Insights from Googlers into our products, technology, and the Google culture
"This site may harm your computer" on every search result?!?!
January 31, 2009
If you did a Google search between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning, you likely saw that the message "This site may harm your computer" accompanied each and every search result. This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users.
What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers.
We maintain a list of such sites
through both manual and automated methods
. We work with a non-profit called
to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.
We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning.
Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.
Thanks to our team for their quick work in finding this. And again, our apologies to any of you who were inconvenienced this morning, and to site owners whose pages were incorrectly labelled. We will carefully investigate this incident and put more robust file checks in place to prevent it from happening again.
Thanks for your understanding.
Update at 10:29 am PST:
This post was revised as more precise information became available
(changes are in blue).
Here's StopBadware's explanation
Posted by Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience
Google Toolbar in Firefox: a personalized new tab page
January 30, 2009
Those of you who use
Google Toolbar on Firefox
are probably pretty familiar with the
Toolbar 5 (beta) has to offer — from bookmarks to
and search box to "
." We've added a couple more features to the Firefox Toolbar, so feel free to
download this "second beta"
to get all the latest and greatest Google Toolbar has to offer.
One of the features I'm really excited about is the new tab page. Now, when you open up a new tab, instead of the blank white page you see by default in Firefox, you will instead see small thumbnails of your favorite sites (up to 9), as well as recently-closed and bookmarked pages based on your browser history. You can
edit the thumbnails
, and all this data remains locally on your browser, which means none of the information about your most viewed sites or recently closed pages will be sent back to Google. If for whatever reason you don't like this updated new tab page, you can always change it back to a blank page or to the website of your choice through either your Toolbar or Firefox settings. Some tab extensions may conflict with this feature, and it currently isn't compatible with Firefox 2, so make sure you check your settings or visit the Google Toolbar
if you are having any problems.
Next time you want to go to your favorite site more quickly or restore an accidentally closed tab, you don't need to type out the URL. Typing Ctrl + T or double-clicking to the right of your open tabs will open up the new tab page with all your favorite sites right at your finger tips.
In addition, this release now provides the ability for
-speaking users to access Toolbar 5 with robust right-to-left text support. We've also fixed some of the most reported bugs to give you a faster and more stable experience with this update.
We're always working on improvements and new features to Google Toolbar based on your feedback, so
keep those suggestions coming
on 4/1: Yesterday,
Firefox Toolbar 5
came out of beta.
Posted by Sergey Ryazanov, Software Engineer, Toolbar Team
Introducing Measurement Lab
January 28, 2009
When an Internet application doesn't work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else? It can be difficult for experts, let alone average Internet users, to address this sort of question today.
Last year we asked a small group of academics about ways to advance network research and provide users with tools to test their broadband connections. Today Google, the
New America Foundation
's Open Technology Institute, the
, and academic researchers are taking the wraps off of
(M-Lab), an open platform that researchers can use to deploy Internet measurement tools.
Researchers are already developing tools that allow users to, among other things, measure the speed of their connection, run diagnostics, and attempt to discern if their ISP is blocking or throttling particular applications. These tools generate and send some data back-and-forth between the user's computer and a server elsewhere on the Internet. Unfortunately, researchers lack widely-distributed servers with ample connectivity. This poses a barrier to the accuracy and scalability of these tools. Researchers also have trouble sharing data with one another.
M-Lab aims to address these problems. Over the course of early 2009, Google will provide researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe. All data collected via M-Lab will be made publicly available for other researchers to build on. M-Lab is intended to be a truly community-based effort, and we welcome the support of other companies, institutions, researchers, and users that want to provide servers, tools, or other resources that can help the platform flourish.
Today, M-Lab is at the beginning of its development. To start,
running on servers near Google's headquarters are available to help users attempt to diagnose common problems that might impair their broadband speed, as well as determine whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled by their ISPs. These tools were created by the individual researchers who helped found M-Lab. By running these tools, users will get information about their connection and provide researchers with valuable aggregate data. Like M-Lab itself these tools are still in development, and they will only support a limited number of simultaneous users at this initial stage.
At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the Internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation. No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they're getting when they sign up for broadband, and
good data is the bedrock of sound policy
. Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet.
You can learn more at the
. If you're a researcher who'd like to deploy a tool, or a company or institution that is interested in providing technical resources, we invite you to
Posted by Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, and Stephen Stuart, Principal Engineer
policy and issues
Raising data privacy awareness
January 28, 2009
For the second year, the U.S. and Canada are joining 27 European countries to celebrate
Data Privacy Day
today. As we
last year, the lack of understanding about online data protection is a global issue. As increasing amounts of data get uploaded to the Internet every day, it becomes more and more important for people to understand the benefits and risks of online communications and to learn how to use available tools to control and manage the information they share online.
To mark this special day of awareness, we are supporting an event hosted by the Information Technology Association of America called "
Data Privacy Day: Increasing Privacy Awareness and Trust
." We'll join U.S. and European government officials and key members of the privacy community on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to discuss how to increase public awareness about data privacy. This event is a part of our ongoing constructive dialogue with regulators and legislators, consumer and industry groups, and think tanks and privacy advocates to discuss how to protect user information.
