Saturday, June 15, 2013

[G] Iranian phishing on the rise as elections approach

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Google Public Policy Blog: Iranian phishing on the rise as elections approach

Posted by Eric Grosse, VP Security Engineering

Cross-posted from the Google Online Security Blog

For almost three weeks, we have detected and disrupted multiple email-based phishing campaigns aimed at compromising the accounts owned by tens of thousands of Iranian users. These campaigns, which originate from within Iran, represent a significant jump in the overall volume of phishing activity in the region. The timing and targeting of the campaigns suggest that the attacks are politically motivated in connection with the Iranian presidential election on Friday.

Our Chrome browser previously helped detect what appears to be the same group using SSL certificates to conduct attacks that targeted users within Iran. In this case, the phishing technique we detected is more routine: users receive an email containing a link to a web page that purports to provide a way to perform account maintenance. If the user clicks the link, they see a fake Google sign-in page that will steal their username and password.

Protecting our users’ accounts is one of our top priorities, so we notify targets of state-sponsored attacks and other suspicious activity, and we take other appropriate actions to limit the impact of these attacks on our users. Especially if you are in Iran, we encourage you to take extra steps to protect your account. Watching out for phishing, using a modern browser like Chrome and enabling 2-step verification can make you significantly more secure against these and many other types of attacks. Also, before typing your Google password, always verify that the URL in the address bar of your browser begins with If the website's address does not match this text, please don’t enter your Google password.

[G] Asking the U.S. government to allow Google to publish more national security request data

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Google Public Policy Blog: Asking the U.S. government to allow Google to publish more national security request data

This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed. 

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond
Chief Legal Officer

[G] Enhanced campaigns: What happens on July 22, 2013

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Inside AdWords: Enhanced campaigns: What happens on July 22, 2013

This week, we published some of the reasons advertisers have already upgraded more than 3 million legacy campaigns to enhanced campaigns. If you have already upgraded all of your campaigns, then you are all set!  If you still have some legacy campaigns in your account, this post will cover what will happen to campaigns that are auto upgraded starting on July 22, 2013.

Default upgrade path
We strongly encourage everyone to upgrade before July 22, 2013 so your campaigns are set up as you'd like. If you don't, then the AdWords system will upgrade them using the following default settings.

Campaigns will be configured, like all new AdWords campaigns, to reach customers across all devices. Upgraded campaigns require a mobile bid adjustment setting, which influences your bids, ad position, and click volume on mobile devices. The table below shows how the mobile bid adjustment will be set depending on the devices targeted by a legacy campaign. Of course, you're free to change your default mobile bid adjustment and all other campaign settings after a campaign is automatically upgraded.

Legacy campaign device targeting
Default mobile bid adjustment
Any campaign that targets computers
Set based on bids from similar advertisers
Campaigns targeting tablets only
Set based on bids from similar advertisers
Campaigns targeting mobile devices only
+0% (same bids across all devices)
Campaigns targeting tablets and mobile devices only
+0% (same bids across all devices)

Special cases
What we've described above covers the vast majority of legacy campaigns. But there are some special cases with different default upgrade settings, like a legacy campaign that runs ads on the Google Display Network and uses device-specific targeting. Details on these special cases are in the AdWords Help Center.

Upgrade quickly and easily today
If you're upgrading one or multiple campaigns, we recommend that you use the AdWords upgrade center. It's quick and takes you step-by-step through the process. Learn more or visit the upgrade center now.

We're here to help
We want you to be successful with AdWords, so please contact us if you’d like any assistance with the upgrade to enhanced campaigns. For more details, tips and resources on succeeding with enhanced campaigns, please check out our help center articles and enhanced campaigns website.

Posted by Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President of Engineering


[G] Unleashing the Combined Power of Google Analytics and AdWords: Webinar Next Tuesday, 6/18

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Inside AdWords: Unleashing the Combined Power of Google Analytics and AdWords: Webinar Next Tuesday, 6/18

In many ways, Google Analytics and AdWords were made for each other. AdWords helps advertisers reach an audience and reports on advertising performance, and Google Analytics can tell you what actions your users take when they actually get to your site. You may have a high clickthrough rate (CTR) in AdWords, but what if you could see that 70% of those users left immediately after arriving on your landing page? While understanding the conversion rate of AdWords ads is critical, it’s also important to understand what happened to the users that did not convert or complete the action you wanted them to. For example, did users ‘bounce’ after landing on your site or did they view a few other pages and then leave? How much time did they spend on your site? Which keywords drive the majority of your Ecommerce revenue?

Thanks to built-in Google product integrations that provide unique insights into your data, you can view reporting and data in Google Analytics that directly relates back to your advertising in AdWords. Understanding how to use both of them together will help you refine your AdWords campaigns and improve the performance of your business.

Next Tuesday, join Rachel Witalec and Simon Rosen, Global Sales Strategy Leads, for a detailed look at how to use Google Analytics and AdWords together. In this webinar, we'll show you why it's important to link your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts, how to see both Google Analytics data in AdWords and AdWords data in Google Analytics, and walk through a live demo of the reports and how to use them. You'll learn how to make your marketing more effective by analyzing Google Analytics data, such as bounce rate, pages per visit, conversion rate, and Ecommerce revenue in conjunction with AdWords factors, such as keyword performance, ad copy, ad groups, and more. The webinar will also include a live Q&A section.

Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Time: 10am PDT / 1pm EDT/ 6pm GMT
Duration: 1 hr
Level: 101 / Beginner
Register: Register here

Posted by Sara Jablon Moked, Google Analytics team

[G] New ways to see how you stack up against the competition with Auction insights

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Inside AdWords: New ways to see how you stack up against the competition with Auction insights

The Auction insights report gives you valuable insight into how your ad performance compares with that of other advertisers.  For example, based on the impressions you’re eligible for, you can see how often your competitors’ ads are appearing above yours or whether one of your competitors has a higher impression share than you on an important keyword.

Before today, you could only get this data one keyword at a time - making it hard to see the bigger picture of where you stand relative to your top competitors.  Today, we’re happy to announce that we’ve added some exciting new functionality to the Auction insights report that will make it easier for you to get a bird’s eye view of your competitive landscape.

Now, in addition to running an Auction insights report on a single keyword you can also run a report on any of the following scenarios:
  • Groups of keywords.  For example, you may want to run a report on all keywords that contain a certain brand term, or that have the same label.  Simply filter your keyword list, select the keywords you want to include, and run an Auction insights report on the selected terms to see how your performance on those terms compares to that of your top competitors.
  • Individual or multiple ad groups.  You’ve probably already arranged your keywords into meaningful groupings within ad groups.  For example, if you sell men’s wear, you may have an ad group for “Father’s Day gifts” with keywords all about Father’s Day.  Now, from the ad groups tab, you can select one or more ad groups to run an Auction insights report.  This will show you how your performance on all eligible keywords within those ad groups compares to advertisers who most commonly compete with you on those terms.
  • Individual or multiple campaigns. Sometimes you may be interested in a high level picture of who’s competing with you across a wide range of topics.  In those instances, you can select one or more campaigns from the campaigns tab, and run an Auction insights report there to see how the competitive landscape looks at that high level.
We hope that these new features provide you additional insights to help you optimize your campaigns more efficiently.  We are rolling this feature out today and you should expect to see it in your account within the next few hours.

For more information on how to run an Auction insights report, how to interpret your data, or create a filter, visit the AdWords Help Center.  You can also join us for our Hangout on Air Tuesday, June 25th at 10:00 AM PST/1:00 PM EST where we will cover a few of the great things you can do with the new functionality in this report.

Posted by Dan Friedman, Product Manager, AdWords

[G] Get a Head Start with Enhanced Campaigns: Why to Upgrade Now

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Inside AdWords: Get a Head Start with Enhanced Campaigns: Why to Upgrade Now

Enhanced campaigns offer an array of new features to drive better performance and efficiency. With more than three million campaigns already upgraded, we’ve heard many great examples of advertisers finding new pockets of revenue and reaching new customers with enhanced campaigns – all while saving time. As the the auto-upgrade approaches on July 22, we’re introducing some new features in the Upgrade Center today to make the process of upgrading even easier. Upgrade today to start realizing the benefits right away.

5 reasons to upgrade now
By upgrading now and becoming a pro with the new features before the auto-upgrade, you can get a head start on driving better performance – and a jump start on the competition. Here are some of our advertisers’ top reasons for upgrading:
  • Discover local opportunities: Use the location bid adjustment to easily and effectively engage with users based on location and proximity. This allows you to find and optimize for pockets of revenue you may not have even known existed.

    After upgrading to enhanced campaigns and leveraging geo bid adjustments, Peter Hughes, Manager of SEM at Constant Contact stated, “Suddenly, we realized that California has a great cluster of small and medium sized businesses.  Cool - we’ve already geo-targeted that.  But guess what?  Who knew that North Dakota had such a great ROI.  In the old, legacy world, I never would have figured it out because it did not fit into my selective scaling model.”

  • Expose the true power of mobile: Implement a mobile bid adjustment to make sure you’re driving the right value for on-the-go consumers while gaining better insight into the results mobile can drive for you.

    American Apparel upgraded early to reach customers across all screens. They started by setting mobile bid adjustments at 100% and saw impressive results.  Since the upgrade, mobile conversions have grown 2X and aggregate click-through-rate has increased 7%.  Sean Singleton, Marketing Manager, stated, “We are going from trial to fine-tuning the way we execute our multi-device marketing strategy.  With enhanced campaigns, it’s very easy to test and iterate so we are quickly establishing internal best practices in terms of how to best run enhanced campaigns.”

  • Drive more leads through calls: Use call extensions and measure calls as conversions to drive cost-efficient leads while providing a better ad experience for your customers.

    Woodbridge, a financial investment firm, took advantage of upgraded call extensions and new reporting features, increasing the volume of calls from smartphones from 20% to 57%, with overall smartphone leads almost doubling.  In addition, conversion rates from both desktop and mobile devices increased by 6%.

  • Reach new audiences on the Google Display Network with powerful bidding:  Drive impression share to a specific audience using custom display bids across characteristics like demographics, interest categories or topics.

    Stathis Konstantinidis, who runs Global Marketing at Westwing, said, “With the upgrade to enhanced campaigns we have greater insight into how our converting audience looks on adgroup level. This is very important to us as we have quite a distinct idea of our target group. We can use this information in order to push the impression share of our ads within the converting audience and decrease the impressions within the less performing audience for driving conversions & decreasing the CPLs.”

  • Manage campaigns in less time: Dive into enhanced campaigns to see how the powerful features work together to streamline your workflow and get you to happy hour sooner.

