Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Nestio Is Like A Tripit For Apartment Searches

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 08:26 AM PDT

When you’re looking for a new apartment, or a new place to live, there are quite a few sites you can turn to for real estate listings. There’s Craigslist if you’re feeling saucy, Redfin, Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia, to name a few. As my colleague Erick Schonfeld pointed out last year, there’s room for competition in this market, and there’s potential for profitability. But not for a clone.

Real estate listings sites can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. It’s also hard to keep track of the places you’ve looked at without creating an external document or leaving sticky notes all over your computer screen, which is why Nestio is trying to be something akin to Tripit for the apartment search, rather than just another real estate listings app. Launching today in the app store, Nestio is a service meant to supplement listings sites by adding some much needed organization to your apartment search.

Thus, Nestio is an organizational tool for consumers to save listings from various listing service providers all in one place. Users send Nestio their listings, the startup adds a sleek interface, and then allow users to collect, collaborate, and find out additional information on any particular listing.

And like any good young startup in 2011, Nestio is hoping to deliver a killer mobile experience that goes beyond your average port from website to mobile. Obviously, when one deep in the apartment or home search, an intuitive interface with a full suite of tools really comes in handy, though I’m not sure how much of the initial apartment search happens on mobile devices. I always start at my laptop, but of course, once you find places you’re interested in, you get out there to see them live.

Thus, in a way Nestio, which is one of the eleven recent graduates of TechStars NYC class, is like your apartment search field journal. It adds functionality to the search process by allowing you to save listings from a host of supported sites, view and edit your saved listings, and add new listings you see for the first time on the go. You can also map out the location of the listings you save, and add notes and photos you snap on site to the listings. And all of this syncs up with your Nestio web activity.

Having a personalized dashboard of saved listings, with notes and photos, is a great feature, and I can really see that coming in hand during the search for a new place to live. Before launching Nestio, the Nestio team spent time doing its due diligence and found that consumers were accessing numerous sites in an attempt to find a new place to live. The biggest missing piece was that consumers struggled to make sense of all the listings, and they wanted a place to manage them all, instead of having to create spreadsheets and bookmarks, etc.

The mobile piece is huge for Nestio, and as the startup provides a supplement to the value of listing services like Zillow and Trulia, there’s something to be said for organizing and calming the frantic process that is the apartment search. The startup will also soon be adding the ability to share your apartment listings, notes, and favorite places and collaborate on the apartment search with your friends and roommates, which will add a social and collaborative layer to real estate searches that’s desperately needed.

Check it out.



(Founder Stories) From Paul Newman to Paul Graham with Alexis Ohanian (TCTV)

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 08:20 AM PDT

Alexis Ohanain continues his coversation with Founder Stories host Chris Dixon by discussing some of his activities and interests outside of Reddit.

Highlights of their chat include Ohanian telling Dixon he considers Paul Newman, “the OG of social enterprise” and that Newman was the inspiration for Breadpig, Ohanian’s organization that creates “geeky things” and donates profits to worthy causes.  On his role as the Y Combinator ambassador to New York, where Ohanain mentors budding New York-based Y Combinator founders, Ohanian notes “you can’t spell New York City without YC” and on founding his angel investing firm Das Kapital Capital, Ohanian says he did it, “mostly so I can mess with the tellers of Bank of America—are you a communist?"

It is a breezy and entertaining episode where the two go on to discuss World of WarCraft, Everquest and an interesting guerilla advertising campaign deployed by the Y Combinator company Grubwithus.  The two conclude with Ohanian telling Dixon the key ingredient Ohanian must have before doing a start-up.

In the video below, Ohanian talks about “taking the agony out of travel search” with Hipmunk—where Ohanian serves as the marketing director, his mixed emotions about marketing and the power of word of mouth advertising.

In case you missed part I of Dixon’s interview with Ohanian you can find it here.

Prior episodes of Founder Stories with Soraya Darabi, Kevin Ryan and Christopher Poole are here.



Windows 8 Is Gorgeous, But Is It More Than Just A Shell? (Video)

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 07:59 AM PDT

Yesterday, Microsoft showed off Windows 8 for the first time, and it’s gorgeous (check it out in the video above). It’s also the biggest change to the look and feel of Windows since Windows 95.

Windows 8 is all designed around a touch interface, with tiles replacing icons and swiping replacing drag-’n-drop. Instead of a Start button that pops up at the lower lefthand corner of your screen, you are greeted with a grid of tiles as the new Start screen. The tiles also function as mini-apps, displaying realtime information and updates which might spur someone to launch an app. You can switch quickly between running apps with a flick from the side panel. And these apps can be written in HTML5 and Javascript just like Web apps.

With this new touch user interface, Microsoft is hiding the complexity of Windows, but that complexity still exists underneath. Whether or not this is a flaw or a feature is already being debated. Is Windows 8 as radical a departure as it appears to be for Microsoft, or is it simply a pretty shell? Microsoft, after all, has a legacy to protect and many users will not feel comfortable abandoning the familiar desktop metaphor. So Microsoft is not abandoning its old UI completely. It will still be available to anyone who wants to switch back to that more familiar mode, which still makes sense for most desktop and laptop machines with mice and keyboards.

