News > 2010

Google Maps Readabilty

Category: Google Maps | Dec 3, 2010

Google Maps & Label Readability

I’m a big fan of Justin O’Beirne’s 41Latitude blog about maps, technology and usability. Justin’s two posts on the Google Maps Styled Maps feature, Styled Maps Using Google Maps API Version 3 and Additional Examples of Styled Maps Using Google Maps API V3 are essential reading for anyone who wants to add a little style to their Google Maps creations.

Justin has posted a new article today on the readability of the major online map providers. The article provides some excellent analysis of the variety of techniques and visual tricks used by Google Maps to make its city labels much more readable than those of its competitors. The article is illustrated throughout with some excellent comparisons between Google Maps and its competitors, such as Bing Maps and Yahoo Maps.



Friday Fun with Google Maps

Category: Google Maps | Dec 3, 2010

Create Your Own Planetarium

The problem with living in a major city is that light pollution ruins your appreciation of the stars. That’s why urban stag-gazing has been invented.

Mapping a Day in Twitter
Chris McDowall has used Matplotlib with the Basemap extension to animate 25 hours of Tweets on a world map.

Streeview Names

Now that Street View blurs faces Google has decided to start adding name tags to people so that you can know who they are. Unfortunately, for those who want to be named, you have to have the name of a nearby store.



2011 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

Category: Google | Dec 2, 2010

(Cross-posted on the Google Students Blog)

Dr. Anita Borg devoted her life to revolutionizing the way we think about technology and dismantling the barriers that keep women and minorities from entering the computing and technology fields. In honor of Anita’s vision, we established the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship in 2004, awarding scholarships to women who share her passion for technology. Once again, we’re proud to announce the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarships in the U.S. and Canada. The deadline to apply for the 2011 scholarship is Tuesday, February 1, 2011.

  • The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is open to current female students who are entering their senior year of undergraduate study or enrolled in a graduate program in the 2011-2012 academic year at a university in the United States or Canada. Students should be enrolled in a computer science, computer engineering or a closely related technical program, and maintain a record of strong academic performance. Scholars and finalists will be announced in May 2011 and will be invited to attend the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat—a three-day networking retreat at the Googleplex in Mountain View in the summer of 2011.
  • The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for First Years is open to current female high school seniors who are intending to enroll as full-time students at a university in the U.S. for the 2011-2012 academic year. Applicants should have a record of strong academic performance and plan to pursue a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical program. The winning scholars will be invited to attend the Google FUSE networking retreat in 2012.

You can hear from some of this year’s scholars on how receiving the Anita Borg scholarship has impacted them:

For those of you outside of North America, the Google Anita Borg Scholarship program is also available in Asia, Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and New Zealand—visit for more information.

Finally, the Anita Borg Scholarship is just one of many scholarships and networking opportunities we offer to students in order to encourage them to excel in technology and become active role models and leaders in the field. For more information about all of Google’s scholarship programs, please visit

Posted by Azusa Hanashima, Talent & Outreach Programs


YouTube highlights – 12/2/2010

Category: Google | Dec 2, 2010

This is the latest in our series of YouTube highlights. Every couple of weeks, we bring you regular updates on new product features, interesting programs to watch and tips you can use to grow your audience on YouTube. Just look for the label “YouTube Highlights” and subscribe to the series. – Ed.

Since our last update, we’ve premiered a new film on YouTube, highlighted a host of holiday content to get you geared up for cooking, entertaining and decorating with style, celebrated the one-year anniversary of auto-captions on YouTube and introduced a “viewer’s choice” video ad format.

New film premieres on YouTube
Wong Fu Productions (Wesley Chan, Ted Fu, Philip Wang) and Ryan Higa premiered their new film, Agents of Secret Stuff, on YouTube. Written in a few days and shot in an intense week by a small crew, the movie is a powerful example of what a little ingenuity and a video camera can do. More than 3 million people have already checked out the film, which is about an assassin trying to fit into high school while carrying out an assignment.

Cooking for the holidays
If you’re looking to pick up a few new culinary tricks for the holidays, you can learn how to make chocolate sea salt crostini, scalloped oysters and more from Chef John Mitzewich, star of YouTube’s most subscribed cooking channel, FoodWishes. More than 97,000 foodies have viewed Chef John’s 500th video posted to YouTube, Potato Ball in Potato Box. He recently answered a few questions about how he makes his videos and the trends he’s seeing in viewer demand for recipes.

