An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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October 30, 2010

Web Clipboard Extension for Google Chrome

Google released a Chrome extension for Web Clipboard, the Google Docs feature that lets you save and quickly retrieve text from the Web. The extension could be used to paste HTML content saved in Google Docs, to save some text you need to use on another computer or to copy multiple items to the clipboard.

"Content you copy to the server clipboard is stored on Google's servers and remains there until 30 days have passed since you last took action on (for example, copied) a given content selection," informs a help center article.


For some reason, the Web Clipboard from Google Docs doesn't show the items saved using the extension, but this is probably a bug. The extension doesn't support keyboard shortcuts, there's no contextual menu entry for copy or paste and you can't preview the text before pasting.

I still don't understand why Google Notebook was discontinued. It could've been a much better Web Clipboard.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

October 28, 2010

YouTube's Playlist Bar Strikes Back

YouTube's playlist bar that shows up at the bottom of the page when you open a playlist or you click on a video from your subscriptions has a new use: displaying the list of liked videos after clicking on the "like" button. It's also used to display the videos from a playlist after adding a new video to the playlist. Unfortunately, this isn't very useful, the bar is annoying and it can slow down your browser. If you have hundreds of liked videos, adding all of them to the bar takes a while and the browser is no longer responsive.

Many YouTube users complain about this new feature: "Starting today, whenever I like a video, a bar pops up at the bottom of the page to tell me it was added to liked videos (a reminder that I don't need) - and then that bar freezes my browser and I can only close it with ctrl+alt+delete."

YouTube should fix the bugs and add an option to disable the bar. You can report this problem by clicking on "report a bug" at the bottom of the page.


{ Thanks, Sterling. }

October 27, 2010

Go to the Next Gmail Message After Archiving or Deleting

What happens when you archive or delete a conversation from your inbox in Gmail? Google goes back to the inbox and you need to select the next conversation.

If you enable "Auto-advance" in Gmail Labs, you can change this behavior. The default option is to go to the older conversation, but you can also ask Gmail to send you to the newer conversation if you usually read the oldest messages first.

Gmail automatically advances to the next conversation after archiving, deleting, flagging as spam, moving or muting a conversation.


Gmail's blog reminds us that there are two useful shortcuts for archiving and going to the next/previous conversation: ] and [, but they're difficult to remember and not many people use keyboard shortcuts.

{ Thanks, Sterling. }

Google Maps Tests New Navigation UI

Dave P., a reader of this blog, spotted a new UI for the views and layers offered by Google Maps. The new interface enlarges the buttons that let you switch to the satellite view and to the embedded Google Earth, removes the button that lets you switch to the traditional view and adds a layer panel that's only displayed when you mouse over the satellite button.

Another change is that the list of recent searches and Google Maps views is displayed in the layer panel, so you can quickly switch between custom maps, driving directions, local search results and Google Maps layers.


{ Thanks, Dave. }

October 26, 2010

More Keyboard Shortcuts for YouTube's Seek Bar

Here's a cool tip from a Reddit user: you can press 1 to jump to 10% into the video, 2 if you want to jump to 20%, 3 for 30% and so on. If you press 0, you'll go back to the beginning of the video. You don't have to watch the video on YouTube's site, the trick works even for embedded videos. An important note: don't use the numeric pad.


YouTube offers many other useful shortcuts:
* left/right arrow - seek backward/forward 5 seconds
* ctrl+left/ctrl+right - seek backward/forward 10%
* home/end - seek to the beginning/last seconds of the video
* spacebar - play/pause when the seek bar is selected

Here's a video you can use to try the shortcuts (make sure that the seek bar has focus by clicking on the small play button):


{ via The Next Web. Thanks, Kevin. }

New Charts Editor in Google Spreadsheets

Google Spreadsheets has a new editor for charts. The editor recommends charts, lets you select colors and has a bigger preview pane.


Charts look much better and you can now add timelines, organizational charts, gauges, and motion charts without using gadgets. Here are some of the new charts.

What's not so great is that you have to manually update each chart to see the new features:
Now that we have a new version of charts, you may be wondering what will happen to your old charts. You'll be able to edit your old charts for a short time, but you'll be able to create charts using the new version only. In the long term, you can keep your old charts as view-only or you can upgrade your charts to be able to edit them. When you upgrade, your data and chart type will remain the same, but the look and feel of your chart will be improved.

That's cumbersome and completely unnecessary.

YouTube's HTML5 Player Trial

YouTube might default to the the HTML5 player even if you haven't enabled the experimental feature. If you're using a supported browser (the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Opera, IE9 beta, Firefox 4 beta), YouTube could test the new player.

