Just ask Google for your flights, reservations, package delivery info and more

Ever had trouble checking your flight’s status on the go because it meant digging through your email for the flight number? Or wanted to just quickly see whether your package would arrive on time, without having to look up the tracking info first? You’ve told us it would be much easier if you could skip the fuss and just ask Google.

Soon you’ll be able to find this info instantly in Google Search if it’s in your Gmail, Google Calendar or Google+. For example, just ask or type, “What’s my flight status?” or “When will my package arrive?”
Over the next several days, we’ll be rolling this out to all U.S., English-speaking users on desktop, tablet and smartphone, with voice search (so you don’t have to type). Here are just a few of the time savers that will be available this week, with more to come:

  • Flights: Ask Google “Is my flight on time?” to get info on your upcoming flights and live status on your current flights.
  • Reservations: Ask for “my reservations” to see your dining plans or “my hotel” to get your hotel name and address. With one tap, you can get driving or public transit directions straight there, saving you lots of steps.
  • Purchases: Ask for “my purchases,” and you’ll get the status of your current orders, so you know whether your mom’s birthday present will arrive on time.
  • Plans: Ask Google “What are my plans for tomorrow?” to see a summary of upcoming flights, hotels, restaurant reservations and events—very useful when you’re traveling.
  • Photos: Say “Show me my photos from Thailand” to see the photos you uploaded to Google+. You can also ask for “my photos of sunsets” if you want to show off the shots you’ve taken over the year; Google will try to automatically recognize the type of photo you’re asking for.

We’ve been offering this kind of info—flights, reservations, appointments and more—for more than a year in Google Now. We’ve gotten great feedback on how convenient it is, especially when you’re on the go. Now that it’s in Google Search, you can get it anytime you need it.

This information is just for you—secure, via encrypted connection, and visible only to you when you're signed in to Google. Likewise, you can also control whether you want the service on or off. Whenever you don’t want to see it, simply click the globe icon at the top of the search results page to turn it off for that search session. To turn it off permanently, visit the "Private results" section in search settings.

We hope this makes your day a little easier. Visit our Inside Search site to learn more about the questions you can ask.

Getting healthy just got a little easier

We’re all looking for ways to get a little healthier and smarter about the choices we make. Having tools and information at your fingertips might help bring a bit of motivation to your routine, and of course good tunes and a strong community doesn’t hurt either.

What’s in that cupcake?
Want to know how many calories are in a cupcake, or how much potassium is in a banana? You can now find nutrition information for over 1,000 foods in search - helping you stay informed about what you eat more quickly and easily. While using voice search, on desktop, your iPhone, or Android device you can ask, “how many calories are in a cupcake?” and you can follow-up and ask, “how about a cookie?” without needing to repeat parts of your question. Fruits and vegetables don’t have labels, and it’s often hard to track down the nutritional info for wine or more complex dishes like a burrito, so type or tap the microphone and easily ask your question for these foods and more.

Explore what’s around you, on two wheels
If you want a change of scenery from the gym, use Google Maps on your Android device to find nearby biking routes. Mount your device on your handlebars to see the turn-by-turn directions and navigation, or use speaker-mode to hear voice-guided directions for more than 330,000 miles of trails and paths around the world. Dark green lines on the map show dedicated bike trails and paths without cars, light green lines show streets with dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling.

Team up to get fit
Looking to get healthy with a friend? Join a Google+ Community and connect with others that share your diet and exercise goals. Check out Communities such as Eating Right and Fitness & Weight Loss for motivation, tips and inspiration to keep you on track. Use Hangouts On Air to learn what experts like The Biggest Loser are saying about nutrition or jump into a yoga class.

Don’t stop the music
A good beat will keep you moving and motivated. Sign up for All Access, our new music subscription service, and you can listen to millions of songs from Google Play Music. Build an awesome workout mix or start a radio station from your favorite pop song like “We Can’t Stop!” Miley Cyrus says it best.

Keep track—no matter which device you’re on
Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or on your mobile device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.

Get inspired by the pros
Need a little more motivation? Why not watch fitness gurus do their thing on YouTube: you can watch Sadie Nardini and her amazing yoga classes, or Cassey Ho will get you in top shape for summer - all in the comfort of your own living room.

Top Charts in Google Trends—The most searched people, places and things

Ever wonder what the world is searching for? With Google Trends, you can see what's hot right now, and also explore the history and geography of a topic as it evolves. Today you'll find new charts of the most-searched people, places and things in more than 40 categories, from movies to sports teams to tourist attractions. You'll also find a new colorful visualization of real-time Hot Searches.

Top Charts—a new monthly "spirit of the times"
Top Charts are lists of real-world people, places and things ranked by search interest. They show information similar to our Year-End Zeitgeist, but updated monthly and going back to 2004. To check them out, go to Google Trends and click "Top Charts" on the left-hand side. For example, you can see the 10 most-searched cities, movies and scientists in April:

Top Charts includes more than 40 top 10 lists and more than 140 time periods. Hover on a chart for links to embed the chart in your own page or share on social media.

Top Charts is built on the Knowledge Graph, so the data shows interest in real-world things, not just keywords. When you look at a chart of sports teams and you see the Golden State Warriors, those rankings are based on many different related searches, like [gs warriors], [golden state bball] and [warriors basketball]. That way you see which topics are most popular on Google Search, however people search for them. Top Charts provide our most accurate search volume rankings, but no algorithm is perfect, so on rare occasion you may find anomalies in the data. You can learn more about Top Charts in our Help Center.

