Saturday, January 23, 2010

[G] Bringing Project CARE to veterans in Washington, D.C.

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Google Public Policy Blog: Bringing Project CARE to veterans in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Vincent Paquet, Senior Product Manager, Google Voice

(cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

It's sometimes easy to take the little things in life for granted: a haircut, a shower, shoes or even a phone number. Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we planned, and those little luxuries become much harder to come by.

Project CARE is a program to provide free Google Voice phone numbers and voicemail accounts to homeless individuals. The Google Voice team has been offering this program in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than two years, and we're excited to bring Project CARE to a new city.

On Saturday, Google Voice will join dozens of other Washington, D.C. organizations at the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center to try and make life a little easier for hundreds of veterans in the Washington, D.C. area. We will be handing out Project CARE cards and helping attendees set up unique phone numbers and voicemail accounts, which they can use when applying for jobs or filling out medical forms, or share with family.

In today's connected world, many of us don't think twice about picking up the phone to place or receive a call. However, for a homeless individual, a phone number can be an important lifeline, connecting you with prospective employers, health care providers, family and friends. We hope these Project CARE phone numbers provide homeless veterans with a way to reconnect with those they've lost touch with over the years.

Friday, January 22, 2010

[G] Important Note to FTP Users

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Blogger Buzz: Important Note to FTP Users

Last May, we discussed a number of challenges facing Blogger users who relied on FTP to publish their blogs. FTP remains a significant drain on our ability to improve Blogger: only .5% of active blogs are published via FTP — yet the percentage of our engineering resources devoted to supporting FTP vastly exceeds that. On top of this, critical infrastructure that our FTP support relies on at Google will soon become unavailable, which would require that we completely rewrite the code that handles our FTP processing.

Three years ago we launched Custom Domains to give users the simplicity of Blogger, the scalability of Google hosting, and the flexibility of hosting your blog at your own URL. Last year's post discussed the advantages of custom domains over FTP and addressed a number of reasons users have continued to use FTP publishing. (If you're interested in reading more about Custom Domains, our Help Center has a good overview of how to use them on your blog.) In evaluating the investment needed to continue supporting FTP, we have decided that we could not justify diverting further engineering resources away from building new features for all users.

For that reason, we are announcing today that we will no longer support FTP publishing in Blogger after March 26, 2010. We realize that this will not necessarily be welcome news for some users, and we are committed to making the transition as seamless as possible. To that end:
  • We are building a migration tool that will walk users through a migration from their current URL to a Blogger-managed URL (either a Custom Domain or a Blogspot URL) that will be available to all users the week of February 22. This tool will handle redirecting traffic from the old URL to the new URL, and will handle the vast majority of situations.
  • We will be providing a dedicated blog and help documentation to provide as much information as possible to help guide users through the migration off of FTP.
  • Blogger team members will also be available to answer questions on the forum, comments on the blog, and in a few scheduled conference calls once the tool is released.
We have a number of big releases planned in 2010. While we recognize that this decision will frustrate some users, we look forward to showing you the many great things on the way. Thanks for using Blogger.

[G] This week in search 1/22/10

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Official Google Blog: This week in search 1/22/10

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

The Google that you used today is actually better than the Google that you used yesterday. On a daily basis, we make a number of algorithmic enhancements and release other search features that ultimately make finding what you're looking for quick, easy and enjoyable. Here are a few of the exciting feature releases this week:

Hours and menu information in universal search
Want to know when your favorite museum is open? Interested in ordering in and need to quickly check the menu for that restaurant around the corner? This week we were excited to launch hours and menu information in local results for universal Google search. Now you can add the words "hours" or "menu" to your search to get back the information you want in a snap.

Example searches: [computer history museum mountain view hours], [sushi sakae burlingame menu]

Rich Snippets for events
What are Rich Snippets? They show brief annotations that webmasters make to summarize what's on the page so you can see it at a glance on your search results page. So far we've launched improved snippets for two formats: reviews and people. Today, we unveiled a new Rich Snippets format for events. The next time you're searching for events, you'll see how the new format lists them as search result snippets, along with dates, locations and links directly to pages about those specific events. And, as webmasters implement the new markup on their webpages, you'll begin to see these event results more frequently.

Example search: [concerts in san jose]

Answer highlighting
Earlier today, we were excited to release the answer highlighting feature, which helps you get to information more quickly by delivering the likely answer to your question in boldface type right in search results. If the pages returned for these searches contain a simple answer to a factual-based search, the snippet will more often include the relevant text in boldface for easy reference. Read more about answer highlighting here.

Example searches: [who is the author of 1984], [p.s. i love you release date], [terminator salvation director]

We hope that you enjoy the features we launched this week — and that they make your search experience even better than yesterday.

Posted by Johanna Wright, Director of Product Management, Search

[G] Faster voicemail access

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Google Voice Blog: Faster voicemail access

When it comes to voicemail, Google Voice is all about saving you time. We transcribe your voicemails so hopefully you don't need to listen to them, we send notifications via email and SMS notifications so you know when you have new messages, we even let you listen in as callers leave you messages so you can decide if the call is urgent before picking up.

To make voicemail even easier, today, we implemented two changes in the way you listen to voicemails through your phone.

First, when you dial your own Google Voice number, we now begin playing your voicemails without the need to press 1 anymore. Since listening to voicemail is the most common reason people call their own numbers, we thought it made sense to save you an extra step. All the other options will still be available from the menu, but if you don't select any other option, your voicemail messages will be played automatically.

