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  • #IMakeApps: Using robotics to help people who are hard of hearing

    Editor’s note: To celebrate the hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of app makers around the world, we’re featuring founders, product managers, designers and developers from around the world. We’ll showcase their passions and also hear about what they do when they step away from their computers. Meet our next app maker, Mateo Salvatto, an Argentinian robotics champion and founder of ¡Háblalo!, an app that helps people with hearing difficulties to communicate verbally and handle daily life with greater ease. Check out more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.How did you get into robotics?When I was 15, I first started my specialization in Electronics at ORT Argentina. I started attending the Robotics club meetings and fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to become a member of the club as soon as I saw it, so I started learning from the older students and built my first robot. My favorite part of building robots is when they make their first turn. There is no other feeling like building something for six months and watching it move as you told it to!When and why did you decide to start teaching robotics to others?Everything I have achieved was because of Yoda, my first robot. I’m certain it’s very important to learn robotics because of everything it teaches you. It’s not only coding and electronics but also a way of thinking through problems and understanding of the importance of working with others.Why did you create ¡Háblalo!?My mother is a teacher for deaf people. When I finished high school I realized I could use what I had learnt to develop something for them. The passion I put into robotics helped me develop ¡Háblalo!. When I won the international robotics championship at 17, I realized I could use everything I had learned to make great things and that’s when I decided to develop something to help people with disabilities. That’s how ¡Háblalo! was born.What has been your experience with Android & Google Play?¡Háblalo! wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Android community and the ease and speed to publish and update your developments in the Play Store. I learned to code apps thanks to the forums of the community and our presence in the Play Store has gotten us to where we are! The possibility of publishing our own product out there for everyone is huge. I love working with apps for Android because of that. I originally published ¡Háblalo! for my friends to use but then people in India, US, Morocco and more started using it. That is the great power and reach of the Android community. […]

  • 15 ways your Assistant can coach you through the MLB Postseason

    More than 2,400 regular season Major League Baseball games are in the books and we're down to just four teams. The National League Championship Series and American League Championship Series are just getting underway—here are 15 ways the Google Assistant can help make sure you don’t miss a minute of the action. Batter up.To stay on top of MLB history, scores, schedules, and standings, start with “Hey Google …”1. “When does the World Series start?”2. “When did Fenway Park open?”3. “Who was the ALCS MVP in 2017?”4. “When do the Astros and Red Sox play next?”5. “Did the Dodgers win?”6. “What’s Minute Maid Park’s capacity?”7. “How are the Red Sox doing?8. "Who do the Brewers play next?"9. "Tell me about the Houston Astros"10. “Who's the pitcher for the Dodgers?”Do your own personal warm up before the game11. Make sure you’re ready for whatever the weather may bring. Before heading to the game, ask “Hey Google, what’s the weather like at Dodger Stadium?”12. Didn’t score tickets but want to watch the game with fellow fans? Simply say “Hey Google, find the nearest sports bar.” When you're cheering from your couch instead of the stands13. Set a reminder so you don’t miss a second of the game. Say “Hey Google, remind me to turn on the game when I get home.”14. Hosting a watch party at your place? Whip up ballpark-worthy snacks for all of your friends to enjoy. Try asking, “Hey Google, what are some dip recipes?”15. Fact: Baseball and loaded nachos are a match made in heaven. Throw them in the oven and when they’re done, broadcast a message to the Google Homes throughout your house to let your guests know when it’s time to dig in… and enjoy the Postseason! […]

  • Bringing the power of cloud to news organizations

    As news consumption becomes increasingly digital, local, small and medium-sized news organizations need new tools to thrive. We created the Google News Initiative Cloud Program to help publishers use Google Cloud to come up with imaginative solutions for storytelling and their businesses. The first phase of the program focused on providing 200,000 free G Suite licenses to news companies with fewer than 500 employees through this application.Building on that effort, today we’re opening applications for the GNI Cloud Credit Program. This will give qualifying organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees the opportunity to apply for up to $100,000 each in Google Cloud platform credits, as well up to $50,000 in implementation support. This enables publishers to implement technologies that can help them build more sustainable businesses and provide readers with relevant, engaging and more personalized content.With a wide range of tools, cloud technology can be tailored to each news organization's unique needs. To help get the most out of their Google Cloud platform credits, all publishers in the program will partner with third-party cloud specialists to craft a strategy that uses Google Cloud’s diverse tools to support storytelling and their business needs. For example, with Google Cloud platform credits, publishers can simplify time-intensive tasks like translating articles and transcribing interviews through tools like Cloud Speech to Text and the Cloud Translation API.Cloud can help publishers understand articles and classify content to provide more personalized offerings to their readers using the Natural Language Processing API and intelligently organize entire photo archives of millions of photos to help reporters uncover new sources of information to tell more engaging stories.With BigQuery and machine learning, publishers can modernize their infrastructure to improve distribution and analyze digital behaviors to better understand their audiences. And publishers will be able to build a more scalable, engaging app experience with tools like Firebase, while lessening the burden on their support teams.The GNI Cloud Program is a key part of the Google News Initiatives’ mission to elevate quality journalism, enable new business models, and empower news organizations' innovativation through technology. We are partnering with key industry associations around the world including WAN-IFRA, ONA, and LMA to spread the word about this program to more news organizations.You can learn more about the Google News Initiative here. […]

  • Empowering first responders in local fire departments

    Firefighters are on the front lines everyday protecting our communities and acting as first responders in emergencies. To support these heroes, Nest and the Leary Firefighters Foundation have teamed up for the third time to award two $25,000 worth of new technology and equipment to fire departments in need.To qualify for the grant, fire departments had to be nominated by members of their community. This year, we saw over 14,000 deserving nominations and ultimately chose the Hobart, Indiana and Dunkrik, Maryland Departments for their dedication and service. These local first responders don’t have access to the newest lifesaving tools that their counterparts in big cities might have. And since no two communities are the same, no two fire departments have the same needs. That’s why we ask them what they need to serve their neighbors faster and even more effectively. The Hobart FD elected to use their grant for tablets to help them communicate more quickly, and the Dunkirk FD is using their grant for thermal imaging tools that will help them detect hot spots and avoid tragedy.The Nest + Leary Firefighters Foundation Grant: Year 3It’s especially exciting to announce our support for these fire departments during Fire Safety Week, which serves as a helpful reminder that we all need the right tools to keep ourselves, our families, and our homes safe. Nest Protect, our smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, is one of those tools. Nest Protects talk to each other, so if your basement Protect alarm goes off, all your other Nest Protects will tell you there is a smoke or carbon monoxide problem in the basement. It can be your first line of defense so that you don’t have to call the fire department.But for those times when you do need to call for help, we are grateful for the hard work and vigilance of our local firefighters. […]

