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On Tuesday, March 4, the Google Pittsburgh office will open its doors to the technical community for a special evening. We'll kick things off with some mingling over beer, wine and snacks, and then transition into a tech talk with one of our local engineers, Pat Stephenson.

Pat will discuss the implementation of Dapper, a low-overhead system for monitoring the performance of large, distributed applications at Google, and the tools his team has built to analyze the data in a talk titled "Dapper: It's 11 p.m. and do you know where your RPC is?"

We hope to create a collegial atmosphere where members of the technical community can learn from and get to know one another.

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, please join us. Space is limited, however, so hurry and register.

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Many of you have been waiting for JotSpot to re-emerge, integrated into Google -- and now it's happening. Here's the story:

In the last 10 years, the way all of us work has changed. We've grown accustomed to always being connected through email and instant messaging. Consequently, people are working together in teams more often, with larger groups, and with others who may be in different parts of the country or the world. We are shifting our focus from personal to team productivity. It's less about "you" and more about "us."

But with this explosion in collaboration, how do you bring together everything your team needs to work? How do you take information, whether it is on your desktop or online, and share it with specific groups of people -- your team, the company, the public?

Meet Google Sites, the newest addition to the Google Apps product suite. It was designed to allow you to easily create a network of sites and share them with whomever you choose. Google Sites lets you pull together information from across Google Apps by embedding documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, and calendars in your sites. Of course, we also harness the power of Google search technology so your search results are always fast and relevant.

What does it take to start using Google Sites? Just a click of a button -- that's it. Here's an overview with more detail:



We're just finishing up the code to migrate existing JotSpot customer wikis to Google sites, so if you're already a JotSpot customer, you'll be hearing from us soon on how to make the switch.

If you aren't a Google Apps customer yet and want to use Google Sites, sign up at http://sites.google.com.

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It's been a busy week for the Google Health team. Last week we announced our partnership and pilot with the Cleveland Clinic. This week, the team has been at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Orlando, Florida, where Eric Schmidt gave the closing keynote. Eric's keynote marks the first time we've talked publicly about the product we've been designing and building. His talk also offered a deeper view into our overall health strategy. (Watch the video.)

Google Health aims to solve an urgent need that dovetails with our overall mission of organizing patient information and making it accessible and useful. Through our health offering, our users will be empowered to collect, store, and manage their own medical records online.

For the healthcare industry, online personal health records (PHRs) aren't a new idea and, in some cases, online PHRs already exist for patients. Here's what we think sets Google Health apart:
  • Privacy and Security - Due to the sensitive and personal nature of the data that will be stored in Google Health, we need to conduct our health service with the same privacy, security, and integrity users have come to expect in all our services. Google Health will protect the privacy of your health information by giving you complete control over your data. We won't sell or share your data without your explicit permission. Our privacy policy and practices have been developed in thoughtful collaboration with experts from the Google Health Advisory Council.
  • Platform - One of the most exciting and innovative parts of Google Health is our platform strategy. We're assembling a directory of third-party services that interoperate with Google Health. Right now, this means you'll be able to automatically import information such as your doctors' records, your prescription history, and your test results into Google Health in order to easily access and control your data. Later, this platform strategy will mean that you will be able to interact with services and tools easily, and will be able to do things like schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, and start using new wellness tools.
  • Portability - Our Internet presence ultimately means that through Google Health, you will be able to have access and control over your health data from anywhere. Through the Cleveland Clinic pilot, we have already found great use-cases in which, for example, people spend 6 months of the year in Ohio, and 6 months of the year in Florida or Arizona, and will now be able to move their health data between their various health providers seamlessly and with total control. Previously, this would have required carrying paper records back and forth. With Google Health, the user can simply import the data from each medical facility and then choose to share it with the other facilities. It's advances in data portability like this that we think can really make a difference in the quality of healthcare. The clearer and more comprehensive the information regarding your health becomes, the better your care will be.
  • User focus - We aren't doctors or healthcare experts, but one thing Google can create is a clean, easy-to-use user experience that makes managing your health information straightforward and easy. We're still iterating and testing our user interface, but here is what the welcome screen looks like:

    Here is a screenshot deeper in the application:
  • We're proud of the product that we've designed and are continuing to build, but recognize that we are just at the initial stages of our "launch early and iterate" strategy. We look forward to the feedback we will receive from our Cleveland Clinic pilot, from all of you, and from the initial users of our service when we make it publicly available in the coming months.
Update: Added link to video of Eric's talk; refreshed second screenshot.

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As we mentioned last fall, GrandCentral's Project CARE initiative, which provides permanent telephone numbers and voicemail services to the homeless, has partnered with San Francisco's Project Homeless Connect (PHC) to support the city's homeless as they get back on their feet.

Today, Mayor Gavin Newsom will announce plans to give every homeless person in San Francisco a local phone number and voicemail account through Project CARE. We're thrilled to be a part of this effort, and as a first step towards simplifying the process of setting up a phone number and voicemail, we're rolling out a website where shelters and agencies across the city can create new accounts. Project CARE will also be visiting both city-owned and private shelters to help introduce this new system, assist the staff in familiarizing with the process, and answer any questions.

We're firm believers in the power of technology to improve the daily lives of individuals and communities as a whole, and we recognize that access to phone and voicemail services is one way that GrandCentral can help San Francisco's homeless stay connected with family, friends, social workers, health care providers, and potential employers.

While we're excited to bring this technology to our local Bay Area community, our ultimate goal is to provide these invaluable services to cities and shelters across the country.

