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What is the first thing that most people associate with Thanksgiving? Well, probably turkey, but pumpkin pie comes in a close second. As I am not a fan of the traditional pumpkin pie, I set out on a quest to find a delicious alternative this year. My search led me to a robust cookbook sitting on my kitchen shelves. Sheri Yard's Desserts by the Yard is an amazing compilation of a pastry chef's career spanning from coast to coast. What I found in that book turned out to be the most fluffy, decadent, flaky, scrumptious pie I have ever tasted. And apparently my officemates liked it just as much -- the triple silken pumpkin pie and I took home first place in last week's bake-off at our New York office! So if you're looking for a holiday-perfect pie, I encourage you to try out the recipe (PDF file). It takes a little time to make, but it's so worth it.

Happy baking, and happy Thanksgiving!



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At Google we are fanatical about organizing the world's information. As a result, we spend a lot of time finding better ways to sort information using MapReduce, a key component of our software infrastructure that allows us to run multiple processes simultaneously. MapReduce is a perfect solution for many of the computations we run daily, due in large part to its simplicity, applicability to a wide range of real-world computing tasks, and natural translation to highly scalable distributed implementations that harness the power of thousands of computers.

In our sorting experiments we have followed the rules of a standard terabyte (TB) sort benchmark. Standardized experiments help us understand and compare the benefits of various technologies and also add a competitive spirit. You can think of it as an Olympic event for computations. By pushing the boundaries of these types of programs, we learn about the limitations of current technologies as well as the lessons useful in designing next generation computing platforms. This, in turn, should help everyone have faster access to higher-quality information.

We are excited to announce we were able to sort 1TB (stored on the Google File System as 10 billion 100-byte records in uncompressed text files) on 1,000 computers in 68 seconds. By comparison, the previous 1TB sorting record is 209 seconds on 910 computers.

Sometimes you need to sort more than a terabyte, so we were curious to find out what happens when you sort more and gave one petabyte (PB) a try. One petabyte is a thousand terabytes, or, to put this amount in perspective, it is 12 times the amount of archived web data in the U.S. Library of Congress as of May 2008. In comparison, consider that the aggregate size of data processed by all instances of MapReduce at Google was on average 20PB per day in January 2008.

It took six hours and two minutes to sort 1PB (10 trillion 100-byte records) on 4,000 computers. We're not aware of any other sorting experiment at this scale and are obviously very excited to be able to process so much data so quickly.

An interesting question came up while running experiments at such a scale: Where do you put 1PB of sorted data? We were writing it to 48,000 hard drives (we did not use the full capacity of these disks, though), and every time we ran our sort, at least one of our disks managed to break (this is not surprising at all given the duration of the test, the number of disks involved, and the expected lifetime of hard disks). To make sure we kept our sorted petabyte safe, we asked the Google File System to write three copies of each file to three different disks.

Significantly improved handling of the so-called "stragglers" (parts of computation that run slower than expected) was a key software technique that helped sort 1PB. And of course, there are many other factors that contributed to the result. We'll be discussing all of this and more in an upcoming publication. And you can also check out the video from our recent Technology RoundTable Series.

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In previous posts in this series, you have read about the challenges of building a world-class search engine. Our goal is to make Google’s search be relevant to all people, regardless of their language or country. As my colleague Amit Singhal described, we use statistical data as the basis for making sweeping algorithmic changes. Many of these changes can be rolled out across all languages we support, but in some cases the unique characteristics of each language require some algorithmic considerations and tuning. And to make things really interesting, there are cases where the same language is different across countries. Obvious examples are "color" in the U.S. vs. "colour" in the U.K., or "camião" in Portugal vs. "caminhão" in Brazil.

My name is Daphne Dembo, and my focus is improving Google's international search. This is a tough challenge, since Google search is used in many countries and languages where our engineers have little personal knowledge. Initially, the international search improvements were done by Search Quality engineers who were passionate about their languages and countries: Lina from Sweden improved our parsing of compound words in German and Swedish; Dimitra from Greece introduced diacritical support; Ishai from Israel worked on transliteration corrections for Hebrew and Arabic; Trystan from Australia created methods for identifying local search results and ranking them together with foreign ones from the same language; Alex, a bilingual Ukrainian and Russian, introduced morphological understanding of these languages. As the importance of our international search grew, we solicited help from Googlers in all our offices. Finally, we are leveraging an international network of search specialists who help us understand search within the unique combination of their language and country.

Our first step in providing search support for a language is to train our language model on a large collection of documents in that language. This ensures that our language model is more precise and comprehensive — for example, it incorporates names, idioms, colloquial usage, and newly coined words not often found in static dictionaries. For instance, we recently started identifying Swahili, and used pages such as this one for the Parliament of Tanzania to train our system with the language's nuances. Having a trained language model helps to categorize documents during crawling and indexing of the web and to parse the user's query. Once this stage was complete, we launched Swahili search in countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, enabling local searches for the "Dar es Salaam stock exchange" [Soko la hisa dar es salaam], and "cure for Malaria" [Tiba ya malaria]. (As always, we are using square brackets to denote a search query. For example, you can search for "soccer" in Hamburg, Germany by clicking on [fußball in hamburg]).

