Lighting up Google Maps with the aurora borealis

Nature’s greatest light show has come to Google Maps for the first time. Starting today, armchair arctic explorers, science lovers and curious observers will be able to explore the Northern Lights in Finland right from Google Maps.

Also known as the aurora borealis (after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn, and Boreas, the Greek name for north wind), these dazzling lights are the effect of charged particles interacting with one another in earth’s atmosphere. These light displays have long been a source of wonder for poets and travelers gazing up at the otherworldly colors in stark contrast with the austere, arctic terrain. However, they can only be seen in person at certain latitudes and times of year, making this breathtaking sight a rare experience for most of us.

To see more views of the Northern Lights, explore the Google Maps gallery. Click across the frozen lake in Finland where these shots were captured, and take in the awe-inspiring views above.

Posted by Magdalena Filak, Google Maps Street View Associate Program Manager Continua a leggere

YouTube music hits the right note

You watched Meghan Trainor perform “All About That Bass” 200+ million times on YouTube, sing it live for the first time ever and later with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.  Your views helped put the song at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks. And that’s all just for one song.

This week, we’re making it easier to find new music on YouTube and rock out to old favorites by launching a new paid subscription service called Music Key. It lets you watch and listen to music without ads, in the background or offline and is available already in the United Kingdom, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with more countries to come soon. If you’re interested in getting more info on the beta, you can let us know at

Music Key represents a big step forward in our blossoming partnership with the music industry. We’ve struck new deals with the major producers, thousands of independent record labels, collecting societies and music publishers.  Thanks to your music videos, remixes, covers, and more, you’ve made YouTube the place to go for the music fan.

YouTube benefits both the established musicians as well as newcomers, sending more than $1 billion.

Of course, YouTube is much more than music. Other types of content creators – from educational to comedy shows – also are finding an audience earning money in our partnership programs.  More  -one million channels today earn revenue through the YouTube Partner Program. Thousands of channels make six figures annually. We look forward to continuing to develop new online opportunities for Europe’s creators. 

Posted by the YouTube Music team, which recently watched “Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – YouTube Mix.”
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Expanding our data centres in Europe

The Internet is growing fast and so is demand for our services, from search to Gmail and YouTube. In order to keep up with this growth, we are announcing a new EUR600 million investment over the next four years to build a new data centre in Eemshaven, the Netherlands.

At a time of high unemployment throughout Europe, the project promises a welcome infusion of jobs. Construction will provide work for more than 1000 workers. We expect to start initial operations in the first half of 2016 and to be fully operational by the end of 2017. By then, the centre will create employment for more than 150 people in a range of full-time and contractor roles. The jobs do not require phds in computer science; they include IT technicians, electrical and mechanical engineers, catering, facilities and security staff.

The new Dutch data centre will benefit from the latest designs in cooling and electrical technology. It will be free-cooled – taking advantage of natural assets like cool air and grey water to keep our servers cool. Our data centers use 50% less energy than a typical datacenter – and our intention is to run this new facility on renewable energy.

This will be Google’s fourth hyper efficient facility in Europe. Importantly, demand for Internet services remains so strong that the new building does not mean a reduction in expansion elsewhere. Our expansion will continue in Dublin in Ireland, in Hamina in Finland, and in St. Ghislain in Belgium. Our existing rented datacenter facility in Eemshaven also will continue to operate.

Since our investment in our first European datacenter back in 2007, we have been on the lookout for supportive communities with the necessary resources to support large data centers. The required ingredients are land, workforce, networking, a choice of power and other utilities including renewable energy supplies.

It’s much more efficient to build a few large facilities than many small ones. Eemshaven enjoys a direct cable connection to two major European Internet hubs, London and Amsterdam. In the Eemshaven, we’ve found a great community in a great location that meets the needs to become a backbone for the expanding Internet.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Data Centre Community Relations, Europe
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Honoring Finland’s Famed Architect Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto changed the way we see the world. Finland’s famed architect and designer not only built path-breaking buildings – during his long, fruitful life, he also designed some of the 20th century’s most innovative furniture, textiles and glassware. Today, we’re proud to announce a partnership with the Alvar Aalto Foundation to bring much of this genius’s important work online – allowing anyone, anywhere to virtually visit many of his his most important buildings and learn about his design breakthroughs.

