Introducing smartphone Googlebot-Mobile

With the number of smartphone users rapidly rising, we’re seeing more and more websites providing content specifically designed to be browsed on smartphones. Today we are happy to announce that Googlebot-Mobile now crawls with a smartphone user-agent in addition to its previous feature phone user-agents. This is to increase our coverage of smartphone content and to provide a better search experience for smartphone users.

Here are the main user-agent strings that Googlebot-Mobile now uses:

  • Feature phones Googlebot-Mobile:
    • SAMSUNG-SGH-E250/1.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 UP.Browser/ (GUI) MMP/2.0 (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +
    • DoCoMo/2.0 N905i(c100;TB;W24H16) (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +
  • Smartphone Googlebot-Mobile:
    • Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.5 Mobile/8B117 Safari/6531.22.7 (compatible; Googlebot-Mobile/2.1; +

The content crawled by smartphone Googlebot-Mobile will be used primarily to improve the user experience on mobile search. For example, the new crawler may discover content specifically optimized to be browsed on smartphones as well as smartphone-specific redirects.

One new feature we’re also launching that uses these signals is Skip Redirect for Smartphone-Optimized Pages. When we discover a URL in our search results that redirects smartphone users to another URL serving smartphone-optimized content, we change the link target shown in the search results to point directly to the final destination URL. This removes the extra latency the redirect introduces leading to a saving of 0.5-1 seconds on average when visiting landing page for such search results.

Since all Googlebot-Mobile user-agents identify themselves as a specific kind of mobile, please treat each Googlebot-Mobile request as you would a human user with the same phone user-agent. This, and other guidelines are described in our previous blog post and they still apply, except for those referring to smartphones which we are updating today. If your site has treated Googlebot-Mobile specially based on the fact that it only crawls with feature phone user-agents, we strongly recommend reviewing this policy and serving the appropriate content based on the Googlebot-Mobile’s user-agent, so that both your feature phone and smartphone content will be indexed properly.

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Lego robots and their young inventors come to Google

Nope, we’re not at a sports game, but rather watching a robot, made of Legos, and built and programmed by a team of young students, compete at the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) robotics tournament. Last Saturday, November 19, marked our sixth year hosting a qualifying tournament at Google headquarters. This year, 16 Bay Area teams made up of 9-14 year olds participated, energizing our campus with their enthusiasm and even a spontaneous conga line or two.

I’m a software engineer with a longtime personal interest in LEGO robotics and, even more, in getting kids excited about doing science and technology. When fellow Google engineer Albert Bodenhamar and I heard about the tournament awhile back, we put together a team of volunteers at Google, got in touch with the FLL regional coordinators—the nonprofit group Playing at Learning—and held our first tournament. Now we host the event every year, with a cadre of 25-30 Googlers, spouses and friends who spend the day volunteering as judges and referees and help with all of the set-up and logistics.

The center of the action during tournament day was the two ping pong-sized tables where these homegrown robots raced against the clock to complete various physical tasks, all related to the tournament theme of food safety. The tables were covered with small “props” the robots would need. For example, at one point, the robots had to scoop up, carry and then empty dispensers of little plastic “bacteria” into a miniature plastic sink at the opposite end of the table. Referees in black-and-white striped shirts started and stopped the clock and kept their eyes out for penalties while the MC gave play-by-plays of the action. Meanwhile, parents and coaches crowded around, cheering and taking photographs, and the action was broadcast on a jumbo screen for all to see.

When not competing at the tables, teams met with three different sets of judges. One panel of judges asked students about their robot (how they designed it, how it worked), while another set asked about core values (how they worked together as a team, the learning process, camaraderie). In front of the third set of judges, the teams presented their research projects and answered questions. The research project, while unrelated to robotics, aims to incorporate research and problem-solving—keys to the success of any real-world engineering team—into the competition.

At the end of the day, we announced awards. The team Nibbles & Bytes took home the Core Values award, Decon Droids won the award for best Research Project, Xtreme Creators won for Robot Design and the Flying Cougar Cyborgs won for Robot Performance. The LegoNauts took home the Champion’s award. Seven teams advanced to the district championship, which will take place in Redwood City, Calif. in January. Eventually, the tournament reaches the national, and then international, level.

It’s important, not to mention fun, to support creative outlets for young people to get involved in computer science and technology. Competitions like FLL introduce a whole new generation to the world of technology and engineering, and it’s always a blast to support the students who are participating—even if I am a bit exhausted after that conga line.

If you want to get involved with FLL, you can check the website to find out if a team exists in your area, or register a new one.

