Monday, February 26, 2007

Google Spell Checker

People make mistakes when they are typing their search queries. Google tries to correct them by their own spell checker which is based on 'occurrences of all words on the Internet'. This automated process of identifying typos means that there are chances that Google would wrongly flags correctly spelled words and tries to suggest a irrelevant alternative. In the screenshot, for instance, 'chile's population' (which is correctly spelled) is being flagged as a typo and Google tries to suggest 'china's population' as an alternative. Obviously in this case, where China being the most populated country in the world would definitely have a higher occurrence in all the words on the Internet (searching for 'China' in Google return approximately 639,000,000 while 'Chile' only returns 211,000,000). To improve the situation, Google users can: give feedback on ridiculous suggestions using the 'Dissatisfied? Help us improve' link at the bottom of the search result page. While Google can lower the minimum word occurrence which flags keywords as typos.

Google PlusBox

Google aims at giving users the most relevant content in search result pages. Larry Page, co-founder of Google, stated that a"perfect search engine," is defined as something that, "understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.". Long ago, Google displays OneBox above search results which are information Google identifies as most relevant to specialized information like weather and stock quotes. In the past few months, they extend this idea to something bloggers name it 'PlusBox' or 'ManyBox' which basically is similar information provided in OneBox displayed in an expandable box after individual search results. Currently, PlusBox works for stock quotes, in-site search, maps and directions, related blog posts about corporates, etc. Lately, they experimented videos on PlusBox which means users can play videos hosted in popular videos sharing sites (e.g. YouTube and Google Video) on the search result page. Here is how users benefit:

  1. Some users might be searching for simple answers to they query like an address of a hotel or wanting to watch the famous mentos in coke experiment. Conventionally, they will have to search, click on the top ranked results, redirected to a external site and then look for what they want again. With PlusBox, you never need to leave the search results page yet getting the most relevant information.
  2. In some cases, PlusBox displays more related internal links for a certain site which gives users a basic idea of what the site is going to provide and thus helps them quickly narrow down targeted sites.
  3. As mentioned above, PlusBox might show related blog posts or other related information which means users who are still struggling with what they are what to search for can have a glimpse of information beyond their query.
Apart from PlusBox, Google is actively doing experiments with a site called searchmash which integrates all sorts of results (e.g. image, blogs, wikipedia, videos) in one page. Google Operating System forecasted that Google might add in a Google Scholar PlusBox that shows information about scholar papers: the abstract, the number or quotes, the number of pages and links to Google Scholar. I would suggest:
  • Google Books PlusBox that shows books that mentions the keyword as well as information about the book such as table of content, preview of selected pages and search within book.
  • Google Image PlusBox that will display images within a site that Google think is related to the search term.
  • Google Paten PlusBox which is similar to the Books PlusBox but shows related patent information like patent summary, citations and drawings.
While Google is marching towards its ultimate goal as a 'perfect search engine', more testing will go on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Google Apps Premium is Live

There have been rumors going on for a while that Google is launching a premium service for its current Google Apps. Google now provides free trial to the premium service for all existing users until 30th April. Here are some highlights of the premium edition:

  1. The price for the premium version is $50 per user account per year
  2. 10 GB of of email storage with no advertisements alongside emails
  3. Access to API for integration with your existing infrastructure
  4. 24/7 assistance, including phone support
You can view the full comparison here. There are many companies which offer similar products, can Google stand out?

Yes ... Google Apps premium got these advantages ...
  1. Gmail's innovative ideas to improve web based email has received many awards with an extensive 10GB of storage without ads definitely sounds attractive to big corporation.
  2. Most email service plans only offers purely email but Google also offers IM. Employees in corporations to can get instant responds using chat rather than emails.
  3. Google provides API for IT technicians to integrate their existing services and provide more convenient interface and usage e.g. single sign-on.
  4. Google Calendar which integrates with Gmail, allows much easy event scheduling and sharing.
  5. The innovative start page feature allows corporates to build customized homepage for their employees which can include email, calendar, system announcements, etc.
  6. Users can access most of the Apps features on their mobile phones which allows them to work wherever they are.
But there are still more to work on ...
  1. Google Docs & Spreadsheet needs to add in more features to be competitive with other existing web based offices which provides much more advanced functions.
  2. Google Page Creator is indeed a great tool for small corporates who does not have the resources to hire IT technicians to generate their own webpage. But to large corporates, this tools seems too basic and lacks advance web development tools.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sign up for your Google gift

