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As a past founder of a technology startup, I understand the elation of coming up with an idea that solves a real need, building a product, and seeing people use it to make their lives better. Even more satisfaction comes when you can do all of this and pay the bills too. As I mentioned in this article it brings a smile to my face to hear about entrepreneurs in the developing world who use AdSense to replace their day job with AdSense earnings -- simply by writing about what they know and love. The story says these people are on "Google's hidden payroll" -- I say let's not hide this opportunity any longer.

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The Google Foundation supports select organizations whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable. From time to time we invite guest bloggers from grantee organizations to tell us about their work.

We’re pleased to report that TechnoServe and the Google Foundation are launching a national business plan competition this week in Ghana, called “Believe Begin Become.” It’s designed to help Ghanaian entrepreneurs develop skills, obtain seed or expansion capital and establish the networks that help transform their business ideas into successful enterprises. (Watch the video about the program.)

More and more, entrepreneurs are recognizing the value of gaining skills, tools and a strong business network, and we know from our experience in Latin America what this kind of competition can mean to entrepreneurs. The program helps establish a crucial business network that will carry on long after the competition ends.

Our Organizing Committee colleague Ishmael Yamson puts it this way: “There are many entrepreneurs out there with good ideas — but they need encouragement to translate those ideas into concrete activities. Believe Begin Become can help them to do that.”

Get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

Update: added link to Google Video at end of paragraph 1.

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What do you get when Google and Nike get together and brainstorm? A sneaker-shaped server? A great TV ad for web search? No, you get Joga.com, an online football community that combines Google technology with Nike's unique sports content and access to players. Joga brings people all over the world together to celebrate their shared passion for the game of football (for you Americans out there, by "football" I mean "soccer").

What can Joga.com members expect? Three words: content, community, and players.

Content – Create your own personalized page to add your favorite pictures, videos and blogs, and view what your fellow fans have added. Members can keep current with Friend Requests, Alerts, and Messages too.

Community - Joga users can create their own teams, find local fields, and play other Joga teams in their community.

Players - Gain exclusive access to profiles and information about Nike players.

What does it all mean? Well, Joga.com comes from "Joga Bonito," Portuguese for "play beautiful," a phrase that symbolizes both any football player's desire to embody the grace of the game and our goal to offer a community site that helps promotes the sheer fun, skill, sportsmanship and community spirit that make football truly the world's favorite game.

Whether we've succeeded, of course, will be up to all of you to determine. We look forward to seeing football-crazy people from around the world playing as beautifully as possible at Joga.com.

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The Google Blog was unavailable for a short time tonight. We quickly learned from our initial investigation that there was no systemwide vulnerability for Blogger. We'll let you know more about what did happen once we finish looking into it.

Update: We've determined the cause of tonight's outage. The blog was mistakenly deleted by us (d'oh!) which allowed the blog address to be temporarily claimed by another user. This was not a hack, and nobody guessed our password. Our bad.

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Mom always taught us to share and now we know why: it's fun. Google Reader, which keeps track of websites you like to read regularly, just added the ability to share what you like to read with your friends.

You can send a link to your starred items in Reader, and you can even put a clip on your blog with recent items from your reading list. For instance, I mark all of the interesting posts that I find as "linkblog." Then my friends can subscribe to my "linkblog" label -- even if they don't use Google Reader -- and visitors to my blog can see it in the sidebar.

Some other shared lists we've come across:
To get started with sharing, just click the "Share" link in Reader or see the help section.

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Recently I was one of several Googlers who volunteered at the Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics conference at Mills, where I also teach. This annual event provides career panels and hands-on workshops to encourage middle-school girls to keep studying science and mathematics as they enter high school. I led a workshop, "How to Build a Computer," in which the students learned binary arithmetic and built a half-adder.

I don't know who had more fun, the girls or the volunteers! Google is a sponsor of the national Expanding Your Horizons Network, whose workshops have reached over 625,000 girls.


