Access to clean drinking water is a concern all over the world, but in the United States it’s often a foregone conclusion. That is not the case recently for the residents of Flint, Michigan, many of whom we now know have been exposed to lead in their tap water. It’s a crisis, one to which the American people readily responded by donating water and resources to help alleviate the immediate pain. But the problem won’t go away quickly, and understanding its extent is both challenging and an absolute necessity. Today, Google.org is providing $250,000 to partners in the Flint community to help, with a special focus on a technical solution for understanding and resolving the crisis for the long term.
First, we’re making a $150,000 grant to the University of Michigan-Flint
to enable the University of Michigan-Flint to develop a comprehensive data platform that will assist government and community leaders in making more informed decisions about the crisis and providing critical information to citizens. The funds will support student researchers at the University of Michigan, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses, to do this work under the leadership of Professors Mark Allison (Flint) and Jake Abernathy (Ann Arbor) to answer key questions about the crisis and response, such as the probability of lead levels before they are tested. The team plans to develop a platform and app that visualizes the data and also provides the ability for citizens to seek out and request key services, such as reporting concerns about water and requesting testing kits. Google volunteers will provide guidance and mentoring on the technology and product design.
We’re also making a $100,000 donation to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for the Flint Child Health & Development Fund
. The Flint Child Health & Development Fund
was founded to ensure the long-term health of Flint families, especially newborns to children 6 years old—the group most vulnerable to developmental issues from lead. The Fund is a supplemental resource to state and federal funding and gives grants for childcare-related initiatives such as early childhood education, student support services, continuous access to a pediatric medical home, access to infant and child behavioral health services, and research.
With Google offices in Ann Arbor and Birmingham, Flint and its residents are also our neighbors. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, a group of 20 Google volunteers went to Flint and volunteered at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, where they helped with distributing bottled water and food in the greater Flint area. Around $35,000 has been donated through employees and Google's gift match program to the United Way of Genesee County
and the Flint Water Fund
to aid in the crisis, and our employee groups, like the Black Googler Network, continue to explore more ways to help.
As a native Michigander, I'm proud that we can help our neighbors in Flint. We hope we can support a resolution to this crisis and assist the residents of Flint in getting the resources they need and deserve, both for the short and long term.
Every year, Larry and Sergey write a Founders' Letter to our stockholders updating them with some of our recent highlights and sharing our vision for the future. This year, they decided to try something new. - Ed.
In August, I announced Alphabet and our new structure and shared my thoughts on how we were thinking about the future of our business. (It is reprinted here in case you missed it, as it seems to apply just as much today.) I’m really pleased with how Alphabet is going. I am also very pleased with Sundar’s performance as our new Google CEO. Since the majority of our big bets are in Google, I wanted to give him most of the bully-pulpit here to reflect on Google’s accomplishments and share his vision. In the future, you should expect that Sundar, Sergey and I will use this space to give you a good personal overview of where we are and where we are going.
- Larry Page, CEO, Alphabet
When Larry and Sergey founded Google in 1998, there were about 300 million people online. By and large, they were sitting in a chair, logging on to a desktop machine, typing searches on a big keyboard connected to a big, bulky monitor. Today, that number is around 3 billion people, many of them searching for information on tiny devices they carry with them wherever they go.
In many ways, the founding mission of Google back in ’98—“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”—is even truer and more important to tackle today, in a world where people look to their devices to help organize their day, get them from one place to another, and keep in touch. The mobile phone really has become the remote control for our daily lives, and we’re communicating, consuming, educating, and entertaining ourselves, on our phones, in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. Knowledge for everyone: search and assistance
As we said when we announced Alphabet, “the new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google.” Those opportunities live within our mission, and today we are about one thing above all else: making information and knowledge available for everyone.
This of course brings us to Search—the very core of this company. It’s easy to take Search for granted after so many years, but it’s amazing to think just how far it has come and still has to go. I still remember the days when 10 bare blue links on a desktop page helped you navigate to different parts of the Internet. Contrast that to today, where the majority of our searches come from mobile, and an increasing number of them via voice. These queries get harder and harder with each passing year—people want more local, more context-specific information, and they want it at their fingertips. So we’ve made it possible for you to search for [Leonardo DiCaprio movies] or [Zika virus] and get a rich panel of facts and visuals. You can also get answers via Google Now—like the weather in your upcoming vacation spot, or when you should leave for the airport—without you even needing to ask the question.
