Posted:
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 couple of weeks, we’ve helped you personalize Gmail in new ways, made our applications speedier to use, brought text recognition and editing powers to Android phones, and given you a glimpse into the inner workings of a Google data center.

Customize Gmail with a favorite photo
For a long while, Gmail has had themes so your inbox can reflect a bit of your personality. Now, you can set Gmail’s background to a photo from your computer or Picasa Web Albums. So if Gmail’s standard theme choices don’t quite float your boat, now we’re sure you can create a theme you’ll love.


Faster multitasking in Gmail with the Background Send Lab
Features like nearly-instant search and integrated instant messaging help you save time in your inbox, but we’re always looking for new ways to speed up your experience in Gmail. On Monday we released a new feature in Labs called Background Send that can shave off a few seconds each time you hit “Send.” With this feature enabled, you can start working with other messages while your outgoing message is processed in the background without slowing you down. Give it a try from the Labs tab of Gmail Settings.


Streamlined file uploads in Google Docs
On Monday, we sped up the Google Docs experience with improvements to file uploads. Now you can upload a whole folder at once, and if you use Chrome, Safari or Firefox, you can even drag and drop files from your desktop into the documents list or specific collections. You'll also see an upload progress window right in the documents list.


New Google Docs app for Android
Thanks to a brand new Google Docs app for Android, it’s easier to browse, search, edit and share your documents right from your mobile phone. You can even create new documents by snapping a picture of text with your phone’s camera, and thanks to Google Docs’ optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities, words in the image are converted to text that you can continue editing from your phone or computer.


100 new fonts in Google Sites
With more design choices in Google Sites, you can create better looking sites that match the look and feel you want to achieve. This Wednesday, we added 100 new fonts to the text formatting options in Google Sites, so it’s easier to make more personalized pages for your organization, project, classroom or business.


Get a sneak peek into a Google data center
Businesses, schools and individuals considering Google Apps often want to learn more about the technology and procedures in our data centers designed to help keep your data safe, secure and available whenever you want it. Since we can’t invite everyone to tour one of our data centers, we thought we’d pull the curtain back with an in-depth video:



Who’s gone Google?
A hearty welcome goes out to over 50,000 businesses, schools and organizations that have switched to Google Apps in the last two weeks. Several have shared their stories on the Google Enterprise Blog, so you can learn about how Cinram has improved communication and collaboration across 20 manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe, how Gibson Sotheby's International Realty is empowering hundreds of mobile workers like never before, and how the states of Rhode Island and Missouri are making Google Apps available to more than a million students and 100,000 staff members.

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

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

This week, you can find what you’re searching for a little faster, whether it’s a recipe, the time of the royal wedding or a local prayer time.

More relevant predictions in Recipe View
In the past, when you searched in Recipe View on Google, you’d see the same search predictions that you’d see on the main web results page, which wasn’t always helpful for specifically food-related searches. Now when you search in Recipe View, you’ll see more relevant search predictions. For example, typing [c] will give you predictions for [chicken] or [cake] versus [craigslist] or [cnn], and typing [co] will predict [cookies] or [coconut]—and maybe inspire you to make coconut cookies. This feature is currently available in English, with more languages and local delicacies to follow.


Rich snippets for prayer times
Rich snippets are the brief descriptions you see beneath search results that summarize what's on a webpage and provide you with more information before you click on a site link. For example, if you search for [events], you’ll see a list of upcoming local events on the results page.

Now, in addition to rich snippets for events, reviews and people, you can find local prayer times quicker and easier in your results. For example, a search for Islamic prayer times in London will show prayer times and locations. As more sites around the world use rich snippets for prayer times, you’ll start seeing results for additional cities.


The technology is open for use by religious organizations from any faith, and is particularly useful for Islamic prayer times, which are measured according to the movement of the sun. If you have a site with prayer times, you can update your site using the rich snippets format specified in Google Webmaster Central.

Google Instant in Japan
Searchers in Japan will now be able to see search predictions and results appear as they type. Google Instant will be available for everyone in Japan over the next few days, as well as for those typing in Japanese on other domains that currently support Google Instant.


Time for the royal wedding
The highly anticipated royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton had many people setting their alarm clocks to watch the live broadcast from Britain—which meant figuring out exactly what time the ceremony would be in your local time zone. To make it easier to tune in at the right hour, searches related to the royal wedding displayed a box at the top of the results page with the time of the wedding in your local time zone; this info was available in 23 languages. Congratulations to the happy couple!


As we head into the weekend, don’t forget to try solving today’s A Google a Day question at www.agoogleaday.com:


Posted:
From time to time we invite guests to post about topics of interest and we’re pleased to have Emily Limm join us for U.S. Arbor Day. Emily is the science director for the non-profit Save the Redwoods League and is studying the impact of climate change on the redwood forests of northern California. To raise awareness about the League’s research, she worked with Google Earth Outreach to model old-growth redwoods on Google Earth. In this post, Emily shares her ideas on how technology and citizen science can help scientific research. -Ed.

Today is U.S. Arbor Day, a holiday established 120 years ago to celebrate our often under-appreciated forests, which provide us with necessities like clean air and drinking water as well as small pleasures like shade for a summer’s day picnic or a beautiful place to hike with crunchy leaves underfoot. Arbor Day holds special meaning for me because I spend most of my time in the coastal redwood forests of California, working to protect the world’s tallest tree species.

