Archive for January, 2011

Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.

We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.

Update Feb 1, 12:47 PM: When possible, we’re now detecting the approximate (country-level) geographic origin of each call dialing one of our speak2tweet numbers and attaching a hashtag for that country to each tweet. For example, if a call comes from Switzerland, you’ll see #switzerland in the tweet, and if one comes from Egypt you’ll see #egypt. For calls when we can’t detect the location, we default to an #egypt hashtag.

Posted by Ujjwal Singh, CoFounder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Product Manager, Middle East & North Africa

Tech for good – catching up on Google.org

Google.org continues to ramp up technology projects and test new ideas while Google’s overall charitable giving, in-kind giving and employee volunteering have grown as well. Our newsletter outlines the latest updates to our philanthropic projects. I caught up with Megan Smith, VP New Business Development and General Manager of Google.org, to talk about how Google views philanthropy.

After two years at the helm of Google.org, what are you most optimistic about?
The Internet offers an opportunity to connect in ways never before possible. Things that have historically been far apart are now “virtually adjacent”—most people are a text away, data sets can be mashed up, and all world knowledge is coming online from both expected and surprising sources. Given all of this, I am most excited about all the extraordinary ways people are using the web to connect, be informed, use data and to start solving problems together.

For Google.org specifically, we want to contribute our knowledge and skills to help use technology to address humanity’s greatest challenges. We now have more than 50 engineers and about 40 other cross-functional Googlers working on four or five larger projects—like Google Crisis Response and RE

What kind of project fits this opportunity?
One of our newer projects, Google Earth Engine, takes advantage of Google’s computing infrastructure to create a planetary sciences computation platform that could help reduce negative environmental impact at scale. The first focus is on deforestation monitoring. Earth Engine has just made it through the pilot phase to a full project with its launch last month at climate change talks in Mexico. If we meet our goals to enable global-scale monitoring of changes in the planet’s environment, I believe that Earth Engine could play an important information role in helping to slow deforestation.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since joining Google.org?
Two things: first, the opportunity we have is great; and second, the work has served as a reminder that creating truly useful, innovative technology is challenging and requires patient iteration, dialog, teamwork and creativity. It takes time to gather new ideas, learn from the right partners, collaborate, pilot those ideas that pass initial assessment and then launch for scale the few projects that meet the criteria for a Google.org product.

Do Google.org projects have a specific focus?
We don’t have a topical focus—we work on technology solutions to many different kinds of global challenges. The key is to take advantage of Google’s strengths. In the area of global health, for example, we have been able to create a global flu monitoring system based on search data. For our environmental work, we were able to leverage our data center computing power to put together the finest-scale forest map of Mexico to date (processing this data would take two years on one computer, but we made it in less than 24 hours using our computing infrastructure).

How does Google.org start and ramp up its technology projects?
We work to tap into the talent at Google. Some projects have come out of hallway conversations and others from extensive talks with partners in the field. Formally, we have a bimonthly new initiatives meeting with senior engineers where talented individuals or teams within Google bring ideas or prototypes. If we think the idea is a match and has promise, we give it budget, headcount, guidance and time to see where it can go during a pilot period. Once we have a live pilot or project, we take advantage of Google.com’s standard project review and management processes that our company has effectively used for years.

What if those pilots fail?
That’s normal. We should expect that some of them will fail or will only have smaller impact. If you’re not failing some of the time, you’re not taking risks. As we progress, some of our failures will hopefully teach us as much as some of our successes.

What other charitable giving does Google do?
As a company that has been doing well, it’s important that we push ourselves to be amongst the most generous companies. We have several charitable giving programs supporting, for example, education (especially K-12 science and math programs), university research, communities where we work, and technology solutions for underserved groups. Last year the company gave more than $145 million to non-profits and academic institutions, and more than $184 million when including Google Grants, Google.org technology projects and in-kind product support for non-profits.

How is this philanthropic work different from that of other companies?
Like other companies, we have charitable giving programs, we provide products in-kind and we have a range of employee volunteering programs. Some companies like ours may also have experiments like Google.org to leverage their strengths—a form of skills-based giving. However, many companies do amazing charitable work through a centralized Corporate Social Responsibility arm that tackles a key issue or two. We approach philanthropy the way we do our core business, with big goals and a “launch early and iterate” approach. Ideas come from all over the company and we work to tackle a range of issues we care about, from clean energy to education to development. It may not be as clean as the process that some others have, but we think this is how we can have the most impact.

We remain determined, as our founders said when they set the vision for Google.org, “to find original ways to extend our assets, so that we can drive scalable, sustainable efforts. …the underlying principle: Never stop looking for ways to do the best with what you have.”
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations

Google Apps highlights – 1/28/2011

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

Over the last couple of weeks, we added ways to keep up with new messages in Gmail and printing capabilities from Gmail mobile and mobile documents, and announced a partnership with Verizon to make it easier for millions more businesses to start using Google Apps.

