Insights from Googlers into our products, technology, and the Google culture
Offline access to Google Docs
March 31, 2008
Posted by Janani Ravi, Software Engineer
Our team has a real affinity for free-spirited types, and so we spend a lot of time thinking up ways to make
friendlier even to people on the go. If you're one of those, you already know how you can access your Google Docs from anywhere, how nice it is to avoid having to email yourself files or back up docs with a thumbdrive, and how easily you can collaborate with others.
Of course there
a teeny thing missing: you needed an Internet connection to make Google Docs work for you. Now, for documents, that's no longer true. As you'll read on the
Google Docs blog
, starting today and over the coming weeks we're rolling out offline editing access to word processing documents to Google Docs users. You no longer need an Internet connection when inspiration strikes. Whether you're working on an airplane or in a cafe, you can automatically access all your docs on your own computer.
To see how offline access works, watch this video:
Privacy made easier
March 28, 2008
Posted by Jane Horvath, Senior Privacy Counsel, and Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel
Google Privacy Channel
With that in mind, today we're announcing a revamp of our
. The new Center is a one-stop shop for privacy resources, with various multi-media formats aimed to help you further understand how we store and use data, how to control who you share your data with, and how we protect your privacy. We hope this new Center will help you make more informed privacy choices whenever you use Google products and services.
Insight into YouTube videos
March 26, 2008
Posted by Tracy Chan, Product Manager, YouTube
I remember the first time a video I posted to YouTube cracked 100 views. I wasn't so much surprised as curious: Who were these people? How did they find this video? Where did they come from?
Today we're taking our first step towards answering these questions with YouTube Insight, a free tool that enables anyone with a YouTube account -- users,
-- to view detailed statistics about the videos that they upload. For example, uploaders can see how often their videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in that market over a given period of time. You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks. For now, you can find currently available metrics by clicking under the "About this Video" button under My account > Videos, Favorites, Playlists > Manage my Videos.
Insight gives the creators an inside look into the viewing trends of their videos on YouTube, and helps them to increase views and become more popular. Partners can evaluate metrics to better serve and understand their audiences, as well as increase ad revenue. And advertisers can study their metrics and successes to tailor their marketing -- both on and off the site -- and reach the right viewers. As a result, Insight turns YouTube into one of the world's largest focus groups.
There's more about this on the
youtube and video
Today is Document Freedom Day
March 26, 2008
Posted by Zaheda Bhorat, Open Source Programs Manager
Today, the world is celebrating the first-ever
Document Freedom Day
. More than 200 teams in 60 countries are spending today
about document freedom by hosting speakers, events, and literally raising the DFD flag. Through such activities, these teams are committed to spreading the word about the importance of open documents and the workable open standards that ensure your access to your documents now and in the future. We at Google wholeheartedly join the
community of users
and individuals around the world in today's celebration.
concerning the world's information is well known. Naturally, your access to
information is also important to us. When you save a document, you need to be sure that the information in it will be accessible tomorrow, a month from now, ten years from now. How and where you choose to access your documents shouldn't make a difference. This is what Document Freedom Day is about.
Five years ago, who would have thought that we'd be accessing the documents we created then on our cell phones? And yet today we expect this. The standard by which your document is formatted today absolutely needs to be readable and available to those who design the technology for tomorrow. This is the only way that you will know for sure that the information you entrust to your documents now will be yours for as long as you want it to be.
So wherever you are, join the fun and support your freedom to access your information.
Find out more
and help to spread the word: Document freedom means freedom of information for all of us, now, later and long, long into the future.
Making search better in Catalonia, Estonia, and everywhere else
March 25, 2008
Posted by Paul Haahr and Steve Baker, Software Engineers, Search Quality
We recently began a series of posts on how we harness the power of data
we told you
how data has been critical to the advancement of search; about using data to
make our products safe
this post is the newest in the series. -Ed.
One of the most important uses of data at Google is building language models. By analyzing how people use language, we build models that enable us to interpret searches better, offer spelling corrections, understand when alternative forms of words are needed, offer
, and even
suggest when searching in another language is appropriate
One place we use these models is to find alternatives for words used in searches. For example, for both English and French users, "GM" often means the company "General Motors," but our language model understands that in French searches like
, it means "Guerre Mondiale" (World War), whereas in
it means "Génie Mécanique" (Mechanical Engineering). Another meaning in English is "genetically modified," which our language model understands in
. We've learned this based on the documents we've seen on the web and by observing that users will use both "genetically modified" and "GM" in the same set of searches.
We use similar techniques in all languages. For example, if a Catalan user searches for
resultat elecció barris BCN
(searching for the result of a neighborhood election in Barcelona), Google will also find pages that use the words "resultats" or "eleccions" or that talk about "Barcelona" instead of "BCN." And our language models also tell us that the Estonian user looking for
, a barber in Tartu, might also be interested in a "juuksurisalong," or "barber shop."
In the past, language models were built from dictionaries by hand. But such systems are incomplete and don't reflect how people actually use language. Because our language models are based on users' interactions with Google, they are more precise and comprehensive -- for example, they incorporate names, idioms, colloquial usage, and newly coined words not often found in dictionaries.
When building our models, we use billions of web documents and as much historical search data as we can, in order to have the most comprehensive understanding of language possible. We analyze how our users searched and how they revised their searches. By looking across the aggregated searches of many users, we can infer the relationships of words to each other.
Queries are not made in isolation -- analyzing a single search in the context of the searches before and after it helps us understand a searcher's intent and make inferences. Also, by analyzing how users modify their searches, we've learned related words, variant grammatical forms, spelling corrections, and the concepts behind users' information needs. (We're able to make these connections between searches using cookie IDs -- small pieces of data stored in visitors' browsers that allow us to distinguish different users. To understand how cookies work,
watch this video
To provide more relevant search results, Google is constantly developing new techniques for language modeling and building better models. One element in building better language models is
using more data
collected over longer periods of time. In languages with many documents and users, such as English, our language models allow us to improve results deep into the "long tail" of searches, learning about rare usages. However, for languages with fewer users and fewer documents on the web, building language models can be a challenge. For those languages we need to work with longer periods of data to build our models. For example, it takes more than a year of searches in Catalan to provide a comparable amount of data as a single day of searching in English; for Estonian, more than two and a half years worth of searching is needed to match a day of English. Having longer periods of data enables us to improve search for these less commonly used languages.
