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Myth or monster? Explore Loch Ness with Street View

Category: Google | Apr 20, 2015

Like the world’s best legends, the Loch Ness Monster transcends the everyday and exists at the edges of possibility. It rises above the sightings and the hoaxes; the claims and counter-claims; the tourism, the nationalism—and even the assassination plots. It lives in the telling of stories. Whether or not you believe, most people hold a romanticized vision of the creature that, legend has it, plumbs the depths of the Loch. Affectionately known as “Nessie,” she exists in folklore, dances in childrens’ imaginations, and seeps into our society and teachings, inspiring everything from pop music to pop culture to pulp fiction.

In 1934, the “Surgeon’s Photograph” was released, claiming to show the monster in the misty waters of the lake. It’s the most iconic photo in the history of Loch Ness—and may be one of the most elaborate hoaxes of our age. Today, to celebrate the anniversary of its release, we’re bringing 360-degree Street View imagery of Loch Ness to Google Maps, so you can go in search of Nessie yourself.

Sail across the freshwater lake and take in its haunting beauty, made darker still by the peat particles found in its waters. Let the Loch unlock the spirit of your imagination, where the rippling water, tricks of the light, and drifting logs bring the legend of Nessie to life. Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness & Morar Project, has been engaged in fieldwork in the Highlands since 1973 and was an integral part of the Street View collection. As a true Loch Ness expert, Shine has logged more than 1,000 Nessie sightings and offers scientific explanations for why people claim to have seen Scotland’s mysterious cryptid.

Formed of a series of interrelated bodies of water, including the River Oich to the south and the Bona Narrows to the north, Loch Ness stretches for 23 miles southwest of Inverness. Although it’s neither the largest Scottish loch by surface area nor depth, it is the largest by volume, containing more freshwater than all the lakes of England and Wales combined. And at almost 800 feet deep, there’s an entire world below the surface, giving rise to the Nessie legend.

To take you on a tour of what lies beneath, our partners at the Catlin Seaview Survey dived deep under the surface of the lake, collecting imagery along the way. You can imagine Nessie nestling within these dark, peat-filled waters, waiting for the right moment to breach the surface into the Scottish sunlight above.

A diver from the Catlin Seaview Survey collecting underwater imagery of Loch Ness

Wherever you stand on the Nessie debate, the legend lives on—even in the digital era. There are more searches for Loch Ness than there are for other U.K. institutions like Buckingham Palace and the Peak District. And as we celebrate Loch Ness with today’s Doodle, we hope you can enjoy some of the most history-laden and breathtaking imagery the highlands have to offer with Street View in Google Maps.

By Sven Tresp, Program Manager, Street View Special Collections


Android Wear: wear what you want, get what you need

Category: Google | Apr 20, 2015

Architect and artist William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Turns out that’s also good advice for deciding what to wear. So Android Wear offers a range of watches and apps that are fashionable as well as functional.

Over the past few months we’ve added lots of ways to express your style—from custom watch faces to a rainbow of bands. Today we’re making Android Wear more helpful as well—getting you what you need, right on your wrist.

Always-on screen, always-on apps

When you buy a watch you want it to, well, tell the time. So most Android Wear watches include an always-on screen—no tapping, twisting or shaking required to see what time it is. Now we’re expanding this option to apps, so they can stay visible as long as you need them, instead of disappearing when you drop your arm. In either case the screen is only full color when you’re actively looking at it—so you get the info you need, and you save on battery life.

Wi-Fi support

With GPS and offline music support, you can already leave your phone at home, then go jogging and jamming like normal. Now Android Wear supports watches with built-in Wi-Fi. As long as your watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network, and your phone has a data connection (wherever it is), you’ll be able to get notifications, send messages, and use all your favorite apps. And if you really do forget your phone, you can always ask your watch where it is.

Simpler, faster, and more smiley

When it comes to your watch, using apps should be as simple as checking the time. So today we’re making a number of Android Wear improvements to help you access your info, and express yourself more easily:

  • Got your hands full? You no longer need them to check your news and notifications. Instead you can just flick your wrist to scroll through the stream.
  • Your apps and contacts are now just a tap away from the watch face. Just touch the screen, and you’ll be able to start apps and send messages immediately.
  • : Can’t talk? Now you can draw hundreds of different emojis, directly on the watch screen. We’ll recognize your work (no art degree required) and send it via message or text.

