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As Americans gear up for the midterm elections on November 2, we wanted to share a few tools that make it easier to gather voting information.

When you search on Google for [polling place] or [where to vote], you’ll see a search box to help you find your polling place, candidates, and local election office. Just type in the home address where you’re registered to vote. The search looks like this:



This feature is powered by the Google Election Center, an experimental service that lets election officials provide data directly to Google in order to create a set of search tools. Anyone with a website can also provide this same functionality by embedding the open source Election Center gadget on your site, or use the gadget code or API to build your own.



And you don’t need to be at your computer to easily find this information. If you’d rather get it on your mobile device, we’ve also created a mobile landing page: m.google.com/elections.



As for election news, you’ll find a special Google News section with stories for each state so you can easily catch up on the latest headlines.


We hope all of these tools help you get and stay informed throughout the election season.

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

This week we’ve overhauled local search and made other tweaks to help you find the places, products and people you’re looking for. As you plan for the World Series and Halloween, we want to help you find the perfect sports bar, costume store and chocolate bar. Here are latest updates from this week:

Google Place Search
This week we introduced Place Search, a new kind of search result that organizes the world’s information around places. Whether you’re looking for a park, a great restaurant or a local plumber, you’ll find what you’re looking for more quickly and easily. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can make comparisons and right the best sites. You should already be seeing place results automatically for many local searches. If you don’t see Place Search results at first, you can always click Places in the left-hand panel of the results page.


New product search refinements
People often come to Google to do product research, so in the past couple weeks we’ve expanded Google Product Search to France and Japan. Our goal is to help you find the product information and sites you’re looking for as quickly as possible, so in May we made it easier to find relevant brands for popular product searches. Now we’re providing additional refinements for popular stores and product types. For example, search for [chocolate] and now you’ll find links for related searches for brands (Godiva, Lindt, etc.) and types (dark, hot, etc.). These refinements are unpaid and ranked algorithmically to show the most relevant searches you may be interested in.


Other example searches: [running shoes], [blenders], [binoculars]

Real-time results in Social Search
This week we’ve added real-time to Social Search, so you’ll find the freshest tweets and other updates from your friends right on Google. Here in the Bay Area, everyone has been excited about watching the Giants in this year’s World Series. With our improvements to Social Search, now when you search for information about the game on Google you can see right on the results page if your friends are watching. Just look for the heading “Results from people in your social circle” to check it out.


Social Search is currently available in the U.S. For more information about Social Search, check out our blog post and help center article.

This week in searches—Halloween edition
Still don’t have a costume? You’re not alone—searches for “costume ideas” continue to spike on Google. Check out this week’s special Halloween edition of the Google Beat to find out what costumes, candy and scary movies people are searching for this year.

Happy Halloween!

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Every October, it seems like every third question you hear is “What are you going to dress up as for Halloween?” We see this question reflected annually in Google searches, as millions of people turn to the Internet to help them prepare for this creepy-crawliest of holidays. Searches for “costume” have steadily risen since early August, while people look for [ideas] and then [stores] to help them carry out their vision. We’re taking our annual peek at what Halloween fun has people going to Google for inspiration.

Lady Gaga may have topped the charts of costume searches last year, but there’s a new girl in town in 2010: Snooki, one of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” stars. [snooki] topped the list of fastest rising costume searches:


Jersey Shore fans seem interested in how to get Snooki’s hair just right—[snooki wig] and [snooki costume wig] are popular related searches. People from Pennsylvania were most likely to search for [snooki costume] in October, followed—fittingly—by folks from New Jersey. Not to be left out, however, Snooki’s costars Pauly D and The Situation are also showing up as popular Halloween ideas in the past few months.

[neytiri] tops the list of related searches for [avatar costume], as people try to figure out the complexities of becoming a blue resident of another planet. Gaga folks are trying to mimic an equally tough outfit: the singer’s famous meat dress. Searches for “meat costume” have grown more than 5,000% since July. We’ve also seen rising searches for [glee cheerios costume], [justin bieber costume], [katy perry costume], [kenny powers costume] and more.

Just in the last week, we’ve seen many other Halloween-related searches on Google. On today’s Hot Trends list, for example, we’ve seen rising interest in things like [monster mash song] and [halloween sounds]. Here’s more from the Google Beat’s All Hallows Eve special:



Turning from the U.S. to other countries, we see similar costume searches, minus our favorite reality TV stars: in Canada, Australia, Ireland and the U.K., Avatar and Lady Gaga come out on top. “Alice in Wonderland” characters are popular everywhere, but only in Australia are people looking to turn themselves into the [queen of hearts]. And the U.K. distinguishes itself with searches for good old-fashioned Halloween standbys [skeleton] and [zombie]. Brits are also looking to transform themselves into [mario] and [buzz lightyear].

One of my favorite things about Halloween at Google is all the Googlers’ children who visit campus with their parents for a special kiddie celebration. Their costumes are always creative and more importantly, adorable. That seems to be universal across the U.S.—look at the fastest rising searches related to [baby costume] in 2010:


We also saw searches for [baby lobster costume], [baby yoda costume], [baby ladybug]. [baby bat] and [baby lion]. (And [baby spice], but that’s neither here nor there.) Costumes for kids aren’t too far off from adult costumes, with Avatar and Gaga atop the heap, however, you might see a lot of [werewolf kids] trick-or-treating this weekend, and the occasional [strawberry shortcake].