At Google, we want to ensure that we can help users everywhere find the things they're looking for; providing accurate, relevant results for searches in all languages worldwide is core to Google's mission. Building extensive models of historical usage in every language we can, especially when there are few users, is an essential piece of making search work for everyone, everywhere.
policy and issues
A common sense approach to Internet safety
March 25, 2008
Posted by Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs
Over the years, we've built tools and offered resources to help kids and families stay safe online. Our
feature, for example, helps filter explicit content from search results.
We've also been involved in a variety of local initiatives to educate families about how to stay safe while surfing the web. Here are a few highlights:
In the U.S., we've worked with
Common Sense Media
to promote awareness about online safety and have donated hardware and software to improve the ability of the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
to combat child exploitation.
Google UK has collaborated with child safety organizations such as
to raise awareness about cyberbullying and share prevention messages, and with law enforcement authorities, including the
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
, to fight online exploitation.
Google India initiated "Be NetSmart," an Internet safety campaign created in cooperation with local law enforcement authorities that aims to educate students, parents, and teachers across the country about the great value the Internet can bring to their lives, while also teaching best practices for safe surfing.
Google France launched child safety education initiatives including
Tour de France des Collèges
that are designed to teach kids how to use the Internet responsibly.
And Google Germany worked with the national government, industry representatives, and a number of local organizations recently to launch a
search engine for children
As part of these ongoing efforts to provide online safety resources for parents and kids, we've created
Tips for Online Safety
, a site designed to help families find quick links to safety tools like SafeSearch, as well as new resources, like a video offering online safety pointers that we've developed in partnership with Common Sense Media. In the
, Anne Zehren, president of Common Sense, offers easy-to-implement tips, like how to set privacy and sharing controls on social networking sites and the importance of having reasonable rules for Internet use at home with appropriate levels of supervision.
Users can also download our new
Online Family Safety Guide
), which includes useful Internet Safety pointers for parents, or check out a quick
on SafeSearch created by one of our partner organizations, GetNetWise.
We all have roles to play in keeping kids safe online. Parents need to be involved with their kids' online lives and teach them how to make smart decisions. And Internet companies like Google need to continue to empower parents and kids with tools and resources that help put them in control of their online experiences and make web surfing safer.
policy and issues
OpenSocial continues to grow: Welcome, Yahoo!
March 25, 2008
Posted by Dan Peterson, Product Manager
OpenSocial was created
to help build infrastructure for the social web. OpenSocial provides a common mechanism for developers to easily hook into many different social networks and extend their functionality. Sites including MySpace and orkut have begun to provide OpenSocial applications to their users, and hi5 will be rolling out next week.
Today we're pleased that
Yahoo! has announced its support for OpenSocial
. We're looking forward to having Yahoo! users join the hundreds of millions of people who will soon enjoy OpenSocial applications. This addition means even more distribution for developers, encourages participation by even more websites, and, most importantly, results in more features for users all across the web.
In addition, Yahoo!, MySpace, and Google are joining with the broader community to create a non-profit foundation to foster the continued open development of OpenSocial. To that end, we've also launched
, designed to become the main documentation hub and primary source of information about OpenSocial. To learn more, and to get involved, please review the
With that, welcome, Yahoo! We look forward to growing the social web together.
The end of the FCC 700 MHz auction
March 20, 2008
Posted by Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, and Joseph Faber, Corporate Counsel
This afternoon the Federal Communications Commission
of its 700 MHz spectrum auction. While the Commission's anti-collusion rules prevent us from saying much at this point, one thing is clear: although Google didn't pick up any spectrum licenses, the auction produced a major victory for American consumers.
We congratulate the winners and look forward to a more open wireless world. As a result of the auction, consumers whose devices use the C-block of spectrum soon will be able to use any wireless device they wish, and download to their devices any applications and content they wish. Consumers soon should begin enjoying new, Internet-like freedom to get the most out of their mobile phones and other wireless devices.
We'll have more to say about the auction in the near future. Stay tuned.
policy and issues
New Google AJAX Language API - Tools for translation and language detection
March 20, 2008
Posted by Brandon Badger, Product Manager
The main goal of our AJAX APIs team is to provide developers with the tools needed to create the next generation of great web applications. Our 20% goal is world peace. What better way to help further both objectives than to launch a Language API? :)
The API helps developers automatically translate content in their applications. Users on these sites will have an easier time communicating across lingual boundaries.
The Language API provides both translation and language detection. Here's an example of the translation tool in action:
You can play around with the language detection capabilities via this example widget:
For more information on how to use the Language API in your code, please refer to the documentation
Gadget maker goes global
March 19, 2008
Posted by Sheridan Kates, Associate Product Manager, iGoogle
Last year we
introduced a feature
so you can create a personalized gadget with just a few clicks — no programming skills necessary. We've loved hearing all the stories from people who are enjoying this feature, such as
who live thousands of miles apart and use the GoogleGram gadget to send daily love notes. We've also heard from a lot of people who use the Framed Photo gadget to share the latest family snaps with relatives in far-off countries.
Here's my photo gadget from my travels in Europe and the Middle East last year:
Well, today you can do this in all
42 languages for which we support iGoogle
. We're looking forward to seeing even more stories like these roll in from across the globe.
We hope you enjoy building and sharing your own gadgets, wherever in the world you might be.
An appreciation of Arthur C. Clarke
March 19, 2008
Posted by Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, and Bill Coughran, Senior VP, Engineering
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
(Clarke's Third Law)
How do you summarize a man like
Arthur C. Clarke
? The 90-year-old futurist and science fiction writer, who
described himself as a "serial processor"
, died yesterday in Sri Lanka, his long-time home. Among the authors of the Golden Age of the genre in the 1950s, Clarke is a giant whose creative ideas have found purchase in the real world -- most notably the notion of a
synchronous communication satellite
, which he envisioned in 1945, but which did not become a reality for 20 more years.
