Friday, May 6, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Janrain Engage Offers Social Login And Sharing For Android Apps

Posted: 06 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT

OpenID software creator Janrain is bringing its social login SDK to Android phones today.

Janrain plug and play technology allows an app developer’s visitors to sign-in to the app with their existing accounts on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn or other networks and then publish their comments, purchases, reviews or other activities from the app to multiple social networks.

Features of the Janrain Engage for Android SDK include social Login for 20-plus identity providers and social networks, social sharing to 5 networks, a built-in preview feature that displays how a social post would appear on the social network; and more. Janrain Engage will also remember an app user’s preferred network on return visits and will provide a single-click return experience.

Janrain Engage was extended to the iPhone last year, and the iPad earlier this year. Future releases will include email and SMS sharing as well as a tablet optimized version, says the company.



Zendesk And MindTouch Add Social Knowledge To Customer Support

Posted: 06 May 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Customer support startup Zendesk is partnering with knowledge base company MindTouch today to offer a social help solution for customer service agents. Now support agents using Zendesk’s customer support SaaS, can query a MindTouch-powered knowledge base for quick answers. The idea is that customer support agents can share their knowledge base with other support agents to improve service to consumers.

The crowdsourcing functionality is allows for collaborative editing, content scoring, commenting, media and video. And support tickets sent to an end user can also be republished as knowledge base articles. Within the knowledge base platform, customer service agents can search by keyword and see what articles are getting viewed the most, which articles are support agents referencing the most and which articles are being edited the most.

The new offering also has “Google Analytics for your support knowledge base,” so both agents and managers can run reports on what problems are being most searched for, which articles have lots of material changes and/or confusion, which articles have the highest ratings or most comments, which articles or subjects are the most requested in terms of new info needed, which end users are contributing the most really helpful content, which agents are pushing changes most frequently, and more.

MindTouch’s social knowledge platform adds to Zendesk’s existing Twitter integration, which allows agents to turn a Tweet into a Zendesk ticket and respond publicly to a complaint on Twitter from Zendesk's platform.

MindTouch has powered knowledge bases for companies like Paypal, Autodesk, The Washington Post, Mozilla, HTC, HP-Palm, and Intuit. Adding a knowledge base to a customer service support platform makes sense, so the offering is sure to be popular amongst Zendesk’s 10,000 customers.



Fly Or Die: The BlackBerry Playbook Vs. The Color Nook

Posted: 06 May 2011 07:30 AM PDT

Tablets and electronic book readers are on a collision course. In this episode of Fly or Die , ChrunchGear editor John Biggs and I discuss the pros and cons of the new BlackBerry Playbook and the Color Nook from Barnes & Noble. The PlayBook is fast and a solid effort from our much-beleaguered Canadian friends. But is it too little, too late?

If you are a BackBerry user and want a tablet that syncs to your phone, this could be for you. (In the video, Biggs keeps saying Android, but he means BlackBerry—too many Four Lokos before the taping). I actually like the PlayBook better than most Android tablets. But if it’s incredible apps that you want, the PlayBook’s choices are still pretty limited.

The Color Nook is a different story. It’s primary purpose is as a digital book reader and it’s main competition is the Kindle. But it is also a fully functioning color Android tablet. And just recently it added support for Android apps. So you can read books—including animated ones for your kids—browse the Web, and check out apps like Pulse and Pandora. Not bad for $250. Watch the video above to find out more, and check out past episodes here.



Click Here If You’ve Never Seen A Robot Play Angry Birds Before (Videos)

Posted: 06 May 2011 06:30 AM PDT

Ah, robots. When they’re not busy planning world domination, they apparently play Angry Birds just like the rest of us. OptoFidelity, a Finnish company that specializes in machine vision and optical measurement technology, in addition to other things I don’t understand, recently produced a physical robot that knows how to kill nasty green pigs.

It most certainly beats the crap out of this (OptoFidelity 1 – Stanford University 0).

OptoFidelity’s Hans Kuosmanen and Jere Tuulkari go into more detail in another video:

And for the techies, an excerpt from the forum post linked above (and a third video):

OptoFidelity, a National Instruments Alliance Partner, recently expanded from vision applications to building test systems. To create the robot that plays Angry Birds, Optofidelity engineers needed a real-time system and field-programmable gate array (FPGA). They used NI products, specifically NI CompactRIO, NI Single-Board RIO platforms, and NI LabVIEW software, because they were the best fit to meet the specifications required for this sweet app.