Desktop notifications for Gmail
When people switch to web-based email, sometimes they miss seeing desktop alerts when new mail is waiting to be read. In the past, Gmail required a helper application to show alerts, but on Wednesday we made it so Gmail can display desktop notifications for new email and chat messages with nothing more than a browser. If you use Google Chrome, you can enable desktop notifications in the Gmail settings panel.

Search-as-you-type for Gmail Labs
Gmail Labs is a testing ground where you can try out new features and provide feedback on your experiences. As the list of Labs has grown to more than 50 options, we wanted to make it easier to find features you’re interested in, so we introduced search-as-you-type on the Labs page. With just a few keystrokes, you can pinpoint just what you’re looking for—no more scrolling down a long list of options to find what you want.


Unread message icon in Gmail Labs
The Gmail tab in your browser displays how many unread messages you have, but if you have lots of tabs open or use pinned tabs in Google Chrome, the Gmail browser tab is too small for you to see the count of unread messages. On Tuesday we added a new Lab that shows your unread message count in the browser tab icon, so you can always see at a glance how many new messages you have. Visit the Gmail Labs settings page and type “unread” in the new search box to find and try this feature.


Cloud Print for Gmail and Docs
Printing is sometimes tricky even when you’re in the same room as your printer, not to mention when you want to print on a remote printer or from a mobile device. Last year we introduced Cloud Print to make printing easier from any device to any Cloud Print-enabled printer, without the need for any special software. On Monday we added support for Cloud Print to Gmail mobile and mobile documents, so now you can print messages and documents directly from your phone or tablet to your Cloud Print-enabled printer.


Education category in the Google Apps Marketplace
Businesses, schools and organizations can shop for third-party applications, features and services that complement Google Apps in the Marketplace, and over the last few months we’ve seen a surge in listings geared for schools and universities. To make it easier for schools to link up with great partners in their field, we added a dedicated category for educational listings. There you’ll find powerful add-ins from LearnBoost, Grockit, Aviary and many other education software providers.


Who’s gone Google?
More than 3 million businesses, plus many more schools, non-profits and government agencies have switched to Google Apps over the last few years, and we’re looking forward to helping the next wave of customers get started. To that end, we’re thrilled to have Verizon as our newest partner. Verizon will provide Google Apps to many of their small business broadband customers, making it possible for businesses to obtain a more complete set of small business IT services from a single provider. Welcome to Google Apps!

I hope these product updates and customer stories help you and your organization get even more from Google Apps. For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Marketing Manager

This week in search 1/28/2011

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

With freezing conditions on the East Coast this season, many people are thinking about weather. One of our favorite Google tricks is to simply type [weather] and get the forecast, personalized for your location, immediately at the top. With Google Instant, this trick gets even better because you only need to type [w]—we’ll do the rest. This week we rolled out a couple new weather search features to help you plan your next ski trip or figure out when to sneak outside between blizzards.

Live results for snow conditions
As ski season hits high gear, we’ve partnered with OnTheSnow.com and SkiReport.com to provide you up-to-date snow condition information right on the search results page. Just search for your favorite ski resort and you’ll see the current snow depth, latest snow falls, terrain conditions and the overall availability of the resort. The results also include links to more detailed information such as photos, weather forecasts and reviews.

The new weather live results appear in snippets for onthesnow.com and skireport.com
Example searches: [squaw valley], [wisp ski]

Interactive, precise weather results for mobile
Sometimes when you’re planning your day, you only need a couple hours of sunshine for a jog or a hike through the park. The seven-day forecast is great, but what you really want to know is if it will be sunny exactly when you’re thinking of heading outside. So earlier this week we introduced a new search result for weather on iPhone and Android-powered devices. The new format enables you to interact with the results and see the forecast for any specific time over a 12-hour period.

The new weather results are available on google.com in English. Simply search for the weather
That’s all for this week. Check the forecast and hopefully soon you can stop reading tech blogs and head outside!

Posted by Johanna Wright, Director, Search Product Management

Celebrating Data Privacy Day

(Cross-posted on the Public Policy Blog)

It’s become a welcome tradition: Today is the fourth annual Data Privacy Day. Dozens of countries have been celebrating with events throughout the week to inform and educate us all about our personal data rights and protections.

This is the first year I’ve marked this day as director of privacy across both engineering and product management at Google. I’ve chosen to spend the day in Washington, D.C., where there’s a been a lot of robust and productive discussion lately. People from Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, and industry and consumer groups have been contributing to these important conversations about how to best protect people’s data, and we’re happy to be participating too. I’m doing my part by bringing my geek sensibilities into a public discussion that we’re hosting today. In fact, that’s what we’re calling it: “The Technology of Privacy: When Geeks Meet Wonks.” I’ll be joined on the panel by technologists from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. If you can’t attend in person, don’t worry—we’ll be uploading a video of the event later in the day on our Public Policy blog and you’ll also be able to see it on the Google Privacy Channel on YouTube.

