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.

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