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This is the 201st post to be published on the Google Blog in 2005. In closing out the first full year of our company-wide effort to share news and views, we thought you might be interested in a few factoids. Since we've had Google Analytics running on this blog since June, some of these numbers reflect only half a year. In that time, 4.3 million unique visitors have generated 8.7 million pageviews. Readers have come from all over the world, not just English-speaking countries: 53,001 visitors from Turkey have stopped by, for example; so have 155,691 from France, 29,614 from Thailand and 8,233 from Peru.

The most popular posts? Here are a few that have yielded scores of backlinks:

- Our explanation of "Googlebombing"
- A celebration of email and Gmail
- Google Earth's partnership with National Geographic about Africa

Several on Google Book Search (formerly known as Google Print), including:
- Preserving public domain books
- Our statement on the Authors' Guild suit
- and Eric Schmidt's op-ed about Book Search.

During the year, we've published 38 how-to tips, announced 77 new products and services, and addressed policy questions and legal matters 17 times. We've featured 11 guest bloggers. Forty posts have illuminated something about day to day life at Google; 19 have offered some international perspective.

In 2006, we'll keep up the Google Blog with more posts, more bloggers, and even more topics. Meanwhile, we really appreciate your interest and feedback, now visible through "Links to this post." We know some of you would like to offer comments directly, and we would like that too, when we can add resources to the blog crew. Meanwhile, our best to you and yours for the New Year.

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Not long ago, I walked by the desk of software engineer JJ Furman, and saw that he had made an interesting addition to his desk: a large blob of Silly Putty, about the size of a grapefruit. Intrigued, I asked how he'd gotten so much of the stuff. The answer? A bulk order directly from the manufacturer! Of course.

I knew then that I wanted some, and it dawned on me that I probably wasn't the only one. So I set out to place a really, really big bulk order. An email went out to cohorts. Their orders came in. Three weeks later, I had an eighth of a ton of Silly Putty delivered to my desk.


Naturally, we were all curious to see what 250 pounds of Silly Putty would look like, so before distributing the stuff, we put it all in a single pile to see. Huge mistake.

The problem was that once together, Silly Putty doesn't like to come apart, and none of us had any idea of how to deal with this effect. We tried everything: very strong people (didn't work), scissors (stabbing worked, slicing didn't), 28-gauge steel wire (broke), 22-gauge steel wire (broke), 16-gauge steel wire (too thick), and twisting and breaking (worked well for "smaller" pieces -- under five pounds, that is.)


Two hours later, with the help of more than a dozen enthusiastic Googlers, everyone was finally able to walk away with a giant piece of Silly Putty.

And then what?
Some people are giving it for holiday gifts. Others are using it to exercise their arms, play basketball (rebounds are tough), and of course, imprint entire newspaper pages.
Any regrets? Absolutely not.

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The Google Earth team has received a pretty interesting business development inquiry that we thought we'd share with you:

To: "Google Support"
From: claus@gmail.com
Subject: Naughty or Nice Layer

I love Google Earth and have been planning a big trip with it. Now I'm wondering if you've ever thought about licensing data layers for "nice" and "naughty." If interested, I've got a really good list -- I've checked it twice. Rooftop accurate data!

Let me know,
S. Claus

While we didn't work a deal for Naughty or Nice data layers, we did negotiate the rights to track this user on his big trip. If you've already got Google Earth, you can too.

If you don't have it, get your own Google Earth.

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The recent announcement of the AOL partnership has been the source of a lot of rumors and misconceptions. We'd like to clear some of those up.

- Biased results? No way. Providing great search is the core of what we do. Business partnerships will never compromise the integrity or objectivity of our search results. If a partner's page ranks high, it's because they have a good answer to your search, not because of their business relationship with us.

- Indexing more of AOL's content. Our goal is to organize all of the world's information. When we say "all the world's information," this includes AOL's. We're going to work with the webmasters at AOL -- just as we work with webmasters all over the world -- to help them understand how the Google crawler works (with regard to robots.txt, how to use redirects, non-html content, etc.) so we don't inadvertently overlook their content.