Hot Searches, now in hot colors
In addition to Top Charts, now there's a vibrant new way to visualize trending searches as they happen. On the Trends homepage in the left-hand panel, you'll find a new link to "Visualize Hot Searches in full-screen." You’ll see the latest trending topics appear in a colorful display:

You can customize the layout by clicking the icon in the upper-left corner and expanding it to see as many as 25 searches at a time. You can also pick any region currently supported by Hot Searches. Use fullscreen mode in your browser for the biggest, purest eye candy.

...and a few design updates
We’re also continuing to spruce up our site. Among other things, now the homepage shows you more interesting stuff up front, and the search box is always available at the top:

The new Trends homepage shows a list of today's Hot Searches. Enter search terms at the top to see search interest over time and by geography.

We hope you enjoy bringing new stories to life with Google Trends. We love feedback, so please feel free to let us know what you think by posting online or by clicking "Send Feedback" at the bottom of any page in Google Trends.

Live from Google I/O: Mo’ screens, mo’ goodness

This morning, we kicked off the 6th annual Google I/O developer conference with over 6,000 developers at Moscone Center in San Francisco, 460 I/O Extended sites in 90 countries, and millions of you around the world who tuned in via our livestream. Over the next three days, we’ll be hosting technical sessions, hands-on code labs, and demonstrations of Google's products and partners' technology.

We believe computing is going through one of the most exciting moments in its history: people are increasingly adopting phones, tablets and newer type of devices. And this spread of technology has the potential to make a positive impact in the lives of people around the world—whether it's simply helping you in your daily commute, or connecting you to information that was previously inaccessible.

This is why we focus so much on our two open platforms: Android and Chrome. They enable developers to innovate and reach as many people as possible with their apps and services across multiple devices. Android started as a simple idea to advance open standards on mobile; today it is the world’s leading mobile platform and growing rapidly. Similarly, Chrome launched less than five years ago from an open source project; today it’s the world’s most popular browser.

In line with that vision, we made several announcements today designed to give developers even more tools to build great apps on Android and Chrome. We also shared new innovations from across Google meant to help make life just a little easier for you, including improvements in search, communications, photos, and maps.

Here’s a quick look at some of the announcements we made at I/O:

  • Android & Google Play: In addition to new developer tools, we unveiled Google Play Music All Access, a monthly music subscription service with access to millions of songs that joins our music store and locker; and the Google Play game services with real-time multiplayer and leaderboards. Also, coming next month to Google Play is a special Samsung Galaxy S4, which brings together cutting edge hardware from Samsung with Google’s latest software and services—including the user experience that ships with our popular Nexus devices.
  • Chrome: With over 750 million active users on Chrome, we’re now focused on bringing to mobile the speed, simplicity and security improvements that we’ve seen on the desktop. To that end, today we previewed next-generation video codec VP9 for faster video-streaming performance; the requestAutocomplete API for faster payments; and Chrome Experiments such as "A Journey Through Middle Earth" and Racer to demonstrate the ability to create immersive mobile experiences not possible in years past.
  • Google+: We unveiled the newly designed Google+, which helps you easily explore content as well dramatically improve your online photo experience to give you crisp, beautiful photos—without the work! We also upgraded Google+ Hangouts—our popular group video application—to help bring all of your real-life conversations online, across any device or platform, and with groups of up to 10 friends.
  • Search: Search has evolved considerably in recent years: it can now have a real conversation with you, and even make your day a bit smoother by predicting information you might need. Today we added the ability to set reminders by voice and we previewed “spoken answers” on laptops and desktops in Chrome—meaning you can ask Google a question and it will speak the answer back to you.
  • Maps: Today we previewed the next generation of Google Maps, which gets rid of any clutter in order to put your individual experience and exploration front and center. Each time you click or search, our technology draws you a tailored map that highlights the information you need. From design to directions, the new Google Maps is smarter and more useful.

Technology can have a profound, positive impact on the daily lives of billions of people. But we can’t do this alone—developers play a crucial role. I/O is our chance to come together and thank you for everything you do.

Google Now on your iPhone and iPad, with the Google Search app

Many of us can no longer imagine life without our smartphones. We use them for all sorts of things, like getting reminders of important calendar appointments (say, a first date), and driving directions to the Italian restaurant where your table for two awaits. Today, with the launch of Google Now on iPhone and iPad, your smartphone will become even smarter.

Google Now is about giving you just the right information at just the right time. It can show you the day’s weather as you get dressed in the morning, or alert you that there’s heavy traffic between you and your butterfly-inducing date—so you’d better leave now! It can also share news updates on a story you’ve been following, remind you to leave for the airport so you can make your flight and much more. There’s no digging required: cards appear at the moment you need them most—and the more you use Google Now, the more you get out of it.

Google Now for iPhone and iPad is available as part of the updated Google Search app. Together, Google Now and voice search will make your day run a little smoother.

In addition to the handy cards in Google Now, the Google Search app still gives you instant answers to all your questions. Try tapping the microphone and speak to your phone—you’ll get quick answers spoken back to you. For example, ask Google, “Do I need an umbrella this weekend?” and you’ll get the forecast. Or ask “Who’s in the cast of ‘Oblivion’?” to decide if you want to see it. Voice Search is particularly handy on the go—try "Show me nearby pizza places" and you'll see a map of restaurants around you with directions, phone numbers, ratings and hours.

Get the Google Search app with Google Now from the App Store. Drag it to the tray, open it, sign in and you’re ready to go.

