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November 29, 2008

More Ways to Hide Google SearchWiki

In a recent interview with Cedric Dupont, product manager for Google SearchWiki, we found that Google doesn't intend to provide an option to disable SearchWiki. "While users don't have the option of turning off SearchWiki, they do have the option not to use the feature. By turning off the feature entirely, people will never get used to the new offering or see how it might be useful to them. We encourage people to try it out."

Fortunately, there are some ways to hide SearchWiki's visual clutter:

1. Sign out from your Google account. The feature is only available to authenticated users since it's a way to customize search results.

2. Use a Greasemonkey script that hides the icons added by SearchWiki.

3. To disable SearchWiki for the current session, add "&hl=all" to the URL of a search results page. Unfortunately, the change is not permanent. Example:

4. If you enable any Google Experimental feature except "SearchWiki with sound", you'll no longer see Google SearchWiki. Probably the most useful experiment you can enable is "Keyboard shortcuts", which adds shortcuts to Google search. Joining an experiment changes your Google cookie, so the experiment is enabled in the current browser and only until you delete Google's cookie.

SearchWiki aficionados can enable "SearchWiki with sound" to hear a sound effect when a search result is removed. "Do you enjoy having the power to remove results from your search results pages? Now you can do so in style by having a sound effect play along with the animation whenever you remove a result. Recorded by our co-founder Sergey Brin himself, this sound effect is sure to please!"

Update: You can now disable SearchWiki from Google's preferences page.

Easy Access to Online Storage Services

Gladinet is a free Windows application that makes it easy to view and manipulate files stored in online services like Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, Windows Live Skydrive and Amazon S3. Instead of using the web interface in a browser, Gladinet mounts a network drive and lets you access the files from remote servers in Windows Explorer.

That means you can click on a document stored in Google Docs and it will open in the word processor installed on your computer, for example in Microsoft Word. After you edit the document and save it, Gladinet will upload the new version to Google Docs. Unfortunately, the software doesn't use the latest features of the Google Docs API, so it simply deletes the old version before uploading the document.

The integration with Picasa Web is better: you can view thumbnails for your pictures, the files can be edited in Photoshop or any other photo editor and the new versions are instantly uploaded. A local file manager provides a better interface for uploading or deleting a large number of files.

Gladinet offers another feature that lets you share folders with other computers. The main goal is to access all your files from a single interface, no matter where the files are stored. And if you don't have an office suite, Gladinet adds an option to open documents from your computer in web apps like Google Docs or ThinkFree.

Note: make sure you trust the service before entering the credentials of your Google account or your Windows Live ID.

{ Thanks, Anon }

November 26, 2008

Tax and Shipping Information in Google Product Search

Google Product Search (formerly known as Froogle) added an option to restrict the results to sellers that offer free shipping. If you enter your location, the service also shows tax and shipping information for some of the products.

A recent post from the Google Base blog informed sellers that they can submit tax and shipping information. "We'll soon be displaying this information on Google Product Search to provide buyers with more accurate price information, so we strongly encourage all merchants to start submitting it."

In case you are wondering, Google Base is a low-profile service that lets you upload structured data. Google uses the data about products in Google Product Search and the real estate listings as a refinement option in Google Maps and the main search results, but I find it surprising that Google doesn't use the data in expanded snippets.

November 25, 2008

Google Maps Has a New Interface

Google Maps borrowed the navigation controls from Google Earth and made the transition to Street View smoother. Just click on the small yellow man to see the street view imagery for the current location or drag the icon to the correct location.

Google Maps shows small previews when you drag the icon so you can adjust the position. Street View opens in full-screen and the mini-window displayed at the bottom of the map can be maximized when you want to change the location.

Google Maps will probably add a new tab for the Google Earth plug-in, so this change will make the navigation consistent.

Here's a screenshot from June that shows the old interface:

November 24, 2008

More Space for YouTube Videos

YouTube's Google Video-ization continues by using more space for the player and less space for the sidebar. YouTube changed the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9, generally used for high-definition TV. Since the videos aren't yet converted to a widescreen format, you'll see an annoying pillar box effect.

