The Official Google Blog - Insights from Googlers into our products, technology and the Google culture

Supporting equality

1/15/2009 05:00:00 PM
In September of last year, Google announced its opposition to California's Proposition 8. While the campaign was emotionally charged and difficult for both sides, in the wake of the election many were concerned with the impact Proposition 8 could have on the personal lives of people they work with every day, and on California's ability to attract and retain a diverse mix of employees from around the world.

That's why we've signed an amicus brief (PDF file) in support of several cases currently challenging Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court. Denying employees basic rights isn't right, and it isn't good for businesses. We are committed to preserving fundamental rights for every one of the people who work hard to make Google a success.

Please join us in continuing to fight for equality for all Californians.

Making your personalized homepage even more personal

1/15/2009 12:00:00 PM
The holidays have passed, but if you're anything like me, you've got a gold mine of bear hugs and embarrassing moments captured on film. My holidays wouldn't be the same without Tabby, our family cat, who has been part of the winter festivities for 10 years. Over the holidays, we caught Tabby sticking out his tongue at the family get-together! Below is one of those prized moments I wanted to post everywhere, including on my personalized homepage:

Now, you too can capture memories and images on your iGoogle homepage by building a custom theme. We've just released our new tool for creating iGoogle themes. It's an easy way for iGoogle users to spruce up their personalized homepage without needing to know how to use XML, etc. All you need is an image, and we'll provide the rest.

The theme-building tool has a simple interface for uploading your photo from your desktop, Picasa Web Album, or the web. Once you've chosen a photo, the builder provides a basic set of tools to help you create your theme:
  • Image Cropping - Crop your favorite photo to fit your iGoogle theme
  • Color Schemes - Pick colors to complement your photo
  • Real-time Preview - See immediate feedback of your changes to swiftly fine-tune your theme
  • Public and Private Publishing - Choose who gets to see your original themes, whether it's just you, or if you want to share them with the world
Once your theme is created, it's immediately added to your iGoogle page for you to enjoy.

We hope you have fun customizing your iGoogle homepage with your favorite images, whether they're photos of your pets or places you've visited, drawings, designs, cartoons — or whatever else your heart desires.

Hear how Illinois State University uses Google Search

1/15/2009 11:02:00 AM
Search functionality is a critical part of higher education websites due to the diverse audiences that these sites serve. Current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other communities come to these sites to seek a wide range of information. Even with the best navigational scheme, it is a challenge to make all of this information findable, which makes accurate search a huge boost to website effectiveness.

Google Apps adoption in higher education has been steadily climbing (3 million users and counting), and we're really excited to see more and more universities using the Google Search Appliance (GSA) to power high-quality search on their websites. Like, the search appliance can search public pages on a website, but it can also find information in databases, content systems, business applications, and other sources, which opens up a whole range of options for making all kinds of information easily accessible. For example, Illinois State University uses the Google Search Appliance to create a "Course Finder" tool for their current and prospective students. This tool delivers up-to-the minute course information to more than 20,000 students, 1,000 faculty members, and the public at-large. It provides users with a friendly, easy-to-use interface for finding class and schedule data stored on the university's mainframe. Students can easily fine-tune searches to specify departments, time slots, and instructors, all using the familiar Google interface.

When Campus Technology, a leading publication addressing technology trends in universities, invited us to showcase the capabilities of the Google Search Appliance in an upcoming webinar, we immediately turned to our friends at Illinois State to share their great example. We invite you to join us online on Wednesday, January 21st, at 11:00 am PST, to hear Illinois State University talk about their experience with GSA. We'll also be sharing information about Google Apps for higher education, so if you're interested in that front, be sure to mark your calendars as well.

Changes to recruiting

1/14/2009 03:01:00 PM
As we made clear during our last quarterly earnings call in October, Google is still hiring but at a reduced rate. Given the state of the economy, we recognized that we needed fewer people focused on hiring.

Our first step to address this was to wind down almost all our contracts with external contractors and vendors providing recruiting services for Google. However, after much consideration, we have with great regret decided that we need to go further and reduce the overall size of our recruiting organization by approximately 100 positions.

We know this change will be very difficult for the people concerned, and we hope that many of them will be able to find new roles at Google. They helped build this company, new hire by new hire, and we are enormously grateful for everything they have done.

Changes to engineering

1/14/2009 02:50:00 PM
At Google we recognized early on that branching out beyond Mountain View was key to building innovative products for users everywhere. That's why we put so much effort into hiring outstanding engineers in a wide mix of countries. Having offices distributed around the globe is critical to Google's long-term success, and today we have thousands of engineers working in 40 offices in more than 20 countries. It has enabled us to make significant improvements in our products and attract more users globally.

