All About Google

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Google Earth

Google Earth is a free-of-charge, downloadable virtual globe program. It maps the entire earth by pasting images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS over a 3D globe.


Formerly known as Earth Viewer, Google Earth was developed by Keyhole, Inc., a company Google acquired in 2004. The product was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and is currently available for use on personal computers running Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X 10.3.9 and above, and Linux (Released on June 12 of 2006). In addition to releasing an updated Keyhole based client, Google also added the imagery from the Earth database to their web based mapping software.

Many large cities are available in a resolution high enough to see individual buildings, houses, and even cars. In cities such as London, Washington DC, and Seattle, individual people can be clearly discerned. The degree of resolution available is based somewhat on the points of interest, but all land is covered in at least 15 meters of resolution. Cambridge, MA and Fulton County, NY have the highest resolution, at six inches. Google Earth allows users to search for addresses (for the USA, Canada, and Europe only), enter coordinates, or simply use the mouse to browse to a location.

Google Earth also has digital terrain model data collected by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. This means one can view the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest in three dimensions , instead of 2D like other map programs/sites. In addition, Google has provided a layer allowing one to see 3D buildings for some major cities in the US.

Many people using the applications are adding their own data and making them available through various sources such as the BBS or blogs mentioned in the link section below.

Google Earth is available in a free version, and in licensed versions for commercial use. It is currently officially available on Windows XP, Mac OS X and Linux. A leaked version of working non-public beta of Google Earth for Mac OS X started to appear on the internet on December 8, 2005.

When started up, Google Earth's view is centered on Lawrence, Kansas. The director of engineering for Google Earth is Brian McClendon, whose online biography says he is a 1986University of Kansas. This default view could also be due to the fact that Lawrence, Kansas represents a location very close to the exact center of the contiguous United States.

3D Buildings

A feature implemented by Google after its acquisition of Keyhole is a 3D dataset for (as of June 2006) 38 US cities.This data is provided by Sanborn Citysets. This feature is limited to displaying grey overlaying "blocky" buildings. On march 14, 2006, Google acquired @Last Software, makers of SketchUp, who had created a plugin for 3D renderings in Google Earth.

The cities currently included are only from the United States. However, 3D buildings are available for certain buildings around the world using programs from other websites. The cities include: New York City (Manhattan below Central Park and West Brooklyn), Chicago (the Loop, near Magnificent Mile, and residential areas north, south, and just west of those areas along the lake), Los Angeles (downtown, areas along the Miracle Mile, Wilshire Blvd), HonoluluSan Fransisco (the northeastern quadrant), PhiladelphiaHouston (downtown), Washington, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Miami, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Detroit (downtown), Arlington, Baltimore, St. Louis (downtown), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego, Long Beach, Sacramento, Cincinati, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Kansas City, Buffalo, Portland, Las Vegas, jersey City (along the Hudson River), Newark, Memphis, phoenix, and St. petersburg, Florida, USA.


  • Coordinate System
    • Data is stored and presented using the standard WGS84 datum.
  • Baseline resolutions
    • U.S.: 15 m
    • Global: Generally 15 m (some areas such as certain oceanic islands are in extremely low resolution).
  • Typical high resolutions
    • U.S.: 1 m, 0.6 m, 0.3 m, 0.15 m (extremely rare; e.g. Cambridge, Ma. and Google Campus)
    • Global:
  • Altitude resolution:
    • Surface:
    • Seabed: Not applicable (the seabed is "printed" on the spherical surface).
  • Age: Usually less than 3 years old. (For example, the image area around Taipei 101 shows the building before the red construction elevators were removed in 2004 and the new WAPA Path 15 power line is still under construction (also in 2004).)

Google Earth is unlikely to operate on older hardware configurations. The most recent downloads available document these minimum configurations:

  • Pentium 3, 500 Mhz
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 400 MB free disk space
  • Network speed: 128 Kbit/sec
  • 3D-capable graphics card with 16 MB of Video RAM
  • 1024x768, "16-bit High Color" screen

The most likely mode of failure is insufficient video RAM: the software is designed to declare failure if 32 MB of video RAM is not available. The next most likely mode of failure is Internet access speed. Except for the very patient, broadband internet (Cable, DSL, T1, etc.) is required. Again, resolution is not uniform, some towns such as St. Petersburg are only partially available in high-resolution. Compare the resolution of these older B&W data:

versus what is currently available with Google Earth in color:

  • Maps and aerial photos
    • WikiSatellite view at WikiMapia
    • Street map from MapQuest or Google Local
    • Topographic map from TopoZone
    • Aerial image or topographic map from TerraServer-USA
    • Satellite image from Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth.

In this case, the TerraServer-USA data can identify individual trees but its data is structured in cumbersome tiles. As with much GIS data, the utility of the data is application-dependent for the purpose of determining if resolution is sufficient. Also note that from a usability point of view, TerraServer loses its center point when one zooms in and out where Google Earth browsing is smooth; a clear benefit, but at the price of the somewhat demanding requirements imposed upon the video card.

It is worth noting however, that with some work, images from TerraServer can be integrated as Image Overlays into Google Earth, allowing the user to combine the higher (in some cases) resolution imagery from TerraServer over the smoother Google Earth program.

Mac OS X Version

A version for Mac OS X was released on january 10, 2006, and is available for download from the Google Earth website. With a few exceptions noted below, the Mac version appears to be stable and complete, with virtually all the same functionality as the original Windows version.

Screenshots and an actual binary of the Mac version had been leaked to the internet a month previously, on December 8, 2005. The leaked version was significantly incomplete. Among other things, neither the Help menu nor its "Display License" feature worked, a pretty sure sign that the version was intended for Google's internal use only. Google released no statement regarding the leak.

Currently, the Mac version runs only under Mac OS X versions10.4 and 10.3.9. Currently, there are no "Plus" or "Pro" versions for the stable release. There is no embedded browser and no direct interface to Gmail. Fullscreen mode does not work. There are a few bugs concerning the menu bar when switching between applications. There are a few bugs concerning annotation balloons and printing.

The latest version is 4.0.1694 released on July 17, 2006, is currently available as a beta version and features amongst others a new user interface and the option for Mac OS X users to upgrade to the "Plus" version.

link title==Linux Version== Starting with the version 4 beta, Google Earth functions under Linux. However, it is not a native application; instead, it is run through a WINE layer. Google has taken the position that it will attempt to make Google Earth compatible with all mainstream distributions.

Minimum System Requirements :

  • Kernel: 2.4 or later
  • CPU: Pentium 3, 500 MHz
  • System Memory (RAM): 128 MB
  • Hard Disk: 400 MB free space
  • Network Speed: 128 kbit/s
  • Screen: 1024x768, 16 bit color
  • Tested and works on the following OSs:
    • Ubuntu 5.10/6.06
    • Suse 10.1
    • Fedora Core 4/5
    • Linspire 5.1
    • Gentoo 2006.0
    • Debian 3.1
    • Red Hat 9
    • Slackware 10.2
    • FreeBSD 6.1/7.0 with Linux Emulation


Most land areas are covered in satellite imagery with a resolution of about 15m per pixel, and some population centers are also covered in aircraft imagery(orthophtography) of several pixels per meter. Oceans are covered in much lower resolution.

