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January 31, 2012

Gmail's Shortcut for Inserting Hyperlinks

Less than 2% of the Gmail users have enabled keyboard shortcuts and actually use them, but that doesn't mean Google shouldn't improve them. Many people complained that Gmail's rich text editor doesn't have a shortcut for inserting hyperlinks and now it's available: Ctrl+K (or Cmd-K if you use a Mac).

The same shortcut is also used in Outlook, Microsoft Word, Google Docs and other apps. "Just select any text, and then press the Ctrl and K keys at the same time. A dialogue box opens where you can type a link," informs the Microsoft Word blog.

I wonder why Google doesn't offer the option to use the top search result for the text you've selected or at least pick one of the top results from the "edit link" box.

{ Thanks, Cougar. }

Country-Specific Blogger URLs

Google found an interesting trick to defend Blogger blogs against local laws: redirect readers to country-specific domains and only remove those URLs if required.

"Over the coming weeks you might notice that the URL of a blog you're reading has been redirected to a country-code top level domain, or 'ccTLD.' For example, if you're in Australia and viewing [blogname], you might be redirected [blogname] A ccTLD, when it appears, corresponds with the country of the reader's current location," explains Google.

"Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law. By utilizing ccTLDs, content removals can be managed on a per country basis, which will limit their impact to the smallest number of readers. Content removed due to a specific country's law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD." That means [blogname] will continue to exist, but it's not clear if the users from that specific country will still be able to access it.

Blogger will start to use country-specific domains, just like many other Google services. If you're in Australia and visit, you'll be redirected to, but you can opt-out by clicking "Go to" or visiting The same option is available for Blogger: "Blog readers may request a specific country version of the blogspot content by entering a specially formatted NCR URL. NCR stands for 'No Country Redirect' and will always display [blogname] in English, whether you're in India, Brazil, Honduras, Germany, or anywhere. For example: http://[blogname] – always goes to the U.S. English blog."

Google doesn't mention the list of countries that are affected by this change, but reports that India is one of them. Obviously, blog owners can use custom domains if they don't like the new feature. Even if Google made sure that the duplicate URLs are properly handled by search engines, it could be annoying to see so many URLs that send people to the same page.

{ Thanks, Venkat and Herin. }

January 27, 2012

Google+ and the Post-Web Google

I've noticed an increasing number of ads that no longer send people to the company's sites. Instead, the ads only include a link to the official Facebook page. Sites suddenly look outdated, no longer include the latest information and people stop visiting them.

There are still people that visit those outdated sites and many are coming from search engines like Google. Despite Google's efforts to have a comprehensive index, there's a growing subset of the Web it can't properly index and that's Facebook. Sure, Google indexes a lot of Facebook pages, but that's like trying to find your keys in a dark room. Google needs Facebook's map to index all the pages and find the connections between pages and between users, but Facebook is not willing to license this valuable data to the most important competitor. Google tried to make the web social and failed, so now the only option to stay relevant is to build an alternative to Facebook's walled garden and that's Google+.

+1s are the new links, authors have profiles, companies have social pages and this new universe will try to coexist with the old Web in Google's search results. Google tried to focus on the users and find ways to make the social Web more open, but now it has to focus on itself and do everything it can to stay alive and maybe even save the Web. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," but that's impossible if it can't access, understand and rank that information.

Back in 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin used links to determine the importance of a Web page. Now links and pages are no longer that important and the old rule of trying to send people to other sites as quickly as possible is difficult to apply. Showing personalized results requires understanding users better, encouraging them to share more content and create connections. In many ways, Google+ is the anti-Google and that's why it's difficult to understand some of the new features.

January 26, 2012

Google+ Now Open for Teens

Google+ changed the age requirements so that any Google Account user can join Google+. In most countries you need to be at least 13 years old to create a Google Account and join Google+, but there are 3 exceptions: Spain, South Korea and Netherlands. Until now, Google+ required to be at least 18 years old to "upgrade" your account.

