- PayPal Shutters Money Market Fund For Merchants
- Tictacti Secures Funding To Take On Heyzap In Game Aggregation
- Yobongo Aims To Up The Interaction With “Around” And “Nudge”
- Gilt Groupe And Gogo To Offer Exclusive In-Flight Deals To WiFi Users
- @Jack To Moderate President @BarackObama’s First @TownHall On @Twitter Next Week
- Want A Google+ Invite Real Bad? Try eBay
- Fly Or Die: Guess Who Doesn’t Like The HP TouchPad?
- TechCrunched: 90 Seconds Of Top Tech News (TCTV)
- As Google+ Invites Are Locked Down Here Are Some Work-arounds
- Onkyo Latest To Pay Microsoft Royalties Over Android Tablets
- What WebOS Means To HP, Linux, And You
- Google Teams Up With Virgin America To Allow Passengers To Test Out Chromebooks In-Flight
- (Founder Stories) Bre Pettis’ Ambition: “One MakerBot Per Child” (TCTV)
- Flipboard 1.5 Integrates LinkedIn, Adds A Content Guide For Curated News Browsing
- B&N Now Offering 30 Free Books For Upgrading To Nook
- BlinQ Is A Social Channel Guide For Your TV
- Citrix Makes Strategic Investments In Graymatics And Gizmox
- ANSYS Acquires Apache Design Solutions For $310 Million In Cash
- Robert Morris, Computer Security Expert, Dead At 78
- Skype For Android Now Supports Video Calls, Works Over WiFi And 3G
- StockTwits Comes To The Android
- Hands-On With The New Olympus PEN E-P3
- Walking Around In Circles: As Google+ Opens Up Will People Start Using It Correctly?
- BeenVerified Takes Background Checks Mobile With A New Android App And An iOS Rerelease
- Luca Technologies Files To Go Public, Producing New Natural Gas From Old Wells
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:47 AM PDT
PayPal is shutting down its Money Market Fund, notifying participants that the fund will be closing as of July 29 of this year.
PayPal users could previously put the money they earned from PayPal transactions in a Money Market Fund to accrue interest. PayPal customers could choose have their free cash balances swept into the Fund in order to earn income until the cash is used. Shares of the Fund will could be redeemed to pay for transactions such as payments, purchases and other electronic money transfers from PayPal customer accounts.
As of last week, the fund held $471 million and had returned 0.04% to investors so far this year, reports SmartMoney. A PayPal rep told SmartMoney, that “market conditions, financial advantages of the money market fund have diminished” for its merchants.
Here’s the message sent to the fund’s participants:
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:21 AM PDT
A lot of companies would like to get on the flash games bandwagon but have no core competency to do it. Out of Israel is a new white label solution called Tictacti. The startup has also now raised a $500,000 round led by Kima Ventures and other undisclosed investors. To date the startup has pulled in $1.6m in funding so far.
Tictacti plans to compete with existing players Mochi Media and heyzap, with a platform which enables games developers to monetize their games on Mobile, Web or IPTV with one API/SDK or, in the case of Flash based games. BUt the crucial aspect here is that they can do it without needing to use the the API.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:00 AM PDT
Yobongo has a problem that isn’t an easy one to solve. They want to create a realtime communication tool centered around location. But if people around you aren’t always on Yobongo, what do you do? Two new features aim to address that key issue. “Around” and “Nudge”.
Both new features launch today in the latest version of the app. And they make a lot of sense from an interaction perspective. “Around” allows you to see who has been recently active on Yobongo near you. This means that even if a user has closed the app, they’ll show up as someone who has been online recently and looking for a conversation. And you can message them. “Nudge” is more straight forward. You know the Facebook “poke”? Yeah, this is that for Yobongo. If you want to bring someone online to talk with them, you use this.
“As we work to reduce the friction of making new connections, we realized we were missing the real world equivalent of seeing who is around you,” Yobongo Caleb Elston says about Around. “We already allowed you to chat in a group with people, and then move to one on one conversations. Around fills the gap of seeing who is around, but with even more context than the real world,” he continues, noting that the recent Pondering feature plays a role here as well.