Last but not least, we can’t leave our canine friends out of the fun. This year, it seems people are taking inspiration from the movies to turn their pups into [slinky dog]s—the term has gone up 350%. People also seem to like to make their dogs another beast for the day, whether a [pig dog] or a [shark dog], or into a food item in a [taco dog costume] or the classic [hot dog costume]. Finally, you might see some dogs matching babies in your neighborhood, as we’ve seen growing interest in [lobster dog costume] and [yoda dog costume], although the latter is not rising as fast as [ewok dog costume].

We're celebrating "Googleween" today, and as always, Googlers and their kids are dressing to the nines in costumes of all kinds:



One thing’s for sure—with all these ideas, there’s no excuse not to dress up! So whether you’re going as Gaga or Yoda this weekend—or something we couldn’t even dream of—we hope you have a happy Halloween.

Update 4:06PM: Added slideshow.

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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.

In the last few weeks, we made Gmail better for iPhone and iPad users and improved Google Docs with easier image uploads to documents and enhanced charts in spreadsheets. The business and education crowd will enjoy the addition of automated workflow capabilities in Google Sites, the ability to remotely manage security on Android devices and a new batch of third-party applications that integrate with Google Apps.

Improvements to Gmail in mobile Safari
If you’re reading this post on an iPhone or an iPad, head over to gmail.com to see how we made the Gmail experience in mobile Safari work more like a native application. First, scrolling is a whole lot more responsive to your touch gestures. A quick flick will scroll the page much faster than before. We’ve also improved the toolbar so it stays put at the top of the screen, even when you scroll down a long page. This keeps the most common actions in Gmail right at your fingertips—literally.


Chart improvements and drag-and-drop images in Google Docs
Last Tuesday we added the ability to drag and drop images to Google documents from your desktop or from folders on your computer. You can still add images through the image upload wizard, but this new method can save time, especially when you have several images to add. This week we also rolled out improvements to charts and visualizations in Google spreadsheets. You can now add annotated timelines, organizational charts, gauges, motion charts that visualize data changing over time, and other chart types more easily. The new chart editor helps you customize the design of your charts, and now you can publish dynamic charts on other web pages that automatically update when data in the source spreadsheet changes.



Automated workflow in Google Sites with Google Apps Script
Last week we introduced the ability for you to add automated workflow to Google Sites, powered by Google Apps Script. Scripts automate tasks such as sending emails, scheduling calendar events, creating and updating site pages using data from other systems, and more. For example, you can put a button on a course registration page that adds the course to the user’s calendar, sends them a confirmation email and includes their name in the course roster within the site.


Android device management
Just yesterday, we added the ability for businesses and schools using Google Apps to remotely manage security on users’ Android devices (Android 2.2 and beyond), whether those devices are user-owned or provided by the organization. This update rounds out our device management capabilities; now administrators can perform functions like remotely wiping Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile and many Nokia phones from the Google Apps control panel without needing any special hardware or software. Administrators running BlackBerry® Enterprise Server can manage their users’ BlackBerry® devices from the control panel as well.


App Tuesday: seven new additions to the Apps Marketplace
The number of third-party software applications available in the Google Apps Marketplace that seamlessly integrate with Google Apps continues on its rapid growth trajectory. This month, we added seven new applications that complement the growing set of applications offered directly by Google. We were especially pleased to see strong international representation among this new crop.

Who’s gone Google?
Google Apps is really taking off, and we’re excited to team up in the cloud with Virgin America. But they’re not the only large organization to “go Google” recently. Multnomah County in Oregon is moving 4,500 county employees to Google Apps, and the state of Wyoming is doing an even larger deployment with 10,000 state employees. Across the board, these organizations chose to switch because of substantial cost savings and tremendous productivity improvements made possible with Google Apps.

In the last few weeks alone, tens of thousands of small and mid-size businesses have switched to Google Apps, too. Several of these new customers have shared their stories with us, and we invite you to read more here: Jason’s Deli, MainStreet Advisors, Melrose Resources, American Support and Premier Guitar.

We also reached a big milestone in the education world recently: more than 10 million students, faculty and staff are actively using Google Apps at schools and universities worldwide. While we’re focused on bringing the next 10 million education users onto Google Apps, we still took some time to celebrate how far we’ve already come—with the help of the USC marching band!



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

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With less than a week left until the U.S. 2010 midterm elections, interest is heating up around the country—in polling places, close races and hot political issues. We thought we’d peek into the search data to see what we could find about what kinds of info people are looking for as they get ready to go to the ballot box next Tuesday. We used a combination of Insights for Search and internal tools to dig up this data, and all searches studied are anonymous.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen rising searches for things like [voter registration], [early voting] and [absentee voting] as people prepare for Election Day. People are also looking for information on [polls] (check out our elections rating site to compare expert predictions). What are the issues occupying people’s mind as they choose who to vote for? Looking at the most popular searches on Google News in October, the issues that stand out are the economy (we continue to see many searches for terms like [unemployment] and [foreclosures]), as well as immigration and health care.

At our headquarters in California, we’re of course paying close attention to two high profile races in this state: the Senate race between Carly Fiorina and incumbent Barbara Boxer, and the governor’s race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. Looking the gubernatorial candidates, Brown has been leading in the polls recently, but in the search race, Whitman has the edge, with more than 50% more search volume in 2010 than Brown. Fittingly, Sacramentans are more likely to search for both Whitman and Brown, followed by Angelenos and then San Franciscans. Popular related searches show people looking for information about polling data as well as the candidate debates: we saw searches spike for both candidates on September 29 and October 13, two days that followed debates. There was also a spike around the time of the primary election on June 8, as well as on October 8, when a controversial comment by an aide of Brown’s hit newsstands.