If you're in San Francisco and would like to learn more about Project CARE's work with PHC, please join us at today's Project Homeless Connect 21 at the Billy Graham Civic Auditorium. If you can't make it to the event, check out Project Homeless Connect's website.

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Many of us in the English-searching world don't realize that a large portion of the world's population writes (and types) right-to-left. For the Arabic, Hebrew, and other right-to-left searchers of the world, searching just got a little easier. If you're searching from a supported local interface (e.g. google.co.il/ or google.com.eg/) we now dynamically detect the direction of your query.

Enter a query like [افرض مثلآ] or [מכבי חיפה] and your query will align right so you can type to the left. Enter a query like [2008 world cup soccer] or [(5 - 3) * 32] and it will align left so you can type to the right. Enter a mixed query like [SMS משלוח] and we'll set the alignment and overall direction based (roughly) on the first word.

We've enjoyed learning about bidirectional issues. Enabling applications for bidirectionality is especially tricky because any sentence or phrase may contain a mix of left-to-right text (e.g. English, numbers), right-to-left text (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew), and neutral text (e.g. punctuation). The rules for displaying the direction of characters in individual words are different from the rules for displaying the direction of words in a phrase. Things are further complicated due to widely varying limitations across web browsers.

We hope you'll enjoy the improved search experience!

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The subject of open document standards grows in importance not only for the technically- minded, but for anyone who uses a computer to work on editable documents. Across the board, standards are crucial. They ensure that the devices and technology you use today will continue to work tomorrow, that your DVDs will play in your player, that your calls will go through to any network, and that your documents will be accessible from whichever system you choose today and in the future.

Google supports open document standards and the Open Document Format - ODF, the recognized international standard (ISO 26300). ODF is supported and implemented across the globe, and its communal creation and iteration has helped ensure the transparency, consistency and interoperability necessary in a workable standard.

Currently, the technology industry is evaluating a proposed ISO standard for document formats. Given the importance of a workable standard, Microsoft's submission of Office Open XML (OOXML ) as an additional international standard has caught the attention of many. In September 2007, the original request to ISO was defeated. After further technical analysis of the specification along with all the additional data available on OOXML, Google believes OOXML would be an insufficient and unnecessary standard, designed purely around the needs of Microsoft Office.

We join the ODF Alliance and many other experts in our belief that OOXML doesn't meet the criteria required for a globally-accepted standard. (An overview of our findings and sample technical issues unresolved are posted here.)

As ISO Member bodies around the world work on possible revisions of their vote previously submitted, the deadline of March 30th approaches fast. I invite you to pay close attention, and heed the call of many for unification of OOXML into ODF. A document standards decision may not matter to you today, but as someone who relies on constant access to editable documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it may matter immensely in the near future.

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As more and more people conduct online searches and interact with applications like Gmail, Google Earth and YouTube, we've had to think outside the box to create a more scalable, affordable and easy to manage network that meets our users' needs worldwide. One of the biggest challenges we face is staying ahead of our broadband capacity needs, especially across Asia.

One of the ways we are addressing this is by working with five other international companies to create a consortium. Collectively we just signed an agreement to build a new high-bandwidth subsea cable system linking the U.S. and Japan (more detail in the press release). This cable system, named Unity, will address increasing broadband demand by providing more capacity to sustain the unprecedented growth in data and Internet traffic between Asia and the U.S. Our participation in building Unity ultimately helps provide our users with faster and more reliable connectivity.

If you're wondering whether we're going into the undersea cable business, the answer is no. We're not competing with telecom providers, but the volume of data we need to move around the world has grown to the point where in some cases we've exceeded the ability traditional players can offer. Our partnership with these companies is just another step in ensuring that we're delivering the best possible experience to people around the world.

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We're in the midst of a big election season, and of course that means pollsters and pundits have lots to say about where it will all end. I've been curious to see if their predictions match up with trends in online searches. So as my 20% project, I devised a method to track the number of searches for each candidate's name. I wanted to visually represent the trends I found, so I plotted them onto Google Maps to see where the searches were concentrated. It's fascinating to see how people in a region have turned to the Internet to engage in the primaries.

Last Tuesday during the Wisconsin primary, the maps for Democratic queries (blue) and Republican queries (red) in Wisconsin turned out slightly different than each other. The circles are proportional to the amounts of search terms that contained the name of a Democratic or Republican candidate. Of course, the data includes queries for both positive and negative keywords for each.

From the data, we can see that Democratic candidates were searched more often in Madison, while Republican candidate queries were more widely dispersed throughout the state:





We'll continue to study interesting search trends as they apply to election queries and share other findings with you.

Update: Corrected title.

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Research and development is the foundation of innovation in the technology industry, and both Google and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are committed to making substantial investments in computer science research and education to ensure that our students, faculty and scientists remain on the leading edge of computing and have the tools necessary to make significant advances. As the technology industry moves into an exciting new phase of massively scaled, highly distributed computing, academic users have expressed a need for resources to engage and explore this emerging model, which is already responsible for many "internet-scale" applications that we now take for granted. That's why we're excited to announce that the NSF will use resources made available via Google and IBM's Academic Cluster Computing Initiative (ACCI) to reach the broader research community and explore new applications for massively scaled, highly distributed computing.

In October of 2007, Google and IBM announced the first pilot phase of the ACCI, which granted several prominent U.S. universities access to a cluster of thousands of processors running Apache's Hadoop, an open source distributed computing platform inspired by Google's file system and MapReduce programming model. (There's a YouTube video showing how students and faculty at the University of Washington have made use of the cluster.) Encouraged by these results, we sought out ways to extend the reach of this technology, and given its prominence in national research funding, the NSF emerged as a natural partner. For decades, the NSF has engaged the U.S. research community by setting research agendas and encouraging the development and adoption of disruptive technology, and this partnership will encourage a broader range of academic researchers to develop innovative new methods of data analysis using the unique advantages of massively parallel systems architecture - without the massive infrastructure costs usually associated with large-scale computer clusters.