Meanwhile, of Nudge, he says that it’s “a quick way to get your Yobongo friends to join the conversation.” “If you swipe to the end of the faces in the top bar there is a new ‘Nudge’ button. When tapped, it presents a view of people who have recently sent messages and people you have interacted with on Yobongo whom you can then simply Nudge,” he continues, noting that if a conversation in the main chat room slows, they’ll also suggest users who you can nudge to join in.
Since its launch four months ago, Elston says that Yobongo is now seeing users sign in an average of three times throughout the day (which is lower than it would be if Yobongo didn’t add multitasking support recently) and that active users are sending sending 49 messages a day on average.
The startup remains committed to the iPhone as they don’t want to spread themselves too thin. They now have five employees.
You can find Yobongo in the App Store here.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:59 AM PDT
Well this is interesting. Gilt Groupe is partnering with in-flight wifi provider Gogo to offer passengers exclusive in-air deals on the flash sales site. So when you log-on to Gogo WiFi on any Delta, United, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and US Airways planes, you can find exclusive deals on Gilt.
You’ll also be able to access Gilt for free (as opposed to paying the $4.95 minimum price to access Gogo wifi). Gogo did a similar deal with Facebook earlier in the year, where passengers could log-on to Facebook for free (but had to pay for access to other sites.)
While the Facebook deal may draw more users, it is certainly interesting to see an e-commerce site use Gogo to offer exclusive deals and draw traffic. As a Gilt user, I know I’ve definitely checked the flash sales site while on a flight and would be more incentivized to check the site if I could access better deals. It’s important to note that we don’t know how good these deals will be. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more e-commerce sites striking similar partnerships with Gogo in the future.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:30 AM PDT
The President’s town hall, which will take place July 6 at 2 pm ET, will focus on the economy and job creation. People will be able to participate by Tweeting questions with the hashtag #AskObama, and can follow @Townhall for updates. Via a Twitter-hosted site, you can also watch President Obama respond live via webcast. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate the meeting.
The fact that @jack is moderating the meeting isn’t too surprising considering Mark Zuckerberg moderated Obama’s Facebook town hall meeting earlier this year. Twitter PR head Sean Garrett said in a Tweet that Dorsey will be providing the questions to the President, and ‘there will be a fairly involved process on how they are selected’ from the stream.
As the 2012 campaign heats up, Twitter has become a centralized platform for communications between candidates and the general public. A few weeks ago, we saw that the President's 2012 campaign took over managing Obama’s Twitter (@barackobama) and Facebook accounts (which were previously managed by the DNC). And Obama himself will begin posting updates on both Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter has more mass appeal than four years ago, and there’s no doubt that the platform has become a centralized place for political communication and news. Twitter will be a central part of the election (and so will Facebook), and Obama is taking this seriously and helping to draw more users to Twitter.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:10 AM PDT
Desperate times call for desperate measures: break out your wallet and head on over to eBay, where Google+ invites are being sold for up to $75. Buy it now and you too will be able to enjoy the marvelous wonder that is Google’s brand new Facebook challenger.
What do you mean you’re not that insane?
Most of them come with FREE TUTORIALS, FREE SHIPPING and INSTANT DELIVERY, folks!
Update: the ‘buy it now’ price of $75 isn’t visible anymore on the page linked above, sorry.
(Thanks to @mikerbrt for the heads up)
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:57 AM PDT
Erick is a cruel man. Known throughout TC HQ as the “Iron Stampede,” his rages against technology products are epic and legendary. You should have heard him go off on Google+ yesterday. He was livid.
That’s why it’s interesting to see him calmly dismantle the TouchPad in this episode of Fly or Die. Gone is the red faced anger, the spittle, the curses. Instead, he tries it out and comes away disappointed and nonplussed.
I think I could be swayed either way when it comes to Palm/HP’s latest, but until I change my mind I’m giving this guy a Fly. Watch the video for Erick’s reaction.
Also, note that the HP Facebook app was made by HP, not Facebook as we mentioned in the discussion.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:48 AM PDT
We’re trying something new this week by bringing you some of the top tech stories in video format. Time is short, and so is this video. We realize it is a bit rough around the edges but hopefully the quick dose of news can get you caught up while on the run. Check it out and tell us what you think. In the meantime we’ll be iterating on TechCrunched. Below are the links to the stories mentioned in the video:
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:47 AM PDT
Here in Europe we woke up to find Google had shut down the invitation process to Google +. So after a bit of testing I’ve found out the following how to bring your friends in to it while Google has a lock-down on the service.