    Dutch shoe retailer, Schuurman Schoenen, reduced its total number of campaigns by 60% and dramatically cut its marketing team’s workload.  “I used to spend twice as much time to maintain and fine-tune campaigns,” says Kayo Klein Obbink, Schuurman Schoenen’s online marketer.
Improvements to the upgrade center
In April, we announced the enhanced campaigns upgrade center to help you transition from legacy campaigns to enhanced campaigns. We’re introducing some additional features, rolling out over the next week, that will make upgrading even easier and give you greater control over the merging process:
  • Increased flexibility when copying keywords: When merging campaigns, have increased control over how keywords are copied (or not copied) from the mobile to the desktop campaign.
  • Automatic labelling of newly copied keywords: When keywords, ads, or ad groups are copied or merged, they will be labelled as having been modified by the upgrade center.
  • Uninterrupted keyword level tracking: When you have two matching campaigns with different mobile and desktop keyword-level destination URLs, they will be merged automatically. The mobile URL will show on mobile phones and the desktop URL will show on non-mobile.
  • ... and coming soon: Bulk upload functionality: Ad extensions and ad groups will soon be exportable to AdWords Editor.
We hope that the Upgrade Center and other resources we’ve shared will give you the tools you need to ease the transition to enhanced campaigns.

Don’t wait to upgrade
We will begin automatically upgrading all legacy campaigns on July 22nd, 2013.  Please continue to share your feedback with us as you are going through the upgrade process.

Posted by Andy Miller, Head of Mobile Search Solutions

Friday, June 14, 2013

[G] Live at 10:30PT/ 1:30ET - Hangout with Mark Walker, SVP,

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DoubleClick Publisher Blog: Live at 10:30PT/ 1:30ET - Hangout with Mark Walker, SVP,

How is leveraging online video to deliver engaging user experiences?

That's the question Xavier Kochhar, CEO, Structured Data Intelligence, is going to explore in our hangout on air with Mark Walker, SVP,

You can view the conversation right here at 10:30PT/ 1:30 ET. If you'd like to leave comments or questions for Mark, please look for the Hangout in the Think with Google +page stream.

Posted by Yamini Gupta, Product Marketing Team

[G] Video in the Future: Hang out with Mark Walker, Senior Vice President,

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DoubleClick Publisher Blog: Video in the Future: Hang out with Mark Walker, Senior Vice President,

How can large publishers create digital video content strategies that drive user engagement? That's the question Xavier Kochhar, CEO , Structured Data Intelligence, will ask of Mark Walker, Senior Vice President,, in the next edition of our Video in the Future hangouts on air series.

Join the conversation live on Thursday, June 13th, 10:30 AM PT/ 1:30 PM ET. Questions and comments welcome!

Did you miss our last couple of conversations featuring AOL's SVP of Video, Ran Harnevo, Silver Chalice's EVP Rich Routman and TubeMogul's Chief Strategy Officer Jason Lopatecki? Watch them now.

Posted by Yamini Gupta, Product Marketing Team

[G] Lights, camera, ACTION for video advertising

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DoubleClick Publisher Blog: Lights, camera, ACTION for video advertising

[Cross-posted on the DoubleClick Advertisers blog]

When we think about the multi-billion dollar future of digital advertising, we believe that much of that growth will be driven by video. Video advertising is a very compelling way to connect and grow an audience, especially when we layer on technology’s creative possibilities. What’s driving its astronomic growth?

We took a look at video ads across DoubleClick’s advertising platforms to identify areas of opportunity for advertisers and publishers, and shared these areas of growth in a three-part research collection: “Video Advertising Momentum”. We exclusively analyzed in-stream video ads that played against video content, and focused on ads served on sites globally, excluding Google owned and operated sites like YouTube. We're going to unpack the findings over the next two weeks, kicking it off with this infographic.

Digital video advertising is essential for brand campaigns.
  • Advertisers are getting into digital video in a big way: two out of five video ads on the DoubleClick advertising platforms came from advertisers new to digital video in 2013 - and many of them were large brand advertisers.
  • 68% of video ads in the last 12 months came from four advertiser categories dominated by large brand advertisers. The top video advertiser categories were Automotive and Retail, with Consumer Packaged Goods and Technology advertisers rounding out the top four.

Publishers are growing audiences and revenue with more video.
  • News publishers are redefining the way they deliver the news. As they increase their focus on video news content, they're running 3 times more video ads this year than last.
  • Video content is coming from all across the web - not just from TV or entertainment publishers. Sites that have benefit from increased video spending include Automotive & Vehicle, Sports, Computers & Electronics, and Shopping sites.

For video, the opportunity is clear: brand advertisers are using video to reach their audiences across the web, and publishers are powering their content strategy with more video. We can't wait to see how video rockets digital advertising to new heights.
Stay tuned for next week’s post as we dive into how programmatic video has hit its prime-time. And if you can’t wait that long, check out the full Video Advertising Momentum collection to explore them on your own. 

Posted by Mel Ann Chan, Product Marketing

[G] Streamlining Google Analytics Administration Experience

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Analytics Blog: Streamlining Google Analytics Administration Experience

We’re proud to announce the launch of a dramatically streamlined user experience for managing Google Analytics administrative settings! When visiting the Analytics Admin tab, you will now find all major settings readily accessible from this new landing page. As we launch over the coming weeks, here’s what you’ll see:
Google Store admin shown as a sample (click above image for full-size)
Settings are organized into columns corresponding to the most prominent objects in Analytics: accounts, properties, and views (formerly called profiles). A single account, property, and view will be selected, and you may change these via the drop downs atop each column. We are also renaming profiles to views to most closely match the present and future meaning of what this object represents: a view of the data Analytics collected for your property.

