Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Buy This Movie Or Legally Download It For Free: Your Call

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 09:14 AM PDT

PressPausePlay

PressPausePlay, an award-winning documentary about our new digital culture, premiered at SXSW earlier this year. It is playing at film festivals and you can buy it on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital pay sites. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can now download it via a torrent for free. This free option was essential to the filmmakers. As Seth Godin says in the film, ideas that are free spread faster.

The movie examines the impact of today’s technology advances on our culture and the digital artists, musicians, and filmmakers who create it. In the film, Godin says “there has never been a better time to be an artist.” Taking a completely different view, technology pessimist, Andrew Keen, host of TechCrunch TV’s “Keen On“, says “we may well be on the verge of a new dark age… where the creative world is destroyed.”

Watching parts of the movie, I thought I was watching an Apple promotional video, showing the power of what a Mac can do. The music and videos that can be produced on computers, almost exclusively Apple computers in this film, is simply amazing. As the musician Moby says, because of software, “now any kid … in about 5 minutes can do what took 6 months or years, 20 years ago.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s any good. See Rebecca Black. Moby adds “If everyone is a musician and everyone is making mediocre music, eventually the world is just covered with mediocracy.”

As the filmmakers say, “the digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent of people in an unprecedented way, unleashing unlimited creative opportunities.” But, Keen questions whether a young Hitchcock or Scorsese would make it today, as they “slap up their early stuff on Facebook, on YouTube, it would get lost in the ocean of garbage.”

The movie also addresses the troubling dichotomy that the same technology artists use to create their work also allows for easy pirating and destroys existing business models. The documentary doesn’t provide any easy answers, but it raises important questions about the impact to our culture.

You can find the free download options at presspauseplay.com, including an interactive Adobe Air version with deleted scenes and additional and longer interview clips. For the standard downloads, you get a .torrent file and use a free software like BitTorrent to get the movie file. So far, there have been 4,000 downloads.

Why have both a free version (with even more interactive content) and paid version at the same time, with links just inches away from each other? When the filmmakers signed their distribution deal, they say it was always their intention to eventually give the film away for free online. The goal was never to make money, but instead make a film people would share and think about.

Andrew Keen was interviewed for the film, but he got to turn the cameras around on the filmmakers in Austin. Here’s the interview Keen did with the Swedish co-directors David Dworsky and Victor Kohler, at SXSW:

Here’s a movie trailer:


Person: Andrew Keen
Website:
Companies: Now.tv, TechCrunch

Andrew Keen is an Anglo-American entrepreneur, writer, broadcaster and public speaker. He is the author of the international hit “Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing our Culture” which has been published in 17 different languages and was short-listed for the Higham's Business Technology Book of the Year award. As a pioneering Silicon Valley based Internet entrepreneur, Andrew founded Audiocafe.com in 1995 and built it into a popular first generation Internet music company. He is currently the...

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SETH GODIN has written twelve books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. American Way Magazine calls him, “America’s Greatest Marketer,” and his blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His latest book, LINCHPIN, hit the Amazon top 10 on the first day it was published...

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Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 1, 1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

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, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with...

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Fly Or Die: The Compex Sport Elite

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 06:46 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-01 at 9.41.37 AM

With Halloween around the corner, what better way to celebrate than to watch us animate my desiccated, lifeless limbs with jolts of fiery electricity? In this episode of Fly or Die, Erick and I look at the Compex Sport Elite. It zaps muscles to improve fitness, recovery, and general strength and it can, in a pinch, stand in for a massage. It also looks wildly freaky when turned on.

At $849 it’s a pretty hard sell but I found that it did help my shin splints and, when set to strength training mode, I noticed a definite improvement in tone. I figured the TC audience tries to stay in shape and had I had this device back when I was training for a marathon (long story), I wonder how much better my recovery would have been? Regardless, it looks hilarious when turned up to about 50.

Erick doesn’t agree with my assessment but does love watching me jump around like frog muscles sprinkled with salt.



The Internet Isn’t Just Another TV Pipe

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

TVs shot

Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Ben Decker works in corporate strategy at NBCU and does research on new media at NYU. Ben has recently begun an open dialogue around these issues and the future of traditional media. If you’d like to be involved, contact him @BDecker19

As everyone knows, Facebook schooled the web last week, and expanded its territorial ambitions to the world of media.  Launching with partners in print, music, and video, Facebook's latest update pushes toward a world where consumption's default has been switched to sharing, and social discovery sits not on the periphery of the media experience, but permeates it.

Zuckerberg presents this as a new model for media industries, one where you "discover so many songs (or movies, or articles) that you end up buying even more content than you ever would have otherwise." Indeed, bringing users into the media discovery process is an important step. Ultimately though, it's just a beginning, for it touches only the marketing component of the traditional model (consumers still passively consume content; they just get to tell people about it now).  The media revolution that's coming will go further, fundamentally restructuring the relationship between media producers and consumers and often blurring the line between the two.

In my industry, television, everyone is scrambling to figure out the impact of Internet distribution.  How will it impact broadcast, for first-run airs and repeats?  What's online's relation to DVR and VOD?  How do its CPMs and sellout rates compare to other channels?   Questions like these, however, fail to capture the full opportunity inherent in the new medium.

The Internet isn't just another pipe.  The Internet is an open distribution platform available to anyone, a fundamental change to the business landscape in which we operate.  And the Internet is bidirectional, which should fundamentally change the product we offer.  This first characteristic opens our business inevitably to the chaos and disintermediation that has plagued the print and music industries.  It this second characteristic, however, that I believe gives the TV industry a ladder out, and provides the opportunity for a dynamic, more sustainable, and ultimately more profitable business model.