These updates are coming to all seven Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, starting with the new LG Watch Urbane. In the meantime, there are plenty of useful apps and lots of beautiful watch faces—so find your favorites, and wear what you want.

Posted by David Singleton, Director of Engineering, Android Wear

(Cross-posted to the Official Android Blog)


Through the Google lens: Search trends April 10-16

Category: Google | Apr 17, 2015

To kiss Madonna or not…that was the big question on search this week. Read on to find out more.

Best I ever had?
In the land of music festivals, Coachella is the biggest of them all. With thousands of fans and celebrities swarming to the California desert to party, there’s bound to be a couple of surprises throughout the weekend’s shenanigans. This year, rapper Drake got a little more than he expected when he brought Madonna on stage as a guest performer. The pop singer, never one to shy away from scandal, decided it was entirely appropriate to make out with Drake–on stage, in front of everyone and, apparently, without his consent. The shocking liplock swept the Internet off its feet (mainly because Drake seemed horrified by the experience). Nonetheless, searches for Madonna hit 500,000+ and Drake reached his highest peak in queries so far this year. But everything’s still good between the two: Drake responded to the commotion on Instagram. “Don’t misinterpret my shock!!” he wrote in a comment. “I got to make out with the queen Madonna and I feel 100 about that forever.”

We’re willing to bet that pro golfer Jordan Spieth is having the best week of his life after he won the Masters Tournament and became the competition’s second youngest winner after Tiger Woods at the age of 21. Spieth took home $1.8 million in prize money and more than a half million searches–sounds like a good day on the greens to us.

I approve this message
Campaign season is back in full force this week. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed America’s worst kept secret, announcing her presidential run with a YouTube video. Meanwhile, the list of contenders for the Republican nomination grows every week —Senator Marco Rubio threw his name into the hat ring as well. Queries for both nominees nearly crossed a million as people turned to the web to find more details about their political positions and track records.

Back in D.C., the latest distraction came in the form of a gyrocopter. In a bid to stir the debate about campaign finance reform, pilot Doug Hughes (illegally) landed a gyroplane on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The stunt is getting people talking about how much money candidates raise and spend during elections and boosting searches for gyrocopters to an all-time high.

Show me the money
Ever thought about working in the credit card business? Maybe you should reconsider your future plans. This week the CEO of Gravity payments, a credit card processing company, informed his employees that he was raising the minimum salary to $70,000–seriously! CEO Dan Price told the media he made the change as a way to confront income inequality. Buzz for the little-known company skyrocketed since the media caught wind of the announcement, with searches topping more than 100,000.

Tip of the week
Can’t find your phone and starting to feel desperate? If you’re computer is nearby you can now ask Google to find your Android phone from your desktop. Just say, “find my phone” on Voice Search and Google will ring the phone for you. Just make sure you’ve got the latest version of the Google app installed on your device!

Posted by Jenise Araujo, Communications Associate, who searched this week for [dradonna] and [can i get a raise]


The Search for Harm

Category: Google | Apr 15, 2015

In the summer of 2010, Google announced plans to acquire the flight search provider, ITA.  As we said at the time, while many people buy their airline tickets online, finding the right flight at the best price can be a real hassle.  Today Google Flight Search has made that much easier.  Search for “Flight CDG to SFO” and you get the different options right there on the results page.  It’s a great example of Google’s increasing ability to answer queries directly, saving people a lot of time and effort — because as Larry Page said over a decade ago “the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want”.  

At the time of the ITA acquisition, several online travel companies–Expedia, Kayak, and Travelocity–unsuccessfully lobbied regulators in the US and the European Union to block the deal, arguing that our ability to show flight options directly would siphon off their traffic and harm competition online.  Four years later it’s clear their allegations of harm turned out to be untrue.  As the Washington Post recently pointed out (in an article headed “Google Flight Search, four years in:  not the competition-killer critics feared”) Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity account for 95% of the US online travel market today.  It’s a similar situation in Europe too, as this graph for Germany neatly shows:

Travel sites in Germany
Source: ComScore MMX and Google data (for Google), desktop traffic, unique visitors (‘000s)

We’ve seen similar allegations of harm from competitors in other areas.  And the European Commission today confirmed that it is sending Google a Statement of Objections (SO) regarding the display and ranking of shopping results.   

While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways — and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark.   

More choice than ever before
In fact, people have more choice than ever before.  