Google's VP Bradley Horowitz mentioned that there are a few tweaks and new default settings for teens. By default, only the people from teens' circles can trigger notifications and comment on their public posts. If someone outside a teen's circles joins a hangout, Google+ temporarily removes the teen from the hangout and gives him a chance to rejoin.

Teens and young adults are the most active Internet users on the planet. And surprise, surprise: they're also human beings who enjoy spending time with friends and family. Put these two things together and it's clear that teens will increasingly connect online. Unfortunately, online sharing is still second-rate for this age group.

In life, for instance, teens can share the right things with just the right people (like classmates, parents or close ties). Over time, the nuance and richness of selective sharing even promotes authenticity and accountability. Sadly, today's most popular online tools are rigid and brittle by comparison, so teens end up over-sharing with all of their so-called "friends."

With Google+, we want to help teens build meaningful connections online. We also want to provide features that foster safety alongside self-expression. Today we're doing both, for everyone who's old enough for a Google Account.

It's interesting that the updated form for creating a Google Account doesn't automatically create a profile and doesn't add the user to Google+ if he's not at least 18 years old.

{ Thanks, Oskar. }

January 25, 2012

Two Ways to Export Your Google Docs

Google Takeout supports a new service: Google Docs. Now you can use the same interface to batch export your documents.

I tried both Google Takeout and the built-in feature from Google Docs that lets you download your documents. Even if they have the same purpose, they're quite different. The Google Docs feature is more flexible: you can choose to download only spreadsheets or presentations and skip all the other documents. You can also skip the files uploaded to Google Docs and not converted to a Google Docs format (for example: PDF files, archives and video files). Google Takeout has a "configure" feature, but you can't skip one or more document types. Another subtle difference is that Google Takeout lets you export only the files that you own, while Google Docs exports all the files from your account.

How to export all your files from Google Docs? Just go to the Google Docs homepage, select one or more documents, click "More" and then "Download", click the "All items" tab, pick your favorite formats and click "Download". The process is not that intuitive and you shouldn't have to select a file to see the download option.

{ via Data Liberation Blog }

January 24, 2012

The Self-Serving Google+ Results

Google has been often accused of promoting its own services in Google Search. Whether it was Google News, Image Search, Product Search or Video Search, the specialized search engine showed results from all over the web and not just from Google's own services. Image Search wasn't restricted to Picasa Web Albums, Video Search wasn't restricted to YouTube, Blog Search wasn't restricted to Blogger. Even for services like Google Dictionary and Google Finance that have their OneBox at the top of the Google search results, Google shows a list of other relevant services.

Google's special section that shows people and pages from Google+ doesn't look like a regular Google OneBox. It's placed in the right sidebar, where Google used to display ads. It shows up for general queries like [music], [sports], [math], that aren't typically associated with social search results. It only shows results from Google+, not from other social services like Twitter or Facebook. It's there even if you're not logged in using your Google account or you're not using Google+.

If Google+ wasn't a Google product, would it make sense to show a similar OneBox with profiles from social sites? Normally, Google would have created a profile search engine and showed a group of relevant results somewhere in the list of search results. Like this:

Google already indexes profiles from different sites and even shows special snippets with structured data. Why not create a special search engine for profiles like the one that lets you search recipes or the search engine for applications?

When Google released Knol, many people wondered if Google could boost the rankings for Knol articles or create a special OneBox with Knol results. "Google Knol does not receive any sort of boost or advantage in Google's rankings," replied Matt Cutts and he was right. Now what if Google displayed a Knol OneBox at the top of the search results for queries that returned relevant Knol articles? Maybe Knol would've become more popular and it wouldn't have been discontinued.

Is it fair to promote results from a single service, especially when you own that service? Even if those results are comprehensive, relevant and useful, it's always a good idea to also show results from other services.