We’ve made a number of additional enhancements. To create a new account, property, or view, click the appropriate menu in the column heading and you’ll see an option to create a new object. You can load any settings page by clicking the appropriate name or icon. You'll notice animations that simplify the display of information, and you'll see new headers along with new navigational links on the left.

Help content has moved to the “Help” tab near the top right corner of the page. We’ve also refreshed the help content to make account administration easy to understand.

This is a large change over the old administrative user experience. For example, getting to property settings now takes just one click but used to take three. Simply compare the new look and feel above to the old:

Experience simplified navigation, faster account configuration, and the power of having all settings at your fingertips.

Posted by Scott Bailey and Matt Matyas, Google Analytics Team

[G] Play Cube Slam face-to-face against your friends

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Google Chrome Blog: Play Cube Slam face-to-face against your friends

My friends and I used to play video games all the time, squashed together on the couch, engaged in structured intellectual discourse about exactly how badly we were going to destroy each other. Now that we live spread out around the world, it’s a bit harder to dance in each other’s faces and yell “booyah!” every time we win a game. Enter: Cube Slam.

Cube Slam is a video game that you can play face-to-face against your friends. It’s a Chrome Experiment built using WebRTC, an open web technology that lets you video chat right in the browser without installing any plug-ins. That means you can quickly and easily play Cube Slam with your friends, no matter where they are in the world, just by sharing a link.

To win Cube Slam, hit the cube against your friend’s screen three times until the screen explodes. Shields, obstacles, and gravity fields change with every new level, and you can unlock power-ups including fireballs, lasers, multi-balls, mirrored controls, bulletproof shields, fog, ghost balls, time bombs, resized paddles, extra lives, and death balls––though you might want to avoid the death balls. If none of your friends are online, you can always play against Bob the Bear and see what level you can reach. If you install the Cube Slam app, you can even play Bob when you’re offline.

Cube Slam’s graphics are rendered in WebGL and CSS 3D, and its custom soundtrack is delivered dynamically through Web Audio. WebRTC, which enables the two-person game, is available on desktop Chrome and Chrome OS, and will be available on mobile later this year. In the meantime, you can play Cube Slam against Bob the Bear on your phone or tablet. To learn more about what’s going on under the hood, see our technology page and Chromium blog post.

Play a friend. Play a bear. Have fun!

Posted by Clem Wright, Google Creative Lab, Ursine Diversion Division


Thursday, June 13, 2013

[G] Experience 1,001 New Destinations with Street View

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Google Lat Long: Experience 1,001 New Destinations with Street View

Today we’re adding more than 1,000 locations around the world to Google Maps, making it more comprehensive and useful for you. From historical landmarks to sports stadiums, these panoramic photos available via Street View can help you ease into vacation mode with just a few simple clicks. Below are highlights from Asia, Europe, Latin America, the U.S. and Canada that you can use to preview a vacation spot, to plot your next hiking route or just to become an armchair explorer from wherever you may be:

Go from city life to wildlife park in Singapore:

Planning on stopping by Singapore this summer? You can now explore more of the island’s diverse landscapes right from Google Maps. To get a taste of modern city life in Singapore, simply search for Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade and Fullerton Heritage Promenade and use Street View to explore the city’s popular bay front and bay skyline. If you’re planning to travel with family or are simply an animal lover at heart, you can also now go on a virtual adventure to the Singapore Zoo.

Fullerton Heritage Promenade (View Larger Map)

Discover some of Europe’s riches:
While you’re basking in Seville’s sun and sampling its famous oranges, check out the stunning Seville Cathedral against the bright blue Spanish sky. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral (and third largest church) in the world and served as a trading hub and bastion of the city’s wealth in the years following the Reconquista in the 13th century. Or maybe take a virtual sightseeing trip down the serene canals of Copenhagen, Denmark this summer. From the boat you can see cultural landmarks like the Royal Opera and Theater Houses and even the sculpture of The Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale.

The canals in Copenhagen (Vizualizare hartă mărită)

Take a pilgrimage to Latin America:
Take a virtual journey to Brazil’s Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, the most visited Marian shrine in the world. You can also visit Brazil’s Vila Belmiro stadium, home to Santos Soccer Club and of past and present phenoms, Pelé and Neymar. Experience Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park), a natural oasis in the middle of Mexico City and one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. Or get ready for the slopes with a preview of Valle Nevada Resort, one Chile’s hottest ski resorts just a few miles outside of Santiago.

Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida (View Larger Map)

Take a trip down memory lane in the US:
Visit some of the nation’s historic landmarks with a road trip down the East Coast. Stops include The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut where one of America’s greatest authors and his family lived from 1874 to 1891; the Isaac Bell House in Newport, Rhode Island built in 1883 for the famous cotton broker and investor; and the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia, which has guarded the Chesapeake Bay since 1792. Finally, explore the historic Vermont State House where for over 150 years citizen legislators have gathered every winter to debate the laws of Vermont.

The Vermont State House (View Larger Map)

Canadian stages taking centre stage:
Just in time for summer theatre season, Street View users can virtually visit The Shaw Festival Theatre, Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall, Roy Thomson Hall and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Canadian Opera Company.

Roy Thomson Hall (View Larger Map)

Whether you’re hitting the slopes in South America or soaking up the summer sunshine north of the equator, we hope you enjoy exploring the world! To see this imagery and experience it through Street View, download the Google Maps app for Android or iPhone today.

