Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

YC-Funded Envolve Launches An API For Real-Time Chat

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:10 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-10 at 11.48.30 AM

Internet chat is older than the web, but it still remains one of the best ways to keep people engaged with a site. And for good reason: people like talking to each other. Or at least, they like to share their opinions with the knowledge that someone, somewhere is reading them.

Now Y Combinator-backed startup Envolve is making it even easier to integrate chat boxes into your site by launching an API that offers chat-as-a-service. And it’ll let you integrate chat into nearly any webpage with a quick snippet of JavaScript. You can try one of their chat boxes out on TagChat, which lets you chat about trending topics on Twitter.

For some context on what Envolve is doing here, it’s best to look at the company’s history. Envolve has actually been around for a year now, iterating through several versions of the product. First, it offered a browser chat bar similar to the Meebo Bar and Facebook Chat. This bar prompted users to create Envolve accounts, which would allow them to chat with friends on the site they were currently browsing, as well as on other sites with Envolve integrated.

That didn’t get much uptake (people didn’t want to create yet another account), so the site later allowed websites to merge the toolbar with their own user account systems — which has fared better. The toolbar is now integrated into 20,000 sites including Destructoid and eleven sites run by Universal Music. All told, the partner sites account for 400,000 messages being sent per day, and over 45 million have been sent overall.

Thus far, Envolve’s chat products have offered side-wide chat, allowing users to engage with their friends. Today’s launch is different in that it allows sites to programmatically generate chat boxes for individual pages. So, for example, an online retail store could automatically create a chat box for each of its items without having to manually insert embed codes for each. This API is limited to desktop websites for now, but a mobile version is in the works.

On the backend, Envolve offers analytics and options to help site admins cut back on spam — you can require users to authenticate before they can start chatting, and there are also some default filters.

Envolve offers two pricing levels: the more basic, ‘consumer’ level will allow up to 100 users to chat on the site concurrently, while the enterprise level has no limit and charges based on how many visits the site receives. Note that even users who don’t actually start chatting count as a visit, because they’ll still see what other people are chatting about.

Envolve’s competitors include Meebo (which has the Meebo Bar) and Wibiya.

Launch Date:

Envolve is a web communications company that provides website chat that can be embedded in any website using only two lines of javascript. Envolve provides chat through WordPress, Joomla,...

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Foodspotting Hits A Million Downloads, Celebrates By Upping The Gluttony

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:00 AM PDT


I remember when I first wrote about Foodspotting a year and a half ago. At the time, nearly everyone I knew was using various social networks to share pictures of their food. Foodspotting was a service built around that very idea. That alone may have been enough, but the broader goal behind the photo-sharing was always food discovery.

Today, the service has hit one million downloads of their food discovery applications. And to celebrate, they’re upping the social connections within the app with a new “Follow” tab. From here, you’ll be able to more quickly find and follow your friends (and food experts) who are also using Foodspotting. And you’ll also be able to follow specific foods and restaurants all in one stream.

The ability to follow people, places, and foods has existed on Foodspotting’s website for a while, but the apps are the keys to the service. Foodspotting co-founder and CEO Alexa Andrzejewski says they noticed people weren’t just launching the app when they were hungry, they were launching it all throughout the day. Yes, the app now encourages more gluttony!

Of course, Foodspotting has a different take on the update. “People don’t trust apps, people trust people. Our goal was never to create another social network or photo sharing app. Instead, we’ve designed Foodspotting’s social elements to support the food-finding experience,” Andrzejewski says. “When you visit a new city or walk into a restaurant, you can see what a friend — or the Travel Channel — recommended there. With a growing user base and these social features, our vision of a lens-like app that reveals interesting things around you is becoming more and more real each day,” she continues.

Alongside a million downloads, Foodspotting now has over 720,000 reviews/photos on the service, we’re told.

The latest version of the app (2.5) is now live in the App Store here. And in the Android Market here. Foodspotting notes that they’re also beta testing a BlackBerry app built with a partner.

Launch Date:

Foodspotting is an angel-funded startup that enables people to stumble upon good things in the world around them. The Foodspotting website and mobile apps make it easy to find...