"You are in a trial for HTML5 video on YouTube. Some users of supported browsers are automatically entered in to the trial. If you wish to leave the trial, use the link at the bottom. HTML5 is a new browser technology that allows us to show videos without the Flash plugin," explains YouTube.


If you right-click on the video, you'll see a menu that offers two options: "save video as" and "about HTML5". You might assume that "save video as" lets you download the video, but it actually sends you to this video.

Google Suggest Venn Diagrams

Google Suggest Venn Diagram Generator is a visualization tool for popular Google searches. Enter an incomplete query, replace one of the keywords with "X", add three options for "X" and the tool will find the overlapping suggestions.

For example, if you enter "How can I get my X to", where "X" is: "wife", "cat", "dog", you'll find overlapping suggestions like: "How can I get my {wife, cat, dog} to lose weight", "How can I get my {cat, dog} to gain weight".


Hacker News readers came up with a lot of funny examples:

* Why is {America, Canada, Europe} so ...
* My {friend, wife, husband} is addicted to ...
* Why are {Chinese, Korean, Japanese} so ...
* Why is {C, PHP, Java} so ...

You should keep in mind that Google's suggestions are determined algorithmically based on the popularity of the search terms, so you'll find many stereotypes.

FeedBurner Tests Real Time Stats

Ever since Google acquired FeedBurner, the feed management service hasn't improved significantly. After a painful process of migration to Google's infrastructure and the launch of AdSense for Feeds, FeedBurner started to stagnate.

The good news is that there are still people who work on improving FeedBurner. Their latest project is a new FeedBurner interface that offers real time stats.

"The real story is what's new under the hood: the new interface provides real time stats for clicks, views, and podcast downloads, which means you can start seeing what content is drawing traffic from feed readers, Twitter, and other syndicated sources as it happens. Additionally, if you use the FeedBurner Socialize service, and your platform uses PubSubHubbub or you ping us when you post, you can for the first time get stats on how much traffic your feed items are receiving from Twitter, as well as feed reading platforms like Google Reader in one place. Again, all within seconds of posting your content."


The new interface is inspired by Webmaster Toosl and it doesn't include all the features from the old FeedBurner. It's all about stats and it's really fast. FeedBurner's real time stats will convince many people to visit the site more often and see how many Twitter users read their posts.

October 25, 2010

Google Traffic Stats

Arbor Networks Security Blog has an interesting post about Google's Internet traffic:
Google now represents an average 6.4% of all Internet traffic around the world. This number grows even larger (to as much as 8-12%) if I include estimates of traffic offloaded by the increasingly common Google Global Cache (GGC) deployments and error in our data due to the extremely high degree of Google edge peering with consumer networks. (...) A quick analysis of the data also shows Google now has direct peering (i.e. not transit) with more than 70% of all providers around the world (an increase of 5-10% from last year).

Arbor Networks uses data from more than 110 ISPs distributed across 17 countries. In 2007, Google only represented about 1% of all Internet traffic, but YouTube's growth managed to dramatically increase the percentage. Today, people are watching 2 billion videos a day, 20 times more videos than 4 years ago. According to Craig Labovitz, the overall Internet traffic grows about 45% each year.

{ via The Next Web }

A New Interface for Google Local Search

Google Maps was the only specialized search engine from Google's sidebar that didn't have a consistent interface for search results. When you clicked on "Maps" in the sidebar, you were sent to Google Maps, a service that has a completely different interface.

Google experiments with adding a "Places" option to the menu. The main difference is that local search results are displayed inside the regular Google search interface and users no longer have to visit Google Maps



In 2005, Google merged two distinct services: Google Maps and Google Local. "Google announced the official launch of Google Local, merging the technologies behind Google Local and Google Maps. No longer in beta in the U.S. and Canada, users can visit http://maps.google.com/maps to find local search and mapping information in one place," informed Google at that time. Google Local was renamed as Google Maps after a few months. Since then, Google launched a mobile interface for local search results, a large OneBox for local results, place pages for businesses and now a separate desktop interface for local search. Back to the roots.

October 24, 2010

Google's Spam Report Extension

If you want to improve Google's results and report spammy web pages, there's a Chrome extension for you. Google Webspam Report adds a link next to each Google search result and automatically fills the spam report form with information like the URL of the page and your query.


You can also use the button from Chrome's toolbar to report pages. The most interesting feature is the integration with Chrome's browsing history that lets you select recently visited pages and recent Google searches.


