available to the public. OSTI developed a Sitemap for its Energy Citations and Information Bridge services in just 12 hours, opening up 2.3 million bibliographic records and full-text documents to crawling by search engines. After its implementation of Sitemaps, OSTI saw a dramatic increase in traffic to its services..."

Our testimony before the Senate coincides with the release of a new report today by the Center for Democracy and Technology that lists some of the most frustrating federal government-related web searches. This morning's Washington Post has a preview, and we're sure the CDT report will be a topic of conversation at today's hearing.

We hope to post video of J.L.'s testimony later today. Stay tuned.


[G] Earth From Above

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Official Google Blog: Earth From Above

French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand's beautiful images of the planet have become a coffee table favorite across the world. Today we are excited to present a new Google Earth layer of nearly 500 of his images, many taken from hot air balloons and all taken from above the earth. Each image is paired with thought-provoking statistics about the current environmental situation they depict. The facts and figures were put together by, Yann's non-profit organization established to promote environmental awareness and sustainable development.

In June this year, we launched Google Earth Outreach, a program to empower non-profit groups with resources and tools to use Google Earth to promote their cause. Today's new "Earth From Above" layer (located in the Global Awareness folder in Google Earth) is an excellent example of what such groups can accomplish.

Not only can you enjoy these stunning new photographs on Google Earth -- we're also launching an iGoogle gadget you can add to your personalized Google homepage to see a different image each day. You can find the iGoogle gadget and a YouTube interview with Yann here. We hope you enjoy them!


[G] Enjoy the holidays with new Street View cities and embeddable panoramas

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Google LatLong: Enjoy the holidays with new Street View cities and embeddable panoramas

Today we're pleased to announce the launch of 8 new cities with Street View. Check out full spherical views of Boston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Detroit, and Providence. Do some sightseeing, and check out views of places like the Zakim bridge in Boston.

We're also happy to announce the launch of embeddable panoramas. You can take any Street View panorama visible in Google Maps and embed it in your website or blog with a few simple steps. The panorama works just like it does in Google Maps, allowing visitors to your site to pan, zoom, and move between panoramas as they travel down a street. Much like embeddable Google Maps and YouTube videos, embedding a panorama is simple and only requires cutting and pasting a snippet of HTML.

1. Go to Google Maps and find a panorama you like in one of our 23
cities with Street View imagery (such as the gorgeous view of Pittsburgh below).

2. Then click "Link to this page" in the top right-hand corner. Copy the text that you see in the second box.

3. Paste that text into your blog editor or into the HTML of your webpage. We use an <iframe> so it works on most blog hosting sites like Blogger. The resulting embedded panorama will be fully functional; an example is shown below:

View Larger Map


[G] What's your story?

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Official Gmail Blog: What's your story?

You might remember that we were inspired to launch Gmail in 2004 after hearing one frustrated emailer's story. Many years and iterations later, we're still listening -- whether you have a bug to report or a feature to suggest. It keeps us motivated (and entertained) when we hear stories about what you've done using Gmail. A man in Jakarta told us that he uses Gmail on his mobile phone to stay productive during his four hour daily commute, while an author in Florida wrote to us describing how he relies on Gmail in every step of his writing process.

To continually remind us of why we work so hard on Gmail, we started pinning these cool stories on the walls around Google. We quickly realized, however, that this wasn't very resource-friendly (and despite a past April Fool's announcement, we are quite eco-conscious) and it definitely wasn't the best way to share them with the rest of the Gmail community. So to save some wall space -- and paper -- we'd like to give you the opportunity to make a video of your Gmail story to share with the world.

All you need is a story about how you've used Gmail and a video camera. You don't even need to be creative; you can just tell it like it is. But if creativity is your thing (and we know you have it in you after all the awesome submissions we got from our last collaborative video), feel free to spice it up however you'd like. Just make sure it's 30 seconds or less and submitted by December 31st. Go to to find directions on how to submit yours.

We look forward to hearing – and seeing – your stories. And saving a tree or two.


[G] New Manage Ads improvements, compliments of you

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Inside AdSense: New Manage Ads improvements, compliments of you

We've been listening to your comments on our new ad management feature, and so we're excited to tell you about a few updates that stem directly from your requests:
  • You can now view the ID number associated with a specific custom channel by visiting the 'Channels' link under the 'AdSense Setup' tab. Many of you told us that you needed these channel ID numbers for ad management programs you're using. We've added this information to your account since it no longer appears in your ad code.

  • Any ad units generated within the last 7 days that haven't yet received any impressions will now be listed as 'New', rather than 'Active', in your status column. This should help avoid confusion about your newest ad units and those already appearing on your pages.

  • You can now view the most recent date when each of your ad units was updated. Please note that these dates aren't retroactive, so any ad units you generated or edited before this display change will show a last-edited date of November 1st, 2007.

  • We're starting to slowly roll out the manage ads feature for your referral units. Just as with AdSense for content units, you'll soon be prompted to enter names for your newly generated referral units. If you'd like to make changes to your referral units at a later time, you can visit the 'Manage Ads' page. In the 'Content' column of this page, your referral units will display 'Referrals:' followed by the products or category of products being referred.

It doesn't end here, though -- we've got a few more enhancements planned for the Manage Ads feature in the next few weeks, so keep checking back for more updates. In the meantime, please continue sending your suggestions our way.