It has also presented unique challenges. The most difficult of these being to coordinate our efforts across all geographies, and provide engineers with significant, meaningful projects that make a real difference to people's lives. Last September we asked engineers in Phoenix, Arizona to move to other offices, and the vast majority have done so. This move enabled us to build larger and more effective teams, reduce communication overhead, and give engineers increased options for future projects. Today we are doing the same thing in Austin, Texas; Trondheim, Norway; and Lulea, Sweden. Our strong desire is to keep as many of these 70 engineering employees at Google as possible. However, we do recognize the upheaval and heartache that these changes may have on Google families, and that we may not be able to keep 100% of these exceptional employees.

Our long-term goal is not to trim the number of people we have working on engineering projects or reduce our global presence, but create a smaller number of more effective engineering sites, which will ensure that innovation and speed remain at our core.

Make over your site using the wisdom of the crowd

1/14/2009 10:00:00 AM
It used to be that the design of a website was always left to a single web designer and some good ideas, but with Google Website Optimizer, Google's free testing and optimization tool, a website can harness the input of thousands of its visitors to produce results that really matter.

Last June we announced the Website Workout contest to see which of our AdWords advertisers wanted to give their sites an extreme makeover. After asking thousands of advertisers why their sites needed makeovers, we chose four of the most compelling cases, and they were paired with consultants who helped them set up experiments using Website Optimizer.

Website Optimizer allows you to create multiple versions of your webpage (maybe one version with a red button and one with a blue) and evaluate which variation best meets your goals (whether that is sign-ups, purchases, or simply having visitors click to another page). The tool uses traffic data and advanced statistical formulas to figure out, according to your visitors, what makes your website the most useful.

Well, we are happy to announce the winners of the Website Workout contest and share some videos highlighting their experiences. Be sure to check them out, you might be surprised by what sorts of changes can make a big difference.

For example, by changing the layout of their product page, Colonial Candle was able to increase the number of candles they sold by 20% and improve sales by $20,000 in one month.

Before Optimization (click on the images for larger versions)

After Optimization

Check out the Website Optimizer Blog for more information.

Network effects: Introducing the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program

1/14/2009 06:00:00 AM

Just under two years ago we launched Google Apps for businesses, offering a set of products that enable secure and cost-effective applications in the cloud. Fast-forward to today and our expanded Google Apps suite is used by more than 1 million businesses, with 3,000 new companies signing up each day.

How'd we get here? Through constant innovation (100 new features and counting), growing enthusiasm for cloud computing, and a partner network that provides our customers with complementary products, training, and integration.

Given this strong demand, we believe there's a great opportunity to do even more by helping IT solution providers grow their business opportunities around cloud computing. As we got our sea legs, we started slowly with a core group of partners who've been key trusted advisers in customer deployments, such as at Genentech and Hamilton Beach. We're now expanding this ecosystem to help more IT professionals build cloud computing expertise. Today we're excited to announce the Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program. With this release, solution providers globally can take advantage of tools that enable bundling of sales, customization and support for Google Apps Premier Edition for customers of all sizes.

We've adapted this program to complement resellers' current business models. Authorized Resellers have the flexibility to combine their existing services with Google Apps. With cloud-based Google Apps there is no new hardware or software to maintain. The Authorized Reseller program benefits include:
  • owning the customer relationship and billing structure
  • providing consulting, service management and end-user support
  • receiving a recurring discount on the annual Google Apps licensing fee
  • receiving marketing, sales and technical training from Google
We've been fine-tuning the program for the past few months, working with more than 50 pilot resellers to make sure it's a good fit with our partners' needs. We're excited about the new opportunities that cloud computing is creating for IT solution providers, and we encourage you to visit our program site to learn more about the program and apply.

Gingerbread Competition results are in

1/13/2009 03:22:00 PM
(Cross-posted from the SketchUp blog)

Having spent some time perusing the entries for the SketchUp Gingerbread House Design Competition, we've reached a verdict – but it wasn't easy. Your models are (as expected) beautiful. For what it's worth, I accidentally ate part of my computer screen while we were judging. Drum roll please...

First Prize
Gingerbread House by Skeat

An absolutely beautiful use of the base model, in combination with some of the supplied dynamic candy components, to create an entirely believable construction. This is a gingerbread house that aficionados – analog and digital alike – can admire. It's also a skillful use of SketchUp.

Second Prize
Temple of Gingerbread by t

With this model, it's all about the details. The pediment (the triangular part of the roof) contains a scene of gingerbread people. The entablature (sits between the columns and the roof) is heavily ornamented and altogether believable. When you go inside, there's an altar to a gingerbread deity. This entry is complete both in concept and execution. Gingerbread Vitruvius would be proud.