  • Engineers are girls: the Googler behind “Ara the Star Engineer”

    Editor’s note: Today, on International Day of the Girl, we’re sharing the story of Komal Singh, a Googler who was inspired by her own young daughter to write a children’s book focused on engineering, called “Ara the Star Engineer.”Elisabeth: Tell us about what you do at Google.Komal: I’m a program manager on the Ads Infrastructure team, based out of Waterloo, Canada. I act as the glue between various engineering teams to ensure we’re designing and building systems cohesively for the world.Komal and her daughter, AraiyaWhat inspired you to write “Ara the Star Engineer?”One day I was working from home, and my daughter was with me while I was on a video call. She asked me about the various people on the call, so I pointed at the screen and said, “That’s Alex, that’s Kurt, that’s Eric, that’s Mike.” She responded, “Oh, engineers are boys.” I was shocked (and really bummed) by her reaction, so that same day, I wrote the first proposal for the book.Without giving away too much, what’s the story about? Ara is a six-year-old girl who wants to count all the stars in the sky but doesn’t know how. She has a sidekick droid named DeeDee, and they go to DeeDee’s birth land, the Innovation Plex. There, they meet real life female engineers from Google, all from diverse backgrounds (in the book, we call them sheroes). In the end, they learn about an algorithm of success: courage, creativity, coding and collaboration.I love Ara already. Is there a story behind her name?It’s a palindrome, just like her favorite expression, “aha!” It was also inspired by Ada Lovelace (considered to be the mother of computing) and my own daughter’s name, Araiya.Had you ever dabbled in children’s books before?It was totally new to me. The original script took me about two months (and then I iterated with the sheroes for another couple of months) but it’s very different now. In an early version, there was an alchemist who gave Ara four stones that represented the four c’s: code, courage, creativity and collaboration. But we realized that was passive, we wanted Ara to have a more active role and discover those things on her own.AraExpressions.pngHere’s a behind the scenes look at how the book’s illustrations (by Ipek Konak) were done. This is a mood board of Ara.DeeDeeEvolution.pngEvolution of DeeDee, so hard to finalize one!EvolutionOfCodingPods.pngCoding pods coming to life.Why is this story important?Women make up half of the world’s population but only 15-20 percent of women are in the tech workforce. If we don’t have representation across the board, we’re not going to solve problems or design products for the world. Girls are naturally technically minded and good problem solvers, but we don’t encourage them in that direction because of our implicit biases. I want this book to propel girls in the direction of exploring coding and engineering—maybe the young girls who read this book will be the next generation of innovators and inventors!The book features prominent Googlers—what was their reaction to this idea?Marian Croak, Diane Tang, Kripa Krishnan and Parisa Tabriz are all well-known in their fields, and it was important for me to show leaders of diverse backgrounds. When I sent the women the proposal, two replied back within an hour. They wanted to be a part of a project inspiring girls in tech.The sheroesWhile writing the book, did you ever question yourself or lose your nerve to do this?There were many times when I almost gave up. I was pregnant with my second child when I was writing the book, had to jump through many hoops to get this book done, and did it all as first time writer. When I felt like giving up, my sister-in-law said, “You’re a techie, a mother and a person of color—if you don’t write this book, who else would?” It reminded me that I had to find the courage to live the message of the book I was writing.Do you think the book can have an impact on adults, too?A lot of people who helped me with "beta user testing" of the book—my husband, friends and publishing team said they learned about coding from it. Though the book is technically geared toward 5 to 9 year olds, I think could actually be for ages 5 to 99. It has an upbeat message of chasing your dreams, taking risks, and collaborating with people—we can apply all of that to our day-to-day lives.What were your favorite books as a kid?My all-time favorites are “The Alchemist,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Little Prince.” And I think they all subconsciously inspired Ara’s journey in some way.What’s next for you and Ara?Right now, I just want to soak in everything that’s happening with the book. If I were to write another one, I’d love to explain concepts—like computational numbers and artificial intelligence— to kids. Anyone want to collaborate on that? 🙂 […]

