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Friday, November 17, 2006

Google Web Toolkit (GWT) for the Mac

Posted by: Kelly Norton, GWT Engineer

I remember sitting in front of my Power Mac G5 reading about Google Web Toolkit in May of last year and thinking about how cool it was. It's such a great idea for AJAX development: use a language with unequalled tool support to write your code and then compile it into compact, highly optimized JavaScript which automatically works around all manner of browser quirkiness. I was eager to try it but very disappointed to find that it was only available for Linux and Windows. So I bookmarked the site and decided to check back later.

In a strange turn of events, as I watched GWT develop, I somehow came to work for Google ... on the GWT team, no less. So when I got the opportunity to participate in the recent addition of OS X support, I was thrilled. The previous versions of the toolkit had made debugging possible by hooking directly into the JavaScript engines of Internet Explorer and Firefox, which helps our Windows and Linux users. A few weeks back, we started down a similar route with Webkit/Safari, and today that version showed up on the GWT download page. So for all the other Mac folks who have been checking in on GWT hoping to find a Mac download, voila. And for those of you who have no earthly idea what I'm talking about, let me just give you a very quick intro.

What is Google Web Toolkit?
Ever wonder how killer applications like Gmail, Google Calendar, and JotSpot are built? It's not enough to have a great idea; you need to know how each browser deals with JavaScript, CSS and HTML. You know, things like how element prototypes are shared across iframes on Internet Explorer and Firefox, but not Safari. Or that Opera's scrollTop values often give you non-zero values even when there isn't a scrollbar anywhere in sight. If you still have no earthly idea what I'm talking about, let me just assure you that there are many such things that make development of AJAX applications error-prone and just plain painful. And I haven't even mentioned the pain of managing a large codebase using a language that gives you as much freedom as JavaScript does.

Instead, GWT takes a different tack: write your AJAX code in Java, leveraging concepts and patterns that have become very familiar to UI developers; develop using proven development environments that include good code completion and refactoring tools like Eclipse; debug your apps by running them in a real browser, using a solid debugger; then use a compiler to translate all that Java code to tiny, high-performance JavaScript that automatically works around most browser quirks without so much as a nod from the developer. And of course, make it possible to slip seamlessly into JavaScript when the need arises to do things we never even anticipated.

But there's one more thing...

OK, you have to promise not to tell our Windows and Linux users, but we were able to slip a little something extra into the OS X version. One item that has been on our nice-to-have list for some time has been a quality DOM inspector to allow developers to take a look under the hood at the dynamically created tags you find in AJAX applications. On the other platforms, it's still in the to-be-scheduled stage. But on OS X, right-clicking on the page you're debugging reveals an interesting option: "Inspect Element." Select that, and a window appears that should be familiar to you WebKit hackers. Yes, we enabled a feature that is part of WebKit but not turned on in Safari, which enables you to inspect DOM elements in the debuggable browser. But please, whatever you do, don't tell the Windows or Linux folks about it.

Google Base turns 1

On its first anniversary, we're recapping what Google Base has accomplished on the Base blog.

Happy Birthday Google Base!

By Bindu Reddy, Product Manager

It's been one year since we launched Google Base, and the team would like to take the opportunity to thank all our users for all of the hundreds of millions of items that have been submitted, and all the valuable feedback on how to improve this service.

We also want to take a moment to recognize some of the significant achievements of last year, including:

- The Google Base API that enables users to query items in Base and build their own cool mashups. Sites like Job Central, a national non-profit labor exchange, already are using the Google Base data API to include job listings from Google Base in their search results. Find a convertible car 4sale leads buyers to, yes, convertibles i n Google Base, and plots their location on Google Maps

- Surfacing some Google Base results on Google when people are looking for items like used cars or pumpkin recipes

- Releasing such features as a rich text editor, reporting for clicks and impressions, and integration with Google Checkout and Google AdWords so that data providers can easily upload and manage their content and drive traffic

- Launching Google Base in the UK and Germany, so that people in these countries have a simple way to upload their data to Google

We're still a long way from our goal of creating an online database of easily searchable, structured information, but look out for more exciting features and improvements in 2007.

Shoot us an email if you have suggestions -- or even birthday messages.


It's the little things in Gmail

When people write articles about Gmail, they usually focus on the big stuff, like how we offer 2.7+ gigs of free storage. But I've actually found that some of the smallest features we've launched have made just as big of a difference, at least to me and the way I use email.

For starters, Gmail has helped eliminate a bunch of duplicate replies that I used to get in mailing lists. You know how a lot of times someone will email a list and get a bunch of responses from different people that all say roughly the same thing? Last week, we added a feature where if I'm a reading an email conversation, or replying to one, and someone else replies t o the same email, a notification pops up telling me there's a new message. Then I just click a link and Gmail adds the message to the conversation. This is also great because it means I don’t end up being embarrassed by responding to a list just as someone else is sending a response that’s way better.