More recipes and how-to tips on the YouTube Holiday Solutions Center
Every holiday season we see a surge in viewers searching for cooking videos and recipes on YouTube. To discover a delicious new dish, check out the YouTube Holiday Solutions Center, where we’ve collected a range of videos on a single channel from party-planning experts such as, Cool Mom, the Food Network, Real Simple, Southern Living and Target. In addition to recipes, this channel also includes fun projects and home decorating tips.

Happy birthday to YouTube’s automatic captions
November 19 marked one year since we launched automatic captions on YouTube. Captions not only help the deaf and hearing impaired, but with machine translation, they also let people around the world access video content in any of 51 languages. Captions can also improve search and even enable people to jump to the exact parts of the videos they’re looking for. Since last year, people have watched video with automatic captions more than 23 million times. We’ve also seen more than 7.6 million caption translations.

How to upload great-looking web video and other helpful tips
Heather Menicucci, director of the Howcast Filmmakers Program, has returned to the YouTube Blog for her series of tips on improving your video-making skills. In one post, Clayton Long, producer for the Bajillionaires Club, offers his expertise on the preferred genres, cameras and workflows for making web videos. For advanced videomakers, Professor Compressor provides insights on best-quality codecs (H.264 and MP4), how to fix common issues such as video that looks squished or stretched, why multi-pass encoding is important and more.

Choice and control with TrueView Video Ads
Our new family of ad formats called TrueView Video Ads gives viewers choice and control over which advertiser’s message they want to see and when. We think TrueView has something for everyone: consumers choose ads that are more relevant to them, advertisers more precisely find the audiences they want, and content creators continue to fund great content with an ad experience that is less intrusive. Read our announcement on the InsideAdWords blog.

We’ll update you again in a few weeks. Till then, for more information on what we’re up to, head on over to our YouTube Blog.

Posted by Serena Satyasai, Marketing Manager, The YouTube Team


Live Webcams on Google Maps

Category: Google Maps | Dec 2, 2010

Here is another Google Map of webcams from around the world. What I like about is that all the webcams can be viewed directly on the map.

Currently the map shows over 1000 webcams from around the world. To view a cam just click on a map marker and the webcam image will open in an information window.

Some other webcam maps:



Introducing Google Earth Engine

Category: Google | Dec 2, 2010

(Cross-posted from the blog)

Today, we launched a new Google Labs product called Google Earth Engine at the International Climate Change Conference in sunny Cancun, Mexico. Google Earth Engine is a new technology platform that puts an unprecedented amount of satellite imagery and data—current and historical—online for the first time. It enables global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the earth’s environment. The platform will enable scientists to use our extensive computing infrastructure—the Google “cloud”—to analyze this imagery. Last year, we demonstrated an early prototype. Since then, we have developed the platform, and are excited now to offer scientists around the world access to Earth Engine to implement their applications.

Why is this important? The images of our planet from space contain a wealth of information, ready to be extracted and applied to many societal challenges. Scientific analysis can transform these images from a mere set of pixels into useful information—such as the locations and extent of global forests, detecting how our forests are changing over time, directing resources for disaster response or water resource mapping.

The challenge has been to cope with the massive scale of satellite imagery archives, and the computational resources required for their analysis. As a result, many of these images have never been seen, much less analyzed. Now, scientists will be able to build applications to mine this treasure trove of data on Google Earth Engine, providing several advantages:

  • Landsat satellite data archives over the last 25 years for most of the developing world available online, ready to be used together with other datasets including MODIS. And we will soon offer a complete global archive of Landsat.
  • Reduced time to do analyses, using Google’s computing infrastructure. By running analyses across thousands of computers, for example, unthinkable tasks are now possible for the first time.
  • New features that will make analysis easier, such as tools that pre-process the images to remove clouds and haze.
  • Collaboration and standardization by creating a common platform for global data analysis.

Google Earth Engine can be used for a wide range of applications—from mapping water resources to ecosystem services to deforestation. It’s part of our broader effort at Google to build a more sustainable future. We’re particularly excited about an initial use of Google Earth Engine to support development of systems to monitor, report and verify (MRV) efforts to stop global deforestation.

Deforestation releases a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere, accounting for 12-18% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. The world loses 32 million acres of tropical forests every year, an area the size of Greece. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to tropical nations to protect their forests. Reaching an agreement on early development of REDD is a key agenda item here in Cancun.