In the past, a small number of companies held exclusive control over the TV distribution infrastructure. Today though, the Internet has opened up distribution to anyone, with production and marketing tools following suit, breeding an entirely new class of potential creators.  The Internet meanwhile is also making it easier to find and work with these creators, which is making the traditional model of publishing unsustainable.  It is no longer possible, competitively or practically, to keep our grip over everything, controlling the full production and distribution process internally, to push a monolithic product on a passive consumer we have no relationship with.

The problem of the web's openness is fragmentation.  On the web, instead of a couple companies trying to assemble full packages of finished content, everybody throws everything out there, from individuals with camcorders to well-financed independent studios.  Most of it's of course crap.  But the best can be quite great, even better than 'professional' content.  And more importantly, individual pieces tend often to be better, at least for a particular person, at a particular point in time.  The aggregate of the network—the best, most personally relevant piece of content from anyone, anywhere on the planet—becomes difficult to compete with.  There will always be a market for high-end, quality-assured content.  But as low-end tools move ever up market, as professional input resources become ever less exclusive, and as discovery mechanisms become ever better, that premium pie the big guys fight over will become ever smaller.  It's the basic innovator's dilemma.

You see it in the obvious trends plaguing television's business model.  Monetization has always been about control . . . about setting up checkpoints, sites where people have to come to us if they want the services we provide.  In the broadcast era, we had no way to ask this of consumers, so we turned to advertisers, for whom we could gate and sell access to our audiences.  In the cable era, we found a way to establish a retail model, controlling the flow of content through pipes and selling access to consumers directly.

With the Internet though, these models break.  As we lose control over distribution, consumers gain the option of alternate content paths, both legal and illegal, rather than waiting at our checkpoints.  And as the world fragments, we lose our ability to aggregate audiences.  Of course, this latter point matters less and less, as businesses gain the ability to speak to consumers directly (first through web sites and now more effectively through social networks), and then even they get disintermediated, with consumers shifting their reliance from 'push' brand messaging toward 'pull' recommendations from their peers and reputation systems (think Amazon star ratings, and now Facebook).

I believe there's a solution, one which doesn't run from, but instead embraces the openness and interactivity of the web.  I believe television, and all traditional media industries, must shift to a collaborative model, where we use our premium resources as a vacuum to suck in value creation from partners and users, the way digital firms like Apple, Google, and Facebook do.  We should take advantage of external capabilities where they're preferable to our own (eg distribution), and release our own differentiated resources to open innovation (eg content and ad sales capabilities).  The job of the media company will shift from producing and distributing content alone to orchestrating production and distribution ecosystems.

In all our interactions—with suppliers, but most critically with the audience—we must also shift from one-off transactions to ongoing relationships.  No longer can we simply push our products to people and call it a day—sell them a DVD and that's that.  Me must shift to a services model, where we build ongoing communities of interest around our content and the service we sell becomes access to that content.  To this end, we must work harder to foster user contributions and user-curation around our shows; create second screen and social experiences that deepen the engagement of our viewers; offer games, gamification and, other forms of interactivity.  We must personalize media experiences and offer recommendations.

The opportunity here is extensive: continual subscription revenue streams, a secure distribution model (services are harder to steal than goods), a sustainable advertising model (based on deep user knowledge and a recurrent opportunity for persuasion), customized and continually evolving products, and the chance to capture free labor, knowledge, and creativity from our customers.  It's what Blizzard and Zynga did with games, Netflix with video, Zipcar with vehicles, and down the line as all business gradually join 'the mesh.'

As Netflix has demonstrated, disrupting one's own business is perilous work.  But it's been done.  Facing crises, companies like Cisco, IBM, and P&G have taken tens of billions of dollar restructuring paths to come out fundamentally different, vastly more successful companies.  Firms like AOL and Best Buy are in the midst of trying.  Of course, the alternative is the long slow fade to irrelevancy of a Yahoo, Borders, EMI, Tribune, or Blockbuster.

At television networks, digital divisions are creating innovative interactive experiences that take the audience beyond mere consumption into active participation.  But all of us in traditional media companies must realize that these digital products aren't just dinky marketing vehicles for their on-air counterparts.  They aren't cannibalistic substitutes, replacing analog dollars with digital pennies.  They are our gateway to a new world.



European Pirates Declare War On Cloners. Arrrrrr!! (TCTV)

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 01:50 AM PDT

pirate

I recently attended the European Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany. Held in a sort of art-house scrapyard where artists sculpt out of old cars, and ravers dance into the night, the venue itself was a fitting place for what many began to feel was a sort of re-birth of the tech startup scene in Europe. Suddenly we all realised what was happening: Europeans are as mad as hell that they’ve been branded cloners and ‘copycats’, and they’re not going to take it any more.

In fact, the event featured the literal burning of a effigy of a startup clone. This was a gathering of Pirates, the kind of startup Pirates who ascribed to the philosophy laid down by Mike Arrington only last year.



Daily Crunch: Hunter

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 01:00 AM PDT

The9 Launches Mobile Gaming Platform & SDK To Give Developers Access To The Chinese Market

Posted: 01 Oct 2011 12:11 AM PDT

39137_The9LOGO9_b

The9, the sizable NASDAQ-listed Chinese game publisher and developer, has made quite a few investments in the U.S. gaming market over the last year. (Reflecting, it seems, a rising Asian interest in U.S. companies, especially gaming.) As part of its international strategy, The9 has been full-steam ahead on creating better ways for international gaming companies and developers to make inroads into the Chinese mobile and social gaming markets, which have been traditionally difficult areas for non-Chinese developers to access effectively (and profitably).

In May, The9 teamed up with Intel and Time Warner to make a $23 million investment in CrowdStar, for example. Earlier this year, it also created a $100 million fund (called Fund9) to focus on investments in Chinese gaming companies, as well as those overseas.

At the same time, The9 also announced a 5-year licensing agreement with Aurora Feint to allow it to use the company’s OpenFeint mobile social gaming network software (which operates on both iOS and Android) in China.