We learn some things from our users, so as people start using our search engine, we can improve the way we rank in that language. Here are few examples:
  • Spell corrections: We recently launched spell corrections in Estonian. If your Estonian is rusty, and you don't remember how to spell "smoke detector," we can suggest a spell correction for [suitsuantur], leading to better search results.
  • Diacritical marks: Many languages have diacritical marks, which alter pronunciation. Our algorithms are built to support them, and even help users who mis-type or completely ignore them. For example, if you're a resident of Quebec, Canada and would like to know the weather forecast in Quebec City, we'll serve good results whether you type with diacritical signs [Météo à Québec] or without [meteo quebec]. Czech users can read the same excellent results for a popular kids' cartoon by searching for [krtecek] and [krteček]. On the other hand, sometimes diacriticals change the meaning of the word and we have to use them correctly. For example, in Thai, [ข้าว] is "rice," with completely different results than [ข่าว], which is "news"; or in Slovakia, results for "child" [dieťa] are different than results for "diet" [diéta].
  • Synonyms: A general case of diacritical support is the handling of synonyms in different languages. Korean searches showed that "samsung" can be viewed as a synonym of "삼성", so that when users search for [samsung], they find results which have the company's name in Korean.
  • Compounding: Some languages allow compounding, which is the formation of new words by combining together existing words. You can see a nice example in Swedish, where we return documents about a Swedish credit card for both compounded [Visakort] and non-compounded [visa kort] queries.
  • Stemming: Google has developed morphological models that can receive compound words as queries, and return pages which contain their stem, possibly as part of a different compound. For example, when searching for cars in Saudi Arabia, you can search for [سيارة] and [سيارات] because both are variants of the same stem, and both return many common results. A Polish user can search for "movie" [film], and get back results that contain other variants of the stem, such as "filmów," "filmu," "filmie," "filmy." A user from Belarus will find results for all word forms of the capital, Minsk [Мінск]: "Мінску," "Мінска," "Мінскага."
In addition to these semantic factors, Google does even more to parse documents and queries. Understanding the details of language usage in a country is important. Notation of acronyms is different across languages: In Hebrew it is double quotes before the last (left-most) character, as in "prime minister" [רה"מ]; in Thai — a dot at the end of the word, as in police station [สน. ]; while in the U.S. — dots after each character, as in [I.B.M.]. Chinese users quote works of art with a "《", as in: [《手机》剧情], and denote dates with a "日", as in: [2006年1月13日].

Beyond the linguistic elements of a language, we consider how people enter a query. For example, some languages that do not have Latin scripts require keyboards with dual alphanumeric keys. The user can switch between language input modes by typing special keystrokes. In case the user forgets to type this sequence, the queries end up being gibberish. You can see correct handling of these mistakes in Arabic ([hgsuv] corrected to [السعر]) and ([حقثسهيثىفهشم ثممثؤفهخىس ] corrected to [presidential elections]), Hebrew ([vdrk, kuyu] corrected to [הגרלת לוטו]), and Cyrillic ([rehc ljkffhf] corrected to [курс доллара]).

Another way of avoiding the inconvenience of switching keyboard modes is by typing the phonetic sounds of the query in Latin characters. Recreating the correct query in the target language isn't trivial, since there might be many possibilities. We can see several such examples in which we suggest the same query in the intended language for Russian ([biskvitnyi rulet] to [бисквитный рулет]), "movies" in Chinese ([dianying] to [电影]), and "Bank of Attica" in Greek [trapeza attikhs] returns good results for "Τράπεζα Αττικής". Users of 8 Indic languages (such as Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu) can type the phonetic sound of the query, and choose the words in Hindi script:


Ease of typing and reading is also influenced by the language used. Since every Chinese word requires several keystrokes on a standard keyboard, we provide category browsing by Images and related searches so that people don't need to type as much. Similarly, we are now launching Google Suggest, or real-time completion of queries, in many languages.

So far I described how we improve the quality of search in a language. However, there is a strong effect of the location of the user, even if it is only approximated to the country, since in many cases local content is more relevant than global information. For example, searching for Spanish Yellow Pages [Páginas Amarillas] will result in several documents of global interest and several local results in Peru, Mexico, and Spain. Similar to that, searching for [Côte d'Or] in France will return results for that region, whereas searches in Belgium will return results about the chocolate maker.

Note that the display of information should conform to the standards in that country, so we display "," as a decimal notation for Croatian users who want to know how many millimeters are in an inch [inč u milimetrima], or for Italian users who are interested in currency exchange rates [50 euro in dollari]. Similarly, temperatures in Norway [Været i Oslo] will be displayed in Celsius, while in the U.S. — in Fahrenheit [weather Boston].

If everything else fails, we provide cross-language translations based upon Google's translation technology described in this blog post. We will translate your query to English, search English documents on the web, and translate the returned results from English back into the original query language. For example, Japanese users who are interested in viewing Halloween illustrations (Halloween is a holiday which originated in Ireland) can search for [ハロウィン イラスト]. You can then request a Japanese translation of the English pages (at the bottom of the page), which will bring up the translation page in the screenshot below. Similarly, Korean users can search for the latest on Harry Potter [해리 포터], and Arabic readers can search for the opening of the Sydney Opera house [افتتاح دار الاوبرا في سيدني]. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)



All in all, Google Search is being actively developed for more than 100 languages, in 150+ countries, with dozens of improvements launched each month. So far I've covered the basics of how international search works, but this is just the surface of all the international work we do. There are many other interesting topics that impact international markets like usability, homepage and results page layout, and connectivity. An understanding of real cultural and human factors is essential to creating a search engine that resonates with the people who use it. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)



(Update: Replaced example in the 4th bullet point.)

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Have you ever wanted to mark up Google search results? Maybe you're an avid hiker and the trail map site you always go to is in the 4th or 5th position and you want to move it to the top. Or perhaps it's not there at all and you'd like to add it. Or maybe you'd like to add some notes about what you found on that site and why you thought it was useful. Starting today you can do all this and tailor Google search results to best meet your needs.

Today we're launching SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. With just a single click you can move the results you like to the top or add a new site. You can also write notes attached to a particular site and remove results that you don't feel belong. These modifications will be shown to you every time you do the same search in the future. SearchWiki is available to signed-in Google users. We store your changes in your Google Account. If you are wondering if you are signed in, you can always check by noting if your username appears in the upper right-hand side of the page.

The changes you make only affect your own searches. But SearchWiki also is a great way to share your insights with other searchers. You can see how the community has collectively edited the search results by clicking on the "See all notes for this SearchWiki" link.

Watch our lead engineer, Amay, demonstrate a few ways to use SearchWiki in this short video:



This new feature is an example of how search is becoming increasingly dynamic, giving people tools that make search even more useful to them in their daily lives. We have been testing bits and pieces of SearchWiki for some time through live experiments, and we incorporated much of our learnings into this release. We are constantly striving to improve our users' search experience, and this is yet another step along the way.

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We believe great ideas can come from anywhere and everyone. And we aspire to be an organization that reflects global diversity, because we know that a world's worth of perspectives, ideas and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services. We have more than a dozen employee-driven resource groups, from Gayglers to GWE (Google Women Engineers), that actively participate around the world in building community and driving policy at Google. The post below kicks off an occasional series, entitled Interface, about valuing people's similarities and differences in the workplace. For more information on how Google fosters an inclusive work environment, visit Life at Google on our Jobs site. – Ed.