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Omaha Startup PeggyBank Digitizes Old Media For Online Sharing

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:37 AM PDT


If you’re like me you’ve thought about digging up old 8mm film, or VHS tapes, and converting them to a more modern format. There are a lot of services that fulfill this need – just do a search for “media conversion” or something similar and you’ll see dozens of services. Most of the sites don’t inspire much confidence in sending them priceless childhood videos, though. And generally they focus on getting media to DVD and mailing it to you.

Omaha, Nebraska based PeggyBank stands out. The company mails you a pre-addressed box for your media. You can include anything – photos, slides, negatives, 8mm video or VHS. They’ll convert it all, put it on their site for you to view, and return the original media. You can then share links to the digital files, or download them to keep on your hard drive, burn to DVD or CD, etc.

Here’s an example video from 1958.

PeggyBank just launched in March, and uses Kaltura to deal with video streaming. The service is pretty slick for a new startup on a shoestring budget.

What’s most surprising is how well they’re doing. The company is cash flow positive and is generating over $50,000 per month in revenue. Average order size is in the hundreds of dollars.

How’d they do it?

CEO Jim Simon has focused exclusively on daily deal sites to generate traffic. He says he’s tried Groupon but the revenue split and the onerous terms don’t really work for him, but that services offered by the New York Times, the LA Times and other newspapers are perfect. They address an older audience, he says, with lots of old pictures and movies they’d like to see online. And they promote deals aggressively in print, online, via email blasts and on social networking sites.

So far he’s relied almost exclusively on these daily deal sites to generate traffic. And because so many people include lots of extra media he’s able to make a tidy profit.

There’s lots he wants to get done now that the business is off the ground, though. Streamlining operations to allow for scale is a priority, as is building out a tech team to build a more robust sharing and streaming product for users.

There’s no innovative tech here. But there is a plucky young startup headquartered in the middle of nowhere that’s created a nice product, is marketing it smartly and may just turn into a big business.

Launch Date:

PeggyBank converts legacy media – including home movies, photos, slides and negatives – into digital content that is hosted online and sharable via all social networking platforms, as well...

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Logitech & Zagg Unveils The Logitech Keyboard Case for Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:31 AM PDT


Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 owners? Your keyboard case has finally arrived. The Logitech Keyboard Case for Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a long product name for what is popularly called a Zagg Case. Let’s not get caught up in the manufacturing design details, but this keyboard case carries a Logitech badge and per the product page, is a Zagg product. The branding is just like Logitech’s iPad 2 keyboard case. In fact this product is almost an exact copy of the iPad version. It’s just designed to work with the GalTab 10.1 instead.

The keyboard case connects with the GalTab 10.1 over Bluetooth and features quick access keys above the chiclet keyboard. The case itself snaps onto the tablet, providing a good degree of protection while neatly storing itself.

Pricing is inline with the iPad 2 version with a $99 MSRP. Of course you need a Galaxy 10.1 to go along with it, which is becoming rather difficult in Australia and Europe. The product page just went live, but as of this post’s writing, the large “Preorder Now” button directs you to Logitech’s homepage. That will likely be fixed shortly and will allow anxious buyers to slap down their credit card to be added to the waiting list.

Launch Date:

Logitech designs and manufactures computer and electronics peripherals such as mice, keyboards, speakers, and remote controls.

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Zagg is the creator of invisibleSHIELD™, a clear thin protective cover for portable electronic devices.

Learn more Settles With Patent Troll … For Zero Dollars!

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:23 AM PDT


Satirical, bizarre and amusing news website Fark has kicked the fark out of a patent troll called Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC. The original lawsuit was leveraged in January, claiming Fark infringed on a patent that covered a “method of inputing news releases into a web form, which would then compile the news release and email it to media outlets.”

The patent, for those who know Fark, has nothing to do with how the site operates. It doesn’t distribute “news releases,” aka “press releases,” – it aggregates news.

And here’s the best part: the suit was settled, after 8 months, for a grand total of zero dollars.

Disclosure: TechCrunch was also sued by Natural Resources, see bottom of post for more info. 

After receiving the threat, Fark decided to fight back. Apparently, when the patent troll realized this was the case, they asked for Fark’s best offer, says the company via a post on its website today. So Fark suggested “how about you get nothing and drop the lawsuit?”

Unbelievably, the troll agreed.

Fark, or any company facing similar litigation, normally would not be able to discuss the particulars of such a lawsuit, but in Fark’s last round of settlement negotiations, the patent troll agreed to let Fark strike the NDA provision which would otherwise prevent it from talking about the details of the suit.

