News and notes from Google Down Under
Champagne for breakfast
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
This morning the Blogger engineering team in the Sydney office helped
aunch what we consider to be a major evolution in how people consume blogs --
Dynamic Views in Blogger
. Here in Sydney we cracked open bottles of champagne to go with our avocado on toast.
This launch grew out of a 20% time project that
was started earlier this year. I was relatively new to Google, and I didn’t really understand how 20% time was supposed to work -- as in, I didn’t realise that all I needed to get my manager’s OK for a 20% time project was a reasonably promising idea. So one day in February I went to my manager with a working prototype of a new way to view blog content, using the latest web technologies like AJAX, CSS3, and HTML5. Seven weeks later we launched five new “dynamic templates” as a
for blog owners to try out...and now six months after that we’re pushing the button on a full launch of 7 new “Dynamic Views”.
Blogs were the darlings of the web world back in the early 2000s, but let’s be honest -- their sex appeal was overshadowed in the last few years by newer forms of content, like video and interactive apps. I thought this was a real shame. Why should powerful words and images get left behind, innocent victims of technology evolution and user preferences for more dynamic content? In short, I knew that blogs could be so much more.
We were also hearing that authors wanted their readers to be able to better engage with and “experience” their content. For example, clicking the “next” button to scan through additional pages of posts just isn’t conducive to casual browsing and discovery. Old posts, no matter how good, were often buried forever. And things were getting sloooow. I thought: we can do better.
And I think we have. With the designs released today, blogs load 40% faster and old blogs have become new again.
Antin Harasymiv, Software Engineer, Blogger.
Trying on the new Dynamic Views from Blogger
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
As you may have noticed, the Google Australia blog looks a lot different today. That’s because we—along with a few other Google blogs—are trying out a new set of
templates called Dynamic Views.
, Dynamic Views is a unique browsing experience that makes it easier and faster for readers to explore blogs in interactive ways. We’re using the Magazine view, but you can also preview this blog in any of the other six new views by using the view selection bar at the top left of the screen.
We’re eager to hear what you think about the new Dynamic Views. You can submit feedback using the “Send feedback” link on the bottom right of this page, or just
send us some email
If you like what you see here, and we hope you do, we encourage you to try out the new look(s) on your own blog—read the
Blogger Buzz post
for more info.
Posted by Kate Mason, Consumer Communications Manager for AU/NZ
Google+: 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99... 100.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
This is a cross-post from the
Official Google Blog
The Google+ project has been in field trial for just under 90 days, and in that time we’ve made 91 different improvements (many of which are posted
). Google+ is still in its infancy, of course, but we’re more excited than ever to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. Today we’re releasing nine more features that get us that much closer.
+Hangouts: more places, more people, more to do
Hangouts uses live video to bring people together, face-to-face-to-face. And from day one, the community has shaped and stretched the feature in amazing ways—from
. We're determined to keep this momentum going, and to keep providing new ways to communicate in-person, so we hope you enjoy this week’s round of Hangouts improvements.
92. Hangouts on your phone
In life we connect with others in all sorts of places, at all different times. And the connections you make unexpectedly are often the ones you remember the most. We think Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialise in the real-world, so today we’re launching it on the one device that's always by your side: your mobile phone. To get started, simply find an active hangout in the Stream, and tap “Join”:
Hangouts on your phone: Stream View (left), Green Room (center), Portrait Mode (right)
Hangouts currently supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras (and iOS support is coming soon). The new mobile app is rolling out to
today, so you can start hanging out at any time, from just about anywhere.
93. Hangouts On Air
Google+ users already use Hangouts to create intimate onscreen experiences—with
, even people with certain
. But sometimes you want to speak to a large audience, or alternatively, view as a spectator. In these cases a public broadcast is what’s needed, so today we’re introducing Hangouts On Air.