Our efforts to raise data privacy awareness extend beyond the public policy arena; we aim to connect directly with our users, too. We're committed to protecting users' online privacy by following the principles of transparency and choice. We're transparent about the data we collect, and we design products that give people control over the information they share. Earlier this year, we
revamped our Privacy Center
, where we offer
that explain Google's privacy practices and show people how they can control what data they share. The Privacy Center also includes a link to a
series of blog posts
about how we use data to improve our products and services for our users. We recently translated the Privacy Center into multiple languages so that we can better serve people all around the world. We're also continuously working on innovative services and features that make information available to people in new ways, but with built-in privacy controls. For example, we introduced privacy-protective
for Street View earlier this year. And the launch of our browser, Google Chrome, included a feature for surfing the Internet in "
For the coming year, we want to improve our privacy practices even more by engaging in further dialogue with people who use our products and services, offering up easier-to-understand policies, and providing more privacy tools and controls. We hope that you'll take a few minutes on Data Privacy Day to
explore our Privacy Center
and learn about our commitment to this important issue.
Posted by Peter Fleischer and Jane Horvath, Global Privacy Counsel
More computing, less power
January 27, 2009
In the fall we posted information about the
efficiency of Google data centers
and promised to update this information every quarter. We've now collected data for the fourth quarter of 2008 and published them to our
sustainable computing website
. Specifically, we're keeping track of the efficiency of any Google-designed data center with an IT load of at least 5 MW and a time-in-operation of at least 6 months. In Q4 our average power and cooling overhead in these facilities was 16%, bringing the overhead for the trailing 12 months to 19% (down from 21% a quarter earlier). For comparison, a recent EPA report put the overhead of the average enterprise data center at 100% or higher. We're very happy to have further improved our efficiency, and a number of factors contributed to that result.
First, efficiency is affected by seasonal weather patterns — cooler weather is better than hot weather, and several of our facilities benefited from that in Q4. Also, we continually review our efficiency metrics so that we notice, for example, that one of our data centers is not performing consistently with others of similar size and locale. So we'll take a closer look at optimizing that facility. Are we using fans to cool spaces that don't need to be cooled? Is the thermostat at the right set-point? Can we reduce the time the chillers need to run while keeping the machines operational? So we apply lessons we've learned from better-performing data centers to other facilities, and several such improvements took place in Q4. For the nitty-gritty technical details, visit our
data center efficiency page
While we've made a lot of progress in data center efficiency, we're still learning. As we continue to explore ways to use the least amount of power to do the most amount of computing, we'll continue to share our data and best practices with you. In early March we will participate in the
where we plan to disclose more details on our sustainability efforts as part of this year's theme of "Green IT." Stay tuned.
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations
An update from the Project 10^100 team
January 26, 2009
As part of our tenth birthday celebration, in September we
Project 10^100, a call for ideas to help as many people as possible, and a program to bring the best of those ideas to life. The response we received has wowed and humbled us. People sent in more than 150,000 ideas, with submissions in all of the 25 languages for which we had a submission form. Proving that there is strength in numbers, many people submitted similar ideas for tackling big problems.
All of this reviewing and sorting has kept Googlers around the world quite busy. Because of the sheer number of ideas we received, we were unable to compile the list of finalists in time for our January 27 target and will have to push back that announcement to March 17 (St. Patrick's Day). We apologize for the delay and encourage you to return to the
on that date to vote for your favorite ideas. Perhaps the luck of the Irish will be with you and yours, or a similar idea will be a finalist!
on 3/16: We will unfortunately have to delay announcing the top ideas for Project 10^100 for a while longer. We've never managed a project like this and it's taken more time than we ever imagined possible. We apologize for our over optimistic assumptions about how quickly we could analyze all the ideas that we've received, and thank everyone for their patience. We'll continue posting updates on Project 10^100 here.
Posted by Andy Berndt, Managing Director, Google Creative Lab
Google at 10
A look back at spam in 2008
January 26, 2009
Most people think of "spam" as an unwelcome email that arrives – or, better yet, doesn't – in an email inbox, announcing some pesky, unsavory, or offensive opportunity that we most likely would rather not know about. But for the Google Enterprise team focused on spam that affects business (or, more accurately, on preventing it), the word means more. Looking back over 2008, a year where spam levels rose more than 25% compared with 2007, we have some memorable moments to share.
From November's breakthrough "takedown" of a global spam proliferator to the day in April when spam hit an all-time high and the growing threat of link-borne viruses, the Google Enterprise "spam squad" (the team behind the products in our "powered by Postini" family) recaps "The Year in Spam" and provides an outlook for 2009 that might help you understand what to watch out for this year – and how you can keep email threats at bay. Head on over to the
Posted by Ellen Petry Leanse, Google Enterprise Team
How to become a Dummies.com author
January 23, 2009
I am excited to announce the Knol for Dummies.com competition. I'm particularly excited about this contest because I'm an avid fan of "For Dummies" books and
. For instance, as a product marketing manager, I had no experience programming when I first joined Google. And, while coding isn't part of my official job description, it quickly became apparent that knowing some basic CSS/HTML could really go a long way. So, I ordered "CSS Web Design for Dummies" and quickly learned the basics of web design. Now, on the new Dummies.com site, that same expert how-to content is available in video, photo step-by-steps, articles, and author blogs.