Photo by Barton Friedland

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It's high time for us to release a small update for our Gmail Notifier for Mac (OS X). We've added a few things of our own and got some ideas from users too. Some of the changes are:
  • it's a universal binary, so it will run natively on PowerPC and Intel Macs;
  • it will notify you when a new version is available and automatically upgrade itself; and...drum roll, please...
  • it has new icons (we know it's what you've asked for!).
Also, as many of you know, the Gmail Notifier supports plug-ins, and one of our users wrote a cool plug-in called Gmail+Growl that displays visual Growl notifications when new mail arrives. Very cool and worth checking out. So download the Mac Gmail Notifier once again, and we'll take care of the rest.

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, "In the Spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." In the spring at Google, a geek's fancy turns to thoughts of ... charts and data. So to mark this vernal equinox, we introduce to you Google Finance.

It all started as a small project led by a few engineers in Bangalore and later joined by more engineers and finance enthusiasts in Mountain View and New York . We have different backgrounds, work in different time zones, and, at the start of this project, had never met in person. But we shared the same goal: to improve the search experience for financial information. We hope Google Finance lives up to that aim by offering a fresh perspective on company-related searches. To begin with, you no longer have to remember a ticker or mutual fund symbol. Just search for a company or mutual fund by name and you'll quickly see all the relevant information.

But perhaps Google Finance's most important innovations take place after you've found the company in question. You'll find interactive charts that enable you to zoom through different time periods, headlines mapped right on the charts and are based on Google News, which means you're seeing unbiased and relevant results from more than 4,500 English-language news sources. And you'll get insightful comments from bloggers about public and private companies, plus Discussion Groups moderated by enthusiastic community advocates, which should foster some quality exchanges about the companies you care about.

Google Finance is an early-stage beta product. We hope to expand and improve this service over time, and your feedback will be a big part of that. So do let us know what you think.

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Google will not have to hand over any user's search queries to the government. That's what a federal judge ruled today when he decided to drastically limit a subpoena issued to Google by the Department of Justice. (You can read the entire ruling here and the government's original subpoena here.)

The government's original request demanded billions of URLs and two month's worth of users' search queries. Google resisted the subpoena, prompting the judge's order today. In addition to excluding search queries from the subpoena, Judge James Ware also required the government to limit its demand for URLs to 50,000. We will fully comply with the judge's order.

This is a clear victory for our users and for our company, and Judge Ware's decision regarding search queries is especially important. While privacy was not the most significant legal issue in this case (because the government wasn't asking for personally identifiable information), privacy was perhaps the most significant to our users. As we noted in our briefing to the court, we believe that if the government was permitted to require Google to hand over search queries, that could have undermined confidence that our users have in our ability to keep their information private. Because we resisted the subpoena, the Department of Justice will not receive any search queries and only a small fraction of the URLs it originally requested.

We will always be subject to government subpoenas, but the fact that the judge sent a clear message about privacy is reassuring. What his ruling means is that neither the government nor anyone else has carte blanche when demanding data from Internet companies. When a party resists an overbroad subpoena, our legal process can be an effective check on such demands and be a protector of our users.

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Starting today you can get up-to-the-minute sports scores and schedules using Google SMS on your mobile device. Just text message a school or team name to 46645 (GOOGL). "Why?" you ask? Because:

  1. The big game is on tonight, and while your cable was cut 3 weeks ago, you've still got a recliner couch and a pair of battle-worn, nacho cheese-stained text messaging thumbs
  2. Your newly purchased tickets make the nosebleeds feel like a fireside chat, and you lent your binoculars to your ornithologist cousin
  3. You recently secured a new job, and you need to look like you're preoccupied with important business at all times
  4. The love of your life dragged you to the ballet on game day, and made you leave your 60-inch liquid crystal TV at home
  5. It's time for your family reunion (and the playoffs) again, and you don't have the heart to tell your relatives that you majored in basket... weaving
  6. The restraining order filed against you by multiple sports professionals mandates that you find a way to "look but not touch"
  7. When it comes to your personal sports soundtrack, you prefer the Crazy Frog to the National Anthem
  8. You've developed an allergic reaction to commercial time-outs (or even commercials, for that matter)
  9. It's triple over time, and your too-cute-to-say-no nephew wants pizza from a restaurant six blocks from the stadium
  10. The BIG DANCE!