Second, we now play your voicemails starting with the most recent, rather than the oldest. This way, if you've received several messages from the same caller, you'll hear the most recent update before the outdated voicemail.

We hope you like those improvements and, as always, we welcome your feedback.

Posted by John Rector, Software Engineer

[G] Upcoming Seminars for Success in Australia

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Google Analytics Blog: Upcoming Seminars for Success in Australia

Australia in summer - white sand, warm nights, occasional sun burn and Google Seminars for Success!

For the first time, the Seminars include new Google Website Optimizer days. Learn how to conduct landing page tests to increase visitor engagement and conversions on your website. Also, the Google Analytics Seminars have been updated to include all the latest Google Analytics features; Analytics Intelligence, Custom Alerts, Annotations and much, much more.

Here's a quote from a past attendee - this says it all:
Whilst I've been using GA for years and have also run AdWords campaigns I was becoming increasingly frustrated that there was newer functionality which I didn't have either the knowledge, skill or confidence to leverage in full. Above all, I've left the course hugely inspired, with a range of ideas which I'm keen to implement ASAP. This course has given many of the agencies we've dealt with a 'run for their money' and provided me with the confidence to not only demand, but do a lot more!
- Sumi Triggs Olsen, eMarketing Executive, CPA Australia

Google Analytics - Introduction and User Training
Melbourne, Australia: Thursday, 25 February 2010
Sydney, Australia: Thursday, 11 March 2010

This introduction provides a complete overview of Google Analytics and available reports. Learn to identify the best reports for your role and make decisions that deliver results. Topics include:
  • Introduction to Web Analytics
  • Google Analytics Interface Features
  • Sharing and Customizing Reports
  • Understanding Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content and Goals
  • And Much, Much More...

Google Analytics - Advanced Technical Implementation
Melbourne, Australia: Friday, 26 February 2010
Sydney, Australia: Friday, 12 March 2010

The advanced day will show you how to use the full range of advanced features and reports within Google Analytics. Learn how to get the most out of Google Analytics with tips, tricks and technical setup options. Day 2 topics include:
  • Best Practices for Setup and Configuration
  • Using and Creating Filters
  • Setting and Configuring Goals and Funnels
  • E-commerce, Site Search, Event Tracking, Custom Reports and Advanced Segments
  • And Much, Much More...

Google Website Optimizer - Landing Page Testing

Melbourne, Australia: Monday, 1 March 2010
Sydney, Australia: Monday, 15 March 2010

Learn how to conduct landing page testing with Google Website Optimizer to identify, measure and improve key design elements and calls to action on your website to increase engagement and conversions. See how you can continually increase your conversion rates with testing by setting up and running A/B and multivariate tests.
  • Introduction to Landing Page Testing
  • Best Practices for Increasing Conversions
  • How to Run an Experiment
  • Understanding the Data and Running Follow-up Experiments
  • And Much, Much More...

Seats are limited, so register today!

Register for Sydney Seminars for Success
Register for Melbourne Seminars for Success

Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team

[G] Write better knols with object embedding and PicApp

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Official Google Blog: Write better knols with object embedding and PicApp

During the past couple months, the Knol team has been steadily adding improved tools to help you create better knols. Most notably, we've greatly expanded the number of embeddable objects to help you make your knols more graphical and interactive. We've been excited by the many uses we're seeing, and today we have one more to add to the list: PicApp.

We think it's important for a publishing platform like knol to provide people with the best possible tools for expression, so we've quietly added a large number of new embeddable objects for maps, docs, spreadsheets, forms, slideshows, presentations, videos, gadgets and more. Embeddable objects help you make better knols. For example, our equation object helps you add richly formatted mathematical expressions right in your knols. We really liked the cleanly embedded equations in this knol from the Public Library of Science. Similarly, our calendar object enables you to easily share details about upcoming dates, like swing dance lessons in Oregon.

Even with all these embeddable objects, there's still more to do. For example, one frequent complaint is that it is still difficult today to find appropriately licensed, high-quality imagery to include in your articles. To help solve this problem, we've worked with PicApp to add 10 million high quality stock images via our improved picture picker. The new picker enables you to search for creative and editorial images from PicApp's comprehensive, high-quality stock imagery repositories such as Getty Images. The service and use of the images is free.

Below is a snapshot of a sample search using the PicApp search API.

The feature just launched last month, and several authors have already made use of this new capability to strengthen their writings. For example, this knol about Gary McKinnon uses images found via PicApp, along with embedded videos, and even a feedback form to get input from the audience.

We hope you enjoy the image picker and other new embeddable objects. As always, you can read our release notes for a full list of new features.

Posted by Cedric Dupont, Product Manager

[G] Welcoming Earth API (and Flash SSL support) to the Google Maps API Premier family

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Welcoming Earth API (and Flash SSL support) to the Google Maps API Premier family

We're happy to announce that we've integrated the Google Earth API into Maps API Premier, adding easy multiple domain and SSL support, enterprise technical support, and a more expansive license to enable commercial use or sale of a product that embeds Earth API or to use it in a site that isn't publicly accessible. With this news, Earth API joins the current family of Maps API Premier services including the Javascript Maps API v2, Maps API for Flash, Static Maps API, StreetView API, and geocoding service, as explained today in the Google Maps API Premier Developer's Guide.