This project means something special to many of us at Google. We have built one of our two largest data centers in Finland – and the architect of our data center building was none other than Aalto. The Finnish master originally designed our data center in Hamina as a paper mill. The mill closed in 2007. We took over the empty building, transformed and expanded it, investing so far almost a billion euros and creating hundreds of jobs in the region, while attempting to keep intact as much as possible of the Aalto heritage. Take a look. We’re publishing new Street View images of the renovated exterior and interior today on our main data center page.

Aalto designed many other buildings in the area around our data center – including the world-famed Sunila worker housing in Kotka. We long have shown the outsides of these buildings on StreetView. We’re now adding the interiors.

Many of Aalto’s most famous buildings are located hundreds of kilometers apart, making them difficult to visit. We toured the entire country to photograph his most important masterpieces. We went to his hometown Jyvaskyla in central Finland and photographed the Alvar Aalto Museum and Säynätsalo Town Hall.

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We went to Imatra and are presenting the famed Church of the Three Crosses.

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In the Finnish capital Helsinki, we captured not only Aalto’s own studio but also two important cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the House of Culture. At the Restaurant Savoy, Aalto brought Finnish nature into the center of Helsinki, designing still-in-production door knobs, clean-lined lighting fixtures, club chairs, and the famed Savoy vase, mirroring the outlines of a Finnish lake.

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The cooperation with Finland’s Aalto Foundation includes two new online exhibitions on our Google Cultural Institute platform. The first focuses on Aalto’s famed three legged stool 60. This much imitated model relied on one of Aalto’s most important innovations – a new process for bending wood that he applied to create organic shapes. The stool was designed in 1933 and was first used in two major early works of Aalto: Paimio Sanatorium and Vyborg Library before becoming an iconic piece of modernist furniture for people to furnish their homes with.

A second exhibition describes the renovation of the Vyborg Library. The building was immediately considered a modernist chef d’oeuvre, softening and humanizing the hard edges of German Bauhaus strictures into a new original, organic style, replacing steel with wood, and creating a warm, cosy atmosphere for the reader. When the Library was constructed, the city of Viipuri was in Finland. After World War II, Finland was forced to hand it over to the Soviet Union and it became Vyborg. The library survived the war but remained unused for twenty years and fell into disrepair. Finally in 2013 the renovation was completed.

Together, these initiatives demonstrate our commitment and confidence in Finland. This is a hard time for the country, with growth slowing and unemployment rising. At the same time, our Hamina data centre keeps expanding and Internet infrastructure represent an important ray of economic hope. As this project demonstrates, we are committed to the country and are delighted to use the Internet to promote Finnish culture.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe
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Bringing the Father of the Internet to Finland

Back in the 1970s, Vint Cerf played a decisive role developing what became the backbone of the future Internet – TCP/IP protocol that allowed computers to communicate with each other over an arbitrarily large number of networks. This “father of the Internet” recently visited Finland, home to our EUR850 million data centre in Eastern Finland and addressed an audience of 300 students at the beautiful new Vellamo Museum.

Many of our data centres are located in traditional industrial areas where one might not immediately think of being the home for a Google facility. In Finland, the region around our data center is struggling with the decline of its traditional economic motor – the paper industry. In March 2009, we purchased Summa Mill from Finnish paper company Stora Enso and converted the 60 year old paper mill. The first phase of the facility became operational in September 2011 and serves Google users across Europe and around the world.

During the recent event with Vint, the local data center directors Arni Jonsson and Herman Arsaelsson demystified the data center. They talke about how our investment is about more than just bricks, mortar and servers. Its about jobs. In Hamina, we’re providing work for (at peak) approximately 800 engineering and construction workers. In addition, the data center provides full time jobs for people who come from diverse backgrounds and skills. All of our open positions can be found on Google Jobs page.

Our economic and academic partners in Finland told about how we are helping the region to fly into the flourishing 21rst century digital economy. In the spring of 2013, we announced a new partnership with Aalto University and the regional development agency Cursor. With Google’s financial support, Aalto University is strengthening the Venture Gym acceleration program around the growing Playa Game Industry Hub, as well as the region’s Kaakko 135 travel and tourism initiative.

Vint continued by wowing everyone with a lecture about the past and future of the net. Take a look above at some of the highlights and enjoy a few minutes of news from the north of Europe.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe

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Improving our data centre energy performance

At Google we’re obsessed with building energy efficient data centers. Our facilities use 50% less energy than most other data centers, and we’re pushing ourselves to become even more efficient.

