Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

What’s new in Chrome OS: better audio, camera and notifications

Every Chromebook runs on Chrome OS, which updates every six weeks to keep your device speedy, smart and secure. Each Chrome OS update happens in the background, without interrupting what you’re doing. Here’s some of what’s new on Chromebook this August.

Control your media in one place

New media controls make it easier for you to pause or play sound from a tab or an app. Have you ever had dozens of tabs and apps open and struggled to turn off a specific tab’s audio? If so, we think you’ll find this change helpful—especially for those moments when you start watching a YouTube video and you want to quickly pause your music.

Starting this month, you can open your system menu and see all of the tabs or apps on your Chromebook that are playing audio tracks and control them from one place.

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Take great photos on your Chromebook

The Chromebook camera app has been updated to make taking photos and videos easier. Portrait mode is now available on Google Pixel Slate and we are working on bringing it to other Chromebooks. We’ve introduced an updated interface for navigating between new modes, like square mode and portrait mode.

Now, open your camera app, take a selfie with a landscape or square crop, and access it easily in your Downloads folder.

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Clear your notifications faster

With Chrome OS, you can access all your favorite apps from the Google Play Store. In response to your feedback, it’s now easier for you to check and clear notifications from Play Store apps on your Chromebook. Starting this month, easily dismiss your notifications with the “Clear all” button.

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We’ll be back in around six weeks to share more of what’s new in Chrome OS. 

Explore college opportunities with new Search features

Summer is winding down, and students across the country are heading back to the classroom. For many students in high school, it’s time to think about their next steps after graduation. While some students may have a certain school or cost considerations in mind, many others may not know where to start or what options are available to them.


The college search feature we launched last year helps students get quick access to information about four-year U.S. universities, including acceptance rates, costs and student outcomes like graduation rates. As this year’s college search season kicks off, we’re expanding our college search features to include two-year colleges and popular certificate and associate programs available at four-year institutions. A new list feature makes it easier to discover a wide range of schools and explore different fields of study.

Considering 2-year colleges

When you use your mobile device to  search for any two-year college in the U.S, you’ll get information about the programs offered, cost of attendance and more. Because many community college students often stay close to home while enrolled in these programs, we show the in-state tuition, as well as total cost with books and housing, to give a better view into what you’ll pay depending on your individual circumstances.


A new take on college lists 

If you’re still narrowing your options, our new exploration tool—available on both mobile and desktop—lets you explore a range of schools based on factors like fields of study or geography. Search for something like “hotel management schools in Georgia” and click “more” to jump into the list.


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This feature makes it easy to compare costs, graduation rates, campus life and other characteristics to find the college that best fits your needs. You can also filter by specific location or distance, region, size and acceptance rates.

These features use public information from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (comprehensive datasets available for U.S. colleges and universities). We’ve worked with education researchers, experts, nonprofit organizations, high school counselors, and admissions professionals to build these features to meet the needs of students.

These features will be available today in the U.S., and we’ll continue to find new ways to make information easily available and helpful as you search for future education opportunities.


When students get stuck, Socratic can help

In building educational resources for teachers and students, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to them about challenges they face and how we can help. We’ve heard that students often get “stuck” while studying. When they have questions in the classroom, a teacher can quickly clarify—but it’s frustrating for students who spend hours trying to find answers while studying on their own. 

Socratic, a mobile learning app we acquired last year, now uses AI technology to help high school and university students when they’re doing school work outside the classroom. It guides them through the resources that are available, and identifies the core underlying concepts that will lead them to answers to their questions.

With the latest improvements, here are a few ways Socratic has become even more helpful for students.

Get help at any moment

Students can take a photo of a question or use their voice to ask a question, and we’ll find the most relevant resources from across the web.  If they’re struggling to understand textbook content or handouts, they can take a picture of the page and check out alternative explanations of the same concepts.

Solving a math equation and a physics problem with Socratic’s help

 Solving a math equation and a physics problem with Socratic’s help


Understand the underlying concepts

To help students working on complex problems, we’ve built and trained algorithms that look at a student’s question and automatically identify the relevant underlying concepts. From there, we can find the videos, concept explanations, and online resources to help them work through their questions. For students who want to learn even more, we break down the concepts into smaller, easy-to-understand lessons. 