The setup is simple enough: just start a normal hangout, and you’ll have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you’re “On Air,” up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast:
Hangouts On Air: Stream View (left), Full-screen Mode (right)
We’re starting with a limited number of broadcasters, but any member of the Google+ community can tune in. In fact: we’ll be hosting our very first On Air hangout with will.i.am on Wednesday night, September 21. For more information visit
94, 95, 96, 97. Hangouts with extras
Spending time together goes hand in hand with actually doing things together. Dinner with family can easily turn into movie night at the local theater, for instance. And running into old friends can inspire anything from photo sharing to vacation planning. Hangouts has always included a basic set of in-room actions (like group chat and co-viewing of YouTube videos), but we want to make it easier to do a lot more. That’s why we’re previewing some extras, including:
Screensharing: for when you want to show off your vacation photos, your high score, your lesson plan or whatever else is on your screen
Sketchpad: for when you want to draw, doodle, or just scribble together
Google Docs: for when you want to write, plan or present something with others
Named Hangouts: for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic (like fashion or music or sports...)
Hangouts with extras: Screensharing (left), Sketchpad (right)
Hangouts with extras: Docs (left), Named Hangouts (right)
The extras are still under construction, but we wanted to preview these features and get your feedback sooner versus later. So start a hangout, click “Try Hangouts with extras” in the green room, and let us know what you think.
98. Hangouts APIs
If field trial has taught us anything about Hangouts, it’s that the community is overflowing with creative individuals. So in the wake of last week’s
Google+ API launch
, we’re also releasing a basic set of Hangouts APIs. If you're a developer who wants to build new kinds of apps and games (and who-knows-what-else), then you can find more details on the
Google+ platform blog
+Search: find the people and posts you care about
99. Search in Google+
You’ve been asking for it, and we’ve been busy building it, so today we’re bringing Google’s search expertise to Google+. Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.
If you’re into photography, for example, then you’ll see other enthusiasts and lots of great pictures. If you care more about cooking, then you’ll see other chefs and food from around the globe. In all cases, Google+ search results include items that only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as international news.
Search in Google+: photography (left), cooking (right)
With more than 1 billion items shared and received every day, we’re excited to see how search will connect people through their posts on Google+.
100. Anyone can sign up for Google+—no invitation required.
For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups. This way anyone can visit
, join the project and connect with the people they care about.
Over the next day we'll be rolling out all of these features globally. In the meantime, you can check out
what's next in Google+
Senior Vice President of Engineering
Creative Australia is online
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Today, any Australian with a little motivation can create content and upload it for global distribution. For the first time in history, we all have a global broadcast platform at our fingertips: the internet.
The ability to broadcast ourselves, as individuals, was far, far out of reach for most of us for a long time. But today is a very different reality. So have you ever wondered what Aussies are doing, now that the tools of content production and distribution are in their hands? We have. So we got together with others in the digital space to take a look at just that.
Games Developers Association of Australia
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association
, we identified some examples of creative Australians producing great content for online distribution. This showreel includes just some of them like video blogger
, Christiaan Van Vuuren (better known to the YouTube audience as “
The Fully Sick Rapper
”) and like Keith Loutit’s
Digital platforms are witnessing an incredible growth in the number of talented Australians producing content. Together, they are getting Australian stories out to Aussies and the world.
Posted by Ishtar Vij, Policy Counsel, Google Australia
Little OpenAustralia Hackfest, Big Results
Thursday, September 15, 2011
couple of weeks ago we at the
- Australia’s open data, open government and civic hacking charity - asked if anyone wanted to
join three of our volunteers at Google Sydney for a hackfest
. The request was deliberately casual as we just wanted have a bit of fun over a weekend sharing what we where doing and working on
the open source projects that OpenAustralia runs
The hackfest started on Saturday with about a dozen volunteers coming along and listening to quick introductory talks from
. We reminded everyone of the different projects that the foundation runs:
Most people decided to hack on PlanningAlerts, a project which a
llows people to get alerts about what is being built or knocked down in their area.