November 20th marks Transgender Remembrance Day, which takes on a special significance in a world awakening to the need for unity among all people. In observing this day, the Gayglers — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group within Google — extend their wholehearted support to the LGBT community at large, as we reflect on the senseless violence perpetrated against transgender people around the world.

People who identify or express their gender differently than the one assigned to them at birth usually call themselves transgender or transsexual. All too often, they are subjected to a range of not-so-subtle prejudices and transphobia, from verbal abuse to physical violence. Imagine walking into a public restroom in a state of dread over a confrontation about your appearance. Imagine visiting a doctor and worrying about how far to "out" yourself to receive appropriate care. Studies suggest that transgender people are 16 times more likely to be killed than the general population -- earlier this month, in fact, a transgender woman in Tennessee was murdered -- and this is just the most recent of many such cases.

We're fortunate here at Google, where there are LGB and T people at all levels of the company, thanks to enlightened hiring and promotion practices that set aside sexual orientation or gender presentation. Ultimately, Google fosters a workplace where everyone has the ability to be themselves at work. For transgender employees in particular, that means everything.

On this Transgender Remembrance Day, take just a few moments to remember the trans siblings, parents, friends and lovers who lost their lives to gender-based intolerance and hatred. Let's all share in a future where tolerance and understanding transforms the world. And let's work to create a better place for everyone to live peaceably in an all-inclusive world community that merits our deepest pride.

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In July we launched Lively in Google Labs because we wanted users to be able to interact with their friends and express themselves online in new ways. Google has always been supportive of this kind of experimentation because we believe it's the best way to create groundbreaking products that make a difference to people's lives. But we've also always accepted that when you take these kinds of risks not every bet is going to pay off.

That's why, despite all the virtual high fives and creative rooms everyone has enjoyed in the last four and a half months, we've decided to shut Lively down at the end of the year. It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business. Lively.com will be discontinued at the end of December, and everyone who has worked on the project will then move on to other teams.

We'd encourage all Lively users to capture your hard work by taking videos and screenshots of your rooms.

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(Cross-posted from the Google.org blog)

Early readers of the Google.org blog may recall us embarking on a film project portraying public health heroes working in the field to eradicate polio. Gone from the modern world, new cases of polio continue to afflict mostly children under age 3 in the poorest regions of just a few countries — India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. When we first announced this project and the collaboration between Google.org and Vermilion Films, filming was underway primarily in India and Afghanistan, documenting the front lines of public health in some forgotten corners of our world.

David Heymann of the World Health Organization reminds us, "When you haven't seen a disease for quite a while, which is the case in the industrialized countries, you forget about the terrible disease that it really is." Polio is such a disease, as it can ruin the lives of children even before they are old enough to understand how to prevent it.

We're proud to announce The Final Inch, a 38-minute film about the historic global effort to eradicate polio. Here, the story told is as much about the messengers as the message. You'll meet Munzareen Fatima, one of the thousands of community "foot soldiers" across India working to sway reluctant families to vaccinate their children, and Dr. Ashfaq Bhat, who travels into the backwaters of India's Ganges Basin by boat and foot to detect emerging cases of polio. Martha Mason and Mikail Davenport bring us into their lives and describe the paralyzing challenges of childhood polio, reminding us how endemic polio once was in the United States.

Filmed in high-definition (HD) in cinematic style — wide open shots to give a strong sense of place — The Final Inch captures their stories, and we hope it is both a tribute and an inspiration of hope. With a final push, this is a disease that can, and should, be eradicated finally.

The Final Inch will air nationally on HBO in 2009. We invite you to check out TheFinalInch.org, where you can view clips from the film and learn more about the people and the organizations tirelessly working on this global effort. You can also check out the film trailer here:

Update on 1/22: The Final Inch received an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Documentary (Short Film). Check out our post on the Google.org blog for more information.

Update on 3/31: The Final Inch is coming to a TV screen near you. You can tune into HBO2 on Wednesday, April 1 at 8:00pm ET/PT to see our film. It will re-air on April 7 at 7:15pm ET/PT and is available on HBO on demand. You can check out the full schedule on HBO's website.

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The Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination; The Mansell Collection from London; Dahlstrom glass plates of New York and environs from the 1880s; and the entire works left to the collection from LIFE photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili, and Nina Leen. These are just some of the things you'll see in Google Image Search today.

We're excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive. This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.


It has been a thrill for us to explore this archive, filled with images captured by LIFE's famous photographers. See masters like Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White documenting pivotal world events, capturing the evolution of lifestyles and fashions, and opening windows into the lives of celebrities and everyday people.

One of our favorites is this classic Eisenstaedt image of children watching a puppet show.



Alfred snapped this in 1963, at the climax of Guignol's "Saint George and the Dragon" in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Just as the dragon is slain, some children cry out in a combination of horror and delight, while others are taken aback in shock. Every child is consumed with emotion, masterfully captured by Eisenstaedt's camera. These amazing photos are now blended into our Image Search results along with other images from across the web.

Once you are in the archive, you'll also notice that you can access a rich full-size, full-screen version of each image simply by clicking on the picture itself in the landing page. If you decide you really like one of these images, high-quality framed prints can be purchased from LIFE at the click of a button. Think of the holiday gift possibilities! It doesn't get much easier than that.

So please take a look for yourself and experience these great photos. Your exploration will be limited only by your imagination and your desire to keep on clicking. Be sure to check back often as more photos from the LIFE archive will be added regularly to Google Image Search. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

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Have you ever been in a hurry and really needed to find an answer to something, but there was no one to ask? Like when you're grocery shopping and looking for the last item on your list, the kids are running around you in circles, you're holding a basket in one hand, and you have no idea what "fennel bulbs" look like.

That's why we've added voice search to Google Mobile App for the iPhone — and made it super easy to use. Once the app is running, you don't have to tap any buttons. Just hold the iPhone to your ear, wait for the beep, and say what you're looking for. For instance, last week when I was arm wrestling with fellow product manager Robert Hamilton, I said, "official arm wrestling rules" to Google Mobile App to settle a little dispute about his elbow placement. (After all, the middle of an arm-wrestling match is no time to be typing.) Turns out we were both disqualified because we were not using elbow pads.