We also wanted to find out what the big issues people were interested in about each candidate. Naturally, we saw a lot of searches for things like [meg whitman bio] or [jerry brown wikipedia], as well as [meg whitman ad] or [jerry brown platform] and vice versa. Terms more specifically related to Meg Whitman include [housekeeper] and [immigration]—reflecting interest in reports that Whitman had employed an undocumented worker as her housekeeper, and corresponding interest in the candidate’s views on immigration and immigration reform. People also want to know about her history at [ebay] and about her family (with the terms [husband] and [children] showing up in searches related to Whitman). But this being California, people are also looking for information about how Whitman would approach the problem of the state’s budget and economy—after immigration, the next issue we saw turn up in terms related to Whitman was [spending]. Interestingly, immigration was also the number one issue in searches related to Jerry Brown. People also seem to be looking for information about Brown’s previous term as governor, and, as with Whitman, we’re seeing searches for information about his [wife].

There’s also growing interest in one of the propositions on California’s ballot this year: Proposition 19, which would legalize and allow regulation of certain marijuana activities. Even though Prop 19 is a state initiative, its implications have people across the country searching for information about it:


Moving across the country, another state that’s grabbed headlines during this primary season is Delaware. Prior to her upset win in the Republican primary against former governor Mike Castle in September, searches for Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell were minimal—even though she’d been in the running since March. Since then, however, she’s been a subject of conversations across the country and searches for her name have consequently risen as well.


Searchers looked for information on a comment O’Donnell made on Bill Maher’s show in 1999 about [witchcraft]—it’s one of the top terms related to searches for O’Donnell. People also are interested in an [snl] spoof of O’Donnell earlier this month. O’Donnell is clearly outmatching her Democrat opponent Chris Coons in search, but only time will tell how the votes play out.

The potential shift in power in the House and Senate following these elections has people closely watching a handful of races to see which party comes out on top. We took a look at the Insights for Search graphs for a handful of close races and races that are considered influential. Take a look at the links below to see more, and plug in the names and other states of other candidates to try it out for yourself:
Of course, no discussion of this election season would be complete without a look at the Tea Party. The grassroots movement has captured the nation’s attention, and has people looking for information about the history of the original Boston Tea Party and related events, like the [boston massacre] and the [tea act], in addition to the more expected searches for information on [tea party rally] or [tea party platform] and figures like [sarah palin] and [glenn beck].

And finally, we’ve also seen some popular political rallies in the past few months. Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally in Washington, D.C. in late August kicked things off, and inspired Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to host their own events—the March to Keep Fear Alive and the Rally to Restore Sanity, respectively—both of which are taking place this coming Saturday in D.C. Searches related to all of these rallies, especially Stewart’s, have seen huge increases in volume—above 5000%.


We’ll be back soon with more search trends and other information about the mid-term elections. In the meantime, don’t forget to vote!

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I love to discover new places, from sandwich shops in my neighborhood to great museums around the globe. When I start looking for something in a new area, like a barbecue restaurant in Austin, I usually do quite a few searches. I might search for a list of restaurants and then search for details about each place, like which one has the best atmosphere and live music.

Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go. Say you’re looking for that great barbecue restaurant with live music. With Place Search here’s what you’ll get:


The new results are marked with red pins, and each one is a unique restaurant with relevant information and links from across the web. I can see that Stubb’s has live music, and I can click citysearch.com, tripadvisor.com and other sites to read reviews. In the past, the same search would return links with information about Stubb’s in different parts of the results page (here’s a screenshot of what it used to look like). Now information is grouped conveniently to make it easier to digest and compare.

Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information. In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view:


We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names (“stubb’s bbq” is the same as “stubbs bar-b-que”).

One of the great things about our approach is that it makes it easier to find a comprehensive view of each place. In our new layout you’ll find many more relevant links on a single results page—often 30 or 40. Instead of doing eight or 10 searches, often you’ll get to the sites you’re looking for with just one search. In our testing Place Search saves people an average of two seconds on searches for local information.

Place Search is rolling out now and will be available globally in more than 40 languages in the next few days. During the roll-out process you can use this special link to preview the new results. Our goal is to help you feel like a local everywhere you go!

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Today, we’re excited to announce that Virgin America is the latest company to go Google and switch to Google Apps. Over the next two weeks, all of the airline’s 1,700 employees based across North America will be moving their corporate email to Gmail, and collaborating more efficiently using Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk. Their migration to Gmail will cut Virgin America’s email system costs by about half on an annual basis, in addition to the long-term storage benefits where the move into the Google cloud will save them over 18 terabytes of space as the airline continue to grow and add employees.


Photos of our skywriting this afternoon

To make it easier for Virgin America make the switch, one of our Google Apps Authorized Resellers, SADA Systems, will be helping them deploy Google Apps, implementing single sign-on user access so that users can use one password to log in to multiple applications, integrating with telephony (voicemail) systems and doing custom email configuration.

We asked Ravi Simhambhatla, Chief Information Officer for Virgin America to share his thoughts about why they decided to go Google:

As the only airline based here in Silicon Valley, our goal has always been to use the best in technology and design to reinvent the air travel experience for the better. We’re eager to bring the latest and greatest tech innovations not only to our guests—but also to our teammates. The transition to a cloud-based email system allows us to save costs and increase the speed and efficiency of our platforms, so we can focus on what we do best: elevating the flying experience. Google answers our data and connectivity needs better than any other system. Google Apps allow us to stay ahead of the competition by remaining flexible and efficient since we can upgrade based on the latest technology, and not be confined by budget or staffing to out-of-date systems. Once you have Google Apps, you always have the most recent version.
As a leading airline innovator, Virgin America has had a history of cloud firsts: in November 2008, Virgin America launched in-flight Internet with a first-ever "air-to-ground" video stream to YouTube Live. In June 2009, we collaborated on the Day in the Cloud Challenge, the first online scavenger hunt to be played both in the air and on the ground, and in December 2009 we teamed up to offer free WiFi to holiday travelers. So naturally, we’re thrilled to welcome Virgin America to the cloud as they join more than 3 million companies that have gone Google. To learn more about Google Apps and the companies that have switched, visit www.google.com/gonegoogle.