Post content Posted by Deanna Yick, Street View Program Manager

[G] Retiring Chrome Frame

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Retiring Chrome Frame

Posted by Robert Shield, Google Chrome Engineer

(Cross-posted on the Chromium Blog)

The main goal of the Chromium project has always been to help unlock the potential of the open web.  We work closely with the industry to standardize, implement and evangelize web technologies that help enable completely new types of experiences, and push the leading edge of the web platform forward.

But in 2009, many people were using browsers that lagged behind the leading edge. In order to reach the broadest base of users, developers often had to either build multiple versions of their applications or not use the new capabilities at all. We created Chrome Frame — a secure plug-in that brings a modern engine to old versions of Internet Explorer — to allow developers to bring better experiences to more users, even those who were unable to move to a more capable browser.

Today, most people are using modern browsers that support the majority of the latest web technologies. Better yet, the usage of legacy browsers is declining significantly and newer browsers stay up to date automatically, which means the leading edge has become mainstream.

Given these factors we’ve decided to retire Chrome Frame, and will cease support and updates for the product in January 2014. If you are a developer with an app that points users to Chrome Frame, please prompt visitors to upgrade to a modern browser. You can learn more about these changes in our FAQ.

If you’re an IT administrator you can give your employees the full capabilities of a modern browser today, even if you depend on older technology to run certain web apps. Check out Chrome for Business coupled with Legacy Browser Support, which allows employees to switch seamlessly between Chrome and another browser. Chrome is secure, stable and speedy, and runs on all major desktop and mobile OSs. IT admins can also configure 100+ policies to make Chrome fit their needs.

It’s unusual to build something and hope it eventually makes itself obsolete, but in this case we see the retirement of Chrome Frame as evidence of just how far the web has come.

[G] Excellent Papers for 2012

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Google Research Blog: Excellent Papers for 2012

Posted by Corinna Cortes and Alfred Spector, Google Research

Googlers across the company actively engage with the scientific community by publishing technical papers, contributing open-source packages, working on standards, introducing new APIs and tools, giving talks and presentations, participating in ongoing technical debates, and much more. Our publications offer technical and algorithmic advances, feature aspects we learn as we develop novel products and services, and shed light on some of the technical challenges we face at Google.

In an effort to highlight some of our work, we periodically select a number of publications to be featured on this blog. We first posted a set of papers on this blog in mid-2010 and subsequently discussed them in more detail in the following blog postings. In a second round, we highlighted new noteworthy papers from the later half of 2010 and again in 2011. This time we honor the influential papers authored or co-authored by Googlers covering all of 2012 -- covering roughly 6% of our total publications.  It’s tough choosing, so we may have left out some important papers.  So, do see the publications list to review the complete group.

In the coming weeks we will be offering a more in-depth look at some of these publications, but here are the summaries:

Algorithms and Theory

Online Matching with Stochastic Rewards

Aranyak Mehta*, Debmalya Panigrahi [FOCS'12]

Online advertising is inherently stochastic: value is realized only if the user clicks on the ad, while the ad platform knows only the probability of the click. This paper is the first to introduce the stochastic nature of the rewards to the rich algorithmic field of online allocations. The core algorithmic problem it formulates is online bipartite matching with stochastic rewards, with known click probabilities. The main result is an online algorithm which obtains a large fraction of the optimal value. The paper also shows the difficulty introduced by the stochastic nature, by showing how it behaves very differently from the classic (non-stochastic) online matching problem.

Matching with our Eyes Closed

Gagan Goel*, Pushkar Tripathi* [FOCS'12]

In this paper we propose a simple randomized algorithm for finding a matching in a large graph. Unlike most solutions to this problem, our approach does not rely on building large combinatorial structures (like blossoms) but works completely locally. We analyze the performance of our algorithm and show that it does significantly better than the greedy algorithm. In doing so we improve a celebrated 18 year old result by Aronson et. al.

Simultaneous Approximations for Adversarial and Stochastic Online Budgeted Allocation

Vahab Mirrokni*, Shayan Oveis Gharan, Morteza Zadimoghaddam, [SODA'12]

In this paper, we study online algorithms that simultaneously perform well in worst-case and average-case instances, or equivalently algorithms that perform well in both stochastic and adversarial models at the same time. This is motivated by online allocation of queries to advertisers with budget constraints. Stochastic models are not robust enough to deal with traffic spikes and adversarial models are too pessimistic. While several algorithms have been proposed for these problems, each algorithm was known to perform well in one model and not both, and we present new results for a single algorithm that works well in both models.

Economics and EC

Polyhedral Clinching Auctions and the Adwords Polytope

Gagan Goel*, Vahab Mirrokni*, Renato Paes Leme [STOC'12]

Budgets play a major role in ad auctions where advertisers explicitly declare budget constraints. Very little is known in auctions about satisfying such budget constraints while keeping incentive compatibility and efficiency. The problem becomes even harder in the presence of complex combinatorial constraints over the set of feasible allocations. We present a class of ascending-price auctions addressing this problem for a very general class of (polymatroid) allocation constraints including the AdWords problem with multiple keywords and multiple slots.


Backtracking Events as Indicators of Usability Problems in Creation-Oriented Applications

David Akers*, Robin Jeffries*, Matthew Simpson*, Terry Winograd [TOCHI '12]

Backtracking events such as undo can be useful automatic indicators of usability problems for creation-oriented applications such as word processors and photo editors. Our paper presents a new cost-effective usability evaluation method based on this insight.

Talking in Circles: Selective Sharing in Google+

Sanjay Kairam, Michael J. Brzozowski*, David Huffaker*, Ed H. Chi*, [CHI'12]

This paper explores why so many people share selectively on Google+: to protect their privacy but also to focus and target their audience. People use Circles to support these goals, organizing contacts by life facet, tie strength, and interest.