As part of this effort, our main European data centres, in St. Ghislain, Belgium, Hamina, Finland, and Dublin, Ireland recently were added to our ISO 50001 certification. Much like the environmental and workforce safety management certifications, ISO 50001 ensures we have a strong energy policy, build a robust auditing program, continually monitor, assess, and respond to our energy efficiency results.

Google Data Centere in Finland

Last year, we became the first company in North America to obtain a multi-site ISO 50001 certification for that system, covering our corporate data center operations and six U.S. data centers.

Another green priority for us is energy. Over the past year, we have signed two major contracts to buy all the electricity generated by Swedish wind farms for 10 years. By entering into long-term agreements with wind farm developers over the past few years, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new facilities. Once completed, the wind farms will provide Google’s Hamina, Finland, data center with additional renewable energy as the facility expands in coming years.

Overall, we’re focused on reducing our energy use while serving the explosive growth of the Internet. Most data centers use just as much non-computing or “overhead” energy (like cooling and power conversion) as they do to power their servers. At Google we’ve reduced this overhead to only 12%. That way, most of the energy we use powers the machines directly serving Google searches and products. We will continually push toward doing more with less—serving more users while consuming less energy.

Posted by Joe Kava, Vice President, Data Centres Operations
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Joining Belgium and Finland around data centres

At first glance, it’s hard to think of two cultures more different than Belgium’s southern French speaking Wallonia and Finland’s southeastern lake region. Finland is rural, Nordic, and Lutheran, a place of big spaces, big forests, and big lakes. Belgium is urban, Latin and Roman Catholic, a place of crowded industrial landscapes, carefully cultivated fields and man-made canals.

Sunset at our data centre in Belgium

And yet, both are homes to Google data centres, and when our Finnish partners recently visited Belgium for two days of workshops, they found many things in common. Both regions built their economies on big traditional industries that are fast disappearing – paper and pulp in Finland, coal and steel in Belgium. Both have big neighbors – Russia and France. And both have a willpower to work with us to help jump, as our partners put it, “from the Industrial Heartland to the Internet age.”

It was a fruitful two day visit. The dozen-person Finnish team, lead by the regional development agency Cursor and Aalto University, told about their success in spawning video games startups and boosting online local tourism. The Belgian team, led by the local Mundaneum Museum spoke about plans to use the net for its upcoming 2015 celebration of the regional capital and hometown Mons as a European capital of culture.

We also compared common challenges – improving the two regions’ level of English and other skills needed to attract international business. Both regions aim to create web incubators and web startups, projects we are aim to support.

Over the past year, we have disbursed more than EUR1 million of grants to local organizations around the data centers. These fund a wide range of activities, from a Popmaton at Mons’ Andy Warhol exhibit to measuring water health in southeastern Finland’s rivers to supporting a computer science contest at the University of Mons, including exhibitions and talks on Internet issues and opportunities in both countries. It was gratifying to see our partners getting to know each other personally and pledging to work together to common goals. We have dug deep roots in these two different but similar regions and plan to continue planting deep roots in computer science, environment and empowering cultural institution.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Brussels
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Expanding our data center in Finland

Six decades ago, the famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto built a stunning red-brick paper mill in Eastern Finland. After the plant was shut, we bought it have transformed it into a modern data center – literally jumping from the industrial to the digital age. Today, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainan joined us at our Hamina data center in Eastern Finland to announce a EUR450 million expansion to what already is one of the world’s most efficient and largest facilities.

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainan visits our Hamina construction site.

Many of our data centres are located in traditional industrial areas where one might not immediately think of being the home for a Google facility. In Finland, the region around our Hamina data centre stands at the heart of a region hard-hit by the retrenchment of its paper industry.

Our data centers can provide real motors to reinvigorate these industrial regions. With our financial support, the prestigious Aalto University and the regional development agency Cursor are working to bolster promising startups and to improve the use of the Internet by local small and medium sized industries. Cursor is strengthening the Venture Gym acceleration program around the growing Playa Game Industry Hub, as well as the region’s Kaakko 135 travel and tourism initiative. Already, some 800 people and dozens of companies in the region have participated in Aalto-Cursor workshops, not only in the region, but also in Helsinki, London and Cambridge.