That’s how Fark is able to report how much it settled for: ZERO dollars.

Writes Fark founder Drew Curtis,

“It was a nightmare. Imagine someone breaking into your home, then being forced to sit on the couch while their lawyers file motions over how much stuff they can take…

Too much money was wasted on this, too many sleepless nights, too many hours away from running Fark, and all this because someone else decided that suing companies for bearing a vague resemblance to their patent (patents they don’t even appear to use themselves) is a good business model.”

Curtis adds: “We’re short a full-time employee thanks to these douchebags.”

Fark wasn’t the only one targeted by this ridiculous patent lawsuit. Other sites included Reddit, The Atlanta-Journal Constituition, Digg, Geeknet, Newsvine, Yahoo and yours truly, TechCrunch.

We don’t have an update on the status of our lawsuit at this time, but we’re assuming AOL’s lawyers are handling it for us. At least, we should hope so.

The Vast Starbucks Conspiracy: Jonathan’s Card Wasn’t Faked

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:20 AM PDT


The Internet (namely the corner populated by some dude with a coffee blog) is a place where no good deed goes unpunished. A few days ago, Jonathan Stark posted his Starbucks card online asking people to buy coffee and then recharge the card when it was falling low. The result? Lots of good will, lots of people with free coffee, and my day was improved immensely by being able to write about something nice for a change. Then this post started circulating claiming that Jonathan was a viral shill for the Starbucks chain and that he was, in fact, mercenarily driving up Starbucks sales through his act of kindness.

You see, Stark works for a company called Mobiquity and, at some point, the company did work for Starbucks. When the negative post went up, the Mobiquity client list disappeared down and – get this – the Google cache of the page disappeared. It was then that author, Mr. Hetzel, really found out how deep this rabbit hole was about to go:

UPDATE AUGUST 9, 2011 7:30AM HST: The Mobiquity Inc "Client" page cache has been deleted from Google; clearly someone is following this post and cleaning up loose ends on the Jonathan's Card scheme to make it appear more organic. Don't worry boys, I got screenshots.

Don’t worry, boys. He’s got screenshots. Clearly Starbucks has their hands in some pretty powerful pockets if they can convince Google to erase all knowledge of an insidious caffeinated crime. Concerned that I was being conned, I talked to Jonathan who said, when I asked him about his relationship to Starbucks, “My only connection to Starbucks is that I spend a lot of time at the Wayland Square Store in Providence, RI.” I then contacted Starbucks itself, expecting to see a curt reply and a whole mess of Google cache pages to mysteriously disappear relating to the Zapruder film and the source of solar flare activity. Instead, I got a nice note:

Thanks for reaching out. Starbucks had no knowledge of Jonathan’s plans, and has no official relationship with him or the company he works for. We do think his project is interesting and we're flattered that he is using Starbucks as a part of his 'pay-it-forward' experiment and look forward to watching it develop.

Case closed, but not quite. The saddest thing about this is that Jonathan is actually upset by the accusations. He wrote:

The thing that really bothers me is that the accusation threatens to erase the good feelings generated by this. He’s turning hope into remorse.

While doing so might be disruptive to my friends and family, I feel strongly that I owe it to believers everywhere to take a stand against cynics who are too jaded to believe that anyone would ever do something nice for others for the simple reason that it feels good.

I think Mr. Hetzel owes Jonathan an apology and all of us a coffee. After all, sometimes a social payments experiment is just a social payments experiment.

Plango Wants To Add A Social, Mobile Calendar To Facebook

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 09:13 AM PDT


Facebook has taken command of many of the basic elements of social interactions including email, chat, and even mobile messaging, but one area where the social network has not yet innovated is the calendar. While you can create events and be notified of these events, Facebook doesn’t offer a Gmail calendar-like feature. Plango is hoping to fill this gap with the launch of its iOS, and web-based social calendaring app that connects with Facebook.

Using Facebook Connect, Plango integrates with your events, allows you to invite friends to events, schedule events and more into a mobile calendar. You will eb able to access all of the events your’ve been invited to by Facebook friends, and message friends from the app (though now Facebook has its own standalone messaging application).

Plango's parent company, GoAct, also just raised $500K in seed funding from investor Esther Dyson, seven Finnish business angels, and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES).