Google links to a feedback form at the bottom of the search results pages and some of the options let you report spam, irrelevant pages and dead links. Unfortunately, Google doesn't make it easy to select the pages you want to report.

{ via Matt Cutts }

Larry Page's Business Card

A Reddit user writes:
I met both Carl Page and Larry Page at a party hosted by a Stanford friend of mine in 1998. Carl gave me his card for eGroups and said "we're hiring". Larry gave me his card for Google — a flimsy bit of paper obviously printed by bubble jet — and said "we're hiring". I said, "Nah, who needs another search engine?" and went to graduate school. I still have the card.



He wasn't the only one who thought that search engines aren't very useful. Google's founders faced difficulties in convincing investors that a search engine is a good business. Sun's co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim was the first Google investor, back in September 1998. "Andy Bechtolsheim was one of the few to see the true potential of what Brin and Page had wrought. During their presentation to him, Bechtolsheim said he had to duck out for another meeting and offered to write them a check. It was that hundred-grander, made out to Google Inc., that got the ball (and the bank) rolling. Brin and Page incorporated, managing to attract other investors, with an initial investment of around $1 million."

{ via waxy.org }

October 22, 2010

Google's Mobile App Search Engine

Google started to index Android and iOS apps in June, but the results were only displayed as part of an OneBox. Now you can select "Android apps" or "iPhone apps" from Google's sidebar and restrict the results to mobile apps from the Android Market or the Apple App Store. Obviously, this option is only available if you use an Android or an iOS device.


Google uses a different way to rank applications than the app stores, so this feature could help users find new applications. Unfortunately, Google's snippets aren't always useful because they include the first sentences from the descriptions, which are sometimes used to announce new features or promote other applications.

Google Music Search India

Google launched a new music service, this time for India. Google Music India helps you find Hindi songs and play them in your browser. Google aggregates the results from 3 partner sites: in.com, Saavn and Saregama, but it doesn't offer too many additional features.

"Google Music Search (India) Labs licenses meta-data of thousands of songs owned or licensed by partners to make them searchable on Internet. Once you search and find the music you want, our partners stream the music directly from their websites to your computer," explains the FAQ.



The US version of the service is similar and it focuses on finding music. Most of the audio previews are from iLike, a MySpace service. There's also a Chinese Google Music, which is less restrictive: it lets you find songs, play them and even download them for free.

Google plans to launch a music store for Android. "Rubin, Google's vice president of engineering, hopes to have the service up and running by Christmas," according to some sources.

{ Thanks, Kapil, Pulkit and Abhijeet. }

October 21, 2010

Google Groups Drops Support for Pages and Files

Google sends email notifications to all Google Groups owners to inform them about some unfortunate changes.

"Starting in January 2011, Groups will no longer allow the creation or editing of welcome messages, files and pages; the content will only be available for viewing and only existing files will be downloadable. If you would like to keep the content currently on the pages and files sections of your group, we highly encourage you to export and migrate it to another product. In February 2011, we will turn off these features, and you will no longer be able to access that content."

Google says that you can create pages using Google Sites and store files by attaching them to Google Sites pages. After creating a site, you can invite the members of your group. "Add the email address for the Google Group (for instance, example@googlegroups.com) with which you'd like to share the site, and select the level of access you'd like the members of the group to have."

It's difficult to understand why Google didn't automatically migrate the files and pages to Google Sites. Users could've used these features from the Google Groups interface, even if they were powered by Google Sites.

Google says that the features have been removed "to focus on improving the core functionality of Google Groups -- mailing lists and forum discussions". I don't remember seeing significant improvements from 2006, when Google Groups added the features that are now removed: custom welcome message, pages and files. Since then, Google abandoned almost all its groups and started to use the Help Forum platform. Ironically, even the Google Groups group has been shut down.

Find Great Pages Using Google Bookmarks

The only way to share your Google bookmarks is by creating lists. By default, lists are private, but you can share them with other people and make them public. The nice thing about public bookmark lists is that they're searchable and you can find them below your Google Bookmarks search results.

I entered the URL for one of my bookmarks (a JavaScript compressor) and Google returned a list of pages related to web development. I bookmarked some of the pages, but I could also copy the bookmarks to one of my lists.


When I searched for this blog's URL, Google Bookmarks returned a list with useful Google sites and Google-related blogs. I could also enter some keywords in the search box, but the results aren't always relevant.

October 20, 2010

Demo Slam: Creative Google Promos

Google Creative Lab came up with a lot of a great ideas to promote Google's products: from the brilliant Google Chrome ads to the Google Search Stories and the interactive Arcade Fire video.

