“The Interview” now available on Google Play and YouTube Movies

Last Wednesday Sony began contacting a number of companies, including Google, to ask if we’d be able to make their movie, "The Interview," available online. We'd had a similar thought and were eager to help—though given everything that’s happened, the security implications were very much at the front of our minds.

Of course it was tempting to hope that something else would happen to ensure this movie saw the light of day. But after discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be).

So starting at 10 a.m. PST in the U.S., you can rent or buy "The Interview" on Google Play and YouTube Movies. It will also be available to Xbox Video customers and via www.seetheinterview.com.

Update 3:44p.m. PST: "The Interview" is now also available in Canada.

Ho Ho Ho! Track Santa around the world with Google’s Santa Tracker

After 23 days of preparation, the elves are finally ready for Santa’s annual journey around the globe. They’ve taught each other how to say "Santa Claus" in Swedish, guided their friends through mazes with code, brushed up on their geography, and learned about organizations making a difference worldwide. It’s been a busy month, but Santa’s sleigh is now ready for lift-off!

The elves brushed up on coding fundamentals with blockly maze games
The elves decorated their trees with ornaments about organizations making a difference

Each stop on Santa’s journey offers more to explore—discover 360-degree imagery, Wikipedia snippets, geography facts, and updates on how far Santa’s current location is from yours (take note—Santa’s path is not a direct one!). Come back and visit google.com/santatracker throughout the night for more surprises, like sleigh selfies or a latitude and longitude game to deliver presents.
Follow Santa on any screen—desktop, phone, tablet, or TV

If you’re on the ho-ho-go, download the Santa Tracker App for Android to keep track of Santa on your phone or tablet. With the Android app, watch Santa’s journey on your TV using Chromecast, or on your wrist with Android Wear (especially handy when wrapping last-minute gifts). And, you can always search for Santa on www.google.com or on Google Maps, and get real-time location updates with Google Now in the Google App.
Santa’s available at the flick of the wrist with Android Wear

Santa’s got a long and exciting night ahead of him before heading back to the North Pole. Grab some eggnog, set out the cookies, and join Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to #tracksanta!

Let's celebrate the season of giving

It's the season of giving, and there are a lot of ways to give—by donating, by volunteering, by surprising a stranger with a random act of kindness. And we're joining in to help spread the holiday cheer. This month, Google.org is giving more than $15 million in grants to organizations using technology to address some of the world’s biggest problems. From San Francisco to Western Africa, these organizations are making a direct impact on people around the world, every day.

One of our grants will go to Feeding America. Each year, billions of pounds of surplus food are sent to landfills, while 49 million Americans (including one in five children) go hungry. Our grant will help support their newest food rescue initiative called the Online Marketplace, a program that connects local retail and foodservice businesses who have excess food to those in need. Feeding America serves 3.3 billion meals annually and the Online Marketplace is projected to lead to the recovery of an additional 740 million meals, significantly reducing food waste while giving more families access to food.

Two of our other grantees are working on the front lines to help ensure lives aren't lost to preventable diseases. Nexleaf Analytics works to get life-saving vaccines to children in India and Mozambique by preserving these vaccines before they spoil by installing low-cost refrigerator sensors in clinics. Malaria No More is fighting to save lives by better understanding the spread of malaria using newly available mobile data to map malaria cases and how they are being treated.

To learn more about additional nonprofits we’re supporting through these grants, and to see how you can get involved with their efforts, visit g.co/happyholidays and see our slideshow below:



These are only part of our annual philanthropic efforts. Over the course of the year, we strive to make the world a little bit better through our technology and giving programs, including more than $100 million in grants, $1 billion in technology resources, and 80,000+ volunteer hours donated to causes around the world.

We're inspired by all the people out there who are working to make a difference—whether it's one of these organizations or simply one person doing a good deed for another. We're glad to do our part spreading some love this holiday season, and look forward to seeing more world-changing work in 2015.

A Year in Search: the moments that defined 2014

Every year, we reflect on the moments that made us laugh, smile from ear to ear, or stay gripped to our screens in our annual Year in Search. In 2014, we were struck by the death of a beloved comedian, and watched news unfold about a horrific plane crash and a terrifying disease. We were captivated by the beautiful game, and had fun with birds, a bucket of ice, and a frozen princess.

Watch our video to rediscover the events, people and topics that defined 2014:


Wishing the genie goodbye
“You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.” The passing of beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams shook the world, bringing many people online to search for more information and to remember—and putting Williams in the #1 spot on our global trends charts. There was even an uptick in searches related to depression tests and mental health in the days following his death. We revisited his iconic roles in movies like Aladdin and Dead Poets Society and found solace in gifs and memes that captured Williams’ spirit.