The Deep Range
(1957) painted a world economy that harvested the bounty of the sea and incorporated humans adapted to that environment. In his earlier works, there is a strong scientific element that lends credibility to the worlds he envisioned. His more recent work has added more deeply philosophical themes. Clarke is probably best known for his book and co-authorship with Stanley Kubrick of the screenplay for the epochal
2001: A Space Odyssey
and the sequels to that cultural milestone -- but his two most compelling contributions may be the ability to envision worlds and societies based on premises other than our own, and his dramatic and effective advocacy of science and technology.
He has not squandered celebrity, but used his iconic status to draw public attention to things of
. We owe him gratitude not only for his remarkable talent for cerebral entertainment, but also his exceptional ability to make us think. Especially noteworthy now is this 9-minute video, which he prepared on his 90th birthday last December -- as usual, rich with forward-thinking ideas.
Not a few Googlers are who they are today because his work has been a source of inspiration and aspiration. We take a tiny bit of pride in the fact that Google is a "sufficiently advanced technology" that will make it easy for millions of people to find him.
Perhaps the most fitting summary of his life, paraphrasing the famous Vulcan greeting, is that he lived long and prospered! May his views continue to inspire for eons.
Opening Google Docs to users and developers via Gadgets and Visualization API
March 19, 2008
Posted by Jonathan Rochelle & Nir Bar-Lev, Product Managers
Whenever we're asked "how do people use Google spreadsheets?", we always struggle with where to start. It's not that we can't think of examples, it's just that the examples are all so different, so unique. Sure, there are definitely favorite themes -- sports, finance and, yes,
-- but then the examples become so particular to the people and groups who are using them: The
beer taster's results
. The nursery school class schedule. The
biker's riding log
. The family reunion plan. The ski-trip sign-up form. Endless examples, all of which, to spreadsheet junkies like us, are interesting.
But while we've always wanted to give people more options to view and use their information in Google Docs, we knew that trying to build all of these one at a time would simply serve too few people, given all the different ways people use and share spreadsheets.
So today we're starting a new path to better enable developers to customize and build on top of Google Docs with two new tools we are releasing today: Gadgets-in-Docs and the
Instead of delivering just one or two new types of reports, or a new visual map mashup (can you ever get enough of those?), we decided to deliver a platform on which anyone, not just Google, could build the next best thing. We even invited a few developers to try this with us, and they join us in this launch by featuring just a few of their creations, like Panorama's pivot table, or Viewpath's Gantt Chart, or InfoSoft's Funnel Charts -- all great tools for the student and enterprise user alike. We also built a few early gadgets ourselves which you might find useful.
We borrowed the Gadgets-in-Docs concept from the iGoogle team, so it's only fitting that you can also publish your spreadsheet gadgets to iGoogle, where you can see your data-based-Gadget right next to all that other stuff that's important to you (even if it is just a picture of your dog).
To try it out, go into
and open up a spreadsheet. Click on the chart icon, and click 'Gadget...'. Pick your gadget, customize it to fit your data, and then publish it out to iGoogle or to any webpage.
If you're a developer and want to reach millions of people with your latest creation, check out the
Google Visualization API
, courtesy of our visualization team engineers. The Visualization API provides a platform that can be used to create, share and reuse visualizations written by the developer community. It provides a common way (an API) to access structured data sources, the first being Google spreadsheets.
Add your business to Local Search in India
March 18, 2008
Posted by Ravi Yadavilli, Geo Content Operations Manager, and Alok Goel, Product Manager
- Do you own a restaurant in Delhi and wish more people knew about your delicacies?
- Are you an insurance agent seeking new clientele?
- Would you like more tourists for your travel agency in Goa?
- Are you a custom apparel merchandiser in Bangalore seeking to expand your customer base?
Every day several lakhs of people search the Internet seeking firms like yours. It will help you to be listed in
Google local search
. It's really simple to add your business, and it's free. Call us at 1-800-419-4444 (in India only, for your Indian-based business), SMS "register" to 09900800000
add your listing
Spending a few minutes on this can make all the difference to your business - why not do it now?
Google for Non-Profits
March 18, 2008
Posted by Chris Busselle, Investments Manager, Google.org
Many of you spend your days making this world a better place, and we want to do our part to help. Today, we're excited to launch
Google For Non-Profits
, a one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization's mission in a smart, cost-efficient way.
This site features ideas and tutorials for how you can use Google tools to promote your work, raise money and operate more efficiently. And to get inspired, you'll also find examples of innovative ways other non-profits are using our products to further their causes. Here are some of the ideas covered:
When you're writing a grant application, don't get stuck emailing drafts back and forth.
Try Google Docs
to collaborate on documents with your colleagues.
Cut costs and save time with
at your own domain. Access your e-mail from any computer with an Internet connection.
Accept online donations without hassle and with no transaction fees until 2009 with
Apply for free online advertising through our
program to raise awareness and drive traffic to your website.
to keep your supporters informed and engaged.
We'd also love to
hear your own stories
about how Google tools have made a difference in your organization's work.
Using data to help prevent fraud
March 18, 2008
Posted by Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety
We recently began a series of posts on how we harness the power of data
we told you
how data has been critical to the advancement of search technology
we shared how we use log data to help make Google products safer for users. This post is the newest in the series. -Ed.
Protecting our advertisers against click fraud is a lot like solving a crime: the more clues we have, the better we can determine
which clicks to mark as invalid
, so advertisers are not charged for them.
As we've mentioned before, our
Ad Traffic Quality team
built, and is constantly adding to, our
for detecting invalid clicks. The three stages are: (1) proactive real-time filters, (2) proactive offline analysis, and (3) reactive investigations.