This time, Google Creative Lab developed a site called Demo Slam, where users can submit tech demos for Google products. "Demo Slam is a place where boring tech demos become (hopefully) gotta-show-my-friends awesome—thanks to the creativity of Google users like you. Beginning today, you can watch Preseason Slams and declare a Champ of the week. Then each week, new featured slams will vie for your attention and a shot at demo glory," explains Google.

Google's promotional videos are rarely boring, but not many of them have gone viral. The most popular YouTube video about Google's products has more than 20 million views and it's a short introduction to Google Sky, a Google Earth feature. Other popular videos announce draggable driving directions in Google Maps, Google Earth 4.3, Street View and Google Buzz. All these videos have been embedded by Google's sites and that's probably the main reason why they have so many views.

Demo Slam wants "to take tech demos from mundane to mind-blowing" and to "get the people who would never watch a tech demo — the people who ironically need them most — to not only watch them, but like them and share them with their friends." Why would you help Google promote its products? Google doesn't offer a prize, but it's a great opportunity to show your creativity.

According to the terms and conditions, participation is open only to US residents, videos should have less than 2 minutes and should showcase the use of one of the featured Google products (Book Search, Chrome, Docs, Earth, Goggles, Image Search, Translate, Maps, Picasa, Voice Search and more).

My favorite Demo Slam from this week is a video that promotes Google Goggles:

Google Docs Adds Drag-and-Drop Image Upload

Google Docs adds a feature that's already available in Gmail: you can now upload images using drag and drop. Open a new document and drag an image from your desktop or from a file manager. This feature only works in the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome and Safari because it requires HTML5's File API. Unfortunately, you can't upload multiple images and Google Docs doesn't show a placeholder image or a progress bar.



Speaking of uploading images, it's difficult to understand why Picasa Web Albums doesn't have a better way to upload images. An HTML5 uploader could add cool features like multiple file upload, progress bar, drag and drop upload. Even a Flash uploader would be much better. Right now, Picasa Web Albums uses an ActiveX control in Internet Explorer and recommends installing Picasa to upload images. If you don't use IE or Picasa, you have to upload one image at a time.


{ Image found by Ads of the World. }

October 19, 2010

Google News Shows the Number of Shared Links

Google News continues to integrate with Twitter and other microblogging services. After testing a section that shows newsworthy tweets from your subscription, Google started to add to the Google News Onebox the number of times a story has been shared.


For example, Google's Onebox shows that this article about Google TV has been shared by more than 50 Twitter users. Google links to the realtime results for this article, but the page only includes 10 results.

Chrome Web Store to Be Launched Soon?

Google Chrome's extension gallery started to display the price for each extension, which suggests that Chrome Web Store is going to be launched soon. All the extensions uploaded to the gallery can be installed for free, but web apps won't necessarily be free. "Developers will have the option to easily sell their apps through the store using a convenient and secure payment system," informs Chromium's blog.


Google released Chrome 7, which adds support for installing web apps and for synchronizing web apps. For some reason, Google's blog posts that announce Chrome 7's release don't mention these features:

"In this stable release, we've focused primarily on hundreds of bug fixes. We’ve also included a few other things that may be of interest to developers, such as full AppleScript support on Mac OS X for UI automation and implementation of the HTML5 parsing algorithm, the File API, and directory upload."


{ Thanks, Sterling. }

Google and the Value of Social Networking (Part 2)

New York Times has another article about Google's efforts to create successful social services. A former Google employee confirms what Aaron Iba and Peter Norvig have previously said: Google didn't understand the value of social networking.
There is some belief at Google that their DNA is not perfectly suited to build social products, and it's a quite controversial topic internally. The part of social that's about stalking people, sharing photos, looking cool — it's mentally foreign to engineers. All those little details are subtle and sometimes missed, especially by technical people who are brought up in a very utilitarian company.

Now that social networks have become very popular, Google realized there's a lot of value in sharing information with your friends. Search results can include web pages recommended by your friends, ads can be better targeted based on your social profile and web apps like Google Latitude or Google Buzz can be more useful.

Eric Schmidt said that Google will add a social layer to its existent services and it won't create a social network like Facebook. Google also acquired start-ups that created apps for social networks (Slide, Jambool). "In a rare move for an outsider, Google has named Max Levchin, former CEO of Slide and cofounder of PayPal, a vice president of engineering," reported VentureBeat two months ago.

