Friday, August 24, 2007

Google News Videos

Google News is now more than just text stories. Google has added news videos from CBS, Reuters, the BBC, and other sources. The videos are actually hosted by YouTube, and accessible from the Google News site.

Embed Google Maps on Your Site

Google has finally added a much-requested feature to Google Maps, the ability to easily embed any Google Map you create into your own website. It's similar to the way you can embed YouTube videos; on each Google Maps page you now find HTML code to both link to the map and to embed the map. Just cut and paste this short little snippet of HTML into your web page or blog, and Google will embed the map onto your page. It's easy enough just about anyone can do it. Good job, Google!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google Video Refund Update

When Google decided to close down the Google Video Store, which lets you buy and rent videos, it initially said it would close down access to purchased videos almost immediately and refund users' purchases via a Google Checkout credit. Users balked at this; they wanted continued access to the videos they'd bought, and thought the Google Checkout credit was a blatant promo for Google's own payment service. Google has responded to the complaints by (1) Extending access to purchased videos for the next six months (2) Refuding all user purchases, from day one, to their credit cards, and (3) Keeping the Google Checkout credit as a kind of "we're sorry" bonus to users. That's a fast and above-the-call-of-duty response to user complaints, and shows a very customer-focused attitude on the part of Google management. Good decision!

Video Ads in YouTube

Google has finally figured out a way to serve video ads in YouTube. For videos from selected partners, YouTube now displays an ad overlay that appears about 15 seconds into the video. The overlay takes up the bottom half of the screen; you can click to close the overlay, or it will disappear on its own after 10 seconds. To view the associated ad, just click the appropriate part of the overlay.

Right now, these ad overlays are added only to videos from YouTube's major content partners, and Google shares the ad revenue with those partners. You don't have to worry about Google popping an ad onto your own personal video. (At least not yet, anyway.) The response to this development is divided -- advertisers love it, while the YouTube community hates it. And so it goes.

Google Sky

Google Earth isn't Earth-bound any more. The latest version of Google Earth (new download required) includes a feature called Sky, which includes high-resolution images of hundreds of millions of stars from more than 200 million galaxies. The images are gathered from a variety of giant telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

To switch to Sky mode in Google Earth, click the planet icon on the toolbar. Alternately, pull down the View menu and select Switch to Sky. Click on any point in the sky to zoom into a closer image, and to display information about that star, planet, or galaxy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Google Pack Adds StarOffice

Google Pack, Google's bundle of assorted applications, has a new component. Google Pack now includes StarOffice, Sun's collection of office applications. Designed to compete with Microsoft Office, StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, and presentation applications. And, as part of Google Pack, it's all free. (Standalone cost: $70.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Google Video to Stop Selling Videos

Google has stopped selling and renting commercial videos (mainly TV shows) on its Google Video site. Google Video remains open, just without the TV shows for sale.

Friday, August 10, 2007

More Storage

By default, Google gives you a lot of storage space for their various products -- 2.82GB for Gmail, 1GB for Picasa Web Albums, and an undetermined amount for Google Docs & Spreadsheets. But if that's not enough (and it never is), Google has rolled out a new "extra space for pay" plan. Now you can purchase extra space that gets shared between all Google online products (Gmail and Picasa Web Albums today, Google Docs & Spreadsheets soon). Rate range from $20/year for an extra 6GB to $500/year for an extra 250GB. I like the idea, but the rates seem a little high, especially when you can buy a 200GB hard drive for around $100. Still, it's worth considering if you store a lot of data online. Learn more and purchase storage here.