Our passion for making search faster and easier goes further. When you do local searches, Google Mobile App can now automatically use your location to make results more relevant to where you are. That was really useful when I was in San Francisco last weekend and my daughter got a paper cut. Having no familiarity with the neighborhood I was in, I just searched for "pharmacies" and I was quickly on my way to the nearest place to buy a bandage. The day was saved.

Check out this video to see what other Googlers from Chicago, London, New York, and Mountain View are searching for.



To get the latest Google Mobile App for iPhone, go to the App Store on your iPhone and search for "Google Mobile App." (Note that voice search will be enabled by default for U.S. English users only.) Then, if you have a great voice search query to share, send us a video response to our video.

Learn more about the new Google Mobile App for iPhone on the Google Mobile Blog and by watching this overview video.

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At Google we're great supporters of experimentation because it's only by trying new things (even if some of them don't work out) that you discover better, more creative ways to operate. We've been testing different advertising formats for years (some have been more successful than others), and over the next few months, you'll see us continuing to experiment with new ads in new places.

If you're based in the U.S. you may already have spotted or clicked on the different text and image ads we’re testing on the results pages of Google Image Search. And last week you may have noticed we launched Sponsored Videos on YouTube — a great example of matching ads to content.

In addition, we are today launching text ads on Google Finance in the United States. We're also looking at how best to show display ads on Google Finance. And later, in the very near future, we will start testing text ads on a small number of news refinements within Google Search — so if, for example, you type "iPod" into Google.com and then click on the news link on the upper left-hand side, you might see text ads alongside those results.

Whenever we make changes like these, we carefully evaluate users' reactions to ensure we're holding true to our basic principles: that ads by Google should always be relevant and useful. Of course, these experiments benefit Google because they generate revenue from new sources — but by ensuring that we show the right ads at the right time to the right people, we'll add value for users too.

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We're very excited to announce the new release of Google SketchUp 7. If you don't already know about the fun you can have with SketchUp, here's a quick recap:

SketchUp is software you can use to build 3D models of anything: your house, killer robots, furniture, trees, abstract art — anything. Architects and engineers use it to design buildings and other structures. Woodworkers use it to plan their projects. And lots of people use it to figure out where to put their furniture. SketchUp is easy to learn, it comes in free and Pro versions, and it's more fun than a houseful of clowns. Oh, and you can use it to build models for Google Earth, too.

So what's new in SketchUp 7? There's too much to list here, but we focused on three major areas for this release:
  • Making it even easier to get started – We've created a new class of "smart" objects called Dynamic Components, which are simpler to work with for new modelers. Take a look at this video to see what I mean:



  • Making it easier to share what you make and collaborate with other people – We built a better link between SketchUp and the rest of the 3D world, made it possible to "sign" your models, and added Google Docs–style collaboration and sharing to our 3D Warehouse.
  • Adding powerful features for experienced SketchUp Pro users – SketchUp is only half of the SketchUp Pro suite; the other half is all about sharing your work with your clients. LayOut 2 (which is now officially out of beta and rarin' to go) lets you create multi-page documents and presentations. Your models are linked to your LayOut file so that changing the former automatically updates the latter.
Take a look at the What's New in 7 page on the SketchUp website to get the whole scoop. There's a great video to watch, and it stars some of the more prone-to-sunlight members of our engineering team — in lab coats, no less. Don't miss it.

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Today we hosted the Google Code Jam finals, inviting 100 of the world's top programmers to flex their brains in a grand coding showdown. This is our fifth annual Global Code Jam competition, and thanks to a new platform created by a 20%-time team that includes previous Code Jam winners, more than 11,000 contestants tackled complex algorithmic challenges, programming in the language of their choice. After a series of online rounds in July and August, the top 500 semi-finalists competed in regional semifinals at 15 offices across Europe, Asia and the Americas to determine the final 100.

We're pleased to announce that after three hours of furious typing, debugging and problem-solving at the onsite finals in Mountain View. this afternoon, Tiancheng Lou of China took home the $10,000 Grand Prize. Zeyuan Zhu from China won second place, Bruce Merry from the UK came in third, and cash prizes went to the other finalists. Overall, the 100 finalists represented 23 different countries.

Congratulations to all the Code Jammers. We hope to see you at the next Jam. It's never too early to start practicing!

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Customers today demand speed. Waiting around is so, well, yesterday -- as so many of the things we used to have to wait for are now at our fingertips online. We can read up to the minute news, get directions, and find the answers to our most pressing questions simply by entering them into a search box.

For a business running their own website, this means that visitors who turn to search expect to have access to the newest products, pages and announcements a site has to offer.

That's why today we're excited to bring you On-Demand Indexing for Google Site Search. On-Demand Indexing is like a turbocharger for Google Site Search, ensuring that your newest pages appear in search results on your website fast. Whether you're promoting a new line of products, sharing breaking news or reports, or updating your site in time for the holiday season, On-Demand Indexing puts businesses in control with an "Index Now" button, giving them the flexibility to quickly update search results whenever they have new content to update or add.

Google Site Search builds on the Google Custom Search Engine by adding business integration features, the option to turn off ads, a more customized look and feel, as well as email and phone support. Check out this video to learn more:



Anyone with a website can take advantage of On-Demand Indexing today by signing up for Google Site Search. For more information about On-Demand Indexing, and how Google Site Search can help your online business or website, check out the Google Enterprise Blog or visit www.google.com/sitesearch.

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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.

Google search isn't just about looking up football scores from last weekend or finding a great hotel for your next vacation. It can also be used for the public good. Yesterday, we announced Google Flu Trends, which uses aggregated search data in an effort to confront the challenge of influenza outbreaks.

By taking Google Trends — where you can see snapshots of what's on the public's collective mind — and applying the tool to a public health problem, our engineers found that there was a correlation between flu-related queries and the actual flu. They created a model for near real-time estimates about outbreaks, in the hopes that both health care professionals and the general public would use this tool to better prepare for flu season.