All the world’s a stage
Nothing brings people together like sports, and 2014 had one of the biggest athletic events in recent memory. The World Cup in Brazil had its fair share of unforgettable moments and had everyone glued to their TVs and mobile devices all summer. From Luis Suarez’s bite heard around the world, to Tim Howard's superman performance vs. Belgium, to Germany’s incredible run to their fourth title, the competition certainly lived up to its reputation and topped the charts.

While sports brought people together, so did a good cause. This year, awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, reached an all-time high around the world due to the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As celebrities and everyday people alike braved a bucket of ice cold water for a cause, donations to help find a cure for the illness hit almost $100 million.
Into the unknown
How could a plane just vanish into thin air? In the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that question propelled the mystery to the global trends charts. As the investigation continued on the ground and online, people stayed hopeful for a happy ending despite the dim odds: searches for “mh370 found” outnumbered searches for “mh370 lost.”

Here’s the full list of our top 10 global trending searches:
You can find more on these top searches and more at google.com/2014

Explore the stories from the year, one chapter at a time
On our Year in Search site, you can take an in-depth look at the stories that made 2014 unforgettable. From the rise of the selfie, to understanding if we search for “how” more than “why,” each chapter shares a glimpse into the people and events that drove this year forward.
We've also made it easier to find the trending topics of the year directly from Google Search. For the first time, a simple search for [google 2014] will give you a peek at what made the top trending lists from around the world. And you can follow more insights from the year with #YearInSearch. So take a moment to appreciate what this year had to offer. It’ll be 2015 before you know it.

Why we spend millions to repaint bridges

The North Fork Lewis River Bridges
after their $12 million paint jobs.
By Tamara Hellman

Painting a bridge is a lot different than painting your house. Sure, it’s nice to get a touch-up to improve your home’s curb appeal. But for a bridge, it’s more than just making it look pretty.

Painting helps preserve the roughly 3,500 bridges we manage around the state. The paint helps protect our bridges from the elements so everyone can use them for a longer period of time.

Here’s an example. We just finished painting the North Fork Lewis River Bridges on I-5 south of Woodland. Both spans carry 65,000 vehicles a day on our state’s primary north-south interstate highway.

Decades of wear, including rust and
peeling paint, on one of the bridges’ trusses.
If we didn’t paint these bridges, they would rust and deteriorate faster. The last time the North Fork Lewis River Bridges received a fresh coat, it was 1990. Since then, its “Cascade Green” color has worn off in spots and rust has formed on sections of the steel. Without a proper touch-up, the rust would spread and deteriorate the steel structure, causing it to weaken. Eventually, the bridge would not be able to carry the load it once did. As a result, freight haulers would have to make long detours, putting a crimp on interstate commerce.

We try our best to paint bridges every couple decades to ensure they’re properly protected. While it’s cheaper to paint a bridge than it is to build a new one, it still costs a decent amount of money. For the North Fork Lewis River Bridges, the final bill was around $12 million– about 20 percent under budget, paid for by both state-gas-tax and federal-preservation funds.

Why so much?
Several factors contribute to the cost of a bridge-painting project, two of which are the most important:

1. Keeping people safe
With any project, we need to keep traffic moving while ensuring the safety of both the people traveling through our work zones and the crews working in them. A good portion of the cost covers safety measures, such as temporary barriers, traffic control and scaffolding. Lane closures are expensive and limit the times when contractors can do their work.  If we have to close lanes, we do it mostly at night or on weekends, when people travel less frequently. Temporary barriers also provide a safe work area for crews, as well as safe lanes of travel for drivers. Scaffolding is used so workers can get access to high and low points on the bridges, and cable systems are used to protect the workers from falling. Keeping everyone safe is our number-one priority.

Barriers provide safe lanes of travel for drivers and a safe place for crews to work.

2. Keeping the environment safe
We work to be good stewards of the environment– not simply because it’s required as part of the permitting process, but because it’s the right thing to do. During the North Fork Lewis River Bridges repainting project, contractor crews installed a containment system of tarps, collection tubes and vacuum systems to prevent the many layers of deteriorated paint, rust and other debris from falling into the river. They sandblasted the old lead-based paint off the steel and cleaned the rust and dirt off the bridge. The environmental-protection systems collected all the material so crews could dispose of it properly. This was done in sections to keep the metal from exposure to the elements for too long, preventing new rust from forming before each section could be painted.

Environmental protection
systems prevent debris
from falling in the river.
The end result
The new coats of paint are expected to help preserve the bridges for about 25 years. We maximize the life of the paint by cleaning our bridges between paintings to remove debris that can make them deteriorate faster.