Public Alerts for Google Search, Google Now and Google Maps available in Japan

With nearly 5,000 earthquakes a year, it’s important for people in Japan to have crisis preparedness and response information available at their fingertips. And from our own research, we know that when a disaster strikes, people turn to the Internet for more information about what is happening.

With this in mind, we’re launching Google Public Alerts today in Japan—the first international expansion of a service we debuted last year in the United States. Google Public Alerts is a platform designed to provide accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them online.

Relevant earthquake and tsunami warnings for Japan will now appear on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now when you search online during a time of crisis. If a major earthquake alert is issued in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, the alert information will appear on your desktop and mobile screens when you search for relevant information on Google Search and Google Maps.

Example of a Google Search result on a tablet showing a tsunami warning

Example of a tsunami warning on Google Maps

If you click “詳細” (“More info”) right under the alert, you’ll see more details about the announcement, including the full description from the Japan Meteorological Agency, a link to their site, and other useful information like observed arrival times and wave heights for tsunamis.

Example of how a tsunami alert would work in Fukushima

And when you open Google Now on your Android device, recommended actions and information will be tailored to where you are. For example, if you happen to be in Tokyo at a time when a tsunami alert is issued, Google Now will show you a card containing information about the tsunami alert, as well as any available evacuation instructions:

Example of a tsunami warning card on Google Now

We’re able to provide Public Alerts in Japan thanks to the Japan Meteorological Agency, whose publication of data enables Google and others to make critical and life-saving information more widely available.

We hope our technology, including Public Alerts, will help people better prepare for future crises and create more far-reaching support for crisis recovery. This is why in Japan, Google has newly partnered with 14 Japanese prefectures and cities, including seven from the Tōhoku region, to make their government data available online and more easily accessible to users, both during a time of crisis and after. The devastating Tōhoku Earthquake struck Japan only two years ago, and the region is still slowly recovering from the tragedy.

We look forward to expanding Google Public Alerts to more countries and working with more warning providers soon. We also encourage potential partners to read our FAQ and to consider putting data in an open format, such as the Common Alerting Protocol. To learn more about Public Alerts, visit our Public Alerts homepage.

M&M’s, Beyonce and Ravens dominate game day searches on Google

This year’s big game was filled with action—brothers battled on the field and a 34-minute-long power outage nearly turned the tide of the game. With all the excitement on the field, we looked online to see what fans across the U.S. were searching for during the game.

Overall, the top trending searches on Google during the game were:
  1. M&M’s
  2. Beyonce
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. San Francisco 49ers
  5. Colin Kaepernick
Other noteworthy trending searches include those about the power outage, which started trending mid-game and ended up ranking eighth out of the most-searched terms during game time. Searches for Beyonce spiked dramatically during her halftime show. And showing that ads drive consumer interest, searches for Chrysler spiked significantly after their fourth quarter commercial.

The most searched team: The Ravens
As they did in the game, the Ravens narrowly beat out the 49ers as the most searched team during the game on Google. The most searched players of the game were Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, Michael Oher, David Akers and Jacoby Jones—thanks to his 108-yard kickoff return.

The Harbaugh brothers’ on-field battle has been one of the big stories of the game, so it’s no surprise that viewers took to the web to find more information on these coaches. While John Harbaugh took home the trophy, Jim was the most searched brother on Google.

Game day commercials
Lastly, it’s not game day without the commercials. Fans were seeking out commercials online throughout the game, driving searches for big game ads on Google 55 times higher this Sunday than the same time last week. The most searched for commercials on YouTube were ads from M&M’s, Mercedes-Benz, Disney’s “Oz Great and Powerful,” Lincoln, and Audi. Searches for "Gangnam Style" were also trending on YouTube, along with searches for big game performers Alicia Keys and Beyonce.

This year many advertisers turned to YouTube to share game day ads and teaser videos in the weeks leading up to the game. In 2013, big game ads or ad teasers were watched more than 66 million times on YouTube before game day.

Now that you’ve seen all the ads, vote for your favorite one on either the YouTube Ad Blitz channel or ADWEEK.com now through February 11. The winners of the Ad Blitz will be announced on the YouTube homepage on February 16.

Will you be Monday-morning quarterbacking the game or the ads?

Zeitgeist 2012: What piqued your curiosity this year?

As 2012 comes to a close, it's time for our 12th annual Year-End Zeitgeist—an in-depth look at the "spirit of the times" as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year.

On our 2012 Zeitgeist website, you can explore the most popular and hottest trending search terms from around the world. This year’s site is our most global to date, with a total of 838 lists from 55 countries. We’ve also added a number of new features, including an interactive map that shows where and when some of the hottest terms spiked around the world, and a Google Zeitgeist Android app coming out later today (with an iOS version coming soon too).

For a round-the-globe tour through 2012, take a look at our video:

So what kinds of things were top of mind this year? While there are perennial themes—“what is love?” topped the list in 10 countries—it’s the unusual and surprising that caught our attention in 2012.

Global superstar Whitney Houston topped many countries’ lists as well as three of our overall trending lists—her unexpected death surprising fans around the world. From Korea, YouTube sensation PSY’s “Gangnam Style” signature dance took the world by storm, landing him the #1 spot in many countries and making his song the second most trending query of 2012. (PSY’s video became the #1 most watched in YouTube history—stay tuned for YouTube’s Rewind for more.)