Since we launched yesterday, the response from the medical community has been positive. "The earlier the warning, the earlier prevention and control measures can be put in place," said Dr. Lyn Finelli of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to The New York Times. "[T]his could prevent cases of influenza." You can check out the tool for yourself.

We couldn't have built this flu detection system without analyzing historical patterns. Because flu season is different every year, just a few months of data wouldn't have done the trick. For example, the 2003-2004 flu season was unusually severe in many regions. The data from that season was especially robust and allowed us to discover a more accurate, reliable set of flu-related terms. To learn more about how we built the system, see this page on how Flu Trends works.

Because we're committed to protecting your privacy, we made sure that the searches that we analyze for Google Flu Trends are not drawn from personally-identifiable search histories but rather from an aggregated set of hundreds of billions of searches.

In order to provide a rough geographic breakdown of potential flu outbreaks, we use IP address information from our server logs to make a best guess about where queries originate. To protect your privacy, we anonymize those IP addresses at nine months. And we don't provide this aggregated, anonymized data to third parties. For more information about the privacy protections for Flu Trends check out our FAQs and privacy policy.

This is just the first launch in what we hope will be several public service applications of Google Trends in the future. And as we continue to think of ways to use aggregated and anonymized search data in helpful ways, we're also committed to safeguarding our users' privacy.

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Update on 8/10/09: The name of this product has changed from Sponsored Videos to Promoted Videos.

With 13 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute and millions of viewers watching hundreds of millions of videos every day, the popularity of YouTube can be a mixed blessing for users. While it's easier to get your 15 minutes of fame (or more, depending on who you are), it can be difficult for people to find your video in the first place, even if it's exactly what they're looking for.

But what if you could promote your video on YouTube and make it easier for people to find it?

Today, we are excited to announce a way to do just that. YouTube Sponsored Videos is our new advertising program that enables all video creators -- from the everyday user to a Fortune 500 advertiser -- to reach people who are interested in their content, products, or services, with relevant videos. Anyone can use Sponsored Videos to make sure their videos find a larger audience, whether you're a start-up band trying to break out with a new single, a film studio seeking to promote an exciting movie trailer, or even a first-time uploader trying to quickly build a following on the site.

So how does Sponsored Videos work? Easy-to-use automated tools allow content owners to decide where they'd like their videos to appear, place bids in an automated online auction, and set daily spending budgets. Then, when people search for videos, YouTube will display relevant videos alongside the search results. These videos are clearly labeled as "sponsored videos" and are priced on a cost-per-click basis. (You can learn more about these tools in the video below.)



We are constantly working to develop the right advertising format for the right content and experience on YouTube. That's why our primary focus with Sponsored Videos is to build a platform consistent with the site's search and discovery experience. Just as AdWords provides people with relevant, non-obtrusive advertising, we hope that Sponsored Videos will provide useful, engaging content, accessible to advertisers of all kinds.

We think this is a great first step for offering users, partners, and advertisers search marketing solutions on YouTube. Like Google, our philosophy at YouTube is continuous innovation, so we will work to improve Sponsored Videos by listening to your feedback and observing the auction as it takes time to fully develop. We hope that by leveraging much of the technology and insight of the AdWords team, we can make this transition as easy as possible.

We do not believe there is one advertising solution for YouTube, but lots of valuable ways for advertisers to engage with our audience. The scale of YouTube Sponsored Videos -- with the branding power of InVideo ads, the engagement of our contests, the analytics of YouTube Insight, etc. -- should create exciting opportunities for users, partners, and advertisers.

YouTube Sponsored Videos is currently only available in the United States, but we're working to bring it to other countries soon. If you're interested in running your own Sponsored Videos campaign, please visit ads.youtube.com.

Posted:
As you read this, I am standing beneath a marble statue of Julius Caesar, participating in an event that means a lot to me: the launch of the Ancient Rome 3D layer in Google Earth. Thanks to Google and the Rome Reborn Project, everyone in the world, from Rome itself to Calcutta, can now travel through time and discover Ancient Rome as it was 1,688 years ago when it was ruled by Emperor Constantine.

The project includes more than 6,700 buildings of Ancient Rome rebuilt in 3D — a true record. This accomplishment demonstrates how technology can be helpful in promoting culture and disseminating knowledge. Ancient Rome 3D is a great opportunity to rediscover the importance of Ancient Roman culture, which is at the base of the Italian, European and, more generally, Western identities. The archaeological heritage and the artistic monuments of the Roman Empire have found their way to many continents, but it is in the capital city (known in Roman times as Caput Mundi, which is Latin for "Capital of the World") that we can still find most of it. For example, architectural masterpieces like the Colosseum (considered one of the seven wonders of the world) have managed to withstand the tests of time — resisting sacks, invasions and world wars over the centuries and proving, with the immortality of their stones, the grandness of one of the most majestic empires that has ever existed.

What fascinates me most about this project is the accuracy of the details of the three-dimensional models. It's such a great experience to be able to admire the monuments, streets and buildings of Ancient Rome with a virtual camera that lets you go inside and see all the architectural details. From the Colosseum to the Ludus Magnus, from the Forum Caesar to the Arch of Septimius Severus, from the Rostra to the Basilica Julia, you can get up close to them all. The idea that virtual technologies now let people experience the city that I guide as it appeared in 320 A.D. fills me with pride — a pride that I inherited from Rome's glorious past.

(To find out more about the new layer, visit http://earth.google.com/rome/, watch the video tour below, or check out the Google Lat Long Blog.)



Update @ 12:10 PM: Rome wasn't built in a day! The Ancient Rome 3D layer will be available soon. We're sorry for the delay, and we'll post here when it's live.

Update @ 6:50 PM: The layer is now live in Google Earth, in the Gallery folder of the Layers panel. When you zoom in on Rome, you will see yellow Ancient Rome 3D icons. To load the terrain and buildings, click on any icon and then click the links at the bottom of the bubble.

Posted:
Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., a day to honor all veterans of military service. As we often do, we created a special design of the Google logo (which we call a "doodle") in honor of the event. The design for the doodle featured a few military-style hats. We weren't trying to represent all of the branches or all of the symbols of military service and, as a result of space and design limitations, we inadvertently left the U.S. Coast Guard out of our depiction.

