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November 29, 2009

Google Translation Bar

One of my favorite bookmarklets translates the current web page into English using Google Translate: you can find it here. Unfortunately, Google Translate doesn't handle properly web pages dynamically generated using JavaScript. For example, if you try to translate Google Pack's Chinese homepage, you'll notice that most of the text can't be translated.

Google has already solved this problem by adding real-time translation in Google Toolbar and by offering a translation bar that can be embedded into any web page.

If you don't want to use Google Toolbar, add the translation bar by bookmarking some Javascript code:

1. Make sure the bookmarks toolbar is visible in your browser. You can enable it if you go to the "View" menu in your browser, click on "Toolbars" and check: "Links" in Internet Explorer, "Bookmarks Toolbar" in Firefox and "Personal Bar" in Opera. In Google Chrome, you can enable the bookmarks toolbar by typing Ctrl+B.

2. In Google Chrome and Firefox, drag the bookmarklet below to the bookmarks toolbar. In IE, right-click on the bookmarklet, click on "Add to Favorites" and select "Favorites Bar" or "Links" from the list of folders. In Opera, right-click on the bookmarklet, click on "Bookmark Link", then click on "Details" and check "Show on Personal Bar".

{ Thanks, Rick Shide. }

November 27, 2009

Google Calendar Sneak Preview

Google Calendar tests a new feature that lets you view your calendar and the calendars of your guests when you create a new event. "Sneak preview" can be enabled when you click on "create event".

"We're working a new feature that makes it easier to schedule events with guests. The new event page will include a calendar right next to your guest list, so you can see when people are free," explains Google.

"Sneak preview" helps you schedule events and it lets you find a better time for an event using drag and drop.

{ Thanks, Keith, Melle and Owen. }

November 26, 2009

Google Bookmarks Promoted Search Results

If you are logged in to a Google account and you promote a search result using the SearchWiki icons, the web page is automatically saved to Google Bookmarks. For some reason, Google labels the web page using your query, so you'll end up with a long list of labels.

The list of SearchWiki annotations is already available at, but it's not searchable. Now the list of annotations is more discoverable, but it makes it more difficult to find your bookmarks.

Some users customize Google's results using SearchWiki to associate searches with their favorite web pages. Marissa Mayer said that, on average, "40% of searches on any given day are repeat searches for that user".

November 24, 2009

Show Favicons in Google Reader

If you'd like to see a favicon next to each Google Reader subscription, you can now add this feature: go to the settings page and check "Show favicons for subscriptions". Another way to enable the feature is to click on the arrow next to "Subcriptions" and select "use favicons".

The feature is disabled by default. "We realize that not everyone wants their subscription list to turn into a multi-colored extravaganza, so we've made it into a setting that you can access from your subscriptions menu," explains Mihai Parparita.

Google uses a special service for obtaining the favicons instead of loading the images directly. For example, Search Engine Land's favicon is generated like this:

Attach Files in Offline Gmail

Many Gmail interfaces lack a basic feature: adding attachments. You can't add attachments if you use Gmail's mobile app, the mobile version of Gmail, iGoogle's Gmail gadget or if you used the offline version of Gmail until today.

"Starting today, attachments work just the way you would expect them to whether you are online or offline (with the exception that when you're offline you won't be able to include inline images). Just add the attachment and send your message. If you have Offline Gmail enabled, you'll notice that all your mail now goes through the outbox, regardless of whether you're online or offline. This allows Gmail to capture all attachments, even if you suddenly get disconnected from network," mentions Gmail's blog.

Offline Gmail is still a Gmail Labs feature and it requires Google Gears. If you use Google Chrome, Gears is already installed. The nice thing about Offline Gmail is that you can read recent conversations, compose messages and view your contacts even when you don't have Internet access.

November 23, 2009

Google Chrome OS Use Cases

Google didn't do a good job at explaining the intended use of Chrome OS and many people wondered if Google's operating system is an alternative to Windows. The goal is to build "an operating system that provides a fast, simple, and more secure computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web". Here are the initial use cases for Chrome OS:
* Computing on the couch
* Use as a lightweight, secondary work computer
* Borrowing a device for use in coffee shops and libraries
* Sharing a second computer among family members

For now, Chrome OS is not designed to be your main operating system. It's just a fast way to get online, a simplified operating system that removes unnecessary software and opens the browser in a few seconds. If Google Chrome loads almost instantly, why not build an operating system that boots fast and doesn't slow down the browser?