  • There are numerous other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Quora, DuckDuckGo and a new wave of search assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.  
  • In addition, there are a ton of specialized services like Amazon, Idealo, Le Guide, Expedia or eBay.  For example, Amazon, eBay, and Axel Springer’s Idealo are the three most popular shopping services in Germany.  
  • People are increasingly using social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to find recommendations, such as where to eat, which movies to watch or how to decorate their homes.  
  • When it comes to news, users often go directly to their favorite sites.  For example, Bild and The Guardian get up to 85% of their traffic directly.  Less than 10% comes from Google.

Of course mobile is changing things as well.  Today 7 out of every 8 minutes on mobile devices is spent within apps — in other words consumers are going to whichever websites or apps serve them best.  And they face no friction or costs in switching between them.  Yelp, for example, has told investors they get over 40% of their traffic direct from their mobile app.  So while in many ways it’s flattering to be described as a gatekeeper, the facts don’t actually bear that out.  

Thriving competition online
Which brings me to the competition.  Companies like Axel Springer, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Yelp (all vociferous complainants in this process) have alleged that Google’s practice of including our specialized results (Flight Search, Maps, Local results, etc.) in search has significantly harmed their businesses.  But their traffic, revenues and profits (as well as the pitch they make to investors) tell a very different story.

  • Yelp calls itself the “de facto local search engine” and has seen revenue growth of over 350% in the last four years.  
  • TripAdvisor claims to be the Web’s largest travel brand and has nearly doubled its revenues in the last four years.
  • Expedia has grown its revenues by more than 67% over the same period — and recently told investors:  “We’re seeing increased traffic coming through Google Hotel Finder.  It is ­clearly getting more exposure. And in general … the product continues to improve.  And Google has invested in it, we’ll continue to invest in it … From our standpoint, we’re happy to play in any market that Google puts out there and over a long period of time, we have proven an ability to get our fair share in the Google marketplaces.” (Remarkable given their complaints).
  • Axel Springer continues to invest in search, including the French search engine Qwant, because as the company told investors, there is a lot of innovation on the search market”.  

Indeed if you look at shopping — an area where we have seen a lot of complaints and where the European Commission has focused in its Statement of Objections — it’s clear that (a) there’s a ton of competition (including from Amazon and eBay, two of the biggest shopping sites in the world) and (b) Google’s shopping results have not the harmed the competition.  Take a look at these graphs:

Shopping Sites in Germany (unique visitors, ‘000s)
Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 1.22.41 PM.png

Shopping Sites in France (unique visitors, ‘000s)
Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 8.53.36 AM.png

Shopping Sites in the UK (unique visitors, ‘000s)
Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 1.23.11 PM.png

Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating — or dominated by one player.  Yet that is exactly what’s happening in our world.  Zalando, the German shopping site, went public in 2014 in one of Europe’s biggest-ever tech IPOs.  Companies like Facebook, Pinterest and Amazon have been investing in their own search services and search engines like Quixey, DuckDuckGo and Qwant have attracted new funding.  We’re seeing innovation in voice search and the rise of search assistants — with even more to come.

It’s why we respectfully but strongly disagree with the need to issue a Statement of Objections and look forward to making our case over the weeks ahead.   

Posted by Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President, Google Search


Android has helped create more choice and innovation on mobile than ever before

Category: Google | Apr 15, 2015

It’s hard to believe, but smartphones barely existed ten years ago.  People used feature phones, which had very basic functionality, and were a nightmare for developers.  The only way to build apps was device by device and platform by platformGoogle had a closet full of hundreds of phones that we tested one by one each time we wanted to launch new software.  

Android was born from this frustration.  We hoped that by offering a great, free open-source operating system, we could turbocharge innovation by allowing manufacturers and developers to focus on what they do best.  At the time, most people thought this plan was nuts.

Fast forward to today.  The pace of mobile innovation has never been greater.  Smartphones are being adopted globally at an increasingly fast pace, with over hundreds of millions shipped each quarter, and the average smartphone price fell 23% between 2012 and 2014.  It’s now possible to purchase a powerful smartphone, without subsidies or contracts, for under $100.  And the app ecosystem has exploded, giving consumers more choice than ever before.