So how do we use logs information for click fraud detection? Our logs are where we get the clues for the detective work. Logs provide us with the repository of data which are used to detect patterns, anomalous behavior, and other signals indicative of click fraud.
Millions of users click on AdWords ads every day. Every single one of those clicks -- and the even more numerous impressions associated with them -- is analyzed by our filters (stage 1), which operate in real-time. This stage certainly utilizes our logs data, but it is stages 2 and 3 which rely even more heavily on deeper analysis of the data in our logs. For example, in stage 2, our team pores over the millions of impressions and clicks -- as well as conversions -- over a longer time period. In combing through all this information, our team is looking for unusual behavior in hundreds of different data points.
of computers clicking on ads are very useful data points. A simple use of IP addresses is determining the source location for traffic. That is, for a given publisher or advertiser, where are their clicks coming from? Are they all coming from one country or city? Is that normal for an ad of this type? Although we don't use this information to identify individuals, we look at these in aggregate and study patterns. This information is imperfect, but by analyzing a large volume of this data it is very helpful in helping to prevent fraud. For example, examining an IP address usually tells us which ISP that person is using. It is easy for people on most home Internet connections to get a new IP address by simply rebooting their DSL or cable modem. However, that new IP address will still be registered to their ISP, so additional ad clicks from that machine will still have something in common. Seeing an abnormally high number of clicks on a single publisher from the same ISP isn't necessarily proof of fraud, but it does look suspicious and raises a flag for us to investigate. Other information contained in our logs, such as the browser type and operating system of machines associated with ad clicks, are analyzed in similar ways.
These data points are just a few examples of hundreds of different factors we take into account in click fraud detection. Without this information, and enough of it to identify fraud attempted over a longer time period, it would be extremely difficult to detect invalid clicks with a high degree of confidence, and proactively create filters that help optimize advertiser ROI. Of course, we don't need this information forever; last year we started
anonymizing server logs
after 18 months. As always, our goal is to balance the utility of this information (as we try to improve Google’s services for you) with the best privacy practices for our users.
If you want to learn more about how we collect information to better detect click fraud, visit our
Ad Traffic Quality Resource Center
Vote for the YouTube Awards
March 17, 2008
Posted by Mia Quagliarello, YouTube Team
We're thrilled to say that the second annual YouTube Awards are now live and ready for your vote. This year we've added five new categories: Short Film, Political, Sports, Eyewitness, and Instructional, for a total of 12. So head over to our
YouTube Video Awards channel
to start watching and voting for some of the videos that defined '07.
You can vote once per day (though you may not change your vote on the same day) and you have until 11:59pm PT this coming Wednesday, March 19th, to do so. We'll announce the winners on Friday, March 21st, at which point we'll feature them on
and invite them to a special YouTube gathering later this year.
There are more
details on the YouTube Blog
. Have fun voting!
youtube and video
Keeping up with Google Apps
March 13, 2008
Posted by Jeremy Milo, Marketing Manager
During 2007, we introduced 40 significant improvements to
, which is our suite of communication, collaboration, and security apps for businesses, schools, and organizations. Feedback from many of you, and even our own employees, inspired these changes. And there are many more in store -- the count this year is already up to 11.
Since we introduced Google Apps a little more than a year ago, many of these features have been of particular benefit to businesses, like tools to migrate mail from an old email system to Google Apps; integration of Postini's security and compliance services; support for IMAP in Gmail; syncing tools for Google Calendar; support for dozens of new languages; new mobile access options; and just weeks ago, Google Sites.
We're able to release these sorts of things quickly because all of our apps live "in the cloud." That means updates are continuous: you get improvements without having to wait for new versions, as you do with traditional software. Of course, it may also mean that IT administrators get a little dizzy from the pace of these changes.
The latest improvement will help technology departments and those of you who already use Google Apps keep up with every change, no matter how often they appear: Now we're documenting all updates in an
, so you can get notified as they happen.
To subscribe to new updates and see details about past improvements, click this "Add to Google" button:
If there's something you'd like to see in Google Apps,
let us know
. Feedback like yours shapes its future development.
March 13, 2008
Posted by Lior Ron, Product Manager
is one of our most famous traditions. Programmers compete to hack and solve complex programming challenges in a very short time, and the winners are awarded fame, cash prizes and the opportunity to intern at Google.
Diego Gavinowich from Buenos Aires was a finalist in our Latin America Code Jam, and joined us for a winter internship three months ago (missing summer break in Argentina!). Since he loves astronomy and web hacking, we gave Diego a new Code Jam challenge: code a web version of
by the end of his time with us.
Well, he did it... with the help of other engineers jamming along on their 20% time. We're very pleased to tell you that Google Sky is now available on the web at
. You can
search for planets
, listen to
Earth & Sky podcasts
, watch some beautiful
Hubble telescope images
explore historical maps of the sky
from the comfort of your browser.
Sky in Google Earth, which
launched last August
, was originally available to our 350 million Google Earth users. This release brings the universe to every browser and makes Sky accessible to just about anyone with an Internet connection — from school children to professional astronomers — in 26 different languages.
To learn more about Google Sky web edition, watch this short video, and read the full story on the
Google Lat Long blog
We'll miss you, Diego!
Using log data to help keep you safe
March 13, 2008
Posted by Niels Provos, Google Security Team
We recently began two new series of posts. The first, which explains how we harness data for our users, started with
. The second, focusing on how we secure information and how users can protect themselves online,
This post is the second installment in both series.- Ed.
We sometimes get questions on what Google does with server log data, which registers how users are interacting with our services. We take great care in protecting this data, and while we've talked previously about
some of the ways
it can be useful, something we haven't covered yet are the ways it can help us make Google products safer for our users.
While the Internet on the whole is a safe place, and most of us will never fall victim to an attack, there are more than a few threats out there, and
we do everything we can
to help you stay a step ahead of them.
Any information we can gather on how attacks are launched and propagated helps us do so.