  • Everything to know about the Google Assistant on our new family of hardware

    Earlier this week, we introduced a new lineup of devices—with the Google Assistant built in—to help you get things done at home, at work, or on the go throughout your day.But let’s take a step back. So far this year, we’ve introduced a number of ways to have a more natural conversation with Google. For example, you’re able to speak two languages interchangeably with the Assistant on smart speakers and phones, and Continued Conversation lets you go back and forth with the Assistant without repeating “Hey Google” between questions. Plus, the Assistant works with every major connected device brand in the U.S. for your home, from dishwashers and dryers to AC units and locks.Here’s a look at all of the exciting new Assistant features and devices coming to you over the next few weeks:Smart DisplaysGoogle Home Hub joins our lineup of Smart Displays, which already includes the JBL Link View and Lenovo Smart Display, with another offering from LG later this year.Major updates to your Smart Display: Previewed at our recent Made by Google event, these new features will roll out to the entire family of Smart Displays over the next few weeks:With multi-room audio, you can add your Smart Display to a speaker group and play music throughout the house.With Live Albums from Google Photos, your Ambient Mode will always show off the best photos of your favorite people and pets without you having to curate them. It will also make sure to pick your best photos, so that receipts, screenshots, duplicates, and blurry or sensitive photos will not appear on your Smart Display.With Nest Hello Doorbell, your Smart Display will now show who is at the door when someone rings, and allows you to send quick responses.With Home View, you can see and control all of your smart home devices in a single dashboard by swiping down from the top edge of your Smart Display.Your Google Assistant can now also control many popular media and entertainment devices, including TVs (Hisense, Philips, Sharp,Sony, Vizio, Xiaomi), set top boxes (Dish, Foxtel, nVidia Shield, Sling, Vodafone), speakers (Denon), smart remotes (Logitech Harmony) with many more coming soon from Caavo, LG, Panasonic, Roku®, Telus, and Telstra. Enjoy universal controls to power devices on and off, adjust playback/volume, and browse a visual channel guide—all by touch or by voice on your Smart Display.PhonesScreen callsand block spam:When you get an incoming call from an unknown caller, just tap “Screen call” to let the Google Assistant help out. You'll see a transcript of the caller's responses in real-time. This feature is coming to Pixel 3 this month and to Pixel 1 and 2 in November.Book reservations at more restaurants:Later this year, Pixel users in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area will be the first to experiment with a new Google Assistant feature, powered by Duplex technology, which handles booking a restaurant reservation over the phone on your behalf.A visual snapshotof your day:Available across all smartphones, you’ll soon be able to see event recommendations, pull up your recent notes and lists and get important reminders from the visual overview. Just tap on the icon in the top right corner of the screen after you’ve activated your Google Assistant or swipe up.  Take advantage of the Assistant in the lockscreen: After opting-in through your Assistant settings, the Assistant can respond to queries like “Hey Google, what’s next on my calendar?” without unlocking your Pixel 3 each time.New accessories to enjoy the AssistantThe Pixel 3 comes with Pixel USB-C Earbuds optimized for the Google Assistant, so you can ask to play your favorite playlist while on a run, without looking at your phone. Just press and hold the dedicated button to talk to the Google Assistant.  We also introduced Pixel Stand, which brings a contextually relevant Google Assistant experience to your phone. When you dock your phone, the display UI adjusts so that it’s easily glanceable from across the room. It gives you quick access to the Google Assistant, so you can get a rundown of your day, see the traffic for your commute, listen to your favorite podcast or cast a show to your TV.Better manage your time and activities on devicesOur new phones, smart speakers and Smart Displays come with Digital Wellbeing built in to give youthe tools that help you and your family balance your time and activities on these devices.If you have a Smart Display or a speaker with the Google Assistant built in, open the Google Home app on your phone. Soon, you’ll see a “Filters” setting that will allow you to easily manage your kids’ digital activities and a new “Downtime” feature to create a schedule that will block the device between certain hours. Pixel 3 and other phones will also be getting Digital Wellbeing features— you’ll be able to ask the Assistant to “Set wind down for 10pm” and the Google Assistant will gently transition your display to a grayscale screen. Or, you can ask "How much time have I spent on my phone today" to keep track of your time spent on the phone.So that’s what’s new with the Assistant! We’re continuing to make it more helpful, fun and available on new devices—whether you’re at home, on the go or somewhere in between. […]

  • Fortnite fever and verified Vermonsters: Frightgeist Halloween trends for 2018

    We’re a little bit more than a fortnight away from Halloween 2018, so it’s time to head to Search for costume inspiration. This year’s Frightgeist—brought to you by Google Trends—shows what’s brewing in the costume cauldron near you and in other hot spots across the country.The top searched costumes for 2018 are a not-so-macabre mix of Halloween classics (where my witches at?) and contemporary looks the kiddos will go crazy for. Here’s your top ten, just a click away from Google Images ideas to bring each of these to life (or back from the dead):FortniteSpider-ManUnicornDinosaurWitchHarley QuinnSuperheroPirateRabbitPrincessAs you can see, Fortnite fever has swept the country-- so much that it’s a top search costume in a whopping 43 states. Here are seven states that stand apart and the costumes that are capturing people’s attention--look forward to some Utahcorns and Vermonsters in your neighborhood this year:Alaska: MermaidArkansas: DinosaurIdaho: UnicornOregon: DinosaurSouth Dakota: SpidermanUtah: UnicornVermont: MonsterThis year’s top spot is occupied by a new-to-Frightgeist costume trend. Here are other additions to the top 100 for 2018, in order of popularity:14. The Incredibles23. Black Panther (Wakanda forever!)44. Nun59. Vampirina70. 1970s (what a coincidence!)Not all costumes have the staying power of pirates and princesses. Here are a few of the looks that fell from the top 100 for this year’s list:Princess LeiaDaenarys TargaryenDarth VaderMinionsEmojiIf this sampling of scary isn’t what you had in mind to land your perfect Halloween look, head to the Costume Wizard fright now and amp up the spookiness or uniqueness to find the ghoulish get-up you desire.Have a gourd time this Halloween! […]

  • From design to development, user feedback shapes Google’s approach to accessibility