Over the past few months, Save the Redwoods League and the Google Earth Outreach team have collaborated to create 3D models of the old-growth redwood forest in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in northern California, so you can now take a virtual hike among the ancient trees and cruise over towering treetops. Explore the park by activating the 3D trees layer in Earth (under 3D Buildings) and searching for [jedediah smith redwoods state park, ca]. Tilt your view angle toward the horizon to make the trees appear. You can download the KML file for the narrated tour about redwoods to view in Google Earth, or watch the video version below:



In order to protect redwoods in Jedediah Smith and elsewhere, my colleagues and I are working to collect data on geographic regions where the trees are currently thriving to determine how future forests will fare in our changing climate. A critical piece of our work is collecting and comparing field observations of redwoods across different climates, but we need more data to draw strong conclusions—and that’s where you come in.

Today, Save the Redwoods League is launching our citizen science project Redwood Watch, powered by iNaturalist.org, a platform for recording, organizing and mapping nature observations. By sharing a simple digital photograph of a redwood tree and the time and location where the picture was taken, you can help the League track and monitor the species. If you know of a redwood tree—perhaps in your own backyard or in a nearby park—you can use the free Redwood Watch iPhone application or your own camera to take a photo, add a comment and submit it online. iNaturalist stores your observation and, if geographical coordinates weren’t captured automatically, uses the Google Maps APIs to assign them to your photo. With your geolocated observation, we can zoom out and analyze your observation in the context of global environmental and climatic patterns.

An observation of a coast redwood submitted to the Redwood Watch on iNaturalist.org.

The more field observations Save the Redwoods League collects, the better we’ll understand what climate makes a healthy redwood today, and predict where the redwood forests of tomorrow will thrive. We hope to see you on the Redwood Watch.

Happy Arbor Day from Save the Redwoods League and Google Earth!

Note: There are plenty of parallel projects going on around the world, so if you don’t live near redwoods, consider participating in one of the other iNaturalist.org citizen science projects.

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

Music, Mother Earth, flash mobs and royalty were all celebrated on YouTube in the past two weeks. Read on for more details.

A front row seat to the royal wedding
The much anticipated royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is finally here, and you have a front seat. Tune into the Royal Channel, the official YouTube channel of the British Monarchy, on April 29 to see the entire wedding celebration live. The live stream will begin at 10:00am BST (9:00am GMT, 2:00am PT, 5:00am ET) on Friday, April 29, and will follow the wedding procession, marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey and balcony kiss. The Royal Channel will also feature live blog commentary of the event to give timely updates and insights as the day unfolds. If you can’t watch the live event, footage will be shown in its entirety directly following the celebration and will be available in full on the site to view afterward.

From Brazil to the California desert, a celebration of music
Earlier this year, we took on the task of capturing the festivity, passion and celebration of Brazil’s famed Carnaval. We live streamed six days of incredible festivities for the world, resulting in more than 11 million channel views to date. Continuing in that spirit of sharing world events more broadly, we helped expand the reach of California’s Coachella Festival by live streaming the event. YouTube streamed more than 65 bands and three days of music on three separate channels, generating more than 60 million views during live and re-broadcast events. If you missed the events, you can still check out the magic of Carnaval or your favorite artists’ Coachella performances at www.youtube.com/Carnaval and www.youtube.com/Coachella.



It’s easy being green
In conjunction with Earth Day on April 22, we introduced YouTube Live Green, a guide to eco-living. With sponsor Garnier Fructis, we’ve curated videos on natural beauty tips, healthy menu options, recommendations on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle and other eco-friendly content to inform and inspire you. New videos will be featured each week from some of our top eco-friendly partners including Ehow, Planet Green, HGTV and National Geographic, so check back often!



This week in trends
Some quick highlights from YouTube Trends:
  • T-Mobile's "Royal Wedding Entrance" is averaging around 1 million views per day! Last week it was among our most shared videos, and just two weeks after it was posted, it's clocked 13 million views
  • In Syria, video captured incredible footage of reported violence and widespread protests
  • Tornadoes continue to ravage parts of the United States, and the footage continues to pour in. The latest comes from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  • The flash mob phenomenon continues to be popular. We recently compiled the 10 most viewed flash mobs of all time
Until next time, stay on top of the world of video via the YouTube Blog.

Posted:
As excitement gears up worldwide for the royal wedding this Friday, we thought we'd take a look at how wedding frenzy for everything from flowers to fruitcake is manifesting itself online. Not only have searchers caught the matrimony bug, but savvy businesses around the world are capitalizing on the increased interest in the day with clever online ad campaigns.

We often tell marketers that “searchers are very engaged;” it now appears that the engaged are very searched. Searches for [royal wedding] have been steadily rising since the engagement announcement and have risen an additional 90% worldwide since the beginning of April as more details of Kate and William’s big day are revealed. Search volumes have boomed—from the [royal wedding carriage] (up 70 percent since it was announced in March), to Kate’s choice of coat at official appearances and the [royal wedding flowers]. Smart merchants have had plenty of opportunity to grow their wedding-related businesses online.

For example, a centerpiece of royal wedding coverage has been Kate’s sapphire engagement ring. Searches for [sapphire rings] are up almost 25 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and jewelers have taken notice. U.S. retailer HSN saw huge sales of its various sapphire rings and other royal wedding memorabilia, including commemorative royal wedding coins. In fact, HSN had more than 350,000 impressions and over 20,000 clicks since its royal wedding online campaigns began in December 2010. Across the pond, Martine Wester Jewellers in Fulham, London, has seen sales of its £29 replica sapphire engagement ring skyrocket as much as 250 percent.