Google will have to learn to create social services, but it won't be easy and Google's culture might have to change. Here's what Max Levchin said a few months before becoming Google VP:
For some strange reason, in the last few years, the industry, or the press that covers the industry, has come to glorify failure. I think it's completely wrong. Failure is not good.

For Google, failure is always an option, especially when it comes to social networking.

Steve Jobs on Android's Fragmentation

Apple's CEO says that Android is fragmented and that the open vs. closed dilemma is not important as long as Apple's proprietary mobile operating system manages to provide a better user experience.

"Many Android OEMs install proprietary user-interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user is left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone where ever handset works the same. (...) We think the open vs closed is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is: What's best for the customer? Fragmented vs. integrated. We think Android is very very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day."

Steve Jobs is right, the real question is: What's best for the customer? Some people like to have options. Not everyone likes iPhone's form factor, iPhone's interface and some may even want a hardware keyboard, a custom virtual keyboard or a weather widget. Android is a diverse ecosystem and there's a lot to learn until Google, hardware manufacturers and all their partners manage to come up with revolutionary phones, consistent interfaces and integrated experiences. Android is just an opportunity to innovate, it's not a complete package. Google chose a non-restrictive license for Android to encourage innovation, even if that meant less control and more fragmentation.

Mobile phones are more personal than computers and I don't think we'll live in a world where every smartphone user will choose an iPhone. There's always a trade-off and not everyone wants a perfect phone if that means they'll have to change their definition of a perfect phone.

October 17, 2010

Google's First Personalized Doodle

Google found a nice way to wish you Happy Birthday. If you visit Google's homepage when you are signed in and it's your birthday, you'll see a special doodle that links to your Google profile. When you go to your profile, you'll find colorful confetti and a Happy Birthday message, but that's not new.

"Because doodles are such a fun part of the search experience, we thought we'd share a fun little way Google will help celebrate your birthday. When you include your date of birth on your Google profile, you may notice a special treat on the Google homepage on your birthday (be sure to sign in). Click on the doodle for another birthday surprise," informs the Google blog.



To change your birthday, go to your profile, click on "Edit profile" and select the "Contact info" tab. The tab lets you enter some information that can be shared with your contacts.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

October 16, 2010

Google TV Queue

Google Queue is a feature of Google TV that lets you subscribe to podcasts, TV series, feeds or simply add web pages so you can read them later. It's an clever combination between a feed reader and a service like "Read It Later".


What's surprising is that Google Chrome for Google TV shows a button that lets you subscribe to feeds, while the desktop version of Google Chrome still doesn't have native support for feeds.


October 14, 2010

Download YouTube Captions

Let's say that you've watched Eric Schmidt's keynote from TechCrunch Disrupt and you want to share some interesting ideas from the video. Fortunately, the video has closed captions and there's also an interactive transcript, but there's no way to copy the text.

The good news is that you can download the captions file if you know the URL: http://video.google.com/timedtext?lang=en&v=VIDEO_ID, where you should replace VIDEO_ID with the ID of the YouTube video. Here's the captions file for Eric Schmidt's keynote.

It's an XML file and you can extract plain text by removing all the tags. Right-click on the page, select "view source", copy all the text and paste it on this page.

Now it's easy to copy an excerpt from the keynote:
We have one of the largest databases of information in the world which we've engineered and which is very, very difficult technologically in order to house all that information and ready for more. So, where do we go next with search? Well, you've got personal contacts, personal emails, personal network of people and your relationships with them, and with your permission -- and I need to say that about 500 times -- with your permission, we can actually search and index that information and make all of these answers so much better. The next step after that is obviously autonomous search. This is searches that you're -- that are occurring while you're not even doing searching.

Gmail Auto-unsubscribe Search

Gmail has a feature that lets you unsubscribe from a newsletter or a mailing list when you report one of the messages as spam.

"You'll see the unsubscribe tool when you mark a message from particular types of mailing lists as spam. If the particular message is a misuse of a mailing list you like to receive, you can Report spam as usual. But if you never want to receive another message or newsletter from that list again, click Unsubscribe instead. We'll send a request to the sender that your email address be removed from the list."


Unfortunately, this feature doesn't work for all newsletters and mailing lists, so it's not easy to see it in action. I've noticed that "auto-unsubscribe" works for Google Groups messages and for Google's newsletters.

To find all the "auto-unsubscribe"-enabled messages, search for label:^unsub.

October 13, 2010

The World Is Full of Interesting Things

That's the name of a brilliant slideshow created by Google's Creative Labs. You'll find a lot of interesting HTML5 apps, iPhone apps, visualization tools, 3D projections, art projects, creative YouTube videos, crowdsourcing services and many other interesting things.

