Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Google Maps Cater for the Blind

Google Maps provides an alternative to traditional graphic interface for blind and visually impaired users, as well as those who are at a non-graphical display and need to quickly look up a location. Typing '?output=html' after every query will lead you to the textual interface which basically emphasis on text rather than the map. See the comparison:

Google has been putting much efforts in improving its service accessibility for the blind and visually impaired users as they launched Accessible Search in July which allows screen readers to easily read out search results.

Related: Official Google Blog - Speech-friendly textual directions from Google Maps

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More Integration in 2007

As reported in Google Operating System, David Girouard, VP and General Manager at Google Enterprise, told that Google will pay more attention to an integrated sotry in 2007. He said that Google Talk will include many new features and will become a true VoIP client.

"Google Talk, which currently allows users to make VoIP calls among themselves, will be beefed up to integrate with traditional phone systems as well as VoIP offerings from other vendors." - Girouard
Google's social network could also receive an upgrade.
"Google may use the fruits of its acquisitions of Web 2.0 companies such as wiki-builder Jotspot and social-networking site orkut to build the framework for a collaboration platform."
To due with the fact that Google Docs & Spreadsheets sometimes faces Internet access problems. Google would fix it, at least for enterprise users, by giving them access to their data when they're offline. Google will also add new features to Google Docs & Spreadsheets to make it a real option for consumers and small businesses.

'Start Playing at Search Term' in Google Video

Don't know how many users are aware that Google Video actually provides a 'start playing at search term' function for videos with transcript. This feature should have come with the pin point feature in comments where users commenting on a specific section of a video can put the start time in the h:mm:ss or m:ss format, and Google will automatically hyperlink to those times in the video. This is how the description in the Help Center:

If a search term you enter appears within a video's transcript, you can start playing the video from that term's location in the video. For example, from the search page for the "Similan Islands", you can see that the video titled "Scuba Diving in Thailand and Burma" has a link that says, "Start playing at search term (0:31)." Click on this link to be instantly linked to the clip containing your search term.
Here is an exmaple if you search for Google:

If Google could go further by introducing a voice recognition program which can automatically translates the speech in videos into searchable text. Though there is no perfect program on earth that can transcript speech into text with 100% accuracy, it would, at least be more useful if users can search for exact content in the video rather than just the description and tags given by users. I am pretty sure Google is working on this (or is finding a company which is already good at this).

Customize your Google News Mobile

Now you can customize your Google News Mobile reported by Google Operating System. You can choose sections to be displayed and create a new section by entering keywords that interests you. All these features were already available in the regular Google News, but Google doesn't preserve your settings in the mobile version.

Google Self-Advertising Products

Google has been buying AdWords ads for its products in hopes to diverge traffic from its most popular product -- search to other services. I have done several searches trying to dig all the AdWords ads Google use to advertise its own products (see below for the products I have dug). I concluded that most these products that Google actually spend money competing with other advertisers are either unpopular and has a low market share or the Google version of that product for that particular keyword ranks pretty low (e.g. If you search for 'calendar', Google's calendar service ranks third). And recently, they even added something call 'Tip' which appears right below the search box when users search for particular keywords to promote its four products: Google Images (for searching images), Google Calendar (Google's web-based calendar service), Blogger (Google's free blogging service which recently went out of beta), Picasa Web Album (Google owned online album which provide one-time 250 MB of storage).

So far, I have dig these products which Google self-advertise: AdSense, AdWords, Google Toolbar, Google Talk, Google SketchUp, Picasa, Google Blog Search, Google Desktop, Google Pack, Google Calendar and Blogger. Have I missed any?

AdWords show Quality Score

Quality score is treated as a mysterious factor by AdWords advertisers as Google never reveals score of individual keywords. Recently, Barry Schwartz from SERoundtable has discovered a new column in his campaign called Quality Score for each keyword. The score is either Great or Poor. You score Poor most likely because your keyword is inactive and you have to raise the minimum bid.