Understandably, we have heard from many veterans and Coast Guard members, and have now posted an updated version of our Veterans Day doodle, including all five branches of the military.

Our sincere apologies for what may seem like a slight -- this was not in any way our intention. Our thanks to those of you who were alert enough to catch our omission and diligent enough to tell us about it. Thank you very much to all current and former Coast Guard members for your outstanding service. And finally, thank you very much to all U.S. veterans, for protecting our nation and the ideals it stands for.

Posted:
Like many Googlers, we're fascinated by trends in online search queries. Whether you're interested in U.S. elections, today's hot trends, or each year's Zeitgeist, patterns in Google search queries can be very informative. Last year, a small team of software engineers began to explore if we could go beyond simple trends and accurately model real-world phenomena using patterns in search queries. After meeting with the public health gurus on Google.org's Predict and Prevent team, we decided to focus on outbreaks of infectious disease, which are responsible for millions of deaths around the world each year. You've probably heard of one such disease: influenza, commonly known as "the flu," which is responsible for up to 500,000 deaths worldwide each year. If you or your kids have ever caught the flu, you know just how awful it can be.

Our team found that certain aggregated search queries tend to be very common during flu season each year. We compared these aggregated queries against data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we found that there's a very close relationship between the frequency of these search queries and the number of people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms each week. As a result, if we tally each day's flu-related search queries, we can estimate how many people have a flu-like illness. Based on this discovery, we have launched Google Flu Trends, where you can find up-to-date influenza-related activity estimates for each of the 50 states in the U.S.

The CDC does a great job of surveying real doctors and patients to accurately track the flu, so why bother with estimates from aggregated search queries? It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly. By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza.

For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918). Our up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and — though we hope never to find out — pandemics.

We shared our preliminary results with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC throughout the 2007-2008 flu season, and together we saw that our search-based flu estimates had a consistently strong correlation with real CDC surveillance data. Our system is still very experimental, so anything is possible, but we're hoping to see similar correlations in the coming year.

We couldn't have created such good models without aggregating hundreds of billions of individual searches going back to 2003. Of course, we're keenly aware of the trust that users place in us and of our responsibility to protect their privacy. Flu Trends can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week. The patterns we observe in the data are only meaningful across large populations of Google search users.

Flu season is here, so avoid becoming part of our statistics and get a flu shot! And keep an eye on those graphs if you're curious to see how the flu season unfolds...

Update on 11/21: The team just published an academic paper in Nature, the international journal of science, explaining the science and methodology behind Flu Trends. Check it out for more information.

Posted:
From viewing videos on YouTube to screening family events, people love being able to watch something exactly as it happened. And as webcams have become popular, more and more of us are realizing that video is the next best thing to an in-person conversation. Today we're introducing Gmail voice and video chat, which lets you have free voice and video conversations right from within Gmail.

Video chatting from Gmail is as easy as sending an instant message. With our team spread out across Google offices in Sweden and the U.S., it's been really handy in helping us work together. Just click on the new "Video & more" menu in a Gmail chat window and select "Start video chat" or "Start voice chat." You can switch to a full screen view or pop out the chat window and change the size and positioning as you wish. Of course, not everyone has a webcam, but even if you don't, you can still have voice conversations alongside your email and regular chat. Take a look at this short video to see more:



Gmail voice and video chat will be rolled out globally over the next day or so for Macs and PCs. The first time you use this feature, you'll be prompted to download and install a small plugin. To get started, visit http://www.gmail.com/videochat or click on the "Options" menu in a Gmail chat window and choose "Add voice/video chat." Find out more on our Gmail Blog.

Posted:
For the last few years, the Google Help Forums have been a great gathering place for users, developers, and anyone else who has an opinion about Google or its products. We've been taking stock of what you have to say, and we've been impressed by the hundreds of thousands of people who really understand our products and are willing to share their knowledge. It's because of experts like the orkuteers, Google Apps Power Posters, Webmaster Help Bionic Posters and many others that the forums are a great place for getting quality answers, reporting bugs, offering product suggestions and sharing tips and tricks.

To make it even easier to get you the right answers to your questions as quickly as possible and to spot the most helpful commenters, we are converting our forums to a new system designed to help, encourage and reward everyone who visits.

Some of the features include:
  • improved search results, including posts from current and new forums
  • the ability to designate especially helpful forum members as "Top Contributors"
  • a reputation and ranking system
  • the ability for users, Top Contributors and Googlers to mark questions as answered
  • easier access to Help Center content
  • expanded user profiles that highlight your forum activity

This video gives you a few more details on our latest changes:



A few products -- AdWords, AdSense, Android Market, Google Apps, Google Chrome and most of our Polish products -- have already switched to this system. Over the next several months, we'll convert more product Help Forums, initially in English and then in other languages.

If you have a question, bug report, suggestion, or just want to mix and mingle, we welcome you to "stop by" our forums. Googlers will check in from time to time to answer questions, listen to feedback, and highlight great responses and the people who provided them.

Posted:
I'm Dan Russell, a member of the Search Quality team doing user experience research. This post is part of our ongoing series to talk about the Search Quality team at Google, showing a bit of what we do in the day-to-day course of improving the quality of the user experience.

The role of "user experience" research is to try and get the inside story on what people do when they search. We're constantly asking: What's the user's experience of search? What works and doesn't work for them? What are they looking for? What DO they want?

To understand the full richness and variety of what people do when they are using Google, we spend many hours in the field, watching people search and listening to what they say as they do this. We hear it when they're happy, and when they're terribly frustrated. And perhaps most importantly, we also pay attention to the things they don't say -- the inexpressible "gotchas" that slow users down or get in the way of their search.

It turns out that people are masters of saying one thing and doing another, particularly when it comes to nearly automatic behavior. We find that searchers often turn so quickly to Google that they don't really think too much about what they're actually searching for. It's surprising, but often we'll see people trying to find out something about a topic, but then never actually mention the topic itself. That is, there's often a big discrepancy between what they'll tell me (the human observer) they're trying to do, and the search terms they enter into Google. One person I shadowed for the day spent ten minutes trying to find the schedule of the ferry that runs between San Francisco and Larkspur, but somehow only thought of adding the word "ferry" much later in their search.