While many Londoners are leaving town and renting out their houses, scores of people outside the city are trying to get a front-row seat at the festivities: searches for [london vacation] are up more than 10 percent since the beginning of April. Virgin Atlantic Airways used online campaigns to promote its onboard street parties for passengers flying on the day of the royal wedding.

One of the oddest searches that turns out to be royal wedding-related is [fruitcake], which is up about 15 percent in the last 90 days in the U.S. and up 8 percent year over year worldwide. Turns out, fruitcake will be the official royal wedding cake flavor. If you weren’t lucky enough to score an invitation, you can still eat like a wedding guest thanks to clued-in bakeries around the country whose well-timed ads led to soaring fruitcake orders.

So settle in with your sapphire ring and fruitcake and tune in to the Royal Household’s YouTube channel to watch the whole event. And if anybody knows where you can actually buy one of those royal carriages, let us know.

Posted:
(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

We’ve always jumped at the chance to bring the wonders of space a little closer to home. We’ve announced a Moon office, a Moon race and an expedition to Mars and brought many nooks and crannies of the universe to Google Earth—Sky, Moon, Mars, NASA images and a Hubble tour, to name a few.

On Friday, April 29, the crew of STS-134 will launch into space for the final mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour and we want to give you the chance to connect with them. On May 2, NASA Commander Mark Kelly and his crew will take your questions live from space on YouTube. PBS NewsHour will live stream the interview from its YouTube channel with veteran space reporter Miles O’Brien curating and asking your questions to the crew.

Starting today, you can visit www.youtube.com/pbsnewshour to submit a video or written question for the crew of STS-134 to be used in the live interview and vote for your favorite questions. You can also submit questions on Twitter with the hashtag #utalk2nasa. Don’t be shy—if you’re most curious about how to prepare for a spacewalk or wondering if the astronauts have a speech prepared for an extra-terrestrial encounter, this is your chance to find out. Here’s a video from PBS and Miles O’Brien to inspire you:



A few suggestions before submitting your questions:
  • Video questions are preferred, and should be a max of 20 seconds long
  • Speak clearly and film in a place with minimal background noise. Keep the camera as still as possible and ask the question directly to the camera
  • Look through NASA videos on YouTube about STS-134 to learn more about the mission and crew
You have until Saturday April 30 at midnight ET to submit your questions. The top ranked questions will be used in the live interview on Monday, May 2 at 2:15pm ET / 11:15am PT.

To get the full experience of STS-134, you can also watch a live stream of the shuttle launch on Friday April 29 starting at 3:47pm ET at www.youtube.com/pbsnewshour. Both the launch and the interview will be available for archived viewing.

Houston, we’re ready for lift-off.

Update 5/18: The interview time has been moved to 6:00am ET on Thursday, May 19, and can be seen on youtube.com/pbsnewshour.

Update 5/13: Pending the launch of STS-134 on May 16 at 8:56am ET, this interview will be conducted on Thursday May 19 at 7:24am ET. Check here for more info.

Update 4/29: NASA has scrubbed the launch attempt today due to a technical problem. We'll provide an update here on the live streamed launch and live interview, and you can follow NASA updates here.

Posted by Ginny Hunt, Public Sector Program Manager

Posted:
This is the latest post in our series profiling entrepreneurial Googlers working on products across the company and around the world. Here, mechanical engineer Dan Ratner gives you a peek at a collection of machine workshops on campus that were used to construct the prototypes for the Street View trike, snowmobile and trolley, among other personal and 20 percent time projects. -Ed.

Wood, metal, welding and electronics shops are probably not what come to mind when you think about Google but in fact, we often have to build physical products to help us collect and organize information that’s found outside of the web. We do this at the Google Workshops, a hands-on facility equipped with everything from an oscilloscope to a miter saw and even a plasma cutter. Day and night—and even on weekends—the workshops are alive with Googlers working on personal projects—such as home furniture or model airplanes—as well as work-related ones like green business prototypes or components of our self-driving cars.

Googlers using a MIG welder in one of the workshops

In 2007, I took a trip to Barcelona, where I became inspired to share with the world the magnificent architecture lining the narrow alleys through which even a Smart Car can’t squeeze. When I returned home and saw a pedicab pedaling along the pier in San Francisco, I decided how I was going to do it. That spark of an idea became the Street View trike, which collects outdoor imagery from parks and cultural sites, and was my first attempt at creating a mobile unit to traverse areas unreachable by car. Over a weekend, a couple of engineers and I hacked together a somewhat rudimentary trike design and quickly followed that up with a second and better prototype that enabled us to capture usable imagery during a test run at Emerald Park in Dublin, Calif. Our initial images proved that the concept was feasible, and after a bit more work on both hardware and software, we were invited to use our prototype trike around Legoland, our first participant in the Street View Partner Program. Our prototype and 20 percent project eventually evolved into a production-quality trike fleet and full-scale operation employing many Googlers around the world.

Me on the Street View trike, capturing imagery in Legoland

People have asked us to visit historical buildings, national landmarks and other places that even a trike can’t reach—and we’re always trying to find new ways to do so. However, designing a new vehicle requires more than just sticking a camera on top of an apparatus. We often spend hours in the workshops testing out entirely new components made out of wood, metal and—it must be said—quite a bit of duct tape in order to find new and better ways to capture remote imagery. We worked extensively in our own facilities on components of the Street View snowmobile and trolley—from wiring up electronics to milling metal.