Microsoft is very much responding to Apple with Windows 8, and they are doing so in a thoughtful way. If the future of computing is all about touch, then Microsoft is more than willing to embrace and extend that future. The issue here is that Microsoft seems to want it both ways. Windows 8 is being designed as a great touch interface, but with the old desktop UI as a fallback.

Contrast that with Apple’s approach, which so far has been to bring touch to new mobile devices (iPads, iPhones, iPods) with iOS, while keeping its desktop OS X operating system separate. Although Apple’s two operating systems may converge over time. We certainly see the beginnings of a transition to a touch interface on MAc desktops and laptops with OS X “Lion.”

So maybe Microsoft is ahead of the curve here by combining desktop and touch into one operating system for all devices spanning desktops to tablets. It will probably want to keep its desktop and phone operating systems separate for a while, but even those overtime will look more and more alike. Windows 8 already borrows some cues from Windows Phone 7, which is also tile-based and fairly elegant.

Yes, Microsoft is playing catch-up. And its chances of dominating the touch era of computing the way it did the desktop era are slim. But this is going to be a long game and it’s still early. Give Microsoft credit for realizing that the game has changed and adjusting its strategy so that it can still be a player.



Newsy Upgrades iPad App: Faster Loading Times, Push Notifications, One-Tap Sharing

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:59 AM PDT

News junkie? Smart enough to realize you should check multiple sources covering the same news item to absorb as much information about the topic at hand as you possible can? iPad owner, by any chance? If you’re like me and that results in three ‘checks’, you definitely need to give the new iPad app from Newsy a whirl.

A multi-source mobile video news provider, Newsy today debuts version 3.0 of its iPad application, which was first launched in April 2010.

The app, which I tested extensively yesterday, offers faster loading times and comes with a bunch of new features, including single tap Facebook sharing, the ability to create playlists and download videos, a refreshed news ticker and (long overdue) push notifications.

The company, which recently secured $1.5 million on top of the $2 million it raised last year, has also rebranded the look of its videos and logo.

Seriously, check it out, it’s a free app.



Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Hits NYC June 8, Everywhere Else June 17

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:12 AM PDT

Even though we have to deal with 100-degree summers and 15-degree winters, hobos on the subway, and slow-walking tourists, sometimes it really pays off to be a New Yorker. Samsung's highly anticipated Galaxy Tab 10.1 won't hit stores nationally until June 17, but a few lucky New Yorkers, and possibly some smart-shopping tourists, will be able to pick up a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 as early as June 8.

The 10.1-inch Samsung slate will only be available at New York's Union Square Best Buy location, and according to Samsung, there will only be a limited quantity of the WiFi edition Galaxy Tab. Online and in-store pre-orders for the New York inventory will begin on June 8, as well. Unfortunately for the rest of the country, a plane ticket to the Big Apple will be your best bet to snag the early release Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Read More



Push.IO Buys Mobile App Framework TapLynx From NewsGator

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:05 AM PDT

Push IO, a startup that offers a cloud-based mobile feature platform for developers has announced the acquisition of mobile app framework TapLynx from NewsGator. TapLynx will be re-released by Push IO this month with a series of new features. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

TapLynx, which was developed by NewsGator, allows users with limited coding knowledge to easily develop iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps. Beyond just developing and publishing these apps, TapLynx allows users to monetize these apps through sponsorships, ads and download fees.

Push IO will be adding TapLynx’s service to its own fleet of mobile services that include push
notifications, in-app purchasing, data aggregation, and content delivery. Push IO says it will be adding both iAd support and in-app purchasing this month to TapLynx.



German Media Giant Burda Puts $5.6M In Twitter Application Developer UberMedia

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 05:15 AM PDT

Bill Gross’ UberMedia has announced a $5.6 million investment from German media giant Burda Digital through its investment arm, DLD Ventures. This brings UberMedia’s total funding to $26.6 million.

UberMedia actually just raised a healthy $17.5 million earlier this year, so Burda’s cash is also a strategic investment. The company has made investments in Xing, Etsy, Glam and other well-known technology companies. UberMedia says the investment will be used to further the growth of UberMedia's user base both in the U.S. and internationally.

Bill Gross’ strategy to monetize Twitter has led UberMedia to become the largest owner of Twitter clients besides Twitter itself. The company bought a number of clients over the past year, including Echofon, UberTwitter and others. Unfortunately, UberMedia was trying to buy popular Twitter client TweetDeck, but Twitter snatched up TweetDeck to keep it out of Gross’s hands. UberMedia’s says its user base has grown to more than 5,000,000 users in just over a year. Users of the company’s Twitter apps currently Tweet more than 200 times per second, representing approximately 13% of all traffic on the Twitter platform.

Besides over the TweetDeck deal, Twitter and UberMedia have also been at odds over another issue Twitter temporarily shut UberMedia’s Twitter apps down after claiming that UberMedia was violating its Terms of Service — a move that Gross said took UberMedia by surprise.

TweetDeck and Terms of Service aside, UberMedia clearly has a plan. The company has partnered with a variety of celebs, including Ashton Kutcher and 50 Cent, to offer customer Twitter apps and skins. Gross says that we can expect similar partnerships with celebrities in the future.



Mindflash Raises $4 Million For Online Training Software

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 04:30 AM PDT

Online training software startup Mindflash.com has raised $4 million in new funding led by the Investment Group of Santa Barbara. This investment brings the startup’s total funding to $9 million.