Socratic takes a problem, X-rays it, and extracts the underlying concepts.

Socratic takes a problem, X-rays it, and extracts the underlying concepts.

Browse helpful topic explanations for quick reference

To help students who are reviewing what they’ve learned or studying for a test, we’ve worked with educators to create subject guides on over 1,000 higher education and high school topics. It takes two taps to look up any topic they need to brush up on, get the key points, and then go deeper with helpful resources on the web.

Scroll on the Socratic app to find study guides and resources

Scroll on the Socratic app to find study guides and resources

You can leave feedback in the app- we’d love to hear from you. It’s available today on iOS and will be available on Android in the fall. 

How a love of reading turned into new features for Play Books

Have you ever wondered how new features are developed at Google? We start with a problem that needs to be solved, then consider what the best solution might be, so that our products can be more helpful. And, when we can, we like to get feedback from you (and Googlers themselves) before we officially launch so we can refine and improve.

Beta Features is new from Play Books, and it lets you test out experimental features on the web. This project originated with Dan Kimberg, a software engineer who joined the Play Books team to perfect a product he’d been a longtime fan of. Self-proclaimed bookworm and lifetime lover of literature, Dan was eager to personalize his library and make it easier to browse and organize his collection of books. He knew that other readers out there probably felt the same way—so he got to work.

These features may lack a bit of polish; they might evolve, improve, disappear or transform into new Play Books product updates. They’re experimental, and Dan and the team want to hear what’s most helpful to you. We sat down with Dan to learn more about the inspiration behind Beta Features.

What led you to the Play Books team?

I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, but I wasn’t always working in the world of books. I've been a software engineer at Google for eight years on different teams. And before coming to Google, I spent nearly 20 years as a researcher in cognitive neuroscience, using brain imaging to try to understand how the mind works. 

Before joining the Play Books team I filed around 50 feature requests, and I'd been thinking idle thoughts about how technology could improve reading, listening, (and writing) since I was a teenager. 

What inspired you to develop Beta Features?

As a constant reader, I used to go on vacation and pack 20 books because I didn’t know what I’d end up wanting to read. Throughout my years of reading physical books, there were some fundamental frustrations that inspired me to think differently about how technology can make reading more enjoyable. Physical books don’t give you the flexibility of selecting the right font size for you, not all printed books are well bound, page size varies and long lines of text may not be conducive to your reading style. Now, with the help of technology, I can try to solve some of those frustrations for others (and now I can bring as many books as I want on vacation).

Which Beta Features are available now to test out—and which is your favorite?

First, there’s Custom Shelves—my personal favorite and the most frequently requested feature from our users. It lets you organize your shelves in a more useful and personal way. For example, I’ve titled one of my Custom Shelves "Re-read me"—this is for books I've read but would like to revisit, so they don't get lost in the jumble of other books.

You’ll also be able to search quickly for a particular book within your library, or sort your library using different criteria—like author, title, last read and price. The last Beta Feature is a new shelf called Ready to Read, which shows you the books you haven’t finished yet to help you quickly pick up where you left off. 

How can you get started testing?

Head to play.google.com/books, click the Settings button, and select “Beta Features” to get started. You can enable all features or just the ones you find most useful. If you’d like to submit feedback on the Beta Features after you’ve tried them out, or want to send us a feature request you’ve been dreaming up, click on the Settings icon and then select Send Feedback.

Five ways to make your app video-ad friendly

Video ads are one of the most effective ad formats to use in your app. Increasingly, people expect to see ads that are relevant to them and that don’t interrupt their app experience—and video ads deliver on both counts. They’re a powerful canvas that you can use to engage users, for you and your advertisers. With a variety of formats, such as rewarded, interstitial, or native video, you can integrate video ads into your app to provide an enhanced experience. 