On this Data Privacy Day, a major focus for Google is on creating ways for people to manage and protect their data. We’ve built tools like the Google Dashboard, the Ads Preferences Manager and encrypted search, and we’re always working on further ideas for providing transparency, control and security to empower our users. For example, earlier this week we launched an extension for Chrome users called Keep My Opt-Outs, which enables you to opt out permanently from ad tracking cookies. And pretty soon we’ll be extending the availability of 2-step verification, an advanced account security solution that is now helping protect more than 1,000 new accounts a day from common problems like phishing and password compromise. Right now it’s available to Google Apps Accounts; we’ll be offering it to all users in the next few weeks.

Data Privacy Day 2011 reminds us that as industry and society are busy moving forward, we face new challenges that together we can tackle through conversation and innovation. We’re eager to be part of the solution.

Posted by Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering

Explore Yad Vashem’s Holocaust archives online

(Cross-posted on the Google.org Blog)
In honor of the UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow, we’re partnering with Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based center for remembering the Holocaust’s victims and survivors, to bring their collections of photographs and documents to the web.

On a trip to Jerusalem three years ago, Jonathan Rosenberg visited Yad Vashem. Struck by the museum’s vast historical record housed within the physical building, he hoped Google could do something powerful to showcase this information. Inspired by the challenge, a few of us, in our “20% time,” started working with Yad Vashem and eventually grew our effort into a full project, introducing a YouTube channel in 2008 and now this collections site.

Within the archive you will find more than 130,000 images in full resolution. You can search for them via a custom search engine on Yad Vashem’s collections site. And by using experimental optical character recognition (OCR), we’ve transcribed the text on many images, making them even more discoverable on the web. This means that if you search for the name of a family member who was in the Holocaust, you might find a link to an image on the Yad Vashem site.

To experience the new archive features yourself, try searching for the term [rena weiser], the name of a Jewish refugee. You’ll find a link to a visa issued to her by the Consulate of Chile in France. OCR technology made this picture discoverable to those searching for her.

Yad Vashem encourages you to add personal stories about images that have meaning for you in the “share your thoughts” section below each item. Doron Avni, a fellow Googler, has already added a story. He found a photograph of his grandfather taken immediately after his release from a Nazi prison. His grandfather had vowed that if he should survive, he would immediately have his picture taken to preserve the memory of his experience in the Holocaust. He stitched the photo into his coat, an act that later saved his life. After hiding in the forest for a year, Russian soldiers mistook him for a German enemy, but released him once they saw this picture.

Doron’s grandfather
The Yad Vashem partnership is part of our larger effort to bring important cultural and historical collections online. We’ve been involved in similar projects in the past including digitizing major libraries in Europe, collections at the Prado Museum in Madrid, and the LIFE photo archive. We encourage organizations interested in partnering with us in our archiving efforts to enter their information in this form.

We’re proud to be launching this significant archive that will allow people to discover images that are part of their heritage, and will aid people worldwide researching the Holocaust.

Posted by Eyal Fink, Software Engineer and Yossi Matias, Head of Israel R&D Center

Help wanted: Google hiring in 2011

2010 was a huge year for Google. Many of our big bets—on mobile, display advertising, the cloud and more—really started to pay off. Amazingly, Android now runs on over 100 devices with more than 300,000 activations each day. Chrome has at least 120 million active users and it’s growing quickly. Last year more than 1 million businesses switched to Google Apps and embraced its 100% web approach. And we’ve made search faster than ever, even when you’re on the go.

But it wasn’t just a growth year for our products—the company grew as well. In 2010 we added more than 4,500 Googlers, primarily in engineering and sales: second only to 2007 when we added over 6,000 people to Google.

I love Google because of our people. It’s inspiring to be part of the team. And that’s why I am excited about 2011—because it will be our biggest hiring year in company history. We’re looking for top talent—across the board and around the globe—and we’ll hire as many smart, creative people as we can to tackle some of the toughest challenges in computer science: like building a web-based operating system from scratch, instantly searching an index of more than 100 million gigabytes and even developing cars that drive themselves. There’s something at Google for everyone—from geo, to enterprise, to video—with most of the work done in small teams, effectively working as start-ups. (The average number of software engineers on a project at Google is 3.5.) That’s why the vast majority of our people stay with us, building their careers and taking on new challenges within the company.

I joined Google more than eight years ago—when we had barely 500 employees and still used Outlook for email and AIM for chat—and while there have been many changes, Google is still the same entrepreneurial company it was when I started, encouraging Googlers to take on big ideas and high-risk, high-reward opportunities.

