Thursday, May 31, 2007

Google Gears

For those who have been waiting so long for Google Reader to go offline, Google has finally found a solution they name as Google Gears. The open source browser extension enables web applications to provide offline functionality using following JavaScript APIs. Here are its functionalities:

Google Gears marks an important step in the evolution of web applications because it addresses a major user concern: availability of data and applications when there’s no Internet connection available, or when a connection is slow or unreliable. As application developers and users alike want to do more on the web—whether it’s email or CRM or photo editing—enhancements that make the browser environment itself more powerful are increasingly important.
- Google Press Release | Entire Release
Google Gears currently works on Firefox 1.5+ and Internet Explorer 6+ under OS X, Linux, and Windows XP/Vista and is a developer-only version.

To start reading your feed offline, simply click the "Offline" link in the top right of Google Reader. As predicted by Haochi from Googlified, Google Gears is expected to be integrated with Gmail, Google Docs and Spreadsheet, Google Notebook and thousands of other web applications (not necessarily hosted by Google) that stores users' data.

Related: Download | FAQ

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Google X Reborn

Google Korea has changed their interface similar to the experimental project Google X.

Google X was a project released by Google Labs on March 15, 2005 and rescinded a day later. It consisted of the traditional Google search bar, but it was made to look like the Dock user interface feature of Apple's Mac OS X operating system.
- Wikipedia
When you hover your mouse over the circles on the bottom of the page, the logo of the product as well as a brief description will show up as the circle fade away, and when you move your mouse out, it change back to a circle. It looks more playful yet some might think this destroys the simplicity of the Google homepage.

[Via Googlified]

Google Mapplets

Google announced in the Where 2.0 Conference that it is launching Mapplets that enables third party developers to create mini applications to be displayed on Google Maps, much like Google Gadgets are displayed on iGoogle. These Mapplets contain a variety of information, from housing listings to crime data, and tools like distance measurement. Users can select from a wide range of Google and third party Mapplets to display on the Map, essentially creating their own “mashup of mashups” directly on the Google Maps site, while still enjoying the built-in functionality of Google Maps, such as local search and driving directions. There are currently a number of partners of Google, including WeatherBug, and Platial have already created Mapplets.
To get an idea of what this is all about, you can visit a test page that features some mapplets such as real estate search powered by Google Base, distance measurement, movie showtimes, weather, earthquake information. More mapplets can be found in the Mapplets directory, and a developer documentation is available as well. You can also view this Developer Demo on YouTube:

Related: Google LatLong

Street View in Google Maps

Now, Google Maps gives you a new way to explore the virtual maps: street level view. Currently in Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, and San Francisco, you'll find a button that says "Street View". Once you click on that button, watch the street marked with blue lines and click on one of them to see a street view for that location. To navigate along the street, click on the white arrows or use the arrow keys. You can also rotate the image and see a complete a panoramic view.
If you thought that the textual instructions aren't descriptive enough, Google has a made a video and uploaded it to YouTube:

The product is expected to raised concerns over privacy and personal security as it could actually capture the face of individuals. Currently, you could report individual streets you find invading your privacy by clicking on the 'Street View Help' link. This is how you can get caught when you are trying to have fun outside your office ;)

Related: Google LatLong | Why is Google Maps special?

Monday, May 28, 2007

News Summary

Bigger Attachments in Gmail
You can now send emails with attachment up to 20MB. You have to be aware, however, that this is also restricted by the recipient's attachment size limit (e.g. standard Yahoo Mail and Hotmail accounts only allows attachments under 10MB).

Related: Official Google Blog | Gmail Help Center

New Google Talk Smileys
You can now choose from a wider range of emoticons in the Google Talk gadget, the Flash-based gadget launchable in a new browser window, or embeddable on iGoogle and elsewhere. Switch between different smileys by clicking the smiley picker at the bottom right of the Google Talk gadget (there’s 35 smileys and icons all in all, from devil to broken heart to crying and shock). Google offers three basic sets: animated yellow round smileys , animated yellow square smileys and static black & white smileys.

Related: Official Google Talk Blog | Launch Google Talk Gadget

Google Calendar in Mobile Devices
Just visit from your phone, and you'll see your agenda of upcoming events, complete with details like date, time, location, description, and guest list.
Related: Official Google Blog

Google Cross Language Search
Now, you can search for something in your own language (for example, English) and search the web in another language (for example, French). Currently, it only supports 12 languages including Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. This tool is designed for majority of Internet users out there who are non English speakers to the obtain the gist of information in a language you might otherwise be unable to access majority of the content on the internet which is still in English.