Due to the limited spatial resolution of the altitude map, altitudes are often inaccurate, especially the altitude of small features, like mountain tops; e.g. Mount Everest's height is short by 253m, and the sea near Gibraltar is shown with an altitude of 252m.

Unlike the satellite images, the orthophotography has a perspective from close to the surface, leading to distortions when used in a mosaic. Tall buildings sometimes appear to be leaning towards each other (conspicuous in e.g. Chicago at South Clark Street, in the middle of downtown; or near the Empire State building in New york City). The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge on the Bosporus may be another example of this effect. However, this effect is inevitable with any source of aerial photography, and is present in Getmapping's imagery of England and Wales, and the providers of much of the detailed photography have processed the images so that the joins are as seamless as possible.

Google has resolved many inaccuracies in the vector mapping since the original public release of the software, without requiring an update to the program itself. An example of this was the absence of the Nunavut territory in Canada, an area comparable in size to Western Europe. Google Earth's map boundaries of Northern Canada showed only the Northwest Territories, not the division of Nunavut created on April 1, 1999. This inaccuracy was corrected by one of the data updates in early 2006. Recent updates have also increased the coverage of detailed aerial photography, particularly in western Europe. Yet aeroplanes that were in flight as the pictures were taken are clearly visible - a prime example being a plane flying over the Devil's Punch bowl, Hindhead, Surrey, UK that dramatically blocks the view.

Place name and road detail vary greatly from place to place, and are most accurate in the USA and Europe, although regular mapping updates tend to improve this. Also, the north and south Poles are marked as 89°59'60" N and 89°59'60" S respectively, rather than the correct 90°00'00" N and 90°00'00" S.

The images are not all taken at the same time, but are generally current to within three years. Image sets are sometimes not correctly stitched together. Updates to the photographic database can occasionally be noticed when placemarks appear to shift unexpectedly across the earth's surface. Though the placemarks have not in fact moved, the imagery is composed and stitched differently. Such an update to London's photography in early 2006 created shifts of 15-20 metres in many areas, noticeable because the resolution is so high.

The "Measure" function shows that the length of equator is about 40,030.24 km, giving an error of −0.112% compared with the actual value of 40,075.02 km; for the meridional circumference, it shows a length of about 39,963.13 km, also giving an error of −0.112% compared with the actual value of 40,007.86 km.

The stars in the background are not random. Google Earth uses a real star map to render the background.


US bias

The software, in particular the search engine, is criticised for its US-bias; for example, entering in searches for "Birmingham" and for "St. Petersburg" bring up US cities, as opposed to the original and larger cities of those names (in the UK and Russia respectively). Fortunately, in Google Earth 4 (beta), more major cities can be found without typing in the country name (eI: Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, Cairo, Cape, Town, Colegne (Köln), Lima, and Jerusalem). Still, some places outside of the US can't be found with the search function unless the country name is added and written out in full (except for "UK" and "MX"), while you can simply abbreviate states for US locations.

The default setting is to U.S. customary units, despite metric units being the international standard officially adopted by every nation but three (the U.S, Liberia, and Myanmar, although Liberia and Myanmar use metric in practice). Critics assert that while the units can be changed, they should be set to metric by default, as well as pointing out that the 3D buildings feature is also limited at present to major US cities. Others counter that, as an American creation by a predominantly US-based corporation, it is Google's right to give preference to that country. Additionally, Google Earth has recently had their largest update of earth imagery, making at least 33% of land covered by satellite images.

Google has also admitted problems with the software on systems using non-ASCII characters, for example, Chinese or Japanese.

Naming disputes

Some South Korean users have been angered by the fact that Google Earth and Google mapsKorean Peninsula. Examples include bays near Busan (labelled Nakutogu Po and Kanrai ho), Masan (labelled Masan Ko, Kisan-ko, and Unchen Wan), and Goseong (labelled Kojo-wan, Toto wan, Nan Wan, and Toei kawan). use Japanese names for bays along the southeastern coast of the

The software was criticized by Taiwanese users because the island was labelled as a province of mainland China. This has since been changed, but the change has angered the People's Republic of China.

Google Earth confuses towns in Poland and Germany: Jelenia Gora in Poland is incorrectly referred to as hirschberg, whereas Gorlitz on the west side of the border is called Zgorzelec, the name of its Polish neighbour.

Google Earth, under "alternate place names," includes "Jerusalem" and "Yerushalayim" but does not include the Arabic name for the city, "Al Quds".

National security and privacy issues

The software has been criticised by a number of groups, including national officials, as being an invasion of privacy and even posing a threat to national security. The typical argument is that the software provides information about military or other critical installations that could be used by terrorists. The following is a selection of such concerns:

  • The Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam has expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in India.
  • The South Korean government has expressed concern that the software offers images of the presidential palace and various military installations that could possibly be used by their hostile neighbour North Korea.
  • Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia asked Google to censor high resolution pictures of the facility. However, they later withdrew the request.

Additionally some citizens, particularly the rich or famous, as well as victims or perpetrators of crime, may have concerns over aerial information depicting their properties and residences being diseminated freely. As relatively few jurisdictions actually guarantee the individual's right to privacy, as opposed to the state's right to secrecy, this is an evolving, but minor, point. Perhaps aware of these critiques, for a time, Google had Area 51 (which is highly visible and easy to find) in Nevada as a default placemark when Google Earth is first installed.

As a result of pressure from the United States government, the residence of the Vice PresidentNumber One Observatory Circle is obscured through pixelization in Google Earth and Google

Google Earth Community

The Google Earth Community is an online forum which is dedicated to produce placemarks of interesting or educational perspectives. It may be found on the Google Earth webpage or under the Help section on the program itself. After downloading a placemark, it will automatically run Google Earth (if not opened), and fly to the area specified by the person who placed it. Once there, you can add it to your "My Places" by right clicking on the icon and selecting "Save to My Places". Additionally, anyone can post a placemark for others to download; as long as you have an account.

Google Earth Plus

Google Earth can be upgraded to a "Plus" edition for $20. Google Earth Plus is an individual-oriented paid subscription upgrade to Google Earth and adds the following features:

  • GPS integration – read tracks and waypoints from a GPS device. 3rd party applications have been created which provide this functionality using the basic version of Google Earth by generating KML files based on user-specified waypoints. However, these tools only work with specific GPS devices whereas Google Earth Plus provides support for the Magellan and Garmin product lines, who together hold a large share of the GPS market.
  • Higher resolution printing.
  • Customer support via email.
  • Annotation – adds draw/sketch tools for richer annotations (can be shared as KML).
  • Data importer – read address points from CSv files.

Google Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro is a business-oriented paid upgrade to Google Earth that has more features than the "Plus" version and costs $400 to purchase. The Pro version is capable of running additional add-on software


Google Video

Google Video is a free Google service that allows anyone to upload video clips to Google's web servers as well as make their own media available free of charge or commercially through the Gogle Video Store. Users can search and play videos directly from Google Video, as well as download video files and remotely embed them on their webpages.

Competing services include YouTube, iFilm, MetaCafe and IFC Medialab.