Then there was the superhuman. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall jump made him the #6 globally trending person of the year, while the 2012 Olympics and its various athletes made it into almost every country’s top trends. And NBA player Jeremy Lin also rose on the charts this year, making him the #1 trending athlete globally.

People researched a breadth of other topics, too. Web users took a serious interest in threats to the open Internet, with proposals like SOPA and ACTA both finding their way to the top of many countries’ lists. The U.S. elections brought attention to the candidates and issues, not least the presidential campaigns’ most notorious political gaffes. And while it might not be surprising to see that tragic natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy ranked highly (#3 on the global trending list), it is reassuring to find searches like [donate to Sandy] spiking as well.

We hope you enjoy exploring what people around the world were searching for in 2012. It’s quite a snapshot of what makes us human: a blend of guilty pleasures and higher pursuits.

Thanksgiving gone Google

Thanksgiving is about sharing, giving thanks and connecting with family and friends. Yet, all too often we get caught up in the holiday rat race—the mad dash to the airport, the supermarket, the mall—and forget to take time out to enjoy the holiday.

To kick off the holidays this year, we wanted to crank up the fun and tone down the stress. So we did a little planning for you and created a one-stop-Google-shop to get you through the week.

With tools like recipe search and YouTube cooking videos that show you the right (and wrong) ways to carve a deep-fried turkey, Google can help you master your Thanksgiving meal with lots of laughs along the way. You can also join members of the Google+ cooking community for cooking lessons over live hangouts. Learn how to make new dishes like pumpkin brulee for the sweet tooths at the table or mix things up this year with a vegan-friendly feast.

Though we can’t control the skies and guarantee a turbulence-free flight home, we can help minimize the time you spend waiting around, with real-time flight updates. Download the Google Search App to get flight updates on the go. And don’t forget to download TV shows, music and more from Google Play to stay entertained on board.

Of course, for those of you who couldn’t make it home this year, you can still get everyone together with Google+ Hangouts. Try scheduling a hangout to video chat with up to nine people you’d otherwise miss this holiday.

Whether you’re rooting for the Cowboys or the Jets, Texans or the Patriots, we can help you stay on top of all the scores and stats. If you’re on the run, ask for real time scores or game details using Voice Search on the Google Search App.

This year Black Friday starts on Thursday, with Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us all kicking off sales on Thanksgiving night. To help you get a head start on the deal-seekers, try our new shortlists, a super-simple alternative to sharing lists of links or bookmarks, as well as 360-degree imagery for many of the season’s hottest toys on Google Shopping. For those of you brave enough to face the masses at the store, use indoor Google Maps to get in and get out of the mall fast.

By putting all your favorite Google features in one place, we hope we can help make things just a little bit easier this Thanksgiving—giving you more time to make memories with those who matter most and enjoy every last bite of that much deserved pumpkin pie. Visit our Thanksgiving hub to get started.

AMBER Alerts for missing children now in Google Search and Maps

Today we are launching AMBER Alerts coordinated by National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the Google Public Alerts platform. Public Alerts are designed to bring you emergency alerts when and where they’re relevant to you, and AMBER Alerts aim to help bring abducted children home safely.

If you’re using Google Search or Maps on desktop and mobile you’ll see an AMBER Alert if you search for related information in a particular location where a child has recently been abducted and an alert was issued. You’ll also see an alert if you conduct a targeted search for the situation. By increasing the availability of these alerts through our services, we hope that more people will assist in the search for children featured in AMBER Alerts and that the rates of safe recovery will rise.

AMBER Alerts will provide information about the abducted child and any other details about the case as they become available. Additional details could include the make and model of the vehicle he/she was abducted in or information about the alleged abductor.

Screenshot for a test version of an AMBER alert

The US Department of Justice’s AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and others to engage the entire community in the most serious child-abduction cases. We are working with NCMEC, who will provide the AMBER Alert data to Google and make it possible to display information in Public Alerts.

We’re working closely with Missing Children Europe and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to try and scale this service to more countries. We’ll keep exploring different ways to improve child protection through innovative technologies, like what has been used to reduce exploitation and improve reporting to NCMEC.

Google’s most advanced voice search has arrived on iOS

When you have a question, finding the answer should be effortless—wherever you are and whatever device you’re using. The new Google Search app for iPhone and iPad helps you to do just that with enhanced voice search that answers any question with the comprehensive Google search results you know and love.

Fast and accurate voice recognition technology enables Google to understand exactly what you’re saying. Getting an answer is as simple as tapping on the microphone icon and asking a question like, “Is United Airlines flight 318 on time?” Your words appear as you speak, you get your answer immediately and—if it’s short and quick, like the status and departure time of your flight—Google tells you the answer aloud.

You can get answers to an increasingly wide variety of questions thanks to Knowledge Graph, which gives our search technology an understanding of people, places and things in the real world. Here are a few of the questions that Google can answer:
  • “What does Yankee Stadium look like?” Google will show you hundreds of pictures instantly.
  • “Play me a trailer of the upcoming James Bond movie.” The trailer starts playing immediately right within Google Search. 
  • “When does daylight savings time end?” The answer will appear above the search results, so you can set your clock without having to click on a link. 
  •  “Who’s in the cast of The Office?” See a complete cast list and find out who made you crack up last night. 

Download the Google Search App on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and find out how much wood a woodchuck would chuck (if a woodchuck could chuck wood).