Even though developers can view its source code and compile it, Chrome OS won't be available for download because it requires a special hardware configuration and it's not designed for multi-boot. Chrome OS is just the platform for Chrome OS netbooks.

"We are taking out every unnecessary process, optimizing many operations and running everything possible in parallel. This means you can go from turning on the computer to surfing the web in a few seconds. Our obsession with speed goes all the way down to the metal. We are specifying reference hardware components to create the fastest experience for Google Chrome OS," explains Google.

November 19, 2009

YouTube Audio Transcription

YouTube added a feature that generates video captions. "We've combined Google's automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions, or auto-caps for short. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video."

The feature only works for English and it's been enabled for a small number of channels that usually feature talks and interviews: UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Yale, UCLA, Duke,UCTV, Columbia, PBS, National Geographic.

Another new feature is auto-timing, which lets you upload the transcription of a video and it automatically generates the time codes. "All you need to do is create a simple text file with all the words in the video and we'll use Google's ASR technology to figure out when the words are spoken and create captions for your video."

Since Google's speech recognition technology is not perfect, it would be useful to generate the captions and then to manually edit them to correct the mistakes.

Automatic captions make YouTube videos more accessible: you can watch videos with the sound off and you can translate the captions into another language using Google Translate.

Google Chrome OS Event

Google will announce more information about Chrome OS at a press event that starts at 10:00am PST. Google will offer "an update on Google Chrome OS and provide at the work that has been done thus far, an overview of the technology, and launch plans for next year. Speakers will include Sundar Pichai, Vice President of Product Management and Matthew Papakipos, Engineering Director for Google Chrome OS." You can watch the live webcast here.

Meanwhile, the source code for Chrome OS is already available. Here's the login screen:

... and one of the wallpapers that are included:

Chrome OS is a lightweight Linux distribution based on Debian that uses a lot of open-source software: Host AP Linux drivers, PAM (an authentication mechanism), Syslinux (a lightweight bootloader), IBus (Intelligent Input Bus for Linux / Unix OS), ConnMan (Internet connection manager), XScreenSaver and other software. More on this later.

Other sites live blogging the event:

* Gizmodo
* Matt Cutts

Live blogging:

- Chrome OS launches next year

Chrome, the foundation of Chrome OS
- Chrome has 40 million users
- Chrome focuses on: speed, security, simplicity
- new stuff: Chrome for Mac/Linux and extensions

HTML5: making the web more powerful
- powerful web apps
- web apps should use threads
- offline web apps

Converging trends
- netbooks have an explosive growth
- millions of users are living in the cloud

Chrome OS:
- instant boot
- Chrome on Chrome OS is faster
- every app is a web app
- all data is in the cloud
- browser security model

- 7 seconds boot time
- the UI is a work in progress
- easy to access favorite apps
- app menu
- panels: persistent lightweight windows (example: Google Talk)
- file browser
- local files open in web apps (including Microsoft Office online apps)
- native video player

Under the hood:
- design documents
- no hard disks, only solid-state drives
- verified boot
- security: the OS does not trust any app
- read-only root file system
- user data synced to the cloud
- automatic updates for the entire OS

- reference hardware
- you can't download Chrome OS and install it on your machine
- the only way to install the OS is to buy a Chrome OS machine
- the target launch time: the end of next year

What is Google Chrome OS?
- the web browser is the most important program on your computer
- your browser is your operating system

November 18, 2009

Breadcrumbs in Google's Snippets

For many people web addresses aren't very useful and that's why they continue to use their favorite search engine to search for [yahoo], [youtube] or [facebook] instead of typing the obvious web addresses.

Some web sites use breadcrumbs for navigation. "Breadcrumbs typically appear horizontally across the top of a web page, usually below title bars or headers. They provide links back to each previous page the user navigated through to get to the current page or — in hierarchical site structures — the parent pages of the current one. Breadcrumbs provide a trail for the user to follow back to the starting or entry point."