"The pillar box effect occurs in widescreen video displays when black bars (mattes or masking) are placed on the sides of the image. It becomes necessary when film or video that was not originally designed for widescreen is shown on a widescreen display, or a narrower widescreen image is displayed within a wider aspect ratio."

{ Thanks, Mark. }

November 22, 2008

How to Disable Google SearchWiki

Google SearchWiki lets you customize the search results by promoting, demoting and adding new pages. You can also annotate the results. Some people think that the new feature clutters Google's clean search results, without bringing too much functionality.

Google doesn't offer a way to turn off SearchWiki other than logging out from your Google account, but you can install a Greasemonkey script that hides the interface for this additional functionality. If you use Firefox, install Greasemonkey extension, restart the browser and the add the No SearchWiki script. Google's search results will look clean again, even if you are logged in.

The script also works in Opera, which has built-in support for userscripts. Just go to Tools>Preferences>Advanced>Content>JavaScript Options, choose a folder in the "User JavaScript files" box and then save the script in that folder.

Note that the script doesn't disable the SearchWiki interface for the results you've already promoted so you can restore their default position and you can still see the removed results at the bottom of the page. To undo your changes, you can use My SearchWiki Notes page.

Update: You can now disable SearchWiki from Google's preferences page.

November 21, 2008

Google Chat in iGoogle and orkut

Google started to integrate a Gmail Chat widget in iGoogle's much-hated navigation sidebar. The page will load even slower and people will have one more reason to complain. If you don't like the chat box, Google recommends to sign out of chat, although you could also change your status to "invisible".

Another thing you'll notice in all versions of iGoogle is the integration of Google Suggest in the search box. As usually, this can be disabled in the preferences page by selecting "Do not provide query suggestions in the search box".

Preparing to become a full-fledged social site, iGoogle added a contact manager to the settings page so you can separate your contacts and view their profiles.

If these new features aren't yet enabled in your account, visit to add them. For those who hate everything about the new iGoogle, from the unfinished Gmail gadget to the big sidebar and the annoying bug that displays the canvas view of the most recently opened gadget when you open iGoogle, there's an address that shows the old version of iGoogle:

orkut, the other social network owned by Google, continues to add last season's Facebook features, now cleverly integrating Gmail Chat. "To get you started, we've come up with a formula that automatically predicts which of your orkut friends you probably want to chat with, and only tells those people that you're signed into Google Talk. Our formula takes a bunch of things into consideration, giving preference to people who you've labeled as 'best friends' or written scraps to recently, and people who have friends in common with you."

In addition to showing Google Talk contacts, orkut will also add some friends you are likely to chat with. Like iGoogle's sidebar chat, orkut's chat boxes are persistent so you can visit different orkut pages while continuing to chat.

The new orkut feature will be rolled out in the next weeks to orkut's huge userbase, so it's likely that you won't see it right away.

{ Thanks, Edam. }

November 20, 2008

Google SearchWiki Launched

As anticipated last month, Google's experiment that lets you reorder and annotate search results is now live. Google SearchWiki should be available automatically if you are logged in to a Google account and it can be recognized by the visual clutter added to the search results.

Next to each result, you should see three new options: a way to promote a web page at the top of the results, an option to remove results from the page (they're still visible at the bottom of the page) and a feature that lets you share public comments about a result. After promoting a result, Google shows some unnecessary information about the other people who promoted the result.

It's important to remember that all the changes are saved to your Google account and they won't affect the search results for everyone, at least not directly. If you want to see an aggregation of all promotions, demotions and comments, go to the bottom of the page and click on "See all notes for this SearchWiki". This is the real wiki built by Google and it's easy to access by adding &swm=2 to the URL of a search results page:

Comments are not very useful, although you could find insights for some obscure queries. The absolute number of people who promoted a search result is not very useful either, especially when you'll see big numbers like 314,159,265.

SearchWiki's main idea is to give users the opportunity to manually customize the search results and make them more predictable. Since many people repeat common searches like [mail], [weather], [news] and Google's results are constantly changing, it's nice to pick your favorite results and display them at the top. If you can't find a site you like, click on "Add a result" and manually add a page in the list of top results.