Get your Google back

If you’ve moved to Windows 8 and are getting acquainted with it, you may be looking for a couple of your favorite Google products that you use every day. To help you get the best experience possible on Google and across the web, we’ve designed and built a new Google Search app and Chrome browser for Windows 8 and created a simple site to help you get your Google back.


The Google Search app comes with a clean and recognizable user interface. Our new voice search lets you naturally speak questions. The image search and image previews are built for swiping. And, as usual, you get immediate results as you type with Google Instant. The doodles you enjoy on special occasions will be right there on the homepage and even show up on the Google tile on your start screen.

The Chrome browser is the same Chrome you know and love, with some customizations to optimize for touchscreens, including larger buttons and the ability to keep Chrome open next to your other favorite apps. It delivers the fast, secure web experience you’ve come to expect from Chrome on all your devices.

To get both Google Search and Chrome installed on your Windows 8 machine, head to our site and learn how to get your familiar Google apps back.

Google News turns 10

Google News launched on September 22, 2002—exactly a decade ago.

Inspired by the widespread interest in news after the September 11 attacks, we invested in technology to help people search and browse news relevant to them. Google News broke new ground in news aggregation by gathering links in real time, grouping articles by story and ranking stories based on the editorial opinions of publishers worldwide. Linking to a diverse set of sources for any given story enabled readers to easily access different perspectives and genres of content. By featuring opposing viewpoints in the same display block, people were encouraged to hear arguments on both sides of an issue and gain a more balanced perspective.

In the last ten years, Google News has grown to 72 editions in 30 languages, and now draws from more than 50,000 news sources. The technology also powers Google’s news search. Together, they connect 1 billion unique users a week to news content.

Google News today

As we have scaled the service internationally, we have added new features (Local News, Personalization, Editors’ Picks, Spotlight, Authorship, Social Discussions), evolved our design, embraced mobile and run ancillary experiments (Fast Flip, Living Stories, Timeline). In parallel, we have monitored our quality and challenged our engineers to improve the technology under the hood—increase freshness, group news better, rank stories more accurately, personalize with more insight and streamline the infrastructure.

Take a look back at the past decade in Google News through the top stories from each year and a few notable features that have launched in the interim:

It’s undeniable that the online news landscape has changed immensely. Smartphones and social networks have transformed how news is accessed and sourced, and shifted the relationship between readers and authors. Open journalism is the norm, and aggregation by humans and machines is an integral part of the ecosystem. New technologies such as Hangouts on Air have the potential to connect users, journalists and opinion makers and transform how stories are discussed.

Opportunities abound, and we are excited for where we can take this product in the next decade. While change is inevitable, one thing remains the same: our mission is to bring you the news you want, when you need it, from a diverse set of sources.

(Cross-posted on the Google News blog)

London calling: some reflections on the digital games

The stats are in, and one clear winner from this year’s summer sports has emerged: digital media. Here’s a quick look behind the “screens” at how the web blew records away around the world, at the most wired Games ever.

Searches set a new pace
Mirroring the growth of the web and digital media, Google search volume around the world was dramatically higher this year than during Beijing in 2008:
  • Driven by a 900 percent increase in [ryan lochte] searches, American interest in [swimming] spiked 25 percent higher than 2008 levels.
  • The “Fierce Five” vaulted U.S. searches for [gymnastics] to almost double the 2008 peak.
  • Spurred on by a record-breaking performance by sprinter Usain Bolt, Jamaican searches for [track and field] raced up 40 percent from 2008.
  • Japanese gymnast and first-time gold medalist [kohei uchimura] proved he’s a “superman” in search as well as on the tumbling mat, with search volume in his home country up 420 percent over the last games.
  • Success may have been sweeter the second time around for wrestler [sushil kumar], the first Indian athlete to win an individual medal at successive Olympics, with searches up more than 375 percent from the 2008 games.
Here are a few more search snapshots:

Top Athlete Searches (U.S.) Top Athlete Searches (U.K.) Top Artist Closing Ceremony Searches (U.S.)
Michael Phelps Usain Bolt Jessie J
Ryan Lochte Jessica Ennis Beady Eye
Lolo Jones Michael Phelps Gary Barlow
Usain Bolt Victoria Pendleton Ed Sheeran
Alex Morgan Andy Murray Freddie Mercury

Global streaming goes the distance
YouTube powered the live stream for NBC Olympics and for the International Olympic Committee’s YouTube Channel, making the world’s games even more global and accessible. NBC Olympics saw more live streams than during the entire Beijing Games—more than 159 million total video streams and more than 64 million live streams across YouTube's online, mobile and tablet experiences. In all, more than 20 million hours of total video was streamed over 17 days. And of course, the Games were also streamed on the IOC’s channel (youtube.com/olympic), with tens of millions of streams to 64 countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll have more details on the YouTube blog soon.

The multi-screen relay
More than ever, people experienced the Games not just via the TV broadcast, but on desktops, mobile phones and tablets. Through research panels conducted in partnership with NBC in the U.S., we learned a bit more about how this played out:
  • Mobile makes a strong showing: Many viewers turned to one or more “second screens” beyond TV to keep updated on the Olympics—nearly half of those who did (44 percent) did so via a mobile phone or tablet.
  • Power viewers: Second-screen viewing didn’t seem to diminish participants’ interest in watching the games on TV...in fact, it increased it. People who followed the Games on TV plus one other screen watched 52 percent more Olympics on TV than those who didn’t; people who followed on two additional screens spent more than twice as much time (105 percent) with TV. And people who watched live streams of events online watched 66 percent more Olympics on television than people who followed exclusively on TV.
  • Synchronized usage: Overall, nearly 56 percent of people who followed the Games on TV and at least one other screen did so simultaneously. These simultaneous viewers also watched TV for 67 percent longer than those who only watched TV.