Related: Official Google Blog| Google Translate

Search for Faces or News only
Google Image now allows users to restrict search results to faces-related or news-related images. You can search for faces by adding &imgtype=face behind the search results URL and Google uses face detection technology to select only images that contain faces. If restricted to news related images, it will include only images posted to news sites like BBC or New York Times. Here is what you get if you search for "Google" but restricted to face-related images:
Try it yourself. Enter keywords below:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Google Online Security Blog

Google launches another new official Google blog called the Google Online Security Blog. As its name suggests, the blog is set up in hopes to periodically provide updates on recent trends, interesting findings, and efforts related to online security. Google has been putting lots of efforts in protecting its users from downloading malwares displaying warning messages next to malicious sites in its search results. As you can see from the world map above, China is one of the place where compromised web sites exists the most. I'd be careful ...

Subscribe | Note: Comment is enabled for this blog.

Get Paid to Test Blogger

The Blogger team is inviting users to test all the new features they’re working on. They are interested in finding people to perform usability study at one of the Google office located all over the world (including the famous Googleplex of course), remote usability study, field study and online surveys. Google will pay you $100 for every hour you spent. As long as you are 18 years old and live on Earth, you can participate.

Sign Up | FAQ

Google Trends Hot Trends

Google Trends adds Hot Trends to their homepage showing the hottest queries for the day just like the monthly press release Google Zeigeist (weekly). According to Google, only a "sudden rise" in a query phrase that is not in the norm for that query with be flagged as 'hot'. When you go to the details page for specific keywords, you will see related news, blogs and websites giving you a clue why that keyword became famous. Google also ranks the hotness of these keywords with different level depending on the search volume they are "volcanic", followed by "on fire," "spicy," "medium" and "mild". You can also change the date to see past 'hot trends'. Here is a screenshot of the details page:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Google Talk Sound Effects

Recently I was trying to change my other IM notification sounds to the Google Talk ones and found TinyScreenfuls that extracted all the sound effects for users to download. Some have used the typical 'ringing' as their cell phone's ringtone.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dialpad in Google Talk

A reader of Google Blogoscoped has discovered this screenshot a presentation during the “Google Talk” section in the Adobe Breeze presentation. You can see links that say "Show dialpad", "Call details" and "Close" and in the search box, you see "Enter a name or phone number".
This feature might actually been hinted by the General Manager of Google’s Enterprise division, Dave Girouard, in an interview with back in December:

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.
Related: gSpy

Google Life Search

Google China released a product called Google Life Search (谷歌生活搜索) for Chinese users to search for Housing, Jobs, Train Tickets, Goods and Food with the Google Base interface where you can refine your results by using specific attributes. I have to admit that this product is extremely localized and relevant as it searches only reputable Chinese sources and allows users to search for items in specific provinces in China. For the time being, there is no way for users to directly submit their own items for listing.

Blogger Adds Autosaving

Starting from now on, Blogger will periodically send a copy of the text, title, labels, etc. to their servers in case any accidents happens (e.g. browse or OS crashes) before you finish a post. Every once a minute, Blogger will autosave your post (unless you type a lot, in which case they'll save as soon as you stop typing). However, Blogger won't autosave posts that are currently published, since you don't want your readers to see your updates while you're working on them.

One thing that I find annoying, as pointed out by Ionut, the 'Publish' and 'Save' button have switched places.

Related: Blogger Buzz

Friday, May 18, 2007

Picasa Embeded Slide Show

Picasa is catching up fast. Now you can create 'nifty portable Flash slideshows' that you can easily embed in any blog or web page. Here's an example featuring my trip to Japan last summer:

The only good thing about this gadget is that it loads pretty fast (maybe because not many users are using it at the moment). Overall, the gadget still needs much improvement:
  1. The Picasa logo at the bottom right corner is very annoying and blocks part of the captions (in smaller frame sizes). It should be hidden just like the playback control bar;
  2. There is no way to control the speed of the slideshow (both user-end and webmaster-end);
  3. The gadget is still kind of buggy, e.g. play button sometimes doesn't work;
  4. Unlike Flickr, you cannot display slideshow for 'Community Photos' search results.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Google Searchology - Marching Towards Universal Search

Today is a big day for Google with all the exciting announcements that further enhances the core of Google's great empire - search. From day one, Google aimed themselves to become the universal search engine that ultimately search across all its content sources, compare and rank all the information in real time, and deliver a single, integrated set of search results that offers users precisely what they are looking for. Beginning today, Google will incorporate information from a variety of previously separate sources – including videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites – into a single set of results.

"At first, universal search results may be subtle. Over time users will recognize additional types of content integrated into their search results as the company advances toward delivering a truly comprehensive search experience."
- Google Press Release

Here are the three major upgrades:

The Power of Google Technology
Google has begin their first stage of an upgraded ranking mechanism (PageRank) that automatically and objectively compares different types of information. As always, Google search results are ranked automatically by algorithms to deliver the best results to users anywhere in the world. Most of this innovation addresses basic ranking algorithms and is often not obvious to users. Users just see more accurate results, more often, in more languages, which is our primary goal.

