More Options for Google+ Badges

When we launched Google+ pages in November, we also released Google+ badges to promote your Google+ presence right on your site. Starting today in developer preview (and soon available to all your users), we’re adding more options for integrating the Google+ badge into your website. You can configure a badge with a width that fits your site design and choose a version that works better on darker sites. You’ll also see that Google+ badges now include the unified +1 and circle count that we added to Pages last month.

If you’re still considering whether to add a Google+ badge on your website, consider this: We recently looked at top sites using the badge and found that, on average, the badge accounted for an additional 38% of followers. When you add the badge visitors to your website can discover your Google+ page and connect in a variety of ways: they can follow your Google+ page, +1 your site, share your site with their circles, see which of their friends have +1’d your site, and click through to visit your Google+ page.

The Google+ Badge makes it easy for your fans to find and follow you on Google+. With these additional options, we hope it’s even easier to create a badge that fits your website.

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What’s new with Sitemaps

Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site. Webmaster Tools’ Sitemaps feature gives you feedback on your submitted Sitemaps, such as how many Sitemap URLs have been indexed, or whether your Sitemaps have any errors. Recently, we’ve added even more information! Let’s check it out:

The Sitemaps page displays details based on content-type. Now statistics from Web, Videos, Images and News are featured prominently. This lets you see how many items of each type were submitted (if any), and for some content types, we also show how many items have been indexed. With these enhancements, the new Sitemaps page replaces the Video Sitemaps Labs feature, which will be retired.

Another improvement is the ability to test a Sitemap. Unlike an actual submission, testing does not submit your Sitemap to Google as it only checks it for errors. Testing requires a live fetch by Googlebot and usually takes a few seconds to complete. Note that the initial testing is not exhaustive and may not detect all issues; for example, errors that can only be identified once the URLs are downloaded are not be caught by the test.

In addition to on-the-spot testing, we’ve got a new way of displaying errors which better exposes what types of issues a Sitemap contains. Instead of repeating the same kind of error many times for one Sitemap, errors and warnings are now grouped, and a few examples are given. Likewise, for Sitemap index files, we’ve aggregated errors and warnings from the child Sitemaps that the Sitemap index encloses. No longer will you need to click through each child Sitemap one by one.

Finally, we’ve changed the way the “Delete” button works. Now, it removes the Sitemap from Webmaster Tools, both from your account and the accounts of the other owners of the site. Be aware that a Sitemap may still be read or processed by Google even if you delete if from Webmaster Tools. For example if you reference a Sitemap in your robots.txt file search engines may still attempt to process the Sitemap. To truly prevent a Sitemap from being processed, remove the file from your server or block it via robots.txt.

For more information on Sitemaps in Webmaster Tools and how Sitemaps work, visit our Help Center. If you have any questions, go to Webmaster Help Forum.

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Renewing old resolutions for the New Year

As we head into 2012, we’ve been sticking to some old resolutions—the need to focus on building amazing products that millions of people love to use every day. That means taking 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.

Here’s an update on some products that will be merged, open-sourced, or phased out in the coming months:

  • Google Message Continuity (GMC): In December 2010 we launched an email disaster recovery product for enterprise customers that use Google’s cloud to back up emails originally sent or received in an on-premise, Microsoft Exchange system. In the time since we launched, we’ve seen hundreds of businesses sign up for it. By comparison, in that same time, we’ve seen millions of businesses move entirely to the cloud with Google Apps, benefitting from disaster recovery capabilities built directly into Apps. Going forward we’ve decided to focus our efforts on Google Apps and end support for GMC. Current GMC customers will be able to use GMC for the duration of their contract and are encouraged to consider using Google Apps as their primary messaging and collaboration platform.
  • Google Sky Map: This app was created by half a dozen Googlers at the Pittsburgh office in their 20 percent time to show off the amazing capabilities of the sensors in the first-generation Android phones and offer a window into the sky. Since we launched the tool in 2009, we have managed to share our passion with more than 20 million Android users. We will be open-sourcing Sky Map and are collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University in a partnership that will see further development of Sky Map as a series of student projects.
  • Needlebase: We are retiring this data management platform, which we acquired from ITA Software, on June 1, 2012. The technology is being evaluated for integration into Google’s other data-related initiatives.
  • Picnik: We acquired this online photo editor in 2010. We’re retiring the service on April 19, 2012 so the Picnik team can continue creating photo-editing magic across Google products. You can download a zip file of your creations through Picnik Takeout or copy them to Google+. As of now, the premium service is free to everyone. Premium members will receive a full refund in the coming weeks.
  • Social Graph API: This API makes information about the public connections between people on the web available for developers. 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.
  • Urchin: In 2005 we acquired Urchin, whose online web analytics product became the foundation for Google Analytics, helping businesses of all sizes measure their websites and online marketing. We’re fully committed to building an industry-leading online analytics product, so we’re saying goodbye to the client-hosted version, known as Urchin Software. New Urchin Software licenses will no longer be available after March 2012.

