Saturday, March 14, 2009

[G] Follow the Global Row

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YouTube Blog: Follow the Global Row

YouTube users have posted videos from around the world. Now global adventurer Oliver (Olly) Hicks is checking in from the high seas.

Since January, Hicks has been attempting the first solo row around the globe, by circumnavigating Antarctica. He's sharing his two year voyage, the
Virgin Global Row
, with adventure-lovers around the world thanks to the cutting-edge technology crammed into his 24-foot-long craft, the Flying Carrot. On YouTube, you can
subscribe to his channel
and see video blogs posted as he travels into some of the world's most hostile marine environments. On his website, you can show your support by joining his site and track his progress with Google Earth.

At YouTube, we've been privileged to experience the personal stories of people from all walks of life, in countless situations. We want to wish Olly all the best in his venture, especially as he demonstrates the ability of video to connect people, even at the farthest reaches of the world.


Mark Day

YouTube People & Blogs

[G] Celebrating Mars, then and now

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Official Google Blog: Celebrating Mars, then and now

Today is the 174th birthday of the famous Italian astronomer and cartographer Giovanni Schiaparelli. In 1877, Schiaparelli began producing some of history's most iconic planetary maps, and he single-handedly invented the naming scheme we use to identify features on Mars today. His maps are famous for their detail and beauty, as well as for showing many linear features he named canali (the Italian word for channel).

Martian canals, as imagined by Schiaparelli

A combination of translation error and overactive imaginations caused some of Schiaparelli's contemporaries, including astronomer Percival Lowell, to re-label these features as canals, suggesting that Mars was home to both an advanced Martian civilization and abundant water bodies.

Of course, further study of Mars has revealed neither water bodies nor any signs of intelligent life on the planet, and Schiaparelli's 'canali' were shown to be nothing more than an optical illusion. Yet, our study of the planet has only increased, and our curiosity has only deepened, as countless images and numerous space missions have been dedicated to the Red Planet since Schiaparelli's time.

But don't just take my word for it. Instead, you can fly all the way there yourself with Mars in Google Earth 5.0.

New features released on Friday give you a glimpse into the evolution of our knowledge of Mars over the course of history. You can travel back in time to see the sketches of early astronomers like Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell in the 'Historical Maps' layer. You can also fast-forward more than a century with the 'Live from Mars' layer to view the latest images from NASA's THEMIS camera on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, sometimes just hours after NASA receives them. Bill Nye the Science Guy and National Public Radio's Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday, have also recorded narrated tours of Mars — together they'll walk you through some of the most interesting geology in the solar system and show off mankind's most advanced robotic planetary explorers.

For more information about the new features added to Mars in Google Earth, check out the Google LatLong Blog, or view the tutorial video below. To explore Mars on your own, download Google Earth 5.0.

Posted by Noel Gorelick, Chief Extraterrestrial Observer

Friday, March 13, 2009

[G] An Update On Our View Counts

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YouTube Blog: An Update On Our View Counts

Video view counts reflect the YouTube community's interests and the grassroots popularity of videos. We periodically make changes that allow us to display consistent view counts and accurately reflect a "real" view based on video consumption, video streaming and spam filtering. Unfortunately, a few people still try to artificially manipulate their video's view counts. Some people game third-party view counts as well. That can make things unfair for everyone.

Recently, we found spamming issues associated with the view counts on a small number of videos. The inflated view count number on these videos will be frozen until actual views catch up to the published, artificial, view count. Also, a few people have commented that their view counts are updating more slowly. Occasionally the speed with which views update changes -- sometimes it’s faster and sometimes it’s slower. But we are always working to make sure that the final view count numbers are an accurate reflection of the community's interest.

Michelle Schlachta

Community Manager

The YouTube Team

[G] Thandy: Secure Update for Tor

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Google Open Source Blog: Thandy: Secure Update for Tor

By Nick Mathewson, The Tor Project

Long ago, Tor was a single executable that you could usefully run on its own. Over time, we added a relatively long list of recommended dependencies, including Privoxy to avoid DNS leaks, Vidalia for a user interface, and Torbutton for safe browsing. Now, due to the increasing complexity of our packages such as the Vidalia Bundle, the Tor Browser Bundle, and related projects, a full installation can contain five or more specially configured pieces of software.

We needed to help users keep all of this software updated. When we make security fixes, quick uptake helps narrow the window in which attackers can take advantage of newly discovered problems. But many people don't subscribe to or-announce, and so they only find out about new releases sporadically. Updates need to be easy, too: each additional upgrade step is an opportunity for people to make mistakes, and an annoyance means that more users will stay with older, insecure versions. The administration needs to be easy as well; Tor doesn't have a release engineering team, so we can't add too many hard steps to putting out each new release.

Most of all, updates need to be secure. We already sign all of our packages so that people can be sure they come from us, but most users never actually check the signatures on them. (The most careful binary-package users seem to be those who download the OS X bundles, and only around 7 percent of them actually seem to download the signature files too. We count total downloads, but don't record other user info.)

Most free Unix-like operating systems already have a built-in package distribution and update system with some amount of support for the above features, but for Windows and OS X, we're kind of out of luck: none of the existing free-software package distribution systems we evaluated had the level of security and detailed specifications we wanted.

With these goals in mind and funding from Google's Open Source Programs Office, we designed a secure update protocol primarily for Tor's needs, but can also be adapted to other software projects. It's named "Thandy" for obscure reasons, and you can check out the specifications or even try it out yourself.

I'm especially happy with Thandy's security architecture. We assume an adversary who can operate compromised mirrors and who can possibly compromise the main repository. At worst, such an adversary can DOS users' updates in a way that users can detect. Unlike lots of other update tools, we're immune to rollback attacks (where an adversary convinces users to install an old, compromised version of the software), we can detect frozen mirrors (where an adversary just doesn't serve updates), and we can even handle key compromise relatively gracefully. Most encouragingly, the fact that Thandy is both decently secure and well-specified has garnered us some attention from serious security researchers like Justin Cappos, coauthor of a great paper about software updaters in last year's CCS, a conference on computer and communications security.