Gold for digital businesses
Brands who invest in digital marketing to connect with customers grow their own businesses and help make great content possible. A few campaigns that caught our eye:

  • Visa’s global “Go World" campaign invited fans to show their support for Team Visa athletes in the form of cheers across social media. The campaign generated more than 59 million cheers, and Visa’s YouTube channel accounted for more than 47 million views of Visa’s commercials and athlete training videos from around the world.
  • Insurance provider Zurich launched a successful “Share your Sports Moments” marketing campaign on Google and YouTube, featuring members of the German Olympic team. The result: a significant uplift in the number of leads who then signed insurance contracts.
  • Lloyds TSB Bank, presenting partner of the Olympic Torch relay, conducted a successful AdWords campaign that kept pace with the Olympic torch as it passed through towns in the U.K., resulting in more than 190,000 clicks and more than 2 million impressions over three months.

Higher traffic and increased investment in the web also helped online publishers in a big way:

  • In the U.S., across 2 million sites in our Google Display Network and the DoubleClick Ad Exchange, ads shown on sports-related websites increased by 19 percent, while revenues (RPMs) for these sites increased by 14 percent, compared to the two previous weeks.
  • Our premium ad serving platform for publishers (DoubleClick for Publishers), which helps some of the web’s largest publishers make money from their content, broke a new record, with one major publisher serving more than 400 million ad impressions in a day across its website and mobile content—driving higher revenues and more free content.

A fun note to end on: showing how the web can fuse data and creativity while opening the playing field, one of our software engineers used Google App Engine to create a “per capita” medal tally (the data is real, the accounting is somewhat creative). On this basis, one country stands above all others—congratulations to the most successful nation of the last two weeks, Grenada!

Conquer the back to school blues with Google tools

August is both an end to the lush freedom of summer and the beginning of another year of student life. As a rising senior at the University of Florida, this time is both exciting and anxiety-inducing. Even though I’m looking forward to many aspects of the school year, there are certain things about college—from book budgets to calculus study sessions—that can make it a headache.

But this fall, I feel more prepared to face the daily student grind. This summer, I had the chance to intern on the communications team at Google and got the inside track on some tools and tricks to make school a snap. For example, did you know there was an extension for Chrome that helps you stay focused on your work? Yup, didn’t think so! So I thought I’d share some of my new favorite tips—my “Survival Guide for Student Life”—to help make it easier for all students to get through the coming months.

Easy ways to coordinate your social and extracurricular life
  • Google+ Hangouts enables you to video chat with up to nine friends from your desktop, mobile phone or tablet. A great feature for when your club needs to discuss some last minute changes for the upcoming meeting.
  • Stay on task with Hangout Apps like Symphonical, which provides a digital wall of sticky notes for virtual brainstorm sessions.
  • With Google+ Events, invite all your friends to your get-together and attach a personalized video greeting to the invitation. During the event, photos from the party can be uploaded to the event page in real-time using Party Mode. So if you have to miss a party due to a study session, you can avoid that pesky FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)!
  • Let your friends know what you’re up to by sharing your Google Calendar with them. Or create a shared calendar just for your study group.
Stay organized and efficient—and be prepared for the unexpected
  • Stop the email flood from the ridiculous number of email lists you signed up for using Gmail’s auto-unsubscribe feature.
  • No more sore eyes from crowded inboxes—Gmail's default mode is Priority Inbox so it automatically sorts your important messages for you.
  • Cite your sources! Use Google Docs’ research tool to investigate highlighted portions of your essay and then generate a citation.
  • Group projects call for collaboration. With Google Drive, you can use shared folders so everyone can access materials without having to email updates to each other.
  • Using your laptop or phone, you can send any documents or presentations saved on your Google Drive to Fedex to be printed, thanks to Google Cloud Print.
Get what you need and where you’re going faster
  • For those of you starting at university this year, Google Maps has 360-degree panoramic Street View imagery for many campuses around the world to give you a preview of your new stomping grounds.
  • Back to school shopping is one of the most fun things about August. Find your way in and out of malls and department stores with indoor Google Maps on Android devices.
  • We college students can’t go too long without homemade food. Search for your next flight home with Flight Search. (If flying makes you a bit queasy, track any care packages by typing the tracking code into the Google search bar.)
  • Stay informed with Google Now. This feature, available on Android devices running Jelly Bean, can update you when the next bus is coming or provide the weather forecast for Saturday’s big game.
Reading, writing, 'rithmetic and... YouTube
  • Don’t break the bank on textbooks. Google Play has millions of FREE (emphasis is important) books readily available such as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Gulliver’s Travels."
  • With the new Nexus 7 tablet, you can take your Google Play books, music, movies, TV shows, magazines and apps (like My Majors and doubleTwist Alarm Clock) with you, wherever you go.
  • Locate hard-to-find books online or at a library near you with Book Search.
  • Put Chrome to work with educational apps
  • Not a fan of traditional note taking? Chromebooks are a super fast and virus-proof laptop. It starts seconds after you boot it and will last through a whole day of classes.
  • A fair portion of us students aren’t fans of mental math. Type any equation into the Google search box to get the answers you need. It can graph functions as well.
  • We know we spend too much of our time watching funny videos on YouTube, but there are video channels that can actually help us learn more about a variety of subjects—from astrophysics to world history. Find more educational channels at YouTube EDU.
I’m resting a bit easier now that I know there are tools that make student life a bit less overwhelming. Here’s hoping you, too, feel armed to face the fall semester—and beyond—with Google in your backpack.