Using an online tool called
you can quickly and easily contribute new planning authorities to PlanningAlerts. During the two afternoons (true hackers aren’t morning people!) our volunteers took up the challenge to write ScraperWiki scrapers for PlanningAlerts with zeal.
Seven people wrote scrapers for nineteen planning authorities like
Hobart City Council
Townsville City Council
all around Australia, including councils in two states we previously didn’t cover - Western Australia and Tasmania.
What does this mean in practical terms?
additional 1,823,124 Australians can now find out what’s happening in their local community
using PlanningAlerts. This is a huge result, coming from a relatively modest effort and a small group of people.
A massive thank you to all of the volunteers that attended the hackfest, especially the following people that wrote scrapers:
. Let’s do this again some time.
And don’t forget to remind your friends and family to sign up for
Guest post by
, OpenAustralia volunteer
Open Technology Foundation Launched Today
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
In Canberra today, I attended the launch of the
Open Technology Foundation
(OTF), an organisation which is dedicated to advancing the uptake of open technologies in government across Australia and New Zealand.
The OTF will focus on researching open technologies and how they are adopted, with the goal of delivering practical programs that enable governments to confidently implement open solutions.
One interesting trend from overseas is that governments are increasingly choosing open technologies to meet citizens' growing expectations for online services at significantly reduced costs
. One of the first OTF projects will target local Aussie and Kiwi governments.
Here at Google we are really passionate about openness. In fact,
we believe that open systems win
. Quite simply, open source software (like Android and Google Chrome) benefits the whole internet: it provides the platform upon which people can innovate further, and create new systems. This helps to build a really robust ecosystem of technological innovation and fosters an environment of information sharing.
We wish the Open Technology Foundation well and look forward to hearing their voice in debates around openness and innovation.
Posted by Alan Noble, Director of Engineering, Google Australia.
Smartphones at the dinner table? Smartphone trendspotting down under
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Here’s a question for all of you smartphone owners out there: If someone asked you whether you’d rather give up your phone or your TV, what would you say?
Earlier this year, Google teamed up with IPSOS Research to learn the answer to this exact question (and many others) by asking 30,000 people in 30 countries about how they use their smartphones, and where (on the bus? at the office?). It’s the first time anyone has asked this many people the same questions, for free: that means we can compare and contrast behaviour and trends across different age groups, different cities, and even countries.
So what did we learn about Australia? To start with, those of us at Google Australia were particularly proud to discover that Australia has the
second highest smartphone penetration in the world
-- ahead of the US, UK, and Japan. This is a recent achievement for the land down under. The majority of smartphone owners we surveyed had bought their device in the preceeding 12 months, which means that Australia went from lagging to leading the worldwide smartphone revolution in just one year. We estimate that each month, 1-2% of the entire population of Australia buys a smartphone.
Here are a few other fun facts we found when we took a look at the numbers:
Not just on the go
: You may think that your smartphoneis an “on the go” device, something you can use to kill time in line at thegrocery store or check email on the train. But our survey found that 81% of Australians used their smartphones at home during the past 7 days--compared to just 66% on the go. Nearly 1 in 2 use their smartphone while watching TV, while 1 in 3 use smartphones and another Internet-enabled device at the same time.
Smartphones are good for business
: 49% use their smartphone to research and then call businesses--while 45% visit a business they’ve found using their smartphone.
We can now indulge our obsession with real estate 24x7
: 1 in 5 Australians we surveyed had looked for an apartment or house with their smartphone--a figure 33% higher than the US or UK.
Search is big on smartphones
: 2 in 5 of Australian smartphone owners use mobile search daily--more than the UK or Germany, and almost as high as the number who use desktop search daily.
Apps, apps, apps
: our Australian survey respondents had 25 apps on average per smartphone--that’s versus 23 in the US & UK. They’re not just free apps, either; Australians averaged 8 paid apps per phone.