The application allows their customers to create their own driver without modifying the main software, ensuring compatibility with different display drivers. What's more, this application isn't restricted to just the Nokia handset in the video. It is an independent platform that will work with the display of most devices.

(Thanks for the heads up, Maegan Quejada!)



Location-Based Mobile Advertising Company JiWire Raises $20 Million

Posted: 06 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Exclusive: Location-based mobile advertising company JiWire has raised $20 million in new funding led by Trident Capital with Comcast Interactive Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Panorama Capital, and Norwest Venture Partners also participated in the financing. With the current funding, JiWire’s total capital raised to date is $45 million.

JiWire offers a highly targeted, location-based advertising platform that runs across Wi-Fi and mobile for devices such as iPads, smartphones and laptops. Through partnerships with more than 40 public WiFi networks, 30,000 venues and 60 airports, its ads reach more than 40 million people a month. JiWire also has advertising relationships with more than 200 location-based mobile applications.

On the advertising side, the company has partnered with a number of companies to connect these brands with its massive consumer reach. For example, JiWire announced a deal with Groupon to offer location-based deals at a hyperlocal level. Other brands using JiWire include Hewlett-Packard, Ritz Camera and Clinique.

Last year, JiWire acquired location-based mobile shopping platform NearbyNow, which allows brands to show products within an app or an ad and confirm availability of the product in the actual store. The company then integrated this technology into its own ad platform.

JiWire’s CEO Dave Courtney tells us that the new funding will be used to towards development of new ad technology and products, acquisitions and international expansion (the company entered the U.K. last year).



The Resumator Raises $700,000 For Social Recruiting Solution

Posted: 06 May 2011 05:23 AM PDT

Pittsburgh-based The Resumator, which aims to “take the hassle out of hiring”, has secured $700,000 in funding led by Rincon Venture Partners, with Paige Craig, ff Venture Capital and Christopher Muenchhoff participating.

The Resumator is a graduate of the May 2009 AlphaLab program, a startup accelerator program run by seed stage investor Innovation Works, which also participated in the round.

The company offers Web-based social recruiting and applicant tracking tools that allow employers to promote job openings and efficiently review incoming resumes. No more inboxes filling up with cover letters and attachments, but instead a centralized environment where multiple people within one company can collaborate to rank, track and discuss candidates.

Customers include well known tech startups like Evernote, Tumblr, Bump and Klout.

Competitors include Jobvite, Firefish, Sendouts and Taleo, among many others.

Founder and CEO Don Charlton says they built the service to support the needs of what he calls "deputized hiring managers", employees in SMBs that often have no formal experience recruiting and not much free time, but are nonetheless tasked to manage the hiring effort.

Charlton tells me that The Resumator had been growing steadily from their small Pittsburgh office since its 2009 launch, and that there were having trouble making connections with investors on the West Coast. In an effort to solve that problem, the startup signed up for AngelList and says it was able to quickly secure the round thanks to that move.

The Resumator has now raised close to $900,000 in financing.



Sophos Acquires Internet Security Appliance Maker Astaro

Posted: 06 May 2011 02:49 AM PDT

UK-based security software maker Sophos has acquired Astaro, a privately-held provider of network security solutions. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Astaro booked $56 million in billings last year, which makes it the fourth largest dedicated unified threat management (UTM) provider in the world.


Brazil’s Peixe Urbano Takes “Significant Growth” Round From General Atlantic and Tiger Global

Posted: 06 May 2011 01:00 AM PDT

Peixe Urbano, Brazil’s largest daily deal site (Groupon is a close second), has closed a “significant growth capital” investment from General Atlantic and Tiger Global Management, the company tells me. The size of the round isn’t being disclosed, but these firms only tend to get involved when at least tens of millions of dollars, and often hundreds of millions, are invested. This was a primary funding, nothing was taken off the table by founders or existing investors.

It was only a few months ago that the company announced that Benchmark Capital had invested. Why the new round?

Growth, apparently. Last October, says CEO Julio Vasconcellos, the company had about 1 million registered users. Today they have 9 million, and have sold 5 million “units,” or deals. The average deal price is currently in the $25-$30 range, so it’s not hard to take a guess at revenue. Nearly all of this is from Brazil, although the company did recently launch in Argentina as well, and will eventually spread throughout Latin America. Even Mexico is in their crosshairs.

That’s not bad for a startup that only launched a year ago. Today they have 600 employees, with about half in sales.