Starting this year, the NSF will work to evaluate project proposals from academic researchers across many disciplines and select some of the most interesting and promising projects to receive ACCI computational grants. More details, including information on how to apply for access to these resources via the NSF's Cluster Exploratory (CluE) program, will be posted soon on the NSF site.

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I was recently a guest columnist on the Freakonomics Blog. There were several interesting questions from the readers, but one was quite striking:

"How can we explain the fairly entrenched position of Google, even though the differences in search algorithms are now only recognizable at the margins? Is there some hidden network effect that makes it better for all of us to use the same search engine?"

It seems that a lot of people are trying to figure out why Google has done so well. The difficulty is that the typical economic forces at work in many technology businesses that lead to entrenchment don't seem to explain our success. Let's take a look at the usual culprits.

Supply side economies of scale. This refers to the fact that a larger business may enjoy a cost advantage. The problem is that though there probably are some scale advantages, they get played out at a reasonably small scale. There are plenty of data centers out there and plenty of people that know how to run them efficiently.

Lock-in. The idea here is that when users have a high cost of switching to an alternative provider, they can be charged high prices that reflect the fact that they are effectively locked in to a single provider. But if you look at Google's business, the competition is only a click away. Users can trivially switch search engines. Most of our large customers also advertise on other search engines. And most publishers get their ads from a variety of providers, including their own sales force. So there are very small costs of switching to an alternative search engine for users, advertisers, and publishers.

Network effects. This refers to a phenomenon where the amount that people are willing to pay for a service depends on the number of people that have already adopted a service. The classic example is a fax machine: the amount that I am willing to pay for a fax machine depends on how many of my correspondents already have one. But this doesn't fit the Google case either: my decision to use Google is irrelevant to other users. It's true that advertisers want to advertise where there are lot of users but that doesn't affect the amount that they are willing to pay on a per user basis. The value of a user to an advertiser depends on how likely he or she is to buy, not how many users there are. A small website about knitting could be a great place to advertise yarn and could charge rates far higher for such ads than a much larger site.

If it isn't economies of scale, lock-in, or network effects, what is it that explains Google's success?

The answer, at least in my opinion, is a much older economic concept called "learning by doing" that was first formalized by Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow back in 1962. It refers to the widely-observed phenomenon that the longer a company has been doing something, the better it gets at doing it.

Google has been searching the web for nearly 10 years, which is far longer than our major competitors. It's not surprising that we've learned a lot about how to do this well. We're constantly experimenting with new algorithms. Those that offer an improvement get rolled into the production version; the others go back to the drawing board for refinement.

So I would argue that Google really does have a better product than the competition -- not because we have more or better ingredients, but because we have better recipes. And we are continuously improving those recipes precisely because we know the competition is only a click away. We can't fall back on economies of scale, or switching costs, or network effects, to isolate us from the competition. The only thing we can do is work as hard as we can to keep our search quality better than that of the other engines.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Lat Long Blog.)

Google Moon and Google Mars are great examples of products that required much more than pure software engineering to produce. There was quite a bit of science, and even a little bit of artistry, that went into their creation. They both expose large volumes of imagery and information in simple and accessible designs, and it turns out that I'm not the only one who thinks that they qualify as art in this regard.

New York's Museum of Modern Art has honored both products by including them in their exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind, which opens to the public on February 24th. The exhibit showcases objects and systems that pair modern design with innovations in science and engineering in creative ways. Google Moon's Apollo landing panoramas and Google Mars' imagery of the largest canyons and volcanoes in the solar system were intended to do exactly that, by applying Google Maps technology to places that are out of this world.

We're delighted that MOMA saw fit to include us in their lineup, and recommend the show to anyone living in or visiting the New York area. It runs through May 12th.

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I suffer from poor eyesight and intense seasonal allergies, but I'm thankful that health issues occupy just a small portion of my life. Even though I'm rather healthy, I sometimes find myself needing access to accurate health information. I can get a long way by searching for health facts online, but I also need to incorporate what I find with my own history of conditions and treatments. I didn't even realize I had allergies until my early twenties -- for more years than I care to admit, I'd forget that the "cold" I came down with in April was suspiciously similar to the one I had at exactly the same time the year before. I've often been overwhelmed when trying to determine or track a condition, because my personal record of health information is either nonexistent, or it's spread on forms and receipts from (at least) a dozen doctors and five insurance companies.

Working as an engineer here on the health team, I've been excited to participate in building tools that will help me and others manage our personal health information more effectively. Many innovators in the healthcare industry have worked hard to make results of doctor visits, prescriptions, tests and procedures available digitally. By using the GData protocol already offered in many Google products, and supporting standards-based medical information formats like the Continuity of Care Record (CCR), our health efforts will help you access, store and communicate your health information. Above all, health data will remain yours -- private and confidential. Only you have control over when to share it with family members and health providers.

This week, we hit another important milestone. We launched a pilot with a medical institution committed to giving patients access to their own medical records: The Cleveland Clinic. A large academic medical center, Cleveland is one of the first partners to integrate on our platform. Because of their size and reach with patients who already have access to their medical records online, Cleveland has been a great partner for us to test out our data sharing model. Patients participating in the Cleveland pilot give authorization via our AuthSub interface to have their electronic medical records safely and securely imported into a Google account. It's great to see our product getting into the hands of end users, and I look forward to the feedback that the Cleveland patients will provide us.