Video content

Google Video, while officially still inbeta, is targeted towards offering a large archive of freely searchable videos. Besides amateur media, internet videos, viral ads, and movie trailers, the service also aims to distribute commercial professional media, such as televised content and movies.

Various media companies offer content on Google Video for purchase, including CBS programs, NBA music videos, and independent film. Initially, the content of a number of broadcasting companies (such as ABC, NBC, CNN) was available as free streaming content or stills with closed captioning. In addition, the U.S. National Archive uses Google Video to make historic films available online.

Video distribution methods

Google Video offers free services and commercial videos, the latter protected with digital rights management. An Adobe Flash viewer plays videos in Flash Video (.flv) format inside the web browser. Alternatively Google Video Player is available for download, a VLC media player-ased application which runs on Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. The open-sourceGoogle Video File (.gvi) media format and supports playlists in Google Video Pointer (.gvp) format. Google Video Player renders files in Google's own

GVI format and conversion

Google Video Files (.gvi) are Audio Video Interleave (.avi) files with an extra list with the FourCC "goog" immediately following the header. The video is encoded in Divx4 alongside an MP3 audio stream. DivX video players and various portable video players such as the Archos AV500 can render Google Video Files without format conversion after changing the extension from .gvi to .avi. Among other software VirtualDub is able to read .gvi files and allows to convert them into different formats of choice.

AVI and MP4

Besides Flash Video and GVI, Google provides its content through Audio Video Interleave (.avi) and MPEG4 (.mp4) files. Not all formats are available through the website's interface, however, depending on the user's operating system.

Third-party extensions

Third party browser extensions, corresponding scripts, bookmarklets and websites facilitate direct and straightforward access to all available formats as well as offering access to users of operating systems not officially supported by Google Video.

External embedding of Google Video files

Google Video allows select videos to be remotely embedded on other websites and provides the necessary HTML code alongside the media, similar to YouTube. This allows for websites to host large amounts of video remotely on Google Video without running into bandwidth or storage capacity issues.

Uploading videos

Users may choose to upload videos either through the Google Video website (limited to 100MB) or alternatively through the Google Video Uploader, available for Microsoft Windows , Mac OS X and Linux. Major producers with a thousand or more hours of video can apply for Google's Premium Program.

While the application is available as three separate downloads, the Linux version is written in java, a cross-platform programming language, and will therefore also work on other operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, without modifications, providing that the Java Runtime Enviroonment (JRE) is installed. Also worthy of note is the fact that this Java executable (.jar) file is a standalone application that does not require installation. Consequently, it can be run from removable media such as USB flash drives, CD-ROMS, or network storage. This allows the user to upload video even if the computer terminal on which he or she is working will not allow him or her to install programs, such as a public library computer.

Availability of service

While initially only available in the United States, over time Google Video has become available to users in more countries and can now be accessed from many other countries, including France and Germany.

Regardless of general availability, content providers are given the opportunity to limit access to video files to only users from certain countries of residence. However, methods of circumventing geographical filtering exist.


Google Video is sometimes criticized for its poor video quality, although this criticism is not unique to Google. The video quality may depend on a variety of factors, including the quality of the original media, conversion into video formats used by Google Video, and reduction of resolution to fit the website.

Another popular criticism is that Google Video has little organization of content and no noticeable pricing scheme. However, pay content is arranged in a few categories. A video ranking in the form of a Top 100 has been introduced and the official Google Video Blog features "Google Picks" (videos considered noteworthy by Google) on a regular basis. "Google Picks" are currently also available via the Google Video homepage.

While the lack of a fixed pricing scheme may be perceived as confusing by a number of users, it does offer content providers a wider scope in terms of individual pricing. Whether this pricing concept will be accepted and retained beyond beta remains to be seen.

There has also been criticism regarding varying standards used by Google on evaluating the content of each video for suitability. For example, Google might accept a video featuring graphic violence and profanity, but reject a milder one, with no apparent means of objective analysis.

The video uploading tool also receives various complaints, due to its "Uploading failed" error message which seems to appear in random cases without any explanation why the upload was not successful. Google has not yet addressed this issue.

Menus & Annotations

Additional criticism of Google Video has been on a lack of end user tools to add tables of content and chapters to the videos. Tools that make the videos easier to annotate, view, navigate and understand. This is very true for longer format videos, those more than a few minutes in length. This will limit the growth and acceptance of the service for longer format videos like lectures, sporting events and distance education.


Google File System

Google File System (GFS) is a proprietary distributed fie system based on Linux and developed by Google for their applications' use. It does not appear to be publicly available; as it builds on and does not actually incorporate any ext3 or Linux's GPL'ed code, there is no legal requirement to distribute it.


GFS is optimized for Google's core data storage needs, web searching, which can generate enormous amounts of data that needs to be retained;Google File System grew out of an earlier Google effort, "BigFiles", developed by Larry page and Sergei Brin in the early days of Google, whilst it was still located in Stanford. The data is stored persistently, in very large, even multiple gigabyte-sized files which are only extremely rarely deleted, overwritten, or shrunk; files are usually appended to or read. It is also designed and optimized to run on Google's computing clusters, the nodes of which are comprised of cheap, "commodity" computers, which means precautions must be taken against the high failure rate of individual nodes and the subsequent data loss. Other design decisions select for high data throughputs, even when that makes latency worse.

The nodes are divided into two types: Master nodes and Chunkservers. Chunkservers store the data files, with each individual file broken up into fixed size chunks (hence the name) of about 64 megabytes, similar to clusters or sectors in regular file systems. Each chunk is assigned a unique 64-bit label, and logical mappings of files to constituent chunks are maintained. Each chunk is replicated a fixed number of times throughout the network, the default being three, but even more for high demand files like executables.

The Master server doesn't usually store the actual chunks, but rather all the metadata associated with the chunks, such as the tables mapping the 64-bit labels to chunk locations and the files they make up, the locations of the copies of the chunks, what processes are reading or writing to a particular chunk, or taking a "snapshot" of the chunk pursuant to replicating it (usually at the instigation of the Master server, when, due to node failures, the number of copies of a chunk has fallen beneath the set number). All this metadata is kept current by the Master server periodically receiving updates from each chunk server ("Heart-beat messages").

Permissions for operations are handled by a system of time-limited, expiring "leases", where the Master server grants permission to a process for a finite period of time during which no other process will be granted permission by the Master server to access the chunk. The modified chunkserver, which is always the primary chunk holder, then propagates the changes to the chunkservers with the backup copies. The changes are not saved until all chunkservers acknowledge, thus guaranteeing the completion and atomicity of the operation.

Programs access the chunks by first querying the Master server for the locations of the desired chunks; if the chunks are not being operated on (if there are no outstanding leases), the Master replies with the locations, and the program then contacts and receives the data from the chunkserver directly (similar to Kazaa and its Supernodes).