Anything with that six characters printed on them will drive Google fans crazy (Google tee, Google mug, Google calendars, Google stickers, etc.). But the problem is, not everyone is so lucky to have them delivered to their homes. However, don't get disappointed because there are rare chances where Google allows users to sign up for them. First-come-first-serve. Recently in the Official AdSense Chinese Support Forum there was a sticky thread where the top ten repliers will get souvenirs delivered to their specified address. No one knows what those gifts are, maybe a pack of IT'S IT Google ice cream. Google provides free lunch to its employees, now, it is generous to its lovers as well. Want one? Start keeping an eye on the official Google support forums ;)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Help Improve Google's Translation

Google fancy algorithms more than human editing and that's why all most everything, from search results to advertisement delivery system, are all automated. But when it comes to languages, Google might need some help from humans to make it sound more natural. One of the ten things Google found to be true, is The need for information crosses all borders. According to Google,

"Google's mission is to facilitate access to information for the entire world. ... That is why they also offer a translation feature to make content available to users regardless of their native tongue and for those who prefer not to search in English. To accelerate the addition of new languages, Google currently offers volunteers the opportunity to help in the translation through an automated tool."
The voluntary opportunity mentioned in the quote is on an invitational basis and Google manually approves every single application. In most cases, especially for popular languages, Google will not allow users to help. But Google might have changed its mind. Now, when users translate websites into a different language using Google's translation tool, you can suggest better translations by rolling over the translated text. Google will automatically phrase sentences according to punctuations and display the original phrase. Imagine if every webmaster translates their site to a foreign language, I am sure Google will have the best translation ever.

Update: This function only works for BETA languages, e.g. Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic.
Note: Google Translate now does Chinese (Traditional). Big thanks from Hong Kong and Taiwan users!

Happy New Year

This year is the year of pig. My wish about Google is to hope that Google Greater China can hire more programming talents to localize its products and gain more market share. Google is currently experiencing difficulties in hiring Chinese to improve their search quality.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Google Video New Layout

Google Video is testing a new layout which is very similar to YouTube where users see all the video options (description, ratings, related videos, etc.) in one screen without having to click here and there. This is a sensible act as it makes no sense to have the a 'wide screen' to display videos that are mostly in square size. And adding more details in one page means users saves time for loading the new content because they are preloaded. Another improvement is that scrolling through related video uses AJAX which means we don't have to scroll down for more videos like in YouTube. You will also see some snapshots of at certain time in the video which allows users to skip to sections that interest them. However, users will have to scroll down to view some of the details which means they will have to leave the video. Adding to that, some videos have loads of comments and all of them are displayed in one l-o-n-g page.

Related: Google Video and YouTube integration

Gmail Theater Presents

The Gmail Team might be feeling to excited about the fact that anyone can sign up for Gmail without invitations or mobile phones so they made a series of puppet show to demonstrate visually the four different reasons 'Why use Gmail?' (Only spam-free, search and chat are listed on Gmail's homepage, how about mobile access?)

Valentines Gift from Google

It was a surprise for me to receive a few Google items this Valentines Day delivered right to my home in Hong Kong. Maybe they are awarding me for blogging about them ;)

Google Calendar 2007 (offline version) with searching tips and cute doodles.

Google traveling mug

Anyone is free to share these images under these terms.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

AdWords tests CPC site-targeting ads

AdWords is inviting advertisers who are interested in cost-per-click (CPC) site-targeting ads to join the testing scheme. Currently, advertisers can only bid for site-targeting ads on cost-per-thousand-impression (CPM) basis which means they pay when ever their ads are shown. Switching to CPC bidding, Google says it can:

  • Increased flexibility. Select the content network sites you want your ads to appear on and choose the bidding option that fits your needs. If clicks are your goal, try CPC bidding so you pay only when you get the result you want.

  • Full control. Create new CPC site-targeted campaigns, or switch your existing campaigns between CPC and CPM at any time. As always, you retain full control over your budgets and bids.
The test is only available for advertisers located in US at the moment. This is a great advance over the current AdWords advertising system as any advertisers would like their ads being seen and brings traffic to their site while CPC ensures they pay for traffic. Google has not review any further details about the program like whether these CPC site-targeted ads will occupy the whole ad unit or not and how their compete with keyword-targeted ads.

Happy Valentine's Day

Yummy! The choco-coated strawberry looks great (note that the 'O' is stained). Bet you will find them in Google Checkout? ;) Here are the previous doodles on valentine's day.

Gmaill officially abolishes invitations

According to Google's Chinese Official Blog, Gmail opens up for everyone around the world today. It says:

April's Fool 2004, Gmail starts its beta testing on invitation basis. Over the past two years, from one single invitation till today with over 10 millions of users covering 42 languages globally.

It sounds that we are watching Gmail grow from a child and today it graduates (yet it is still in beta). Sign up for Gmail on its homepage! The Google guys had done a great job in bringing a revolution over free webmails. From giving over 2 gigabytes of storage, AJAX interface, chat with browser, etc. I am hoping to have another surprise on Gmail's four-year-old birthday.