Some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace developed a site called Focus on the User that lets you replace the Google+ results with other social profiles from the web. From:

... to:

The results are better simply because you can check the accounts from other social services. Maybe an artist shares more information on Twitter or maybe the Facebook account is more important. "When you search for 'cooking' today, Google decides that renowned chef Jamie Oliver is a relevant social result. That makes sense. But rather than linking to Jamie's Twitter profile, which is updated daily, Google links to his Google+ profile, which was last updated nearly two months ago," noticed the authors of the Focus on the User site. I still don't think that the social search box should be placed next to the results, but at least the tweak made it more useful.

"Focus on the user and all else will follow. Since the beginning, we've focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we're designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line." (Google's philosophy)

{ via Thanks, Michel. }

The Story Behind Gmail's Logo

If you've ever wondered who designed Gmail's logo, Kevin Fox has the answer:
Dennis Hwang designed the Gmail logo. At the time, Dennis designed virtually all of the Google doodles and he did a lot of the new logo work as well.

The logo was designed literally the night before the product launched. We were up very late and Sergey and I went down to his cube to watch him make it.

The initial version used the same font as the Google logo (Catull), but Catull has a very awkward 'a', so Dennis decided to use Catull for the 'G' to tie the brand to Google, then cast the others in a cleaner sans-serif (Myriad Pro, if I recall correctly).

Another ex-Googler, Douglas Edwards, confirms the story in his book "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59":

Dennis Hwang spent the day before the launch coming up with ideas for a logo and trying to make it work in conjunction with the clown-colored Google brand. (...) Even after four years at Google, I found it astounding that one twenty-something guy was sitting alone at his desk, sipping tea and developing the main branding element for a product to be used by millions of people - the night before it was scheduled to launch.

Belgian Fries in Google Street View

Nikolaas, a reader of this blog, noticed that Pegman - the Google Street View icon - looks different for Belgium. When you try to move the icon, you'll notice that Pegman got some French fries.

"Occasionally Pegman dresses up for special events and occasions, or is even joined by peg friends in Google Maps. Some of these icons stay in Google Maps for specific locations, such as the skiing Pegman at Whistler Blackcomb Mountain and the penguin for Street View imagery of Half Moon Island, Antarctica," explains Google.

Street View was launched two months ago in Belgium, but it's not clear why Pegman looks different. Maybe because French fries originate from Belgium.

{ Thanks, Nikolaas. }

January 21, 2012

Google Search, Punctuation Marks and Other Symbols

Google usually ignores punctuation and mathematical symbols from a query because it doesn't index them. They rarely change the meaning of a query and Google's index would have to grow a lot bigger, without improving the results too much. Some punctuation marks and mathematical symbols are used to provide advanced features (for example: colon, quotes, minus sign, plus sign).

I've recently noticed that Google started to show results for queries like [.], [,], [:], [;], [#], [%], [@], [^], [)], [~], [|], ["], [<], [$]. When you search for [%], Google shows the results for [percent sign] and that happens irrespective of the interface language, so it's not a synonym generated by Google's algorithms.

Search for [:] and you'll get the results for [colon]. Most results are about the colon from the human anatomy and they're not relevant.

January 20, 2012

A New iGoogle Interface

Google tests a new interface for iGoogle, the personalized homepage that lets you add gadgets and themes. The updated interface uses the design patterns that should be familiar by now from other Google services. Tabs are now available in a dropdown that's displayed below the search box, while the left sidebar is only used for the chat widget. There are two buttons for adding gadgets and changing the theme next to the options menu.

{ Thanks, Brinke. }

Picnik and Other Discontinued Google Services

If you thought that Google will no longer close other projects this year, you were wrong. Picnik, one of the best online photo editing service, will no longer be available starting from April 20. Until then, you can use all the features from the paid version of Picnik for free. Google will focus on adding more Picnik features to Google+ and that's the reason why Picnik is discontinued.

Social Graph API, a great way to find public profiles and connections between people, will no longer be available. The service was used by Google to find your social connections and show social search results. Unfortunately, "the API isn't experiencing the kind of adoption we'd like, and is being deprecated as of today. It will be fully retired on April 20, 2012."

