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

The week leading up to Halloween has brought a flood of new treats for you.

Music Search
On Wednesday, we rolled out our new music search feature, fully integrated into Google's web search. Now, when you search for a band, singer, song name, or album title, Google will recognize it and return a special music result on the top of the page. These new special music results do exactly what you want - they let you listen to the full song. To provide this feature, we have partnered with Lala and MySpace (formerly iLike) to bring you full-song streaming. That's not all, however. The real "wow" in this new music feature is that you can type in phrases of lyrics, we recognize the song - and bring you the song for full play. You can listen, verify it's the one you were looking for, and then continue on to buy the song on iMeem, iLike, Lala, Pandora, or Rhapsody.

Example searches (singers): Lady GagaTaylor SwiftJay-ZJack JohnsonMichael Jackson
Example searches (band): ColdplayTV on the RadioThe KillersMGMTThe Rolling Stones
Example searches (song): Sample in a JarWaiting for the World to ChangeWhen Doves CryAll I Want for Christmas is YouWalking on Sunshine
Example searches (album): Dark Side of the MoonAchtung BabyAqualungEvil Urges
Example searches (lyrics): gonna be a good night tonightcan feel the hand of fatelucky we're in love in every waytake away this ball and chain

Social Search
On Monday, we introduced Social Search on Google Labs and Google Experimental. Social Search finds relevant content that your social circle has published and returns that content with your web search results. What defines your social circle? To use Social Search, you need to be logged in to your Google Account and opted in to the Social Search experiment. We then analyze your Gmail contacts (if you have a Gmail account) and the connections on your social networks (if you have a Google Profile and have listed public social networks like Twitter and FriendFeed). What kind of results do we find? Our Social Search results include blogs, photo albums, web pages, and reviews. This way, you not only seeing the most relevant content on the web globally, but you also see the content most relevant and personal to you.

To try Google Social Search, go to Google Experimental and click the "Join the experiment" button pertaining to social search. Then try searching on Google for something your friends may have written about. Example searches like 'restaurant' or 'vacation' tend to occur in people's personal writings. Social Search results always occur at the bottom of the page, so scroll to the end of the page to see these results. You can also trigger Social Search results explicitly by opening the Search Options panel and clicking on 'Social'. This will cause all of your results to be from your social circle.

Similar Images on Image Search
In addition to our new features on core web search this week, we introduced a new and revolutionary way to refine image searches to our main image search functionality this week. The feature is called "Similar Images". We've had it for a while as a separate site, but it has proved so useful and interesting that we decided to make it part of our core image search. The idea here is to find an image that you like and then click the "Find similar images" link below it. This may seem simple, but think about all the complicated things you can express. For example, if I wanted a picture of a single turtle swimming, and I wanted the turtle to be headed to the left rather than the right, it would be almost impossible to express as a keyword search. Now with "Similar Images" features, I can simply do an image search for turtles, then find an image that meets my requirements, like the seventh image on that results page, and by clicking the "Find similar images" underneath it, I get a page composed of solo turtles actively swimming.

Example search: jack-o-lanterns, then click on "Find similar images" under the fifth image to get jack-o-lanterns lit from within in night-time settings
Example search: birthday hat, then click on "Find similar images" under the second image to get multi-colored birthday hats
Example search: peacock, then select "Find similar images" on the third image to get white peacocks with their feathers displayed

Personalized Search on Mobile
This week we also introduced personalized search for the mobile phone. Personalized search has been available on our website for some time. Now, when you are logged in on your phone, you get the same personalized search results on your mobile phone as well.

Google Suggest now global
Internationally, we also rolled out Google Suggest on our search results pages. Now, the helpful suggestions that you see when you begin typing on our homepage and results page are available on 156 country domains and in 52 more languages.

And to wish you a Happy Halloween, trick-or-treat us by visiting the homepage (www.google.com) today and clicking on the Google logo.

Hope you enjoyed this week's features. Stay tuned for what's next!

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When it comes to holidays, Halloween is one of our favorites. You get candy corn, creepy crawlies, ghosts and goblins, blustery weather and the goopy joys of pumpkin carving all crammed into one glorious fall fun-fest. It's also the one holiday where you can dress up as whatever you want — your favorite celebrity, your favorite animal or even, like one Googler last year, your favorite gadget.

As usual, we're in the process of devising brilliant last-minute costumes, and we got curious about what others around the globe have been searching for in preparation for Halloween.

We used Insights for Search to track the fastest-rising searches related to [costume] in the U.S. in 2009. The query at the top of the charts is [lady gaga costume] — no surprise, as the star wears quite a few costumes on a regular basis herself:


And many people seem to be planning a tribute to the late pop star Michael Jackson — searches for [michael jackson costume] started spiking in June of this year and have increased steadily since then:


Since Halloween is most popular in the U.S., we focused on queries there — but we did investigate searches in Canada and the U.K. for good measure. In Canada, people are overwhelmingly searching for costumes for two — variations on [couples costumes] dominate the top 10. Both in Canada and across the pond, searchers are looking for costumes based on Lewis Carroll's classic story Alice in Wonderland, with [mad hatter costume] in the top 10 in the U.K. and [alice in wonderland] in Canada.