Good things about SearchWiki:
- you can now adjust Google's results for your typical queries and save time when repeating the searches
- use Google instead of bookmarking web pages
- for unfamiliar queries, check the wiki to find a different ranking and potentially useful comments. Try to avoid the wiki for queries that are likely to be spammed.

Bad things about SearchWiki:
- visual clutter. The only way to remove the additional icons displayed next to each search result is to log out.
- your changes are available only when you repeat the query and, in some cases, for similar queries (e.g.: [] in addition to [google]). That means you can't remove a web page or a domain from all search results
- comments are public and there's no option to write private notes (Google removed the option to annotate results in Google Notebook)
- an obvious feature would be to get a permalink for your edited results, but Google doesn't offer this yet
- there's no option to toggle between your edited results and the standard results (you'll have to log out)
- it's difficult to reorder results, since the only action allowed is to place a web page at the top, after all the other promoted pages. If you promote the page again, it will become the first result.

Google has always used people's clicks to improve the quality of search results, so the new options could influence the ranking algorithms in different ways. "At this time we aren't using SearchWiki to influence ranking but it is easy to see how that could happen in the future," said Marissa Mayer. "Search is adapting to the Internet as it becomes a more participatory medium. Now you have people telling us specific things about how they'd like to see their search results. You could imagine if we do see a particular site (about which) people have a unanimous opinion, that might trigger external things. Like maybe we should check out our spam control," suggested Cedric Dupont, product manager for SearchWiki and Google Knol.

YouTube Tests Even Higher Quality Videos

YouTube already provides an option to view higher quality versions for some videos and you can also append "&fmt=18" to the URLs for the other videos. If you add "&fmt=22", some YouTube videos are now available at an even higher quality, which makes the full screen view a very useful option. Compare: (standard format - mono, resolution: 320x180) (stereo, resolution: 480x270) (new format - stereo, resolution: 1280x720)

To embed a higher quality version of a video, replace "" with "" or "" in YouTube's embeddable code.

Unfortunately, the new format (fmt=22) is not available for too many videos, probably because it's still experimental and most people upload compressed videos.

{ via Wired }

November 19, 2008

Google Contacts Sync for BlackBerry

As more of its services are used in business environments, Google started to provide synchronization tools for mail, calendar and contacts, but their launch wasn't timely and they were pretty limited. For example, the Google Calendar/Outlook sync tool is limited to the main calendar, while the BlackBerry sync application doesn't upload preexisting events to Google Calendar.

You can find third-party tools that offer a better experience, but synchronization should be a built-in feature of Gmail and Google Calendar. Creating APIs is a good way to make sure that developers can create applications for more obscure platforms or less common needs, it's not an excuse for being lazy.

The good news is that Google's applications are constantly improving. The sync tool for BlackBerry added support for contacts synchronization. "This new functionality will enable you to sync your handheld's built-in address book with your Gmail contacts. This all happens in the background and over the air, so your information is always up to date, no matter where you are or what you're doing," explains Google Mobile blog. To install the application, visit from a BlackBerry.

If there's one thing that T-Mobile G1, the first Android-powered phone, did it right is the seamless synchronization with Google's services: contacts are automatically synced with Gmail, while the events are synchronized with Google Calendar.

Gmail Themes

Following the footsteps of Google's personalized homepage, Gmail added themes. Once the new option is enabled in your account (as usually, Gmail's new features are slowly rolled out), you'll find a tab named "Themes" in the settings page and you'll be able to choose from 30 themes. "We wanted to go beyond simple color customization, so out of the 30 odd themes we're launching today, there's a shiny theme with chrome styling, another one that turns your inbox into a retro notepad, nature themes that change scenery over time, weather driven themes that can rain on your mailbox, and fun characters to keep you in good company," mentions Gmail's blog.

Unlike other webmail services, Gmail has never provided too many customization options and users had to rely on themes created for third-party extensions like Stylish, which usually slowed down Gmail and weren't resilient to code changes.

Gmail's help center provides an interesting tidbit about the new themes: "In some cases, you can also customize by location. Some themes change during the day, and we use the location information you provide to correctly time these changes with your local sunrise, sunset, and/or weather. If you select one of these themes, you'll see a Country/Region drop-down menu appear."

