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

From Google Squared enhancements to search becoming more social, this week brought a slew of exciting and (we hope) useful search feature releases:

Social Search
Sometimes, there might be relevant content on the web from people in your social circle. For example, learning what your friend thinks about the latest gadget or exotic travel location (e.g. in his or her blog) can help enhance your search experience. Until recently, there was no easy way to find this type of content published by your friends. Last October, we launched Social Search in Google labs to help solve this problem.

After a large number of users opted in and tried out the feature, Social Search has graduated and is available in beta for all signed-in users on in English. We also added this feature to Google Images and gave you a way to visualize your social circle. To learn more about Social Search and how to get better social search results check out this post or this video.

Google Squared single item landing page
Last year we launched Google Squared, an experimental search tool that collects facts from the web and presents them in an organized collection, similar to a spreadsheet. For categorical searches like [us presidents] or [dog breeds], Google Squared produces the type of extracted facts you might be interested in, and presents them in a meaningful way. Starting this week, Google Squared has a new design to better handle queries looking for a single thing, like a specific president or a particular breed of dog. The page is now easier to read and includes multiple images, and you can still add, remove or change the type of facts that are visible.

Example searches: [barack obama] and [boston terrier]

Better labels for Time/LIFE images
In late 2008, we worked with Time/LIFE to digitize several million archival images never been seen before, and made them available in Image Search. At that time, many images in the collection had descriptions and labels and were easy to search for. But some had less descriptive information, making them more difficult to find. Now it's possible for knowledgeable users to label images and enrich the collection. Over time, we hope the Google community will make the quality of image search better than ever before.

Example: [Cincinnati baseball]. Note the "labels" in the bottom righthand corner.

We hope you enjoy the variety of new features this week.

About 18 months ago, we published a graph showing that Unicode on the web had just exceeded all other encodings of text on the web. The growth since then has been even more dramatic.

Web pages can use a variety of different character encodings, like ASCII, Latin-1, or Windows 1252 or Unicode. Most encodings can only represent a few languages, but Unicode can represent thousands: from Arabic to Chinese to Zulu. We have long used Unicode as the internal format for all the text we search: any other encoding is first converted to Unicode for processing.

This graph is from Google internal data, based on our indexing of web pages, and thus may vary somewhat from what other search engines find. However, the trends are pretty clear, and the continued rise in use of Unicode makes it even easier to do the processing for the many languages that we cover.

Searching for "nancials"?
Unicode is growing both in usage and in character coverage. We recently upgraded to the latest version of Unicode, version 5.2 (via ICU and CLDR). This adds over 6,600 new characters: some of mostly academic interest, such as Egyptian Hieroglyphs, but many others for living languages.

We're constantly improving our handling of existing characters. For example, the characters "fi" can either be represented as two characters ("f" and "i"), or a special display form "fi". A Google search for [financials] or [office] used to not see these as equivalent — to the software they would just look like *nancials and of*ce. There are thousands of characters like this, and they occur in surprisingly many pages on the web, especially generated PDF documents.

But no longer — after extensive testing, we just recently turned on support for these and thousands of other characters; your searches will now also find these documents. Further steps in our mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

And we're angling for a party when Unicode hits 50%!

Thursday, January 28th marks International Data Privacy Day. We're recognizing this day by publicly publishing our guiding Privacy Principles.
  • Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
  • Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
  • Make the collection of personal information transparent.
  • Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
  • Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.

We've always operated with these principles in mind. Now, we're just putting them in writing so you have a better understanding of how we think about these issues from a product perspective. Like our design and software guidelines, these privacy principles are designed to guide the decisions we make when we create new technologies. They are one of the key reasons our engineers have worked on new privacy-enhancing initiatives and features like the Google Dashboard, the Ads Preferences Manager and the Data Liberation Front. And there is more in store for 2010.

You can find out more about our efforts at the Google Privacy Center and on our YouTube channel.

(Cross-posted with the Google Students Blog)

We know firsthand how vital a good science or math education is to building products that change the world and enrich peoples' lives. We're committed to supporting students in their pursuit of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields — particularly those from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.

Over time, we've dedicated time, people, and financial resources to organizations, events and schools to help advance this mission — and we're excited to share that we rounded out 2009 with a donation of $8 million to a variety of organizations who share our dedication to this cause. Our efforts were focused in four key areas:

Starting in high school
STEM education at an elementary and high school level builds technical skills early and encourages interest in technology. To support the ongoing education of these subjects, we identified more than 600 high schools with significant populations of students from under-represented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are providing laptops to their computer science and math departments. We are also offering laptops to some of the most promising students in these schools. In a time when many of these schools are experiencing decreased funding, we wanted to support their continued commitment to learning and teaching these subjects, and recognize the exceptional work done by teachers in these communities. If you're interested in learning more about our efforts in this field, check out Google Code University (CS tutorials for students and teachers) as well as our tools, tips and lesson plans for K-12 educators.