Cleveland is just the first of many healthcare providers that will securely send medical records and information via Google APIs at your request. We've been hard at work collaborating with a number of insurance plans, medical groups, pharmacies and hospitals. While this pilot is open initially to just a few thousand patients, I see it as an important first step to show how Google can help users get access to their medical records and take charge of their health information.

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In a very short time, watching videos online has become a common pastime, and the imagination of artists and other content owners continues to fuel this trend. Meanwhile, across the industry, advertisers and video publishers continue to look for the best solution that balances the needs of video fans with the need for video sites to generate the revenue that enables them to continue to be creative as they grow.

Enter, stage left: the AdSense for video beta. This approach takes the same non-intrusive InVideo ad format used on YouTube and extends it across video partner sites on the Google Content Network. This enables advertisers to run a single campaign across the largest network of online video content.

Unique to AdSense for video are text overlay ads contextually targeted to a combination of signals in your videos and on your site. With these overlay ads, the user's experience is not interrupted; users determine how much they want to interact with the ad.

We have two major goals: to make it easier for publishers to monetize video online, and for advertisers to learn how to reach the video community. Towards these ends, today we're also launching a single destination with an overview of various options to expand online video opportunities called Google Video Advertising Solutions. We hope this will be your starting point to understand how to leverage the Google Content Network and YouTube to make the most out of the online video experience. You can also see our overview videos for advertisers and publishers -- because isn’t video the best way to experience video?

We've been working with a number of video partners (e.g. popular destinations like BobVila.com, eHow, MyDamnChannel, ExpertVillage, PinkBike, TheNewsRoom, and social video aggregators like Revver, blip.tv, and GodTube). And we're also working with several key video platform solution solutions like Brightcove, Yume, Tremor Media, and Eyespot Network, who have plugged our ads into their platforms.

There are some criteria that publishers have to meet to participate in AdSense for video, which you can learn about on the Inside AdSense blog.

As with many things we do around here, we’ll keep testing various ad formats, iterate and expand, so keep an eye on us.

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I'm a political junkie, and as Super Tuesday neared it seemed likely that the race for Democratic nominee would extend well past that big day at the polls. I started looking around for information about the so-called "superdelegates" (the party leaders and elected officials who make up 20% of the vote at the convention) -- and was disappointed to find no single resource that provided details on who they were, which candidate they'd endorsed (if anyone) and where they are located.

So I went ahead and registered 'superdelegates.org', installed MediaWiki and started populating the site with the info I could find. Thanks to a terrific extension to MediaWiki (KML Export, written by Juliano Ravasi), it's possible to map the wiki pages to a Google Earth layer, which helps to visualize where these delegates are.



Since the superdelegates site launched two weeks ago, it has been featured on CNN, and tens of thousands of people have stopped by to learn more about superdelegates, understand the process, and add information. Over 60% of the delegates are now on the map and are associated with their endorsed candidate, with more info coming in every day. It's tremendously gratifying to see a community grow around this timely subject- hope you find it useful!

Update: Since I posted this entry, there have been a few additional improvements to the superdelegates site. Every delegate's wiki page now includes a Google Newsbar with scrolling headlines mentioning the delegate. Fellow Googler Bob Rose also created an enhanced KML layer so that each delegate's placemarker now includes information and links to their home state, position in the DNC, and candidate endorsement (with YouTube videos of speeches if available).

Disclaimer:
Since superdelegate endorsements are not binding, we can't ensure that the endorsements listed are indicative of future events. But we're excited that people are engaging in politics online by drawing from a compilation of candidate endorsement lists on Roll Call, CNN's Election Center and other sources to update the site on a daily basis. Other groups and publications may have different superdelegate counts, including candidates' campaigns, the New York Times, and the AP.

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This recipe pairs well with Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley Brut sparkling wine for a Valentine's day treat for two.

Ingredients:

Yields about 4 cakes

1 tbsp. butter (You may substitute olive oil.)
4 shallots, minced
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 fuji apple, peeled and grated on a cheese grater, juice reserved
1 tsp. lemon juice, fresh
2 tsp. tarragon, minced
2 tbsp. parsley, minced
1 cup Dungeness crab meat, picked free of shells
¼ cup breadcrumbs, finely ground
Tabasco sauce
kosher salt

cooking oil (rice bran, canola, vegetable, etc.)
metal heart shaped cookie cutter, large size (About 4-6 oz)

Roast Pepper Sauce:

8 oz. pimento peppers in the jar (You may substitute with Spanish piquillo peppers,
or 3 each red bell peppers roasted over an open flame, peeled and seeded), chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar (You may substitute with any vinegar)
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. butter (Optional)

Procedure:

In a sauté pan, sweat the shallots in butter over medium-low heat until sweet, but with no color forming. This will take about 5 minutes. When sweet, allow the shallots to cool in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, grated apple with juice, lemon juice, herbs, and picked crab to the mixing bowl.

With a spatula, gently fold the mixture together, so as not to break up any whole crab meat. This will give the cakes a better texture. Fold the mixture just until evenly mixed. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind the cakes. You might need more or less breadcrumbs than stated,
depending on the moisture of the crab. Season the cakes with salt and Tabasco to taste. Using a teaspoon, spoon crab mixture into a metal, heart-shaped cookie cutter. Gently press the crab into the mold. Repeat this process until all cakes are molded. Keep the crab cakes refrigerated until ready for service. Prepare the sauce.