Gmail also adjusted the default theme, but you can always go back to the previous theme by selecting "Classic" in the settings page. I can't decide between Contrast Black, Cherry Blossom, Graffiti and Ninja. What's your favorite theme?

{ Thanks, Niranjan and Pascal . }

Google Hosts LIFE Photo Collection

When your mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", you have to first gather the information. If it's not online, the first thing that needs to be done is to get the permission to use that data or to create a system that allows copyright owners to upload their works and to monetize them.

Google started to host content in 2001 when it acquired the Usenet archive, then it used Google Video to host movies and documentaries from the US National Archives and it digitized books from public libraries and newspaper archives.

Google Image Search's index will increase with about 10 million high-quality images from the Life Magazine's photo archive. "This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s. Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints," explains Google.

It's interesting that Time reached an agreement with Getty Images to host the archive. "The collection contains the historic photos that LIFE published through the decades, in addition to many never-before-seen pictures of Hollywood stars, sports heroes, important people and events from the '30's though the '90's."

The photos are included in Google Image Search's index and you can restrict the results to the LIFE collection by appending source:life to your query: [apollo source:life].

November 17, 2008

Free Google Apps, More Difficult to Find

Google Apps for Your Domain has been launched in 2006 as a solutions for organizations that wanted to use Google's applications on their own domains. In 2007, Google launched a premier edition for businesses that added corporate features, APIs, phone support and service-level agreement for Gmail.

But how many businesses use Google Apps? A post from July mentioned that "500,000 organizations adopt Apps as part of their business, with another 3,000 signing up every day", while another blog post from October informed us that "more than 1 million businesses have selected Google Apps to run their business".

It's not clear how many of these organizations use the paid edition of Google Apps, but Google decided to make it difficult to even find the free version.

Here's Google Apps homepage, where you can only click on a big blue button:

The second page says that "Google recommends Premier Edition for businesses in the cloud" and invites to me start a free trial. There's a small link below the "Begin free trial" button that lets you use the standard version, but it's difficult to notice.

If you click on that link, you'll get the page that compares the standard and the premier versions, which used to be displayed by default.

Google Apps is now in the same league as RealPlayer, which shows a small link to the free version, while using the rest of the page to promote a paid version. Just in case the link to the Google Apps Standard Edition goes away, here's how to sign up for free.

Update (December 2012): the free Google Apps is no longer available for new users.

November 14, 2008

URLs for iPhone-Optimized Google Sites

Google's interfaces optimized for iPhone, Android and WebKit-based browsers look extremely well and they have more features than the standard mobile versions. For example, Google's homepage shows suggestions and has customizable navigation links, iGoogle shows all your feeds and gadgets and Google Talk lets you chat with your contacts. If you want to try them from your computer or from a mobile phone that has a modern browser, here are the direct links (some of the pages won't work very well):

* Google homepage (the unified interface codenamed "Grand Prix") -
* Google Apps homepage -
* iGoogle -
* Gmail - (new version), (old version)
* Google Calendar -
* Google Reader -
* Google Docs -
* Google Talk -
* Google News -

iPhone-optimized Google Reader in Firefox

Google Voice Search for iPhone

In 2002, Google Labs introduced a service that allowed you to search Google with a simple phone call. Unfortunately, the service wasn't very useful because the results were displayed on your computer and Google discontinued it.

Six years later, Google Mobile App for iPhone introduces the same feature, but this time the search results are displayed in the same application. Google built a sophisticated platform for text-to-speech and speech recognition using data from GOOG-411 and we can already some of its applications in Mobile Google Apps, YouTube and in this updated iPhone app.

It's quite weird to say how to download the app: since Apple doesn't offer user-friendly permalinks, you'll have to visit the iPhone App Store and search for "Google Mobile App". This iPhone app is just a sneak-peak into the future of mobile search, which will become more intuitive and easier to use.

"In the next 10 years, we will see radical advances in modes of search: mobile devices offering us easier search, Internet capabilities deployed in more devices, and different ways of entering and expressing your queries by voice, natural language, picture, or song, just to name a few. It's clear that while keyword-based searching is incredibly powerful, it's also incredibly limiting. These new modes will be one of the most sweeping changes in search," anticipates Marissa Mayer. She even envisions a "wearable device that does searches in the background based on the words it picks up from conversations" to illustrate how search will become a part of our life.

