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April 11 2014

Boot up: Google's ad tweak, big data farms, China's bitcoin clamp, and more

April 01 2014

Boot up: Google Flu Trends still ill, iPhone 6 spotted?, bitcoin warning, and more

March 27 2014

Bringing the Opéra to the Cultural Institute

For the first time, the Google Cultural Institute has been given ‘access all areas’ to one of the world’s most famous Opera Houses: the Palais Garnier in Paris, the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.

Our indoor Street View images feature exquisite detail and allow anyone in the world to tour 11 floors (and 3.7km!) of the Palais Garnier. You can now experience virtually what it’s like to be on stage, backstage, in the rehearsal rooms, the costume room, a hidden lake or even on the roof of the Opéra building, overlooking Paris’ skyline!

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View from the stage (Mezzanine and Orchestra)

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View of the “Grand Foyer”

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View of the ground floor main staircase and “Grand Véstibule”

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View from the “4ème loges”

In our second installment from the Paris Opéra House, we bring you what we think might be the world's first multi-billion pixel image of a ceiling - it's certainly the first one to be captured by our team!

Marc Chagall’s masterpiece in the Opéra Garnier in Paris sits 18 meters above the auditorium seating, with specific light conditions and a concave shape, making it one of our biggest technical challenges to date.

In his riotously colourful modernist work, Chagall pays tribute to the composers Mozart, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Berlioz and Ravel, as well as to famous actors and dancers. And if you look carefully you might even be able to spot famous characters such as Carmen, or the discreet signature of the artist, 18 metres from the ground.

Finally, the Opéra has produced an online exhibition called Le Chemin des Etoiles, with portrait photos and information about more than 80 of its star dancers over the last 74 years.

March 26 2014

Combating online hate speech

From homophobia and racism to political and religious extremism, “hate speech” on the Internet is raising concern. YouTube and other Google products such as G+ have strong Community Guidelines and offer effective tools, featured in the below video, to flag inappropriate content. Yet a recent event with the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee in London’s YouTube Space demonstrated that perhaps the best way to fight hate is through positive counterspeech.

Free speech is vital to democracy. Drowning out ideology with reason represents a powerful weapon. It is only on open platforms like YouTube—not in jihadist chat rooms or the extremist echo chambers of the ‘dark internet’—that susceptible or curious minds will find countervailing points of view.

In 2010, columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller set out to combat discrimination against young gays and lesbians. They started small. Savage filmed a homemade YouTube video called “It Gets Better.” It soon swelled into a global phenomenon. In Britain, “It Gets Better… Today,” led to a hit single that climbed the UK independent charts - garnering more than 50 million views.

Our London event aimed to achieve something similar with online extremism. We explored how two British YouTube creators, Ben Cook and Jack Howard, partnered with Oxfam on an online campaign to help refugees. Michael Stevens of Vsauce proved that YouTube can educate and inform, as well as entertain. And a community worker who helps people that are vulnerable to radicalisation, launched his YouTube channel, Abdullah X, to fight online recruitment of foreign fighters and terrorists.

The internet can be a tool of radicalisation, so it is vital to seize it as a force of good. Though the removal of the really bad stuff, like violence, continues to be essential, too little focus so far has been placed on the importance of counter-messages. As one participant in London said, “We must embrace new technology and make the right messages more digestible so we can flood the internet with positivity.” Building a community around counterspeech is difficult. It may take time. In the end, though, it wins.

March 25 2014

French consumer group: Google, Facebook privacy policies are too hard to read

French consumer protection group UFC-Que Choisir has issued Facebook, Twitter and Google with a summons to appear before the Paris High Court, which it has asked to strike out what it says are unfair or illegal clauses in the companies’ user agreements.

The group said the three companies had not reacted to letters its lawyers sent last June asking them to modify the agreements governing how they handle users’ personal information. The terms and conditions are still just as unreadable, with up to 100 hypertext links, many of them to pages that are not in French, it said Tuesday.