Mindflash, which is led by Donna Wells (Mint’s former CMO), is a platform that allows businesses to train employees online. Geared towards non-technical users, Mindflash allows participants to upload and share training documents or videos on the web. They can even include quizzes and games to test employees' comprehension of the content.

The platform then manages the entire training management process – from sending training invitations to tracking employees' progress to producing real-time progress reports. Mindflash aims to replace tools like PowerPoint to train employees remotely, and adds analytics to the mix so employers can ensure that employees are completing online training seminars.

Since its launch in September 2010, Mindflash users have completed tens of thousands of courses on everything from sales training to brewing beer at home.



Kodesk Is Like An Airbnb For Office Space

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 03:30 AM PDT

Just like Airbnb operates a marketplace for spaces for travelers and whatnot to stay, Kodesk aims to do much of the same for spaces for freelancers and whatnot to work.

Essentially trying to build a peer-to-peer desk sharing community, Kodesk lets office space owners provide spaces to individuals in need of a temporary place to get some work done.

The Belgian startup was founded just recently, so they’re still figuring out how they’ll turn the basic idea into a viable business.

Currently, Kodesk is completely free for companies and individuals who share desks with others, in order to jumpstart the p2p community aspect. It’s very simple: for every hour of desk space shared by a company, they get one hour of time credit for any of their employees to use in any other Kodesk space.

I like the basic idea behind Kodesk. After all, there’s a lot of unoccupied office space in countless buildings across the globe, and increasingly there are people who can work from basically anywhere as long as there’s a chair, a table and an Internet connection.

The startup’s two founders, Frédéric Navarro and Sébastien Arbogast, aren’t too worried about the security aspect of letting individuals work from a welcoming company’s offices. Though I think the bigger the company, the tighter security will (and should) be, if not for physical theft than for trying to keep people as far away from their computer networks as possible.

But for small businesses, it could work, and Navarro and Arbogast say a thriving ‘co-desking’ community of sorts can also result in collaborations, partnerships, direct recruitments and circulation of ideas and knowledge between workers and companies who invite them to their available office spaces to work for a relatively brief period of time.

It’s why they refer to unoccupied desks in offices as not only a waste of energy and a financial burden, but also a “missed opportunity for serendipity”.

It’s a concept that’s easy to dismiss, but everyone who does should take a good look at how Airbnb was perceived back when they started out a couple of years ago. They’re not valued at $1 billion by investors.



Let’s Not Get Too Cocky About The Blubble

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 01:50 AM PDT

It was just a little over a month ago that I wrote “We're In The Middle Of A Terrible Blubble!” – a post about the difference between the Internet bubble of 2000 and the “blubble” (as I call it) that we’re in today. The short version of the post is this: venture capitalists like to declare valuation bubbles to fight rising valuations, and the press eats it up because it’s dramatic.

in 1999 the Nasdaq was out of control crazy with no real relationship between stock prices and operating results. We’re not seeing anything like that today, partially because so few companies are going public. And many of the huge-valuation private companies, like Facebook, Groupon and Zynga, have rumored profits that would justify their lofty valuations. And while Twitter is still too cool for revenue, I’ve considered them the exception rather than the rule.

But the market has shifted in the last month since I wrote that post. Things that have happened in the last couple of weeks in particular are worrying me. Well, not exactly worrying me. But making me far less comfortable with the health of the startup ecosystem.

So I scratch my head at Marc Andreessen, who argued today at the AllThingsD Conference that there’s (still) no bubble in tech. His conclusions don’t worry me so much as his logic.

A key characteristic of a bubble is that no one thinks its a bubble," he says, noting that in 1999, people were euphoric. "If everybody's upset, it's a good sign…I hope there are lots of bubble stories."

Everyone wasn’t euphoric in 1999. There was lots and lots of talk of a bubble. See, for example, this 1999 NY Times story title “Is Frenzy for Internet Stocks a Bubble Waiting to Burst?” Here’s another article in Forbes. And there are lots, lots more.

That’s not saying much. As with recessions, any ambitious economist will predict a bubble every year. No one remembers the misses, but you get an awesome book deal when you’re finally right. “Declare a bubble early and declare it often,” as I said in my previous post.

But Andreessen’s argument that there was no talk of bubbles in 1999 is just wrong.

His other argument is that “It can't be a bubble because the stock market isn't acting like it's a bubble.” Except for newly public LinkedIn, which has a 2,000+ P/E ratio. And ZipCar, which is yet to become profitable so it doesn’t have a P/E ratio, but it’s still worth a billion dollars on Nasdaq.

But the big companies, says Andreessen, still have reasonable P/E ratios. And he’s right. Microsoft was at 72 in 1999. Today it’s less than 10.

And that’s the best argument that things are still sane, because the public markets haven’t gone crazy yet.

There sure are signs, though, that those public markets are aching for a new tech stock bubble. Imagine if Facebook went public today. Think they’d hit a $200 billion market cap immediately? They’re at $75ish billion today on the secondary markets, so why not?

Google’s only worth $170 billion.

That’s the problem. The markets are dying for growth opportunities and they are going to jump on any tech IPO that smells like a winner and price that stock so high that it becomes a loser. The blubble in the private markets today can very easily turn into a real live bubble on the NYSE and Nasdaq tomorrow, and I’m not sure there’s anything that is going to stop it.