Resolutions can be hard, and changing products that people love is hard too. But we’re excited to focus on creating a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google—an experience that will change the lives of millions of people.

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Doodle 4 Google: “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”

Starting today, we’d like to invite K-12 students in the U.S. to participate in our fifth annual U.S. Doodle 4 Google contest. Draw your rendition of the Google logo and you may see it on the ultimate gallery: the Google homepage. The winning doodler will also take home a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school.

The theme for this year’s contest is “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”. That could mean visiting a past, present or future setting—whether it’s traveling back in time to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to the future to witness everyday space travel, or to just a few moments ago to relive a poignant experience.

Building on last year’s record-breaking participation (107,000 entries!), we’ve made a few enhancements to the 2012 contest. First, we’re opening Doodle 4 Google up to an even wider audience—with a winner from every state. There will be five finalists and one winner per state, so everyone will have a local doodle champion to cheer on. From these 50 State Winners, we’ll find 5 National Finalists and the lucky National Winner.

We’re also partnering with Crayola this year and the winning doodler’s artwork will appear on a special edition of the 64-crayon box—a first!

Participating is easier than ever, since we’ve eliminated the registration step. All you need to do is submit your child’s or student’s artwork by March 20 with a signed and completed entry form.

Contest judging starts with Google employees and a panel of guest judges—including multi-platinum singer Katy Perry, Phineas and Ferb creator and executive producer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, and recording artist Jordin Sparks, as well as other great illustrators and artists—who will help us pick the state finalists and winners. Then, on May 2, we’ll put the 50 state winners up for public vote. All 50 State Winners will be flown to New York City for the national awards ceremony on May 17, with the winning doodle appearing on May 18.

The doodles by the 50 State Winners will be displayed at The New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street in an exhibition open to the public over the summer. We’ll also be partnering with museums across the country to display the artwork of the state finalists in areas near their homes.

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Don’t censor the web

You might notice many of your favorite websites look different today. Wikipedia is down. WordPress is dark. We’re censoring our homepage logo and asking you to petition Congress. So what’s the big deal?

Right now in Washington D.C., Congress is considering two bills that would censor the web and impose burdensome regulations on American businesses. They’re known as the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Here’s what they’d do:

  • PIPA & SOPA will censor the web. 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.
  • PIPA & SOPA will risk our industry’s track record of innovation and job creation. These bills would make it easier to sue law-abiding U.S. companies. Law-abiding payment processors and Internet advertising services can be subject to these private rights of action. SOPA and PIPA would also create harmful (and uncertain) technology mandates on U.S. Internet companies, as federal judges second-guess technological measures used by these companies to stop bad actors, and potentially impose inconsistent injunctions on them.
  • PIPA & SOPA will not stop piracy. These bills wouldn’t get rid of pirate sites. Pirate sites would just change their addresses in order to continue their criminal activities. There are better ways to address piracy than to ask U.S. companies to censor the Internet. The foreign rogue sites are in it for the money, and we believe the best way to shut them down is to cut off their sources of funding. As a result, Google supports alternative approaches like the OPEN Act.