There can only be one Master server- the code does not allow multiple Masters. This appears to be a flaw limiting the system's scalability and reliability, since its maximum size and up-time is limited by the Master server's capability and up-time, and since it catalogs all the metadata, and since also almost all actions and requests flow through it; but Google's engineers argue that it is not, as GFS scales very well. Metadata is very compact, mere kilobytes to the megabyte, and the Master server is typically one of the most capable nodes on the network; for reliability, there is typically a "shadow" Master server, mirroring the main Master server which steps in if the Master server fails. Also, it is rarely a bottleneck, since clients only request the metadata, and typically cache it; subsequent interactions proceed directly with the chunkservers. Similarly, using a single Master server drastically cuts down on the software complexity that would be requisite to ensure data integrity, atomicity of operations, load balancing, and security, (to name only a few issues) if there were multiple Master servers


Google Groups

Google Groups is a free groups and mailing list service from Google. Using Google Groups, one can find groups related to their interests and participate in threated conversations. Besides posting to the group through the Google Groups web interface, users also can post to a group by sending an e-mail to the group's e-mail address. They can also create their own groups and access Usenet newsgroup dating back to 1981.


In February 2001, Google acquired which provided a search engine to access an archive of Usenet newsgroup articles. Users were then able to access these Usenet newsgroups through the new Google Groups interface. By the end of 2001 the archive was completed with messages dating back to 11 May, 1981. Shortly after, Google released a new version, which allowed users to create their own (non-Usenet) groups.

In February 2006, Google added several features to Google Groups. These features include an enhanced interface, profiles and rating posts.

Interface features

Groups search

Google Groups allows users to use Google Search to easily search all groups with the search box at the top. The search will return the posts which most match the search query, and if any groups match, they will be displayed at the top of the results with a link to the Google Groups directory.

There is also a feature, which searches the group in real time when writing a new message - in a box titled "Have you looked at these messages?", probably to decrease the number of threads dealing with the same topics over and over again.


Google Groups has a directory of most Google groups and Usenet groups. Some group owners have set their groups to not appear in the directory. The directory organizes groups by topic, region, language, activity level and number of members.


Users may create public profiles which display their name, nickname, location, title, industry, website, blog and quote, as well as the most recent posts they made. Their profiles are accessible to anyone by clicking on "View Profile" beside any of their posts.

Joining/subscribing to a group

Subscribing to a group offers the following benefits:

  • The subscriber will be e-mailed posts that are posted to the group.
  • Most groups require you to subscribe to them in order to post replies, and some require you to subscribe to read the group archive.
  • The subscriber is allowed to select a Nickname which will appear beside all their posts in the group. If a user posts as a non-subscriber, their e-mail address will appear beside their posts, which invites spam.

There are four subscription options, Email, Digest Email, Abridged Email and No Email:

  • Email: Every time a post is sent to a group, it will be forwarded to the subscriber through e-mail
  • Digest Email: For every 25 posts sent to a group, the subscriber will receive an e-mail with the messages.
  • Abridged Email: A summary of activity in the group, including the number of posts and topics posted, together with a list of the most active threads, will be sent to the subscriber daily.
  • No Email: The subscriber will not receive any e-mail from the group.

Reading a group archive/list of threads

There are two options for viewing the list of threads. "View with message text" is the default. It shows the title of a thread, the first few lines of the originating post, the author, number of messages, date and rating. The threads are sorted by the time they were created, with the newest thread going on top. "Viewing titles only" has two sub-options, "Sort by date of first message", which displays the title, rating, number of messages, author, and date the thread was created; and "Sort by date of most recent message" (see screenshot on right), which displays the title, rating, number of messages, name of last poster for each thread, and the date/time of the last post in each thread.

Posting and reading in a thread

In the default view, Google Groups displays posts in a thread in pages of 25 posts each. However, in "view as tree" mode, Google Groups displays posts in pages of 10 posts each. If there are new messages in a thread since the user last checked, clicking on the thread name jumps to the first new post. Otherwise, it jumps to the last page.

Above every post is a box displaying the poster's nickname, the post's rating, the date the post was sent, and a "show options" link, which opens up options for removing the post (only if the user is the poster, a manager or owner), reporting it to Google, finding all posts by the same author, printing the post, forwarding the post to a friend, and viewing the message headers.

Below every post, there is a "reply" link which, when clicked, opens a text box for users to quickly send replies. There is another slower method to reply, accessible through Show Options, which allows a user toquote the original post. There is another option to send an e-mail reply to the original poster, also accessible through Show Options. Replies will be displayed in the thread almost immediately, unless the group or user is moderated; in that case, the post will be sent to the moderators who will have to approve the post before it is displayed.

Users can submit posts with images and files by attaching the file to an e-mail message and sending it to the group's e-mail address. If, for example, a user does not have the rights to post to the group, or the user or group is moderated, posts sent using this method will be treated accordingly, as if they are normal posts.

Rating posts

A user can rate a post with 1 to 5 out of 5 stars. A post's rating is based on the average of all the user ratings it gets, and a thread's rating is based on the average rating of all the posts in the thread, and is displayed next to the thread author (in View with message text mode) or thread name (in Viewing titles only mode).

Starring threads

In the thread list, there is a star next to every thread. Once clicked on, the star turns yellow and the thread is "starred", and it appears in the user's "My starred topics" list.

E-mail masking

To prevent scammers or spammers from harvesting e-mail addresses from a group, Google replaces the last three letters of a username in an e-mail address with periods. To view the full e-mail address, one has to click on the periods and enter a verification code to prove they are human, after which a page will load with the full e-mail addresses displayed.

Creating groups

Google Groups allows users to easily create their own groups. During the creation proccess, the user is prompted for a group name, e-mail address, description, and access setting, and then adds or invites members to the new group.

Managing groups

A moderator (owner or manager) can edit the group's name, description and e-mail address, get a promotion box, add or remove categories to the group, modify the access settings (access of memberships, invites, archives, and directory listing), modify posting and delivery settings (posting privileges and moderation, availability of replies and subject prefixes), modify related groups, and browse the membership list (invite, add, ban or unsubscribe members, and make them a manager or owner, and change their delivery type).

Adding or inviting members

Members of a group with the privileges to do so can invite or add new members to the group. In the process, they will be asked to set a subscription type for the new member, and enter a welcome message. The new member will receive a notification e-mail. People who do not have a Google Account may be invited or added, but they need to create a Google Account to accept the invite and post to the group.


URL and e-mail address of a group

When creating a group, the owner must specify a group name which will be part of the group's URL and e-mail address. The "username" can be changed later.

The URL of a Google group is followed by the group's name.

The e-mail address of a Google group is the group's name followed by

For example, if the group's name is MinorsMajor, the group's URL will be and the e-mail address will be

Google Groups vs. Usenet

Google Groups provides access to Usenet newsgroup as well. When AOL discontinued access to Usenet, it recommended Google Groups instead.

Google Groups honors the "X-No-Archive : Yes" header field, and removes messages with it (in the message header or as first line of the message body) from its archive after 7 days.

The URL for accessing Usenet newsgroups through Google Groups is followed by the group's hierarchy. For example, the Usenet group's URL is

With some tricks Google Groups allow to search related newsgroups for a given topic, an example is the shorthand (redirect) for searches in net-abuse groups:


Google Groups is often accused of lacking security. Many trolls, spammers and flamers have joined Google Groups to carry out their intended purpose without being identified. There are cases of people who join groups, request managerial privileges, and then delete the entire group before moving on to another group. The recent introduction of profiles is evidently intended to deal with this problem.