Of course, the risk that Plango faces is if Facebook adds its own calendering functionality to both its web and mobile apps.

After Foursquare, Klout Adds Blogger, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr And To Measure Social Influence

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:53 AM PDT


Klout, a startup that measures influence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and most recently Foursquare, is adding more services today, totaling 10 different ways to measure your social influence on the web. Klout is adding five new networks—Blogger, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram and, allowing Klout users to add their influence on these networks to their Klout score.

For background, Klout evaluates users’ behavior with complex ranking algorithms and semantic analysis of content to measure the influence of individuals on social networks. On Twitter, Klout's influence score is based on a user's ability to drive action through Tweets, Retweets and more. On Facebook, Klout will examine how conversations and content generate interest and engagement, via likes, comments, and more, from the network's nearly 700 million users.

While Klout hasn’t given specifics on how these new services are factoring into your score, you can make assumptions based on each individual network. For LinkedIn, Klout could be evaluating your number of connections, and updated on the site. And presumably, your Foursquare Klout is based on how often you check in, how many mayorships you've earned, and more.

For Instagram, measurement could be how many likes you have on your pictures. Flickr could also use the same metric. is an interesting addition, considering its the first music-based service that Klout has added. Perhaps a Spotify integration will come coon?

Users can choose connect their accounts to their Klout score in their profile. Klout says that connecting an account wil never lower your score, but it may increase the score.

And not to be forgotten, Klout should be adding Google+ as a measurement metric soon.

Launch Date:

Klout measures influence across the social web. Klout allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph. Data is collected about the content...

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T-Mobile Changes Mind About Low-Use, “No Overage” Data

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:46 AM PDT


T-Mobile customers have gotten quite a bit of mileage of out their No Overage data plans: while everyone’s careful not to use the word “unlimited”, T-Mobile’s approach still let users gobble up as much data as they wanted so long as they didn’t mind a (pretty drastic) speed decrease.

At 200 MB and 2 GB, T-Mobile’s smartphone data tiers look familiar, but the No Overage gimmick gives customers the best of both worlds: tiered data pricing and unfettered usage.

Actually, let me rephrase that: the No Overage gimmick gave customers the best of both worlds. According to a report from T-MoNews, T-Mobile will very shortly be changing the terms of their 200 MB data feature. Instead of letting customers continue to use their data connections at reduced speeds, T-Mobile is returning to the classic overage fee model.

Going forward, Classic plan customers will be charged for overages at $.10/MB, with the charge topping out at $30. Customers with Value plans will have to deal with the same, save for a maximum overage charge of $35.

The reason? Apparently, demand for the 200 MB feature has “exceeded T-Mobile’s expectations” and they will be reverting to charging overage fees starting August 13. No word yet on whether T-Mobile’s other No Overage data plans will suffer the same fate, but it’s certainly something to keep your eyes peeled for all the same. Worry not, existing T-Mobile customers: if you’ve got the feature currently, then you’ll be grandfathered in for the foreseeable future. If you were planning to jump on the T-Mobile bandwagon, you may want to do it soon, before this deal goes the way of the Dodo.

Lockerz Opens Up Social Commerce And Sharing Network To Non-Members, Signs Deal With EMI

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:40 AM PDT


Social commerce network Lockerz is opening its up the site to non-members. As you may know, Kleiner Perkins-backed Lockerz, which just raised another $36 million from Live Nation, Dag Ventures, Kleiner, and Liberty Media; revolves around the idea that influencers within a social network can become brand and content advocates and affect the behavior of their friends.

Lockerz is primarily targeted towards men and women ages 13 to 30, and is attempting to create a community of trendsetters and tastemakers who love to shop, play and connect on the Web. Users can earn points and discounts on brands by sharing content on the site. The company wants to be the go-to commerce homepage for teens and young adults.

Now for the first time, Lockerz is open to non-members for exploration (users previously had to create a profile to peruse the site). Visitors can check out the company’s "Dealz" section, which includes thousands of special offers daily on everything from fashion brands, to restaurant and sporting events.

Customers are still required to join Lockerz in order to earn the network’s virtual currency PTZ, which can be redeemed for shopping discounts. Lockerz members earn PTZ for nearly everything they do on the site, including logging in, uploading photos, viewing videos and buying merchandise.

Lockerz says it is seeing 45 million monthly unique visitors (according to Google Analytics), although comScore reports 13.5 million monthly unique visitors worldwide in June. But across all the data reports, Lockerz is growing in terms of visitors.