Information Retrieval

Online selection of diverse results

Debmalya Panigrahi, Atish Das Sarma, Gagan Aggarwal*, and Andrew Tomkins*, [WSDM'12]

We consider the problem of selecting subsets of items that are simultaneously diverse in multiple dimensions, which arises in the context of recommending interesting content to users. We formally model this optimization problem, identify its key structural characteristics, and use these observations to design an extremely scalable and efficient algorithm. We prove that the algorithm always produces a nearly optimal solution and also perform experiments on real-world data that indicate that the algorithm performs even better in practice than the analytical guarantees.

Machine Learning

Large Scale Distributed Deep Networks

Jeffrey Dean, Greg S. Corrado*, Rajat Monga, Kai Chen, Matthieu Devin, Quoc V. Le, Mark Z. Mao, Marc’Aurelio Ranzato, Andrew Senior, Paul Tucker, Ke Yang, Andrew Y. Ng, NIPS 2012;

In this paper, we examine several techniques to improve the time to convergence for neural networks and other models trained by gradient-based methods. The paper describes a system we have built that exploits both model-level parallelism (by partitioning the nodes of a large model across multiple machines) and data-level parallelism (by having multiple replicas of a model process different training data and coordinating the application of updates to the model state through a centralized-but-partitioned parameter server system). Our results show that very large neural networks can be trained effectively and quickly on large clusters of machines.

Open Problem: Better Bounds for Online Logistic Regression

Brendan McMahan* and Matthew Streeter*, COLT/ICML'12 Joint Open Problem Session, JMLR: Workshop and Conference Proceedings.

One of the goals of research at Google is to help point out important open problems--precise questions that are interesting academically but also have important practical ramifications. This open problem is about logistic regression, a widely used algorithm for predicting probabilities (what is the probability an email message is spam, or that a search ad will be clicked). We show that in the simple one-dimensional case, much better results are possible than current theoretical analysis suggests, and we ask whether our results can be generalized to arbitrary logistic regression problems.

Spectral Learning of General Weighted Automata via Constrained Matrix Completion

Borja Balle and Mehryar Mohri*, NIPS 2012.

Learning weighted automata from finite samples drawn from an unknown distribution is a central problem in machine learning and computer science in general, with a variety of applications in text and speech processing, bioinformatics, and other areas. This paper presents a new family of algorithms for tackling this problem for which it proves learning guarantees. The algorithms introduced combine ideas from two different domains: matrix completion and spectral methods.

Machine Translation

Improved Domain Adaptation for Statistical Machine Translation

Wei Wang*, Klaus Macherey*, Wolfgang Macherey*, Franz Och* and Peng Xu*, [AMTA'12]

Research in domain adaptation for machine translation has been mostly focusing on one domain. We present a simple and effective domain adaptation infrastructure that makes an MT system with a single translation model capable of providing adapted, close-to-upper-bound domain-specific accuracy while preserving the generic translation accuracy. Large-scale experiments on 20 language pairs for patent and generic domains show the viability of our approach.

Multimedia and Computer Vision

Reconstructing the World's Museums

Jianxiong Xiao and Yasutaka Furukawa*, [ECCV '12]

Virtual navigation and exploration of large indoor environments (e.g., museums) have been so far limited to either blueprint-style 2D maps that lack photo-realistic views of scenes, or ground-level image-to-image transitions, which are immersive but ill-suited for navigation. This paper presents a novel vision-based 3D reconstruction and visualization system to automatically produce clean and well-regularized texture-mapped 3D models for large indoor scenes, from ground-level photographs and 3D laser points. For the first time, we enable users to easily browse a large scale indoor environment from a bird's-eye view, locate specific room interiors, fly into a place of interest, view immersive ground-level panoramas, and zoom out again, all with seamless 3D transitions.

The intervalgram: An audio feature for large-scale melody recognition

Thomas C. Walters*, David Ross*, Richard F. Lyon*, [CMMR'12]

Intervalgrams are small images that summarize the structure of short segments of music by looking at the musical intervals between the notes present in the music. We use them for finding cover songs - different pieces of music that share the same underlying composition. Wedo this by comparing 'heatmaps' which look at the similarity between intervalgrams from different pieces of music over time. If we see a strong diagonal line in the heatmap, it's good evidence that the songs are musically similar.

General and Nested Wiberg Minimization

Dennis Strelow*, [CVPR'12]

Eriksson and van den Hengel’s CVPR 2010 paper showed that Wiberg’s least squares matrix factorization, which effectively eliminates one matrix from the factorization problem, could be applied to the harder case of L1 factorization. Our paper generalizes their approach beyond factorization to general nonlinear problems in two sets of variables, like perspective structure-from-motion. We also show that with our generalized method, one Wiberg minimization can also be nested inside another, effectively eliminating two of three sets of unknowns, and we demonstrated this idea using projective struture-from-motion

Calibration-Free Rolling Shutter Removal

Matthias Grundmann*, Vivek Kwatra*, Daniel Castro, Irfan Essa*, International Conference on Computational Photography '12. Best paper.

Mobile phones and current generation DSLR’s, contain an electronic rolling shutter, capturing each frame one row of pixels at a time. Consequently, if the camera moves during capture, it will cause image distortions ranging from shear to wobbly distortions. We propose a calibration-free solution based on a novel parametric mixture model to correct these rolling shutter distortions in videos that enables real-time rolling shutter rectification as part of YouTube’s video stabilizer.