One of the sites featured in the presentation is Goollery, a collection of Google-related projects from people around the world. There's a keyboard just for Gmail users, the already-famous Newsmap, a beautiful stylesheet for Google Reader and more.


The presentation also highlights Google Chrome's ads, an interactive video for Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait", a clever way to use YouTube's annotations, Google Street View art and IBM's "Internet of things" video.



Don't forget to check Google's slideshow. "This should keep you busy for the next 24 hours," as Jason Kottke says.

October 12, 2010

Does the World Need Another Mobile Platform?

Andy Rubin, Android architect and vice president of engineering at Google, says that the world doesn't need Windows Phone 7 or any other new mobile platform.
The world doesn't need another platform. Android is free and open; I think the only reason you create another platform is for political reasons. Why doesn't the whole world run with [Android]? They don't like the people who developed, or "not invented here," but [Android] is a successful, complete, vertically integrated free platform. I encourage everybody to use it, but I'm also not under the impression that everybody will use it, which is a good thing, because competition is good for the consumer and if somebody has an an idea for a feature or a piece of functionality in their platform and Android doesn't do it, great. I think it's good to have the benefit of choice, but in the end I don't think the world needs another platform.

Does the world need a better phone? Does the world need a phone that boots faster, a phone based on a web application framework, a phone that has a consistent interface? Just because Windows Phone 7 doesn't use Android, it doesn't mean that it's reinventing the wheel. Android is flexible, but it can't be used to build any kind of mobile operating system.

Millions of people will buy Windows Phone 7 phones and they'll find a new way to experience the Web. They'll probably use Bing, a browser that doesn't support HTML5 and they'll run Silverlight apps, but that's great: more people will buy Internet-enabled devices and will make the Web a better place. Great ideas come from everywhere and competition can only make Android better.

Instant Search, an Optional Feature in Google Chrome

Last month, I mentioned that Google Chrome tested a feature that automatically loads web pages when you type in the address bar. Since then, the feature has been added to Chrome Labs in the Dev Channel and has already graduated from Chrome Labs.

A recent Chromium build added instant search to the Options dialog, but the feature is disabled by default. Here's the official description:

"Instant lets you view web pages and search results faster than ever. With Instant enabled, most web pages begin loading as soon as you type a URL in the Omnibox, before you hit Enter. In addition, if supported by your default search engine, search results appear instanly as you type queries in the Omnibox, and in-line predictions help guide your search. Becasuse new search results are requested each time you press a key, anything you type into the Omnibox may be logged as a search query by your default search engine."




While instant search is useful for frequently visited pages (for example, you only need to type "m" to load Gmail), the feature doesn't work well if you want to type a new web address or a query. If you frequently type Gmail's address, but now you want to go to http://mail.yahoo.com, Chrome will first load Gmail and then Yahoo Mail.

Chrome Labs includes many other experimental features that will be officially released in the coming months: side tabs, tabbed options, remoting support, disabling outdated plug-ins, XSS auditor, background web apps, proxy for Cloud Print and GPU accelerated Canvas 2D. Most of the features can be enabled in Chrome Dev Channel if you type about:labs in the address bar.

October 9, 2010

Google Webmaster Tools Promotion

Google displays a special ad if your query includes the site: operator, followed by a domain name: "Do you own domain.com? Get indexing and ranking data from Google."

Many webmasters use the site: operator to check the number of pages indexed by Google, so it's a good opportunity to promote Google Webmaster Tools.


This isn't a regular AdWords ad, since it's labeled as "Google promotion". From what I know, it's not even possible to create an AdWords campaign for all the searches that use the site: operator.

Google Shuts Down GOOG-411

Google announced that GOOG-411, the free directory assistance service launched in 2007, will be discontinued next month. GOOG-411 is available in the US and Canada, where it was launched as a free alternative to the expensive services provided by telephone companies.

The service has helped Google build a large database of voice samples and improved the voice recognition technology. Here's what Google's Marissa Mayer said about GOOG-411:

"The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. ... So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we're trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy."


2007 was also the year when iPhone and Android were launched. Smartphones turned out to be better suited for voice-powered search because the service was easier to use and it could integrate with the phone. Google launched a mobile voice search app for iPhone in 2008, a built-in search app for Android in 2009, followed by voice input and voice actions this year. The mobile Google Maps app for Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Mobile added support for voice search, which now works in more than 10 languages.