We have a significant backlog of steel bridges that need to be repainted throughout our highway system. With less funding and the list of bridges growing, we have to make some tough decisions on prioritizing which ones get painted next. We are constantly exploring practical ways to maintain and preserve our bridges, and we do it with safety, cost savings and the environment in mind.







Through the Google lens: search trends December 6-11

From The Colbert Report to astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, here's a look at this week's search stars.

The presidency is just my day job
Being the President of the United State is no easy task, but Barack Obama may have just faced his toughest test yet...a seat on The Colbert Report. This is the Commander-in-Chief’s third time on the show, but it’s still no cakewalk with every topic up for grabs—including Obama’s less than ideal approval ratings and his graying hair. Obama proved himself up for the challenge, though, kicking Colbert off his segment and making it his own.

Not only does Obama moonlight as a comedian—it turns out he can also code. At a White House event with 30 middle school students, the President kicked off Hour of Code, a program that encourages young people to develop their computer and software programming skills. With a little help from one of the kids, Obama wrote a single line of JavaScript, “moveForward(100),” to move the tutorial’s character 100 pixels to the right, and in the process becoming the first U.S. president to write a computer program.

Winners and losers
Competition on The Voice is heating up; the three finalists were revealed this week. But there’s a twist in the show’s seventh season: to spice things up, its creators introduced a new wildcard spot, bringing the total number of potential finalists to four. Now the nine remaining contestants who didn’t make it to the top three will duke it out for that fourth spot and a shot at singing glory.

While The Voice contestants still have a chance to take home the grand prize, other stars were left out in the cold this week when the Golden Globe nominations included several snubs. Names left off the selection sheet were Angelina Jolie and her upcoming film Unbroken, Christopher Nolan and his much-hyped Interstellar, and Bradley Cooper, who gained 40 pounds to portray Chris Kyle in the biopic film American Sniper. Oh well—there's still the Oscars. Meanwhile, movies Birdman and Boyhood snapped up seven and five nominations, respectively—and the TV category is staying interesting with nods for several Netflix original series, Amazon’s first appearance with Transparent, and two surprise nominations for the CW’s quirky Jane the Virgin.

The sky above
This week, searchers spent a good chunk of their time looking up. The weather was top of mind as the Pineapple Express—no, not the film—hit the San Francisco Bay Area, causing flooding and power outages. The phenomenon gets its name from its origins in the waters near Hawaii, a.k.a. the Pineapple State, where it develops before heading towards the U.S Pacific Coast.

Even for those of us trapped indoors, searchers got a chance to look at the stars...on our homepage at least. Searchers looked for more information about astronomer Annie Jump Cannon after a Google doodle marked her 151st birthday. Cannon—who was deaf for most of her adult life, and often overshadowed by her colleague Edward C. Pickering—was instrumental in the development of the Harvard Classification system, which categorizes stars by their temperature (whether or not they were nominated for a Golden Globe).


Tip of the week
Need to find something in the apps on your Android phone? Now you can ask your Google app for help—even if it’s in another app. Just say “Ok Google” and then “search YouTube for holiday decorating ideas” or “search Tumblr for Taylor Swift” and jump straight to those results within the other app (if you have it installed).

And come back next week for Google's Year in Search—a review of the people, moments, and events that captured the world's attention.

Android dress code: wear what you want

Deciding what to wear is a really personal thing—it’s one of the ways you show people what you’re about. Wearable technology is no different, so Android Wear offers a wide selection of apps and watches to suit your taste. It’s about expressing who you are, however you want, right on your wrist.

Today there’s even more ways to show your style with Android Wear, including dozens of new watch faces (powered by an official Watch Face API), a full collection of devices on Google Play, and lots of other improvements based on your feedback. So try ‘em on for size, and let us know what you think.

Watch faces for whatever you’re into
Starting today you can download watch faces from Google Play, just like you do with apps. We’ve got dozens of examples to get you started—from the unpredictable Minions in Despicable Me to the X-Ray artistry of Hugh Turvey. And because the new Watch Face API is available to all developers, you can expect even more choices in the weeks and months ahead.

We’ve also updated the Android Wear app on your phone to make browsing, downloading, and switching watch faces really easy. So pick the one you like the best, or pick a new one every day.

(Both updates are rolling out over the next week, so don’t worry if you don’t see them yet.)


Examples of Android Wear watch faces

A family of watches to choose from
In only a few short months, the Android Wear collection has grown to include six unique watches—the ASUS ZenWatch, the LG G Watch, the LG G Watch R, the Moto 360, the Samsung Gear Live, and the Sony SmartWatch 3. Some are circular, others are square. Some are traditional, others are sporty. And that’s exactly the point. With different shapes and styles, it’s really easy to make your watch your own.