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Three months ago, I came up with an idea that makes it easier for users to find what they're looking for: a search box in the middle of the desktop. It's very accessible -- all you have to do is press your Ctrl key twice. After some experimentation, people are telling us they like it and use it. That's why we're adding it to Google Desktop (coming out of beta today). Give the Quick Search Box a try. We hope you find it handy.

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I was sitting at the breakfast table this morning, drinking a cup of coffee while I looked out at the snow. It was pretty much like any other winter morning, except — it wasn’t. When I went to sleep last night, I was employed by a small start-up called @Last Software. This morning, although I’m going to the same office, sitting at the same desk, and seeing the same people, I’m going to work as a Google employee. (Here’s the official announcement.)

As I sipped my coffee, I thought of a fellow I met on the last day of Macworld in January. It was six minutes before the end of the show when he walked into our booth. He had never seen SketchUp before. I started to give him a demo to give him an idea of what the software can do and how it works. Two or three minutes in, he interrupted me. “Can I buy a copy of SketchUp now?” I said sure. Then: “How about two?” No problem, I said.

It’s often like that. People see SketchUp and they love it. Now that we’re part of Google, how many of those ah-ha moments will happen every day? Already we’ve had hundreds of users create 3D content in SketchUp and place their models in Google Earth. (A free plug-in enables you to do this.) What will that virtual world look like when tens of thousands of users are doing the same?

Our little company was founded six years ago with the grand vision of bringing 3D to everyone; now that goal is truly within reach. No second cup of coffee for me — contemplating the possibilities is exciting enough.

Sketchup already has a plug in that allows you to export 3D models into Google Earth. If you've got Google Earth (you do, right?), then check out a few 3D examples (these are KMZ files):

Statue of Liberty
SketchUp headquarters
Google Mountain View campus

It costs $495, but we’d like everyone to have a SketchUp experience, so you can download a free 8-hour trial version here.

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We here on Earth have long held a fascination with the planet Mars. From Percival Lowell's sketches of its surface, to the countless books and movies that revolve around it, we've spent millenia studying and day-dreaming about our nearest neighbor in the solar system.

In that tradition, NASA researchers Noel Gorelick and Michael Weiss-Malik from Arizona State University worked with us to combine Google Maps technology with some of the most detailed scientific maps of Mars ever made.

In commemoration of Lowell's birthday, we're pleased to bring you Google Mars. Explore the red planet in three different ways: an elevation map shows color-coded peaks and valleys, a visible-imagery map shows what your eyes would actually see, and an infrared-imagery map shows the detail your eyes would miss.

We hope you enjoy your trip to Mars.

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Unlike some others, I may be a small dog, but size is just a state of mind: My Google job is as important as anyone else's. After my morning nap at the office, I go out on hall monitor duty. This involves watching everyone who walks by our cube and getting some nice massages from passers-by. Some of the Googlers even know my language. For example, Jonathan Rosenberg is fluent in Pug, and loves to converse with me whenever we run into each other. And I get to play with plenty of dogs here: labs, doxies, tollers, and even some fellow pugs. Then there are occasional runs to the nearby Shoreline Dog Park.
Between the two, Google is my favorite place to be. Just as Google engineers get 20% of their time for their own projects, I have mine: at least a day a week I'm the resident court jester. It's not very hard to entertain Googlers -- everyone seems to get a kick out of me. If I had a nickel for every time someone laughed or smiled at me, I'd be running the company. And then I'd put bins of biscuits in each Google mini-kitchen.

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For the last five months, I've been part of a Silicon Valley startup called Upstartle, which makes Writely, a collaborative word processor that runs in a web browser. Well, as of Monday, I'm happy to say that I, and the rest of the Writely team, are now part of Google.

The other night, I was talking to my husband about how nervous I was to be starting work there. Truth be told, we've all been pretty overwhelmed for the past few weeks. What could our little team possibly do that's innovative enough? And he said, "Hello? You already did it!" It's true -- everyone told us it was crazy to try and give people a way to access their documents from anywhere -- not to mention share documents instantly, or collaborate online within their browsers. But that's exactly what we did. And since we launched the Writely beta in August 2005, many thousands of people have registered, and all of them came through word of mouth (and blog).