November 13, 2008

More YouTube Ads

Two years after being acquired by Google, YouTube still hasn't figured out how to monetize the site. "We believe the best products are coming out this year. And they're new products. They're not announced. They're not just putting in-line ads in the things that people are trying. But we have a number — and, of course, Google is an innovative place," said Eric Schmidt in August.

One of the new products replicates Google's search ads and adjusts them to a video site. "Sponsored Videos is a self-serve advertising platform that will allow you to promote your video to the audience you are interested in reaching in an easy, effective, democratic, and affordable way. Then, when people use YouTube to search for videos, YouTube will display the most relevant, compelling videos alongside the search results," explains YouTube Blog. Any company or YouTube user from the US can promote his channel or one his videos next to the search results.

Since YouTube controls the search results and hosts the videos, it can provide more measurable results. YouTube can track if the user watched the entire video, if he subscribed to the channel or clicked on the link to the advertiser's homepage.

Another part of YouTube's monetization strategy is expanding the in-video ads to embeddable players. "To date, YouTube has only run ads against partner videos on YouTube itself, and with people viewing millions of embedded YouTube videos every day, this meant that partners were not generating revenue from their views outside But now, YouTube partners will be able to capitalize on their popularity across the internet and generate revenue from their content no matter where their video lives," informs AdSense Blog. Until now, many YouTube partners disabled the option to embed videos because they couldn't make money from this distribution channel. This change will only affect 4% of the videos uploaded to YouTube, but the percentage of views is much more significant.

The text ads displayed at the bottom of the video can be minimized, but they could cover an important part of a video (for example: annotations, captions) and they're distracting. Most of them link to web pages, but there are some ads that open a new video inside the player.

Google needs to make YouTube profitable and it's nice to see that the ads are often relevant, they don't interrupt videos and they don't make you wait.

Will There Ever Be a Google OS?

Here's Andrew Morton's answer to this question. As you probably know, Andrew Morton is a lead developer of the Linux kernel and a Google employee since 2006.
The resources required to develop and test kernel/base apps/windowing system are quite massive. Particularly the "test" part - the Linux developers and distros are completely dependent upon hundreds of thousands of end users to test our code on the millions of different hardware combinations out there.

The only other organisation which has the sheer resources to develop an OS for general PC hardware is microsoft plus their thousands of ISVs and IHVs.

I'll let you work out the rest :)

In other news, Chromium Blog announced that Google runs "more than 9100 individual tests, typically 30-40 times every weekday" for Google Chrome. Not to mention that millions of people test each version of Google Chrome on different software/hardware configurations.

November 11, 2008

Voice and Video Chat in Gmail

As anticipated in the post about Gmail SMS, video chat is the next big that will be added to Gmail. Justin Uberti says that video chat will be added today, along with voice chat.

"We've tried to make this an easy-to-use, seamless experience, with high-quality audio and video. And we've built this product using Internet standards, such as XMPP, RTP, and the newly-standardized H.264/SVC video codec."

To try the new features go to and install the required plug-in (it works in Windows XP/Vista, Intel-based Mac, using IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari 3+). After restarting the browser, open Gmail, select a contact from the chat section and see if there's an option named "Video & more". If you can't find this option, your friend didn't install the plug-in yet.

Instead of developing new versions of the Google Talk desktop application, Google decided to focus on its most popular communication channel and add the missing features. Too bad that you need to install yet another plug-in...

Contact Forms in Google Profiles

If you enable "Allow people to contact me through my profile (without showing my email address)" in your Google Profile, people who find your profile can contact you. Google provides a contact form that sends all the messages to your main email address. "We've set some limits on how often messages can be sent and received, and you can disable the feature at any time by editing your profile and deselecting the checkbox," explains Google.

At the bottom of the email, Google shows an explanation:

"This message was sent to you from your Google profile. The sender does not have your email address. If you no longer wish to receive messages from your Google profile, you may edit your settings at".

{ via GoogleWatchBlog }

Translate Feeds in Google Reader

Just because you don't speak a certain language doesn't mean you shouldn't read interesting articles written in that language. After increasing the number of supported language pairs and providing an API, Google Translate is rapidly integrated in many Google services. YouTube started to translate search results and closed captions, Google Talk provides translation bots, Google lets you search content in other languages and now you can subscribe to feeds in foreign languages using Google Reader.

