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  • Building a safer web, for everyone
    Today is Safer Internet Day, a moment for technology companies, nonprofit organizations, security firms, and people around the world to focus on online safety, together. To mark the occasion, we’re rolling out new tools, and some useful reminders, to help protect you from online dangers of all stripes—phishing, malware, and other threats to your personal information.

    1. Keeping security settings simple

    The Security Checkup is a quick way to control the security settings for your Google Account. You can add a recovery phone number so we can help if you’re ever locked out of your account, strengthen your password settings, see which devices are connected to your account, and more. If you complete the Security Checkup by February 11, you’ll also get 2GB of extra Google Drive storage, which can be used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Photos.

    Safer Internet Day is a great time to do it, but you can—and should!—take a Security Checkup on a regular basis. Start your Security Checkup by visiting My Account.
    2. Informing Gmail users about potentially unsafe messages

    If you and your Grandpa both use Gmail to exchange messages, your connections are encrypted and authenticated. That means no peering eyes can read those emails as they zoom across the web, and you can be confident that the message from your Grandpa in size 48 font (with no punctuation and a few misspellings) is really from him!

    However, as our Safer Email Transparency Report explains, these things are not always true when Gmail interacts with other mail services. Today, we’re introducing changes in Gmail on the web to let people know when a received message was not encrypted, if you’re composing a message to a recipient whose email service doesn’t support TLS encryption, or when the sender’s domain couldn’t be authenticated.

    Here’s the notice you’ll see in Gmail before you send a message to a service that doesn’t support TLS encryption. You’ll also see the broken lock icon if you receive a message that was sent without TLS encryption.


    If you receive a message that can’t be authenticated, you’ll see a question mark where you might otherwise see a profile photo or logo:


    3. Protecting you from bad apps

    Dangerous apps that phish and steal your personal information, or hold your phone hostage and make you pay to unlock it, have no place on your smartphone—or any device, for that matter.

    Google Play helps protect your Android device by rejecting bad apps that don’t comply with our Play policies. It also conducts more than 200 million daily security scans of devices, in tandem with our Safe Browsing system, for any signs of trouble. Last year, bad apps were installed on fewer than 0.13% of Android devices that install apps only from Google Play.

    Learn more about these, and other Android security features — like app sandboxing, monthly security updates for Nexus and other devices, and our Security Rewards Program—in new research we’ve made public on our Android blog.

    4. Busting bad advertising practices

    Malicious advertising “botnets” try to send phony visitors to websites to make money from online ads. Botnets threaten the businesses of honest advertisers and publishers, and because they’re often made up of devices infected with malware, they put users in harm’s way too.

    We've worked to keep botnets out of our ads systems, cutting them out of advertising revenue, and making it harder to make money from distributing malware and Unwanted Software. Now, as part of our effort to fight bad ads online, we’re reinforcing our existing botnet defenses by automatically filtering traffic from three of the top ad fraud botnets, comprising more than 500,000 infected user machines. Learn more about this update on the Doubleclick blog.

    5. Moving the security conversation forward

    Recent events—Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the Sony Hack, the current conversation around encryption, and more—have made online safety a truly mainstream issue. This is reflected both in news headlines, and popular culture: “Mr. Robot,” a TV series about hacking and cybersecurity, just won a Golden Globe for Best Drama, and @SwiftOnSecurity, a popular security commentator, is named after Taylor Swift.

    But despite this shift, security remains a complex topic that lends itself to lively debates between experts...that are often unintelligible to just about everyone else. We need to simplify the way we talk about online security to enable everyone to understand its importance and participate in this conversation.

    To that end, we’re teaming up with Medium to host a virtual roundtable about online security, present and future. Moderated by journalist and security researcher Kevin Poulsen, this project aims to present fresh perspectives about online security in a time when our attention is increasingly ruled by the devices we carry with us constantly. We hope you’ll tune in and check it out.

    Online security and safety are being discussed more often, and with more urgency, than ever before. We hope you’ll take a few minutes today to learn how Google protects your data and how we can work toward a safer web, for everyone.