If you think you want to join the team, check out google.com/jobs.

Posted by Alan Eustace, SVP Engineering and Research

(Cross-posted from the Google Voice Blog)
867-5309 could be one of the most iconic phone numbers of all time—but it’s not the only number that a lot of us remember by heart. Many of us have a phone number that we’ve shared with family, friends and contacts over the years and are reluctant to let go.

One of the most frequent requests we hear from people who use (or want to use) Google Voice is that they’d like to get all of Google Voice’s features without having to give up their long-time phone numbers.

Today, we’re excited to announce that Number Porting is available for all existing Google Voice users. This means you can make the mobile number you’ve always used your Google Voice number, so it can ring any phone you want—or even your computer.

To get started with Number Porting, log in to your Google Voice account, visit the Settings page and click on “Change / Port” next to your Google Voice number.

Porting your number to Google Voice costs $20 and is usually completed within 24 hours. You may incur additional charges, including early termination fees, from your wireless carrier. Contact your carrier to get more details about the charges applicable to you.

After porting your number to Google Voice your mobile service plan will be cancelled, and there are a couple of steps that you’ll have to take to continue making and receiving calls on your mobile device. For more detailed instructions on how Number Porting works and to find tips for making the process as smooth as possible, visit the Google Voice Help Center.

Number Porting is currently available for existing Google Voice users and will become available to new users within the next few weeks, and at this time, Google Voice is available in the U.S. only.

Update 2:35PM: Included more details about the porting process.

Posted by Robert Dong, Software Engineer

Today we’re launching a new education category in the Google Apps Marketplace to help schools and universities easily discover and deploy new web applications that integrate with their existing Google Apps accounts.

This new education category will make it easier for schools to have more web apps at their fingertips, including popular existing apps such as Aviary, Grockit and LearnBoost as well as the new apps launching today.

The new Apps Marketplace education category includes more than 20 applications from 19 vendors. These include web-based learning management systems (LMS) such as Haiku, student tools such as Digication for e-Portfolios, and learning platforms such as DreamBox learning games and BrainPOP educational content, all of which integrate with Google Apps through single sign-on and access through the Google universal navigation bar.

Thousands of universities, colleges and K-12 schools around the world with more than 10 million users already deploy Google Apps in their classrooms. The applications we’re introducing today are just the beginning of making Apps and the Marketplace more vibrant and helpful for schools, and more web applications—by Blackboard, Knewton and Khan Academy—are already on the way. We look forward to further expanding and strengthening our set of education tools going forward.

On Wednesday, February 2, we’re holding live Google webinars and Q&A so you can learn more about the education category and hear directly from the developers of these applications.
Manage your school in the cloud with the Google Apps Marketplace
Featuring classroom management tools Haiku and LearnBoost
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
10:00 a.m. PST / 1:00 p.m. EST
Register here

Help students learn more effectively with the Google Apps Marketplace
Featuring web-based learning tools Grockit, BrainPOP and DreamBox
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
4:00 p.m. PST / 7:00 p.m. EST
Register here
Posted by Julia Stiglitz, Google Apps for Education Team

Our big gift for small businesses

(Cross-posted from the Google Small Business Blog)
To kick off 2011, we wanted to thank a few small businesses for taking the first step toward enhancing their online presence—and to provide additional resources for achieving this goal. So over the holiday season, we paid a surprise visit to five small businesses who recently started advertising their businesses online: Create A Cook and Twinkle Star in Massachusetts, Ramy’s Garage and Atlas Flooring in Texas, and Cloud 9 Frozen Yogurt in Georgia. These small businesses span several industries, but their founders share one common goal: to expand beyond their brick-and-mortar storefronts and into the world of e-commerce.

To help, we gave them each of them $100,000 in AdWords spend for 2011 as well as free consultations with AdWords representatives. Because we know online presence means more than just AdWords, we’ll also be providing them with web consultations, wireless service for the year as well as a few other little surprises. See footage from our surprise visit below:

We’re looking forward to making big investments in small businesses far beyond these lucky five. Small businesses have long benefited from Google products and services; now our hope is that all small business owners can have greater access to the tools and training they need to develop a cohesive strategy for doing more business online. We started last year by creating the Google Small Business Center and asking small business owners about their biggest wishes for 2011. We received an overwhelming response from business owners who, like the owners of these shops, want to do more business in the clouds in 2011.


We’re thrilled to help these five small business owners find online success in 2011 and we think we have a lot to learn from their experiences. We’ll check in on them from time to time and report on their successes as well as their growing pains.

In the meantime, check the Google Small Business Blog for updates, and if you’re a business owner, visit the Google Small Business Center for information on how you can bring your business online in 2011.

Posted by James Croom, Product Marketing Manager, Google Small Business Team

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