Since the launch of Google Suggest last August, you may already be used to the magic feeling of getting real-time suggestions just after typing a few keystrokes — that is, if you're searching on But what if you're doing a search on Google in the U.K., India, Ireland or Australia?

Today we're happy to announce the international launch of Google Suggest. We've localized our suggestions to account for various cultural and local factors to offer suggestions that look familiar to our users. For example, English users in different countries will get suggestions that feel natural:
  • If you type [liver] in the U.K., you're probably a Liverpool fan (but in the U.S. you'll get more suggestions about liver diseases):
  • In Australia, typing [kan] will offer suggestions about Australia's most famous animal:
  • In India, where the mobile phone market is exploding, it's no wonder that typing [no] leads to:
  • In Ireland, there are [pubs] everywhere:
  • While in the Maldives, typing [ato] leads to:
Google Suggest now covers 155 domains in 51 languages. Special thanks go to the Suggest team in Israel for their hard work in making this a reality.

So go ahead and start using Google Suggest wherever you are, and enjoy the special flavor of local suggestions.

If you run an e-commerce site or use AdWords to direct traffic to your business' webpage, chances are you're interested in knowing what visitors to your site are clicking on, what content interests these potential customers and what avenues brought them there. The more you know about how people engage with your site, the better you are able to design successful advertising campaigns to help grow your business.

In Latin America, online advertising is growing as more and more small businesses initiate an online presence and publicize their efforts through search and display advertising. But less than 5% of web properties throughout Latin America rely on analysis tools to improve their website's performance. Last week, our offices throughout the region hosted several Analytics-themed events to give agencies and other clients a better look at several Google measurement tools that provide people with the means to analyze their site's flow of data, interest and readership in order to build a better advertising campaign.

In Mexico City, advertisers got together to learn about Insights for Search, Ad Planner, YouTube Insights, Analytics, Sitemaps and Website Optimizer, as well as DoubleClick tools. Presentations were designed to give companies an in-depth look at the Google tools that can be helpful for planning their marketing budgets during an economic downturn. Being able to measure data on what content interests people and where consumers are searching for information can help advertisers be more selective about how they invest ad budget. Since the great majority of consumers go online for information before making a purchase, the goal of the seminar was to familiarize advertisers with tools that can increase the reach of their campaigns, while giving them a better idea of what works and what people are searching for.

Meanwhile, our Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik visited São Paulo and Buenos Aires to speak to clients about web analytics and how to make the most of online marketing through analyzing metrics (check out his recent post on bounce rate for related information). Avinash made web analytics fun and accessible with colloquial comparisons (referring sites as 'BFFs'), and demonstrated how to optimize a website's performance with changes in color and layout, among other things. He was accompanied by Google's Latin America managing director Alexandre Hohagen, Brazil's country manager Alex Dias, and Argentina's country manager Adriana Noreña at a succession of events revolving around web metrics and website optimization.

The response and interest from customers and agencies to all of these events was indicative of the huge need for metrics and the ability to track ROI for their marketing investments, especially during these difficult times. For more information on Google Analytics tools, check out the Google Analytics Blog, the Website Optimizer Blog and the Conversion Room blog.

Today we're excited to announce Google Ventures, Google's new venture capital fund. This is Google's effort to take advantage of our resources to support innovation and encourage promising new technology companies. By borrowing the best practices of top-tier, financially focused venture capital firms and bringing to bear Google's unique technical expertise and brand, we think we can find young companies with truly awesome potential and encourage their development into successful businesses.

At its core, Google Ventures is charged with finding and helping to develop exceptional start-ups. We'll be focusing on early stage investments across a diverse range of industries, including consumer Internet, software, clean-tech, bio-tech, health care and, no doubt, other areas we haven't thought of yet. Central to our effort will be our fellow Googlers, whom we view as a critically important resource to help educate us about potential investments areas and evaluate specific companies.

Economically, times are tough, but great ideas come when they will. If anything, we think the current downturn is an ideal time to invest in nascent companies that have the chance to be the "next big thing," and we'll be working hard to find them. If you think you have the next big idea, or if you just want to to learn more, please see our website at

It's hard for me to imagine going without email for a day. It's such an easy and convenient way to communicate with my friends and family. However, there was one limitation that bothered me: my family members and friends who prefer to communicate in Hindi did not have an easy way to type and send email in their language of choice. I am extremely happy to announce the launch of a new feature in Gmail that makes it easy to type email in Indian languages.

When you compose a new mail in Gmail, you should now see an icon with an Indian character, as the screenshot below shows. This feature is enabled by default for Gmail users in India. If you do not see this function enabled by default, you will need to go the "Settings" page and enable this option in the "Language" section.

When you click the Indian languages icon, you can type words the way they sound in English and Gmail will automatically convert the word to its Indian local language equivalent. For example, if a Hindi speaker types "namaste" we will transliterate this to "नमस्ते." Similarly, "vanakkam" in Tamil will become "வணக்கம்." We currently support five Indian languages -- Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam -- and you can select the language of your choice from the drop-down list next to the icon.