There are a few other gems that have made email just work better for me: viewing attachments in HTML instead of downloading all of them; replying by chat rather than email when I need a quick answer; and the ability to chat with someone even when they're offline, and have those chats show up in their inbox when they sign in again.

These smaller feat ures never get as much attention as the big ones, but I think they deserve it. They've changed the way I email, and made me grateful to the people who spend the time to get the little things right. [more]

Enterprise search superstars

Want your very own custom-made robot crafted out of Legos?

These robots are part of the awards package that we're giving our new Google Enterprise Search Superstars. This awards program recognizes companies, and the individuals involved, with innovative enterprise search implementations and a relentless focus on users that yields business results.

Our initial winners used the Google Mini and Google Search Appliance, our website and corporate network search appliances, to create self-service support sites that reduced customer support costs, quickly identify domain experts in their organization, and improve service for international users. Read their stories and find out how to become the next Superstar.

Spreading the AJAX love

You may have heard that the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) makes AJAX development easier, but now we've made it even easier to dive into AJAX. GWT 1.2 supports development on Mac OS X. While GWT has always supported targeting a wide variety of web browsers and production systems, with today's announcement, GWT fanatics are now free to develop on the operating system of their choice.

So if you or a friend have an ambitious web application in mind -- especially if you're already familiar with Java development -- feel the AJAX love: check out GWT.

Click to call in Google Maps

Last week, I was trying to buy blue lightbulbs for a party at my house, and I ended up calling ten different stores before I found one that carried them. Now with the new calling feature on Google Maps, I can do this quickly and easily, and never have to lift a finger to dial.

Here's how it works: Search for a business, like a hardware store, on Google Maps, and click the 'call' link next to its phone number. Then, enter your phone number and click 'Connect For free.' Google calls your phone number and automatically connects you to the hardware store.

There are two things that I really like about this. The business's phone number is automatically stored in your caller ID so you can easily call back in the future. And by checking the box to remember your phone number, you can make future calls from Google Maps with just two mouse clicks (and picking up your phone, of course).

We're providing the 'call' link as a free service to all businesses. These aren't ads and don't influence the ranking of businesses in the search results. We foot the bill for calls (local and long distance), but airtime fees or other mobile fees will still apply if you use a mobile phone number. Currently, the calling feature works if you live in the U.S. and are looking for a business located in the U.S.

Learn more about this, and also our privacy policy.

Update: Added link to "hardware store" example. [more]

Answering your landing page quality questions (part 1)

On November 6, we let you know that we would soon be making changes to the way that AdWords evaluates landing page quality. These changes are now live and we'd like to follow up with a two part series to answer some of the questions that we have received.

Why did you make this change right before the holiday season?
As more and more holiday shoppers turn online to find gifts, we want to do everything we can to serve the most relevant and highest quality ads to our users. By making improvements to landing page quality, we're not only able to help users (who are your potential customers) find what they want, but also help you maximize your leads because your ads will no longer have to compete with ads that are providing a poor user experience.

To give a bit more background, we had an internal debate about when to release these ch anges. We ultimately decided that since our focus is providing the most relevant advertising, it was best to launch these long-planned improvements as soon as we were ready to go, technically speaking.

Can a page that has a high CTR or conversion rate be considered a poor quality landing page?
In short, yes. Though the Quality Score incorporates the CTR of your keyword, when our system is specifically evaluating your landing page quality, it does not consider the CTR of your keywords or any conversion tracking or Google Analytics data in the account. Instead, it's focused on the actual content and relevance of your landing page to a user who clicks on your ad and ends up on your site. It is well worth noting that not all ads with a high CTR provide a good experience for users. For example, an ad may promote a new home for sale in San Francisco for the query 'San Francisco homes', but after clicking on the ad, the user is taken to a page that shows houses in Seattle. This is not a particularly good experience for the user -- but the ad itself could still be highly relevant to the keyword, and thus is likely to have a high CTR.

Will using Website Optimizer improve my landing page quality?
Using Website Optimizer to experiment with your landing page does not have any impact on your Quality Score or your landing page quality. Website Optimizer evaluates your conversion rates to tell you which marketing messages are converting most often on your landing page, whereas the Quality Score doesn't incorporate any conversion information. Please remember that once you've made a change to your landing page based on tests ru n with Website Optimizer, the Quality Score may change as with any other changes to your landing page.

We hope this helps to clear up some of your questions about this recent change. If you have additional questions, please let us know and we'll answer as many as possible the next time we write about landing page quality.