Google will also discontinue Urchin (the installable version of Google Analytics), Google Message Continuity (an enterprise service that allowed Microsoft Exchange customers to back up emails to Google's servers), Needlebase (a data management platform acquired from ITA Software) and Sky Map (an Android app developed "to show off the amazing capabilities of the sensors in the first-generation Android phones and offer a window into the sky"). Sky Map was open sourced and will be developed by Carnegie Mellon University students.

Google promises to take "a hard look at products that replicate other features, haven't achieved the promise we had hoped for or can't be properly integrated into the overall Google experience," so I'm sure we'll see other discontinued projects. From Orkut to Google Talk (the Windows software), from Patent Search to Google Bookmarks and Translator Toolkit, from iGoogle to Picasa, there are many projects that might be discontinued. Moving from standalone applications to platforms, Google gets rid of many tools that solved only one problem and tries to convince users to join all-encompassing services like Google+ or Google Apps.

If Google Results Aren't Helpful, Ask on Google+

Sometimes Google's results aren't that useful and they don't answer your question. Maybe the query is imprecise or obscure, the results are outdated or you don't have the patience to check the first 100 results to find something helpful. Asking your Twitter followers or your Facebook friends could be a great idea. Google doesn't integrate with Twitter or Facebook, but it experiments with a new feature that shows a message below the list of results: "Want to ask your friends about [your query]? Ask on Google+".

Clicking the link opens a Google+ box that already includes a message: "Hi there! I have a question about [my query]..." Edit your message, click "Ask" and the first results could show up in a few seconds in Google's notification widget.

Maybe Google+ also will include a revamped version of Aardvark and you'll be able to send your question to the right people.

New Google Accounts Require Gmail and Google+

If you try to create a Google account from Google's homepage, you'll notice that Google redesigned the page, but that's not all. You'll now have to create a Gmail account, a Google Profile and you'll automatically join Google+.

Until now, creating a Google account was quite simple. You could either use an existing email address or create a Gmail account. The redesigned form includes new fields: name, gender (required for Google+) and mobile phone number (not required).

"Your Google Account is more than just Search. Talk, chat, share, schedule, store, organize, collaborate, discover and create. Use Google products from Gmail to Google+ to YouTube, view your search history, all with one username and password, all backed up all the time and easy to find at (you guessed it)," informs the page.

You can still delete your Google profile, the Google+ content and also your Gmail account.

New users no longer have to manually create a profile and join Google+, while Google found another way to increase the number of Google+ users (currently at 90 million) and the number of Gmail users (currently at 350 million). I've always wondered why Google never offered the option to create a Gmail account when you sign up for a Google account and now that's the only way to create a Google account.

Update: You can still use the old form if you know the URL or if you click "Sign up for a new Google Account" in Google Calendar, Blogger and probably a few other Google products.

Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Groups use a different page that lets you sign up using a Gmail address or a different email account. Just click "use a different email" and you'll see the old form.

Update 2. A Google spokesperson sent the following statement: "We're working to develop a consistent sign-up flow across our different products as part of our efforts to create an intuitive, beautifully simple, Google-wide user experience. Making it quick and easy to create a Google Account and a Google profile enables new users to take advantage of everything Google can offer."

{ Thanks, Herin. }

January 19, 2012

Highlight Areas in Google Maps

Rodney G., a reader of this blog noticed a new feature in Google Maps. "When you search for a city or a county or a ZIP Code, Google Maps now highlights the boundaries of what you searched for. If you are zoomed out, the whole area is shaded pink. If you zoom in a bit, it has just a big pink border with grey shading. Zoom in even more and it's a dashed boundary with grey shading."

It's a really useful feature and the nice thing is that's enabled by default. Just search for a country, a city, a state or a ZIP code and Google Maps will automatically highlight it.