New Navigation Features
New dynamically generated navigation links have been added above the search results to suggest additional information that is relevant to a user's query. For example, a search for "python" will now generate links to Blog Search, Book Search, Groups, and Code, to let the user know there is additional information on his or her query in each of those areas. As a result, users can find a wider array of information on their topic, including data types they might not have initially considered.

Google's homepage and a number of applications (e.g. Gmail and Picasa Web Album, etc.) have also been updated with a new navigation bar on the top of the screen to provide easier access to popular Google products. Now, instead of having links above the homepage search box, users will see a navigation bar on the top left side of the page with various Google search properties and popular products including Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs & Spreadsheets, and Picasa Web Albums.

Experience the Experiments
Google also announced today a new experimental version of its popular search service called Google Experimental, available on Google Labs. This new test site provides users an opportunity to try out some of the latest search experiments and innovations and provide Google with feedback. One of the first experiments to be featured on the site enables users to view their search results on a map or timeline. For instance, when someone searches for "Albert Einstein" on Google Experimental, they can choose to view the search results on a map that shows locations mentioned within web pages about Albert Einstein or on a timeline that illustrates the history of Albert Einstein's life.

Related: Press Release | Official Google Blog | Search Engline Land

Monday, May 14, 2007

Final List of New Feature in Google Calendar

gSpy has reported that Google Calendar adds in more advanced reminder function. Now that Google has official updated its 'New Features!' page and there are actually two more exciting features added:

Share calendars with friends
Click on the arrow next to a public calendar of events that you would like to send to a group of friends, select "Send to a friend" and type in the email addresses of people with whom you would like to share it and keep anyone up to date on upcoming events that you find on Google Calendar.
Your not-so-digital calendar
For those of you who prefer having a printed agenda to PDAs, Google added some features to make it easier for you to have a physical copy of your calendar. You can change font size, orientation and choose colour or black and white mode.

Happy Mother's Day

A bit late because it seems that Google didn't change the logo for accesses from Hong Kong IPs (what a pity, we got Mother's Day here as well!)

Logo of Previous Years (Roll over for SnapShots):
2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001

Saturday, May 12, 2007

News Summary

Google explains why anonymize server logs only after 18–24 months
They came up with three major reasons:

  1. Improve our services: So they could know that you typed Google as Googel and gives relevant 'Do you mean ... ?" suggestions.
  2. Maintain security and prevent fraud and abuse: To prevent sabotage and to detect and prevent phishing, scripting attacks, and spam such as query click spam and ads click spam.
  3. Requested by law: To obey existing and proposed laws and regulations such as the EU Data Retention Directive and the US 24-month data retention laws.
View Original Post | Related Previous Posts

Google changes tagline to 'Search, Ads, Apps'
Reuters reports that according to Google's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt's presentation to investors ahead of Google's annual shareholder meeting:

Google Inc.'s corporate tagline has become "Search, Ads and Apps," reflecting a shift beyond search and advertising into online software applications, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Related: Search Engine Land | New York Times

YouTube Video Ads Screenshot

YouTube announced its plan to implement video advertisements in 'top users with original content' videos back in May. New TeeVee describes how there look like:

... a text ad (shows) at the bottom of (the) player as a video is playing. If a user clicks on the text, a video ad expands and appears layered on top of the player. The ads are also clickable from a static post-roll. Examples are shown below in screenshots from a My Chemical Romance music video.
I have to agree with Duncan Riley's (from TechCrunch) comment about the ads. He says:
It’s a marked step forward in Google’s quest to better monetize YouTube, but I remain unconvinced. ... An advert is provided at the base of a My Chemical Romance video for Cingular/ AT&T. ... There’s no context, not contextual matching and delivery. Are users viewing this video or other music videos likely to be interested in an optional advertisement from AT&T, one that interrupts their viewing?
I don't think so. I suppose the quality of the ads will improve as the network grows larger.