Our first prototypes sometimes start out rough around the edges—the first trolley prototype was actually built from an off-the-shelf, narrow dolly designed for schlepping around beer kegs—but our polished production vehicles wouldn’t exist if we didn’t first make early stage “hack” prototypes in our workshops.

Innovation at Google comes in many forms—it can be an idea, a program or even a handmade prototype. For me, it’s in a workshop with a table saw, 3D printer, TIG welder, vertical mill and a variety of raw materials. As a robotics enthusiast and mechanical engineer, these are the kinds of challenges and opportunities that bring me back to work every day.

We're always looking for new and exciting sites to explore. If you'd like to include your property in Street View, please visit our submission form.

Posted:
From the presidential inauguration to the World Series to gorgeous cityscapes, for the past few years the GigaPan team at Carnegie Mellon University has been making it possible to explore breathtaking panoramic photos from around the world. GigaPan pioneered the hardware design that captures these photos and used innovative rendering techniques—similar to those of Google Maps—to create seamless transitions between photos, so people can pan and zoom through the image for an interactive and incredibly detailed photo experience.

Yesterday, the GigaPan team took their creative and technical skills to the next level with the GigaPan Time Machine, which brings this same kind of visual interactivity to video using the power of HTML5 and modern browser technology. Time Machine works particularly well on Google Chrome, thanks to its support for the latest HTML5 features and its stability architecture, which ensures it can smoothly run complex web applications without crashing. Time Machine is featured on the gallery of Chrome Experiments, a showcase of creative web applications submitted by developers around the world, and built using the latest web technologies.

The sophisticated cameras the GigaPan team uses for their photographs capture hundreds or even thousands of digital pictures and stitch them together to form an interactive panorama. With Time Machine, the cameras capture these image mosaics at regular intervals to create a video with hundreds of millions or even billions of pixels in each frame. The result is a video that viewers have the ability to zoom in on while it’s playing and see incredible detail.

With Time Machine, watching paint dry or grass grow is actually pretty cool. Take a look at a table full of potted plants grow and bloom into flowers. Zoom in to examine a specific plant or even a single leaf, or watch a caterpillar bite off a leafy green for lunch.



One of the critical elements of making Time Machine work was developing algorithms that allow the site to shift seamlessly from one portion of a video to another, to give people the experience of zooming and panning across a video of almost limitless resolution. This is particularly challenging because a seamless transition between videos requires starting a new video before the old one is finished, and then queueing it to align perfectly in time before the swap. The GigaPan researchers were able to accomplish this successfully using HTML5’s video tag feature, as well as by taking advantage of Chrome’s speed and stability to render the content smoothly as videos start and stop dynamically.

While you can’t fast-forward to the weekend (yet), head over to GigaPan’s Time Machine to zoom around in space and time with some of the samples, or create your own Time Warp by building your own animated tour through any of the sample videos.

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

This week, we sped up search by bringing more predictions to autocomplete and enabling Google Instant in the new Google Toolbar 7 for Internet Explorer. You’ll also find more personalization for the tools you use most in this new version of Toolbar, as well as in Google News, which we updated with new features to help you find more articles on topics you’re interested in.

More predictions in autocomplete
One of the main ways autocomplete predicts searches while you type is by looking at the most popular searches on Google. This week we improved autocomplete for less common, longer and more complicated queries so that now we make predictions based on the last word or words of your search, getting you results even faster.

For example, previously you wouldn’t have gotten a prediction for [online store with underwater gadgets] since few people have searched for that exact query. But many more have searched for [underwater gadgets], so by looking at just the last part of what you’ve typed into the box, we can now generate a prediction for “gadgets.” You’ll see a dropdown box below the end of your search with predictions for just that word. This change is currently available for all google.com users in English.


Google Toolbar 7 with Toolbar Instant
We continued to bring the speed of Google Instant to more places with this week’s launch of Google Toolbar 7 for Internet Explorer 8 and 9. Once you enable Instant under “Toolbar Options,” you’ll see search predictions and results appear as you type in the Toolbar search box. The new Toolbar also sports a cleaner look, and is more personalized—showing you only the tools you use the most. It’s currently available in English, but we’ll be bringing it to other supported languages over the next week. Visit www.google.com/toolbar to download the new Google Toolbar 7.



Automatic personalization and Recommended Sections in Google News
Yesterday, the U.S. English edition of Google News got two new features: automatic personalization and a recommendations gadget. When logged into your Google account, you’ll now see stories based on your news-related web history. For instance, if you click on a lot of articles about baseball, we’ll make sure you get a chance to see breaking baseball news. In the new Recommended Sections in the right-hand column, you’ll see suggested topics to follow based on stories you’ve clicked before. Learn more about personalization features in the Help Center.


Finally, before you head off for the weekend, don’t forget to test your search skills and try solving today’s A Google a Day question at www.agoogleaday.com:


Posted:
Today, we’re celebrating Earth Day with an animated, interactive doodle on our homepage and events at Google offices around the world. At our headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., we’re holding an environmental fair for Googlers, complete with speakers and contests to strengthen Googlers’ green acumen, and a cookout using—what else—parabolic solar cookers (don’t worry, we’ll compost the leftovers).

Our campus garden in Mountain View

We’ve been carbon neutral since 2007 and—Earth Day or not—we’re always asking ourselves what we can do to make the world greener today than it was yesterday. This week, we launched a new website with many of the questions we’ve been asking over the years that have inspired our environmental initiatives. What can we do to make renewable energy cheaper than coal? How can we run a data center using 50 percent less energy? And what does it take to green our energy supply?