- AOL will receive a credit towards advertising purchased through Google's ad program. You might wonder if this will affect the ad auction. It won't. We don't offer preferential treatment on advertising (in either the auction or the display) to any of our partners.

- We have a service called "onebox" for which we provide some additional links separate from ads (sponsored links) and search results. (Try searching on [new york transit strike] and look for the news section.) AOL and its products have always been a part of onebox, along with many other providers, and will continue to be.

- There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Our service and our business works because of you - our users. You're important to us and something that we think about all the time -- as we build new products, negotiate deals, and think about what our future holds.

We're looking forward to what AOL can help us do for you, and believe that our new agreement with them will only create a better experience for you in 2006 and beyond -- one where you can continue to trust that we're giving you a result because it's the best one we can possibly provide.

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Whether you're gazing up at the glistening giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in the heart of Manhattan or passing by the elaborate gingerbread house in the window of your local candy store, it's mighty hard to miss that the holiday season is in full swing. The creativity and energy people put into decorating is so inspiring, in fact, that we decided to do a little decorating of our own in Google AdSense (those "Ads by Google" that you've probably seen on lots of websites and blogs).

Like the cherries that Aunt Ellie puts in her famous fruitcake, we're spicing up our ads with some great Google-y images: snowmen, holiday packages, and Waldo, the ice skating penguin. Unlike the fruitcake, though, these ads don't last for years and years – they're just present until December 26. And here's what they look like.

AdSense publishers can opt in to the designs by going to their account settings. And in the new year, we'll be rolling out more designs for holidays and events around the world.

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As part of the personalization team, I'm pretty addicted to looking at my search history for interesting patterns. So I decided to go a step further and write a script to pull together some stats about how I was searching. We thought other people might like to see this sort of thing too, so today we launched a Trends feature that gives you a look at a list of your top searches and clicks and other info about your search activity.

To use it, you have to turn on Personalized Search and be signed in to your Google Account while you search. (If you don't have a Google Account, it's easy to create one for free.) Just click the "Trends" link on your Search History page, or go directly to your Trends.

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This is the time of year when people ponder the past as they anticipate looking ahead. We couldn't resist trying to make sense of the year ourselves, so here's our annual concoction: the 2005 Year-End Google Zeitgeist. We chose a few key events and phenoms to study, and predictably found the patterns to be amusing or bemusing, challenging or heartening -- kind of like the year itself. Enjoy the view from here with our best wishes.

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From time to time, the resident physician at Google headquarters weighs in with her thoughts on healthy living. This is not medical advice, and you should check with your own doctor before pursuing any particular course of action.



Watching scenes of fists flying over an LCD monitor during a holiday sale made me wonder about stress, and how one can maintain a holiday spirit at a stressful time of year. According to Stedman's Medical Dictionary, it's stress, not the holidays, that make the body react to "forces of a deleterious nature that disturb its normal physiologic equilibrium." That sounds bad.

There is extensive research that confirms the harmful effects of stress when it occurs continuously with out the relaxation phase. In the international INTERHEART study, patients with a first heart attack reported significantly more stress in financial, home and work-related situations than the control studies. In another study of 1055 medical students who were followed for 36 years, it was found that those who had a higher anger response to stress had higher risk of developing premature heart disease (before age 55). Even exposure to traffic has been implicated. (Uptodate.com has more references if you are interested.)

Stress can also adversely impact high blood pressure, cholesterol, immune response, skin disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, intestinal motility, diabetes, cancer survival, and other conditions. It is now considered to be as much a risk factor as obesity, smoking, and sedentary life style so learning to counteract this response is important.

