December 28, 2009

India Zeitgeist 2009

It is that time of the year when we reflect back on the current year and make resolutions for the next. This reflection can be based on anything, e.g., individuals, city or country. We took some time to reflect on how the year 2009 was for "Connected India". This year, we have put additional focus on users connected through their mobile phones, i.e., users who use internet from their phones. This focus was particularly important given that our mobile search traffic this year grew 4 times compared to last two years put together. For this analysis, we mined billions of anonymous search queries that we got from Indian users to get glimpse into the zeitgeist — the spirit of the times.

We have put together various interesting lists for you here. People turned to internet to know more about everything that was happening around. Indian general elections, the two budgets, global recession and the Satyam scam - everything was hot on internet. On the tech side, Twitter's growth has been astounding and the launch of Window 7 was much talked about. ISRO impressed the world with Bhuvan, a product that allows user to discover and explore earth in 3D mode with specific emphasis on the Indian region.

While there are lot of interesting insights but what surprised us is the relation between desktop and mobile traffic. Mobile internet has higher usage early mornings and late evenings whereas desktop has higher traffic during the day . We call this counter cyclical nature of desktop and mobile. This shows that users have inherent desire to search and consume information throughout the day and mobiles phones are coming in very handy when users are away from their desktops. Cleaning up your emails in the morning, keeping in touch with your orkut friends, watching You Tube videos and entertaining yourself with Bollywood content; it's all now part of the day of mobile phone users.

If you are curious to analyze trends in an area of your interest then try Google Trends . This tool allows you to compare traffic volume for multiple search queries on a relative scale (e.g. cricket, football ) along with what is rising faster. The tool also allows you to compare traffic trends among websites as well through feature called "trends for websites" or view a specific vertical through Google Insights.

Last but not the least, all of the search queries we studied were anonymous — no personal information was used. Have fun analyzing the India 2009 Zeitgeist.

Posted by Alok Goel - Product Manager, Jignashu Parikh - Software Engineer

December 21, 2009

Transliteration goes global

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Most of us use a keyboard to enter text; it's one of the most basic activities we perform on a computer. However even this simple activity can be cumbersome in many parts of the world. If you've ever tried to type in a non-Roman script using a Roman keyboard, you know that it can be difficult to do. Many of us at Google's Bangalore office experienced this problem firsthand. Roman keyboards are the norm in India, making it difficult to type in Indian languages. We decided to tackle this problem by making it very easy to type phonetically using Roman characters and we launched this service as Google Transliteration.

Using Google Transliteration you can convert Roman characters to their phonetic equivalent in your language. Note that this is not the same as translation — it's the sound of the words that are converted from one alphabet to the other. For example, typing "hamesha" transliterates into Hindi as: Hindi transliteration example, typing "salaam" transliterates into Persian as: Farsi transliteration exampleand typing "spasibo" transliterates into Russian as . Since our initial launch for a single Indian language, we've been hard at work on improving quality, adding more languages and new features.

Today we are pleased to introduce a new and improved version of Google Transliteration, available in Google Labs or at

In this new version, you can select from one of seventeen supported languages: Arabic, Bengali, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Persian, Punjabi,Russian, Sanskrit, Serbian, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. You can also compose richly formatted text and look up word definitions with our dictionary integration. If the default transliteration is not the word you wanted, you can highlight it to see a list of alternatives. For even finer-grained control, we provide a unicode character picker to allow character-by-character composition.

Google Transliteration is integrated into several Google properties and we have an API and bookmarklets to extend this capability to other websites. A solution we initially built to solve a problem we saw here in India is now being used in many other parts of the world as well - one small example of the scale and leverage that technology can bring in today's increasingly globalized environment. As with all labs products, we will continue to improve the technology and try out new features. We would love to hear from you, so do let us know what you think.

Posted by Nilesh Tathawadekar and Mohammed Aslam, Software Engineers

December 18, 2009

Google Internet Bus in God's Own Country

Over the last 10 months, the Google Internet Bus has traveled to 60 towns across 4 states, giving many people their first-ever experience of the Internet. The overwhelming response we receive from the people of each state continues to inspire and encourage our efforts to engage with local communities and build local advocacy for this powerful medium.

We are now in 'God's Own Country'. Over 20 days we'll focus on four themes – education, information, communication and entertainment.

The bus will use interactive content in two languages - English and Malayalam - to highlight how people can use the Internet in their daily lives. What's more, our Google Map maker team will also be joining us to help people map their own cities in Kerala.

Users across India can follow the bus through its journey, see
pictures & videos, and join online communities by simply visiting

Posted By: Nishant Nair & Srikanth Belwadi

December 16, 2009

"Turn right after the petrol pump" - Landmarks in driving directions!

Ask for directions in India, and you'll notice most people tend to prefer landmarks over road names. These could be as simple as the "coffee shop past the third traffic signal" or a "petrol pump just past the Gateway of India".

We launched driving directions for India in April this year. Today we are taking this a step further with the launch of landmarks in driving directions.

This effort was possible thanks to the large amount of landmark data that users like you contributed through Google Map Maker. Our new algorithm determines from available signals, which of these landmarks are most useful for navigation, based on importance and closeness to the turns that you're making. We now combine landmark data, counted turns ("the 2nd right"), intersection names, and road names, and try to use whatever information is most relevant and useful for the direction you're heading in.

On the desktop, we're using landmarks in two ways - to identify where users need to turn, and to provide confirmation that they're on the right track. We have also included n
avigational landmarks on your mobile phone with Google Maps for Mobile.

We encourage you to help us improve the landmark data by sharing your local knowledge on Google Map Maker as we strive to build the best navigation mechanism for users in India.

Just to give you an idea of what's new, the following screenshot helps you compare the before and after results for directions from IIM Bangalore to Bangalore City Railway Station

Happy way-finding!

Posted by Sree Unnikrishnan, Sr. User Experience Designer and Manik Gupta, Product Manager, on behalf of a cross-functional and global Geo team

December 15, 2009

Found something interesting ? Share on orkut !

We are happy to announce the launch of a great new way for orkut users to share interesting web content with their friends - The 'Share on orkut' bookmarklet for browsers

You can install the bookmarklet from here for all browsers

When you find something interesting on the web, just click the bookmarklet and share the content with your orkut friends. Your friends will get the link and your comments in their updates. You'll also have an option to promote and recommend the content to your friends.

Web publishers and bloggers can also post orkut share buttons on their pages using a simple JavaScript library.

More details about orkut share API and sample code can be found on orkut developer site.

So spread the word, have fun sharing!

Posted by Rajiv Mathews, Jayesh Sharma