Shortly thereafter, the company began using the $100 million fund, in partnership with OpenFeint, to bring select games from international Android developers into the Chinese market.

Today, The9 is adding the remaining piece, again utilizing its OpenFeint licensing agreement and sizable gaming fund — but this time with iOS. The company today announced that it is releasing the an iOS software development kit (SDK) for its mobile and social gaming platform, called The9 Game Zone ( which is, of course, powered by OpenFeint). This is of interest for the very reason that Game Zone on iOS enables international developers to “implement social features in online and mobile games” that are tailor-made for “China’s 800 million-strong gaming market”, said The9 VP of Mobile Business Chris Shen.

When it comes to entering the mobile gaming market in China, U.S. and international developers are met with a number of obstacles, including localization requirements and fragmentation. Compared to that of the U.S. and the Western World, said Shen, the app market in China is complicated, as there are more than 100 app stores in operation, and each of the big Chinese OEMs along with tons of third parties are trying to enter the market. So there’s the issue of accessing these many app stores to guarantee large-scale distribution, localization of foreign apps for the Chinese market, monetization for that specific market, and so on.

The advantage then, of The9′s platform and SDK is that the company already partners with more than 30 of the largest Chinese app stores (which according to the team make up about 90 percent of the country’s apps), including the app stores launched by the three major Chinese telecom carriers.

So, by using the9 Game Zone on iOS, mobile game developers can revamp their standalone mobile games into interactive, social games optimized for the Chinese market. And soon, developers will also be able to cross-promote their games on those 30 app stores, monetize with virtual goods and currency, take advantage of display advertising, etc.

The9 is really attempting to provide international developers looking to access a Chinese audience with a one-stop solution. Because the majority of China’s app stores have different requirements for game packaging, The9 helps developers to localize and package their games, publishing them to these various channels, giving them access to a much larger section of the market than they’d be able to access otherwise.

The9 has also developed a consulting service for game developers, which is free to use, that will provide them with the various social and interactive integrations, as well as assisting them in translating China’s in-app microtransactional models into their games. Chinese gamers predominantly avoid paying for games, Shen said, which makes it essential for game developers to monetize through in-game ad solutions, virtual currency, etc., which their consulting service will help developers undertake more effectively.

The9 (and the distribution channels, i.e. app stores) then apply a revenue sharing model, taking a cut of the game’s revenues, which will be around 50 percent. Not exactly favorable, but with access to the enormous mobile/social audience in China, likely worth the price of entry.

Thanks to The9′s partnership with OpenFeint, developers using Game Zone on iOS will be able to access the company’s gaming features like leaderboards, achievements, challenges, forums, and chat — and integrate them into their Chinese versions. The9 also allows integration with Chinese social networking sites, like Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter), Tencent, and Renren.

There are currently over 120 game developers and publishers collaborating with The9, publishing more than 500 games in China. Game Zone is available both on iOS and Android, both of which offer features from OpenFeint.

Considering the platform enables developers around the world to cut through the fragmented Chinese mobile gaming market, accessing the second largest app market in the world, and is a one-stop shop for American developers looking to get free packaging and localization services for the Chinese market, this is a pretty sweet solution.

Check out Game Zone and its SDK here, and let us know what you think.


Company: The9
Website: the9.com

The9 operates and developes high-quality games for the Chinese online game market. The9 directly, or through affiliates, operates licensed MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) consisting of MU, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, Soul of The Ultimate Nation, Granado Espada, and its first proprietary MMORPG, Joyful Journey West, in mainland China. The9 has also obtained exclusive licenses to operate additional MMORPGs and advanced casual games in mainland China, including Hellgate: London, Ragnarok Online 2, Emil Chronicle Online, Huxley,...

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Chris Sacca And Others Invest $1 Million In A Startup That Wants Everyone To Hold A World Record

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 10:47 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-30 at 10.29.55 PM

URDB — formerly Universal Records Database  – is announcing a name change and $1 million in Series A funding, from investors Chris Sacca, VantagePoint Capital and 77 Ventures. Initially conceived of at yes, Burning Man, URDB is now RecordSetter and a million dollars more flush.

The premise behind RecordSetter is that “everyone on earth can be the world’s best at something.” The startup wants to to become the preeminent platform for people to both submit their own unique records and compete against other people’s unique records through the uploading of quirky videos like “Most Kisses In 10 Seconds,”"Longest ‘Shhhhh’” and “Most Graphic Designers Dancing To ‘Thriller’”. You get the picture.

Says founder Doug Rollman on what sets the company apart from Guinness World Records,

“As long as rules are followed and sufficient evidence is provided, any record is welcome. That includes everything from traditional (Fastest 100-Meter Dash) to outlandish (Most Times Smiling While Listening to "Beat It".) Creativity is highly encouraged. We’re the Wikipedia to their Encyclopedia Britannica. “

In three years of existence the site has seen over 10,000 submissions from over 50 countries, Rollman tells me, and now hosts the largest collection of world record videos on the Internet. Eventually Rollman hopes that the site will compete with YouTube and Break.com.

Future plans for RecordSetter also include the adding of editorial content (like the addition of tips on how to set records), pursuing media deals and partnerships with brands like Toyota and Livestrong and focusing on its community moderation beta so niche groups like skaters and jugglers can be more involved in the records curating process.

Rollman says that company is also in talks with production companies regarding a TV show based around the niche records found on the RecordSetter platform. Which doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, actually.



Buying Yahoo Is A No-Brainer For Alibaba

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 06:43 PM PDT

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Today at the China 2.0 conference at Stanford, Alibaba Groups’s Jack Ma replied to a pointed question about buying Yahoo with, "We are very interested in Yahoo. Our Alibaba group is important to Yahoo and Yahoo is important to us … All the serious buyers interested in Yahoo have talked to us."

