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 31, 2006

October Recap: Reshaping Google

Google had a big month: a new version of Google Groups, a search engine for open source code, Writely and Google Spreadsheets joining forces, better charts in Google Finance, a custom search engine, a new and better Froogle.

Google bought YouTube to improve its presence in the online video space and JotSpot, a wiki company that develops products similar to Google Docs & Spreadsheets and might improve the integration of other tools.

Google surprised everyone with SearchMash, a new interface for Google Search, and decided to restructure its products.

October is also the month when Google Operating System celebrates one year online.

10 Tips For Google Image Search

Google Image Search could be used in many ways.

1. If you want to know if a person is a man or a woman and the name doesn't help, do a search for the name.

2. If you don't know the meaning of a word, the pictures may help you.

3. A better search for Flickr. Google uses information from other sites that link to Flickr photos, so you may find Google search better.

4. Find what's interesting about a site, by looking at the pictures included. For example: wired.com.

5. Find a new wallpaper for your desktop by restricting your search to large images. You can automate this using an application.

6. Find random personal pictures, using standard file names from digital cameras.

7. Type the name of a painter and you can take an art class.

8. Install a Greasemonkey script so you can view the original version of the image directly by clicking on the thumbnail.

9. Find the color of a word. "Word Color is a windows program that uses Google Image Search to determine the color of a word or string of words. It goes out there, retrieves the top 9 images and loops through all pixels, calculating the average hue, which is later converted to a color."

10. If you want to grab search results, GoogleGrab is a tool that downloads images from Google Image Search. It even supports batch search.

Google, the New Microsoft?

"Google is the new Microsoft. (...) I look at Google as a far more threatening company than Microsoft is today," said Joe Kraus in an interview with Robert Scoble, reiterating what he said for New York Times last year:

To place Google in context, Mr. Kraus offered a brief history lesson. In the 1990's, he said, I.B.M. was widely perceived in Silicon Valley as a "gentle giant" that was easy to partner with while Microsoft was perceived as an "extraordinarily fearsome, competitive company wanting to be in as many businesses as possible and with the engineering talent capable of implementing effectively anything."

Now, in the view of Mr. Kraus, "Microsoft is becoming I.B.M. and Google is becoming Microsoft." Mr. Kraus is the chief executive and a founder of JotSpot, a Silicon Valley start-up hoping to sell blogging and other self-publishing tools to corporations.

It's interesting to note that Joe Kraus is the co-founder of Excite, a search engine that lost the battle with Google many years ago. Now Joe Kraus joins Google to help it polish the web office suite.

Google Acquires JotSpot, the Wiki Company

Google tries to add more value to their Google Office. This is one of the reasons why they bought JotSpot, a startup focused on creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, calendars, photos, videos and other files.


"Three years ago my friend Graham Spencer and I set out to start a new company. We'd both recently left Excite, which we co-founded, and we had spent a few years starting a nonprofit together. (...) We realized we needed a tool to help us organize our thoughts or we'd quickly become overwhelmed. So Graham set up a wiki. I was hooked because it immediately changed the way we worked together. Everything was kept in one place, not locked in email threads or on different computers. We could both make changes to the same document, without having to know HTML (well, without me having to know HTML). After twenty minutes of using a wiki, I was convinced that they were like the Internet in 1993 -- useful, but trapped in the land of the nerds (which both Graham and I proudly inhabit). So we set out to start JotSpot as a way to bring the power of wikis to a much broader audience," writes Joe Kraus from JotSpot.

As he explained two years ago, "wikis are typically only used by tech users - it's not like editing in Word. (...) JotSpot makes wikis easier to use by providing Word-style graphic editing as well as e-mail integration for applications such as recruiting. Every page in our wiki has an inbox. The problem is that wikis have no structure. JotSpot solves this problem by layering on structure to pages which, in turn, enables a user to search or create tables of its data."

If you want to read more about JotSpot, ReadWriteWeb has some news and screenshots, while nPost.com has an interesting interview with Joe Kraus.

JotSpot has closed new registrations until it moves to Google's platform.

The Hype Machine - Music Search Engine

The Hype Machine is probably the coolest music search engine. That's because you can actually listen to music and because there's a lot of underground music.

The Hype Machine crawls music blogs and lets you discover songs. The site likes to think it works like Google: crawling blogs for MP3 files, storing the files in their database as a cache and offering a full preview of the songs.

"The Hype Machine exists to create a medium that favors discovery of new music through public discussion while encouraging legitimate distribution of audio." Most pages have links to music stores where you can buy the songs. There are also feeds so you can easily discover new music.

Music producers may not agree, but this is the best way to distribute and sell music: show full previews for songs and let the public decide what's cool and what's not. Now people buy popular music promoted by labels.

Related:
Music players, music stores and DRM
My favorite music videos

October 30, 2006

Google's Business Model


Some say Google doesn't improve its search results by removing spam pages because Google earns money from the ads that run on some of these pages. Others say their websites were removed from Google's index (or penalized) to buy AdWords ads.

But Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, wrote something even harsher in The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine (1998):

"Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention", a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media, we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers."

Google doesn't accept money for a better ranking, the sponsored links are clearly labeled. But it's interesting to see that even Google's co-founders didn't trust the soon-to-be Google's business model.

Gmail for Your Domain With 15 GB?

Some users of Google Apps for Your Domain report that their Gmail accounts have 15 GB of storage space. There are at least two people who noticed it, so it's hard to consider this a mistake.

Officially, Gmail accounts included in Google Apps for Your Domain have 2 GB. Does Google want to be generous or it's just an original promotion for a paid service, with a big storage and support?

What Do You Search For?

Most of the times, behind a web search, there are three motivations*:

1. you want to find a specific site. For example, you want to find the official Google blog or the MIT site. If you knew the address of the site, you would type it in the address bar. So it's natural to type the name of the site in the address bar. Many browsers include Google's I'm Feeling Lucky (or Browse by Name, a variation that redirects to the first result only if it definitely answer your query).

This feature is already available in Firefox, Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer and could be added if you create a new search in Opera, using this address: http://www.google.com/search?btnI&q=%s .

2. you want to find information. If you want an overview of a subject, Wikipedia usually provides good content, so you might add wiki (or wikipedia) to your query. A good place for an information guide is Ask.com, a search engine that lets you expand or narrow your query. If you don't know the vocabulary of a domain, Ask.com gives you some tips.

Google offers some Onebox results for simple answers like "China population", and Ask.com expands the concept for general queries like China.

3. you want to make a transaction (e.g.: buy something). This is the commercial part of a search engine, the place for ads, Amazon, eBay, Froogle (and Froogle 2.0), Bizrate.com, Dealtime.com.

The problem with transactions is that often you want information about a product before buying it, you want unbiased reviews, comparisons. And many search engines don't understand that.

Yahoo Mindset doesn't try to guess your intention, but it lets you set the right balance between information and transactions.

This relation between address books, encyclopedias and shopping carts is the heart of a search engine and the way it handles this relation influences.

To sum up, the unclear intention behind a query causes mixed search results, so it's a good idea to state your intention first and use the right tools.

* Andrei Broder, A taxonomy of web search, 2002 [PDF]

October 29, 2006

Froogle 2.0

Garett Rogers checked google.com's robots.txt file and found a working version of a new service based on Google Base, that will be released in the coming weeks. Google Product Search (this is not an official name) will be integrated into Google's main search and will replace Froogle's Onebox results.