The software is still in an experimental stage, and there are a number of efficiency opportunities it would be neat for us (or anybody) to follow up on in the future, but so far it seems to be working well. Have a look at the source, and let me know if you're interested on hacking on it!

[G] Accessing GrandCentral after upgrading to Google Voice

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Google Voice Blog: Accessing GrandCentral after upgrading to Google Voice

We have received several questions about what happens to GrandCentral accounts after upgrading to Google Voice.
Although no new call/voicemail will show up in the GrandCentral account, you can keep accessing your GrandCentral voicemails, call log and address book even after you have upgraded.
Note that you can export your GrandCentral address book and import it in your Google address book if you don't already have them there.

Posted by Vincent Paquet, Google Voice PM

[G] The magic number

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Official Google Blog: The magic number

Here at Google, we're getting ready to celebrate Pi Day, which culminates tomorrow, March 14 at 1:59pm, a date and time that correspond to the first six digits of pi: 3.14159. (Some people celebrate at 1:59am.) Of course, since pi is a member of a select group of irrational numbers, meaning they can't be expressed as a fraction, there are an infinite number of digits in pi. You can even set a world record for reciting pi from memory if you have the spare brain cells to remember 100,000 or so digits. Odds are, you certainly won't remember the one trillion digits past the decimal point that computers have calculated.

What is pi, anyway? It's a mathematical constant representing the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. It sounds abstract, but there's a real-world example right under your feet: the circumference of the earth equals the diameter of the earth times pi. And pi is all over the place in math, science and engineering. It's even part of Einstein's theory of relativity, which is fitting since March 14 also happens to be Einstein's birthday. Maybe pi's essential place in our world is why every March around Pi Day searches for [pi] spike upwards.

A quick Google search reveals a lot of options for celebrating this "nerd holiday." For starters, you could do some math (now that's an irrational number!). If you're at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, where Pi Day began in 1987, you might be circumnavigating a "Pi Shrine" or singing a Pi Day song. Others suggest watching the movie π or going on a "pi run" (you can stop at 3.14 miles). You can hold your own pi recitation contest, or mix it up and make it tougher by asking people to recite pi in binary (hint: it's a lot of ones and zeros). Finally, don't forget the best part of Pi Day: eating pie! Either make your own, or, if you're too dizzy to bake after circumnavigating Pi Shrines all day, find one to buy nearby. I'll have apple.

Posted by Emily Wood, Google Blog team

[G] New Podcast "Get Your Google Analytics On"

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Google Analytics Blog: Web Analytics Tips & Tricks: New Podcast "Get Your Google Analytics On"

Check out this new podcast from Startup Nation. This week's episode gives a great beginner overview on how to get the most out of Google Analytics. It starts by explaining how to get up and running, and then explains how Startup Nation has used analytics to improve the performance of their own site. If you'd like to check out the contents before listening, you can also find an overview here.

Thanks to Brian Cleveland from Statup Nation for sharing his expertise. Happy Friday!

Posted by Sebastian Tonkin, Google Analytics Team

[G] Happy first birthday, Google Ad Manager

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Inside AdSense: Happy first birthday, Google Ad Manager

A year ago today, we announced the beta release of Google Ad Manager, our hosted ad serving and management solution for publishers with small direct sales teams. Over the past year we've made Ad Manager widely available to all publishers in 32 languages and introduced many exciting new features, including the ability to preview creatives on your site and recently, free-form targeting and roadblocking. We've also made improvements to our forecasting system and to the AdSense price optimization feature in Ad Manager to help publishers maximize the revenue of their advertising inventory, as well as throughout Ad Manager. Now, thousands of publishers in hundreds of countries serve billions of ad impressions each day with Ad Manager, and we've heard from them that it has helped them increase revenue, cut serving costs, and save time managing campaigns. We'd like to thank each and every one of you for using Ad Manager, providing us with product feedback, participating in the Ad Manager Forum, and helping us make Ad Manager a better product.

This time of year also marks another important anniversary, Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, a premier provider of digital marketing technology and services. Our teams have been focused on combining resources to help publishers of all sizes tackle key operational challenges, grow their audiences, and develop new revenue opportunities. Together, we’ve already made significant enhancements to both Google Ad Manager and DART for Publishers, our advertising platform for publishers with larger direct sales teams, and we look forward to bringing you even more exciting innovations in the year to come.

Want to send us a birthday message or share your Ad Manager story? We'd love to hear from you.

Posted by Talia Brodecki - Ad Manager Product Marketing

[G] Live from Mars!

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Google LatLong: Live from Mars!

Just last month, we released Mars in Google Earth 5.0 and finally satisfied the long-standing demands of our Martian userbase. However, much to our delight, Mars has also proven popular among Earthlings, so today we're pleased to announce several new features for Mars in Google Earth designed specifically for our human users. Together they highlight humanity's newest and oldest views of the red planet: Live from Mars, Historical Maps, and Guided Tours.

Live from Mars: NASA's typical release process for Mars satellite imagery requires months, and involves numerous stages of calibration. But thanks to the THEMIS camera team at Arizona State University, you could turn on the new 'Live from Mars' layer and become one of the very first people to lay eyes on images taken just days or even hours ago! This feature represents the first public continuous stream of fresh high-resolution satellite imagery in the solar system, and can display new images from the THEMIS camera just hours after NASA receives them. You can also see live satellite orbital tracks, or check out where the HiRISE camera plans to image next.

Historical Maps: In the late 1800s, Giovanni Schiaparelli created many of the earliest detailed maps of Mars. He famously saw, recorded, and named numerous linear features on the surface, some of which he termed cannali (Italian for channel). His contemporary, Percival Lowell, re-imagined and misunderdstood these features to be artificial canals, sparking a media frenzy back on Earth and captivating the public with the idea of abundant water and an alien civilization on Mars. The Historical Globes layer lets you see these and other antique maps of Mars as virtual spinning globes.
Guided Tours: If you're not sure where to go on Mars, let Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ira Flatow of Public Radio's Science Friday show you around. Simply go to the Mars Gallery layer, and double-click either of their tours for a narrated trip around the Martian surface. This is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the most interesting spots on the planet - just sit back, and enjoy the ride. If something catches your eye, you can pause these tours at any time and explore on your own, then hit play to resume your journey. These tours were created with the new Touring feature in Google Earth 5.0.