{ Thanks, Rodney. }

Google Code Search, Still Available

Google closed a lot of useful services to focus on Google+ and other core offerings. One of the best services that was recently shut down is Code Search, a search engine for open source code. If you go to, you'll see the following message:

"Sorry! Sadly, this service has been shut down. Much of Code Search's functionality is available at Google Code Hosting including search for Chromium. We're very sorry for the inconvenience."

Even though Google says that the service has been shut down, it hasn't. Just go to and you'll see the old homepage. All of the old features are still available and the results aren't restricted to Google Code Hosting projects.

January 18, 2012

Google's Censored Logo

Google censored its homepage logo in the US to protest against two bills that could damage the Internet and destroy its core values. "Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA," explains Google.

Google's homepage also includes a link that asks users to "tell Congress: please don't censor the Internet." The censored logo is only available in the US, but the link is also displayed outside US.

While the new bills may seem to be well-intended, they're easy to abuse and they'll not stop piracy. "These bills would grant new powers to law enforcement to filter the Internet and block access to tools to get around those filters. We know from experience that these powers are on the wish list of oppressive regimes throughout the world. SOPA and PIPA also eliminate due process. They provide incentives for American companies to shut down, block access to and stop servicing U.S. and foreign websites that copyright and trademark owners allege are illegal without any due process or ability of a wrongfully targeted website to seek restitution," mentions a Google blog post.

Google's suggestion is to cut the funding for pirate sites. For example, ad services would be required to stop providing ads for sites created to infringe copyright and payment services would no longer be allowed to intermediate transactions between US residents and the company that owns the pirate site. I'm not sure that's a great idea because this law could also be abused.

Wikipedia and WordPress were a lot braver: they decided to make it more difficult to access their content. "For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia." That's the message you'll see today when you visit a page from the English Wikipedia (unless you press Escape before the page loads, you disable JavaScript, you visit Google's cached pages or use a plugin like Readability). Probably Google didn't want to divert all its search traffic to Bing and other search engines, but many top search results are Wikipedia pages, so Wikipedia's blackout will affect Google users.

January 16, 2012

Google Account Authentication Using Your Phone

How do you login to your Google account on a computer you don't trust? When you type your username and password, a keylogger could capture them and save them. If you have a phone or a tablet with you, there's a better way:

1. Just go to on your computer (Open Sesame helps you remember the address) and you'll see a QR code for a special URL generated by Google.

2. Use a QR reader app like QR Reader for iPhone, Barcode Scanner for Android, Google Goggles, Google Shopper or Google Search for iOS. Scan the QR code on your phone or tablet and type the username and password of your Google account.

3. Now you can click "Start with Gmail" or "Start with iGoogle" and the corresponding service will automatically load in the desktop browser. Obviously, you can use any other Google service.

Update: Apparently, it was just an experiment and it no longer works. "Thanks for your interest in our phone-based login experiment. While we have concluded this particular experiment, we constantly experiment with new and more secure authentication mechanisms. Stay tuned for something even better," says Dirk Balfanz from the Google Security Team.

{ Thanks, Petros. }

January 12, 2012

Blocked Sites, No Longer Available in Google Search?

Last year, Google released a feature that allowed you to block sites from appearing in your search results. After clicking a result and going back to the search results page, Google displayed a special link next to the result for blocking the entire domain.

The feature no longer seems to work: the "block" link is no longer displayed, the preferences page doesn't mention the feature and the blocked domains still appear in Google's results. The page that allows you to manage blocked sites is still available.

"When you're signed in to Google, you can block a specific website from appearing in your future search results. This is a helpful option when you encounter a site that you don't like and whose pages you want to remove from your future results. If you change your mind, you can unblock the site at any point," explains a help center page.

Update: Google's Matt Cutts says that this could be a temporary issue. "The right people are looking at what needs to happen to re-enable this, but it might take some time."

Blogger Adds Threaded Comments

Blogger's comment system has been updated and it now supports threading. You can now reply to a comment and read the entire conversation. "It is now much easier to differentiate between whether someone is making a general comment on the thread, or responding to another comment on the thread," informs Google.