    It’s a hot day in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Google Accessibility User Experience team is being shown around the city. Their goal for the next 10 days is to understand the daily experience of various people living with disabilities in this city of more than 10 million people. Notebooks are out, cameras are rolling and Rachmad (a pseudonym), a student who is blind, is eager to share some of his experiences with the team to help us build products that help solve everyday obstacles for him and others.The Google Accessibility team's research study in Jakarta was aimed at understanding the experience of people living with disabilities thereAs the group approaches a bus stop, Rachmad begins asking for help from passersby. A Jakarta local tells him which bus stop he’s at and where it will take him. He turns to the Google Accessibility team and says “Yeah, I kind of have to trust them and hope they are telling the truth.”After a short bus ride and a long walk, the team returns to Rachmad’s home, where he shows them the four mobile devices he owns, each running different versions of operating systems depending on the task. A researcher notices he’s active within multiple online accessibility support communities and asks him about it. “Sometimes it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools. We try and help each other any way we can,” says Rachmad. This is a user research field study and it’s demonstrating one of Google’s key values: Focus on the user and all else will follow. User research is core to success throughout a product’s life cycle, and fundamental to creating a product that works for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities. From defining product vision to development and onwards, here's how the Google Accessibility team uses research to ensure our products are more inclusive:Define the product visionNo matter what the product or service is, it’s important to first understand what problems need solving and how the current solutions could be improved. Observing and talking to a diverse set of users with and without disabilities about their challenges, needs, and workarounds can provide richer insights and drive designs that all users may benefit from. Identifying these insights during early brainstorms and design sprints can help approach problems from different perspectives and lead to more creative solutions. Design with accessibility in mindThe insights gained from observing users can influence all aspects of design including interaction, visual, motion, and writing. Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines and Designing for Global Accessibility principles summarize fundamental principles that help create more accessible products. For example, ensuring there is good contrast between text and the background will help people with low vision or people trying to read a phone screen in the sun. Tools like the Material Color Tool can help make choosing more accessible color palettes easier. Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines provide guidance on accessible design, such as ensuring enough contrast between text and backgroundOur team often says that "accessible design is just good design." Indeed, if you look at the bigger picture, the goal of creating products is to help people create things, find things, watch things—in short, to accomplish things. Why would any product team want to make it more challenging for a user to accomplish their goals? That's why we encourage teams to use the accessibility design guidelines to influence early design choices. Like most things worth doing, designing with accessibility in mind takes practice and work. But it's key to designing a robust user experience for all.Develop and iterateThroughout the design and development of a product, there are many opportunities to get additional input from diverse users. Any type of evaluative research, like usability studies, can be made more inclusive by testing with people with and without disabilities. At this stage, teams can gain more specific insights on the actual experience for the user. For example, an application could present a notification for a longer period so that it doesn’t disappear too quickly for someone with a learning disability or someone who was simply too distracted to read it. While design guidelines can help a product with fundamental accessibility, nothing substitutes for actually watching a person using a screen reader, switch access device, or other assistive technology to truly understand the quality of the user experience. After a product launchesOnce a product launches, teams can use feedback surveys, app ratings, customer support calls and emails to get a wealth of qualitative input. And filtering this feedback by users with accessibility needs can continue to paint the picture of their full experience. This is also the perfect time to stop and understand what benefits were gained from designing inclusively from the beginning, and to apply lessons learned to the next product development cycle. Over time, it can become second nature to design inclusively. Products are a product of user feedbackReturning to our researchers in Jakarta: After they came back from their trip, they worked to bring awareness to their findings by sharing insights and solutions with other teams at Google, including the Next Billion Users group to help them think about accessibility for people in emerging markets. Rachmad’s comments about how it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools informed the creation of a new Google support team dedicated to helping people with disabilities who have questions on assistive technology or accessibility within Google's products. On a product level, the Jakarta team provided valuable input for the group behind Lookout, an app coming soon to the U.S. that helps people who are blind and visually impaired learn about their surroundings. Once available, people like Rachmad will hear cues from their Android phones, helping them gain more independence.Focusing on accessibility from the beginning can influence product direction as well as develop robust insights that teams can learn from and build upon in future work—all in an effort to effectively build for everyone.  If you’re interested in helping shape the future of accessibility at Google, sign up to participate in future user studies. […]

  • Going behind the design of the new Chromecast

    The She Word is a Keyword series all about dynamic and creative women at Google, and we recently spoke to two women behind the design of the new Chromecast, which hit shelves this week. Diana Chang and Katie Morgenroth are industrial designers tasked with designing hardware that fits naturally into your home. Below, we share how they tackle that challenge, as well as what’s in store for our favorite macaron-sized Made by Google device.  Elisabeth: How do you explain your job at a dinner party?Diana: I make tech less intimidating, more approachable, and easier to use—building a bridge between the consumer and the technology they’re using.Katie: These days, I’m focused on creating the conditions to help our amazing design team feel inspired and supported to do their best work. Framing design sprints, working closely with engineers to unblock challenging constraints and collaborating with the team to ensure our products are harmonious and beautiful are all in a day's work.Diana (left) and Katie (right) in their office at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.What are you most excited about with the new Chromecast? How is it different than what we’ve seen before?D: Chromecast was our first-ever Made by Google product, and the foundation of our Cast technology. It was created way before our other hardware products, so we’ve updated the new Chromecast to make it look and feel more a part of the Google hardware family. It’s a small device, and the biggest improvements are actually in the tiny details. And those details can say a lot about a brand and how much we care about the people who use our products.K: The new design of Chromecast is all about simplicity; it looks like a little macaron. And it’s coming out in two new colors—Chalk and Charcoal—to match other devices in the Made by Google family. With all of our hardware devices, we want to make sure that they feel like they’re a part of your home.D: And because of the low cost (it’s still $35!), Chromecast remains an easy entry point for people to experience the power of smart home entertainment.Here it is! The new Chromecast is now available in the U.S., Canada, U.K., the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore, with more regions to come. In the U.S., you can buy it for $35 at the Google Store, Best Buy, Target, Walmart and even more retailers.What sets Chromecast (and Made by Google products) apart from other devices?D: The design language: it’s the reason I wanted to join Google. We’re making tech that is approachable, human-centric and easily blends in with other things in your house.K: Echo Diana. Our aesthetic is taking a counter stance to what we traditionally think about when we imagine technology. We are carefully designing our products to look beautiful as a family or individually.How would you describe Made by Google design aesthetic in one word?K: Can I have two? Approachable and optimistic.D: I would love to hear our customers describe it as sincere and honest.What’s a challenge you face as an industrial designer?D: Design is a form of art—unlike math, there’s no way to quantify if design is good or bad, right or wrong. And sometimes, it’s hard to explain a design decision to logical thinkers.Do you do other types of art too?D: Yes, art is a stress release for me—you don’t have to worry about specs or cost or whether people will like it. I love ceramics because every piece is unique. Clay has its own personality–you can’t really control it like plastic, rather, respect, understand and work together.What’s one habit that makes you successful?D: Hmm, well it’s hard to evaluate what “successful” means, but I’ll tell you what makes me different: my background. Growing up, I moved a lot and lived in different countries. Industrial design is a highly diverse field, and each of us brings a bit of our culture and background to the table. I make it a point to go to one new country every year—it helps me get a different perspective and think outside the box.K: This is a more boring than Diana’s answer, but I am an avid notetaker. I’m always distracted by something and I need to take notes to keep my inspiration and ideas organized. My wrist is a common spot for quick thoughts and I couldn’t live without Google Keep. I also sleep with a notebook beside my bed, just in case an idea pops up in a dream.Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?K: Struggle through the uncomfortable time until it makes sense.Was there a time that you had to apply that lesson while designing Chromecast?K: Oh, definitely. We had to work through a lot of tricky requirements in order to keep the size compact and form simple. As often happens, our original intent evolved a bit, but we love the final result. As designers, we pride ourselves on our ability to keep an open mind and meet challenges with opportunities. […]