Those “serious buyers” most likely include Alibaba Group investor Silver Lake Partners, Microsoft, Hellman & Friedman and Andreesen Horowitz, who have all reportedly reached out to Yahoo’s board.

Is Ma’s interest enough to spark consumer and shareholder interest in Yahoo? “Any and all interest [is] welcome,” one shareholder told me, “but Ma has real smarts.”

On the surface Ma is certainly the type of CEO that Yahoo needs post-Bartz, diplomatic, cunning, and a man of (relatively) few words. But would the deal make sense financially?

Alibaba Group’s recent funding from Silver Lake valued it at $32 billion, while Yahoo is at a 16 billion market cap. With Yahoo’s 40% stake in Alibaba Group valued at $12.8 billion, it seems like 80% of the company’s value is based on its Asian assets. Ma has apparently made it clear that he would like to buy back Yahoo’s stake in his own company, and now he can for a bargain basement $3 billion premium –with hundreds of millions of US users thrown in for good measure.

Is the rest of Yahoo worth $3 billion? Probably. Plus Ma has an additional incentive to buy Yahoo because getting all those shares back frees him from his largest albatross shareholder. It’s a no brainer for Alibaba.

Would the Yahoo board take an offer from Ma? That remains to be seen, as the relationship between the two companies has been notoriously strained, most recently suffering because of accusations of unfair play on the part of Yahoo when Ma transferred ownership of Alipay to a separate company.

The sentiment among the former Yahoo employees I spoke to seems to be that Yahoo is so dysfunctional that they can’t see anything like this happening. And then there’s stigma; the general idea is to sell to someone you’re proud of like Google and Microsoft, not someone you used to own. The cultural fit between the Chinese and American companies is also quite awkward, as Sarah Lacy has documented comprehensively.

Despite this, many shareholders are just hoping for a decent price to exit their long-held positions, and Ma might be the company’s only hope for survival intact, as he is interested in Yahoo in its entirety. This is surprising: Yahoo is the type of company that Richard Gere in Pretty Woman would buy, and then break up — the individual pieces are more valuable than the sum of the parts.

Related: Looking up that YHOO ticker on Yahoo Finance is just depressing.

Image: Mick Orlosky


Company: Yahoo!
Website: yahoo.com
Launch Date: January 1, 1994
IPO: December 4, 1996, Nasdaq:YHOO

Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang. It has since evolved into a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other web services. Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo!), incorporated in 1995, is a global Internet brand. To users, the Company provides owned and operated online properties and services (Yahoo! Properties, Offerings, or Owned and Operated sites). Yahoo! also extends its marketing platform and access to Internet users beyond Yahoo! Properties through its distribution network...

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Company: Alibaba
Website: alibaba.com
Launch Date: January 6, 1999
IPO: June 11, 2007, HKSE:1688.HK

Alibaba.com is a B2B e-commerce company. Alibaba’s primary business is to serve as a directory of Chinese manufacturers connecting them to other companies around the world looking for suppliers. According to iResearch, it was the largest online B2B company in China in 2006 based on the number of registered users and market share in China by revenue. Yahoo is currently a 40% share holder in the parent Alibaba Group. They operate two marketplaces; the first is an international marketplace based...

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More Details On MIT’s “Artificial Leaf” (And Video)

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 05:14 PM PDT

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Back in March, we heard about a breakthrough from MIT: an “artificial leaf” that produces pure oxygen and hydrogen gas, powered entirely by sunlight. The technology was described in yesterday’s edition of Science, and the team has released a video showing one of the devices in action.

I say device, but it’s really more of a material. There are no moving parts and it has no set shape or size. The leaf is semiconducting silicon, coated on one side with a special cobalt catalyst, discovered by the project’s Daniel Nocera in 2008, and on the other with a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy. Sunlight creates a current within the silicon, and the catalyst causes water molecules to split into gaseous H2 and O2, which rise off in bubbles from opposite sides of the leaf.

Take a look at the video. It’s not particular exciting, but it gives you an idea of what kind of conversion rate we’re talking about:

The gases could be isolated and stored in a fuel cell, which could provide power later and produce pure water as its exhaust.

Nocera and several other researchers formed a company, Sun Catalytix, to independently research, apply, and market the artificial leaves, and last year raised $9.5 million from Tata and other investors.

The leaf-like form factor is easy to demonstrate on a human scale, but there’s no reason why the “leaves” couldn’t be microscopic or enormous. The different use cases require much research and testing, however, which is likely what Sun Catalytix is working on at present. That and figuring out to do with the extra protons the process generates. They envision banks of these things powering houses and communities and storing the excess in tanks for sale or emergencies.

There’s more information at MIT’s news page, and, if you’re scientifically minded (and subscribe to the journals), the various papers listed on Sun Catalytix’s tech page.

[image credit: Dominick Reuter]



Mocavo Raises $1 Million To Build Its Ancestry-Centric Search Engine

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 05:00 PM PDT

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Looking to fill in the blanks on your family tree? A startup called Mocavo might be just what you’re looking for. The service is setting out to become a search engine that’s highly optimized for ancestry-related purposes — type in the name of a relative, and it’ll do its best to surface content from the web’s troves of genealogy data, some of which has been difficult to search through before now.

The startup, which was part of the TechStars Boulder program this past summer, has just raised a $1 million round from David Cohen (through Bullet Time Ventures), Dave McClure (500 Startups), David Bonderman, Walt Winshall, David Calone, Dave Carlson, Troy Henikoff, and other angels.

Founder Cliff Shaw says that Mocavo is setting out to make genealogy “open, social, and automated”. He explains that while there are existing services that use proprietary data sources,  few take advantage of the abundance of information that’s freely available on the web — information that Google often passes over, because genealogical information is neither fresh nor popular (he says Google only indexes less than 5% of this content).

Mocavo has created a whitelist of these genealogy sites, and it’s constantly scanning them for new data (you can sign up to receive an update for certain names, if you’d like). So far the site has around 5.8 billion names in its index.