Although the external stress factors (irritating co-workers, hurricanes) are hard to control, there are several ways to reduce the internal stress response. Here's a short list - check it twice:
  • Make a list and prioritize. It's OK if the holiday cards don't go out until 1/2...07.
  • Exercise. No, it's not the answer to everything, but it has been shown to decrease the stress hormones.
  • Take a vacation (break with tradition! A year-end getaway might help limit stress). If not a vacation, at least take a stroll, or take deep breaths while counting to 10.
  • Hugging for 20 seconds has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Beyond these immediate steps, you can find many resources via the University of Massachusetts' Stress Reduction Program and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, including local referrals. Or check the nonprofit Omega Institute for a vacation centered around stress reduction.

If you still feel you're under severe stress, or you're not improving with any of the above measures, then please do consult your doctor. And here's my advice: if the turkey is rubbery, use it as an exercise ball. Happy holidays, everyone.

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We've done a bit of seasonal decorating -- even put up some holiday lights. Have you seen them yet? If you search on the names of, say, some special days in December, you just might.

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Next time you’re at the airport, scan the waiting area and see what people are doing. You’ll be shocked by the number who are doing absolutely nothing -- other than staring glassy-eyed at other people who are doing absolutely nothing. Naturally, these people had rushed in a mad frenzy an hour prior in order to get to the airport on time, only to sit and stare.

This observation is what spawned Google Space. We thought it would be useful to set up an area to give travellers unfettered Internet access so they might make use of that otherwise wasted time. Plus Googlers would get to talk to Google users, and hear what they like and don’t like about our products. Kind of like Google Labs, but with face to face feedback. Google Labs goes material.

We've been testing this concept for nearly a month at Heathrow Airport in London.
The response has thus far been enlightening and unexpected. Enlightening in that we’ve been learning tons about how to make our products more useful. Unexpected in the ways that people are using Google. One sales guy, David MacDonald, emailed this to the entire UK office:

“Yesterday whilst on the Google Space stand at Heathrow T1 I was approached by somebody who asked me if I worked for Google, as soon as I confirmed he smiled. He went on to explain that he had been in Pakistan as part of an International Disaster Response Team to help in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. They had been desperate to use what resources / maps they could find and that Google had been invaluable in helping. It turned out they had used Google Earth to trace the geography of the landscape, locate villages and roads.

He was so happy to see me and to show his appreciation, I really felt humbled and proud.”
This may be the best part of doing experimental projects. You think you’re onto a good idea, but then something unexpected like this makes it even better.

If people find Google Space useful, we might do this in other areas, or perhaps in other airports. Who knows? Let us know where you waste time – and you might see us there.

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It may come as no surprise, but I like to search for things on Google. Yep, when I'm looking for something, I always try it on Google first. And sometimes, that thing I'm looking for is music. Many of our users feel the same way, and we get a lot of search traffic on music terms like popular artists and albums.

A few of us decided to try to make the information you get for these searches even better, so we created a music search feature. Now you can search for a popular artist name, like the Beatles or the Pixies, and often Google will show some information about that artist, like cover art, reviews, and links to stores where you can download the track or buy a CD via a link at the top of your web search results page.

We do this sort of thing a lot -- adding a bit of special information to results for important searches. For example, we have movie showtimes and stock quotes. The more information we can make easily accessible with a simple search, the better.

Right now the music search feature mostly works for artists popular in the U.S. and a more limited number of artists from other countries, but we plan to expand it to classical music, worldwide artists, and lesser-known performers. Our list of music stores will also grow over time. If you’re a music store (selling downloads, music by subscription, or physical CDs) and would like to be listed, please get in touch.

You might be thinking,"why can't I just type in an album name or a song name and get the same music search results?” There are many album names and songs which are also plain English words. Sometimes users are looking for music information related to those words, and sometimes they aren’t. As we get better at knowing when our users want music information, we hope to expand this feature to include more queries. So keep searching, and we hope you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results. We always welcome your feedback.

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It wasn't that long ago that I was eating Vegemite on toast back in my homeland of Australia, idly wondering what my future employer Google might have in store for me. Now, five weeks after arriving in the country and being exposed to the Firefox codebase for the first time, and thanks to the array of geniuses sitting around me, it gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of my first project, Blogger Web Comments to Google Labs.