"When users search for products on Google.com, the system will present them with another search box so that they can refine their query. After users refine their queries, Google takes them to a second page populated with product results from the Google Base listings service," reported ComputerWorld last month. The second page might look like this:


You can refine your results without reloading the page, the lists are smarter (you can enter custom values), if you hover over a result you'll see more information. There's also an interesting map view that shows search results on a map, like in Froogle.

Overall, you'll notice the pages use a lot of AJAX and you'll barely find real links. You can't even link to the search result page.

The new product improves Froogle's interface, by adding a touch of Web 2.0 immediacy and using the structured information from Google Base. Unfortunately, it lacks a reviewing system and a simple way to buy products.

Enabling Copy-Paste for Google Office in Firefox


Firefox has a feature that prevents rich-text editors from using copy, cut and paste. A malicious script could read the content from your clipboard and send it to a server. Your clipboard might contain sensitive information, so you don't want to let every site read the clipboard.

Unfortunately, these restrictions make sites like Google Docs & Spreadsheets harder to use, as you can't use options like: copy, cut, paste from the menus and you have to use browser's Edit menu or keyboard shortcuts.

If you want to enable these options for this site, you have to:

1. Open this file in Notepad:
For Windows 2000/XP:
C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[profile name]\user.js

replace [username] with your Windows username and [profilename] with the name of your active profile (most likely, the only profile)

For other operating systems: see here.

2. Append these lines:

user_pref("capability.policy.policynames", "allowclipboard");
user_pref("capability.policy.allowclipboard.sites", "http://docs.google.com");
user_pref("capability.policy.allowclipboard.Clipboard.cutcopy", "allAccess");
user_pref("capability.policy.allowclipboard.Clipboard.paste", "allAccess");

You can add more sites in the second line, but they have to separated by spaces, like this:
user_pref("capability.policy.allowclipboard.sites", "http://docs.google.com http://www.zohowriter.com");

3. Save the file and restart Firefox to see the effect.

The Magic of Browsing the Web Without Mouse

Did you ever want to use your browser without needing a mouse? Most browsers have useful keyboard shortcuts that may help you do basic tasks like opening a new tab or entering a web address. But how do you move from one page to another one without clicking on links.

Firefox has a simple trick: press ' (single quote) and you can search through the links from a page by typing a string in the small box from the bottom of the window. So you could type the first characters from the anchor and when the link you want to open has focus, press enter. But what if the page has only links with this anchor "click here"? And what about buttons and image links?

Hit-a-Hint is an extension for Firefox that wants to solve this problem. The idea is that you press a magic key and, after that, each link from the page has a unique combination. All you have to do is press the keys attached to that link. Fortunately, the extension uses numbers, so in most cases, you'll type only one or two numeric keys.

After you restart your browser, you can use the extension this way: press space (space is the magic key) and then one of the unique numbers next your favorite link, while still pressing space. Then release the space key. To open the page in a new tab, press Ctrl before releasing space key.

If you don't like keeping space key pressed, you can just press h, type the numeric combination, and then press enter.

October 28, 2006

Phishing Protection in Your Browser

Wikipedia defines phishing as "a criminal activity using social engineering techniques. Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out using email or an instant message, although phone contact has been used as well."

Usually, emails that contain links phishing sites have deceptive subjects like "Important message from your Bank", use fake email addresses, copy logos and text from the sites they want to imitate. The URLs included in the emails may contain redirects, IP addresses or may look similar to the genuine URLs.

FraudWatch International reports that, on average, phishing sites remain active for 5 days before they are shut down.

To protect you against the increasing number of phishing sites, the latest versions of many browsers have added phishing protection.

IE7
* the Phishing Filter is opt-in.
* two ways:
- automatically check sites you visit against the list of known phishing sites on the Microsoft server.
- check individual sites, if you have a reason to think they may be used for phishing.
* there's also an heuristic way to detect common elements included in phishing sites. In this case, IE7 shows a warning.
* IE7 has a whitelist, that includes sites like microsoft.com
* privacy: "When you use Phishing Filter to check websites automatically or manually, the address of the website you are visiting will be sent to Microsoft, together with some standard information from your computer such as IP address, browser type, and Phishing Filter version number. To help protect your privacy, the address information sent to Microsoft is encrypted using SSL and limited to the domain and path of the website. Other information that may be associated with the address, such as search terms, data you entered in forms, or cookies, will not be sent."
* the Phishing Filter is also available as an add-on for MSN Search Toolbar, in IE6.



Firefox 2
* the Phishing Protection is on by default.
* two ways:
- by default, Firefox checks each webpage you visit against a local list of pages, that's regularly updated (approximately twice per hour)
- you can also choose a real-time protection, but that means you send every URL you visit to Google or to other provider (for the moment, Google is the only provider).
* Firefox doesn't use heuristics to see if a web page may be used for phishing.
* privacy:
"Firefox sends the URL of the web page, in addition to your IP address and other Non-Personally-Identifying Information, to the selected third party service provider. Firefox displays a warning if the third party service provider returns with a response indicating that the URL you are accessing is a suspected web forgery. Finally, if you take any action in response to a phishing protection warning message, the selected phishing protection service provider may record that action and the URL of the page, and a cookie may be placed on your computer. While it is possible that a URL sent to your service provider may itself contain Personally-Identifying Information, Mozilla's third party service providers have entered into a written agreement with Mozilla not to use Personally-Identifying Information for purposes other than to enhance and maintain their service."
* the real-time phishing filter is also available in Google Safe Browsing and Google Toolbar for Firefox.

Opera 9.1
* anti-phishing will be included in Opera 9.1, as reported by Johan Borg, an Opera developer.
* Opera will include only real-time protection and will send to opera.com the domain name and a hash of the current page. "The reply from the server is an XML document containing the trust level of the domain. This reply will be cached by Opera for a time indicated by our server."
* privacy:
Opera won't store IP addresses or store cookies and chose to sent requests over HTTP, in plain text.

Other interesting solutions:
* Netcraft Toolbar (IE, Firefox) that shows a Risk Rating for each site you visit.
* eBay Toolbar (IE 6.0), that includes Account Guard, a feature that lets you know when you're on a eBay site and when they site you visit is a known phishing site.
* Earthlink Toolbar (IE, Firefox) includes ScamBlocker, a real-time detection feature that shows whether a site is dangerous, questionable, safe or whether there isn't too much information to judge it.

From my empirical testing, Firefox 2 (and also Google Toolbar for Firefox) and Netcraft Toolbar offer the best protection.

If you don't want to use anti-phishing features included in your browser or in other toolbars, it's a good idea to read these tips from Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Google's Goals and Directions for 2006

Philipp Lenssen from Google Blogoscoped received two internal Google documents titled "Big Goals and Directions - 2006" and "Objectives and Key Results - Q3 2006 Company OKRs", that outline Google's objectives for this year.