It’s questions like these that led us to install solar panels on our Mountain View campus in 2007—at the time, the largest corporate solar installation in the U.S. They’re also what made us decide to donate to Googlers’ favorite charities based on how often they self-power their commute, whether by bike or by pogo stick. We hope the new website helps you start asking bold questions that lead to innovative solutions to make the world a greener place.

In addition to our new site, we’ve had a busy few weeks continuing our green streak. We doubled down on greening our energy supply with our second power purchase agreement (PPA) in less than a year and made several new investments: at a solar photovoltaic plant in Germany (our first in Europe), and others in the largest wind farm and solar project in the world, bringing our total invested in clean energy to more than $350 million. While the investments won’t supply our operations with energy, we believe they make business sense and will spur development and deployment of compelling clean energy technologies.

This Earth Day, we’ll continue to ask ourselves what else we can do to bring us closer to true sustainability. We hope that you, and companies across the world, will be doing the same.

Posted:
Rodgers and Hammerstein weren’t kidding when they wrote what is now Oklahoma’s official state song. The gusts on the plains are fierce, which makes the Sooner State a great place to harness clean, renewable wind energy. Our commitment to greening our energy supply is also strong, which is why we’ve just signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy—our second in less than a year—in Oklahoma.

The purchase is similar in size and structure to the agreement we signed last July for wind energy in Iowa, but this time we will be applying the power to our Mayes County, Okla. data center, which will be fully operational later this year. We’ve agreed to purchase all of the energy from NextEra Energy Resources’ Minco II wind facility in Oklahoma for the next 20 years, through Google Energy LLC, an entity that enables us to participate in the wholesale energy market. This 100.8 megawatt facility will be built as a direct result of our financial commitment and should be operational in late 2011.



We’ve made the commitment to be a carbon neutral company, and this purchase is part of our effort to minimize our impact on the environment. We’ve managed to reduce our energy consumption by over 50 percent by building highly energy-efficient facilities, but we know that efficiency alone isn’t enough to eliminate our carbon footprint. We’ve been exploring ways, such as this PPA, to reduce emissions further by increasing the amount of renewable energy we use to power our operations; we purchase high-quality carbon offsets for any remaining emissions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the whys and wherefores of our renewable energy purchases, we’ve just published a white paper (PDF) on the topic. Our hope is that by laying out our reasoning and methods we’ll make it easier for others in the industry to explore similar arrangements.

These purchases represent long-term, meaningful actions to reduce our carbon footprint and power our operations with clean electricity. Our infrastructure team will continue to seek similar opportunities globally as Google’s businesses continue to grow. As a company we hope that purchases like these, plus the additional $350 million we’ve invested in renewable energy projects, support the market and drive down the cost of clean energy. This will enable even more companies to invest in sustainable energy solutions.

Posted:
I work on a team that develops autocomplete—the feature that provides predicted searches while you type. When you combine autocomplete with Google Instant, you can really accelerate your searching. Because it is so important to your search experience, we’ve been looking for ways to provide predictions for even more queries. Today we’re improving the predictive powers of autocomplete, helping you search for things even when no one else in the world has.

One of the main ways autocomplete works is by looking at the most popular searches on Google. For example, most people who type “w-e-a” are going to search for [weather], so Google can make that prediction. What’s tricky is that a huge percentage of the queries we get have almost never been typed before, so this makes it difficult to provide predictions based on popularity. For example, very few people have searched for [florida state senate building], so until today, even when you typed nearly the whole search query, you wouldn’t get a prediction.

Now what we’re doing is making predictions based on only part of your search—specifically, the last word or words. While few people have searched for [florida state senate building], many more have searched for [state senate building]. By looking at just the last part of what you’ve typed into the box, in this case “state senate bui,” we can generate a prediction for “building.” You’ll see a dropdown box below the end of your search with predictions for just that word.


As before, to search for the predicted query you simply click the prediction or arrow down and hit enter. The feature can be particularly helpful for long queries, since the query is likely to be more unusual. For example, if you’re trying to figure out [how many stairs to climb the arc de tri]... now you’ll actually get the prediction for “triomphe” (a good thing, too, because there’s no way I’d spell that right). Or, if you’re looking for an [online store with underwater gad], you can save that extra second while you’re shopping for “gadgets.”

We’ve been experimenting with this change for a couple weeks and it’s currently rolling out to all users on google.com in English. As we continue to improve the feature and test additional languages and locales, I can predict with high probability (pun intended) that we’ll be expanding globally.

Posted:
(Cross-posted on the Small Business Blog)

Every business starts out small—whether with an idea or the hanging of a shingle outside an office or storefront. Even Google was once a small business, operating out of a garage in Menlo Park, Calif. We’re proud of our success, but we’re even more proud of the role we’ve played helping a lot of other businesses grow. In fact, in 2009 Google search and advertising tools generated $54 billion of economic activity in the United States.

To further help new American businesses create economic growth, today we’re announcing a commitment of up to $100 million to the Startup America Partnership—an alliance of the country's most innovative entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations and other private sector leaders—for companies to promote their business with Google advertising over the next year.

Startup America participants will be able to use Google advertising platforms like AdWords and Boost and receive a $1,000 Google match for $1,000 spent between June 1, 2011 and June 1, 2012. Our chief economist Hal Varian has calculated that businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords, so we think this commitment will be especially powerful.

If you are (or know of) an entrepreneur that’s interested in getting involved with the Startup America Partnership, you can visit its Resource Center for more information. Our goal as a participant in this national initiative is to help entrepreneurs grow amazing businesses, and we believe our commitment will help them do it.