Natural Language Processing

Vine Pruning for Efficient Multi-Pass Dependency Parsing

Alexander Rush, Slav Petrov*, The 2012 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (NAACL '12), Best Paper Award.

Being able to accurately analyze the grammatical structure of sentences is crucial for language understanding applications such as machine translation or question answering. In this paper we present a method that is up to 200 times faster than existing methods and enables the grammatical analysis of text in large-scale applications. The key idea is to perform the analysis in multiple coarse-to-fine passes, resolving easy ambiguities first and tackling the harder ones later on.

Cross-lingual Word Clusters for Direct Transfer of Linguistic Structure

Oscar Tackstrom, Ryan McDonald*, Jakob Uszkoreit*, North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (NAACL '12), Best Student Paper Award.

This paper studies how to build meaningful cross-lingual word clusters, i.e., clusters containing lexical items from two languages that are coherent along some abstract dimension. This is done by coupling distributional statistics learned from huge amounts of language specific data coupled with constraints generated from parallel corpora. The resulting clusters are used to improve the accuracy of multi-lingual syntactic parsing for languages without any training resources.


How to Split a Flow

Tzvika Hartman*, Avinatan Hassidim*, Haim Kaplan*, Danny Raz*, Michal Segalov*, [INFOCOM '12]

Decomposing a flow into a small number of paths is a very important task arises in various network optimization mechanisms. In this paper we develop an an approximation algorithm for this problem that has both provable worst case performance grantees as well as good practical behavior.

Deadline-Aware Datacenter TCP (D2TCP)

Balajee Vamanan, Jahangir Hasan*, T. N. Vijaykumar, [SIGCOMM '12]

Some of our most important products like search and ads operate under soft-real-time constraints. They are architected and fine-tuned to return results to users within a few hundred milliseconds. Deadline-Aware Datacenter TCP is a research effort into making the datacenter networks deadline aware, thus improving the performance of such key applications.

Trickle: Rate Limiting YouTube Video Streaming

Monia Ghobadi, Yuchung Cheng*, Ankur Jain*, Matt Mathis* [USENIX '12]

Trickle is a server-side mechanism to stream YouTube video smoothly to reduce burst and buffer-bloat. It paces the video stream by placing an upper bound on TCP’s congestion window based on the streaming rate and the round-trip time. In initial evaluation Trickle reduces the TCP loss rate by up to 43% and the RTT by up to 28%. Given the promising results we are deploying Trickle to all YouTube servers.

Social Systems

Look Who I Found: Understanding the Effects of Sharing Curated Friend Groups

Lujun Fang*, Alex Fabrikant*, Kristen LeFevre*, [Web Science '12]. Best Student Paper award.

In this paper, we studied the impact of the Google+ circle-sharing feature, which allows individual users to share (publicly and privately) pre-curated groups of friends and contacts. We specifically investigated the impact on the growth and structure of the Google+ social network. In the course of the analysis, we identified two natural categories of shared circles ("communities" and "celebrities"). We also observed that the circle-sharing feature is associated with the accelerated densification of community-type circles.

Software Engineering

AddressSanitizer: A Fast Address Sanity Checker

Konstantin Serebryany*, Derek Bruening*, Alexander Potapenko*, Dmitry Vyukov*, [USENIX ATC '12].

The paper “AddressSanitizer: A Fast Address Sanity Checker” describes a dynamic tool that finds memory corruption bugs in C or C++ programs with only a 2x slowdown. The major feature of AddressSanitizer is simplicity -- this is why the tool is very fast.


Japanese and Korean Voice Search

Mike Schuster*, Kaisuke Nakajima*, IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing [ICASSP'12].

"Japanese and Korean voice search" explains in detail how the Android voice search systems for these difficult languages were developed. We describe how to segment statistically to be able to handle infinite vocabularies without out-of-vocabulary words, how to handle the lack of spaces between words for language modeling and dictionary generation, and how to deal best with multiple ambiguities during evaluation scoring of reference transcriptions against hypotheses. The combination of techniques presented led to high quality speech recognition systems--as of 6/2013 Japanese and Korean are #2 and #3 in terms of traffic after the US.

Google's Cross-Dialect Arabic Voice Search

Fadi Biadsy*, Pedro J. Moreno*, Martin Jansche*, IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing [ICASSP 2012].

This paper describes Google’s automatic speech recognition systems for recognizing several Arabic dialects spoken in the Middle East, with the potential to reach more than 125 million users. We suggest solutions for challenges specific to Arabic, such as the diacritization problem, where short vowels are not written in Arabic text. We conduct experiments to identify the optimal manner in which acoustic data should be clustered among dialects.

Deep Neural Networks for Acoustic Modeling in Speech Recognition

Geoffrey Hinton, Li Deng, Dong Yu, George Dahl, Abdel-rahman Mohamed, Navdeep Jaitly, Andrew W. Senior*, Vincent Vanhoucke*, Patrick Nguyen, Tara Sainath, Brian Kingsbury, Signal Processing Magazine (2012)"

Survey paper on the DNN breakthrough in automatic speech recognition accuracy.


Empowering Online Advertisements by Empowering Viewers with the Right to Choose

Max Pashkevich*, Sundar Dorai-Raj*, Melanie Kellar*, Dan Zigmond*, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 52 (2012).