If everything is on the right track, that means Google has already:

* got rid of spam in the top 20 languages
* improved their ad system ("one of their aims was to sell $1B of new inventory")
* pushed their content sites (maybe this is one of the reasons Google bought YouTube)
* optimized page loading for the most visited sites ("any site with over 10 million page views (per day? month?) renders in a second or less, 95% of the time")

Some new products and features that should be launched until the end of the year (or maybe next year):

* a more interactive version of Google News that lets "other news sources, and organizations and individuals mentioned in news stories to debate specific points".
* extract information about time and place from web pages and show search results ordered by time or restricted by time / location.
* enable visitors that have paid subscriptions to (news) websites to access them directly from Google search.

Google attaches straight numbers to its objectives, so when you see they're pushing a certain product or paying for more distribution, it may mean the numbers aren't quite where they should be.

It's also interesting that I wrote something about a new Google News and about "structuring unstructured information", and both are included in Google's plans.

October 27, 2006

Bad Week for Blogger

Blogger had a bad week with many planned and unplanned outages. Let's see:

October 18 - Apologies to everyone affected by tonight's Blogger slowness.

October 20 - We've been having a bit of slowness this morning.

October 21 - Blogger was down for a little over three hours this evening, due to the near-simultaneous failure of a critical component and its backup.

October 25 - We experienced an outage this evening due to a problem in our networking hardware.

October 26 - Sincere apologies for the short notice but we will take down both blogger.com and blogspot.com at 2 PM PST today to replace the piece of network equipment that was causing the outages in the past couple of weeks. The outage will last 60-90 minutes, we will try to get done as fast as we can.

After so many problems in a short time, Blogger decided to apologize in a big way.

"We really regret these outages, which were a nuisance (or worse) to you. The past week’s performance was not representative of the kind of service we want to provide for you. (...) It's been a bad week for Blogger, and, as I hope you can tell, we’re not denying it. Instead, we have taken and will continue to take specific steps that make Blogger a more reliable, overall better service for you to use."

The good news is that the new Blogger, still in beta, was built on a more reliable platform to prevent this issues. There's also a statement that shows Google has neglected Blogger: "The current Blogger infrastructure is — albeit in a very Lincoln's axe way — the same that Google acquired four years ago."

October 26, 2006

Google Halloween

Google has created some pages for the upcoming Halloween. On Google Video, you can find 14 short videos, including a teaser for "Hood of Horror". Google Books features a big list of famous scary stories, like Bram Stoker's Dracula or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

There's also a page that shows a Halloween party from 2000 at Googleplex. Google made a special logo for Halloween every year, as you can see here.

Google Maps Mania points to a list of mashups, from which the most interesting is HalloweenMashup, a site that helps you find Halloween events in the US.

October 25, 2006

What Can Opera Learn from Firefox?

I've used Opera as my main browser for many years. It's hard to saw why I switched to Firefox, but someone just did that and wrote an interesting article:

"Nowadays Opera seems to be grumpy and wanting attention for its past innovations and the things it is trying to do to keep up with Firefox and IE7. (...) In version 9.0 of Opera they released widgets to try and compete with Firefox's extensions. They seemed to entirely miss the point of how Firefox's extensions change your entire experience, and in turn created something less than thrilling. (...)

Web designers tend to try and support what the majority of their users will be using. They want everyone to use their web-apps, but tweaking for each browser takes time. Opera is a Web 1.0 browser, not because of Opera's own doing, but because the majority of Web 2.0 does not have the time to make it compatible."

So Opera can't escape the underdog complex, while having an elitist attitude.

"IE 7 comes out and adds tabbed browsing, but Opera has had that for 10 years. Credit is due Opera, and we'd like to see that reflected in market share," says Hakon Wium Lie, Opera's CTO. The problem is that people don't really care about who had this idea (Opera didn't actually invented tabbed browsing), and they don't care that Microsoft has said for many years that tabbed browsing is useless.

If Opera adds a plug-in system similar to the one from Firefox, improves they way it handles feeds, solves the JavaScript inconsistencies, fixes its Rich Text Editor, and has a more user-friendly interface, people might have a hard time choosing between Firefox and Opera.

The extensibility and simplicity is what makes Firefox great and Opera should learn from that.

Related:
10 great features from Opera

Google sites that don't work in Opera:
Google Calendar, Google Pages, Google Docs, Google Notebook, Picasa Web Albums (partially).

Google News Integrates Blog Search

Google News links to Blog Search on the homepage, and lets you go to Blog Search if you want to find more news. Maybe Google could add more features from my list of suggestions, and starts to connect traditional news sources with blogs.

Google News homepage
The bottom of a search result page in Google News

Google Keeps You on the Map

Google Maps shows information about a business directly on the map. If you select a business from the map and click on "more information", the bubble will enlarge to show you general information about the place, reviews and related web pages. Until now, if you clicked on a business name, you were sent to a new page that included these details.

Hail to the Google

George W. Bush admitted he uses Google, in an exclusive interview for CNBC.

HOST: I'm curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google?

BUSH: Occasionally. One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see — I've forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes.

Mr. Bush doesn't have good memories about Google, especially after being googlebombed for "miserable failure" and after Google refused to hand over a big list of search queries. Also this video is very popular on Google Video:


{ Via Blogoscoped. }

* "Hail to the Chief" is the official anthem of the president of the United States.

October 24, 2006

Google Video with Post-Roll Ads


Google Video promotes on the homepage a video titled "Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments II - Trailer", a teaser for a video that will be launched on October 30. At the end of the video, Google shows an ad for a contest hosted by Coca-cola.com. Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the creators of the Diet Coke & Mentos videos, promote the contest that offers people the chance to be in their next video.


The ad can be seen only in the US. Google used to show ads at the end of premium videos, in an experiment called Free Today. This may be a sign that Google Video starts to monetize its free content too.

{ The second screenshot, from Donna Bogatin. }

Firefox 2 Officially Launched

People were so anxious to grab a copy of Firefox 2, that they launched the rumor that Firefox 2 is here a day earlier. Slashdot linked to the British version for Windows of a Firefox build from a FTP server and Mozilla developers had to explain why that was a bad idea. In the past, I also placed direct links to files from Mozilla's FTP server.

All in all, Firefox 2 is now officially launched and available at mozilla.com.

You can find out more about the new features from the reviews of Firefox 2 Beta 1 (spell checking, feed preview, anti-phishing, how to make your extensions compatible with the new version) and Beta 2 (the new visual theme). There's also a complete list of the new features.

The new features are not that significant to justify a major version. Chris Beard, VP at Mozilla, explains that "it's more sort of a natural evolution. It felt to us like a 2.0 product, particularly if we looked at it from what 1.0 was, to 2.0." The update comes 5 days after Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 7.

Related:
Handy calculator in Firefox 2.0
10 useful Firefox tips
Internet Explorer 7 released

Google and Open Source

Chicagoist has a small interview with three Google engineers that work in Chicago (although they weren't supposed to do that). An interesting part of the interview is about open source:

"Ben Collins-Sussman: I think of open source as software that's in the public domain. There may be a copyright assigned, but it's so liberal that effectively anyone can do what they want with [the software]. It's software that's essentially worked on by volunteers collaborating over the Internet. (...)

Jon Trowbridge
: Google uses a huge amount of open source software internally on their own systems. Most people have heard of Linux by now, but most don't realize that they use Linux every day because all of Google runs on Linux. When you do a search on Google, that's hitting Linux. Because Google's a huge consumer of open source, they have a natural interest in it right there. They benefit from it tremendously and want to make sure that open source stays healthy and continues to improve. There's also a feeling of wanting to give back.