Growing promising talent
We've worked with over 200 outstanding students as part of our FUSE, CSSI, BOLD and BOLD Practicum summer programs. To help the alumni of our 2009 summer programs pursue their studies, we awarded former program participants with school-based scholarships. We hope that this support for tuition will lessen the financial burden on these students and their families, reduce work-study commitments and free them up to explore other educational opportunities, like studying abroad.

Advancing technical knowledge through universities
We have close relationships with universities around the world — not only do we employ their alumni, but they are also a source of groundbreaking research and innovation. We awarded grants ranging in size from $20k to $100k to 50 U.S.-based universities with whom we already have relationships and directed these funds toward departments that are closely aligned with promoting under-represented minorities in technology. We hope to expand this effort both to more U.S.-based universities and to universities around the world in the future.

Partnerships with the organizations that make it happen
Our commitment to promote women and under-represented minorities in technology is shared by dozens of local and national organizations around the country. We awarded grants to 22 partner organizations, almost all of which we have worked with in the past. These organizations are on the front lines, making sure that under-represented groups have the support, resources and contacts they need. You'll find a list of these organizations with a quick overview of the work they focus on here.

This was a terrific way to close out 2009 and we look forward to attracting and encouraging more students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. In the meantime, you can find news especially for students on the Students Blog and by following us on @googlestudents.

Late last year we released the Social Search experiment to make search more personal with relevant web content from your friends and online contacts. We were excited by the number of people who chose to try it out, and today Social Search is available to everyone in beta on

We've been having a lot of fun with Social Search. It's baby season here on our team — two of us just had little ones, and a third is on the way. We're all getting ready to be parents for the first time and we have lots of questions. So, what do we do? We search Google, of course! With Social Search, when we search for [baby sleep patterns], [swaddling] or [best cribs], not only do we get the usual websites with expert opinions, we also find relevant pages from our friends and contacts. For example, if one of my friends has written a blog where he talks about a great baby shop he found in Mountain View, this might appear in my social results. I could probably find other reviews, but my friend's blog is more relevant because I know and trust the author.

While we've been enjoying Social Search (and having babies), we've been hard at work on new features. For example, we've added social to Google Images. Now when you're doing a search on Images, you may start seeing pictures from people in your social circle. These are pictures that your friends and other contacts have published publicly to the web on photo-sharing sites like Picasa Web Albums and Flickr. Just like the other social results, social image results appear under a special heading called "Results from your social circle." Here's what it looks like:
Looking at the screenshot, you may notice two new links for "My social circle" and "My social content." These links will take you to a new interface we've added where you can see the connections and content behind your social results. Clicking on "My social circle" shows your extended network of online contacts and how you're connected.

Clicking on "My social content" lists your public pages that might appear in other people's social results. This new interface should give you a peek under the hood of how Social Search builds your social circle and connects you with web content from your friends and extended network. You can check out your social circle directly by visiting this link. (Note that it may take some time for the connections and content to update.)

We think there's tremendous potential for social information to improve search, and we're just beginning to scratch the surface. We're leaving a "beta" label on social results because we know there's a lot more we can do. If you want to get the most out of Social Search right away, get started by creating a Google profile, where you can add links to your other public online social services. Check out this short video to learn more:

The new features are rolling out now on in English for all signed-in users, and you should start seeing them in the next few days. Time to socialize!

Today we're excited to introduce a new stable release of Google Chrome for Windows, which includes two of the browser's most frequently requested features: extensions and bookmark sync.

Extensions let you add new features and functions to your browser. Some provide one-click access to some of your favorite web applications like eBay and digg, or news and information sources such as NPR and Others are useful tweaks for performing common online tasks such as browsing photos, getting directions or shopping.

We previously launched extensions on the beta channel, and many new extensions have since been contributed by developers from all over the world. Now you can browse over 1,500 in our extensions gallery and install them on the stable version of Google Chrome.

Bookmark sync is a handy feature for those of you who use several computers — say, a laptop at work and a desktop at home. You can enable bookmark sync to synchronize your bookmarks on all of your computers so that when you create a bookmark on one computer, it's automatically added across all your computers. This means that you won't need to manually recreate the bookmark each time you switch computers.

You can read more about today's stable release — including performance improvements — on the Google Chrome Blog. Or if you want a look under the hood at what this update means for web developers (including new HTML and Javascript APIs), check out the Chromium blog.

To those using Google Chrome on Linux, extensions are enabled on the beta channel. And for those using Google Chrome for Mac, hang tight — we're working on bringing extensions, bookmark sync and more to the beta soon. Those currently using the stable version for Windows will be automatically updated within the next week (or you can check for updates manually).

If you're on a PC and haven't tried Google Chrome yet, you can download Google Chrome and give all these new features a whirl.