P.S. The previously mentioned Help Center page is back. And Gmail Fetcher is confirmed to be a feature for all.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why is Google Maps special?

Among the five lucky products listed on Google's homepage, Google Maps is one of them. But how can maps change the world? Here I try to analysis it and list out the 5 potentials of Google Maps:

  1. Google puts much efforts on mobiling services and Google Maps is one of the leading product which goes wireless. With Google Maps, you can locate any nearby shops you like according to the business listings and receive promotions and special offers via coupons provided by the shop. With GPS locating, Google will know exactly where you are and provide sponsored listings of shops nearby.
  2. Google knows the way to everywhere. Google can show you the most direct way between two or more locations which is ideal for first-time visitors in a foreign place. In between the directions, it can tell you what you'll pass by. Google will tell you when a nearby cinema will be showing the blockbuster your friend mentioned in Google Talk or whether your most-visited cosmetic shop is providing discount for masks.
  3. Google is testing a project called Transit which is basically a trip planner. When entering two locations and the time of arrival, Google will tell you where and when to get on the bus and get off at where and approximate arrival time. This can combine with another project named Google Ride Finder which keeps track of taxis. If Google can add real-time traffic information (is there a serious congestion ahead?) so that drivers can select the best alternative routes.
  4. Google provides Maps API for developers to integrate Google Maps in their website. This creates a trend of adding more data maps. Some use it to pin-pointing real estate listings, website traffic statistics. Google Earth is a good example of mapping geographic data. There is currently National Geographic, Discovery, UN data on Google Earth.
  5. More integration with searches. Google automatically map address in your search queries, Google Calendar events as well as Gmail messages and is now trying to map places mentioned in books. You can also geotag your photos using Google Earth and Picasa. You can also view and create your own 3D models and take a virtual tour of the Great Cannon.
Google is expanding its map coverage from US and UK to some Europe countries, Japan and Australia. Now China, India, Hong Kong, Brazil, some African countries. And the next step is to list businesses in the maps and put everything into the map.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

AJAX API Wizards

Google released two wizards to help webmasters or bloggers who know nothing about programming to implement AJAX Search API into their sites or blogs. You can add in News search or Book search by simply entering the keywords, site URL and paste the code into your site. It looks like this:

Google Docs wish list

Google announced that Google Docs is now in 12 more languages and Google Toolbar 3 for Firefox (which allows users to open documents in their desktop using Google Docs) is out of beta. I see Google's efforts to localize its service, but to gain more market share, Google has to work hard on improving the overall user experience. Here are some suggestions for Google Docs:

  1. Offline editor. This is essential for users who does not connect to the Internet all the time and if they have problems with their connections, users will still be able to retrieve their documents. Once the user connects to the Internet again the offline editor will synchronize with the online copy and allow other collaborating users see changes.
  2. More advanced features. Google Docs provides basic word processing and spreadsheet tools, advance features such as graphing and charting is not supported which limits the possible uses of it. Rather than Google developing all the features for its users, it would be a great idea to make Google Docs an open source project that allow users to develop and customize their own tool panel.
  3. Google Talk integration. Though spreadsheet in Google Docs allows users to chat within a document, I personally think that the Gmail chat interface is the best solution to combine chat and work. Users should also be able to pin point (or link to) certain parts of the document in the Docs chat so that they know exactly what the others are referring to. The chat history is then saved for future reference.
  4. Gmail integration. Though users can open document and spreadsheet attachments in Gmail using Google Docs in a new window, it would be even better if users can click a button and the document opens below the email and users can edit it there. The changes are then visible by other recipients.
  5. Google Desktop integration. You can open documents in your desktop in Google Docs, how about search them? Google Desktop currently indexes Gmail messages and allows users to search them offline, how about those important documents saved online in Google Docs?
  6. Better viewing options. There should be more viewing options such as full screen, Book Search pdf view.
  7. Better tagging. Like most of the Google products, you cannot edit tags in bulk and to categorize documents into comprehensible groups.
  8. Faster respond. Google Docs has been accelerating in sever responds since it received complaints from its users that loading a document is too time consuming yet there is still room for improvement.
Currently, Google is developing the enterprise version of Google Docs which I hope will have some of the aforementioned features already included.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Don't fight for Gmail invitations anymore

After almost three years of closed-door beta testing, Gmail opened up its service to everyone today. The age where people are desperate to get a Gmail invitation by tattooing a Google logo on their body (according to the Gmail Help Center if you still remember) is gone and everyone who have access to Internet can sign up via and get access to the 2.8 GB of free storage. The thing that concerns me most about this, is the fact that spammers will have much easier access to Gmail and good username combinations will run short soon as it is much easy for people to sign up for multiple accounts.