So by all means: wear what you want.

During floods, better safe than sorry

By Barbara LaBoe


With heavy rain forecast for Western Washington this week, there’s a good chance of minor and even major flooding of rivers. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some flood preparedness tips. We hope none of you have to leave your homes, of course, but with the amount of rain we get in our fair state, these are good tips to review at any time.

The main tip? Pay attention to weather reports and warnings and do NOT drive through standing water. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that’s the cause of most flood-related deaths in Washington.  It only takes six inches of water to stall a vehicle and a foot to float most vehicles, so never take the chance that you’ll be able to make it across a flooded road.

Here are some other tips from FEMA’s www.ready.gov about things you can do before and during a flood to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Before a flood:
  • Create an emergency kit with medical supplies, food and water, dry clothing and important documents stored in a waterproof container.
  • Get a battery-powered radio or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert. Stock extra batteries for both.
  • Establish a family communications plan and meeting place. Know where you’ll meet if you’re separated during an evacuation. (For flooding in particular, make sure it’s on high ground). Designate a relative or friend outside the area to check in with if you’re separated and can’t reach each other. Here are some examples.
  • Stash extra charging cords or portable chargers for your cellphones in your vehicles so you have them if you have to leave quickly.
If fish can swim across the highway, don’t cross.
This is a photo of US 101 in 2007.
During flooding:
  • Remember your safety, not possessions, is your main priority. If you’re told to evacuate, do so quickly.
  • Follow weather reports closely and be prepared to evacuate quickly, including having key items ready to grab as you leave.
  • If there’s time before an evacuation -- and you can do it safely -- turn off utilities at the main switches or valves. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do NOT touch any electrical equipment if you are wet or are in standing water.
  • Secure your home. If there’s time, move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Follow WSDOT’s Facebook and Twitter pages for our flood response updates. Visit the traffic alerts page for up-to-date road closure information.
While evacuating:
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can knock you down. If you have to cross water to get to safety, walk where the water is still. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. You and your vehicle can be quickly swept away. If floodwaters rise around your car unexpectedly, abandon it and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, even if they’re not flooding at the moment. Conditions can change quickly.
Feeling more prepared? Good.
Now, just remember these tips and do your best to stay safe -- and dry --  in the days to come.

    #YouTubeRewind 2014: Celebrating what you created, watched and shared

    2014 was chock full of YouTube moments that vaulted into pop culture. We got pranked by a spider dog in Poland, learned what it’s like to walk the street for 10 hours as a woman in NYC, and watched total strangers share a first kiss. We laughed, we cried, and yes, we sang along to “Let It Go” roughly a bajillion times.

    In celebration of the people, memes and moments that made up an epic year, more than 100 YouTube creators gathered together for our annual Rewind video: a giant, global mashup looking back at the best of 2014 on YouTube. With creators from Japan, Germany, Israel, Mexico, France and beyond, it’s the biggest and most international Rewind video yet.


    And here are the top trending videos for 2014, based on views, shares, comments, likes and more. This year, the list represents the amazing variety of creativity brought to YouTube each day, which can include social commentaries, pranks, advertisements, and thrilling moments from traditional media and big names on YouTube. Collectively these 10 videos have hundreds of millions of views from creators, with more than 21 million cumulative subscribers.

    1. Mutant Giant Spider Dog (SA Wardega) by SA Wardega
    2. Nike Football: Winner Stays. ft. Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Rooney, Ibrahimović, Iniesta & more by Nike Football
    3. FIRST KISS by Tatia PIlieva
    4. The Voice IT | Serie 2 | Blind 2 | Suor Cristina Scuccia - #TEAMJ-AX by TheVoiceOf Italy
    5. iPhone 6 Plus Bend Test by Unbox Therapy
    6. Bars & Melody - Simon Cowell's Golden Buzzer act | Britain's Got Talent 2014 by Britain's Got Talent
    7. Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial -- "Puppy Love" by Budweiser
    8. Devil Baby Attack by DevilsDueNYC
    9. Goku vs Superman. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 3. by ERB
    10. 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman by Street HarassmentVideo

    When it comes to music, it was a year of powerful female artists, as you can see from our list of top music videos: Women artists took eight of the top 10 spots (Shakira took two!). 2014's top 10 music videos were collectively played billions of times from channels with 55+ million subscribers.

    1. Katy Perry - Dark Horse (Official) ft. Juicy J
    2. Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (Español) ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona
    3. Shakira - Can't Remember to Forget You ft. Rihanna
    4. Shakira - La La La (Brazil 2014) ft. Carlinhos Brown
    5. Jason Derulo - "Wiggle" feat. Snoop Dogg (Official HD Music Video)
    6. Iggy Azalea - Fancy (Explicit) ft. Charli XCX
    7. Sia - Chandelier (Official Video)
    8. Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
    9. Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
    10. Nicki Minaj - Anaconda
    ...and check out even more top music videos.