The service launched in March, and is currently seeing more than 1 million page views per month, and 100,000 unique visitors. It also has very high engagement stats, with 17 minutes spent on the site, on average. While the site is currently focused exclusively on search, down the line it will integrate social features, like a family tree builder.

Shaw has a long history with ancestry-related companies — he founded his first genealogy site, Genforum, when he was 18. He sold it when he was 19, when it had some 60 million monthly pageviews. His other companies include Pearl Street Software and BackupMyTree, both of which were acquired as well.

Oh, and one caveat: my initial instinct was to try a vanity search on Mocavo, which didn’t have great results. Shaw says that because this is a genealogy search engine, you’ll have much better luck searching for people who are deceased.


Company: Mocavo
Website: mocavo.com
Funding: $1M

The World’s Largest Free Genealogy Search Engine.

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TC Cribs: Sliding Through YouTube’s Double Rainbow (Gnomes!)

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 03:58 PM PDT

gnomes

We’re back with a new episode of TC Cribs, and it’s featuring one of the most tricked-out offices yet: YouTube.

Yes, the world’s biggest archive of cute cat videos (among other things) invited us to take a stroll through their halls, which are brimming with nifty artifacts, viral video memorabilia, and gnomes. A lot of gnomes.

There’s also a big surprise that comes around two-thirds through the episode that had me hurting for a couple of days. Don’t miss it!

Thanks to John Murillo and Jon Orlin for the camerawork, and to Mr. Murillo once again for the fantastic editing.

Here are some of our past episodes (oh, and don’t worry — we’ll feature some much smaller companies very soon!):


Company: YouTube
Website: youtube.com
Launch Date: November 9, 2005
Funding: $11.5M

YouTube was founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. YouTube is the leader in online video, sharing original videos worldwide through a Web experience. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips across the Internet through websites, mobile devices, blogs, and email. Everyone can watch videos on YouTube. People can see first-hand accounts of current events, find videos about their hobbies and interests, and discover the quirky...

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AT&T Wants Their Competitors’ Antitrust Suits Dismissed

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 03:13 PM PDT

attmo

By now, we all know that the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Sprint and C Spire Wireless (formerly known as the Cellular South) have filed suits to that same effect, but AT&T has asked the court to reject those companies’ complaints.

The reason? AT&T believes that Sprint and C Spire are fighting for their own sakes, and not for the public’s best interests. Because Sprint is a major competitor and not a consumer, AT&T doesn’t believe Sprint has a legal leg to stand on.

Ouch. Sprint is preparing to respond to AT&T’s claim next week, but only after saying the argument had no merit. The folks in Overland Park have one thing to smile about though: 7 state Attorneys General have already come out against the merger, and they are now joined by the Attorney General of Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, AT&T alleged that C Spire Wireless fears “competition, not lack of competition.” In their filing to have the C Spire suit dismissed, AT&T’s lawyers included a memo from C Spire CEO Hu Meena asking AT&T for a network sharing agreement in certain parts of the southeastern United States. C Spire claims that AT&T mischaracterized their proposal, and fired back by alleging that AT&T asked for then-Cellular South’s support for the deal when it was announced.

With billions of dollars on the line, the situation just seems to be getting dirtier and dirtier. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle has scheduled the merger trial for February 12 of next year, but who knows what crazy developments may arise between now and then.



Hitwise: Singaporeans Spend The Most Time On Facebook Per Session

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 03:11 PM PDT

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Hitwise just published a new study examining how much time people living in different countries spend on Facebook. Singaporeans actually spend the longest on the social network, with an average of 38 minutes and 46 seconds per session, while people living in Brazil spend less than half that with an average of 18 minutes and 19 seconds per Facebook session for August 2011.

Singapore is followed by New Zealand (30 mins 31 sec); Australia (26 mins 27 sec); the UK (25 mins 33 sec); and the US (20 mins 46 sec). Brazil actually has the highest percentage of Internet visits going to social sites (18.9% of Internet usage) with 43% of all social networking visits in Brazil going to Google-owned Orkut. In contrast, the UK has the lowest market share of visits going to social networks with 12.2% of visits.

Facebook was the most visited Social Networking site in the US in August 2011 receiving 91% of visits among the sites followed by Twitter with 1.92% of visits. Tagged.com ranked 3rd for the first time, passing MySpace.com with 1.04% of US Internet visits.

The fastest growing country in terms of visits is India, which saw an an increase in market share of 88% in August 2011 compared to August 2010. The US also experienced a market share increase from Facebook of 5% year on year.

It’s no surprise that Facebook is seeing major growth internationally and in the U.S. Marc Zuckerberg just revealed that as many as 500 million members have used used Facebook in a given day, which is a milestone for the network. And the social network saw a record number of visitors in July.



Facebookers Are Not In Hawaii

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 02:22 PM PDT

hawaii

Aloha! You know where I wish I were right now? That’s right, Maui! You know who else is in Maui? Some of the Google Social team. Note: I am really jealous of anyone who is a Googler in Maui right now, because it sure beats being someone who has to write about being a Googler in Maui right now.

According to unpaid blogger Michael Arrington, I’m not alone in my jealousy, as some other people who worked on Google+ apparently weren’t included in the Google Maui trip, and “wish they were.” Makes sense.

Meanwhile, Facebook PR just invited me to a meeting next Wednesday to discuss the recently introduced Facebook Timeline features. According to our sources, Facebook also plans on announcing its iPad app and unveil Project Spartan early next week. And, as far as I can tell from trolling Instagram, there are not 450+ Facebookers hanging out by the beach right now (I’ve emailed Facebook PR for confirmation of this.)

Facebookers? “We never really had a formal term, I think that’s a reasonable portmanteau,” said a person familiar with the matter. “I think “Yahoo!” made it uncool.”