Mars in Google Earth also contains several other layers with useful information about the Red Planet. There's a browsable layer of our favorite satellite images, visible and infrared global views, geo-located excerpts from A Traveler's Guide to Mars, and others. We've also included 3D models of NASA rovers and, if you follow their tracks, the 360-degree panoramic photos they captured from the surface. Just like browsing on Earth, you can use the search box to locate famous sites like the face on Mars. Who knows, you might just find a new Martian friend to chat with...

To enter Mars in Google Earth, click the planets button in the main toolbar and select 'Mars':

We hope you enjoy these latest additions. They're made possible by Google's Space Act Agreement with NASA, which enabled NASA Ames researchers to develop much of this content. You can visit to learn more about Mars in Google Earth.

Posted by Michael Weiss-Malik, Martian Product Manager

[G] Introduction to the ad auction

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Google Public Policy Blog: Introduction to the ad auction

Posted by Austin Rachlin, Inside AdWords crew

(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords Blog)

When we go to conferences or read posts in forums, we find that advertisers sometimes know more about advanced features than about the basics of how AdWords works. So, we've decided to take some time to get back to basics and talk about how the AdWords auction actually works. To help you, we've brought along our Chief Economist, Hal Varian, to walk you through the auction and explain how your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid and Quality Score determine how much you actually pay for an ad click on Google's search results pages.

When people think of an auction, they often think of a prize being sold for the highest bid. But the AdWords auction works a little differently, where the winner only pays the minimum amount necessary to maintain their position on the page. That means you'll only pay the minimum necessary to beat the person below you. In fact, our quality-based pricing system ensures that you'll often pay less than your maximum bid.

How exactly does this work? We'll leave that to Hal to explain.

If you have trouble viewing this video, you can watch it here.

[G] Catching Up With the VFS / YouTube Scholarship Winners

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YouTube Blog: Catching Up With the VFS / YouTube Scholarship Winners

In March 2008, we
a first-of-its-kind contest: the Vancouver Film School / YouTube Scholarship Competition. The challenge was to create a short video based on the theme "What matters most to me." As their prize, the winners, Jorge Rolando Caneda Estrada, Stefan Ramirez Perez and Christopher Harrell received three full-tuition scholarships to the VFS program of their choice.

Now, a year later, it's exciting to see the results of their study. The three videos below reflect some of their latest work: Estrada's released a highly stylized take on the artist's hunt for ideas; Perez has seamlessly mixed music, live action and animation, and Harrell's put his stamp on a series of in-your-face DVD openers.

Nate Weinstein

YouTube Film

Thursday, March 12, 2009

[G] New Notification Features Released

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Google Affiliate Network: New Notification Features Released

The ads provided by our advertisers are often time sensitive and require replacement by publishers on a regular basis. We have been told by many publishers that they have a hard time keeping track of out of date ads present on their site(s). To help alleviate this challenge we will now display notifications on the publisher home page whenever we detect traffic on links (ads) that have past their end date.

A new message center, featured prominently in the top center of the publisher home page, provides a daily summary with the number of clicks recorded on out of date links. Users can view a detailed list of the ads generating these clicks including the creative, if applicable, and a link to a list of current ads for each advertiser associated to an out of date link. Notifications may be dismissed, but will continue to appear daily if traffic on out of date links is detected on subsequent days. The first notifications were generated as we pushed out the feature, so publishers may see a notification upon their next login. Please note that while a promotion may be past its end date we will continue to track clicks and conversions, and commissions will accrue for any conversions recorded for an active but out of date link.

Google Affiliate Network provides multiple features to help publishers keep up with these frequent changes; we offer daily updates of promotional ads (via email or FTP) and advertiser product catalogs (FTP only). We strongly encourage publishers to try out these features by visiting Links > Link Subscriptions and Links > Product Feeds.

Finally, we have added a feature to automatically send an email notification to publishers when a change to commissions specific to an advertiser/publisher relationship is made; advertiser users will also get a copy of the message. Publishers must opt in to receive these notifications on the Settings > Communications Preferences page. Please note that notifications are not yet available if advertisers change their default commission rate, or if the advertiser is using Category/Product Level Commissions. We are working to provide coverage for these types of changes too, and will be making improvements based on your feedback as we enhance this feature.

As a reminder, we have altered the naming convention for Link Subscriptions. Files will now come in the form Link_Subscriptions_YYYYMMDD.txt. Beginning March 13, all files will follow this convention.

Larry Adams
Product Manager

[G] Site maintenance on Saturday, March 14

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Inside AdSense: Site maintenance on Saturday, March 14

This Saturday, our engineers will be performing routine site maintenance from 10am to 2pm PDT. You won't be able to log in to your account during this time, but your ad targeting won't be affected, and we'll continue to record your clicks, impressions, and earnings as usual.

We've provided the maintenance start time in a few other cities for our international readers:

London - 5pm Saturday
Kiev - 7pm Saturday
Mumbai - 10:30 pm Saturday
Singapore - 1am Sunday
Sydney - 4am Sunday

Posted by Arlene Lee - Inside AdSense Team

[G] Upcoming Website Optimizer Seminar: S4S at SXSW

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Official Google Website Optimizer Blog: Upcoming Website Optimizer Seminar: S4S at SXSW

If you’re planning to take in this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) event, you should stick around for Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics Seminars for Success training.

This seminar series provides three separate days of training on Google Website Optimizer and Analytics. Here's an overview of what's taught each day:

Landing Page Testing with Google Website Optimizer - Friday, March 20 - Register
  • Introduction to landing page testing
  • Hands on lab session to configure and launch an A/B and multivariate test
  • Understanding reports, follow up experiments and “the numbers”
  • Advanced testing with Google Website Optimizer & Analytics integrations
  • Real life examples and best practices and concepts that will provide you with a jumpstart on your testing plan!
This is a full day of practical, hands-on coursework with the tools you need to design, set up and run A/B and multivariate experiments with Google Website Optimizer.

