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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

AdMob: Android Passes iPhone Web Traffic In U.S.

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 08:12 AM PDT

As we noted earlier, mobile ad network AdMob has released its monthly mobile metrics report for March, which takes a close look at Android OS traffic. One interesting stat that was hidden in the report was that Android ad traffic overtook iPhone traffic in the U.S. for the month of March.

According to the report, Android traffic in the U.S. increased to 46 percent of operating system share compared to 39 percent for the iPhone operating system. Worldwide, the iPhone OS still took the top spot, taking 46 percent of the OS share, with Android phones seeing 25 percent of impressions. AdMob measures mobile ad impressions, which is a proxy for overall traffic.

The Android ecosystem is steadily growing, with the App market counting 38,000 plus apps as of a few weeks ago, up 8000 apps from a month ago. This still pales in comparison to Apple’s booming App Store, but it seems pretty significant that one of the most popular mobile ad networks is reporting that Android ad traffic has surpassed that of the iPhone. Of course, Admob is still waiting for regulatory approval of its $750 million deal to be acquired by Google, so maybe it doesn’t want to call too much attention to how well Android is doing.

Google Believed To Pay Up To $25 Million For LabPixies To Flood The Web With Apps

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 07:23 AM PDT

Google made a small acquisition today of an Israeli startup called LabPixies, which is probably best known for its Flood-It! game on the iPhone (it’s the new Tetris). But LabPixies also creates tons of games in the form of iGoogle gadgets, Facebook apps, Hi5 games, MySpace games, and Android apps. Google did not disclose the price of teh acquisition, but the number going around Israeli venture capital circles is $15 million to $25 million. (TheMarker, in Hebrew, also reports $25 million as the price). Not bad for a startup that only ever raised $1 million in angel funding back in 2008.

Google bought LabPixies for the talent to add to its Israeli R&D center, and to create better apps across both Web and mobile platforms. It is also the first Israeli-headquartered startup ever bought by Google. In the blog post announcing the deal, iGoogle’s Don Loeb writes:

The team will be based in our ever-growing Tel Aviv office and will anchor our iGoogle efforts across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. We are looking forward to working with Labpixies to develop great web apps and leverage their knowledge and expertise to help developers and improve the ecosystem overall.

What LabPixies is good at, however, is taking a game on the Web and creating versions of it across different platforms, especially the iPhone and Android. Its iGoogle gadget games may generate as many as one billion impressions a month, but it makes all of its money on the iPhone. Google will likely try to sprinkle some of that LabPixie dust on Android now. One strategy could be to create games and apps first for iGoogle, and then use the reach of iGoogle to push those apps to Android.

But they’d better not remove Flood-It! from the iPhone. I love that game.

Blackberry OS 6.0 Pinned For Summer Release, Upgrades Possible

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 06:18 AM PDT

Straight from the horse's mouth, comes the news that the latest incarnation of every suit-totin', email-checkin', business-type's favourite phone OS (that is, BlackBerry OS 6.0) will be released this Summer. During an analyst talk today, RIM co-chief Mike Lazaridis showed off the first official teasers of the new OS. New features will include the previously mentioned WebKit browser -- which will now play a central role in the OS, and the OS will support both trackpad and touchscreen devices, but the juiciest bombshell was the news that older BlackBerries will be able to upgrade, though it wasn't stated how many models will be given the option.

The Nokia N8, Nokia’s New Flagship Phone, Is Official

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 05:14 AM PDT

Every year, like the swallows returning from Capistrano or the tourists returning to Disneyworld Paris, Nokia releases a flagship phone. Sadly, the boatwrights at Nokia haven't dropped a winner in nigh on three years now and, if early reports are to believed, their new N8 is not looking seaworthy. The N8 looks like the Motorola Devour and has a 3.5-inch OLED, capacative touch screen, and all of the fun things you expect like compass and accelerometer. On paper, it seems great. It also uses Symbian^3 which, again, according to early reports, its just like Symbian^1 and Symbian^2. In other words, the more things change at Nokia, the more they stay the same.

AdMob Report: One Third Of Android Phones Account For 96 Percent Of Traffic, Motorola Droid Takes The Lead

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 05:02 AM PDT

Mobile Ad Network AdMob has released its monthly mobile metrics report for March, which takes a close look at Android OS traffic. In March 2010, there were 34 Android devices from 12 manufacturers available to consumers. In AdMob's network in March 2010, 11 devices accounted for 96 percent of Android traffic, up from two devices in September 2009. The three primary versions of the Android OS all drove significant traffic in March 2010 – Android 1.5 (38 percent), Android 2.0/2.1 (35 percent) and Android 1.6 (26 percent). Motorola and HTC were the leading Android device manufacturers with 44 percent and 43 percent of respective traffic.

According to AdMob, Motorola Droid was the leading Android handset in March 2010 generating 32 percent of Android traffic, while the Google Nexus One drove only two percent of Android traffic. It’s surprising that Google’s Nexus one generates so little traffic, considering Google’s claims of profitability and success from the device.