Google no longer focused on GOOG-411 and decided to discontinue the service. "Our success encouraged us to aim for more innovation. Thus, we're putting all of our resources into speech-enabling the next generation of Google products and services across a multitude of languages," explained Google.

A good alternative to GOOG-411 is BING-411 (1-800-BING-411), Microsoft's service that gives you turn-by-turn driving directions, traffic conditions, and weather reports. The service is only available in the US.

Here's one of my favorite Google promotional videos:


{ Thanks, Bill. }

October 8, 2010

Google's John Lennon Doodle

Google's doodle that celebrates the 70th anniversary of John Lennon's birthday doesn't seem special until you click on it.


Google embeds a short animated video for John Lennon's "Imagine". After using bigger doodles, image animations, particle simulations and JavaScript games, it's time for video doodles.


Unfortunately, clicking on the YouTube video doesn't send you to the search results page for [John Lennon], but Google used a trick: after playing the video, you're automatically redirected to the search results.

If you don't see the doodle on Google's homepage, go to Google Australia or Google India.

Google News Tests Twitter Sidebar

Google News experiments with a new feature that shows Twitter messages from your friends.

"Friends is an experimental section in the side column that helps you find news articles that your friends are sharing on Twitter. In the open text box, enter your Twitter username and click "Save." Google News will refresh, and you will see a list of updates containing news articles shared by the people you follow. Please note that Friends only shows you articles that can be found in Google News. If someone you follow has shared an article or a link that cannot be found in Google News, then you will not see that update in the Friends section."



Maybe in the future Google News will use your Twitter timeline to customize the list of news articles displayed on the homepage or to annotate news clusters.

Google Latitude's Desktop Site

Until recently, the only way to use Google Latitude on your computer was to add an iGoogle gadget. Now you can just go to www.google.com/latitude and see your Latitude friends on a map, add friends, view your Latitude history and change the settings for other applications that use your location.


If you use a browser that supports geolocation (Chrome 5+, Firefox 3.5+, Safari 5+, Opera 10.6+) or a plug-in that adds support for geolocation (Google Toolbar, Google Gears), you can share your location. "Automatic location detection requires wireless access or access to a WiFi access point," explains Google.

Hopefully, Google will also launch a desktop site for Google Tasks, so you can quickly check your to-do list without opening Gmail, Google Calendar or iGoogle.

{ via Google LatLong }

October 7, 2010

Gmail's Security Checklist

Gmail's support site has a security checklist that's useful if you want to make sure that your Gmail account is secure. There are some obvious tips like updating your operating system and your browser, but Google also posted some advanced tricks:

1. "Check the list of websites that are authorized to access your Google Account data. Make sure that the list of authorized websites are accurate and ones that you have chosen. If your Google Account has been compromised recently, it's possible that the bad guys could have authorized their own websites to access your account data." To edit the list of authorized websites, go to this page.

2. "Check your browser for plug-ins, extensions, and third-party programs/tools that require access to your Google Account credentials. Plug-ins and extensions are downloadable computer programs that work with your browser to perform specific tasks. For example, you may have downloaded a plug-in or extension that checks your Gmail inbox for new messages. Google can't guarantee the security of these third party services. If those services are compromised, so is your Gmail password."

3. "Confirm the accuracy of your mail settings to ensure that your mail stays and goes where you want it to. Sign in to your account and click on the Settings link at the top to check the following tabs:

* General: Check Signature, Vacation Responder, and/or canned responses for spammy content
* Accounts: Verify your Send Mail As, Get mail from other accounts, and Grant access to your account are all accurate.
* Filters: Check that no filters are sending your mail to Trash, Spam, or forwarding to an unknown account.
* Forwarding and POP/IMAP: Ensure your mail isn't sent to an unknown account or mail client."

4. "Check for any strange recent activity on your account. Click the Details link next to the 'Last Account Activity' entry at the bottom of your account to see the time, date, IP address and the associated location of recent access to your account."

5. "Use a secure connection to sign in. In your Gmail settings, select 'Always use HTTPS.' This setting protects your information from being stolen when you're signing in to Gmail on a public wireless network, like at a cafe or hotel."

October 6, 2010

Google Tests Search Preview

Google experiments with a new feature that previews search results when you mouse over them. Benjamin Rubin, who sent the screenshots, has more information about this feature:

"Starting this morning, I started to get a highlighted-box mouse-over effect along with that magnifying glass icon on most of my search result entries. Clicking on it toggles a preview image with some text highlighted as well. The image preview differs slightly depending on where the aforementioned text appears on the page."