But using video ads goes beyond selecting them as an option in Google AdMob. To make sure users have the best experience with video ads, you need to optimize your app to play them. If the video doesn’t play correctly, users often blame the app, not the ad. Playback needs to start promptly and reliably, and continue without interruption. But serving an ad in a mobile app is not always easy—a number of factors can degrade the experience. The network connection might be poor, or the phone itself might be busy with other things.

Video ads use more memory, network, and device resources than other types of ads. The key to optimal video quality is to use these resources as efficiently and as intelligently as you can. And when your video quality is better, your ads will perform better too, and you may find that your app becomes more stable overall.

Load ads well in advance to permit buffering

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The moment you load a video ad, behind the scenes the ad starts buffering (essentially pre-loading) the video. In this instance, the network is the bottleneck. For example, if the phone is connected to WiFi or 4G, buffering should happen fast. But if the user is on a slower network, it can degrade or interrupt playback. The more time you allow for the ad to fill its buffer, the more reliable playback will be.

Seconds matter. Load your ad at least 15 seconds in advance of showing it. Even a few seconds in advance will prevent some users from seeing a blank ad.

Free unused ads

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If you load an ad that you won't need, like a rewarded ad where the user declined the reward, then be sure to release it right away. This frees up memory and video decoders, which will help the phone run faster and reduce the possibility of interruption on your app. On Android, we recommend you null your reference to the ad, and if you're using native ads, call UnifiedNativeAd.destroy() on the main thread. On iOS, set your reference to nil.

Avoid loading multiple concurrent ads

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Every phone has a limit to the number of videos it can hold in a prepared state. The Google Mobile Ads SDK doesn't know which video ad will be shown next, so it keeps them all prepared. Lots of phones can't hold more than one prepared video at a time. So whether your app is used in developing or developed markets, it’s very important to always free up memory as soon as possible.

Load only the ads that you need to give them the best chance at successful playback. For example, if you show multiple video ads, like native video ads in a news feed, then be sure to recycle ads that have scrolled offscreen so video players don't just pile up in memory. This should also lead to better overall app performance.

Don’t show an ad before receiving a notification that it has loaded

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The Google Mobile Ads SDK uses notifications to inform the app when a video is prepared to play. On Android, it is possible to show an ad before this notification--a legacy from the days of static content ads--but it's not a good idea to do that. Video performance will be poor and users may think something is wrong not just with playback, but with the app itself.

On Android, this notification arrives through AdListener.onAdLoaded().

Be extra cautious combining video ads with video content

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The recommended approach of not loading multiple concurrent video ads applies equally to content video and ad video. If your app plays video outside of ads, then freeing content video resources before video ads are shown will help reliability, too.

As developers, you put a huge amount of time and energy into creating an engaging app. And a great app experience should provide a great ad experience. We hope these tips help you make the most out of video ads as part of your monetization strategy.

Stay organized and productive with new Assignable reminders

If you’re a fellow parent, you probably spend a lot of time coordinating with your partner through on-the-fly conversations, text messages or phone calls. From figuring out who’s picking up the kids from dance practice to who’s tackling the weekly grocery shopping, managing various schedules can be especially stressful this time of year when kids are heading back to school.


Assignable reminders on the Google Assistant help families and housemates better collaborate and stay organized while at home or on the go. This means you can now create reminders for your partner or roommate to do things like pick up the groceries, pay a recurring bill, walk the dog—or send them a note of encouragement when they need it the most (“Hey Google, remind Mary that she will do great on tomorrow’s exam.”) The feature will be available over the next few weeks in English on phones, speakers and Smart Displays in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and will work with Google Nest Hub Max when it’s available later this fall.


Assignable reminders on mobile

To assign a reminder, ask your Assistant, “Hey Google, remind Greg to take out the trash at 8pm.” Greg will get a notification on both his Assistant-enabled Smart Display, speaker and phone when the reminder is created, so that it’s on his radar. Greg will get notified again at the exact time you asked your Assistant to remind him. You can even quickly see which reminders you’ve assigned to Greg, simply by saying, “Hey Google, what are my reminders for Greg?” 