Posted:
Today we’re bringing the speed of Google Instant to the latest version of Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. We’re also introducing a fresh, clean look that personalizes Toolbar with the tools you use most.

Toolbar Instant
If you’ve used Instant on google.com or in Chrome, you’ll be right at home with Toolbar Instant. Just start typing in the search box and search predictions and results will appear instantly as you type, getting you the results you want faster.



You can also type Alt+G to get to the Toolbar search box more quickly.

To enable Toolbar Instant, visit Toolbar Options and click “Enable Instant for faster searching and browsing.” Toolbar Instant works on IE8 and IE9; if you’re on an older browser, you can either upgrade your Internet Explorer version or try Instant in Chrome, which includes many of the same tools you’re familiar with in Toolbar.

Personalized Toolbar
This new version of Toolbar is simpler, cleaner and emphasizes what’s important to you. The tools that you use most will remain visible on the toolbar, while buttons that you haven’t used recently will be moved to the new “More” button.


As you discover and use particular tools that help your browsing experience, like Share or Translate, they’ll automatically appear on the toolbar, making your most relevant tools easy to access. This personalization is stored only on your computer, so no information is sent to Google unless your usage statistics are enabled. You can learn more about this personalization at our Help Center.

Making Toolbar work for you
Some Google Toolbar features, such as PageRank and spell check, require sharing some information with Google in order to function properly. With Google Toolbar 7, we’ve made it easier for you to control your privacy settings. From a single settings menu, you can decide which of these features you'd like to enable and which ones you'd like to stay off.


We’ve also continued to improve the performance of Toolbar 7 without slowing down your browser, making it one of the fastest add-ons you can use in Internet Explorer.

Google Toolbar 7 is available in English on our download page and will be coming to our other supported languages over the next week. If you’re already using Toolbar, you’ll automatically be updated to the new version over the next few weeks. You can also find out more about Toolbar on our features page.

Posted:
Cross-posted on the YouTube Blog.

As the historic day approaches, the much-anticipated wedding of Britain's Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton has people around the world buzzing with excitement.

While millions will be in London for the big day, it's clear that people around the world have wedding fever. Google search trends show that in addition to the UK and the US, the top ten countries searching for “royal wedding” include places like Singapore and the Philippines. In response, we've been working to make as much of the big day as possible accessible to everyone. We previously announced the expansion of our Google Earth 3D imagery to offer a “Royals’-eye” view of the entire wedding procession, complete with 3D images of iconic landmarks and five species of digital trees that can be seen along the route.

Today, we’re thrilled that the Royal Household has just announced that footage of the entire ceremony will be live-streamed on their official YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/theroyalchannel.

The live stream will begin at 10:00a BST (9:00a GMT, 2:00a PT, 5:00a ET) on Friday, April 29, and will follow the wedding procession, marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey and balcony kiss. Alongside the live stream, The Royal Channel will also feature live blog commentary of the event to give timely updates and insights as the day unfolds. For those of you in different time zones, the footage will be reshown in its entirety directly following the event and will be available in full on the site to view afterwards.

You don’t have to wait until the big day to "attend" the wedding, though. A video guest book has just been opened on The Royal Channel for anyone in the YouTube community to upload messages of congratulations, inspiration or well wishes to the happy couple.

More than 50 years ago, the marriage of The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and Antony Armstrong-Jones was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television and had over 20 million viewers. This one is already heralded as the first of the Internet age, where for the first time in thousands of years of royal history, the moment will be captured online and preserved forever.

Posted:
[Cross-posted from the Google Lat Long Blog]

Before Google Map Maker—a product that enables people to add to and update the map for locations around the world—only 15 percent of the world’s population had detailed online maps of their neighborhoods. Using Map Maker, people have built out and edited the maps for 183 countries and regions around the world, and now, due to the contributions of citizen cartographers, 30 percent of people have detailed online maps of the places they live.

Map Maker users have mapped entire cities, road networks and universities that were never previously recorded online. These contributions have been incorporated into Google Maps and Google Earth, so the collective expertise of the Map Maker community benefits the millions of people using these products globally.

Today we’re opening the map of the United States in Google Map Maker for you to add your expert local knowledge directly. You know your neighborhood or hometown best, and with Google Map Maker you can ensure the places you care about are richly represented on the map. For example, you can fix the name of your local pizza parlor, or add a description of your favorite book store.


You can help make the map complete in other ways as well, such as marking the bike lanes in your town or adding all of the buildings on your university campus so they appear in Google Maps. We’ve seen incredibly detailed contributions from power users worldwide, including this comprehensive map of IIT Bombay. We’re eager to see you add the same level of detail to locations in the United States.


Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

To confirm Map Maker user contributions are accurate, each edit will be reviewed. After approval, the edits will appear in Google Maps within minutes—dramatically speeding up the time it takes for online maps to reflect the often-changing physical world. To see examples of what people around the world are adding to Map Maker, you can watch mapping in real-time.

In addition to opening Map Maker for the United States, we’ve added some new features for users globally. You can now get a street-level perspective on places with Street View imagery directly in Map Maker, see and edit all points of interest, and find exactly what you’re looking for with advanced search options such as displaying all railroad tracks.

Browsing all points of interest in downtown Palo Alto, California

To learn more, check out our getting started site, or start mapping now at mapmaker.google.com.