Opening up the site is surely a way to increase traffic. The company also acquired photo sharing app Plixi as a way to boost photo sharing on its platform back in January. Lockerz also recently bought social sharing platform AddToAny last month.

In addition to the opening up of the site, the Lockerz homepage has also gone through a redesign, and and the company has announced a partnership with EMI Music, in which videos of recording artists from record label’s library are available on Lockerz. Anyone can view the videos, but only members will earn PTZ for watching. Considering that Live Nation just joined Lockerz as an investor, it should be interesting to see if the network can build traction around sharing music (and perhaps replacing MySpace in that category?).


Lockerz is a social commerce site whose mission to be the homepage of men and women ages 13 to 30, building a community of more than 19 million members...

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Indian Government Wants To Monitor Twitter And Facebook, Maybe Google And Skype Too

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:39 AM PDT


So remember that one time when RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis kind of freaked out during a BBC interview. The fact that he flaked on the interview kind of hinted at the reasons why he started freaking out in the first place — India. The Indian government has been tightening its control over social media and other forms of communication within the country amidst the rising threat of terrorism, RIM included. But the government is now looking to monitor communication on two of the most popular sites in the world, reports HackerNews.

You might have heard of them: Twitter and Facebook.

Carriers already help out the Indian government by monitoring communication on their networks, Twitter and Facebook included. But as you should already know, not every thing you do or say on Twitter and Facebook is public information; some of the data/text is encrypted. This is what the government in India is after, although to what extent has not be clarified.

Here's the problem: India's new IT Act says that websites and service providers must offer up information like passwords from private accounts, even without a court order. However, both Facebook and Twitter's privacy policies dictate that personal and private information will not be released without a court order.

Along with RIM, who refused to grant the Indian government access to its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers based on the fact that it is impossible to do so, India has also said it wants to monitor Skype and Google. However, neither company has actually heard anything from the government.

This won’t affect us much in the States but it’s a bad precedent to have floating around in any country, let alone a burgeoning tech powerhouse like India.

Launch Date:

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to...

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Launch Date:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It...

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Introducing The Amazing, Magical HiPhone 5

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:31 AM PDT


If you’ve got $30 burning a hole in your pocket you can be the proud owner of a brand new HiPhone 5, a knock-off iPhone 5 modelled – we presume – on the leaked pictures of the iPhone 5. The phone, which features Wi-Fi, a micro SD slot, and a GSM cellular radio, is standard Shanzai material. It also requires a stylus to use the touchscreen and call quality, according to a buyer, is pretty bad.

A typical buyer comment, Google translated:

Phone looks good, is the reaction a little slow, but cheap for the Shanzai is so good, sometimes the touch screen with either hand, must use the stylus, there is the call quality is not very good, very big noise, playing music, they also have noise, because just received the goods, just one day, other effects do not know

Luckily this isn’t a real Apple product so importers don’t have to shoot the thing across a river using a crossbow. They just sell it on Taobao.

Also not that our buddy Stagueve from NoWhereElse’s altered photo is currently the product photo for this magical product, proving that we bloggers are so ahead of the curve that we’re predicting the future.

Product Page

HTC’s First NFC Phone “HTC Stunning,” Launching in China

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:29 AM PDT


Smartphone maker HTC has committed to launching its first NFC phone, the HTC Stunning, which will debut in China sometime later this year. The phone will be an 4-inch, Android-based device, and will support bank card network China UnionPay’s mobile payment standard.

This will enable the phone to perform mobile payments at point-of-sale, using the contactless technology known as NFC, or “near field communication.”

NFC, for those unfamiliar, is a short-range, high-frequency wireless technology, which is now being used as the backbone in both current and forthcoming mobile payment and mobile wallet services, such as those from mobile operators (e.g., Isis), tech companies (e.g., Google Wallet) and credit card providers (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, etc.).

In order to work, phones have to either come equipped with a special NFC chip, like the one found in Samsung’s Nexus S, or they can be made NFC-enabled through the use of stickers or specialized cases, like those from DeviceFidelity.

While some smartphone OEMs, like Nokia, for example, have included NFC in their handsets for years, others are just now jumping on the trend, thanks in a large part to the NFC initiatives mentioned above, as well as support from nearly all major players, from banks to carriers to mobile operating system makers, like Google’s Android and RIM’s BlackBerry.