Another interesting factoid about Peixe Urbano: They’ve imported a dozen American engineers, product managers and designers. It’s not outsourcing, and it’s not insourcing. It’s something unique, and you don’t hear about Non-U.S. startups hiring and moving Americans to wherever they are very often. Perhaps we’ll see more of this over time. The company has hired people from Apple, Intuit, Tagged, Merchant Circle and other companies.

So if you’re an American techy and you want to get paid (including stock options) to go hang out in Brazil for a few years, you know where to send your resume.

Update: coincidentally, General Atlantic has also invested in Groupalia, a Spain-based daily deal site operator that is eying expansion in Latin America, Brazil and Mexico in particular.

See an earlier video interview we did with Vasoncellos here.

Disclosure: I’m a limited partner in Benchmark Capital’s newest fund, but not in the fund that invested in Peixe Urbano.



So Unsocial: Don’t Expect Any Big Google Social Announcements At I/O Next Week

Posted: 06 May 2011 12:39 AM PDT

I thought I had Google’s PR and launch strategy all figured out a couple of months ago. There haven’t been, and won’t be, any big “this changes everything” announcements around social, I said. Because, well, no matter how great their products are, it’ll be hard to shine next to Facebook. All of my sources in and around Google have said that post was essentially correct and reflected Google’s thinking.

One thing I was probably wrong about, though. I thought that Google would be releasing something at least around their I/O developer conference next week. In particular there’s been chatter that their rumored social video conferencing service that MG Siegler wrote about in December would be announced very soon.

Apparently not. The biggest news at I/O next week may be that there will be absolutely no social product launches at the event, say our sources.

Make no mistake, stuff is coming. There’s a whole product group, led by Vic Gundotra, working on this stuff. Even though they haven’t officially announced any of it, they do keep us busy chasing easter eggs and other creatively controlled leaks that may or may not have something to do with their upcoming social products.

But for now, we have to keep waiting. They are clearly taking their own sweet time figuring all this out. We’ll wait patiently. For at least a little while longer.



Self-Publishing Site Helium Raises Another $10 Million

Posted: 05 May 2011 08:06 PM PDT

Self-publishing content company Helium has raised another 10 million in debt financing according to a SEC filing from earlier today. Listed on the the filing are President Mark Renalli, and board members Ann Bushell and John Paloian from RR Donnelly, Joseph Farrelly of Interpublic Group, Anne Kennedy of Beyond Ink, Steve Pogorzelski, David Weild IV and William Huff. There is no indication of who invested on the SEC form.

Sort of like a proto-content farm, Helium writers get paid to write “How to” guides on subjects ranging from “How to get physically ready for Marine Basic Training” to “How to change back to Yahoo! Mail Classic” (wow).

Helium launched in 2006 and since then has amassed a community of hundreds of thousands of writers, at least. Since no one from Helium has returned my calls, I have no more accurate or up to date traffic or engagement numbers. But I do have your brief moment of zen from the last time we wrote about Helium raising money, in a post entitled “Helium Raises $17 Million, Lays Off 30 Percent of Employees.”

“The bomb-shelter mentality among startups is now so severe that even companies raising money are announcing layoffs in response to diminished economic prospects. Boston-based Helium just closed a $17 million series A financing about ten days ago, and then cut 30 percent of the organization (18 people) last week.

CEO Mark Ranalli tells me: “We expect a deterioration of overall ad rates, and a slowing of the economy in general. Our approach was to take a third of every group across engineering, customer service, and sales.’”

While I have no idea if anyone got laid off this time, the severity of the above text, written in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis, is pretty jarring.

In the era of Color’s pre-launch $41 million and in light of Demand Media’s recent IPO (with favorable earnings released today) we often forget that not that long ago the collective startup mindset was one of a “bomb shelter mentality” … Times, they do change.



AOL Launches “Incredibly Easy” Video Chat Service Internally; We Launch It Externally

Posted: 05 May 2011 07:36 PM PDT

Earlier today, AOL’s Head of AIM Products Jason Shellen sent an email to the entire company urging people not to share its contents with people outside of the company. Even though we’re a part of AOL, we didn’t get that email. Well, that is until someone was kind enough to leak it to us. Hey, we are not outside of the company so that’s fair right? And since we didn’t technically get the email, I have no problem sharing it.

Anyway.

AOL is on the verge of launching a “shiny new video chat product dubbed ‘AV’”. And it actually looks pretty good. It’s video chat, but super-simple. You don’t need an account to use it. You don’t need anything (besides, sadly, Flash installed on your computer). You hit the homepage, start a chat, get a link, and send that to friends. Up to four people can chat at once.