Google Analytics – Introduction & User Training- Wednesday, March 18 - Register

Learn how to leverage the power of web analytics and turn mountains of data into ammunition that helps you make data driven decisions and maximize your website’s performance and ROI. This day’s topics include:
  • Introduction to web analytics and turning data into information
  • Google Analytics features and interface
  • Understanding and using visitor, traffic sources, content, goal, and ecommerce reports
  • Sharing insights and enterprise features
Google Analytics – Advanced Technical Implementation - Thursday, March 19 - Register
This day digs deep into advanced configurations and features that will allow you to set up and configure Google Analytics to take full advantage of its potential. The advanced day topics include:
  • Understanding profiles and strategic implementations
  • Applying filters to deliver the right data to your reports
  • Goal and funnel configurations and reporting configurations
  • Advanced segments, custom reports and advanced set ups
The cost is $249 per day. If you sign up at least 7 days in advance, you'll also receive a $50 AdWords credit. Seats are limited, so reserve your seat today.

Posted by Trevor Claiborne, Website Optimizer team

[G] Introduction to the ad auction

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Official Google Blog: Introduction to the ad auction

(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords Blog)

When we go to conferences or read posts in forums, we find that advertisers sometimes know more about advanced features than about the basics of how AdWords works. So, we've decided to take some time to get back to basics and talk about how the AdWords auction actually works. To help you, we've brought along our Chief Economist, Hal Varian, to walk you through the auction and explain how your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid and Quality Score determine how much you actually pay for an ad click on Google's search results pages.

When people think of an auction, they often think of a prize being sold for the highest bid. But the AdWords auction works a little differently, where the winner only pays the minimum amount necessary to maintain their position on the page. That means you'll only pay the minimum necessary to beat the person below you. In fact, our quality-based pricing system ensures that you'll often pay less than your maximum bid.

How exactly does this work? We'll leave that to Hal to explain.

If you have trouble viewing this video, you can watch it here.

Posted by Austin Rachlin, Inside AdWords crew

[G] AdWords system maintenance on March 14th

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Inside AdWords: AdWords system maintenance on March 14th

On Saturday, March 14th, 2009, the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST due to system maintenance. While you won't be able to sign in to your accounts during this time, your campaigns will continue to run as usual. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Posted by Emel Mutlu, Inside AdWords crew

[G] Motion Chart Scavenger Hunt Followup

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Google Analytics Blog: Web Analytics Tips & Tricks: Motion Chart Scavenger Hunt Followup

Last week we launched some new features in Motion Charts. Instead of telling you what they were, we decided to let you discover them for yourself and post what you found in our blog comments.

It didn't take long for several of you to find the new features. Karthik was first to notice that you can now control bubble opacity and that you can zoom into the chart. This is a great feature that allows you to eliminate the distraction of outliers and focus on the core data set. Nick and Adrian P. also found the zooming and panning feature and the bar charts, but a special Congratulations is in order to Rajeev Edmonds who found (almost) all of the new features.

One feature hinted at in Rajeev's comment bears a little more explanation. It's now easier to find specific data points because there's a Select list which has all the data points listed in alphabetical order. So, instead of mousing over the dots or barchart, you can just select them in the Select list. And then, when you don't need the labels anymore, you deselect all the data points by clicking "Deselect all."

A couple of not-so-new features were also identified. Lin/Log scale and the ability to bookmark charts have been there all along -- but we're happy that you've noticed them again :)

As far as the Advanced State string, this little feature was built to support hard-core flash developers who work with the Motion Charts tool, but was not actually intended to make it into Google Analytics. In other words, it's a (harmless) bug, so thanks to everyone for noticing it!

So what do you think about the scavenger hunt idea? We've never heard of anyone else launching features this way and we thought it was a bit unique -- did you like it? Are you clear on what the features are now? Do you use Motion Charts? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Posted by Alden DeSoto, Google Analytics Team

[G] Schools get the "App"titude across the globe

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Official Google Blog: Schools get the "App"titude across the globe

Since the launch of Google Apps Education Edition in October 2006, millions of people at thousands of schools in more than 100 countries have been using our free email and collaboration tools. We love hearing from newly deployed schools like Loyola Marymount University, Westmont College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Chapman University, Saint Ignatius High School, and California State University, Chico (to name a few) about how they're now able to use Apps in teaching, learning, and researching on campus, while also saving time and money.

While we continue to see more and more U.S. schools moving to Google Apps, we find it especially exciting to see that the trend of outsourcing online communication and collaboration needs is catching on in other parts of the world. In Australia, for example, the New South Wales Department of Education recently migrated 1.5 million students to Google Apps. The University of Adelaide also just announced that it is offering to its 16,000 students email services and other online tools as part of the Apps suite, at no cost to the university. Many other schools and colleges in this region have also recently deployed Google Apps, including Hsin Sheng College of Medical Care and Management in Taoyuan County Taiwan, Air University in Islamabad Pakistan, Univesitas Pelita Harapan in Indonesia, the International College of Management in Sydney, and schools across New Zealand like Fendalton School.

To help spread the word about Apps, the team in India came up with the Got the "App"titude Challenge, which encouraged students, faculty members and alumni from all engineering and management schools throughout India to move their institutions to Google Apps. The challenge created quite a stir, and after launching in August, we received almost 6,000 sign-ups. Each college team consisted of students, alumni and faculty who worked closely with IT staff to identify challenges in their existing email and collaboration solutions. Working with a Googler, the teams then demonstrated ways Google Apps could be used to address these challenges. The performance of each team was evaluated by measuring product usage after their deployment.

We'd like to extend our congratulations to the XL CONNECT team from Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur, who won the challenge by demonstrating the highest usage of Google Apps products.

As a result of the challenge, more than 100 colleges across India are now in the process of implementing Apps in their institutions. And we look forward to seeing more and more schools all over the world adopt Google Apps.

Countries shaded in blue represent active Apps users in that area. 

