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Sunday, April 5, 2009

5 years of Gmail

It was five years ago yesterday that Gmail launched by giving out a gig. Back then, a typical webmail account could only store about five megabytes of mail. It's hard to remember what those days were like, considering that today, you can send a single 20 megabyte attachment, four times the size of an entire webmail account from 2004. A gigabyte of online storage may have been what got a lot of people to give Gmail a try, but changes to the email experience — like search, labels, conversation view, and strong spam protection — seem to be what kept people around.

The engineers who created Gmail were frustrated with the existing email solutions, and wanted to build a better tool for people who got a lot of mail, which meant rethinking everything from the ground up. They built an architecture that was a combination of HTML and JavaScript (this later became known as AJAX), which offered a smoother, faster interface. And they designed Gmail with the most demanding users in mind — Googlers who got hundreds of messages each day and power users with broadband connections, back when 56k modems were still the norm.

The last 5 years have brought about a lot of change, and Gmail is now more than just mail. We added chat, and then video chat. We've invested in under-the-hood changes that allow for the rapid development that's been happening lately in Gmail Labs — 43 experimental features in 43 weeks including tasks, offline, undo send, and even some silly stuff. What started as internal email for Google employees is now used by more than a million companies and tens of millions of people in 52 languages. And one gigabyte doesn't feel like very much space anymore.

Today's email problems are different than the problems people had five years ago, and Gmail's most demanding users continue to push it to its limits. We're getting more mail and communicating in more ways than ever before. Web browsers are getting faster and offering functionality that people could only dream of in 2004. We expect the changes over the next five years to be even more radical than those of the past five. We're already getting excited about some new stuff we're testing internally, and we'll keep you updated on our progress on the Gmail Blog.
Announced by Todd Jackson, Gmail Product Manager

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Translate between 41 languages with Google Translate

Google Translate recently added Turkish, Thai, Hungarian, Estonian, Albanian, Maltese, and Galician to the mix. The rollout of these seven additional languages marks a new milestone: automatic translations between 41 languages (1,640 language pairs!). This means we can now translate between languages read by 98% of Internet users.

In just a few years, the machine translation group within Google Research has taken its initial research system from two languages to 41 languages and is now handling millions of translation requests a day. For several languages, Google Translate is the first freely available machine translation system for these languages. Of course, there's always room for improvement, and we're working hard to improve translation quality. Our statistical models are built from vast quantities of monolingual and translated texts using automated machine learning techniques.

It's exciting and satisfying to work on a product that can help people access content they may otherwise be unable to understand. We've heard stories of people using Google Translate to help them do business internationally, and we've seen many websites (e.g., New York's Metro Transit Authority) and blogs add the Google Translate My Page Gadget to their pages to make their content more accessible to people from all over the world.

Whenever I personally travel, I do lots of research on the web to figure out what to see and do, and where to stay and eat. With Translate, I'm able to use the cross-language search feature to find and access the latest info (e.g., restaurant recommendations, most recent trains/bus schedules, special events, etc.), which is often only available in the local language.

More importantly, Translate provides people who may not otherwise have a lot of web content available in their own language with access to the wealth of content on the truly worldwide web.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Maps, your love stories

Flowers, chocolates and cards are all typically associated with Valentine's Day. But as someone with a bit of a crush on cartography, I wanted to find a way for people to express their love using maps. I rallied a few other hopeless romantics around here and, together, we created a My Map where you can mark the romantic places in your life. Whether it's the waterfall where you proposed, the Chinese restaurant where you had your first date with your sweetheart, the secluded beach where you got married, or simply the most romantic spot that comes to mind, we'd love to hear from you. You can even add photos and videos to illustrate your love story. (But make sure your story doesn't make Cupid blush, as this map is intended for all audiences.)

View Larger Map

And if you're still scrambling for a last-minute gift for your valentine this year, we hope this map will provide some inspiration. You can use My Maps or the new Touring feature in Google Earth to make a special map just for your loved one, showing all the important places throughout your relationship. Of course, some flowers probably wouldn't hurt either. :-)

Announced by Elaine Filadelfo, Google Blog team and self-professed map lover