At least 54 percent of Android traffic came from devices with a QWERTY keyboard, says the report. Of course, only three devices – the iPhone 3GS (39 percent), second generation iPod touch (25 percent) and iPhone 3G (20 percent) – generated 84 percent of total iPhone OS traffic. iPhone 3GS traffic share has increased from 30 percent in September 2009 to 39 percent in March 2010. The 1st Generation iPhone only generated 2 percent of iPhone OS requests in March 2010. Total worldwide traffic in AdMob's network increased 18 percent month-over-month.

The report of course highlights that diversity of devices in the Android ecosystem, with manufactures each creating and launching devices with diffferent form factors, capabilities, and OS versions over the past seven months. In contrast, the iPhone OS runs on devices from a single manufacturer, a single form factor (until the launch of the iPad in April), and all devices have the ability to upgrade OS versions.

The Android ecosystem is steadily growing, with the App market now counting 38,000 plus apps, up 8000 apps from a month ago. Of course this pales in comparison to Apple’s booming App Store.

The small share of traffic from Google Nexus One phones isn’t surprising, when you take into account this report from Flurry, which reported low Nexus One sales. In fact, there’s been a lot of talk about how the Nexus One’s initial roll-out has been a flop. But only weeks ago, Google claimed profitability for the device and painted a rosy picture for the Nexus One’s growth and future.

AdMob and Google may be in a bit of a pickle. The FTC is reportedly gearing up to challenge the Google-AdMob deal, due to anti-trust regulations The search giant acquired the popular mobile advertising network for $750 million last Fall. Reports emerged a few weeks ago that the FTC’s lawyers will recommend that the Commission block the deal. We’re not surprised, considering that we heard that Google was taking the unprecedented step of reaching out to AdMob competitors to rally their support around their acquisition of the company, in response to rumors that the FTC could block the deal. Consumer groups have also lobbied to block the deal.

Salesforce And VMware Partner To Launch Enterprise Java Cloud Platform VMforce

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 04:56 AM PDT

MyPunchbowl Signs Multi-Million Dollar Licensing Deal With Oriental Trading Company

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 03:54 AM PDT

The event planning business is a competitive space, with a number of companies and startups competing for a piece of a very lucrative pie. All-in-one party planning platform MyPunchbowl is opening up a new revenue stream today by licensing its technology to outside companies. And the startup has already hit gold. MyPunchbowl has signed a licensing deal to distribute its planning platform on the Oriental Trading Company, one of the U.S.’s largest direct merchants of party supplies, arts and crafts, toys and novelties. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, we heard from a source that the transaction was worth “millions of dollars.”

MyPunchbowl allows users to create beautiful online invitations and track RSVPs. The platform also provides tools that let you find supplies, organize an after party and even set a date, via an algorithm that recommends the best date for your party. The site also allows you to set up gift registries, save-the-dates, message boards, integrate Google Maps' to display the location, and share comments, photos, and videos. Basically, MyPunchbowl helps you plan and organize an event from start to finish.

According to the terms of the deal, MyPunchbowl has built a party planning site for Oriental Trading to enable their customers to plan a party on the Oriental Trading website. Oriental Trading products will also be available to users planning a party of MyPunchbowl’s standalone site. MyPunchbowl’s CEO and co-founder, Matt Douglas says that the startup is developing a number of other licensing agreements with media and retail companies to use the planning application.

Along with the licensing news, MyPunchbowl is also expanding its leadership team. Harry Lin, the former General Manager of Evite.com has joined th startup’s Board of Advisors, and Robert Perkins, former SVP of Marketing for Pizza Hut and head of Global Marketing and Licensing for Calvin Klein, has joined the Board of Directors.

Launched in 2007, MyPunchbowl has turned into a all-in-one party planning site in a matter of two years. The site added birthday reminders, ecards, wedding planning tools, and also just acquired a local business directory to boost vendor listings. Competitors to MyPunchbowl include Socializr, Pingg, Someecards, Cocodot, and MySpace, Facebook and Evite.

Zong Emerges: Facebook Deal And $15 Million In Funding

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 02:00 AM PDT

We’ve been tracking mobile payments provider Zong since 2008 – in a nutshell, it lets you pay for things, particularly virtual goods online, via direct billing to your mobile phone. Despite heavy competition from well-backed boku, the service has emerged as a leader in alternative payments. Facebook likes them so much they made them the mobile payment provider for Facebook Credits.

See our post Mobile Payments Getting Traction On Social Networks, But Fees Are Sky High from last year for a deeper dive on their business.

Early this year the company was spun off from its European parent, Echovox, and Echovox founder David Marcus moved to the U.S. to run the fast growing Zong. The company has now closed a new round of financing, its first as an independent company. Matrix Partners led the $15 million round, and partner Dana Stadler joined Zong’s board of directors.

Stadler is a big win for Zong. He’s the former Chief Technology Officer of PayPal and will, says Marcus, be extremely helpful as the company scales the volume of payments. Last year Zong also started expanding beyond mobile payments by allowing users to bill goods to credit, debit and prepaid cards. As that expansion progresses, the company will need resources to do that intelligently. Stadler, who initiated projects at PayPal including PayPal Mobile and the PayPal Developer Platform, will certainly guide them in the right direction.

John Mayer Predicts Deadpool For Twitter

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 01:39 AM PDT

I just think Twitter as a form of communication, I think it’s over to be honest with you.”

That was musician John Mayer during an onstage interview in Hollywood recently.