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 Google that you used today is actually better than the Google that you used yesterday. On a daily basis, we make a number of algorithmic enhancements and release other search features that ultimately make finding what you're looking for quick, easy and enjoyable. Here are a few of the exciting feature releases this week:

Hours and menu information in universal search
Want to know when your favorite museum is open? Interested in ordering in and need to quickly check the menu for that restaurant around the corner? This week we were excited to launch hours and menu information in local results for universal Google search. Now you can add the words "hours" or "menu" to your search to get back the information you want in a snap.

Example searches: [computer history museum mountain view hours], [sushi sakae burlingame menu]

Rich Snippets for events
What are Rich Snippets? They show brief annotations that webmasters make to summarize what's on the page so you can see it at a glance on your search results page. So far we've launched improved snippets for two formats: reviews and people. Today, we unveiled a new Rich Snippets format for events. The next time you're searching for events, you'll see how the new format lists them as search result snippets, along with dates, locations and links directly to pages about those specific events. And, as webmasters implement the new markup on their webpages, you'll begin to see these event results more frequently.

Example search: [concerts in san jose]

Answer highlighting
Earlier today, we were excited to release the answer highlighting feature, which helps you get to information more quickly by delivering the likely answer to your question in boldface type right in search results. If the pages returned for these searches contain a simple answer to a factual-based search, the snippet will more often include the relevant text in boldface for easy reference. Read more about answer highlighting here.

Example searches: [who is the author of 1984], [p.s. i love you release date], [terminator salvation director]

We hope that you enjoy the features we launched this week — and that they make your search experience even better than yesterday.

During the past couple months, the Knol team has been steadily adding improved tools to help you create better knols. Most notably, we've greatly expanded the number of embeddable objects to help you make your knols more graphical and interactive. We've been excited by the many uses we're seeing, and today we have one more to add to the list: PicApp.

We think it's important for a publishing platform like knol to provide people with the best possible tools for expression, so we've quietly added a large number of new embeddable objects for maps, docs, spreadsheets, forms, slideshows, presentations, videos, gadgets and more. Embeddable objects help you make better knols. For example, our equation object helps you add richly formatted mathematical expressions right in your knols. We really liked the cleanly embedded equations in this knol from the Public Library of Science. Similarly, our calendar object enables you to easily share details about upcoming dates, like swing dance lessons in Oregon.

Even with all these embeddable objects, there's still more to do. For example, one frequent complaint is that it is still difficult today to find appropriately licensed, high-quality imagery to include in your articles. To help solve this problem, we've worked with PicApp to add 10 million high quality stock images via our improved picture picker. The new picker enables you to search for creative and editorial images from PicApp's comprehensive, high-quality stock imagery repositories such as Getty Images. The service and use of the images is free.

Below is a snapshot of a sample search using the PicApp search API.

The feature just launched last month, and several authors have already made use of this new capability to strengthen their writings. For example, this knol about Gary McKinnon uses images found via PicApp, along with embedded videos, and even a feedback form to get input from the audience.

We hope you enjoy the image picker and other new embeddable objects. As always, you can read our release notes for a full list of new features.

It's sometimes easy to take the little things in life for granted: a haircut, a shower, shoes or even a phone number. Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we planned, and those little luxuries become much harder to come by.

Project CARE is a program to provide free Google Voice phone numbers and voicemail accounts to homeless individuals. The Google Voice team has been offering this program in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than two years, and we're excited to bring Project CARE to a new city.

On Saturday, Google Voice will join dozens of other Washington, D.C. organizations at the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center to try and make life a little easier for hundreds of veterans in the Washington, D.C. area. We will be handing out Project CARE cards and helping attendees set up unique phone numbers and voicemail accounts, which they can use when applying for jobs or filling out medical forms, or share with family.

In today's connected world, many of us don't think twice about picking up the phone to place or receive a call. However, for a homeless individual, a phone number can be an important lifeline, connecting you with prospective employers, health care providers, family and friends. We hope these Project CARE phone numbers provide homeless veterans with a way to reconnect with those they've lost touch with over the years.

Last year at our second Searchology event, we announced Google Squared and Rich Snippets, two approaches to improve search by better understanding the web. Today, we're kicking off the new year with two improvements based on those technologies. First, we're applying the research behind Google Squared to add a new "answer-highlighting" feature to search, and second we're expanding Rich Snippets to include events.

Answer highlighting in search results

Most information on the web is unstructured. For example, blogs integrate paragraphs of text, videos and images in ways that don't follow simple rules. Product review sites each have their own formats, rating scales and categories. Unstructured data is difficult for a computer to interpret, which means that we humans still have to do a fair amount of work to synthesize and understand information on the web.

Google Squared is one of our early efforts to automatically identify and extract structured data from across the Internet. We've been making progress, and today the research behind Google Squared is, for the first time, making search better for everyone with a new feature called "answer highlighting."