[Screenshots from New TeeVee]

Friday, May 11, 2007

Google Image Labeler Updates Scoring System

Google Image Label allows users to label random images to help improve the quality of Google's image search results. When you and your partner's label matches, you'll earn 100 points. But it seems that people tries to score higher by submit too general tags such as 'men', 'people' and 'sky' so that the chances of matching two labels increase. Google, therefore, tackles the problem by differentiate the scores depending on how specific your label is and ranges from 50 to 150 points. Here is an example: sky (50 points), bird (60 points), soaring (120 points), or frigate bird (150 points). Here is the official word from Google:

Labels that are more descriptive receive more points than generic labels. For example, for an image of a red corvette, matching on "red car" or "corvette" would receive more points than a match on the label "car". This is because more specific labels are even more helpful in our efforts to improve the quality of image search results, so we wanted to credit players accordingly.
[Via Google Operating System]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

News Summary

AdSense Webinar
If you are fed up with the suggestions given by users in DigitalPoint or AdSense's Help Group, you might want to join the upcoming webinar titled 'AdSense is holding a Taking It to the Next Level: Improving Your AdSense Performance' next Wednesday, May 16th at 10:30am PDT. They will leave time at the end of the webinar to answer any questions or concerns regarding your ad performance or other account issues.

Enroll | Details

Google LatLong Blog
A new official Google blog about Google Earth, Maps, Local and their related APIs.
Subscribe | Visit | Related: GEarthBlog | Google Sightseeing

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Print Ads Becomes Part of AdWords

Google Print Ads is an online marketplace that makes it easy for advertisers and agencies of all sizes to run ads in newspapers across the U.S.. It is now integrated into AdWords and operates similar to site-targeting ads. Here is a screenshot:

[Screenshot by Marketing Pilgrim]

Google - #1 MBA Employer

According to Fortune's Top 25 MBA employer, 20.58% of MBAs put Google as their top 5 most desirable workplaces. Google ranked #2 in 2006. Well, it isn't hard to imagine why it is so given the list of benefits Googlers get:

  • Health care for you and your family, plus on-site physician and dental care at our headquarters in Mountain View, California and our engineering center in Seattle, Washington
  • Vacation days and holidays, and flexible work hours
  • Google Child Care Center, just five minutes from Google headquarters in Mountain View
  • Onsite dry cleaning, plus a coin-free laundry room in the Mountain View office
    Full list of benefits of working at Google
If you hate words, Google filmed a recruitment video long ago:

Google Trout

I have to admit I am really Googlized but I have never seen this before. How cute!

[Via Googlified, Photo by Luc Van Braekel]

Fresh Look in Google Analytics

Feb 2006, Google acquired MeasureMap the web-based statistics site that aims to provide free, easy (and good looking stats) for bloggers. There has been no news since then and because I was anticipating the product so much, I even sent an email to MeasureMap and this was their reply at that time:

Hello Keith,

Thank you for your email and your interest in testing MeasureMap. Unfortunately at this time we are unable to extend our testing group. We hope to extend invitations for additional testers in the very near future and will contact you as soon as we are able because you signed up on the invitation list.

Measure Map Support
An year and half later, Google announces the 'whole new experience of Google Analytics' which I would say is the migration of the MeasureMap interface into Google Analytics. Basically, the interface is much more flashy and uses a lot of AJAX reducing the loading time. Here are some updates where most bloggers or basic users would find useful (other than the great improvement in interface and navigation):
  • Better exporting functionality: Just like AdWords, you can schedule or send personalized report emails and even export reports in PDF format.
  • Custom Dashboard: Personalize your own dashboard showing only what you what.
  • Full list of new features or take a tour.
Don't panic if you don't see updates in your account because Google's normal practice is to roll it out in the 'next few weeks' and you will be notified by email once you are fully migrated. For the time being, please enjoy the pretty screenshots uploaded by Flickr users (I tried to find some from Picasa Web Album, but ...):

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Add Reminder in Google Calendar

Google Calendar has been a bit quite since it was launched in April last year and had only a few minor updates such as the searching public events, moon phase and Google doodle calendar. It seems that Google has added one more subtle yet useful feature to called as 'Add Reminder'. A reminder in Google Calendar could be a pop-up if you are opening Google Calendar in your browser, SMS to your mobile phone or a email notification. Before, you could only have one reminder for each event and is typically inadequate for forgetful people like me. Now, you could add in more reminders to every event:
I have been longed for this feature yet would also like to see other improvement concerning the usefulness of Google Calendar. The top-wanted item would be full integration with Gmail. I have to admit Yahoo Mail is doing a good job in integrate the two and that Google might have already come up with a even innovative design.

Update: It seems that Google has taken this new feature down and it disappeared from my account. Anyone else experiencing the same problem?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

AdSense Updates

Old AdSense accounts migrates to Google Account
According to Inside AdSense, Google will be migrating old AdSense accounts to Google Account and targeted users would be greeted by a screen like the one below, asking them to upgrade their login to a "Google Account".

Existing users who signed up for AdSense using their Google Account would not see this message yet the AdSense team is working to make this possible.

AdSense homepage update
AdSense has updated their homepage so that it looks more AdWords like. The basic contents are about the same compared to the old layout yet you will see a more attractive 'Sign up now' button right above the log in box.