We also study eye tracking. The eye makes a complex scan path over the search results, building up a composite picture of what is presented on the page. It's clear that what actually happens is a very rapid scan and assessment of each result as they are seen. In those milliseconds between the eye landing on the first fixation and seeing a few results, all kinds of decisions and choices are made--nearly all of them subconsciously.

In this short video, you can see three different searchers all looking for the same thing (in this case, a child's backpack). The red dot is the searcher's gaze moving around on the search results page. Notice how methodically the gaze moves from result title to title, occasionally inspecting the snippet text to gain more detail about the result.


(Video courtesy of Kerry Rodden)


So the job of figuring out what people actually do when they search isn't as simple as asking someone what they search for during the day. It's basically impossible to give an accurate telling of what you saw (or didn't see) on the results page while actively searching for a high quality results.

Memories of your own behavior are also notoriously unreliable. People's search behavior in the lab is often different than when they're at home or at work. This is a natural (and expected) side effect of lab studies: people will work especially hard to please a researcher. If we ask them to search for a pair of brown shoes they'd like to buy for themselves, in the lab they'll find the first pair that seems reasonable and then stop, satisfied. If it was real, they would go on and spend more time. We still do lab studies, but we know what to watch for, and what to ignore.

Data from field studies gives us insight into how people respond to the Google experience in ways that we can't otherwise measure.

For instance, in several field studies we discovered that many of the people who went to the previous version of the Advanced Search page had a strong, almost visceral negative reaction when the page appeared. The text of the original page had language that many people saw as intimidating--words like "Domain," "Usage Rights" and "Safe Search" can be a bit much if you're not sure what they mean.

The old Advanced Search page was a little off-putting (click on the image to see a larger version):


Based on our field studies, we dug more deeply into how people were actually using our Advanced Search page, and quickly discovered that, indeed, a large number of users were going to the page, and then leaving it without ever filling in any of the slots.

Armed with this insight from field studies, we redesigned the page, simplifying it by removing terms that were unclear to the average user (the word "occurrences," for example, just didn't mean anything to many of the Advanced Search page users), moving rarely used features (numeric range searches, date searches, etc.) into a part of the page that was expandable with a single click. That made them easy to get to for people who knew they wanted to search with those restrictions, but out of the way in a non-threatening way.

One of the other things we noted in the field study was that people often didn't understand how the Advanced Search page worked. So we added a "visible query builder" region at the top of the page. As you fill in the blanks, the box at the top of the page fills in with the query that you could type into Google. It was our way of making visible the effects of advanced search operators.

The Advanced Search page post-redesign (click on the image to see a larger version):


The good effect of these changes quickly became clear. The number of users that bounced out of the Advanced Search page dropped significantly. Interestingly, the total number of Advanced Search page users didn't increase significantly... at least not yet. By improving the UI on the page, we hope to attract even more searchers to the large range of search options available on Google.

In the end, this example shows the kind of insights that field studies can bring. As with the eye-tracking example, asking someone about their emotional response to a web page just isn't a useful way to get that data. But watching them in situ, as they actually use Google to go about their daily search lives can reveal all kinds of remarkable, otherwise undiscoverable, and actionable insights into searcher behavior.

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

In the spirit of a recent post discussing some of our search experiments, last week we launched an opt-in search experiment we're calling Accessible View, which makes it easy to navigate search results using only the keyboard. Like many of our recent accessibility-related enhancements, this experiment is built using the basic functionality provided by W3C ARIA and Google-AxsJAX, an evolving set of HTML DOM properties that enable adaptive technologies to work better with AJAX-style applications.

The Accessible View experiment is another step toward making our search results more accessible for everyone. In July 2006, we launched Accessible Search on Google Labs, where the goal was to help visually impaired users find content that worked well with adaptive technologies. We continue to refine and tune the ranking on Accessible Search. And with Accessible View, users can easily toggle between regular Google search results and Accessible Search results by using the 'A' and 'W' keys.

When we designed the Accessible View interface, we first looked at how people used screen readers and other adaptive technologies when performing standard search-related tasks. We then asked how many of these actions we could eliminate to speed up the search process. The result: a set of keyboard shortcuts for effectively navigating the results page, and to arrange for the user's adaptive technology to speak the right information during navigation.

We've also added a magnification lens that highlights the user's selected search result. Since launching Accessible Search, one of the most requested features has been support for low-vision users. While implementing the keyboard navigation described here, we incorporated the magnification lens first introduced by Google Reader.

Bringing it all together, we implemented keyboard shortcuts that extend what was originally pioneered by the keyboard shortcuts experiment. These shortcuts help users navigate through different parts of the results page with a minimal number of keystrokes. The left and right arrows cycle through the various categories of items on the page (e.g., results, ads, or search refinements), and the up and down arrow keys move through the current category. Power users can leave their hands on the home row by using the h, j, k, and l keys. In addition, we enable an infinite stream of results viewed through the n and p keys — so you can move through the results without getting disoriented by a page refresh after the first 10 results.

KeyBehavior
j/knext/previous result
n/pnext/previous result, scroll if necessary
enteropen current result
up/downnext/previous result
left/rightswitch categories (results, ads, refinements)
ajump to ads
Aswitch to Accessible Search results
Wswitch to default Google results
rjump to related searches


Try out the experiment and give us your feedback.

Posted:
In June we announced an advertising agreement with Yahoo! that gave Yahoo! the option of using Google to provide ads on its websites (and its publisher partners' sites) in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, both companies agreed to delay implementation of the agreement to give regulators the chance to review it. While this wasn't legally necessary, we thought it was the right thing to do because Google and Yahoo! have been successful in online advertising and we realized that any cooperation between us would attract attention.

We feel that the agreement would have been good for publishers, advertisers, and users -- as well, of course, for Yahoo! and Google. Why? Because it would have allowed Yahoo! (and its existing publisher partners) to show more relevant ads for queries that currently generate few or no advertisements. Better ads are more useful for users, more efficient for advertisers, and more valuable for publishers.

However, after four months of review, including discussions of various possible changes to the agreement, it's clear that government regulators and some advertisers continue to have concerns about the agreement. Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners. That wouldn't have been in the long-term interests of Google or our users, so we have decided to end the agreement.