Originally conceived by my friend and mentor, Aaron Boodman, this Firefox extension shows you what bloggers around the world are saying about the websites you are viewing. If that doesn't satisfy, you can easily start or join one of these conversations using your Blogger blog. We've had plenty of fun reading what people have had to say about our own sites and the sites we visit every day, but best of all is when we discover new groups of people interested in the same niche sites we have been visiting for years.

Today we're also introducing a test release of Google Safe Browsing for Firefox, which should help protect you from phishing sites.

Check them both out on Google Labs.

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First add 1/2 cup water and seasoning packet to 1 lb. ground beef... uh, wait -- this is the HOLIDAY Helper. Ooops. Okay, let's start over.

Holiday season can be a trying time -- shopping stress, end of year deadlines and A Christmas Story broadcast a thousand times on TV. We've got some quick tips to help you make sense of the madness.

1) Organize Your Wish List
Making a list and checking it twice is so much easier with Froogle's Shopping List, which lets you search for the items you want to buy, and then with just a click, save them for later. You can keep your list private or share it with friends who might just take the hint and buy you something you want this year instead of the "World's Ugliest Tie".

2) Track Packages
Will your package arrive in time? Entering a UPS, USPS or Federal Express tracking number into a Google search box will give you an update on your shipment before you can say "overnight shipping."

3) Find Toll-Free Numbers
OK, here's a secret "the man" doesn't want you to know. Some companies have a toll-free number that's buried deep on their website -- but it would take like a thousand clicks to find it, and these days, who has the time? One way to get to it more quickly is to search Google for the company name and the phrase "customer support." Like this: TiVo Customer Support.

An even trickier way to get at hard-to-reach customer support phone numbers is to search for the company name and the standard toll-free prefixes. That'll dig up some real gems. For example, "[company name] 800 OR 877 OR 888 OR 866". Give it a whirl -- and here's to less holiday stress.

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The personalized homepage was created to bring together the stuff that interests you from across the web. From an engineering perspective, this became an opportunity to create a framework for all types of content and information. Supporting RSS and Atom feeds was one step in that direction, and today we're excited to start supporting richer web apps as well. With the Google Homepage API, developers can now create modules for the personalized homepage. It's designed to be flexible and easy to use, and you don't need to download anything to create a module. To get the ball rolling, the team's created a few modules to add to the directory. So check these out and get started creating your own.

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The Google Foundation supports selected organizations whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable. From time to time we will invite guest bloggers from grantee organizations to tell their story.

Recently, the Google Foundation awarded PlanetRead a grant to increase the number of SLS programs available, and Google is also supporting PlanetRead with free advertising through the Google Grants program and content hosting on Google Video.

When a billion people are illiterate (two-thirds of them women), and nearly half of the world lives on less than $2 a day, we believe it is important to examine the link between literacy and poverty. We are excited by the prospect of helping not hundreds, but millions, of people gain access to regular reading practice and improve literacy where it is needed most by supporting organizations like PlanetRead. - Google.org team




My organization, PlanetRead, works in Mumbai and Pondicherry, India. We have developed a “Same-Language Subtitling” (SLS) methodology, which provides automatic reading practice to individuals who are excluded from the traditional educational system, or whose literacy needs are otherwise not being met. This is an educational program rooted in mass media that demonstrates how a specific literacy intervention can yield outstanding, measurable results, while complementing other formal and non-formal learning initiatives of the government, private sector, and civil society. We are fortunate to have just been selected as a Google Foundation grantee.

More than 500 million people in India have access to TV and 40 percent of these viewers have low literacy skills and are poor. Through PlanetRead’s approach, over 200 million early-literates in India are getting weekly reading practice from Same Language Subtitling (SLS) using TV. The cost of SLS? Every U.S. dollar covers regular reading for 10,000 people – for a year.

