Friday, July 8, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Mozilla Labs Launches ‘Web Activities’ Experiment, Lets Web Apps Talk To Each Other

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 09:49 AM PDT

Mozilla has just posted an update to its Labs blog, where it shows off some of the new projects that it’s been working on (which sometimes serve as previews of features that eventually get baked into Firefox or open web technologies). You’ll need to install the Firefox Open Web Apps extension to use them  — and these are primarily developer-focused for now — but they both sound very nifty.

The more exciting of the two features, at least in terms of the potential for innovation, is what Mozilla is calling Web Activities (the concept has also been referred to as web intents and was originally conceived by Google Chrome developer advocate Paul Kinlan). It has a basic-sounding but very important goal: allowing multiple web applications to ‘speak’ to each other seamlessly.

The usefulness of the feature is best described with an example.

Right now, a web-based image editing app that wants to give users access to their photos that are already hosted online would have to bake in APIs for the popular services (Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, etc.). And if a user had a photo hosted on a smaller service, they’d probably be out of luck — or have to manually upload them again. Using Web Activities, that wouldn’t be an issue — the web apps would speak in a standardized ‘language’ with each other without requiring the developer to integrate an API for each individual service.

It’s a nifty idea, and it’s one that’s already working quite well on a platform you may have sitting in your pocket: Android’s intents system does the same thing, allowing arbitrary applications to communicate with each other. This project sounds like it’s still very early on, but it has the potential to make web apps much more powerful.

The other new feature showcased on the Labs blog involves web app installation. Over the coming months more web services will probably be launching web apps (in the sense that they’re available through Mozilla’s upcoming app market and the Chrome Web Store), but users may not be aware of them. Mozilla’s solution: if you browse to a site that offers a web app, it will display a small popup notification prompting you to install it.

Of course, both of these features are still experimental and may never be widely rolled out. But my hunch is that both of them have legs — the app discovery feature seems pretty obvious and helpful, and Mozilla is working in tandem with the Google Chrome team to bring the Web Activities project to fruition.



Indian Social Network SMS GupShup Wants To Help Small Businesses Reach Mobile Users

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 09:00 AM PDT

SMS GupShup, a Twitter-like service in India that is primarily accessed via SMS, is launching a new service today for small businesses, BizShup. The new product allows small businesses to create mobile campaigns and send messages to the network’s 45 million members on the fly.

Launched in April 2007, SMS GupShup (spawned from Webaroo), seen traction from advertisers and brands looking to connect with Indian consumers. Businesses can target users based on location and community. Advertisers on the platform include Pepsi, eBay, ICICI Lombard, Microsoft, Cadbury, Vodafone, Nokia, Ford, Puma, Maybelline, Dell, Kingfisher, Sun Microsystems and ING Financial.

Bizshup is aimed at small businesses who hope to advertise to the network’s users. The business tool provides a group messaging platform for businesses that allows them to form groups, send messages, create ads, and track analytics. And businesses can create an SMS campaign, at scale, on the fly, from a mobile device.

For example, business owners can use a 'Keywords' feature to attract new customers; the first step is to define a keyword and associate a phone code to it – for example, "To get cool discounts SMS PIZZA to 9220092200." Users who send PIZZA to 9220092200 will automatically be added to this business' customer list. Business owners can distribute coupons that can be redeemed at the point-of-sale location. Previously in beta, BizShup has already run hundreds of campaigns to test the service.

As we’ve written in the past, it’s unclear SMS GupShup will fare as Facebook and Twitter continue to grow in the country. As more consumers have access to the internet (in addition to mobile phones), they will certainly flock to these networks. But SMS GupShup certainly has done a fairly good job of implementing advertising in the SMS-based social network, and thanks to these revenues, revenue grew by over 400% in 2010.



From Your Clipboard To Just About Anywhere: Sharing Files In One Click.to

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 08:25 AM PDT

That was a tough headline to write, because it was difficult to summarize what the Click.to app does in one short sentence.

But if you’re a Windows user, I encourage you to check it out anyway (Mac folks will have to wait a couple more weeks).

If you’re anything like me, you use the CTRL-C command a lot. What Click.to does is display an ‘action bar’ whenever you copy something to your clipboard – whether it’s a photo, text or an Excel spreadsheet – that enables you to share the file in question to a variety of social networking and other online services, or other Web-based and even desktop applications.

For example. When the app is running in the background, CTRL-Cing a picture on your desktop lets you easily – and quickly – send the file to your Facebook profile, add it as an attachment to an email you’re sending with Outlook, or open the image in Adobe Photoshop.

Or copy any string of text, whether it’s from a conversation inside a chat window, a Word document or a browser tab, and jump straight to IMDB, Wikipedia or Google search.

It sounds a bit silly, but it’s easy to get hooked on the app because of its sheer speed. Use it for a while and you’ll find that you really do waste a lot of timing performing actions like opening an app and clicking a few times before you can actually share a file.

Click.to can help alleviate that problem.

The pop-up bar that you get every single time you copy something to your clipboard can get annoying fast, though, but fortunately there’s a way to hide it automatically for specific applications (e.g. Skype or Google Chrome). Unfortunately, you can’t hide the bar only for specific Web apps (e.g. WordPress).

Another gripe: Click.to decides which apps you’re most likely to use with any given action, so for examples it hides Twitter and Gmail when you CTRL-C an image, even if that’s exactly where you wanted it to end up.

Other than that, it’s a neat little app that adds value for oversharers such as myself. I particularly like the fact that you can create your own actions in just a couple of steps, which I used to create a shortcut for searching companies in CrunchBase as an example.

In spite of the app’s name and logo, the company behind the tool – Axonic – doesn’t own the click.to domain name, although they’re trying to buy it from the current owner.

Head on over to clicktoapp.com and give it a whirl.



TechCrunched: News Highlights In Under Two Minutes

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 07:27 AM PDT

Once again, we’re packaging some of the top news of the week in a quick-to-digest video format.  If you missed some of the big tech stories this week, TechCrunched gives you the highlights. Take a look, have a listen and let us know what you think. Also, be sure to visit the below links for additional insights.

Apple's App Store Crosses 15B App Downloads, Adds 1B Downloads In Past Month

eBay Buys Zong For $240 Million In Cash To Boost PayPal's Mobile Payments Technology

Do You Subscribe To NYT On Your Kindle? You Can Now Access NYTimes.com For Free

Facebook Launches Ad Hoc Group Chat, New Chat Design, And Video Chat With Skype

Zuck Confirms That Facebook Now Has 750 Million Active Users

Zuckerberg: Online Sharing Is Growing At An Exponential Rate (And Users Are Sharing 4 Billion Things A Day)

From Diapers To Pets, Amazon's Quidsi Introduces Wag.com

comScore: One In Three US Mobile Phones Is A Smartphone

Remember When Twitter Was A Joke? No One Is Laughing Anymore.

With No IPO In Sight, Twitter Said To Be Raising More Money At $7 Billion Valuation

Correction: In the video, we say that the NYT is free on the Kindle. In fact, you have to pay for a Kindle subscription to the NYT, but then you get Web access for free.



The Five Best Things About OS X Lion

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 06:23 AM PDT

If all goes according to rumored plan, OS X Lion should hit stores by July 14 alongside new hardware to run the new OS. I’ve played with the Gold Master over the weekend and I’m pleased to report it is stable and a unique version of OS X, more complete than other, iterative updates like Snow Leopard. I won’t bore you with all the new stuff under the hood but let’s look at a few of the cool new features MacLovers will soon be using on a daily basis.

Read more…



Mark Cuban-Backed Device Identification Startup BlueCava Raises $1.5 Million

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 06:14 AM PDT

BlueCava, a startup that has developed technology that enables its customers to identify unique connected devices such as smartphones, TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, computers and more, has raised $1.5 million in debt funding according to an SEC filing.

Late last year, the company had already raised $5 million from billionaire investors such as Mark Cuban and oilman Tim Headington.

BlueCava says its device identification technology is actually about 15 years old and dates back to Australian inventor Ric Richardson, who was also the road manager for the band INXS.