Answer highlighting helps you get to information more quickly by seeking out and bolding the likely answer to your question right in search results. The feature is meant for searches with factual answers, such as [meet john doe director], [john lennon died], or [what was the political party of president ford]. If the pages returned for these queries contain a simple answer, the search snippet will more often include the relevant text and bold it for easy reference.

Consider the example, [empire state height]. The first search result used to look like this:

With today's improvements, the answer —1250 ft, or 381 m — is highlighted right in the search result:

This kind of quick answer only makes sense for certain kinds of searches. For example, the answer to [history of france] can't readily fit in a search snippet. However, for the kinds of information you can easily put in a table, we've been able to take what we've learned from Google Squared to make search better for a wide range of queries. Answer highlighting is rolling out during the next couple days on in English.

Rich Snippets for events

Sometimes the easiest way to understand somebody is by having a conversation. The web is similar. As much as we're happy with the progress we're making with Google Squared, we also appreciate that a great way to understand web pages is to simply ask webmasters to teach us (and other search engines) about their content. To that end, we continue to make improvements to our search results with Rich Snippets, enabling webmasters to annotate pages with structured data in a standard format.

So far we've launched improved search result snippets for reviews and people. When your search results contain web pages with review information, you might see the number of user reviews on the page and the average rating in the search result. When your search contains a public profile page about a person from a social networking site, you may see the person's location and occupation, or a list of her friends.

Today, we're announcing support for a new Rich Snippets format for events. The new format improves search results by including links to specific event names, dates and locations. Here's an example of a new event result from if you search for [irving plaza]:

The new result format provides a fast and convenient way to identify pages with events and click directly to the ones you find interesting. If you're into Hip Hop Karaoke, you can quickly find out when and where the next show is in Irving Plaza, and click for more info. We've been working with a few sites to ramp them up for our initial launch, but it will take time for other webmasters to start implementing the new markup. Check out our blog post on Webmaster Central for more details.

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

The Google Apps team has had another productive couple of weeks. We released a number of helpful new features, and were happy to welcome new customers to the future of computing.

Upload any file to Google Docs
Last Tuesday, we began rolling out the ability for you to upload any type of file to Google Docs, not just documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs. This lets you access and share anything up to 250MB from the cloud. You get 1GB of storage for uploaded files for free, and you can purchase additional storage for file uploads. (Additional storage plans are coming soon for schools and businesses, too.)

Google Apps Premier Edition customers can also use the Google Documents List Data API to programatically add files to Google Docs, and purchase third-party applications so employees can sync files between their computers and Google Docs.

Default https access for Gmail
In the past, you had the option to always use https encryption in Gmail to help protect your data as it travels between your browser and our servers. After evaluating the trade-offs between security and latency, as of last week https encryption is now the default in Gmail.

If you trust your network's security and want to disable always-on https for performance reasons, you can change your preferences in Gmail settings. Employees and students whose admins have not already defaulted their entire organizations to https will also see this option. The Gmail sign-in page will still always use https to help keep your password safe.

Who's gone Google?
Sanmina-SCI is a leading Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider to many industries including the communications, medical, defense and aerospace, industrial and renewable energy sectors. Sanmina-SCI rigorously evaluated and smoothly deployed Google Apps to their multi-lingual, global workforce of 15,000 employees. Not only did Sanmina-SCI achieve significant cost savings over upgrading their outdated Microsoft Exchange environment, deploying Google Apps has resulted in better customer service, streamlined business processes and increased flexibility.

We also witnessed a flurry of schools going Google after winter break. A very warm welcome to North Carolina State University, the Byron School District, Griffith University, Seattle Central Community College and Macquarie University!

If your school or business is ready to go Google too, take a look at our tips and best practices for deploying Google Apps.

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

(Cross-posted with an update from the Google Lat Long Blog)

In the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake, aid organizations have been hard at work on the ground and citizens around the world have pitched in to help in whatever way they can. On the Geo team, we've been looking for ways we can help relief efforts using our mapping tools. Last week, thanks to our partner GeoEye, we published updated satellite imagery of Haiti in Google Earth and Google Maps which illustrated the devastation and current conditions on the ground. This data was made available for public consumption and also to assist relief efforts including those by many UN organizations and the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies.

With the hope of furthering awareness and relief efforts, we arranged for a collection of the Port-au-Prince area at even higher resolution (approximately 15cm) to complement the existing imagery. Here are some examples of the kind of detail this new dataset can convey:

click to see full-size

These images were gathered on Sunday (January 17). You can currently view the imagery in Google Maps in Satellite mode. It will also be available via the Google Maps API and in Google Map Maker. As of this morning, this high-resolution imagery is now available as the base imagery in Google Earth (all previous imagery of Haiti will be included in the Historical Imagery feature) and has been published in the Haiti Earthquake KML layer. We're also making this imagery directly available to relief organizations.