Posted by Amarpreet Singh, Online Sales and Operations Manager, and Andrew Mitchell, Senior Strategist

[G] Here comes Google Voice

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Official Google Mobile Blog: Here comes Google Voice

We've got good news for GrandCentral users -- now you can begin previewing Google Voice, an application that helps you centralize all your telephony needs. Some features of Google Voice include voicemail transcription, the ability to search and store SMS messages and low-priced international dialing. The original functionality of GrandCentral, such as a centralized number and web accessible voicemail inbox, live on within Google Voice. You can read more about this release on the Official Google Blog.

Posted by Deng-Kai Chen, Mobile Team

[G] Tips on upgrading

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Google Voice Blog: Tips on upgrading

Hello GrandCentral (and soon to be Google Voice) users:

We have started the upgrade process, and are rolling the service out to new users on an ongoing basis. When your account is ready to upgrade, you will notice an "Upgrade" message at the top of your GrandCentral inbox.

Once you choose to upgrade, you will automatically get all the great new features (transcription, SMS, conference calling, cheap international calling, Goog411 integration, etc.), and new voicemail and SMS messages will begin appearing in your Google Voice inbox.

As we copy your previous voicemails to your new account, you may not see some of these messages in your Google Voice inbox, and you can still find all your previous voicemail messages in your GrandCentral account.

After the upgrade you should go to your "Settings" tab and do the following:

1. Re-record your voicemail greeting
2. Re-record your user name (callers hear this the first time they call you if Screening is on)
3. Select any custom settings you want (display caller ID, screening on/off, etc.)

If you want to move your contacts from GrandCentral to Google Voice, here are some instructions on how to do that. If you have any group or contact specific settings or any WebCall buttons (now called "Call Widgets") you will need to re-create those as well.

We hope you enjoy the new Google Voice service!

Posted by Craig Walker, Google Voice Team

[G] Will It Blend? Yes!

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Google LatLong: Will It Blend? Yes!

As an engineer working on Google Maps, I often talk with my coworkers about how some of the most interesting data comes from the geo-community. It's because of this that we've recently taken yet another step on our quest to make Google Maps more user driven: fully blending user-created content into our search results.

Some of our more regular users may have noticed that we'd been sparingly doing this for a while now, occasionally surfacing results from KML, GeoRSS, or Wikipedia we crawl from the web, along with photos and videos we think would be useful - but now we've opened the floodgates! From now on, you can expect to see more higher quality user-created content to show up, often intermixed with our traditional results. Here are some examples of queries that now have more useful blended results:

In New York City and looking for good street food?
Try "falafel carts in nyc" to see what users had to say.

Looking for information about the bridge collapse that happened in Minnesota last year?
Search for "bridge collapse in MN" to see pictures, animations, and 3d-models.

Planning a vacation and want some recommendations?
Try searching for "snorkeling costa rica" to see some options.

Thanks to content from the geo-community, our results are richer and more informative than ever. We'll continue to work hard to show the best of the best, and of course, to attribute them to their authors. So keep adding that great content, whether through My Maps or getting your KML indexed.

Posted by Daniel Yehuda, Software Engineer

[G] Introducing the Google Friend Connect API

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Social Web Blog: Introducing the Google Friend Connect API

While it's always been easy to add social features to your site with Google Friend Connect, it just got a little more flexible with the introduction of the Friend Connect API. This API lets you access the core features of Friend Connect to use them on your site in interesting ways.

Friend Connect lets you instantly awaken and strengthen the community that visits your website in way that is easy (just copy-and-paste some code) and open (we use OpenID, OAuth, and OpenSocial). The combination of ease and openness puts you and your visitors in full control of your social information, activities, and relationships throughout the web.
Whether you're a site owner or developer, the new Friend Connect APIs offer something for anyone who is interested in helping the web become more social:
  • Site owners - Integrate Friend Connect more deeply into your site. JavaScript APIs allow you to integrate a social community directly within the markup of your page, and our REST APIs allow you integrate existing login systems and your existing data with new social data and activities. These are your visitors and this is your site, so you should be able to add social features the way you want.
  • Plugin developers - Make plugins to integrate with popular content management systems, bulletin boards, or any open framework. To get you started, we have created open source plugin samples for WordPress, Drupal, and phpBB.
  • Gadget developers - Make OpenSocial applications with greater control over how data flows across servers with signed requests. Use server-side authentication mechanisms so that a site with Friend Connect can act as an OpenSocial container.
To start using this API, set up your site at and then click on the "For developers" link to get the snippets.

We're excited to see the creative ways you find to use this API to enrich the social web. To learn more, check out the documentation on Google Code or the Google Code Blog.

Posted by Mussie Shore, Product Manager, Google Friend Connect

[G] Moving to Google Voice!

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(title unknown): Moving to Google Voice!

GrandCentral users,

We are happy to announce that we have made a number of improvements to GrandCentral and are relaunching the service as Google Voice. GrandCentral users have the first opportunity to start using Google Voice, which is a private beta.

In addition to the GrandCentral features you already know (one number, screening, ListenIn, etc.), we've added voicemail transcription, SMS support, conference calling, GOOG-411 integration, low cost international calling, and more. We have also integrated GrandCentral with your Google account and your Google address book.

Over the next few days, instructions will appear in your inbox on how to upgrade your GrandCentral account to Google Voice. You can also learn more about the new features in these short videos.

A few more details on the new stuff:

1. Transcriptions: Now, in addition to being able to listen to your voicemail messages, you can choose to have your new voicemails automatically transcribed. You'll see these transcriptions in your inbox and will be able to search for voicemails. Transcriptions are also included in email and SMS notifications. They are fully automated, so they aren't perfect, but we'll be working to improve this in the future.

2. SMS support: When somebody sends an SMS to your Google Voice number, that SMS will be relayed to each of your forwarding cell phones and stored in your inbox. You can reply from your computer or from any of your mobile phones and the conversation will be saved in your inbox. You'll be able to read through the conversation thread and search for past messages.

3. Conference calling: If you want to talk to more than one person at once, just tell everyone to call you on your Google number. When you get a call waiting notification, you will have the option to press 5 to add them to your existing call.