Today’s announcement will triple the size of the existing facility, which became operational in September 2011. At its peak, approximately 800 engineering and construction workers, most of whom will be Finnish, will be engaged on the site. Some 125 people currently employed at the datacenter in full time and contractor roles across engineering, technical work, security, food service, and buildings and grounds maintenance. All of our open positions can be found on Google Jobs page for positions in Finland.

Alvar Aalto never lived to see the Internet and data centers. But we hope he would have been pleased to see how our data center safeguards and updates his spirit of pioneering architecture.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of community relations, Europe
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Music spreads across Europe with Google Play

Your music is supposed to be fun, but in reality it can be the exact opposite: a chore – moving files between computers, syncing across your phone and tablet, and lots and lots of wires. Google Play Music, an easier way to manage your music, offers a solution. It just has launched so you can listen to any song you want, whenever you want, on all of your devices. has just come to Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Russia and Switzerland.

All Access coverage is now spread pretty much across the entire continent. A first group of nine European countries last month received the service.

All Access is the first service of its kind that lets you store 20,000 songs from your personal music collection in the cloud for free; purchase new music from all the major record labels and thousands of indies to grow your collection; or get an unlimited pass to a huge library of music on all your devices with All Access, our monthly music subscription service. It’s all stored in the cloud so you never have to worry about losing songs or moving them again. You can add a new favorite track to your collection while you’re on your computer, and it will be instantly available on your phone and tablet. And you can “pin” all of this content to make it available on your phone or tablet when you’re offline without a connection.

All Access lets you search for and listen to any song from our library of millions of tracks, wherever and whenever you want. You can create an ad-free, interactive radio station from any song or artist you love. Or you can browse recommendations from our expert music team and explore songs by genre. The “Listen Now” tab puts artists and radio stations we think you’ll like front and center so you can start listening the minute you open your library. You can try All Access for free for the first month and pay only a modest subscription service each month after that.

With this launch, Google Play moves one step closer to being your ultimate digital entertainment destination, where you can find, enjoy and share your favourite apps, games, books, movies, magazines and music on your Android phone or tablet. Good listening.

Posted by Posted by Sami Valkonen, Head of International Music Partnerships, Google Play
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Creating jobs in Europe’s industrial heartland

It was a standing room only crowd. More than 400 Belgians, including Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, small business owners, teachers and students, recently jammed into the Mundaneum museum’s headquarters in Mons near our St. Ghislain data center. They had come to hear a full day series of Google-supported lectures and presentations at the region’s first ever Web Jobs Fair.

As demand for our products grows, we’re investing hundreds of millions of Euros in expanding our data centres Europe. Many of our data centres are located in traditional industrial areas where one might not immediately think of being the home for a Google facility. Our St. Ghislain facility in southern Belgium sits in the heart of a traditional coal mining region. In Finland, the region around our Hamina data centre was a military capital for the country and the heart of the now struggling paper industry.

In St. Ghislain, we announced a EUR300 million additional investment this spring, and we get excited about expansions because our investment in a data center is about more than just bricks, mortar and servers. At the peak of construction, for example, the expansion will provide employment for around 350 engineering and construction workers. In Hamina, we’re investing and additional EUR150 million, providing work for (at peak) approximately 500 engineering and construction workers.

Further, the data center provides full time jobs for people who come from diverse backgrounds and skills. Already, more than 180 work at our data center in St. Ghislain, both direct Google employees and full-time contractors, and 125 at our Hamina facility. And the jobs at our data centers are not just for computer scientists. While some positions require backgrounds in hardware operations, many are for electricians, plumbers as well some some non-technical administrative roles.

With this new expansion we are back in hiring mode for all of these types of jobs. While we are fortunate to get applications from around the globe for these positions, we love to hire locally and many of our current data center employees are from the immediate region. Since we work in English, we require all candidates to be to carry out tasks in English, but if you have a passion for working in a fast moving environment with people who are dedicated to making a large operation hum and have skills in any of these areas, we’d love to hear from you. All of our open positions can be found on Google Jobs page here for positions in Finland and here for positions in Belgium.

Data centers are critical to our ability to provide all of our services. We are so delighted to have found wonderful homes in Hamina and St. Ghislain, and many more exciting years ahead. For more info on these two data centers please visit our site for and

Posted by William Echikson, External Relations, Brussels

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