Brian Fitzpatrick: Open source also creates a level playing field. On the level playing field, you're forced to compete and cooperate based on your merits as opposed to locking people in. (...)

Ben Collins-Sussman
: There are certain things like the PageRank algorithm, which they'll never release. And there are some things like anti-spam and anti-fraud where there's a benefit to keeping it secret. It's more effective if spammers and people committing fraud can't see what we're doing. Things like that will always be secret. There's no rule of thumb, but only the most hardcore open source zealot would have a problem with that. A lot of the stuff that we're working on could be released as open source software. That's what we're working on. Getting more and more of our code out so others can benefit from it."

Google would never open source their search engine because no one would have the resources to actually run the search engine (except for the competition). But we can expect to see more and more little tools released at Google Code.

{ Thank you, James Koh. }

Resurrecting a Failed Attempt to Categorize the Web

Google knows that people are selfish and act in their own interests. Google also knows that good ideas don't have to be killed if they're not successful, they just need a new twist.

Google Co-op, a place "where users can contribute their knowledge and expertise to improve Google search for everyone", didn't have too much success. Google wanted to collect some meta information about web pages, so it would be able to refine results for general queries. People would find good sites and add one or more labels from a predefined set. The task is cumbersome and the motivation almost non-existent.

If people can create their own search engine, the motivation increases:
* they actually create something tangible
* the search engine might actually become successful
* people can work together for a smaller common cause with someone they trust
* there's a monetary incentive

While "search engine creators" improve their sites and add more labels and sites, Google collects this information, combines it, and uses it to label the entire web. If you think about it, the process has a lot in common with Google Image Labeler (the ESP game).

Google Custom Search Engine

"Google is launching Customized Search Engine, a program where individuals' and organizations' can tailor the search results on their personal Web sites to better accommodate audience requests. The Custom Search Engines also enable users to monetize their search results using Google's AdSense – a program where Web site publishers can make money when visitors click on the Google ads displayed on their site. Google officials say the Custom Search Engine also allows its users to modify their search results so they are branded to look like their own."

Google Custom Search Engine, available at www.google.com/coop/cse lets you actually create a search engine. You give it a name, a description, some keywords, a list of sites where to search, and you may allow other people to improve the list. You can restrict the search to the list of the sites you specified, or just emphasize them in the search results. The style of the search result pages can be customized and you can add a logo, like in AdSense for Search. The search results can be hosted on a Google page or can be displayed in a page from your site. You can even use Google Ajax Search instead of the standard formats. The ads displayed in the SERPs can be connected to you if you have an AdSense account.

The search engine can be improved using annotations (a set of labels that describe a page), that work like in Google Co-op, and can be added using Google Marker.

Here are some custom search engines from: Macworld, Intuit and a small search engine about Google created by me.

The new product is a combination of AdSense for Search and Google Co-op that makes it easy to create a search engine focused on specific topics.

October 23, 2006

Twerq - Tabbed Search Results

Twerq says it's "the evolution of search". Actually the site uses Google and shows a new tab for each search inside the page. That means you can launch simultaneous searches using a single query. If you type bmw ++ citroen ++ chevrolet, Twerq opens each search in a new tab, and you don't even need to have a browser with tabs.

This may be useful if you want to compare the results from similar searches or if you don't want to open too many tabs and clutter your browser.

You can also add an initial part that repeats for each search, like rent// bmw ++ citroen ++ chevrolet. This will open three tabs that search for: rent bmw, rent citroen, rent chevrolet. There's also a repeating end for your query: rent// bmw ++ citroen ++ chevrolet \\in ny



While not cutting-edge, the site has a set of interesting options like: searching feeds and previewing them, saving group of tabs and searches.

Giving Google News a New Perspective

Google News is one of the most interesting products developed by Google, centered around aggregating and categorizing news automatically. While the product is already solid, some integration with other services would make it more useful:

1. Blogger's voice

While most blogs can't be considered news sources and many news sites avoid to quote blogs, Google News could use Google Blog Search to show comments. Google could also separate positive and negative comments.

2. Using the archives

Google introduced News Archive, a service that expands Google News with newspaper articles from the last 200 years. But Google forgot to actually use the service. Some articles could be better understood if we read related news from the past.

3. More context

Use Google Search to find links that might help you understand more the context of the news. Google Related Links is a good start for that.

4. More interactivity

Some news are more valuable if you actually see images or videos that describe the content. Google made a deal with AP, to use full content of its news, including images, so that could be a good source for the images. Videos from news televisions, delivered using Google Video, could be the next logical step.

5. The wisdom of crowds

It's hard to understand if a news is important and if it is, to whom. A rating system and a way to keep to track of your favorite news might improve Google News homepage and its personalization system.

To sum up, Google News is a perfect place to integrate many Google service that could give a better perspective on the news.

Job Interviews at Google to Become Less Harsh

Google has decided to change the way they hire people, reports Wall Street Journal.

From...

"In Google's early years, Mr. Brin or co-founder Larry Page interviewed nearly all job candidates before they were officially hired. A former Google executive recounts how, on occasion, Mr. Brin would show up for candidates' job interviews in unconventional dress, from roller blades to a cow costume complete with rubber udders around Halloween. (...) People close to the company say it has traditionally focused a lot on candidates' academic performance and favored those who went to elite schools."

... to:

"Google is experimenting with changes, such as additional short questionnaires for applicants and different interview formats. The company is also considering trying out an abbreviated hiring process, which would allow it to make an offer to some candidates after just two interviews.

Google is also moving from a format in which interviewers provided candidate feedback using free-form text and could give only one overall score to a format in which they offer targeted feedback grouped around four attributes (Google declines to name them) and multiple scores rating a candidate's knowledge, skills and abilities."

By reducing the number of interviews and their complexity, Google hopes to hire more people. Google has 9,378 employees and hires 16 people a day, a big number if you consider that at the end of 2003 Google had only 1,628 employees.

{ Thanks, Kent Dodds. }

Related:
Tough question from Google's interviews

Who Sues Google?

Now that Google is a powerful company, everybody wants to sue Google. From news agencies that want money as a reward for including their articles in Google News, to book publishers that don't want to be included in Google Book Search, from sites that have been delisted from Google Search to advertisers that think click fraud is a major issue.

New York Times has an interesting article about that:

Many of the lawsuits Google is facing carry little weight. Yet it has a vested interest in fighting all of them, even those of questionable merit, and seeing that they are resolved quickly. In part, this is because any lawsuit that reaches the discovery, the pretrial fact-finding phase, poses the danger of revealing too much about Google’s proprietary technology. Google also has an interest in establishing a solid body of legal interpretation in its favor.

Google has been known to settle cases. But in general it mounts a vigorous defense, Mr. Goldman [director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California] said. "If they get sued, they turn the tables on the plaintiff and file motions to get the upper hand in the case," he said.

Google Earth Shows Information About US Elections


If you've opened Google Earth recently, you might have notice a new layer called "2006 US Election Guide". If you enable it, and search for a city in the US, you'll see information about candidates and voting. The layer was created by Google especially for its younger audience that needs to make an informed decision.

Elections for the United States House of Representatives will be held on November 7.

October 21, 2006

Gmail May Be...

1. The easiest way to check the spelling of a text, even if you write in Polish. You don't need an application like Office, or a plug-in for your browser.