While it has been rumored that HTC would soon introduce an NFC-based handset, this news now (reportedly) confirms it. The news was first published by Focus Taiwan and China Daily, citing statements made by Chai Hongfeng, Executive Vice-President of China UnionPay at a news conference.

“Mobile phone users no longer have to bring their bank cards in the future because their smartphones can provide the same function,” Hongfeng said.

China Daily also reports that the mobile payment handset has been in development for over a year. There is no exact launch date for the phone, but it should arrive sometime in September.

Additional Sources: NFCWorld; Image credit: China Daily

Launch Date:

HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in...

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KidZui Launches, An ‘Internet Experience For Kids’, Raises $2 Million

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:20 AM PDT


Exclusive - KidZui, a San Diego, California-based startup that offers a Web browser for kids, has debuted its latest product, a website called that allows kids to search and explore more than 5 million parent-approved websites, YouTube videos, games, images and whatnot.

In addition, the fledgling company has announced that it has secured an additional $2 million in funding from VC firms like Mission Ventures, Maveron, Emergence Capital as well as the Scholastic Corporation, a major publisher and distributor of children's books and a provider of educational technology and e-commerce solutions.

KidZui pitches as a ‘search and exploration engine for kids ranging from 3 to 12 years of age’, enabling kids to discover parent and teacher approved websites, videos, images and games, and also share their experience with their parents or other family members via Facebook.

Available content is all over the place, and the site should look fairly nice on your mobile device’s browser as well.

“Perhaps only in, through our suggested search terms – Justin Bieber is only a few clicks away from Mozart", explains Cliff Boro, CEO and founder of KidZui.

The site is free for parents and their kids, and is supported by brand advertising. And just to be clear, this is an extension of the KidZui browser, not a replacement.


KidZui provides a browser that appeals to kids and only lets them navigate certain pre-approved areas of the web.

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Personalized News Aggregation: News360 Launches Version 2.0

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 07:59 AM PDT


Cross-platform newsreader application News360 launched into version 2.0 today, a significant update that introduces its new personalization features. The news reader now learns from your activity on social Web services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and Evernote, in order to present you with stories that fit your interests.

But unlike some of its competitors, which there are now many of, News360 uses semantic analysis to deliver the most relevant news of the day, including stories about your favorite topics from your favorite sources.

Semantic Engine Learns from Your Actions

The semantic underpinnings of the News360 app, which works on iPad, Android, Windows Phone, the PlayBook and now the Web, are a key differentiator for this application. Previously, the company leveraged those smart algorithms to surface the most important news in categories like World, U.S., Politics, Business, Tech, Crime, Sports, Arts, etc.

But now, that same technology is used to better personalize your own news reading experience. There are around 700,000 different entities known to the News360 semantic engine, and, explains News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky, each person typically has 5 to 10 “persistent” interests. These interests are automatically discovered for you by the app, after delving into your social Web activity.

To determine what these interests are, the app doesn’t just pull from one network, or one dataset, like your “likes” on Facebook, or your Twitter “favorites,” for example – it looks at everything…given permission, of course.

In addition to Facebook likes, the app reads your Facebook profile data, sees what you comment and share and examines how you interact with content. On Twitter, it looks at your bio, your lists, your tweets and your favorites. On Google Reader, it knows what you share, what you star, what you read and what clicked through to. And on Evernote, it looks at which web clips you saved, especially those that are news-related.

Beyond Personalization - News360 Does Aggregation, Too

Personalization isn’t News360′s only trick, it’s just the newest one. The app’s name derives from its main selling point: a “360-degree” view of the news. What that means is that News360 presents you with aggregated coverage of the news from multiple news outlets, allowing you to move from one story to another for well-rounded understanding of the topic being reported. It also lets you browse the news via photos, which is still more palor trick than practical.

As a voracious consumer of information, however, the “360degree” feature has a certain appeal for me – despite its current implementation. It’s not that using the “360degree” view in the app is hard, it’s just that I’m not all that impressed with the design. When up against powerhouse news readers like Flipboard, for example, which has to be one of the most elegant news-reading experiences to have ever emerged on iPad, there needs to be just as much focus on the front-end design as on the geeky data-crunching bots behind the scenes, I feel.

Above: What is that font?! 