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Street View special collections: ski and snow edition

From the streets to the slopes, Street View in Google Maps recently updated its special collections to include a number of new ski resorts, so you can tour some of the world’s most beautiful ski terrain right from your browser. Whether you’re planning your annual trip to your favorite resort or hunting for an exciting new adventure, Street View can transport you to your desired destination. Tour a few of our favorite ski resorts below.

First stop off the ski lift is the world famous Squaw Valley, in northern California. Squaw Valley has been a ski destination since it hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1960.

Following a record setting 519 inches of snowfall last season, Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Take a tour of this famous Colorado destination.

Last, but surely not least, you can tour Whistler Blackcomb, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We captured Whistler with our Street View cameras last year and made some recent updates. Located in the Coast Mountain range of British Columbia, Whistler, known for both its scenery and adrenaline-pumping runs, is one of the most famous ski destinations in the world.

All snow view imagery was captured by the Street View snowmobile which made its debut two years ago at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Whether you’re a snowbird, a beach bum, an urban adventurer or something else entirely, there’s something for everyone in our growing set of Street View collections. To see some of our favorite special collections, visit the Street View gallery.

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Connect with your community on Google+

Did you know that every single major league baseball team has a Google+ page? Or that hundreds of professors across the country are using Google+ to hold virtual office hours? Or that every U.S. presidential primary candidate has agreed to participate in live hangouts with voters on television this election cycle?

As Google+ continues to grow, we’re seeing more and more communities develop on the platform. But we want to help more organizations, politicians, artists, celebrities, athletes, media companies and nonprofits use Google+ to share and interact with each other—and with Google+ users. That’s why we’re launching a series of community guides to help your organization thrive on Google+.

On the site, you can find out how to get your organization started on Google+, and learn how other groups like yours—universities, political organizations, nonprofits, sports, media companies and celebrities—are using the platform. You’ll find case studies and ideas for how organizations or individuals in each of these communities have used Google+ effectively. For example, you’ll see how NBC’s Breaking News Google+ page is using the platform to deliver breaking news; or how the Dallas Cowboys are using hangouts to connect with fans; or how celebrities like Conan O’Brien are announcing their Google+ pages to the world.

There are thousands of vibrant communities on Google+. We hope these new community guides will help you and your organization connect, follow and share with the communities you care about the most.

Finally, we’d love to hear how you’re using Google+ to engage with your communities. Make sure to share your greatest successes with us on the Google+ page.

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Google Apps highlights – 11/18/2011

The last few weeks have brought a fresh new look in Gmail, more mobile access options and simpler meeting scheduling tools. Millions of organizations using Google Apps can now use Google+ on their business and university accounts, and we launched a couple Apps-related Google+ Pages ourselves.

Gmail’s new look
Back in July we previewed Gmail’s new look, and a couple weeks ago we started letting people switch to the new design with one click. The refreshed interface makes it easier to follow conversations and spot the sender with profile pictures for each message. The new look also supports dynamic screen densities, so Gmail displays properly whether you’re viewing on a large desktop monitor or a smaller mobile screen. We also added a selection of beautiful HD themes to the existing gallery. Finally, we made it easier to perform advanced email searches using a panel of powerful search options that reveals with a single click.

Gmail app for iOS devices
This month we introduced the Gmail app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, complete with mobile alerts for new mail, a responsive touch screen interface and Gmail mainstays like fast search, conversation view and address auto-complete.

Suggested meeting times in Google Calendar
We’ve heard how frustrating it can be to spend 15 minutes finding a good time for people to convene for a 30 minute meeting, so we made it easier to find a good meeting time in Google Calendar. The suggested times feature automatically reviews the availability of meeting invitees, and proposes event times that work for the whole group.

Google+ for organizations using Google Apps
Businesses, schools and organizations with Google Apps can now use Google+. Employees and students can create profiles, +1 things they like on the web, share interesting content with their circles and have live multi-person video chats with classmates, colleagues and friends. Organizations can also create their Google+ Pages—an organization’s identity on Google+ for customers, students or fans. We’re using Google+ Pages ourselves, so take a look at the Gmail and Google Enterprise pages, and circle us if you’d like to stay in the loop.

24×7 telephone support and improved mobile device management
This week, we introduced a couple other new benefits for Google Apps customers. Organizations of all sizes around the world can now call our support hotline at any time for all core service issue. Also new this week, we improved our mobile device management capabilities with an interface for administrators to view and deny mobile devices connecting to Google Apps, granular mobile policy controls, and the ability to visualize mobile usage trends across the organization.