    Posted by Gerhard Eschelbeck, VP, Security and Privacy https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ULzOadjY19s/Vr0Nptiu2II/AAAAAAAAR1s/1CC_5AacxzU/s1600/GOP-security_hero_1.jpg Gerhard Eschelbeck VP Security and Privacy


  • From antiques to pizza, see what went into making this year’s masterpieces for Doodle 4 Google
    Last October, we kicked off our annual Doodle 4 Google art competition, asking students to create a doodle to tell the world “What makes me…me.” This time around, we added a little twist: for the first time in eight years of Doodle 4 Google, there were no restrictions on the medium or materials kids could use to create a doodle. Kids took us up on the challenge. A quarter of all finalists used some non-traditional media—from clay and wood to origami, photographs and sheets of music—in their submission.

    Today, Googlers are hosting surprise assemblies at schools from Waterville, Maine to Waipahu, Hawaii to celebrate the winners of each state and thank the teachers and parents who have encouraged them along the way. And for the first time ever, we’re announcing winners for Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. See all 53 State and Territory Winners on our website.



    Now, our finalists need your votes for a shot at having their doodle make it onto the Google homepage. Starting today through Feb 22, head to the Doodle 4 Google site to vote for your favorite artwork for each grade group. On March 21, we’ll announce the winner and four runners-up—and you’ll see the winning doodle on google.com.

    Check out this year’s talented set of finalists and vote for your favorite!

    Posted by Ryan Germick, Doodler and non-traditional media enthusiast https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-GUyXFVIM5v0/Vr0NpnRF_oI/AAAAAAAAR1w/-TqIUz7WaH8/s1600/GOP-d4g_hero_1.jpg Ryan Germick Doodler


  • Preserving and celebrating Black history, arts and culture
    Growing up, my parents were daily reminders of the sacrifices made by earlier generations of Black Americans to give people like me the opportunities they were denied. To this day, their stories propel me to continue the fight for justice. I am far from alone—reflecting on a shared history inspires millions around the world to work toward equality. But without some record, those stories and the passion they ignite could get lost.

    Artworks, artifacts and archives have the power not only to give a story life, but to encourage action and incite change. That’s why the Google Cultural Institute is excited to add records from institutions like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Studio Museum and Amistad Research Center and many more—bringing together important archives from Black history for anyone to access not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year.

    From the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to the historical records of Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this collection includes 26 new institutions (50 overall) contributing 5,000+ items and more than 80 curated exhibits. It includes new Street View imagery and three Google Expeditions, including an exploration of the resurgence of Jazz in New Orleans with Irvin Mayfield and Soledad O’Brien. You can see a 360 degree YouTube video made in conjunction with that Expedition here:

    In The Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibition “Questioning the Canon,” you can see Mickalene Thomas’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires and compare it side-by-side with the Manet original to see the ways Thomas has subverted the subject-matter of this canonical white European work.
    You can trace along the paths of history by reading Frederick Douglass’ letter to his former master, and read the original manuscripts of Dr. King’s ”I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches. Absorb Dr. King’s personal letter to wife Coretta Scott King at the beginning of his four-month prison term for non-violent protest, then cut to photographs documenting his momentous first handshake at the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson.

    Collecting these works into one place provides unprecedented access to a vital part of history that is too often forgotten. By comparing works of art and texts of speeches to find commonalities and distinctions, we can also build on the past to inspire ourselves and others. And while today is the first day of Black History Month, the work of remembering our history is necessary year round—which is why these records will be there on the Cultural Institute for generations to come.

    Posted by Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Head of Black Community Engagement http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-GQmKUucIo2M/Vq7wbvb29_I/AAAAAAAAR0I/tC4JD65XndA/s1600/Screenshot%2B2016-01-29%2Bat%2B4.02.49%2BPM.png Valeisha Butterfield Jones Head of Black Community Engagement AUTHOR TEAM

  • AlphaGo: using machine learning to master the ancient game of Go
    The game of Go originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. Confucius wrote about the game, and it is considered one of the four essential arts required of any true Chinese scholar. Played by more than 40 million people worldwide, the rules of the game are simple: Players take turns to place black or white stones on a board, trying to capture the opponent's stones or surround empty space to make points of territory. The game is played primarily through intuition and feel, and because of its beauty, subtlety and intellectual depth it has captured the human imagination for centuries.