Posted:
We recently invested approximately $100 million in the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, anticipated to be the largest wind farm in the world. Shepherds Flat is currently under construction near windy Arlington, Ore., and when completed in 2012 will produce 845 MW of energy. That’s a lot of wind—enough to power more than 235,000 homes.

This project is exciting to us not only because of its size and scale, but also because it uses advanced technology. This will be the first commercial wind farm in the U.S. to deploy, at scale, turbines that use permanent magnet generators—tech-speak for evolutionary turbine technology that will improve efficiency, reliability and grid connection capabilities. Though the technology has been installed outside the U.S., it’s an important, incremental step in lowering the cost of wind energy over the long term in the U.S.

Shepherds Flat will help Oregon continue to be one of the top wind producing states in the nation, while providing significant direct economic benefits to the state. The project will also benefit the region by helping California meet its aggressive renewable energy goals with a cost-effective and clean wind resource. The electricity produced at Shepherds Flat will be sold under long term agreements to Southern California Edison.

The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm under construction with me in the center and my colleagues Arielle Bertman and Matthew Stepka.

We look forward to joining a project with strong experienced partners such as the developer, Caithness Energy, and GE, which is an early investor in Shepherds Flat as well as the turbine manufacturer and operations and maintenance supplier. Our co-investors are Sumitomo Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation, and Tyr Energy, a subsidiary of ITOCHU Corporation, both of which have deep experience in power projects.

This project brings our total invested in clean energy to more than $350 million, including our most recent investments in a German solar photovoltaic plant and in the BrightSource Ivanpah solar power tower—the largest solar energy project in the world. We’re excited about helping deliver clean energy to the grid and we hope this latest investment encourages other companies to think about ways they can help accelerate the deployment of more renewable energy. We remain on the lookout for more projects that make business sense and will help all of us take advantage of clean, renewable energy.

Posted:
Like it or not, Americans have a date with the IRS today. In a few hours, our tax forms will have been sent in... yet most of us will still be left wondering, “How will the government spend our money?”

In February, we launched the Data Viz Challenge to answer that very question. The challenge was a five-week competition that asked developers to visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. We received more than 40 thought-provoking entries that each take a unique approach to making this data more accessible to taxpayers.

Take a look at the variety of visualizations in this short video:



The entries ranged from quirky and fun to serious and academic. Some were as simple as a receipt, others showed us how many minutes or days we work to cover public spending. One even rendered the data as a cityscape and invited people to climb the towers virtually.

In the end, our jury selected Anil Kandangath’s “Where Did My Tax Dollars Go?” as our Grand Prize winner. As the jury noted, his entry is information-rich but elegantly designed, and at no point while interacting with the visualization do you lose the “big picture.” Anil’s entry is a great example of how data visualization can take boring, complicated, but critically important information and make it accessible to everyone. Congratulations, Anil.


Thank you to all of the entrants and our partners Eyebeam and Whatwepayfor.com for making this possible. We hope these submissions help you better understand where your tax dollars are spent—and even inject a little bit of fun into your tax day this year. Happy filing!

Posted:
While he may not have been the first to say it, Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

It’s tough to argue with Ben’s point, but as it turns out, a spike in searches around the two most significant events of tax season in the U.S.—the availability of W-2 forms and the due-date for federal tax returns—are pretty dependable as well, as search volume increases in January/beginning of February and in early April. Like other years, users have been looking for info on the process, places to turn for help, and service providers to get their taxes done. As expected, in the “Accounting & Tax” category, the fastest rising searches since mid-January include both commercial terms like [TurboTax] and [H&R Block] and government-specific terms like [IRS forms] and [1040 instructions].


Americans looking to file their taxes in advance aren’t the only ones searching for information on the subject; the last-minute filers have been searching quite a bit as well. In recent weeks, as the deadline has approached, searches for terms like [tax extension] have shot up. Elsewhere, tax filers from around the country are increasingly looking for ways to complete their taxes online in 2011. This year, searchers in North Carolina are leading the way in [do taxes online] followed by Missouri, and Pennsylvania.


During tax season, professional accountants aren’t the only ones that get consumed with tax preparation. Proof that Americans get seriously tax-obsessed: in the last week, folks have been searching more for tax info than for that other seasonal fixation, [american idol].

But no matter how consistent tax-related queries tend to be, the 2011 calendar features a wrinkle: in observance of Emancipation Day on April 15, the IRS has extended the deadline for federal returns to Monday, April 18. If you thought you were the only one who didn’t know that, you’re not alone: The deadline change has prompted quite a bit of action for [when is tax day].

Of course, taxpayers have been keenly interested in how they can save on taxes. For example, [American Opportunity Credit] searches have increased substantially from last year. More creatively, some Americans are looking to maximize their refund by documenting their financial activities of the past year. For some, that means looking at the monies that they *gave away* in one way or another. When it comes to taxes, perhaps vices trump good. Case in point: Like in past years, searches for [gambling losses] are currently besting those for [charity deductions].


For a view into what truly enterprising taxpayers have managed to claim in past years, see this list of deductions that have been actually been approved. Do you think we might be able to claim a deduction for our lava lamps?

Posted:
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’ve improved Google Apps with easier email snafu avoidance, better document and spreadsheet printing, stronger business security features for Android and more. The pace of entire organizations switching to Google Apps also continued to build, and many have shared their stories about moving to the cloud.