To prepare the sauce, place the prepared peppers into a small non-reactive sauce pan with the vinegar and water. Bring contents to a simmer and transfer to a bar blender. Add the butter to the blender, cover and puree the sauce until it is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To finish the crab cake, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a teaspoon of cooking oil, and sear the crab cake over medium heat until golden brown. This will take 1-2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the crab cake over and repeat for 1-2 minutes until the crab cake is golden brown on both sides and warm in the center. Piercing the center of the crab cake with a toothpick and feeling the temperature of the toothpick under your lip will give you a good idea how warm
the cake's center is.

To plate the crab cake, pour about two heaping spoonfuls of warm pepper sauce over a warmed plate. Place the warm crab cake over the sauce and garnish with baby mixed greens (mâche, upland cress) and/or freshly picked herbs (Italian parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives…). Enjoy!

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It's well known that online advertising is becoming increasingly important to the marketing mix. Now we're giving 21,000 students the chance to experiment and gain hands on experience of this medium -- and to empower small local businesses to harness the power of the web to attract more customers. In a vast global academic competition, business students from 466 universities in 61 countries will participate in the Google Online Marketing Challenge.

The competition offers student groups $200 vouchers to spend on Google AdWords™ advertising so that they can work with a local business they choose to devise effective online marketing campaigns. The teams will outline a strategy, run the campaign, assess their results, and recommend ideas to further develop the businesses' online marketing.

Students will have three weeks to mastermind their strategy, and will pit their marketing minds against thousands of others worldwide. During this period, the various teams will submit two competition reports: one before they begin the Challenge, and one after the campaign has ended. An international panel of professors will judge the entries, and will choose winners based on the success of the campaigns and the quality of the reports.

We'll post an update once the winners are announced in July. Read more about the Challenge.

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Today, we're excited to announce the Doodle 4 Google competition.

Every once in awhile, we redesign the logo (a.k.a. Google Doodle) on our homepage to commemorate special birthdays and events. Dennis Hwang draws these Google Doodles (check out this cool time-lapse video of Dennis creating the latest one):



However, with the Doodle 4 Google competition, we're making an exception...

Doodle 4 Google gives U.S. students in grades K-12 the opportunity to design a doodle for the Google homepage. Students will be asked to draw a doodle that best represents the theme "What if...?" We ask ourselves this question every day when we build our products, so we thought we would ask the same of the future doodlers.

A panel of expert judges and Googlers will select 40 regional winners, who will be invited to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, in May. Four national finalists will be announced as the result of a public vote. From there, Dennis will select one lucky student whose doodle will be on the Google homepage for a day in the U.S. This winner will also receive a $10,000 college scholarship and a technology grant for his or her school.

Check out www.google.com/doodle4google for more details. All you need to do to get started is to have a teacher or principal register your school. Registration closes on 3/28/08, and entries must be postmarked by 4/12/08.

So gather those art supplies. All it takes to enter is a drawing on paper using your favorite medium (crayons, markers, colored pencils, whatever!) -- and encourage your kids to enrich us all with their imaginative vision. We look forward to seeing the creative doodles that are submitted!


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[From time to time we invite guests to blog about initiatives of interest, and are very pleased to have Mr. Kennedy join us here. – Ed.]

In 1810, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a contemporary, "No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government." Almost 200 years later, Google provides us all with unprecedented access to the world’s information. In Appalachia, nonprofit organizations are using that information in innovative new ways to reveal the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining, and to demand for the people of Appalachia the "free and good government" that Jefferson envisioned.

If the American people could see what I have seen from the air and ground during my many trips to the coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia: leveled mountains, devastated communities, wrecked economies and ruined lives, there would be a revolution in this country. Thanks to Google Earth, you can now visit coal country without ever having to leave your home.

Every presidential candidate – and every American – ought to take a few seconds to visit an ingenious new website created by nonprofit organizations in Appalachia that lets you tour the obliterated landscapes of Appalachia. By entering your zip code into this amazing new website, you learn how you're personally connected to mountaintop removal. Americans from Maine to California can see these mountains and the communities that were sacrificed to power their home. This puts a human face on the issue by highlighting the stories of families living in the shadows of these mines.

The site uses Google Maps and Google Earth as interfaces to a large database of power plants and mountaintop removal coal mines. A November 15, 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the site as one of the most cutting-edge uses of these powerful tools. And today, the Google Earth Outreach program is launching a featured case study about this project, along with additional resources for nonprofit organizations, in order to help spread the word and make these tools even more accessible to the public.

Each day coal companies detonate 2500 tons of explosives – the power of a Hiroshima bomb every week – to blow away Appalachian mountaintops to reach the coal seams beneath. Colossal machines then plow the rock and debris into the adjacent river valleys and hollows, destroying forests and burying free-flowing mountain streams, flattening North America's most ancient mountain range. According to the EPA, 1,200 miles of American rivers and streams have already been permanently interred, leaving behind giant pits and barren moonscapes, some as large as Manhattan Island. I recently flew over one 18 square-mile pit – Hobet 21 – which you can now tour in Google Earth.

We are literally cutting down the historic landscapes where Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett roamed and that are so much the source of American's values, character and culture.

Mountaintop mining poisons water supplies, pollutes the air, destroys hundreds of miles of North America's most ancient and biologically diverse hardwood forests and permanently impoverishes local communities. For too long, this devastation has been hidden in the remote poverty-stricken communities of Appalachia. This new website finally exposes this national disgrace for every American to witness. Wherever you live, you have a connection – and a responsibility.