Mayer has had an interesting history on Twitter. A year ago, there were reports that Mayer and his girlfriend, actress Jennifer Aniston, broke up because he was more interested in tweeting than hanging out with her. Then, this past December, Mayer decided that he needed a break from Twitter (and other social networking services) with his one week “Digital Cleanse.” But he came back, and has since then gained some 500,000 new followers, pushing him past 3.2 million, and making him one of the most followed people on the service (he’s only about 500,000 followers behind President Obama).

His personal Tumblr blog is also called One Forty Plus, clearly in reference to Twitter’s character limitation.

Now, apparently, he’s done. His account shows that he hasn’t tweeted in a week, and he apparently said on stage, “Within in the last couple weeks, every night I think about canceling my Twitter account because I think it’s pretty much done,” reports omg! News.

That’s fine, celebrities cancel their accounts, or at least say they’re going to cancel their accounts, all the time. But Mayer is taking it a step further by ripping into Twitter as a service. “I would rather see Twitter be a cork board of links to other more important things, because it’s really sort of flawed from the beginning. I can’t tell you how many times I meet people or I’m having dinner with people who write stuff and they get upset they have haters now, like, ‘Why do I want to invent more reasons to have haters?’,” Mayer continued in his onstage interview.

Oh yes, the old “haters” argument.

I might as well spend that time making a sandwich or building a model ship or something,” he went on.

Kidding aside, Mayer’s point is that Twitter (at least for him — and probably many other celebrities) has too much incoming hatred mixed with outgoing over-sharing. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor terminated his account after sharing similar thoughts about the service last year (but has since brought it back in a more limited form). Kanye West also had similar complaints, or something, it’s hard to know what he was saying here.

Anyway, go make that sandwich, John, we’ll put Twitter on Deadpool watch. Just don’t tell Hugo it’s over.

Blinkx Starts Targeting Video Ads At Yoga Moms And Infonauts (Video Interview)

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 11:00 PM PDT

Behavioral targeting is all the rage with online display advertising right now, and video search engine blinkx is bringing it to video. For the past few years, blinkx has offered contextual video advertising through its Ad Hoc program, which matches ad keywords against a speech-to-text translation of the video, as well as all the tags and titles associated with that video. “We are extending targeting in Ad Hoc from contextual to behavioral,” says CEO Suranga Chandratillake.

He explains the new targeted advertising product in the video below (I caught up with him last week as he was passing through New York City). Overall, blinkx powers 17.5 million video searches a day across its network, which reaches more than 60 million people a month. But for now, the behavioral targeting will work only on blinkx.com, which is a small part of its overall reach. Using cookies, blinkx will assign psychographic profiles to people base don what they watch. It will start with nine profiles, including Yoga Moms, Digital Dads, Gossip Girls, Adventurers, and Infonauts.

Brands will be able to target specific segments by showing their ads only to Yoga Moms or Digital Dads. People are classified in the different buckets depending on what they watch. Binkx trains the system by extracting different concepts from each video and matching them to a profile. For instance, videos about children, crafts, soccer, or terrible twos are the types of things Yoga Moms supposedly watch. Advertisers can see the keywords associated with each psychographic profile to determine who they want to go after.

By blending contextual and behavioral targeting, Chandratillake thinks he can get the best of both worlds. But true behavioral targeting would probably require data inputs from beyond blinkx.com, and even beyond any group’s video viewing habits. True behavioral targeting would take into account what websites you visited recently, and not just what videos you’ve watched. But blinkx is starting with what it can control. Down the line, it might have to incorporate data from broader behavioral targeting ad networks.

Spotify Adds Social Features And Connects To Facebook (But Still No U.S. Launch Date)

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 08:50 PM PDT

Music streaming startup Spotify is going social. Today it unveils new features under the unpronouncable title of 'Spotify Music Pro@ile'. Essentially it's creating a true social network inside the Spotify service, but at the same time integrating Facebook Connect features. It is wil also now synchonise your existing music collection with your Spotify account. The update will roll out to Free and Premium users from 9am GMT today. This update from Facebook is a major one. The trouble is what we really want to know is, having launched in several European markets and talked for the last five or six months about launching in the US... when will it launch in the US? No news on that front yet. Meanwhile, the main new feature is the ability to share playlists and musical tastes outside Facebook. This will be good news for Spotify users, but for the startups which have been building out services around sharing playlists it's going to be a potential new problem.

Snaptu’s ‘App Store For Any Phone’ Adds Support For AT&T

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:50 PM PDT

Amid all the media attention given to the iPhone, Android, and other ‘superphones‘, it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of the cell-phone toting population is carrying something decidedly less exciting. But many of these more generic phones, though they lack touchscreens and flashy graphics, are still quite capable. Enter Snaptu,a platform for mobile phone applications that is compatible with the vast majority of phones available, including newer Windows devices, Nokia, Motorola, BlackBerry, and more. In short, it’s meant to be an app store for phones that don’t have app stores. And now it works on AT&T.

The company, which recently raised a Series A funding round led by Sequoia Capital, was founded in 2007. Its Java-based application platform has been installed by over 6 million users, with strong distribution internationally, including Asia and Europe. However, up until recently users in the United States were having issues using the application platform on AT&T. Snaptu worked with the carrier to get it working, and it’s now available through Snaptu’s  homepage and AT&T’s Apps Beta site. Snaptu has previously worked with O2 in the United Kingdom to ensure compatibility for their users.

To get started on Snaptu, users first install a standalone Java application. From there, they’re able to choose from over 20 different sub-applications that have been built by Snaptu to run on their platform. These applications include everything from Facebook and LinkedIn to a generic RSS reader and a trivia app. While some of the applications offered are a bit redundant (Facebook already has a mobile site), Snaptu says that its applications are optimized to be lightweight and fast. For the time being all applications are developed by Snaptu itself, but the company may open up the platform to contributions from other developers in the future.

Snaptu is free and monetizes with advertising. The applications are designed to be fairly light on bandwidth usage, but the official site notes that you “may still want to consider an unlimited data plan”. In other words, while the platform will run on most mobile phones, its market will be limited to users signed up for data service, which isn’t ubiquitous yet.

Update:: This post previously said Snaptu had 1.6 million users; they actually have 6 million with the app installed.

Here’s a video of CEO Ran Makavy showing off the platform:

MyLikes Brings Pay-Per-Video Advertising To YouTube

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:21 PM PDT

It was inevitable. First we had pay-per-post, then pay-per-tweet, and now we have pay-per-video. As personalities on YouTube start attracting larger, and more loyal audiences, they are increasingly seen by marketers as an effective advertising channel. MyLikes, a social marketing network that already matches influential bloggers and Twitterers with advertisers, is now moving to YouTube. For instance, blogger Chris Pirillo, who has 120,000 subscribers to his Lockergnome YouTube channel, produced a sponsored video for the iPhone app Siri which shows him doing a demo of the virtual personal assistant.

Sponsored YouTube videos are nothing new. Brands have been having success with hand-crafted campaigns (in fact, earlier today I wrote about sponsored video ads backed by GE and Howcast which collectively have been viewed more than 8 million times). But MyLikes takes a more automated approach. After all, it was founded by ex-Googlers including the former top engineer on AdSense.

Youtubers need to apply to get into the program. It helps if you have more than 10,000 subscribers to your YouTube channel. Each YouTube video creator creates a profile on MyLikes, which i slinked to the categories associated with his or her channel. They set their price per video and get an influence score based on factors such as how many subscribers they have, and the average number of views and comments per video. Then advertisers are matched to video creators, who then choose if they want to endorse the advertiser’s product in their own words. The videos are supposed to be identified as sponsored messages.

As more and more people spend time in social media, marketers will gravitate there. Already we are seeing new business models such as OpenSky which tries to turn bloggers into direct marketers. YouTube is next.

MyLikes just recently raised a seed round from other former Google employees. And it is announcing that it just hired another former Googler, David Scacco, to become chief revenue officer. Scacco was the first ad sales executive at Google.

Ashton. Britney. Hugo. Chavez Aims To Be The Most Followed Twitter User.

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:01 PM PDT

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there’s a serious race going on once again for the right to be Twitter most-followed user. Ever since actor Ashton Kutcher beat CNN to the one million mark, he’s been in the lead — and now has some 4.8 million followers. But pop star Britney Spears is quickly catching up, with nearly 4.8 million herself. So the race to 5 million is on. But if one revoluationary has his way, those two will have company at the top.

Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, has announced his intention to join Twitter. Considering that Chavez reguarly writes a newspaper column, and has his own radio show, the fact that he would use this newer mass communication medium isn’t that surprising. But what is surprising is his apparent goal. "I'm sure he'll break records for numbers of followers," Diosdado Cabello, Venezuela’s head of communications told Bloomberg today.

I’m not so sure.

From 0 to 5 million — that’s going to be one hell of a task for someone who is not exactly a pop icon. I’ve never seen anyone gain followers as fast as Conan O’Brien, and even he has “only” 888,000 followers almost exactly two months after he joined the service. Bill Gates, another shooting star, has only 775,000 followers. Since the destruction of the Suggested User List, it’s pretty hard to gain the number of people it would take to get anywhere near Kutcher and Spears (who were both on the SUL previously).

As the Bloomberg article notes, Chavez will join other world leaders such as the U.S. President Barack Obama (who has 3.8 million followers), Chilean President Sebastian Pinera (who has 88,000 followers), and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who has 3,500 followers). Meanwhile, Chavez’s mentor, Fidel Castro, also has a little-known Twitter account of his own — sort of. The account, found here is apparently run by a newspaper and tweets every time Castro has a new article.

This is quite a turn of events for Chavez as it was just February when it was reported that he was trying to silence his critics that were using Facebook and Twitter to call for his resignation (he denied the charge). According to this site, the hashtag #freevenezuela was the third most common terms used on the Twitter at the time.

[photo: flickr/blatantnews.com]

Yammer Doubling Revenue Every Quarter, No Fear Of Salesforce

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 06:03 PM PDT

Yammer CEO David Sacks dropped by TechCrunch today to talk about corporate and sales milestones. The “Twitter for enterprise” startup, which won TechCrunch50 in 2008, continues to grow nicely.

Yammer now has 70,000 corporate clients, and 800,000+ total seats (users). At least 1,000 of those companies are paying for the product, and Sacks says 10%-15% of seats are converting to paid. 70% of Fortune 500 companies are using Yammer, says Sacks. Paying customers include Cisco, Nationwide, AstraZeneca, Alcatel-Lucent, Sungard and Molson Coors.