The threaded view is only available for embedded comments and it requires to enable full-text blog feeds.

If you've manually customized your blog's template, you may not see the new feature. One way to solve this issue is to reset widgets. In the new Blogger interface, go to the Template tab, click "Backup/Restore" and download your template, then click "Edit HTML", "Proceed" and "Revert widget templates to default". If something doesn't look right, you can always go back to the old template by clicking "Backup / Restore" and uploading the template you've saved.

Google's Black Navigation Bar Is Back

Google's attempt to simplify the navigation bar wasn't very successful. The menu released six weeks ago is no longer available and it has been replaced with the old black navigation bar.

I tried to see if it was just a temporary bug, but almost all the browsers I tested displayed the black navigation bar. The only browser that still displayed the menu was Chrome, but that was no longer case after clearing the cookies.

Google indirectly confirmed this change two days ago, when the screenshots from a Google blog post included the old bar.

Sometimes, when you try to simplify things, you end up making them more complicated. Navigation elements should be obvious and hiding them in a menu doesn't make them easy to find. The huge menu took more space than the navigation bar and made the homepage less attractive. Hopefully, Google will fix the navigation interface and release a better version.

January 10, 2012

Google Search Shows More Results From Google+

Google's search results are personalized even if you don't log in to a Google account. Google uses your location and your previous searches to customize the results. When you log in to your account, Google has more information: your search/browsing history, your social connections, the pages you've bookmarked or +1'd. Everyone is different and Google has the opportunity to use information about you to disambiguate queries, to show more results from the sites you trust and pages you're already visited.

Google+ can change Google results more than any other Google service because social data is an important signal for personalizing results, Google owns the end-to-end experience and it's in Google's best interest to show that Google+ helps sites get better rankings. After all, the reason why many sites added Google+ buttons is that Google+ data is used by Google's search algorithms.

The latest initiative that integrates Google+ with Google Search is called "Search, plus Your World." It's an upgrade of the social search feature that integrates the rich content from Google+.

Google Search now has access to non-public posts and photos from Google+ and you'll be able to search all the posts and photos shared with you or from your circles. "You can find relevant Google+ posts from friends talking about an amazing trip they just took, whether they've shared privately with you or publicly. You'll find links shared by your friends, such as activities, restaurants and other things they enjoyed on their trip," mentions Google. Personal results have a special icon next to the snippet, Google shows the number of personal results at the top of the page and you can also restrict the results to these pages.

Google Instant suggestions now include the people from your Google+ circles. "Now, typing just the first few letters of your friend's name brings up a personalized profile prediction in autocomplete. Selecting a predicted profile takes you to a results page for your friend, which includes information from their Google+ profile and relevant web results that may be related to them." Google shows similar suggestions for "prominent people from Google+, such as high-quality authors."

Another change is that Google includes a special box with Google+ pages related to your query. "Starting today, if you search for a topic like [music] or [baseball], you might see prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+ appearing on the right-hand side of the results page. You can connect with them on Google+, strike up meaningful conversations and discover entire communities in a way that simply wasn't possible before," informs Google. I think it's a mistake to show Google+ pages that are vaguely related to a general query like [music]. The box looks more like a thinly disguised ad than a genuinely useful feature (an ad both for Google+ and the celebrity pages).

To balance the increasing number of social features, Google also added two new buttons at the top of the search results pages that help you toggle between the personalized results and the non-personalized results. This works for an entire session and you can also remove personal results from the preferences page.

Right now, "Search, plus Your World" is gradually rolled out over the next few days, but it only be available when you use in English and you sign in.

While Google+ data can certainly improve search results, I feel like there's too much information that's not really useful and too much Google+ bias. When Google developed the OneBoxes for maps and stocks, it linked to its own services, but also to competing services. Today Google no longer tries to be fair. Showing the number of people that added the author of a news articles to their circles is not more useful than showing the PageRank of the page or the number of Twitter followers. Showing the latest Google+ posts below the homepage of a business is not more useful than showing the latest Twitter posts. Google profiles are not necessarily better than Facebook profiles and the number of +1's is not more useful than the number of likes. To make Google+ more powerful, to attract more celebrities and businesses, Google might end up making Google results less useful. It's a tricky balancing act to use Google search's popularity to increase Google+ adoption, while also improving Google results using Google+ data and there are many mistakes to be made along the way.