Click through Googler Chris Messina‘s Hawaii pics, below.

“Circles” image above: Eider Oliveira via Liz Gannes


Company: Google
Website: google.com
Launch Date: July 9, 1998
IPO: NASDAQ:GOOG

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing them with a rich source of information....

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Company: Facebook
Website: facebook.com
Launch Date: January 2, 2004
Funding: $2.34B

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 was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original idea for the term...

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Microsoft “Accidentally” Tags Chrome As Malware

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:55 PM PDT

fmatter3

Oh, Microsoft! You are so cunning. With IE market share plummeting and many users opting for “alternative” web browsers like Firefox and Chrome, your base of power is crumbling. We thought you would succumb to melancholy and accept your fate. But you had a plan all along. Clever girl.

Yes, Microsoft has found a way to stanch the hemorrhaging of its users to other browsers: label them as malware in the built-in Security Essentials suite!

Okay, I kid. It was just a minor mistake, and they corrected it immediately: “On September 30th, 2011, an incorrect detection for PWS:Win32/Zbot was identified. On September 30th, 2011, Microsoft released an update that addresses the issue.” The incorrect detection led to Chrome being removed and reinstall prohibited.

It actually brings up an interesting point, though. Seamless updates like Chrome’s are growing more popular, especially since many apps are essentially web services, and changes (mostly innocent) happen behind the curtain all the time. When it’s a local app, though, the process for authentication becomes more complicated.

Google shouldn’t have to wait for Microsoft to approve all its updates. But Microsoft needs to be vigilant and watch for unauthorized changes that may negatively affect the user. And while malicious programs are important to watch for, poorly secured ones can be just as dangerous.

Security was never simple, but it’s getting more complicated by the day and users have more choices and more exposure. Luckily, snafus like this one are pretty harmless and Microsoft, though I give them a hard time, is actually very responsive on this front.

Update: Google has some more information on their Chrome blog.



Technology Advancing Art: Photo Apps Are The Folk Art Of Our Generation

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:41 PM PDT

tom-anderson

Editor's note: This guest post is written by Tom Anderson, the former President, founder and first friend on MySpace. You can now find Tom on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Around 2004-2005, puzzled non-tech journalists continually asked me why people were using MySpace — this was before social networking was a common phrase, before moms & dads were using social sites, and before Facebook was open to the public. Back then I would answer something like “MySpace is email with pictures, on steroids.” It was the simplest way for me to try and describe the value to an “outsider” who couldn’t understand the growth of a service they didn’t use. The three keys are, of course, 1) communication, 2) photos, and 3) acceleration of communication & of photo sharing (photo sharing itself being another form of communication). Notice I didn’t mention music. Lot’s of people mistakenly think MySpace grew because of music. I’ll explain that some other time.

Now a few days ago, serial entrepreneur and generally (from what I can tell), all-around-interesting guy Phil Kaplan (@pud) sent me a tweet:


Philip Kaplan
@ Photo filters are the new animated gifs (things that look cool because they're new, but will get annoying)

This started a little exchange (difficult to follow on Twitter, or I’d link to it), which I will summarize. I tweeted to @pud that I strongly disagreed with his idea. I suggested that “photo filters” (apps like Instagram, Path, Camera+ and 100 Cameras In 1) 1)  make “bad” photos look “good” and that they’re helping to increase the popularity of photography. (I’m using bad and good here as shorthand — that’s another discussion, of course.) Moreover, I suggested that what’s going on with these filters is a case of technology advancing art, much like digital recording revolutionized music. Pud commended my point, said that “time will tell,” and noted that he was “in love” with one of his photos he’d taken on Instagram (shown at right).

Technology advancing art. Does that seem like an odd statement?

Think of it this way: before digital photography, you had film, which meant it was quite costly to practice your craft. Every time you took a photograph, you were wasting one piece of film and subtracting more $$ from your pocket. If you were serious about your photography, you were developing your own prints with liquid chemicals in a darkroom. Again, more cost, and also, even more important, more time. Developing in a dark room is extremely time-intensive. (Not to mention travel time to a darkroom if you weren’t lucky enough to have your own.) Finally, using film and a darkroom development process meant that to learn, you either had to have a great memory or you had to be taking notes on each shot. You needed to have an idea of how the light was the day you shot the picture, and how your camera was setup. If you didn’t remember these things, you probably had difficulty getting “better” shots, because you didn’t’ quite know what you were doing the last time you got a good one.

Now take digital photography, the technology that is advancing art:

  • Lower cost, lower barrier to entry
  • Less time, develop photos “instantly” via apps (Instagram/filters)
  • Better advanced tools, develop photos via “photoshop” save/iterate/retry
  • Exif data provides notes on every shot (Fstop, ISO, shutter speed, flash, lens)
  • Auto & “smart” cameras reduce learning curve

Now most of this is obvious, but the point is—apps like Instagram & Path are not fads, and they’re not a gimmick. They are technology that accelerates and simplifies photo “developing” and allows people with little experience and no training to easily make something beautiful.Creating beauty is never a fad, and it’ll never get old. I think these new photo apps are better understood as one step in the revolution that is digital photography right now. More importantly, they’re especially good at leading us “regular folk” to the artful side of photography.

As barriers to entry are reduced, and more and more people snap photos, it’s only natural that more & more people will become interested and from this activity, some of our new & greatest photographers will be born. Take +Trey Ratcliff as an example. Knowing Trey, I’d venture to guess that if it were not for digital photography, he would have never picked up a camera. (Trey’s photographs now hang in the Smithsonian, by the way.) Moreover, Trey helped to pioneer a technique and style of photography (now generally known as HDR) that allows for photos that arguably would not have even been possible without these advances in technology. This is also how technology is advancing art. It’s not just becoming easier to create, it’s actually allowing us to create new variations on an artform that were previously impossible in an analog film world.