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Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy. So as media organizations globally continue to broaden their presence online, we’re eager to play our part on the technology side—experimenting with new ways of presenting news online; providing tools like Google Maps and YouTube Direct to make websites more engaging for readers; and investing heavily in our digital platforms to enable publishers to generate more revenue.

But while we’re mostly focused on working with news organizations to develop better products for users, we also believe it’s crucial to encourage innovation at the grassroots level. That’s why we’re giving $5 million in grants to non-profit organizations that are working to develop new approaches to journalism in the digital age. Our aim is to benefit news publishers of all sizes.

We’ve granted $2 million to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has a proven track record of supporting programs that drive innovation in journalism. It will use $1 million to support U.S. grant-making in this crucial area. The other $1 million will augment the Knight News Challenge, which is accepting funding proposals from anyone, anywhere in the world, until December 1. Now in its fifth year, the News Challenge has supported projects like DocumentCloud, which aims to bring more investigative-reporting source material online so anyone can find and read it.

We’re eager to do even more internationally, so we will be investing the remaining $3 million in journalism projects in other countries through a similar partnership. Stay tuned for more details early next year.

We hope these grants will help new ideas blossom and encourage experimentation. As Thomas Edison once said, “When there’s no experimenting, there’s no progress. Stop experimenting and you go backward.” We look forward to working with the journalism community to help digital news move forward.

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(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Earlier this month, a small team from Google and YouTube spent a week in Iraq on a trip arranged by the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO). Our goals were to explore opportunities for Google in Iraq, to understand the landscape of Internet access and connectivity in the country during this critical transition period and to bring top-voted questions from YouTube to Iraqi leaders in a series of interviews. We met with students, private sector companies, NGOs and Iraqi leadership in the Kurdish city of Erbil in the north, and in Baghdad.


Pictures taken by the Google/YouTube team in Iraq: Harry Wingo (Policy), Carrie Farrell (Google.org), Debu Purkayastha (Corp Dev), Olivia Ma (YouTube), Mary Himinkool (Business Development) and Steve Grove (YouTube).

Regardless of your feelings about the Iraq War, it’s immediately evident upon arrival just how completely the country missed the Internet boom during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Internet penetration rates in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East—somewhere between one and eight percent. Only 15 percent of Iraqis say they use the web, and the largest percentage of them live in Baghdad. There are no commercial data centers in Iraq and much more fiber connectivity is needed to meet consumer needs. Most connections are via satellite, and those who do have connections pay dearly for it—we heard estimates of up to $150 U.S. dollars per month for a 512kb connection. To incentivize and enable private companies to lay more fiber in Iraq, a complex set of roadblocks must be addressed—from security concerns to regulatory frameworks to licensing structures. As the country is still struggling to form a government more than seven months after its last election, much of this progress has been stalled.

There are signs of progress, however. Mobile penetration has skyrocketed in Iraq in the past seven years, from effectively zero percent in 2003 to over 70% today. And the Iraqi people are highly educated. We met with dozens of computer science students at Salahaddin University in Erbil and at Baghdad University, and though they lack equipment and resources, they’re highly motivated to innovate and believe the web is a critical component of their economy’s future.

Many young people in Iraq and around the world submitted questions in Arabic and English for three interviews we conducted in partnership with Middle Eastern news agency Al Arabiya. Google Translate enabled anyone to vote on their favorite questions regardless of language, and we brought the top five questions to current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil, Dr. Barham Salih and Iraqi politician and once the interim Prime Minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi. Here is the television special that Al Arabiya produced showcasing their answers:



The Iraqis we met consistently expressed their desire for increased access to the web and for more access to content and tools in both Kurdish and Arabic. We believe access to information and high-speed connectivity to the cloud will be key to the future of the country. The power of the web to change people’s lives grows the further one gets from Silicon Valley, and we look forward to continuing our work with companies, governments and citizens in Iraq and other countries in transition.

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

One of our core philosophies has always been launch and iterate. We’ll bring you a useful new feature or product, and then use both data and your feedback to continuously make it better. This week, we’re excited to announce three enhancements to some of the Google tools that have been around a while. So the next time you’re searching for the latest news, traveling abroad or looking for daily updates on a topic of interest—we’ve got you covered. Here are this week’s updates:

Realtime counter in search results
Since Realtime Search launched in December of last year, we’ve steadily updated the feature making it more comprehensive and easier to use. This week we added a Realtime counter underneath the News section of your search results. Now, when people on your favorite social networks are commenting on a particular topic you’ve searched for, you can easily see how many updates have been shared, all in real-time. This makes it easy to see when a news story is popular on the social web. Click the link to see the full Realtime Search results page.


Local flavor of Autocomplete, now international
It’s been more than a year since we launched localized versions of Google Autocomplete (formerly Google Suggest) that offer relevant search predictions tailored for different regions (we’re at 155 domains and growing!) More recently, we took these tailored predictions to a new level in the U.S. by targeting to specific metro areas like San Francisco and Chicago. This week, we extended these hyper-local predictions around the globe to every country that has Autocomplete. This means that the list of predictions beneath the search box will seem more locally relevant than ever.