Screenshot from SERountable

This feature is not available to everyone yet but has already appeared in the help section:
The Quality Score column displays your keyword's Quality Score to help you monitor your keyword relevance. This is a customizable column that is disabled by default for new accounts. It can be enabled at any time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Google Book Search Results Generated in No Time

Google Operating System reports that Google Book Search generates search results (every search term) in 0.00 seconds. This might be because Google generated results less than 0.004 seconds or Google just thinks it is too fast to be calculated.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Google Checkout Merchant Refferal Program

Google is pushing Google Checkout really hard and wants to get as much merchants as possible, after the extending the free transaction period till end of 2007, it launched the Google Checkout Merchant Referral Program which encourages developers, e-commerce providers, web designers, or any other businesses or individuals that maintains relationships with online merchants to introduce Google Checkout to their customers. Here is how you get paid for every merchant you refer:

  • For one year, you will earn 0.5% of all Google Checkout sales processed by the merchants you refer.
  • You will earn an additional $25 for each merchant you refer in one year that processes at least $500 in sales and 3 transactions with Checkout.

For e-commerce providers who
provide online shopping cart services:
All in all, Google tries to provide incentive for e-commerce provides to integrate GoogleCheckout in their website to gain more market share. Fill out this form to get started.

Google Holiday Doodles

Starting from yesterday, Google starts putting holiday doodles on its homepage as usually. This year, they chose kangaroos as the main character of this year's story. See past year doodles, 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001. Happy holiday!

Updates follows as Google uploads the doodles to its server.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top 10 Google Innovations 2006

Google Custom Search Engine (CSE)
Google Custom Search Engine is an extension of Google Coop which allows everyone to create search engines according to our own preference. Here is what so good about it:

  1. Specify sites you want to include in searches. Learn more
  2. Integrate your search engine with AdSense and get paid when users click on the ads displayed on result pages. Learn more
  3. Invite contributors to refine the search results by including more relevant sites in your index. Learn more
  4. Compatible with Google API allowing you to create an AJAX based search engine. See example
  5. Refine results with self-defined labels. Learn more
  6. Ability to upload annotations in bulk. Learn more

Gmail + Google Talk
If you can chat with someone and get immediate respond, why border sending an email? Google engineers came up with an innovative idea of combining its web-based email service with its IM client so that users can see each other and chat directly in a browser. The feature is called Gmail Chat which since then, you see a icon under the Gmail logo. Google engineers weren't satisfied with that you that added a 'Reply by Chat' feature which allows users to reply to messages by Gmail Chat if the sender is online. This saves lots of emailing and all chats are saved for later reference (of course you can always opt-out). Now you think it is perfect but Google employees didn't stop there. What if the sender is offline? You can still have a mono-chat with them and the message will be saved in form of an email upon the next login of the recipient. Apart from the Gmail and Google Talk intergration (which was also described as 'the biggest thing to happen to Gmail, since well, Gmail.'), Gmail has a whole bunch of updates including to voicemail, profile picture, new mobile for Gmail application, etc. See the whole list of updates.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets
Later in March, Google acquired the web-based collaborative word processor Writely and opened testing for Google Spreadsheet in June. Google now combines the two and names it Google Docs & Spreadsheets. This is a sign indicating that Google is beginning to integration of its products. So, what's so worth blogging about Google D&S?
  1. Enjoy the benefits of web-based services (edit your documents anywhere on any computers)
  2. Collaboration with other editors and see changes live.
  3. More frequent auto-save then conventional desktop office tools which secures your data.
  4. Export to various file types (.doc, .pfd, .xls, .cvs, .ods, .odf, .rtf and HTML)
  5. Publish your documents as web pages or blogs.
In addition to the above, Google D&S is now partly integrated with Gmail so that you can open spreadsheet attachments in your emails with Google Spreadsheet. And you can also open documents and spreadsheets in your desktop with Google D&S. Google D&S currently mainly aims at individuals and the educators where they can't effort expensive office packages and doesn't need advanced functions. In November, Google set up a campaign for students to discuss possible solutions to global warming which clearly shows its main targeted groups.