Owners of Google groups have little flexibility in controlling the privileges their managers have. Managers can do almost everything owners can, except removing or banning owners, and deleting groups. This makes it easier for managers to destroy groups. Yahoo! Groups, the main competitor to Google Groups, allows owners to decide the privileges given to managers.

Groups lack customization options, such as color schemes, logos etc. Unlike Yahoo! Groups, it does not have attachment, poll, and other "fun" features. Currently the only way to send a file to a group as an attachment is to email it to the group address.

Google Groups also suffers from many well-known bugs. A number next to a group name indicates the number of unread posts in that group. However, the post count is seldom accurate. Groups that one has subscribed to often appear under "Recently visited" instead of "My recent groups". Sometimes the date attached to a post is several hours in the future. Some users have blocked moderators from adding them to groups, but a bug in the membership list that moderators can access allows them to invite the victim first, and then add them from the open invitations list.

After Google introduced profiles and post ratings, it was accused of being presumptuous and trying to take over Usenet. Users who post to Usenet newsgroups through a newsreader will not understand when users who post through Google Groups talk about ratings and profiles.

Finally, threads which have no replies for a month become frozen, after which they may not be replied to.


Ad serving

Ad serving describes the technology and service that places advertisements on web sites. Ad serving technology companies provide software to web sites and advertisers to serve ads, count them, choose the ads that will make the web site or advertiser most money, and monitor progress of different advertising campaigns.

Two types of internet companies use ad serving: web sites and advertisers. The main purpose of using an ad server is different for both of them:

For a web site, the ad server needs to look through all the ads available to serve to a user who is on a page, and choose the one that will make the web site the most money, but still conform to the rules that the advertiser and web site have agreed. For example if a web site has 10 different advertisers that have paid for a big square ad, the ad server must decide which one to serve (or display). One advertiser may have only agreed to pay for ads from 9am - 5pm. If it is after 5pm, then the Ad Server must not serve that one. Another advertiser may only have paid to show one ad to each user per day. The ad server must therefore see if a user has seen that ad before, on that day and not serve it again if the user has seen it. Another advertiser may have agreed to a high price, but only if the person watching the page is in the United States. In that case, the Ad Server needs to check the IP Address to determine if the user is in the US and then decide which is the highest paying ad for that user, in the US, at that time, given what that user has seen in the past.

For an advertiser the ad server needs to try to serve the ad that is most likely to result in a sale of the product advertised. For example if a user is viewing a page, the advertiser's ad server needs to decide from previous history, what ad that user is most likely to click on and then buy the product advertised. If the user is on a technology page, then the ad server may know that on technology types of pages, the ad that works best is a blue one with mostly text and pricing and numbers, not the green ad with a picture of a model and little text. The central ad server will therefore serve this ad, to try and get the highest probability of a sale from the ad.

Ad Serving is most complex when it is used by an Advertising Network. An advertising network buys ads from many web sites and therefore acts like an advertiser user of Ad Serving. When the network buys ads, it tries to place ads on sites where they work best. However an ad network then sells its aggregated ad inventory to advertisers. When doing this, it uses its Ad Serving software as a web site does. In this case it tries to make the most money by only running the ads from advertisers that pay most.



Gmail is a free webmail and POP3 e-mail service provided by Google, known for its abundant storage and advanced interface. It is known as Google Mail in the United Kingdom and Germany. Its competitors include AIM Mail, Windos\ws Live Mail (also known as MSN Hotmail) and Yahoo! Mail.

Initially released on April 1, 2004, Gmail was almost immediately successful in reaching a wide range of users, rapidly evolving in response to suggestions and criticisms. After two years, Gmail is still in "beta". Currently, access to the service is restricted to those who had received an invitation from an existing account holder, from blogger, or through their mobile phone. Google has stated that the purpose of the invitation system is to reduce the amount of abuse, as spammers cannot register near-infinite numbers of accounts as they can do with other services such as Hotmai, where registration is completely open.


Gmail inbox

The main inbox view, as rendered by the Mozilla Firefox browser in Windows XP. Rather than showing individual e-mails, Gmail groups e-mails into Conversations, which are threads of e-mail correspondences, with the number of messages in each indicated in parenthesis.

While Gmail is not entirely open to the general public yet, most Gmail users have many invites to spare, as Google gives users anything from 2 to 100 free invitations (and frequently replenishes them, as a reward for users who frequently check their Gmail accounts. It is also possible to sign up if one has a mobile phone from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, New Zealand, Philippines, or the United States via SMS Signup or a .edu e-mail address from an accredited U.S. institution. One can find free Gmail invites at various Web sites, such as the ones shown under External Links or even for sale at online auctions. However, Google has prohibited the sale of Gmail addresses.

The service is notable for providing over 2.7 gigabytes (and counting) of storage space, increased from the original limit of 1000 megabytes. This change was announced on April 1, 2005, and was made for the one-year anniversary of Gmail. The announcement was accompanied by a statement that Google would "keep giving people more space forever." All Google will say about this now is that it will keep increasing by the second as long as they have enough space on their servers. Although Gmail's storage space continously goes up, Google is increasing the inbox capacity by a nominal four one-millionths of a megabyte (as of July 31, 2006).

Gmail also has an integrated calendar named "Google Calendar" (formerly CL2) that was launched on april 12, 2006.

Gmail makes intensive use of Ajax (specifically, the AjaxXSLT framework), employing modern browser features such as java Script and keyboard access keys, allowing for a rich user experience, while retaining the benefits of a web application. Most importantly, the service is available on any computer with a supported browser: internet Explorer 5.5+, Mozilla Application Suite 1.4+, Firefox 0.8+, Safari 1.2.1+, Netscape 7.1+. Gmail also offers "Basic HTML view" to allow users to access the Gmail messages from almost any computer running browsers that do not fully support the more advanced features, such as Internet Explorer 4.0+, Netscape 4.07+ or Opera 6.03+. Gmail's Help Center provides a list of fully supported browsers. Gmail has recently also become accessible through WAP-enabled mobile phones. It also works on the PSP web browser, but is not fully supported.

There has been some criticism about Gmail's information and privacy policies. Much of it stems from phrases in Gmail's Privacy Policy which state that Gmail will keep all e-mail for "some time" even if it has been deleted or the account terminated and that Gmail will disclose personal information (including the actual text of e-mails) if it has a "good faith belief" that such a disclosure is necessary for various reasons such to "protect the rights, property or safety of ... the public." Similarly, some privacy advocates criticize the lack of disclosed data retention and correlation policies. More than 30 privacy and civil rights organizations have urged Google to suspend the Gmail service until these issues are resolved.

Awards and support

Gmail was ranked second in PC World's "The 100 Best Products of 2005", behind Mozilla Firefox. Gmail also won 'Honorable Mention' in the Bottom Line Design Awards 2005. mail has drawn many favorable reviews from users.