For example, when you’re in Barcelona, Spain and you start typing [rest] there’s a good chance you’re actually looking for restaurants in Barcelona:


However, if you’re in Madrid, you’ll probably want to check the restaurants there:


Better support for news-lovers in Google Alerts
It might be hard to believe, but Google Alerts have been providing email updates on your topic or query of interest since all the way back in 2003. Over the course of the past few years, we've spent a lot of time improving the way Google Alerts works to handle very specific queries (like a business or hobby), and while we've still got a lot of work to do, we've made steady improvements in the quantity, freshness and relevance of the content that we send you.

However, we’ve found many people are specifying general topics like “finance,” “entertainment” or even simply “news.” Up until this week, Google Alerts would return a long list of content from across the web about these very broad topics. This worked, but we realized it’s probably much more helpful to send you the corresponding section from Google News, since it seems like you’re looking for a digest of the big topics of the day. So we’re now including News sections in Alerts if you enter one of the following terms like: news, world news, business, entertainment, finance, health, science, sports or technology. This allows you to have your favorite part of Google News delivered to your inbox every morning.

The week in searches
In addition to all of these enhancements, are you curious to know what Google searches shot off the charts this week? The Google Beat gives you an inside look into the pulse of U.S. searches. In this week’s edition, we cover everything from BCS Football to Snooki.

We hope you find these updates useful!

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(Cross-posted on the Public Policy and European Public Policy Blogs)

In May we announced that we had mistakenly collected unencrypted WiFi payload data (information sent over networks) using our Street View cars. We work hard at Google to earn your trust, and we’re acutely aware that we failed badly here. So we’ve spent the past several months looking at how to strengthen our internal privacy and security practices, as well as talking to external regulators globally about possible improvements to our policies. Here’s a summary of the changes we’re now making.
  • First, people: we have appointed Alma Whitten as our director of privacy across both engineering and product management. Her focus will be to ensure that we build effective privacy controls into our products and internal practices. Alma is an internationally recognized expert in the computer science field of privacy and security. She has been our engineering lead on privacy for the last two years, and we will significantly increase the number of engineers and product managers working with her in this new role.

  • Second, training: All our employees already receive orientation training on Google’s privacy principles and are required to sign Google’s Code of Conduct, which includes sections on privacy and the protection of user data. However, to ensure we do an even better job, we’re enhancing our core training for engineers and other important groups (such as product management and legal) with a particular focus on the responsible collection, use and handling of data. In addition, starting in December, all our employees will also be required to undertake a new information security awareness program, which will include clear guidance on both security and privacy.

  • Third, compliance: While we’ve made important changes to our internal compliance procedures in the last few years, we need to make further changes to reflect the fact that we are now a larger company. So we’re adding a new process to our existing review system, in which every engineering project leader will be required to maintain a privacy design document for each initiative they are working on. This document will record how user data is handled and will be reviewed regularly by managers, as well as by an independent internal audit team.
We believe these changes will significantly improve our internal practices (though no system can of course entirely eliminate human error), and we look forward to seeing the innovative new security and privacy features that Alma and her team develop. That said, we’ll be constantly on the lookout for additional improvements to our procedures as Google grows, and as we branch out into new fields of computer science.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to update one point in my May blog post. When I wrote it, no one inside Google had analyzed in detail the data we had mistakenly collected, so we did not know for sure what the disks contained. Since then a number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded). It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.

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We’ve all been saddened by the recent suicides of gay youth, especially as tragedy has piled atop tragedy. Each of them is a signal that we need to do more to put an end to these incidents that destroy the lives of both the children being bullied and children who bully.

We believe the Internet can provide a safe space and resources for youth who are struggling with their identity and looking for help. And we’ve been happy to see products like YouTube being used to deliver messages of hope. There are many organizations out there doing an extraordinary job providing resources for LGBTQ youth, and we wanted to highlight a few as part of GLSEN’s National Ally Week: Trevor Project, GroundSpark’s Respect for All Project, the YouTube “It Gets Better” project and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. GLSEN’s Safe Space campaign page provides resources and support for educators, policy makers, community leaders and students to take action to make a positive difference. We recently made a $50,000 donation to the Trevor Project, in support of the Levi’s Challenge Grant announced on The Ellen DeGeneres Show—they will be matching up to $50,000 dollars in donations to the Trevor Project. We’ve also donated to GroundSpark and GLSEN. We hope that other companies and individuals will consider doing the same.

We also wanted to share a video some of our own Googlers made for the “It Gets Better” project documenting their own experiences and sending messages of encouragement to LGBTQ youth.



Finally, the Matthew Shepard Foundation has been in the forefront of LGBTQ issues educating the world and sharing the tragic story of Matthew Shepard. We asked Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, to share her thoughts with us on the recent tragedies and what we can do to help. Here’s what she said:
It’s been devastating lately to see so many families losing their LGBT kids to suicide and frankly, incredibly frustrating to see so many cases that seem to be linked in some way to bullying. My husband Dennis and I started the Matthew Shepard Foundation in the hope that by helping youth connect with resources, supportive allies and positive messages about their future, that it might prevent tragic outcomes like suicides or hate crimes. We’re just one part of a huge community of allies. And we are allies for all youth, whether they’re being singled out for their sexuality, or their race, or something else that makes them different. But if we can’t get the word out to the young people who really need to hear from us, and can’t make them more comfortable reaching out for help when they’re in crisis, then we’ll continue to struggle to protect them.

I’ve been out speaking at schools for the last 12 years to give these students a little hope and show them there are people they can turn to even if their own families aren’t accepting. I’ve also tried to open the eyes of the kids who are doing the bullying too—to show them the pain a victim’s family suffers. We lost a son, but the young men who killed Matthew are a sad example of how you can basically lose your life by victimizing people, too, almost as much as by being the victim.