We've also updated the Haiti Earthquake KML layer (download for Google Earth) with additional information, including more imagery from GeoEye, Digital Globe, and NOAA, as well as earthquake epicenters and other maps. Aid groups can also download Map Maker data as well.

This post is the latest in an ongoing series about how we harness the data we collect to improve our products and services for our users. - Ed.

An irony of computer science is that tasks humans struggle with can be performed easily by computer programs, but tasks humans can perform effortlessly remain difficult for computers. We can write a computer program to beat the very best human chess players, but we can't write a program to identify objects in a photo or understand a sentence with anywhere near the precision of even a child.

Enabling computers to understand language remains one of the hardest problems in artificial intelligence. The goal of a search engine is to return the best results for your search, and understanding language is crucial to returning the best results. A key part of this is our system for understanding synonyms.

What is a synonym? An obvious example is that "pictures" and "photos" mean the same thing in most circumstances. If you search for [pictures developed with coffee] to see how to develop photographs using coffee grinds as a developing agent, Google must understand that even if a page says "photos" and not "pictures," it's still relevant to the search. While even a small child can identify synonyms like pictures/photos, getting a computer program to understand synonyms is enormously difficult, and we're very proud of the system we've developed at Google.

Our synonyms system is the result of more than five years of research within our web search ranking team. We constantly monitor the quality of the system, but recently we made a special effort to analyze synonyms impact and quality. Most of the time, you probably don't notice when your search involves synonyms, because it happens behind the scenes. However, our measurements show that synonyms affect 70 percent of user searches across the more than 100 languages Google supports. We took a set of these queries and analyzed how precise the synonyms were, and were happy with the results: For every 50 queries where synonyms significantly improved the search results, we had only one truly bad synonym.

An example of a bad synonym from this analysis is in the search [dell system speaker driver precision 360], where Google thinks "pc" is a synonym for precision. Note that you can still see that on Google today, because while we know it's a bad synonym, we don't typically fix bad synonyms by hand. Instead, we try to discover general improvements to our algorithms to fix the problems. We hope it will be fixed automatically in some future changes.

We also recently made a change to how our synonyms are displayed. In our search result snippets, we bold the terms of your search. Historically, we have bolded synonyms such as stemming variants — like the word "picture" for a search with the word "pictures." Now, we've extended this to words that our algorithms very confidently think mean the same thing, even if they are spelled nothing like the original term. This helps you to understand why that result is shown, especially if it doesn't contain your original search term. In our [pictures developed with coffee] example, you can see that the first result has the word "photos" bolded in the title:

(Note that because our synonyms depend on the other words in your search and use many signals, you won't necessarily always see the word "photos" bolded for "pictures", only when our algorithms think it is useful and important to bold.)

We use many techniques to extract synonyms, that we've blogged about before. Our systems analyze petabytes of web documents and historical search data to build an intricate understanding of what words can mean in different contexts. In the above example "photos" was an obvious synonym for "pictures," but it's not always a good synonym. For example, it's important for us to recognize that in a search like [history of motion pictures], "motion pictures" means something special (movies), and "motion photos" doesn't make any sense. Another example is the term "GM." Most people know the most prominent meaning: "General Motors." For the search [gm cars], you can see that Google bolds the phrase "General Motors" in the search results. This is an indication that for that search we thought "General Motors" meant the same thing as "GM." Are there any other meanings? Many people can think of the second meaning, "genetically modified," which is bolded when GM is used in queries about crops and food, like in the search results for [gm wheat]. It turns out that there are more than 20 other possible meanings of the term "GM" that our synonyms system knows something about. GM can mean George Mason in [gm university], gamemaster in [gm screen star wars], Gangadhar Meher in [gm college], general manager in [nba gm] and even gunners mate in [navy gm].

Here are screenshots of those disambiguations of GM in action:

As a nomenclatural note, even obvious term variants like "pictures" (plural) and "picture" (singular) would be treated as different search terms by a dumb computer, so we also include these types of relationships within our umbrella of synonyms. Pictures/picture are typically called stemming variants, which refers to the fact that they share the same word stem, or root. The same systems that need to understand that "pictures" and "photos" mean the same thing also need to understand that "pictures" and "picture" mean the same thing. This is something that is even more obvious to a human but is also still a difficult task for a computer. An example of how this is difficult are the words "animal" and "animation," which share the same stem and etymology, but don't mean the same thing in standard use. Another tricky case that is very dependent on the other words in the query is "arm" vs. "arms." Arms might seem like the plural of arm, but consider how it might be used in a search: [arm reduction] vs. [arms reduction]. Google search is smart enough to know that the former is about removing fat from one's arm, and the latter is about reducing stockpiles of weaponry, and that arm/arms are dangerous synonyms in that case because they would change the meaning. These subtle differences between words that seem related is what makes synonymy very hard to get right.