Assignable reminders on Google Home Hub

This feature will also work for location-based reminders with a specific address or landmark. For example, if you want to remind Claire to pick up flowers—and you don’t know the exact time she’ll be going shopping—just say, “Hey Google, remind Claire to pick up flowers when she gets to the San Francisco Ferry Building.” The Assistant will then create a reminder that will pop-up for Claire when the Assistant recognizes that she has arrived at the Ferry Building.


You can send and receive reminders only from people who are in your Google family group or those who have their accounts linked to the same Smart Display or speaker as you and are Voice Matched. The recipient must also be in a senders' Google Contacts. For parents who want to give their kids access to the Assistant on Google Home, you can create an account for kids under 13 (or the applicable age in your country) through Family Link, then link their Google Account and voice to Google Home. In addition, you have the control to block anyone from sending you reminders at any time through the new Assignable reminders section in Assistant Settings.


We think this feature will be a great tool to help families (and housemates) manage tasks this new school year and beyond.

A proactive approach to disaster relief

"It was as if someone had thrown an atomic bomb. Everything was destroyed." Fisherman Luciano Morales says this was the damage that Hurricane Maria brought his small Puerto Rican village of Punta Santiago. One of three residents who decided to stay back to protect his household and belongings, Luciano soon realized that a generator and gasoline weren’t enough to weather the storm, or “Mrs. Maria” as he called it. His home and belongings, along with most of the village’s infrastructure, turned to rubble.

Following the hurricane, GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that gives money to the poor, no strings attached, applied it’s model in response to Maria, and gave cash to Luciano and over 4,700 families, empowering them to solve their most pressing needs. 

Historically, following major disasters, charitable organizations and aid agencies supply bottles of water, sheets of drywall or any number of other goods and services that those affected may need. While this support can at times be critical, it’s impossible for a pre-set bundle of goods and services to meet the diverse needs of those affected by a disaster. Some people need life preserving pharmaceuticals that require refrigeration. Some have medical conditions that call for a very specific kind of diet. And some have jobs for which they’re paid only when they show up. It’s impossible to forecast every person or family's most pressing needs. 

Research on direct cash transfers has shown wide-ranging positive outcomes and immediate improvement on recipients’ lives. Affected individuals largely prefer it over traditional forms of aid—yet cash giving makes up a very small share of disaster response spending. 

Ahead of this year’s storm season, Google.org is contributing $3 million to GiveDirectly to support large-scale cash transfers when a natural disaster hits the U.S. The grant will allow GiveDirectly to support more than 2,400 low-income families and help them better understand how people like Luciano want to be helped during different points of the recovery process. A team of four Google.org Fellows is working full-time to combine government data on socioeconomic indicators and storm damage data into a single tool that will help GiveDirectly better identify and support the people most in need.

In a study published by GiveDirectly, the organization found cash transfers had a significant impact on the poorest populations following the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico. Cash allowed families to expand their children’s nutritional intake, improve the quality of their homes, avoid debt, reduce stress and improve living conditions.

There are still important questions remaining about direct cash giving after natural disasters. Our collaboration with GiveDirectly on this work will be guided by some of these outstanding questions: How does the impact change if you give the cash several weeks after a disaster, as opposed to several months later, as was the case in the pilot study? Does giving money at different intervals have different impacts? Do large cash transfer programs impact the economy beyond individual recipients?

Crisis response has always been a key focus area of Google.org. We’ve supported communities and nonprofits on the front lines through immediate and long-term recovery via our products, technical volunteers and over $60 million in funding since 2005. With GiveDirectly, we look forward to evolving the way we respond to ensure that we’re providing support to those who need it most in times of crisis in the most effective, data-driven and efficient way possible.  


When journalists collaborate instead of compete

At ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, collaboration is part of our DNA. Since we first started publishing 11 years ago, we've partnered with news organizations all over the U.S., from the Des Moines Register to the New York Times, and from NPR to CBS News. Those collaborations have taken many forms. In the past few years, we’ve taken on very large scale partnerships, working with many newsrooms at once, sharing a data set that hundreds of reporters could use to do their jobs.