Building the search engine of the future, one baby step at a time

Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. It’s very much like the computer I dreamt about as a child growing up in India, glued to our black-and-white TV for every episode of Star Trek. I imagined a future where a starship computer would be able to answer any question I might ask, instantly. Today, we’re closer to that dream than I ever thought possible during my working life—and here are some of the latest steps we’re taking today to make search even more intelligent:

1. Understanding the world
In May we launched the Knowledge Graph, our database of more than 500 million real-world people, places and things with 3.5 billion attributes and connections among them. The feedback has been phenomenally positive and we want to extend this feature to people outside the U.S. So starting today, you’ll see Knowledge Graph results across every English-speaking country in the world. If you’re in Australia and search for [chiefs], you’ll get the rugby team—its players, results and history.

We’ll also use this intelligence to help you find the right result more quickly when your search may have different meanings. For example, if you search for [rio], you might be interested in the Brazilian city, the recent animated movie or the casino in Vegas. Thanks to the Knowledge Graph, we can now give you these different suggestions of real-world entities in the search box as you type:

Finally, the best answer to your question is not always a single entity, but a list or group of connected things. It’s quite challenging to pull these lists automatically from the web. But we’re now beginning to do just that. So when you search for [california lighthouses], [hurricanes in 2008] or [famous female astronomers], we’ll show you a list of these things across the top of the page. And by combining our Knowledge Graph with the collective wisdom of the web, we can even provide more subjective lists like [best action movies of the 2000s] or [things to do in paris]. If you click on an item, you can then explore the result more deeply on the web:

So far we can produce hundreds of thousands of lists involving millions of items, and we’ll keep growing to match your curiosity. A quick preview:

2. Putting your info at your fingertips
Sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web—it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email. We think you shouldn’t have to be your own mini-search engine to find the most useful information—it should just work. A search is a search, and we want our results to be truly universal. So we’re developing a way to find this information for you that’s useful and unobtrusive, and we’d love your feedback. Starting today, we’re opening up a limited trial where you can sign up to get information from your Gmail right from the search box.

So if you’re planning a biking trip to Tahoe, you might see relevant emails from friends about the best bike trails, or great places to eat on the right hand side of the results page. If it looks relevant you can then expand the box to read the emails:

We’re working on some even more useful features. For example, if you search for [my flights] we will organize flight confirmation emails for any upcoming trips in a beautifully easy-to-read way right on the search results page:

3. Understanding your intent
Often the most natural way to ask a question is by asking aloud. So we’ve combined our speech recognition expertise, understanding of language and the Knowledge Graph so that Voice Search can better interpret your questions and sometimes speak the answers back as full sentences. This has been available on Android for a few weeks and people love it. It’ll soon be available on your iPhone or iPad (iOS version 4.2+).

You just need to tap the microphone icon and ask your question, the same way you’d ask a friend. For example, ask “What movies are playing this weekend?” and you’ll see your words streamed back to you quickly as you speak. Then Google will show you a list of the latest movies in theaters near you, with schedules and even trailers. It works for everything from celebrity factoids to the height of Kilamanjaro and more. When Google can supply a direct answer to your question, you’ll get a spoken response too.

These are baby steps, but important ones on our way to building the search engine of the future—one that is much more intelligent and useful than it was just a few years ago. It’s a very exciting time to be working in this field.

Make your mark on Google with Handwrite for Mobile and Tablet Search

Unlike searching on a desktop or laptop computer, when you're searching on a touch-screen mobile device it’s often inconvenient to type. So we strive to give you a variety of ways to interact with Google, be it by speaking your queries, getting results before you finish typing, or searching by image. Now there’s a new way for you to interact with Google: Handwrite for web search on mobile phones and tablets.

Say you’re standing on a busy street corner, in a bumpy taxi ride, talking with a friend, or sitting on the couch with your tablet. Handwrite enables you to search by just writing letters with your finger most anywhere on your device’s screen—there’s no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing.

Getting started is easy: go to Google.com in your mobile browser, tap on “Settings” at the bottom of the screen and enable “Handwrite.” Note that after you've saved the setting, you may need to refresh the homepage to see the feature.

On tablets, the Search settings are available as an option behind the gear icon.

Once the feature is enabled, tap the Handwrite icon on the bottom right corner of your screen to activate the writing surface. Write a few letters and you’ll see autocomplete options appear below the search box. If one of the options is what you’re looking for, just tap it to search. For longer queries, you can continue writing and use the arrows next to the autocompletions to move the right one into the search box. Since you can write anywhere, you don’t have to look back and forth repeatedly from the keyboard to the search box.

For more tips and tricks on how to use Handwrite, see our Help Center article. To make accessing Google.com faster, be sure to bookmark it and add it to your home screen.

We designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing: with the feature enabled, you can still use the keyboard at any time by tapping on the search box. Handwrite is experimental, and works better in some browsers than others—on Android devices, it works best in Chrome. For now, we’ve enabled Handwrite for iOS5+ devices, Android 2.3+ phones and Android 4.0+ tablets—in 27 languages.

Have fun with this new way of searching!

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog)

Become a Google power searcher

You may already be familiar with some shortcuts for Google Search, like using the search box as a calculator or finding local movie showtimes by typing [movies] and your zip code. But there are many more tips, tricks and tactics you can use to find exactly what you’re looking for, when you most need it.