Conversation views

The main innovation of Gmail might be its method of categorizing e-mails, which Google calls Conversation View. In contrast to other e-mail services, Gmail keeps track of individual "conversations" (an original message, along with all the replies to that message) by grouping them together. This allows users to easily view all the e-mails related to a specific message, and it keeps the inbox more organized. Gmail's algorithm for determining how conversations fit together is not perfect, however: Single conversations sometimes become fragmented (especially when a replier changes the e-mail's subject line) and unrelated conversations occasionally become attached together. Also, if a conversation has more than approximately 100 messages, it splits into two separate storage sections, sometimes resulting in 5 or 6 chunks making up a whole conversation.

Labels instead of folders

Gmail allows users to categorize their e-mails with "labels." Labels give users a flexible method of categorizing e-mails, since an e-mail may have any number of labels (in contrast to a system in which an e-mail may belong to only one folder). Users can display all e-mails having a particular label and can use labels as a search criterion. Gmail also allows users to set up filters which label incoming e-mail automatically.

Auto save enhancement

Google has added an Auto Save feature to Gmail, a system for avoiding loss of data in case of a browser crash or other error. When composing an e-mail, a draft copy of the message and any attachments are saved automatically. Although messages begin to be saved once a minute, saving times vary depending on the size of the message.

Keyboard shortcuts

Gmail allows users to navigate its interface by using the keyboard as an accessible alternative to the mouse, which is the norm for site navigation. This feature is not enabled by default, although instruction on how to enable it are provided.

Optional dots

Gmail usernames must be between 6 and 30 characters (inclusive) and made up of only letters, numbers, and dots. The use of dots, however, are optional (that is, Gmail ignores dots when resolving addresses). Google states that "Gmail doesn't recognize dots (.) as characters within a username. This way, you can add and remove dots to your username for desired address variations." For instance, the account receives mail sent to,, etc. Likewise, the account However, when signing in it is necessary to include any dots used in the creation of the account. receives mail sent to


Gmail also supports "plus-addressing" of e-mails. Messages can be sent to addresses in the form: where extratext can be any string. Plus-addressing allows users to sign up for different services with different aliases and then easily filter all e-mails from those services.


Gmail's chat feature allows you to chat with other people that have a Gmail account. It interacts with the whole Jabber network, so it can be synchronised with Google talk. However, only text-based chat can take place within Internet Browsers; voice calling is Google Talk's advantage.

Because of the move away from e-mail, and therefore the name "Gmail", Google has changed the logo for Gmail, so that it includes '+ talk'. The logo also has a glossier finish compared to its predecessor.

The introduction of Gmail Chat allows Gmail users to easily connect to the Google Talk network on computers that do not have the Google Talk client installed, without needing third-party clients (such as Psi, miranda IM, iChat and Gaim) or web-based applications (such as Gtalkr (now defunct) or Meebo). Using the web interface, a user can have up to three chats at once.

Gmail Chat also allows the user to keep an archive of chats in their Gmail account - although this is disabled if either user in a conversation objects (called 'off the record mode' by Google). However, 'off the record' mode does not guarantee anonymity, since the other user could be using a third-party client with its own logging ability such as Gaim. The other user could also copy and paste the conversation into a text editor and save it.

Gmail also recently introduced contact pictures and introduced sound into Gmail Chat, so users receive auditory notifications when receiving an instant message through Gmail Chat.

Gmail offers a "standard without chat" view. This is the regular standard view without the chat functionality. Opera 8 supports "standard without chat" view, although it does not support "standard" view.


Google Calendar.

On April 13, 2006, Google rolled out another addition to Gmail, the Google Calendar. Highly rumored for over six months, Google fully integrated this into Gmail.

Google Calendar, like all other applications, is written in Javascript and uses AJAX. It allows the user to view their appointments by day, week, month, and the next 4 days (the length of this can be changed in settings). It allows 'quick adding' of events, in which an appointment can be added by entering a natural-language phrase containing the details of the event, rather than by filling out a detailed form. Additionally, Google Calendar provides an agenda tab that allows the user to see all upcoming events in list form.

The settings of the Calendar are highly customizable, allowing the user to change their timezone on the fly, change the day that the week starts on, create of multiple calendars, and send notifications to a cell phone.

The service allows users to invite other people to appointments and events, regardless of whether they have a Google Account. They can then RSVP, stating whether they will attend and leaving a note or comment. If the organiser enabled the feature, invitees can have the ability to send invitations and view the guest list.

The calendar also supports importing from programs such as Microsoft Outlook and iCal.


The conversation view groups related messages in a linear stack, which can be expanded and collapsed. While this does provide an innovative view of an e-mail thread, it does not provide any way to differentiate messages that branch off from the original thread. This can occur when mail is sent to multiple recipients who respond individually.

Google seems hesitant to release any upcoming plans for the implementation of these features.

Absent features

There are several features that are absent from the Gmail interface. Some of them are provided by another kind of computer program, such as Eudora, Outlook Express or Apple Mail, which can be used with a Gmail user account. For example features present in Linux mail programs (such as Kmail) are: automatic spell-checking (by red underline), "attachment warning," and automatic bounce-back of unwanted mail (imitating a mail-daemon message). Some of these absent features are offered by other webmail applications (sometimes for a price). Also, the lack of IMAP support is the most common complaint according to Most Wanted Gmail features.

Non-US interfaces

Because Google is located primarily in the United States, non-US interfaces tend to lag behind in upgrades and features:

  • Web Clips are not available through the Gmail interface
  • Google Calendar is not available through the Gmail interface

However, if non-US users change their language to "English (US)" they can access these services. Support for entering bi-directional text is currently available only in the Arabic and Hebrew interfaces.

The privacy issue

There has been a great deal of criticism regarding Gmail's privacy policy. Some of the controversy surrounded the clause "residual copies of e-mail may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted messages from your mailbox or after the termination of your account." Many believed that this meant that Google would intentionally archive copies of deleted mail forever. Google continues to rebut some of this criticism by pointing out that Gmail is using mostly industry wide practices. Google later stated that they will "make reasonable efforts to remove deleted information from our systems as quickly as is practical."

Most of the criticism, however, was against Google's plans to add context-sensitive advertisements to e-mails by automatically scanning them. Privacy advocates raised concerns that the plan involved scanning their personal, assumed private, e-mails, and that this was a security problem. Allowing e-mail content to be read, even by a computer, for advertising purposes, raises the risk that the expectation of privacy in e-mail will be reduced. Furthermore, non-subscribers' e-mail is scanned by Gmail as well, and these senders of e-mail did not agree to Gmail's terms of service or privacy policy. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that Google can change its privacy policy unilaterally, and that Google is technically able to cross-reference cookies across its information-rich product line to make dossiers on individuals. However, again the practice is standard across all email systems - it is the only way spam mail checkers can work.

Opponents of these views state that when one's e-mail is checked to see if it is spam, it is being scanned by the same process. Because a human is not reading the message, they say, it is not a problem.

Another unresolved issue discussed among privacy advocates is the lack of disclosed data retention and correlation policies. It is possible for Google to combine information contained in a person's emails with information about his Internet searches. It is not known how long such information would be kept, and how it could be used. One of the concerns is that it could be of interest to law enforcement agencies. More than 30 privacy and civil rights organizations have urged Google to suspend Gmail service until these issues are resolved.

Development history

Gmail was a project begun by Google developer Paul Buchheit years before it was ever announced to the public. For several years, the software was only available internally, as an email client for Google employees.