Who’s gone Google?
Organizations large and small continue to amass around Google Apps. We’re thrilled to welcome a whole host of new customers including the Trinity Mirror Group (Britain’s largest newspaper publisher), startups such as JobFlo and UserTesting, organizations including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and colleges like the University of Michigan and UT Austin. Welcome to all!

I hope these product updates and customer stories help you and your organization get even more from Google Apps. For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog.

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Explore open source with the Google Code-in contest

Every time you send a text, check a webpage or post a status update, you are using open source software. The Internet is made of open source. But have you ever created any yourself? If you’re a pre-university student between 13 and 17 years old, now you can—and win prizes along the way. Our Google Code-in contest starts this coming Monday, November 21, and you can sign up now. During the contest, which lasts for 57 days, participants can work on cool online tasks for 18 different open source organizations. Possible challenges include document translations, marketing outreach, software coding, user experience research and a variety of other tasks related to open source software development.

Participants earn points for each task they successfully complete and can earn prizes like t-shirts, cash and certificates of completion. The ten participants with the highest points earned by the end of the competition receive a grand prize trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. next spring for themselves and a parent or legal guardian. They’ll spend the day getting a tour of campus, meeting Google engineers and enjoying other fun surprises.

Last year’s Google Code-in had 361 students from 48 countries completing 2,167 tasks over the course of the the eight-week contest. We hope to have even more students participate this year. Help us spread the word by telling your friends, classmates, children, colleagues, teachers—everyone!

If you’d like to sign up, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and the contest rules on our program site. You can also join our discussion list for any other questions. For details on important dates for the contest, see the timeline. You can go ahead and register for your account now on the program site so you will be able to start claiming tasks right away when the contest opens on Monday, November 21 at 12:00am (midnight) PST.

We hope you’ll spend your winter (or summer, for our friends in the southern hemisphere) learning about the ins and outs of open-source development through hands-on experience. On your marks…

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Google Music is open for business

Last May at Google I/O, we launched Music Beta by Google with a clear ambition: to help people access their music collections easily from any device. Music Beta enabled you to upload your personal music collection (up to 20,000 songs) for free to the cloud so you could stream it anywhere, any time. Today, the beta service evolves into a broader platform: Google Music. Google Music is about discovering, purchasing, sharing and enjoying digital music in new, innovative and personalized ways.

Google Music helps you spend more time listening to your collection and less time managing it. We automatically sync your entire music library—both purchases and uploads—across all your devices so you don’t have to worry about cables, file transfers or running out of storage space. We’ll keep your playlists intact, too, so you’re “Chill” playlist is always your “Chill” playlist, whether you’re on your laptop, tablet or phone. You can even select the specific artists, albums and playlists you want to listen to when you’re offline.

Purchase and share
we also want to make it easy and seamless for you to grow your music collection. Today, we added a new music store in Android Market, fully integrated with Google Music.

The store offers more than 13 million tracks from artists on Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, and the global independent rights agency Merlin as well as over 1,000 prominent independent labels including Merge Records, Warp Records, Matador Records, XL Recordings and Naxos. We’ve also partnered with the world’s largest digital distributors of independent music including IODA, INgrooves, The Orchard and Believe Digital.

You can purchase individual songs or entire albums right from your computer or your Android device and they’ll be added instantly to your Google Music library, and accessible anywhere.

Good music makes you want to turn up the volume, but great music makes you want to roll down the windows and blast it for everyone. We captured this sentiment by giving you the ability to share a free full play of a purchased song with your friends on Google+.

Exclusively on Google Music
We’re celebrating our launch with a variety of music that you won’t find anywhere else, much of it free. There’s something for everyone, with a variety of free tracks to choose from:

  • The Rolling Stones are offering an exclusive, never-before-released live concert album, Brussels Affair (Live, 1973), including a free single, “Dancing with Mr. D.” This is the first of six in an unreleased concert series that will be made available exclusively through Google Music over the coming months.
  • Coldplay fans will find some original music that’s not available anywhere else: a free, live recording of “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”, a five-track live EP from their recent concert in Madrid and a remix of “Paradise” by Tiësto.
  • Busta Rhymes’s first single from his upcoming album, Why Stop Now (feat. Chris Brown), is available for free.
  • Shakira’s live EP from her recent concert in Paris and her new studio single, “Je L’Aime à Mourir” are both being offered up free.
  • Pearl Jam are releasing a live album from their 9/11/11 concert in Toronto, free to Google Music users.
  • Dave Matthews Band are offering up free albums from two live concerts, including new material from Live On Lakeside.
  • Tiësto is offering up a new mix, “What Can We Do?” (feat. Anastacia), exclusively to Google Music users.