If you have an invite to join Google+, right click on the invite link you were sent on email and save the URL. Paste that URL to Twitter or Facebook or email it to some friends. With any luck some of them will get in via that link.
I tried this by Tweeting my own invite link, and magically a few people managed to get an invite of their own. Most did not however, so this is not a full proof work-around. It seems to work if people waited a couple of minutes or refreshed the page after a minute.
The better, more guaranteed hack is one or both of the following.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:18 AM PDT
Microsoft is on a roll. Onkyo is the latest company to trade Android tablet royalties for access to Microsoft’s patent licensing program. The details of the agreement wasn’t released. This makes Onkyo the third company this week that has signed such an agreement. Velocity Micro and General Dynamic’s Itronix brand joined the club just days ago.
"We are pleased that Onkyo has taken advantage of our patent licensing program for Android devices and has signed this agreement," said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft. "This agreement and similar agreements recently announced evidence the momentum and success of our licensing program."
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:42 AM PDT
In John’s review of the new HP TouchPad, he claimed that “WebOS is the real star of this show. The OS offers true multi-tasking and uses a system of "cards" and "stacks" to display active applications.” I think it’s worthwhile to remind everyone that WebOS is built atop the Linux kernel, and that has several interesting ramifications. HP has continued Palm’s dedication to user experience, and WebOS should make it abundantly clear that “Linux” need not be synonymous with “complex and arcane”. But there’s a lot more than just superficial window dressing to consider.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:31 AM PDT
Google just announced that it is teaming up with Virgin America to allow passengers to “test-fly” the search giant’s new Chromebook computers for free. Virgin passengers will be able to use the computers onboard their flight and at select airport gates from July 1 through September 30, 2011.
As an incentive, flyers who check out a Chromebook will receive a free WiFi session onboard Virgin America. Virgin says that at airport gates in San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare, Boston and in Dallas-Fort Worth will include Google “Chrome Zone” lounges starting this week, where passengers can learn more about the Chromebook and check one out for their flight. Google is also partnering with the Ace Hotel in New York to offer Chromebooks in hotel guests’ rooms.
Travelers will have to pony up their credit card info (for deposit purposes) and will then receive a Chromebook for use on their flights between SFO and DFW, ORD or BOS. he Chromebooks can be returned at the guest’s arriving gate. And Google Chrome Staff will also be on hand at the participating Virgin America gates to assist passengers.
This seems to be an extension of an existing marketing relationship between Google and Virgin America. Google has actually partnered with Virgin for the past two years to offer passengers free in-flight WiFi around the holidays. As part of last year’s partnership, Google was peddling its browser Chrome to travelers.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:29 AM PDT
If printing 3D objects sounds impressive, think about this. Pettis thinks “it’s early days”—drawing comparisons to early PC’s like the Altair.
About the size of a mini-fridge, the Makerbot ships for $1,299 and allows users to create their own objects via CAD software (or users can select from “more than 10,000 things” on Thingiverse says Pettis) and print them out in a matter of minutes. Products range from shower curtain rings and eyeglass rims to mini-buildings and movable plastic hearts. We actually tested the Makerbot in our studio and came away with a rocket (Dixon takes it out at the end of the series).
When Dixon asks Pettis how MakerBot is able to make and sell 3-D printers for under $1,500 when corporate models are priced between $20,000 to $1,000,000, Pettis responds, “We just came at it from a totally different place you know. They are servicing a market of it has to work, it has to be perfect, it has to be 99.9999% accurate and we came at it from like, ok what is the absolute minimum we can do to make it work, and then let’s try that and if it works, ship it.”
Picking up on their conversation below, Pettis discusses his background (former puppeteer), the competition and the future of home based 3D printing. When Dixon asks Pettis what the landscape looks like “in 5 to 10 years” Pettis responds by saying he hopes to “get one in front of every kid, one Makerbot per child.”