Android has been a key player in spurring this competition and choice, lowering prices and increasing choice for everyone (there are over 18,000 different devices available today);

  • It’s an open-source operating system that can be used free-of-charge by anyonethat’s right, literally anyone.  And it’s not just phones.  Today people are building almost anything with Androidincluding tablets, watches, TVs, cars, and more.  Some Android devices use Google services, and others do not.
  • Our Google Play store contains over one million apps and we paid out over $7 billion in revenue over the past year to developers and content publishers.
  • Apps that compete directly with Google such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft Office, and Expedia are easily available to Android users.  Indeed many of these apps come pre-loaded onto Android devices in addition to Google apps. The recent Samsung S6 is a great example of this, including pre-installed apps from Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.
  • Developers have a choice of platforms and over 80% of developers are building apps for several different mobile operating systems.

The European Commission has asked questions about our partner agreements.  It’s important to remember that these are voluntary—again, you can use Android without Google—but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem.

Anti-fragmentation agreements, for example, ensure apps work across all sorts of different Android devices. (After all, it would be pretty frustrating if an app you downloaded on one phone didn’t also work on your eventual replacement phone.)  And our app distribution agreements make sure that people get a great “out of the box” experience with useful apps right there on the home screen (how many of us could get through our day without maps or email?).  This also helps manufacturers of Android devices compete with Apple, Microsoft and other mobile ecosystems that come preloaded with similar baseline apps.  And remember that these distribution agreements are not exclusive, and Android manufacturers install their own apps and apps from other companies as well.  And in comparison to Applethe world’s most profitable (mobile) phone companythere are far fewer Google apps pre-installed on Android phones than Apple apps on iOS devices.

We are thankful for Android’s success and we understand that with success comes scrutiny.  But it’s not just Google that has benefited from Android’s success.  The Android model has let manufacturers compete on their unique innovations.  Developers can reach huge audiences and build strong businesses.  And consumers now have unprecedented choice at ever-lower prices.  We look forward to discussing these issues in more detail with the European Commission over the months ahead. 

Posted by Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering, Android


Opening the doors to the world-famous Abbey Road Studios

Category: Google | Apr 15, 2015

On a leafy street in north London, next to a popular zebra crossing, is one of the world’s most celebrated music landmarks: Abbey Road Studios.

Most people probably associate Abbey Road with the Beatles album of the same name. In fact, the studios have played a role in music history: if you can hum the theme to “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” or “Indiana Jones,” or you’ve sung along to tracks by Pink Floyd or Oasis, or even if you own a pair of stereo headphones, then you’ve been impacted by the work of Abbey Road. Since opening in 1931, the studios have pushed the boundaries of music and sound, reinventing the recording process at every step. But until now, the famous crossing was as close as most of us could get to the studios.

Now, for the first time, the doors at Abbey Road are open to everyone. In partnership with Abbey Road Studios, we’ve created Inside Abbey Road, an experience that lets fans around the world step inside the studios and explore this renowned institution.

Accessible via desktop, tablet and phone, you can explore every nook and cranny of Abbey Road with more than 150 different 360-degree panoramic images. As you walk through the studios, you’ll see YouTube videos and archival images from Abbey Road’s history—right where they originally happened. You can also play with pioneering equipment in specially designed interactive gadgets, such as the J37 4-track recorder that was used to record the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Throughout the studios you’ll find more than 30 stories, full of anecdotes and facts about the studios, like the story of Abbey Road engineer Alan Blumlein. Alan was annoyed after a trip to the movies, because the sound in early cinemas only came from one side of the screen. He went on to invent the concept of stereo audio—and sound and screen have matched ever since. Or, if you feel like being guided around the studios, there’s an audio tour you can join in every studio. Narrated by producer Giles Martin, engineer and Head of Audio Products Mirek Stiles, and broadcaster Lauren Laverne, the audio tours let you see the studios through their eyes. Think of it as your own personal tour.

Inside Abbey Road is part of our broader effort to help people experience worldwide culture and places from wherever they are, whether it’s visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Google Maps or getting up close to the brush strokes of Van Gogh in the Google Art Project. Now, we’re taking you behind the doors of one of the most famous music studios in the world. Take a step Inside Abbey Road and see for yourself.

Posted by Tom Seymour, Creative Lead and audiophile, Google Creative Lab London


Through the Google lens: Search trends April 3-9

Category: Google | Apr 10, 2015

If you’ve ever searched Google for the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” this was your lucky week. The manuscript of the classic song sold for $1.2 million this week, prompting its writer to speak publicly for the first time ever about what it all meant—giving searchers some new answers. There was plenty else to search for this week, though, with drama taking place on the diamond, in the courtroom, and on TV screens.