Google started to detect web pages that use breadcrumb navigation and replaced the URL displayed below the snippet with the web site's structure. "Often, URLs are too long, too short, or too obscure to add useful information. The new text provides useful information about the page." As an added bonus, each hierarchical element links to the corresponding site category, so you can easily navigate to a more general category.

Unfortunately, Google's search results pages no longer look consistent and you'll sometimes have to mouse over a search result's title to find the URL.

Google Tests Featured Ads

Search Engine Roundtable spotted a new flavor of Google AdSense ads: featured ads. The ads include a yellow star similar to the one used for bookmarks in Google Toolbar, Firefox and Google Chrome.

According to the description from "Google in your Language", the message is used for "an ad that is determined to be particularly likely to be useful or relevant for a user".

I wonder if the new feature is related to Google's interest-based ads, which "associate categories of interest — say sports, gardening, cars, pets — with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. [Google] may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads."

{ The first screenshot is licensed as Creative Commons. }

November 17, 2009

Google Image Swirl

Google released a new Google Labs experiment related to image search: Google Image Swirl. The service "organizes image search results based on their visual and semantic similarities and presents them in an intuitive exploratory interface."

Google Image Swirl clusters the top image search results for more than 200,000 queries and it lets you explore the clusters and the relation between images.

"Once you find the group of images you're interested in, you can click on the thumbnail and a cluster of images will "swirl" into view. You can then further explore additional sub-groups within any cluster. Image Swirl expands on technologies developed for Similar Images and Picasa Face Recognition to discern how images should be grouped together and build hierarchies out of these groups. Each thumbnail on the initial results page represents an algorithmically-determined representative group of images with similar appearance and meaning. These aren't just the most relevant images — they are the most relevant groups of images," explains Google.

Try queries like: jaguar, flowers, van Gogh and keep in mind that this is an early demo, so not all the queries will return results.

Google has two other visualization tools: "wonder wheel" for exploring related searches and YouTube Warp, an interactive way to visualize related YouTube videos.

November 16, 2009

Google Chrome Feed Preview

When Google Chrome launched, many people complained that the browser didn't detect feeds. Apparently, this feature has been implemented in an extension that will come preinstalled in Google Chrome.

The extension "adds a button to the URL bar when a page has a feed that can be subscribed to". When you click on the orange button, the extension previews the feed and it lets you subscribe using a feed reader.

The support for extensions is only available in Chrome's dev channel. Google will soon launch an extension directory at and the first beta version that supports extensions will be released in early December.

Translate as You Type

Google Translate has a new design and some new features. The service translates your text as you type, so you no longer have to click on "Translate" every time you edit the text. Getting real-time feedback helps you improve the original text and get a better translation.

If you translate a text into English, Google has a text-to-speech service that lets you listen to the translation.

Google has improved the translation service for non-Roman languages: you can now read Chinese, Russian, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Thai or Japanese texts written phonetically in English. There's also a transliteration feature for Arabic, Persian and Hindi.

Google Translate is now accessible from Google's homepage: you can find it in the "more" navigation menu. The service has been added to most international Google homepages in March and now it's available at

{ via Google Blog }

November 14, 2009

SearchWiki Live Stream

If you're curious to see which web pages are voted in SearchWiki at the moment, add the SearchWiki Live Stream gadget to iGoogle. The canvas view shows the query that triggered each search results.

I tried to see if the gadget shows all the SearchWiki votes: I promoted a site, but it wasn't included in the live stream. Most likely, Google shows a small a sample of the SearchWiki votes.

For now, the SearchWiki live stream is the closest thing to the projection of current live search queries from Google's headquarters. Here's an excerpt from a post written by Doug Edwards, an ex-Googler.

A lot of visitors walk into the Googleplex lobby and stand mesmerized by the scrolling display of search queries crawling across the large monitor suspended over the receptionist's desk. (...) The query scroll is fascinating, though it's carefully screened for offensive terms that might clash with the wholesome decor. (...)

We talked about distributing it as a screen saver and beaming it to a live Jumbotron display in Times Square, because of its high fascination factor, but those ideas were ultimately vetoed by the founders.

Engineering did create a canned version of the scrolling queries screen that lived on a P.R. laptop for a while and it was used as a warm-up to presentations by executives at conferences, though I think Larry may finally have killed that too.

