Another look under the hood of search

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search blog)

Over the past few years, we’ve released a series of blog posts to share the methodology and process behind our search ranking, evaluation and algorithmic changes. Just last month, Ben Gomes, Matt Cutts and I participated in a Churchill Club event where we discussed how search works and where we believe it’s headed in the future.

Beyond our talk and various blog posts, we wanted to give people an even deeper look inside search, so we put together a short video that gives you a sense of the work that goes into the changes and improvements we make to Google almost every day. While an improvement to the algorithm may start with a creative idea, it always goes through a process of rigorous scientific testing. Simply put: if the data from our experiments doesn’t show that we’re helping users, we won’t launch the change.

In the world of search, we’re always striving to deliver the answers you’re looking for. After all, we know you have a choice of a search engine every time you open a browser. As the Internet becomes bigger, richer and more interactive it means that we have to work that much harder to ensure we’re unearthing and displaying the best results for you.

CENIAI staff photo taken in 1990

CENIAI -- The Center for Automatic Interchange of Information -- was Cuba's networking link to the Soviet bloc during the pre-Internet days. The CENIAI staff understood the potential importance of networking for Cuba and were enthusiastic members of the international networking community.

This photo, showing many members of the CENIAI staff, was taken on the malecón in Havana in 1990 by Oscar Visiedo who was director of CENIAI at the time. You can see Oscar's proud comments and the names of the people by following this link to Oscar Visiedo's Facebook page. (Jesus Martinez, who was CENIAI Director four years later when Cuba connected to the Internet, is second from the left in the back row).

This was taken four years before CENIAI got their first IP connection to the Internet.

These were the Cuban Internet pioneers.

US Army jeep at the Bay of Pigs and networking pioneers in Cuba

I have done several studies of the Cuban Internet over the years, and my colleague Joel Snyder just found a bunch of pictures he took during a 1992 trip. Here are two -- more later.
We took a couple days off from interviews and presentations and went to the Bay of Pigs. Some folks were driving around in a jeep that had been abandoned by the US invaders. That is me standing in the back.
The second picture shows some of the people at CENIAI, the Cuban organization that, at the time, was responsible for pre-Internet connectivity to other Soviet block nations. They were the networking pioneers in Cuba and, in 1996, established an IP link to the Internet. Oscar Visideo has provided the names of some of the people here.

If you are curious to read more about the history of the Internet in Cuba, click here.

Supercharging Android: Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Since its launch in November 2007, Android has not only dramatically increased consumer choice but also improved the entire mobile experience for users. Today, more than 150 million Android devices have been activated worldwide—with over 550,000 devices now lit up every day—through a network of about 39 manufacturers and 231 carriers in 123 countries. Given Android’s phenomenal success, we are always looking for new ways to supercharge the Android ecosystem. That is why I am so excited today to announce that we have agreed to acquire Motorola.

Motorola has a history of over 80 years of innovation in communications technology and products, and in the development of intellectual property, which have helped drive the remarkable revolution in mobile computing we are all enjoying today. Its many industry milestones include the introduction of the world’s first portable cell phone nearly 30 years ago, and the StarTAC—the smallest and lightest phone on earth at time of launch. In 2007, Motorola was a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance that worked to make Android the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. I have loved my Motorola phones from the StarTAC era up to the current DROIDs.

In 2008, Motorola bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of its smartphone devices. It was a smart bet and we’re thrilled at the success they’ve achieved so far. We believe that their mobile business is on an upward trajectory and poised for explosive growth.

Motorola is also a market leader in the home devices and video solutions business. With the transition to Internet Protocol, we are excited to work together with Motorola and the industry to support our partners and cooperate with them to accelerate innovation in this space.

Motorola’s total commitment to Android in mobile devices is one of many reasons that there is a natural fit between our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers everywhere.

This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences.

We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

The combination of Google and Motorola will not only supercharge Android, but will also enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences. I am confident that these great experiences will create huge value for shareholders.

I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.

Forward-Looking Statements

This blogpost includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21Eof the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These forward-looking statements generally can be identified by phrases such as Google or management “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “foresees,” “forecasts,” “estimates” or other words or phrases of similar import. Similarly, statements herein that describe the proposed transaction, including its financial impact, and other statements of management’s beliefs, intentions or goals also are forward-looking statements. It is uncertain whether any of the events anticipated by the forward-looking statements will transpire or occur, or if any of them do, what impact they will have on the results of operations and financial condition of the combined companies or the price of Google or Motorola stock. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in such forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the ability of the parties to consummate the proposed transaction and the satisfaction of the conditions precedent to consummation of the proposed transaction, including the ability to secure regulatory approvals at all or in a timely manner; the ability of Google to successfully integrate Motorola’s operations, product lines and technology; the ability of Google to implement its plans, forecasts and other expectations with respect to Motorola’s business after the completion of the transaction and realize additional opportunities for growth and innovation; and the other risks and important factors contained and identified in Google’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), any of which could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. Google undertakes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

UN Strengthens Freedom Of Expression Safeguards

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog)

At Google, we believe that it is important for the international community to step up in defense of freedom of expression. Many governments around the world are attempting to exert more control over the net. Fortunately, the United Nations is going in the other direction.

In Geneva, the UN’s Human Rights Committee recently emphasized that the protections guaranteed by one of the most important global human rights treaties apply fully in the online world: bloggers, for example, should receive the same protection as journalists.