-Judy Shepard
We honor the memory of Matthew and of the children who lost their lives this fall, and our hearts go out to their families. We thank Judy for her words and encourage everyone to work to help our youth to find safety and a better way to engage in the world—including using the Internet for the amazing good it brings, and not to bully others.

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This is the latest in our series of YouTube highlights. Every couple of weeks, we bring you regular product features, interesting programs to watch and tips anyone can use to grow your audience on YouTube. Just look for the label “YouTube Highlights” and subscribe to the series. – Ed.

From a video biennial in New York to classical music in Sydney to 24 hours of live-streaming comedy courtesy of Conan O’Brien, we’ve got a lot to cover! Below is our update from the past two weeks.

YouTube Play: live from the Guggenheim
Later today (Thursday), the YouTube Play jury will announce the top 25 creative videos selected from the 23,000 submissions received for the Biennial of Creative Video. In celebration, YouTube and the Guggenheim have partnered to host a one-of-a-kind art exhibition and event featuring music, collaborations, eye-popping projections and, of course, some really fantastic videos. If you’re in New York, you can catch some of the projections on the façade of the Guggenheim tonight and tomorrow (sneak peek below). Or head to youtube.com/play to catch the event live, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Video submissions from YouTube Play projected on the Guggenheim in New York City

YouTube users discuss ideas to help fix the global economy
YouTube users often have a lot of useful, imaginative and altruistic ideas—including thoughts on how to fix the global economy. For example, take The Young Turks and How the World Works, a.k.a. Cenk Uyger and Lee Doran, who’ve brought their political commentary beyond YouTube to a special forum on Reuters.com focused on fixing the economic slowdown for good.

Dancing tacos? 80’s aerobics? Intern Twister?
What could these things possibly have in common? A 24-hour webcast by Conan O’Brien (of course)! You can now watch Conan and Team Coco prepare for their upcoming show on TBS with “behind-the-scenes” footage filmed from a webcam strategically situated on their office’s second floor stairwell. What could possibly go wrong?

Audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s 2011 performance
Two years ago, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, the world’s first online collaborative orchestra, debuted at Carnegie Hall. It’s back, and this time a new round of performers will be playing their part onstage at the iconic Sydney Opera House in March 2011. Find out how you can audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 presented by Hyundai.



Leanback premieres on Google TV
We recently announced YouTube Leanback in beta, and now it’s on Google TV. When you view YouTube in Leanback on Google TV (or online), you’ll see videos begin to play immediately based on your subscriptions and viewing history. You can watch popular and interesting videos in genres like Comedy, Entertainment, News, Science & Technology and How To & Style, or rent full-length movies and TV shows from the youtube.com/store.

Calling musicians worldwide
For singers, songwriters or bands looking to promote their music, we’ve extended our Musicians Wanted program to Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. This program lets musicians make money from their videos. Find out where to sign up here.

Get your viewers’ undivided attention
If you’re an advertiser, you might be interested to know that according to Nielsen, the average American watches five hours of TV per day. Five. Hours. But a new study conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, YouTube and Next New Networks found that viewers are 2.5 times more likely to pay full attention to video content created specifically for the web than to TV. This finding suggests that advertisers can take advantage of opportunities to reach viewers online—where they are most fully engaged.

Country duo Sugarland live from New York City
Finally, if you missed the live-streamed Sugarland concert on YouTube, you can still catch the third installment of our “Unstaged” series with Vevo and American Express. Directed by Kenny Ortega of High School Musical and Dirty Dancing fame, highlights from the show included songs from the band’s new album, The Incredible Machine, a special guest appearance by Ronnie Dunn and behind-the-scenes footage with band members who answered questions tweeted by fans.



Don’t forget to check out our continuing series of tips on how to thrive at YouTube and for more information on what we’re up to, head on over to our YouTube Blog.

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Earlier this year we announced our plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of American communities. Since then, a team of Google engineers has been hard at work experimenting with new fiber optic technologies. And following a series of tests we’ve run on Google’s campus, we’re excited to announce the next step in our project.

We’ve reached an agreement with Stanford University to build an ultra-high speed broadband network to the university’s Residential Subdivision, a group of approximately 850 faculty- and staff-owned homes on campus. Through this trial, we plan to offer Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second—more than 100 times faster than what most people have access to today. We plan to start breaking ground in early 2011.

To be clear, this trial is completely separate from our community selection process for Google Fiber, which is still ongoing. As we’ve said, our ultimate goal is to build to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people, and we still plan to announce our selected community or communities by the end of the year.

Stanford’s Residential Subdivision—our first “beta” deployment to real customers—will be a key step towards that goal. We’ll be able to take what we learn from this small deployment to help scale our project more effectively and efficiently to much larger communities.

Why did we decide to build here? Most important was Stanford’s openness to us experimenting with new fiber technologies on its streets. The layout of the residential neighborhoods and small number of homes make it a good fit for a beta deployment. And its location—just a few miles up the road from Google—will make it easier for our engineers to monitor progress.

We’re excited about this beta, and we look forward to announcing our selected community or communities for Google Fiber in the coming months.

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If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably watched your share of tech demos in your life, possibly on this very blog. Like broccoli, tech demos are good for you. But kids don’t line up for broccoli—just like the majority of people don’t line up for tech demos.

So how do we get more free, amazing tech goodness to more people? Well, as you’ll see, there’s nothing we won’t try.