Larry never cared much for the scrolling queries screen. More than anyone, he was focused on privacy issues and alert to the currents of paranoia and information seepage that have recently come to the fore. He felt the scrolling screen could inadvertently reveal personal data, because queries could contain names or information that users would prefer to remain private (for example, "John Smith DUI arrest in Springfield" or "Mary Jones porn movie"). Moreover, it could cause people to think more about their privacy and raise unnecessary alarm over what information they were conveying with each search.

November 12, 2009

Google Acquires Gizmo5

Google confirms the acquisition of Gizmo5, a proprietary SIP soft phone. "The Gizmo5 network uses open standards for call management, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). However, the Gizmo5 client application is proprietary software and uses several proprietary codecs, including GIPS, iSAC, the wideband adaptive codec made popular by Skype," explains Wikipedia. Gizmo5 is "the only SIP service without PSTN-based US phone numbers that may be used with Google Voice."

"While we don't have any specific features to announce right now, Gizmo5's engineers will be joining the Google Voice team to continue improving the Google Voice and Gizmo5 experience. Current Gizmo5 users will still be able to use the service, though we will be suspending new signups for the time being, and existing users will no longer be able to sign up for a call-in number," mentions Google.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Gizmo5 morphing into a new version of Google Talk, with built-in support for Google Voice.

Better Search in Google Docs Viewer

Google's document viewer has a better search feature: you no longer have to manually locate the matches in the document. After performing a search, press Enter repeatedly to find the matches or click on the arrows placed below the search box.

The document viewer is used for the PDF files uploaded to Google Docs, for PDF/PPT/TIFF attachments in Gmail, for some PDF results in Google search and as a standalone service.

For some reason, Google Docs still doesn't index PDF files, so you can only find a file only if you know some words from its title.

November 11, 2009

Google Parental Controls: Lock SafeSearch

As previously anticipated, Google added a feature that lets you lock SafeSearch filtering. Google says that "SafeSearch screens for sites that contain explicit sexual content and deletes them from your search results".

SafeSearch could be easily disabled from Google's preferences page, so now parents have an additional safeguard: locking SafeSearch. Go to the search preferences page, click on "lock SafeSearch", log in to your Google account and wait until Google sets cookies for almost 200 domains.

"When you lock SafeSearch, two things will change. First, you'll need to enter your password to change the setting. Second, the Google search results page will be visibly different to indicate that SafeSearch is locked. Even from across the room, the colored balls give parents and teachers a clear visual cue that SafeSearch is still locked. And if you don't see them, it's quick and easy to verify and re-lock SafeSearch," explains Google.

The feature may seem clever, but it's not: you need to lock SafeSearch for all the browsers installed on your computer and for all the user accounts that might be used by your children. Another issue is that the lock can be easily disabled: just clear your browser's cookies. The colored balls are cute though, especially in a family-friendly context.

Google Latitude Alerts and Location History

Google Latitude added two new applications that make location tracking more useful: history and alerts.

Google Latitude History stores your locations and lets you visualize them on a map. You can remove some of the locations and export the history to a KML file. At the moment, you are the only one who can access your location history.

A more interesting application is Google Latitude Alerts, that "lets you receive and send alert notifications if Google Latitude friends are nearby when you're somewhere interesting or unusual. Alerts use Location History to send notifications only when they're most likely to be interesting to you and your nearby friends."

Google Latitude Alerts tries to be smart by only sending notifications when you're at an unusual location or when you're at a familiar place at an unusual time.

For some reason, enabling Google Latitude Alerts has an unexpected side-effect: "your nearby Latitude friends each receive an alert notification email that you are nearby, even if they haven't yet enabled Location Alerts. Alerts notify friends where you usually are on that day and time to explain why your location is unusual and the alert was sent."

Both applications are opt-in, so you need to explicitly enable them. Unfortunately, even if you don't enable alerts, you may still receive notifications from your friends. To disable the notifications, visit this page and click on "Opt out of notifications from friends".

{ via Google Mobile blog }

CSS Injection in Google Docs Forms

Flemming Steffensen found an undocumented trick that lets you customize a Google Docs form by injecting CSS.