Here are some other examples of synonyms we thought were interesting:

[song words], "lyrics" is bolded for "words".
[what state has the highest murder rate], "homicide" is bolded for "murder".
[himalayan kitten breeder], Google knows that "cat breeder" is the same as "kitten breeder".
[dura ace track bb axle njs], Google knows that "bb" here means "bottom bracket".
[software update on bb color id], "blackberry is bolded for "bb".
[bb cream dark], Google knows here that bb means "blemish balm".
[southeastern usa bb fitness & figure], "bodybuilding" is bolded for "bb."

Lastly, language is used with as much variety and subtlety as is present in human culture, and our algorithms still make mistakes. We flinch when we find such mistakes; we're always working to fix them. One of the best ways for us to discover these problems is to get feedback from real users, which we then use to inspire improvements to our computer programs. If you have specific complaints about our synonyms system, you can post a question at the web search help center forum or you can tweet them with the hash tag #googlesyns. You can also turn off a synonym for a specific term by adding a "+" before it or by putting the words in quotation marks.

With relief efforts underway, many displaced Haitians and their friends and families around the world are deeply concerned about the safety and whereabouts of loved ones. In response to the Haitian earthquake, a team of Googlers worked with the U.S. Department of State to create an online People Finder gadget so that people can submit information about missing persons and to search the database.

You'll find this gadget on our Haiti earthquake response website as well as on the State Department website. In order to prevent the proliferation of multiple missing persons databases (a big problem during Hurricane Katrina), we've made the People Finder gadget standards-based and easily embeddable on any website (see here for instructions). The gadget is currently available in English, French and Creole.

We're also helping families in the U.S. stay connected with their loved ones in Haiti by offering free calls to Haiti for the next two weeks via Google Voice. If you don't have a Google Voice account already, request an invitation at

For anyone interested in viewing updated imagery in Google Earth, we've now included GeoEye's shots from Wednesday in the Historical Imagery feature. Now you can view the imagery without downloading the KML file and can use the time slider to easily compare the stark before-and-after images, such as those below. To help relief organizations, GeoEye has made professional-quality files of their recent satellite imagery of Haiti downloadable via our earthquake response website. We hope the imagery in this format will be valuable to GIS organizations and aid workers.

(Click to see full-size)

We have also made Haiti Map Maker data publicly available for download for non-commercial use and attribution. Data can be used by relief workers to do things such as create offline maps, combine data sets and run analysis, all of which we hope will help with their efforts on the ground. Please help improve Haiti maps with Google Map Maker.

News and user footage continues to roll into YouTube. Oxfam and the American Red Cross are even responding to donations by uploading videos that show viewers exactly where their contributions are making a difference.

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.

From mobile search to books, the first days of 2010 have brought some exciting new innovations. But most importantly, the global community rallied online to help support victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti.

Searching to support Haiti
On January 12th, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, causing massive devastation. Throughout the week, we saw queries from Google users searching for information, resources and ways they could help. In fact, on January 12th, 4 of our 5 fastest rising queries were related to the earthquake. And it's not too late to help join in on the recovery efforts mobilizing around the world — a donation can help rebuild lives and communities. For more information on ways you can help, visit Google's Crisis Response page. Google has also pledged to help organizations provide relief with a donation of $1 million. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and their families.

Flu Trends
Back in 2008, we launched Google Flu Trends, which uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity. Over time, we've found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. This week we were excited to announce that we're taking flu trends one step further, with city level flu estimates in 121 cities in the U.S. With flu season upon us, Flu Trends is now an even greater resource that can help provide early detection of flu activity. Find out more about our announcement here.

Near Me Now for mobile
Need to find a nearby restaurant, coffee shop or bar on the fly — or maybe an ATM or bank? This past week, we launched "Near Me Now" on in the U.S. for Android-powered devices and iPhone. By using your phone's location information, searching for nearby places is now easier and faster. With just a few clicks you can easily check out customer reviews, quickly jump to a map to help you get there or call the business. For more information about this exciting launch, check out this post from the mobile team.

Optimized search suggestions using your location
Typing your query into a search box on a phone can sometimes be slow and difficult. Now, when using your Android-powered device or iPhone in the U.S., searching with Google just got a whole lot better. You'll now see customized search suggestions based on your current or last location. For example, if you are in Boston, a query beginning with "R-E" will return a suggestion for "Red Sox" among others. For more information on how to ensure that this new feature is enabled on your phone, check out the mobile team's announcement.

Samsung E-Reader
At last week's annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hundreds of exciting products were announced. In partnership with Google, Samsung launched two e-reader devices that make it very easy to read any of Google's million-plus public domain books. Two models were launched: the E6, with a six-inch screen, and the E101, with a 10-inch display.

Thanks for reading, and as always, we'll see you back here next week.