The Committee’s action represents only the latest sign of how international organisations are stepping up to defend free expression. Earlier this year, the UN’s Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue argued in a report that restricting the flow of online information violates human rights. He has also joined with representatives from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organisation of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to issue a joint declaration.

These strong signals are generating positive momentum. After a group of UK parliamentarians leveraged the UN declarations to complain about website blocking plans, their government pulled back. The UN Human Rights Committee offers important safeguards: individuals can directly bring many human rights violations to the committee for redress. It’s up to all of us to use this power to pressure governments to live up to their obligations and safeguard online freedom of expression.

Video of ASCE presentation

I was traveling this week and could not attend the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, but we were able to arrange a remote presentation. You can see a video of the 21 minute presentation on the Past, Present and Future of the Internet in Cuba.

Jeremiah Woolsey also gave a version of the talk at the UCLA Business Information Technology Conference.

Round-table forum on the Cuban Internet and blogs

Ted Henken, professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at Baruch College, CUNY, and I spoke on Cuba 1.5? The State of the Internet and Uses of Social Media in a Changing Cuba at the Inter-American Dialog in Washington DC. I talked about the past, present and future of the Cuban Internet and Ted reported on his recent interviews with Cuban bloggers. Robert Guerra, director of the Internet Freedom project at Freedom House, provided commentary.

You can read a summary of the round table here and see a video of the presentations and subsequent discussion here.

Alba-1 cable to begin service in September or October

A blog post by Isbel Díaz Torres quotes Boris Moreno Cordoves, Vice Minister of Communications & Informatics, as saying that service improvement due to the ALBA-1 cable could begin in September or October of this year.

Díaz asks, what will begin to change at that time -- Internet access? prices? performance? telephony?

He mentions a 2008 workshop where Cuba's strategy was stated as "orderly and intensive social use of the media and connectivity." One would expect that since that time or earlier, Cuba had been planning and preparing for the arrival of the undersea cable. Installation of access and backbone network equipment must be well under way. Technicians must have been trained, service providers prepared, etc.

Díaz has looked for evidence of such planning and activity, and concludes that "It’s been almost three years and yet they still don't seem prepared." After researching the question, Díaz produces nothing but vague quotes by officials suggesting that he may be right -- that they are not prepared.

Can that be?

Open Data in Kenya - Setting the Pace for Africa

Google's mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. We believe that the Internet can be a transformational force for societies and for empowering individuals.

That is why we were so excited to hear that Kenya has become the first country in Africa to publish a huge collection of government data with no restrictions. The Kenyan government has now set a precedent for Africa in allowing users to access such important information. The story below from Google's African blog outlines this exciting development for open government.

Cross-posted from the Google Africa Blog:

The Kenya government’s recent launch of an open data web portal has both local and international pundits buzzing. By making this step, Kenya is the first country in Africa to publish over 290 datasets with no restrictions on access and use. Released datasets include a variety from the ministries of Finance, Planning, Local Government, Health and Education and the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics. This, in our humble opinion, is HUGE.

Minister of Information Hon. Samuel Poghisio & President of Kenya, H.E. Mwai Kibaki, getting a glimpse of Google Tools for Government

In the past, most Kenyan government information has been treated by default as a state secret. One had to be physically present at the respective ministry, with a letter of support, to access it. Now, all one needs is an internet connection and a search query. The launch marks a turning point as far as how citizens can engage with government, and will result in new ways through which Kenyans can hold their leaders accountable and amplify their voice on complex issues. For the government, this is a great foundation for fact-based policy making. For the local content landscape, it means new opportunities to analyze rich historical archives and new jobs to apply a stream of usable data: developers, statisticians, teachers and students alike will benefit. For Africa, the Open Data initiative could become the blueprint for how to move into the knowledge economy.

To be clear, this didn’t all happen overnight - it is the outcome of several years of prodding by the local ICT community. Google is proud to have played a small but crucial role in supporting the initiative's main aim: to make core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for anyone to access.

The Ministry of Information invited Google to join the Open Data Taskforce and help guide the technology and policy work leading up to the launch. In our role, we advocated for use of open standards, APIs for developers and local language support for the datasets. In addition, many of the apps and visualizations showcased at the launch by local developers - like Msema Kweli and Eduweb - made use of the Google Maps APIs & Charting APIs.

Finally, we were involved in helping bring several datasets to life using the Google Public Data Explorer. In the live example below, based on data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, users can easily see and interact with the Social, Physical Infrastructure and other Government expenditure trends from 2002-2008. Questions like “ How much capital expenditure was spent on Schools & Health in 2007” can be answered by simply pressing play.

Other advances in government transparency highlighted at the launch were the Kenya Gazettes and Parliamentary Hansards archives, which are now online via Google Books through a partnership with the Kenya National Assembly and the National Council for Law Reporting.

It is extremely rewarding to see an African government adopting values that are so deeply espoused by Google and development community at large - democratizing access to information. In his speech, the President of Kenya recognized that “information is power and an informed citizenry is an empowered citizenry” and promised to continue to work towards access to information and free flow of information. We look forward to working with other countries to helping make the ideal of an informed citizenry a reality.

Posted by Denis Gikunda, Local Content Programs and Ory Okolloh, Government Relations & Public Policy, Google Africa