Note: Not all users are seeing the sign up page (including users in Hong Kong) but this news is confirmed in the Gmail Help Center. Also, some have reported that experimenting Gmail Fetcher feature is available to everyone as well.

Update: Google has changed the FAQ page in the Help Center to the old version which says that you can get invitations with mobile phones. Maybe this would be the Gmail's birthday present for its users this year. Let's see.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Know more about links to you

Google updated its webmaster tool which now shows external and internal links for a particular page. Before, webmaster will have to use the 'link:' attribute in Google search to check backlinks (in Google's language, it is called external links). You get much more up-to-date and detailed linkage from this tool and I have to admit I like it very much. If you got a large site and got loads of links in and out, you can export the data to Excel. As mentioned in the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog:

... the overall fraction of links we show is much, much larger than the link: command currently offers.
So you might get excited (like me) who saw the astonishing amount of links to your site. Another small update is the 'My sites' drop down menu in the top right corner of the page which allows much easier navigation between sites you own. If you own a site but haven't tried this out yet, I strongly recommend you give it try.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Google to launch its own PowerPoint

Ionut from Google Operating System accidentally discovered that Google is about to launch its PowerPoint named Google Presently. Presently (just like Writely) should be included in Google Docs which now provides basic spreadsheet and word processing. This would be another advancement for Google's ambitious to put everything online. Google emphasis on collaborating and allows multiple users edit the same document at the same time seeing instant changes. It wouldn't be a surprise if they have it in Presently as well. Now that Google put most of the Office applications online, the next step would be to develop an offline editor which will automatically synchronize with the online version. Once this is done, Window and probably Mac users will have an alternative (a much better one) to Office. Go, Google, Go!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

AdSense invites publishers to display brand advertising ads

Google's advertising program AdSense has invited publishers by email to join the so called custom placement packs program which is to enable advertisers to find and target publishers under a certain topic easily. In the email, it says:

After a recent review of your site, we would like to include [your doamin] in our custom placement packs program. Custom placement packs are selections of individually-reviewed sites designed for our largest brand advertisers.

We would like to feature your site more frequently in these advertiser packages, but to do so, we need you to place more image and text-enabled medium rectangle ad units (300×250) on your site. Visit to see a sample of the medium rectangle unit.

The medium rectangle is the most demanded size among our brand advertisers that utilize these packages for both text and image ads. These advertisers want to ensure they reach visitors on high quality sites like yours, and are willing to bid more for ads prominently displayed on these sites. They require that the units be placed “above the fold” on a page so that the ads are immediately visible to your site’s visitors without scrolling down.

If you decide to add medium rectangle units to your site, please notify us by replying to this email so that we can begin featuring your site in more of our advertiser packages.

We also recommend you use the newly launched ad placements feature to define your ad slots to advertisers so they can bid on specific placements on your site. For instructions on how to create ad placements, please visit .
My first impression is that this act is the follow up to the ongoing reports that Google is expanding its brand-advertising which means large brand-name advertisers will have more opportunities to appear in quality sites in Google's content network (as joining the program is on an invitational process). This act would definitely increase the incentives of large advertisers to spend more on advertising on Google as most of the invited sites are of high traffic. I suppose these brand name ads are bid using CPM. We want to hear from those who have been invited!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Google account login page adds personalized services promotion link

I have notice a yellow box appears above some Google Account login pages (e.g. Gmail and Personalized Homepage) which promotes Google's personalized services (e.g. personalized search). This feature is not new at all, it is just that Google didn't publicize them. Google provides suggestions for users via the Interesting Item gadget that users can add in their Personalized Homepage which suggests web search, pages, gadgets and videos to users according to their history. I guess Google is trying to evaluate their artificial intelligence (AI) and to see how much they 'understand' about users from the data they have. The ultimate goal would be suggesting advertiser links to users. As Google collects huge amount of information from users via their daily search history (but not Gmail and AdWords at the moment), the ads will be highly targeted and to advertisers, this means a higher conversion rate. What do you think?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Receive Communications from Google

In Google Groups, you get an option called 'Receive communications from Google' in the group settings if you are a group moderator. If you check the box, you agree that occasionally Google will send you updates on the latest features, ask your input on possible new features, or seek permission to highlight your Group. The information that Google collects will be held confidentially and help them make Groups better. What does this means to you? To me, it means Google start to promote groups in Groups homepage either on a random basis or on invitation (i.e. featuring groups). This makes users spend more time in Groups and help them discover groups of their interest. Groups, like most of the other Google products, is monetize with Google AdSense which servers relevant ads based on the content of the threads and topics. Yet, there is currently no option for non-profit organizations to opt out and not to display ads in their groups. Do you have any speculations?