And now, the answer we’ve all been waiting for...
1 in 5 Aussie smartphone owners would rather give up their TV than their smartphone.
So what does this mean (aside from smartphones at the dinner table)? First, Australians are buying more smartphones, faster, than the rest of the world--and they’re using them more, too. Second, as more and more of us embrace the smartphone revolution, we’ll be watching more videos, searching for more businesses, buying more apps, and sharing more via mobile. In other words, there are a host of new opportunities for developers, web publishers, video creators, retailers, and advertisers to build and grow their businesses on mobile.
If you want to learn more, stay tuned: we’ll be making our global survey results public, in their entirety, for everyone who wants a closer look at the global mobile revolution.
Posted by Jason Pellegrino, Head of Mobile Ads, Google Australia and New Zealand
Gmail: It’s cooler in the cloud
Thursday, September 8, 2011
This is a cross-post from the
Official Google Blog.
Cloud computing is
, keeps you
and saves you money. But the cloud can also save energy. A
by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Verdantix estimates that cloud computing has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by millions of metric tons. And Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford who has led several studies on data center energy use, has
that for many enterprises, the cloud “is significantly more energy efficient than using in-house data centres.”
committed to sustainability
, we sharpened our pencils and looked at our own services to see how they stack up against the alternatives.
We compared Gmail to the traditional enterprise email solutions it’s replaced for
more than 4 million
The results were clear
: switching to Gmail can be almost 80 times more energy efficient than running in-house email. This is because cloud-based services are typically housed in highly efficient data centers that operate at higher server utilisation rates and use hardware and software that’s built specifically for the services they provide—conditions that small businesses are rarely able to create on their own.
An illustration of inefficient server utilisation by smaller companies compared to efficient utilisation in the cloud.
If you’re more of a romantic than a businessperson, think of it this way: It takes more energy to send a message in a bottle than it does to use Gmail for a year, as long as you
the energy used to make the bottle and the wine you drank.
We ran a similar calculation for YouTube and the results are even more striking: the servers needed to play one minute of YouTube consume about 0.0002 kWh of energy. To put that in perspective, it takes about eight seconds for the human body to burn off that same amount. You’d have to watch YouTube for three straight days for our servers to consume the amount of energy required to manufacture, packag
e and ship a single DVD.
In calculating these numbers, we included the energy used by all the Google infrastructure supporting Gmail and YouTube. Of course, your own laptop or phone also consumes energy while you’re accessing Google, so it’s important to
choose an efficient model
There’s still a lot to learn about the global impacts of cloud computing, but one thing we can say with certainty: bit for bit, email for email, and video for video, it’s more efficient in the cloud.
Posted by David Jacobowitz, Program Manager, Green Engineering and Operations
Eureka Prize Winner Announced
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Last night Associate Professor David Moss from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney was
announced as the winner of the Google Australia Eureka Prize
for Innovation in Computer Science.
Associate Professor Moss was awarded the prize for his work in incorporating light onto silicon computer chips. This groundbreaking work has led to the development of a laser that allows light to be generated on silicon chips, which overcomes many energy and bandwidth obstacles for on-chip and chip-to-chip communications.
Associate Professor Moss was joined at last night’s Eureka Prize dinner by finalists who submitted excellent entries:
Professor Gerwin Klein, SEL4 Project Team from NICTA,
have created the first general purpose operating system kernel with a machine checked formal proof of correctness, covering high level security properties down to low level code.
Professor Rajkumar Buyya, The Cloudbus Project from the University of Melbourne
, who have developed architectural principles and software technologies that enable high-performance, scalable, and energy-efficient Cloud computing.
I would like to thank all the people and teams who entered the prize and to congratulate Associate Professor Moss for his work.
Google Australia is delighted to sponsor the Eureka Prize for Innovation in Computer Science. We’re passionately committed to promoting innovation in computer science here in Australia and we believe that it creates great benefits for society.