Take me out to the ballgame
When one door closes, another opens. The same could be said of sporting seasons. March Madness came to a nail-biting close on Monday with a Duke victory over Wisconsin, and on Tuesday UConn took their third win in a row in the women’s tournament. But while the Blue Devils and Huskies were celebrating, the focus shifted to Major League Baseball, which kicked off its new season on Sunday. As bats cracked across the country, people searched for their favorite teams, players, and game schedules.

If baseball’s not for you, maybe the grass is greener on the golf course? This year’s Masters Golf Tournament is now in full swing in Augusta, Ga. There were more than a million searches for the “tradition unlike any other” on Wednesday alone—and search interest in [hole in one] increased by more than 1,000 percent after six-time Masters champ Jack Nicklaus scored an ace at the tournament’s par-3 contest.

Crime and punishment
A white police officer in South Carolina was charged with the murder of an unarmed 50-year old black man this week. The officer, Michael T. Slager, claimed that he fired at Walter Scott because he feared for his safety, but a bystander’s video of the shooting showed Slager fire eight shots at Scott’s back as the man ran away. The video reignited debates about the use of lethal force by police, particularly against black men—a topic that has been in the news for months following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York. Search interest in police brutality increased by 150 percent, and there were more than half a million searches for Walter Scott as people turned to the web to ask questions about how and why the event unfolded:

On Wednesday, a jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. People turned to search to learn more about the trial and what’s next for Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty. Between the trial and the upcoming 2015 Boston Marathon, it’s no surprise the term “Boston Strong” is trending on search as well.

Drama on demand
It was a good week for TV fans. On Sunday, “Mad Men” returned for its final season, bringing people to search for the show’s history, cast and more. Then, on Tuesday, cord cutters rejoiced—and searched—when HBO introduced its long-awaited standalone streaming app HBO Now just in time for the fifth season of “Game of Thrones.” Plus, trailers dropped for the upcoming seasons of both “True Detective” and “Orange is the New Black.” And finally, when news broke that David Lynch won’t be part of Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” reboot, the cast protested with a video campaign that just happened to overlap with the 25th anniversary of the show’s premiere. Whew. Now you just have to find time to watch all that.

Tip of the week
“Ok Google, when do the Nationals play?” Stay up to date with upcoming games and scores for all your favorite teams this baseball season with the Google app.

Posted by Emily Wood, Managing Editor, who searched this week for [brian krakow mad men] and [vhs covers modern movies]


Through the Google lens: Search trends March 27 – April 2

Category: Google | Apr 3, 2015

From political drama to the mobile resurrection of Pac-Man, here’s what trended on search this week.

If you can’t stand the heat…
This week, the hammer came down on the state of Indiana after Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their sexual orientation. The law quickly drew a firestorm of criticism from the public— Apple CEO Tim Cook and the NCAA condemned it, while Walmart spoke out against similar legislation in Arkansas. Amidst outcry against the law, searches for [indiana law] passed 200,000+ and left state officials squirming. Eventually, the attention forced Pence to pass a “fix” to the bill that would prohibit businesses from using the law as a justification to deny people services based on race, disability, religion and sexual orientation.

Over in California, an ongoing four-year drought is pushing the state into a near-crisis. This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order calling for water supply agencies across the state to reduce their use by 25 percent—a first in California history. News of the mandate is drawing interest online with the term [california drought] spiking on the web after the announcement. People are also looking for alternative methods to get through the dry spell—searches for drought-resistant plants spiked three times in the past seven days.

The joke’s on you
The Internet is normally a funny place, but on April Fools’ day it takes the gags and laughs to a whole new level. Searches for the best pranks and jokes topped out at more than 200,000,
with Petco’s dog selfie stick and Cottonelle’s toilet paper for the left-handed earning top honors from the media. Even our own “PAC-Maps” got the web chomping—searches for the game soared to 2 million.

This week was no joke for comedian Trevor Noah, who was introduced as the new host of The Daily Show on Monday. The Twitterverse criticized the decision after discovering several old distasteful jokes the comedian had made on Twitter. Calling the tweets anti-semitic and sexist, some are already threatening to boycott the show. But not everyone is pulling out their pitchforks just yet: The network is standing by their choice while others are labeling the tweets a case of bad jokes. Either way, searches for the comedian hit an all-time high.

