Friday, October 29, 2010

YouTube's Playlist Bar Strikes Back

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Google Maps Tests New Navigation UI

Dave P., a reader of this blog, spotted a new UI for the views and layers offered by Google Maps. The new interface enlarges the buttons that let you switch to the satellite view and to the embedded Google Earth, removes the button that lets you switch to the traditional view and adds a layer panel that's only displayed when you mouse over the satellite button.
Another change is that the list of recent searches and Google Maps views is displayed in the layer panel, so you can quickly switch between custom maps, driving directions, local search results and Google Maps layers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YouTube's HTML5 Player Trial

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

"You are in a trial for HTML5 video on YouTube. Some users of supported browsers are automatically entered in to the trial. If you wish to leave the trial, use the link at the bottom. HTML5 is a new browser technology that allows us to show videos without the Flash plugin," explains YouTube.
If you right-click on the video, you'll see a menu that offers two options: "save video as" and "about HTML5". You might assume that "save video as" lets you download the video, but it actually sends you to this video.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google Traffic Stats

Arbor Networks Security Blog has an interesting post about Google's Internet traffic:

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Google's Mobile App Search Engine

Google started to index Android and iOS apps in June, but the results were only displayed as part of an OneBox. Now you can select "Android apps" or "iPhone apps" from Google's sidebar and restrict the results to mobile apps from the Android Market or the Apple App Store. Obviously, this option is only available if you use an Android or an iOS device.
Google uses a different way to rank applications than the app stores, so this feature could help users find new applications. Unfortunately, Google's snippets aren't always useful because they include the first sentences from the descriptions, which are sometimes used to announce new features or promote other applications.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bringing ultra high-speed broadband to Stanford homes

Earlier this year we announced our plans to build and test the ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of American communities. Since then, a team of Google engineers has been hard at work experimenting with new fiber optic technologies. And following a series of tests we’ve run on Google’s campus, we’re excited to announce the next step in our project.

We’ve reached an agreement with Stanford University to build an ultra-high speed broadband network to the university’s Residential Subdivision, a group of approximately 850 faculty- and staff-owned homes on campus. Through this trial, we plan to offer Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second—more than 100 times faster than what most people have access to today. We plan to start breaking ground in early 2011.

To be clear, this trial is completely separate from our community selection process for Google Fiber, which is still ongoing. As we’ve said, our ultimate goal is to build to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people, and we still plan to announce our selected community or communities by the end of the year.

Stanford’s Residential Subdivision—our first “beta” deployment to real customers—will be a key step towards that goal. We’ll be able to take what we learn from this small deployment to help scale our project more effectively and efficiently to much larger communities.

Why did we decide to build here? Most important was Stanford’s openness to us experimenting with new fiber technologies on its streets. The layout of the residential neighborhoods and small number of homes make it a good fit for a beta deployment. And its location—just a few miles up the road from Google—will make it easier for our engineers to monitor progress.

We’re excited about this beta, and we look forward to announcing our selected community or communities for Google Fiber in the coming months.

Demo Slam: Creative Google Promos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Google and the Value of Social Networking (Part 2)

New York Times has another article about Google's efforts to create successful social services. A former Google employee confirms what Aaron Iba and Peter Norvig have previously said: Google didn't understand the value of social networking.

There is some belief at Google that their DNA is not perfectly suited to build social products, and it's a quite controversial topic internally. The part of social that's about stalking people, sharing photos, looking cool — it's mentally foreign to engineers. All those little details are subtle and sometimes missed, especially by technical people who are brought up in a very utilitarian company.

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

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

Google will have to learn to create social services, but it won't be easy and Google's culture might have to change. Here's what Max Levchin said a few months before becoming Google VP:

For some strange reason, in the last few years, the industry, or the press that covers the industry, has come to glorify failure. I think it's completely wrong. Failure is not good.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Steve Jobs on Android's Fragmentation

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Download YouTube Captions

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

The good news is that you can download the captions file if you know the URL:, where you should replace VIDEO_ID with the ID of the YouTube video. Here's the captions file for Eric Schmidt's keynote.