Helping you find information that gets you through your day extends well beyond the classic search query. Think, for example, of the number of photos you and your family have taken throughout your life, all of your memories. Collectively, people will take 1 trillion photos this year with their devices. So we launched Google Photos to make it easier for people to organize their photos and videos, keep them safe, and be able to find them when they want to, on whatever device they are using. Photos launched less than a year ago and already has more than 100 million monthly active users. Or take Google Maps. When you ask us about a location, you don’t just want to know how to get from point A to point B. Depending on the context, you may want to know what time is best to avoid the crowds, whether the store you’re looking for is open right now, or what the best things to do are in a destination you’re visiting for the first time.
But all of this is just a start. There is still much work to be done to make Search and our Google services more helpful to you throughout your day. You should be able to move seamlessly across Google services in a natural way, and get assistance that understands your context, situation, and needs—all while respecting your privacy and protecting your data. The average parent has different needs than the average college student. Similarly, a user wants different help when in the car versus the living room. Smart assistance should understand all of these things and be helpful at the right time, in the right way.The power of machine learning and artificial intelligence
A key driver behind all of this work has been our long-term investment in machine learning and AI. It’s what allows you to use your voice to search for information, to translate the web from one language to another, to filter the spam from your inbox, to search for “hugs” in your photos and actually pull up pictures of people hugging ... to solve many of the problems we encounter in daily life. It’s what has allowed us to build products that get better over time, making them increasingly useful and helpful.
We’ve been building the best AI team and tools for years, and recent breakthroughs will allow us
to do even more. This past March, DeepMind’s AlphaGo took on Lee Sedol, a legendary Go master, becoming the first program to beat a professional at the most complex game mankind ever devised. The implications for this victory are, literally, game changing—and the ultimate winner is humanity. This is another important step toward creating artificial intelligence that can help us in everything from accomplishing our daily tasks and travels, to eventually tackling even bigger challenges like climate change and cancer diagnosis.More great content, in more places
In the early days of the Internet, people thought of information primarily in terms of web pages. Our focus on our core mission has led us to many efforts over the years to improve discovery, creation, and monetization of content—from indexing images, video, and the news, to building platforms like Google Play and YouTube. And with the migration to mobile, people are watching more videos, playing more games, listening to more music, reading more books, and using more apps than ever before.
That’s why we have worked hard to make YouTube and Google Play useful platforms for discovering and delivering great content from creators and developers to our users, when they want it, on whatever screen is in front of them. Google Play reaches more than 1 billion Android users. And YouTube is the number-one destination for video—over 1 billion users per month visit the site—and ranks among the year’s most downloaded mobile apps. In fact, the amount of time people spend watching videos on YouTube continues to grow rapidly—and more than half of this watchtime now happens on mobile. As we look to the future, we aim to provide more choice to YouTube fans—more ways for them to engage with creators and each other, and more ways for them to get great content. We’ve started down this journey with specialized apps like YouTube Kids, as well as through our YouTube Red subscription service, which allows fans to get all of YouTube without ads, a premium YouTube Music experience and exclusive access to new original series and movies from top YouTube creators like PewDiePie and Lilly Singh.
We also continue to invest in the mobile web—which is a vital source of traffic for the vast majority of websites. Over this past year, Google has worked closely with publishers, developers, and others in the ecosystem to help make the mobile web a smoother, faster experience for users. A good example is the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, which we launched as an open-source initiative in partnership with news publishers, to help them create mobile-optimized content that loads instantly everywhere. The other example is Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which combine the best of the web and the best of apps—allowing companies to build mobile sites that load quickly, send push notifications, have home screen icons, and much more. And finally, we continue to invest in improving Chrome on mobile—in the four short years since launch, it has just passed 1 billion monthly active users on mobile.