Google Checkout
Google Checkout makes it easier for consumers to shop online by combining search and sales. With Google Checkout, buyers
  1. No longer have to fill in personal information before they complete each transaction. All they need is a Google account with their credit card information.
  2. Won't receive spam any more as Google safeguards your email address.
  3. Google protects you from fraud and make sure your money will bring you what you want.
And of course, sellers have a bunch of benefits as well:
  1. Every $1 advertisers spend on AdWords equals to $10 in processing sales for free through Google Checkout.
  2. Attracts more new customers as users search for products online in Google, they can shop immediately by clicking the Google Checkout badge cart in the ads.
  3. Free transaction fee till the end of 2007 and a lower transaction fee than PayPal after the offer (2% plus $.20 per transaction).
Google Checkout is a revolutionary idea which makes online shopping more convenient and time consuming. And drives more sales to advertisers.

Picasa Web Album
Picasa Web Album was launched this summer which is basically the Google version of Flickr (a online photo sharing site). With loads of improvement made, Picasa Web Album meets the basic standard for online photo uploading and sharing, or even better. Here is why Picasa is an innovation of the year:
  1. Unlike other photo sharing sites, Picasa offers a one-time 250 MB of storage with a ad-free interface.
  2. Picasa crawls your computer to locate all supported images to save time importing them one by one.
  3. Picasa is also a photo-editing software which means you can do some basic photo editing before uploading.
  4. Linking albums together.
  5. Receive updates
  6. In the latest version of the Web Album, you are able to tag, print and search for photos.
Google has kept its simplicity while providing professional tools in photo editing. Uploading and sharing photos online is no longer a pain with Picasa Web Album.

Google Book Search
Google makes reading books online much realistic by introducing a new layout to Google Book Search. Now you can view full-view books like in Acrobat Reader. You can also download some books in PDF format and read it offline. As you scroll down to load the next page, Google will load new ads which are targeted to the new content. You can also search for the book in a nearby library so you can pick it up and read the whole book. Google was the first to initiate the digitalization of books and lead to a competition between major search giants to scan books in public libraries in the US. And to encourage publishers or authors to permit Google to scan their books, Google launched a program similar to AdSense which allows publishers to earn money when users click on the ads.

Google Page Creator
With Google Page Creator, anyone can create their own web page for free and with ease. You don't have to know anything about HTML, web hosting or domain name registration, Google does it all for you. Google Page Creator is a web-based WYSIWYG web page editing tool. The idea is similar to Yahoo's Geocities yet there is no ads and bandwidth limit. Google offers a list of basic editing features like inserting images, text formatting, change of layout and look. You can host up to 100MB or 500 files on the Google server. Now Google Page Creator integrates with other Google services like Google Groups and Google Apps for your Domain to allow users to create a page for they group or site respectively.

Google Pack
When ever you set up a new computer, you will have to install loads of softwares (e.g. Anti-virus softwares, IMs, Multimedia players, etc.) before you can really make use of it. With Google Pack, you just need to manually download one software and Google will take care of the rest. After you have picked which software to include in your 'pack' and install the Google Updater, Google will download the selected softwares and update them when ever a new version is out. All softwares distributed in Google Pack must comply with the software principals set by Google. All the softwares in Google Pack is free yet some have a paid version or needs subscription 6 months onwards.

Google Apps for your Domain
Gmail has infinite storage while Google Calendar allows you to publish you calendar and share it with others, what if you could bring all these Google product to your site's users? Now Google takes the initiative to offer webmasters an alternative to traditional email, calendar, IM service with Google Apps for your Domain. The service is totally free of charge if you sign up within the beta period. You can bring in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Page Creator, Google Talk and Google Personalized Homepage to your users and host it under your domain name (e.g. The administration account has much access to account management as well as other settings. Now Google even partnered with two domain name registration company to offer companies or schools with no website to sign up for a domain and start using Google services.