Let's assume that the URL of your form is:

You can add some new CSS rules as a value of the f parameter:;}body{font-size:14pt!important}.ss-q-title{color:green}

Here's the result.

The most important things to remember:

1. the value has to start with ;}
2. you need to use !important for some of the rules to override existing values
3. check the source code of the form to find the classes used by Google
4. this a trick that may no longer work in the future.

For more parameters that let you customize Google Docs forms, check this test page.

Go, Google's Programming Language

Some smart Google engineers decided that it's time to address the limitations of C and C++ by designing a new programming language: Go.

Go was born out of frustration with existing languages and environments for systems programming. Programming had become too difficult and the choice of languages was partly to blame. One had to choose either efficient compilation, efficient execution, or ease of programming; all three were not available in the same mainstream language. Programmers who could were choosing ease over safety and efficiency by moving to dynamically typed languages such as Python and JavaScript rather than C++ or, to a lesser extent, Java.

Go is an attempt to combine the ease of programming of an interpreted, dynamically typed language with the efficiency and safety of a statically typed, compiled language. It also aims to be modern, with support for networked and multicore computing. Finally, it is intended to be fast: it should take at most a few seconds to build a large executable on a single computer. To meet these goals required addressing a number of linguistic issues: an expressive but lightweight type system; concurrency and garbage collection; rigid dependency specification; and so on. These cannot be addressed well by libraries or tools; a new language was called for. [Language design FAQ]

Here's a Go program that outputs "Hello, World!":

Cheaper Google Storage

Google updated the pricing for the additional storage you can buy in Gmail and Picasa Web Albums: $0.25 per GB per year.

Price (per year)
20 GB
80 GB
200 GB
400 GB
1 TB
2 TB
4 TB
8 TB
16 TB

Here's some historical data:

Pricing (August 2007)

Price (per year)
6 GB
25 GB
100 GB
250 GB

Pricing (January 2009)

Price (per year)
10 GB
40 GB
150 GB
400 GB

Google says that the storage is shared between Gmail and Picasa Web Albums, but it's obvious that the additional storage will mostly be used in Google Docs, when the service morphs into Google Drive.

"While storage costs have been dropping naturally, we've also been working hard to improve our infrastructure to reduce costs even further. Today, we're dramatically lowering our prices to make extra storage more affordable. You can now buy 20 GB for only $5 a year, twice as much storage for a quarter of the old price, and enough space for more than 10,000 full resolution pictures taken with a five megapixel camera," explains Google.

If you've already purchased Google storage, there's a good news: "Your total storage will be increased according to this page at no extra cost. For example, if you had previously purchased 10 GB of Google storage, you now have 80 GB available."

I wonder how much free storage Google Drive will offer when it's released.

November 10, 2009

Show Week Numbers in Google Calendar

Google Calendar's gallery of interesting calendars lets you add some useful features: show week numbers, the day of the week, sunrise and sunset time for your location.

Some of these features should be available as options because they're difficult to find in the list of calendars and they clutter the interface.

Google's decision to remove public calendar search had a strange side effect: users can no longer find public calendars with features that are missing in Google Calendar. A post from 2007 explained how to show week numbers in Google Calendar by searching public calendars.

{ Thanks, Sean. }

November 9, 2009

Google Buys AdMob

Google acquired AdMob, a mobile ad company well-known for its innovative solutions to monetize iPhone apps and iPhone-optimized web sites. "AdMob is the world's largest mobile advertising marketplace, offering solutions for discovery, branding and monetization on the mobile web."

"Publishers and developers are increasingly searching for ways to make more money from their content in the rapidly evolving online mobile space. Google is working hard to provide those means of monetization so that mobile content can grow as quickly as we'd all like it to. AdMob accelerates this process for us with their talent and technology," explains Google. "Google currently makes a very small amount from mobile ads relative to our overall revenue, but the prospects for this space are excellent."

In the past year, Google has launched many feature that improved mobile ads: a new search ad format for iPhone and Android phones, ads for mobile apps, better AdSense ads for smartphones.

"Despite the tremendous growth in mobile usage and the substantial investment by many businesses in the space, the mobile web is still in its early stages. We believe that great mobile advertising products can encourage even more growth in the mobile ecosystem. That's what has us excited about this deal," mentions a Google blog post.

Google paid $750 million for AdMob, the third biggest Google acquisition after DoubleClick ($3.1 billion) and YouTube ($1.65 billion).

Google Docs Labs?

A Google Docs error message has an interesting suggestion: "If you are running a Google Docs experiment, turn it off."

Google Docs will probably add a Labs section with experimental features, much like Gmail Labs and Google Calendar Labs.

Here's what I'd like to see in the list of experiments: document pagination, chat sidebar in all Google Docs services, limited editing mode, integration with Google Scholar, autofilter and better conditional formatting for Google Spreadsheets.

Some of the most popular suggestions for Google Docs: drag and drop image placement, more page formatting options, mobile editing, integration with Gmail and an image editor.

November 7, 2009

Google Talk to Add Video Conferencing

Gmail Chat, the web-based version of Google Talk, added last year voice and video chat. The feature is now available in iGoogle and orkut, but it will probably be added to other Google services, as well.

SFGate reports that Google will improve the service significantly in the coming months.
Gmail's voice and video chats are now limited to one-to-one communications, but Google wants to broaden that capability to more than two participants and make it more robust all around for Apps.

"This [current Gmail capability] is the first step in a much broader set of features we hope to roll out over the next six to 12 months around video [and voice] chat capabilities," said Rishi Chandra, a Google Apps product manager. "It's a great opportunity for us to push that space along."

It's not clear whether Google plans to integrate Marratech's video conferencing software, acquired in 2007.

Other features that will be added to Google's services: "intelligent meeting scheduling in Google calendar", "intelligent workflow in the [Google Docs] applications", "lots of new functionality being developed especially around formatting" in Google Docs.

{ via Justin Uberti }

November 6, 2009

Google Toolbar's Features in Google Chrome?

Google received many complaints that Google Toolbar is not available for Chrome, so it created a page meant to convince users that "many Toolbar features are already built right into Google Chrome".

The page explains that Google Chrome already includes a search box, a pop-up blocker, a new tab page, a spell checker and it offers a list of bookmarklets that let you create bookmarks, translate web pages or view Sidewiki annotations. Some of the explanations are plain wrong:

"Like Toolbar's 'AutoFill' button, Google Chrome shows you text you've previously entered on websites, to save you time and typing."

Obviosly, Google Toolbar's autofill feature doesn't have anything in common in Google Chrome's autofill, other than the name. Like most browsers, Google Chrome auto-populates the text field with information you've entered when you visited the same pages before. Google Toolbar lets you save personal information (name, email, address, credit card information) and complete web forms with one click.

"Google Chrome's built-in spell-checker, similar to Toolbar's 'Spell check' button, automatically checks your spelling whenever you fill out a web form."

That's true, but Google Toolbar uses an online service for spell-checking and the results are much better. Try typing "Engsh" in Chrome and you'll see that the suggestions are "Eng sh" and "Eng-sh", which Google Toolbar's first suggestion is "English".

"The find bar feature in Google Chrome works like the Toolbar 'Word find' button. Matches to your search term are automatically highlighted on the page. Plus, you can use the yellow markers on the scrollbar to quickly see where all the matches are located on the page."

Google Chrome's find bar doesn't work like the Toolbar's highlighting feature: the keywords don't show up automatically when you perform a search and you can't find the occurrences of the individual keywords.

I think it's a bad idea to claim that Google Chrome has many features from Google Toolbar and to list some features that are available in many browsers, including Internet Explorer.

The reason why Google Toolbar is not available for Google Chrome is that Google's browser doesn't have an extension API, at least not in the stable builds. The extension API is still a work in progress.

"We're working with the Google Chrome team to develop a Toolbar extension, as well as bring some of our most popular features to Google Chrome," says Brian Rose, who works on the Google Toolbar team.

November 4, 2009

Google Dashboard

Google Dashboard is a new service that shows a summary of the data stored with a Google account. You'll soon find a link to Google Dashboard in the "personal settings" of the "my account" page.

The dashboard lists some of the information associated with the Google services you use: your name, your email address, the number of contacts, the number of conversations in your Gmail inbox, your Google profile, the most recent entries from the web history etc. It's a long answer to the question: "What does Google know about me?".