That's where server log data comes in. We analyze logs for anomalies or other clues that might suggest malware or phishing attacks in our search results, attacks on our products and services, and other threats to our users. And because we have a reasonably significant data sample, with logs stretching back several months, we're able to perform aggregate, long-term analyses that can uncover new security threats, provide greater understanding of how previous threats impacted our users, and help us ensure that our threat detection and prevention measures are properly tuned.
We can't share too much detail (we need to be careful not to provide too many clues on what we look for), but we can use historical examples to give you a better idea of how this kind of data can be useful. One good example is the
Santy search worm
(PDF), which first appeared in late 2004. Santy used combinations of search terms on Google to identify and then infect vulnerable web servers. Once a web server was infected, it became part of a
and started searching Google for more vulnerable servers. Spreading in this way, Santy quickly infected thousands and thousands of web servers across the Internet.
As soon as Google recognized the attack, we began developing a series of tools to automatically generate "
" that could identify potential Santy queries and then block them from accessing Google.com or flag them for further attention. But because regular expressions like these can sometimes snag legitimate user queries too, we designed the tools so they'd test new expressions in our server log databases first, in order to determine how each one would affect actual user queries. If it turned out that a regular expression affected too many legitimate user queries, the tools would automatically adjust the expression, analyze its performance against the log data again, and then repeat the process as many times as necessary.
In this instance, having access to a good sample of log data meant we were able to refine one of our automated security processes, and the result was a more effective resolution of the problem. In other instances, the data has proven useful in minimizing certain security threats, or in preventing others completely. In the end, what this means is that whenever you use Google search, or Google Apps, or any of our other services, your interactions with those products helps us learn more about security threats that could impact your online experience. And the better the data we have, the more effectively we can protect all our users.
Book info where you need it, when you need it
March 13, 2008
Posted by Frances Haugen, Associate Product Manager and Matthew Gray, Software Engineer, Book Search
Google Book Search
we love books. To share this love of books (and the tremendous amount of information we've accumulated about them), today we've released a new
that lets you link easily to any of our books. Web developers can use the
Books Viewability API
to quickly find out a book's
on Google Book Search and, in an automated fashion, embed a link to that book in Google Book Search on their own sites.
As an example of the API in use, check out the
Deschutes Public Library
in Oregon, which has added a link to "Preview this book at Google" next to the listings in their library catalog. This enables Deschutes readers to preview a book immediately via Google Book Search so that they can then make a better decision about whether they'd like to buy the book, borrow it from a library or whether this book wasn't really the book they were looking for.
We think this API will be useful to all sites that connect readers with information about books, from
. To see more implementations in action,
read this post
on the Book Search blog.
books + book search
Our solutions for ad serving
March 13, 2008
Posted by Rohit Dhawan, Senior Product Manager
Earlier this week, we
our acquisition of DoubleClick. Together, we're now focused on building a full suite of products and tools that help publishers of all sizes improve productivity, manage their inventory, generate additional revenue opportunities and save time so they can focus on what they do best -- creating great content and delivering an exceptional experience to their users.
First, let us address the options that publishers have when it comes to selling and managing ad space on their websites. Some publishers use ad networks like
to fill their ad space. Still others employ a direct sales force to manage and sell their ad inventory with solutions like the
DoubleClick Revenue Center
, and partner with third-party ad networks to fill in any unsold space. Regardless, it is a challenge for publishers to effectively manage their available inventory and ensure all of their clients' campaigns serve on time without a sophisticated ad management and ad serving solution.
Today, we're announcing a new tool for publishers with the beta launch of
Google Ad Manager
. Directed at addressing the ad management and serving needs of publishers with smaller sales teams, Google Ad Manager is a free, hosted ad and inventory management tool that can help publishers sell, schedule, deliver and measure their directly-sold and network-based ad inventory. It offers an intuitive and simple user experience with Google speed and a tagging process so publishers can spend more time working with their advertisers and less time on their ad management solution. And by providing detailed inventory forecasts and tracking at a very granular level, Ad Manager helps publishers maximize their inventory sell-through rates.
Google Ad Manager effectively complements the DoubleClick Revenue Center, which is focused on publishers with larger sales teams. We're excited to add DART for Publishers to our suite of products, and we're committed to the continued development and enhancement of DoubleClick's offerings. Today's announcement demonstrates this promise, and at the same time furthers our goal of creating new opportunities for publishers of all sizes. Dozens of publishers have been using Google Ad Manager successfully in early trials. To hear what those publishers have to say check out some
Ad Manager success stories
or take a product tour to learn more.
As we are still in beta, Google Ad Manager is available to publishers by invitation only. If you're interested in learning more about it or would like to be considered for the program, visit the
Google Ad Manager
site. Existing DoubleClick customers are not affected by this announcement. As we expand the Google Ad Manager beta program, we will be in touch again to include additional publishers and offer updates on our progress.
The most wonderful time of the year
March 12, 2008
Posted by Ben Lewis, Product Manager
... for fans of college basketball, that is. We're only days away from
, and the question is: who's going dancing? Will a Cinderella team pull the upset or will we see a number one seed team as the champion again? These questions and more will be answered over the next few weeks as we watch one of the greatest tournaments in American sports unfold.
I'd like to invite you to join the madness of this year's NCAA tournament. Some of our engineer-sports fans and I have developed the
Basketball Bracket Battle gadget
for iGoogle to help you track your picks as the tournament progresses. Use it to compete against your friends and coworkers in a pool, or compete with other Bracket Battle gadget users. You'll be able to make your picks and track your progress without ever leaving your homepage.
You can pick your bracket and invite friends to your pool starting on Selection Sunday (March 16th), but feel free to add the gadget to your page anytime starting today. And the madness officially begins on March 20th, so make sure you're all set by then. Come join us for the battle and
the Basketball Bracket Battle to your iGoogle.
We'll see you at the dance!
ARIA For Google Reader: In praise of timely information access
March 12, 2008
Posted by T.V. Raman, Research Scientist
From time to time, our own
shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see -- tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful.