We built this new feature using Google's transliteration technology, which is also available on Google India Labs, Orkut, Blogger and iGoogle. I hope you find this feature useful to communicate with those of your friends and family who prefer to write in their native language, and it will be available soon to businesses and schools using Google Apps. Now back to replying to all those Hindi emails I got from my family and friends today!

Google Health is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on a pilot program in Arizona and Utah that lets Medicare beneficiaries import their Medicare claims data into Google Health.

The pilot is one of several CMS programs to test out how the government can give beneficiaries secure access to their medical data online. Before I came to Google, I worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which houses CMS. At the time, the idea of giving beneficiaries access to their own Medicare claims data in electronic format was just that — an idea. Today, it's becoming a reality. And given the more than $19 billion investment the government is making in Health IT as part of the stimulus package, now is the perfect time.

As a part-time caregiver to my mother who has a serious chronic illness and someone who just lost both elderly grandparents in the past four months to illness, I can see the benefit of having all of my family’s medical information organized in one place. When Google Health launched last year, I promptly set up accounts for my mother and both grandparents. But at the time, I found it frustrating that I was not able to access electronic copies of my grandparents' Medicare claims — where most of their medical data resided.

The Medicare Arizona and Utah pilot is designed to give beneficiaries choice in the tools they use to manage their medical records online. Google Health is one of four personal health records (PHR) that beneficiaries can choose from. While only traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare beneficiaries with a primary residence in Arizona and Utah are eligible to participate, this includes nearly 1.1 million beneficiaries living in those regions.

For beneficiaries who choose to participate, it's important to know that Medicare does not have access to information in your Google Health Account — Medicare will only be sending data to your Account. Beneficiaries who participate in the pilot will still have access to data imported into their Google Health Accounts after the pilot concludes at the end of 2009. And with the recently launched Google Health sharing feature, any beneficiary enrolled in this pilot can now share this data with family members and doctors in their care network.

If I had this type of electronic access to my grandparents' medical records during my family's medical crisis, it would have been a huge help to me. I applaud CMS for taking this big step towards empowering consumers with access to their own health records.

If you're a Medicare beneficiary living in Arizona or Utah and are interested in participating in the pilot, you can get started here.

We've just sponsored the Seventh Annual Spelman College Computer Science Olympiad for the third consecutive year — something we were proud to do as part of our commitment to supporting computer science education and encouraging talented students from diverse backgrounds. This year, 22 teams from 12 Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) or Association of Computer/Information Sciences and Engineering Departments at Minority Institutions (ADMI) participated in the Olympiad.

One of the five events was the programming challenge, which for the second time was a Google Gadgets competition. Their task? To build an interactive, useful, and creative Google Gadget. Teams worked on their gadget concept and design prior to the Olympiad, and then brought their gadgets to a Friday night hack session, where Googlers and students worked together to debug the gadgets and make last-minute adjustments. At the conclusion of the workshop, teams presented their gadgets to a panel of three Googler judges, demonstrating gadget functionalities, discussing design challenges, and providing suggestions for how they would further refine their gadgets. Our judges were then faced with the tough task of deciding upon the winners:
  • First Place: Hampton University "2011"
  • Second Place: University of the District of Columbia "Firebirds"
  • Third Place: Norfolk State University "Green"
Here's a look at Hampton University's first place gadget, a rendering of a game akin to tic-tac-toe called "Do Not Want."

Congratulations to all 22 teams!


Cities around the world will participate in Earth Hour on Saturday, turning off their lights to raise awareness for energy conservation.

You might remember that last year we “turned the lights out” on the homepage during Earth Hour to symbolize our own commitment to sustainability. We won’t be turning out the lights on our homepage again this year. Our users come first, and while we received lots of enthusiastic feedback last year, some found an all-black to be a little confusing. (Also, darkened screens don’t actually save energy — modern displays use the same amount of power regardless of what they display.) We are actively supporting this year's Vote Earth, an Earth Hour 2009 initiative to gather one billion words to present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December of this year. Participants can share their opinions about climate change through the Earth Connect social platform which incorporates Google tools including Google Maps, App Engine, Friend Connect, Google Translate, Blogger and Feedburner.

After all, Earth Hour is about more than dimming lights; it’s about making a commitment to reduce energy consumption throughout the year. At Google, we take this commitment seriously and over the past twelve months we’ve worked hard to reduce Google’s own power use and to help others reduce theirs:
Google will continue to work hard this year to be as green as possible as a company, and we encourage others to take an hour on Saturday and commit to the Earth too. For some great ideas on ways you can save energy every hour of every day through computing efficiency, check out Climate Savers Computing Initiative and their recent video challenge: “Power Down for the Planet.”

Google has grown very quickly in a very short period of time. When companies grow that quickly it's almost impossible to get everything right—and we certainly didn't. In some areas we've created overlapping organizations which not only duplicate effort but also complicate the decision-making process. That makes our teams less effective and efficient than they should be. In addition, we over-invested in some areas in preparation for the growth trends we were experiencing at the time.