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

Now it's easy to copy an excerpt from the keynote:

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

The World Is Full of Interesting Things

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

One of the sites featured in the presentation is Goollery, a collection of Google-related projects from people around the world. There's a keyboard just for Gmail users, the already-famous Newsmap, a beautiful stylesheet for Google Reader and more.
The presentation also highlights Google Chrome's ads, an interactive video for Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait", a clever way to use YouTube's annotations, Google Street View art and IBM's "Internet of things" video.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Does the World Need Another Mobile Platform?

Andy Rubin, Android architect and vice president of engineering at Google, says that the world doesn't need Windows Phone 7 or any other new mobile platform.

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Google's John Lennon Doodle

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

Google embeds a short animated video for John Lennon's "Imagine". After using bigger doodles, image animations, particle simulations and JavaScript games, it's time for video doodles.
Unfortunately, clicking on the YouTube video doesn't send you to the search results page for [John Lennon], but Google used a trick: after playing the video, you're automatically redirected to the search results.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Google Webmaster Tools Promotion

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

Many webmasters use the site: operator to check the number of pages indexed by Google, so it's a good opportunity to promote Google Webmaster Tools.
This isn't a regular AdWords ad, since it's labeled as "Google promotion". From what I know, it's not even possible to create an AdWords campaign for all the searches that use the site: operator.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Google Latitude's Desktop Site

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

If you use a browser that supports geolocation (Chrome 5+, Firefox 3.5+, Safari 5+, Opera 10.6+) or a plug-in that adds support for geolocation (Google Toolbar, Google Gears), you can share your location. "Automatic location detection requires wireless access or access to a WiFi access point," explains Google.
Hopefully, Google will also launch a desktop site for Google Tasks, so you can quickly check your to-do list without opening Gmail, Google Calendar or iGoogle.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gmail's Security Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm in a Google Apps State of Mind

When I graduated from the high school in the New York, the Internet didn’t exist. Teachers were preparing me and my peers for the traditional service or manufacturing careers—jobs that didn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Today’s students are facing a completely different landscape; they’re expected to enter the workplace fully literate in technology, with strong communication and collaboration skills that will allow them to succeed in a connected and global environment.

New York state is making changes to prepare students for this future, implementing a host of initiatives designed to incorporate the development of 21st century skills into the state’s core learning objectives. As a product of the New York state public education system, I couldn’t be more excited to announce one of these endeavors—a new K-12 initiative that will bring powerful communication and collaboration tools to the more than 3.1 million students and hundreds of thousands of teachers throughout New York state.

Today, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), in partnership with the New York State Teacher Centers and associated Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), the New York State teacher unions and New York State professional organizations, will offer Google Apps access, training and support to 697 public school districts, as well as all non-public and charter schools, across New York. We’re excited that NYIT is committed to providing schools the deployment and professional development resources they need to make Google Apps for Education—including Gmail, Docs, Sites and Calendar—a powerful tool for teachers and students across the state.

New York follows Oregon, Iowa, Colorado and Maryland as the fifth and largest state to bring Google Apps access to K-12 classrooms and will join more than 8 million students and teachers that use Google Apps today.

I no longer live in New York, but all of my family is spread out across the great Empire state and I look forward to bringing Google Apps to their local school districts!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Google TV's First Apps

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

More People Can Buy Apps from the Android Market

If there's one thing that Google should do to improve the Android, it's developing a better Android Market. Google's app store has a lot of limitations, it still doesn't have a desktop interface, applications are priced in multiple currencies, and it's not easy to find new applications.

Android Developers Blog announced that people from 18 additional countries will be able to buy Android apps. The new countries are: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, and Taiwan. Google says that paid apps will be available over the next two weeks. Android Market's paid apps will be available in 32 countries and Google promises to bring them to even more countries in the coming months.

Now that many other companies develop Android app stores, Google has to improve the Android Market if it doesn't want to see too many Android phones without the market.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Web History Suggestions in Google Instant

There are many missing features in Google Instant. The classic interface suggested searches from the Web History, so you could select previously typed queries.

It seems that this feature will be available again. Google tests a version of Google Instant with Web History suggestions. For some queries, 3 of the 4 suggestions are from the Web History and there's only one general suggestion.
Maybe it would be a better idea to only show one or two personalized suggestions, since they aren't always useful.