We're of course disappointed that this deal won't be moving ahead. But we're not going to let the prospect of a lengthy legal battle distract us from our core mission. That would be like trying to drive down the road of innovation with the parking brake on. Google's continued success depends on staying focused on what we do best: creating useful products for our users and partners.

Posted:

The long, long election campaign season culminated today as people made their choices on hundreds of statewide and local contests as well as the race for the next U.S. president. We've kept an eye on Google Hot Trends to decipher what may be meaningful, as well as searches that are "business as usual" on Google. This is the third and final update for today. - Ed.

As of 12 am EST:

If we count the search queries relating to the commercial breaks on election night TV coverage, the entire list of the 100 fastest-rising terms on Google Hot Trends reflect a passion about today's events. As polls closed and the presidential race was called after 11 pm EST for [president obama], people searched for outcomes on state races of interest, such as [al franken senate race], [massachusetts question 2], and [proposition 8] in California. Obsessive viewers noted that cameras captured a sign in Times Square that seemed to say "[cassoulet forever]" (which is odd; it's a classic French country dish), and they were intrigued by CNN's use of [hologram technology] to show non-local notables like musician [will i am] appear on the set with Anderson Cooper.

Even when looking ahead to entertainment after a marathon post-election season, Americans can't stop pondering politics just yet. Two of the top 100 at this hour are for upcoming films [valkyrie] (the true story of an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler), and [frost nixon], a dramatic re-telling of Richard Nixon's 1977 TV interview with David Frost. Both films were promoted during commercial breaks in wall-to-wall coverage tonight.

Finally, eager voters (presumably of all persuasions) seem to be looking forward to a new era of [obama jokes].

Posted:

The long, long election campaign season culminates today as people make their choices on hundreds of statewide and local contests as well as the race for the next U.S. president. Throughout the day, we're keeping an eye on Google Hot Trends to decipher what may be meaningful, as well as what's "business as usual" in Google searches. We'll post updates as interesting trends turn up. - Ed.

As of 6 pm EST:

The election is still top of mind (by a long shot) for most Google searchers at this hour: 87 out of 100 of the fastest-rising terms on Google Hot Trends are still election-related. Since polls are now winding down in the Eastern time zone, people are seeking more info on [voter turnout], [who is ahead in the polls], and other outcomes. And that includes news outlets: fully 25% of the top 100 are seeking the latest [election news]. Searches for news sources run the gamut from [hannity.com] or [slate]; and people are seeking broader coverage, too, on everything from [foxnews.com] to [cnn newsroom] and [msnbc politics]). Of course, a big player in election commentary this season, (Comedy Central's [indecision 2008]) now seems to be a staple. In the far west, California voters are seeking out [prop 8 results], the heavily-funded (on both sides) initiative regarding gay marriage.

And in the Midwest, Chicago-area searchers are keen to get [metra schedule] information, which should help them get to polls -- or maybe to Grant Park for this evening's massive event planned for Senator Obama.

Posted:
All eyes are on the presidential election today, but another important vote just took place at the Federal Communications Commission. By a vote of 5-0, the FCC formally agreed to open up the "white spaces" spectrum -- the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels -- for wireless broadband service for the public. This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications.

The FCC has been looking at this issue carefully for the last six years. Google has worked hard on this matter with other tech companies and public interest groups because we think that this spectrum will help put better and faster Internet connections in the hands of the public. We also look forward to working with the FCC to finalize the method used to compute power levels of empty channels adjacent to TV channels (we have a number of public filings before the commission in this area and it is a vital issue in urban areas).

I've always thought that there are a lot of really incredible things that engineers and entrepreneurs can do with this spectrum. We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost. And it is wonderful that the FCC has adopted the same successful unlicensed model used for Wi-Fi, which has resulted in a projected 1 billion Wi-Fi chips being produced this year. Now that the FCC has set the rules, I'm sure that we'll see similar growth in products to take advantage of this spectrum.

As an engineer, I was also really gratified to see that the FCC decided to put science over politics. For years the broadcasting lobby and others have tried to spread fear and confusion about this technology, rather than allow the FCC's engineers to simply do their work.

Finally, I want to applaud and thank FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the other commissioners, and the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology for their leadership in advancing this important issue. And, thanks to the more than 20,000 of you who took a stand on this issue through our Free the Airwaves campaign, the FCC heard a clear message from consumers: these airwaves can bring wireless Internet to everyone everywhere.

Posted:

The long, long election campaign season culminates today as people make their choices on hundreds of statewide and local contests as well as the race for the next U.S. president. Throughout the day, we're keeping an eye on Google Hot Trends to decipher what may be meaningful, as well as what's "business as usual" in Google searches. We'll post updates as interesting trends turn up. - Ed.

As of 12 noon EST:

No fewer than 87 of the top 100 fastest-rising terms relate to the election right now. Of these, 10 relate to searches for state information, including [florida sample ballot], [ohio ballot issues 2008] and [where to vote in texas].

We practical Americans are keen to be rewarded for our participation, too: [free stuff for voting] refers to the giveaways some retailers are offering citizens who stop in. One ubiquitous coffee purveyor is called out in particular: [starbucks free coffee], [starbucks election] and [starbucks vote] are clear indicators of the caffeine boost people anticipate needing today.

Keen-eyed citizens are also on the lookout for information on [voting lines] and [voting problems] as well as a better understanding of [how does the electoral college work]. And lest you think it's all about the major parties, at this hour Independent Party candidate [ralph nader] is #59, and Libertarian [bob barr] is #98.

And the excitement of the day boils over: #92 on the current Hot Trends is [when will we know who is president]. Google can't say for sure; we'll keep watching along with you.

In addition to today's searches, we also took a look at the top campaign-related queries during the general election season: Sept. 1-Nov. 4. Here they are:

Top Political Personas
Obama
Palin
McCain
Tina Fey
Joe Biden
Chuck Norris
Cindy McCain
Bristol Palin
SNL Palin
Colin Powell

Top Political Topics
debate
Social Security
presidential debate
polls
voter registration
gas prices
oil prices
FDIC
electoral college
Socialism

Top Political News Sources
Drudge
Huffington Post
Gallup
Real Clear Politics
Rasmussen
Rush Limbaugh
Politico
538
CNN Politics
Daily Kos