I’ve been playing around with it for a bit. It is super simple and well done. Aside from video chatting, you can text chat and it overlays on your stream in a nice way. You can also make your stream wider and freeze it.

Still in beta for now, Shellen notes that it “represents a lot of hard work by the AIM team over the last few months.” He also says that it’s the first of “several” new AIM launches coming soon. All will be web-focused.

The video chat play is a smart one. This is a space that is heating up really quickly. Apple has FaceTime across their devices, Chatroulette is supposedly making a comeback, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker are back at work on Supyo (yes, Mike is an investor), and even Skype is back in the news about possible partnerships with Facebook or Google for their technology.

Speaking of Google, we’ve been hearing for months that they’re working on something similar to AV. And I suspect we’ll be hearing more about that shortly.

The point of Shellen’s email today was to share AV internally with AOLers to test it out. But we’re gonna do him one better. We’re going to share the link here so all of you can help test it out! Here she is!

AOL is hosting a product summit at their west coast HQ in Palo Alto next week. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about AV there. For now, enjoy.

Below, Shellen’s email to the troops. Reached for comment, Shellen refused to and seemed annoyed. Hey, it was either us publishing this or Business Insider, right? We’re brothers!

People of AOL,

AIM is proud to present you with a super secret internal launch (shhh!) of our shiny new video chat product dubbed “AV”. Still in beta, AV is a major step forward that represents a lot of hard work by the AIM team over the last few months.

AV is incredibly easy to use: Visit the home page, start a chat, get a link to send out, and you and up to three other people are video chatting in no time. There’s no account or login required, so there’s very little barrier to entry. Plus… it’s FUN!

As you may know, this is the first of several substantial new AIM launches and the first to represent our shift in focus to better web software. While you might have been one of our early testers of the entire new AIM effort, this is just the video portion and we’ll be in touch soon as the rest rolls out.

What I’m asking of you is to:

1. Use the product by checking out the link below, only with fellow Aol team members.
2. Give us feedback and bug reports through the “Feedback” link in the product.
3. DO NOT SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE OUTSIDE AOL!
4. Sorry, my “caps lock” key got stuck on during number 3. But seriously, don’t do it.

Enjoy: http://aim.com/av

Sincerely,

JASON SHELLEN
Head of AIM Products
P: XXX.XXX.XXXX AIM: XXXXXXXX
Palo Alto | NYC | Dulles

PS: To the ACG team for whom this email will seem oddly familiar, thank you for your help in providing feedback on our alpha version over the past few weeks. Please give us another spin now that we’ve worked out the kinks and keep giving us feedback so we can continue to improve.



‘FarmVille’ With Live Animals. No, Really

Posted: 05 May 2011 05:04 PM PDT


“The online farmers will not be able to choose to grow cannabis or bananas, but undoubtedly there will be some strange decisions, some decisions I would not have made.”

– Richard Morris, farmer

Because it’s hard hitting journalism week here at TC (and pretty much every week in my world) I’m just going to throw this one out there: Some actual farmers in the UK have decided to turn their farm into a real life FarmVille. As of yesterday people who participate in the MyFarm project can buy virtual access to Wimple Estate, National Trust farm in Cambridgeshire, England.

After paying 30 £ (or $48 dollars) up to 10,000 participants will vote on day to day farm minutae like what kinds of real wheat to buy and what types of real cows to raise, with their decisions being informed by blogs and videos about farm life provided by MyFarm. One “big” vote will be made monthly and the decisions with the most votes will actually get implemented on the farm.

Despite cell signal on the farm being “very patchy,” MyFarm is working on a smartphone app to keep Wimple Estate manager Richard Morris abreast of online developments.  Morris has been judged by backseat farmers before,“Farming is always a compromise — there is never a right or a wrong answer. If I choose one thing, my neighbour will be leaning over the fence shaking his head”.

While FarmVille was part of the inspiration behind the year long project, the real goal is to forge a greater connection between people and the point of origin of what they eat, “This is all about reconnecting people to where their food comes from. Our TNS poll showed that only 8 percent of mothers feel confident talking to their children about where their food comes from. That’s really poignant,” said National Trust Director Fiona Reynolds.

FarmVille is Facebook’s second most popular game at around 47 million monthly users. Farming has almost seven billion users, worldwide.



Raspberry Pi: A $25 Bare-Bones PC That Fits On Your Keychain

Posted: 05 May 2011 04:49 PM PDT


There are a number of barebones/mass-market low-cost devices out there, many of them aimed at the huge developing world market, hoping to outfit people with basic PC functionality for as little cost as possible. The OLPC is among the most famous, but perhaps the most luxurious: with a cutting-edge screen, built-in keyboard and networking, and so on, it has perhaps aimed too high, resulting in (as we’ve seen) increasing price and limited uptake. India’s “$35″ tablet comes to mind as well.