And that private company blubble is starting to look more like a real bubble, too. In March, Andreessen’s partner Ben Horowitz argued that private company valuations aren’t all that crazy. “In recent high profile private financing rounds for private technology companies with valuations over $1B, the valuation multiples were at or below corresponding multiples for publicly traded companies such as Google,” said Horowitz.

That was true then (except for Twitter), but there are deals being closed now that blow that argument out of the water. AirBnB, for example, will close a financing at a higher than $1 billion valuation. The company is awesome but they still have very low revenue and certainly aren’t profitable. And most interesting of all is that Andreessen Horowitz will lead the round.

I love Andreessen Horowitz’s swagger and willingness to place big bets on risky things. I just hope they’ve got more behind those bets than a faulty memory of what was happening in 1999 and an argument about private company valuations that they are singlehandedly making invalid.

And, really, they probably do. Because all signs point to a real bubble, probably starting later this year when a lot more companies start to go public. And when Facebook goes IPO, watch out. buy as much stock as you can and hold it for as long as you dare. There will be a lot of money to be made right before everything really goes to hell.



Lendio Scores $2 Million More To Assist Business Owners In Securing Loans

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 01:30 AM PDT

Exclusive - Off the heels of raising $6 million in venture capital, Lendio has secured another $2 million in debt financing from Square 1 Bank, TechCrunch has learned.

Formerly called FundingUniverse.com, Lendio matches small business owners with banks, credit unions, and other lending sources, employing technology that assist them identify the business loan category and specific lenders that offer the highest probability to secure a loan approval based on credit, industry, revenue, and other parameters.

Less than three months after its debut, Lendio says users have already requested a staggering $1 billion in business loans, so they might be on to something here. The company claims it currently works with 3,500 lenders, with access to more than 13,000 different lending options.

Earlier this year, Lendio expanded its executive team with Zinch co-founder Brad Hagen and Nelson James, co-founder of SEO.com.

If you’re interested in checking out the service, Lendio has arranged for the first 501 TechCrunch readers to sign up for a basic membership account to automatically get 51 percent knocked off the first month. Simply use the code “TechCrunch51″ at the proper time during the payment process and you’re good.



Cloud Sherpas Buys Google Apps Deployment Startup Omnetic

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 11:55 PM PDT

Cloud Sherpas, a Google Apps reseller that also helps enterprises migrate to and manage the productivity suite, has acquired Omnetic, a fellow Google Apps deployment service. The acquisition of San Francisco-based Omnetic gives Cloud Sherpas the largest concentration of Google Apps Deployment Specialists of any company outside Google. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Omnetic helps business migrate to and deploy Google Apps. The Omnetic team led the first large enterprise implementation of Google Apps at Salesforce.com, and counts National Geographic, Dr. Martens, Design Within Reach, Mazda Raceway and the Schumacher Group as customers

Cloud Sherpas, who says revenue grew over 600% last year, has migrated over 800,000 users to Google Apps over the past three years, while Omnetic has transitioned 100,000 users. While Omnetic has a smaller user base than Cloud Sherpas, the company brings talent, customers and a West Coast presence.

As Google Apps continues to grow in usage, Cloud Sherpas seems to be building a business around the deployment of the application suite. The startup has raised $2.6 million in funding and is one of the most installed applications in the Google Apps Marketplace.



Former Threadless CTO Is Now Obama Campaign CTO

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 10:03 PM PDT

The Obama 2012 campaign is about to get a lot hipper. Former CEO and apparent unabashed wacky person Harper Reed has just been named as its CTO. Reed was at Threadless until 2009, then moved to Rackspace for a couple of months, after which he worked on personal projects and advised startups like SugarSnap and Tap Me, while working on personal projects like CTAAlerts.com and Supertrackr.com.

If you’ve got any doubts about my hipness claims above, read Reed’s description in the Chicago Tribune.

“Reed is hard to miss in a room. His hipster look includes an often-changing and often-wild hair style — from a mohawk to a flipped-up front like Jim Carrey’s in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” He wears thick, rectangular glasses and gauge earrings, which make the wearer’s lobes expand. On his blog, he declares himself “probably the coolest guy ever.”

This hire makes complete sense. The ethos of the user designed, user submitted Threadless is sympatico to Obama’s super social media savvy style. Obama’s 2008 election was partly won by the online efforts of Blue State Digital and up until now the re-election campaign has been heavily Facebook focused. The President recently made history by giving a townhall at the social network’s headquarters in Palo Alto.

Looks like Obama’s experience as a community organizer is coming in handy during this time where communities are primarily organized online. Also: I can’t help but think about a Threadless-integration for a 2012 campaign T-Shirt.



‘ONE’ iPhone App Allows You To Call Your Senators To Instigate Change

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 06:26 PM PDT

If you’re like me you’re probably too preoccupied to get political on a daily basis, even though you are passionate about social activism and causes like education reform. But what if an app made it easier for you to get informed and take political action on the issues you care about? Would you get involved then?

Launching in the app store today is ONE, an iPhone app that attempts to modernize political call to action, by making it easy to stay up to date on issues and take actions that actually might cause actual social change from within the app itself. The app basically gives you information about various advocacy movements like funding childhood vaccines for kids that can’t afford them and then lets you call a senator, sign a petition or join up with a real life rally for causes in order to raise awareness.

