Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

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At the end of last year, Google introduced a new
design for some local search results on tablets that
put a carousel with the top results at the top of the
page. Today, it’s bringing this design to the desktop,
too. This new feature can be triggered by searches for
restaurants, bars and other local places, Google says, and it’s currently rolling out in English in the
U.S. and should roll out for other languages in the
future. A typical search to see this feature would be
something like “Mexican restaurants in nyc.” Google
will then put the carousel at the top of the page,
including a photo, the standard Zagat ratings, price
class and cuisine. A click on these places will bring
up their Google+ Local sites with more information. Users can click on an arrow in the right to see more
places and they can use the map in the sidebar to
zoom in and the carousel will automatically restrict
your searches to this specific area. Google, of course, also uses a similar design for
some of its Knowledge Graph results. As a number of
bloggers noticed recently, these Knowledge Graph
carousel results seem to be popping up more
frequently now than ever before. Given today’s
addition of the local search carousel, chances are that Google’s stats show that this is a very effective
way of presenting search results. I wouldn’t be
surprised if the company continued to expand its use
of this design element for other kinds of queries in the
near future.

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Google just added a new service to Google Cloud
Storage that will allow developers to send their hard
drives to Google to import very large data sets that
would otherwise be too expensive and time-
consuming to import. For a flat fee of $80 per hard
drive, Google will take the drive and upload the data into a Cloud Storage bucket. This, Google says, can
be “faster or less expensive than transferring data
over the Internet.” The service is now in limited
preview for users with a U.S.-based return address. Platforms like AWS and Google’s Cloud Platform are
obviously great for analyzing large data sets. As
Google software engineer Lamia Youseff notes in
today’s announcement, however, “transferring large
data sets (in the hundreds of terabytes and beyond)
can be expensive and time-consuming over the public network.” Uploading 5 terabytes of data over a
100Mbps line could easily take a day or two and most
developers may not even have these kinds of
connections. Amazon, it’s worth noting, already offers a very
similar service. It, too, charges $80 per hard drive,
but in typical Amazon fashion, the company also
charges a per-hour fee for importing the data.
Importing a 5 terabyte hard drive to S3, Amazon
calculates, will cost an additional $45 for an eSATA drive, which makes Google’s flat-fee service
significantly cheaper. While Amazon also allows you
to export your data using a hard disk, though, Google
doesn’t currently offer this service.

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The Internet has plenty of dark corners, but one of the
darkest is surely the growing number of sites that
traffic in child pornography. Google, which has no
interest in surfacing any of these sites and images,
has long worked with numerous nonprofit
organizations and law enforcement agencies to help protect children online and keep these sites out of its
index. The company has, however, recently been
criticized by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and
others for not doing enough to fight child pornography
online. Today, Google pledged $5 million to the fight. It will
distribute this money to a number of organizations in
the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin
America. Among the organizations that will receive
these funds are groups like the U.S. National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the U.K.’s Internet Watch Foundation. Google has also
set up a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund
to “encourage the development of ever more effective
tools.” Since 2008, Google has been tagging the child abuse
images it detected in its index and those that were
reported to organisations like the NCMEC to ensure
that it could also identify any copy of these files. In today’s announcement, Google revealed that it has
recently started to add this information to a cross-
industry database that it shares with law enforcement
agencies and charities. This, Google believes, will
allow these organizations to “better collaborate on
detecting and removing these images.” Later this week, representatives from Google, Yahoo,
Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and a number of
telecom firms will also meet with the U.K. Culture
Secretary to discuss this issue. It’s worth noting that Google is obviously not the only
search company that is working to combat child
pornography online. Microsoft has a similar initiative,
and the company also tags images of child abuse it
finds using its PhotoDNA technology. Facebook
started licensing PhotoDNA from Microsoft in 2011. The company has also been working with a number of
law enforcement agencies to develop the Child
Exploitation Tracking System.

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Google X, the secretive lab behind projects like Google Glass and Google’s self-driving cars, announced its latest project today: balloon-powered Internet access for those areas of the earth where regular terrestrial Internet isn’t a good option. Earlier this week, Google started testing these balloons, which are meant to provide Internet access comparable to 3G networks while sailing the stratospheric winds, inNew Zealand.

We had previously heard rumors about this, but just like most of Google X’s projects, this idea sounded like a long shot. Using free-flying balloons, after all, sounds like a recipe for disaster – or at least for run-away balloons.

Because the whole idea sounds a bit crazy, Google says, it’s calling this initiative “Project Loon.” Google, however, believes that it has found a way to let these balloons “sail freely on the winds” and steer them by moving them up or down to catch the right winds. This still means the team has to manage a fleet of these balloons – and the idea here is to one day have these fly these around the world. Google says it’s solving this problem “with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power.” Google uses wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to predict the balloons’ flight paths.

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Currently, Google says it is using 30 balloons in this pilot project and about 50 testers in New Zealand are using the service on the ground. These testers have special antennas that can connect to the balloons when they are within a 20km radius.

Google, and its chairman Eric Schmidt in particular, have long been talking about the importance of getting those two-thirds of the earth’s population who don’t currently have Internet access online. Project Loon is meant to help solve this problem, Google notes. Not only could it bring Internet access to areas where today’s technologies don’t work well (jungles, archipelagos, mountains), but it seems Google also hopes that this balloon-powered network can help bring down the price of Internet access in many countries where it’s currently unaffordable for many people.

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In April, Google announced a couple of new features that were meant to speed up mobile browsing. Among them was “Quick view,” an experimental feature that added a badge to Wikipedia results on Google’s mobile search results pages that, when you clicked it, loaded the Wikipedia result in around 100 milliseconds. Now, however, it looks like these Quick view badges were indeed just experimental and have quietly disappeared from Google’s mobile search results pages.

quick_viewWe asked Google about this change, but the company did not provide us with an on-the-record statement. It’s common for Google to quietly run various experiments on its search results pages and then remove them later. Once the company officially announces a feature, however, it tends to keep it around for a while.

When Google launched Quick view, it said that it was working on bringing more sites on board and even offered a sign-up page for webmasters who were interested in making their sites available through this feature. The sign-up page is still available.

It’s surprising to see Google, which loves anything that can help speed up the web, remove this feature from mobile search. Maybe users didn’t actually use Quick view or didn’t fully understand it, but its odd to see it go. It was actually a very useful feature and worked exactly as advertised.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that this version of Quick view was different from the one Google also once featured for quickly opening up PDF files, Word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Maybe anything called “quick view” doesn’t have a long life expectancy at Google.