    Check out our YouTube Rewind channel for more top videos of the year from around the world, and our YouTube Brand channel to see a mashup of the top branded videos of the year and a list of the top ads on YouTube for the year. You can also visit google.com/2014 next week for Google's annual look at the people, places and events that captured the world's attention.

    Through the Google lens: search trends November 28-December 5

    The end of the year is almost upon us, but just like the rest of your life, search isn’t slowing down. Here’s a look at what was trending this week on Google:

    Signs of the season
    Now that the turkey’s been carved, and even the leftovers have been gobbled (pun intended) up in the form of sandwiches and soup, the holiday season is officially underway. People shopped Cyber Monday sales, and others were excited to learn that USPS would be delivering packages seven days a week in some cities.

    Plus, holiday movies and songs are trending as people get into the spirit. And even if you didn’t watch Love Actually (for the 14th time) this week, chances are you heard a peep of Mariah Carey’s now-classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” which the singer performed live at Rockefeller Center’s tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Mimi missed a few notes, leading searches for her to spike as a result.

    Citizens speak out
    On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, who died in July after being placed in a choke hold. Across the country, people spoke out and demonstrated against the decision, which came just days after nationwide riots and protests about what happened in Ferguson, Mo.

    Digital dough
    Good news for Thin Mint fans: you no longer have to wait with bated breath for the day your co-worker shows up with an order form, or for that card table stacked with colorful boxes to show up outside your grocery store. Girl Scout Cookies have gone digital. Scouts will have personal cookie webpages where people can place orders online; the idea is that girls will learn more about online marketing and e-commerce while satisfying the sweet teeth of the rest of us. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Internet cookies.”

    Astronomical views
    If you weren’t at the mall last weekend, then chances are you were on YouTube, watching the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The first teaser for the J.J. Abrams-helmed “Episode 7” has racked up tens of millions of views since it came out a week ago and people are saying it could become the most viewed trailer ever. Fans have intensely scrutinized and discussed each one of the trailer’s 88 seconds in detail; and there are already spoofs and recreations galore, including Wes Anderson and LEGO versions. The movie won’t be out until December 2015, so you have plenty of time to build your crossguard lightsaber for the premiere.

    But even after two years, there’s no video in the YouTube galaxy that’s quite like “Gangnam Style.” It’s the first video to ever get more than 2 billion views, and this week, its view count crossed 2,147,483,647. That happens to be the highest number that can be represented by a 32-bit integer, and also—until recently—the highest number that the YouTube view counter could display. Luckily, our friends at YouTube saw this one coming: They upgraded the view counter to use a 64-bit integer, capable of representing numbers up to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. Yup, that’s 9 quintillion. Consider this gauntlet thrown.

    Tip of the week
    Between holiday parties, gift shopping and the end-of-year scramble at work, it’s no wonder some errands start to slip your mind. Let Google help keep track—just say “Ok Google, remind me to pick up ribbon when I’m at Target” or “Ok Google, remind me to chill the champagne when I get home” to get a reminder.

    This year the holidays are Made with Code

    Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog

    Carol-singing, hot chocolate, latkes and ice skating are all things that get us into the spirit of the holidays. But now there’s a new way to deck the halls: with code.

    Earlier this year, we introduced a program called Made with Code to inspire millions of girls to try coding, and help them understand the creative things they can do with computer science. Starting today on madewithcode.com, girls can use the introductory programming language Blockly to animate the lights of the state and territory trees that will decorate President’s Park, one of America’s 401 national parks and home to the White House, through the holiday season.

    The programmed lights will debut at the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, which will be livestreamed by the White House on Thursday and air on PBS nationally throughout December in partnership with the National Park Foundation and National Park Service. The tradition of the tree lighting ceremony dates back to 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge lit the first fir tree outside the White House, and this is the first year kids from across the country will be in control of the state and territory holiday tree lights!


    As the mom of two girls, I know that technology is a pathway for their future success. Still, even as coding becomes more important, less than 1% of high school girls say they’re interested in pursuing computer sciences in college. But I'm also an engineer, so I’ve seen firsthand how exciting CS can be. I fell in love with code early—my dad was an engineer and he encouraged me to enter a programming competition in the seventh grade. I gave it a shot, and I’ve never looked back. Ever since that day, I’ve known that when I program something, I’m creating something totally new for the world.

    That’s what Made with Code is about: discovering that creating something new and exciting—whether it’s a holiday tree, a video game or a driverless car—can be accomplished with the power of code.

