SiliconFilter



Google Releases Version 1 of its Go Programming Language

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Go, the increasingly popular programming language Google first announced in late 2009, is now available in its first stable version. This release also marks the first time that a native support for Go is available to Windows users. Dart, another language developed by Google’s engineers, is mostly meant for web applications, while the developers of Go aimed to create a modern general-purpose language for networked and multicore computing. While Go took quite a bit of inspiration from C, it also includes ideas from other languages like Pascal, Newsqueak and Limbo.

As the engineers behind the project note, the reason to release a stable version now is to give developers a stable target for their development efforts. Until now, the language still changed regularly and some of these changes likely broke existing code. Now, Google’s engineers will ensure that – with a few exceptions – every further addition to Go won’t break existing programs. “Code that compiles in Go 1 should, with few exceptions, continue to compile and run throughout the lifetime of that version, even as we issue updates and bug fixes such as Go version 1.1, 1.2, and so on.”

With this release, Google also updated its Google App Engine SDK to support this new version (App Engine is Google’s cloud computing platform for developers). To see how serious Google is about Go, you just have to look at the fact that besides Go, App Engine only supports Java and Python right now.



9:30 am


Come On Google, Show Us Some Real Google+ User Numbers Already

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Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that things aren't looking so great for Google+. According to data from comScore, Google+'s users spend just about 3 minutes per month on the site. On Facebook, that number is closer to six or seven hours per month. Google itself, however, has never provided anybody with any useful data about the service and – at worst – is just using deliberately misleading information to provide the press with big numbers that look good but are absolutely meaningless.

100 Million "Active" Users?

In January, for example the company's CEO Larry Page said that the site had 90 million users at that time and that "+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly." That, however, was a pretty misleading statement. While it may sound that Page was saying that 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ every day, his argument was simply that 60% of those users who signed up for Google+ also use any other Google+ service on a daily basis. Those numbers said absolutely nothing about the engagement Google+ is seeing from its users.

Today, Google's VP for engineering Vic Gundotra – in what is clearly a reaction to the WSJ piece – talked to the New York Times' Nick Bilton and once again used the same kind of tactic. "On a daily basis, 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users." Google+, of course, is now part of virtually every other Google product, including search, which most of the company's users probably use on a daily basis without ever trying to actively engage with the company's social network.

Nice, Meaningless Numbers

Google is obviously trying to paint a nice picture here by using large numbers that, at the end of the day, say nothing about Google+ and how engaged its users are. Maybe things are great at Google+ and it has a huge, highly active community (though most of us aren't seeing it in our own accounts). The problem with this is that unless Google provides us with any concrete data, it just looks as if the company has something to hide.



1:56 pm


Google Comes Out to Play: Launches a Central Storefront for its Music, Movie, eBook and App Markets

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Google just announced a massive update to how it will market and sell content and app. The Android Market, Google Music and Google Books are now a thing of the past and have been integrated into a new service called Google Play. Google calls the service "a digital entertainment destination where you can find, enjoy and share your favorite music, movies, books and apps on the web and on your Android phone or tablet." The combined entertainment store will give users access to 20,000 songs you can upload to your free music locker and "millions of new tracks" for purchase, as well as access to the 450,000 Android apps that are currently available in the Android Market. In addition, Play will also let users buy content from Google's eBook and movie catalog.

Goodbye Android Market

Neither Google's eBook nor movie offers have been major hits, so this new combined market, which will be available online and on Android (where it replaces the Android Market), could help to raise the profile of these services.

The idea here, besides offering a central store, of course, is also to make it easier for users to seamlessly switch between devices as they read a book or watch a movie. All your data will be stored in the cloud, after all, and should be available from anywhere.

There are some geographic restrictions to what Google will offer where. In the U.S., users will be able to get access to the full selection of movies, apps, eBooks and music. In Canada and the U.K., Play will only offer movies, books and apps, while Australian users will only get apps and book and Japanese users will get access to movies and apps. In the rest of the world, Play will basically just be an app store for the time being. Google, of course, hopes to roll more services out to more countries in the long run.