On the tech side, the app uses your zip code to find out which local policy makers could influence decisions in ONE’s fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.The app also offers a way to track how ONE is affecting change through its blog, the ability to communicate with other ONE members in the field and offers a friend recruiting feature as well.

ONE was created in a partnership with @radical.media and the Bono-backed ONE, which goes by the admirable slogan of “We’re not asking for your money, just your voice.” Making an “app for that” is a logical step for a company that mobilizes its over 2 million users to raise public awareness on issues they care about like education, development assistance and maternal and child health by campaigning instead of asking for a donation.

While there’s no telling just how much an app for activism will catch on, just making it easier to be involved in your community and beyond makes the the world a slightly better place.



Google Places Now Borrowing Yelp Reviews Without Attribution In iPhone App

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 06:03 PM PDT

Google Places is at it again, brazenly borrowing reviews from Yelp. But this time it’s in their iPhone app and they are not even bothering to link back to Yelp or attribute where they are getting the reviews. Yelp and Google have a love-hate relationship. Yelp loves when its listings and reviews show up in natural search results, but they hate it when Google scrapes their reviews to populate its own local listings in Google Places.

This tension between the two has been playing out for a long time with various ups and downs. It’s become a running joke. But Google appears to be pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable once again with its mobile app.

Here is what appears to be going on based on a handful of spot checks in the Google Places iPhone app. For many places such as restaurants, Google Places offers “Reviews from around the Web” in its iPhone app just like it does online. The difference is that the reviews from Yelp are no longer identified as such and there are no links either. For example, if you look up Le Colonial restaurant in New York City, the top “Reviews from around the Web” are two Yelp reviews properly identified with links In the mobile app, there is no attribution or links (see screenshot at right). Yet there are links and attribution for reviews from other sites such as Citysearch.

Try the same search with “Hayes Market” in San Francisco, and you see the same thing. The two top reviews come from Yelp:

Every time I go there is a strong weed smell coming from the back and a bunch of guys hanging around the front door and sometimes playing cards or dominos inside. . . .

The staff here are really nice, I have never brought home anything expired (unlike “Whole Foods” in the Lower Haight), and they take food stamps!

These do not appear to be isolated incidents. Does Google Places really need to stoop to that level?

Here are two more screenshots that show the pilfering. And note that reviews from other sources in the iPhone app link back to those sites, whether it’s Citysearch, Opentable, or Zagat. What’s so special about Yelp that they get treated differently?




YouTube Now Lets You License Videos Under Creative Commons (Remixers, Rejoice)

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:51 PM PDT

If you’ve ever yearned to mash up your cat video with some C-SPAN footage but couldn’t figure out how, today’s your lucky day.

Because starting now, YouTube is giving users a choice over how they want to license their content. There’s still the standard YouTube license, which is fairly restrictive, and now there’s a new option: Creative Commons (with attribution). In short, you can now give other people permission to use your footage however they’d like, provided to include a link back to the source.

Licenses are a tricky business (there are six different Creative Common licenses) but YouTube is hoping to reduce confusion by limiting users to one option, which requires attribution and does allow for content to be used for commercial purposes.

So, what does this mean for users? You’ll now be able to use YouTube’s video editor to splice your own video with content that has been uploaded by other users under Creative Commons, and they’ll be able to use your videos if you let them. Which means if your video could really use a shot of a waving flag, or a cat riding a Roomba, you’ll probably be able to add one in just a few clicks.

To start things off, YouTube has worked with content partners like C-SPAN and Al Jazeera to offer an initial batch of 10,000 videos under the CC license. That library will rapidly increase as more people switch their content over to Creative Commons, and there’s even a tool that will let you swap the license for a bunch of videos at once.

Whenever you watch a video on YouTube that includes CC content that was created by another user, an attribution link will automatically be placed beneath the video. This attribution is currently only shown if you hit the ‘more’ button on the video’s description, but YouTube says it will consider giving attribution links more placement if few people click them.



Twitter Blindsided Ecosystem Leader Twitpic With Photo Product

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:00 PM PDT

Yesterday, leading up to today’s announcement of Twitter’s new photo sharing capabilities, we reported hearing that Twitter had approached some ecosystem players months ago about their potential move into the arena. One player not consulted? A massive one: Twitpic.

“We never heard from Twitter that they were building a photo feature,” Twitpic founder Noah Everett tells us. That’s interesting since yFrog and Plixi (formerly Tweetphoto) were approached, we’ve heard. Also clearly approached, Photobucket, which ended up scoring a deal to host the images for Twitter.

Twitpic, the longtime leader in the space, understandably, is annoyed by this.

“We understand that Twitter owns and controls the platform, but a clearer roadmap from them and better communication would have been appreciated by us and all the developers,” Everett says. “We’ve always had Twitter’s best interest in mind with building and running Twitpic, we would have hoped the same from Twitter, at least in the form of better communication,” he continues.

Ouch.

This is the same complaint that many ecosystem players have had over the past year with Twitter as they continue to “fill holes” in their product. Many have spoken about being blind-sided as Twitter moved to essentially crush their businesses — businesses built on top of Twitter, mind you.