We’ve learned that it's not easy to wrangle hundreds of journalists on a single project—but we’ve developed some strategies and tools to help. With the support of the Google News Initiative, we're publishing a guidebook to collaborative data journalism, including big crowdsourced projects like the ones we've done. The guide provides tips for establishing collaboratives, managing workflows and tracking your work. Our collaborative reporting guidebook is available on our website. Our database tool will be available in the fall.

For the past few years, we’ve been working with the Google News Initiative on making large-scale collaborations possible. In 2016 and 2018, we worked together on the Electionland project, which monitored voting problems in real time. (Google provided financial support for the 2016 Electionland.) That project allowed ProPublica and our partners to tell stories about long lines, voter check-in issues, voter ID and much more, reporting on these problems as they arose so that authorities could have the opportunity to address them. 

Starting in 2017, Google and ProPublica have worked together on building tools for Documenting Hate, which tracks hate crimes and bias incidents. We've reported on how hate manifests itself in communities big and small, from schools and universities to superstores and supermarkets. We are now taking what we’ve learned and the tools we’ve built and giving them away so that other newsrooms can launch and run their own collaborations around data. 

When we start a large collaboration, local and national newsrooms sign up to get access to the data we’ve collected, which they can use to report their own stories. That way, we can make the most out of a big set of data, and help reporters all over the country tell stories. We’ve also built software to help organize, verify and share tips; we’ll be making that available for other newsrooms to use later this fall. You can sign up using our form to learn when our collaborative reporting tool is ready.

While collaboration in journalism has grown considerably in the last few years, we know that some newsrooms are still hesitant due to concerns about competing with other media organizations and getting exclusive access to sources. But through our experience with these projects, we know that journalists can do great reporting through collaborations. This guide demonstrates that by working together, newsrooms can benefit by reaching larger audiences, finding new stories and making the most out of large data sets. We hope it will be helpful and will inspire more journalists to work together.

7 ways to grow programmatic video revenue with Google Ad Manager

Advances in programmatic video technology present exciting opportunities for publishers to package and sell their video inventory in new ways and ultimately increase efficiency, fill rates, and revenue. As advertisers continue to embrace video as their storytelling medium, and as programmatic spend increases, publishers can use this technology to grow their business.

Below are seven best practices my team has identified that can help you win with programmatic video. These best practices are based on our experience working with leading video partners and building programmatic technology that empowers publishers to deliver seamless, personalized, and measurable ad experiences everywhere.

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Share more information about your inventory to drive more value

There’s a strong correlation between how much information you share about your video inventory and higher CPMs and fill rates. When video inventory contains viewability, brand safety, and demographic data, it’s more desirable to advertisers who want to reach audiences on premium content. As shared in our recent video viewability guide, increasing the viewability of your video ads from 50 percent to 90 percent, can result in more than an 80 percent revenue uplift (averaged across desktop and mobile sites) according to internal data.

If your video inventory contains signals like Device ID, App ID, Package Name, Show Name, TMSID, Description URL and Viewability signals it will likely drive the highest possible value for you and your advertising partners. When it comes to Device ID, Google Ad Manager supports the IAB's Identifier for Advertisers (IFA) guidelines and we recommend that partners adopt these guidelines to provide better ad experiences in a privacy-focused way.

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Establish a responsible first-party data strategy 

If you have first-party data or unique insights from your audiences or content that you have the right to use for advertising purposes, consider ways to use your custom data to help maximize the value of your programmatic inventory. Use Google Ad Manager’s audience solutions to help your advertising partners benefit from your first-party data whilst protecting against data leakage. This can improve advertising effectiveness and result in a high-quality advertising experience for audiences.
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Create organizational alignment between direct and programmatic sales teams 

One of the biggest challenges our broadcaster research revealed is achieving organizational alignment between direct and digital sales teams. Programmatic guaranteed deals represent a good opportunity to educate your sales organization on your programmatic offering and strategically cultivate relationships with agencies, demand-side platforms, and brands—with the benefit of improved efficiency. According to our programmatic guaranteed report, publishers save 57 percent more time when using Programmatic Guaranteed deals versus traditional reservations, all while maintaining the same level of control over their campaigns. 