A number of developers have already created amazing products leveraging the Earth API platform in the Maps API Premier suite. Earth Knowledge's Earth API implementation shows how:

Click on the screenshot (you may be prompted to add the Google Earth Plugin, and then "refresh" to view) to see how it powerfully visualizes all of the critical 3D data an emergency responder would need to know about the recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.

Other examples include StrataLogica , Nystrom's great education application, which brings a favorite teaching tool – the globe – to the 21st century. And, in these climate-conscious times, Space Time Insight enables utilities to visualize critical streams of data using the Earth API from smart grid data to current wind conditions.

One more thing: we're also announcing full HTTPS support in the Premier version of the Maps API for Flash. This addition delivers the added security of HTTPS while still providing a friendly user experience that's free of warning pop-ups. This is important news for customers who are creating applications with the Maps API for Flash but who need the security of HTTPS.

Learn how to work with this functionality here, and (if you're already a Premier customer) make sure you contact Enterprise Support with your client ID to have them enable SSL.

Posted by Daniel Chu, Product Manager, Enterprise Maps & Earth team

[G] FriendFeed Subscriber counts not reported for January 21st

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The FeedBurner Status Blog: FriendFeed Subscriber counts not reported for January 21st

Issue: Subscriber counts for FriendFeed are unavailable on FeedBurner for 21-Jan 2010.

Update (10:00am PST 22-Jan): FriendFeed has identified and resolved the issue. Subscriber counts from FriendFeed should return to expected levels starting with the 23-Jan reporting cycle.

[G] 3 course dinners? 3 easy steps to let your customers know.

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Google LatLong: 3 course dinners? 3 easy steps to let your customers know.

Restaurant weeks, when restaurants across a city host prix fixe menus, are starting in various parts of the world so we wanted to share a few tips whether you're looking for restaurants or you manage a restaurant.

For interested diners, finding the top restaurants has never been easier. We have continually updated our business pages with more reviews, feature ratings to measure aspects of the restaurant that might interest you, and even the ability to see updates from the owner.

We've recently partnered with the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, to help drive new patrons to Dine About Town's participating restaurants. Since many of their potential customers begin their search on Google, we wanted to share some simple steps for them to enhance their exposure on Google as a participating restaurant - and we hope these will help any other interested restaurateurs.

  • First, if you haven't already signed up for Google's Local Business Center, it's a free service that allows you to add menus, photos, and videos to your Google local business listing while making sure basic address & contact information is correct on the search engine.

  • Second, once you're signed up, within the "Coupon" section, you can add in details regarding your participation. For example, your offer could read:

Vinny's Restaurant
Dine About Town 2010
3-Course Dinner for $34.95

  • Third, use the new updates feature in Local Business Center to post real-time messages about your participation in your local restaurant week, including menu items, specials of the day and more. Learn more here.

Why is this important? If a potential customer is searching on Google for a type of restaurant that matches your restaurant description, your listing will be up-to-date with news that you are participating in Dine About Town or any other events you are participating in. Afterwards, a personalized report allows you to see how often your listing was found on Google, and how people got there. For more information or to answer questions, please go here.

We hope restaurant weeks go well all over the country and happy dining. If you are involved in a resturant week and would like to see how we can partner up, click on this form and we can contact you.

And if you're in San Francisco or looking for an excuse to visit, you can see all participating Dine About Town restaurants for San Francisco now on a Google Map:

View Dine about Town 2010 in a larger map

Posted by Dave Kim and Ryan Hayward, Google Maps Marketing

[G] Bringing Project CARE to veterans in Washington, D.C.

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Official Google Blog: Bringing Project CARE to veterans in Washington, D.C.

It's sometimes easy to take the little things in life for granted: a haircut, a shower, shoes or even a phone number. Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we planned, and those little luxuries become much harder to come by.

Project CARE is a program to provide free Google Voice phone numbers and voicemail accounts to homeless individuals. The Google Voice team has been offering this program in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than two years, and we're excited to bring Project CARE to a new city.

On Saturday, Google Voice will join dozens of other Washington, D.C. organizations at the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center to try and make life a little easier for hundreds of veterans in the Washington, D.C. area. We will be handing out Project CARE cards and helping attendees set up unique phone numbers and voicemail accounts, which they can use when applying for jobs or filling out medical forms, or share with family.

In today's connected world, many of us don't think twice about picking up the phone to place or receive a call. However, for a homeless individual, a phone number can be an important lifeline, connecting you with prospective employers, health care providers, family and friends. We hope these Project CARE phone numbers provide homeless veterans with a way to reconnect with those they've lost touch with over the years.

Posted by Vincent Paquet, Senior Product Manager, Google Voice

[G] Sundance Film Festival Rentals Now Available on YouTube

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YouTube Blog: Sundance Film Festival Rentals Now Available on YouTube

On Wednesday, we announced our partnership with the Sundance Film Festival to make five films – three world premieres at this year’s festival and two audience favorites from last year’s – available for rent on YouTube starting today, January 22, and running through the end of the festival on January 31. 

We’re writing today to let you know that these five films are now live on the YouTube homepage, just in time for your weekend viewing.  You’ll also be able to find them throughout the next ten days by visiting YouTube Movies or through search.

Of course, you’re probably still wondering how this rentals business works. When you click on the thumbnail of the film you want to watch, you’ll be taken to a regular YouTube watch page where you’ll find a YouTube Rentals window over the video player. If you’re not signed in to your account, you’ll be prompted to do so. You’ll then need to complete your account setup by signing up for Google Checkout. Once complete, you’ll be taken back to the YouTube watch page where you can watch a trailer; if you decide you want to purchase a rental, click on the yellow “Rent” button and you’re ready to go.