Artist hub
whether you’re on a label or the do-it-yourself variety, artists are at the heart of Google Music. With the Google Music artist hub, any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans—essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store. This goes for new artists as well as established independent artists, like Tiesto, who debuts a new single on Google Music today.

We will roll out the music store to Android Market on devices running Android 2.2 and above. You can also pick up the new music app from Android Market and start listening to your music on your phone or tablet today. And don’t forget to turn your speakers up to eleven.

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Ten algorithm changes on Inside Search

We make roughly 500 changes to our search algorithm in a typical year. Our goal is to make search run so smoothly, you don’t even notice the changes.

That said, we like giving you insights into what we’re doing behind the search results you see each day. Today on Inside Search, we’ve posted a recap of some of the algorithmic changes we’ve made over just the past couple weeks.

These changes improve everything from translation, to snippets to auto complete. For the complete list including descriptions of the changes, check out the post on the Inside Search blog.

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Bringing the very best of what we do to the veteran community

We believe that technology can be a force for good; one that builds and binds community. As a Googler, my proudest moments are when we take that technology and put it in the hands of people who can use it to communicate, collaborate, build and explore.

Today, on Veterans Day, I am proud to share a few Google tools and platforms for the military veteran community. They can be accessed on our website, Google for Veterans and Families, which was created by veterans and their family and friends, who work at Google. This single interface brings together Google products and platforms for servicemembers and their families. We believe it will be useful to all veterans, whether still in the service, transitioning out, or on a new path in their civilian lives. Here are some examples of what you’ll find on the site:

VetConnect – This tool helps servicemembers connect, communicate and share their experiences with others who have served using the Google+ platform.

Google Veterans Channel – A YouTube channel for discussion about military service for veterans, their families and the public. Veterans can share their experiences with each other as well as with civilians to help shed light on the importance and complexity of service. If you have not served, this is a great place to offer your thanks by uploading a tribute video.

Resume Builder powered by Google Docs – We found that Docs can be a particularly helpful tool to transitioning servicemembers seeking employment. Resume Builder generates an auto-formatted resume that can be easily edited, saved and downloaded to share with potential employers.

Tour Builder powered by Google Earth (coming soon). A new way to tell your military story. Today, you can view some sample “tours”— 3D maps of veterans’ service histories, complete with photos and videos. Stay tuned for more details and updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.

It’s been a proud month for those of us here at Google who are veterans or family of veterans.

In October, 100 Googlers visited the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at West Point to conduct resume writing workshops for members of the Warrior Transition Unit. And, just two weeks ago, we traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to teach wounded, ill and injured servicemembers how to use Google tools to stay in touch with their loved ones while in recovery.

Finally, this week, we introduced the Veterans Job Bank in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Job Bank is a customized job search engine in the National Resource Directory (NRD), which is powered by Google Custom Search technology and crawls the web for JobPosting markup from to identify veteran-committed job openings.

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Supporting entrepreneurs around the world with Startup Weekend

We recognize the transformative power of startups and the entrepreneurs behind them that have the passion and courage to pursue a dream; the impact they can make on society can be significant. Google was once a startup in a garage, and Google Ventures is a testament to our ongoing commitment to entrepreneurialism. As we head into Global Entrepreneurship Week, it’s clear that having a robust community of entrepreneurs, mentors and educational resources can be a key ingredient in a startup’s success, and we’re excited to be part of that.

Today, we’re announcing a partnership with Startup Weekend—a global organization committed to promoting real entrepreneurship in local communities. In more than 200 cities and across six continents, Startup Weekend holds 54-hour startup creation events, bringing together entrepreneurs from engineering, product, design, marketing and business backgrounds. Participants gather on Friday, and by Sunday afternoon, they launch a product.

This partnership will help Startup Weekend expand to dozens of additional cities around the world and launch new vertical competitions focused on specific themes such as education, health or gaming.

In addition, we’ll be working to bring in Google’s developer community in the form of Google Technology User Groups as an additional resource to Startup Weekend participants. Started in early 2008, there are now more than 280 GTUGs in 86 countries that bring tech enthusiasts together via hundreds of events each month. GTUG members will receive discounted registration for Startup Weekend events and will help run pre-weekend local bootcamps on Google’s developer platforms and tools (e.g., App Engine, Android, Chrome).

We’ll start rolling out our product training and community events at Startup Weekends in the coming weeks and months. To learn more or find the next event happening in your city, visit Hope to see you at a weekend event soon!

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