Make sure to watch both clips for additional insights, including the new feature Makebot recently rolled out.
Past episodes of Founder Stories with Mike McCue, Dennis Crowley, David Karp and Soraya Darbi are here.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:29 AM PDT
An update to social news viewing app Flipboard goes live in the app store today, with a new souped up 1.5 version that optimizes the reader experience even further. Earlier this week we had the chance to sit down with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and did a demo of the new features, above.
McCue tells me that the redesign focused on three core changes.
1. People can now navigate to an infinite number of feeds (previous limit was 21).
The biggest shift from the previous version is the Flipboard Content Guide, which separates curated content streams like Science and Tech and Design to easily connect first time and repeat users with the topics that they’re most interested in, similar to competitor app Pulse’s curated streams.
Users can access the Content Guide by tapping on the red “More” tab at the top of the app and add frequently viewed feeds to Favorites by tapping on the “add” button. The Content Guide is curated and constantly refreshed by an editor at Flipboard, regularly adding new news sources like The New Yorker, The National Geographic and Wired.
Flipboard has also added LinkedIn integration with its latest build, allowing people to view what their contacts on LinkedIn are sharing in Flipboard mode. The LinkedIn integration is novel in that people can also view what people are reading on LinkedIn Today, which breaks down industry news into 37 verticals, useful when brushing up on small talking points before a meeting.
Other interface changes in this latest version include no delay “one-tap” into stories as well as highlighting the popular stores in each section and speed improvements. Content from partners like Wired is even further streamlined into a frictionless, speedy and magazine-likereading experience.
With over 2 1/2 million downloads and with 11.4 million “Flips” per day (which can be likened to pageviews), Flipboard, which just received and addition $50 million in funding, is a fortunate first mover in a space that may eventually be the way most people get their news, on a tablet.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:00 AM PDT
Got an “old” ereader you want to “upgrade?” Get yourself a Nook and B&N will throw in $315 worth of free books, 30 titles in all, including “Glory in the Fall: The Greatest Moments in World Series History, 21st Century Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me” along with some public domain titles. There are some cook books in there and a few other interesting titles but it’s not like you’re going to score a complete Stephen King library or anything.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:50 AM PDT
There are plenty of apps that provide a social ‘second screen’ experience to watching TV, allowing users to check-in to TV shows, share commentary with friends, earn badges and more. But these apps don’t actually combine their social functionality with your TV guide or remote control. Enter BlinQ, a new mobile iOS app that reorders the channel lineup on your cable system into most to least popular by your location.
The app, which was developed by Ryz Media, basically reorders your channel guide from numbers to what are the most popular shows on. You can click the channel on the phone and change channel immediately from the app itself. Ryz previously launched My TV Remote, which was a earlier iteration of BlinQ.
You can also see updates on the programs your friends are watching in the moment. Viewers can not only post and view posts from other viewers within and outside of their own networks, but can also invite friends to join virtual viewing parties to watch their favorite TV shows together.
In terms of hardware, you’ll need Ryz Media’s infra-red emitter, known as the "Q", which plugs into the headset jack of any iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad device to transform the device into a universal remote. The app is free, but the infra-red emitter costs $9.99 (including shipping).
I don’t think I’d choose to have BlinQ replace my TV Guide all together but it is certainly a technology I’d use in addition to the TV Guide or channel guide. Another drawback is that the BlinQ app shows popularity of TV shows by people who are using the app. I’d rather see popularity of TV shows by people I know and trust (i.e. some of my Facebook friends). And I wonder how hard it would be for a cable company to implement a similar experience in the channel guide; similar to a ‘what’s trending,’ by show, but for TV sets.