David Braben, perhaps best known for developing the revolutionary Elite, is now leading a foundation called Raspberry Pi to mass produce this ultra-minimal PC and distribute it where even an OLPC is too much. Their device is as bare-bones as it gets, and they’re hoping to sell it for $25.

Continue reading…



Erasing And Recovering Hard Drives: An Increasingly Complicated Affair

Posted: 05 May 2011 03:52 PM PDT


The buzzword of the year is “cloud,” and it carries with it an implication that your data is somewhere magical and safe, and in a way, it is. But there’s no getting around the fact that our appetite for storage is increasing by leaps and bounds, whether it’s stored locally or remotely. There’s always the possibility of catastrophic failure, and of course the flip side of that is that there is always the need to instantly and permanently delete our data.

I’ve always found both necessities, and the methods for achieving them, interesting topics. And with densities increasing and SSDs on the rise, the recovery and security scene is getting more complex by the day. I spoke with Chris Bross, a data recovery expert at DriveSavers, in order to get a feel for what the recovery practices are out there today.

Continue reading…



SEC Watch: Palantir Technologies Raises $50 Million In New Funding

Posted: 05 May 2011 03:09 PM PDT

After raising a whopping $90 million last year, Palantir Technologies appears to be raising another big round. According to an SEC filing, the company has just raised $50 million in new funding. This would bring Palantir’s total funding to $175 million. The company declined to comment on the filing.

Founded in 2004 by former PayPal employees and Stanford computer scientists, Palantir offers a high-powered analysis platform. Palantir Government and Palantir Finance both integrate, visualize, and analyze information in these sectors. The company analyzes a variety of data including structured, unstructured, relational, temporal, and geospatial content. The virtue of of Palantir is that it accepts huge databases and allows users to slice and dice this information.

Palantir told us last year that revenues have at least doubled every year for the last three years. And in the company’s last round, its valuation was pegged at $735 million; so it should be interesting to see if the company will hit a $1 billion valuation in the new round.

Of course, this could be part of a larger round, so the company could be raising more than $50 million.



TechCrunch Interview: Marissa Mayer Reveals The Two Pillars Of Google’s Local Strategy

Posted: 05 May 2011 02:34 PM PDT


Today during her keynote talk at Social Loco, Google VP of Location and Local Services Marissa Mayer outlined some of the core goals driving Google’s local and location strategies, and how social will tie into that. The gist: Google wants to create serendipitous experiences, and to present you with contextually relevant information before you even search for it. But there are still plenty of questions — and we got a chance to ask her about some of them.

Soon after her talk, we sat down with Mayer for a ten-minute interview, where we discussed a range of topics including the scalability of Google Business Photos, the problems facing Google Latitude, and how Google Places is going to differentiate itself from Yelp in the future.

Some interesting points from the video:

  • Google Business Photos, which were just announced today, are essentially ‘Street View’ for business interiors. At this point Google is only using professional photographs, but Mayer hinted (though wouldn’t confirm) that users would eventually be able to submit photos themselves.
  • Mayer says that Google Hotpot, with its personalized recommendations, was one of the first features used to differentiate Places from Yelp. There will be much more along these lines.
  • When I asked how Google would incentivize users to rate venues, Mayer said that it’s easy to distribute the reviews you leave (you can Tweet them, etc.). And your reviews show up in friends’ search results on Google. “We’re also working to make the check-in and ratings experiences even more seamless on the phone”, Mayer says. Off-camera Mayer also pointed out that the majority of content submitted on other services are left by a small percentage of users, so it’s okay if not everyone is leaving reviews.
  • Latitude has over 10 million users, but Mayer concedes that its engagement isn’t very high. Google is working on ways to fix this (deals and offers, linked to check-ins).

Mayer also explained how Google’s location strategy is supported by two pillars: Places and Maps. Instead of launching numerous new location-focused products, it sounds like Google will keep integrating them into these two apps.

We also get to the bottom of the infamous Hotpot name. Tune in for all of the details.



Demand Media’s Q1 Revenue Beats The Street; Up 48 Percent To $79.5 Million

Posted: 05 May 2011 01:34 PM PDT

Content platform Demand Media reported its first quarter 2011 results today, reporting revenue of $79.5 million, an increase of 48% compared to $53.6 million in Q1 2010, beating analyst expectations of $69.49 million in Q1 revenue. The company reported a net loss of $5.6 million compared to a net loss of $4.1 million in Q1 2010. Net loss per share was $0.13 compared to $0.94 in Q110.