10:28 am


The Google Doctor Will See You Now: Google Improves Results for Health Searches

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Google search is no substitute for actually visiting a doctor, but millions of people use the search engine to look up symptoms every day. Now, Google is making it a little bit easier to connect these symptoms with actual health conditions. The search engine will now automatically display a list of possible illnesses automatically when you search for a common symptom.

In it research, Google found that most searches for a symptom are followed by a search for a related condition. To save its users some time, the search engine's algorithms now automatically discover the kinds of conditions are related to certain symptoms.

health search symptoms on google

According to Google's chief health strategist Roni Zeiger, it's important to remember that this list is generated by algorithms and not authored by doctors.

It's worth noting that Microsoft's Bing, in partnership with the Mayo Clinic, has featured support for enhanced health search results for more than two years now.



10:13 am


Google Search Now Features Fresher Results, Faster Autocomplete and More Relevant Related Searches

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In January, Google launched its Search Plus your World initiative and the jury is still out whether this was a useful change to its search experience or not. At the same time, though, Google also quietly made a number of other changes to its search product that it didn't discuss publicly until today. Among these are an effort to provide users with fresher results, fast autocomplete, a small update to its content-farm busting Panda algorithm and a tweak to when news  results are blended into regular search results. In addition, Google Instant now automatically turns itself off when you are on a slow machine.

Another interesting tweak is that images on high-quality landing pages will now rank higher in image search results. The quality of related searches, which often appear at the bottom of the search results page, has also been improved.

Here is a complete list of the tweaks and new features Google announced today: [list]

  • Fresher results. [launch codename “nftc”] We made several adjustments to the freshness algorithm that we released in November. These are minor updates to make sure we continue to give you the freshest, most relevant results.
  • Faster autocomplete. [launch codename “Snappy Suggest”, project codename “Suggest”] We made improvements to our autocomplete system to deliver your predicted queries much faster.
  • Autocomplete spelling corrections. [launch codename “Trivial”, project codename “Suggest”] This is an improvement to the spelling corrections used in autocomplete, making those corrections more consistent with the spelling corrections used in search. This launch targets corrections where the spelling change is very small.
  • Better spelling full-page replacement. [launch codenames “Oooni”, “sgap”, project codename “Full-Page Replacement”] When we’re confident in a spelling correction we automatically show results for the corrected query and let you know we’re “Showing results for [cheetah]” (rather than, say, “cheettah”). We made a couple of changes to improve the accuracy of this feature.
  • Better spelling corrections for rare queries. This change improves one of the models that we use to make spelling corrections. The result is more accurate spell corrections for a number of rare queries.
  • Improve detection of recurrent event pages. [launch codename “neseda”] We made several improvements to how we determine the date of a document. As a result, you’ll see fresher, more timely results, particularly for pages discussing recurring events.
  • High-quality sites algorithm improvements. [launch codenames “PPtl” and “Stitch”, project codename “Panda”] In 2011, we launched the Panda algorithm change, targeted at finding more high-quality sites. We improved how Panda interacts with our indexing and ranking systems, making it more integrated into our pipelines. We also released a minor update to refresh the data for Panda.
  • Cross-language refinements. [launch codename Xiangfan] Previously, we only generated related searches based on the display language. With this change, we also attempt to auto-detect the language of the original query to generate related search queries. Now, a user typing a query in French might see French query refinements, even if her language is set to English.
  • English on Google Saudi Arabia. Users in Saudi Arabia can now more easily choose an English interface to search on google.com.sa.
  • Improved scrolling for Image Search. Previously when you scrolled in Image Search, only the image results would move while the top and side menus were pinned in place. We changed the scrolling behavior to make it consistent with our main search results and the other search modes, where scrolling moves the entire page.
  • Improved image search quality. [launch codename “endearo”, project codename “Image Search”] This is a small improvement to our image search ranking algorithm. In particular, this change helps images with high-quality landing pages rank higher in our image search results.
  • More relevant related searches. Sometimes at the bottom of the screen you’ll see a section called “Searches related to” with other queries you may want to try. With this change, we’ve updated the model for generating related searches, resulting in more useful query refinements.
  • Blending of news results. [launch codename “final-destination”, project codename “Universal Search”] We improved our algorithm that decides which queries should show news results, making it more responsive to realtime trends. We also made an adjustment to how we blend news results in Universal Search. Both of these changes help news articles appear in your search results when they are relevant.
  • Automatically disable Google Instant based on computer speed. [project codename “Psychic Search”] Google Instant has long had the ability to automatically turn itself off if you’re on a slow internet connection. Now Instant can also turn itself off if your computer is slow. If Instant gets automatically disabled, we continue to check your computer speed and will re-enable Instant if your performance improves. We’ve also tweaked search preferencesso you can always have Instant on or off, or have it change automatically.[/list]