Introducing Demo Slam, a place where boring tech demos become (hopefully) gotta-show-my-friends awesome—thanks to the creativity of Google users like you. Here’s a slam from the Paul brothers:



A big shout out to the Paul family for not just making us smile, but showing potentially millions of people the time they could save by speaking instead of typing to search.

Beginning today, you can watch Preseason Slams and declare a Champ of the week. Then each week, new featured slams will vie for your attention and a shot at demo glory. Think you can create a Slam-worthy demo? Choose a bit of tech you love and show the world what you can do.

Let’s get the people who would never watch a tech demo—the people who ironically need them most (hi mom)—to not only watch them, but like them and share them with their friends.

Let the Slams begin.

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We’ve always focused on offering people the most relevant results. Location is one important factor we’ve used for many years to customize the information that you find. For example, if you’re searching for great restaurants, you probably want to find ones near you, so we use location information to show you places nearby.

Today we’re moving your location setting to the left-hand panel of the results page to make it easier for you to see and control your preferences. With this new display you’re still getting the same locally relevant results as before, but now it’s much easier for you to see your location setting and make changes to it.

Your location setting is now always visible on the left side of the search results page.

We do our best to automatically detect the most useful location, but we don’t always get it right—so in some cases you’ll want to change the setting. At other times, you may want to change your location to explore information relevant to another area. For example, let’s say you’re at work in Mountain View and you’re making plans to see a movie in San Francisco (a common occurrence here at Google). You can change your location to “San Francisco” and search for [showtimes] to find movie listings in San Francisco or search for [restaurants] to find places to eat before the show. Similarly, if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you can change the location to “Honolulu” and start exploring the [weather], [hotels] and of course the [beaches]. The location you set can be as specific as a particular zip code or as general as an entire country, but more specific settings generally lead to better search results.

Click “Change location” to specify your location preference.

You used to be able to see and control your location settings, but it was a little clunky. To see your settings, you could click “View customizations” on the results page and to modify them you could click “Change location” next to a variety of search results, such as maps and movie listings. As time has gone by, more and more locally relevant information has come online, whether it’s local business listings or a blog from your hometown. Meanwhile, Google has become much better at presenting this locally relevant content—so it felt like the right time to make this setting easier to find.

The new interface is rolling out now and will be available in more than 40 languages soon. We’re not changing anything about how we use location information to improve search, so it doesn’t change our existing privacy policies. To learn more about our new interface and how we use location in search, check out our help center.

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(Cross-posted from the Enterprise Blog)

In the last year, businesses have started using cloud-based applications from Google and other technology providers at an accelerated rate. While many organizations still have information that resides in on-premise systems, more and more important business information today is living in the cloud, in collaborative tools like Google Apps—now used by more than 3 million businesses—and services like Twitter. Starting today, Cloud Connect for the Google Search Appliance lets workers search across both on-premise and cloud-based content from a single search box, delivering more comprehensive results and improving productivity. We’ve also added a few other handy features that make it easier to collaborate and find information faster.

Cloud Connect for the Google Search Appliance
Cloud Connect displays relevant, personalized results from Google Docs and Google Sites alongside results from more traditional repositories, like file shares and content management systems. Easier access to collaborative documents, spreadsheets, presentations and sites with Cloud Connect speeds up how quickly coworkers can complete projects. Cloud Connect also lets users search content from Twitter, as well as blogs and industry websites via Google Site Search.

For organizations such as Delta Hotels and Avago that have already deployed both Google Apps and the Google Search Appliance, the Cloud Connect feature brings “universal search” to a new level, with more accessible business systems and content now spanning from cloud to ground.


People Search
This new version also helps foster faster collaboration between employees with the addition of People Search, which makes it easy to find experts and contact coworkers who are related to a search query, right from the search results page. For example, a search for “field marketing” would return a list of field marketing team members alongside other relevant content. Organizations can index personnel information like department, interests, expertise and location, and there’s an LDAP connector to help get People Search up and running quickly.

Dynamic Navigation and more
Our new Dynamic Navigation feature allows users to drill down into search results based on search modifiers for their queries, and Active-Active Mirroring improves reliability by spreading search traffic across multiple boxes. Dynamic Navigation was a top user request and we’re glad to be able to add it. In addition, the Search Appliance now supports Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 content without the need for additional connectors.

As you move your business to the cloud, the Google Search Appliance’s new features can be an important bridge between on-premise and cloud-based systems, while enhancing employee collaboration. You can learn more about this latest release at www.google.com/gsa.

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

Search is always evolving, and we’re excited to share the latest this week—from Google Autocomplete to our fun homepage doodles—as well as a glimpse at what the U.S. is searching for. Here’s this week’s round up of updates:

A birthday surprise
Because doodles are such a fun part of the search experience, we thought we’d share a fun little way Google will help celebrate your birthday. When you include your date of birth on your Google profile, you may notice a special treat on the Google homepage on your birthday (be sure to sign in). Click on the doodle for another birthday surprise!

Renaming Google Suggest
We first launched Google Suggest in 2004 in Labs to help people enter their searches faster. Suggest has been a very popular feature, and some people have been asking what happened to it. Never fear, it hasn’t gone anywhere—we just renamed it to “Google Autocomplete.” As part of our launch of Google Instant, we thought "Autocomplete" fit better with the new functionality—automatic queries and automatic results.

Google Instant in new countries across Asia
We’ve been rapidly expanding Google Instant around the globe. Last week we launched Instant in Australia, India, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore. Now that it’s been a few weeks since our initial release, we’ve been finding that people are really learning how to get the most out of Instant. For example, in just two weeks, we saw an increase in the fraction of searches performed without hitting enter or clicking search. This is a very demanding launch for our infrastructure and we’re expanding around the globe as soon as we can.