So today we have informed Googlers that we plan to reduce the number of roles within our sales and marketing organizations by just under 200 globally. Making changes of this kind is never easy—and we recognize that the recession makes the timing even more difficult for the Googlers concerned. We did look at a number of different options but ultimately concluded that we had to restructure our organizations in order to improve our effectiveness and efficiency as a business. We will give each person time to try and find another position at Google, as well as outplacement support, and provide severance packages for those who leave the company. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone affected for all they have contributed to Google.

I'm happy to announce the launch of iGoogle game themes. These themes offer our users new iGoogle backdrops inspired by their favorite video games, including classics like "Mario" and "Mega Man" and new sensations like "Wii Sports" and "Spore." Like our iGoogle artist themes, fashion and music themes and themes for causes, we hope that the game themes delight our users and reflect their personal interests. As you can imagine, these themes in particular have captivated our iGoogle software engineers who are gamers themselves. I'll now turn the post over to one of our engineers who worked closely on the project, Matthew Chan, for more details.

A gamer's POV

I confess, I'm a game geek. My first experience with video games was spending hours and hours (not to mention my weekly allowance) playing "Donkey Kong" and "Galaga" at a nearby arcade until my fingers ached. These days I no longer have to ride my bike to the neighborhood arcade to play video games — I can do it in the comfort of my own home anytime I want! And even better... starting today, I can have images of my favorite childhood games right on my iGoogle page.

iGoogle now has graphics from all sorts of games that I know will excite my fellow gamers. Picture your homepage with "Burnout" cars zooming in the background, Ryu from "Street Fighter" blasting hadoukens across your page, or rock stars jamming out to tunes from "Guitar Hero." It doesn't end there. For those of you who used to dream about completing the Triforce or getting out of tombs alive, choose from "Zelda" or "Tomb Raider." Want more? Try "Dungeons & Dragons," "The Sims 3," or "World of Warcraft" on for size.

So come check out the new game themes ( and choose your favorite one. If you can't decide, no worries. Just add the game theme of the day and enjoy seeing a different one on your iGoogle page every day.

Here's a look at the themes in action:

It used to be that creating a webpage was a pursuit reserved for the truly tech-savvy, requiring a geek's expertise in HTML, Java, or C++ coding.

These days, it's a different story. Working with a hosting service has made things a great deal easier, as they can help you reserve a name for your site (www.[insertyournamehere].com), and they often provide tools to help get you set up, with minimal to zero programming experience required.

Today, we're releasing Google Services for Websites, a few more tools that your hosting company can now enable to help you improve your website. This expanded program includes Webmaster Tools, AdSense, Custom Search, and Site Search, making it easier to drive traffic to your site, monetize your site through the Google ad network, and add various search capabilities to help your visitors find information on your site faster.

For more information, check out our Enterprise BlogWebmasters Blog and Custom Search Blog. And if your hosting service doesn't have Google Services for Websites yet, send them to this page. We hope you find these new tools helpful.

Our Zurich office was proud to host Google's second annual EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions) Faculty Summit last month. Eighty leading academics joined us from 66 universities in 24 countries for this three-day event.

The Faculty Summit's purpose is to increase collaboration between key universities and our engineering teams. This year, we organised more than 40 talks and presentations, plus panels, networking and social events to help our guests learn more about Google's work in their regions. In return, Googlers gained valuable insight into challenges faced by the region's universities and new developments in the academic world. Event highlights included a keynote by leading cryptographer and Turing Award winner Adi Shamir on the topic of privacy and security as related to cloud computing. Further discussion centered on topics ranging from the power and limitations of cryptographic technology to usability issues introduced by security requirements, with some debate over the balance between preventing abuse and identifying and reporting abusers.

Alfred Spector (VP of Research), Jeff Walz (University Relations) and I spoke about Google's engineering efforts and the impact of our university relations initiatives, with much discussion focusing on our involvement in the Arab and African regions. Rapidly expanding markets in the Middle East and Africa represent a major engineering challenge for us, and we are eager to continue collaboration with leading academic attendees from the region well beyond the Summit. We were pleased to welcome representatives from the Al Arabiya news channel, who highlighted this topic in a recent broadcast. We also heard from Google 'Research Award' and 'CS4HS' (Computer Science for High School) grant recipients and EMEA-based academics spending long-term sabbaticals at Google, who described their experiences over the past year.

This year also saw new additions to the Faculty Summit agenda, including a networking session allowing academics to discuss collaboration options one-on-one with specific Google engineers. This session spurred a great deal of activity — for instance, multiple Googlers are booked to deliver guest lectures at external events and universities and several attendees have been invited to present their findings on research ranging from 'Software Visualisation' to 'Mobile Agile Testing' at Google engineering offices across EMEA. We plan to make these networking sessions a focal point at future Faculty Summits!