Today, we announced that we are donating 10 million CPU-hours a year over the next two years on the Google Earth Engine platform, to strengthen the capacity of developing world nations to track the state of their forests, in preparation for REDD. For the least developed nations, Google Earth Engine will provide critical access to terabytes of data, a growing set of analytical tools and our high-performance processing capabilities. We believe Google Earth Engine will bring transparency and more certainty to global efforts to stop deforestation.

Over the past two years, we’ve been working with several top scientists to fully develop this platform and integrate their desktop software to work online with the data available in Google Earth Engine. Those scientists—Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carlos Souza of Imazon and Matt Hansen of the Geographic Information Science Center at South Dakota State University—are at the cutting edge of forest monitoring in support of climate science.

In collaboration with Matt Hansen and CONAFOR, Mexico’s National Forestry Commission, we’ve produced a forest cover and water map of Mexico. This is the finest-scale forest map produced of Mexico to date. The map required 15,000 hours of computation, but was completed in less than a day on Google Earth Engine, using 1,000 computers over more than 53,000 Landsat scenes (1984-2010). CONAFOR provided National Forest Inventory ground-sampled data to calibrate and validate the algorithm.

A forest cover and water map of Mexico (southern portion, including the Yucatan peninsula), produced in collaboration with scientist Matthew Hansen and CONAFOR.

We hope that Google Earth Engine will be an important tool to help institutions around the world manage forests more wisely. As we fully develop the platform, we hope more scientists will use new Earth Engine API to integrate their applications online—for deforestation, disease mitigation, disaster response, water resource mapping and other beneficial uses. If you’re interested in partnering with us, we want to hear from you—visit our website! We look forward to seeing what’s possible when scientists, governments, NGO’s, universities, and others gain access to data and computing resources to collaborate online to help protect the earth’s environment.

Posted by Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Engine


Find a Snowboard with Google Maps

Category: Google Maps | Dec 2, 2010

Burton Snowboards – Dealer Locator

Burton Snowboards has used the Google Maps for Flash API to provide an impressive store locator.

Using the store locator you can find a Burton store near you by entering your address in the search box. The stores closest to your address are then listed in the map sidebar. If you click on one of the listed stores the map pans and rotates to show the chosen store.

The information window for each store includes the name and address of the store and a link to get directions to the store.



Real-Time Streetcars on Google Maps

Category: Google Maps | Dec 2, 2010

Where is my Streetcar?

This Google Map shows the real-time position of streetcars in Toronto.

Using the map you can find out how long you will have to wait for a streetcar at any of the city’s stops. You can select your stop from a drop-down menu at the top of the map and you can choose to view either westbound or southbound streetcars or both.

The real-time position of the streetcars are then displayed on the map with arrows that display their direction of travel. The map uses City of Toronto Open Data, using feeds provided by NextBus and the TTC.

The whole project is open source, so if you think you can improve the map you can view and edit the source.



Google doodles for your phone

Category: Google | Dec 2, 2010

(Cross-posted from the Google Mobile Blog)

While we’ve had oodles of Google doodles on our desktop homepage since Larry and Sergey created our very first in 1998, doodles on our mobile homepage have been few and far between. Today, we’re happy to announce that we’re bringing more doodles to your phone, beginning with Android 2.0+ and iOS 3+ devices worldwide. In fact, almost all of the doodles we show on our desktop homepage will now have corresponding mobile versions on these phones. When the doodles are available, just go to in your mobile browser to see them.

Want your doodles within easy reach? You can get to quickly by adding a shortcut to your home screen.

Posted by Steve Kanefsky, Software Engineer


Detachable Google Maps

Category: Google Maps | Dec 1, 2010

Free Reference Map Service

Arek, of the excellent Australian mapping/GIS Blog All Things Spatial, has released a new Google Maps creation tool.

The application allows anyone to publish and share spatial information with Google Maps and a KML/KMZ or geoRSS link. The service couldn’t be simpler to use. All you need to do to create your own embeddable map is append the URL of a KML/KMZ or geoRSS file to an URL. For example, FullURLaddressOfYourFile

Once you have appended the URL of your file to the you can then link to the created URL or embed the map in your own website or blog. There are a number of parameters that you can change in the URL to change the default map type, the location and the zoom level. You can also adjust the width and height of the map.

The application is very easy to use and provides a great way for you to present your KML/KMZ or geoRSS creations on a Google Map. Of course you don’t need to use your own KML’s or geoRSS files. The application will work with any KML or geoRSS file published on the internet. For example you could take the geoRSS feed from the USGS, showing the location of earthquakes in the last week and create a map, like so,

Arek also says that there are some more advanced sharing and map creation options under development, which he hopes to make available soon.