(Cross-posted on the blog)

These recent satellite images of Port-au-Prince, Haiti before and after Tuesday's earthquake dramatically show the devastation caused by magnitude 7.0 trembler. Here are before-and-after screenshots of the National Palace and an area of Port-au-Prince:

Click to see full-size

In order to help the people of Haiti respond to this catastrophe, Google is donating $1 million to organizations on the ground that are rescuing those still trapped and providing clean water, food, medical care, shelter and support to those affected. We'd like to make it easy for anyone moved by the tragedy to respond as well, so we've included a link on our homepage to information, resources and ways you can help, including information on how to donate to organizations including: Direct Relief, Yele Haiti, Partners in Health, Red Cross, World Food Program, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Lambi Fund, Doctors Without Borders, The International Rescue Committee.

You can also use the below buttons to donate to UNICEF or CARE.

Donate to CARE

Donate to UNICEF

In addition, Map Maker data has been made available to U.N. organizations and the team is working with the Map Your World Community to encourage Map Maker users with on the ground knowledge to help update the map of Haiti with disaster response data. We've received requests from relief organizations and our users to publish recent satellite imagery of the country. One of our imagery partners, GeoEye, has provided us with post-earthquake imagery from Haiti. You can check our Lat Long blog for further updates.

We've also reached out to the YouTube community for help. A Spotlight on the homepage drives traffic to videos from Oxfam and the American Red Cross, where you can make donations to relief efforts. We're also keeping a running playlist of the video footage coming out of Haiti on Citizentube; you can find a broad collection of citizen reports, news wire clips and personal stories of some of the victims.

Update at 1:11: Details regarding YouTube involvement corrected.

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this Report to Congress (PDF) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (see p. 163-), as well as a related analysis (PDF) prepared for the Commission, Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.

Update: Added a link to another referenced report in paragraph 5.

In contrast to the unusually early spike of flu activity we saw this October, Google Flu Trends is currently showing a low level of activity in the United States. Since the strain of influenza that is active (H1N1) is novel, no one knows exactly what will happen next. However, the CDC is warning that one possibility is a second spike of flu activity, which is what occured in 1957 when another novel strain of influenza spread in the United States.

We've been chatting with public health officials about new ways we can help people understand the spread of flu during this unusual time and today we're excited to bring city level flu estimates to 121 cities in the United States.

By tracking the popularity of certain Google search queries, we're able to estimate the level of flu in near real-time. Google Flu Trends is updated daily and may provide early detection of flu activity, since traditional flu surveillance systems often take days or weeks to collect and release data. These city level estimates are "experimental," meaning they haven't been validated against official data. However, the estimates are made in a similar manner to our U.S. national estimates, which have been validated. Check out our YouTube video for a quick introduction to this system.

We're pleased to be announcing this addition to Google Flu Trends during National Influenza Vaccination Week. If you're looking for a flu vaccine location near you, please visit the flu shot finder.

Over the next few weeks, we’re rolling out the ability to upload all file types to the cloud through Google Docs, giving you one place where you can upload and access your key files online. Because Google Docs now supports files up to 250 MB in size, which is larger than the attachment limit on most email applications, you’ll be able to backup large graphics files, RAW photos, ZIP archives and much more to the cloud. More importantly, instead of carrying a USB drive, you can now use Google Docs as a more convenient option for accessing your files on different computers.

This feature can also help you work with teams to organize and collaborate on information online. For example, an architect can share large schematic files with her construction firm, while a P.T.A. member can share large graphic files for posters with other members. You can even add these files to the same shared project folder your team has already been using to collaborate on documents and spreadsheets.

In addition to uploading any file into Google Docs, our Google Apps Premier Edition customers will be able to seamlessly upload many files at once and sync them with their desktop in real time using third party applications. You can read more about how the ability to upload any file will help businesses on the Google Enterprise blog.

This feature will be enabled for your account over the next couple of weeks — look for the bubble notification when you sign in to Google Docs. For more information, check out our post on the Google Docs blog.

(Cross-posted with the Google Code Blog)

I'm excited to announce that registration for Google I/O is now open at Our third annual developer conference will return to Moscone West in San Francisco on May 19-20, 2010. We expect thousands of web, mobile and enterprise developers to be in attendance.

I/O 2010 will be focused on building the next generation of applications in the cloud and will feature the latest on Google products and technologies like Android, Google Chrome, App Engine, Google Web Toolkit, Google APIs and more. Members of our engineering teams and other web development experts will lead more than 80 technical sessions. We'll also bring back the Developer Sandbox, which we introduced at I/O 2009, where developers from more than 100 companies will be on hand to demo their apps, answer questions and exchange ideas.

We'll be regularly adding more sessions, speakers and companies on the event website, and today we're happy to give you a preview of what's to come. Over half of all sessions are already listed, covering a range of products and technologies, as well as speaker bios. We've also included a short list of companies that will be participating in the Developer Sandbox. For the latest I/O updates, follow us (@googleio) on Twitter.