I'd like to thank the organising team for their help in planning and executing this important event for the second year running. The 2009 EMEA Faculty Summit proved to be an incisive and informative event resulting in new academic and industrial collaborations. We look forward to reporting back on these synergies as they develop over the next year!

At Google we hold weekly town hall-style meetings with our founders, CEO, and guest speakers, which always feature a Q&A session. Managing Q&A is a unique challenge with an audience of thousands, in offices around the world, who inevitably want to ask more questions than we have time to answer. To help address this challenge, we developed Google Moderator, built on App Engine.

Moderator gives participants a way to submit questions and vote for the ones they want answered. And thanks to the scale that App Engine provides, this application can now support tens of thousands of people at once. This gives everyone the chance to be heard in a way that gives priority to the issues that matter most to the broader group.

As you may have heard, the White House is hosting an online town hall meeting on Thursday and has asked people to submit questions for the president and vote on which ones they think he should answer.

We think technology can be a force for greater accountability and access between citizens and their elected officials. We're excited that the White House has chosen to use the power of cloud-based applications like Google Moderator and App Engine to scale the president's direct dialogue with the American people.

To take part in this experiment in citizen participation, please visit:

Today we're rolling out two new improvements to Google search. The first offers an expanded list of useful related searches and the second is the addition of longer search result descriptions -- both of which help guide users more effectively to the information they need.

More and better search refinements

Starting today, we're deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).

For example, if you search for [principles of physics], our algorithms understand that "angular momentum," "special relativity," "big bang" and "quantum mechanic" are related terms that could help you find what you need. Here's an example (click on the images in the post to view them larger):

Let's look at a couple of examples in other languages. In Russian, for the query [гадание на картах] (fortune-telling with cards), the algorithms find the related terms "таро" (tarot), "ленорман" (lenormand) and "тибетское гадание мо" (tibetan divination mo). In Italian, if you search for [surf alle canarie] (surf at the canary islands), we now offer suggestions based on the three most famous Canary Islands: "lanzarote," "gran canaria," and "fuerteventura":

We are now able to target more queries, more languages, and make our suggestions more relevant to what you actually need to know. Additionally, we're now offering refinements for longer queries — something that's usually a challenging task. You'll be able to see our new related searches starting today in 37 languages all around the world.

And speaking of long queries, that leads us to our next improvement...

Longer snippets

When you do a search on Google, each result we give you starts with a dark blue title and is followed by a few lines of text (what we call a "snippet"), which together give you an idea of what each page is about. To give more context, the snippet shows how the words of your query appear on the page by highlighting them in bold.

When you enter a longer query, with more than three words, regular-length snippets may not give you enough information and context. In these situations, we now increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information and show more of the words you typed in the context of the page. Below are a couple of examples.

Suppose you were looking for information about Earth's rotation around the sun, and specifically wanted to know about its tilt and distance from the sun. So you type all of that into Google: [earth's rotation axis tilt and distance from sun]. A normal-length snippet wouldn't be able to show you the context for all of those words, but with longer snippets you can be sure that the first result covers all those topics. In addition, the extra line of snippets for the third result shows the word "sun" in context, suggesting that the page doesn't talk about Earth's distance from the sun:

Similarly, if you're looking for a restaurant review that covers all the parts of the meal, longer snippets can help:

But don't just take our word for it — try it out yourself with your favorite long, detailed query.

These are just two recent examples of improvements we've made. We are constantly looking for ways to get you to the web page you want as quickly as possible. Even if you don't notice all of our changes, rest assured we're hard at work making sure you have the highest quality search experience possible.

Google Summer of Code, our program to introduce students to open source software development, is now in full swing for 2009. Over the past four years, we've paired nearly 2,500 "graduates" with more than 2,500 mentors from industry to academia, with some spectacular results: millions of lines of source code produced and over $15M in funding provided to open source development. This year student participants have more than 150 open source software and technology–related projects to choose from when submitting their applications, from operating systems to content management systems.

During the 2008 program, we had more than 975 students successfully complete their projects. Each participant received a $4,500 stipend and an ultra-awesome t-shirt to go along with their newly honed programming skills. We're particularly excited by the social ties our students form through the course of the program, as well. We've connected people in more than 98 countries, and hope to bring people from even more places into the Google Summer of Code community this year.

We'll be accepting student applications through April 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST. If you're interested in learning more, check out our Frequently Asked Questions or subscribe to our discussion list. You can also check out the Google Open Source Blog for regular updates on the program. When you're ready to get started, visit the Google Summer of Code 2009 site to submit your application. Best of luck to all of our applicants!

For an overview of the program, check out this video.

As a big college hoops fan, I'm pretty excited that it's finally March. Sadly, my beloved Stanford Cardinal didn't make it to the tourney, but as a proud Arizona native, I still root for my hometown Arizona State Sun Devils. I always go a little crazy -- you might even say mad -- this time of year. I fill out my bracket, wear a lot of red and gold, and get into arguments with friends of mine from the UofA. I'm a little obsessed.

If you're like me, then I have some good news for you. We have several products that can help you follow the tournament.
  • Live scores when you search for your favorite team
  • An iGoogle gadget for following the action
  • Breaking news on all the tournament excitement on Google News
  • Local search to find a spot to watch the game 
To get you started, we put together some helpful tips about using Google to keep up with the Madness. Best of luck to you and your team! Unless, of course, they're playing ASU. ;-)

When Google Chrome launched last September, it included a powerful JavaScript engine, V8, which was built to make the next generation of web applications perform faster in the browser. In the past few months, we've reached out to more than a dozen developers and designers to experiment with V8 and to find new and fun uses for JavaScript. We worked with REAS, Mr. Doob, Ryan Alexander, Josh Nimoy, Mark Mahoney, and Toxi, among others.

The results of their experimentation have been great, with each project turning the browser window into an interactive application, a game, or even a piece of art. Whether you're a casual web surfer or an advanced JavaScript developer, we think you'll appreciate what they've achieved.

Here's a preview of what they have built:

Take a look for yourself at Chrome Experiments. Although you don't need Google Chrome to view the site, some of the experiments may run slower, or incorrectly, in older browsers. To download Google Chrome, click here.

Naturally, we're looking for more experiments. We will update the site regularly and promote the best projects as Featured Experiments. So, if you have an idea for a web browser experiment, please build it, make it sparkle, and submit it.

We'll be highlighting more experiments and holding sessions on Google Chrome at Google I/O on May 27 - 28 in San Francisco.

Whenever I get the chance to practice my German with a native speaker, there is invariably a point in the conversation where we come across a word that neither of us can translate into English. At that point, the conversation typically devolves into something like the following:

Native speaker: "It's a vegetable."

Me: "A tomato?"

Native speaker: "No, it's green and sometimes white."

Me: "Lettuce?"

Native speaker: "No, more like a spear."

Me: "Asparagus?"

Native speaker: "I think that's right. I'm not sure."

These guessing games really interrupt the conversation, and sometimes you're not even quite sure you've figured out the right answer. Recently, I discovered that I can use Google Image Search as a visual dictionary and cut down on the guesswork. To get to the bottom of what spargel is once and for all, I just searched for it.

Instantly I realized it's asparagus. No 20 questions, and no guesswork.

So the next time you're brushing up on your foreign language skills, remember Google Image Search. It may just save you from eating rosenkohl.

In December, we took the 'BETA' label off our first version of the Google Chrome browser. Since then, we have continued to release fixes and updates to this version, while building and testing new browser improvements in our developer releases. Now, we're ready to roll out the next beta of Google Chrome to get some early feedback on features that are still being polished.

The first thing you might notice about this new beta is the speed improvement, but you'll also find additional browsing tools, such as basic form autofill, full page zoom, support for autoscroll, and a new way to drag tabs into side-by-side view.

If you're already using Google Chrome and choose to install the new beta, you will update and replace the current version on your desktop. Otherwise, you can just keep on using the stable version.

You can find out more about this release on the brand-new Google Chrome Blog.

Posted by Brian Rakowski, Product Manager, Google Chrome

At Google, we strive to be green all year round, not just on St. Patrick's Day. We've been working hard to design our offices around the world to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We have a set of internal Workplace and Sustainability Design Guidelines which we use to ensure that we're providing healthy and productive workplaces for Googlers everywhere. In San Francisco, our office was recently rated Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. We're excited about this certification because it means we're on the right track with our approach to building environmentally sound offices.

Here are a few of the design strategies we implement to make our office buildings as green as possible. We thought they might even give you some ideas for greening your own home.

Reduce, reuse, recycle
We have frugal roots from our start-up days, so when we remodel an office, we reuse as many materials as possible. This strategy saves us money, and it avoids the environmental footprint associated not only with manufacturing and transporting new goods, but also with disposing of the old stuff. Construction and demolition waste makes up about 40% of the solid waste stream in the U.S. In the San Francisco office, we reused everything from partition walls and door assemblies to carpet and furniture left behind by the previous tenant. Plus, more than 64% of what we did throw away was recycled.

Healthy and sustainable
Sometimes, the simplest defense is the best defense, like the "Larry and Sergey Sniff Test": if it smells bad, it's probably bad for you (Larry and Sergey are a little busy to do all the sniffing themselves, so we help them out sometimes). The all-too-familiar new paint or new carpet smell is usually the sign of toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) off-gassing into the air we breathe. Of course, we have to go on more than just our noses, so we also rely on third-party certification programs (like Cradle to Cradle, Scientific Certification Systems, and those incorporated into LEED) and information from manufacturers to ensure that we use the healthiest products available. All the paints, sealants, adhesives, carpet, and furniture we purchased for the San Francisco office had the lowest possible levels of VOCs and formaldehyde, both of which have adverse effects on indoor air quality and long-term health. We also looked for sustainable materials that are locally manufactured, high in recycled content, and free of environmentally harmful materials like PVC.

Keeping it cool (or warm)
We make every effort to heat, cool and light our offices with the minimal amount of energy needed, and use building controls to ensure these systems are only on when we need them. Some of these strategies work everywhere, like installing motion sensors to control lighting and purchasing Energy Star-rated office equipment in the U.S. Other times, solutions are more site specific. In San Francisco, like many of our offices, we lease space in a building with many other tenants, which can often be an obstacle to implementing measures to save energy. We worked side by side with our landlord to retrofit the existing HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system to make it more efficient. At our headquarters in Mountain View, we have a 1.6MW PV system, as well as a cutting-edge building management system that monitors and controls all of our energy use across campus (like PowerMeter, but with a few more bells and whistles).

Every drop counts
Water is one of our planet's most undervalued natural resources, and we're always looking for innovative and cost effective ways to use it more wisely. In San Francisco, as well as most of our other offices, we installed efficient faucets and flush valves in the bathrooms and kitchens. In locations where we have more green space like Mountain View, we use drought-resistant landscaping when possible. We just opened a new office in Sydney (which is undergoing Green Star certification through the Green Building Council of Australia), where waste water will be treated and recycled for toilet flushing and irrigation.

Location, location, location
If you visit the San Francisco office, you might not notice the low-VOC carpet, but you definitely won't miss the spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge. Access to natural light and views increases Googler productivity and happiness, and decreases our energy costs by reducing the need for artificial lighting. Plus, like many of our offices, the San Francisco office is centrally located and easily accessible by public transit. We also provide preferred parking for carpools and vanpools, on-site bike storage, showers and changing facilities.

We've done a lot of work to be greener, but that doesn't mean we've reached the end of the rainbow and that pot of gold yet. We're constantly learning more about green building and ways to save energy. However, on this greenest of holidays, we're wearing the LEED certification of the San Francisco office as a badge of green pride -- a shamrock, you could say.

Since Google SketchUp first popped up on the scene in 2006, we've had the pleasure of seeing many of you use it to build 3D models of all kinds of things -- from college campuses to furniture to gingerbread houses. Now, we're happy to announce a new challenge -- the SketchUp 2009 International Student Bridge Modeling Competition. Bridges are some of the most breathtaking architectural structures in the world, and we're sure you have an impressive model of a local, famous or historical bridge right up your sleeve. Students at higher education institutions are qualified to compete, and it's easy to enter. Just model your bridge in Google SketchUp, geo-reference it in Google Earth, and upload your submission to the Google 3D Warehouse anytime before June 15.

For more information, check out the Google SketchUp blog. We're excited to see what you come up with!

This is the second post in The Power of Measurement series. These posts are designed to cover ways to make your website as successful as possible, especially in the current economic climate. Here, Website Optimizer whiz Sandra Cheng explores the topic of website design and offers tips to help you get more from your site. -Ed.

In our last post, Avinash Kaushik dove into the world of website analytics and explained the power behind the bounce rate metric. With bounce rate, you are able to identify which webpages are turning away the most visitors. And while it's incredibly useful to identify which pages need fixing, what do you do next?

Back in the good old days, you would go back to the page and redesign it based on what you or other people thought was right for your site. Now, you can actually run a test on your website and let your visitors decide the best version of your page, instead of just going with a gut feeling. Here, I'll discuss website testing — executing different versions of a page to see what sticks — and the various ways you can make the most of your site's design choices.

To begin website testing, start by brainstorming variations of your website. You can decide on small changes, like swapping out a photo, or large changes, like an overhaul of your website's layout or color scheme. Then, by using a free tool like Website Optimizer, you can test your changes by automatically showing different visitors different versions of your site. From there, Website Optimizer will tell you which version your visitors liked the most by tracking which website variation was the most successful in reaching your goal. You can set your goal to be a sale, someone submitting a form or clicking a link, or any number of other interactions with your site. It's like running a simple experiment — without the complicated data analysis.

Testing your site can often reveal surprises. For example, we were surprised by the results of our own test on the Picasa homepage. In version A, we used the word "free," gave it an action-oriented headline, and included a pretty image of the product. In version B, we deleted the photo, used a button instead of a link, and called out the value proposition ("The easy way..."). Which version do you think led more visitors to download Picasa?

Version A

Version B

We predicted that Version A would be the clear winner since it had a photo to captivate visitors and a "free" product call-out. However, the data from the tests showed that the cleaner, simpler Version B was more effective. In fact, the changes in Version B increased downloads by 30%! This example illustrates a powerful point: sometimes you need to rely on data — not your gut — to make decisions that will help your website and your bottom line.

Now, you might be asking yourself, "With so many different aspects of my website to test, how do I know where to begin?" Here are four design tips to pay attention to:
  • Tip #1: Pass the 8 second test. At first glance, a visitor should understand the purpose of your website within a few seconds. People are busy and have limited attention spans — you want to keep them from hitting the dreaded back button.
  • Tip #2: Tell them what's in it for them. Create clear and tangible benefits (e.g., "Save more! Make extra money! Look better with our product!").
  • Tip #3: Use compelling images. Try product images instead of generic stock photos, icons with blocks of text, and buttons instead of links. Keep in mind that a low-quality, irrelevant image can kill your site's credibility.
  • Tip #4: Close the sale. Help your visitors take the next step. Make that step clear and easy to reach; don't make them hunt for it. Action words like "buy now" may work better than "add to cart," for instance.
Once you've decided which details to test — a call-to-action, color, headline, layout, or video, for example — go to Website Optimizer and set up an experiment. For first-time users, we recommend a/b testing, meaning testing one variation of your page against another. After you launch your experiment, Website Optimizer will do the heavy lifting and show you when the data is "statistically significant." (In case it's been a while since your last Stats 101 course, statistical significance means that an event is unlikely to have happened by chance, and that you have enough data to know that there is a true difference in which page variation your visitors prefer.) The results will start showing in your reports page and for each experiment, the corresponding bar will begin to turn red, yellow or green. When the bars start to turn green, you have a winning page variation that is helping you reach the goals you have set for your website:

Remember, best practices may work best for some, but they are not necessarily what's best for your site and your visitors. In the past, a few opinions and a strong hunch determined an effective website design. Now, armed with metrics, data, and tools galore, you can let your visitors tell you what works best for them and for your site.

Good luck, and get testing!

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

Martian canals, as imagined by Schiaparelli

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Noel Gorelick, Chief Extraterrestrial Observer

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

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

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

(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords Blog)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Google, we believe that ads are a valuable source of information — one that can connect people to the advertisers offering products, services and ideas that interest them. By making ads more relevant, and improving the connection between advertisers and our users, we can create more value for everyone. Users get more useful ads, and these more relevant ads generate higher returns for advertisers and publishers. Advertising is the lifeblood of the digital economy: it helps support the content and services we all enjoy for free online today, including much of our news, search, email, video and social networks.

That's why Google has worked hard to create technology that makes the advertising on our own sites, and those of our partners, as relevant as possible. To date, we have shown ads based mainly on what your interests are at a specific moment. So if you search for [digital camera] on Google, you'll get ads related to digital cameras. If you are visiting the website of one of our AdSense partners, you would see ads based on the content of the page. For example, if you're reading a sports page on a newspaper website, we might show ads for running shoes. Or we can show ads for home maintenance services alongside a YouTube video instructing you on how to perform a simple repair. There are some situations, however, where a keyword or the content of a web page simply doesn't give us enough information to serve highly relevant ads.

We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit. Today we are launching "interest-based" advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest — say sports, gardening, cars, pets — with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.

We believe there is real value to seeing ads about the things that interest you. If, for example, you love adventure travel and therefore visit adventure travel sites, Google could show you more ads for activities like hiking trips to Patagonia or African safaris. While interest-based advertising can infer your interest in adventure travel from the websites you visit, you can also choose your favorite categories, or tell us which categories you don't want to see ads for. Interest-based advertising also helps advertisers tailor ads for you based on your previous interactions with them, such as visits to their websites. So if you visit an online sports store, you may later be shown ads on other websites offering you a discount on running shoes during that store's upcoming sale.

Our advertisers and publisher partners have been asking us for a long time to offer interest-based advertising. Advertisers need an efficient way to reach those who are most interested in their products and services. And publishers can generate more revenue when they connect advertisers to interested audiences.

This kind of tailored advertising does raise questions about user choice and privacy — questions the whole online ad industry has a responsibility to answer. Many companies already provide interest-based advertising and they address these issues in different ways. For our part, we're launching interest-based advertising with three important features that demonstrate our commitment to transparency and user choice.
  • Transparency - We already clearly label most of the ads provided by Google on the AdSense partner network and on YouTube. You can click on the labels to get more information about how we serve ads, and the information we use to show you ads. This year we will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide a way to learn more and make choices about Google's ad serving.
  • Choice - We have built a tool called Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories associated with your browser so that you can receive ads that are more interesting to you.
  • Control - You can always opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network here. To make sure that your opt-out decision is respected (and isn't deleted if you clear the cookies from your browser), we have designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice.
To find out more about what Google is doing in this important area, please visit our Public Policy blog and Privacy Center.

Keyword advertising has been so successful because it's useful to users, advertisers and publishers — everyone's interests are aligned. We believe that interest-based ads will create the same virtuous cycle, by giving users more relevant ads, while generating higher returns for advertisers and publishers.

Do you leave your fridge door open after grabbing what you need? Do you leave your vacuum cleaner running when you aren't cleaning? Of course not. The idea of doing either of these things sounds silly, yet many people don't think to turn off their computers after using them. By using power management tools on your computer and buying more efficient computers, you can save nearly half a ton of CO2 and more than $60 a year in personal energy costs.