In a statement, CEO Richard Rosenblatt said: "We reported better-than-expected results in Q1 2011, driven primarily by continued momentum from our owned and operated sites…We also continued to invest in Demand Media's long-term success, enhancing our consumer offerings through new partnerships with Rachael Ray, Tyra Banks and Getty Images. We believe our publishing platform is the most comprehensive and effective of any online publisher and our focus on delivering relevant, valuable content that makes consumers' lives better will continue to drive our success."

Other stats from the earnings release:

• Content & Media Revenue was $51.9 million, up 72% compared to $30.2 million in Q110.
• Traffic acquisition costs (TAC), which represent the portion of Content & Media revenue shared with Demand Media partners, was $3.2 million,
or 6.2% of Content & Media revenue, compared to $2.7 million, or 8.9% of Content & Media revenue in Q110.
• Content & Media Revenue ex-TAC was $48.7 million, up 77% compared to $27.5 million in Q110.
• Registrar Revenue was $27.7 million, up 18% compared to $23.4 million in Q110.
• Investment in Intangible Assets was $14.2 million, up 40% compared to $10.2 million in Q110.

All eyes are on Demand’s revenue this quarter after Google issued its “Panda” update to search results, which aimed to weed out low-quality content sites from search.This could affect Demand content’s rank in search results and take a chunk our of the company’s top line. Demand just went public a a few months ago, raising $151.3 million in its offering.

CFO Charles Hilliard said that “Outperformance in Q1 was driven by ongoing revenue growth from our content library, combined with strong direct brand advertising sales.”

The company also announced that it is taking measures to clean up its content, and will be improving the quality of content posted on its platform going forward. For example, one of the company’s largest properties, eHow, has removed a number of low-quality, user-generated articles from the site.

On the earnings call Demand Media said that it looking to improve the quality of its content. The company confirmed that the changes in Google’s algorithm affected eHow’s traffic, with visits to the platform down in the past quarter. “Google is a very important partner for us and we consider ourselves as white hat,” says Rosenblatt, referring to SEO advertising traffic.



Password Manager Last Pass Possibly Hacked

Posted: 05 May 2011 01:03 PM PDT

Universal password via browser extension Last Pass has announced on its company blog that it might have been the target of a hacking attempt on Tuesday, as it experienced an unidentifiable anomaly in traffic.

From the Last Pass blog:

“In this case, we couldn’t find that root cause. After delving into the anomaly we found a similar but smaller matching traffic anomaly from one of our databases in the opposite direction (more traffic was sent from the database compared to what was received on the server).

Because we can’t account for this anomaly either, we’re going to be paranoid and assume the worst: that the data we stored in the database was somehow accessed. We know roughly the amount of data transfered and that it’s big enough to have transfered people’s email addresses, the server salt and their salted password hashes from the database. We also know that the amount of data taken isn’t remotely enough to have pulled many users encrypted data blobs.”

Still unsure if this is actually an attack or who was responsible, Last Pass, (whose slogan is ironically “the last password you’ll have to remember!”) initially asked users to change their passwords. 

Because of traffic overload due to this breach news, it is now asking users to verify their emails and will be rolling out password changes as the traffic dies down: “We’re asking if you’re not being asked to change your password then hold off — we’re protecting everyone.”



Foursquare Team Creates “Subscribe To It”, A New Premium Service For Subscriptions

Posted: 05 May 2011 12:42 PM PDT

What’s funny is that my headline reads like a pretty standard intriguing tech headline. Employees from a hot startup (Foursquare) create a new service (Subscribe To It) that has a monetization strategy from the start (subscriptions). Gold, right?

Ha.

Go ahead and visit Subscribe To It. It allows you to “Subscribe Now” for the low monthly fee of $1. And what do you get for that $1? Well, you get to say you’re subscribed. To it.

Zing!

As the site notes:

You can become a member of SubscribeToIt.com today below for only $1 per month. We will automatically bill your membership fee each additional month, indefinitely. You can signup at any time, any place, and on any device.

But wait, there’s more. They have a Leaderboard! And testimonials from various New York tech scenesters. “Of course I have an account!,” says Aviary’s Michael Galpert. “There is no iPhone app,” says Foursquare’s Naveen Selvadurai. “An app that succinctly delivers on its austere promise in a way that would make Jason Fried faint,” notes Foursquare’s Alex Rainert.