2. The simplest way to view Office documents and PDF files online.

3. The fastest way to download attachments. If you receive documents or text files, downloading all the attachments as a single zip saves you time and bandwidth.

4. The webmail service that uploads your attached files while you write your email. Another time saver.

5. Your favorite instant messenger. If your friends use Gmail or Google Talk, you can reply to their emails using Gmail Chat or start a conversation from your browser.

6. A basic antivirus. If you don't have an antivirus or you can't access an online detection site, upload the suspect file to Gmail (if it's an executable, rename it).

7. An MP3 player with plenty of storage, but without too many features. Or even an online extension of your hard drive.

8. A feed reader that shows random headlines from your favorite blogs and news sites, while calling them "web clips".

9. Your uber-mail account, where you forward messages from your other mail accounts, organize them and reply to them.

10. Your assistant. Gmail detects in your messages information about packages and lets you track them, maps addresses, and makes it easy to add events in your calendar.

Import Gmail Attachments into Google Docs

If Gmail were integrated with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, it would have a new link next to some attachments that says "Import in Google Docs & Spreadsheets". This way, you could edit these files online.

Fortunately, if you go to this page, you can find a mail address where you can send your documents to be uploaded in Google Docs. So you can add that address as a contact (let's say Google Docs), and forward the mails that have .doc or .xls attachments to that address.

You can even add a filter that sends all your .doc or .xls attachments to Google Docs & Spreadsheets:

Has the words: doc OR xls
Has attachment
Forward it to: (the email address discussed above)


The filter will work only for messages received after setting the filter.

For the moment, you can upload only files smaller than 500 KB and you can't upload spreadsheets by mail (but this feature will be added soon).

The Terror Storm of Spam Comments

Here are the comments for "Funny Commercial of a girl taking a guys shorts", a video proudly presented by Google Video:

1. Great video, but Terror Storm is a better video. You must open your eyes and see the truth.

2. Bush is responsible for 9/11, and you watch funny videos instead of doing something about it.

3. Your govt. wants to occupy you with stupidity like this.

4. Terror Storm is a lie.

5. OMG LOL!!!

6. Hey, check my site for more great videos like this. www.more-great-videos.com.

7. Don't watch terror storm. It's nothing but a crock of lies... no intelligent person would waste any time listening to that conspiracy theory bulls**t.

8. OPPOSE GOOGLE CENSORSHIP! Watch the most popular video: Terror Storm.

9. DESTROY THE NEW WORLD ORDER!

10. Put on some clothes, please!

If you hate spam comments like most of these, use the new feature from Google Video: "Mark as spam". The immediate effect is that the comment will disappear for you. If more people mark a comment as spam, the comment will be removed.

Google's idea is great (and continues the label cleanup), but I would have added a link that says "Mark as not spam", as most comments are off-topic and spammy.

{ Thanks, Kent Dodds. The comments are slightly modified. }

October 20, 2006

Better Charts in Google Finance

Google Finance has a new feature. You can add more stocks to a chart and compare their evolution. If the chart shows more than one stock, you won't be able to see related news for each company.




Google wanted to create something as good as the new charts from Yahoo Finance, but didn't really succeed. Yahoo's charts show more information, are easy to print and share, and fit the size of the window, just like Google Video.

orkut Doesn't Require Invitation

Google's social network, orkut, doesn't need an invitation anymore. You can sign in using your Google Account.

The invitation was one of the reasons behind orkut's failure to compete with MySpace. Now that Facebook is also public, the competition will start to become interesting.

orkut has around 30 million users, and more than 60% of its users are from Brazil. It was launched in 2004, the same year Google unveiled Gmail.

Update: this page should let you join orkut. Unfortunately, the link doesn't work for everyone.

Google Talks About Q3 Financial Results

Google reported the earnings for the third quarter and managed to surprise some analysts.

"Google reported revenues of $2.69 billion for the quarter ended September 30, 2006, an increase of 70% compared to the third quarter of 2005 and an increase of 10% compared to the second quarter of 2006."

Eric Schmidt said that this growth is the results "of these five things: users, ads, the diversity of our business, the blizzard of new product launches, and the partnership strategy which is in full force."

Google will continue to focus on partnerships, as they proved to be very valuable for the company, on expanding their offering for other mediums (mobile, audio, video) and on integrating their existing products.

More Features, Less Products

Sergey Brin talked about a new initiative at Google, at yesterday's conference call, when Google announced another impressive quarter.

"What we are concerned about is that if we continue to develop so many new individual products that are all their assorted silos, you will have to essentially search for our products before you can even use them. And then you will have to search before you can do a search, in many cases.

Instead what we're doing now is we are trying to create the horizontal functionality across a range of products, across media types and so forth. For example, I mentioned already Google Apps for Your Domain, and that in a sense is a product, but really it just combines a whole bunch of other offerings together, seamlessly integrated together so they can work well for an organization.

Another example which we haven't gotten quite up and running yet, but when you want to share your documents or your pictures or your videos, it would be nice to have the exact same way to share all those things, to have all that functionality available across all of those media types in the identical way, rather than developing sort of one-offs for each of those products."

After launching a lot of separate products, Google wants to integrate them. The idea is that it's very difficult to manage a lot of products, and it's much easier to have a unified interface. The puzzle pieces start to connect.

You can read the entire transcript at SeekingAlpha.

October 19, 2006

Almost a Mobile Google Video

Scott Robbin created a small site optimized for mobile phones that lets you download videos from Google Video. Your phone should have a fast Internet connection and should be able to play AVI videos (or you can download an application that does that). Scott explains that his site shows only videos under 4 minutes.

This is just a small step to a mobile Google Video.

YouTube Is Not Google's Tube


So Google bought YouTube. Maybe for their user base, maybe to test their video ads, maybe because someone else could have bought it, or maybe because they realized Google Video can't be more successful than YouTube.

But there's an online trend lately that has this tagline: "Google will destroy YouTube". Here's a quote from San Francisco Chronicle:

"For many of us, there's a definite vibe that the wild fun times will soon be coming to an end. It's like your parents are coming up the driveway, and you've broken the crystal egg and are going to be grounded for the next eight months - leaving you with nothing except the crazy memories of that brothel you ran out of their house over the weekend."

Or this video that shows how YouTube becomes a cluttered dying site under Google's hegemony.

All these people can't understand that Google bought YouTube just because it's the coolest online video site, and it will keep the brand, while the site will continue to exist independently. So we won't see a major design change, as this will alienate the users.

Google will probably adopt Yahoo's model, where services like Flickr and del.icio.us, although Yahoo's property, work independently.

The quoted article also mentions that YouTube will sink, as it goes mainstream. But YouTube doesn't have anything exclusive, it's not a site for elites, it's just where ordinary people create their own TV shows and entertain the masses.

If you go to YouTube.com, you won't see any sign of Google's acquisition, and that isn't likely to change soon. If you think Google truly owns YouTube, you're wrong. YouTube is not Google's tube, YouTube is people's tube. Google is not there to change the rules, it's there to make YouTube sustain itself and continue to grow.

Internet Explorer 7 Released


Internet Explorer 7 or "the latest version of the world's most popular Web browser", like Microsoft puts it, is out now. After three betas and a release candidate, IE7 is available today for Windows XP (SP2 or x64 edition) and Windows Server 2003.