Though there are some flaws to BlinQ’s technology, I do think that the company is on to something that could shape the future of TV watching (for those of you who still have a cable box and haven’t cut the cord). It will be interesting to see how cable companies can or will incorporate social into cable television. We’ve already seen Comcast’s efforts with Tunerfish. The fact is that combining social with cable programming is a lot tougher than combining social with programming on the web.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:32 AM PDT
Citrix today announced two investments. The company is backing Graymatics, a stealth startup that is building a cloud platform for content-based analysis of video and other digital media, and Gizmox, the developer of the Visual WebGui web, cloud and mobile delivery platform. The Graymatics investment marks the fourth funding commitment for the Citrix Startup Accelerator, the company's Silicon Valley-based seed investment initiative, which launched in December 2010. The Gizmox investment is of greater strategic importance to Citrix.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:33 AM PDT
ANSYS, which offers simulation software and technologies designed to optimize product development processes, has agreed to acquire Apache Design Solutions, a simulation software provider for low power solutions in the electronics industry. The purchase price is approximately $310 million in cash. The price includes an estimated $29 million in cash on Apache's balance sheet. ANSYS intends to fund the transaction with cash on-hand from the combined organization. The agreement also includes retention provisions and incentives for certain members of management and employees, earned over a three year period, including an additional $13 million of performance equity awards.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:06 AM PDT
Morris spent almost a decade as chief scientist for the National Security Agency and was instrumental in the first cyberattack against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991. Morris was also worked at building tools and systems for Unix research group at Bell Laboratories and laying the groundwork for the Internet as we know it.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:22 AM PDT
Thanks to an update of Skype’s Android application, you can now make one-to-one video calls over both WiFi and 3G connections. You can download the Skype app from the Android Market or point your browser to Skype.com/m from your phone.
Note that your smartphone needs to be running Android Version 2.3 (or above) and have a front-facing camera. Supported handsets include the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.
This is just the first phase, Skype says, so expect support for more devices soon.
Once installed, you can have video calls from your Android phone with your Skype contacts on iPhone, Mac, Windows PCs and even a number of TVs.
The Skype for Android app has also been given a new lick of paint.
There’s now a new main menu where you can navigate more easily through your contacts, access your Skype profile to change personal details, use the dial pad to make calls and see the balance of your Skype Credit.
A new mood message box at the top of the Skype app menu also enables you to share whatever you’d like to share with your contacts.
Finally, you can now send SMS messages from the Android app.
Neil Stevens, Skype's vice president and general manager for product and marketing, says approximately 30 million concurrent users log into Skype at any given time and make up to half a million simultaneous video calls (at peak times as of June 2011).
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:00 AM PDT
Like StockTwits for the iPhone, StockTwits for the Android retains many of the same functionalities as the StockTwits community its, allowing users to access realtime stock quotes, financial news and the ability to bookmark stocks on a “Watchlist” or the ability to access stocks on the go.
StockTwits for Android users can also access a “Trending” view of stocks, highlighting the most discussed stocks in the community. This can be useful, as realtime information is increasingly more crucial to making investments.
StockTwits has $8.6 million in funding and is based out of San Francisco and New York. Those interested can download the app here.
Posted: 30 Jun 2011 02:00 AM PDT
Calling all closet Henri Cartier-Bressons: buy you a PEN E-P3, a packet of Gauloises and start shooting people kissing in the street. This new camera, part of Olympus‘ extended PEN line, is probably one of the most solid and capable micro 4/3s cameras I’ve used and with a solid alloy 12mm lens and a Gallic sensibility you can grab some excellent shots.
Posted: 29 Jun 2011 07:48 PM PDT
Last night, I wrote up my initial thoughts on Google+ after using it for a day. Overall, I find it pretty compelling so far. While there is a bit of a learning curve, after about 15 minutes, I found myself at home using the service. And little things (namely notifications) kept bringing me back. But let’s be realistic, it has only been a day. The new car smell has yet to wear off. And I have also noticed a few other things that may spell trouble down the road.
Right now, almost every single post I see on Google+ is shared with the Public. Perhaps this is to be expected since the initial roll-out yesterday was very small. People don’t have a lot of friend in their Circles yet, so they’re posting everything to the public in the hopes of seeing some interaction, I imagine. I have been doing this too.
But tonight, Google started dishing out invites for early users to spread around as they see fit. As far as I can tell, the service is seeing a massive influx of new users right now — a lot more than yesterday. And while Google’s servers appear to be handling the new load just fine, I do wonder what this will mean for the underlying principles of the site. Namely, will people start using Circles in the correct way?
By “correct”, I don’t mean to suggest that there is a set way to use Google+. But it’s no secret that Circles are a huge part of what the service is supposed to be about. Google has spent a lot of time and energy working on what they believe to be the correct system for grouping people together for the purpose of sharing content online. But again, right now, most people seem to be sharing to “Public” and not actually using their Circles.