    But it’s also about building an ecosystem of support for girls through parents and teachers, and to show girls other women who are using CS to achieve their dreams. This challenge also kicks off Google’s commitment to CSEdWeek, a week dedicated to inspiring students to get interested in computer science that’s become one of the biggest education initiatives online. Over the coming week, thousands of Googlers will join the hour of code, and announce a few other special projects that we will fund through the holiday season and coming year.

    I’m heading to Washington, D.C. this week to be a part of the ceremony, and I’m looking forward to watching the designs from girls across the country lighting up the nation’s capital—and inspiring my daughters and so many others with the power of code.

    Race with Rudolph and skydive with Santa in the countdown to December 24

    December may mean snow days in Denver, Colo. or beach days in Sydney, Australia, but in Santa’s Village, it means the countdown to Santa’s big night. Starting today, the elves are back on the clock in the North Pole—and throughout the month of December, you can join the elves as they unlock a new project or game each day in preparation for Santa’s annual journey around the world.

    The elves have a busy month ahead of them—the reindeers need training and the presents need packing. They’re studying up on Santa’s upcoming stops with candy cane cartography, holiday tradition tests, and even jolly JavaScript courses.
    Throughout the holiday celebration, our own developer elves here at Google have also been hard at work getting the sleigh tracking algorithm ready for prime time. They’ve been adding finishing touches to the Santa Tracker App for Android so Santa’s just a tap away on phones, tablets, and TVs. The developer elves have been busy, so check out the chrome extension and keep a watch out for Santa surprises throughout the month.
    Whether you’re wearing snow goggles or sunnies this December, come back to
    www.google.com/santatracker each day to join in on present parachute practice and reindeer races, or to send a call to friends from Santa. There’s only 23 days to go, so follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter in the countdown to #tracksanta!

    Mappy holidays!

    'Tis the season for mobile shopping

    It used to be that heading out to stores on Black Friday -- one of the biggest holiday shopping days of the season -- was the best way to find great deals. Now, we may be carrying the best tool for finding deals in our pockets.

    This coming weekend, expect to see many of your fellow shoppers checking for deals on their smartphones while braving the lines and crowds at the mall. Nearly 50% of 25-34 year-olds use their phone to shop online while standing in line at a store. And because we want to help you research products more easily this holiday weekend, we’re rolling out new mobile features to Google Shopping.

    Starting this week, when you search for a specific product on your smartphone or tablet you’ll see more detailed information about the product and where to buy it, like which stores have it available and product reviews from customers. You’ll also be able to rotate selected products on Google Shopping in 360 degrees to see them in more detail.


    nexus@1x.gif Nexus10_3D@1x.gif


    Getting a head start on Black Friday
    Shoppers are already prepping for Black Friday shopping by researching purchases and deals online. We found that 27% of shoppers have already begun hunting for Black Friday deals online. Here are the top questions people are asking about Black Friday on Google Search. For more trends, visit our Shopping blog.

    • what time do stores open on black friday
    • what time does black friday start
    • when does black friday end
    • what to buy on black friday

    Black Friday Frenzy.jpg

    Let Google Shopping and your smartphone help you check off what’s on that shopping list of yours and go enjoy everything else about the “most wonderful time of the year.”


    Through the Google lens: search trends November 14-20

    Devastating snowstorms, bizarre interviews and addictive podcasts? It was an unusual week on the search charts this time around.

    A frosty reception
    If you looked on Maps for Buffalo, you wouldn’t find it. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the city is buried underneath six feet of snow… literally. While people across the country are just getting ready for Turkey Day, Buffalonians are dealing with a snowstorm that’s set to break several records and may keep them trapped in their houses for a while–white Thanksgiving, anyone?

    In the court of public opinion
    People were searching for more information about famed comedian Bill Cosby this week after sexual abuse allegations made headlines.

    And in the political world, Democrats in the Senate blocked the Keystone XL proposal, a hotly contested initiative to build an oil pipeline from Canada to Nebraska. While searchers were wondering how this bill would affect gas prices, the door is closed on the issue at the moment.

    Teens aren't what they used to be
    A toymaker with a mission decided it was makeover time for Barbie, the doll everyone loves to hate. Nickolay Lamm created “normal Barbie,” a doll that everyone could relate to -- less “material girl” and more “girl next door”—non-size zero waist included. Reflecting the body of the average 19-year old woman, both parents and kids have taken a liking to the fact that toy actually...looks like a real person (she looks like my sister!) Complete with freckles and acne sticker expansion packs, we think Lamm’s got the awkward teenage years down pat.

