This year we celebrated our fifth GoogleServe Global Week of Service—an annual tradition in which Googlers around the world join together in community service projects. Volunteering together helps to revitalize and strengthen our connections with the cities and towns in which we live and work, and also brings us closer together as a global team.

In the past we’ve done hundreds of projects that address local community needs and engage our hearts and hands. This year, inspired by Billion+ Change and Reimagining Service as well as industry research, we focused on incorporating more skills-based projects. Our goal is to use our professional skills to generate more value for the communities we serve and to give Googlers an opportunity to have an even more impactful and fulfilling volunteer experience.

With that in mind, our software engineers developed code to help make math formulas accessible to blind students with Social Coding 4 Good; with the Student Veterans of America recruiters led resume and interviewing skills workshops with veterans; and with the Branson Centre in South Africa sales and business development professionals trained entrepreneurs in online tools to grow and optimize their small businesses.

Overall, more than 5,000 Googlers helped serve their communities across 400+ different projects as part of GoogleServe this year. Here’s a sampling of some of the other projects we participated in:

See our Life at Google page for photos of some of our employees and partners in action. While we do set aside a week to focus on serving the communities in which we work and live, giving back is an ongoing effort here at Google. If you’d like to join us in using your skills for social good, check out All for Good, for opportunities to give back in your community year-round.

The Official Google Blog

In just over a month we will make some changes to our privacy policies and Google Terms of Service. This stuff matters, so we wanted to explain what’s changing, why and what these changes mean for users.

First, our privacy policies. Despite trimming our policies in 2010, we still have more than 70 (yes, you read right … 70) privacy documents covering all of our different products. This approach is somewhat complicated. It’s also at odds with our efforts to integrate our different products more closely so that we can create a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google.

So we’re rolling out a new main privacy policy that covers the majority of our products and explains what information we collect, and how we use it, in a much more readable way. While we’ve had to keep a handful of separate privacy notices for legal and other reasons, we’re consolidating more than 60 into our main Privacy Policy.

Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies—and having one policy covering many different products is now fairly standard across the web.

These changes will take effect on March 1, and we’re starting to notify users today, including via email and a notice on our homepage.

What does this mean in practice? The main change is for users with Google Accounts. Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products. Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the web, but your personal stuff too. So if I search for restaurants in Munich, I might see Google+ posts or photos that people have shared with me, or that are in my albums. Today we can also do things like make it easy for you to read a memo from Google Docs right in your Gmail, or add someone from your Gmail contacts to a meeting in Google Calendar.

But there’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with … well, you. We can make search better—figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.

Second, the Google Terms of Service—terms you agree to when you use our products. As with our privacy policies, we’ve rewritten them so they’re easier to read. We’ve also cut down the total number, so many of our products are now covered by our new main Google Terms of Service. Visit the Google Terms of Service page to find the revised terms.

Finally, what we’re not changing. We remain committed to data liberation, so if you want to take your information elsewhere you can. We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order. We try hard to be transparent about the information we collect, and to give you meaningful choices about how it is used—for example our Ads Preferences Manager enables you to edit the interest categories we advertise against or turn off certain Google ads altogether. And we continue to design privacy controls, like Google+’s circles, into our products from the ground up.

We believe this new, simpler policy will make it easier for people to understand our privacy practices as well as enable Google to improve the services we offer. Whether you’re a new Google user or an old hand, please do take the time to read our new privacy policy and terms, learn more about the changes we’re making and understand the controls we offer.

The Official Google Blog

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(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

We understand that it’s not always easy or affordable for our troops serving overseas to call friends and family at home, so starting today we’re making it completely free for all uniformed military personnel with valid United States Military (.mil) email addresses to call the United States, right from Gmail.

There are two easy steps to enable free calling from Gmail (detailed instructions):

  1. Add your valid .mil email address to your Google Account
  2. Click on the Call phone link at the top of the Gmail chat roster and install the voice and video Gmail plugin if you haven’t already.

And don’t forget that for friends and family at home in the U.S., calling troops abroad is as little as $ .02/minute
Similar to free calling within the U.S., free calling to the U.S. for service members will be available for at least the rest of 2011. 
We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice.

The Official Google Blog

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has partnered with UK mobile operator Vodafone to trial a new emergency text message service which will alert Vodafone customers and those connected to its network when there has been a major crisis – such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

The Foreign Office will pilot its service for a period of one year, initially sending free text messages to mobile phone owners in the UK with plans to explore the delivery of important information via a range of mobile and online tools, including smartphone apps and social media.