    But as simple as the rules are, Go is a game of profound complexity. There are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible positions—that’s more than the number of atoms in the universe, and more than a googol times larger than chess.

    This complexity is what makes Go hard for computers to play, and therefore an irresistible challenge to artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, who use games as a testing ground to invent smart, flexible algorithms that can tackle problems, sometimes in ways similar to humans. The first game mastered by a computer was noughts and crosses (also known as tic-tac-toe) in 1952. Then fell checkers in 1994. In 1997 Deep Blue famously beat Garry Kasparov at chess. It’s not limited to board games either—IBM's Watson [PDF] bested two champions at Jeopardy in 2011, and in 2014 our own algorithms learned to play dozens of Atari games just from the raw pixel inputs. But to date, Go has thwarted AI researchers; computers still only play Go as well as amateurs.

    Traditional AI methods—which construct a search tree over all possible positions—don’t have a chance in Go. So when we set out to crack Go, we took a different approach. We built a system, AlphaGo, that combines an advanced tree search with deep neural networks. These neural networks take a description of the Go board as an input and process it through 12 different network layers containing millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” selects the next move to play. The other neural network, the “value network,” predicts the winner of the game.

    We trained the neural networks on 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57 percent of the time (the previous record before AlphaGo was 44 percent). But our goal is to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. To do this, AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting the connections using a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning. Of course, all of this requires a huge amount of computing power, so we made extensive use of Google Cloud Platform.

    After all that training it was time to put AlphaGo to the test. First, we held a tournament between AlphaGo and the other top programs at the forefront of computer Go. AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. So the next step was to invite the reigning three-time European Go champion Fan Hui—an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12—to our London office for a challenge match. In a closed-doors match last October, AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0. It was the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player. You can find out more in our paper, which was published in Nature today.

    What’s next? In March, AlphaGo will face its ultimate challenge: a five-game challenge match in Seoul against the legendary Lee Sedol—the top Go player in the world over the past decade.

    We are thrilled to have mastered Go and thus achieved one of the grand challenges of AI. However, the most significant aspect of all this for us is that AlphaGo isn’t just an “expert” system built with hand-crafted rules; instead it uses general machine learning techniques to figure out for itself how to win at Go. While games are the perfect platform for developing and testing AI algorithms quickly and efficiently, ultimately we want to apply these techniques to important real-world problems. Because the methods we’ve used are general-purpose, our hope is that one day they could be extended to help us address some of society’s toughest and most pressing problems, from climate modelling to complex disease analysis. We’re excited to see what we can use this technology to tackle next!

    Posted by Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-UM6zXm-cXW4/VqkFrP32nlI/AAAAAAAARzw/HmxeOsYvvqk/s1600/Go-game_hero.jpg Demis HassabisGoogle DeepMind

  • (Un)folding a virtual journey with Google Cardboard
    A year and a half ago we introduced Google Cardboard, a simple cardboard viewer that anyone can use to experience mobile virtual reality (VR). With just Cardboard and the smartphone in your pocket, you can travel to faraway places and visit imagined worlds. Since then everyone from droid lovers and Sunday edition subscribers, to big kids and grandmas have been able to enjoy VR—often for the very first time. Here's a look at where we are, 19 months in:

    1. 5 million Cardboard fans have joined the fold.

    2. In just the past two months (October-December), you launched into 10 million more immersive app experiences:

    3. Out of 1,000+ Cardboard apps on Google Play, one of your favorites got you screaming “aaaaaaahwsome,” while another “gave you goosebumps.”

    4. You teleported to places far and wide, right from the comfort of YouTube.

    5. Since we launched Cardboard Camera in December, you’ve captured more than 750,000 VR photos, letting you relive your favorite moments anytime, from anywhere.

    6. Students around the world have taken VR field trips to the White House, the Republic of Congo, and 150 other places around the globe with Expeditions.

    While you've been traveling the world and beyond with Cardboard, we've been on a journey, too. Keep your eyes peeled for more projects that bring creative, entertaining and educational experiences to mobile VR.

    Posted by Clay Bavor, VP Virtual Reality http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2lf4cAt9Xoo/VqkFrHZ5xxI/AAAAAAAARzs/E8ZK8l4EPo8/s1600/Google-Cardboard_hero.jpg Clay Bavor VP Virtual Reality

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