Eurostat data in search
We’ve also rolled out some improvements our public data search features. We’ve been working closely with Eurostat to surface some really useful and interesting data about unemployment rates, government debt, minimum wage and broadband penetration across Europe. Try searching for [arbeitslosenstatistik deutschland], [smic france] or [deuda publica españa] to see examples of this data visualisation in action. The data is available across 34 languages. We’ve also internationalized data from the World Bank. You can learn more on our European policy blog.

The week in searches
Curious to know what Google Searches skyrocketed in the U.S. this week? Check out the Google Beat, where you’ll find an inside look into what people are clicking on Google. This week, we cover everything from Columbus Day to Brett Favre and the buzz around “Cigar Guy.”

We hope you find these updates useful. Stay tuned for more next week.

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In August, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro—the highest mountain in Africa, at 19,340 feet (5895 meters). I practiced by going for a three-day hike along the “Lost Coast” of California. One thing I noticed while hiking is that you're continually thinking about water. How much do you need to carry on your back? Do you have enough water to last until you can refill your supply? How do you take water from a stream and make it safe to drink?

When I left for Tanzania, I ran a campaign to raise money for charity:water, a non-profit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Many of us take water for granted: you turn on the tap, or buy a bottle at the store, and there it is. But it's not like that for everyone. Many people in the world have to think about water all the time. People often walk miles to get water and miles to carry it back, and worry about whether it’s safe to drink. More than a billion people lack access to clean drinking water. As a result of unsafe water and bad sanitation, people in some developing countries are more likely to contract illnesses that are basically preventable but still kill thousands of people, including many children, every day.

Organizations are stepping up to the plate to focus on this issue. While there is much more work to do, the United Nations is on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This year’s Blog Action Day theme is water, and with that in mind, we thought we’d share a bit about Google’s efforts to conserve water, in a variety of ways.

One of key area where we can make a contribution is through our data center operations. On average, two gallons of water is consumed for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced in the U.S., because water is needed for power plants to operate. That means that by building what we believe to be the most efficient data centers in the industry, we’re saving fresh water. Every year, our data centers save hundreds of millions of gallons of drinking water simply by consuming 50% less electricity than the industry average for technology companies.

A major reason why our data centers are so energy efficient is that we use evaporation to cool our facilities, rather than a more traditional chiller. Evaporative cooling uses far less power than a chiller—so by using a fraction of a gallon of water for evaporative cooling, we save a gallon of water at the power plant. We’ve also made an effort to minimize the amount of fresh water directly consumed by our facilities by using recycled water. Rather than use clean, potable water, we treat wastewater until it’s clean enough to be used for cooling. Two of our data centers run on 100% recycled water already—one by filtering water taken from an industrial canal, and one by taking “greywater” from a city wastewater treatment plant and cleaning it before using it in our cooling towers. We’re also working on new, geographically appropriate systems, like large rainwater capture ponds at one site and a seawater cooling system at a data center that is currently under construction. We set an aggressive goal a few years ago to use recycled water for 80% of our total data center water consumption by the end of 2010. Although we’re unlikely to meet that stretch goal, we believe we’ve made a lot of progress and are hopeful that by the end of this year recycled water will account for almost half of our total consumption.

We’ve also made some small changes at the Googleplex in Mountain View. Earlier this spring, we worked with the city of Mountain View to become the first commercial customer of recycled water for irrigation. We’re using it now on our sports fields as well as in a few of our buildings here in Mountain View. A few years ago we did water audits of our buildings to determine where we could make changes to save more water. We’ve since refreshed several of our buildings with new, very low-water use fixtures. And we’ve also experimented with phasing out the use of bottled water on campus, replacing plastic bottles with water filters and reusable cups. Not only does bottled water use up more energy in production and transportation, and create waste through plastic bottles (many of which are never recycled)—the Sierra Club estimates (PDF) that it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water.

This Blog Action Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on your own water use, and on what you might be able to do to make a difference. You don’t have to climb a mountain to help others gain access to clean water.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog)

It was four years ago this month that Google Apps for Education first touched down, right before a pivotal football game between ASU and USC—fatefully enough, two schools that were among the first to move to Google Apps and pave the way for other schools to adopt this “alien technology.”

This week at EDUCAUSE we’re celebrating with these schools and the thousands of others that make up more than 10 million students, staff, faculty and alumni that are actively using Apps for Education on campus. We figured that nothing was more fitting than a tailgate celebration to toast the colleges and universities that have “gone Google.” And of course, it’s not really a party without inviting the marching band.



In the last four years we’ve seen a lot of changes, both to our tools and the general landscape of cloud computing in higher education. According to the 2010 Campus Computing project, nearly 85% of four-year colleges and universities are already using or considering moving to the cloud by offering hosted email to their students. Of those schools that have already made the move, more than 56% of them have gone Google.

As part of this sustained momentum, we’ve seen the number of active Google Apps for Education users double since last fall, with more than two million new users coming on board since May alone; not to mention the emerging growth we’re now seeing in the K-12 space.

Hundreds of schools have made the move to Google Apps just this year, including Gonzaga University, Barnard, Brown University, William and Mary, Villanova University, Georgetown School of Business, Case Western Reserve University, Hawai’i Pacific University, Brandeis University, more than half of the 23 campuses in the California State University system, Morehouse College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Texas A&M Alumni, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, 13 of the SUNY schools, Pace University and Wilfrid Laurier—to name just a few.

The USC Trojan Marching Band helped us give a spirited cheer to the schools who have gone Google and the progress we’ve seen in the last four years. But like any good commencement address will tell you, this is only the beginning.