This paper presents fundamental results for the "thinning problem": determining appropriate samples of data to be shown on specific geographical regions and zoom levels. This problem is widely applicable for a number of cloud-based geographic visualization systems such as Google Maps, Fusion Tables, and the developed algorithms are part of the Fusion Tables backend. The SIGMOD 2012 paper was selected among the best papers of the conference, and invited to a special best-papers issue of TODS.

Structured Data

Efficient Spatial Sampling of Large Geographical Tables

Anish Das Sarma*, Hongrae Lee*, Hector Gonzalez*, Jayant Madhavan*, Alon Halevy*, [SIGMOD '12].

This paper shows how a new time API and its implementation can provide the abstraction of tightly synchronized clocks, even on a global scale. We describe how we used this technology to build a globally-distributed database that supports a variety of powerful features: non-blocking reads in the past, lock-free snapshot transactions, and atomic schema changes.


Spanner: Google's Globally-Distributed Database

James C. Corbett*, Jeffrey Dean*, Michael Epstein*, Andrew Fikes*, Christopher Frost*, JJ Furman*, Sanjay Ghemawat*, Andrey Gubarev*, Christopher Heiser*, Peter Hochschild*, Wilson Hsieh*, Sebastian Kanthak*, Eugene Kogan*, Hongyi Li*, Alexander Lloyd*, Sergey Melnik*, David Mwaura*, David Nagle*, Sean Quinlan*, Rajesh Rao*, Lindsay Rolig*, Dale Woodford*, Yasushi Saito*, Christopher Taylor*, Michal Szymaniak*, Ruth Wang*, [OSDI '12]

YouTube’s TrueView in-stream video advertising format (a form of skippable in-stream ads) can improve the online video viewing experience for users without sacrificing advertising value for advertisers or content owners.


[G] Getting healthy just got a little easier

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Official Blog: Getting healthy just got a little easier

We’re all looking for ways to get a little healthier and smarter about the choices we make. Having tools and information at your fingertips might help bring a bit of motivation to your routine, and of course good tunes and a strong community doesn’t hurt either.

What’s in that cupcake?
Want to know how many calories are in a cupcake, or how much potassium is in a banana? You can now find nutrition information for over 1,000 foods in search - helping you stay informed about what you eat more quickly and easily. While using voice search, on desktop, your iPhone, or Android device you can ask, “how many calories are in a cupcake?” and you can follow-up and ask, “how about a cookie?” without needing to repeat parts of your question. Fruits and vegetables don’t have labels, and it’s often hard to track down the nutritional info for wine or more complex dishes like a burrito, so type or tap the microphone and easily ask your question for these foods and more.

Explore what’s around you, on two wheels
If you want a change of scenery from the gym, use Google Maps on your Android device to find nearby biking routes. Mount your device on your handlebars to see the turn-by-turn directions and navigation, or use speaker-mode to hear voice-guided directions for more than 330,000 miles of trails and paths around the world. Dark green lines on the map show dedicated bike trails and paths without cars, light green lines show streets with dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling.

Team up to get fit
Looking to get healthy with a friend? Join a Google+ Community and connect with others that share your diet and exercise goals. Check out Communities such as Eating Right and Fitness & Weight Loss for motivation, tips and inspiration to keep you on track. Use Hangouts On Air to learn what experts like The Biggest Loser are saying about nutrition or jump into a yoga class.

Don’t stop the music
A good beat will keep you moving and motivated. Sign up for All Access, our new music subscription service, and you can listen to millions of songs from Google Play Music. Build an awesome workout mix or start a radio station from your favorite pop song like “We Can’t Stop!” Miley Cyrus says it best.

Keep track—no matter which device you’re on
Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or on your mobile device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.

Get inspired by the pros
Need a little more motivation? Why not watch fitness gurus do their thing on YouTube: you can watch Sadie Nardini and her amazing yoga classes, or Cassey Ho will get you in top shape for summer - all in the comfort of your own living room.

Posted by Roya Soleimani, Google Search team


[G] Play Cube Slam face-to-face against your friends

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Official Blog: Play Cube Slam face-to-face against your friends

My friends and I used to play videogames all the time, squashed together on the couch, engaged in structured intellectual discourse about exactly how badly we were going to destroy each other. Now that we live spread out around the world, it’s a bit harder to dance in each other’s faces and yell “booyah!” every time we win a game. Enter: Cube Slam.

Cube Slam is a video game that you can play face-to-face against your friends. It’s a Chrome Experiment built using WebRTC, an open web technology that lets you video chat right in the browser without installing any plug-ins. That means you can quickly and easily play Cube Slam with your friends, no matter where they are in the world, just by sharing a link.

To win Cube Slam, hit the cube against your friend’s screen three times until the screen explodes. Shields, obstacles, and gravity fields change with every new level, and you can unlock power-ups including fireballs, lasers, multi-balls, mirrored controls, bulletproof shields, fog, ghost balls, time bombs, resized paddles, extra lives and death balls––though you might want to avoid the death balls. If none of your friends are online, you can always play against Bob the Bear and see what level you can reach. If you install the Cube Slam app, you can even play Bob when you’re offline.

Cube Slam’s graphics are rendered in WebGL and CSS 3D, and its custom soundtrack is delivered dynamically through Web Audio. WebRTC, which enables the two-person game, is available on desktop Chrome and Chrome OS, and will be available on mobile later this year. In the meantime, you can play Cube Slam against Bob the Bear on your phone or tablet. To learn more about what’s going on under the hood, see our technology page and Chromium blog post.

Play a friend. Play a bear. Have fun!

Posted by Clem Wright, Google Creative Lab, Ursine Diversion Division