The way the contracts are presented is a problem, said UFC-Que Choisir legal counsel Amal Taleb, because French law requires that they be written in French, and users have no idea whether the documents linked to, some of which also contain hyperlinks, form part of the agreement.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

March 24 2014

A kingdom of YouTube: Saudi Arabia

Think “Saudi Arabia,” and one thing probably comes to mind - oil. But the desert kingdom is also remarkable for another reason - its love of YouTube. In 2013, the average Saudi Internet user watched three times as many videos per day as the average U.S. user. Saudis aren’t just watching: more and more are producing video content and building businesses.

These successful Saudi YouTube content creators recently gathered for a seminar in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. In the course of a day, they compared their experiences, learned how to create viral Arabic language videos and received tips on how to make money with their online shows.

No cinemas exist in Saudi Arabia, explaining part of the online video phenomena. The Internet allows room to tackle issues often avoided by foreign run TV stations - and permits satire in a way unavailable elsewhere in the Kingdom. A recent hit by UTURN spoofed the popular “First Kiss” video, showing various men performing the locally traditional “touching of the nose” embrace in a humorous manner.

“Eish Elly” has won more than two million subscribers and more than 200 million views by discussing, and often poking fun at everyday life in the Kingdom. One show, for example, tackled the issue of child care. As the show’s producer says, “we promote harmony, honesty and halal,” discussing issues that “only a Saudi would understand only something a Saudi would talk about.”

Other YouTube Saudi productions tackle issues previously neglected in the local media. UTURN runs a show called Salemha which teaches English by using clips from popular Hollywood movies. Noon Al Niswa and SenTube focuses health and fitness. Ana wa Heya (Him and Her), pits men against women to debate social issues of Saudi culture. Stretching the boundaries of the possible sometimes provokes surprising reaction, When UTurn put a woman on air for the first time, for example, many viewers responded with curses.

As elsewhere, light entertainment including music and games are popular. Saudi video gaming channels such as D7oomy999, Saudi Gamer and Zpad receive widespread attention not just in the Middle East. Music also can contain a serious message: TELFAZ11’s Alaa Wardi’s “No Women No Drive” song, chanted in an acapella version mixing Arabic and Western musical styles, raised awareness about Saudi women fighting for the right to drive.

The Saudi YouTube phenoma is creating a strong new businesses thanks to our online partnership program. UTURN has garned 14 million subscribers for its shows. It sells advertisements and splits the revenue with YouTube. Additional revenues come from multinationals such as Unilever who sponsoring shows and paying for product placement.

Arabic content on the web represents just three percent of the total digital content online—yet Arabic speakers make up more than 5 percent of the global population. YouTube in Saudi Arabia is helping close this gap—helping local talents get discovered, express their opinions and start their own businesses. In Saudi Arabia, the Internet is moving the country far beyond oil.

March 22 2014

Turkey blocks Google DNS and Twitter’s IP addresses in attempt to further censor Twitter

The Turkish Government blocked Twitter a few days ago after it was used to expose alleged government corruption. Turkish residents began using Google’s public DNS service to circumvent the block. Today, a publication based in Turkey is reporting that the Turkish government has also blocked Google’s DNS service, making it even harder to circumvent the ban. Those in Turkey are still able to use VPN services to access Twitter, but it’s clear the government is not backing down yet. News of DNS workarounds had spread quickly within the country; tweets sent from inside Turkey were up over 138% compared to before the censoring of the service was implemented....

This story continues at The Next Web
Turkey Blocks Google DNS, YouTube Could Be Next
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March 21 2014

With cars, drivers, Google revs up home delivery
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How to quickly convert old Google Drive Sheets to the new format for offline editing

Good news, productivity fans! The new version of Google Sheets, featuring full offline editing when you use the Google Chrome browser, is now rolling out to all users.