Of course, great content requires investment. Whether you’re talking about Google’s web search, or a compelling news article you read in The New York Times or The Guardian, or watching a video on YouTube, advertising helps fund content for millions and millions of people. So we work hard to build great ad products that people find useful—and that give revenue back to creators and publishers.Powerful computing platforms
Just a decade ago, computing was still synonymous with big computers that sat on our desks. Then, over just a few years, the keys to powerful computing—processors and sensors—became so small and cheap that they allowed for the proliferation of supercomputers that fit into our pockets: mobile phones. Android has helped drive this scale: it has more than 1.4 billion 30-day-active devices—and growing.
Today’s proliferation of “screens” goes well beyond phones, desktops, and tablets. Already, there are exciting developments as screens extend to your car, like Android Auto, or your wrist, like Android Wear. Virtual reality is also showing incredible promise—Google Cardboard has introduced more than 5 million people to the incredible, immersive and educational possibilities of VR.
Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the “device” to fade away. Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.Enterprise
Most of these computing experiences are very likely to be built in the cloud. The cloud is more secure, more cost effective, and it provides the ability to easily take advantage of the latest technology advances, be it more automated operations, machine learning, or more intelligent office productivity tools.
Google started in the cloud and has been investing in infrastructure, data management, analytics, and AI from the very beginning. We now have a broad and growing set of enterprise offerings: Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Google Apps, Chromebooks, Android, image recognition, speech translation, maps, machine learning for customers’ proprietary data sets, and more. Our customers like Whirlpool, Land O’Lakes and Spotify are transforming their businesses by using our enterprise productivity suite of Google Apps and Google Cloud Platform services.
As we look to our long-term investments in our productivity tools supported by our machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts, we see huge opportunities to dramatically improve how people work. Your phone should proactively bring up the right documents, schedule and map your meetings, let people know if you are late, suggest responses to messages, handle your payments and expenses, etc.Building for everyone
Whether it’s a developer using Google Cloud Platform to power their new application, or a creator finding new income and viewers via YouTube, we believe in leveling the playing field for everyone. The Internet is one of the world’s most powerful equalizers, and we see it as our job to make it available to as many people as possible.
This belief has been a core Google principle from the very start—remember that Google Search was in the hands of millions long before the idea for Google advertising was born. We work on advertising because it’s what allows us to make our services free; Google Search works the same for anyone with an Internet connection, whether it is in a modern high-rise or a rural schoolhouse.
Making this possible is a lot more complicated than simply translating a product or launching a local country domain. Poor infrastructure keeps billions of people around the world locked out of all of the possibilities the web may offer them. That’s why we make it possible for there to be a $50 Android phone, or a $100 Chromebook. It’s why this year we launched Maps with turn-by-turn navigation that works even without an Internet connection, and made it possible for people to get faster-loading, streamlined Google Search if they are on a slower network. We want to make sure that no matter who you are or where you are or how advanced the device you are using ... Google works for you.
In all we do, Google will continue to strive to make sure that remains true—to build technology for everyone
. Farmers in Kenya use Google Search to keep up with crop prices and make sure they can make a good living. A classroom in Wisconsin can take a field trip to the Sistine Chapel ... just by holding a pair of Cardboard goggles. People everywhere can use their voices to share new perspectives, and connect with others, by creating and watching videos on YouTube. Information can be shared—knowledge can flow—from anyone, to anywhere. In 17 years, it’s remarkable to me the degree to which the company has stayed true to our original vision for what Google should do, and what we should become.
For us, technology is not about the devices or the products we build. Those aren’t the end-goals. Technology is a democratizing force, empowering people through information. Google is an information company. It was when it was founded, and it is today. And it’s what people do with that information that amazes and inspires me every day.
Soledad O’Brien is a broadcast journalist and founder of Starfish Media Group. She is also CEO of the Starfish Foundation, which provides financial assistance and mentoring to help kids go to college. Recently, the Starfish Foundation launched virtual career tours using Google Expeditions, about which O’Brien joins us to talk about today. To become part of the Expeditions Pioneer beta program, sign up via this form. -Ed.
Kids dream about what they want to be when they grow up, but these dreams are often limited—built around the few professional people they know. What if children don’t know a veterinarian, an airplane pilot, a paleontologist, or someone in dozens of other careers? What if they lack access to internships or mentors? Can they ever dream big?