Posted by Ben Appleton, Software Engineer
Pure and proven cloud architecture
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
This is a cross-post from the
Official Enterprise Blog
This post is part of a
that explores the top ten reasons why customers trust Google with their business data. A complete top ten list can be found
When users think of Google Apps, they often think of their Gmail inboxes or collaborating on documents in real time with others. They often don’t think of what’s going on behind the scenes. Our cloud computing
offer our customers scalability and reliability across all of our products and websites, supporting millions of businesses on Google Apps and over 1 billion Internet searches every day. Our pure and proven cloud offers Apps customers significant data protections that would be hard for those customers to achieve on their own. It’s also the infrastructure that we use to run our own business.
As we’ve grown, we’ve developed an expertise around building data centers and
protecting the data
stored in them. The machines in the data centers that run our applications are built to our own specifications, including ones focused on security. The hardware is limited to what is necessary for the applications to run, and eliminates unnecessary components such as peripheral connectors or video cards. Similarly, the software that we run on the machines is a specialized, stripped-down version of the Linux operating system leaving out any unnecessary software code such as device drivers. This approach helps provide a computing environment that is less prone to vulnerabilities, compared to typical on-premise, so called “private cloud” or hybrid IT environments.
The services we offer are first and foremost Internet-based applications and platforms. We were born on the Internet, not on a single computer or server. We have
some of our core underlying technologies such as
Google FIle System
. The last two of which have gone on to inspire
, the Apache open source framework that underpins many leading cloud or big data applications. Googlers Luiz André Barroso and Urs Hölzle even wrote a
about some of Google’s approaches, entitled “
The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines
Lots of users leads to
lots of network traffic
that allows us some significant advantages in terms of security. For instance, the spam filtering in Gmail gains rapid visibility into emerging and evolving spam and virus threats, which in turn helps us to block the vast majority of them. This kind of large scale Internet infrastructure also typically provides better protection from denial of service type attacks. It also puts us in a position to spot malicious traffic and help
Unprecedented global scale would not matter without the ability to reliably deliver business critical services. That is another powerful feature of Google’s technology and process discipline. We’ve built our platform to withstand expected
, relying on software and highly automated processes in order to support a
99.9% uptime SLA
has no maintenance window.
In 2010 Gmail
uptime was 99.984%
and we are over 99.99% for the first half of 2011. This is an approach you fundamentally can’t take with traditional on premise IT systems.
Running data centers at this kind of scale takes energy, but as a
we strive to use as little as possible - in fact, our facilities use half the energy of a typical data center.
You can read more about our
approach to purchasing renewable energy
In just the 4.5 years I’ve been at Google, I’ve seen quite a few generational changes in the kit we run, be it “simple” things like sheet metal for servers to something more complex like our motherboards, or something even more fluid and complicated like our various software layers. Through all those upgrades, build outs, and migrations, the focus on reliability remains. This is something that keeps me coming back to work day after day, and drives me to help others understand the value we can add to protecting their data and powering their businesses.
Posted by John Collins, Senior Global Trust PM, Google Apps
Playing Our Part
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
It’s National Child Protection Week - a week to think about how we can play our part to keep kids safe. At Google, we know how
important it is to protect and educate young people on using the Internet.
One of the things we do is provide parents and teachers with tools to help them choose what content their children see online, such as Google SafeSearch and Safety Mode on YouTube. You can learn how to use these tools on our
Family Safety Centre
We also work closely with Australian organisations dedicated to educating and protecting young people. Our partner
White Balloon Day
today. This is a day to raise awareness f
or the victims of child sexual assault. It’s also
Bravehearts’ principal fundraising initiative which enables them to educate, empower and protect Aussie kids.
Another of our partners,
the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, has
for how you can play your part during National Child Protection Week.
Let’s all play our part to keep Aussie kids safe.
Posted by Ishtar Vij,
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