To see an overview of the process, watch this quick demo video.

Please keep in mind that this product is an early beta, which means you may encounter glitches during your rentals experience. Help us build a better product faster by sharing your feedback through our help center.

If you’re ready to start browsing the films, read the descriptions below and click on the links to see more.

"Children of Invention" explores the American Dream as seen through the eyes of a Chinese American family living in suburban Boston.

In "Homewrecker," a prisoner on work release and a live-wire kook take a day-long ride in a seemingly stolen vehicle that neither of them will soon forget.

In "The Cove" an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Japan, and shine a light on a dark and deadly secret.

When humble Linas, kicked off of his friends couch and spurned by his lover, finds a forgotten van on a llama farm outside Seattle, he begins lurching east with nothing to lose in "Bass Ackwards."

In "One Too Many Mornings," Fisher and Pete are two dudes with dude problems -- one drinks too much and one just got cheated on by his girlfriend -- and few prospects of helping each other out.

Enjoy some of the festival without the cold,

The YouTube Team


[G] Understanding the web to make search more relevant

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Official Google Blog: Understanding the web to make search more relevant

Last year at our second Searchology event, we announced Google Squared and Rich Snippets, two approaches to improve search by better understanding the web. Today, we're kicking off the new year with two improvements based on those technologies. First, we're applying the research behind Google Squared to add a new "answer-highlighting" feature to search, and second we're expanding Rich Snippets to include events.

Answer highlighting in search results

Most information on the web is unstructured. For example, blogs integrate paragraphs of text, videos and images in ways that don't follow simple rules. Product review sites each have their own formats, rating scales and categories. Unstructured data is difficult for a computer to interpret, which means that we humans still have to do a fair amount of work to synthesize and understand information on the web.

Google Squared is one of our early efforts to automatically identify and extract structured data from across the Internet. We've been making progress, and today the research behind Google Squared is, for the first time, making search better for everyone with a new feature called "answer highlighting."

Answer highlighting helps you get to information more quickly by seeking out and bolding the likely answer to your question right in search results. The feature is meant for searches with factual answers, such as [meet john doe director], [john lennon died], or [what was the political party of president ford]. If the pages returned for these queries contain a simple answer, the search snippet will more often include the relevant text and bold it for easy reference.

Consider the example, [empire state height]. The first search result used to look like this:

With today's improvements, the answer —1250 ft, or 381 m — is highlighted right in the search result:

This kind of quick answer only makes sense for certain kinds of searches. For example, the answer to [history of france] can't readily fit in a search snippet. However, for the kinds of information you can easily put in a table, we've been able to take what we've learned from Google Squared to make search better for a wide range of queries. Answer highlighting is rolling out during the next couple days on in English.

Rich Snippets for events

Sometimes the easiest way to understand somebody is by having a conversation. The web is similar. As much as we're happy with the progress we're making with Google Squared, we also appreciate that a great way to understand web pages is to simply ask webmasters to teach us (and other search engines) about their content. To that end, we continue to make improvements to our search results with Rich Snippets, enabling webmasters to annotate pages with structured data in a standard format.

So far we've launched improved search result snippets for reviews and people. When your search results contain web pages with review information, you might see the number of user reviews on the page and the average rating in the search result. When your search contains a public profile page about a person from a social networking site, you may see the person's location and occupation, or a list of her friends.

Today, we're announcing support for a new Rich Snippets format for events. The new format improves search results by including links to specific event names, dates and locations. Here's an example of a new event result from if you search for [irving plaza]:

The new result format provides a fast and convenient way to identify pages with events and click directly to the ones you find interesting. If you're into Hip Hop Karaoke, you can quickly find out when and where the next show is in Irving Plaza, and click for more info. We've been working with a few sites to ramp them up for our initial launch, but it will take time for other webmasters to start implementing the new markup. Check out our blog post on Webmaster Central for more details.

Posted by Kavi Goel and Noah Weiss, Product Managers

[G] Looking "under the hood" of Google Commerce Search: a technical webinar for agencies and partners

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Looking "under the hood" of Google Commerce Search: a technical webinar for agencies and partners

How can e-retailers surface product information and a vast number of product attributes for shoppers without sacrificing speed or relevance? In November, Google's enterprise search team launched a new website search option designed specifically for online retailers: Google Commerce Search. Since then, we've heard from many agencies, partners, and solution providers who wanted to learn more about the development and technical features of the product, because website search can present unique issues for online retailers.

If you're looking to dive a bit deeper into the technical side of Google Commerce Search, join us for a behind-the-scenes look in an interactive webinar in which Google's search product managers and engineers will review how Google Commerce Search works, address implementation and administrative questions, and discuss key product capabilities.

Google Commerce Search "Under the Hood"
Monday, February 1, 2010
1:00 p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. PST

This webinar will include a question and answer session. We hope you'll join us for this informative online event.

Posted by Anna Bishop, Google Enterprise Search team

[G] Google Apps highlights – 1/22/2010

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Official Google Blog: Google Apps highlights – 1/22/2010

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label "Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

The Google Apps team has had another productive couple of weeks. We released a number of helpful new features, and were happy to welcome new customers to the future of computing.

Upload any file to Google Docs
Last Tuesday, we began rolling out the ability for you to upload any type of file to Google Docs, not just documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs. This lets you access and share anything up to 250MB from the cloud. You get 1GB of storage for uploaded files for free, and you can purchase additional storage for file uploads. (Additional storage plans are coming soon for schools and businesses, too.)