Create alignment by empowering your sales team to sell programmatic guaranteed video ads and compensate them for programmatic revenue.

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Maximize yield across all transaction types 

Google Ad Manager offers flexibility over how your inventory can be sold—including transaction types like Open Auction and Exchange Bidding. Partners like DAZN have been able to increase programmatic video revenue by 150 percent using Exchange Bidding for instream video. No matter how you sell, Ad Manager offers a unified platform with comprehensive yield management features that work across both direct and programmatic sales.


When it comes to pricing, we recommend: 

  • Using Unified Pricing for Open Auction and Exchange Bidding to centrally manage your target CPM or floor prices across all programmatic demand.

  • Setting Programmatic Guaranteed pricing on par with your traditional reservation rate card. 

  • Setting higher pricing for Programmatic Guaranteed with Audience Lists and for buyers who would like to retain the ability to pass on impressions through non-guaranteed private marketplaces.

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Conduct technical video audits periodically

Technical errors can result in missed opportunities or cause a poor user experience. The Ad Manager technical consultant team, that works with partners to identify and fix video issues, recommends your audit include the following steps: 

  • Review sites and apps for latency, render rates, and prefetching opportunities.

  • Audit for VAST errors, timeout windows, and issues passing user agent.

  • Use Ad Manager inventory controls, like the ability to block VPAID creatives on connected TV devices, or create network level duration settings and player profiles for a better ad experience. 

  • Use Ad Manager’s Dynamic Ad Insertion to ensure a seamless experience across content and ads.

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Maintain your brand with Ad Manager's publisher protections

Maintain your brand by using Ad Manager’s spam protections, including standards like Ads.txt and apps-ads.txt. You can reduce the risk of fraud by sending all programmatic video inventory to Ad Manager through the Interactive Media Ads SDK. We also recommend using Ad Manager’s Ad Review Center to review individual ads and decide whether you want to continue showing them on your pages or blog, or report ads in real-time. 

With these protections in place, you can rest assured that you’ve taken steps to minimize the risk that your inventory will be compromised by bad actors, and advertisers will increasingly feel comfortable that the video inventory they buy through Ad Manager is from the declared, trusted source they set out to run on. 

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Grow your revenue with Ad Manager’s demand-side connections

Google Ad Manager can also help you grow awareness and revenue for your inventory through our integrated demand-side connections to Google Authorized Buyers, including Display & Video 360, Google Ads, and agencies. You can easily strike curated deals through your publisher profile in Ad Manager. Our teams may also be able to help you highlight your inventory in the Display and Video 360 Marketplace program or by incorporating your brand in other marketing programs throughout the year.

Implementing these best practices can help you successfully monetize your video programmatically, grow demand from advertisers, and allow you to continue to create more great content for audiences everywhere. 

Learn more on the Google Ad Manager website.

Meet this year’s Doodle for Google contest winner

I’m still not sure if I know what I want to be when I grow up. But by looking at all of the Doodle for Google submissions we have received this year, I’ve learned that kids have a lot more figured out than I do. Around 222,000 students entered this year’s contest and responded to the theme “When I grow up, I hope…”  

Yesterday, one of our guest judges this year, Jimmy Fallon, announced this year’s National Winner, Arantza Peña Popo. She stopped by "The Tonight Show" to chat about her winning Doodle, called “Once you get it, you give back,” which she drew in honor of her mom. “When I grow up, I hope to care for my mom as much as she cared for me my entire life,” she said. “My mom has done so much for me and sacrificed a lot.”

Doodle for Google 2019

Today, millions of people will be able to see Arantza’s Doodle on the biggest “refrigerator door” around: the Google homepage. Additionally, Arantza will receive $30,000 toward a college scholarship and her school, Arabia Mountain High School (where she was recently named valedictorian), will receive a $50,000 technology package. Thank you to Arantza and all of the students who entered this year for sharing your hopes with us. And maybe one day, we grownups will figure out what we want to do when we grow up.