Google Calendar
Google Calendar allows users to publish, search for public calendars and import calendars from other sources. The best thing and the innovative part is that Google uses AI to identify events in Gmail and allow users to import events easily to their Google Calendar. This is also part of the idea of the 'Quick Add' function where Google understands simple and short phrases like (Lunch with Peter at Good View Restaurant at 7 pm on Tuesday). Though the technology still needs refinement, the idea is great and I am sure Google will be able to understand more about us. Another innovative feature is that Google can remind you of events via SMS for free. You can choose when Google sends the reminder when you create the event. You can also send out invitations to guest and get instant reply. Google helps you organize the replies so you can know who is coming and who is not. Guests can also leave a comment in the event page (I hope we can chat soon). Google Calendar makes it easier to share events and your agenda shall no longer be kept secret.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help Improve Google D&S

Google Docs & Spreadsheet is asking for user feedback and has put a 'Product Survey' link at the top right corner. On click, you will be brought to a survey form which has some standard questions like how often you use Google D&S, how much and what aspect you like about it, would you recommend Google D&S to others, etc. Most likely, the survey will be used to promote Google D&S and that might explain why the focus of the survey is on the things we like about Google D&S as well as the ways we first heard about the product. I have copied the HTML of the survey form and hosted in my Google Pages for any who can't see the link. Here are some screenshots:

'Product Survey' link
'Docs & Spreadsheet user happiness survey'

Blogger Out of Beta

After several months of testing, improving and modifying, Blogger is finally out of beta. Now, old Blogger users can switch their blogs to the new interface and enjoy the faster, more easy-to-use Blogger interface.

Blogger Beta - Click on 'See what's new' brings you to a Blogger product tour.

Reminding bloggers to switch to the new Blogger.

Enter your old Blogger login username and password and get it switched.

Switching ...

Give it a bit more time and Blogger shall be fine.

Well, this might be why Blogger had added the Google Account login box yesterday in prepare of today's 'out of beta' launch.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Blogger login page

Today when I login in to Blogger, I notice the typical Google account login box which you will see in the Gmail login page. Actually, Blogger Beta has long been using Google account for login but does the redesign of the login page indicates that Google will further integrate Blogger with other Google products? Or is it just another fancy act from the Blogger Team? If Google really wants to integrate Blogger, the most likely option would be Google Docs & Spreadsheet. It would become part of Google's 'Push-Button Publishing' and allows users to share they documents with others more easily.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas arrived in Google search results

There is still a week till Christmas but Google has already started celebrating the holiday by showing candles and trees on the borderline between search results and ads for queries like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa this would definitely draw more attention to the ads and more likely will users click on them. Is Google trying to boost its advertising revenue before the end of year?

Screenshot from Google Operating System

Google adds more links to its homepage

Google has added three products to its 'more »' link including Blog Search, Froogle and Patent Search. No one has any idea about how Google determines which product to be placed on its homepage and whether a link to the product means Google wants it to float up and put more emphasis or it is just a random choice. See the screenshot:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

IE 7 optimized for Google download page redesigned

After being accused by bloggers that Google's download page for the optimized version of Internet Explorer 7 is a copy of the Yahoo version, Google finally decided to redesign the layout to make it more 'Google-like'. See the comparison:

Google's new download page:

Google's old download page:

Yahoo's download page:

Jeremy Zawodny, from Yahoo, says Google copied Yahoo's page and Matt Cutts wrote a short post about Yahoo copying Google.

Google in Russia gets more

Google opens up Google News, AdWords and Gmail in Russia. Now Internet users in Russia can get localized news and sign up for Gmail without invitations. A few months ago, Gmail opened up in New Zealand, Australia, Egypt and Japan.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Register your domain via Google Apps

Google has partnered with two leading hosting companies ( and eNom) to provide domain name registration service for $10 USD per year in Google Apps for your Domain. This offer includes private registration to protect your personal information which means you personal contact information is not accessible to the public. Currently, .com, .net,.org, .biz, and .info domains are available for registry. Google in act to attract more business users to use its services, has put much efforts in helping small and middle sized businesses to set up their online platform to connect their customers or employees with ease.