Google Apps Premier Edition customers can also use the Google Documents List Data API to programatically add files to Google Docs, and purchase third-party applications so employees can sync files between their computers and Google Docs.

Default https access for Gmail
In the past, you had the option to always use https encryption in Gmail to help protect your data as it travels between your browser and our servers. After evaluating the trade-offs between security and latency, as of last week https encryption is now the default in Gmail.

If you trust your network's security and want to disable always-on https for performance reasons, you can change your preferences in Gmail settings. Employees and students whose admins have not already defaulted their entire organizations to https will also see this option. The Gmail sign-in page will still always use https to help keep your password safe.

Who's gone Google?
Sanmina-SCI is a leading Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider to many industries including the communications, medical, defense and aerospace, industrial and renewable energy sectors. Sanmina-SCI rigorously evaluated and smoothly deployed Google Apps to their multi-lingual, global workforce of 15,000 employees. Not only did Sanmina-SCI achieve significant cost savings over upgrading their outdated Microsoft Exchange environment, deploying Google Apps has resulted in better customer service, streamlined business processes and increased flexibility.

We also witnessed a flurry of schools going Google after winter break. A very warm welcome to North Carolina State University, the Byron School District, Griffith University, Seattle Central Community College and Macquarie University!

If your school or business is ready to go Google too, take a look at our tips and best practices for deploying Google Apps.

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Marketing Manager

[G] Live Tonight: Top Artists Perform in "Hope for Haiti Now" Benefit Concert

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YouTube Blog: Live Tonight: Top Artists Perform in "Hope for Haiti Now" Benefit Concert

Over the past week, citizens and organizations from around the world have rallied around Haiti, offering tremendous aid for the relief effort currently underway. But even though tens of millions of dollars have been raised online via sites like YouTube, Haiti's road to recovery will be long, and more financial support is desperately needed.

That's why tonight, in partnership with a variety of media companies, we're live-streaming "Hope for Haiti Now," a benefit concert for earthquake relief. Hosted by George Clooney, Wyclef Jean and Anderson Cooper, the event will feature performances by Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Shakira, U2, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and many more.

The concert starts tonight at 8 p.m. ET on, and it will be available to a global audience. Donations from the event will go to a number of different organizations, including the Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN World Food Program, Partners in Health, Yele Haiti and Oxfam. After the show, you can continue to donate money and get the latest information coming out of Haiti at our Crisis Response landing page.

Steve Grove, Head of News and Politics, recently watched "Solidarity with Haiti, a worldwide response."


Thursday, January 21, 2010

[G] Sundance Shorts in the Screening Room

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YouTube Blog: Sundance Shorts in the Screening Room

Yesterday, it was feature films for rent.  Today, it's shorts for free.

Every year, the shorts programmers of the Sundance Film Festival have the privilege of selecting the creme de la creme of the world's short films for their official selection.  This year, we're proud to announce that we've partnered with the Festival to bring a selection of these films to your YouTube player, courtesy of Verizon.

For the next six weeks, you can watch this eclectic mix of comic, tragic, documentary, animated and experimental shorts in the Screening Room. The first four films cover a wildly diverse range of subjects and stories, including a very out-there take on opera; a celebration of a man's life on his hundredth birthday; a young wolf who decides to confront his father; and a coming of age tale for two high school graduates.

More films to come, so stay tuned.

Nate Weinstein, Entertainment Marketing Associate, just watched "Glottal Opera"


[G] FCC broadband plan to call for access to real-time energy info

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Google Public Policy Blog: FCC broadband plan to call for access to real-time energy info

Posted by Michael Terrell, Energy Policy Counsel

Over the past six months we have been providing you with periodic updates and comments on the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which is scheduled for release in mid-March. Earlier today FCC energy and environment director Nick Sinai gave a sneak preview of one of the Plan's key components: how broadband will facilitate smarter energy usage.

He told an audience at the Clean-tech Investor Summit that the FCC will call on States and the Congress to give consumers and consumer-authorized third parties access to real-time energy information. This kind of information could have a huge financial and environmental impact. Studies show that access to real-time usage data results in energy savings of up to 15%. He talked about how, combined with other measures, this information could create a platform that could lead to new products and services to help consumers manage energy. Picture it: a smart phone apps store for home energy management.

Sinai singled out for praise technologies like "smart" electricity meters and recent efforts in California to include consumer data access policies as part of a statewide smart meter roll out. (Learn more by reading Google's comments.) While encouraged by state-led initiatives like this, Sinai said if state efforts don't work, the FCC could recommend that Congress consider national energy data accessibility legislation.

[G] The Video Page Gets a Makeover

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YouTube Blog: The Video Page Gets a Makeover

From the Queen of England to the queen of your 'hood, from aspiring filmmakers to Hollywood studios, from high school graduation videos to citizen reports of revolutionary moments in Iran, it all has a home on YouTube. This creates a really big challenge: how do we design a site that reflects so many different users, experiences and videos? This is a question we've thought about a lot since we launched in 2005. The result of some of this thinking (some might say over-thinking) is a video page chock-full of features that reflect a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but can feel cluttered and a little overwhelming. We've spent a lot of time over the last 10 months asking ourselves some tough questions about this page and posing some of those questions to you in blog posts, roundtable discussions, one-on-one conversations with the community and even on forums like our Product Ideas for YouTube page.

Today, we're excited to unveil the first major example of our efforts to simplify and streamline the video page to offer the best possible watching experience to you. To check out this new look all you have to do is opt-in. Click on this link to try it out (anyone can opt-in, but for now page elements are only in English). To revert back to the old video page, use the opt-out link at the top of the new video page or opt out here. We'll be making the opt-in more easily accessible soon, but we wanted to give our most passionate users a chance to experiment with it early.

Below are some highlights of some of the things that have changed and why. You can also check out our "Getting Started Guide" in the Help Center.

Streamlined look and functionality -- the video is the star: This concept is at the heart of the redesign. YouTube is about creating and watching the world's biggest video collection; therefore, the design should make the video the star. To that end, the new look is more subdued, stripped down and simple than before. The design should help ease users into advanced features, while providing power users with all the functionality they want.

New "next up" video list: We'll be smarter about queuing up other videos for you to watch on the right side of the page that will take into consideration how you found a video. For example, if you arrived at a video through Search, the rest of the search results will follow you to the playback page so your can continue to browse search results on the video page. The same goes for playlists and recommendations; if that's how you found a video, then that's what will show up on the right side of the page. Again, this is about creating a consistent viewing experience -- and a relevant one when we include context about your viewing intentions.

Description and stats areas united:
More specific information about the video you're watching is now in one place on the page: underneath the video. Click on the "Description" snippet or the Views to see more. This new expand capability works on multiple elements of the page so you won't have to learn a new trick to view each piece of data. The result: less clutter, especially on the right side where you look for the next video to watch.

Cleaned up actions bar: Actions like sharing, rating, saving or flagging a video are now all grouped in one place, with a cleaner, simpler "button bar." We thought a lot about practicality here, choosing to expose only the most commonly used actions and language for you. And, "Playlists" can now be built via the "Save to" pulldown menu.

Simplified binary ratings: As we noted in an earlier blog post, the rating system on YouTube doesn't really work that well (e.g. only the 1 and 5 star ratings were ever really used). So we moved towards a simpler "Like / Don't Like" model. Liking a video will also save it to your Favorites to make it easy to find those videos again.

New player sizing and video quality controls: We're adding a new size control into the player that allows you to pick a larger size to watch your video (formally above the player). When you pick the size, we'll serve you the ideal quality. For those of you hungry for more control, you can pick the specific video quality (for example, SD, HD or 1080p) in an associated drop-down menu. We'll warn you when we think there may be a better quality choice, but the control is in your hands.

Search results within the page: Now you can now search while you're watching a video and results will appear on the right side of the video page, without interrupting the viewing experience.

More prominent channel/subscriber placement and a new "see more videos" feature: Subscriptions are important to many of you, so we've made it more noticeable by moving the "Subscribe" button to the top of the video right near the title. This also gives anyone the ability to quickly peek at more videos from the creator's channel. (Just click on the arrow next to the number of uploads on the person's channel to see more videos from that user.) You've told us that making you hunt for this information on the page is confusing and many of you wanted this data in one place. This should make it easier to discover more content from videographers you like.

So those are just a few things you'll find in this new video page experience. As with all things on the Web (and in life?), change is hard and can take some time to get used to. That's why we did a lot of research, talked with so many of you and incorporated your thoughts into this latest back-to-basics playback page. So go on and "opt-in" to give it a whirl, and let us know what you think either in comments down below or enter feedback via this survey. Who knows -- you might see some of your own suggestions in future iterations of the page down the road.

Julian Frumar, User Experience Designer, recently watched "WTF Collective," and Igor Kofman, Software Engineer, recently watched "Zion-I featuring K. Flay - "Coastin'" [The Takeover]."


[G] New countries, new countrysides in Street View

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Google LatLong: New countries, new countrysides in Street View

When people visit the UK, they often head for the often the historic buildings that are dotted all over the country. Whether well preserved ruins or perfectly complete, these buildings and landscapes evoke scenes from classic novels and famous period movies.

Now, even without a tightly laced bodice or a top hat you can take yourself on a tour of some of these remarkable places in
Street View and take a trip back in time.

Thanks to the
National Trust - a charity with a love for preserving historic places and spaces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland - our Trike riders were given access to a whole host of beautiful places up and down the country. Last summer (fortunately able to ride this modern technological marvel wearing Google T-shirts, rather than chainmaill and medieval boots) they pedalled around a collection of the National Trust's iconic castles, country houses and outstanding landscapes, all 20 of which can be viewed here on our special guide.

Locations include iconic sites such as Corfe Castle in Dorset, Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, Plas Newydd in Wales and Downhill Demesne in Northern Ireland. Others include Lyme Park (where
Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy was filmed) and Castle Drogo, the last castle built in England.

Lyme Park

We hope you enjoy this combination of hundreds of years of history with our newest, quirkiest mapping technology.

Fountain's Abbey

But course that's not all you can find to explore today - we're also announcing two new countries where Street View is available: Sweden and Denmark, two countries with their own share of beautiful historic landmarks.

Let's take a stroll past Copenhagen Townhall:
Now let's head to Denmark and visit the home of Hans Christian Anderson:

In Taiwan and Italy, you'll find areas with new imagery as well. Our trike riders have also been pedaling around the United States. You can now visit all of the exotic creatures found at the San Diego Zoo:

If seeing a giraffe habitat isn't right up your alley, you can also see the home of the Nittany Lions -- the campus of Penn State, including its stadium, received a visit from the trike:

We've also added the University of Pennsylvania, and several theme parks including Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, and Water Country USA.