Recipient suggestion features graduate from Gmail Labs
We’ve all made the embarrassing mistake of forgetting to add an important email recipient, or even worse, sending an email to the wrong person with a similar name as someone else. To help you avoid such a digital faux pas, we experimented with Gmail Labs features that could notify you while drafting a message if it appeared you had addressed your message incorrectly. We heard lots of positive feedback about these Labs, so on Wednesday we rolled out recipient suggestion features for all Gmail users. Keep an eye out for the tips that show up beneath the address box!



Pagination and better printing for documents
Google Docs speeds up collaboration right in the browser between classmates and colleagues, but people often want to see how documents will look on paper before actually printing. On Tuesday we advanced Google Docs another notch by adding pagination—the ability to see where page breaks fall. We also made document printing a whole lot better on Chrome. Printing is now a simpler operation right from the browser’s “File” menu, and what you see in your browser is exactly what you’ll get on paper.



Improvements to spreadsheet printing, too
As of Monday, you can now print spreadsheets from your mobile phone with Cloud Print, building on the mobile document and email printing capabilities we announced earlier this year. You can print from most mobile browsers that support HTML5 to any cloud-connected printer. We also made improvements to spreadsheet printing from desktop browsers, with new options for printing spreadsheet titles, sheet names and page numbers.



Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office interface improvements
If your school or business wants some of Google Docs’ collaboration magic in familiar Microsoft Office software without upgrading Office or deploying SharePoint®, then we think you’ll like Google Cloud Connect. People can work together on the same files at the same time in Word, PowerPoint® and Excel® without the agony of attachments. We recently added 38 new language interfaces and a top feature request: the ability to minimize the Google Cloud Connect toolbar.


Better Android security and productivity for businesses
Last week we treated our business and education customers to three new Android features: storage encryption for Android 3.0+ devices, a streamlined contacts experience that makes it faster to find and connect with people in your organization and the ability for users to locate and secure lost or stolen Android 2.2+ devices without burdening IT administrators.


Who's gone Google?
Since our last update here, over 60,000 businesses have moved to Google Apps. We’ve profiled quite a few on the Google Enterprise Blog recently, including Boxx Group, South Carolina REALTORS, Just Salad, 3Tailer, and our favorite switch story of all, Contoso.

Thousands of schools, nonprofits and other organizations made the move as well. Welcome to Boise State University, Edina Public Schools, ESSEC Business School, Monash University, Oakwood Junior School, the Georgia Department of Corrections and The Phoenix of New Orleans.

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

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

This week we made several announcements that help make search faster, easier and more fun, including introducing a new kind of trivia puzzle where using Google is allowed, continuing to enable Google Instant around the world and adding date annotations on recent Google Images.

A Google a Day
This week we introduced A Google a Day, a new type of trivia puzzle where you can test not just your knowledge, but also your search skills using Google. Questions are posted daily on www.agoogleaday.com and in the New York Times above the crossword puzzle. Try your hand at today’s question:


Use www.agoogleaday.com to search to avoid real-time spoilers from blogs or Tweets, and follow @agoogleaday on Twitter so you don’t miss any of the questions.

Google Images with Date Annotations
Sometimes when you’re searching for a particular topic, you want to see the most recent images for that subject. For instance, you might want to find images related to the recent Masters Golf Tournament. Searching Google Images will give you a lot of images related to the Masters, but it’s hard to quickly tell which pictures are from this year’s tournament.

This week, we’re introducing a change that should make finding recent images a lot easier—Google Images with Date Annotations. Now, we’ll add date annotations right to the thumbnails of images that were uploaded recently. Try it out on any recent news or event query, such as Charl Schwartzel winning that coveted green jacket.


More Instant results around the world
Bringing the speed of instant search results to new countries, Google Instant is now available for more people around the world. Signed-in searchers in the British Virgin Islands, Ghana, Greenland, Kenya, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda will see results faster with Instant, and French searchers will now see Instant results even when signed-out.


Instant Previews update
Last November, we launched Instant Previews, a quick way to get a visual overview of the search results before you click on them. Since launch, we’ve made a number of improvements that we’re excited to share:
  • Flash is now supported—for most previews, we’ll render a screenshot of the flash component in the preview, rather than just displaying a puzzle piece icon.
  • Instant Previews is now integrated with Google Quick Scroll. Users who have Quick Scroll installed (either as a Chrome extension or as part of Google Toolbar) can click on a highlighted area within an Instant Preview, and we’ll scroll you directly to that section of the page.
  • Instant Previews can now be used on mobile devices, Android tablets, iPads and the Opera browser.
  • Previews support additional result types, including .doc and .ppt files; and video results have a new, playable interface.
Google Search dictionary tool
To help you quickly access definition content, we’ve brought our dictionary feature into the left-hand panel in search. For example, search for [legerdemain] and you can find its definition by selecting “Dictionary” on the left. You’ll also see examples of the word “legerdemain” in context from news, related phrases, synonyms and more. One click on the translation tool brings you to Google Translate for all your bilingual needs. We’re also enhancing other dictionary search features, including a refreshed look for your dictionary look-up queries such as “define legerdemain” and “what is legerdemain” in the search results. Give it a try.


New Google News for Opera Mini
We’ve rolled out a redesigned Google News for Opera Mini in 29 languages and 70 editions to bring people greater mobile access to top stories and news search. This includes an enhanced homepage featuring richer snippets, thumbnail images, links to videos and section content without explicit navigation, a convenient search bar, comfortably spaced links and the ability to access your desktop personalization on your phone. We hope that this will improve the news browsing experience for Opera Mini users around the world, including millions of people using a feature phone as their primary point of access to the web. See it here in the Indian Hindi and Nigerian English versions: