Friday, July 1, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Social Gaming Giant Zynga Files For $1 Billion IPO

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 09:12 AM PDT

Zynga has just filed its S-1 with the SEC, indicating that the company plans to go public. According to the filing, Zynga aims to raise as much as $1 billion, but this could be a place holder amount. Updating

According to the filing Zynga has 60 million daily active users in 138 countries. 38,000 virtual items are created every second and game players spend 2 billion minutes a day on Zynga games. The company had $597 million in revenue in 2010, and posted revenue of $235 million in the first quarter of 2011.

Zynga is profitable, posting $90.6 million in net income in 2010, which is a a 28% net margin. In Q1 of 2011, the social gaming giant reported $11.8 million in profit. Zynga has $995 million in cash on hand.

Underwriters include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan and Allen and Company.

Zynga’s investors include Reid Hoffman, DST, Google, Tiger Global, Kevin Rose, Kleiner Perkins, Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, Foundry Group and IVP.



Facebook To Hold News Event Next Wednesday For ‘Awesome’ Launch

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 08:57 AM PDT


As we heard from Mark Zuckerberg this week, Facebook is revealing something ‘awesome’ next week. And the invite to the news event just rolled into press inboxes today. The event will be held next Wednesday at 10 am in Facebook’s Palo Alto office.

Reuters reported yesterday that Zuckerberg told reporters at the company’s Seattle that Facebook was planning a big announcement for next week, it would be ‘awesome’ and the product was created at the Seattle office.

Possibile product launches for the news event could be the company’s much awaited iPad app or a new mobile photo app. We know for sure is that it won't be Project Spartan, the HTML5-based app platform that Facebook has been working on with a small group of outside developers in secret for months. As my colleague MG Siegler wrote yesterday, Seattle’s Facebook office houses teams with deep ties to mobile, so that could be a clue as to what will be announced next week.

So we have one more small piece to the puzzle. We’ll be covering the launch next week so be sure to check back on Wednesday, July 6.



It’s A Pretty Big Ship: HP Isn’t After Apple, It’s After The Enterprise

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 08:45 AM PDT

Loopinsight has an interview with HP’s developer relations guy, Richard Kerris, where he basically says that WebOS is HP’s enterprise strategy, not their consumer play. He says:

"We think there's a better opportunity for us to go after the enterprise space and those consumers that use PCs," said Kerris. "This market is in it's infancy and there is plenty of room for both of us to grow."

"We think the world of Apple and have the utmost respect for their products," said Kerris. "It would be ignorant for us to say that we are going to take it [the market] away from Apple."

Read more…



Windows Phone Marketplace Reaches 25K Apps

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 07:58 AM PDT

Clearly the Android Market is growing rapidly, and there's no reason to even mention the Apple App Store, which just breezed by the 100,000 iPad app marker. But we can't leave the little guys out, especially when their growth is also relatively impressive.

Specifically, Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace is reported to have passed 25,000 applications by a site that tracks the app store's activity.

Read More



New UK Accelerator Launches With £1m Seed Fund, Borrows TechStars Model

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 06:59 AM PDT

Another day in Europe, another accelerator launched. The Difference Engine – an accelerator programme in the North of the UK we covered last year which borrowed heavily from the YCombinator/TechStars model – has itself ‘pivoted’, announcing a rejuvenation and a new name. The new Ignite100 will be a startup accelerator programme with a £1m fund that will invest up to £100k per team for ten teams later this year in the North East of England. The programme set for a September launch and will take applications from across Europe anywhere.



Adobe Offers 50 Percent Discount For Final Cut Pro Users Who Switch To Premiere Pro

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 05:20 AM PDT


As you may have heard, Apple’s new version of its video editing software, Final Cut Pro X, has received considerable backlash from users. And as Jim Dalrymple reports, video editing rival Adobe has been welcoming these disheartened Final Cut Pro users with open arms. Now Adobe is taking it one step further, announcing a formal ‘switching program’ for any Final Cut Pro or Avid Media users.

Adobe says that anyone who has purchased any version of Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer and want to switch to Adobe’s video tools (Production Premium or Premiere Pro) will be eligible for a 50 percent savings on Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5 Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5.

Adobe has been pretty active in its marketing efforts towards disgruntled Final Cut Pro users. For example, the company has posted a number of ‘success stories’ of Premier Pro users who have made the switch.

Of course, not everyone hates the new version of Final Cut Pro, so it’s unclear how many ‘switchers’ Adobe will gain from the backlash. Also, check out Conan O’Brian weighing in on the Final Cut Pro X debacle.



Ricoh Plans To Expand Camera Business, Buys Pentax Brand From Hoya

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 03:03 AM PDT

Camera brand Pentax will soon have a new owner: Tokyo-based Hoya group, which purchased the brand in 2007, is ready to sell [notice of sale as an English PDF] it to Ricoh in October this year. According to Japanese business daily The Nikkei, the office equipment maker plans to pay an estimated US$124 million for Pentax.

Read more…



Who Won The 6,000+ Nortel Patents? Apple, RIM, Microsoft — Everyone But Google

Posted: 01 Jul 2011 01:44 AM PDT

When Google first made the “stalking-horse” bid on the Nortel patent portfolio in early April, it was all but assumed that they would push hard and win the rights to the patents. They were hardly the only bidder — RIM and Apple were definitely involved — but still, after the DoJ quickly cleared Google to bid, it seemed to many (including many at Google) that they would prevail. Not so.

Instead, Nortel has announced this evening that a consortium has won the bidding at a cash price of $4.5 billion. So who is in this consortium? Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, and others — essentially, it’s everyone but Google, it seems.

Ouch.

This means that over 6,000 patents will now be in the hands of these winners. And that sort of sucks for Google because losing the bidding means that they still control less than 1,000 patents. And that in turn means lawsuits. As in, Google is going to keep getting sued because they are vulnerable. That not good news for Google, but it’s the way it’s going to be. Well, provided the courts approve the bidding results.

The deal is still subject to review by the courts in the U.S. and Canada. And given the companies that “won”, it seems likely that a lengthy review will take place. The Microsoft and Apple winnings are likely to be the most scrutinized, as the two of them stand to gain the most from the auction results. Google has yet to give a statement on the matter, but you can bet they will lobby against the auction results.

Nortel hopes to close the process by Q3 2011. Good luck.



Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow Joins SavingStar Board of Directors

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 11:57 PM PDT

SavingStar, the national paperless grocery coupon service, announced today that Michael Lazerow, the founder and CEO of Buddy Media, has joined the company's board of directors. Launched in April 2011, SavingStar provides digital coupons to more than 24,000 stores and over 100 supermarket and drugstore chains across the U.S.

SavingStar’s eCoupons are available on the web and through the company’s iPhone and Android apps, and are linked to users' registered loyalty cards. Rather than applying coupons at the register when checking out, the coupon’s savings are automatically deposited into users' SavingStar accounts, where they can choose from several different payout options: Payout from a deposit into a bank account or PayPal account, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to charity. Nearly 500,000 users have signed up for SavingStar in the two months since the service went live.

In 2007, Lazerow co-founded Buddy Media, a management system that allows global advertisers and brands to manage their Facebook pages. With scalable architecture and nifty administrative tools, Buddy Media’s solution gives brands an all-in-one social media management system that enables them to launch, maintain and measure their Facebook presence in any country and in any language. As Leena wrote back in October, one of Buddy Media’s biggest selling points i that “users don't need to have any prior FBML knowledge to create pages on Facebook and can create sleek and interactive pages” with ease.

Prior to Buddy Media, Lazerow founded Golf.com, which was sold to Time Warner in 2006. Before Golf.com, Lazerow founded University Wire, a network of more than 700 student-run newspapers, which he sold to Student Advantage, helping it grow into a service that is now powered by student journalists at more than 800 colleges and universities across the U.S.

Last week, The Buddy Media CEO also joined the board of directors of Savored, formerly known as Village Vines, which offers high-end dining discounts at top-rated Zagat restaurants. The startup raised $3 million back in January.

Lazerow joins SavingStar's current outside board members, which include Jeff Bussbang of Flybridge Capital Partners, Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, and David Coppins of Upromise. The company announced a $7 Million Series B funding in April, bringing total investment to $10.7 million.



Turn Google+ Into Facebook

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 10:10 PM PDT


The social networking wars have dialed it up to 11 this week, with Google unleashing its highly anticipated (and highly leaked) Google+ social initiative upon the world on Tuesday — to not a bad response, to be honest. So it’s not that surprising that today Facebook countered the + hubbub with its own “we’ve got something awesome” unveiling planned for next week. You crazy kids!

The resemblance between the two social networks is uncanny — my Tweet-length opinion is that Google+ is like Facebook with a more usable, streamlined Photos and Groups interface (and that might be enough to win). Only time will tell.

In the meantime, for those of you who have the decidedly middle class problem of social network fatigue, there is a solution. Thanks to the unlimited creativity of  humans, you can now actually make your Google+ look like Facebook, with the Google+ : Facebook Stylish extension or this CSS code.

I love this.



Behold: Path Comes To Android In Public Beta

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:17 PM PDT

Well, well, well. It looks like everybody’s favorite limited social networking and photo-sharing app has finally come to Android. That’s right, Path announced via its blog that Path for Android will be available in the Android Market beginning today. And sure it enough, it is. Check it out. But this is by no means a finished product. Path considers Version 1.0 of its Android app to be a public beta, using it to test the waters and learn what works and doesn’t work as it ports to a new mobile OS.

This maiden voyage for Android has quite a few of the familiar features that Path fans have come to enjoy, but according to Path Co-founder Dave Morin, there’s much more to come.

For those unfamiliar with Path, the startup was founded in 2010 by Dave Morin and Dustin Mierau as an alternative approach to the idea of broadly sharable social information, targeting sharing among a smaller group of close friends and family. With a 50 friend limit, Path chose to offer no outside sharing features, Facebook, or Twitter. The team later amended this by adding a complementary app for Twitter photo sharing called With and has added a host of features, like Stacks, and more.

Since its inception, the startup has grown in fits and starts, but has been on a kick this year, turning down a $100 million acquisition offer from Google and raising an $8.5 million round from Kleiner, Index, and more.

Though the app got its start on iOS and has grown its feature set on Apple’s platform, today proves that there’s no OS bias over at Path. After all, it seems par for the course today for app developers to start with Apple before moving to Android. As is such, Path’s Android v1.0 doesn’t quite offer the full suite of features available on iOS, but it does include quite a few of the components Path is known for.

Users capture and share photos with the same 50-friend limit, tag moments with people, places, and things, view friends’ moments, and make use Path emoticons to let friends and family know how you feel about their pictures and moments. Users can also take advantage of chat, see when friends have viewed their moments, and even publish a few moments to Facebook.

It’s a great start for an Android public beta, and there’s more to come. As Path’s blog entry indicates, the startup will “continue to iterate and release updates with more features frequently”, and uses can expect things to improve rapidly as Path continues through beta.

A few quick notes: Some users have pointed out that currently the only way to authenticate or sign up for the Android app is through Facebook Connect. Morin told me that, for now, Facebook Connect with be the primary form authentication, just as it is on iOS and the web, but the team will be adding email signup to Android in the near future.

Version 1.0 also does not include the ability to delete posts, but Morin said that this feature, too, will be arriving shortly. Good things come to those who wait, people.

Path is currently available for users of Eclair version 2.1 and up.



Bing Gordon: Every Startup CEO Should Understand Gamification

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:22 PM PDT

Former EA executive, KPCB sFund lead and all around inspiring person Bing Gordon led a talk today at the sFund Gamification Summit. In his talk Gordon broke down platitudes like “gamification is important” into key actionable takeaways on how succeed with gamification, takeaways that could be reformatted and applied to any company.

When asked why he went through the trouble of putting his guide to how to successfully gamify together for entrepreneurs, Bing told me, “Every startup CEO should understand gamification, because the gaming is the new normal,” referring to the fact that every one who had a Nintendo at 16 also has a brain that works in a way that’s more receptive to game elements. “We are overdeveloping the visual cortex of our customers,” he said.

Gamification is as important as social and mobile Gordon told me, which makes sense, as elements like rewarding people for behavior are pure human psychology. His talk was separated into a three-pronged approach, Acquire, Engage and Retain, “All your experiences are three part experiences,” he said.

The best way to acquire customers was to eliminate bounce, by creating a pleasant experience at first entry way, being said. “If you create cognitive dissonance in the first 5 seconds they bounce,” he said.  Designers should aim for creating a “touchable box” or something that people want to touch. He then referred to the game’s interface as being an engine, saying that a great UX/UI guy could save a company from having to throw out thousands of lines of code and could replace five engineers.

Baked in virality was also emphasized as a huge part of customer acquisition, and Gordon said that addition of Facebook profiles were responsible for 15 million versus 1 million monthly active users on Zynga Poker. Adding a friend bar meant 70 million MAUs versus two million on Farmville according to Gordon. “People come back more often when they have a date,” he said.

In terms of user engagement, Gordon advised CEOs that first impressions matter, “Your job is to create a “Wow” within the first session … The value of gamification is the mechanics second and the mind of gamers first.”

Things like virtual goods, showing numbers and giving badges are ways to positively reinforce users for playing your game. Letting them own part of the game by generating and submitting their own content was another way to solidify this emotional bond between creator and user.

Bing also emphasized the value of avatars in games, “Any kind of avatar that people buy into can dramatically change engagement.” It makes sense, people love things that give them a sense of identity. If a game, service or anything really can give them that, then they’re hooked.

Constraints, pre-announcements, and engendering social obligations to play a game were other things Gordon touched on that can contribute to customer retention. He said that the number one question on a game designer’s mind regarding a user should be “Will she come back?” and then “When?”

“We’re in an era where we can have billion dollar audiences,” he closed out the talk saying. There’s no harm in using a few tried and true devices to keep people coming back.



Want To See Which Ads Perform Best? YC-Backed MixRank Is A Spy Tool For AdSense

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:26 PM PDT

Online advertising is growing, and much of that growth is happening in display advertising. While search ads still make up 46 percent of the total over display’s 38 percent, display grew twice as fast as search in 2010. Many online businesses rely on advertising as a supplemental revenue stream in support of their business model — if not the sole source — especially from AdSense. As such, companies and startups spend a lot of time testing out different ad iterations, looks, and copy in an effort to find the most clickable ad content and the most lucrative campaigns. And, interestingly, relatively tiny tweaks to wording and content in ads can have a fairly dramatic effect on clickthrough rates, increasing them as much as tenfold.

A lot of businesses end up losing valuable time and money trying out different wordings and approaches, which is why MixRank, a startup out of the latest class of Y Combinator companies, is today launching a competitive intelligence service that clues businesses into how successful the AdSense display and contextual advertising of other companies (read: their competitors) has been. If, for example, your business is advertising a similar product to another company in the space, MixRank allows users to skip past the some 80 percent of ads that lose money, and view the methods of attack that are working for their competitors. Users can also view the sites that are directing the most traffic to their competitors.

To make this possible, MixRank has effectively created a search engine for AdSense that crawls pages running Google ads, and since Google sorts these ads by effectiveness, MixRank indexes this data and estimates ad performance. After crawling these pages, MixRank takes into account Google’s sorting of the ads by effectiveness, then uses this data to serve essential performance analytics.

As you can get a sense from the image above, MixRank’s service yields a ton of interesting data for advertisers. Using MixRank’s dashboard, users can see that, of the different wordings WooMe is testing for their Google ads, the top phrasing has been far more successful than the other pilots. As advertisers employ different calls to action in their advertising, these businesses can now get a better sense of whether using immediacy, scarcity, or time limits, etc will be more effective in selling their products. Users can quickly test these different calls and easily see what’s working.

As one can see in this example of Gillette advertising, the most successful ads don’t target sites that have the same theme as the product they’re hawking, but instead using common cases, problems, and questions to address their potential customers. The top Gillette ad for deodorant is “Interview with confidence”, for example.

Mixrank Co-founders Ilya Lichtenstein, whose background is in affiliate marketing, told me that many of the seemingly pervasive daily deals sites out there all essentially play “follow the leader” when it comes to advertising (as they seem to do with business models and more). Many of the smaller sites can’t compete with the leaders like Groupon and LivingSocial, because they don’t have the resources to build a large team of salespeople, researchers, and copywriters, so they find the easiest ways to mimic the leaders.

So, because it’s true that, in any highly competitive market with thin margins, there are usually only a few ads or traffic sources that resonate with customers and get big CTRs, MixRank levels the playing field. It allows smaller businesses access to the same copy, content, testing and comparative analysis that the big boys utilize; smaller operations can see where their competitors are buying ad real estate and view what type of ad copy is working best. (

Thanks to Cofounder Scott Milliken, who built most of MixRank’s architecture, the service currently indexes 93,000 sites using Google AdSense, and that number continues to grow every day. One might, of course, assume that a caveat to MixRank’s business might be intrinsic to scaling and adoption, but even as more and more businesses sign up to use the service, it seems that ads will only become more efficient at a faster rate, as each team learns from another’s experiments. And, in the end, that could be better for consumers, too.

MixRank is completely free at this point, as it tests the market to see what kind of adoption it will see, but Lichtenstein told me he has plans to eventually implement a subscription model (an affordable monthly one) to monetize. And big picture plans include building a model of the whole display market, which may eventually include machine learning to work towards building a prediction engine that can tell users which particular version of a campaign might be the most successful.

It’s a deceptively simple concept, but a very interesting one, so check it out, and let us know what you think.



What’s Facebook Releasing Next Week? Not Project Spartan.

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:17 PM PDT

Apparently, Facebook is gearing up to show off something “awesome” next week. At least, that’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters while he was visting the Seattle Facebook offices yesterday. Reuters reports that whatever it is, it has been developed by the 40-person team based in Seattle. And they think it might be in the mobile or tablet space.

All we know for sure is that it won’t be Project Spartan, the HTML5-based app platform that Facebook has been working on with a small group of outside developers in secret for months. Spartan will not be ready to go before the middle of July at the earliest, we’re told — nor is it based in Seattle.

What is based in Seattle are teams with deep ties to mobile. Earlier this year, the team up there put a lot of work into merging the m.facebook.com and touch.facebook.com sites together. Given that part of what we’ve seen in the leaked Facebook mobile photos app closely resembles a part of the new photo experience on m.facebook.com, it’s possible Facebook will unveil their new mobile photos offering from Seattle. All we’ve heard recently is that the pictures we leaked were somewhat old (but very real). We also believe that there will not be a stand-alone app when it’s released, but rather, it will be a part of the current Facebook app experience.

We also know that the Facebook team in Seattle has been trying to build up a desktop software team. But the hiring is ongoing for that, so don’t expect any news out of that department for quite some time.

The wildcard is the iPad app. We know it’s coming soon, and have spoken with multiple people who have seen it now. It’s not clear if the Seattle team built it or not, but it’s certainly possible.

Update: One source says it “highly unlikely” that Facebook’s announcement next week is the iPad app.



Pool Party: Google Has Their Own Secret Photo-Sharing App Too — Built By Slide

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:11 PM PDT

Back in March, we first exposed Disco, a group messaging app that the Slide team within Google had built. And that’s not all they’ve been working on. Say hello to Pool Party, another secret project by the same team within Google.

We don’t know much about Pool Party other than it’s a photo-sharing app that the Slide team has built. The emphasis is said to be on creating group albums (“pools”) that show new photos in real time.

The app is currently in invite-only beta testing. And Google was able to secure the poolpartyapp.com domain for it — not quite as sexy as disco.com, but it will do.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this is that Slide is building these new apps within Google while other teams at Google work on similar projects. For example, Google+ features both a group messaging component (Huddle) and a mobile photo sharing component (Instant Upload). When I asked the Google+ leads, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, why they weren’t just using Disco inside of Google+, they both said they had no idea what I was talking about — while smiling.

It’s believed that Slide is allowed to work autonomously on their own projects within Google, and both of these apps appear to be very much proof of that. The question is if and when Google will use its own clout to promote these things. Disco is already on version 2 with no Google promotion yet.

Sadly, unlike Facebook’s secret photos app, we were only able to secure two photos of Pool Party. Enjoy.

Update: A Brodie Duncan notes on Twitter, look what’s in the Android Market already — with 0 installs! It’s not clear if you’ll be able to use Pool Party this way since it’s in private beta, but get downloading!

Update 2: And look at that, it’s in the App Store as well! We previously believed it would be Android-only, but clearly that’s not the case.

 



LinkedIn Is Sending Us Far More Referral Traffic Than Twitter.com Now

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:01 PM PDT

If I asked you which of the major social sites you thought sent us the most traffic, you might think it was Twitter. After all, the TechCrunch Twitter account has over 1.7 million followers. When you compare this to the (just under) 250,000 fans our Facebook TechCrunch page has, it should be no contest, right? Wrong.

The truth is that if this were October of last year, you would have been right in thinking that Twitter was our top referrer in terms of social websites. But since that time, Facebook has far surpassed Twitter in terms of traffic coming our way each month. In fact, Facebook.com is now sends nearly double the traffic that Twitter.com does. This is probably due to the fact that last November, we added Elin, our excellent community manager, who curates and engages with people from our feed on Facebook. I also suspect it has to do with the rise of the Like button. Ever since it was released last year, Facebook has been steadily referring more readers our way.

But this info, while interesting, isn’t all that surprising. After all, Facebook is by far the largest social network in the world. With over 750 million active users, it still dwarfs Twitter. The really surprising thing is that Twitter isn’t even our number two social referrer in terms of websites anymore. As of this month, that distinction goes to LinkedIn. And it’s not even close.

Yes, LinkedIn, the professional social network which just went public is now by far our second biggest referrer of social traffic. That’s crazy when you consider that just last month, it was around half the size of Twitter (in terms of referrals), and trailed sites like Hacker News. And two months ago, it was roughly 1/8th the size of Twitter, trailing Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and others in terms of referral traffic to TechCrunch. But the biggest stat of all is that a year ago, traffic coming from LinkedIn was 1/50th what it is today on a monthly basis.

So what changed? As far as we can tell, this is all about LinkedIn Today, the social news product the service launched back in March. It was around that time that was saw the first big bump in terms of traffic coming from LinkedIn. In March, it roughly doubled from February. Then April was pretty flat — it was still much higher than previously, but not growing. Then in May, traffic went up 5x. And in June, it more than doubled from that. The growth has been astounding.

Of course what’s perhaps most interesting about that is that LinkedIn Today is powered by Twitter. Twitter shared links determine what shows up on LinkedIn Today, but the traffic does not go back through Twitter.

Again, this is just traffic from LinkedIn to TechCrunch. And the truth is that with its cross between technology and business, LinkedIn may be the most perfect social network for regular TechCrunch readers. But talking with some other bloggers, they’ve been noticing the exact same thing. All of this is undoubtedly buoyed by the LinkedIn social buttons that have been appearing all over the web as well. recently (and on TechCrunch recently).

The bigger question in my mind is what this means for the future of Twitter’s website as a disseminator of news? While Twitter has attempted to help journalists and bloggers a bit with things like the recently-launched Twitter for Newsrooms tutorials, they haven’t had much in the way of new features to better surface information. Referral traffic from Twitter had been steadily rising over the years, but it was only as we gained more Twitter followers incrementally. And in the last year, that traffic has flattened completely. And now in just a couple of months, LinkedIn has shot by it when a hot new product.

Part of the explanations on Twitter’s side may be the increased use of HTTPS, which likely scrubs referrer information in traffic sent. But Facebook and LinkedIn both have HTTPS options as well, and again, those numbers are rising fast, Twitter is not. Also a part of this is the use of Twitter mobile clients. But again, Facebook has hugely popular mobile clients too (though, admittedly, LinkedIn’s mobile clients don’t appear to be as popular, so most of their traffic will likely be from linkedin.com).

If that trend is true on a larger scale, that’s not good news for Twitter. It’s substantial traffic that can’t be ignored, obviously, but the numbers point to it stalling out as others come along. In the same year timespan that Twitter referral traffic has flattened, Facebook referral traffic has gone up six-fold. Again, that doesn’t look good for Twitter. Digg was once the undisputed king of referrals as well. Last month, they were in 17th place in terms of referrals to TechCrunch.

Update: Twitter says the lack of growth on twitter.com is due to the soaring of Twitter mobile usage and says they will share some stats soon which I’ll post here. Though that would also suggest that people are turning away from the website in order to use mobile, which would be interesting. Either way, I altered the title to better reflect that Twitter.com is mainly what’s being discussed here.

Update 2: Twitter has pointed to these previously stated numbers to share in terms of mobile growth.

 



Twitter Reaches 200 Million Tweets A Day, But How Many Come From Bots?

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 02:17 PM PDT

Twitter just crossed another huge milestone. People are now sending 200 million tweets per day across the service. This is up from 65 million tweets per day a year ago, or about 200 percent growth in a year. Last March, Twitter reported 140 million tweets per day last March. Way back in January, 2009 people were only sending 2 million tweets per day.

Well, “people” is perhaps a generous term. Twitter is filled with automated bots Tweeting out, as well as feeds from publishers. It is not clear how many of those 200 million Tweets a day are automated versus individually hand-crafted. And a small percentage of power users (maybe 20,000 total) reportedly account for half of all Tweets with links, for example, (although this is based on a study that only looked at data through March, 2010 and may now be outdated).

But other data suggests that Twitter’s audience keeps on growing. ComScore estimates that Twitter.com alone attracted 139 million unique visitors worldwide in May, 2011, a 54 percent annual increase. On a worldwide basis, Twitter is bigger than MySpace. In the U.S., however, traffic is up only 12.5 percent to Twitter.com, which attracted an estimated 27 million unique visitors in May, 2011.



Google’s Uphill Battle With Social, Animated

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 01:54 PM PDT

NMA continues in its tech blog baiting campaign, this time capturing Google’s multiple attempts to crack the nut of social in subtitled CGI format. Our ingenious Taiwanese friends have chose to represent the Buzz debacle as a guy who conspicuously resembles Mark Zuckerberg spying on a woman in the shower and Google Wave as a group of people trying and failing to surf.

Google+, in contrast, is depicted as a Pandora’s Box, which ultimately contains only hope in the form of the product’s true innovation, Social Circles. It’s perfect.

For a completely opposite but equally brilliant take on Google’s struggle to be social, check out Steven Levy’s brilliant essay, “Inside Google+”.



Google Takeout, An Easier Way To Take Your Data With You

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 12:47 PM PDT

Lost in all the buzz around Google+ is an important new feature rolled out alongside it that makes it way easier to take all your data out of Google. It is called, appropriately enough, Google Takeout. It’s got it’s own separate site and is also part of settings within Google+. In settings, you click on “Data Liberation” and then you are given the option to download all of your profile data, stream data, photos from Picassa, Buzz data, Circles and Contacts.

The Data Liberation group inside Google has long been making personal data portable, but up until now it’s been a clunky process involving APIs and going to each Google service separately to get it. With Takeout, all your Google data across its services is available in one place. You can download it and do what you want with it. (Although downloading it does not erase it from Google’s servers).

I downloaded all of my Buzz updates, just for fun, and it came in a 17.5 MB file. When I unzipped it, it was a folder filled with HTML documents—one for each Buzz update. I am not sure what I would do with that data, but it’s nice to know I can get it all. The contacts are probably more useful, and come in a more handy .vcf file which can be imported into other address books.

Data portability is a big battleground between Google and Facebook. And Google is winning right now with Takeout in terms of paying more than lip service to the concept. Facebook also allows you to download a zip file of your photos, friend lists, messages, and wall posts, but it is not in a format third party sites can use. So it’s not really free. Not that 99 percent of people would ever even want to do any of this. But it’s like the Data Liberation folks say in the video below: if you know you can take your data out, you might feel more comfortable about putting it in.



Andreessen-Horowitz Adds Jeff Jordan As General Partner, Leads $5M+ LikeALittle Series A

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 12:01 PM PDT

Andreessen-Horowitz, the prestigious VC firm started by Silicon Valley veterans Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, has just announced that it’s added its fifth general partner: Jeff Jordan, the former CEO of OpenTable and former executive at PayPal and eBay.

In conjunction with the news, A-H is also announcing Jordan’s first investment: a Series A funding round in hot Palo-Alto based startup LAL (also known as LikeALittle). When it’s completed, the round will total over $5 million in new funding for the company. Also contributing to the round are notable angel investors who include TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington (see below).

Oh, and we hear that LAL landed a valuation of over $35 million. Not bad for a startup that got its start last fall as a college flirting site.

This is actually A-H’s second investment in LAL in the last few months — it also participated in a seed round in late April. Neither Jordan nor LAL had much to share about LAL’s progress aside from the funding, but it’s clear that A-H has high hopes for the company and how it will deliver local context (which is a problem plenty of other apps are trying to solve as well).

As for Jordan’s addition as a partner, Marc Andreessen says that the firm has been on a two-year search as it sought to expand the team (in addition to Andreeseen and Horowitz, the other general partners are Scott Weiss, John O’Farrell, and now Jordan). Andreeseen says that over the course of many conversations with startups, Jordan’s has been a name that regularly comes up —either as someone that a startup already has, or wished they had — as a board member or advisor.