Other mobile providers taking part in the trial will be Asda Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Talkmobile, Talk Talk, BT Mobile, Gamma Telecom and Cognatel.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne says that the recent crises in Egypt, Libya and Japan have highlighted the need to deliver messages to people as quickly as possible and comes at a time when the UK is utilising mobile and social networks to communicate and notify friends and family of troubles in their area.

Browne adds:

The pilot is part of the Foreign Office’s commitment to improve consular services.

We will soon have the ability to send text messages to all affected British nationals registered on our crisis database.

As well as this we’re also exploring delivering important information through a range of mobile and online tools, including smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and making effective use of social media and digital tools.

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Taiwan-based smartphone vendor HTC announced on Friday that consolidated sales for the month of July totalled T$ 45.11 billion ($ 1.56 billion), an increase of 83.3% year on year, a new monthly sales record for the company.

The Android and Windows Phone device maker posted a small increase on its June sales, which stood at T$ 45.05 billion ($ 1.55 billion), with sales reaching T$ 24.61 billion a year earlier.

The company has continued to enjoy increased sales thanks to its range of Android and Windows Phone devices. Its Android devices – including the Evo 3D, Sensation and updated Desire S, Incredible and Wildfire smartphones – have helped the company remain as one of the top five biggest smartphone vendors, behind Apple, Samsung, Nokia and RIM.

HTC also announced that it plans to acquire Dashwire for $ 18.5 million. The company is an “industry leading mobile-web connected services platform for mobile operators, device makers and retailers to seamlessly deliver a new generation of real-time consumer, social and device management software services on open mobile phones”.

Dashwire announced in April that it had licensed patents from Intellectual Ventures for defensive purposes. With the company offers mobile and web applications that mobile owners to easily setup and personalize smartphones and tablets, and connect mobile device content across multiple screens and services – HTC may be looking to expand its cloud presence but also align itself with Intellectual Ventures to further protect innovations, particularly in its courtroom fight against Apple.

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It’s emerged out of nowhere to become one of the coolest sites on the Web in a matter of weeks, but what’s the story behind, what’s so great about it and where is it going?

A service amassing a reported 140,000 users in its first month is nothing to be sniffed at at any time. A service that hasn’t courted the press at all, growing entirely virally, hitting that figure in a month is something that demands closer inspection.

Where did come from?

While it has seems to have come out of nowhere, is actually the result of a startup that pivoted. On discussion site Quora, co-founder Seth Goldstein explains that the service ”is a project that evolved out of Stickybits, the social bar code scanning service, founded by Billy Chasen and myself. Our investors include First Round Capital, Polaris Ventures, and Chris Sacca.”

Dig around the site and you’ll find references to Stickybits, which appears to still be the legal name of the company. This New York startup was based around the idea of the ‘Internet of Things’, letting you stick barcodes on objects to trigger audio, video, photo, and text messages when they were scanned. It seems that earlier this year, the company changed direction to concentrate on

We reached out to for an interview to discover more and we found out just how publicity-shy the startup is. Our initial request went unanswered and when we managed to make contact via an intermediary, we were told that the company isn’t talking to the press at all. In a way, this makes Turntable all the more interesting – here’s a startup acting like a cool indie band, refusing interviews and growing by word of mouth.

How it works

That viral growth is deserved, too. is arguably the most interesting social startup to emerge in a long time. Inventing a new subgenre, ‘social listening’, the site revels in something humans have enjoyed for millennia: shared experiences around music.

If you haven’t tried it yet, here’s how it works: You can only sign up if a friend of yours on Facebook is already signed up. Once you’re in, the site lets you DJ, playing songs in an on-screen ‘nightclub’. Others come to listen to you in your ‘room’ and can join you on the decks if they choose. Multiple DJs (up to five) play a song each in turn and everyone else in the room gets to vote on the current DJ’s choice. If your choice gets voted up, you get a point. If it gets voted down by too many people it’s ditched for the next DJ’s choice.

It’s a simple but addictive concept that combines the joy of music with a competitive element as DJs are forced to consider which songs will fit the audience in the room and its current vibe.

Why has it grown so fast?

There are a number of theories about just what has made so successful so quickly about over on Quroa. Ryan Hoover, Product Manager at PlayHaven, suggests that “The Turntable guys have done an excellent job at creating a natural loop to motivate and re-engage users.” This involves visible progress and rewards (through DJ points and the ability to gain ‘fans’ who are then alerted by email each time you start DJing); motivating emotion (it’s a great feeling when people’s avatars start ‘nodding their heads’ in time to your music), social calls to action (through the group chat function, and the ability to share your taste in music and judge other people’s), and user re-engagement (it’s such an enjoyable social experience that you want to get your friends on boards to share the fun).