There's more for you to discover about Google Voice, so sign into GrandCentral to upgrade and check it out!

Posted by Craig Walker, Vincent Paquet, and Wesley Chan, Google Voice Product Managers

[G] Introduction to the ad auction

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Inside AdWords: Introduction to the ad auction

When we go to conferences or read posts in forums, we find that advertisers sometimes know more about advanced features than about the basics of how AdWords works. So, we've decided to take some time to get back to basics and talk about how the AdWords auction actually works. To help you, we've brought along our Chef Economist, Hal Varian, to walk you through the auction and explain how your maximum coist-per-click (CPC) bid and Quality Score determine how much you actually pay for an ad click on Google's search results pages.

When people think of an auction, they often think of a prize being sold for the highest bid. But the AdWords auction works a little differently, where the winner only pays the minimum amount necessary to maintain their position on the page. That means you'll only pay the minimum necessary to beat the person below you. In fact, our quality-based pricing system ensures that you'll often pay less than your maximum bid.

How exactly does this work? We'll leave that to Hal to explain.

If you have trouble viewing this video, you can watch it here.

Posted by Austin Rachlin, Inside AdWords crew

[G] Here comes Google Voice

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Official Google Blog: Here comes Google Voice

We've just started to release a preview of Google Voice, an application that helps you better manage your voice communications. Google Voice will be available initially to existing users of GrandCentral, a service we acquired in July of 2007.

The new application improves the way you use your phone. You can get transcripts of your voicemail (see the video below) and archive and search all of the SMS text messages you send and receive. You can also use the service to make low-priced international calls and easily access Goog-411 directory assistance.

As you may know, GrandCentral offers many great features, including a single number to ring your home, work, and mobile phones, a central voicemail inbox that you could access on the web, and the ability to screen calls by listening in live as callers leave a voicemail. You'll find these features, and more, in the Google Voice preview. Check out the features page for videos and more information on how these features work.

If you're already using GrandCentral, over the next couple days, you will receive instructions in your GrandCentral inbox on how to start using Google Voice. We'll be opening it up to others soon, so if you'd like to be notified when that happens, please send us your email address.

Posted by Craig Walker, Vincent Paquet, and Wesley Chan, Google Voice Product Managers

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

[G] From Akron to Ozark, Your Thoughts on Wasteful Spending and National 401k Plans

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YouTube Blog: From Akron to Ozark, Your Thoughts on Wasteful Spending and National 401k Plans

Last Tuesday, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) launched Round 2 of YouTube Senator/Representative of the Week by asking you to offer your thoughts on two important issues facing Congress right now: how to eliminate wasteful spending and whether 401k plans should be nationalized.

On the Senate Hub, you put forth 77 insightful suggestions in response to McCaskill's question about how the United States could cut back on wasteful spending. Bill from Ozark, Missouri, suggested that the government "stop the 'cost-plus' arrangement that allows a contractor to name its own price for services rendered," while pbg22 advised,"Don't limit your search to the traditional military and R&D projects. I work in transportation and contract waste is everywhere." Here Senator McCaskill responds to the ideas you voted to the top of the pile:

Over on the House Hub, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that 401k plans should not be nationalized -- Trevor from Akron, Ohio, was so horrified at the idea of nationalization that "upon viewing this video, the Pepsi I was drinking came shooting out my nose and I began to cough." Meanwhile, Gary from Texas offered this rationale for why he didn't support nationalization: "Nationalizing 401k [plans] de-emphasizes the basic premise of our work ethic. It provides an avenue for 'Big Government' to impose additional administrative fees [tax] for earmark spending." For Representative McMorris Rodgers' response, watch this video:

If you have thoughts about either of these issues, but didn't submit them the House Hub or Senate Hub on time, you can still join the conversation by posting a video response or adding a comment to either McCaskill's or McMorris Rodgers' response video.


Ramya Raghavan

YouTube News & Politics

[G] New Image Search Results for Android and iPhone

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Official Google Mobile Blog: New Image Search Results for Android and iPhone

Today we launched a new Image Search results page for Android, iPhone, and iPod touch in the US, the UK, and Japan.

With the new Image Search results, you can easily scan up to 20 images on a single results page and get the details for images that interest you. From the details page, you can view a larger thumbnail, visit the web page containing the image, or view the image by itself in full size. The new results page also supports "search-by-style" filters, which allow you to restrict your search results to people's faces, clip art, line drawings, or photo content. This feature was previously launched on Google Image Search in December 2008, and we are excited to now bring this feature to mobile.

To try it yourself, go to on your Android-powered device , iPhone, or iPod touch, and click on "Images" before doing your search.

How to use Image Search:

1. To begin image search, go to and click on “Images.”

2. The results page shows related images. Clicking on an image loads the details page.

3. On results page, the “filter” option on the blue bar allows selection of image style and SafeSearch settings.

4. The image details page shows a larger thumbnail and links to the original website and image.

Posted by Leo Ting, Software Engineer, Google Mobile Search

[G] Google Reader starts a conversation

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Official Google Blog: Google Reader starts a conversation

I'm a big fan of sharing (might be all those lessons I learned in kindergarten). And when I share something, it's always nice to get a response like "Thanks!" or "That was the funniest thing I've ever read!" Whether you're 5 or 50, you're more likely to share other awesome things if you know people are excited to hear what you have to say.

Google Reader makes it easy to read and share your favorite articles, blogs, and videos. In the last year, we've added new features to Reader like the ability to choose friends and share items with a note. But it did occur to us that the sharing process was incomplete -- there was no way to have conversations with friends about all those shared items.

That's why we're excited to announce that starting today, your friends will be able to reply to shared items with comments, allowing you to have conversations with your friends right inside Reader. Comments can only be seen by friends of the person who originally shared the item.

To get started, click "Comment View" at the top of your Friends' shared items in Reader, or just write a comment by clicking "Add comment" at the bottom of any shared item. For more details on how comments work, check out the Google Reader blog.