Today's registration opens with an early bird rate of $400, which applies through April 16 ($500 after April 16). Faculty and students can register at the discounted Academia rate of $100 (this discounted rate is limited and available on a first come, first serve basis).

Last year's I/O sold out before the start of the conference, so we encourage you to sign up in advance.

Google I/O
May 19-20, 2010
Moscone West, San Francisco

To learn more and sign up, visit

We hope to see you in May!

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.

In honor of the first full week of the new year, it seems the perfect opportunity to take a look back at 2009. Just as with our year-end Zeitgeist in early December, it's always fascinating to glimpse the collective consciousness of Google users. Beyond search queries rising for Michael Jackson, swine flu, Twitter and Lady Gaga, what else did Google searches reveal last year?

Proportion of Google users in the United States making more than one query per day:
7 out of 10

Proportion of Google users in the United States making more than 10 queries per day:
1 out of 7

Fraction of Google queries, duplicates excluded, never seen before: More than 1/3

Fraction of Google queries, duplicates included, never seen before: More than 1/5

Country with the greatest increase in Google web search traffic in 2009 vs. 2008: Indonesia*

Approximate percentage of Internet users in Indonesia: 11.1%*

Average amount of time it takes a user to finish entering a query: 9 seconds

Average amount of time it takes Google to answer a query: Less than 1/4 second

Number of search quality improvements made by Google in 2009: 540, ~1.5 each day

Proportion of Google result pages that show a map in search results: 1 in 13

Average increase in driving distance on weekends vs. weekdays on Google Maps: 11km

Median distance from a user's location to ice skating rinks found on Google Maps: 30km

Median distance from a user's location to ski resorts found on Google Maps: 300km

Unless otherwise noted, most of these statistics are based on our U.S. weekday traffic. We hope you enjoyed this week — and year — in search, and we're looking forward to an exciting 2010!

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

Over the holidays, clever elves left us some nice improvements to Google Apps for individuals, companies and schools using our web-based services.

Co-editor presence in presentations
When you're co-editing in real-time, knowing where collaborators are making changes helps you avoid stepping on each other's toes. We already have visual indicators for co-editor presence in documents and spreadsheets, and now presentations sports this feature, too. You can see which slides others are working on, and if you're editing the same slide together, colored indicators make it clear which text box, shape or other element they're modifying.

Easier duplicate contact merging
Over time, as friends and coworkers send you messages from different email addresses, your Gmail contact list can accumulate duplicate contacts. We recently made it easier to find and merge these duplicates. To get started, just just click the 'Find duplicates' button in the contact manager. Cleaning up your contact list is especially helpful if you sync your Gmail contacts with your phone.

Google Apps on Nexus One
Speaking of mobile phones, the new Nexus One Android device is a great way to take Google Apps with you everywhere. Nexus One not only syncs with multiple Gmail accounts, but it also syncs your contacts, with Google Calendar and with Picasa Web Albums. Nexus One lets you instant message using Google Talk and access voicemail — including handy message transcriptions — with the Google Voice app.

Automatic page translation in Google Sites
Building the same website in multiple languages is lots of work, even if you're multi-lingual. With automatic translation in Google Sites, sharing information with people who don't speak your language is much easier. Just create your site in your native language, and visitors can instantly translate your site into any one of 51 languages that they're more familiar with.

Who's gone Google?
MWV is famous the world 'round among students and parents for Five Star notebooks and Trapper Keepers, but they make a wide array of other products and packaging that you probably see every day. We're thrilled that they've migrated over 12,000 employees to Google Apps, unifying their globally distributed workforce on a single email solution to address the complexity and frustrations of running multiple instances of Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes. You can find more on MWV's story on the Google Enterprise Blog.

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Collaboration is an important part of translation. Whether you work with editors to translate documents, customers to clarify terms or project managers to meet deadlines, working with other translators is key to making high-quality translations. Today, we’re making it easier to collaborate on translations with the release of chat in Translator Toolkit.

Just like chat in Gmail, you can send instant messages to colleagues, friends, family and groups directly from within Translator Toolkit. All the features and settings of chat are the same as what you're used to, including going on the record to save your translation chats in Gmail. If you don’t want to be interrupted as you work on a translation, you can simply go invisible or turn off chat through the Translator Toolkit settings.

In addition to chat, we’ve made a few other updates that should make your translation work speedier. You can now change your display language and set the toolkit tabs to open or close by default. And we’ve expanded our entries in the dictionary tab, including useful information like parts of speech and alternate definitions. For example, if you're translating the word cancer into Chinese, you will find alternate translations for cancer as a disease and cancer as a quickly-spreading danger so you can find just the right word for your translation:

Check out these improvements now in Translator Toolkit. We'd love to hear what you think.