Besides, Flipboard has been steadily implementing the technology it acquired from a semantic startup known as Ellerdale to improve its own personalization and overall “smartnesss.” And Flipboard Co-Founder Mike McCue told me recently that a major personalization upgrade was coming to the app soon.

With that in mind, it may not come down to a choice between data (News360) and design (Flipboard) at all, it may be a choice between data…or data and design. And in that battle, I’m not convinced News360 could win.

Launch Date:

News360 is a small, privately-held company dedicated to helping individuals gather and experience personalized news. News360’s main product is its mobile news platform based on top of its aggregation...

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Flipboard is a digital social magazine that aggregates web links from your social circle, i.e. Twitter and Facebook, and displays the content in magazine form on an iPad.

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Apple Blocks Sales Of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 In EU, Motorola’s Xoom Next?

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 07:27 AM PDT


Back in April when it was just a bunch of harsh words and vicious threats, the beef between Samsung and Apple was pretty entertaining. But things are only funny until someone gets hurt, and this time it’s Europe that will feel the pain. In its never-ending tiff with the South Korea-based Samsung, Apple won a temporary injunction to block sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 within the entirety of the European Union, minus the Netherlands.

What’s weird is that Samsung seems to have had no idea any of this was going down until it was too late. Specifically, the order was given “without any hearing or presentation of evidence from Samsung,” according to Samsung spokesman Kim Titus, who confirmed with Bloomberg. Apparently this is pretty normal in Germany — plaintiffs must only prove that infringement occurred to get an injunction rolling, either preliminary or permanent, with no requirement to inform the other party. However, the court often only grants a preliminary injunction (like this one) when it believes that a subsequent permanent injunction will be granted, as well. If it’s not and Apple loses, the Cupertino-based company will most certainly owe damages to Samsung.

According to German news service dpa, the injunction is entirely related to design and intellectual property right, rather than software- or hardware-related patents. Apple made it clear long before anything went down in Europe that it wasn’t pleased with the look and feel of the GalTab 10.1, and even went so far as say that Samsung copied Apple-style packaging, too. The word “slavishly” comes to mind. But there’s still a little sliver of hope for our European friends who’ve been just dying to play around with Samsung’s 10-inch slate. Galaxy Tabs still in stock will continue to sell until the current inventory is gone. So if you need one, just leave now. Don’t even keep reading.

I mean it… Go!

Anyway, Samsung has responded to the injunction, promising to “act immediately to defend our intellectual property rights through the ongoing legal proceedings in Germany and will continue to actively defend these rights throughout the world. [We will] take all necessary measures to ensure Samsung's innovative mobile communications devices are available to customers in Europe and around the world.”

Meanwhile, Apple seems to have moved on to yet another competitor, reports SlashGear. Motorola and Apple have been entwined in litigation for the past few months, but only after digging into the Galaxy Tab news was it uncovered that Apple has already filed a complaint in Europe regarding the design of the Honeycomb-powered Xoom. Since Samsung had no idea the injunction had gone through, it’s pretty likely that Motorola is only becoming aware of this now, as it spreads across the web. Speculation suggests that Apple is going straight for a permanent injunction with Motorola, since the Xoom has been around long enough to warrant it.

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Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer,...

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How To Make Your Own iPad Head Girl Helmet

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 06:53 AM PDT


Well, not really, but Thinkmodo has put out a new video showing some behind the scenes footage of how they, in partnership with Clockwork Apple, created the iPad Head Girl hat, um…head piece. The thing actually looks pretty solid, although I would not go as far as to say that it looks comfortable.

You likely saw the iPad Head Girl video making rounds in the media last week. Conceived by Thinkmodo's Michael Krivicka and James L. Percelay as a way to promote Hearst’s first iPad-only magazine CFG (Cosmo For Guys). The video became the #1 most
viewed YouTube video in Science & Tech and has been featured on many tech and news sites. It was  pretty much everywhere.

While the concept seems fairly simple, the video does shed some light on the amount of work that went into this shoot. Who knows, now that the campaign is over, maybe there is an opportunity to re-productize this faux chapeau as a new-wave, expensive lampshade?

SEROPI-2 Robot Performs With Humans, Can Bend To Grab Things From The Ground

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 06:51 AM PDT


The Korean Institue of Industrial Technology’s SEROPI project has already produced one imposing-looking robot, SEROPI-1, and now they’ve announced the completion of SEROPI-2, an oddly Johnny-5-looking robo personality that is shown here interacting with children and actors on a stage.