Posted by Dolapo Falola, Software Engineer

[G] Google Reader is your new watercooler

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Official Google Reader Blog: Google Reader is your new watercooler

One of the things that we love best about Reader is the ability to easily share interesting items with your friends. In fact, we like it so much that we've been adding bunches of new sharing features over the last year including choosing friends to share with, sharing with note and the sharing bookmarklet. But we quickly realized that one of the most important pieces of the sharing cycle was missing: the ability to have conversations with friends about all those shared items.

With our new conversation feature, you can have private discussions on shared items with your friends. Now, instead of obsessively asking everyone in your office if they have seen that awesome lego cake article you shared last night, they can tell you how awesome you are, right within Google Reader!

What's new with this feature:

  • You can comment on any items that you share or that have been shared by your friends.


  • In order to keep track of conversations, you can check out the new "Comment view" which is optimized for tracking conversations and commenting. Comment view is a little different from your normal reading mode because it sorts the list of items by most recent comment. When there are new comments, the "Comment view" link will appear as bold. You can even read the full text of the items in this view by clicking the "Expand this item" (which will mark it as read).

    Comment view link

  • If you see a comment icon on top of a friend's profile picture in list
    or expanded view, it means there are comments on that item (this helps
    you decide what to read first.)

    Comments indicators in list view

  • When more than one of your friends share the same item, you'll see a separate conversation under each person who shared it, together in the same view.


  • And don't forget, you can always read and add comments on your iPhone.

Comments on the iPhone

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Comments can only be seen by friends of the person who originally shared the item.

  • Comments are not yet available in the "All items" view.

  • We have much more planned for this feature, but we would love to hear what you think, too.

  • Currently, you cannot comment on items in a shared items subscription or on a shared tag; comments can only be made on items shared by friends.

  • This release is English-only for now.

We are super excited to bring you this feature, and have plans to keep improving it in the near future. So, find some friends that use Reader, find some cool stuff to share, and join the conversation. Happy commenting!


[G] Tasks tweaks: Move to list and split/merge

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Official Gmail Blog: Tasks tweaks: Move to list and split/merge

Posted by Michael Frederick, Software Engineer

Sometimes, in a frenzy of productivity, I'll create a bunch of tasks on my main list. Later on, when it's time to start prioritizing, I'll realize that some of those tasks make more sense on another list (GTDers, take note!). But until now I wasn't able to move all of those tasks without tediously re-entering them.

Now you can easily move a task (and all of its sub-tasks) to another list. To do this, simply click on the arrow (or use Shift-Enter) to the right of the task. At the bottom of this screen is a drop-down with all of your task lists. Simply select another list, and leave the screen by clicking "Back to list."

Poof! Your task will magically migrate to the other list. To convince yourself it's still there, visit the other list in the list switch pop-up.

Another new feature should help with those times when you write what's really two tasks as a single task. Or maybe you hit Enter a little too quickly and continued typing something in a new task that was meant for the previous one.

Now, you can split a single task into two tasks or merge two existing tasks. If you've ever used a word processor, you already know how to do this. Simply use Enter and Backspace as you would normally.

If you're not already using Tasks, turn it on from the Labs tab under your Gmail Settings. Once you do, you'll see the "Tasks" link right near your Contacts. Just click it to get started. We're working on a number of small tweaks like this to make Tasks more useful, so let us know what else you'd like to see.

[G] Maintenance Window Thursday, Mar 12: Changing Filename for Link Subscriptions

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Google Affiliate Network: Maintenance Window Thursday, Mar 12: Changing Filename for Link Subscriptions

The Google Affiliate Network UI will undergo maintenance this Thursday, March 12 between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. CDT.

In addition, publishers please take note that the file naming convention for link subscriptions will be changing to:


If you are a publisher and are not currently signed up for link subscriptions, it is highly recommended. You will receive a nightly feed via email or FTP of new ads created by your advertisers in the Google Affiliate Network.

You can subscribe via the UI by navigating to Links > Links Subcriptions.


Larry Adams
Product Manager

[G] Google Checkout fees in 2009

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Google Checkout fees in 2009

When we launched Google Checkout in 2006, we set out to create a fast, secure online shopping experience for our users. Now in our third year of helping merchants increase sales and attract user interest, we're announcing the decision to move from our previous standard fee schedule to a new tiered pricing model where rates decrease as merchants process more transactions through Checkout.

On May 5, we will be implementing a few changes to Google Checkout:
  • Google Checkout's transaction processing fees will transition to a new tiered fee structure, where the rates will vary depending on a merchant's monthly sales processed through Checkout. For more details about the pricing changes, please visit our U.S. fees page and our U.K. fees page.
  • With the new tiered fee structure, merchants can qualify for rates as low as 1.9% + $0.30 per transaction in the U.S., and 1.4% + £0.20 per transaction in the U.K.
  • We will also be discontinuing the AdWords free transaction processing promotion at this time. As previously announced, Google Grants recipients will still be eligible for free donation processing until 2010.
We're committed to the continued growth and development of Checkout and to helping merchants increase sales by driving more leads and higher conversions. Advertisers who use Checkout have the opportunity to display the Checkout badge on their ads, which has proven to help Checkout users convert 40% more than shoppers who have not used Checkout in the past. Stay tuned for more announcements about product enhancements coming soon.

Posted by Anita Barci, Product Marketing Manager

[G] Slow access to

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The FeedBurner Status Blog: Slow access to

Issue: You may encounter slow response time and see occasional error messages when trying to view and manage feeds through (Feed serving and display is not affected.)

Workaround: None; the FeedBurner team is restoring speedy access to; we expect this work to be completed shortly and will update this post once it is fully completed.

[G] U.S. job growth powered by the sun

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Google LatLong: U.S. job growth powered by the sun

[Cross-posted with the blog]

Solar energy has long been touted as a clean alternative to traditional electricity generation, but building a clean energy economy will also create jobs. Thanks to federal and state policies to support renewable energy, it's estimated that the solar industry will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in coming years. Based on a study by Navigant Consulting Inc., and with the help of and Google Earth Outreach, our friends at the Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation (SEREF) have developed a U.S. solar jobs map in Google Earth. You can also view this as a KML in Google Earth.