The installer for XP has 14.8 MB, that is almost three times the size of Firefox setup or Opera installer. The installation required two restarts and it was pretty slow (it took around 10 minutes).

Internet Explorer 7 changed the user interface: it combined the Back and Forward buttons into one single button, it merged the Stop and Refresh buttons and changed the order or buttons in a confusing manner. IE7 downgraded the menus in favour of six little buttons that reveal some of the most used features. Internet Explorer 7 is the first version that has a search box (who stirred a lot of discussions), support for feeds and tabs.

Microsoft's implementation of tabs is very good: it has some of the best features from Opera and Firefox 2 (a close button for the active tab, an easy way to open a new tab, consistent shortcuts, drag and drop) and a great way to preview all the tabs, called QuickTabs.

QuickTabs


IE improved the security by adding a phishing filter and an ActiveX protection that disables unsigned ActiveX controls. Microsoft's philosophy for security continues to
be: add more annoying questions for the user like "Are you sure you want to...?".

The feed reader is the best one included in a browser and uses a system process to poll feeds, so it could be used by other desktop feed readers. You can preview feeds, search through the posts and add them to feed folders. You can also keep old posts.

QuickTabs


Internet Explorer 7 improves the support for web standards (transparent PNGs, CSS 2.1, better AJAX support), but that also means that some sites won't render as good as before in IE.

You'll also like the page zoom, that promises to zoom the text and the images of a page, and the print preview that lets you shrink the page to create the proper width for printing.

Internet Explorer 7 will be more visible in the market share reports from November, when Microsoft will start to distribute it through Automatic Updates. If you don't want to wait until then and you have a genuine Windows, you can download it now.

IE7 is a big step ahead, although it comes pretty late.

Update: A vulnerability has already been discovered.

Google Translation Buttons

Google offers a list of bookmarklets that you can drag to your browser's links bar and that allows you to translate the current page from a language to another language.

"While surfing the web, if you find a piece of text you'd like to translate, select the text with your mouse and click the browser button. If you want to translate a whole web page, simply click the button."

October 18, 2006

Googlebot Reports


If you want to know more about how often Googlebot crawls your site or you want to change the crawl rate, it's time to visit Google Webmaster Tools and to add your site.

Google shows charts with Googlebot's activity from the last 3 months: number of pages crawled per day, number of kilobytes downloaded per day and time spent downloading a page. These charts can tell how often Google crawls (or recrawls) your site.

If you think Googlebot uses too much bandwidth for your site, you can change the crawl rate to "slower". In some cases, you'll also see a "faster" option.

It's interesting to see that Google asks your permission to use the images from your site for Google Image Labeler, an experiment that will improve Google Image Search.

Google Webmaster Tools tends to become the place where you can explore and improve your relationship with Googlebot: you can see its activity, its complaints (errors), you can make it easier for Googlebot to find the pages from your site and adjust some settings to improve crawling performance.

Optimizing AdWords Landing Page

Google launched a new service for AdWords users: Website Optimizer. Google makes it easy to experiment with different combinations of landing pages and measure the performance using Google Analytics.

"The Website Optimizer allows you to test changes in the website content of your pages in order to determine what will be most effective in getting conversions. You choose what parts of a page you'd like to test - headline, image, promo text – and we'll run an experiment on a portion of your site traffic to determine which content on your site users respond to best."

Users will see different versions of your landing page and when Google has gathered enough data, you'll be able choose the best version.

October 17, 2006

Who Wants to Post on Official Google Blogs?

Apparently there's a bug in Blogger that allows people to post on blogs even if they don't have the credentials. Ten days ago, Official Google Blog featured this post:

"Google Click-to-Call project cancelled

After concientiously considering, Google has decided not to continue with Google Click-to-call project. The project has been in the media on last days because of the notice of Google agreement with e-Bay. We finally consider click-to-call agreement with e-Bay a monopolistic aproach that would damage small companies in the CRM area.

This message has been translated using Google language tools."

Google's response was:
"A bug in Blogger enabled an unauthorized user to make a fake post on the Google Blog last night, claiming that we've discontinued our AdWords click-to-call test. The bug was fixed quickly and the post removed. As for the click-to-call test, it is progressing on schedule, and we're pleased with the results thus far."

Maybe the bug hasn't been fixed, because Blogger's Buzz blog has another strange post:
"Diary of a Crafty Chica: White Chocolate Sugar Skulls

i love these! it seems so obvious - replace the sugar with something you'd actually eat - but yet, what a surprise.

if i get around to it, i am totally making these for dia de los muertos this year.

it's not like i have any other projects right now - hahahahaha! along with finishing the toy box for my nephew by thanksgiving, and taking part in nanowrimo this year, which i promised a friend i'd do (and actually finish my novel? that would be shocking!) so yeah, there's not too much else going on ;-)

good thing i subscribed to CRAFT. in case, y'know, i get bored. hahahaha! man, i crack myself up.

back to work now. that was a nice crafty respite in a typically un-crafty day."

Either this is a bug or somebody found the passwords from Google blogs.

Related:
Google deleted... Google Blog

{ Via Blogoscoped. }

Update: the post has been deleted from Blogger Buzz.

Refine Search Results in the Classic Yahoo Mail


The classic version of Yahoo Mail has a new feature: a better search experience. Yahoo shows in the sidebar a list of senders, attachments types, dates and folders you can use to refine the search results. For example, if you search for "meeting", you'll see a list of contacts that sent you emails that contain this word, so it's easier to restrict the results only to some of your contacts.

Yahoo also offers an easier way to view your attachments. There are two new views for the search results: "photo view" (that shows thumbnails for the attached photos) and "attachment view" (that shows information about all your attachments). You can select some of the attachments and download all of them in a big zip file.

The informations are useful because they give you the big picture for the search results. Gmail has advanced search features, but it's hard to know a priori all the details about the results.

It's interesting to note that the new features aren't available in the new Yahoo Mail, that has a very weak search. Also not all the classic accounts have the new features. If you use Yahoo Mail Beta, you can switch to the original version by clicking on "Switch back" next to the logo from the top of the screen. To go back to Yahoo Mail Beta, visit new.mail.yahoo.com.

Related:
The new Yahoo Mail, slowly released

October 16, 2006

Import del.icio.us Bookmarks into Google Bookmarks

Mihai Parparita from Google has written a(nother) cool script that allows you to add the bookmarks from del.ico.us to Google Bookmarks. The live version is available on his site.

Unlike del.icio.us, Google Bookmarks keeps your favorite web pages private and lets you search their content. You can manage your bookmarks from the site, using Google Toolbar for IE or using some unofficial Firefox extensions.

Related:
On bookmarks

Uploading Videos at a Click of a Button

Pure Digital launched a camcorder that lets you upload videos to Google Video and Grouper at the click of a button, if you connect it to the computer. "Anything you can do to give people powerful technology and simple ways to use it will increase the attractiveness of online video," said Hunter Walk, a Google product manager, for USA Today. The camcorder will cost $129 for the version that records 30 minutes of video clips and $169 for the 60-minute version.

Mobile phones should also have an option like "Upload to Google Video" and this will bring online journalism to a higher level. This way, online video sites could be the first to have breaking news.

IE7 Won't Default to Live Search in Vista

The operating system that doesn't excite anyone, Windows Vista, will make some adjustments to please software companies like Symantec, McAfee, Adobe, Google and to prevent suits.

"The search function in the Internet Explorer 7 browser won't automatically use Microsoft's Windows Live search engine. Search engine giant Google has objected to that default choice."

If Windows Live won't be the default search engine, I suspect that there won't be any default search engine and IE will ask you to choose a search engine.

Windows' security tools will be disabled if the user install security suites. "Microsoft said it will give [security] companies access to Vista's core, while still protecting that so-called kernel in other ways."

Microsoft has already removed from Vista its instant messenger and decided to place only a link to Windows Live Messenger in the Help Center.

And everything because Microsoft is a big company, their operating system a monopoly, and some of their users unwilling to make choices. Many Linux distributions come with a wide range of high-quality applications and users can decide what they want to install.

Related:
Google doesn't want MSN as default search engine in IE7
The search battle for IE7

PodZinger - Powerful Multimedia Search Engine


PodZinger is a multimedia search engine that uses speech recognition to increase the relevance of the search results. While other search engines use only the metadata (title, description, tags) to index audios and videos, PodZinger treats each file like a text document. It shows text snippets relevant to your queries and you can click to a word from the snippet to go directly to that part of the file.

Their speech recognition technology works very well (only for English and Spanish), but the index is small, as it contains only podcasts. This technology would be a good addition to sites like Google Video or YouTube, because the metadata can be insufficient or misleading. Google Video has the option of adding captions, but very few people will use it.

October 15, 2006

The Talkative Search Engine


If you think search engines need a human face, Ms. Dewey might be a good company for you. The search engine is not great, but not bad either (bonus points if you guess the search engine), but the main attraction here is Ms. Dewey. She's ironic, clever and provocative. For example, try to enter something like "your phone".

Maybe in the future, search engines will be so smart that they'll be able to both answer your questions and make you smile.

{ Via LISNews.org. }

YouTube to Implement Content Filtering

SFGate reports that YouTube develops a technology that "will allow copyright owners to identify their content, locate it and then make a decision based on whether they want to remove it. (...) The new technology will be designed to scan a digital audio file, such as an MP3 or video, and compare the electronic fingerprints to databases of copyright material."

YouTube has deals with Warner Music Group, Vivendi's Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment that involve ad revenue sharing, so the content providers need to detect their content. To be successful, YouTube has to make deals with all major labels and develop a flawless detection technology. Google is going to be helpful, it will bring more credibility and a better technology (Google acquired Neven Vision).

And if this works for videos, it should work for music too, so this might be the seed of a legal file-sharing site. Unlike other solutions like Mashboxx, the content will be ad-supported and only available online.

October 14, 2006

The Silent Companion

New York Times has an article titled Planet Google Wants You in which contemplates the ever-growing Google ubiquity. The ending is really beautiful:

Toni Carreiro, a Web designer in San Rafael, Calif., and a self-described Google addict, said that the elegant simplicity of Google's design is a blank slate upon which she can impose her own personality: It's not there to sell you on anything, just to help you, while other sites, she said, are full of blinking ads and clutter.

"They have all this animation going," she said. "I just want my stuff. That's what Google gives you — 'me.'"

Google is not the only company that says it cares about the users, but Google is afraid that people start to hate it, so it does everything to prevent that. Google's simplicity is just one way of being friendly. Another way is giving options and not forcing users to choose things they don't want to. And if they have to make a choice, Google tries to be honest (and sometimes pay for the honesty).

Google is a silent companion that listens to you and tries to help you only when you ask for it. Others do like Bonzi Buddy: try to sell you stuff, try to make themselves useful when you don't need them, ask silly questions and make you feel you owe them. And maybe that's why Tony identify herself with Google.

October 13, 2006

Integrate Google Reader into Gmail


The new version of Google Reader looks very similar to Gmail (also the new Google Groups), so you can't help wondering if the two products are about to merge. Mihai Parparita from Google Reader doesn't offer an answer (probably because there isn't an answer yet), but he created a Greasemonkey script that adds a new link in Gmail: Feeds. The unified interface is almost flawless as a design, but Google should improve Google Reader's loading time as it loads slower than Gmail. Another thing I'd like to see is adding Google Reader's in-place message opening to Gmail, so you can read the messages faster, as the snippet is often insufficient.

Greasemonkey stuff:
Install Greasemonkey in Firefox or Trixie in IE | Add the script

Interesting Advanced Search Operators

Live Search (MSN Search) has some interesting operators, not available in Google Search. These operators were introduced last year, but not many people heard about them.

* linkfromdomain restricts your search to sites that are linked from a certain domain. If you don't add keywords after this operator, you can find some of the pages / sites linked from all the pages available on that domain.

linkfromdomain:michellemalkin.com

* linkdomain shows only the pages that link to a page from a certain domain. The link operator from Google shows all the pages that link to the homepage of a site or to a certain page, but you can't see these aggregated results. Linkdomain operator is also available in Yahoo Search.

linkdomain:michellemalkin.com


* contains should be followed by a file extension and is used to restrict the search only to pages that contain links to at least a file that has that extension.

radiohead contains:ogg

* Yahoo has a slightly different operator called feature, useful to show pages that have embedded content. The operator can have one of these values: audio (the page embeds audio files), video (the page embeds video files), javascript (the page has JavaScript code), flash (the page has embedded Flash), frame (the page uses frames), acrobat, applet, activex, form, table.

u2 feature:flash [ Yahoo ]

* prefer lets you give more weight to a keyword.

ipod prefer:review


* loc is used to restrict a search to domains from a certain country.

bistro loc:fr

So if you didn't find a reason to try Live Search or Yahoo Search, these operators might be a good reason.

Yahoo Time Capsule


From October 10 until November 8, Yahoo users can contribute to an amazing project called Yahoo Time Capsule by submitting photos, writings, videos, audio that define your world today.

"The Time Capsule (...) is organized around ten themes, chosen to illuminate different corners of the human experience. The ten themes are: Love, Sorrow, Anger, Faith, Beauty, Fun, Past, Hope, Now, and You. Each theme harbors an open-ended question: What do you love? What makes you sad? What makes you angry? What do you believe in? What’s beautiful? What’s fun? What do you remember? What is your wish? Describe your world. Who are you? People respond to these questions in five simple ways – with words, pictures, videos, sounds, and drawings."

So if you have something special to share with the future, a message in a bottle, a prediction, a list of important things for you, send it to the time capsule. The site is almost an work of art, and if you don't send anything, exploring the site will make your day.

The man behind this project is Jonathan Harris, a very talented Internet artist.

Google Office Suite to Have an API

Although Google Docs & Spreadsheets is far from a finished product, Google already thinks about developers and intends to release an API that will increase the value of the tools.

"We definitely want to build out APIs, especially for the spreadsheets side, as spreadsheets are more data-oriented, but maybe also for he word processor. People will be able to do mashups with our tools for other things, and not be stuck behind our dev cycle for everything they want. If I've already got data somewhere you can't really rely on manual cut-and-paste to make it collaborative. Imaging pulling data from any application you've already got in use... you get that data over to the hosted app, make it collaborative, then bring it back... that's what we'd like to enable at some point," said Google product manager, Jonathan Rochelle.

The API could also enable users to synchronize data and use the information from other web applications.

Related:
Google launches Google Docs & Spreadsheets

October 12, 2006

Advanced Search in Google Video


If you want to refine you queries in Google Video without fiddling with special operators, you can use the advanced search. You have less features than for Google Search and they are slightly different. You can restrict the search to free videos, to certain genres, there are options for the duration of the video and the number of results.

All of these options were previously available, but you had to use undocumented operators like genre or is:free. I still don't understand why you can't sort the results by the number of views, or the number of comments and why you can't combine two or more labels in a query.

Google Maps Available for Palm Treo

Google launched the mobile version of Google Maps for Palm Treo. For the moment, it only works for Palm devices with Palm OS 5 and above offered by Cingular and Sprint in the US.

Google Maps for Treo supports all the features available in the other mobile versions: satellite imagery, driving directions, real-time trafic, local search.

"Since we first launched Google Maps for mobile devices, we've adapted it to more phones and languages and added features like traffic info. And as of today, the new Palm Treo version answers our top request from users. It's been months in the making, but I think you'll find it worth the wait. We think this is the fastest, slickest version yet, with draggable maps and translucent pop-up balloons that don't hide the map," explains the Google Blog.

Maps are one of the most useful mobile applications created by Google and could evolve into many directions, including a real-time travel guide.

Google Teacher Academy

Google wants to teach teachers how to use Google products. Google for Educators showcases some of the most important services and their uses in education. But the most important detail is a new program called Google Teacher Academy.

"The Google Teacher Academy is a pilot program designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. The Academy is a one-day experience at Google's Mountain View Headquarters where participants get hands-on experience with Google products and other technologies, receive instructional resources to share with colleagues, and share innovative instructional strategies with other local educators. Upon completion, Academy participants will become Google Certified Teachers."

Applications are due on October 22, 2006 and are available only for K-12 educators working in Northern California. As usually, the program is still an experiment.

Online Office Goes Mainstream

I heard the news about Google Docs & Spreadsheets on my favorite radio station. And the announcers seemed pretty enthusiastic about this. Their arguments were easy to digest: there is finally a real competition for Microsoft in the Office arena, you can edit your documents from anywhere and the tools are free.

Google has a big opportunity to take online office suites to the mainstream. Maybe they don't have the best features, but they are the most scalable. And this the winning point if you want to bring Office to the web.

October 11, 2006

Edit Captions in Picasa Web Albums



Picasa Web Albums lets you edit the captions of your uploaded photos. You can do that one photo at a time, or using a single page. Picasa Web Albums also dropped the "test" from its logo, but it wasn't yet replaced with beta.

And if you weren't yet aware of that, you can embed photos into your site by clicking on "Embed in blog/MySpace" link. Unfortunately, you'll embed only a thumbnail, but if you're smart enough you'll manage to customize the thumbnail. (Hint: replace s288 from the image URL with s576 or s followed by some multiple of 144.)

Google Loves Mac

Or so they say. The new Google Mac blog promises to be the place where you can "keep up with the latest about everything Google is doing to support Mac users". There's also a page that features all Google software available for Mac.

The mere fact that Google decided to start a blog for Mac means there will be a lot of things to announce in this area.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets



The obvious has happened. Writely and Google Spreadsheets have merged and the new products is named, not Google Office, but Google Docs & Spreadsheets. The strange name will probably be modified, as Google Docs & Spreadsheets & Presentations is just not a catchy name.

The good news for those who hated Writely's interface is that the unified interface is similar to Google Spreadsheets'.

Also now you can let collaborators invite other people. "The people whom you've invited can now add other collaborators to that spreadsheet. You can decide whether you want this capability turned on for each spreadsheet individually - the default for new spreadsheets is to allow collaborators to add other collaborators."

The next logical move would be to add a new web application for presentations and to integrate all these applications with Gmail, Google Calendar and Picasa Web, so they can share attachments, photos and documents. Some pieces of the puzzle are still missing, but Google can't deny they don't want to build Google Office.

October 9, 2006

Use Google Reader in Opera

If you want to use Google Reader in Opera, you'll notice the interface is not usable. This post will help you fix Google Reader.

Free Music Videos in Google Video

Google signed agreements with Sony BMG and Warner Music Group and will include a large collection of music videos in Google Video.

"Starting this month, users can watch thousands of videos from SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT on Google Video. In the coming months, users will also be able to access content from SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT artists through Google's partner websites in its AdSense network."

"Starting this month, users in the U.S. can watch any of the thousands of music videos, artist interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and other artist-related content from WMG on Google Video. In the coming months, users can also access audio-visual content from WMG through Google's partner websites in its AdSense network. In addition, Google will develop technology that, when implemented, will enable users to include certain content from companies such as Warner Music Group in the videos they create and upload to Google Video."

Music videos will be ad-supported or available for purchase. It's interesting to see what this means: "Google will develop technology that, when implemented, will enable users to include certain content from companies such as Warner Music Group". Maybe lip sync videos or video mashups will be covered by this agreement and will be legal.

Google to Acquire YouTube?

PC World reports that Google is about to acquire YouTube for $1.6 billion. Although this is just a rumour, sources close to YouTube say the deal is in the final stages.

It will be interesting to see how YouTube will change and if Google Video continues to exist after the deal.

In September, YouTube had a market share of 46 percent in the U.S., while Google Video had only 11 percent, so the deal will bring a lot of new users to Google and a revenue source to YouTube.

Update: Now it's official. "Google announced today that it has agreed to acquire YouTube, the consumer media company for people to watch and share original videos through a Web experience, for $1.65 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction. Following the acquisition, YouTube will operate independently to preserve its successful brand and passionate community."

October 5, 2006

Google Code Search


Google Code Search
is a new search engine created by Google that "helps you find function definitions and sample code by giving you one place to search publicly accessible source code hosted on the Internet". You can restrict your search to a certain language, license, file or package. You can also use regular expressions, so don't forget to escape characters like space (for example, for\ \(;;\)).

Google does a good job at finding duplicates, and locating a file in a package.

Related:
Krugle, search open source code

October 4, 2006

The New Google Groups





What I love about Google products is that when they're finally out of beta, there's a new beta version around.

The new Google Groups Beta looks different. It has childish icons for each group, but you can change that. In fact, you can change a big list of settings if you are the owner of a group (select a template, change the navigation, access rights and more).

You can create web pages and upload files (storage: 100 MB) to a group, and that seems to be most important new feature. The web pages can be edited by more people at once and Google Groups shows all saved versions. People can also comment on the page.

Google lets you create a real profile: now you can add a picture and more information about yourself. Each user has a rating, the average rating for your posts.

There's no left sidebar. The recently visited groups moved to a quirky menu that can be accessed from the "My Groups" link. Google merged the two search boxes, so the interface looks cleaner.

Messages from a topic look exactly like a Gmail conversation, each message is collapsible, can be forwarded or printed. If you don't look carefully, you'll think this is not Google Groups, it's Gmail.

All in all, the new design seems a combination of Gmail and Yahoo Groups. The tight Gmail integration is a nice addition, while the file storage might make migration from Yahoo Groups easier. To quote Mr. Justin Timberlake, Google Groups brings sexy back, and it's mature enough to have all the feature you need.

We can conclude that this is the first transplant from the new Google to the old Google (Google Groups was launched in 2001) and the patient feels much better.