2:21 pm


How to Turn Off Google’s New Personal Results

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Google launched its new "personal results" feature yesterday that now mixes more Google+ posts from you and the people you follow on the service into your regular search results pages. There is a lot of talk about how it's anticompetitive and a sign of Google abusing its legal monopoly in search to push Google+, but the reality is, "search+" as many have come to call it, just isn't very good or useful in most instances. For the most part, it just clutters up your search results with stuff you aren't looking for. Thankfully, Google makes it easy to turn this feature off. Here is how:

The Temporary Solution

Personal results  hide toggle

If you just want to see what your regular results without search+ would look like, you can just use the toggle in the top right corner of the screen. This selection isn't sticky, however, and Google will just revert to Search+ the next time you come back to Google to search (note: you will only see this toggle once Search+ is enable for your account).

If you want to switch the default to non-personalized results, though, you have to do a tiny little bit more work.

Personal results search settings

Going Nuclear

Step 1: head to the search settings menu by clicking on the cogwheel in the top right corner of the screen and click on "search settings"

Step 2: Scroll down a bit and look for the "Personal results" section. Select "Do not use personal results."

Search Settings

Step 3: Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on the blue "Save" button.

Search+ is now off by default, but you can still use the regular toggle to turn it on for this specific search session again.



4:24 pm


Still Waiting for the New Google Bar? Google Says You’ll Get it “In the Coming Weeks”

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Earlier this week, I wondered what happened to the new "Google Bar", the replacement for the black navigation bar that currently sits on top of virtually all of Google's online services. According to a blog post from late November, Google was planning to replace the old black bar with a new design that would move most of the links into a drop-down menu nested under the Google logo.

Oddly enough, though, it's now a month later and very few users actually have actually seen the new design yet. That's a very slow roll-out, especially by Google's standards.

If you don't have access to the new Google Bar and Google Menu, though, fret not. Here is the official word from Mountain View about the rollout. According to a Google spokesperson, the roll-out is proceeding as planned: "Since its launch, we rolled out the new Google bar to some users and are looking to broaden the rollout in the coming weeks."

Clearly, this new design affects virtually all of Google's properties, so it's obviously a massive roll-out. Somehow, though, I can't help but feel that Google jumped the gun a bit with its announcement.

Given the short attention span of the tech blogosphere, it also shouldn't come as a surprise then that some of the writers who are seeing the new design pop up here and there now think it's actually an experiment.

Google bar and menu



6:08 pm


Google Launches New Gallery for its Doodles, Opens a Zazzle Store to Sell Them

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Google puts a lot of work into the ever-changing logos it puts on its homepages around the world to commemorate historical events, holidays and the birthdays of people like Jim Henson, Cezanne or Thomas Edison. Indeed, there is a whole team at Google that focuses on nothing else but creating these so-called doodles and – at an increasing rate – interactive experiences for the Google homepage as well. For a while now, Google has offered a gallery of these logos, but today, the company is launching a revamped version of its Doodle site that makes searching for a specific logo significantly easier. The site features a total of over 1,000 static and animated doodles.

In addition – and just in time before the holidays – Google is also launching a doodle store on Zazzle, where you can get shirts, cards, posters, bumper stickers, mugs, stamps and other swag with your favorite doodles going back all the way to the year 2000. Until now, the only place to get doodle-themed swag was Google's employee store, which sadly isn't open to the public (though Google's employees are allowed to bring in a guest or two).