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Since its inception in 2005, our Open Source Programs Office has been responsible for maintaining license compliance within Google. And over the past three years, our mission has grown encompass even more activities that we hope are useful to our colleagues in the open source community: project hosting, releasing Google created code and funding open source development. We've also continued to get students involved in open source, recently debuting the Google Highly Open Participation Contest for secondary schoolers as a complement to our university program, Google Summer of Code.

When you have this much good news to share, you just have to create your own blog --so we did. Come check out the new Google Open Source Blog for regular updates on all of the above and, if you like what you see, subscribe.

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At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, we announced a partnership with Nokia that will bring Google search to millions of Nokia phones. There's more detail on the Google Mobile Blog.

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From time to time, people share stories with us that are too good to keep to ourselves. Here's one that an iGoogle user named Heather recently shared about how Gadget Maker helps her connect with her boyfriend Christopher.
"My boyfriend lives in Memphis and I live in Manhattan. We've each created a custom gadget for each other that we update every morning. Generally it's a compliment, or song lyrics, or something related to an inside joke. It takes us 2 minutes to update every morning and helps us to stay connected in a small way every day. We also both have a countdown gadget on our homepage, which counts down the days until our next visit with each other. Thank you for helping 'keep the magic alive' with my boyfriend, even if he's not here in person!"
As Valentine's Day approaches, we wish Heather and Christopher the best. May their countdown go extra-fast this week. Heather shared one of her gadgets with us:



If you're part of our gadget developer community, perhaps hearing about interesting and unique ways people are using gadgets will help spark some creative ideas. But whether you are HTML-savvy or not, and you want to show your sweetie how much you care, it's very easy to be able to create gadgets. Just visit the Google Gadget Center or Gadget Maker and give it a try.

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In the spirit of Hallmark and chocolate roses, we recently took a special interest in Valentine's worthy tidbits about how Gmail has helped spur romance -- as it did for Jordan Burleson, who told us:
"Gmail is the new Cupid. Gmail's green chat light meant 'go' for love in my life. My girlfriend and I used ... it for projects and homework at first, but then for flirting, pinning down a location for a first date, emoticon hearts and more."
In other cases, email has helped maintain long distance relationships, like that of long-time Gmail user Meagan Coleman:
"My husband and I met in 2004. He's from Macedonia and I'm from the USA...Since we met, Gmail has been archiving our long-distance relationship from the beginning! It's very sweet to be able to read those messages that we wrote to each other 3 years ago."
Curious about how common emailing love letters really is -- and to learn more about how people use email to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers -- we recently worked with Nielsen Online to conduct a national survey examining how people think about and use webmail.* The survey affirmed that email is an increasingly important part of our most intimate and personal interactions, and that younger people are leading the charge: they are more likely to use email for everything from sending love letters to ending relationships.

Love is in the inbox
  • 1 in 3 survey respondents noted having emailed a love letter
  • Young people indicated they were less averse to showing their affections over email than older adults: only 14% of 18-24 year olds considered email love letters bad behavior, compared to 43% of respondents over the age of 55
  • Men were more likely than women to have asked someone out via email (26% versus 16%)
  • While 31% of 18-24 year olds thought asking someone out on a date via email was poor form, 42% of respondents aged 55+ felt the same way
Breaking up is hard to do; some get help from email
  • 1 in 3 male respondents considered "break-up emails" neutral to good email etiquette, whereas only 1 in 7 female respondents agreed
  • 8% of men and 6% of women said they had broken up with someone over email
Whether you're sending hearts this year or breaking them, we hope you have a happy Valentine's Day.

* The online survey, commissioned by Google, was conducted by Nielsen Online from September 24th to October 15th, 2007, with a sample of 1,713 webmail users over the age of 18. "Webmail user" was defined as someone who uses AOL Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail.

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We just announced on our Research Blog that we're holding the second scalability conference in Seattle on Saturday, June 14. We had a hunch we weren't the only ones who liked to sit around and brainstorm solutions for hard problems, and it turns out we were right. We met so many great people at the 2007 gathering that we've decided to do it again.

If you work with scalable systems and would like to give a presentation at this year's conference, we'd love to hear from you. Visit our Research blog for more details on how to submit a proposal.

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The Google 2008 International Model Your Campus Competition is now live! Here's another opportunity for you to show off your 3D modeling skills, and this time students around the world can compete. You can team up with other students, or take the project on yourself. Just model your school's campus buildings in Google SketchUp, geo-reference them in Google Earth and submit them by uploading to the Google 3D Warehouse. You may enter this competition if you're a student at a higher education institution almost anywhere in the world.

Entries are due by June 1st, 2008. Check out what last year's winners modeled to get inspired, then visit the competition site to register. Good luck and happy modeling.

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Starting this month, we're enabling developers to make their social applications available to orkut users. We'll start ramping up to more than 50 million people over the next few weeks.

To prepare for this growth, we're now accepting social applications. For a while now, developers have been able to write, test, and play with applications on orkut. Later this month, however, we're going to start rolling them out to orkut users. OpenSocial developers can submit their completed applications (deadline: Feb. 15).

To help developers ready their applications, we're offering engineering support and training. We've scheduled orkut hackathons on Feb. 14-15 from 10 am-6 pm at the Googleplex in Mountain View and via videoconference in New York. For more information or to RSVP, please email hackathon.rsvp@gmail.com. If you can't attend, we hope to see you in the OpenSocial forums or on chat (irc://irc.freenode.net/opensocial).

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Over the course of centuries, engineering of all kinds has transformed our lives -- and the field continues to have the potential to improve the quality of life for every person on the planet.

This coming Friday (February 15), the US National Academy of Engineering will post a list of "grand engineering challenges" for the 21st century on a special site, which has already garnered many comments from the public. To create the list, the Academy assembled a special committee that includes some of the most innovative names in engineering, including our own Larry Page.

I think we will see on the list such things as renewable, sustainable and affordable energy, reduction of dependence on petroleum, desalinization, vastly improved food production, greenhouse gas reduction, and affordable and sustainable housing -- but these are just my guesses. No matter which challenges are selected, we know that attention to detail and daring goals are the twin drivers of innovation.

Please visit the site, contribute your ideas and have a look February 15 to see what the experts have decided are the grandest of the grand challenges for engineering in this century.

Of course, I hope "Internet for Everyone" makes it onto the list, but if it doesn't, it's still on mine :-).

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From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see -- tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.


Language barriers can be a primary source of accessibility problems on the web, and automatic translation, though not perfect, provides a useful solution.

We recently made our machine translation technology accessible from within Gmail and Google Talk, which gives mail and IM users instant access to translation capabilities at the point where they might most need them, e.g., when communicating with friends and colleagues around the world. If you find yourself wanting to translate a few words or short phrase, you can IM an appropriate chat-bot to obtain an immediate translation. As an example, the Google translation bot for going from English to Chinese is available as en2zh@bot.talk.google.com. In general, translation bots are named using two-letter codes for the source and target language.

Surfacing machine translation in this manner is a great example of how Web 2.0 mashups bring together useful services to create solutions that are bigger than the sum of their building blocks. I've blogged here in the past about the potential presented by web mashups for users with special needs. Using our work on AxsJAX to inject accessibility enhancements into Web applications, my officemate Charles Chen and I recently augmented Google Talk to produce appropriate spoken feedback when used with adaptive technologies such as self-voicing browsers.

The combination of machine translation, instant messaging and AxsJAX-enabled spoken output produces an interesting result that is obvious after the fact: when I use Google IM to message a translation bot, I now hear the result in the target language. This makes for a very interesting chat buddy -- one who can act as my personal interpreter!

And let's not forget that little translate this page within Google search results. Next time you find that some of the documents in your search results are non-English, try clicking on that translate link. You'll be able to specify the source and target languages to obtain an automatically generated translation. A nice thing about the translated page is that when you follow any links from that document, the newly retrieved document will be automatically translated. Thus, if you find an article in German that matches your query and you're an English speaker, you can translate from de|en (that's German to English using two letter language codes) and as you read the translated English version, following links from that document will result in their being automatically translated to English.

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One of the strengths of Google News is the diversity we can provide by crawling thousands of sources from around the world. Recently, we've also focused on building on the strength of our local news sources. Today you can do just that: find local news by typing your city name or zip code. As always, we'll bring you results from multiple sources. The biggest change is that top stories in your local area will appear at the top of your results. Our ranking system will take into account the location of the source so we can promote the local sources for each story.

There's more information about this on the Google News Blog and our help pages. We encourage you to try it out yourself as we keep working to bring you a better news experience.

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On Super Tuesday, voters couldn't cast their ballots online, but we were excited to see so many people turn to the Internet to participate in the election. Americans and many others from around the world sent a clear message on Tuesday -- and we heard you! Here are some of our favorite highlights:
  • "Tweets" from politically-engaged Twitter users spanned a wide range of expressions. You spoke your mind: "In addition to Super Tuesday, today is also Fat Tuesday. Super Fat Tuesday -- finally, a day I can relate to!" (ejacqui, UK); you reported election results: "Can someone please explain why 10% of Californians are voting for Edwards? Don't they read the news?" (paul_irish, Boston, MA); you relayed conditions at the voting booths: "CA Precincts are worried about running out of ballots." (mizlit, Montara, CA).

    Of course, we had a favorite:



  • Searches for [super tuesday results] hit the top of our Hot Trends list early in the afternoon and stayed number one through much of the night. Related terms like [primary results], [where do i vote] and [super tuesday exit polls] were also in the top ten for significant chunks of time. Senator Obama turned out to be the most widely-searched candidate of the day, and [health care] emerged as the most popular policy issue.

    • Voters, news organizations, and candidates submitted hundreds of videos to YouTube's YouChoose08 Super Tuesday site, providing for an interesting integration of unique content all on one platform. Check out some of the top videos uploaded by voters, news organizations, and the candidates themselves. And here's one of the videos we thought captured the moment well:





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    Raise your hand if you'd have a hard time getting things done without the Internet. Arranging a reunion with school friends? You can figure out schedules, vote on a venue, share a map, post pictures and videos and later share everything with those who couldn't make it, and all without leaving your chair. It's become so easy to coordinate and share with friends and family that we've wondered why the same couldn't apply to teams of co-workers at work or classmates at school.

    That's why we're launching Google Apps Team Edition. Now you and your co-workers or classmates have a new way to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and calendar information online. Just sign up with your work or school email address. After confirming that you belong to that organization, it's easy to invite others from your company or school and start collaborating. There’s no hardware, software or setup involved (and no burden for IT folks).

    Of course, organizations need a level of security and control that individuals don't have to worry about. Team Edition enables co-workers and classmates to choose to share information just with each other, and not with outsiders, and it lets IT departments actively manage Google Apps, so admins can customize the Google Apps experience for users, including who should have access and which applications are available. You can learn more about all the administrative capabilities on the admin site for Google Apps.

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    Josh Lederberg, whose pioneering work laid foundation stones for modern genetics and biotech -- and then for space biology and artificial intelligence -- passed away on February 2. His creative and deep thinking on these subjects helped generations of scientists blaze trails in information and bio-sciences. Even more important, his thoughtful approach to new ideas has contributed to dialog on such critical matters as disarmament, genetic engineering, and public health policy.

    In technology circles, he'll be remembered among other things for the expansion of the role of computers for scientific research. While at Stanford he and Edward Feigenbaum developed a computer program called DENDRAL, now recognized as the first expert system for use in science. He was also an early proponent of Digital Libraries. I have benefited in many ways from his tutelage. At one point, after briefing him on the possibilities of the idea of a Digital Library, he looked at me and said “Do something!” I could not have had better advice.

    As a child, Josh said he wanted to be "like Einstein." His Nobel Prize and National Medal of Freedom attest to just how far he got. We will miss him greatly, but his legacy of thoughtful advice will sustain many friends and colleagues well into the 21st century.

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    In December 2007, for the first time in India, we released a list of most popular and fast rising searches, i.e. the Google Zeitgeist. But you don't need to wait till this December to know what was popular this year; we've just unveiled Google Trends and Google Hot Trends on Google India Labs, giving you a chance to find out what India is searching for on Google by the hour.

    What's on our collective mind as we search for information? What's interesting to people right now? Hot Trends will tell you. At a glance, you'll see the huge variety of topics capturing our attention, from current events to sports to political issues to the latest Bollywood gossip. Hot Trends aren't the search terms people look for most often; those are pretty predictable, like [weather] or [games]. Instead, the Hot Trends algorithm analyzes millions of searches to find those that show an unusual and fairly sudden increase in popularity. The outcome is the Hot Trends list. Hot Trends is updated throughout the day, so check back often.

    For example, the #1 Hot Trends result on January 9, 2008, was 'tata new car' because of the auto expo going on then. The associated web results and associated news search results give you more context and insight into why people were searching for 'tata new car'. You can see these results by changing the date range on the top left hand corner of the Hot Trends page. As you can see, 'tata new car' has a Hot Trend status of 'spicy' -- a measure of its popularity.

    Together with Hot Trends, we also launched Google Trends for India. You can view search patterns and interest in their favorite topics. You can compare the popularity of multiple queries (e.g. different Bollywood stars) and see which cities and states search for them the most.

    Looking ahead to what 'Valentines Day' might mean to us, keep checking out Hot Trends and Trends for insights into the mind of India

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    For those of us who joined Google from Postini, one of the most exciting possibilities was to learn how to operate at Google scale. As a young company, we were accustomed to moving quickly. But now that we're here, we're seeing speed in a whole new dimension: how to quickly make complex technology products accessible and useful to all kinds of businesses. We didn't understand all the implications of Google's resources. (Frankly, we still don't!) But over last couple months the picture has started to come into focus, and now our customers get the benefit of our innovation and scale.

    Today we announced three new security products that deliver anti-spam, outbound message filtering, transport encryption and archiving and discovery for any email system, from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange to Novell Groupwise. The new services are part of the Google Apps platform, which makes it easy for you to use all the messaging, collaboration and security products at once, or to adopt what you need and grow over time.

    Read more on the Enterprise Blog or just get started.

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    They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing! Today marks an exciting day in the race to the U.S. Presidency: voters in 24 states will choose their party candidates. This will be the largest number of primaries taking place at one time in the history of the U.S. electoral system.

    We've joined forces with Twitter to give you instant updates on Super Tuesday. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, you can send a simple text message about your voting experience. Huge turnout? Taking too long in line? Did you just vote for the first time? We want it all, if you can keep to 140 characters or less. (And if candidates can keep their posts to 140 characters, anyone can.)

    Throughout the day, you can watch Twitter updates from across the country:



    Twitter posts are only one piece of the Google Super Tuesday Map, a one-stop shop to follow the action today. You can find the latest YouChoose '08 videos, Google News election headlines and primary state results down to the county level. The Google News team is also in on the action. In addition to all the latest stories from thousands of sources in our new election section, they've also put together a gadget that tracks the progress of the candidates in each of the 24 states (of course, the numbers here are not real; they're meant to show you how it may look after the polls close).



    Super Tuesday gives us a chance to try out new features and to see how people are using technology to participate in elections. This coming Thursday, we'll post a roundup of highlights. Send suggestions our way to elections at google dotcom.

    Update: Gadget results in example are not real numbers or projections.

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    Tomorrow is the biggest day in the primary presidential race thus far, and we've created a central location to follow the action on video. We're pulling in video clips from voters, candidates, and news organizations across the country on a Google Map as part of our You Choose '08 platform.



    This is the first presidential election in which YouTube has given voters the same power to broadcast the events as the big broadcasters have. Already we're seeing terrific content uploaded to the map as voters in 24 different states prepare for the polls. Seeing all these great videos on one map gives the most diverse narrative of the campaign trail that we've ever seen. Scroll across the map and zoom in to see videos from your area, and keep an eye out for gems like these:



    Stay tuned to You Choose '08 after Super Tuesday as we will continue to bring more and more great political video content from voters, candidates, and news organizations as the political drama thickens.

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    The openness of the Internet is what made Google -- and Yahoo! -- possible. A good idea that users find useful spreads quickly. Businesses can be created around the idea. Users benefit from constant innovation. It's what makes the Internet such an exciting place.

    So Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.

    Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

    Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft -- despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses -- to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions -- and consumers deserve satisfying answers.

    This hostile bid was announced on Friday, so there is plenty of time for these questions to be thoroughly addressed. We take Internet openness, choice and innovation seriously. They are the core of our culture. We believe that the interests of Internet users come first -- and should come first -- as the merits of this proposed acquisition are examined and alternatives explored.