  • Grab your library card to learn digital skills in Europe

    Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from guest author Ilona Kish, Director of the Public Libraries 2020 Program in Europe.When you think of your local library, perhaps you recall the memory of getting lost in a good book, or even using a computer for the first time. Today people think of computers and smartphones as ubiquitous–always charged and at their fingertips. But for too many, computers are—to excuse a librarian’s pun—a closed book. For those unable to access or use a computer or smartphone–a whole world is shut off, limiting their access to information and opportunities.Particularly in Europe, where 90% of new jobs will require digital skills by 2020, libraries are key to providing local tools and programs that teach such foundational skills. To help libraries provide welcoming spaces where people feel safe to learn, Public Libraries 2020 has partnered with Grow with Google, an initiative that has already helped over 4 million Europeans grow their skills, and this year further pledged to help 1 million more to find a job or grow their business by 2020.Now, Public Libraries 2020 and Grow with Google will together help everyone from students to pensioners learn about digital skills, online safety and computer science. Taking inspiration from Google’s partnership with the American Library Association, this new digital toolkit titled “Libraries Lead with Digital” features ideas, guidance and lessons plans and has now launched in ten libraries across the UK and Ireland. The toolkit enables librarians to share ideas and resources with one another, allowing public libraries to run effective sessions that encourage participation from people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn these skills.From youngsters to pensioners: Stockton Central Library hosts sessions on digital skills, online safety and coding utilizing resources from the Libraries Lead with Digital toolkit.Library staff members delivering the new digital workshops are now helping residents respond to their local challenges. For example: in rural areas like Norfolk, librarians are delivering digital skills classes; while in South Dublin, where there’s a drive to get more young people into STEM careers, coding resources are being offered.We’ve already received inspiring feedback from the first ten libraries leading the way in the UK and Ireland. In Stockton, librarian Katherine McDonagh said, “We’re reaching people who wouldn’t usually attend our regular sessions and most importantly showing people that your public library is just as relevant as ever.”Author Neil Gaiman once described libraries as the “gates to the future.” With this new toolkit, Google and Public Libraries 2020 can help more people learn the digital skills and knowledge to feel confident as they step into that future, whether they’re picking up a new hobby or looking to advance their career. […]

  • #NoHacked 3.0: Fixing common hack cases

    So far on #NoHacked, we have shared some tips on detection and prevention. Now that you are able to detect hack attack, we would like to introduce some common hacking techniques and guides on how to fix them! Fixing the Cloaked Keywords and Links Hack The cloaked keywords and link hack automatically creates many pages with nonsensical sentences, links, and images. These pages sometimes contain basic template elements from the original site, so at first glance, the pages might look like normal parts of the target site until you read the content. In this type of attack, hackers usually use cloaking techniques to hide the malicious content and make the injected page appear as part of the original site or a 404 error page. Fixing the Gibberish Hack The gibberish hack automatically creates many pages with nonsensical sentences filled with keywords on the target site. Hackers do this so the hacked pages show up in Google Search. Then, when people try to visit these pages, they'll be redirected to an unrelated page, like a porn site for example. Fixing the Japanese Keywords Hack The Japanese keywords hack typically creates new pages with Japanese text on the target site in randomly generated directory names. These pages are monetized using affiliate links to stores selling fake brand merchandise and then shown in Google search. Sometimes the accounts of the hackers get added in Search Console as site owners. Lastly, after you clean your site and fix the problem, make sure to file for a reconsideration request to have our teams review your site. If you have any questions, post your questions on our Webmaster Help Forums! […]

  • An update to referral source URLs for Google Images

    Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Google Images to visually discover and explore content on the web. Whether it be finding ideas for your next baking project, or visual instructions on how to fix a flat tire, exploring image results can sometimes be much more helpful than exploring text. Updating the referral sourceFor webmasters, it hasn't always been easy to understand the role Google Images plays in driving site traffic. To address this, we will roll out a new referrer URL specific to Google Images over the next few months. The referrer URL is part of the HTTP header, and indicates the last page the user was on and clicked to visit the destination webpage. If you create software to track or analyze website traffic, we want you to be prepared for this change. Make sure that you are ingesting the new referer URL, and attribute the traffic to Google Images. The new referer URL is: https://images.google.com. If you use Google Analytics to track site data, the new referral URL will be automatically ingested and traffic will be attributed to Google Images appropriately. Just to be clear, this change will not affect Search Console. Webmasters will continue to receive an aggregate list of top search queries that drive traffic to their site. How this affects country-specific queriesThe new referer URL has the same country code top level domain (ccTLD) as the URL used for searching on Google Images. In practice, this means that most visitors worldwide come from images.google.com. That's because last year, we made a change so that google.com became the default choice for searchers worldwide. However, some users may still choose to go directly to a country specific service, such as google.co.uk for the UK. For this use case, the referer uses that country TLD (for example, images.google.co.uk). We hope this change will foster a healthy visual content ecosystem. If you're interested in learning how to optimize your pages for Google Images, please refer to the Google Image Publishing Guidelines. If you have questions, feedback or suggestions, please let us know through the Webmaster Tools Help Forum. Posted by Ashutosh Agarwal, Product Manager, Google Images […]

  • Collaboration and user management in the new Search Console

    As part of our reinvention of Search Console, we have been rethinking the models of facilitating cooperation and accountability for our users. We decided to redesign the product around cooperative team usage and transparency of action history. The new Search Console will gradually provide better history tracking to show who performed which significant property-affecting modifications, such as changing a setting, validating an issue or submitting a new sitemap. In that spirit we also plan to enable all users to see critical site messages. New featuresUser management is now an integral part of Search Console.The new Search Console enables you to share a read-only view of many reports, including Index coverage, AMP, and Mobile Usability. Learn more.A new user management interface that enables all users to see and (if appropriate), manage user roles for all property users. New Role definitionIn order to provide a simpler permission model, we are planning to limit the "restricted" user role to read-only status. While being able to see all information, read-only users will no longer be able to perform any state-changing actions, including starting a fix validation or sharing an issue. Best practicesAs a reminder, here are some best practices for managing user permissions in Search Console: Grant users only the permission level that they need to do their work. See the permissions descriptions.If you need to share an issue details report, click the Share link on that page.Revoke permissions from users who no longer work on a property.When removing a previous verified owner, be sure to remove all verification tokens for that user.Regularly audit and update the user permissions using the Users & Permissions page in new Search Console. User feedbackAs part of our Beta exploration, we released visibility of the user management interface to all user roles. Some users reached out to request more time to prepare for the updated user management model, including the ability of restricted and full users to easily see a list of other collaborators on the site. We’ve taken that feedback and will hold off on that part of the launch. Stay tuned for more updates relating to collaboration tools and changes on our permission models. As always, we love to hear feedback from our users. Feel free to use the feedback form within Search Console, and we welcome your discussions in our help forums as well! Posted by John Mueller, Google Switzerland […]