That type of usage doesn’t seem tenable as Google+ gains users. Imagine the service having over a million users (which would be quite low for Google) — while you’ll still be in control of what posts you see, the comment sections will likely be too much. And people re-sharing other content will lead to too much noise.
More importantly, that would make Google+ just another slightly different version of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Then it becomes a question of “why share here instead of there?” — and that’s not something I’m sure Google can win coming to the game so late.
I think Google knows all of this. I don’t believe they’re setting out this time with the intention of trying to win that game. They did that with Buzz, and they lost. The emphasis with Google+ is on using Circles as a sort of natural filter. The hope is that you’ll share within Google+ the same way you do in the real world. You’ll send certain things to your close friends, other things to your co-workers, other things to your college buddies, etc.
But as everyone has learned over the years, getting users to create and use groups is hard. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg. No one wants to do it.
With Google+, Google has created the most visually appealing and simple way to create groups yet (better than even Facebook’s revamped Groups). But I’m still not entirely sold that people will do it. Or at least not to the extent that Google hopes.
Google has smartly made it so that you have to add people to Circles in order to “follow” them. This is a slight barrier to entry in terms of digging in and using the service, but it does bolster the Circle idea. But instead of creating a bunch of Circles, I foresee people simply shoving everyone into the default “Friends” or “Following” Circles and going about their business.
Who knows, maybe I’m just a Silicon Valley guy who has lost touch with reality. It’s entirely possible. But maybe, just maybe, the opposite is true. Maybe “regular” people have been allergic to using groups in the past because they simply don’t want to use groups. Maybe it’s one of those things that’s a good idea on paper or in a brain-storming session, but doesn’t translate onto the web.
Maybe — gasp — the web isn’t meant to mimic the real world.
Again, I’m not saying that’s for sure the case. I’m just very curious to see how Google+ usage plays out with a ton of people now using it. Will the current public sharing we’re seeing yield to the use of Circles? Or is the idea of public sharing becoming mainstream enough that it’s the new norm?
That idea will certainly piss some people off. The old “I don’t want my boss or my mom seeing my drunken pictures” thing is the oft-cited rationale for why we need groups. But Twitter and now Facebook have slowly been changing that mentality in the public psyche. Increasingly, everything we do online is becoming public. You can say you hate it all you want, but it’s becoming more accepted each day. And this will only continue.
When I look at my Google+ Circles right now, I think: what would I share with only these select people that I wouldn’t share with everyone? It’s hard to come up with an answer. People jump on me: “you don’t have kids!” That’s true, but I have a lot of friends with kids. The vast majority of them seem fine sharing those pictures with the public.
Further, I’m just not sure that sharing pictures of your kids is a big enough use case to constitute an entire, massive social fabric. For certain smaller services, sure. For Google? No.
This is the company that wants to organize all of the world’s data. In order to do that, don’t they need all of that data to be public? Doesn’t it seem like they should be pushing the fully public Twitter mentality more than private group sharing? It sure does. But again, they already lost that race. And the attempts to buy Twitter have been rebuffed. So instead they’re going for the market where there is an opening right now.
And maybe that will work. Again, I like Google+ a lot so far. But I like it because it’s a well-made network with some interesting tools. I’m not sold on Circles yet. Maybe other features like Huddle (group mobile chat) will change that. Maybe they won’t. Google has said that this initial roll-out of Google+ is only a sliver of what’s to come. So we’ll have to wait and see.
But whether they like it or not, the public vs. Circle trial is beginning right now. If everyone keeps sharing with the public, Google+ will be a public network. And that’s fine. I’m just not sure it’s what Google wants, because I’m not sure it’s something anyone needs another version of. Instead, the best hope for Google+ may be for Circles to take off and get people hooked on specialized sharing with smaller networks, and then for public sharing to come up later and take its place. You know, the Facebook doctrine.