The advent of RSS and ATOM feeds, and the creation of tools like
for efficiently consuming content feeds, has vastly increased the amount of information we access every day. From the perspective of someone who cannot see, content feeds are one of the major innovations of the century. They give me direct access to the actual content without first having to dig through a lot of boilerplate visual layout as happens with websites. In addition, all of this content is now available from a single page with a consistent interface.
Until now, I've enjoyed the benefits of
. Today, we're happy to tell you that the "mainstream" Google Reader now works with off-the-shelf screenreaders, as well as
, the self-voicing extension to Firefox. This brings the benefits of content feeds and feed readers to the vast majority of visually impaired users.
Google Reader has always had complete keyboard support. With the accessibility enhancements we've added, all user actions now produce the relevant spoken feedback via the user's adaptive technology of choice. This feedback is generated using
Accessible Rich Internet Applications
), an evolving standard for enhancing the accessibility of Web-2.0 applications. WAI-ARIA is supported at present by Firefox -- with future support forthcoming in other browsers. This is one of the primary advantages of building on open standards.
We originally prototyped these features in Google Reader using the
framework. After extensive testing of these enhancements, we've now integrated these into the mainstream product. See the
on the Google Reader Blog for additional technical details.
Looking forward to a better informed future for all!
Google I/O: Advancing the web as a platform
March 12, 2008
Posted by Tom Stocky, Senior Product Manager, Developer Products
We spend a lot of time, especially within our Developer Products team, talking about how to build applications for the web. After all, Google was born on the web, and over time we've gained tons of experience with AJAX and other technologies to build apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar and Google Docs.
Along the way, we've seen the power of collaborative web apps and become very familiar with the pain points of building them. To share that knowledge, we
Google I/O -- a two-day developer gathering to be held May 28-29 in San Francisco. We want to move the web forward as a platform, and continue to invest in projects like Google Gears, OpenSocial, and the Google Web Toolkit to further that effort.
If you're a developer, we hope you're interested in learning more about Google APIs and joining this conversation about moving the web forward. For details and registration, please visit the
YouTube finds its way into Spore
March 12, 2008
Posted by Eric Mauskopf, Sales Engineer, YouTube Partnerships
It's no secret that YouTube has embraced user generated video since its inception. Armed with a video camera and an Internet connection, anyone is able to contribute. We're seeing more and more videogames starting to incorporate user generated content into the gaming experience -- so we often ask ourselves, why not similarly empower gamers to share their experiences with each other?
, the much anticipated game from Electronic Arts and Maxis, which lets players create their own alien creatures, import their creations into the game world, and upload video of their creatures' moves directly to YouTube from within the game. Additionally, all of the YouTube community can enjoy: Spore's own
, which will showcase the most popular videos of creatures fans and gamers create.
The creature creator is core to the
game experience, and seamlessly integrates with YouTube. It will be released within the commercial game and as a standalone free download for PCs prior to the game’s launch. We anticipate that millions of creatures will be created, many of which will be cropping up on YouTube.
’s integration with YouTube was made possible using the latest release of the
YouTube Data API
, which is now publicly available and open to all developers. Here's a glimpse of what you can create:
International development & technology: What's working and what's new
March 11, 2008
Posted by Sonal Shah, Head of Global Development Initiatives, Google.org and Bob Boorstin, Washington Director of Policy Communications
Last month, Google and Google.org hosted more than 80 technology decisionmakers from international development non-profits for an interactive discussion at our Washington D.C. office. Over lunch, case study presentations and hands-on sessions, participants discussed the ways technology is changing the landscape of international development -- and how to take advantage of new tools for fundraising, communication, data visualization, and online collaboration.
Speakers highlighted the benefits of
and demonstrated how to display data on maps and interactive graphs with products like
. A representative from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum discussed how the Museum created a
on Google Earth that gives "publicly accessible evidence of destruction to help visually refute claims of minimal collateral damage from war." The YouTube breakout session explored how cheap video cameras paired with an on-the-ground presence can help document and spread awareness of ongoing crises abroad. Participants even made their own videos to talk about how the Internet is changing the development world:
Special thanks to our friends at the
International Rescue Committee
, and the
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
for sharing stories of their experiences in taking advantage of new technologies. For those who are interested, we're posting the
presentations on YouTube
We hope that this event will be the first of many discussions, workshops, and other public events we hold with non-profits in our new D.C. space.
policy and issues
We've officially acquired DoubleClick
March 11, 2008
Posted by Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO
I'm pleased to share the
that we completed our acquisition of DoubleClick today. Although it's been nearly a year since we
our intention to acquire DoubleClick last April, we are no less excited today about the benefits that the combination of our two companies will bring to the online advertising market.
Because we have been waiting for regulatory approval for our acquisition, we've been limited by law in the extent to which we could conduct detailed integration planning to map our way forward. That work will begin in earnest now. Although we don’t have detailed plans to announce today, we will communicate regularly with you about our progress in integrating our two companies.
An immediate task we’ll undertake over the next few weeks is matching and aligning DoubleClick employees with our organizational plan for the business. This will involve determining the right staffing levels for all functions and will ensure that we have the right people assigned to the right responsibilities within Google. We plan to complete this process in the U.S. by early April.
Outside the U.S., the steps we will propose are subject to consultation with employee representatives where applicable, and of course any decisions will be made in accordance with local law. The exact timing of the process outside the U.S. will vary based on the needs and requirements of each region.
As with most mergers, there may be reductions in headcount. We expect these to take place in the U.S. and possibly in other regions as well. We know that DoubleClick is built on the strength of its people. For this reason we’ll strive to minimize the impact of this process on all of our clients and employees.
Advertisers and publishers who work with us have long asked that we complement our search and content-based text advertising with display advertising capabilities. DoubleClick gives Google the leading platform for display advertising, enabling us to rapidly bring advances to the market in technology and infrastructure that will dramatically improve the effectiveness, measurability and performance of digital media for publishers, advertisers and agencies.