Posted by Laura Scott, Google London

[G] The Google Docs for students page

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Official Google Docs Blog: The Google Docs for students page

We recently launched the Google Docs for students page which highlights how various student populations can use Google Docs in their daily life. For example, Marie, a resident assistant, plans fun trips for her whole dorm using forms, while Christine, a math major, powers through her Probabilistic Systems Analysis class using the equation editor in Google Docs to collaborate with classmates.

These characters use Docs to enhance and manage their academic and social lives. We hope their stories will help our student readers discover what's possible with Google Docs.

To read more about these and other characters – and to keep up with news especially for students – check out the Official Google Students blog.

Posted by: Joelle Fornengo, Google Docs User Operations

[G] Google Docs guy talks cloud computing at Brookings

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Google Public Policy Blog: Google Docs guy talks cloud computing at Brookings

Posted by Adam Kovacevich, Senior Manager, Public Policy Communications

If you've ever posted a video on YouTube, shared a photo through Flickr, or used web-based e-mail service, you're a cloud computing user. As more computing shifts from the desktop to the Internet "cloud," what do policymakers need to know about the cloud? That question and many more were the topic of a Brookings Institution talk yesterday on cloud computing (full audio here).

Google's Jonathan Rochelle, Group Product Manager for Google Docs, was on the panel and took a minute afterward to break it down:


[G] Secretary Clinton to address Internet freedom

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Google Public Policy Blog: Secretary Clinton to address Internet freedom

Posted by Mistique Cano, Public Policy Communications Manager

Like many people interested in technology, diplomacy, and free expression on the Internet, we look forward to hearing Secretary of State Clinton's speech today on these topics. The speech will be streamed live here.

[G] Clicks vs. Visits Revisited

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Google Analytics Blog: Clicks vs. Visits Revisited

Online advertisers make frequent use of AdWords reporting in Google Analytics to measure the impact of paid visitors to their site and business. The insights and actions based on these reports help search advertisers to optimise their online campaigns and site experience for maximizing conversions. We see a lot of questions, however, on why there is sometimes a discrepancy in the reported number of visits and clicks.

It is not unusual to see a discrepancy in the numbers reported for AdWords clicks and Google Analytics visits from your AdWords campaigns. There are a few reasons as to why this happens even if your Google Analytics implementation is correct. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that the discrepancy is kept to a minimum. Over at the Solutions for Southeast Asia blog, we take a look at some common implementation errors plus any steps we can take to identify campaigns, ad groups, and keywords that are causing us trouble. We also cover best practices to put in place to ensure that we are measuring and reporting to the best of our abilities.

The post provides a 4-step guide to identify which campaigns or keywords are not tagged correctly and how to rectify the situation. The steps are summarised below:

Step 1: Check that you have the basics covered. Check that you have linked the correct AdWords and Google Analytics accounts, applied cost data to the right profiles, and that auto-tagging has been enabled in the AdWords account.

Steps 2 and 3: Identifying the culprits. Look through the AdWords reports to identify campaign and keyword landing pages that are contributing to the discrepancy.

Step 4: Fix the problem. For each of the problematic landing pages check that:
  • The correct Google Analytics Tracking Code is implemented
  • The Google Analytics Tracking Code is in the right location in your HTML source code
  • The auto-tagging parameter is present in the URL of the landing page that the visitor ends up on
  • You are not using a combination of auto-tagging and manual campaign tracking parameters
  • Paid visits are not being filtered out in your profile
Head over to the Solutions for Southeast Asia blog for a full guide on troubleshooting Google Analytics visits and AdWords clicks discrepancies.

Posted by Prissilia Kho, Google Analytics Specialist and Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar, Customer Solutions Engineer, Google Southeast Asia

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[G] MomDotCom Webinar

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Official Google CPG Blog: MomDotCom Webinar

Mothers today seek reliable information to make the best decisions and purchases they can for their families. Increasingly, they’re seeking this information through digital channels. This behavior provides an opportunity for marketers to reach moms in contextually relevant environments. Are you adapting your online strategies to target moms?

Google, in partnership with BabyCenter®, the leading global online parenting resource, explored how you, as marketers across industries, can empower mothers through online channels. The insights will help you best utilize the Internet and search in your marketing programs targeting moms.

The webinar will spotlight two pieces of research:

• BabyCenter's 21st Century Mom™ Report: A Comprehensive Look into the Hearts and Minds of the Modern Mom

• Google’s The Four Truths About Moms & Search: How and Why Moms Search

Date: Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Time: 3:00pm – 4:00pm EST, 12:00pm – 1:00pm PST

here to register for this MomDotCom webinar.

[G] Love for LuaJIT

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Google Open Source Blog: Love for LuaJIT

The last few years have been an exciting time for dynamic language implementations. The latest generation of JavaScript engines – Mozilla TraceMonkey, WebKit SquirrelFish Extreme, and Google's own V8 – are all based on just-in-time (JIT) compilation, which has led to dramatic speedups for web applications. The Unladen Swallow project is building a JIT for Python based on LLVM. But you may not have heard of the dynamic language Lua or the one-man LuaJIT project, which released a beta of its long-awaited 2.0 two months ago, along with some very impressive benchmarks.