Now as for Instagram and “photo filter” apps in general, it’s no surprise to me why these things are so popular. Instagram, the biggest of them all (10 million users in 1 year on only one platform—the iPhone), is tapping into the same elements that made MySpace so important to people in its heyday. (Remember, MySpace came up at a time when digital photography was just getting cheap enough to be ubiquitous among computer users: 2003-2004.) Instagram, like MySpace, is “email with pictures on steroids.” But does Instagram even let you send a message? Yes, by way of a photo and a caption. The point is that Instagram is not just photos—it’s communication between the photo taker and the audience. And even better, since it allows you to easily make your photos beautiful, you’re more likely to take photos, more likely to share photos, and it’s more likely that people will care to look at your photos.

When speaking of MySpace in 2005, my use of “steroids” was meant to refer to the fact that all your friends were in one place, it was “easy,” and when you got a message or comment from your friend and you’d see a little picture, that was more fun, personal and exciting than boring old email… Now today, that’s old news. Instagram’s “steroids” are not just its instant-sharing on-the-go “mobileness” and it’s not just that its filters are virtually pumping up the pace of sharing (because, suddenly, these photos are good enough that they are worth sharing). It’s also because your friends and followers are there giving you the instant feedback that they care about the photos you are sharing with them. You know you’ve got an audience with Instagram. Path’s “steroids” include a feature MySpace users begged for (“who’s viewed your profile”) in the way it shows each person who has visited to look at each picture. That “confirmation” of a message received is another important bit of communication—it’s like a virtual “10-4″ which is important in a time when the proliferation of sharing makes you wonder if anyone ever sees the things you share. (For competitors, take note—this is a really important feature to people.)

Now am I saying that snaps of your friends, babies, puppies and (potentially LOL) cats should be called “art”? I’d submit that casual photos of your friends, memorable moments, and the things us “average” folk photograph is the “folk art” of the Internet age. To quote The Bullfinch Guide to Art History, “In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.” Isn’t that what our “everyday” photos are? They have a utility—to preserve a memory, to make a friend laugh, and to show someone else what they’ve missed. They’re not purely aesthetic. You & me take photos as “folk art” like our great, great grandmother made patchwork quilts, or the Native American Iroquois made beaded belt designs that mnemonically chronicled tribal stories and legends. The belts told a story, like your “Facebook” timeline will in a few days. (Did you hear that Facebook is launching photo filters as well? Smart move Zuck!) Why do you think Dave Morin over at Path says, “Every choice we’ve made has been intentional to build a 30-year brand?”Because he knows… this activity is no fad—it’ll be around for the long haul.

So anyway, for you entrepreneurs out there, here’s a wakeup call: you want to ride one of the trends that still has massive room to grow? According to one estimate, 10 percent of all the photos ever taken were photgraphed in just the last year. (Worth the read here) We are just at the beginning of the photo explosion. A company designed to serve different aspects of this trend can still be a great idea, and will be for quite awhile, I suspect.

Post-script: Here’s a photo I took on a recent trip to China, using some of this new “filter” technology. Now I’m definitely an amateur, I only started shooting the week this was taken, and I’m only just beginning to make my baby steps towards something artistic. Personally, I know without the technology that enabled it, I would not have been anywhere near as satisfied with this picture. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even shared it. Put simply: “yay technology”


Person: Tom Anderson
Website: about.me
Companies: MySpace

Tom Anderson is the Co-Founder and former President of MySpace. All newly created MySpace accounts included Tom as a default “friend” and therefore he became known as the face of the company. Anderson attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and English. He then attended the University of California, Los Angeles and received a master’s degree in film - critical studies. Many questions have come up about when...

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Company: Instagram
Website: instagr.am
Launch Date: October 1, 2011
Funding: $7.5M

Instagram is a photo sharing application for the iPhone. It allows you to quickly take pictures, apply a filter, and share it on the service or with a number of other services. The team behind it is also behind Burbn, a location-based service that works with HTML5-compatible web browsers.

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Company: Path
Website: path.com
Funding: $11.2M

Path is the simple and private way to share life with close friends & family. Founded by Dave Morin, previously Co-Inventor of Platform and Connect at Facebook, Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster, and Dustin Mierau co-creator of Macster.

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Loopt In Process Of Receiving Broad Patent Covering Location-Based Ads

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:27 PM PDT

looptlogo

Location-based service Loopt has been allowed its first patent, and it could be a big one.

The patent, as described, seems relevant to numerous existing products, including Google’s Latitude. In layman’s terms, it describes using your location to display relevant ads and offers on top of a map, as an interstitial, or as a text ad — another claim also discusses displaying where your friends are on the same map. The patent was first filed in 2007, with Loopt founder Sam Altman listed as the primary inventor (Loopt got its start long before the likes of Foursquare and Google Latitude).

The patent, which is listed as Application Number 11/931,113 by the US Patent and Trademark Office, still hasn’t technically been granted. But it has been “allowed,” which is a precursor to being granted. At this point, it could still be a few months before the patent is granted, assuming that Loopt pays all the proper fees and files the proper paperwork.

Here’s one relevant claim:

“17. A method comprising: providing, by a server, an advertising campaign including a plurality of advertising messages for transmitting to users of mobile devices at different times or locations; receiving, by the server, the geographic location of a mobile communication device operated by a user within an area; and transmitting to the mobile communication device for display, at least one of the plurality of advertising messages, wherein the advertising message includes content relevant to a characteristic of the user or activity performed by the user and is in the form of a text advertising message, coupon and/or graphic element that is superimposed over a map representation of the area around the mobile communication device displayed on a graphical user interface of the mobile communication device of the user, displayed in an interstitial display page of the graphic user interface, or displayed as a text-based message, and wherein the ad message is transmitted in response to the location of the user.”