At what cost revenue?

It's an oft-seen question from publishers: Are we earning revenue for ad impressions or for ad clicks? The answer is that it depends on whether cost-per-impression (CPM) ads or cost-per-click (CPC) ads are appearing on your pages. By default, CPC ads will show on your site and you'll generate earnings for valid clicks on those ads. However, your ad units will display CPM ads when advertisers bid specifically on your site using site targeting, and for those ads you'll generate earnings with each valid impression. Please keep in mind that CPM earnings are not the same as the values you see in your eCPM column; your eCPM is only a reporting feature that can help you compare ad performance.

To determine which type of ad you displayed on specific days, yo u can follow these instructions to generate a report. In your Advanced Reports, the ad type 'Site' refers to CPM ads, and 'Contextual' refers to CPC ads.

Want to show more CPM ads on your site? It's not possible to request CPM ads, but you can help advertisers get interested in your site by customizing your Onsite Advertiser Sign-up landing page. Advertisers can then create camp aigns targeted specifically at your site, directly from your site. And don't forget to focus on quality, placement, and size -- take a look at some important tips from the AdWords team on what advertisers look for in site targeting their CPM ads.

Remember: keep publishing that high-quality content and the advertisers will come to you.


It's official: GWT 1.2 released

After a couple weeks of fixing all the issues our developer community has so diligently reported in the issue tracker, we are happy to announce the official release of Google Web Toolkit 1.2 today.

As we mentioned when we released the 1.2 Release Candidate, you can now develop and debug with GWT on Mac OS X in addition to Linux and Windows. We are pretty proud of this particular feature because GWT is now about as "platform independent" as you can get: develop on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X and deploy to IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera on any platform, without any special cases in your code. (If you want a bit more detail about our implementation of Mac OS X support, our release nomenclature and other tidbits, this recent InfoQ interview may interest you.)

We also have already talked about how much faster the 1.2 hosted mode debugging environment is. And it is. If you've ever found yourself dropping to the command line using only the GWT compiler because hosted mode was too slow, you really should check out 1.2. Refreshes in hosted mode are almost instantaneous, and hosted mode lets you actually debug your code, which is nice.

And of course, there were a few (dozen) bug fixes in 1.2 RC and a few more in the 1.2 release. Good riddance.

And if that weren't enough...the number of third-party development tools supporting GWT is growing quickly: Joel Webber and I are also currently writing a book about GWT to be published by Addison-Wesley. Our plan is to explain all the nuts and bolts of GWT in excruciating detail.

It's way past bedtime, but one parting thought before I crash on a beanbag underneath this conference table: the GWT team rocks. You wouldn't believe how hard everyone has been working. And yet our urge to code is only growing as we see just how much people are starting to grok GWT.

Let us know what you think of the release in the GWT developer forum.

How-To Part 5: File transfers

Sometimes, the sound of your friend's voice or the sight of a favorite smiley may not be enough; you might need to connect by sending along your writing portfolio, or a recording of duck calls, or a video of a guy throwing silly putty from the roof of a parking structure.

In the heat of the moment, we can't anticipate what files you may need to send. That's why you can send any file of any size and type, any time. For more on sending files through Google Talk, watch this.

Peter Adams
Online Operations Coordinator



ZDNet reports that Cingular Wireless is testing a banking by cell phone application. The idea certainly makes sense, but it simultaneously raises all sorts of red flags. Today, there are a tremendous amount of security threats to mobile devices and wireless, from man-in-the-middle attacks to Bluesnarfing to stolen devices. There are a lot of bad folks out [more]


Thanks to the New York Times and countless other media outlets, it’s no secret that India is having a tough time finding enough workers with the right kinds of skills to fill its rapidly growing number of tech jobs. Indian outsourcing providers are taking all kinds of measures to ensure that the shortage won’t hurt their [more]


The controversy over Novell’s partnership with Redmond is nowhere near over, but the Free Software Foundation’s general counsel, Eben Moglen, says the patent provision of the companies’ agreements will be “dead” before April. As reported on this morning, Moglen told a Legal Pad blogger that the Free Software Foundation is working to change version 3 [more]


Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a day after the New York Times ran an article quoting some venture capitalists about Web 3.0, the blogosphere went nuts. Make it stop, nearly all of them shouted. No more marketing gimmicks. But amid the knee-jerk cacophony, a couple of remarks made a lot of sense. Yes, Web [more]


So Google didn’t earmark $500 million to spend trying to prevent or to defend itself against the copyright infringement lawsuits that it may face with its acquisition of pirated-video-laden YouTube. Nope, it is only about $224 million, says Google CEO Eric Schmidt. That figure comes from the set-aside 12.5 percent of the Google stock owed to [more]