Created by Foursquare’s Eric Friedman, Mari Sheilbley, and Matt Healy, it’s a work of art. Act now and get on the leaderboard.

Related: This is you last chance to send in your dollar



GoPro Announces New Funding, Best Buy Availability Of The Wearable HD Action Camera

Posted: 05 May 2011 12:05 PM PDT

Residents of Half Moon Bay California, there’s no need to be worried. That large roar you hear is likely the collective cheers coming from GoPro’s HQ. The Californian company just announced a new round of funding and that Best Buy is now selling most of its product line based around the popular HD Hero camcorder.

The founding comes from Riverwood Capital, Steamboat Ventures, Sageview Capital, Walden International and U.S. Venture Partners. The amount wasn’t disclosed, but GoPro’s Rick Loughery indicated to me in an email that “it’s a lot” and the company is growing rapidly and now employes over 80 people rather than the 14 this time last year. The funding will also be used to take the wearable camcorder to international markets. The HD Hero is already without question one of US’ favorite action camera and GoPro’s other announcement regarding Best Buy will further expand its popularity here in the states.

Read More



Confirmed: IGN Buys UGO, Hearst Gets Equity In New Venture That Will Soon Spin Out

Posted: 05 May 2011 11:49 AM PDT

News Corp’s IGN gaming and entertainment property has just acquired Hearst’s gaming and entertainment property UGO, we’ve confirmed with the company. And yes, the move is step one towards News Corp. spinning out IGN as its own property sometime relatively soon, we’re told. This news was first reported by MediaMemo a few days ago as the deal was still being finalized.

I got the chance to talk to IGN President Roy Bahat about the news and he wanted to reiterate that while there’s been a lot of talk about News Corp. trying to ditch properties that are underperforming (*cough* MySpace *cough*), this is not the case here. Instead IGN is doing really well, Bahat says, and making money. They will bring in north of $10 million in profit this year, and that number is expected to be significantly higher next year, he says. He also notes that ad revenue is up 30 percent year over year.

Meanwhile, IGN traffic is up 80 percent over the last two years. The total audience is now 70 million globally, according to comScore. Remarkably, they now reach one in four males online in the key 18 to 34 demographic. And these numbers combined with UGO’s numbers and the spin out are all a part of a “go big moment for us,” Bahat says.

And News Corp. is apparently excited that they have a property they can finally spin out and have it succeed. “They’re behind it 100 percent,” Bahat says. And alongside the UGO deal, Hearst will also become an equity holder and board member of the newly combined company. There’s no word yet on how the two pieces will fit together personnel-wise, but Bahat doesn’t expect any major layoffs as a result.

Bahat declined to give any specifics of the deal. But we’re hearing that both cash and stock were involved.

In terms of timetable for the spin out, that’s still being determined apparently. But you can probably expect it to happen sometime in a few months.



Google’s Panda Update Cripples Open Publishing Competition

Posted: 05 May 2011 11:20 AM PDT

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by HubPages CEO Paul Edmondson. Prior to founding HubPages, Edmondson was part of the executive team at MongoMusic, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2000, and held group management positions at MSN Entertainment over product management, quality management, operations, and business management.

Search engines are a critical part of the democratization of the Web and none is more important than Google. They provide the critical gateway to information in a meritocratic way that has traditionally rewarded usefulness and quality over name recognition of the content creator, valuing the utility to the searcher over all else.

In parallel, open publishing platforms have provided free tools for creating and sharing information with topical expertise and a voice to anyone on the Web. These platforms feed the search engines and, in return, the search engines have delivered steady audiences. This ecosystem has been lucrative for the search engines, an essential outlet for the information sharers, and a great way for the world to have access to a broad swathe of information, from the full range of political opinions to thousands of ways to barbecue a chicken.

Google's recent "Panda" update intentionally upends this ecosystem; it doesn't just lower the rankings of individual pages that the algorithm deems "low quality" (however that may be defined by Google) but, as Google has said publicly, "low-quality [page] content [on the domain] can impact an entire domain." This means that high-quality content hosted on open publishing platforms like HubPages and YouTube can be negatively impacted in their search rankings simply by hosting contributions of various quality on a single site.

HubPages has seen a negative impact from this change, but so far YouTube has not (Search Metrics Winners). One presumes Google isn't treating its own affiliated sites differently than any other site, but YouTube's open publishing environment makes low-quality content as prevalent as on any other moderated open publishing platform. Google shows over 13 million indexed videos on YouTube for lose weight (known spammy area) and over 10 million for forex (another spammy area). Apparently, Google's Panda update has been punitive only to platforms other than Google's.