Revenue in 2009 was “seven figures.” I asked Sacks to narrow that down in the video but he refused. He does say that Q1 2010 revenue exceeded all of 2009 revenue, and that revenue is now doubling every quarter. Yammer’s revenue goal by end of year is to be at a $10 million annual run rate.

So what about Salesforce’s Chatter product, which directly competes with Yammer? Sacks says he’s not worried. Chatter is still in beta, but will likely cost at least $50/month/user. Yammer, which only charges $3-$5/month/user, can compete on price alone very well, he says.

Yammer has raised $15 million in two rounds of financing.

iPhone Leak Investigation Pauses As DA Ponders Gizmodo Shield Law Defense

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 05:19 PM PDT

Earlier today news broke that police had raided Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home in connection with the iPhone leak last week. Authorities obtained a search warrant and removed four computers, two servers, and more. However, in light of claims by Gizmodo’s attorneys that Chen should be protected by California’s Shield Laws, we have just been told that the authorities are not yet looking through this evidence.

I just spoke to Stephen Wagstaffe, Chief Deputy at San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, who told me that nobody has yet been charged in the case, and at this point it is “just an investigation”. He says the investigation is “looking at any hand that touched or had something to do with this phone” but that the investigation is not currently targeting either Gawker or the person who originally found the phone — rather, police are collecting every fact they can to present to the DA, who will then make a decision.

With respect to the removal of Chen’s property, Wagstaffe says that the prosecutor on the case felt that the shield protection laws did not apply, so the raid was executed. However, after Gizmodo’s attorneys suggested some reasons why they believe Chen should be protected, the investigation has come to a bit of a pause. The DA will now reevaluate whether those shield laws do apply, and will not begin going through Chen’s possessions until they’ve reached a decision in the next few days (he says they’re in no hurry).

When I asked if it was typical for the DA to evaluate the relevance of these shield laws after removing evidence, Wagstaffe did concede that it was unusual. Which makes the situation extremely odd— it should have been readily apparent that Gawker would defend its actions using this shield law defense, why put the brakes on after the fact?

California’s shield laws protect journalists from having to turn over their sources and unpublished information they’ve collected as part of their reporting. However, Gizmodo could be found to have committed a crime when they paid the phone’s finder for the device.

Earlier today Yahoo News pointed out that Apple serves on the steering committee of REACT, a special task force involved with the investigation. Wagstaffe said that Apple played no part in REACT’s inclusion and that he wasn’t even aware that Apple was part of the committee.

How I Would Have Handled The Stolen iPhone Story

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 03:23 PM PDT

The biggest story in tech today is the Gizmodo stolen iPhone debacle (note that I use the word “stolen” only to keep the description brief, not in any legal way). An Apple employee with a iPhone prototype left it in a bar. Someone found it and sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000. Gizmodo got a huge scoop, but they are now facing criminal and possibly civil liability issues. John Gruber has a good summary of the first part of the story. How this all plays out is still being decided, but the police have now raided a Gizmodo editor’s home and have seized property.

A number of sites have compared this to the Twitter document scandal that we were in the middle of last year. And we’ve received a number of inquiries about whether or not we would have handled this iPhone situation the same way as Gizmodo did.

I’m not going to go into the legal issues around this because I’m just not qualified. I will say that having the police raid my house would very likely be a net positive event – it would place us firmly in the middle of the story, and all eyes would be on us. So don’t think Gawker is trembling in their boots just yet. I would hope that any legal pressure would be on me though, not one of our writers.

But putting that aside, how would I have handled the story?

The Twitter documents were emailed to us without us requesting them in any way. We contacted Twitter and their lawyers immediately, before publishing any documents. There were lots of behind the scenes discussions, but Twitter made it very clear from the first conversation that they would not take legal action against us for publishing the documents. They just wanted to make sure that they weren’t all published.

Twitter certainly tried to stop us from publishing any of the documents, but they put moral and ethical pressure on us, not legal pressure. And we never came to full agreement on what the ethically correct thing to do was – I wrote my thoughts on that here.

In some ways the Twitter story was more of a problem than the iPhone story. The Twitter documents were clearly stolen from Twitter by a hacker who broke into their email accounts. Here’s a full description of how that happened. Ultimately we decided that it was reasonable for us to publish the documents because the value of the news was substantial. And the hacker also made it clear that he intended for the documents to be published. We spent a great deal of time convincing him not to do that, because most of the documents were simply too personally sensitive and embarrassing.

In the Gizmodo/iPhone case things are less clear. The phone was left behind by an engineer and was found by another individual. Should that individual have returned it to Apple? You can argue that, but you can’t argue that Apple wasn’t negligent in letting it be found in the first place.

Where Gizmodo made a mistake in my opinion is when they purchased the phone. This is something we would never do. We’ve been asked if we wanted to purchase information in the past that would have made for some great stories and we have always declined. Our policy is to never pay for information. That isn’t common, and even the big media outlets will occasionally pay for a story. But it just isn’t something we’re comfortable with.

Does the legal case against Gizmodo rely on the fact that they purchased the iPhone? I don’t know, but it sure does make them look bad.