But it seemed that Twitter had finally learned their lesson here given the talks with yFrog and others well ahead of a launch. Apparently not. Those may have been more about deals for the product (or more), it turns out.

Twitter is clearly free to do as it pleases, and absolutely has a duty to do what they think is in their best interest business-wise and product-wise. But the continual pissing off of the ecosystem partners creates an atmosphere of bad blood. It is business, not personal, but for the players like Twitpic, it must seem like both at times.

“Twitpic will continue to run just as we always have. The brand we’ve built is strong,” Everett concludes. All I know for sure is that they appear to be another tale that will cause third-party developers to sleep with both eyes open.

Update: To be fair, last year at their Chirp conference, Twitter did (sort of) warn that they could get into this the photo space. Below, Jason’s notes that he took at the time:

Q: Is Twitter going to host rich media (images/video/etc)?
Ev Williams: The honest answer is we haven't made a decision. We love that we don't have to host media. But we also think there are user experience issues with it. Photos are a fundamental way people share information. They fit in twitter very well. Lots of people have provided that functionality. We think it's great, we're looking at how to make it easier.
Ryan Sarver: We've been working on a spec that would allow any media provider to send through an API.
Ev Williams: We're going to make it easier to both share and view pics in our interface. We can't guarantee that we won't host media if it's needed. Not in immediate plans this quarter.



Windows 8 Brings Entirely New Look And Feel, Unifies Touch And PC Interfaces

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:00 PM PDT

Microsoft has just given a demonstration of what they’re calling Windows 8. It appears to be a complete revamp of the Windows interface, designed around a tile system like that of Windows Phone 7, and focused on being equally accessible via touchscreen interface or mouse and keyboard.

Windows president Steven Sinofsky says that Microsoft has “colored outside the lines” on this release, and while they’re retaining support for all the major applications and enterprise features, the new interface is meant to be fresh, fast, and accessible.

Continue reading on CrunchGear…



Bids For Social.com Domain Start At $5 Million. You Could Have Bought It For $50,000 In 1997

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 03:48 PM PDT

How much is the domain Social.com worth? We are about to find out. The domain will be auctioned off on June 8 at DOMAINfest Barcelona with an opening bid of $5 million, according to Moniker. Moniker and SnapNames will be jointly selling the domain on behalf of Scott Carter, the original owner who first registered the domain back in January, 1995. Back then, he had to pay $100 a year to Network Solutions and all the paperwork had to go through the mail.

Depending on how high the bidding goes, Social.com could very well end up being one of the most expensive domain sales of all time. The current record-holder is Sex.com, which sold for $13 million in April. Bidding for Sex.com started at $1 million. And Social.com is arguably sexier right now.

But Social.com was not always such a hot commodity. Back in 1995, Carter wanted it for a dating site. “It was my intention at the time to build a dating web site to compete with Match.com,” he tells me, “but the effort never got underway. Social.com wasn’t my first choice, but I thought the name was okay.” He ended up using it for a discussion forum called The Social Cafe, which was named a “Cool Site Of The Day on June 22, 1995.

Carter put the domain up for sale in 1997 for $50,000, but had no takers for two years. He tried using the site to promote different businesses, including a social networking directory from 2007 to 2009 and most recently his Twitter tool BigTweet. “I never did quite come up with the right way to develop Social.com,” he says, and so now he is putting it up for auction. Any takers? At $5 million? I think that’s crazy, but what do I know.

How much do you think Social.com is really worth? Leave your guesstimates in comments below.



JustApps’ Mobile Texting App Takes On Distracted Driving, With A Spin

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 03:36 PM PDT


In today’s hyper-connected world, the lure of the cellphones, smartphones, and other devices is always present. Take public transportation to work and you’re likely to find the majority of passengers glued to their devices. The problem, however, is that, because many people carry their devices with them at all times, there’s a temptation to talk, text, or surf even when it’s not a great idea to do so — namely when driving. The National Safety Council estimates that nearly 30 percent of traffic accidents involve drivers using their cellphones or texting. That’s over 1.5 million accidents caused by cellphones.

JustApps Technology is announcing the release today of a new Android app, called JustDrive, that aims to help families and businesses curb distracted driving by addressing one of the leading causes of cellular distraction: texting. The app provides a daily report via email to parents or owners (a.k.a. administrators) indicating a texting violation while driving has occurred. Premium upgrades are then available at additional costs, and offer administrators a view into cell usage, speed of the car during texting, geographical location of the car, distance, etc.

JustApps Chief Sales Officer (and 3-time Super Bowl champion) Darren Woodson told me that there are quite a few apps out there attempting to solve the problem of distracted driving, but generally speaking, they do this by locking the user out of their phone. Woodson says that JustDrive is striving for a more moderate approach, and is trying to avoid becoming Big Brother by allowing its users to retain the ability to text, Tweet, or call while driving, but the admin, whether it be a parent or a boss, will receive an alert letting them know that it happened.

Because the phone senses how fast the car is traveling and allows admins to set alerts based on speed thresholds (as in every time the phone exceeds 70 mph and you start texting away, it sends an alert), there’s a potential problem. What if you were sitting in the backseat of the car while texting, and your pal Steve happened to exercise his lead foot? This is the other advantage to the app, as it allows users to text and call while they’re a passenger without shutting down the app or requiring a complicated override.