Mark your calendars
As Easter and Passover begin this weekend, people turned to the web to look for desserts, recipes and activities to celebrate the holidays. Searches for Easter-related topics like egg hunts, the Easter bunny and Easter brunch trended across the U.S. And people wore their lightest blue this past Thursday to mark Autism Awareness Day—which made it to the top 10 on the search charts that day.

Tip of the week
Struggling with your Easter egg decorations? Tell Google to, “Show me picture of Easter eggs,” to find a little design inspiration.

Posted by Jenise Araujo, Communications Associate, who searched this week for [new host new problems] and [pranksters]


Smartbox by Inbox: the mailbox of tomorrow, today

Category: Google | Mar 31, 2015

Mail is a wondrous thing. From the early days of the homing pigeon to the herculean efforts of the Pony Express, mail has connected us for generations. The advent of email brought the world even closer together. And yet, despite this leap forward, physical mail still just sits there. In a box. All day.

So today we’re excited to introduce Smartbox—a better, smarter mailbox that fuses physical mail with everything you love about the electronic kind:
Smartbox is currently in field trial—stuck in the ground, in a field—for Inbox by Gmail customers. If you’re not yet using Inbox, simply email anytime before April 2 to be invited, and to reserve your spot on the Smartbox waitlist.

Posted by Merrill Anovick, Project Manager

(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)


Through the Google lens: Search trends March 20-26

Category: Google | Mar 27, 2015

Searches for March Madness are still surviving and advancing, but this week brought with it a host of other stories to spur your search questions. Here’s a look at what people were searching for this week:

Germanwings Flight 9525
On Tuesday, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 people who were onboard. In the wake of the tragedy, people around the world have turned to search to learn more about the crash and subsequent investigation. Early searches included questions about Lufthansa, Germanwings’ parent company, and about the type of plane that had crashed; search interest in the Airbus A320 family spiked 100x in the first four hours. But after investigations revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appears to have deliberately locked himself in the cockpit and flown the plane into a mountain, the questions got more specific. People asked questions like “How do you access the plane’s cockpit?” and worried: “Is it safe to fly after the Germanwings crash?” and “Is flying becoming more dangerous?”

Presidential politics
Election Day 2016 is more than a year-and-a-half away, but the presidential race is already underway. On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy. The Texas Republican is known for his fervent opposition to the Affordable Care Act, in particular a 21-hour filibuster-style speech on the floor of the Senate in 2013 (at one point, he read aloud from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham). Searchers turned to the web to answer all kinds of questions about Cruz and his beliefs, sending searches for [cruz liberty], [cruz obamacare] and [cruz wiki] to spike more than a thousand percent in the last 30 days. The top questions, though, were around whether Cruz is eligible to become President because he was born in Canada. (The answer is yes, BTW.)

Pop culture mania
This week Zayn Malik confirmed he is leaving boy band One Direction, sending teens worldwide into a tailspin as they asked (and searched): “Why is Zayn leaving One Direction?” The British star said that he is leaving to “be a normal 22-year-old…out of the spotlight,” which may be tough given there were more than a million searches for him on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the rest of the band will go on without him—in fact, search interest in One Direction tours spiked 5x in the U.S. the day of the announcement.

If freaking out about Zayn isn’t your thing, maybe freaking out about “A” is? The mysterious villain of the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars was revealed—sorta—on Tuesday night, leading to hundreds of thousands of searches for the show. We won’t spoil it here, even though it was frankly a little hard to miss amidst the outcry. Let’s just say, the truth is out there. ;)

Finally, it’s barely spring but it’s already time to start thinking about your summer festival agenda. The line-ups of both San Francisco’s Outside Lands and Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festivals were announced this week. The top festival searched in each state breaks down almost exclusively along geographic lines and leaves us wondering: Are Massachusetts residents big Elton John fans?

Taking charge of your health
In a New York Times op-ed, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent cancer. This was the second preventative surgery for Jolie (she wrote about her double mastectomy in 2013), who made this decision because she carries a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, putting her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. There were more than 100,000 searches for Angelina Jolie on Tuesday, and people turned to the web to ask related questions about women’s health and cancer prevention.

Tip of the week
Who says National Puppy Day has to be just once a year? When you’re need of a furry pick-me-up, just ask the Google app “Ok Google, show me pictures of puppies.” Smiles are practically guaranteed.

Posted by Emily Wood, Managing Editor, who searched this week for [rural studio] and [izombie]