Gmail was finally announced to the public in 2004 amid a flurry of rumor. Owing to April Fool's day, however, the company's press release was greeted with skepticism in the technology world, especially since Google already had been known to make April Fool's Jokes (such as Pigeon Rank). However, they explained that their real joke had been a press release saying that they would take offshoring to the extreme by putting employees in a " Google Copernicus Center" on the Moon. Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's vice-president of products, was quoted by BBC News as saying, "We are very serious about Gmail."

Gmail also initially received a lot of criticism for a statement they made in their original terms of use, refusing to guarantee that all e-mails at Gmail would be deleted upon request by the user. Google later clarified that they were referring to backup copies of e-mails, and promised that all deleted mails would eventually be expunged completely from their servers. This, along with the feature that advertisements would be generated by software-based scanning of e-mails in order to better target them, gave rise to a controversy on web privacy.

Before being acquired by Google, the domain name was used by the free e-mail service offered by, online home of the comic strip Garfield. This free e-mail service has moved to

As of the 22nd of June, 2005, Gmail's canonical URI has been changed to instead of

Gmail for your domain

On February 10, 2006, Google introduce Gmail for your domain. This service, currently in beta testing, allows organizations to offer e-mail services through Gmail using their own domain. Google may eventually open the service to all domain owners, as Microsoft has with its Windows live Custom Domains service.

Google Mail

  • On july 4, 2005, Google announced that Gmail Deutschland would be rebranded Google Mail. From that point forward, visitors originating from an IP address determined to be in Germany would be forwarded to where they could obtain an email address containing the new domain. Any German user who wants a address must sign up for an account through a proxy. German users who were already registered were allowed to keep their old addresses.
  • On October 19, 2005, the United Kingdom version of Gmail was converted to Google Mail, because "Gmail" is trademarked by another company in the UK. However, this can be bypassed by using a proxy. Curiously, even though UK users' address shows up at the top of their inbox and in emails they send as, emails sent to still reach the intended recipient. Users who registered before the switch to Googlemail face no problems whatsoever - they keep their gmail address (although the logo in the top-left of the page appears as 'Googlemail'.


After Gmail's initial announcement and development, many existing web mail services quickly increased their storage capacity. For example, Hotmail went from giving some users 2MB to 25MB (250MB after 30 days, and 2 GB for hotmail plus accounts), while Yahoo! Mail went from 4MB to 100MB (and 2 GB for Yahoo! Mail Plus accounts). Yahoo! Mail storage then proceeded to 250MB, and finally, in late April of 2005, to 1GB. These were all seen as moves to stop existing users from switching to Gmail, and to capitalize on the newly rekindled public interest in web mail services. The desire to catch up was especially visible for MSN Hotmail, which upgraded its e-mail storage erratically from 250 MB to the new Windows Live Mail (beta) which includes 2 GB of storage over a number of months. In August of 2005, AOL started providing all AIM screen names with their own e-mail accounts with 2 GB of storage. Another example of competition came from ( who were offering 30 gigabytes of storage, and was also invite only, but now offers free accounts for anyone.

Every account which is inactive for 6 months is labeled dormant, and 3 months later (a total of 9 months), gets deactivated by Gmail. All stored messages get deleted and the account gets "recycled", which means the account name can be used by any other users afterwards. Other webmail services, like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, have different, often shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after four months, while Hotmail deactivates accounts after only one month.

Other than the general increase of storage limit, there has also been an improvement of the e-mail interfaces of Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail after the launch of Gmail. Gmail's ability to have an attachment size of 10MB was also matched by Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail during 2005. Following the footsteps of Gmail, Yahoo! launched the Yahoo! Mail Beta service and Microsoft launched Windows Live Mail, both now incorporating Ajax interfaces.

Help in Gmail

When users first sign up for Gmail, they are prompted to take the Gmail Tour which teaches them the basic features and what makes Gmail different. There is also a help page teaching new Gmail users how to import their contacts from their previous webmail account using CSV. However, it only offers personalized help for Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail; it has also been reported that recently-created Gmail accounts will receive a welcome e-mail with the link to the switching guide. Clicking "Help" at the top right hand corner of Gmail takes a user to the Gmail Help Center. If the Gmail Help Center does not answer a question, a user can contact Gmail. Alternatively, a user can also ask other users for help on Gmail Help Discussion, a Google group for users to give and receive help concerning Gmail.A


Google Calendar

Google Calendar, previously code-named CL2, is a contact- and time-management web application offered by Google. It allows users to synchronize their Gmail contacts with a web-based calendar. It became available on April 13, 2006 and is currently in beta stages. While users are not required to have a Gmail account, they are required to have a free Google account in order to use the software.


The interface of Google Calendar is similar to desktop calendar applications such as iCal on Mac OS X or Brown Bear Software's Calcium. The Ajax-driven interface enables users to view and add events without reloading the page, and sports a variety of view modes, such as the weekly, monthly and agenda views. Users can "quick add" calendar events by typing standard English phrases, such as "Dinner with Michael 7pm tomorrow". Users can also set the number of days to show in their custom view mode. All events in a Google Calendar can be commented on by its users.

Events are stored online, so in the case of a hard drive failure, no data is lost. The application can import Microsoft Outlook calendar files (.cvs) and iCal calendar files (.ics) (the de facto open calendaring file format), although at this stage only when the fields are all in U.S. format. Multiple calendars can be added and shared, allowing various levels of permissions for the users. This enables collaboration and sharing of schedules between groups or families. There are also general calendars available for importing into one's account which contain national holidays of various countries.

Google Calendar is integrated with Gmail, Google's web e-mail service. When an e-mail that contains trigger words (such as "meeting", or dates and times) arrives, an "add to calendar" button is automatically displayed alongside it. This feature is not yet available to all Gmail users.

Currently, Google Calendar can only be synchronized with mobile devices (e.g. BlackBerry, Palm, Pocket PC) or with PC applications (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) via third party software. This feature is offered by its main competitor, Yahoo! Calendar. Event reminders are available via SMS to most mobile phones, but only in the United States.


Since Google Calendar is a web-based application, it supports virtually any operating system, provided that it has a browser which supports the web technologies that it employs. Since it is a relatively new application, browser compatibility is limited to Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, Mozilla Firefox 1.0+ and Safari 2.0.3 with other browsers encountering rendering errors or even failing to load the page at all.


Google Answers

Google Answers is an Internet search and research service offered for a fee by Google, "answer brokering". It was launched by Google in April 2002, and went out of Beta in May 2003.


After the failure of the Google Questions and Answers service from August 2001, Google launched a new service called Google Answers in April 2002. It is an extension to the conventional search; rather than doing the search themselves, users pay someone else to do the search. Customers ask questions, offer a price for an answer, and researchers answer them. Researchers are not Google employees. They are limited in number (according to Google, there are more than 500 Researchers; in practice, there are probably fewer active Researchers) and are screened through an application process that tests their research and communications abilities.

Prices for questions range from $2 to $200; After a question is answered, Google keeps 25% of the payment, and sends the rest to the Researchers. In addition to the Researcher’s fees, a client who’s satisfied with the answer can also leave a tip.