You can find LAL founder Evan Reas’s blog post on the funding here.

Note: As noted above, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is investing in LAL. You can read more about his investment policy here.



A Startup Called Huddle Legally Ponders The Google+ Huddle Feature

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 11:29 AM PDT

As part of the new Google+ service came Huddle, a group texting app available to Android users. This makes mobile group collaboration easier, says Google. So far so good. Except…

There’s already a five-year-old group collaboration startup called Huddle, which has to date raised $14.2m in venture capital and has office in San Francisco and London.



Our Next Batch Of Tickets To Our 6th Annual August Capital Party Are On Sale Now

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 11:11 AM PDT

Update: Tickets are now sold out. Check back next week for our next set of tickets.

Summer is here and our 6th annual August Capital Party is just around the corner. Last week we released 100 tickets, all of which sold out in under an hour. Today we are releasing our next set of 100 tickets. The August Capital Party will be held on the gorgeous Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park on July 29th from 5:30 – 10:00pm, preceding our Mobile First CrunchUp. This party is a great way to see an amazing mix of startup demos, network, enter into giveaways, have some drinks and some fun in the sun. Tickets are $40 and tend to sell out very quickly. If you would like to come, please act fast. If you aren’t able to purchase tickets today, stay tuned – we will have a ticket giveaway this Friday and will release more tickets next week.

Tickets are on sale here.

Our Mobile First CrunchUp is sold out. However, we still have a limited number of press passes. Contact Elin Blesener to request press pass consideration.

Here are the logistics for the party.

About the 6th Annual Summer Party at August Capital
July 29, 5:30 – 10:00 pm
2480 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park CA 94025, Map
Get Tickets @ Eventbrite: $40 based on availability. Tickets to be released weekly in batches. Stay tuned to TechCrunch for releases as they sell out quickly. #tcaugustcapital

Sponsorships:
The combined CrunchUp – Summer Party also gives us a great sponsorship platform for start-ups and brands to reach both conference and networking attendees. Please contact Jeanne Logozzo or Heather Harde to learn more about sponsorship packages and custom opportunities.



MOG Rolls Out Slick HTML5 Player, With A New Emphasis On Recommendations And Playlists

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 10:51 AM PDT

The online music race is now an all-out sprint: Amazon, Google, and Apple are now all offering (or preparing to launch) services that let you upload your music collection to the cloud, letting you listen to the music you own wherever you are. But they aren’t just competing with each other — another group of services that includes MOG, Rdio, and (eventually) Spotify lets users stream any song as often as they’d like for a reasonable monthly rate of around $10 a month.

It’s getting fun. And today, MOG is making the race all that much closer.

The service has just rolled out a new Beta player to users that streamlines the MOG experience, putting a much heavier emphasis on building out playlists and recommendations than its predecessor did.

Up until now, MOG users have been using a Flash-based player that appeared in a popup — you navigate the site in your main browser pane, adding songs as you go, and those songs are added to your playlist, which you control in the smaller popup window. It works fine, but compared to services that have adopted a more iTunes-like interface, it can be a little confusing.

The new player fixes that. It’ll look familiar to anyone who has used the MOG web app on the Chrome Web Store, which launched in December (it’s a variation on that player). But it includes some key additions, and it’s also rolling out as a beta option to all MOG users (previously the only way to access it was through the Chrome store, which many people don’t know about).

The new player actually has fewer features than the old one — it’s missing ratings and the ability to see the profiles of other users, for example. But, aside from a more intuitive and faster HTML5 interface, it adds features that are probably even more important: namely, recommendations and better playlist creation.

Now when you log into the new version of MOG, the service will look at your Facebook Likes (and the Likes of your friends) to start recommending artists immediately. I logged in with a test account populated with some of my favorite bands, and sure enough, the service immediately presented me with albums by The Darkness and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

MOG CEO David Hyman says that the team actually had some help from Facebook when it came to integrating this functionality. Hyman wouldn’t say anything about the rumored Facebook Music initiative that’s in the works, other than to say that he “hopes to do more great stuff with them in the future”.

MOG and other all-you-can-eat music services are increasingly competing on features like speed, recommendations and social sharing than they are on the size of their libraries. MOG already offers solid mobile applications, and this update makes the desktop experience significantly more compelling, especially for new users who are now met with a personalized homepage rather than a generic list of popular music.




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