Google Body Browser Is Now Zygote Body

Body Browser is one of the many products that was discontinued when Google closed Google Labs. The good news is that the service is now back online and it's hosted by Zygote, the company that provided the imagery for Google Body Browser. Zygote Body looks almost the same, still requires a browser that supports WebGL (Chrome or Firefox), but the site is very slow.

Body Browser started as a project built by Google engineers in their "20 percent time" and it was a great way to promote Chrome's support for WebGL, an API that allows Web apps to generate interactive 3D graphics without using additional plugins. The app also worked in Firefox and it was ported to Android Honeycomb. There's no Android app for Zygote Body right now, but the company promises to release one in the future.

Zygote Body uses an open source 3D viewer developed by Google. "This viewer provides a standard way to create and view 3D models in a Web browser, with multiple layers and instant search," explains Google.

January 7, 2012

YouTube Tests Google+ Integration

Now that YouTube uses Google Accounts, Google can easily integrate YouTube with other Google services. The latest YouTube redesign made the integration with social networks more prominent and the videos from Google+ are just one click away.

YouTube now tests the header that's already displayed in Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs and many other Google services. The header shows your Google+ notifications, a box that lets you share videos with other Google+ users and links related to your Google profile.

Right now, the Google+ header is only displayed if you haven't created a YouTube account and you log in using your Google account (so you don't have a YouTube username and channel). Obviously, you need to join Google+ to see the new features.

{ Thanks, Michael. }

The Easter Egg from hides a very simple game at the bottom of the page. Just click the Android logo next to the page's footer and you'll start the game: use your mouse to throw snowballs at the snowman.

The game works in Chrome and Firefox, but it doesn't seem to be optimized for mobile devices.

After hitting the snowman three times, you get a medal.

Here's a video that shows the game in action:

{ via }

January 4, 2012

Chrome's Homepage Penalized for Paid Links

If you search for [google chrome], you'll notice that Chrome's homepage is no longer the top search result.

The explanation is that a video ad for Chrome was used in a lot of blog posts that promoted Chrome and one of the posts linked to Chrome's homepage without using the nofollow attribute.

"Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results," explains a Google article.

Even though Google didn't actually buy links, it's strange to see that a Google Chrome campaign generated a lot of low-quality posts. Danny Sullivan says that "the bigger issue in this has always been the garbage content that was produced by the campaign, 'thin' material that Google has fought to keep out of its own search results. I'm still trying to understand how Google failed to understand that the marketing companies it engaged with would produce this." Actually, the whole story is difficult to understand. "Google seems to have contracted with Essence Digital to have a video ad campaign be run across the web. Apparently, Google had no idea how Essence Digital was going to actually run the campaign or make the video ads appear across the web."

A Google spokesperson says that the campaign wasn't authorized by Google, but "Google should be held to a higher standard, so we have taken stricter action than we would against a typical site". That's the reason why Google "demoted and lowered the site's PageRank for a period of at least 60 days". As Matt Cutts explains, "after that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won't trust outgoing links from that page."

Google already uses text ads for Chrome, sitelinks still point to the demoted page and the top result for [google chrome] is a Google page, so users will manage to find Chrome's homepage, but it's impressive to see that Google penalized one of the most important Google products because of a small mistake. After all, the videos used a DoubleClick redirect to link to Chrome's homepage and only one of the posts linked directly to the page. That post has been removed by the blog author, so Google could have claimed that there were no paid links.

In 2009, Google Japan hired an Internet marketing company to promote one of its features. The company used paid posts and Google dropped the PageRank for Google Japan's homepage from 9 to 5.