We certainly support and encourage changes to algorithms to provide the public with access to the best search results. We appreciate that open publishing platforms with a wide range of content quality also have a responsibility to moderate their content appropriately. While we understand the need for ordering search results, we also think it is a mistake to broadly impact an entire domain negatively where the content has been contributed by individual people. Bear in mind that a lot of the content on open
publishing platforms like HubPages and YouTube is great, and it is exactly what people are searching for on the Web.

We have reached out to Google seeking feedback and guidance about what elements of an open platform are being penalized by Panda. There has been little response to our inquiries, from questions about site architecture posted on the official Google forums, to personal emails sent to Matt Cutts, the head of web spam at Google.

We, as well as many other operators, are happy to engage in a dialogue with Google on what quality means and how to educate information sharers. It seems that publishing platforms that
are not operated by Google are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to guidance on how to adjust to this latest search algorithm update, as is exemplified by YouTube's apparent immunity.

Before Panda, Google gave open platforms of all sizes many ways to separate high quality content from poor content without chilling an entire domain. In this respect, HubPages most closely resembles YouTube's site structure. We send Google signals by how we program the site. For example, we let Google know what we think is the best content by giving that content more internal links from related pages. We also follow the sitemap protocol and give content a crawling priority. It seems these efforts are severely discounted after the Panda update since, despite their application, there is still a domain-wide devaluing being applied.

We are concerned that Google is targeting platforms other than its own and stifling competition by reducing viable platform choices simply by diminishing platforms' ability to rank pages. Google is not being transparent about their new standards, which prevents platforms like ours from having access to a level playing field with Google's own services. We want to comply with and exceed Google's standards. Google has my contact information. Hope to hear from them soon.



Google Search Globe Visualizes Daily Queries Around The World

Posted: 05 May 2011 10:16 AM PDT


Google has just released a new tool that visualizes search queries on its search engine from around the world. Called the Search Globe, the browser-based tool shows you where searches are coming from in a given day across the world. The visualization also shows the language of the majority of queries in an area in different colors.

Developed and designed by the Google Data Arts Team using WebGL, the backend of the technology uses your computer's hardware to generate fast, 3D graphics. Google says that in order to use Search Globe you need a WebGL-enabled browser (like Google Chrome), to see the Globe.

Google has also open sourced the WebGL Globe so that developers can build their own globes using their own data.



Google Brings Street View Inside Businesses, Unveils Google Earth For Android Tablets

Posted: 05 May 2011 10:12 AM PDT

Today at Social Loco, Google’s Marissa Mayer gave a keynote presentation outlining some of Google’s recent advances with its local products. She also unveiled two new features related to Local: a tablet version of Google Earth for Android, and a new extension of Places called Business Photos (which is essentially ‘Street View’ for business interiors).

Back in March at SXSW, Mayer announced that 40% of Maps usage was coming from mobile phones. Today, she announced that the number is now up to over 50% (she qualified this by saying the stat is for weekends, but it sounds like the weekday trend isn’t far behind). Next, Mayer announced that Google has now racked up some 5 million ratings and reviews in its database of Places, thanks in part to its successful (and oddly named) Hotpot project.

The keynote then turned to some product launches. The first is Google Business Photos, which will allow users to explore the interiors of select businesses in the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The interface looks identical to Google Street View, allowing you to ‘look around’ the interior by dragging your mouse. Oddly, instead of allowing businesses to take these photos themselves, for the time being they have to request a Google photographer — though I won’t be surprised if Google eventually launches a photo app that makes it easy to take these 360 degree photos. You can find an extensive FAQ on the process (which includes the cities that Google will be supporting initially) right here.

Second, Mayer announced that Google Earth is coming to Android Tablets. Google launched an Android version of Google Earth last year, and now they’ve launched a tablet-optimized version of the application. It’s available in Android Market right now.



Qwerly Closes Consumer Site In Favour Of Lucrative ‘DNS For People’ API

Posted: 05 May 2011 09:53 AM PDT

Qwerly, which originally pitched itself as a “DNS for people”, used to have profile pages along the lines of About.me. But no more. As of today the startup is pivoting (my apologies) and shutting profiles in favour of doubling down on its growing API business.

In an email to users today, CEO and founder Max Niederhofer told users that over the last few months demand for integrating Qwerly data into CRM suites, customer support systems, email clients and address books “has far outstripped interest in the Qwerly.com site.”



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