As the combination of Google and DoubleClick delivers better, more relevant display ads, we're also looking forward to delivering an improved online experience to users. Because user trust is paramount to the success of our business, users will continue to benefit from our commitment to protecting user privacy following this acquisition. And our scale and infrastructure mean that users will also be spending less time waiting for web pages to load. Ultimately, we believe that by combining our advertising network with DoubleClick's display ad serving products, and by investing resources in the display ad business, we will be able to help publishers and advertisers generate more revenue. That in turn will fuel the creation of even more rich and diverse content for Internet users everywhere.
How Google keeps your information secure
March 10, 2008
Posted by Douglas Merrill, VP of Engineering
As many of you know, we spend a lot of time around here thinking about new products to help you run your life more efficiently, whether that’s organizing email in a better way, sharing pictures with friends, or collaborating in real time on documents. What you may not know is that we also spend a lot of time thinking about the security that goes into those products, and more specifically the ways we can protect you and your private information.
While the chances are that you'll never have a security problem, we take security very seriously, and that's why we have some of the best engineers in the world working here to secure information. Much of their work is confidential, but we do want to share some of the ways we're protecting your data. There are a few things you should know about how we handle confidential information:
First is our
. At Google, security is a continuous process. We don't just "check" a product for security before we launch it -- we are thinking about security before the product is even created, and we are building it in throughout the product's development. Also critical is our belief in layered protection. It's much like securing your house. You put your most private information in a safe. You secure the safe in your house, which is protected with locks and possibly an alarm system. And then you have the neighborhood watch program or the local police monitoring your neighborhood. It's very similar at Google. Our most sensitive information is difficult to find or access (the safe). Our network and facilities (the house) are protected in both high- and low-tech ways: encryption, alarms, and other technology for our systems, and strong physical security at our facilities. And finally, we've learned that when security is done right, it's done best as a community (the neighborhood); we encourage everyone to help us identify potential problems and solutions. Researchers who work at security and technology companies all over the world are constantly looking for security problems on the Internet, and we work closely with that community to find and fix potential problems.
These layers of protection are built on the best security technology in the world. While we employ products developed by others in the security community, we build a lot of our security technology ourselves. Some of the most innovative components of our security architecture focus on automation and scale. These are important to us because we're handling searches, emails, and other activities for millions of users every day. To keep our security processes a step ahead, we automate the way we test our software for possible security vulnerabilities and the way we monitor for possible security attacks. We're also constantly seeking more ways to use
and other technical measures to protect your data, while still maintaining a great user experience.
In addition to technology, we have a set of processes that dictate how we secure confidential information at Google and who can access it. We carefully manage access to confidential information of any sort, and very few Googlers have access to what we consider very sensitive data. This is in no small part because there's very little reason for us to provide that access -- most of our processes are automated, and don't require much human intervention. Of course, the limited number of people who are granted access to sensitive data must have special approval. And while we hold ourselves to a very high standard, we also work to ensure that our processes meet (and in many cases exceed) industry standards. These include audits for
PCI (payment card industry) compliance
, and more. By working with independent auditors, who evaluate compliance with standards that hold hundreds of different companies to very rigorous requirements, we add another layer of checks and balances to our security processes.
The most important part of our approach to security is our people. Google employs
some of the best and brightest
security engineers in the world. Many of our engineers came from very high-profile security environments, such as banks, credit card companies, and high-volume retail organizations, and a large number of them hold PhDs and patents in security and software engineering. As you can imagine, our engineers are smart and curious and are on the lookout for security anomalies and best practices in the industry. Our engineers have published hundreds of academic papers on technically detailed topics such as
drive-by downloads that install malware
(PDF file) or
hostile virtualized environments
. (You can find some of these papers
.) What's more, we cultivate a collaborative approach to security among all of our engineers, requiring everyone to pass a coding style review (which enables us to control the type of code used here and how it's used in order to prevent software problems) and ensuring that all code at Google is reviewed by multiple engineers so that it meets our software and security standards.
And throughout the company, we use our own products. That means we protect your information with the same security that we use to protect our own company emails and documents. And while we continue to innovate with our products, we'll also continue to innovate in the world of security. For more on our approach to security, visit our
Security and Product Safety page
Google Calendar Sync
March 5, 2008
Posted by Shirin Oskooi, Product Manager, Google Calendar
I've suffered major headaches trying to sync all my calendars. I used the Microsoft Outlook calendar on my desktop computer at home, but since I wanted to be able to access my schedule from anywhere, I also kept a copy of it on Google Calendar. When I traveled, I'd import my Google Calendar data into my laptop's Outlook calendar so I could access it offline. This was not only annoying to maintain, but also quite error-prone. If I made updates on any of the copies of my calendar, I had to make sure to make those same exact changes to the other copies, too.
This was my life for a whole year before we started working on
Google Calendar Sync
, a 2-way synching application between Google Calendar and the calendar in Microsoft Outlook. I was probably the most excited person on the team when we started developing it, because now I can access my calendar at home or on my laptop, on Google Calendar or in Outlook. When I add an event to the Outlook calendar on my laptop, Google Calendar Sync syncs it to my Google Calendar -- and since I also have Google Calendar Sync running on my desktop, the event then syncs from Google Calendar to Outlook calendar on my desktop. All of my calendar views are always up to date, and I can choose whichever one I want to use.
Search within a site: A tale of teleportation
March 5, 2008
Posted by Ben Lee, Software Engineer, and Jack Menzel, Product Manager
Have you ever forgotten the exact address of a site that you wanted to visit? Not a problem - just type the name of the site into the Google search box and hopefully it appears at the top of the search results page.
We call this "teleporting", and we're pleased that we have been able to minimize the need to remember an alphabet soup of .coms, .nets, and .orgs out of everyone's lives. However, one of the trends we noticed while studying teleporting was that there were lots of searchers who would type the name of a specific website as if they wanted to teleport, but would then immediately issue another more a refined search within this site.