The app also offers geo-fencing and speed limit features, and allows you to put time limits on texting, like no texting between 2am and 5am, which will come in handy for parents with text-happy kids or folks who might be inclined to send a late night text after a few libations. JustDrive will be available on the iPhone in the next few weeks and will be headed to BlackBerry in the near future as well. Woodson also said that the team is planning on adding an array of features in the near future, like collision detection, for example, that will use a phone’s accelerometer and GPS to detect impact and communicate that with the administrator.

The app setup is quick and easy, too, as users need to only enter their email and password to setup the app’s basic functions, and advanced features like geo-fencing can be set up in one or two steps and monitored through a phone or the admin’s web interface. The interface has some usability, too, and allows admins to monitor groups, like family or employees (think cab company owners, for example), and numerous devices. Users can also use it to see when, where, and at what speed a violation occurred and have it mapped out for them on Yahoo Maps. (The one drawback being that it’s not Google Maps.)

Woodson said that he got involved with JustDrive for the very reason that he has three kids and knows that teenagers especially have a penchant for texting, and the app is a great way for him to ensure their safety while on the roads without being an overbearing dad. He also said he was “run off the road” by someone who was texting, something a surprising amount of people can relate to. One has to think that this is something parents could really get excited about.

And it also appears that Woodson, who also works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, has shared the app with a few stars from the sports world (and ESPN), who will soon be publicly endorsing it, so there’s a chance you could be hearing a lot about JustDrive in the future.

But, regardless of star power, the app is leveraging technology to solve a real problem and doing it with a differentiating spin, so it’s worth checking out. Especially for those drunk texters among us.



Groupon Now Has 8,000 Employees—About Half Of Them Salesmen

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:10 PM PDT


Bill Gross
"#Groupon is now in 46 countries and has about 8,000 employees, up from 1,500 just a year ago." Andrew Mason, CEO @ #D9

Groupon, as everyone knows by now, is growing like crazy. How crazy? CEO Andrew Mason just revealed at the D9 technology conference that he now employs 8,000 people, which is up from 1,500 a year ago. That means it grew headcount by 433 percent.

About half of its employees are sales people. Signing up local businesses to offer group discounts requires a lot of hand-holding and sales calls across many local markets. Groupon is now in 46 countries.

Groupon is a selling machine, so it needs a lot of sales people. But these aren’t door-to-door salesmen. The only way Groupon can scale this sales organization is through centralized call centers with different teams focussed on different markets. (Yelp does the same thing).

And you thought it was all about Groupon’s comedians-turned-copywriters and the “Groupon Voice.” (The company employs a lot of copywriters also, but they don’t have thousands of them). It’s a sales culture through and through. Facebook or Google would be bragging about how many engineers they have. Groupon crows about sales.



At 1.6 Billion Queries Per Day, Twitter Finally Aims To Make Search Personally Relevant

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 01:52 PM PDT

While much of the talk leading up to today was about Twitter’s move into the photo game, the bigger news is actually what they’ve done to their search product. They’ve completely rebuilt it. And while it may not be immediately apparent, the product should be much, much better than before.

Twitter details the project in a long post on their Engineering blog today. Notably, they go into the backstory of Twitter Search, which evolved from the Summize purchase in 2008. While that product worked well for a while, the technologies behind it would not allow it to scale to the level that Twitter eventually needed. So things had to be re-written — on the fly.

Twitter detailed some of this last October. But it wasn’t until this past April that they were able to replace the old Ruby on Rails front-end with the newly-built Blender. At the time, Twitter said this made search 3x faster and gave them 10x throughput. This is important since they’re now seeing 2,200 tweets-per-second on average and serving up 18,000 queries per second — 1.6 billion queries per day. That’s up from 1 billion last Ocotober.

But that’s still mainly back-end talk. The key to today’s search announcements are what is now being surfaced on the front-end. ”Blender completed the infrastructure necessary to make the most significant user-facing change to Twitter search since the acquisition of Summize,” Twitter writes.

Notably, Twitter now has a “Most relevant” tab on the search results page. And while at first glance it may seem that this is simply searching your contacts’ tweets (something that is long overdue) and displaying them in reverse chronological order, there’s actually a lot more going on. At its most basic, here’s how Twitter says to think about it: “Often, users are interested in only the most memorable Tweets or those that other users engage with. In our new search experience, we show search results that are most relevant to a particular user. So search results are personalized, and we filter out the Tweets that do not resonate with other users.”

Twitter cites three key types of signals they’re looking for:

  • Static signals, added at indexing time
  • Resonance signals, dynamically updated over time
  • Information about the searcher, provided at search time

Based on these, a “personal relevance score” is computed for each tweet. “The highest-ranking, most-recent Tweets are returned to the Blender, which merges and re-ranks the results before returning them to the user,” Twitter notes.

Another big thing going on? Duplicates are removed. This has been a huge issue with Twitter search in the past.

Finally, Twitter has begun surfacing images and videos for searches. Right now, these are shown in the right-side pane when a search is done on twitter.com. Because they’re different from text-based tweets, these queries have to be handled differently.

So all of this sounds great. But it’s just step one. Twitter says that in the coming months, quality will improve as will scale. And they’ll be bringing these relevant searches to their mobile products.