SEROPI-2 is four feet tall and moves at 7.2 kilometers per hour. He can also bend down to grab stuff off the floor and he has stereo vision, force sensors, a laser range finder, and a navigation system. He’s considerably sleeker than his previous incarnation thanks to improved materials and design.

What is he good for? Well, he’s clearly having fun with the kids but the ability to move around and interact with objects on the ground is particularly useful in industrial and military settings. The various autonomous systems also point to a number of interesting use cases including remote exploration and health care. It is my hope that he and his kind will show us mercy when they eventually come to power.

Value Of Tech M&A Deals Nearly Doubled In Q2 2011 To $52.1 Billion

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 06:39 AM PDT


While tech company IPOs have captured buzz of late, it looks like M&A activity in the sector has been booming. According to an Ernst & Young report, big deals drove the aggregate value of global technology M&A to $52.1 billion in the second quarter of 2011, nearly doubling the deal value from the first quarter (up 92 percent to be exact).

Ernst & Young said that the surge was attributed mainly to industry consolidation and by ongoing innovations in areas such as cloud computing, smart mobility, internet and mobile video, the smart grid and solar energy.

Overall, deal volume for the quarter increased 24% year-over-year (YOY) to 777 deals, but declined 2% sequentially from 794 deals in 1Q 2011. It was the first sequential quarterly decline since 1Q 2009.

This past quarter’s M&A value was 69% higher than the same quarter in 2010, when M&A deals were valued at $30.8 billion. The average value for deals in Q2 with disclosed-values rose to $194 million, which is the highest quarterly average since the first quarter of 2000, during the dot-com boom. Q2 2011 also includes the 20th-largest global technology deal ever by dollar value (perhaps the $8.5 billion cash acquisition of Skype by Microsoft?).

The report also shows that although 61% of all disclosed value was concentrated in the top 10 deals, the tech industry also saw significant deal-making strength in deals of less than $100 million.

Microsoft-Skype was the largest deal in the quarter, followed by Texas Instrument’s $6.5 billion acquisition of National Semiconductor. Other big-ticket deals for the quarter included Applied Materials $4.6 billion acquisition of Varian Semiconductor and Toshiba’s $2.3 billion buy of Landis.

In particular, Semiconductor M&A brought in $10.9 billion in the quarter and cloud computing and SaaS companies continued to drive both large and small deals. For example Century Link bought Savvis for $2.3 billion in the quarter.

More companies are also looking outside their own countries for acquisitions. Ernst & Young’s data shows that ‘cross-border’ deal volume in 2Q 2011 was 16% higher sequentially, compared with an 11% decline in ‘in-border’ deals. The report suggests that increasing globalization and the growing volume of “overseas” cash stockpiled by US-based companies may be behind the increase in CB deal-making as the US acquired 56% of all CB value acquired.

Some of the other larger M&A deals in the second quarter include EA’s $1.3 billion purchase of PopCap games, Providence Equity’s $1.6 billion acquisition of BlackBoard, Epicor and Activant’s nearly $2 billion deal, and Level 3′s $3 billion acquisition of Global Crossing.

NoSQL, Yes Funding! Couchbase Raises $14 Million

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 06:28 AM PDT


NoSQL database company Couchbase, created earlier this year through the merger of CouchOne (co-founded by the creator of CouchDB) and Membase (founded by the key developers behind memcached), has scored $14 million in a Series C round of funding.

The financing round was led by Ignition Partners with participation from the company’s existing backers Accel Partners, Mayfield Fund, and North Bridge Venture Partners.

In addition, the company says, Couchbase has also reserved an additional $1 million for investment from ‘strategic customers and partners’.

Couchbase offers database solutions for building Web and mobile applications. Just last week, the company released Couchbase Server 2.0, a distributed, document-oriented database management system and the company’s first integrated product release after the merger.

Couchbase says it will use the new funding to accelerate the delivery of NoSQL database technologies, grow the company in the enterprise market, and expand internationally.

The financing round brings the company’s total of capital raised to $30 million.

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Couchbase is the name of the new NoSQL database company and product family created through the merger of CouchOne and Membase. Couchbase technologies represent the most comprehensive data management...

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