Apple’s complaint will be that information about the phone leaked early, giving competitors a head start on copying the features. That’s a reasonable complaint, but it seems to me they can make the same case against Engadget, which also posted leaked photos of the device. The same damage was done there, and they posted before Gizmodo.

The bottom line is this. If someone walked the new iPhone into our offices and offered to let us take pictures of it, we’d do that in a second. If Apple or the police came after us, we’d lawyer up and make it as big of a circus as possible. The only thing we wouldn’t do is pay for the device. At the end of the day that may be the thing that they can get Gizmodo on.

Next Question: Are The Police After Gawker Or The Person Who Took The iPhone?

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 03:01 PM PDT

So yeah, that just happened.

Friday evening, police raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Their mission? To search the premise and confiscate all items that could be related to the supposed theft of the next generation iPhone prototype. Ever since it initially broke, this story has been fascinating for a number of reasons, and new ones continue to reveal themselves. What may be most interesting right now is not what the police did, but what they didn’t do: arrest Chen or anyone else related to Gawker media.

That raises the question: are the police going after Gawker, or are they simply looking for evidence of who actually took/found the device? And if that’s the case, is it legal to search the home of a journalist to find such information?

Clearly, Gawker doesn’t believe so. In a letter to the police detectives, Gawker COO and legal representative, Gaby Darbyshire, says that the warrant and subsequent search/seizure of Chen’s home violate section 1524(g) of California’s Penal Code — the code protecting journalists. Darbyshire makes sure to note that this includes online journalists, as was proven by the case O’Grady v. Superior Court in California. Further, section 1070 of the California Evidence Code protects journalists from having to reveal sources of information when a court is doing discovery.

However, as one commenter over on Hacker News wisely observes, “It does not protect evidence related to the commission of a crime.” The fact that Gawker paid $5,000 for the item Apple is saying was stolen makes this relevant. Then the issue of whether Gawker knew it was a stolen good comes into the spotlight again. And that again begs the question: are the police are going after Gawker or the person who initially obtained the phone? Or both?

Chen, in recounting the evening, notes that “officers told me I wasn’t under arrest or being detailed, so I could leave whenever I want.” Obviously, the courts have all the proof they need of Chen, at least at one point, having the device, as the videos/images of him with it have been viewed millions of times on the web. But again, they didn’t detain him. Yet the warrant does indicate the court was demanding any evidence “used as the means of committing a felony” and calls Chen both the “defendant” and “suspect chen.”

According to the warrant, police also had the right to seize Chen’s driver’s license, passport, social security card, and credit cards, but apparently didn’t do that.

Something else interesting, part 3 of Appendix “B” notes that the police were to look for “internet history, cache files, and/or Internet pages pertaining to searches and/or research conducted on Apple employee Gray Powell” — it’s hard to know why that’s there, but perhaps the court is looking into if Gawker had anything to do with the actual taking of the device before its sale.

We’ve reached out to numerous places seeking more information as this continues to unfold.

Update: Another good point worth considering in the comments. The police only raided Chen’s home — not the Gawker offices. Of course, those offices are in New York, something which would undoubtedly require a lot more paperwork.

Update 2: A tweet from Gaby Darbyshire reads, “We raised our objections over the weekend and met in person with the authorities today. They’re reviewing the shield law issue.”

Update 3: Apparently, right now, the DA isn’t targeting Chen, Gawker, or the person who took the iPhone as they’re just gathering evidence and looking at everyone involved. And after Gawker brought up Shield Law protections, it seems the investigation has been paused. More here.

Facing Heat From Facebook’s Like Button, Glue Ramps Up Social Recommendations

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 02:50 PM PDT

Facebook’s new Like button was announced last week, which allows users to “Like” any piece of content on an outside site with one click. Those likes are then transported back to Facebook and integrated into users' profiles. This feature is expected to create a vast Facebook-centric recommendation network that transcends the social network, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg estimating over 1 billion likes on the first day of its launch. And it poses a serious threat to existing social recommendation services. One of these is Glue, a social browsing assistant that shows ratings and recommendations of movies, books, restaurants, stocks, and other things as you surf the Web (via a browser plug-in). Today, Glue is launching new personalization features that use your past likes to help you pick your next favorite movie, album or book.

Glue, which uses semantic technology to show related products and media across categories, will now scan new releases in movies, music, and books and will highlight the ones that are most relevant to you based on what you already like. Glue will also keep updating your recommendations in real-time. So as you like more on the system, the movies, music and books that are most relevant to you bubble up to the top of your recommendations.

Via its toolbar, Glue is also beginning to provide additional context to recommendations as you surf the web. Glue’s toolbar will show you similar things that you’ve already liked, reviews from your friends, allowing you to tap into your recommendations to decide if the movie, album, or book is for you.

Additionally, Glue has redesigned its homepage to display a summary of your messages, friend updates and new suggestions. New streams automatically collapse likes from a friend, making it easier to see updates from all friends. Suggestions can also be filtered by recency, relevancy and new releases.