  • Distrust of the Symantec PKI: Immediate action needed by site operators

    Cross-posted from the Google Security Blog. We previously announced plans to deprecate Chrome’s trust in the Symantec certificate authority (including Symantec-owned brands like Thawte, VeriSign, Equifax, GeoTrust, and RapidSSL). This post outlines how site operators can determine if they’re affected by this deprecation, and if so, what needs to be done and by when. Failure to replace these certificates will result in site breakage in upcoming versions of major browsers, including Chrome.Chrome 66If your site is using a SSL/TLS certificate from Symantec that was issued before June 1, 2016, it will stop functioning in Chrome 66, which could already be impacting your users.If you are uncertain about whether your site is using such a certificate, you can preview these changes in Chrome Canary to see if your site is affected. If connecting to your site displays a certificate error or a warning in DevTools as shown below, you’ll need to replace your certificate. You can get a new certificate from any trusted CA, including Digicert, which recently acquired Symantec’s CA business.An example of a certificate error that Chrome 66 users might see if you are using a Legacy Symantec SSL/TLS certificate that was issued before June 1, 2016. The DevTools message you will see if you need to replace your certificate before Chrome 66.Chrome 66 has already been released to the Canary and Dev channels, meaning affected sites are already impacting users of these Chrome channels. If affected sites do not replace their certificates by March 15, 2018, Chrome Beta users will begin experiencing the failures as well. You are strongly encouraged to replace your certificate as soon as possible if your site is currently showing an error in Chrome Canary.Chrome 70Starting in Chrome 70, all remaining Symantec SSL/TLS certificates will stop working, resulting in a certificate error like the one shown above. To check if your certificate will be affected, visit your site in Chrome today and open up DevTools. You’ll see a message in the console telling you if you need to replace your certificate.The DevTools message you will see if you need to replace your certificate before Chrome 70.If you see this message in DevTools, you’ll want to replace your certificate as soon as possible. If the certificates are not replaced, users will begin seeing certificate errors on your site as early as July 20, 2018. The first Chrome 70 Beta release will be around September 13, 2018.Expected Chrome Release TimelineThe table below shows the First Canary, First Beta and Stable Release for Chrome 66 and 70. The first impact from a given release will coincide with the First Canary, reaching a steadily widening audience as the release hits Beta and then ultimately Stable. Site operators are strongly encouraged to make the necessary changes to their sites before the First Canary release for Chrome 66 and 70, and no later than the corresponding Beta release dates.ReleaseFirst CanaryFirst BetaStable ReleaseChrome 66January 20, 2018~ March 15, 2018~ April 17, 2018Chrome 70~ July 20, 2018~ September 13, 2018~ October 16, 2018For information about the release timeline for a particular version of Chrome, you can also refer to the Chromium Development Calendar which will be updated should release schedules change.In order to address the needs of certain enterprise users, Chrome will also implement an Enterprise Policy that allows disabling the Legacy Symantec PKI distrust starting with Chrome 66. As of January 1, 2019, this policy will no longer be available and the Legacy Symantec PKI will be distrusted for all users.Special Mention: Chrome 65As noted in the previous announcement, SSL/TLS certificates from the Legacy Symantec PKI issued after December 1, 2017 are no longer trusted. This should not affect most site operators, as it requires entering in to special agreement with DigiCert to obtain such certificates. Accessing a site serving such a certificate will fail and the request will be blocked as of Chrome 65. To avoid such errors, ensure that such certificates are only served to legacy devices and not to browsers such as Chrome.Posted by Devon O’Brien, Ryan Sleevi, Emily Stark, Chrome security team […]

  • Google I/O 2018 - What sessions should SEOs and Webmasters watch live ?

    Google I/O 2018 is starting today in California, to an international audience of 7,000+ developers. It will run until Thursday night. It is our annual developers festival, where product announcements are made, new APIs and frameworks are introduced, and Product Managers present the latest from Google.However, you don't have to physically attend the event to take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity: many conferences and talks are live streamed on YouTube for anyone to watch. You will find the full-event schedule here.Dozens upon dozens of talks will take place over the next 3 days. We have hand picked the talks that we think will be the most interesting for webmasters and SEO professionals. Each link shared will bring you to pages with more details about each talk, and you will find out how to tune in to the live stream. All times are California time (PCT). We might add other sessions to this list.Tuesday, May 8th3pm - Web Security post Spectre/Meltdown, with Emily Schechter and Chris Palmer - more info.5pm - Dru Knox and Stephan Somogyi talk about building a seamless web with Chrome - more info.Wednesday, May 9th9.30am - Ewa Gasperowicz and Addy Osmani talk about Web Performance and increasing control over the loading experience - more info.10.30am - Alberto Medina and Thierry Muller will explain how to make a WordPress site progressive - more info.11.30am - Rob Dodson and Dominic Mazzoni will cover "What's new in web accessibility" - more info.3.30pm - Michael Bleigh will introduce how to leverage AMP in Firebase for a blazing fast website - more info.4.30pm - Rick Viscomi and Vinamrata Singal will introduce the latest with Lighthouse and Chrome UX Report for Web Performance - more info.Thursday, May 10th8.30am - John Mueller and Tom Greenaway will talk about building Search-friendly JavaScript websites - more info.9.30am - Build e-commerce sites for the modern web with AMP, PWA, and more, with Adam Greenberg and Rowan Merewood - more info.12.30pm - Session on "Building a successful web presence with Google Search" by John Mueller and Mariya Moeva - more info.This list is only a sample of the content at this year's Google I/O, and there might be many more that are interesting to you! To find out about those other talks, check out the full list of web sessions, but also the sessions about Design, the Cloud sessions, the machine learning sessions, and more… We hope you can make the time to watch the talks online, and participate in the excitement of I/O ! The videos will also be available on Youtube after the event, in case you can't tune in live.Posted by Vincent Courson, Search Outreach Specialist, and the Google Webmasters team […]