I hit upon this idea in 1996 through a most ordinary personal experience. While taking a break from dissertation writing at Cornell University, I was watching a Spanish film with friends to improve my Spanish. The Spanish movie had English subtitles, and I remember commenting that I wished it came with Spanish subtitles, if only to help us grasp the Spanish dialogue better. I then thought, ‘And if they just put Hindi subtitles on Bollywood songs in Hindi, India would become literate.’ That idea became an obsession. It was so simple, intuitively obvious, and scalable in its potential to help hundreds of millions of people read -- not just in India, but globally. So you can see how it works, we’ve uploaded some folk songs using SLS into Google Video. And we've uploaded other examples there as well.

The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and its Center for Educational Innovation helped me pursue research on SLS. In the beginning we showed Bollywood songs with and without SLS to people in villages, slums and railway stations and video-recorded their reactions. We then piloted SLS in schools and on TV in Gujarat state while measuring reading improvement. This early work convinced us that we not only had an idea that would provide automatic reading practice, it was hugely popular (later, the ratings demonstrated this). After five challenging years of developing and strengthening the program, SLS went on national TV throughout India. On the PlanetRead website, there are some video clips of SLS featured in a Bollywood film. Click on the “Video” link on the upper right to see the reaction of Indian villagers to the SLS experience.

There’s more on the effectiveness of this approach in an article in the MIT journal Information Technologies and International Development (it's a PDF file).

The idea of SLS tends to divide people into two camps – those who think it’s too simple to achieve anything, and those who understand that its simplicity and ability to integrate into popular culture can fundamentally alter the approach to the massive problem of low literacy. Now, a decade later, it is clear that the challenge of implementing SLS is changing minds used to resource-hungry approaches to literacy.

Fortunately, in India, several senior policy-makers in broadcasting and education are championing SLS. We feel it could be a breakthrough in how we approach literacy: SLS is inclusive, accessible, and builds upon popular songs and Bollywood films to create an enjoyable and effective learning experience. With support from Google, we have the opportunity to reshape the literacy landscape in India, home to a third of the world’s non-literates and early-literates. If this experiment succeeds in India, SLS could even go global!

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Ever get the feeling that your email experience is a little too predictable? I certainly have. Over the past few months, I've been working on Gmail Clips, a new feature that can help mix things up a bit. Starting this week, you can see headlines from your favorite blogs and news sites right above your Inbox. Gmail tips and relevant text ads appear from time to time as well.

I had a lot of fun working on this feature, and biased as I may be, I have to say I really love Clips. No new mail? Great, then I have time to read why pasta is made in different shapes. And even if I do have mail I should be getting to, maybe I'm in the mood to digress for a moment and investigate The Divine Secrets of the Cycle Commuter.

Clips are full of headlines like these. They can come from any website that publishes an RSS or Atom feed. We've included some popular feeds for you to choose from, but it's easy to tailor Clips to your interests (for example, I get running tips). You can browse popular feeds, search for feeds using keywords, or add a specific feed—like, say, your friend's blog, or maybe the Google Blog — by pasting its URL in your Clips settings.

Now if you're one of those task-oriented types with no time for diversions, you can always turn Clips off. But then you'd miss cow-tipping exposed as a near-impossibility.

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One of the best things about working at Google is a policy known as "20 percent time," which you can read about on our jobs page or in this post. Having the freedom to pursue projects during 20 percent of our work week means engineers can pursue a breadth of unique and interesting ideas without having to wait for anyone else.

So not too long ago, a few engineers from San Francisco, New York, and Zurich -- all of whom regularly use public transportation -- decided that being able to plan local trips without having to go to multiple websites, and done in an easy, intuitive way would be a useful product. So they devoted their 20 percent time to building it. As it happens, a lot of people thought this was a great idea, and our small team quickly grew with "twenty-percenters" from across Google.