Knol is a great place for individuals to share this type of how-to content. (Full disclosure: I am the product's marketing manager :-) Knols are articles written by people who are knowledgeable about specific subjects. Anyone can write one; there are
to show you how to easily get started. You can
to better illustrate a topic,
provide information about yourself
to build your credibility, and
collaborate with others
to improve your knol over time.
And now we're offering an opportunity to have your knol featured on Dummies.com.* Simply go to the official contest page, create your own knol about a subject you know well, and the contest judges will select five finalists who will be eligible to have their knols featured on the Dummies.com site. In addition, the best entry overall will be awarded a $1,000 grand prize.
Check out our
for the Official Rules and more details.
Submissions are open through March 23, 2009.
So start racking your brain and show what you know. We can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.
* Subject to Official Rules, see site for details.
Posted by Matt Ghering, Product Marketing Manager
The Pope on YouTube
January 23, 2009
(Cross-posted from the
Today we're delighted to announce that the Vatican has launched a dedicated YouTube channel.
To find out more about why the Pope has taken the decision to interact with YouTube on a regular basis, here is a
from Father Federico Lombardi, S.I., Director of Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Centre and the Holy See Press Office.
So, for regular updates on the Pope and the Catholic Church's take on the major problems facing the world today, subscribe to
the Vatican on YouTube
Posted by The YouTube Team
youtube and video
Announcing Google's Employee Option Exchange Program
January 22, 2009
Today we announced our plans to do something more for the people who are responsible for Google's success — our employees. Recognizing that about 85% of our employees have at least some stock options that are underwater (i.e., have an exercise price higher than the current market price of our common stock), we plan to offer our employees the opportunity to exchange those options. Our goal is to continue to reward our employees for their contributions and do everything we can to keep them engaged and focused on serving our users.
Here's how the employee option exchange program would work:
This will be a one-for-one, voluntary exchange. Employees will be able to exchange part or all of an existing option grant for the same number of new options.
The offer period will begin on January 29, 2009 and end at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 3, 2009, unless Google is required or opts to extend the offer period.
Based on this expected timeline, employees will be able to exchange their underwater options for new options with a strike price equal to the closing price of our stock on March 2, 2009.
The new options will have a new vesting schedule that adds 12 months to the original vesting schedule. In addition, new options will vest no sooner than 6 months after the close of the offer period.
Generally, all Googlers with options are eligible to participate (Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page do not hold options) except where precluded by legal and tax issues in certain countries. We are working to address these issues and the final offer documentation will specify any countries in which we are not able to offer the program.
This option exchange program has been approved by our Board of Directors.
The number of Google shares subject to outstanding options will not change as a result of this employee-only option exchange. The total number of options expected to be exchanged in this program represents less than 3% of total shares currently outstanding.
We expect to take a modification charge estimated to be $460 million over the vesting periods of the new options. These vesting periods range from six months to approximately five years. This modification charge will be recorded as additional stock based compensation beginning in the first quarter of 2009. This estimate assumes an exchange price of approximately $300 per share and that all eligible underwater options will be exchanged under this program. As a result, this estimate is subject to change.
If you're interested in learning more about this employee-only stock option exchange, we encourage you to read our related SEC filings when they become available.
The option exchange described in this post has not launched. When the option exchange begins, Google will provide employees with written materials explaining the terms and timing. Eligible optionholders should read these materials carefully when they become available because they will contain important information about the option exchange. When the offer period begins, Google will file these materials with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as part of a tender offer statement. You will be able to obtain these written materials and other documents filed by Google with the SEC free of charge from the SEC's website at
. The $300 exchange price provided above is intended as an example only. We expect that the actual modification charge we take as a result of the option exchange will be determined based on the exercise price and number of options exchanged as well as the closing price of our stock on March 2, 2009, unless Google is required or opts to extend the offer period.
@ 6:41 PM: Our
on the option exchange program is now available.
on 2/5: On February 3, 2009, Google launched the option exchange program. Please note that the dates in this post are no longer valid. Written materials explaining the terms and updated timing of the option exchange are available on the Securities and Exchange Commission's website at
Posted by Laszlo Bock, VP, People Operations
Back to the energy future
January 21, 2009
In 1979 President Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar hot water panels on the roof of the White House. Recently a Googler from our Washington D.C. office asked the question, "What ever happened to the Carter panels?" After a little digging, we were able to track down the original panels to
, an environmental college in Maine, and bring one of them back to Washington D.C.
So what ever happened to the panels? It turns out that during President Reagan's administration the solar hot water panels were removed from the White House in 1986 and placed in storage. In 1992, Unity College located the panels and transferred them from a General Services Administration warehouse to their campus in Maine. After restoration,16 panels provided their cafeteria with hot water for the next 12 years. In cooperation with Unity College, Google was able to bring one of these panels down to our Washington DC office for display throughout the next year.
At the panels' dedication in 1979, Jimmy Carter stated:
"This dependence on foreign sources of oil is of great concern to all of us. In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people." (To watch video of the dedication, check out this
for a movie about the panels).
As we welcome our new U.S. president to office this week, we wanted to share this piece of this history with you. Google is committed to a
clean energy future
and we hope that you will join us in supporting the creation and adoption of renewable energy technology — what could still be one of the greatest and most exciting adventures for all of us.
Check out these photos of the panels at Unity College and at Google's Washington DC office.
Posted by Alice Ryan, Green Energy Project Manager
Explore New York City with Google -- from your home, phone, and in person
January 21, 2009
Posted by Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City
[From time to time we invite guests to blog about initiatives of interest, and are very pleased to have Mayor Bloomberg join us here. – Ed.]
This is New York City: the ultimate destination and home to world-class hotels, dining, shopping, arts, entertainment and more.
In partnership with Google, we are launching a new website and Information Center to help make it easier for both visitors and residents to explore all the energy, excitement and diversity of New York City's five boroughs.
is the official resource on the web for all there is to see, do and experience in the City. This dynamic site uses Google Maps to help you plan your New York experience and find hotels, restaurants and entertainment, in addition to exclusive citywide savings and promotions. With nycgo.com you can use Google Maps to get directions to attractions throughout the City, and even send the info to your phone with
Google Maps for mobile
While you're in New York, stop by the brand new Official New York City Information Center at
810 Seventh Avenue
, between 52nd and 53rd Streets. The Information Center features interactive map tables, powered by the
Google Maps API for Flash
, that let you navigate venues and attractions as well as create personalized itineraries, which can be printed, emailed or sent to mobile devices. Additionally, there's a gigantic video wall that utilizes Google Earth to display a 3D model of New York City on which you can map out personalized itineraries.
So whether you are a visitor or a resident, we invite you to explore New York City from your home computer, your mobile phone—and of course, in person.
Get started by taking a look at this video:
maps and earth
Search findings from the U.S. presidential inauguration
January 20, 2009
Today, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. As we
throughout the presidential campaign, many people in the U.S. turned to
to find information. During the inauguration, top queries included
live inauguration coverage
inauguration day 2009 streaming
listen to inauguration live
, and many others.
However, interest in the inauguration was not only confined to the United States. Twelve percent of inauguration-related queries came from outside the United States as thousands worldwide used Google to find ways to watch the event. From Latin America, we received queries like
toma de posesion de Barack Obama en vivo
(inauguration of Barack Obama live -- Spanish) and
posse de Obama
(inauguration of Obama -- Portuguese). Similarly in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, people interested in the inauguration searched for
(inauguration -- German),
(inauguration -- Dutch),
(inauguration -- Spanish),
(Barack introduction -- Hebrew),
(Obama -- Arabic), and
(inauguration -- French). And even though it was very early in their day, users in Asia and Australia were still interested in watching the festivities, with queries like
(Obama inauguration broadcast -- Chinese) and
While President Obama was certainly the central player in today's events, searchers were also interested in the other people who took part in the ceremony. In particular, people wanted more information on the religious leaders who spoke:
Dr. Rick Warren
, who gave the invocation, and
Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
, who gave the benediction. Additionally, there was a lot of interest in some of the artists who performed:
. They also sought to know more about
Senator Dianne Feinstein
, who presided over the ceremony as chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and
Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
, who swore in President Obama. (Click on the images to see a larger version.)
During the last nine years, the growth of the Internet has changed the way the world seeks information. From President Bush's first inaugural address in 2001 to his second in 2005, the number of inauguration-related searches increased by more than a factor of ten. From 2005 to today's address, the number grew even more. Few of the 2001 queries requested "video," and none requested streaming. By 2005, a few queries such as
streaming video of inauguration
appeared. Today, technology has become so prevalant that queries such as
YouTube live inauguration
live blogging inauguration
Obama inaugural speech mp3
formed one-third of all inauguration-related queries.
Finally, this graph demonstrates one other interesting search pattern that we saw: the overall query volume of Google searches dropped in the U.S. from the time President Obama took the oath of office until the end of his inaugural speech, demonstrating that all eyes were on today's festivities.
Posted by Jeffrey Oldham, Software Engineer, and Fred Leach, Quantitative Marketing Manager
A day on, not a day off
January 19, 2009
Today, Americans celebrate the
birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the chief elements of the day, as expressed by Dr. King and manifested in recent years, is marking the day as a
National Day of Service
. The credo of a national service day is "a day on, not a day off," and citizens are encouraged to contribute their time and talents to community organizations in some way. A website
, from which you can
find a service event near you
that needs your help, or
create your own
. Inform others of your activities with text messages, and
share your photos and feedback
Remember, too, that the need for your skills and energy is great, and extends well beyond today. Please consider
for future volunteer opportunities.
Posted by Karen Wickre, Google Blog team
100,000th knol published
January 16, 2009
A few weeks ago the 100,000th knol was published, and we figured now is an excellent time to reflect on the first five months of Knol's existence.
Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects. Since
the start of the project
, we've seen articles written on everything from
long distance motorcycle riding
The Knol interface is now available in eight languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish) and we are excited that our users are helping us translate it into many more languages using the
Google in Your Language
console. Encouraging people to contribute their knowledge online is particularly important for languages with limited web content, and we are glad to see that knols have been written in 59 different languages to date. It has been very exciting to have people all over the world come forward to help improve online content in their language.
We have worked quickly to incorporate the features most requested by our early authors, such as usage stats showing reader activity on knols and rich media embedding (videos, spreadsheets, forms, slideshows, etc.). All of these improvements are tracked in our
Announcement and Release Notes
We are happy to see that most authors choose to accept moderated edits from their audience and that the volume of suggested edits from readers is steadily growing. So if you find yourself reading a knol and want to suggest an improvement, go ahead and press that edit button! You will be able to make the desired changes directly in the knol, and the author(s) will be able to review and act upon your suggestions. We look forward to seeing this new mode of online collaboration used more widely.
People visit Knol from 197 countries and territories on an average day, from the Aland Islands and Antarctica to Zambia and Zimbabwe. We welcome you to share your knowledge with the world and
write a knol
Posted by Cedric Dupont, Product Manager, and Michael McNally, Software Engineer
January 16, 2009
We believe great ideas can come from anywhere and everyone. And we aspire to be an organization that reflects global diversity, because we know that a world's worth of perspectives, ideas and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services. We have more than a dozen employee-driven resource groups, from Gayglers to GWE (Google Women Engineers), that actively participate around the world in building community and driving policy at Google. This is the next post in our
, which takes a look at valuing people's similarities and differences in the workplace. For more information on how Google fosters an inclusive work environment, visit
Life at Google
on our Jobs site. – Ed.
As someone who has been building technology for more than 15 years, I know firsthand what a positive impact building hardware or software with a small team in an agile environment can have. I was only exposed to this type of work during grad school, and have since been actively involved in getting young people interested in science and technology. This year Google has enthusiastically supported my initiative to bring a local group of girls closer to technology through the
FIRST Robotics Competition
"People claim that only with the perspective of years can you know how much influence a particular event has had on you," Tal Tzangen says and proceeds to explain how she is convinced her participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition last year has significantly changed the course of her life. Tal, a 17 year old girl from a rural part of Israel, was taking technology courses at her school, not because she was particularly interested in technology but because the other options seemed even less appealing to her. Although Israel is also known as "
," Tal thought technology was "just for geeks." Last year she agreed to be a member of a newly forming FIRST team, not knowing what she was letting herself in for.
The competition involves 1,686 teams from more than 42,000 high schools spanning the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Turkey, and the U.K. Each team has six weeks to build a robot from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST. Then, they compete with other robots in a new game devised each year.
Before Tal knew it, she was "bit by the bug." During the weeks of preparation, she spent days and nights at school learning about robotics and teamwork with her peers and mentors. Her team had won the regional competitions and were seeking funding for the finals in Atlanta when I met her.
Tal, center, and her team members work on their robot's transmission system.
This year Tal is the captain of the Google-sponsored Thunderbolts team, and one of her goals has been to get as many girls involved as possible. As she puts it, "I certainly don't mind the company of my male peers, but I know that girls also have a lot to contribute in this domain." The current team includes 24 students, eight of them girls (last year there were only two). Recruiting girls has been challenging since there are very few in the technical track in high school. She has enlisted some pre-high school girls with the hope of serving as a role model to them. Likewise, she has encouraged the forming of a FIRST LEGO
team (9-14 year olds) to ensure the "next generation" for the Robotics Competition.
The Thunderbolt team.
The world kickoff for this year's competition took place on January 3rd, followed by the Israeli kickoff the following day. Regardless of how far they get in the competition this year, Israel is a country where high tech, engineering, science and entrepreneurship thrive, and Tal and her Thunderbolts are a growing part of this culture.
Posted by Natalia Marmasse, Software Engineer, Haifa office
January 15, 2009
In September of last year, Google
its opposition to California's
. While the campaign was emotionally charged and difficult for both sides, in the wake of the election many were concerned with the impact Proposition 8 could have on the personal lives of people they work with every day, and on California's ability to attract and retain a diverse mix of employees from around the world.
That's why we've signed an
(PDF file) in support of several cases currently challenging Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court. Denying employees basic rights isn't right, and it isn't good for businesses. We are committed to preserving fundamental rights for every one of the people who work hard to make Google a success.
in continuing to fight for equality for all Californians.
Posted by Kent Walker, General Counsel
Making your personalized homepage even more personal
January 15, 2009
The holidays have passed, but if you're anything like me, you've got a gold mine of bear hugs and embarrassing moments captured on film. My holidays wouldn't be the same without Tabby, our family cat, who has been part of the winter festivities for 10 years. Over the holidays, we caught Tabby sticking out his tongue at the family get-together! Below is one of those prized moments I wanted to post everywhere, including on my personalized homepage:
Now, you too can capture memories and images on your iGoogle homepage by building a custom theme. We've just released our
for creating iGoogle themes. It's an easy way for iGoogle users to spruce up their personalized homepage without needing to know how to use XML, etc. All you need is an image, and we'll provide the rest.
The theme-building tool has a simple interface for uploading your photo from your desktop, Picasa Web Album, or the web. Once you've chosen a photo, the builder provides a basic set of tools to help you create your theme:
- Crop your favorite photo to fit your iGoogle theme
- Pick colors to complement your photo
- See immediate feedback of your changes to swiftly fine-tune your theme
Public and Private Publishing
- Choose who gets to see your original themes, whether it's just you, or if you want to share them with the world
Once your theme is created, it's immediately added to your iGoogle page for you to enjoy.
We hope you have fun customizing your iGoogle homepage with your favorite images, whether they're photos of your pets or places you've visited, drawings, designs, cartoons — or whatever else your heart desires.
on 1/16 @ 10:30 AM: A number of people are having trouble accessing our theme-builder tool. We're currently working on the issue, and we'll post here as soon as it's up and running again. We're sorry for the delay, and we'd like to thank everyone who let us know they had trouble accessing this feature.
on 1/22 @ 4:25 PM: Our theme-builder tool is now available to anyone in the U.S. who has their language default set to English, and we hope to release this feature in other languages and countries soon. Thanks for bearing with us, and we'll keep you posted on further updates.
Posted by Kathleen Ko, iGoogle Engineer
Hear how Illinois State University uses Google Search
January 15, 2009
Search functionality is a critical part of higher education websites due to the diverse audiences that these sites serve. Current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other communities come to these sites to seek a wide range of information. Even with the best navigational scheme, it is a challenge to make all of this information findable, which makes accurate search a huge boost to website effectiveness.
adoption in higher education has been steadily climbing (3 million users and counting), and we're really excited to see more and more universities using the
Google Search Appliance
(GSA) to power high-quality search on their websites. Like Google.com, the search appliance can search public pages on a website, but it can also find information in databases, content systems, business applications, and other sources, which opens up a whole range of options for making all kinds of information easily accessible. For example,
Illinois State University
uses the Google Search Appliance to create a "Course Finder" tool for their current and prospective students. This tool delivers up-to-the minute course information to more than 20,000 students, 1,000 faculty members, and the public at-large. It provides users with a friendly, easy-to-use interface for finding class and schedule data stored on the university's mainframe. Students can easily fine-tune searches to specify departments, time slots, and instructors, all using the familiar Google interface.
, a leading publication addressing technology trends in universities, invited us to showcase the capabilities of the Google Search Appliance in an upcoming
, we immediately turned to our friends at Illinois State to share their great example. We invite you to
join us online
on Wednesday, January 21st, at 11:00 am PST, to hear Illinois State University talk about their experience with GSA. We'll also be sharing information about Google Apps for higher education, so if you're interested in that front, be sure to mark your calendars as well.
Posted by Vijay Koduri, Product Marketing Manager, Google Search Appliance
Changes to recruiting
January 14, 2009
As we made clear during our last quarterly earnings call in October, Google is still hiring but at a reduced rate. Given the state of the economy, we recognized that we needed fewer people focused on hiring.
Our first step to address this was to wind down almost all our contracts with external contractors and vendors providing recruiting services for Google. However, after much consideration, we have with great regret decided that we need to go further and reduce the overall size of our recruiting organization by approximately 100 positions.
We know this change will be very difficult for the people concerned, and we hope that many of them will be able to find new roles at Google. They helped build this company, new hire by new hire, and we are enormously grateful for everything they have done.
Posted by Laszlo Bock, Vice President, People Operations
Changes to engineering
January 14, 2009
At Google we recognized early on that branching out beyond Mountain View was key to building innovative products for users everywhere. That's why we put so much effort into hiring outstanding engineers in a wide mix of countries. Having offices distributed around the globe is critical to Google's long-term success, and today we have thousands of engineers working in 40 offices in more than 20 countries. It has enabled us to make significant improvements in our products and attract more users globally.
It has also presented unique challenges. The most difficult of these being to coordinate our efforts across all geographies, and provide engineers with significant, meaningful projects that make a real difference to people's lives. Last September we asked engineers in
to move to other offices, and the vast majority have done so. This move enabled us to build larger and more effective teams, reduce communication overhead, and give engineers increased options for future projects. Today we are doing the same thing in Austin, Texas; Trondheim, Norway; and Lulea, Sweden. Our strong desire is to keep as many of these 70 engineering employees at Google as possible. However, we do recognize the upheaval and heartache that these changes may have on Google families, and that we may not be able to keep 100% of these exceptional employees.
Our long-term goal is not to trim the number of people we have working on engineering projects or reduce our global presence, but create a smaller number of more effective engineering sites, which will ensure that innovation and speed remain at our core.
Posted by Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Research
Make over your site using the wisdom of the crowd
January 14, 2009
It used to be that the design of a website was always left to a single web designer and some good ideas, but with
Google Website Optimizer
, Google's free testing and optimization tool, a website can harness the input of thousands of its visitors to produce results that really matter.
the Website Workout contest to see which of our AdWords advertisers wanted to give their sites an extreme makeover. After asking thousands of advertisers why their sites needed makeovers, we chose four of the most compelling cases, and they were paired with consultants who helped them set up experiments using Website Optimizer.
Website Optimizer allows you to create multiple versions of your webpage (maybe one version with a red button and one with a blue) and evaluate which variation best meets your goals (whether that is sign-ups, purchases, or simply having visitors click to another page). The tool uses traffic data and advanced statistical formulas to figure out, according to your visitors, what makes your website the most useful.
Well, we are happy to announce the winners of the Website Workout contest and share some videos highlighting their experiences. Be sure to
check them out
, you might be surprised by what sorts of changes can make a big difference.
For example, by changing the layout of their product page,
was able to increase the number of candles they sold by 20% and improve sales by $20,000 in one month.
(click on the images for larger versions)
Check out the
Website Optimizer Blog
for more information.
Posted by Andrew Gomez, Associate Product Marketing Manager
Network effects: Introducing the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program
January 14, 2009
Just under two years ago we launched
Google Apps for businesses
, offering a set of products that enable secure and cost-effective applications in the cloud. Fast-forward to today and our expanded Google Apps suite is used by more than 1 million businesses, with 3,000 new companies signing up each day.
How'd we get here? Through constant innovation (100
and counting), growing
for cloud computing, and a partner network that provides our customers with complementary products, training, and integration.
Given this strong demand, we believe there's a great opportunity to do even more by helping IT solution providers grow their business opportunities around cloud computing. As we got our sea legs, we started slowly with a core group of partners who've been key trusted advisers in customer deployments, such as at Genentech and Hamilton Beach. We're now expanding this ecosystem to help more IT professionals build cloud computing expertise. Today we're excited to
the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program. With this release, solution providers globally can take advantage of tools that enable bundling of sales, customization and support for Google Apps Premier Edition for customers of all sizes.
We've adapted this program to complement resellers' current business models. Authorized Resellers have the flexibility to combine their existing services with Google Apps. With cloud-based Google Apps there is no new hardware or software to maintain. The Authorized Reseller program benefits include:
owning the customer relationship and billing structure
providing consulting, service management and end-user support
receiving a recurring discount on the annual Google Apps licensing fee
receiving marketing, sales and technical training from Google
We've been fine-tuning the program for the past few months, working with more than 50 pilot resellers to make sure it's a good fit with our partners' needs. We're excited about the new opportunities that cloud computing is creating for IT solution providers, and we encourage you to visit our
to learn more about the program and apply.
Posted by Paul Slakey, Director of Enterprise Channels
Gingerbread Competition results are in
January 13, 2009
(Cross-posted from the
Having spent some time perusing the entries for the
SketchUp Gingerbread House Design Competition
, we've reached a verdict – but it wasn't easy. Your models are (as expected) beautiful. For what it's worth, I accidentally ate part of my computer screen while we were judging. Drum roll please...
An absolutely beautiful use of the base model, in combination with some of the supplied dynamic candy components, to create an entirely believable construction. This is a gingerbread house that aficionados – analog and digital alike – can admire. It's also a skillful use of SketchUp.
Temple of Gingerbread
With this model, it's all about the details. The pediment (the triangular part of the roof) contains a scene of gingerbread people. The entablature (sits between the columns and the roof) is heavily ornamented and altogether believable. When you go inside, there's an altar to a gingerbread deity. This entry is complete both in concept and execution. Gingerbread Vitruvius would be proud.
This one made us laugh. The house itself is intricate and skillfully modeled, but the best parts reveal themselves upon closer inspection. Someone's taken a giant bite out of the roof, and a giant gingerbread stormcloud (complete with gingerbread lightning bolt) threatens overhead. It's nice to see someone using a digital tool to do something that physical materials can't: ignore gravity.
(for the best additions to the base model)
A classic example of a thought carried through to its logical (and very appetizing) conclusion. The house, the men, the reindeer and the sleigh are consistent in that they are made of gingerbread. This house is constructable, and a lot of work went into making it that way.
(for the best use of
in the model)
A close contender for best model overall, we decided to award the Swirl Prize to this entry because it's interactive. Aside from being a stunning example of SketchUp mastery, the strings of flags are Dynamic Components that lengthen and re-color as you scale them. Clicking with the 'Interact' tool causes a rainbow to appear. You really need to download the model and open it in SketchUp to experience the full effect.
Sweet Tooth Prize
(for the most creative use of a single candy ingredient)
Candy Cane Log House
Candy canes for the walls. Candy canes for the roof. Candy canes for everything. Nice.
Take a look at all of the entries in this
3D Warehouse collection
. Also peek at this Picasa album slideshow of some of our favorites:
Congratulations to everyone, and thanks for participating. We hope you had as much fun building them as we did looking them over.
Posted by Aidan Chopra, SketchUp Product Evangelist
Powering a Google search
January 11, 2009
Not long ago, answering a query meant traveling to the reference desk of your local library. Today, search engines enable us to access immense quantities of useful information in an instant, without leaving home. Tools like email, online books and photos, and video chat all increase productivity while decreasing our reliance on car trips, pulp and paper.
But as computers become a bigger part of more people's lives, information technology consumes an increasing amount of energy, and Google takes this impact seriously. That's why we have designed and built the
energy efficient data centers
in the world, which means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.
Recently, though, others have used much higher estimates, claiming that a typical search uses "half the energy as boiling a kettle of water" and produces 7 grams of CO2. We thought it would be helpful to explain why this number is *many* times too high. Google is fast — a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.
In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don't reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.
We've made great strides to reduce the energy used by our data centers, but we still want clean and affordable sources of electricity for the power that we do use. In 2008 our philanthropic arm,
, invested $45 million in breakthrough clean energy technologies. And last summer, as part of our Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative (
), we created an internal engineering group dedicated to exploring clean energy.
We're also working with other members of the IT community to improve efficiency on a broader scale. In 2007 we co-founded the
Climate Savers Computing Initiative
, a group which champions more efficient computing. This non-profit consortium is committed to cutting the energy consumed by computers in half by 2010 — reducing global CO2 emissions by 54 million tons per year. That's a lot of kettles of tea.
on 1/12 @ 4 PM:
Harvard professor Alex Wissner-Gross
provided new details
on his energy research, in a TechNewsWorld article.
on 1/16 @ 1 PM:
The Sunday Times
on the energy consumed by a Google search, accepting our calculation that a single search accounts for about 0.2g of carbon. That means a typical individual's Google use for an entire year would produce about the same amount of CO2 as just a single load of washing.