Doodles google site



3:23 pm


Google Business Photos: New Indoor Street View Images Go Live

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After a long period of rumors and denials, Google officially announced its Google Business Photos program (a.k.a. indoor Street View) earlier this year. While Google put the first set of businesses online soon after the announcement, we didn’t hear much about this project since. Now, however, it looks as if more and more of these indoor, Street View-like images are going online. You can find some examples here and here.

When Google first announced this program, the company stressed that it was mostly interested in working with independent local merchants. Merchants also had to apply to be included in this program. True to form, the new indoor Street View images come from small, independent stores, including the comic book store you can see below.

Google Maps indoor comics

Interestingly, it doesn’t look as if these images are linked to the larger Street View and the surrounding streets, though. Instead, the only way to get to them right now, it seems, is by going through the business’ Place Page. It would be nice if Google made finding these images a bit easier.

As one business owner pointed out on Hacker News earlier today, the total visit from the Google team took about 20-30 minutes (though things didn’t go right the first time around and they had to come back).

It’s worth noting, by the way, that Microsoft’s Bing has been offering interior views of some businesses since last December.

Google Maps indoor



5:56 pm


Google Updates Its Biannual Government Transparency Report

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Google today updated its biannual Transparency Report that aims to provide greater transparency around the government requests for user data or the removal of content from the company’s servers. While this new report does not greatly diverge from earlier ones, the company did add one new data point: the number of user accounts that are specified in the requests the company receives.

As Google notes, this new data should help researchers and developers to “revisualize it in different ways, or mash it up with information from other organizations to test and draw up new hypotheses about government behaviors online.”

Google transparency us

The self-governing parliamentary Cook Islands in the South Pacific made their debut this year. As Google only received fewer than ten request from the former British protectorate, it won’t release any data about the nature of these requests.

As for the U.S., Google specifically notes that it did not comply with a number of requests that would have resulted in the deletion of videos that were allegedly portraying police violence. With regard to China, Google also notes that it received three requests to remove a total of 121 items from its services. Two involved AdWords and Google complied with those, but the company notes that it has “withheld details about one request because [it has] reason to believe that the Chinese government has prohibited [it] from full disclosure.”

You can find the full report here.

 



3:39 pm


Google’s New (Limited) Flight Search Challenges Kayak and Co.

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Google today launched the first iteration of its new flight search feature that will allow users to find cheap airfares right from the Google interface without having to go through sites like Orbitz, Kayak or Expedia. For now, this feature is still somewhat limited and only supports major U.S. airports. The potential, here, however, is huge and even though this is a first version of this product, the service’s features easily rival (and sometimes surpass) those of sites like Kayak. The feature is fast, smart and will put a lot of pressure on the incumbents in this business.

A few months ago, after a long regulatory delay, Google finally closed on its acquisition of ITA Software, a major supplier of IT solutions for airlines and travel services (including Orbitz and many major U.S.-based airlines). This flight search feature is the first fruit of this acquisition and finally gets Google a strong foothold in the travel market – a potentially lucrative market that Google, for some reason, waited a long time to enter.

google_flight_search

Features

There are obviously already plenty of flight booking services out there, ranking from Kayak to Hipmunk. For the most part, Google offers the same feature set to search for flights and lets you filter by airline, airline alliance, departure time, etc.

flight_search_limitedGoogle, however, is using some smart visualization features to get ahead of the competition. You can, for example, easily compare flight duration and price on a scatter graph and then use the built-in slider to filter out flights that are too long or expensive. The list of available flights is then updated in real time.

There are also advanced tools, including the ability to search for multiple nearby airports and the ability to discover days when tickets are the cheapest. You can also easily compare the prices on different dates.

Verdict: A Winner

While still limited by the low number of airports it currently supports, it’s already clear that Google has a winner on its hands here. In testing the service, it quickly becomes clear that it is faster and easier to use than Kayak and similar services.