I know from watching my own kids visit me at work, and from the scholars I mentor, that exposure to all kinds of professionals is the key to inspiring young people. When I first found out about Expeditions, I saw its potential for broadening the horizons of the student scholars we help at Starfish Foundation. I envisioned creating virtual reality Expeditions that let kids step into someone’s work day, simply by using phones and Google Cardboard viewers. So that’s what we did.
|Soledad O'Brien with scholars from the Starfish Foundation.
Working with the Google Expeditions
team, we created virtual reality tours that show kids the ins and out of careers they might not ever learn about otherwise. From flying an airplane to testing fossil samples, kids can see with their own eyes exactly what people do in many different scenarios. They can watch Carolyn Brown, director of surgery for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, perform a procedure on a cat. Or join Mark Norell, a paleontology professor with the American Museum of Natural History, as he examines a velociraptor specimen up close. And today, schools participating in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program
and Expeditions beta
will be able to go on an Expedition of the Google Mountain View campus to see what it’s like to work at Google.
|A career Expedition on American Airlines Pilot, Pam Torell. The view is from the cockpit of one of her scheduled flights.
These Expeditions reveal what professionals like about their jobs, what they studied in school, and how they apply their knowledge to their work. Regular field trips are logistically challenging, and they don’t usually focus on careers. But with Expeditions, teachers can share an experience with students right in the classroom. You can’t fit 30 students in the cockpit of a plane, but you can get a virtual reality tour of one using Expeditions. And today, on “Take Your Kids to Work Day,” there’s no better time to get creative about exposing students to different types of jobs and workplace environments.
Children won’t know what jobs are possible if they don’t know the careers exist. Rather than just telling them, teachers can actually show them. With these career Expeditions, students can travel outside the classroom walls and be exposed to more ideas, places and opportunities than ever before.
Ten years ago, we launched Google Translate. Our goal was to break language barriers and to make the world more accessible. Since then we’ve grown from supporting two languages to 103, and from hundreds of users to hundreds of millions. And just like anyone’s first 10 years, we’ve learned to see and understand
, have a conversation
, and lean on friends for help
But what we're most inspired by is how Google Translate connects people in communities around the world, in ways we never could have imagined—like two farmers with a shared passion for tomato farming
, a couple discovering they're pregnant in a foreign country
, and a young immigrant on his way to soccer stardom
Here’s a look at Google Translate today, 10 years in:1. Google Translate helps people make connections.
Translate can help people help each other, often in the most difficult of times. Recently we visited a community in Canada that is using Translate to break down barriers and make a refugee family feel more welcome:2. There are more than 500 million of you using Google Translate.
The most common translations are between English and Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian. 3. Together we translate more than 100 billion words a day.4. Translations reflect trends and events.
In addition to common phrases like “I love you,” we also see people looking for translations related to current events and trends. For instance, last year we saw a big spike in translations for the word "selfie,” and this past week, translations for "purple rain
" spiked by more than 25,000 percent.5. You’re helping to make Google Translate better with Translate Community.
So far, 3.5 million people have made 90 million contributions through Translate Community
, helping us improve and add new languages to Google Translate. A few properly translated sentences can make a huge difference when faced with a foreign language or country. By reviewing, validating and recommending translations, we’re able to improve the Google Translate on a daily basis. 6. Brazil uses Google Translate more than any other country.
Ninety-two percent of our translations come from outside of the United States, with Brazil topping the list.
7. You can see the world in your language.
Word Lens is your friend when reading menus, street signs and more. This feature in the Google Translate App lets you instantly see translations in 28 languages
8. You can have a conversation no matter what language you speak.
In 2011, we first introduced the ability to have a bilingual conversation
on Google Translate. The app will recognize which language is being spoken when you’re talking with someone, allowing you to have a natural conversation in 32 languages
. 9. You don't need an Internet connection to connect.
Many countries don’t have reliable Internet, so it’s important to be able to translate on the go. You can instantly translate signs and menus offline with Word Lens
on both Android and iOS, and translate typed text offline with Android
10. There's always more to translate.
We’re excited and proud of what we’ve accomplished together over the last 10 years—but there’s lots more to do to break language barriers and help people communicate no matter where they’re from or what language they speak. Thank you for using Google Translate—here’s to another 10!