Today, we are happy and proud to tell you that their efforts have resulted in a new Google Labs experiment: Google Transit Trip Planner. With it, commuters will be able to easily access public transit schedules, routes, and plan trips using their local public transportation options. This first release covers only the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we are working to expand our coverage very soon. (If you're from a local transit agency interested in being included in Google Transit, we would love to speak with you. Just write to us.)

We chose to launch with the Portland metro area for a couple of reasons. TriMet, Portland's transit authority, is a technological leader in public transportation. The team at TriMet is a group of tremendously passionate people dedicated to serving their community. And TriMet has a wealth of data readily available that they were eager to share with us for this project. This combination of great people and great data made TriMet the ideal partner.

Public transportation offers a unique type of data that people use in very different ways than most of the data Google has worked with before. We really want to understand how people use Google Transit and the challenges we'll face as we cover additional cities. To that end, we'd love to hear your feedback!

Try some of the queries you can do in Portland on Google Transit:

Leave now
pdx to 100 ne couch st, portland, oregon
4412 se 17th ave portland, oregon to hillsboro, oregon

Choose a specific time
pdx to portland, oregon at 7pm
100 nw couch st, portland to hillsboro, oregon by 8pm
portland to pdx at 7pm on 12/09/05

[Updated with links to results]

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The Google Foundation supports select organizations whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable. From time to time we will invite guest bloggers from grantee organizations to tell their story. Here's the first of this occasional series.



Arriving at Google, we somehow found a spot in the overflowing lot and emerged onto a sprawling campus reminiscent of my days at Stanford. At the front desk, our team commented on the simple yet impressive display we spotted on a monitor depicting the volume of searches originating from every point on the globe with colored dots. Interconnectedness: Acumen Fund is building a global community of like-minded individuals committed to solving problems of poverty through market-based approaches and enabling poor individuals to make their own choices.

We followed the yellow brick road to Building 40, past the packed beach volleyball courts and an outdoor cafĂ©. More than 100 people came to our talk. I was introduced by Sheryl Sandberg, who is Google’s VP of Global Online Sales and Operations and the current acting director of Google.org. Sheryl emphasized Google.org's aim: to work with ventures that are sustainable, collaborative, and able to achieve scale. (To that end, the Google Foundation already supports Acumen Fund; read more here.)

My talk (it was taped) focused on Acumen Fund's mission: to build blueprints for delivering critical goods and services to people earning less than $4 a day. If we can determine better ways for making water, health, housing, and energy available to the poor – and make them affordable and accessible – I believe we'll go a long way toward ending poverty. I spoke about some of Acumen Fund’s key investments: For example, our malaria bednet investment in Tanzania. It employs more than 2,000 women to produce more than 3 million long-lasting bednets per year, impregnated with insecticide to stop mosquitoes. We're hoping to manufacture 6 million of these by the end of 2006, which will mean another 12 million people protected from malaria. This is a good start in teaching us critical lessons about how sustainable enterprises can make an enduring contribution toward solving pressing social problems.

Even more important, our work teaches us what the poor want as consumers. And this is where Acumen Fund will see the greatest returns: the more we understand who poor people are, the better solutions we can develop based on their choices and needs. Indeed, finding iterative – or possibly revolutionary – improvements to delivery systems is where the partnership between Google and Acumen Fund could have great impact. Larry and Sergey believe that scale is key, as is sustainability, and these are the core concepts driving all of Acumen Fund's work.

As a first step, we hope to collaborate with interested Googlers to find better ways to learn what works around the world. Identifying powerful solutions to poverty that are useful to people in different settings, and that are market-driven, scalable, and sustainable, is our greatest challenge. Second, we're hoping to strengthen how the world measures both social and financial returns to investments in delivering critical goods and services to the poor. Like Google, we hold a deep belief in the power of measuring everything we can.

This unique partnership will enable us to do this work in a more powerful way, and to share lessons more broadly. At the end of the day, both Google and Acumen Fund are trying to bring solutions to the world that enable people to make their own choices, solve their own problems. This is the only way we will really be able to end poverty.