    Speaking of teenagers: 16-year-old and 14-year-old celebrity siblings Jaden and Willow Smith, heirs to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s throne, were in the spotlight this week after giving what some might describe as a pretty spacey interview to the New York Times’ T Magazine. The wide-ranging piece covered their thoughts on topics like Prana energy (what?), the duality of the mind (how??) and goals of imprinting yourself on everything (why???) — and baffled social media and searchers alike. Time Magazine got in on the fun and released a poem generator made from the interview’s most interesting quotes. Here’s our Jaden and Willow Smith haiku (spoiler: it doesn’t make any sense).

                 Babies remember
                 The most craziest person of all time
                 Driver’s ed? What’s up?

    Colonel Mustard in the library
    There’s always time for a tale of murder and mystery. This week the Internet played the role of detective as people were curious to learn more about NPR’s new serial Podcast which explores a 15-year-old real life homicide case. The series is insanely popular, hitting the 5 million downloads and streams mark more quickly than any other podcast before it, but not without its fair share of controversy. The victim’s family members have expressed concern about the sensationalization of the case.

    Tip of the week
    Bored on the bus or subway? Just say “OK Google, flip a coin.” What do yo have to lose?

    Seven traffic tips to get you to the Thanksgiving table

    Thanksgiving means gearing up for a turkey feast, Thanksgiving Day parades, local Turkey Trots and annual football showdowns. It also means braving some of the worst holiday traffic conditions of the year.

    You’ve got enough on your plate this Thanksgiving without having to worry about traffic, too. So, Google Maps looked at Thanksgiving traffic conditions over the last two years for 21 cities across the U.S.1 to find the most useful information to make your holiday trip a little easier.

    Whether you’re traveling near or far, Google Maps’ traffic tips will help you navigate the roads like a pro, so you’ll be feasting on Turkey Day delights with friends and family in no time. Here are seven tips in pictures to guide you through the holiday:

    1. Avoid traveling on Wednesday:


    2. But if you must leave on Wednesday:

    3. Good news for local travelers—Thanksgiving Day traffic is a breeze:

    4. Travel back home on Sunday, not Saturday:

    5. Expect to spend more time in traffic than average if you live in these three cities: Philadelphia, Austin and Washington, D.C. saw the three biggest increases in traffic during Thanksgiving week.

    6. Get these three items ahead of time: Last-minute runs to the corner store can be unavoidable as you prep for the big day, but not all last minute trips are created equal.

    7. Leave extra time for Christmas shopping:
    Your biggest worry this Thanksgiving should be whether to go for the cranberry sauce or gravy. And with these traffic tips in hand, plus real-time traffic info provided by Google Maps on Android or iOS, you’ll be spending less time in traffic and more time with the people you care about this Thanksgiving. Now that’s something to be thankful for!





    1 Google Maps looked at 21 cities across the U.S. from the Monday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after Thanksgiving for both 2012 & 2013: Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, D.C.

    Motion-activated camera captures wildlife and an unexpected visitor


    By Ann Briggs

    They’re big, beautiful and majestic, but when they wander onto high-speed highways the results can be deadly; we’re talking about elk. Weighing in at more than 500 to 700 pounds, elk pose a serious safety risk for drivers and passengers in vehicle-wildlife collisions.

    As part of an ongoing project, we’ve been studying wildlife crossings under Interstate 90 since 2010 in the North Bend area, where the number of elk-vehicle collisions has been increasing. On average, 16 elk-vehicle collisions have been recorded in this area each year over the past five years. In addition to tracking a growing urban elk herd, during this research we learned that one of two wildlife crossings in this area had the highest black bear use documented for any highway crossing structure in North America.

    We’re developing plans to install an 8-foot-high fence along I-90 in the North Bend area. While a fence is an effective way to prevent collisions, it also blocks normal wildlife migration and may interfere with their access to habitats and food needed for survival. We use motion-triggered cameras at bridges and culverts to learn what species use these safe passages to cross under the interstate and how frequently. The information is vital to developing an effective project design that allows for safe wildlife crossings and addresses fencing needs.

    All was well until Nov. 10, when we discovered that nine cameras in three locations had been stolen. The value of the stolen cameras, along with their protective steel boxes, media cards, rechargeable batteries and shielded padlocks, is estimated at $7,000. This is one of the biggest losses the program has experienced. Unfortunately, it’s brought our monitoring of structures in the North Bend area to an end; we’ve taken down all remaining cameras to prevent further loss to taxpayers.

    A person of interest
    We discovered that one camera, mounted in a tree not far from a stolen camera, photographed a person of interest carrying a long steel bar, his face covered by a bandana. We’d like to know who he is so that we can ask him some questions. If you recognize this person or have any other information, please call Kelly McAllister, WSDOT wildlife biologist, at 360 705-7426.