More information about the new service in a YouTube video that was supposed to be "embargoed until 2am PT, November 5th".

Update: Google Dashboard is now available at

{ Thanks, Tom. }

Custom Sections Directory for Google News

Google News added a directory for custom sections and an easy way to create your own custom sections. Until now, the only way to add a section to Google News was to perform a search and click on "create custom section" at the bottom of the search results page.

Now you can click on "Add a section", find your favorite sections or create new ones.

Google doesn't offer too many options when you create a section: type a list of keywords, restrict the results to a national edition or to the sources from a certain location.

For example, you can create a section for Google-related news by entering [google, gmail, chrome, android] or any other combination of keywords related to Google. You could also create a section about web browsers by entering [browser, chrome, safari, opera browser, firefox, internet explorer].

"Personalized News enables you to get news tailored specifically to your interests. You can personalize your own Google News homepage by creating Custom Sections from your favorite searches and mixing and matching existing standard sections from the regional and language editions of Google News. After defining your Custom Section, you have the option to "Publish this section to the directory" by checking the box provided. This will add your Custom Section to the Custom Section Directory, where other users can add it to their Personalized News page, as well as rate your section," explains Google.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Google Chrome Converts User Scripts into Extensions

A recent Chromium build added a feature that converts user scripts into extensions. Until now, Google's browser didn't provide an interface for adding and managing user scripts, so you had to manually copy the scripts to a folder.

"Lots of users still complain that Chrome does not support Greasemonkey user scripts. Even though we have had the infrastructure in place to handle user scripts for some time now, it has never been clear how the feature would relate to full extensions, and so it has remained incomplete," explains Aaron Boodman, a Google Chrome developer who created the Greasemonkey extension.

Now you can visit and any other site that links to Greasemonkey scripts and other flavors of user scripts, click on the link to a *.user.js file and install it in one click.

Like any other extensions, user scripts can be disabled or uninstalled by visiting chrome://extensions/ or selecting "Extensions" from the Tools menu.

This feature is only available in the latest Chromium builds, but it will soon be added to Google Chrome's dev channel, which already enables the support for extensions.

This week, Google released the first beta version of Chrome 4 for Windows, so the stable version should be available in the coming weeks. Chrome 4's major selling points should be the support for extensions and the long-awaited Mac & Linux ports.

November 3, 2009

Google Related Links, Second Edition

Google Related Links is a new Google Labs service that lets you add a list of related web pages and searches to your site. Unlike the homonymous service released by Google in 2006, the new Related Links restricts the results to your site.

"Related Links is a tool to help webmasters increase page views on their sites. Given a page on your site, Related Links can choose the most related pages from your site and show them in a gadget. You can embed this gadget in your page to help your users reach other pages easily. Related Links also suggests searches that users can run within your site to find even more related pages."

The service is not publicly available, but you can try a demo and ask for an invitation. "To apply for an invitation, please send an email to stating your Gmail address, website domains and approximate pageviews per day."

Once you get the invitation, log in using your Google account and click on "Manage Related Links". You'll be able to configure the gadget, customize the look and feel and enable some advanced features: highlighting the keywords from the page for visitors that come from a search engine, blacklisting web pages from the list of related links and removing prefixes or suffixes from titles.

After configuring the gadget, paste the code in one of your sites and test if it works well. If you edit the gadget's configuration, the changes are reflected instantly and you don't need to change the code.

Here's a screenshot that shows the related links and searches for a post about Google Voice.

The results are relevant, but there are some issues which show that the service is still in an early phase: there's an encoding bug when displaying page titles and links are only opened in a new window.

November 2, 2009

Preview Google's Search Results

Google added a new option to the web search toolbelt: page previews. If you click on "Show options" and select "Page previews" after performing a search, Google will show a longer snippet and a thumbnail for each search result.

Google's thumbnails include a small part of the page, so they aren't always helpful. Another issue is that all the thumbnails from a search results pages are merged and the resulting image doesn't load instantly.

Example: search results for [maps].

Google Tests a Clutter-Free Homepage

Google has been testing a new version of its homepage that hides the navigation links and the search buttons until you move your cursor. The page appears to load faster, it's less cluttered and better suited for searching, but it might confuse some users.