It’s unclear what this means for Loopt (the company isn’t commenting). Loopt has sworn to the Patent Pledge, which states that they won’t offensively use their patents against any company with fewer than 25 people. Of course, most of the location-based companies you’ve heard of have more than that. Even if they never use it offensively (which would be nice), this may be a good defensive patent for Loopt going forward.

Part of me feels like the notion of putting a layer of ads on top of a map, alongside where your friends are, is an obvious use-case for smartphones. This was filed in 2007, so the assumption may be that it was less obvious back then.



Company: Loopt
Website: loopt.com
Launch Date: January 1, 2005
Funding: $17M

Loopt allows people to connect to people and places around them. Loopt produces a suite of mobile applications including Loopt and Loopt Mix, to allow users to discover the world around them. Loopt products use location on mobile phones to help users find and enjoy the friends, places and events around them right now. Phones with Loopt include the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. The Loopt services have more than 5 million registered users and partnerships with every...

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TechCrunch Giveaway: One DROID Bionic #TechCrunch

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:12 PM PDT

DROID BIONIC by Motorola - Android Social Smartphone - Experience - Motorola Mobility, Inc. USA

Last week we ran a giveaway for one whole week, giving away a DROID Bionic. A huge congratulations to Scott Leither for winning last week’s DROID Bionic! Since the giveaway was so popular, we wanted to give all of you another shot. Thanks again to Verizon, we are giving one more DROID Bionic away to one lucky reader. Just like before, the giveaway will run for one full week and we will choose the winner next Friday.

To enter, all you have to do is follow the steps below:

1) Click on this link to sign up.

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Leave us a comment below telling us why you want it

The giveaway starts now and ends next Friday, October 7th, at 1pm PDT.

We will pick one lucky reader at random and contact them via email next week. Anyone in the U.S. is eligible.

Good luck everyone!



Gillmor Gang Live 1pm PT (TCTV)

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:00 PM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang – Robert Scoble, John Taschek, Kevin Marks, Danny Sullivan and Steve Gillmor – are recording live at 1pm PST. Recording over at 2:25PM PST.


Widely considered a leading “search engine guru,” Danny Sullivan has been helping webmasters, marketers and everyday web users understand how search engines work for over a decade. Danny’s expertise about search engines is often sought by the media, and he has been quoted in places like The Wall St. Journal, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, The New Yorker and Newsweek and ABC’s Nightline. Danny began covering search engines in late 1995, when he undertook a study of how they...

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Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft. Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003, and although he often promoted Microsoft products like Tablet PCs and Windows Vista, he also frequently criticized his own employer and praised its competitors like Apple and Google. Scoble is the author of Naked Conversations, a book on how blogs are changing...

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Person: John Taschek
Companies:

John Taschek is vice president of strategy at salesforce.com. He is responsible for corporate product strategy, corporate intelligence and market influence. Taschek came to company in 2003, bringing over 20 years of technology evaluation experience. Taschek currently is also the editorial director for CloudBlog - an independent blog run as an adjunct to salesforce.com’s web properties. He occasionally is on Steve Gillmor’s The Gillmor Gang enterprise web video-cast. Previously, Taschek ran the testing labs at eWEEK (formerly PC Week) magazine....

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Person: Kevin Marks
Website:

Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation. From September 2003 to January 2007 he was Principal Engineer at Technorati responsible for the spiders that make sense of the web and track millions of blogs daily. He has been inventing and innovating for over 17 years in emerging technologies where people, media and computers meet. Before joining Technorati,...

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Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at salesforce.com and a TechCrunch contributing editor. Gillmor previously worked with leading musical artists including Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, and members of The Band after an early career as a record producer and filmmaker with Columbia Records’ Firesign Theatre. As personal computers emerged in video and music production tools, Gillmor started contributing to various publications, most notably Byte Magazine,...

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PSA: The AT&T Galaxy S II Has A Pretty Terrible Security Flaw [Update: Confirmed By Samsung!]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 12:40 PM PDT

unlock

The AT&T Galaxy S II is a lot of things. It’s fast. It’s thin. It’s pretty damn nice to look at. But secure? Yeah, not really.

In what seems to be an almost inexcusable oversight, it appears that the pattern lock (the thing that keeps prying eyes from prying) on AT&T’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S II is… pretty much useless.

The guys over at BGR noticed the loophole, and caught it on video below.

How it works is almost absurd: you turn on the device’s display, and the unlock pattern screen should show up (assuming that you have a pattern set, of course.) The trick? Do nothing. The screen will fade to black after a moment. Turn the display back on — and bam: you’re in, no pattern-based unlock required. The one small catch is that someone will have had to unlock the device the proper way once since power up.

This flaw does not seem to affect Sprint’s Galaxy S II variant, the Epic Touch 4G.

On the upside, these things don’t actually ship to the general populace until October 2nd. While there’s some chance that Samsung noticed this issue and fixed it between shipping the review units and shipping the retail hardware (Samsung’s only response is that they’re “investigating”), such last minute patches rarely, if ever, occur. If the retail units exhibit this same behavior, expect it to be a few days to a few weeks before a patch is made available.

Update: A few e-mails and at least one commenter below raged on me and claimed that this couldn’t be real (gotta love that a device that isn’t even out yet has devout fanboys) — but Samsung and AT&T themselves have just confirmed that there is a flaw and that they are “investigating a permanent solution”. See their comment and their suggested temporary fix below:

Samsung and AT&T are aware of the user interface issue on the Galaxy S II with AT&T. Currently, when using a security screen lock on the device, the default setting is for a screen timeout. If a user presses the power button on the device after the timeout period it will always require a password. If a user presses the power button on the phone before the timeout period, the device requests a password – but the password is not actually necessary to unlock it.

Samsung and AT&T are investigating a permanent solution. In the meantime, owners of the Galaxy S II can remedy the situation by re-setting their time-out screen to the "immediately" setting. This is done by going to the Settings->Location and Security->Screen unlock settings->Timeout->Immediately.



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