Third Prize
Gingerbread2009 Disaster by kiwijbob

This one made us laugh. The house itself is intricate and skillfully modeled, but the best parts reveal themselves upon closer inspection. Someone's taken a giant bite out of the roof, and a giant gingerbread stormcloud (complete with gingerbread lightning bolt) threatens overhead. It's nice to see someone using a digital tool to do something that physical materials can't: ignore gravity.

Sprinkles Prize (for the best additions to the base model)
Gingerbread Hall by Toy Maker

A classic example of a thought carried through to its logical (and very appetizing) conclusion. The house, the men, the reindeer and the sleigh are consistent in that they are made of gingerbread. This house is constructable, and a lot of work went into making it that way.

Swirl Prize (for the best use of Dynamic Components in the model)
Gingerbread House by diweiman

A close contender for best model overall, we decided to award the Swirl Prize to this entry because it's interactive. Aside from being a stunning example of SketchUp mastery, the strings of flags are Dynamic Components that lengthen and re-color as you scale them. Clicking with the 'Interact' tool causes a rainbow to appear. You really need to download the model and open it in SketchUp to experience the full effect.

Sweet Tooth Prize (for the most creative use of a single candy ingredient)
Candy Cane Log House by Jan Melin

Candy canes for the walls. Candy canes for the roof. Candy canes for everything. Nice.

Take a look at all of the entries in this 3D Warehouse collection. Also peek at this Picasa album slideshow of some of our favorites:

Congratulations to everyone, and thanks for participating. We hope you had as much fun building them as we did looking them over.

Powering a Google search

1/11/2009 10:48:00 PM
Not long ago, answering a query meant traveling to the reference desk of your local library. Today, search engines enable us to access immense quantities of useful information in an instant, without leaving home. Tools like email, online books and photos, and video chat all increase productivity while decreasing our reliance on car trips, pulp and paper.

But as computers become a bigger part of more people's lives, information technology consumes an increasing amount of energy, and Google takes this impact seriously. That's why we have designed and built the most energy efficient data centers in the world, which means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Recently, though, others have used much higher estimates, claiming that a typical search uses "half the energy as boiling a kettle of water" and produces 7 grams of CO2. We thought it would be helpful to explain why this number is *many* times too high. Google is fast — a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.

In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don't reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

We've made great strides to reduce the energy used by our data centers, but we still want clean and affordable sources of electricity for the power that we do use. In 2008 our philanthropic arm,, invested $45 million in breakthrough clean energy technologies. And last summer, as part of our Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative (RE<C), we created an internal engineering group dedicated to exploring clean energy.

We're also working with other members of the IT community to improve efficiency on a broader scale. In 2007 we co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a group which champions more efficient computing. This non-profit consortium is committed to cutting the energy consumed by computers in half by 2010 — reducing global CO2 emissions by 54 million tons per year. That's a lot of kettles of tea.

Update on 1/12 @ 4 PM: Harvard professor Alex Wissner-Gross provided new details on his energy research, in a TechNewsWorld article.

Google's new favicon

1/09/2009 01:35:00 PM
Back in June, we rolled out a new favicon — the small icon that greets you when you access Google on your URL bar or your bookmarks list — and we encouraged our users to submit their ideas for this important piece of Google branding. We were impressed by the volume of submissions we received, and today we are happy to introduce a new Google favicon inspired by those submissions by our users. While the final icon is a reinterpretation of one contest submission, it draws on design elements and ideas from many of them.

Google's new favicon

André Resende, a computer science undergraduate student at the University of Campinas in Brazil, submitted the design that inspired our new favicon. His placement of a white 'g' on a color-blocked background was highly recognizable and attractive, while seeming to capture the essence of Google.

by André Resende

Although we changed the color layout slightly and moved the 'g' off center, his submission formed the basis for our new design.

Incorporating all four of Google's colors (red, yellow, green, and blue) into the four corners of the favicon was a theme we liked in many submissions. We also saw this idea in the designs submitted by Hadi Onur Demirsoy, Lucian E. Marin, and Yusuf Sevgen (pictured below).

by Hadi Onur Demirsoy
by Lucian E. Marin
by Yusuf Sevgen

We hope you like the new favicon, which nicely integrates all of our original criteria: distinctive in shape, noticeable, colorful, timeless, and scalable to other sizes.

While I'm sure we will update it again, we also hope our new favicon inspired by Andre is a warm, colorful beacon to Google on your browser tabs and bookmarks. A big thank you to Andre, Hadi, Lucian, and Yusuf, as well as all of the other people who helped us define our new look in a uniquely user-driven way!