If a question has not been answered, the client will not pay the question's price. However, in addition to the question's price, determined by the client, Google also charges a non-refundable, $0.50 listing fee. Naturally, most questions in the $2-$5 price range do not receive an answer. Once a question is answered, it remains available for anyone to browse and comment on for free.

Each question page has three parts:

  • The client's question, on which the Researcher can respond with a request for clarification
  • The answer, which may remain empty if the question hasn't been answered. Only a Researcher can post the answer. After the answer is posted, the client may communicate with the Researcher to ask for clarification on the answer; the client can also rate the answer and may tip the Researcher.
  • The comment section, where any registered user, Researchers and non-Researchers alike, can comment on the question. Some questions are "answered" in comments. Naturally, this section, too, could be left empty, if no comments have been posted.

Researchers with low ratings can be fired, encouraging eloquence and accuracy. Also, Google states that people who comment may be selected to become researchers, therefore inspiring high quality comments. This service came out of beta in May 2003 and currently receives more than one hundred question postings per day. For a Researcher, a question is answered by logging into a special researchers page and then "locking" a question they want to answer. This act of "locking" claims the question for that researcher.


Google Answers’ policy prohibits the Researchers from answering questions about the following subjects:

  • questions whose answers would promote illegal activities (for example, how to make a bomb)
  • copyright infringements and violations
  • Breach of privacy (for example, private phone numbers, email address, etc.)
  • Homework assignments
  • Questions about Google Answers itself, or about Google policies and mechanisms (Page Rank), for example).
  • Google Answers prohibits its Researchers from answering with links to adult oriented.



Some librarians have criticised Google Answers as a service selling services that are part of the tasks of public librarians (in the United States). The most vocal of these critics has been a former Google Answers Researcher, whose contract has been terminated after violating the site’s terms of service. Other librarians have claimed that the service provides useful help, in parallel, and not instead of, reference librarians.

Google Answers as encouraging plagiarism

Some of Google Answers critics have claimed that the service encourages plagiarism. The official Google Answers policy is to remove questions that are seen as school assignments. However, some journalists have expressed their concern that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between a “legitimate” question and a homework assignment, especially in regards to sciences and programming. Google Answers’ public structure, or the fact that all answers will be later publicly available, prevents much plagiarism.

Unconventional usages

Except for the conventional usage — asking questions and getting answers that are appropriate to the price offered — several unique unconventional usages have been developed. Despite its professionalism, Google Answers has also developed its own unique cyberculture.

Nonsense questions

One of the popular non-conventional usages is to ask — usually but not always within the realm of the $2-$5 price range- nonsense questions. One of the most popular questions of this genre is in fact one of the most frequently asked questions on Google Answers — “What is the meaning of life? Others questions request jokes or Chuck Norris "facts". Google Answers Researchers are not always keen to answer such questions.


Because the comment section is open for any registered user, it is sometimes abused by spammers, attempting to promote a site’s PageRank by mentioning their sites. Google Answers' team removes such spam.

Political discussions

Similarly to those posting nonsense questions, some users present their Google Answers version of trolling, by posting political statements in order to provoke a discussion, rather than get an answer.


Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Its main highlight is that a webmaster can optimize his ad campaigns through GA's analysis of where the visitors came from, how long they stayed on the website, and their geographical position.

Google's service was modeled upon Urchin Software Corporation's analytics system, Urchin on Demand (Google acquired Urchin Software Corp. in April 2005). Google still sells the standalone installable Urchin software through a network of value-added resellers.

The Google-branded version was rolled-out in November 2005 to anyone who wished to sign up. However due to very high demand for the service, new sign-ups were suspended only a few days later. As capacity was added to the system, Google began using a lottery-type invitation-code model. Currently, Google is sending out batches of invitation codes as server availability permits.

Google has been working to improve system performance, and reports now generally update in less than 1 hour. All users can officially add up to 5 site profiles, and "pre-free" customers can add up to 50. Each profile generally corresponds to one URL.

GA's approach is to show basic dashboard-type data for the casual user, and more in-depth data further into the report set. There are currently over 80 distinct reports, each customizable to some degree. GA also offers three dashboard views of data, Executive, Marketer, and Webmaster.




is Google's flagship advertising product, and main source of revenue. AdWords offers pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and site-targeted advertising for both text and banner ads. The AdWords program includes local, national, and international distribution. Google's text advertisements are short, consisting of one title line and two content text lines. Image ads can be one of several different Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) standard sizes.

Pay-Per-Click advertisements (PPC)

Advertisers specify the words that should trigger their ads and the maximum amount they are willing to pay per click. When a user searches Google's search engine on, ads for relevant words are shown as "sponsored link" on the right side of the screen, and sometimes above the main search results. The ordering of the paid listings depends on other advertisers' bids (thus the system is classified as P4P) and the historical click-through rates of all ads shown for a given search. The auction mechanism that determines the order of the ads has been called a "generalized second price" auction. It is a variation of the Vickrey auction.

Site targeted advertisements

In 2005 Google introduced site-targeted advertising. Using the AdWords control panel, advertisers can enter keywords of interest, and Google will recommend relevant sites within their content network. Advertisers then bid on a cost per mille (CPM) basis for placement.

AdWords distribution

All AdWords ads are eligible to be shown on Advertisers also have the option of enabling their ads to show on Google's partner networks. The "search network" includes AOL search,, and Netscape. Like, these search engines show AdWords ads in response to user searches.

The "content network" shows AdWords ads on sites that are not search engines. Google automatically determines the subject of the pages and displays ads for which the advertiser has specified an interest in that subject. The ads show in boxes resembling banner ads, with the designation "Ads By Gooooooooooogle." These content network sites are those that use AdSense, the other side of the Google advertising model.

AdWords is used by publishers who wish to bring traffic to their websites. The biggest competitors are Yahoo! Search Marketing (formerly Overture) and Microsoft adCenter.


The AdWords product was launched in 2000. At first advertisers would pay a monthly amount, and Google would set up and manage their campaign. To accommodate small businesses and those who wanted to manage their own campaigns, Google soon introduced the AdWords self-service portal. As of 2005, Google provides a campaign management service called Jumpstart to assist advertisers in setting up their campaigns.

In 2005, Google launched a program to certify individuals and companies who have completed AdWords training and passed an exam. Due to the complexity of AdWords and the amount of money at stake, many advertisers choose to hire a consultant to manage their campaigns.

Legal context

AdWords has generated lawsuits in the area of tradermark law and click fraud. Google recently settled a click fraud lawsuit for US$90 million.

Ad blocking and Adwords


The ads are displayed on the top or right hand side of the natural search results. The ads are pure text, and thus difficult to block for normal ad-blocking software. However, the Mozilla Firefox extension CustomizeGoogle can remove them.

Content network

Advertisements on content websites are displayed via javascript-generated iframes and can be easily blocked, either by turning off javascript or using ad-blocking software such as adblock.


The search proxy Scroogle allows users to perform Google searches without receiving Google advertisements.


The AdWords system was initially implemented on top of the MySQL database engine. After the system had been launched, management decided to use a commercial database (Oracle) instead. As is typical of applications simultaneously written and tuned for one database, and ported to another, the system became much slower, so eventually it was returned to MySQL.