After subscribing to a feed in Google Reader, click on "Feed settings" and select "Translate into my language". Google detects the feed's language and it translates the content into Google Reader's interface language (you can be changed it from the settings page).

Some Google-related sites in other languages than English:
Zorgloob (French)
Google Watch Blog (German)
OJObuscador (Spanish)
Google Discovery (Portuguese)
underGoogle (Portuguese)

When Google's machine translations improves, the next step could be translating content into your language without having to select an option. In the meantime, you can expect to find Google Translate integration in Gmail, Google Docs and other Google services.

{ via Google Reader Blog }

Google Pack, a Reward for Google's Partners?

When Google launched Google Pack in January 2006, Larry Page said that software companies don't have to pay Google to be included in the bundle. In addition to including most of its software, Google added an anti-virus and an anti-spyware software from Symantec, Firefox with Google Toolbar (Google and Mozilla have a search deal), Adobe Reader (Google and Adobe have a distribution deal), Skype (eBay and Google have an ad deal), RealPlayer (Google and RealNetworks have distribution deals), StarOffice (Sun and Google had a distribution agreement).

"Every program included in the Google Pack is free, has earned a reputation for excellence, and was evaluated to ensure it meets Google's Software Principles. Google respects users' rights to control their own computers and does not include software that is spyware, generates pop-ups, or that is difficult to uninstall," mentioned Google in a press release.

After removing Trillian and Ad-Aware, last week Google removed StarOffice from Google Pack and one of the possible explanations is that Sun signed an agreement with Microsoft to bundle MSN Toolbar with Java downloads. "With the vast array of Java software-based Web applications that are downloaded every month, this deal will expose Live Search to millions more Internet users and drive increased volume for our search advertisers," said Yusuf Mehdi from Microsoft.

A Google representative told eWeek: "We are constantly evaluating which products to include in Google Pack to make it more valuable to users. At this time the agreement to distribute StarOffice through Google Pack has expired, and we have decided with Sun not to renew the agreement."

If Google wants to offer a valuable software package for its users, maybe it's time to stop including software just because it's developed by partners. There are plenty of better alternatives to Norton Anti-Virus, RealPlayer, StarOffice and some of them are free or even open-source.

November 10, 2008

Filter File Types from Google Video's Results

Google Video added a new option to the advanced search page: you can now filter videos that weren't uploaded to video sharing sites. If the search results include many videos that have one of these formats: ASF, AVI, FLV, M4V, MPV, MP4, MPG or WMV, you can exclude them by unchecking the corresponding box.

Unfortunately, Google Video doesn't provide an option to restrict the results to one or more of these formats, like you can do at Yahoo Video Search.

November 8, 2008

When Google Scholar's Integration with Google Search is Useful

If you ever find an interesting academic paper in Google's search results:

...and when you click on the result, the page says that you need a subscription:

... go back and click on "All n versions", below the search snippet, to find other versions of the paper from Google Scholar. If you're lucky, you'll find the paper in the HTML, PDF or PostScript format.

Tip: to find a link to the full version of an academic paper in Google Scholar, look for the green arrow.

Google Chrome to Improve Bookmark Management

Some recent Chromium builds added many features that improve bookmark management and they'll probably be available in a future Google Chrome update (to find the difference between Chrome and Chromium, read this post).

The most notable new feature is a bookmark manager that lets you find bookmarks, move them to a new folder or easily delete a large number of bookmarks. In the Tools drop-down, there are options to import bookmarks from a HTML file and to export bookmarks in a similar format.

Another useful new feature is the option to import bookmarks from Google Bookmarks. The browser incorrectly mentions that the bookmarks are imported from Google Toolbar, since the toolbar doesn't even have to be installed. For now, the bookmarks aren't synchronized with Google Bookmarks.

November 5, 2008

View Office Open XML Files as HTML

Google started to support Microsoft's Office Open XML formats in Gmail and web search. You can now view as HTML documents created using Microsoft Office 2007: .docx documents, .xslx spreadsheets and .pptx presentations.