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations
Google's new favicon
January 9, 2009
Back in June, we
a new favicon — the small icon that greets you when you access Google on your URL bar or your bookmarks list — and we encouraged our users to submit their ideas for this important piece of Google branding. We were impressed by the volume of submissions we received, and today we are happy to introduce a new Google favicon inspired by those submissions by our users. While the final icon is a reinterpretation of one contest submission, it draws on design elements and ideas from many of them.
Google's new favicon
André Resende, a computer science undergraduate student at the University of Campinas in Brazil, submitted the design that inspired our new favicon. His placement of a white 'g' on a color-blocked background was highly recognizable and attractive, while seeming to capture the essence of Google.
by André Resende
Although we changed the color layout slightly and moved the 'g' off center, his submission formed the basis for our new design.
Incorporating all four of Google's colors (red, yellow, green, and blue) into the four corners of the favicon was a theme we liked in many submissions. We also saw this idea in the designs submitted by Hadi Onur Demirsoy, Lucian E. Marin, and Yusuf Sevgen (pictured below).
by Hadi Onur Demirsoy
by Lucian E. Marin
by Yusuf Sevgen
We hope you like the new favicon, which nicely integrates all of our original criteria: distinctive in shape, noticeable, colorful, timeless, and scalable to other sizes.
While I'm sure we will update it again, we also hope our new favicon inspired by Andre is a warm, colorful beacon to Google on your browser tabs and bookmarks. A big thank you to Andre, Hadi, Lucian, and Yusuf, as well as all of the other people who helped us define our new look in a uniquely user-driven way!
Posted by Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience, and Micheal Lopez, Web Design Lead
January 7, 2009
A few months ago, the
Google Open Source team
had an offsite in our Chicago office, and we were looking for something fun, social, and geeky for the teams to do during informal discussions. Before that, my colleague
had shown me a cool new thing that he was making called
-- interlocking cardboard boxes that were something like giant legos that connected on all six sides. They were actually invented by Aza's father,
(who started the Macintosh project at Apple), and were originally intended to be used to build flexible workspaces (like easily morphable cubicles). Having seen some samples of what you could build with them, I thought it would be fun to order a bunch of Bloxes for the team to build things out of while sitting around chatting and brainstorming.
We built a number of interesting things out of the Bloxes that week, but the real fun started after the offsite was over. Several of the Chicago engineers really took to the Bloxes; every week new, fun new sculptures would show up in the lounge. And every week, they would get knocked down (often by the same people who built them up). We decided to match the brown Bloxes with an equal number of white Bloxes, bringing our total to 360. Creativity took it from there -- from a
living room furniture
, a pair of
much, much more
Frequently, engineers wind up building something while discussing a bug or a feature, and it's a great conversation starter when other Googlers walk by and see a work in progress. So, what started as a somewhat quiet lounge with a whiteboard quickly became a must-see stop on the office tour for visiting dignitaries, and even better, an ever-changing public space that's fun to construct, and even more fun to knock down.
Posted by Brian Fitzpatrick, Engineering Manager, Chicago
googlers and culture
Google at Macworld
January 6, 2009
After months of anticipation,
is finally here. Throughout the four days of the expo (from now until Jan. 9), more than 100 Googlers from several product teams will be available to demonstrate Google software for the Mac and the iPhone.
Picasa for Mac made its
yesterday, and you can follow along on the
Google Mac Blog
for more details on what we have in store for the rest of the week.
If you're going to Macworld, we invite you to stop by. And for those of you who can't make it, many of the demos are available via video at
Posted by Jason Toff, Associate Product Marketing Manager
Introducing Picasa for Mac (at Macworld!)
January 5, 2009
Sometimes I find it hard to describe Picasa without sounding like a late-night infomercial for a multi-bladed thingamabob: "It's a photo organizer! A photo editor! A web-savvy photo sharing and management system in just one tiny package!"
We try hard to avoid hyperbole around here, but it's true that
, working together with
Picasa Web Albums
, can help with
nearly every aspect
of owning and operating a digital camera. And because many of us take pictures in order to share them, we try to make sure Picasa does a great job of getting your favorite photos online, where friends and family can enjoy them too. In Picasa 3, that means
powerful new features
like automatically syncing changes between the photos on your computer and what you're sharing online, useful privacy controls integrated into the software on your PC, easier notifications, and more.
And today, we're releasing
Picasa for Mac
. While we've previously offered both a standalone Picasa Web Albums
for Mac users, Picasa for Mac finally brings all of the advanced sharing and sync features of Picasa to the millions of Mac OS X users who use Picasa Web Albums. Not to mention the "it-slices-and-dices" feature list that covers everything from color balance to collages.
Picasa for Mac looks and works much like Picasa on other platforms, and offers trademark Picasa features — such as non-destructive editing, and the ability to keep track of photos anywhere on your hard drive, then automatically account for new images as you add them.
Right now, Picasa for Mac is still in Google Labs, but we very much wanted to get an early version out to folks attending Macworld (you can learn more about this beta release at the
Google Photos blog
). To run Picasa, you'll need an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.4 and above. We hope you'll give it a spin, and give us your feedback in person — members of the Picasa engineering team will be conducting demos at
Google's Macworld booth
all week (you can also check out the video tour below).
Posted by Susanna Leng, Software Engineer
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