Currently, Glue has over 400,000 registered users and receives over 1.5 million new ratings every month, which is impressive for the bootstrapped startup. But will these new feature updates be able to save Glue from Facebook’s potential takeover of the social recommendations space? Glue’s founder Alex Iskold says that he is “flattered” by Facebook’s move to extend their Like button beyond the social network. In fact, Iskold is very familiar with Facebook’s implementation of its Like button and Open Graph API. But Iskold believes that the Like button is more publisher-focused vs. user-centric. Iskold maintains that Glue’s plug-in allows users to interact with their recommendations wherever they browse and on the sites they visit. He adds that Glue will plan to integrate Facebook’s Like button in some way, but is not sure yet how it will be added to the platform.

The iPhone Leak Gets Ugly: Police Raid Gizmodo Editor’s House, Confiscate Computers

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 01:22 PM PDT

Wow. Last week, Gizmodo published a massive scoop when they got their hands on what is mostly likely the next iPhone. At the time there was plenty of talk about the legality of Gizmodo’s actions (as they admitted to paying $5000 for the device). Now Gizmodo has just published a post saying that editor Jason Chen had four of his computers and two servers confiscated last night by California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, who entered the house with a search warrant.

Gawker’s COO Gaby Darbyshire responded to the actions by citing California Penal Code 1524(g), which states that “no warrant shall issue for any items described in Section 1070 of the Evidence Code”, which protects information obtained in protection of a news organization. Darbyshire also points out that the California Court of Appeal has previously found that these protections apply to online journalists (O’Grady v. Superior Court).

In Gizmodo’s post, Chen recounts last night’s events. Chen wasn’t home when the raid began, and came home after officers had already been in his house for hours. Chen’s door was broken open because he wasn’t home to open it. He wasn’t arrested, but police seized external hard drives, four computers, two servers, phones, and more.

The document detailing what police intended to seize refers to Apple’s “prototype 4G iPhone” and is also referred to as “stolen” (Gizmodo has contended that the device was found in a bar, not stolen). Also note that all of this went down on Friday night, and Gizmodo didn’t say anything until today.

Here’s Chen’s full account, via Gizmodo:

Gawker founder Nick Denton has tweeted about the situation, saying it will show whether or not bloggers are considered journalists.

Kissing Cousins: Verizon Dumps Nexus One Because Incredible Is Better

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 01:18 PM PDT

Google’s Nexus One phone was supposed to be the Internet giant’s big entrance into the mobile market. It was the first so-called “Google Phone” in that Google was entirely in charge of selling the thing, and it carried the Google branding in a more prominent way than other Android devices. Today, the Nexus One just got kicked in the pants — big time — and it’s Google fault.

Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, will not sell the device. Big deal, you might think — after all, the carrier also doesn’t sell the iPhone, and it seems to be doing just fine. The problem for the Nexus One though, is that Verizon had originally agreed to sell the device. In fact, Google announced the partnership at its Nexus One unveiling event in January. So what happened?

Some people will read this as Verizon potentially getting ready for the iPhone. That’s interesting, but then why continue to promote and sell other Android devices in a loud way? Others will see this as Verizon fearing Google entering its own space. If that’s the case, why agree to partner with Google in the first place? And why be more afraid now when sales through Google itself don’t look that strong? No, the real reason Verizon is dumping the Nexus One is much easier to understand: There’s simply a better Android phone coming shortly.

Just read Google’s own wording on their site that sells the device: “For Verizon’s network, you can buy the Droid Incredible by HTC, a powerful Android phone and similarly feature-packed cousin of the Nexus One.” In other words, Verizon is dumping Nexus One for another member of the Android family. Scandal!

I enjoy the way Google’s statement to Bloomberg about the move makes it sounds as if it’s Google’s idea.

Google decided against selling the Nexus One with Verizon because of "amazing innovation happening across the open Android ecosystem," spokesman Anthony House said in an e-mailed statement.

Google was betting big on the Nexus One, and yet they’re the ones telling Verizon to sell the Incredible? I don’t buy it. Seems more like a small face-saving maneuver by the two companies who are, after all, still partners.

The HTC Incredible, by all accounts, is better than the Nexus One (which itself, by most accounts, was better than the Droid), so Verizon’s move makes absolute sense. Why not sell the best device rather than the second-best device?

For its part, Google should have seen this coming. After all, we did, and so did many others. There’s an interesting problem going on with the Android platform right now. Every few months a new device is coming out that one-ups the previous “best” device. It’s the reason I would never spend money right now to buy an Android device. If I’m buying a phone, I want the best version possible — that’s the myTouch 3G, no wait, it’s the Droid, no wait it’s the Nexus One, no wait, it’s the Incredible. As I wrote in February, “Here's all I know about Android: if I were in the market for one of these phones right now, I would need a Xanax.

Back in December, before the Nexus One was official, we noted that Google releasing their own Android phone made it seem as if they might be eating their own young. The problem was that Google, the company behind the Android platform, was releasing the best Android device. How would the others compete? Well, they are. And it’s actually more of a problem. The safest bet on an Android phone would have seemed to be the one Google was officially backing — nope. They’re all eating each other.

Innovation is great, and as an iPhone user, I’m happy to watch new Android phones come out and push the entire industry forward. But the problem for Google is that this internal battle to be king of the hill could dismantle an area where they really could have disrupted things. As I noted months ago, the real power of the Nexus One wasn’t the device itself, but the way Google was selling it. If Google could convince people to buy phones online, through vendors other than the wireless carriers, it could shake up the entire industry which, for too long, has been completely controlled by said carriers in the U.S.