Google Docs doesn't yet support importing Open XML files, but you can use online services like Zamzar, Zoho Writer or software like OpenOffice 3.0, Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to convert your files.

{ Thanks, Sushovan De. }

November 4, 2008

Google Forum Search

Much like Google Video, Google Groups expanded its index from the Usenet discussion boards and the Google-hosted groups to almost all discussion boards from the web. The results show the same enhanced snippets that were added to the web search last month.

It's interesting to notice that Google's help forums for different services are moving to a new platform initially created for a Yahoo Answers-like Q&A service. Some of the forums have already migrated (Google Talk, Chrome, AdSense) and the benefits are clear: the new forums clearly delimit answers from questions, answered questions from unanswered questions and they encourage people to answer more questions. After migrating its own help forums, Google might make the platform code-named Confucius available to the public.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Find YouTube Playlists

The option to find playlists is back at YouTube. Playlists are a great way to group related videos which can be later played one after another.

YouTube shows three popular videos from each playlist and it lets you restrict the results to a certain category, like Education, Music or Sports.

Creating a playlist is easy and, by default, each playlist is public and can be embedded in a web page. Instead of posting 3 or 4 related YouTube videos, create a playlist and use the code provided by YouTube to add it to your web page: you'll include a single player and the visitors will only need to click on the "play" button once.

November 3, 2008

Google Image Search Exposes Content Filters

Google Image Search lets you restrict the results using some content filters introduced in May 2007 directly from the standard interface. Until now, the options were available in the rarely-used advanced search page.

There are two kinds of filters:

* images from specialized search engines: news content shows images from Google News' index (news articles from the past 30 days)

* image analysis filters: Google uses face detection technology to find images that include faces and an interesting algorithm that finds photos.

I think the news content filter makes more sense as a Google News filter and it should be expanded to the entire News Archive. Microsoft's Live Search has three additional filters: illustrations, portraits, non-portraits that include faces, which are useful for some searches.

Google Profile Search

You can now search Google profiles to find people who entered some information about themselves in their public pages. Google shows a thumbnail and a snippet from the profile, but you can't restrict the results to a certain location or to people who worked for a certain company.

To make your profile more findable, Google recommends to "add information about yourself on your profile so people can find you when they search by keywords associated with your profile. For example, include details such as the name of your hometown, your job title, where you work or go to school". In addition to this specialized search engine, profiles can be indexed by any search engine and Google makes this easier.

Yahoo has recently updated user profiles to make them more social. "Yahoo! Profiles is a centralized control panel that lets you manage your identity, activities, interests, and connections across Yahoo! — and eventually the entire Web."

The next challenge is creating an universal profile attached to a digital identity that gathers and filters all your disparate activities from the web. The move towards OpenID, OAuth, the integration of OpenSocial in Google's properties, the launch of FriendConnect are pieces from the same puzzle.

{ via Google Blogoscoped }

November 1, 2008

How Google Promotes Chrome

Is Chrome the most heavily promoted Google product? Like for many other products, Google "buys" AdWords ads to promote Chrome, but there are many other places where you can find Chrome ads.

When it was launched, Google placed a link on the homepage which stayed there for a week. At the same time, Chrome gained a prominent placement on Google Japan's homepage, next to services like YouTube or Gmail:

Andreas spotted an ad for Google Chrome in Taipei (Creative Commons-licensed image):

Starting from today, YouTube promotes Chrome on the homepage and the bottom of every page:

The promotion is similar to the last month's ad from orkut (screenshot licensed as Creative Commons):

If you download Chrome from one of these sites, Google will append a RLZ parameter to each Google search URL. "RLZ contains some encoded information, such as where you downloaded Google Chrome and where you got it from. This parameter does not uniquely identify you, nor is it used to target advertising. This information is used to understand the effectiveness of different distribution mechanisms, such as downloads directly from Google vs. other distribution channels," explains Chromium Blog.

It's unclear whether Google "will do well to expand its business", but Chrome seems to be a part of a strategic initiative to make Google more visible on the desktop, a mix between Google Toolbar, Google Desktop and Gears that turned into a browser and that needs a critical mass to be taken seriously.

{ Thanks, Sterling. }