Add Destination in Google Maps

Google Maps assumes that people will be finding directions between only two locations. The fact is people are traveling around from place to place one after another. And Google has finally realized the reality so they decided to add in a new feature in Google Maps so that people can add in destinations to your journey. You can drag and drop the destinations to rearrange the traveling order. The feature makes finding directions for multi-destination more handy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Order prints in Picasa Web Album

Picasa Web has been one of the best online album service by providing an one-time 250 MB of storage (compared to the 10 MB per month in Flickr) as well as the high speed and ads-free interface. Today, it added a search function and even partnered with two photo printing companies (Photo Works and Shutterfly) to let users to order prints for their fancy photos. The set up process is fast and painless:

  1. Click the 'View Order' link at the top right corner of your album:

    Update: The search feature isn't available to everyone yet.

  2. Click on the 'Select Print Provider' button:
  3. There are currently two providers (Photo Works and Shutterfly):

  4. Go to any photos (even the ones in other's album) and click 'Order photo' on the right sidebar and you will be brought back to the ordered photos page:

By click on the 'Continue to Print Provider' button, you will then brought to the print provider to continue your purchase. This feature is extremely easy-to-use and you can even order prints for the entire album by clicking on the 'Order prints' button at the top of the album. Now that Picasa is trying to catch up with other online photo albums (e.g. Webshots and Flickr) and I suppose the Picasa Team is working hard to add in the tagging feature.

Santa's Toy Hunt in Google Earth

Google employees once again used their creativity and created a toy hunt in Google Earth. Every day from December 12th until Christmas Eve, a clue will appear outside Santa's North Pole workshop:
They even set up a promotion page where you can find the details of the game including all the huge presents in varies places. Download the latest version of Google Earth as well as the Santa KML file to play. Keep track of Santa and on December 24th, Santa will load his sleigh, take the reins and soar into the skies, delivering presents to good children all over the world.

Search for patents on Google

Google launched a very interesting new search service today which is another attempt to make public domain government information more easily accessible using Google’s search technology as said in the Official Google Blog. It works like Google Book Search where you type in a keyword and Google will return the relevant patent to you.

The most impressive thing about this new feature is that it includes advance search when it initially release which makes searching easier. To search for all the Google patents, click here. I would say that this is another addictive Google product where you can spend hours searching for patents that you find funny (just like exploring the world with Google Earth).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Google Toolbar for FireFox 3

Firefox 3 Users: Google Toolbar now supports Firefox 3.

As said in the Official Google Blog post, Firefox users have been waiting for Google to launch a new version of Google Toolbar which has the same function as the IE version. Now it is finally here. All features you have in IE toolbar can be found in the new version. Yet, there is a first launch feature which integrates Google Toolbar and Google Docs & Spreadsheet. Now when ever you search on Google and found some documents or spreadsheet you would like to view, apart from view as HTML, you can now easily view them in Google Docs & Spreadsheet and then edit them. Also, Google has used this tool to fix the problem of Firefox blocking Docs & Spreadsheet from copying and pasting text.

Official Google Blog - Nifty Toolbar upgrades for Firefox

Google Finance updates

After 6 month from launch, Google Finance has its second update (read more about the first update). This time more changes have been made:

  1. They redesigned the homepage adding currency information, sector performance for the U.S. market, and a listing of top market movers along with the relevant and important news of the day.
  2. Top movers section added to highlight most active companies by price, market cap, volume, and popularity which is calculated by the sophisticated Google Trends.
  3. Richer portfolio capabilities that let you import other online portfolios to Google Finance, use different views and add transactions to make it easier to track your investments.

  4. Displaying up to 40 years of data for U.S. stocks.

  5. More data can be shown in your Google Personalized homepage gadget.

The more interesting thing I find is the 'Feedback' button on the top right corner. I suppose they are desperate in receiving more feedback and suggestions to come up with more innovative ideas to fight with Yahoo Finance. I personally find the new portfolio layout a bit confusing and not as easy-to-use as before which is a bit disappointing.