Since [vampire costume] was one of the top 10 searches this year, we figured we'd check in with the various vampire TV shows and movies to see which is, um, making a killing in the costume race. The query [twilight costume] has the most search volume, with [true blood costume] not far behind. (Pointy teeth and body glitter — done!)


Thinking of dressing up your little ones? Popular queries in the U.S. related to [kids costume] include [ladybug], [minnie mouse] and [tinkerbell].


We also did some digging to see if people were taking inspiration from the movie Where the Wild Things Are and wearing a [max costume] this year. Based on the fastest-rising related terms [footie pajamas], [footed pajamas] and [max costume pattern], it seems like at least a few folks are choosing to make [max wolf suit] costumes at home:


As a dog-friendly company, we share the country-wide impulse to dress up our dogs for the holiday. Related searches for [taco dog costume], [dog shark costume] and [banana costume] (so cute!) all rank high.


At Google, we've been gearing up for tomorrow's real deal with festivities on our Mountain View campus, complete with Halloween crafts for visiting kids and a haunted house. Googlers are also pulling out all the stops for the costume contest:



We hope you have a happy Googleween!

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(Cross-posted from the Google TV Ads Blog)

Small businesses often think that television advertising is too expensive and cumbersome for them to use. They assume that they need a fancy, expensive commercial to use in their TV campaign. But Google TV Ads changes all of that — we make it easy and affordable for you to make a TV ad, plan a campaign and reach your customers through the power of television. We launched the TV for All contest two months ago to prove just that.

More than 200 companies submitted commercials for the opportunity to win $25,000 worth of free national advertising on cable channels such as CNBC, Hallmark and Bloomberg using Google TV Ads. Today, we're happy to announce the three winners of the TV for All contest based on votes from the YouTube community.

Amazing Gates, Owners.com and ZAGG.com received the largest number of votes among the 10 finalists. Each of these businesses will receive $25,000 in free national advertising through Google TV Ads advertising.


Check out the three winners and all entries at www.youtube.com/tvforallcontest. For more information on Google TV Ads and how it can help your small business succeed, visit our website at google.com/tvads.

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Every day we get millions of search queries about music. You want to know more about your favorite artists, find that new album or iconic song or figure out the name of that tune stuck in your head. In fact, according to Insights for Search, two of the top 10 queries in the U.S. are music-related. But often, if your answer is in a song, it can take a while to get there. We call this "time to result" — and we're always looking for ways to reduce it.

Today, we're rolling out a search feature that does just that by enabling you to search and more easily discover millions of songs, all via a simple Google web search. If you're searching for music, "time to result" is really "time to music." Now, when you enter a music-related query — like the name of a song, artist or album — your search results will include links to an audio preview of those songs provided by our music search partners MySpace (which just acquired iLike) or Lala. When you click the result you'll be able to listen to an audio preview of the song directly from one of those partners. For example, if I search for [21st century breakdown], the first results provide links to songs from Green Day's new album. MySpace and Lala also provide links to purchase the full song.


Many times, though, you don't know the name of the song or the artist who sings it. Maybe you remember only the chorus — or maybe you remember who sang it, but you forgot the exact name of the song. If you've ever heard a catchy song in a car or cafe, but just can't figure out the name of the song, you'll know what I'm talking about. This search feature also helps you find many of those songs by entering a search containing a line or two of lyrics. So if I search for [static silhouette somehow], I'll get results for Phoenix's song "Rome."


Finally, a search engine should also be able to help you discover music you'll like, even if you can't tell it what exactly you want to hear. We've partnered with Pandora, imeem and Rhapsody to include links to their sites where you can discover music related to your queries as well.

This feature doesn't just make search better. It also helps people discover new sources of licensed music online while helping artists to discover new generations of fans and reconnect with longtime listeners. Our users love music, and this tool introduces millions of music seekers in the U.S. to a new generation of licensed online music services, from MySpace and Lala to Pandora, imeem and Rhapsody.

Of course, this is just a first step toward making search more musical. There's a lot of music out there in the world, and in some instances, we may not return links to the song you're looking for. But by combining the strength of Google's search algorithms with our music search partners' efforts to increase the comprehensiveness of their music content, we're on track to answer more of your rhymes with the right rhythms.

We'll be rolling this feature out gradually to users across the U.S. over the next day. To learn more, check out this page or watch the video below. As we said back when we first announced universal search, the best answer is still the best answer, whether it's in the form of a video, an image, a magazine — or a song. And of course, the best way to know you've found the music you were looking for is to hear it. Well, let the music begin!



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(Cross-posted on the Google Student Blog)

We had a busy summer here at Google interacting with students through a wide variety of scholarship, internship and networking opportunities across North America. Here's a look back at a few of our programs (you can bet we'll be hosting them again!) along with news on some upcoming initiatives.

Rising college sophomores participated in two Google programs: Google FUSE, in its inaugural year, and the Google Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI).

For FUSE, we welcomed 50 rising college sophomores to our New York City office for a three-day retreat designed to connect students from groups that are under-represented in the field of computer science. The retreat focused on making connections between students and Googlers, encouraging students to create meaningful academic experiences and allowing them to learn more about possible career paths via hands-on activities, panel discussions and a bit of fun around the New York City area.

Another group of twenty rising sophomores spent two weeks at the Googleplex in Mountain View for the second annual Computer Science Summer Institute. This special program included an interactive and collaborative Computer Science curriculum, as well as a living-learning residential experience for student networking. Students worked in teams to create an interactive web application using Python in Google App Engine. When not in class, they heard technical talks from Google engineers, spoke with professionals from across the technology industry and academia about the many things they can do with a Computer Science degree. They also had some fun joining the Bay Area summer interns on a boat cruise and catching a baseball game after an exciting San Francisco scavenger hunt.

In addition, our engineering internship program hosted more than 450 college (undergraduate and graduate) interns in 15 locations across North America. These interns were an integral part of the engineering team and made significant contributions this summer working on exciting projects including Android, Chrome, Docs and machine translation.

We also had more than 100 students working across multiple functions, including sales and engineering in Mountain View, New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Boston as part of the Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development (BOLD) Program. BOLD is a 10-week internship program designed to provide exposure to the technology industry for students from groups that are historically underrepresented in technology. This summer experience includes a unique glimpse into a business or engineering career, professional development and leadership courses, as well as one-on-one mentorship designed to further support professional growth.

Of course, we realize that growing future leaders in engineering and business doesn't just start with college students. For this reason, we partner with the LEAD programs in both business and engineering to encourage outstanding high school students to pursue careers in these fields. This year, all four LEAD Summer Engineering Institute participants had the opportunity to tour a local Google office to attend technical talks and interact with Google engineers (okay, with some tasty food and video games thrown in as well).

As part of Google's ongoing commitment to recognizing student achievements and promoting leadership, we also offer a number of academic scholarships. We are currently accepting applications for the Google Lime Scholarship for Student with Disabilities in the U.S. and Canada, and the Anita Borg Scholarship in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the United States. In case you're curious, we offer a host of scholarships for many other international regions.

If one or more of these opportunities sounds like something you'd like to participate in, you can find applications for full time opportunities and summer internship opportunities on our student job site. Visit our scholarship page for more information on our scholarship opportunities. And follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on application deadlines and new program announcements.

Making an early connection playing People Bingo at Google FUSE.

Taking a break from bowling during Google FUSE.

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(Cross-posted with the Google Mobile Blog)

Since 2005, millions of people have relied on Google Maps for mobile to get directions on the go. However, there's always been one problem: Once you're behind the wheel, a list of driving directions just isn't that easy to use. It doesn't tell you when your turn is coming up. And if you miss a turn? Forget it, you're on your own.

Today we're excited to announce the next step for Google Maps for mobile: Google Maps Navigation (Beta) for Android 2.0 devices.

This new feature comes with everything you'd expect to find in a GPS navigation system, like 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic rerouting. But unlike most navigation systems, Google Maps Navigation was built from the ground up to take advantage of your phone's Internet connection.

Here are seven features that are possible because Google Maps Navigation is connected to the Internet:

The most recent map and business data
When you use Google Maps Navigation, your phone automatically gets the most up-to-date maps and business listings from Google Maps — you never need to buy map upgrades or update your device. And this data is continuously improving, thanks to users who report maps issues and businesses who activate their listings with Google Local Business Center.

Search in plain English
Google Maps Navigation brings the speed, power and simplicity of Google search to your car. If you don't know the address you're looking for, don't worry. Simply enter the name of a business, a landmark or just about anything into the search box, and Google will find it for you. Then press "Navigate", and you're on your way.

Search by voice
Typing on a phone can be difficult, especially in the car, so with Google Maps Navigation, you can say your destination instead. Hold down the search button to activate voice search, then tell your phone what you want to do (like "Navigate to Pike Place in Seattle"), and navigation will start automatically.

Traffic view
Google Maps Navigation gets live traffic data over the Internet. A traffic indicator light in the corner of the screen glows green, yellow or red, depending on the current traffic conditions along your route. If there's a jam ahead of you, you'll know. To get more details, tap the light to zoom out to an aerial view showing traffic speeds and incidents ahead. And if the traffic doesn't look good, you can choose an alternate route.

Search along route
For those times when you're already on the road and need to find a business, Google Maps Navigation searches along your route to give you results that won't take you far from your path. You can search for a specific business by name or by type, or you can turn on popular layers, such as gas stations, restaurants or parking.

Satellite view
Google Maps Navigation uses the same satellite imagery as Google Maps on the desktop to help you get to your destination. Turn on the satellite layer for a high-resolution, 3D view of your upcoming route. Besides looking cool, satellite view can help you make sense of complicated maneuvers.

Street View
If you want to know what your next turn looks like, double-tap the map to zoom into Street View, which shows the turn as you'll see it, with your route overlaid. And since locating an address can sometimes be tricky, we'll show you a picture of your destination as you approach the end of your route, so you'll know exactly what to look for.

Since there's nothing quite like seeing the product in action, we made this video to demonstrate a real-life example:




The first phone to have Google Maps Navigation and Android 2.0 is the Droid from Verizon. Google Maps Navigation is initially available in the United States. And like other Google Maps features, Navigation is free.

Check out the Google Maps Navigation page to learn more and browse a gallery of product screenshots. Take Google Maps Navigation for a spin, and bring Internet-connected GPS navigation with you in your car.

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Today, we're happy to announce that Similar Images is graduating from Google Labs and becoming a permanent feature in Google Images. You can try it out by clicking on "Find similar images" below the most popular images in our search results. For example, if you search for jaguar, you can use the "Find similar images" link to find more pictures of the car or the animal. 

When we revamped Labs in April, we also launched Similar Images to highlight some of the innovative work our engineers have been working on. Google Labs gives us a way to get some of our new ideas in front of you early in the process, refine them based on your feedback and see what sticks. Your support has helped to make Similar Images the first major feature to graduate from Google Labs since its recent overhaul.

So, let's say you want to find images of Ancient Egypt. Google Images will provide you with a rich variety of results, including pyramids, maps, relics, drawings and other types of images. Instead of poring through hundreds of images, now you can simply click "Find similar images" to narrow down the results to the results to the type you want. (We're rolling this out gradually, so the links in the below examples may not work for you yet.)

You could narrow down your results to show you only the Great Sphinx of Giza:


Or illustrative maps of Ancient Egypt:


Or ancient Egyptian-style drawings:


While we'll continue to use Google Labs as a way to showcase and collect feedback for exciting new technologies, we also want to make it easier for you to provide direct feedback on all aspects of Google Images. That's why today we're also announcing the availability of Product Ideas for Google Images. With product ideas, you can post comments that will be seen directly by members of the Images team, as well as vote on ideas that others have submitted. We'll pay special attention to those ideas that are voted to the top of the list.

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Hundreds of millions of people use Google Earth every day to discover, explore and learn more about the world around them. We're especially proud that Google Earth has also been used as a tool to help people change the world. Today, to celebrate he individuals and organizations that have used Google Earth in their efforts to effect change, we announced the Google Earth heroes project.

In this first stage of the heroes project, we're highlighting the work of five groups — Project Kaisei, Save the Elephants, Borneo Orangutan Survival, Chief Almir and the Surui and Appalachian Voices — who have used Google Earth in a variety of ways to tell their stories. We'll be releasing videos showcasing other organizations' work in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

To learn more about these groups and view their videos, read our post on the Google Lat Long blog or visit http://earth.google.com/changetheworld.

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If you could reinvent the American education system, what would you do? It's a question we think about a lot here at Google. This week we're exploring possibilities with Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age, a forum organized in cooperation with The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Common Sense Media, with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. This event will bring together 200 of the nation’s thought leaders in science and technology, informal and formal education, entertainment media, research, philanthropy and policy to design a strategy for scaling up effective models of teaching and learning for children, with an emphasis on technology. The forum will showcase new research, proven and promising education innovation models to challenge decision-makers to refresh and reboot American global leadership in education.

There's plenty of evidence that shows that the current educational system in the U.S. needs improvement. Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education produced "A Nation at Risk," a report which first highlighted that our country's system wasn't meeting the national need for a competitive workforce in the day's global economy. Since then, our education system has gone through great upheaval, from the state-level standards reforms in the 1990s to 2002's No Child Left Behind, which is similarly based on the belief that setting high standards measurable goals will improve individual outcomes in education. Though the intention of these reforms was to close the global achievement gap, they left many teachers and students feeling restricted to teaching and learning "to the test." And we're still seeing disheartening results; the U.S. is currently ranked 25th of OECD countries in math scores and 24th in science scores according to the PISA 2006 Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World report. And according to McKinsey's Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools report, if the U.S. had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of higher-performing nations, our GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. That's 9 to 16 percent of GDP!

Fortunately, there are people today who are working to change these statistics. One is tonight's keynote speaker, Geoff Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. The Harlem Children's Zone combines educational, social and medical services with the goal of reaching all of the children in Harlem. Another organization addressing the issue is the MacArthur Foundation, which has created the Digital Media and Learning Project to explore the effects of digital media on young people and its implications for the future of learning and education. And we can't forget Sesame Workshop, which this year celebrates 40 years of educating children with Muppets and media.

There's great hope for American education, as long as we can work toward innovative solutions that not only allow students distinct educational experiences tailored to their interests and abilities, but also drive toward a common goal of assessable success. Students today are technologists too, and embracing that familiarity and bringing it into the classroom will help teachers and students better engage and work together to teach and learn. Most importantly, we need to support our teachers, principals and administrators — the true agents of change who tirelessly and passionately work to connect with each and every student that passes through their classrooms. The Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age forum is one step we're taking to address some of our most pressing national education system issues.

If you're interested in joining us at the forum, we'll be broadcasting live on the web both today and tomorrow. We welcome your questions and ideas to help us shape our discussions. Go to http://www.google.com/events/digitalage/ to participate and learn more.

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Up until now, if you wanted to use Google Voice, you needed to choose a new number (a "Google number"). Taking calls through your Google number allows us to offer features like call recording, call screening and getting text messages via email. But we know not everyone wants to switch to a new phone number, so it made sense for us to create a lighter version of Google Voice for people who are willing to trade some features for the ability to use their existing numbers.

We're excited to announce that you now have the choice to get Google Voice with your existing mobile number OR with a Google number.

If you sign up using your existing number, you'll still get many of Google Voice's features. Most notably, you'll get all the functionality of Google voicemail, as explained in this video:



If you already have a Google Voice account, you can add Google voicemail to any mobile phone you've linked to your account. If you're not yet using Google Voice, you can request an invite or ask a friend with a Google Voice account to send you an invitation. When you receive the invitation to sign up, you can choose to use Google Voice with your existing number — or to get a Google number for additional features.

Google Voice is about giving you more control over your communications. We hope this new option makes it easier for you to manage your messages and personalize your voicemail experience.

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Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu joined us at the Google campus today to talk about how the U.S. can build a prosperous economy powered by clean energy.

During a fireside chat with Googlers and our CEO Eric Schmidt, Secretary Chu talked about what it will take to create a clean energy revolution. When it comes to clean tech investments, he said, the Department of Energy is trying to "hit home runs, not base hits." He noted that there are many proposed solutions to climate change out there, and we need to pursue all of them. "The scale of what we need to do is enormous," said Secretary Chu, and "putting the world on a carbon diet" and dramatically bringing down the cost of clean energy and should be top priorities. If we succeed, it will "drive a new industrial revolution." 

You can watch the full video of his talk here:



Secretary Chu also heard from Googlers about some of our own clean energy projects including Google PowerMeter, which gives consumers access to their energy use information, developing renewable energy that is cheaper than coal (RE<C) and making our datacenters the most energy efficient in the world. "More companies need to get on board and make this part of their business plan," said the Secretary.

While in Mountain View, Secretary Chu announced $151 million in funding for 37 breakthrough energy projects in technologies like renewable power, energy efficiency and electric cars. The funding is being made available through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a newly-launched organization within the Department of Energy (DOE) created to support high-risk, high-reward research into innovative energy technologies. ARPA-E is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that funded research that eventually led to the creation of the Internet.

Update on 10/29: Updated to include the full video of Secretary Chu's talk.

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We are excited to announce that we've built a Custom Search Wikipedia skin that makes it easier for you to complete your research on Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows users to register and personalize their Wikipedia environment via the configuration of options and the use of styles or skins. Just log in to Wikipedia, enable the Custom Search skin and you'll have quick access to relevant Google Custom Search results from Wikipedia. With the Custom Search skin, your search results are conveniently placed inline on the page. After you've reviewed the results, you can dismiss them and return to the current article of interest without having to switch to a different tab on your browser; you can access the relevant Wikipedia articles right within the Wikipedia interface.

The Custom Search skin also features contextual search — searching across different sets of pages as you navigate Wikipedia. For Wikipedia pages with a lot of information and links, contextual search lets you limit your search to only those Wikipedia pages that are linked from the current article, focusing the results on the topic of the article. So, in addition to getting all matching Wikipedia articles, you can quickly drill down to contextually relevant results using the Linked Wikipedia Pages tab.

For example, searching for [sequence] from a Wikipedia page on DNA provides a list of relevant results about DNA sequences and DNA sequence alignment, instead of the many pages about sequences (in mathematics, poetry, music, games, etc.) that aren't relevant. Similarly, searching within the DNA page for [bonds] gives you results in chemistry and biochemistry, instead of other information about financial instruments and social sciences. This will help you perform more directed research, often with shorter queries, and get to relevant Wikipedia articles faster.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the Linked Wikipedia Pages tab helps you get quickly to the article about DNA sequence from a search for [sequence] on the DNA page.


To configure the new skin, follow the instructions on the Custom Search skin page on Wikipedia. It works with both Wikipedia's default Monobook style or the new Beta Vector style. You will need to log in to Wikipedia to customize your Wikipedia search.

For more information about the technology behind this application release, read our post on the Google Custom Search blog.

Wikipedia encourages technical innovation and tools to help you get improved access to knowledge, so please post your opinions about this contextual search experience at Wikimedia or give us feedback directly.

Last Friday was the third anniversary of the launch of Custom Search — we would like to take a moment to thank the millions of you who have implemented Custom Search on your sites. To celebrate our birthday we're releasing two new features that we hope will help you better customize your search results: Custom Search Themes and Structured Custom Search. Check out this post on the Google Custom Search blog to learn more about our third anniversary.

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This past September, you may have heard about the launch of our Data Liberation site, a central place on the web detailing how you can easily move your data into or away from Google's cloud. Today, we're adding another product to our growing list of liberations: the "Convert, Zip and Download" feature in Google Docs, which allows you to download a bunch — or all — of your Docs simultaneously.

This new feature comes out of a collaboration between the Google Docs engineering team and Google's Data Liberation Front, a small team of engineers that aims to make it easy for you to transfer your personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions.

"Convert, Zip and Download" now joins dozens of other liberation features across our product offerings, ranging from Blogger's full blog downloads to email export from Gmail using IMAP and POP3. The feature lets you bundle your Google Docs in a format of your choice (MS Office, Open Office, PDF, etc.) and download them as a zip file. No longer do you have to download each document individually, which can take a lot of time if you have hundreds of documents like I do! All you need to do is select the relevant Docs, click on "Export" from the "More Actions" menu and download them in one go. (Check out the Google Docs Blog for more details.)


We hope you find the new export feature useful. We strongly believe that you — not the products you use — should control your data, and be able to quickly and easily take that data out of any product without a hassle. We've already liberated more than half of our products, and are working hard to address the remaining challenges. Keep an eye out for more upcoming Data Liberations.

You can also take a deeper look into product liberation at dataliberation.org, follow us on Twitter @dataliberation or contribute suggestions for services that you think need to be liberated on our Data Liberation Moderator page.

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Your friends and contacts are a key part of your life online. Most people on the web today make social connections and publish web content in many different ways, including blogs, status updates and tweets. This translates to a public social web of content that has special relevance to each person. Unfortunately, that information isn't always very easy to find in one simple place. That's why today we're rolling out a new experiment on Google Labs called Google Social Search that helps you find more relevant public content from your broader social circle. It should be available for everyone to try by the end of the day, so be sure to check back.

A lot of people write about New York, so if I do a search for [new york] on Google, my best friend's New York blog probably isn't going to show up on the first page of my results. Probably what I'll find are some well-known and official sites. We've taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today's launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. When I do a simple query for [new york], Google Social Search includes my friend's blog on the results page under the heading "Results from people in your social circle for New York." I can also filter my results to see only content from my social circle by clicking "Show options" on the results page and clicking "Social." Check out this video for a demo:



All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is published publicly on the web — you can find it without Social Search if you really want to. What we've done is surface that content together in one single place to make your results more relevant. The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you're following on Twitter or FriendFeed. The results are specific to you, so you need to be signed in to your Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, we'll also include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, we'll include some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results.

To learn more about how Social Search works behind the scenes, including the choices and control you have over the content you see and share, read our help center article or watch this video:



This feature is an experiment, but we've been using it at Google and the results have been exciting. We'd love to hear your feedback. Oh, and don't forget to create a public Google profile to expand your social circle and more easily find the information you're looking for (including that New York blog).

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

Twitter
On Wednesday, we announced our newly-formed partnership with Twitter. This will help Google users find more up-to-the-minute, real-time data in the search results. We will be including tweets in our search results and bringing them to you when they are most relevant, and we will also be building a real-time search that includes Twitter and other providers. This week's announcement is just the beginning of our collaboration; stay tuned for upcoming products and features that focus on real-time search.

Social Search demo
At the Web 2.0 conference this week, we demonstrated a new product called Social Search. Due to the ever-increasing popularity of social networks, we've been thinking about how your social network could influence and improve your search results. Social Search does just that by surfacing content in your search results that is written by your friends or people you follow. That way, you get the best resources from the web overall, plus the best results (blogs, reviews, travelogues) that are relevant to you, since they were written by people you know. Social Search will be launching soon on Google Experimental and Google Labs.

Recommendations in Google Reader
This week, we also launched recommendations in Google Reader. This may seem far from search, but it is actually built using technology pioneered in search. The personalized ranking piece uses some of the same techniques as personalized search. The "Popular items" piece builds on our "What's Popular" gadget from iGoogle. We're very proud of both of these features, as we think they represent an interesting application of search that will help users more easily find content that they want to read.

New look-and-feel on maps
We have updated the way that maps render on Google Maps, and it is our biggest change in almost 5 years. The changes are subtle but significant. The blog post with the announcement has some very interesting before and after examples. The impetus of this change is to improve usability and readability and literally help people find where they are going faster — our goal both on the web with search, and in the physical world with maps.

Hope you enjoyed this week's features. Stay tuned for what's next!

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(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall became a striking symbol for free expression far beyond the borders of Germany. Just 20 years later, Iranian citizens used online tools like YouTube and Twitter to share firsthand accounts of the brutal government crackdown waged against protesters disputing the country's election results. Many Iranians risked their lives to document the violence, despite the government's attempts to expel journalists and stifle any voices of dissent.

The democratizing power of the Internet has enabled individuals to share their stories with a global audience in ways never before possible, and given a voice to those who wouldn't otherwise be heard.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we're launching a YouTube channel — youtube.com/GoogleFreeExpression — to highlight and celebrate free expression around the world, and we want to hear from you.

This channel is designed to feature your stories and reflections on free expression. Tell us about how you or someone you know has taken a stand for free expression. Perhaps you've protested against something you didn't agree with, taken action when someone else's free speech was being suppressed or been inspired by someone who has stood up for the right to speak out. Make a short video sharing your experience, upload it to YouTube, and add it as a reply to this one:



We'll be featuring the best submissions on the Google Free Expression channel, so be sure to check back in the weeks to come. We look forward to hearing from you.

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(Cross-posted from the Official Google Reader Blog)

Today, we're launching two changes to Google Reader to help you discover more interesting content faster. Just as the launch of Personalized Search improved search results based on your search history, these changes use your Reader Trends to improve your reading experience.
  • Explore section - We're always trying to help you discover new stuff in Reader, and today we're introducing Popular items and Recommended sources, two ways to find interesting content from all over the Internet. We use algorithms to find top-rising images, videos and pages from anywhere (not just your subscriptions), collect them in the new Popular items section and order them by what we think you'll like best. Now you don't have to be embarrassed about missing that hilarious video everyone is talking about — it should show up in your Popular items feed automatically. And to make it easier to find interesting feeds, we're moving Recommendations into the new Explore section and giving it a new name — Recommended sources. Like always, it uses your Reader Trends and Web History (if you're opted into Web History) to generate a list of feeds we think you might like.
  • Personalized ranking - Only have a 10-minute coffee break and want to see the best items first? All feeds now have a new sort option called "magic" that re-orders items in the feed based on your personal usage, and overall activity in Reader, instead of default chronological order. Click "Sort by magic" under the Folder Settings menu of your feed to switch to personalized ranking. Unlike the old "auto" ranking, this new ranking is personalized for you, and gets better with time as we learn what you like best — the more you "like" and "share" stuff, the better your magic sort will be. Give it a try on a high-volume feed folder or All items and see for yourself!
The goal of personalization at Google remains the same as ever: to help you find the best content on the web. We hope these new features help you do just that — go Explore for yourself.

Finally, we'd love to hear your feedback — share your thoughts on our help group, Twitter or the Reader section of Get Satisfaction, a third party support community.

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A couple of weeks ago we introduced Artist Themes for Google Chrome. We asked leading designers, artists, illustrators and musicians to use the browser as their personal canvas for designing interesting themes.

Since then, we've enjoyed hearing your thoughts on these designs and how you've used them to personalize your browser. We've also been intrigued by the ways in which these themes have had interesting and unusual cultural resonance with people around the world.

To continue celebrating this collaboration of engineering and art, we've joined forces with our friends at YouTube to launch a new video (with a surprise ending) that we hope showcases the full beauty of these themes. Check it out at youtube.com/googlechromethemes or by clicking on the image below.


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At Google, our goal is to create the most comprehensive, relevant and fast search in the world. In the past few years, an entirely new type of data has emerged — real-time updates like those on Twitter have appeared not only as a way for people to communicate their thoughts and feelings, but also as an interesting source of data about what is happening right now in regard to a particular topic.

Given this new type of information and its value to search, we are very excited to announce that we have reached an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in our search results. We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months. That way, the next time you search for something that can be aided by a real-time observation, say, snow conditions at your favorite ski resort, you'll find tweets from other users who are there and sharing the latest and greatest information.

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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.

The most recent release of Android 1.6, a.k.a. Donut, introduces accessibility features designed to make Android apps more widely usable by blind and low-vision users. In brief, Android 1.6 includes a built-in screenreader and text-to-speech (TTS) engine which make it possible to use most Android applications, as well as all of Android's default UI, when not looking at the screen.

Android-powered devices with Android 1.6 and future software versions will include the following accessibility enhancements:
  • Text-to-Speech (TTS) is now bundled with the Android platform. The platform comes with voices for English (U.S. and U.K.), French, Italian, Spanish and German.
  • A standardized Text To Speech API is part of the Android SDK, and this enables developers to create high-quality talking applications.
  • Starting with Android 1.6, the Android platform includes a set of easy to use accessibility APIs that make it possible to create accessibility aids such as screenreaders for the blind.
  • Application authors can easily ensure that their applications remain usable by blind and visually impaired users by ensuring that all parts of the user interface are reachable via the trackball; and all image controls have associated textual metadata.
  • Starting with Android 1.6, the Android platform comes with applications that provide spoken, auditory (non-speech sounds) and haptic (vibration) feedback. Named TalkBack, SoundBack and KickBack, these applications are available via the Settings > Accessibility menu.
  • In addition, project Eyes-Free (which includes accessibility tools such as TalkBack) provides several UI enhancements for using touch-screen input. Many of these innovations are available via Android Market and are already being heavily used. We believe these eyes-free tools will serve our users with special needs as well.
You can turn on the accessibility features by going to Settings --> Accessibility and checking the box "Accessibility". While the web browser and browser-based applications do not yet "talk" using these enhancements, we're working on them for upcoming releases. Check out this Google Open Source Blog post for more details, and stay tuned to the eyes-free channel on YouTube for step-by-step demonstrations on configuring and using accessibility support on Android.

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People use all kinds of tools to help them get stuff done — paper to-do lists, messages with a certain label or stars in Gmail, notes in Google Calendar, a couple different iGoogle gadgets and so on. Late last year, we added a lightweight way to help you keep track of what you need to do in Gmail Labs — tasks.

Since then, it's graduated from Labs, and you can manage your tasks not only in Gmail, but also in Google Calendar, iGoogle and from your mobile phone (by going to gmail.com/tasks from your phone's browser). Your task list stays up to date no matter how you access it — so for example, if you create a task with a due date on your mobile device, the next time you consult your Google Calendar you'll see that task on your calendar for that day.



Starting today, there's a full-screen version of the Tasks gadget for iGoogle. Click on the icon in the top-right corner and you'll be able to see and organize all your tasks at once.

For those of you who are already familiar with tasks, here are some power tips to help make you more productive:
  • When you have completed a task and no longer want it to appear on your list, click "Clear completed" in the actions menu. You can review your completed tasks later by clicking "View completed tasks." Clearing completed tasks is different from deleting them — if you delete a task, it's gone for good and you'll no longer see it anywhere in tasks.
  • In the default "My order" view, press tab to indent a task you're editing, making it a sub-task of the one above. Press shift + tab to reverse this operation.
  • Try ctrl + up/down (⌘ + up/down on a Mac) to move the task you're editing up and down the list. Move a task that has sub-tasks, and they'll come along with it.
  • Ctrl + up/down also works in sort by date view, where it will alter the task's due date by one day. You can use this to quickly plan out your week's activities or postpone a task for another day.
  • Press shift + enter to edit the details of a task, including its notes and due date. You can also use this view to move your task to another list.
We have more features in the pipeline, so if you're interested in hearing the latest on tasks, follow us on Twitter.

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The Google Search Appliance (GSA) is getting an update today, with a bunch of new features aimed at making enterprise search easier for everyone inside a company. One of our favorites, the Self-learning Scorer, learns from employees' searches to tune itself and improve over time. If employees repeatedly choose, say, the fourth result for a given query the GSA will learn that's probably the most relevant one and bring it up to the top the next time the query is searched for. Over time, the GSA auto-tunes, serving up better and better internal search results without any extra administrative work. You can read more about the Self-learning Scorer and check out the GSA's other new features in our post on the Google Enterprise Blog.

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We know the holiday season seems to come earlier every year (sorry, Halloween), but before you make your final travel plans, we're excited to let you know that we're partnering with Virgin America to provide free WiFi on every Virgin America flight between November 10, 2009 and January 15, 2010.

The holidays can be full of dates and details to remember, and it's easy to get stressed out somewhere between planning a long distance, multi-generational family gathering and combing the Internet for the latest impossible-to-find furry contraption for your toddler. And when you have to do all that while coordinating air travel at the same time as several million of your closest friends, things can get downright dramatic.

Whether it's using Gmail to confirm an airport pick up time with your brother, doing some last minute gift shopping for your niece on Google Product Search or searching Google.com for a good sweet potato pie recipe before touchdown — we hope this makes it a bit easier to stay connected with family and friends while you're up in the air.

You can find out more about our partnership, where Virgin America flies and how the in-flight WiFi service works at www.freeholidaywifi.com.

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Each day, thousands of companies choose to "go Google" — that is, switch to Google Apps. Over two million business and 20 million users in over 100 countries and more than 40 languages have adopted Apps for their workplace, and we're happy to welcome companies around the world such as Konica Minolta, Rentokil Initial and TOTO that have just decided to go Google. These companies no longer have to deal with the hassles of managing email servers or rolling out software updates, and their employees now enjoy the convenience of shared documents and calendars, Gmail and more.

Since we first asked for your "gone Google" stories in August, we've seen thousands of tweets and hundreds of comments explaining how and why your company decided to go Google with Apps, as well as with other Google enterprise products such as Google Postini Services and the Google Search Appliance. Jeffrey D. from Ottawa, Canada told us that with Apps, he "was able to set up a new business in minutes with email, calendar, docs, and sync with [his] BlackBerry." @happymacs from San Diego, CA tweeted how they liked the ability to "search every single email received in the past 2.5 years in under 2 seconds"; while @Appfrica highlighted the sobering fact that the cost of an alternative software solution would employ a person in Uganda for a month.

Today, we're excited to support this global momentum with the expansion of the "Gone Google" initiative to additional countries including the U.K., France, Canada, Japan, Australia and Singapore. We hope our messages — in train stations such as Paddington, La Défense and Shinagawa, and at airports in Singapore, Toronto, Dallas and beyond — help companies, schools and organizations learn all about the benefits of going Google with our enterprise products. Here's a sneak peek at what you can expect to see both here in the U.S. and abroad:



If you've already gone Google, you can share your company's Gone Google story with us, or use some of our tools to help spread the word about switching to Google Apps. We hope you'll be part of the story.

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

This week, we made a few improvements to help webmasters better understand how their pages interact with Google search. Here's an overview:

Fetch as Googlebot
As a webmaster, have you ever wondered what Google "sees" when we visit your site? Our understanding of your web page affects which searches your page is returned for and its relevance rank. New this week, we're providing a tool as part of our Webmaster Tools Lab that lets you to see what Googlebot sees in the hope that this will help site owners better understand why we think your pages are relevant, and to what. We think this can help webmasters design pages that are easier for Googlebot to understand, and more importantly, easier for users to understand.

Malware details
You may occasionally see on Google a notice that says "This site may harm your computer." We place this warning in search result snippets when we see signals that a particular web page may be spreading malware. Webmasters occasionally will see this warning on one of their pages that wasn't intended to be malicious. This is because sometimes your site could be distributing malware — and you might not even know it or be able to easily find it. Malware details is designed to help webmasters track down what on their site is triggering this label and clear the problem — thus, making their page (and the web) safer for users.

Hope you enjoyed this week's features. Stay tuned for what's next!