Search Engine Roundtable noticed an experiment that displayed "This space intentionally left blank" below the search box. Most likely, it's an attempt to explain that the page is already loaded.

Google's idea is interesting, but I don't think that it's really necessary to remove the navigational elements from a homepage that's already simple.

Some feedback for Google's help forum:

"The fade in thing is pointless, and I really would like my search buttons back. Yes, I can indeed hit return, but when I'm copying and pasting text into the search box using my mouse, I want to then move my mouse to click a button, and not have to put the mouse down to use the keyboard to hit return before going back to mousing. Small thing but *really* frustrating. Why take the buttons away? Some people like to click them, other people like to hit return, I tend to do both depending on whether I'm copy/pasting with the mouse or typing text in with the keyboard."

"Google's main page will no longer by my default browser homepage if they don't get rid of the fade. I hate it. Half the time I want to go to Gmail, and I have to move the mouse cursor over the window and wait a few seconds before I can click to go to Gmail. This is a loss of functionality in my mind. I love minimalism, but this just makes things worse."

"After considering for a week - I think I like it. The novelty is gone, but the simplicity of the interface ensures that I'm not distracted before I type my search term. I actually often use the box, type my query and press enter without ever moving my mouse. The interface is seamless and does everything I want it to do - getting me to results as quickly as possible. If I do need any other Google feature, they are still available just as quickly (perhaps the fade in on mouse movement should be just a touch faster). I appreciate this might not be a feature for the mainstream - but I would encourage you to at least keep it as an option. It embodies everything that keeps me using Google, simplicity with functionality."

{ The first image is licensed as Creative Commons by Barry Schwartz. }

Google Voice Stats

BusinessWeek found some information about Google Voice in a response to an inquiry from the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency of the United States government:

"Google Voice, which provides people with a single phone number that can be used to reach them on their work, home, or cell phones, has 1.419 million users, according to the letter. Of those, 570,000 use it seven days a week, Google says."

The service is still limited to the US and it's available by invitation. Google Voice users can invite other users from the web interface.

Google now offers an additional version of the service for those who want to use their existing phone numbers. This version is more limited and it only offers voicemail-related features and international calling.

"Google Voice charges only for outbound calls to international locations; at present, fewer than 4% of all Google Voice users place outbound international calls," explains Google.

Google emphasizes that Google Voice is not a phone service, it's a Web-based software application. "Google Voice works with mobile phones, desk phones, work phones, and VoIP lines. There's nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don't have to make or take calls using a computer."

Why It's a Bad Idea to Send Huge Files by Email

Gmail has increased the maximum attachment size to 25 MB in June, but some people want to send larger files. Daniel wrote a thoughtful comment that explains why it's a bad idea to send huge files by email:
People who demand large message size limits rarely understand the limitations of the email transmission.

Because of the MIME encoding used when sending binary attachments, your files expand 33% when sent via email. In other words, a 15MB attachment requires 20MB plus the message text, plus message headers.

When you carbon copy 20 of your friends & coworkers, a separate message is sent to each. 20MB x 20 = 400MB. That's half a freaking CD.

If 5 of those friends are on the same small company email server, downloading those messages saturates the entire bandwidth of their T1 data line for nearly 9 minutes. Because each message has separate headers, it isn't easily cached and gets completely downloaded by each recipient.

Compare this to uploading the same attachment to a web server, FTP server, file transmission service like YouSendIt, or video streaming site like YouTube. One copy is uploaded. The download is typically 8-bit so minimal expansion factor. The small business' network can cache the content, so it's only downloaded once then fetched locally from the web caching server.

Bottom line, sending a large attachment via email is relocating using the U.S. Postal Service as your moving company. It is painful, limited, and expensive.

Link to a Page in Google's Document Viewer

Google's Document Viewer lets you preview PDF files, PowerPoint presentations and TIFF files without installing additional software. It's great for linking to documents available online and for embedding them in a site.

If you want to link to a certain page from your document, adjust the URL. This is the link generated by Google for a PDF file:

To load a specific page in the document, you need to add a hash to the end of the URL. Page IDs are numbered sequentially like this:,,

So to load page #15 of the document, use this link:

The same trick works for the embedded viewer:

{ Thanks, Andy. }