  • Google Search at I/O 2018

    With the eleventh annual Google I/O wrapped up, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the highlights.What we did at I/OThe event was a wonderful way to meet many great people from various communities across the globe, exchange ideas, and gather feedback. Besides many great web sessions, codelabs, and office hours we shared a few things with the community in two sessions specific to Search:Deliver search-friendly JavaScript-powered websites with John Mueller and Tom GreenawayBuild a successful web presence with Google Search with Mariya Moeva and John MuellerThe sessions included the launch of JavaScript error reporting in the Mobile Friendly Test tool, dynamic rendering (we will discuss this in more detail in a future post), and an explanation of how CMS can use the Indexing and Search Console APIs to provide users with insights. For example, Wix lets their users submit their homepage to the index and see it in Search results instantly, and Squarespace created a Google Search keywords report to help webmasters understand what prospective users search for.During the event, we also presented the new Search Console in the Sandbox area for people to try and were happy to get a lot of positive feedback, from people being excited about the AMP Status report to others exploring how to improve their content for Search.Hands-on codelabs, case studies and moreWe presented the Structured Data Codelab that walks you through adding and testing structured data. We were really happy to see that it ended up being one of the top 20 codelabs by completions at I/O. If you want to learn more about the benefits of using Structured Data, check out our case studies.During the in-person office hours we saw a lot of interest around HTTPS, mobile-first indexing, AMP, and many other topics. The in-person Office Hours were a wonderful addition to our monthly Webmaster Office Hours hangout. The questions and comments will help us adjust our documentation and tools by making them clearer and easier to use for everyone.Highlights and key takeawaysWe also repeated a few key points that web developers should have an eye on when building websites, such as:Indexing and rendering don’t happen at the same time. We may defer the rendering to a later point in time.Make sure the content you want in Search has metadata, correct HTTP statuses, and the intended canonical tag.Hash-based routing (URLs with "#") should be deprecated in favour of the JavaScript History API in Single Page Apps.Links should have an href attribute pointing to a URL, so Googlebot can follow the links properly.Make sure to watch this talk for more on indexing, dynamic rendering and troubleshooting your site. If you wanna learn more about things to do as a CMS developer or theme author or Structured Data, watch this talk.We were excited to meet some of you at I/O as well as the global I/O extended events and share the latest developments in Search. To stay in touch, join the Webmaster Forum or follow us on Twitter, Google+, and YouTube. Posted by Martin Splitt, Webmaster Trends Analyst […]

  • Google is introducing its Product Experts Program!

    Over 12 years ago, we started answering webmaster questions and listening to feedback on our webmaster forums (although at the time, it was a Google Group for questions about sitemaps - original announcement). From a small mailing list, these forums have evolved to cover 15 languages and over 50,000 threads per year. These days, we learn a lot from some of the cases surfaced on this platform, and constantly use it to gather feedback to pass on to our teams.Google’s Top Contributors () and Rising Stars () are some of our most active and helpful members on these forums. With over 100 members globally just for the Webmaster Forums (1000 members if you count all product forums), this community of experts helps thousands of people every year by sharing their knowledge and helping others get the most out of Google products.Some of the Webmaster forum participantsToday, we’re excited to announce that we’re rebranding and relaunching the Top Contributor program as Google’s Product Experts program! Same community of experts, shiny new brand.Over the following days, we’ll be updating our badges in the forums so you can recognize who our most passionate and dedicated Product Experts are:   Silver Product Expert: Newer members who are developing their product knowledge   Gold Product Expert: Trusted members who are knowledgeable and active contributors   Platinum Product Expert: Seasoned members who contribute beyond providing help through mentoring, creating content, and more   Product Expert Alumni: Past members who are no longer active, but were previously recognized for their helpfulnessMore information about the new badges and names.Those Product Experts are users who are passionate about Google products and enjoy helping other users. They also help us by giving feedback on the tools we all use, like the Search Console, by surfacing questions they think Google should answer better, etc… Obtaining feedback from our users is one of Google’s core values, and Product Experts often have a great understanding of what affects a lot of our users. For example, here is a blog post detailing how Product Expert feedback about the Search Console was used to build the new version of the tool.Visit the new Product Experts program website to get information on how to become a Product Expert yourself, and come and join us on our Webmaster forums, we’d love to hear from you!Written by Vincent Courson, Search Outreach team […]

  • Hey Google, what's the latest news?

    Since launching the Google Assistant in 2016, we have seen users ask questions about everything from weather to recipes and news. In order to fulfill news queries with results people can count on, we collaborated on a new schema.org structured data specification called speakable for eligible publishers to mark up sections of a news article that are most relevant to be read aloud by the Google Assistant. When people ask the Google Assistant -- "Hey Google, what's the latest news on NASA?", the Google Assistant responds with an excerpt from a news article and the name of the news organization. Then the Google Assistant asks if the user would like to hear another news article and also sends the relevant links to the user's mobile device. As a news publisher, you can surface your content on the Google Assistant by implementing Speakable markup according to the developer documentation. This feature is now available for English language users in the US and we hope to launch in other languages and countries as soon as a sufficient number of publishers have implemented speakable. As this is a new feature, we are experimenting over time to refine the publisher and user experience. If you have any questions, ask us in the Webmaster Help Forum. We look forward to hearing from you! Posted by TV Raman, Senior Staff Software Engineer […]