Today, we’ve opened registration for Power Searching with Google, a free, online, community-based course showcasing these techniques and how you can use them to solve everyday problems. Our course is aimed at empowering you to find what you need faster, no matter how you currently use search. For example, did you know that you can search for and read pages written in languages you’ve never even studied? Identify the location of a picture your friend took during his vacation a few months ago? How about finally identifying that green-covered book about gardening that you’ve been trying to track down for years? You can learn all this and more over six 50-minute classes.

Lessons will be released daily starting on July 10, 2012, and you can take them according to your own schedule during a two-week window, alongside a worldwide community. The lessons include interactive activities to practice new skills, and many opportunities to connect with others using Google tools such as Google Groups, Moderator and Google+, including Hangouts on Air, where world-renowned search experts will answer your questions on how search works. Googlers will also be on hand during the course period to help and answer your questions in case you get stuck.

Power Searching with Google blends the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) learning format pioneered by Stanford and MIT with our social and communication tools to create what we hope is a true community learning experience.

Visit the course homepage to learn more. By the end of this course, you'll know several new techniques that will make you a Google Power Searcher and help you find out information about whatever you can imagine—from how to prepare for a new family pet to where moss grows on Stonehenge or how to grow katniss in your garden. Sign up now!

Find out what people are searching for with the updated Hot Searches list

People turn to search when they’re looking for answers and information, and sometimes what they want to know is on other people’s minds as well. You can learn a lot about what’s happening around the country or catch wind of a breaking news story by looking at what others are searching for.

With Hot Searches in Google Trends, you can see a list of the fastest rising search terms in the U.S. for a snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind. To create the Hot Searches list which is updated on an hourly basis, an algorithm analyzes millions of searches in the U.S. and determines which queries are being searched much more than usual.

Now, Hot Searches has gotten a refresh that makes the list of searches more visual, groups related rising search terms together and lets you see more information about those searches.

With rich images and links to related news articles, you can glance at the list and instantly get an idea of why these topics are particularly hot at the moment and click to find out more about them. Unlike the previous version of Hot Searches, which always provided 20 daily results, the new page introduces a filtering system that helps us make sure that the list includes only the truly hottest news stories of the day. Also, when a few of the fastest rising search terms refer to the same news story, such as [tony awards 2012] and [audra mcdonald], they’re now aggregated into one entry, which lists all the “Related searches” that go along with the main story. Lastly, the new list also provides an indication of how many searches have been conducted for each topic in the 24 hour period when it was trending.

To find out what the hottest searches are today, whether it’s a celebrity engagement, a sports-related shakeup or news about your favorite TV series, check out the updated Hot Searches list in Google Trends.

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog)

Local—now with a dash of Zagat and a sprinkle of Google+

Finding the best places to go is an essential part of our lives, as are the people and resources that help us make those decisions. In fact, the opinions of friends, family or other trusted sources are often the first we seek when looking for the perfect restaurant for date night or the cafe that makes the best latte ever.

Today, we’re rolling out Google+ Local, a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+. Google+ Local helps people like my husband turn a craving—“Wow, I need brunch”—into an afternoon outing: “Perfect, there’s a dim sum place with great reviews just two blocks from here. Let’s go.” It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.

Local information integrated across Google
From the new “Local” tab on the left-hand side of Google+, you can search for specific places or browse for ones that fit your mood. If you click on a restaurant, or a museum (or whatever), you’ll be taken to a local Google+ page that includes photos, Zagat scores and summaries, reviews from people you know, and other useful information like address and opening hours.

Google+ Local is also integrated across other products you already use every day. If you’re looking for a place on Search or Maps, you get the same great local information there too. You can also take it on the go with Google Maps for mobile on your Android device, and soon on iOS devices.

A search on Google Maps

Google+ Local on an Android phone

Better decisions with Zagat
Since Zagat joined the Google family last fall, our teams have been working together to improve the way you find great local information. Zagat has offered high-quality reviews, based on user-written submissions and surveys, of tens of thousands of places for more than three decades. All of Zagat’s accurate scores and summaries are now highlighted on local Google+ pages.

Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions. For example, a restaurant that has great food but not great decor might be 4 stars, but with Zagat you’d see a 26 in Food and an 8 in Decor, and know that it might not be the best place for date night.

Recommendations and reviews from people you know and trust
Your friends know what you like, and they probably like the same things you do. That’s why the opinions of people in your circles are front and center. If you search for [tacos] on Google+ Local, your results might include a friend’s rave review of the Baja-style taco stand in your neighborhood.  And if you’re searching on Google or Google Maps for a great place to buy a gift for that same friend, your results might include a review from her about a boutique she shops at all the time.

You can also share your opinions and upload photos. These reviews and photos will help your friends when they’re checking out a place, and are also integrated into the aggregate score that other people see. The more you contribute, the more helpful Google+ Local will be for your friends, family and everyone else.

Whether it’s a block you’ve lived on for years or a city you’ve never been to before, we hope Google+ Local helps you discover new gems.

Today is just the first step, and you’ll see more updates in the coming months. If you’re a business owner, you can continue to manage your local listing information via Google Places for Business. Soon we’ll make it even easier for business owners to manage their listings on Google and to take full advantage of the social features provided by local Google+ pages. Get more information on our Google and Your Business Blog.

(Cross-posted on the Zagat and Lat Long Blogs)