To do our part, Google co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) to promote a smarter, greener computing future. The simple changes above can have a HUGE collective impact; our goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 54 million tons per year by 2010 — the equivalent of taking 11 million cars off the road.

The biggest obstacle we face is not technological, it's awareness. That's why we're excited that CSCI has launched the Power Down for the Planet video contest, a challenge to you and your friends to develop original and creative videos that educate, entertain, and inform others about the importance of energy efficient computing.

So pick up a camera and make a video telling your own Climate Savers Computing story. How will the environment benefit from advances in computer power management? How do poor computing practices waste energy? What does a sustainable computing future look like to you? Let your imagination go wild.

Join us, gather some friends, and broadcast your vision of efficient computing. The team with the most compelling video can win up to $5,000 and energy efficient laptops; students at participating universities are also eligible to win $5,000 and Specialized Globe bicycles.

We can't wait to see what you create.

Silicon Valley is well known as the home of technology companies like Google, but it's also one of many regions around the world with frequent earthquake activity. When we in the Bay Area feel an earthquake, we want to know how strong it was and where it occurred, as soon as possible. After all, even a small vibration could be the result of a severe earthquake far away. Traditionally, we've had to wait for answers as reporters scrambled to investigate and spread the news. But thanks to the US Geological Survey (USGS), we can get earthquake data straight from the source.

Now, when you search for "earthquakes" on Google, you'll get information on some of the most recent, significant earthquakes from around the world, right on the search results page. From there, you can click through to the USGS Earthquake Center for more information, or visit the epicenter of any quake on Google Maps. To find earthquakes closer to home, you can add a location to your query, for example: "earthquakes California."

Earthquake search is the latest of Google's special search features, and many others can help you in different ways. If you'd like to know the local time where an earthquake occurred, search for "time" followed by the location (for example, "time Japan"). Let's say the epicenter was 50km from the coast and you want to know how far that is in miles. Type "50km in miles" into the search box. You can find out about these special features and many more on the Search Features page.

Ideas are everywhere, but how do we know which ones actually work? At Google, we put a lot of stock in both the wisdom of crowds — the idea that lots of people responding to a given question can collectively find the best answer — and the value of community. We believe that people working together can help one another through even the most difficult times.

As we all navigate today's choppy economic waters, we'd like to put these beliefs into practice. That's why we created Tip Jar (, an experiment powered by Google Moderator that we hope will help you discover the most effective ways to save money. There are lots of money-saving tips scattered across the web, but even if you found them, it would be hard to know which ones were worth trying. Tip Jar gathers tips in one place and invites people — i.e., you, me and everyone else — to rank them in order of usefulness and even add their own tips to the list. Over time, the best and most useful tips will rise to the top.

So go ahead: Take a Tip. Share a Tip. We'll all be a little bit richer for it.

We continue to learn a tremendous amount since launching Google Health in the spring of 2008. We're listening to feedback from users every day about their needs, and one issue we hear regularly is that people want help coordinating their care and the care of loved ones. They want the ability to share their medical records and personal health information with trusted family members, friends, and doctors in their care network. I can relate to this.

Just a few years ago, my father suffered a minor heart attack and was sent to the ER. I arrived on the scene in a panic, and was asked what medications he was taking. To my surprise, I had no clue. If my father had a Google Health account, and had shared his profile with me, I would have been up-to-date on his current medications.

I'm happy to announce today Google Health has addressed this issue with the release of a new "Share this profile" feature enabling Google Health users to invite others they trust (whether it's a family member, a trusted care network provider, friends, and/or a doctor) to view their medical records and personal health information.

Log into Google Health, click on "Share this Profile," and type in the email address of the person with whom you'd like to share your profile. Google Health will send an email to them with a link to view your profile. The link will only work in connection with the email address of that person — your profile can't be accessed if the link is forwarded on. You can stop sharing at any time, and you can always see who has access to your information. Those who are viewing your profile can only see the profile you share — not any other one in your account. We've also built in some extra protections to make sure your health information stays safe, private, and under your control:
  • The sharing link in the email expires after 30 days, but the sharing access itself does not expire — it will stay in place until the user decides to stop sharing
  • Viewers can only see — not edit — your Google Health profile
  • You can review a user activity report to see who has viewed your profile
For doctors and family members who are not yet online, we've also made it easier to share a hard copy of your information via our new printing feature. The wallet format prints a wallet-sized card that includes a user's medications, and allergies; the PDF format prints a letter-sized copy of a user's profile, including medications, allergies, conditions, and treatments.

Finally, we've launched a new graphing feature that helps patients visualize their medical test information. This is great for, say, someone who has high cholesterol. They can use Google Health to enter their lab results on a monthly basis and see the trend over time.

There is still a lot more work to do on Google Health, and we're excited to keep hearing from you so we can continue to make improvements. For now, we hope this new sharing feature makes coordinating your care, or the care of loved ones, a little easier.

Update on 3/6: Clarified the first bullet point.