For example, if someone is looking for official information about the
Hubble Space Telescope
on the NASA website, one might first search for [NASA] and then [NASA Hubble Telescope], like this:
, we found that presenting users with a search box as part of the result increases their likelihood of finding the exact page they are looking for. So over the past few days we have been testing, and today we have fully rolled out, a search box that appears within some of the search results themselves. This feature will now occur when we detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site. Like the rest of our snippets, the sites that display the site search box are chosen algorithmically based on metrics that measure how useful the search box is to users.
We hope that you will make use of the site search box in order to get the information you're looking for as quickly and easily as possible.
Desktop: More gadgets, more languages
March 5, 2008
Posted by Ryan Tabone, Product Manager
Desktop's last beta release made the beautiful gadgets in our
available for use in
Google Desktop 5.5
goes out of beta and makes that same functionality available to 31 more languages, now including
If you want to see how Desktop can help you stay connected internationally, read more about this latest release on the
Google Desktop Blog
. And remember, Google Desktop is not only about gadgets for your desktop and browser; it's a great way of
searching files and launching applications
Why data matters
March 4, 2008
Posted by Hal Varian, Chief Economist
We often use this space to discuss how we
treat user data and protect privacy
. With the post below, we're beginning an occasional series that discusses how we harness the data we collect to improve our products and services for our users. We think it's appropriate to start with a post describing how data has been critical to the advancement of search technology. - Ed.
Better data makes for better science. The history of information retrieval illustrates this principle well.
Work in this area began in the early days of computing, with simple document retrieval based on matching queries with words and phrases in text files. Driven by the availability of new data sources, algorithms evolved and became more sophisticated. The arrival of the web presented new challenges for search, and now it is common to use information from web links and many other indicators as signals of relevance.
Today's web search algorithms are trained to a large degree by the "wisdom of the crowds" drawn from the logs of billions of previous search queries. This brief overview of the history of search illustrates why using data is integral to making Google web search valuable to our users.
A brief history of search
Nowadays search is a hot topic, especially with the widespread use of the web, but the history of document search dates back to the 1950s. Search engines existed in those ancient times, but their primary use was to search a static collection of documents. In the early 60s, the research community gathered new data by digitizing abstracts of articles, enabling rapid progress in the field in the 60s and 70s. But by the late 80s, progress in this area had slowed down considerably.
In order to stimulate research in information retrieval, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) launched the
Text Retrieval Conference
(TREC) in 1992. TREC introduced new data in the form of full-text documents and used human judges to classify whether or not particular documents were relevant to a set of queries. They released a sample of this data to researchers, who used it to train and improve their systems to find the documents relevant to a new set of queries and compare their results to TREC's human judgments and other researchers' algorithms.
The TREC data revitalized research on information retrieval. Having a standard, widely available, and carefully constructed set of data laid the groundwork for further innovation in this field. The yearly TREC conference fostered collaboration, innovation, and a measured dose of competition (and bragging rights) that led to better information retrieval.
New ideas spread rapidly, and the algorithms improved. But with each new improvement, it became harder and harder to improve on last year's techniques, and progress eventually slowed down again.
And then came the web. In its beginning stages, researchers used industry-standard algorithms based on the TREC research to find documents on the web. But the need for better search was apparent--now not just for researchers, but also for everyday users---and the web gave us lots of new data in the form of links that offered the possibility of new advances.
There were developments on two fronts. On the commercial side, a few companies started offering web search engines, but no one was quite sure what business models would work.
On the academic side, the National Science Foundation started a "Digital Library Project" which made grants to several universities. Two Stanford grad students in computer science named Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked on this project. Their insight was to recognize that existing search algorithms could be dramatically improved by using the special linking structure of web documents. Thus
How Google uses data
PageRank offered a significant improvement on existing algorithms by ranking the relevance of a web page not by keywords alone but also by the quality and quantity of the sites that linked to it. If I have six links pointing to me from sites such as the
Wall Street Journal
New York Times
, and the House of Representatives, that carries more weight than 20 links from my old college buddies who happen to have web pages.
Larry and Sergey initially tried to license their algorithm to some of the newly formed web search engines, but none were interested. Since they couldn't sell their algorithm, they decided to start a search engine themselves. The rest of the story is well-known.
Over the years, Google has continued to invest in making search better. Our information retrieval experts have added more than 200 additional signals to the algorithms that determine the relevance of websites to a user's query.
So where did those other 200 signals come from? What's the next stage of search, and what do we need to do to find even more relevant information online?
with our algorithm, tuning and tweaking on a weekly basis to come up with more relevant and useful results for our users.
But in order to come up with new ranking techniques and evaluate if users find them useful, we have to store and analyze search logs. (Watch our
to see exactly what data we store in our logs.) What results do people click on? How does their behavior change when we change aspects of our algorithm? Using data in the logs, we can compare how well we're doing now at finding useful information for you to how we did a year ago. If we don't keep a history, we have no good way to evaluate our progress and make improvements.
To choose a simple example: the Google spell checker is based on our analysis of user searches compiled from our logs -- not a dictionary. Similarly, we've had a lot of success in using query data to improve our information about geographic locations, enabling us to provide better local search.
Storing and analyzing logs of user searches is how Google's algorithm learns to give you more useful results. Just as data availability has driven progress of search in the past, the data in our search logs will certainly be a critical component of future breakthroughs.
Summer of Code is back!
March 3, 2008
Posted by Leslie Hawthorn, Program Manager, Open Source
Google Summer of Code
, our program to introduce students to open source software development is coming back. In the past
, we've seen more than 1500 students 'graduate' from this program, working with 2000+ mentors across 90 countries to produce millions of lines of code. We're pleased to have funded more than $10M in open source development through Summer of Code, and we've increased our funding for it this year by another $1M.
Last year alone, more than 800 students successfully completed their projects. Each received $4500 as a stipend and an awesome
. We're looking forward to welcoming even more student participants and open source projects into the Google Summer of Code community this year.
We're accepting applications from open source projects who'd like to act as mentoring organizations through March 13th, and will begin taking student applications on March 24th. If you're interested in learning more, just subscribe to the
program discussion list
. We hope to see you there!
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