The feature seems to be inspired by Ask.com's Binoculars, but it's a little more clever because it highlights relevant snippets, so you can quickly find them when you visit the page.

{ Thanks, Benjamin and Andrea. }

Google Goggles for iPhone

Google Mobile App for iPhone started to become a bloated app, just like Google Toolbar. Instead of developing new applications, Google adds extra features to the Google Mobile App.

The latest new feature added to the application is Google Goggles, a visual search tool that helps you identify objects in a picture. "Computer vision is a hard problem and Google Goggles is still a Labs product. It works well for things such as landmarks, logos and the covers of books, DVDs and games. However, it doesn't yet work for some things you might want to try like animals, plants or food," explains Google.

Google Goggles is available in the Google Mobile App if you use an iPhone 3GS running iOS 4 or an iPhone 4. Goggles is also a standalone Android application.


October 4, 2010

Google TV's First Apps

Google announced some of the initial content partners for Google TV: Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, HBO, Netflix, Amazon. The list is far from impressive, but this is just the beginning.

At launch, Google TV will run Android 2.1 and will include Chrome 5.0 and Adobe Flash 10.1. Google will pre-load a few high-quality apps like Pandora, Netflix, NBA, while the Android Market will be available early next year, after Google releases the SDK.

The good news is that web apps could work well on a TV if they are properly designed. YouTube Leanback is a great example of web app optimized for Google TV. Since it's not easy to develop web apps for TVs, Google offers some guidelines: TV interfaces should be simple, navigation and content are very important, the app should take advantage of the wide screen.

Google TV has an Apple-esque site and will start to be available this month on devices made by Sony and Logitech. "One of our goals with Google TV is to finally open up the living room and enable new innovation from content creators, programmers, developers and advertisers," says Google's Ambarish Kenghe.

October 2, 2010

Google Instant and Special Characters

Google usually ignores special characters from queries, so you can't search for :) or x^2. There are some exceptions: popular terms that include special characters (c#, c++).

Google Suggest is less smart than the search engine and doesn't offer relevant suggestions if you type c# books. Google ignores the hash sign and shows the suggestions for c books. To find results for your query, you need to press Enter or to select the last item from the suggestion list.


Another example: type $1 and Google shows suggestions for 1. Instead of showing relevant results for the query, Google displays the search results for [1 corinthians 13].


Bing's suggestions are actually useful:



While Google Instant helps you type popular queries faster, sometimes it's slowing things down because it shows the results for a different query.

{ spotted by Sundararajan S. }

Google Acquires BlindType to Improve Android's Virtual Keyboard

Google bought BlindType, a service that allows you to type faster and more accurately on a virtual keyboard. "With BlindType, users can type on the touch screen the way they are used to, but without the traditional need to constantly focus on the keyboard. Although this would typically lead to countless spelling mistakes that would be impossible to autocorrect, BlindType predicts what the user intended to write with a success rate not previously seen on any other system."

Singularity Hub found that BlindType's application "knows what you meant to type, even if you make mistakes. Lots of them. In fact, you can type without looking at the screen at all."

Unfortunately, the application is not available in the Android Market or the iTunes App Store, but it will certainly be used to improve Android's virtual keyboard.



{ via Mashable }

Gmail Tests Recent Buzz Section

Gmail experiments with a new sidebar feature that shows a list of recent Buzz messages from the people involved in a conversation. Google.org.cn (English version) says that this feature is currently available for Google Trusted Testers.


Gmail should show more useful information in the sidebar: related conversations, related news, options that let you highlight and annotate some excerpts from a message.

October 1, 2010

Google Chrome 7, Ready for the Web Store

If you read the blog post from Google Chrome Releases, you might say there's no significant new feature in Google Chrome 7 Beta. It's the first major version after Chrome's team changed the release cycle to 6 weeks, so the engineers couldn't add too many new features. "A lot of the work that's being done in 7.0 is largely not user facing and in some cases is a legitimate work in progress," admits a Google Chrome developer.

So what's new in Google Chrome 7?

1. Web apps are enabled by default, just in time for the Chrome Web Store launch.

2. Web apps are synchronized, like regular extensions and themes.

3. A slightly updated new tab page, with support for web apps.


4. "Click to play" for plug-ins. If you disable plug-ins from Chrome's settings dialog, you'll see a placeholder and a new message every time you visit a page that requires plug-ins: "Click to run this plug-in". (Update: this feature will be released in Chrome 8.)


5. about:labs, a new page that includes experimental features. The Windows version includes a single feature: "side tabs", which lets you move the tabs to a sidebar.

Did you spot any other new feature?