Posted: 29 Jun 2011 06:12 PM PDT
Background checks are now fully mobile, thanks BeenVerified‘s new app for Android and the re-release of the app on iOS. The Background Check App does exactly as you might expect: It pulls data from BeenVerified’s site and allows you to check up on the people you know through name queries or email addresses. Users can check up on their contacts with one click, allowing you to see how many times the person in the cubicle next to you has been arrested. Luckily, I have a spotless record, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. Right, BeenVerified?
When the Background Check App first dropped in 2009, it was downloaded nearly a million times in less then a month. Thanks to this aggressive downloading (and some questions over privacy issues), Apple actually pulled the app from its app store after a few weeks. But, this month, after lengthy conversations with Apple, BeenVerified was able to assuage Apple’s concerns, and has now re-released the app with their blessing. In the first four days, the app was downloaded over 14K times.
As Reputation.com’s Michael Fertik told TechCrunch’s Andrew Keen, the issue of privacy is gearing up to be “the next big thing in the online economy”, and people are becoming are now more willing than ever to pay for online services that keep cookies at bay and protect their web-based reputations. As social media has become ubiquitous, and the Web proliferates, it’s no wonder that our perception of privacy is being categorically altered. Some, would say “threatened”, while others would argue it’s a natural part of our digital evolution.
Regardless of where you come down on that question, a lot of the information on the Web is shady to say the least, and people still want to know that those they’re doing business with, or dating, or interacting with, are trustworthy and not out to do harm. The social web is moving forward at lightning speed, and with services like Airbnb, Match, Craiglist, and umpteen others, the gap between virtual and physical worlds is narrowing. As this is the case, the demand for 3rd party, objective public record information about those we meet on the web is increasing exponentially, especially in cases like, say, who we’re renting our apartments to on Airbnb, and we want this information accessible on-the-go.
Thus, BeenVerified’s mission is to make background checks accessible — and more importantly, affordable — which is why the app is free to download and each user gets one free background check a month that includes criminal, age, and address history. Unfortunately, however, it’s not all free. If users want more than one report a month, additional checks can be purchased through in-app payments for $9.95 a pop.
While BeenVerified has already served over 10 million free background checks and is providing unlimited free reverse phone lookups through its mobile and web app NumberGuru, there are certainly some questions over just how much access there is to personal information and how pervasive it is. Can I really just search for anyone in the U.S. and pull their background info?
Not quite. BeenVerified Director of Communications Danny Canarick told me that most criminal records are stored and maintained at the county level, yet as one might imagine, not all 3,100+ counties in the U.S. have made digital versions of their records available yet. Which is why the company began a “Court Runner” service, which, for a small fee, directs a real-live court runner to go to the local courthouse to pull actual hardcopies of the records and to create a one-off digital version. While this service is currently only available through the BeenVerified site, Canarick says that the company plans to bring it to mobile in the very near future.
Currently, the company’s apps have digital access to criminal convictions in 46 states, and arrest warrant data from portions of 35 states. This data comes directly from the administrative offices of courts, departments of public safety, departments of correction, etc.
And, finally, for those TechCrunch readers out there looking to try this out and educate themselves on public record data, for the next seven days, all in-app background checks will be available for 99 cents. So, readers, check out the Background Check App and let us know what you think.
For more, check out the video below:
Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:35 PM PDT
A Colorado cleantech venture, Luca Technologies, filed an S-1 today revealing its intention to go public, and raise up to $125 million (though that number could vary with the receptivity of the market by the time they actually go public).
The company stimulates microbes with a “proprietary formulation of nutrients,” in already-drilled natural gas wells, which enables the wells to produce more methane, the primary component of natural gas.
Luca Technologies owns and operates wells and infrastructure, then sells natural gas into existing markets. Its end users include power utilities, and government entities that use natural gas for power production.
Today, Luca’s chief executive Bob Cavnar (image, below) explained:
Cavnar is a serial energy entrepreneur. He survived a gas well pit fire in 1981, which he wrote about on his blog DailyHurricane.com, and in his book Disaster On The Horizon.
Why is Luca considering the IPO? Cavnar said:
Today, Luca Technologies owns 1,350 wells in Wyoming. The company intends to expand there, and is looking for wells to revitalize in Alabama, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Appalachia. The company’s venture backers include: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, One Equity Partners, Oxford Bioscience Partners, and BASF Venture Capital.
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