Fighting online piracy is extremely important. We are investing a lot of time and money in that fight. Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages and invested more than $60 million in the fight against ads appearing on bad sites. And we think there is more that can be done here—like targeted and focused steps to cut off the money supply to foreign pirate sites. If you cut off the money flow, you cut the incentive to steal.

Because we think there’s a good way forward that doesn’t cause collateral damage to the web, we’re joining Wikipedia, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla and other Internet companies in speaking out against SOPA and PIPA. And we’re asking you to sign a petition and join the millions who have already reached out to Congress through phone calls, letters and petitions asking them to rethink SOPA and PIPA.

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Ask your question in the 2012 Google Science Fair

Are human beings born curious, or can curiosity be nurtured through environment, competition or a good teacher? Everyone’s got a question—that’s ours. But we’re sure you’ve got tons of questions, too. Today, we’re inviting students around the world to pose their most pressing questions about the world around them and answer those questions through scientific inquiry.

Along with our partners CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American, today we’re launching the second annual Google Science Fair, the largest online science competition in the world, open globally to students ages 13-18. Either individually or in teams of up to three people, students pose a question, develop a hypothesis and conduct science experiments to test it. The entire process is detailed and submitted online, via a website template participants fill out themselves, so all you need to participate is curiosity, an Internet connection and a browser.
Last year, we received entries that strove to solve a wide variety of needs, from “How can I cure cancer?” to “Can I teach a robot to learn English?” to “Can I build a faster sailboat?” The breadth and depth of these projects was incredibly impressive, and this year we hope to see even more entries from the next generation of brilliant young scientists.

This year’s fair will be even more global than the last: We’re now accepting submissions in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish and Russia). We will also be recognizing 90 regional finalists (30 from the Americas, 30 from the Asia Pacific and 30 from Europe/Middle East/Africa). From these 90, to be announced in May, our judges will select the top 15 finalists, who will be flown to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. for our live Google Science Fair final event on July 23, 2012. At the finals, a panel of distinguished international judges (like Vint Cerf, Sylvia Earle and Nobel Laureates David Gross and Ada Yonath) will select top winners in each age category (13-14, 15-16, 17-18).

We’re also introducing a new category for this year’s competition—the Scientific American Science in Action award. We were so inspired by 2011 finalist Harine Ravichandran’s project, which attempted to solve energy surges in rural villages, that we decided to recognize an outstanding project that addresses a social, environmental or health need to make a difference in the lives of a group or community, as Harine’s project did for her grandparents’ village in India. The winner will also be flown to Mountain View for the finalist event in July.

The Google Science Fair opens today, January 12, worldwide, and we’ll accept submissions until Sunday, April 1 at 11:59pm GMT (or 6:59pm ET/3:59pm PT). In addition to satisfying your curious mind, your brilliant project can also help to win you some pretty cool prizes, like a $50,000 college scholarship from Google, a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands with a National Geographic Explorer or an internship at Google or any one of our partners. Our Scientific American Science in Action award winner will earn $50,000 and year-long mentorship to make their project goal a reality.

The winners of last year’s inaugural Google Science Fair became something like scientific rock stars. Shree Bose, Naomi Shah and Lauren Hodge met with President Obama, were invited to speak at big events like TEDx Women and were featured in Wired magazine. Shree, our grand prize winner, was named one of Glamour magazine’s 21 Amazing Young Women of the Year. White House visits and Glamour aside, every student in the Google Science Fair has the chance to do hands-on research that can truly change the world.

Visit and ask your most burning questions at the top of your voice for the world to hear. Google itself was founded through experimentation and with the Google Science Fair, we hope to inspire scientific exploration among the next generation of scientists and engineers, celebrate scientific talent, create scientific role models and unite students around the world in the quest for learning.

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Street View: your friendly campus tour guide

For many, the start of a new year is also the start of a new semester. Whether you’re a current student trying to familiarize yourself with campus, an applicant assessing your options or an alumnus feeling nostalgic, the Street View feature in Google Maps can be your tour guide without the backward walking. We recently added imagery of more university campuses to the existing special collections already available via Street View through our Partner Program. Let’s take a quick tour of some of the many beautiful campuses around the world.

In Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward, you can find Waseda University. Founded in 1882, it is known for producing some of the top Japanese politicians and business leaders in recent history. Check out the statue of Ōkuma Shigenobu, who founded the university.

Halfway around the world, we can visit the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Founded in 1451, this university is one of the oldest in the world, and the fourth oldest in the English speaking world. Take a tour of the magnificent campus starting at the West Quadrangle of the Main Building.

Hop the Atlantic and cross the U.S. to Stanford University, which was founded in 1891 in Palo Alto, Calif. Located near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, both of our founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, attended Stanford for their graduate studies. Explore the campus starting at the palm-lined main quad with a view of Hoover Tower.

Students, take note: Even though your campus is now available in your browser, you still need to go to class! To view other imagery collections of popular universities around the world see a complete list of the campuses or visit a few more highlights in the Street View gallery.

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Think fast in the first Think Quarterly of 2012

In the amount of time it takes you to read this blog post, roughly 382 Android phones will be activated, 250,000+ words will be written on Blogger and 48 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube. The world is moving faster than ever before, bringing us instant access and split-second connections to people and information.

Speed is important in technology, but equally essential in business. Consumer expectations are rising as we learn to take speed for granted; today’s email is tomorrow’s snail mail. In our hyper-real-time world, nanoseconds matter—which means we need to question old assumptions. How will we respond to consumer expectations as the demand for instant access to everything intensifies? How will we keep pace in a world that moves at web speed?

The new Speed issue of Think Quarterly explores these questions and more. Our SVP of Engineering Urs Hölzle shares our efforts to speed up the Internet, while Astro Teller, Director of New Products, dreams about the amazing inventions these improvements will unleash. Paul Gunning, CEO of Tribal DDB, talks about the rise of real-time marketing. And journalist Jeff Jarvis wonders if we’re really that fast after all.

We hope you enjoy the issue. Let us know what you think on +Think with Google. And if you’re at CES this week, drop by our Room to Think in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center and tell us your thoughts live. We’ll also host a Google+ Hangout there with Astro Teller, author of Speed of Dreams, on Thursday at 2pm PST.

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Making computer science accessible worldwide with CS4HS

Last summer, K-12 educators in the Boston, Mass. area gathered at MIT for a bit of summer school. They weren’t there to brush up on freshman year biology, but rather to learn a new subject, the programming language Scratch. This is a snapshot of the Google in education group’s Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) program. The teachers gathered at MIT last July had various backgrounds and degrees, but they all attended with one goal—to bring computer science (CS) education back to their schools, and their students.

From now until March 3, 2012, CS4HS is accepting applications from interested colleges and universities for our fourth consecutive year of computer science workshops. If you’re not affiliated with a college or university you can still encourage your local university, community college or technical school to apply for a grant. In the late spring, after applications close, we’ll post workshop websites of participating schools on for professors looking for ideas and for teachers interested in learning more about what’s being offered.

Over the course of the three-day professional development workshops, funded by Google and held on university campuses around the world, participants learn about programming software directly from developers and full-time CS faculty. There is balance of discussion, engaging project work and presentations. The workshops prepare educators to teach programming and computing in their schools and turn their students into computational thinkers and creators.

The need for more CS professionals is increasing faster than universities are able to graduate CS students, and CS4HS hopes to address this gap with our “train the trainer” approach. We provide the universities with the support they need, so they can provide local teachers with the tools they need, so that those teachers can teach students the skills they will need.

In 2011, we funded more than 70 programs that trained thousands of educators worldwide on various aspects of CS. In 2012, we are expanding our program to include more regions and reach even more teachers. If you are affiliated with a university, community college or technical school in the U.S, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, Australia or New Zealand and are interested in creating a three-day CS4HS workshop, we want to partner with you.

You will also find curriculum modules from past workshops to use or adapt, as well as a list of participating schools from 2010 and 2011. There’s also an example of a successful program and of a stand-out application to get you started on the right track.

Help spread enthusiasm for computer science in your community: When you’re ready to apply, submit your application online by March 3, 2012.

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