6:32 pm


Hello Moto: Everything You Need to Know About the Google-Motorola Deal

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Google today announced that it plans to acquire Motorola Mobility – the Motorola’s cellphone and set-top box division – for about $12.5 billion. This is obviously a major deal and suddenly turns Google from a company mostly focused on software into a hardware manufacturer as well. While Google aims to run both businesses separately – and stressed that even Motorola will have to compete for Google’s business – the fact that Google’s headcount just grew by about 60% shows that this acquisition will have a massive impact on the company in the long run.

The deal, it should be noted, still has to receive regulatory approval from the appropriate agencies in the U.S., Europe and other countries, so it could take a while before this deal goes into effect and the full ramifications of it become clear.

What Did Google Just Buy?

Motorola Mobility: the focus of Motorola’s Mobility unit is the mobile phone business. Until January 2011, this unit was known as Motorola’s Mobile Devices division, but at that point, it was split off from the parent company and became its own business. Once upon a time (in the 1990s), Motorola was among the top manufacturers in the mobile phone business. Since then, though, its competitors like Nokia and Samsung leaped ahead – both with regards to technology as well as sales. Motorola is now the seventh largest handset manufacturer and focuses exclusively on Android-based devices.

With regards to financials, Motorola Mobility’s revenue for 2010 was $11.4 billion with an operating income of $76 million. The company has 19,000 employees (Google itself had about 29,000 until now).

Why?

The obvious question to ask here is why Google would be interested in this deal. Motorola itself decided to split its mobility unit from the rest of its business so it could shop it around. This sale itself then doesn’t come as a real surprise – the surprise is that Google bought it.

  • Patents: the current state of the patent system keeps big companies in a constant cold war-like state where the mutual threat of patent litigation keeps all sides from attacking each other. Google, however, doesn’t have many mobile-related patents, so it’s hard for the company to defend Android from attacks (specifically from Microsoft and Apple). Google CEO Larry Page: “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
    Interestingly, Motorola itself was also planning to sue a few of the other Android manufacturers before this acquisition. In a way, Google is protecting its own ecosystem from Motorola by this acquisition, too.
  • Integrating hardware and software to rival Apple: Apple’s success in controlling both the hardware and software side of its business has shown that this is really the way for the mobile industry and that customers – for the most part – prefer this model. While Google regularly releases its “Nexus” reference phones to show vendors what it expects an Android phone to look like, the Android market has suffered badly from the fragmentation of the market – especially when it comes to providing software updates. By controlling both sides of the business, Google can force the other manufacturers to keep up.
  • A foothold in the living room: this has gone relatively under-reported, but as Larry Dignan rightly notes, Motorola Mobility is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of cable boxes. This isn’t a business that moves very fast (how often does your provider update your cable box?), but in the long run, this could allow Google to bring its technology into more living rooms (the GoogleTV project, after all, wasn’t exactly a huge success).

Potential Problems

  • Motorola is no Apple: while integrating the software and hardware business makes for larger margins and hopefully for better products, Motorola hasn’t exactly shown the kind of design finesse we’ve come to expect from Apple. It’ll be interesting to see if Google can turn this around.
  • What will the other Android smartphone makers say? Henry Blodget rightly asks how HTC, LG, Samsung and the other handset makers will react to this. Officially, they all say that they love this deal, but there is surely an undercurrent of anxiety there as well. Are these companies going to feel as if Google is “stabbing them in the back,” as Blodget says?
  • Google is not a hardware company: The hardware business is fiercely competitive and includes far more moving parts than any other business Google has ever entered. Despite its size, Google has never been very good at marketing – something that is essential in the consumer electronics business.
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4:25 pm


Wave Goodbye to Google Labs

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Google just announced that it is shutting down Google Labs, the company’s central hub for testing new product ideas and features. According to Google, the decision was made in order to allow it to prioritize its product efforts. Google notes that it has learned a lot by launching early prototypes in Labs, but apparently not enough to keep this effort going. Google Labs currently still features experiments for Google Search, Maps, Android and other services, but the company plans to phase it out shortly. (more…)



7:20 pm