Bad news, productivity fans! The long-awaited offline editing will only work with spreadsheets created with the new version of Sheets. That means any older spreadsheets you have in Drive—which is probably most of them—won't work in offline mode. That's no good.

Google plans on automatically switching over all your files to the new Sheets format at some unspecified point in the future. But for now, Google suggests the easiest workaround is to copy-and-paste your old spreadsheet into a new file using the updated version of Sheets.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

New Google Sheets with offline editing rolling out to all

Late adopters won't have to worry about switching over to the Google Sheets refresh to get access to the new add-ons feature, because Google is going to do it for you. The company recently announced that the sweeping Sheets overhaul first announced in December is now rolling out to all Google Drive users.

The switch-over has just started and it will take a few weeks to complete, so you may not see it in your account just yet. If you're impatient for the new version, however, you can get the new sheets by visiting (And if you need to create a spreadsheet using the old Sheets once you've made the switch, visit

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Defending digital freedom with Index On Censorship
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World Tech Update: Sony enters VR gaming with Project Morpheus, Google's new Android Wear

This week on World Tech Update, our weekly tech news video review, we take a closer look at Sony’s new Project Morpheus.

It’s a head-mounted gadget that works as a virtual reality system for the PlayStation 4.

We’ll take you to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where it was unveiled on Tuesday evening.

The prototype has a 5-inch LCD display with a field of view of 90 degrees and a resolution of 1080p. It has an accelerometer, gyroscope, HDMI and USB connectors, and 3D sound that changes what the player hears depending which way they’re facing.

The next day, attendees got a chance to try it out and we asked them what they thought of the experience.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

March 20 2014

Google tightens HTTPS protections in Gmail in light of government snooping

Citing the need to protect users from government cyber-spying, Google has tightened Gmail's encryption screws by removing the option to turn off HTTPS.

Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture

The Belgian city of Mons becomes a European capital of culture next year, ushering in 12 months of festivities. One of Google’s two major European data centers is located just down the road from the city, making us a major local investor and employer. It is only natural that we want to help put some sparkle into the city’s ambitious capital of culture plans.

At today’s press conference launch of the Mons 2015 program, we launched something special and sparkling - new Indoor Street View images. Street View cars and trikes captured new imagery of some of Mons’s most famous buildings - both their exteriors - and for the first time, their interiors. These include the splendid Grand Place, including the inside of the the City Hall, the Collégiale Sainte Waudru, and the BAM art museum.

Mons is an architectural treasure. The canonesses of the Sainte Waudru religious community began their first church in 1450 and the Brabant Gothic style church remains of the most beautiful buildings in Mons. Inside, the exceptional Treasure of Sainte Waudru houses a precious collection of gold and remarkable 16th-century alabaster statues from the artist and Mons resident Jacques du Broeucq.

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The historic city centre is dominated by the Grand Place and its remarkable City Hall. Commissioned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, famed architect Matthijs de Layens designed the imposing edifice.

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Throughout the coming year and a half, we’ll continue to support the Mons 2015 adventure, in particular by working with our longtime partners, the Mundaneum archive. More than a century ago, two visionary Belgians envisioned the World Wide Web’s architecture of hyperlinks and indexation of information, not on computers, but on paper cards. Their creation was called the Mundaneum.

The Mundaneum plans an exciting “Mapping Knowledge” exhibition. Together, we are bringing high-level speakers to the city to explore Internet issues. Our own chief Internet evangelist and “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf recently visited and presented his vision of the future to a packed audience at the city’s 600 seat Manege Theater. Mons’ time on the big stage of European culture promises many more exciting events.

Google Chromecast review: simple, fast internet TV
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Google celebrates spring with fun Doodle
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Smartwatches and Google Glass in wearable technology showcase
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Larry Page on Google's smart future

Larry Page has been talking about privacy, government surveillance and Google's robotic future at the Ted conference.

March 19 2014

Google won't face email privacy class action
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