Years after cooking it up in the nineties, Richardson's idea became U.S, patent #5,490,216, and he later sued Microsoft (and many others) for infringing on his patent.

In 2009, a jury awarded Uniloc USA (which BlueCava was spun out from) $388 million excluding damages or interest in the case against the Redmond software giant.

You can read more back story here and here if you’re interested.

BlueCava says the technology can theoretically identify the 10 billion (citation needed) internet-connected devices on the planet. The identification helps its customers target advertising and combat fraud, among other use cases.

It’s a most interesting startup to keep tabs on – to give you an idea, its advisory board members include Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer at Facebook and Ellen Moskowitz, VP of Fraud Management Solutions at MasterCard.



Watch The Final Space Shuttle Mission Here (Maybe)

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 06:02 AM PDT

Today, after 133 launches spanning nearly three decades, the era of the Space Shuttle is set to close with one final launch. Atlantis is currently on the launchpad, fueled, loaded with her four man crew and ready to delivery supplies to the ISS. It’s a bittersweet day as an exciting time in the US’s space history comes to a close, but unfortunately due to budget constraints rather than replacement with a new launch vehicle.

The launch is scheduled for 11:26 EDT today, but it might not happen. The weather isn’t cooperating but Launch Director Mike Leinbach told the launch team, “We do have a shot at this today.” If today’s launch is scrubbed, they will try again tomorrow.

NASA has the social media thing down. There are several different venues to follow along. The Ustream feed is embedded after the jump and NASA’s official Twitter feed is understandable active this morning. Xeni Jardin also happens to be on site and is liveblogging the event. Follow her updates here.

Read more



Celebrity And Brand Advertising Startup Ad.ly Launches Social Analytics Platform

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 06:01 AM PDT

You may remember Adly, a startup that in-stream ad network for celebrities and brands on social platforms like Twitter and MySpace. The company was also helping celebs promote brands on Facebook, but got the boot from Facebook (read more about why here). For background, Ad.ly links up advertisers with influencers and celebs and then distribute links to marketing campaigns through the celeb's Tweet streams and MySpace updates streams with full disclosure.

Today, the company is launching an analytics dashboard which is designed to help top influencers manage and grow their audiences on Twitter. The dashboard provides brands and celebrities with audience demographics of their followers and reveals who your top influencers are, which influencers and fans are messaging you, mentioning you, and retweeting your content.

Adly will also show you which other celebrities and brands your fans follow, and how many fans you share in common. You can see who your "Mega Fans" are (the ones with the greatest reach and potential influence); follower growth over time, the gender breakdown of a follower base compared to the average Twitter audience, and the geographic breakdown of an audience compared to that of the average Twitter audience.

For example, Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) has more Twitter fans in Texas than he has in New York. Jet Blue (@JetBlue) can see that 24 percent of its followers are fans of 50 Cent (@50cent). Old Spice (@OldSpice) can see that 28 percent of its followers are fans of Charlie Sheen (@CharlieSheen). The New York Times (@NYTimes) can see that 29 percent of its followers are fans of CNN Breaking News (@CNNbrk)

Adly Analytics also allows celebrities and brands to grant managers, agents and staff access to their Adly Analytics without sharing their Twitter passwords.

There’s no doubt that analytics are now integral to any brand’s social media strategy. There are a number of startups that offer in-depth social media analytics such as Viralheat, HootSuite, PeopleBrowsr, Netvibes and Topsy. And we’ve seen some pretty major exits in the social media analytics world, including Radian 6 and Kosmix. Providing analytics alongside Adly’s ad and endorsement platform, makes sense.

Of course, we know Twitter could have its own high-powered analytics platform in the works, especially considering the company’s recent purchase of social media analytcis startup BackType as well as last year’s acquisition of Smallthought.

For now, Adly doesn’t seem to be in danger of violating Twitter’s advertising TOS. But Twitter hasn’t been the most developer-friendly company, and has cracked down on some companies using advertising on the platform. Adly also hasn’t written off recently acquired Myspace yet. Adly CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh believes Myspace may have comeback, especially when it comes to engaging celebs. Perhaps that’s why JT’s on board?



Kickanotch Raises $500,000 For Its Mobile Marketing And App Monetization Platform

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 02:49 AM PDT

Kickanotch Mobile, a mobile marketing services startup based in the outskirts of Kansas City, announced today that it has raised $500,000 in seed funding. The round was led by six angel investors and “incentivized by” Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, a private/public partnership created by the state of Kansas to promote technology-based economic development and support local entrepreneurship. The startup plans to use this infusion of capital to continue expanding its cloud-based technology and services, as well as its mobile platform, and to ramp up hiring efforts.

Kickanotch, formerly known as PRONTO! Mobile, launched its mobile application and mobile marketing platform services back in May to offer TV broadcasters, radio stations, publishers and corporations a way to increase brand exposure and better utilize mobile revenue channels and consumer engagement opportunities. The startup works with media companies and small-to-medium-sized businesses to design a custom mobile strategy, assisting businesses in the design and implementation of mobile apps and features that enable them to make customized (and engaging) advertising campaigns and mobile apps.

More specifically, Kickanotch allows its corporate customers to optimize and manage banner advertisements, as well as enhance their mobile presence and user experience with daily deal alerts, social media integration, QR codes, SMS and email marketing, analytics, and lead generation.

As mobile advertising is growing like wildfire and is expected to hit $20 billion in revenue by 2015, Kickanotch aims to not only help businesses design a great mobile app, but to also give them the tools to monetize and create an addictive mobile experience for their customers. Essentially, the startup wants to offer businesses a turn-key mobile monetization solution as well as a mobile marketing manager. Its “Platform Mobile Manager” is designed to do just that. The cloud-based software allows startups and corporations to manage ads, SMS and email advertising, and coupons — all from a single dashboard.

Of course, the startup has plenty of competition in the mobile advertising space, but its solution has already drawn more than 50 broadcast, publishing and corporate brands into the fold in only a few months, so there’s plenty of room for optimism. It’s great to see Kansas supporting and growing local technology companies. That’s just good policy.

For more, check out the site here and meet the Kickanotch team here.



Instagram + Color = Instacolor

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 02:09 AM PDT

If photo sharing apps Instagram and Color would mate and have a baby, it would likely look something like the Instacolor app made by tinkerer Rakshith Krishnappa.

Basically, the app aims to help Instragram users discover other users in their neighborhood, and lets you view photos posted by people around you in real time.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store now and costs $0.99.

Ever since Color launched its photo sharing app, the $41 million startup has been having a rough time. Co-founder Peter Pham left, or was fired, according to CEO Bill Nguyen, who also told the New York Times that the company is going back to the drawing board.

Their biggest challenge right now: nobody seems to be using the app.

Instagram, meanwhile, is on a roll. They’re at well over 5 million users now and roughly 100 million photos have been shared using the app to date.

Earlier this year, Instagram debuted a realtime API to let third party developers build things like Instacolor, which takes both ideas and morphs them into one app (but uses Instagram as the foundation). Krishnappa also built Gramfeed, a Web interface for Instagram, by the way.

Update: also check out Instabam.



Sony To Kill The MiniDisc Walkman In September

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 01:01 AM PDT


After discontinuing the production of cassette Walkmans last year, Sony is now about to kill another one of their original inventions: the MiniDisc Walkman. And as Japanese business daily The Nikkei is reporting today, Sony plans to pull the plug on the production as early as this September – obviously because nobody is buying MiniDisc Walkmen anymore.

Read more…



Netvibes Debuts Powerful Social Analytics Platform For Brands And Agencies

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 12:55 AM PDT

Netvibes, a company that provides social media dashboards and news aggregators for brands and agencies, is debuting a powerful new analytics platform tonight. Netvibes’ new social analytics and monitoring platform is launching in private beta but won’t be available to the general public until later in the month.

As we wrote last year, Netvibes launched Instant Dashboards, which allows users to enter a keyword on NetVibes' site to pull up an instant dashboard that automatically collects all of the latest photos, videos, news, feeds, search results, Twitter conversations and more around that topic in realtime. The company’s new offering, Social Pack, is complimentary to the Instant Dashboard product, giving brand managers the ability to monitor and analyze at the same time.

The platform’s Social Corpus gives you open access to add and control exactly what sources (blogs, influencers, news feeds) to pull data from. Plus, Netvibes features a built-in library of more than 200,000 original content feeds and apps to choose from.

Similar to analytics platforms like Radian6, Netvibes tracks mentions and topics and gives brands insight to make sense of this data. The platform will identify trends, sentiment, influencers and ideas. You can dig pretty deep with data as well. For example, not only will Netvibes tell you who your top influencer is, but the technology will also show you which blog the influencer write for and what is being siad about a brand or product. And Netvibes will instantly create a new app just to analyze those specific keywords revealed by that one influencer and track them over time.

Netvibes also allows you set specific tags to track certain mentions from specific sources. Netvibes allows managers to create an unlimited number of advanced alerts to automatically monitor the effectiveness of campaigns, brand reputation, competitors and even trigger actions, like adjusting campaign budgets, a newsletter response or invoking a URL. Alerts can be sent to any mobile device in real-time.

While the Social Pack platform combined with the news aggregator platform is certainly an information overload, it could be a comprehensive tool for brand managers. Already many well-known agencies and brands are already using Netvibes’ enterprise offerings including Digitas, Coca-Cola, and L’Oreal. Of course, the enterprise dashboard isn’t cheap. The entire Social pack and Dashboard costs $15,000 for dashboard setup, then $2,000 per month.

But clearly big brands are shelling out the cash for Netvibes product. And the company is profitable on a net income basis.



Although Many Investors Are Spinning, Turntable.fm Has Not Yet Picked A DJ

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 11:00 PM PDT

Although many investors are spinning for the chance to invest in Turntable.fm, the hot music startup has not yet picked a DJ, despite reports to the contrary. Business Insider claims that Turntable has raised $7.5 million at a $37.5 million valuation and “that term sheets were indeed signed yesterday.” But reached a few hours ago as he was boarding a plane, co-founder and chairman Seth Goldstein told me, “We have not closed any new financing.”

There is certainly a lot of interest in Turntable from VCs who want to fund its next round. The buzz among venture investors is that there is intense competition for the deal, particularly between Union Square’s Fred Wilson, Accel, and Kleiner Perkins. Wilson is the clear favorite (Turntable is based in New York City), but he is being outbid by Accel and Kleiner.

The rumor is that Wilson is offered Turntable a $25 million pre-money valuation, while Accel and Kleiner offered double. That could have easily been pushed up to $30 million pre-money, in which case the $37.5 million figure would pencil out as a post-money valuation. (Just remember, VCs send signed term sheets all the time. It doesn’t mean the company has to accept the terms).

Not only are top-tier VCs excited about Turntable, there’s even some potential acquirers sniffing around, including AOL, Facebook, and Sony. As far as I can tell, no formal offers were ever made because co-founders Goldstein and Billy Chasen just got this started and don’t want to sell. Plus, they obviously aren’t having any problems raising money.

Why is everyone going gaga over a startup that launched with a completely different product, Stickybits, that never went anywhere? Turntable is a social music site where you enter different listening rooms in which players can become DJs and spin music while chatting with each other’s avatars. Chris Sacca likes to hang out there a lot (he is a previous investor, along with First Round and Polaris). It’s been gaining some impressive early traction, even though you still need to know someone to get in.

It is social music discovery at its best. You can listen to hours of full-length songs selected by other players in a variety of different themed music rooms. The better the DJ, the more points everyone else rewards him with. And if you like a song you can add it to your playlist, or buy it through Amazon or iTunes.

But the business is not a slam dunk. Turntable pays per-stream fees just like Pandora or other “Internet radio” services. The music labels could decide to crack down on Turntable and try to extract higher fees. But Turntable’s early growth and engagement numbers are too high to ignore. People spend hours in these rooms. Maybe this time, the labels won’t kill it before trying to work out a deal. Even then, though, Turntable will have to find other ways to make money—perhaps through digital goods or better avatars, sponsored rooms, or some people might be willing to pay to be a featured DJ.



The Huffington Post UK: Masterstroke or Misstep?

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 10:30 PM PDT

A few weeks ago, an interesting proposition landed in my inbox: would I be interested in contributing to the politics section of the soon-to-be launched Huffington Post UK?

To be clear, when I say the proposition was interesting, I don’t mean I was interested in accepting it: as a general rule, I try to only write for free when I have something to promote. I mean I was interested to learn that Arianna Huffington and Aol were willing to direct time and resources into launching HuffPost UK: a project that, if you believe some UK media critics, is so clearly doomed to failure.

You don’t need me to tell you that the Huffington Post US [Disclosure: HuffPost is owned by Aol which owns TechCrunch which BLAH BLAH BLAH] has been a huge success. With its mixture of partisan editorialising and celebrity soap-boxing, it provided a counterpoint to the stuffiness and balance of much of the American news media. At the same time, thanks to a billion slideshows of cats suffering wardrobe malfunctions, it managed to generate sufficient advertising dollars to hire a team of full-time reporters to cover real news, thus positioning itself as a semi-credible rival to traditional newspapers.

And yet, for all of HuffPost’s undoubted success in the US, it’s hard to see how a dedicated UK edition can do anywhere near as well — and not just because Britain has barely a fifth of the population of the US (California and Texas combined offer more potential readers than the whole of the UK).

For one thing, as Toby Young argues in the Telegraph, UK readers are less interested than their American cousins in what celebrities think about the world. Articles like Rob Low complaining about the “Household Betrayal” of his former housekeeper are a real traffic driver in the US; in the UK they would be met with howls of indifference.

But, of course, celebrities represent a tiny percentage of HuffPost’s roster of contributors. For every Hollywood actor, the site boasts a hundred left-wing politicians with votes to win, a thousand authors with books to promote and a million professional writers with axes to grind — surely they’ll keep the high quality content flowing? Perhaps — but there too HuffPost UK has a problem, in the form of the Guardian’s highly trafficked, left-leaning blog platform Comment Is Free (CiF). Named after the mantra of the newspaper’s former owner and editor, CP Scott (‘Comment is free but facts are sacred’), CiF already boasts an impressive list of high profile contributors, opining on everything from the recent elections in Turkey to the emotional depth of a cow.

More impressive still, is the fact that CiF pays many of its contributors (including, occasionally, me) for their work, with rates hovering around £90 ($140) for an 800 word column. It’s not much, but it’s infinity times more than HuffPost UK is offering. In the US, Arianna Huffington was able to use her considerable personal influence (and magnetism) to seduce high-profile contributors into helping get her site off the ground. Since then, times have changed: Huffington’s unwavering magnetism has to compete with the fact that many people would rather sell their kids into slavery than work for free for America Online. And in any case, if writers really want to work for free, they can always contribute to the HuffPost’s US site and enjoy far, far more visibility.

All of which raises the sickening specter of a site filled only with the linkbait crap and celebrity gossip that HuffPost UK can get for free. But even there HuffPost UK faces a challenge in attracting an audience, with stiff competition coming from the UK’s rich and vibrant tabloid press. The London-based Daily Mail is sucking up page impression by the million in both the UK and the US with its populist mix of celebrity fluff, royal rumors and
‘x-gives-you-cancer’ horseshit. Toggling quickly back and forth between the front pages of HuffPost UK and DailyMail.co.uk, one could be forgiven for thinking the former is simply a differently formatted version of the latter, albeit with the odd bit of CiF mixed in by mistake.

So why then, given all those challenges, would Huffington think that launching in the UK is so important? Could it be that, having studied at Cambridge, Arianna craves some approval from the old continent? Hardly. Or perhaps now that she’s spending AOL’s money rather than her own, Huffington simply doesn’t give a damn about the economics. That theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either: as any starving HuffPost contributor will testify, Arianna’s grip on the purse strings hasn’t shown any signs of loosening since the acquisition — with dead-weight staffers being fired to pay for new editorial hires.

Which just leaves one tantalizing possibility: that, as with the sale to AOL (which proved to be a breathtaking external coup d’etat), or even founding HuffPost in the first place (many media pundits wrote it off as a vanity project doomed to bankruptcy and failure), Arianna Huffington understands the economics of online content better than her critics.

Huffington has made no secret of her desire to expand the HuffPost internationally, having already tested the waters with HuffPost Canada — so why not choose the UK as her first overseas outpost? The US and the UK are, after all, two countries divided by a common language and, if anything, the existence of the Comment is Free and the popularity of the Daily Mail prove that there’s definitely a market in the UK for the HuffPost’s editorial mix. In any case, it’s hardly a huge financial risk: by all accounts the HuffPost only employs a handful of staff in its UK office, certainly far fewer than can be found at either Daily Mail or Guardian HQ. If Huffington gets the original journalism / aggregation balance right — as she has in the US — the site could become profitable, very quickly. At worst, it can add a few million page impressions to HuffPost’s global reach without hemorrhaging too much cash.

Certainly Huffington seems pleased with the initial performance of the site — and rejects the idea that the HuffPost has to compete with existing publications like the Mail or the Guardian at all. While working on this post, I emailed her some of my concerns about the UK launch and asked her for an on-the-record response. Less than a minute later, her reply arrived…

“We don’t need to beat anyone to succeed. This either-or is a very old model…not about the linked economy in which we operate. We are launching in 12 countries. Launching in [the UK] first outside North America made perfect sense. And we were lucky to launch on a big news day [the News of the World phone-hacking scandal] that showed how Huffpost — liveblog and all-original reporting and aggregation — delivers the news in real time with all the engagement tools our readers want.”

So there.



With Google+ (And A Tweak For Analytics), The Social Sharing War Is Fully On

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:24 PM PDT

Google and Facebook are at war. This is old news. They both want to be the center of the Internet — but there can be only one center. For a while, it looked like things were quickly shifting Facebook’s way after years of dominance by Google. Then Google+ appeared — already the most compelling social experience Google has ever offered.

While it’s still far from clear what the actual impact of G+ will be on the Internet at large, it’s pretty clear already that it’s something Facebook is going to have to take seriously. And they are. Despite Mark Zuckerberg downplaying it, Facebook did just launch a video chat feature a week after Google did in G+. And last summer, Facebook rushed to get the new Groups done in time to beat Circles to the same punch.

But where things are going to be really interesting is on the social sharing front. Facebook has long been in the lead here — and is proud of it. But after just a week, it sure seems like Google+ is seeing some impressive numbers as well (with only a fraction of Google users using it). And a small change Google quietly made yesterday shows just how seriously they’re taking this.

As we noted a couple days ago, it is possible to track the referrals coming in to your site from G+, but it’s not straightforward. Yesterday, Google made it much more straightforward.

When you click on a link now in G+, it redirects it through the plus.google.com domain. Why? Because Google+ uses HTTPS to be more secure, but that strips referrer information that would normally be passed to sites like TechCrunch. So they have to redirect to another non-HTTPS domain to pass that data. Previously, it was simply through a google.com/url domain (which we were tracking). Now it’s a plus.google.com domain — much easier to track for a casual analytics user.

And sure enough, as of yesterday, plus.google.com is showing up as a referrer to TechCrunch — and yes, a big one despite us not actively using it to send out articles just yet (and again, the limited number of users).

Facebook does a similar redirect to ensure that the pageviews they’re sending others’ way are correctly counted. Others, like Twitter, do not generally do this, which likely makes their sharing stats appear lower than they actually are.

I suspect we’ll begin seeing all three of these Internet giants begin to more actively monitor and showcase this data. Others, like StumbleUpon and LinkedIn are in the mix as well.

Remarkably, StatCounter says that StumbleUpon now sends more traffic to sites than Facebook in the U.S. Meanwhile, LinkedIn is showing massive growth in terms of referrals (to TechCrunch, at least) — though, to be fair, their popular LinkedIn Today feature is powered by Twitter data (which again, Twitter doesn’t get the referral credit for at all).

Nearly two years ago, I noted that the social sharing war was tipping heavily in Twitter’s favor due to the fact that it was far too slow to share content on Facebook. The quick rise of the Tweetmeme button (since replaced by Twitter’s own Tweet button) all over the web showcased this. But things have changed in the past two years. Notably, Facebook has gotten much better at facilitating sharing — hello Like button. And when you do that with 750 million users, sharing will happen.

Meanwhile, posts like this one show Google already has a team working on a strategy for how brands and companies (like TechCrunch) can best facilitate sharing on Google+. They expect to begin testing this shortly — believe us, they’re rushing to get this done ASAP.

The Google assault in this social sharing war is now well underway. They’ve failed in the past with Buzz, but Google+ is clearly much better than Buzz. And while the +1 Button on the web seems fairly useless right now, when they further tie it into G+, the sharing situation will get really interesting.

With another party actively engaged, the question will turn to which of those sharing buttons will you choose to click on? Some people do all of them now. But that won’t last forever. The social sharing war is on.



Facebook Now Lets App Developers See Their Spam Scores

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 03:55 PM PDT


Two weeks ago a number of Facebook developers logged into the site to horrible news: their applications had suddenly been disabled without warning. The culprit was Facebook’s spam-fighting bot, which automatically tracks the amount of negative feedback an application receives from users and blocks apps that are faring especially poorly (since they’re probably spammy). But the bot was acting more aggressive than it should have been, and developers didn’t have a way to tell how frequently users were blocking their app updates in the first place.

Today, Facebook is rolling out some new features to address this.

In a blog post announcing the news, Facebook engineer Mike Vernal writes that developers will now have access to a ‘News Feed’ tab as part of Facebook Insights (their analytics product). Developers will now be able to track how frequently the posts their applications generate are hidden or marked as spam by users (the more they have, the worse standing they’re in).

And Facebook is also taking a more gentle approach to app banning. Previously when an app crossed the spamminess threshold it would simply be deleted. Now Facebook will only cut off the notification channel that’s producing the spam. And if an application is deemed to be spammy across multiple notification channels, Facebook is also introducing a new ‘disabled’ mode that will still give developers access to their applications, even though users won’t be able to use it.

Perhaps the biggest news, though, comes at the bottom of the post:

In the coming months, we will be moving from per-channel enforcements to a more sophisticated ranking model where the amount of distribution that content gets will be a direct function of its quality. Good content will be seen by more people, poor content will be seen by fewer people (and potentially no one). We think this is the right long-term model, as it rewards apps that focus on great social experiences while minimizing negative experiences.

Facebook already does this to some extent with its News Feed (high quality content is seen by more people). But it sounds like this will also be seen in other channels, like Chat and the notifications tab.



More Tickets To Our 6th Annual Summer Party At August Capital Are On Sale Now

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 02:45 PM PDT

Update: Tickets are now sold out. Be sure to check back next week for our next set of tickets.

We only have a couple more weeks left until our 6th annual summer party at August Capital. Our first two batches of 100 tickets sold out in under an hour. Today we are releasing 100 more. The party will follow our Mobile First CrunchUp on July 29th and will be held in Menlo Park from 5:30 – 10:00pm. There will be a mix of startup demos, drinks, giveaways, networking and fun on one of the prettiest roads in Silicon Valley. The tickets tend to sell out very fast, so be sure to act quickly if you would like to come. If you’re not able to get a ticket today, stay tuned for a ticket giveaway this weekend. We will also release our next set of tickets next week.

Tickets are now on sale here.

Tickets to our Mobile First CrunchUp are unfortunately sold out. We still have a limited number of press passes available though. Contact me to request press pass consideration.

Here are the logistics for our summer party.

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 startups 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.



Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth: “The Most Exciting Things Are Things We’re Not Working On”

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 12:48 PM PDT

Hi this is Alexia Tsotsis from Tech Crunch TV and I am here with Director of Product Engineering for Facebook, Andrew Bosworth.

You got it.

And we are post-awesome announcements. It was indeed awesome.

I thought it was pretty awesome. I'm glad you agree.

So you guys announced three things. You announced a new group chat feature. You announced a new design, that right sidebar.

Absolutely.

And the fact that group chat, or all chat, will now like conform to your browser size.

Right, it will try to take advantage of all the space that users have given us for their large browsers and windows.

And then you announced Skype Video Calling.

That's right.

Okay, so out of the three things, which one is the one that you think is the most awesome?

Video calling is really the awesome announcement. It's the thing that Phillip was working on in Seattle when kind of when Zuck alluded to this last week. Video calling is going to really enable an immersive experiences for our users. Really face to face deep kind of deep connections with people they care most about.

And video calling isn't

a new technology, but it's just never been as easy I guess is the key.

Now video calling is nothing new. What about the Facebook integration? Zuckerberg was talking a lot about the social integration. How apps, how Facebook wants to be the go to place for the social infrastructure and how apps will build on top of that, and I guess Skype is one of the biggest pushes of this thus far.

Yeah. Well, if you think about it Skype has built this phenomenal technology that connects people all across the world already. You know, they want to get that technology to as many people as possible, and there's really no better place to do that than on Facebook. Where we already have your friends, you don't have to build a list of contacts, you don't have to download anything separately, its all kind of inline.

And so I hope that you guys will get a chance to play with it later and see. Like, the install flow is super-lightweight, really, really easy, it's a really small download, and it enables this kind of incredible really rich experience. And there's a kind of viral component so when you call somebody, you know, they're prompted to download and install it so they're taken care of.

So, I think we were enabling people might have otherwise have access to this video-calling technology that's been around for years, really putting in this right in their hands.

So can a Skype user now,
independent off Facebook platform calling to someone on Facebook?

Yeah, for know it's just Facebook to Facebook. I think, you know, the potential future integrations that we can do with Skype are pretty endless, and some of them pretty obvious. Like Mark and Tony said, this is going to be a long partnership between our two companies. We're really excited to continue working with them.

They've got a lot of great technology we would like to take advantage of, but for today it's just Facebook to Facebook.

Any plans for the ability to use that plug-in on other sites? For example, if LinkedIn wanted to do Skype integration.

You know, like I said, as soon as we had the access to this kind of, cool, person to person technology on Facebook, we launched it. We haven't looked at all the other possibilities yet. We've just really been pretty excited about this. We think it's a pretty awesome launch.

So, have you tried Google Hangout?

I haven't actually had a chance to try it yet, no.

Do you think this was, this was any kind of reaction to that?

I wish I could tell you it only took us one week to build video calling. It took us a little bit longer than that. Just a little bit longer.

So, tell me more about group chat. Are you saying that fifty percent of your user base is now on Facebook groups?

Yeah, Facebook groups has been one of our fastest growing product launches ever. I mean, we launched it nine months ago and already half of our active users are in a group, the average group size is seven people. These are really doing exactly what we hoped they would do which is connecting people in a very small shared space with the people they care most about, the most common titles for groups have the words "friends" and "family" in them which we love.

So, one of the things that we built group chat into that product, and it was incredibly popular. And one of the complaints that our users have been kind of giving was that, they had to create a group to get the group chat, and so we decided to make it really easy to create these ad hoc group chats and that can kind of follow the user around as they're browsing using the existing chat interface.

So this is one of those features that's one of our most requested features and we decided just to ship it today.

Awesome. Zuckerberg talked about how the future of sharing was exponential. Like that a year from now, people will be sharing twice as much as they do today, and twice as much from there, twice as much from there. And he talked about, he showed a graph and it showed video calling and then it showed a bunch of empty circles where potential new apps will be. Any ideas of what apps could be built to fill any circles?

Look, I think certainly we have some ideas, obviously some things we can't talk about.

Project Sparta?

But I think a big part of what Zuck wants to do is enable people in the world, not just at Facebook, but anyone who wants to be the next bubble on that law of sharing graph to build those things. And it's not about what Facebook does in terms of the app space.

It's about what the social kind of infrastructure enables to be built. So, as much as we have some things that we're working on, like, I think the most exciting things are things that we're not working on that somebody else should be working on to fill out those bubbles on that law of sharing graph.

Any specifics on what somebody else should be working on?

I can't give you any specifics at this time.

So, what change in user behavior do you anticipate on Facebook from these new features?

Yeah, I think there's some obvious cases. Armoured servicemen talking to their families, people who are separated from their loved ones, connecting in a deeper way. But there is also these kind of casual scenarios which I expect to emerge as video calling's never been this easy. If you're just kind of hanging out at home and you just see the option to video call a friend.

Like maybe you call a lot more, maybe you call them when you don't need to have a deep, intense, immersive experience. You just kinda wanna be there with them and and experiencing together. So maybe we're watching the same show at the same time and we're separated from distance, like, can we do this kind of casual thing.

So I think that's actually a pretty cool feature that, you know, we didn't necessarily build it for, we really built it for the deeper experiences. But having made it so easy I expect that kind of a, casual usage to really emerge and be a big deal.

Awesome. Any plans to launch an iPad app so shortly after launching a crazy feature like group chat.

We've actually been so heads down this I've not been paying attention to anything else in the world.

At yesterday’s launch of video Skype messaging, Mark Zuckerberg showed this slide of Facebook user growth graph plotted with the launches of Facebook apps like Photos, Messages and the Like Button. Zuckerberg held that each bump in growth was fueled by a technological innovation and that as sharing moves further along the curve he is waiting for the technological innovation that will propel it upwards.

When asked in the above interview what this innovation could possibly be (Project Spartan, perhaps?) Facebook Director of Product Engineering Andrew Bosworth gave a somewhat surprising answer.

“Certainly we have some ideas and obviously some things we can't talk about. But a big part of what Zuck wants to do is enable people in the world, not just at Facebook but anyone who wants to be the next bubble on that law of sharing graph, to build those things.

It's not about what Facebook does in terms of the apps space, it's about what the social infrastructure enables to be built. As much as we have some things that we're working on, I think some of the most exciting things are things we're not working on, that somebody else should be working on to fill out those bubbles on that law of sharing graph.”

For the perspective of someone who is aiming for one of those bubbles, check out this post-announcement interview with Skype’s Head of Consumer Product & Design Rick Osterloh, where he talks about the user growth benefits of building on the Facebook platform, among other things.  

Hi, this Alexia Tsotsis from TechCrunch and I am here with Rick Osterloh who is VP of product for Skype and we are at Facebook Headquarters post-awesome launch. And I just talked to Andrew Bosworth and he actually said that the most awesome thing launched today was Skype's video, video-calling.

Yeah.

And, so it looked relatively easy, its one click you are going to show me how.

Yeah, sure.

How to do it now?


Its super straight forward.
So what you do to start a video call on facebook.com is you either start it from a chat like right here. This is one of my colleagues, Jonathan Rosenberg.

Hey Jonathan.

We're just doing a little text chat right now and if I want to turn that into a video call I just click on that button. and this will now ring Jonathan's side. You can see the little splash screen comes up that lets you know everything is getting started and it gives you good status and there it is.

Hi Jonathan.

Hi Jonathan.

How are you? So that was pretty easy. What happened on your side? Did it just ring and you answered it?

Awesome.

Yeah, and that was the goal with this. We wanted to make it super easy. And then you can see obviously the video is really high quality on both sides, so that's another key feature of this. What this is doing is it's basically running an optimized version of Skype's desktop software using our technology and network, and it's powered by Facebook.com, and you can see, its super nice easy UI.

When you're done with the call you just click over here and close the window. That's really it. The install process is really simple too. user once you get started, they make a call with someone else, and both sides automatically install any software that's required.

Is there a groups feature? Not right now. Right now this is just one to one video calling. And you can start that from a chat, like I showed you. You can also start it right over here on someone's profile page. You see a little call button, and then it'll start a one to one call.

Awesome. So, during the talk, Tony Bates said that fifty percent of Skype usership is in video.

Yeah. And also that you guys are gunning towards a billion. You want a billion users.

Right.

Do you think that this will ultimately detract people from using Skype in and of itself, or do you think it'll move more people from Facebook over to the original Skype platform?

Well, we think it'll, we actually consider this people using Skype, so, you know, we work very closely with Facebook and were, we wanted to do this partnership for a long time because we felt this was the best way to reach a huge number of users. We also think this will drive more interest to Skype, too.

So, we think it's a great win-win for both companies.

Do you have plans to have this plugin integrate on other sites? For example, if LinkedIn wants to do Skype integration. Nothing right now, Nothing right now?

Yeah, we're really focused on making this work right for Facebook users.

What about WebRTC support?

Its something we are working on. We've been looking at the standard for a long time, but at the moment there's no browsers out yet that actually support it. But, you know, we'll be keeping close track of it.

Tony mentioned during the announcement a suite of paid products. Do you have any idea what these are specifically or what plans are in the works to create you?

So we don't have a specific timeline or anything, but what makes the most sense really is to be doing paid calling between Skype and Facebook. users in particular calling out to phones. It's something that's very popular with our user set. So we intend to be working on that with Facebook.

Awesome . I also mention that there were 300 million video minutes a month.

A month, yeah.

Now on Skype. Do you have any estimate with the Facebook integration how much this number will increase?

Not sure. We're definitely sure it's going to go way up.

Awesome. Thank you.

You're welcome. Thank you.


iOS Hacker Begins Porting Swype To Jailbroken iPhones

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 12:10 PM PDT

When it comes to Swype and their crazy drag-to-type alternative keyboard of the same name, there’s only one problem: it’s really, really tough to give up once you’ve gotten used to it. Alas, I’ve gotta deal with the withdrawal symptoms each and every time I jump from an Android device back to my iPhone, due to restrictions inherent to iOS.

While Swype was purportedly working on something for iOS in June of last year (and, as the rumor mill had it, trying to convince Apple to make it official) all word of it went silent pretty quickly.

The mission has been revived, it seems, albeit with someone else behind the charge: Andrew Liu, developer of the “DreamBoard” theming hack for jailbroken devices, has begun to “port” Swype to iOS.

Read The Rest At MobileCrunch >>



Signup Flow Shows Spotify Costing $4.99 And $9.99 A Month In The US

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 11:42 AM PDT

One day after it announced an imminent US launch with no other details, an American Spotify user has sent us these screencaps showing pricing in US dollars. Only going by these screencaps, the Unlimited US Spotify plan will cost $4.99 a month without mobile streaming capability and the Premium Spotify plan with mobile access will cost $9.99 a month. According to the same source, a free version with limited plays is also available.

Interesting enough, these amounts are less than what European users currently pay, at £4.99 ($8.00) and £9.99 ($16.00) respectively.

It might just be that these are pre-launch placeholder site numbers, the fact that lesser competitor and US first mover Rdio charges the same amounts for what amounts to basically the same plans makes me believe that they might be legitimate (the logic being that the record companies gave both companies similar licensing deals). Peter Kafka also reported the $10 a month for Premium figure when he wrote about the company’s $100 million in funding at a $1 billion valuation earlier this month.

So if the prices are in place what’s the holdup then? Well one source pegs the company as waiting for Facebook to get its music service together  – I’m hearing it’s a partnership with multiple companies including Spotify. In related news, code alluding to a product called Facebook Vibes was just discovered in the download files for FaceSkype video chat.

So while we all wait for the launch of one, or the other or both simultaneously, read Paul Carr’s brilliant post on how Rdio captured the music in America’s heart first.

Update from Spotify PR: ”No details are set for the pricing or details of our US service yet – we’re still testing a number of different options. We’ll be sure to let you know when we have something to announce.”



Keen On… Loic Le Meur: Why Seesmic Isn’t a Failure (TCTV)

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 11:32 AM PDT

“If you don’t adapt, you die,” Loic Le Meur told me when he came into the TechCrunchTV studio last week. And Loic – aka monsieur Pivot – is certainly one of the Valley’s most skilled adaptors. Having founded Seesmic in 2008 as a video aggregation network, he then transformed it the next year into a popular consumer Twitter client before shifting it earlier this year into a Salesforce and Softbank backed enterprise CRM tool.

The pivot, of course, is the thing these days. And Le Meur – perhaps because of his skill as a wind surfer – is a master of sniffing changes in the business environment before anyone else. In contrast with Catarina Fake and Philip Kaplan, Le Meur is strongly opposed to what the calls “the disposable start-up.” For him, he has a moral obligation to his investors at Seesmic (which include Mike Arrington) to adapt the company to the new environment – even if that sometimes means transforming the company into something unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.

So is monsieur Pivot right – is the “disposable company” immoral?

This is the second part of a two part interview with Le Meur. Yesterday, he explained why European start-up entrepreneurs have nothing to learn from their European counterparts. That post sparked a sharp rebuke from TechCrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher. And Loic responded himself in the original post comments.

Why entrepreneurs who don’t adapt, die

Loic Le Meur.

Bonjour.

Bonjour, the only person who would get me to use that word. You are, in your own words, a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Seesmic, and LeWeb. So welcome. You don't need any real welcoming to TechCrunch Loic.

Thank you. Yeah, you've done a couple of upgrades here.

We're very sophisticated these days. I want you to talk for our viewers who perhaps aren't as familiar with you as I am, with the history of Seesmic, which is a company that's intimately associated with you. How it's changed, what it's future is, and why it seems to keep on changing.

Well, I answer this one first. It keeps changing just because as an entrepreneur, if you don't change you just die. SoI think you have to keep adapting to a situation. You know if you do sailing, you cannot sail against the wind. If the wind changes direction, you have to. I did a lot of races when I was a teenager, sailing races, you have to adapt all the time.

That's how I see myself, you know Sesmic is like a sports car. We're changing a lot, otherwise you die, that's easy.

Well, but sports cars don't get continually pivot. Do they?

Well no, if you do 360 then it's not good, in sailing either. We're not circling around, we started as a, you know, a video company I don't even...

When was that?
What year?

That will be four years ago.

Mike Arrington was one of your original investors.

Yeah. He still is, disclosure. You're not Mike Arrington though.

Not last time I checked.

I guess, you find. You know, that didn't work and there was an option and which, I think, is an interesting topic where, where as an entrepreneur when you just launched something and we picked out a 100,000 users, didn't grow suddenly because I think I exhausted of space of people want to do, you know, video conversations aren't that many and then I decided I took it to my board and I said and i think that that's something else that an entrepreneurs should do, is to be proactive to his board.

And I said look, you know, we raised 12 million dollars, that didn't work, what do you guys want to do. Here is an option that I see, that was the beginning of Twitter. We, acquired the second in chronology Twitter clan which was Twill and funny enough I did it to have video growth. And then that grew, like crazy.

It was one of the first, you know, Twitter clan that was out there. And I recommended we focused on this because I thought that like there's a Zynga on Facebook that there would be big companies on the Twitter ecosystem that will grow, and I thought it was very interesting. And my whole team and I have a passion for Twitter.

So we did this, and I think the space has changed a lot again with TweetDeck being acquired.

I was sure it was Seesmic versus TweetDeck. Well, there's no story any more, because we've changed again, and now we're a social CRM.

But did you... Some people, perhaps, would say that TweetDeck beat you. Is that fair? When you were trying to compete with TweetDeck.

In market share they've been bigger, for sure. No problem saying that. Now there are some...

Why do you think that was?

Wait, I think it depends on the platform. For example, on Android we've always been very successful. We're hitting like a million installed downloads and a very significant number of active users daily, which I can share with you if you're interested. But it depends. Focus on the platform and also what we did, I think is very innovative.

We have a plug-in platform with eighty partners on it. I think it's cool. And of course we have our core user bases growing. But I don't think we should compare it anymore. This is a subsidiary of Twitter now, right, which makes it interesting because we suddenly started competing with our biggest partner, Twitter, right?

So fortunately I don't have a crystal ball, but I saw the winds changing direction. A year ago when they acquired Tweety at the shop conference basically was a strong message that: 1. That 'we're competing with anyone doing a client.' 2. That 'maybe clients are not welcome that much any more'. So we raised money from sales force, and I can explain what we're doing, but basically we're like 80% about social CRM, which is targeting the professionals, and not any more of the consumers.

Even though we're happy have a lot of consumer users, we have a lot. But we're going after a totally different target, which is mostly Salesforce customers now. We'll get onto the Salesforce and the CRM market in a few minutes. But why do you think TweetDeck took off, while Seesmic in some senses didn't.

No, you can't say that. We have ten percent monthly growth for like eighteen months, so we took off! Now you asked me a question and I gave you an honest answer on market share. You said are you bigger than them? No, they were bigger. But you can't say we didn't take off. I can show you my user growth, it's very impressive and it's activities seem to be growing very nicely.

Like ten percent a month. So that's nice, you know, it's not, not take off

Seesmic’s new CRM business model

Loic LeMure, the master.

LeMuer, not Lemure. And we've know each other for such a long time you could at least know to pronounce my name. Just call me Loic, thanks. Or at Loic. Most people know you as "at Loic." But I have a new name for you.

Okay.

Mr. Pivot, because you've been pivoting again, Loic.

Yes.

So tell me about your latest pivot. What's the French word for pivot? Pi-vot?

Same.

How do you pronounce it?

Pivot. You don't say the T.

You've been
Pivot-ing recently, what have you been up to?

As I said, you need to be very agile when you start a business, adapt to current market conditions, and I think the opportunity of building client apps around query is closed, and that pushed us since the Twit acquisition to do something else. And it's been a year, fortunately we've been working on it.

We raised money from Salesforce. What we did is very very easy, we looked at the consumer versus professionals market, and the consumer space around Twitter is basically shut down for what we do, I think. So, when you look at the professionals, you have two types of businesses here. There is one which is helping people manage their social networks, which we do, and which...where we have a lot of growth.

So basically it's the brand managers, community managers, people like that. That's one. There is another one which is even more more interesting I think, where I think we're creating our space right now, where we're alone, is the CRM plus social space, especially on mobile. And I give you the use case: it's more like salespeople.

So if I meet you and you're an opportunity for me, now we're getting into CRM. I want to check you out on LinkedIn maybe. I want to see if there is an opportunity with you. I will log it in the CRM tool, like Sales Force, which is leader. And then I want to maybe follow you on Twitter and add you on Facebook and so on.

But you know what's the most important is finding leads on those social networks as well. So let's say you say...you tweet, "I want to change my car." You're a lead for a sales dealer, for example, for a car dealer, I'm sorry. And so bringing CRM on one side to social on the other side, especially on mobile.

We have seventy-five to eighty percent of our new users on mobile, mostly on Android is fascinating to me. So that's what we're doing, our company is you know, not in that you know, trying for Twitter space anymore. We really value a lot social: Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. But we do it through the use of professionals which are using CRM.

So it's very different. I move from one ecosystem to another basically, like, very fast. And we are now building mostly for SalesForce, with SalesForce. We have incredible support from SalesForce.

So is SalesForce just an investor? What proportion of the company do they own?

Oh, we made this public. They invested, we invested, we got a four million dollars investment from SalesForce and SoftBank. That's way like a clear minority for us. It's a small chunk of our company. I'm not authorized to discuss exact number, but it's not big.

And what's the business model? How do you make your money in this new market?

Very simple, we will release end of August new apps which will be on the new mobile. Mobile I just described, which is social on the one side, we already have that. Instead of monetizing this, we're adding CRM to it and we will monetize it when we have CRM. It will be a per user, per month fee which is the same business model as SalesForce.

We were looking, some engineers and TechCrunch and myself, were looking at the sesmic site just before ths interview. And it promises at one point on the site you're the only social media tool that you'll ever need. Is that true for everybody or just for corporate clients?

If, I should probably change that now that you are saying that. It's a, it's a tool that embraces Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, now SalesForce, CRM soon and if you use our desktop it has 80 integrations so, for example, maybe you use Chatter Bill so instead of you use Yammer we have both, you choose, right?

Maybe you want to add customer support. We have a zen desk plug in. It's there as well. You see it's like, it's like a puzzle. You assemble the modules, it's like modular, you assemble the modules you want. So in that respect, yes, we are the only social networking tool in the world that has so many services, 80 of them.


On the immorality of the “disposable startup”

Loic, I'm not even going to pronounce your last name.

You did great.

You'd embarrass me again, in front of this huge global audience.

Yes, I apologize Andrew, I know you, you have thick skin.

Thick or fit? Here we go! Thick.

So, Loic, you are .

You know the French make fun of my French accent all the time, but not the Americans? The English make fun of my supposed American accent. You and I are stuck in the mid-Atlantic somewhere together.

Yes, we're swimming.

So, you are Monsieur Pivot of the entrepreneurial world. Continually pivoting and very admirable, showing great agility. True of all startup entrepreneurs there in Silicon Valley. Some of them are failing to pivot or not being interested in pivoting. What do you think the advantages of your pivot model is versus the Blippy model, the Katarina-fake model of doing something quickly and then trashing it and then moving on to the next thing.

It's interesting that you ask that, because I think it's two different ways of operating. I feel very responsible for money I've raised. And very responsible for the angels I have also who invested their money.

You're on tape now, you can never, they've got it forever now.

No, but maybe too much. Some friends of mine who are startup funders say you know, you launch something, it doesn't work, give back the money that's left, shut it down, start all over again. Why do you change because I changed twice already basically?

You mean video, Twitter?
Social networking, mostly Twitter, and now Sales Force. At any point I could have just said, "Enough, right. Here is your money back, investors, thank you will start over something. Maybe you want to participate with something new."

But some people say that's very moral, as the right thing to do.

That's what I do because I feel responsible. I think it's important. I think it's a long term, imagine as an entrepreneur that you're defending, as well. our arguments for both because the more money you raise, we've raised 16 million dollars, the more like baggage you're carrying as well. You see what I mean.

You carry that with you. So, I could raise again and again and again, and probably, we'll see if I need to, but we're trying to do a revenue now.

That's the agenda instead of raising. I think it's going to do great. But it's two different styles and I was thinking about a blog post actually via disposable startup. And think about Google. Right. Gmail. Hit. Google Maps. Hit. Google Earth, you see the point. But at the same time Google Buzz, not good, they shut down Google Health two days ago.

It's Google operates that way.

So, why wouldn't the startups operate the same way it`s like the disposable startup that you launch, you raise whatever, 1 million, 5 million, 10 million, doesn't work - stop as fast as you can. Do something else, it's not what I'm doing. I don't think I would be doing that or I would say at the very beginning.

If you raise money here is what I'm gonna do with it, and if it doesn't work we're going to stop. I guess if it's clear with your investors, fine. But, Blippy was surprised after nine months. Actually the company is still around, but Phil already tweets around this new gig, right? And by the time I, he wrote.

Did you say pivoted?

Pivot. You pivoted.

Twice! I guess Katerina has launched one and now a second company. I'm not criticizing. By the way, I think those are two different ways Did you offer their investors their money back?

We had a discussion when the video thing didn't take off, and we could have came to that conclusion.

That happened with Twitter, of course, and some of the investors lost out massively. So, it works both ways. Right because they could have been an invester in Twitter.

Yeah.

And I know absolutely some of them, one quote who are very pissed that they could not get in on Twitter.

What do you think you learned most of all from the failure of the first two versions of seasoning that's helping you now.

I learn absolutely everyday you know. I think I was.

But you're not answering my question, what did you learn? We all learn everyday.

Well, yeah, what did I learn? I think for the video thing, it was mostly that video is very tough, because not everybody is like you and me, able of discussing in a natural way I think as much as possible in front of cameras. Most people are shy, afraid of their image, they don't like it stays online as well.

Like Scoble or something like that.

I'm not giving example, actually Scoble is fine, but he doesn't give a damn right? Yes. But most people like, so that's one learning. Video, if you look at this period, when I launched Seesmic, the first version of it, it was all about video, it was juice actually launched. There was a number of YouTube competitors, there were, UStream was barely launched.

And that's apparently a success. wish for John. But you see what my point is that everybody thought video was the next thing, and since then, what happened, YouTube took it all. How many video startups are actually successful? Very few, right? I don't know many startup entrepreneurs building stuff around videos these days, because it's very tough.

Have you had any crises though as an entrepreneur in terms of your faith in yourself? You're clearly a very skilled promoter and marketer, but obviously given the failure of the first two versions of Seasoning there have been some questions about your skill as a startup entrepreneur.

Really? Did you see that somewhere?

Well, it's something people sometimes say.

Really?

Yes.

That's very European of you to ask these questions.

Why European?

Because Europeans love to talk about failure and how bad it is. Here we celebrate it. Come on. Well I was a, most of our audience probably don't know this. I had a company in the 90's called Audio Cafe, it was a massive failure.

And you failed.

I failed, but it convinced me that I was a terrible entrepreneur, and I've never tried it again.

Big mistake, Andrew. Big mistake.

Why?

Why? Because if you failed, that means you learned a lot, and you should...

Yeah, but at a
certain point, it's like, I interviewed Ron Conway. He'll always invest in someone who's failed once, occasionally twice, but if you failed more than twice, he'll never invest in you.

Well, you know, I...

But...Back to the question.

You know, Le Web is a huge success. This is my fifth company. And by the way, this is not failure yet, right? So we're doing pretty well.



OpenFeint Snags A Former Playdom Exec To Lead Product

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 11:30 AM PDT

Mobile social faming company OpenFeint has nabbed a pretty key hire today—former Playdom exec Ethan Fassett. Fasset will be leading product development at OpenFeint, as senior vice president of product.

Previously, Fassett was Playdom's executive producer of its San Francisco studio. He helped drive product strategy for Playdom’s San Francisco studio, with a focus on player community engagement and monetization. He helped launch Playdom’s retail-themed social game, Market Street, which peaked at one million daily active users. Prior to Playdom, Fassett worked at teenage virtual world Gaia.

As the SVP of product, Fassett will be working on growing player engagement for OpenFeint through new communication features. He will also aim to improve player acquisition for game developers with distribution tools and programs.

OpenFeint, which was acquired by Japanese gaming company GREE earlier this year for $104 million, currently reaches 90 million users and powers 6,000 games across iOS and Android.



Zynga Combines Privacy Education, Gaming And Rewards With PrivacyVille

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 11:00 AM PDT

Getting ahead of any privacy issues surround your product is an important part of product development for any company. Facebook, unfortunately, learned this the hard way. Social gaming giant Zynga is adding a layer of transparency today with the launch of a new privacy initiative called PrivacyVille.

In typical Zynga fashion, PrivacyVille isn’t your average dull privacy education course but is instead a game-like tutorial that rewards players with the company’s virtual currency zPoints in RewardVille for learning more about Zynga’s privacy practices.

The game is actually modeled after CityVille, so players feel somwewhat at home navigating the game mechanics. You start the game in a small town, and travel through the town to learn more about important sections of Zynga’s Privacy Policy, as well as resources about controlling your information online. For example, when you start the game, Zynga tells you that in order to connect you to other people playing games on Facebook, it takes information from your Facebook profile, such your name, photos, and friends, to allow these games to become more social.

Another privacy tutorial involved informing mobile gamers that Zynga will capture your device ID and IP address. And Zynga says that they and advertisers may collect cookies from your browsing behavior, that the company uses your email address to send alerts, and that while Facebook processes much of the payments for virtual goods, Zynga is using a transmissions technology to make sure your payments info is secure. In all, Zynga has 14 areas in the town for various privacy notifications.

After reading all the notifications, you are then given a short quiz of five questions and will be taken to Rewardville to redeem your points. Also, you don't need to be connected to Facebook or be registered as a Zynga player to tour PrivacyVille. However, if you are a Zynga player, you will have the option to connect to Zynga's RewardVille and claim zPoints that can be used to redeem unique virtual items. As a side note, you can play PrivacyVille as much as you want but you will only get the rewards once.

Zynga says that PrivacyVille is not intended to be a substitute for its Privacy Policy or Privacy Center, but is just a more engaging way to explain the company’s privacy interactions.

Reggie Davis, Zynga’s General Counsel says of the new initiative: We know there is an interest in making privacy policies more approachable. We wanted to take a page from our game DNA to create a privacy tutorial that’s accessible, social and fun. We look forward to hearing feedback from players on how we can make it even easier for them to learn about our policies.

This is no doubt a smart move for Zynga. As the company grows, mitigating these privacy stumbles is important. As the company revealed in its S-1 IPO filing last week, privacy regulation and Facebook sharing are challenges for Zynga going forth. In fact, both Facebook and Zynga were sued last year over privacy breaches. And the fact that Zynga is providing virtual currency as an incentive should prevent the privacy initiative from going unnoticed.



Sōsh Makes Social Actually Social By Giving You Things To Do In Your City

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 10:58 AM PDT

Back in March, as we reported on Offline Labs‘ initial funding, we also offered up a quick glimpse of their first project, codenamed Project Dragōn. Now the project, actually called Sōsh, is ready to be fully be revealed.

The basic idea behind Sōsh is a simple one: “find and share interesting things to do,” co-founder Rishi Mandal says. “Life’s too short to be bored,” he continues noting that when most people do things, they tend to do the same things over and over again — go to the movies, go to the same restaurants, etc.

That’s the hole in peoples’ lives that Sōsh is trying to fill. And to do that, they’re aiming at the city-level. Launching first in San Francisco, Sōsh is a website that gives you a few simple, but key ways to get ideas for things to do. The first way is algorithmic. The main page features a drop-down that reads “I’m looking for” — you select the type of activity you want to do.

The second way Sōsh serves up ideas is through curation. Their team will look at all the different activities they’re crawling in a city and serve up what they believe are the best ones that should be highlighted.

The third way is perhaps the most important: what your friends are doing. By tapping into your social graphs on Facebook and Twitter, Sōsh shows you a feed of what the people you’re already friends with are interested in doing. You can then start conversations around these activities, and hopefully even do something together.

“Millions of people search for the phrase ‘things to do’ on Google — it’s almost as much as they search for Justin Bieber,” Mandal points out, laughing. But as he shows me, the results that Google serves up basically suck. Sōsh, quite simply, aims to not suck.

When a user finds an activity on Sōsh that interests them, they can bookmark it with one click. From here, activities can be shared via the normal means: Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. You can also mark down things you’ve already done. And you can actually plan an activity with a simple, easy-to-follow form. In this regard, Sōsh is a bit like a more curated and less event-focused Plancast.

Sōsh has a huge inventory of sources for their activities that they crawl automatically to put new ones into the system as they become available. It’s not about deals, but that could be an aspect, Mandal notes.

But the goal is an even broader one. “People spend 90 percent of their time and money offline,” Mandal says, noting that their service is all about creating the best online experience to figure out what to do offline. Obviously, the team knows that many have been going after this very thing, but Mandal is encouraged by what he has seen as “many fantastic failures” saying that no one has yet nailed the “elusive” interest graph.

And while Sōsh is just a traditional web-based app for now, the goal is to move to mobile quickly. They understand the true potential may lie there. And obviously, the hope is to expand beyond this initial beta in San Francisco as quickly as possible.

“Our end goal is: someone went out and did something amazing,” Mandal says. “The mental model we’re competing for is: ‘What should we do? Let’s check Sōsh’,” he says.

To celebrate the launch, Sōsh has given us 250 invites to give out to TechCrunch readers. Again, you’ll want to be based in San Francisco (or planning to come here) to use it. Enjoy. Others can sign up to be let into the beta on the site, and they’ll be letting people in on a rolling basis.



This Case Lets You Attach An SLR Lens To Your iPhone

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 10:35 AM PDT

Hello friends! Welcome to this week’s edition of Because You Can!

Why would you want to take a super huge telescoping SLR lens and attach it to your iPhone? Because You Can!™©®

Well, you can now that this crazy iPhone SLR Lens mounting kit exists.

Read more…



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