This was going to be a slow process. When the Nexus One launched, there was only one carrier partner, T-Mobile, so there wasn’t much point to buying online. But eventually, the promise was that other carriers would sell the device this way. AT&T got on board, and Verizon was set to. This way, a customer could sign on and have the option of not only which plan to get, but which carrier to get. More competition between the carriers can only lead to good things. Except now, with Verizon backing out of the Nexus One experiment, it’s back to square one.

According to Google’s site you can’t order an Incredible through them, you have to go to Verizon to do it. Fail. Where are those “series of devices” we were promised, if this isn’t one?

[photo: flickr/snowkei]

Facebook On AIM Is A Hit: 1 Million Users

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 12:35 PM PDT

In February AOL added the ability to message your Facebook friends on AIM, giving Facebook users a nice stand alone client to chat with their Facebook friends. Since then, more than 1 million people have used Facebook Connect on AIM to access that Facebook friends list, AOL tells me, and all of these were new installs of the AIM client.

That’s about 5% of the total 21 million monthly AIM users, according to Comscore. And those numbers should rise significantly – recently AOL also added the ability to sign into AIM directly with your Facebook credentials.

AOL is also having success with its Lifestream product that they released in March. That social networking aggregator is built into their iPad application, which is currently the second most popular social networking iPad app after Twitterific. Soon, says AOL, users will be able to sign into the AIM iPad app using their Facebook credentials, too.

We spoke with Brad Garlinghouse, the AOL executive who runs AIM and other community products, late last month about his vision for aggregating social content.

Playdom Continues Shopping Spree; Acquires Social Game Developer Merscom

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 11:49 AM PDT

Playdom is continuing its shopping spree today with the acquisition of social game developer Merscom. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It appears that the acquisition is based around talent and Merscom’s branded games business. Playdom says that it plans to leverage Merscom’s expertise in working with IP owners as the gaming giant moves to develop partnerships with “powerful global brands.” Founded 16 years ago, Merscom has produced over 250 games in total and over 30 casual games for such brands as Lifetime Networks, Paramount and Starz Entertainment and is currently developing games for Sea World, Purina, National Geographic and NBC Universal.

Playdom, which recently brought on a new CTO, has steadily been expanding its presence on Facebook, most recently acquiring Facebook game developer Offbeat Creations and developer Three Melons. Playdom also invested $5 million in Facebook game developer MetroGames. Merscom has a number of Facebook games that will be added to Playdom’s arsenal.

In November, Playdom raised a massive $43 million at a $260 million valuation. According to our stats from November, Playdom has 28 million monthly game users. 60% of traffic is from MySpace v. 40% from Facebook. Playdom’s main competitor is gaming giant Zynga, which is a leading game developer on Facebook.

Google Street View Adds Local Business Listings

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 10:42 AM PDT

Last week, the newly renamed Google Places added a ton of features to help local businesses create a directory page right on Google. Today, Google’s Street View is joining the party by showing links to local business listings right in Street View. As you turn around in Street View, names of local businesses and other “Google Places” will show up overlayed on top of buildings. As you hover over those names, a small pop-up window shows some of the listing details such as business name, phone number, and ratings.

There have been links from business listings on Google Maps directly to Street View for almost a year, but now those business listings appear right within Street View itself. Google clearly wants to own local and is sprinkling these listings everywhere it can.

The next step I’m waiting for is to see Street view in a mobile augmented reality app, so that you can just point your phone camera at a building and see the businesses listed inside. That would be so Tonchidot of Google. Our augmented reality future awaits.

In Its Local Brawl With The NYT, The WSJ Pulls Out Some Foursquare Badges

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 09:33 AM PDT

The Wall Street Journal introduced a metro section today for Greater New York in Rupert Murdoch’s ongoing efforts to go after the New York Times. The top story right now is “Rats Mob The Upper East Side” (seriously). The New York Times sent out a staff memo today to journalists mocking the Wall Street Journal‘s efforts, and offering “helpful hints to our Journal colleagues” such as “the Dodgers now play in Los Angeles, Soho is the acronym for South of Houston, Fashion Week has moved to Lincoln Center, Idlewild is now JFK and Cats is no longer playing on Broadway.”

The New York Times might have a 160-year history of reporting on the city, but it doesn’t have one thing the Wall Street Journal does. That’s right, Foursquare badges. As part of its local launch, the Wall Street Journal has created three new badges for die-hard New Yorkers and Journal readers: The Banker Badge (for checking into the financial district three times), the Urban Adventurer badge (for hitting all five boroughs), and the Lunch Box badge (for twice checking into a restaurant reviewed by the WSJ’s Lunch Box column. Hopefully, the Lunch Box reviewer will be staying away from the Upper East Side. The WSJ is also adding tips to places in New York City with links to related articles.

These tips and badges probably won’t do much to convince New Yorkers to turn to the Wall Street Journal for local reporting beyond the financial pages, but they represent another branding coup for young Foursquare. This deal comes on the heels of VH1 and the History Channel embracing the social geo startup. If you are a media company searching for street cred, it seems that you need a Foursquare badge.

Obviously, the New York Times cannot ignore this. It must respond with its own branded badges. Perhaps a Bagel Badge for checking into a bagel place for five consecutive days.


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