To be clear, Writely is still in beta, and it's far from perfect. Upholding our great user experience means everything to us, so we're not accepting new registrations until we've moved Writely to Google's software architecture. If you're interested in giving us a try, we hope you'll get on the waitlist so we can let you know when you'll be able to try out Writely.

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You may remember that last February, Google was sued in Arkansas over what is commonly called click fraud. We’re very near a resolution in that case, so we thought we’d offer an update.

We’ve been discussing the case with the plaintiffs for some time and have recently come to an agreement with them which we believe is a good outcome for everyone involved. As a result, Google and the plaintiffs are going to ask the judge to approve the settlement, which would resolve the case.

Until the settlement is approved by the judge, it is not final. And the details are confidential, but will become public when it is formally filed for the judge’s consideration. However, we can share the major pieces of our proposed agreement.

Google currently allows advertisers to apply for reimbursement for clicks they believe are invalid. They can do this for clicks that happen during the 60 days prior to notifying Google. Under the agreement with the plaintiffs, we are going to open up that window for all advertisers, regardless of when the questionable clicks occurred. For all eligible invalid clicks, we will offer credits which can be used to purchase new advertising with Google. We do not know how many will apply and receive credits, but under the agreement, the total amount of credits, plus attorneys fees, will not exceed $90 million.

This agreement covers all advertisers who claim to have been charged but not reimbursed for invalid clicks dating from 2002 when we launched our “cost per click” advertising program through the date the settlement is approved by the judge.

For the finance folks out there wondering how we’ll account for this, we can say that the attorneys’ fees (which will be determined by the judge) will be charged as an expense, most likely in the first quarter, once the amount is determined. The credits will be recorded as a reduction to revenue in periods in which they are redeemed.

We have said for some time that we believe we manage the problem of invalid clicks very well. We have a large team of expert engineers and analysts devoted to it. By far, most invalid clicks are caught by our automatic filters and discarded *before* they reach an advertiser’s bill. And for the clicks that are not caught in advance, advertisers can notify Google and ask for reimbursement. We investigate those clicks, and if we determine they were invalid, we reimburse advertisers for them. We will continue to do that, and believe that this settlement is further proof of our willingness to work together with advertisers to reimburse invalid clicks.

You can find more information on invalid clicks and how we manage them here or here.

Update: Added second link to more information.

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As a librarian and a Googler, I love the "Find it in a library" links we've added to many -- but not yet all -- of the titles in Google Book Search. While we work on getting these links rolled out for the rest of the books, at least one user has taken matters into his own hands: "Superpatron" Edward Vielmetti has written a Greasemonkey script for Firefox that enables him to see which books are available at his local library.

Since Google Book Search is all about helping you discover and locate books you never knew existed, it's especially gratifying to see people like Ed embracing and extending this mission.

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We're launching Google News in Hebrew! Google News Israel aggregates articles across Hebrew-language newspapers and presents them side by side so you can read what all of them are saying in one view. It's been fun and challenging to create this edition, having to accommodate text that reads right to left, and adjusting our algorithms to work with a whole new set of papers. It's also a pleasure to be launching Google News for a whole new audience, and we look forward to bringing it to even more people around the world. Meanwhile, with the recent opening of our Israeli office, we look forward to offering many more products to our friends there.

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One of the great things about working at Google is, well, not always working at Google. Is launch planning stressing you out? Are you obsessing about bugs? Can't find your favorite obscure beverage at the mini-kitchen? Every day, and usually more than once a day, the Googleplex offers talks that serve as excellent (and educational) distractions from the daily grind. These talks can help us learn more about the things we're doing, or help stoke our interest in something new.

Now, with Google Video, we finally have the opportunity to share many of these "from the Googleplex" presentations with the world. They include our Authors@Google talks (don't miss "How to survive a robot uprising" author Daniel Wilson) and the regular engEDU tech talks. Grab coffee and get comfy for this one on "Scalable Learning and Inference in Hierarchical Models of the Neocortex," for example.

Of course, you can access them all on your own schedule. And if you want to see them in person, feel free to check out our recruiting video.

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The Google Mini search appliance continues to proliferate for different customer segments. The newest and least expensive Mini is geared towards people who need to search up to 50,000 documents on their websites or corporate networks. Does that include you? Read more here.