    In the meanwhile, we’ll use the data we’ve gathered so far to move this important safety project forward. The fencing project is currently unfunded.

    Through the Google lens: search trends November 7-13

    Taylor, Kim, Kobe—this trio of familiar faces was all over search this week.

    Oh my God, look at that face
    She may not have broken the Internet, but Kim Kardashian certainly got our collective attention this week with her saucy Paper magazine cover shoot showing off her famous derriere. Millions of searches, memes and (unsuccessful) imitators were not far, um, behind. Even Kim, however, had some company in the trending ranks from Taylor Swift, who has come close to breaking the Internet a few times herself. This week, Swift released a new video (and app) for her song “Blank Space,” putting a new spin on the “boy-crazy” meme and garnering more than 25 million YouTube views—that’s more than 10 times as many as last week’s viral video sensation “Too Many Cooks.”


    Sky high
    Ten years after leaving Earth, on Wednesday the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission achieved history. It successfully landed its Philae probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and began sending pictures of the surface back to scientists. People turned to search to learn more, including “what is next for the probe?” It’s a good question, since the probe bounced twice before settling into a position about 1km off its target, and may not be able to get enough battery life from its solar panels to continue operating as intended.

    Our doodle celebrated the Philae landing on Wednesday

    And all eyes were on the New York skyline this week—or at least on 1 World Trade Center, where a pair of window washers were trapped 69 stories high on the side of the building for over an hour on Wednesday before being rescued. The 1,776-foot tall skyscraper had just opened for business last week, more than a decade after the September 11 attacks.

    Numbers game
    Kobe Bryant set a new record on Tuesday night, but he might wish he hadn’t. The shooting guard missed his 13,418th career field goal in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, earning him the dubious honor of the most missed field goals in the NBA. Of course, Bryant also has the fourth-most points in league history—and five championship rings. So, he’s probably doing OK.

    Tip of the week
    For those times you’ve gotten an email about something (say, “dinner with Shari” or “brunch with Aaron”) but forgotten to follow up, Google can help. Keep an eye on your Google app, which can now catch buried plans in your Gmail, prompt you to add them to your calendar, and remind you to stay in touch.

    Looping you in on travel time data

    by Mike Allende,

    The recent run of extra-challenging slow morning commutes – especially southbound out of Everett – has made travel times a big point of discussion. With several commutes topping the 100-minute mark – topped by a 140-minute time in late September – our travel times page has been getting a workout.

    Travel times posted on our website let people know what their
    commute looks like before they leave their home.
    They update every five minutes.
    There are a number of reasons why this is happening, from dark and wet conditions, to collisions and breakdowns in the wrong place at the wrong time, to simply a lot of people going to the same place at the same time every day. But that’s not what this blog is about.

    Instead, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at just how we compute those travel times. We know people rely on them to plan their trips, and we use technology and data to make them as accurate as we can. It’s important for us to provide useful data to the public. So how does it work? Glad you asked.

    Travel times listed on highway message boards give commuters
    an idea of how good (or bad) their commute ahead is.
    About every half-mile or so on highways in the area, we have loop detectors embedded in the pavement. These loops measure the speed of each vehicle that goes over it, and the amount of time that vehicle is on the loop. It then sends that data to junction boxes nearby which calculate the information and sends it to our website, giving commuters the amount of time it should take them to get from particular points. Our data is accurate about 95 percent of the time and updates on our website every five minutes.

    But we don’t just rely on our loops. From time to time, we also have people drive the various routes at different times of the day to calculate travel times. We’ve found that the results are usually close to what our posted travel times are, which gives people a good idea of about how long it will take them.

    Each month, we look at data from the previous three months to come up with the average travel time. If you watch our travel time page closely, you’ll notice that the average travel time changes throughout the day. That’s because we come up with averages based on time and day of the week, so the average time for the drive from Everett to Seattle at 8:15 a.m. on a Tuesday may be different than the average time for the same route at 7:35 a.m. on a Thursday.

    Loop sensors embedded in the pavement of highways measure
    the speed of each vehicle going over them, which are then
    converted to travel times.
    Something else to keep in mind is that it’s hard to account for poor weather when it comes to travel times. Rain and ice changes driving conditions in a big way and makes commutes much less predictable. A collision or stall blocking a lane can be exacerbated in bad weather and all of a sudden a free-flowing drive can become jammed within a few minutes, though that may not be reflected right away in our travel times. That’s why it’s important to check in with other sources, from our @wsdot_traffic Twitter account, to our Seattle traffic page and the media to get updates on road conditions. If you’re driving, of course, stick to radio traffic reports – please don’t check Twitter or our traffic page on your mobile device if you’re behind the wheel.