As for full tweet history search? I still wouldn’t hold my breath. Real-time is simply more important to Twitter right now, so they’re focusing on that, instead of the past. Hopefully one day…



Mobile Network Revenues To Push $1 Trillion By 2016, But Facing ‘Nightmare’ Scenario

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 01:44 PM PDT

Juniper Research released a report today that found that global mobile network operator revenues are set to exceed $1 trillion by 2016. This would be something to celebrate were it not the case that costs are forecasted to rise in accordance with revenues — and exceed them. The report says that mobile networks are facing a potential “nightmare” scenario within four years if remedial action is not taken soon.

The cause of the impending crunch? The report indicates that the dire situation is caused by market saturation and falling average revenue per user, which is causing core revenues to flatline, while the cost of handling mobile data traffic is skyrocketing. As one might expect from the growing use of smartphones (Nielsen predicts there may be 100 million by the end of the year), cellular data traffic doubled in 2010. And it’s expected to increase thirteen-fold by 2015.

Luckily, the report doesn’t just present the bad news and leave it at that, the researches also suggest a few prescriptions, which can be tailored by the different operators to fit their individual businesses. The report encourages mobile networks to offer integrated rate plans, while “providing a wide range of segmented postpaid and postpaid tariffs”. It also puts stress on the potential for escalating revenues in the cloud, machine-to-machine, and mobile financial services where networks can leverage their existing assets.

Some other highlights from the report, include the fact that second tier networks (those with lower traffic) could be poised to gain significant advantage by retaining flat rates for data bundles. Integrated Mobile Broadcast represents a new 3G standard (endorsed by the GSMA) that has the potential to add infinite capacity to 3G for popular content, offering a solution to the impending capacity crunch. Lastly, as the cost of fossil fuels continues to increase, transition to green networks and base stations is beginning to “represent both an environmental and economic imperative”.



Instagram Unveils “iPhone Hooks” So Other Apps Can Play Nicely With Them

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 01:05 PM PDT

A few days ago, the iPhone app 100 Cameras in 1 got an update with a great new feature: the ability to send photos to Instagram. As GigaOm’s Om Malik pointed out, this was the first outside app to gain such access. But that made it sound as if it was the first app to use a write version of Instagram’s API. But Instagram actually doesn’t have a write API yet (their API continues to be read-only). Instead, what they’re doing with 100 Cameras in 1 is much more simple and clever. And they’re now opening it up to everyone.

This page (meant for developers) details the feature Instagram is calling “iPhone Hooks”. Essentially what these do is allow any other iPhone app (remember, Instagram is still iPhone-only) to interact with the Instagram app. This can mean both opening the Instagram app to a certain photo, user, location, or tag. Or it can allow another app to open the app and load the Instagram camera immediately. Most importantly, it allows pictures taken with other apps to be seamlessly passed into the Instagram “sharing flow”. This means a photo can be passed into the app right to the filter screen within Instagram.

Co-founder Kevin Systrom compares this functionality to the copy and paste functionality baked into iOS. But again, this is for images, not text. “We wanted to make it easier for other iPhone apps (and iPhone web-apps) to hook into Instagram to open a particular item or post a photo through our app,” co-founder Mike Krieger says. Yes, you read that correctly, this can work with web-based apps too.

Currently, only 100 Cameras in 1 is using this functionality, but Instagram says they’re discussing implementation with other partners. And again, as of now, this is open to anyone to use. Hopefully we see popular camera apps like Camera+, Hipstmatic, and CameraBag start to offer this option.

So what about a proper write API? Systrom notes that they could turn it on at anytime, but they’re hesitating right now as they don’t want Instagram feed overrun with low-quality images. Plus, Instagram is still interested in owning the posting flow. This work-around with a higher barrier to entry is a compromise, of sorts.



Google: Group In China Targeted Senior US Officials, Chinese Activists, Others With Phishing Attack

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 01:04 PM PDT

Google has just revealed that it has detected a phishing attack originating from Jinan, China that targeted hundreds of people, including “senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists”.

The attack itself — which relied on phishing passwords — doesn’t appear to be overly sophisticated, according to a report that identified it back in February. But it was very targeted, which is unusual for phishing schemes. Google says that the perpetrators were stealing user passwords, then setting Gmail accounts to automatically forward messages to other inboxes (delegation settings, which can grant other people access to accounts, were also changed).

Google says that it ”detected and disrupted this campaign” and that it has already notified affected victims, as well as government authorities. It then goes on to detail some of the things you can use to secure your account, including 2-step verification , strong passwords, and by checking to make sure you aren’t forwarding your email to any inboxes you don’t know. Google’s post emphasizes that this was not an issue with Gmail itself and that its internal systems weren’t attacked.

This isn’t the first time Google has had issues with cyberattacks originating in China. Early last year, Google revealed that it had been the target of a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” that originated there, prompting the company to radically revise its operations in China. Google doesn’t mention anything in today’s blog post about the attacks being related, but the previous attack also targeted the accounts of Chinese activists.

Here’s a description of the attack, from contagio:

Victims get a message from an address of a close associate or a collaborating organization/agency, which is spoofed. The message is crafted to appear like it has an attachment with links like View Download and a name of the supposed attachment. The link leads to a fake Gmail login page for harvesting credentials.



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