However, Adrian Chan, a social interaction designer, goes further, believing that there’s a deeper social element to Turntable’s success:

There’s more to be said about the “togetherness” factor. Whether it’s best described as collaboration (coordinating action with other DJs in choosing tracks, for example, that reinforce each other and build flow). Or as something more ineffable, such as sharing time (it’s hard to stop, and there’s some social commitment to remaining in a room).

This “togetherness” isn’t directly produced by the ego-oriented social game features of Turntable. In fact it’s an attribute of the experience that exceeds or transcends what those features can offer in and of themselves. And it says something about the power (engagement) of the tacit, the implicit, and the unspoken aspects of synchronous mediated experiences.

For example, when DJs demonstrate that they’re listening to each other by playing off each others’ track selections, there’s a commonality that transcends… individual achievements. Social games that offer the promise of individual success may be missing out on the uniqueness of shared experiences capable of creating shared surprise and pleasure. As when tracks flow well, as when it’s clear that DJs are not just picking their own favorites but show that they’re paying attention to each other, as when a “good” stretch of DJing attracts newcomers to the room, and so on.

Chan’s definitely onto something. Sociologists would probably have a field day studying the social mechanics behind, and it’s only been going a few weeks. That’s probably the most exciting thing about the service – it connects deeply with users and is still just a mere sketch of what it could grow into.

Possible future directions

While it’s impossible to predict how the service might change as it grows and potentially goes mainstream, there are a number of directions the team behind it can go in.

Customisable and branded rooms: A no-brainer, really. At present every room in Turntable looks to same, no matter what music is playing. Customisation options for room administrators would be a logical addition, but lifestyle brands would no doubt pay good money to have specially branded rooms. Nightclubs could even have their own rooms so that clubbers could continue their Saturday night out whenever they like right from their web browser.

Celebrity guest appearances: Imagine taking to the decks alongside your favourite DJ or musician – it’s an experience that most people can only dream of. On it could be a reality. As with Twitter, it’s likely that celebrities will begin to adopt without the direct input of the startup itself. This week saw rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot play a set on the service. Sure, he’s hardly the biggest celebrity, but it’s a start, and something can build on.

A new way for media companies to interact with their audiences: Earlier this week, we experimented with setting up our own The Next Web room (you can often find TNW staff spinning tunes in there). One tweet brought in a crowded room and it was fun for us to be able to play music with our readers. Music is a brilliant bonding tool and being able to have direct group chat with readers can help media companies get to know their audience better, and vice versa. I even got teased with knowledge of a stealth startup over the chat function yesterday – so maybe we’ll get a few news tips this way too!

Music discovery: Experiencing other people’s music taste is a great way of broadening your own. already has links to add the currently playing song to Spotify and or to buy it from iTunes. In the future, charts of the most popular songs across the service and specific genres would be valuable, as would data visualisations of songs’ popularity over time. In fact, as the service is essentially a more social version of Pandora or, deep statistics would make an interesting counterpoint to’s own stats.  On an individual user basis, profiles could log the songs you’ve played in the past, letting others know more about your taste.

Where’s the API?

Perhaps the most interesting opportunity of all is for a full API, allowing third-party developers to create their own apps and plug-ins on top of the service. While that’s yet to materialise, add-ons are already beginning to appear. One example is, a browser plugin that, as we reported this week, tracks every song you mark as ‘Awesome’ on and lists them all on a separate website. A script is also available for Chrome that promises to scrobble the songs you listen to right to your account.’s big problem ahead: licensing

While’s Facebook friends-based sign-up method has helped it grow organically, it’s also likely to have been designed to keep it growing slowing. This is probably not only to stem demand on servers, but because as it grows ever bigger, licensing is likely to become a big issue. As Peter Kafka at AllThingsD explained this week,

“A deal with MediaNet, a digital content provider, gives Turntable access to millions of songs, and if the song you want to play isn’t there, you can upload your own MP3 to the site and play that…

So how can any of that be legal without label deals? In short, (CEO, Billy) Chasen believes he’s able to run the service under the protection of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) — the same law that lets Pandora operate without label deals — as a “non-interactive” Web radio service.”

So, in theory, it’s legal – but the test will come when it becomes too big for music companies to ignore. Will they believe that a service of the depth clearly has is just a ‘non-interactive’ radio service? It’s unlikely. UPDATE: Just two hours after this post was published, locked down the service to the US only citing, yep, licensing.

Hopefully when that times comes, a deal can be cut that satisfies both sides. is so unique and full of potential that, fingers crossed, it’s just ‘too good to fail’.

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