LuaJIT is developed by Mike Pall, an open source developer located in Germany. Since its first release in 2005, LuaJIT has been at the forefront of dynamic language performance. In 2008 Mike announced that he was working on a complete rewrite based on trace compiler technology. It breaks with a long tradition of method-at-a-time JIT compilers and seems especially well suited for compiling dynamic languages. As LuaJIT shows, this approach yields performance that can rival even offline, static language compilers.

We use Lua internally at Google, and are very happy to be sponsoring the port of LuaJIT 2.0 to x86-64 (the initial release was for 32-bit x86 only). The full list of sponsors can be found on the LuaJIT sponsors page. The x86-64 port will be released under the MIT/X license, just as previous LuaJIT releases have been. Many thanks to Mike Pall for his excellent work on LuaJIT.

by Joshua Haberman, Software Engineering Team

[G] Introducing YouTube HTML5 Supported Videos

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YouTube Blog: Introducing YouTube HTML5 Supported Videos

A while ago, YouTube launched a simple demo of an HTML5-based video player. Recently, we published a blog post on our pre-spring cleaning effort and your number one request was that YouTube do more with HTML5. Today, we're introducing an experimental version of an HTML5-supported player.

HTML5 is a new web standard that is gaining popularity rapidly and adds many new features to your web experience. Most notably for YouTube users, HTML5 includes support for video and audio playback. This means that users with an HTML5 compatible browser, and support for the proper audio and video codecs can watch a video without needing to download a browser plugin.

Our support for HTML5 is an early experiment, and there are some limitations. HTML5 on YouTube doesn't support videos with ads, captions, or annotations and it requires a browser that supports both the video tag and h.264 encoded video (currently that means Chrome, Safari, and ChromeFrame on Internet Explorer). We will be expanding the capabilities of the player in the future, so get ready for new and improved versions in the months to come.

To try it out, go to the HTML5 page via TestTube or visit this page and join the experiment. This will enable HTML5 video for your browser, provided that it's one of the browsers mentioned above and fits in with the parameters we already referenced. (If you've opted in to other experiments, you may not get the HTML5 player.) You can also enable Feather watch (visit along with HTML5 video for an even simpler, faster YouTube experience.

We are very excited about HTML5 as an open standard and want to be part of moving HTML5 forward on the web.

Kevin Carle, Engineer, recently watched "Paranormal Cativity," and Chris Zacharias, Engineer, recently watched "Amsterdam Acoustics - Erlend Øye."


[G] Serving better ads in Gmail

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Official Gmail Blog: Serving better ads in Gmail

Posted by Steve Crossan, Gmail Product Manager

Ever since we launched Gmail, we've tried to show relevant and unobtrusive ads. We're always trying to improve our algorithms to show better, more useful ads.

When you open a message in Gmail, you often see ads related to that email. Let's say you're looking at a confirmation email from a hotel in Chicago. Next to your email, you might see ads about flights to Chicago.

But sometimes, there aren't any good ads to match to a particular message. From now on, you'll sometimes see ads matched to another recent email instead. For example, let's say you're looking at a message from a friend wishing you a happy birthday. If there aren't any good ads for birthdays, you might see the Chicago flight ads related to your last email instead.

To show these ads, our systems don't need to store any extra information -- Gmail just picks a different recent email to match. The process is entirely automated: no humans are involved in selecting ads, and no email or personal information is shared with advertisers.

We've updated a help center article and a few faqs where we had specified that ads alongside an email were related only to the text of the current message. This doesn't change the Gmail privacy policy. We've also created this short video explaining the change:

We'll be rolling this out over the next few days. With this change, we hope you see better ads in Gmail -- more of what you're interested in and less of what you're not.

[G] YouTube to Sundance: Independent Filmmakers Wanted

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YouTube Blog: YouTube to Sundance: Independent Filmmakers Wanted

Today's blog post comes from the chilly slopes of Park City, Utah, where we’re getting ready to kick-off our sponsorship of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. So, why are we here?

Independent filmmakers have been critical contributors to our platform ever since we launched our site, almost five years ago. In that time, we’ve increasingly come to understand some of the challenges facing these filmmakers: technology has made it easier and cheaper than ever to produce films; more films have led to more competition for audiences; more competition for audiences has led to more films needing massive marketing budgets to cut through the clutter. And these high costs have made it difficult for independent films to compete, leaving too many films going unseen. 

While YouTube has offered an easy and economical way for filmmakers -- as well as content creators of all kinds -- to instantaneously connect with fans around the world, many of them have told us that the ad-supported business model doesn't always meet their distribution and monetization needs. And so, we are excited today to announce our partnership with the Sundance Film Festival to make five films from the 2010 and 2009 festivals available for rent for U.S. users on YouTube starting this Friday and running through Sunday, January 31. In addition to these five films, a small collection of rental videos from other U.S. partners across different industries, including health and education, will be made available in the weeks ahead.  We’re also excited to put out the call for more independent filmmakers to join the rental program as part of our "Filmmakers Wanted" campaign at the festival. 

These are early days and in the coming weeks we'll also invite a small group of partners across other industries, in addition to independent film, to participate in this new option. Anything that brings more content to the YouTube community is a good thing. And making content available for rent will give our partners unprecedented control over the distribution of their work -- they can decide the price of their videos and the rental duration; they can decide when and where their content is available; and they can keep 100% of their rights.

But enough talking! You want to watch movies! To prepare for Friday's debut, take a minute to set up your Google Checkout account and watch the trailers below to decide what to rent.  On Friday, we'll post another blog to walk you through how to find and start watching some of these independent films.


Grab the popcorn and Swedish Fish,

The YouTube Team