The U.S. solar industry is expected to support more than 440,000 permanent, fulltime jobs, including many in the manufacturing and construction industry, by the year 2016. The solar jobs growth layer shows where these jobs are likely to be created across the country. You'll see that many of these jobs are being created in states that have experienced the worst of the current economic crisis, including Pennyslvania, Michigan, and Ohio.

Clicking on the solar icon in each state shows annual job growth over an eight year period, as well as how the three most common solar technologies—photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and solar water heating—stack-up in terms of job creation.

In addition to exploring the job growth numbers, you can view a 3-D simulation of the job growth over time and compare the solar energy resources of each state with their job growth potential. In the additional data, you can also see solar installations, like photovoltaic panels and solar water heating at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta and a solar power tower at the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) in Southern California, to see what they actually look like in Google Earth.

Because predicting job creation in the future relies on advanced economic modeling, it can be difficult to predict where all the solar jobs will be created. Nearly 30,000 jobs will likely be created across the other 29 states that aren’t explicitly covered in this map. That means solar energy truly is capable of creating a green economy for the entire U.S.

This map was created as part of SEREF’s and’s shared objective to rapidly scale-up the use of solar technologies in the U.S. so that the environmental, economic, and national security benefits of renewables can be realized.

To check out the map and learn more about solar energy, please visit

Posted by Dave Bercovich, and Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Google Earth Outreach

[G] @everyone: We're on twitter

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: @everyone: We're on twitter

Google Enterprise is now talking on twitter under the name GoogleAtWork. GoogleAtWork will share information on product updates, webinars, things happening with customers, media coverage for things that we offer or do, and other news. We're also using twitter to listen to things that people are saying about us and the organizations we want to serve.

The conversation is just getting started, and we're excited to already have a growing crowd of followers. We're sharing a picture of them here:

Thanks to TwitterSheep for this cool illustration, displaying the self-proclaimed attributes in the profiles of our followers.

"Twitter?," some may ask. It's the 140-character "microblogging" site that's gained a huge fan base for both individuals and organizations – and we're glad to be joining the ranks. We think it will be a great community and home for the Google Enterprise team, and we hope that you'll follow us there. Here's how:

If you're already using Twitter, simply click here and choose "follow". If you're not using Twitter yet, sign up here – it's easy, and free – and then "follow" GoogleAtWork.

This blog won't change at all based on our use of twitter – except in one way: you can now see a stream of our twitter conversation on the right margin of this page (you may have to scroll down a bit).

If you have ideas or suggestions about how you'd like to see us use twitter, add them here – or better yet, follow us and enjoy the new voice of GoogleAtWork .

Posted by Ellen Petry Leanse, Google Enterprise Team


[G] Giving consumers control over ads

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Google Public Policy Blog: Giving consumers control over ads

Posted by Nicole Wong, Deputy General Counsel

In her post to the Official Google Blog this morning, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, announced that we are making interest-based advertising available in beta for our AdSense partner sites and YouTube. Interest-based advertising uses information about the web pages people visit to make the online ads they see more relevant. Relevant advertising, in turn, has fueled the content, products and services available on the Internet today.

Providing such advertising has proven to be a challenging policy issue for advertisers, publishers, internet companies and regulators over the last decade. On the one hand, well-tailored ads benefit consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike. On the other hand, the industry has long struggled with how to deliver relevant ads while respecting users' privacy.

Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released its principles for online advertising. Likewise, other organizations interested in consumer protection and privacy also recently issued guidelines: The Network Advertising Initiative released its 2008 Self-Regulatory Code of Conduct in December; the Center for Democracy and Technology released its Threshold Analysis for Online Advertising Practices in January; and the Internet Advertising Bureau in the U.K. announced its Good Practice Principles last week. There is a consistent message in all of these guidelines: Consumers need and deserve greater transparency and choice when it comes to online advertising.

As Google prepared to roll out interest-based advertising, we talked to many users, privacy advocates and government experts. By listening to them and by relying on the creativity of our engineers, we built a product that's not only consistent with industry groups' privacy principles, but also goes beyond their requirements. We are pleased that our launch of interest-based advertising includes innovative, consumer-friendly features to provide meaningful transparency and choice for our users:
  • Transparency in the right place and at the right time. When users see online ads today, they often don't know what information is being collected, who provided the ad, and sometimes who the advertiser is. We already clearly label most of the ads provided by Google on the AdSense partner network and on YouTube. With one click on the labels, users can get more information about how we serve ads, and the information we use to show ads. This year we will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide a way to learn more and make choices about Google's ad serving.
  • Meaningful, granular, and user-friendly choice. For the first time, people will have a say in the types of ads they see by using our new Ads Preferences Manager. With this tool, users can view, add and remove the categories that are used to show them interest-based ads (sports, travel, cooking, etc.) when they visit one of our AdSense partners' websites or YouTube. To provide greater privacy protections to users, we will not serve interest-based ads based on sensitive interest categories. For example, we don’t have health status interest categories or interest categories designed for children.
  • Tools that respect users’ choices. With one click in the Ads Preferences Manager or in the advertising section of our Privacy Center, users can opt out of interest-based ads altogether, although it means they will probably see advertising that's less relevant and useful on our partners' websites or YouTube. The opt-out is achieved by attaching an "opt-out cookie" — a small file containing a string of characters that stores a preference for opting out — to a user's browser. Opt-out cookies in the industry, however, have traditionally not been permanent. So Google's engineers also developed tools to make our opt-out cookie permanent, even when users clear other cookies from their browsers.
  • Transparency beyond privacy policies. With interest-based advertising, we’re continuing to explore new ways of communicating with our users on privacy. We've revamped the advertising section of our Privacy Center. And the Ads Preferences Manager features a video, embedded below, that explains in plain language how interest-based advertising works. All of the videos on the Google Privacy Channel on YouTube are open for comment and we look forward to hearing feedback from our users.

We’ve built our business by earning and keeping the trust of our users. And we’ll continue our dialogue with them and with other stakeholders as we develop new products to make the ads we show our users more relevant and useful.