  • How listening to our users helped us build a better Search Console

    The new Search Console beta is up and running. We’ve been flexing our listening muscles and finding new ways to incorporate your feedback into the design. In this new release we've initially focused on building features supporting the users’ main goals and we'll be expanding functionality in the months to come. While some changes have been long expected, like refreshing the UI with Material Design, many changes are a result of continuous work with you, the Search Console users.We’ve used 3 main communication channels to hear what our users are saying: Help forum Top Contributors - Top Contributors in our help forums have been very helpful in bringing up topics seen in the forums. They communicate regularly with Google’s Search teams, and help the large community of Search Console users.Open feedback - We analyzed open feedback comments about classic Search Console and identified the top requests coming in. Open feedback can be sent via the ‘Submit feedback’ button in Search Console. This open feedback helped us get more context around one of the top requests from the last years: more than 90 days of data in the Search Analytics (Performance) report. We learned of the need to compare to a similar period in the previous year, which confirmed that our decision to include 16 months of data might be on the right track.Search Console panel - Last year we created a new communication channel by enlisting a group of four hundred randomly selected Search Console users, representing websites of all sizes. The panel members took part in almost every design iteration we had throughout the year, from explorations of new concepts through surveys, interviews and usability tests. The Search Console panel members have been providing valuable feedback which helped us test our assumptions and improve designs.In one of these rounds we tested the new suggested design for the Performance report. Specifically we wanted to see whether it was clear how to use the ‘compare’ and ‘filter’ functionalities. To create an experience that felt as real as possible, we used a high fidelity prototype connected to real data. The prototype allowed study participants to freely interact with the user interface before even one row of production code had been written.In this study we learned that the ‘compare’ functionality was often overlooked. We consequently changed the design with ‘filter’ and ‘compare’ appearing in a unified dialogue box, triggered when the ‘Add new’ chip is clicked. We continue to test this design and others to optimize its usability and usefulness.We incorporated user feedback not only in practical design details, but also in architectural decisions. For example, user feedback led us to make major changes in the product’s core information architecture influencing the navigation and product structure of the new Search Console. The error and coverage reports were originally separated which could lead to multiple views of the same error. As a result of user feedback we united the error and coverage reporting offering one holistic view.As the launch date grew closer, we performed several larger scale experiments. We A/B tested some of the new Search Console reports against the existing reports with 30,000 users. We tracked issue fix rates to verify new Search Console drives better results and sent out follow-up surveys to learn about their experience. This most recent feedback confirmed that export functionality was not a nice-to-have, but rather a requirement for many users and helped us tune detailed help pages in the initial release. We are happy to announce that the new Search Console is now available to all sites. Whether it is through Search Console’s feedback button or through the user panel, we truly value a collaborative design process, where all of our users can help us build the best product.Try out the new search console.We're not finished yet! Which feature would you love to see in the next iteration of Search Console? Let us know below.Posted by the Search Console UX team […]

  • How we fought webspam - Webspam Report 2017

    We always want to make sure that when you use Google Search to find information, you get the highest quality results. But, we are aware of many bad actors who are trying to manipulate search ranking and profit from it, which is at odds with our core mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Over the years, we've devoted a huge effort toward combating abuse and spam on Search. Here's a look at how we fought abuse in 2017. We call these various types of abuse that violate the webmaster guidelines “spam.” Our evaluation indicated that for many years, less than 1 percent of search results users visited are spammy. In the last couple of years, we’ve managed to further reduce this by half. Google webspam trends and how we fought webspam in 2017As we continued to improve, spammers also evolved. One of the trends in 2017 was an increase in website hacking—both for spamming search ranking and for spreading malware. Hacked websites are serious threats to users because hackers can take complete control of a site, deface homepages, erase relevant content, or insert malware and harmful code. They may also record keystrokes, stealing login credentials for online banking or financial transactions. In 2017 we focused on reducing this threat, and were able to detect and remove from search results more than 80 percent of these sites. But hacking is not just a spam problem for search users—it affects the owners of websites as well. To help website owners keep their websites safe, we created a hands-on resource to help webmasters strengthen their websites’ security and revamped our help resources to help webmasters recover from a hacked website. The guides are available in 19 languages.We’re also recognizing the importance of robust content management systems (CMSs). A large percentage of websites are run on one of several popular CMSs, and subsequently spammers exploited them by finding ways to abuse their provisions for user-generated content, such as posting spam content in comment sections or forums. We’re working closely with many of the providers of popular content management systems like WordPress and Joomla to help them also fight spammers that abuse their forums, comment sections and websites.Another abuse vector is the manipulation of links, which is one of the foundation ranking signals for Search. In 2017 we doubled down our effort in removing unnatural links via ranking improvements and scalable manual actions. We have observed a year-over-year reduction of spam links by almost half. Working with users and webmasters for a better webWe’re here to listen: Our automated systems are constantly working to detect and block spam. Still, we always welcome hearing from you when something seems … phishy. Last year, we were able to take action on nearly 90,000 user reports of search spam.Reporting spam, malware and other issues you find helps us protect the site owner and other searchers from this abuse. You can file a spam report, a phishing report or a malware report. We very much appreciate these reports—a big THANK YOU to all of you who submitted them.We also actively work with webmasters to maintain the health of the web ecosystem. Last year, we sent 45 million messages to registered website owners via Search Console letting them know about issues we identified with their websites. More than 6 million of these messages are related to manual actions, providing transparency to webmasters so they understand why their sites got manual actions and how to resolve the issue.Last year, we released a beta version of a new Search Console to a limited number of users and afterwards, to all users of Search Console. We listened to what matters most to the users, and started with popular functionalities such as Search performance, Index Coverage and others. These can help webmasters optimize their websites' Google Search presence more easily.Through enhanced Safe Browsing protections, we continue to protect more users from bad actors online. In the last year, we have made significant improvements to our safe browsing protection, such as broadening our protection of macOS devices, enabling predictive phishing protection in Chrome, cracked down on mobile unwanted software, and launched significant improvements to our ability to protect users from deceptive Chrome extension installation.We have a multitude of channels to engage directly with webmasters. We have dedicated team members who meet with webmasters regularly both online and in-person. We conducted more than 250 online office hours, online events and offline events around the world in more than 60 cities to audiences totaling over 220,000 website owners, webmasters and digital marketers. In addition, our official support forum has answered a high volume of questions in many languages. Last year, the forum had 63,000 threads generating over 280,000 contributing posts by 100+ Top Contributors globally. For more details, see this post. Apart from the forums, blogs and the SEO starter guide, the Google Webmaster YouTube channel is another channel to find more tips and insights. We launched a new SEO snippets video series to help with short and to-the-point answers to specific questions. Be sure to subscribe to the channel!Despite all these improvements, we know we’re not yet done. We’re relentless in our pursue of an abuse-free user experience, and will keep improving our collaboration with the ecosystem to make it happen.Posted by Cody Kwok, Principal Engineer […]


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