web 2.0

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Here It Is: Google’s Kick-Ass Chrome Speed Test Video

Posted: 05 May 2010 09:13 AM PDT

Yesterday, we noted that with its newest release of Chrome, Google wanted to show us how fast it is rather than just tell us how fast it is. To do that, they made a Rube Goldberg-ian video showing how fast web pages load in Chrome. Yesterday, we got the making of the video. Today, we get the video itself. And yes, it’s awesome. Watch below.

This is a web page loading at 2,700 frames per second. Here’s what Google says about the video:

These speed tests were filmed at actual web page rendering times. If you’re interested in the technical details, read on!

Equipment used:

- Computer: MacBook Pro laptop with Windows installed
- Monitor – 24″ Asus: We had to replace the standard fluorescent backlight with very large tungsten fixtures to funnel in more light to capture the screen. In addition, we flipped the monitor 180 degrees to eliminate a shadow from the driver board and set the system preferences on the computer to rotate 180 degrees. No special software was used in this process.
- 15Mbps Internet connection.
- Camera: Phantom v640 High Speed Camera at 1920 x 1080, films up to 2700 fps

RowNine Aims To Create A Pandora For Flash Sales

Posted: 05 May 2010 09:00 AM PDT

There are a plethora of flash sales sites on the web, with Gilt, Rue La La, HauteLook and Ideeli and many others offering members 50 to 70 percent off retail goods. With so many competitors, newbie RowNine is hoping to differentiate itself by offering a more personalized platform that allows users to customize the types of clothing, handbags and accessories that are delivered to them. RowNine has also added the ability to Like items on the site and push them to Facebook.

On RowNine, users will now be prompted to specify what types of clothing, brands, bags, and more items they are interested in purchasing. Customers can indicate their preferences when perusing offers and merchandise on the RowNine Website by giving a "thumbs up or down" to build their preference profile.

Based on this interests, RowNine will then source and recommend customized products to the users. RowNine’s recommendation engine will integrate a shopper's clickstream and purchase history as well as group matching with customers with similar interests to deliver targeted recommendations. Customers will also have the ability to publish products and purchases they like via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

RowNine’s CEO and co-founder Lawrence Kosick likens the site to the Pandora for flash sales. While the space is competitive, the model is certainly ambitious and could prove to be attractive to shoppers who want more customized offerings from online sample sales. One of the biggest challenges for RowNine will be to attract users; the site only has a hundred thousand members as compared to Gilt, HauteLook and others which have subscriber bases in the millions. But the online sample sale space is still growing, and clearly there’s room for a number of strong players.

Tinychat Launches Twitter Chatrooms

Posted: 05 May 2010 08:58 AM PDT

We’re big fans of Tinychat, a web-based chat startup that has been growing like gangbusters and recently won a Crunchie for best bootstrapped startup. Tinychat, which started out as a simple IRC-style chatroom app, has been steadily building out its innovative platform to include video chat and screensharing options, live video streaming, and Facebook Connect.Today, the startup is launching a new video product, Twitter chatrooms.

Twitter Chatrooms are customized Tinychat rooms reserved for every Twitter user. The rooms can only be started by the owner of the Twitter username; they’re built from the Twitter API and use OAuth login.

Once you enable your Tinychat Twitter chat room for your account, you can invite others to participate in the chat (by sending them a link via email, Twitter, Facebook) and they can then sign in with their Twitter credentials. And the Tweets from the users who you follow will be streamed below the video chat.

Tinychat’s co-founder Michael Stern says that the startup will also launch Facebook version in the near future. In terms of actual use of the platform, it could be an interesting option for celebs to hold video chats, and stream them to their Twitter fans.

TinyChat also recently launched a version of Chatroulette, called Tinychat Next. Similar to Chatroulette, you can be thrown into a room with strangers and conduct video chats with random people. When you tire of a person, you can simple move onto the next available user in TinyChat's "Lobby".

Moritz Joins First Euro Board As Sequoia Backs Klarna’s Payments Platform

Posted: 05 May 2010 08:45 AM PDT

Klarna, one of the biggest providers in Europe of in-store credit and invoice based payment solutions for the e-commerce sector, has secured funding from Sequoia Capital, which famously also backed Google. Terms have not been disclosed but we've learned Klarna will do a directed new share issue of SEK 70m (approx. $9 million). Highly unusually, Mike Moritz, Sequoia Capital Partner and former board member of PayPal, Google and Yahoo, will join the Klarna board. This is significant as this is the first time ever that Moritz has joined a European company's board.

There Goes The Neighborhood: Facebook To Open Seattle Office

Posted: 05 May 2010 08:40 AM PDT

There I was thinking I was such a trendsetter by moving to Seattle. But apparently other people had the same idea, because Facebook is opening an office up here, too. A handful of engineers, led by Ari Steinberg, are making the move up here to open an engineering office, says Facebook. They are looking for office space now and expect to have 30 engineers here within a year.

Also of note – Seattle-based Hadi Partovi, the cofounder of iLike and a former MySpace executive, is joining Facebook as an advisor and will help the office recruit new talent. I can imagine MySpace Seattle engineers will be working on their resumes this morning.

Two weeks ago Facebook announced the opening of an office in Austin focusing on sales and operations. Other than a small engineering team based in Tokyo this is Facebook’s first engineering office outside of their Palo Alto headquarters.

Welcome to the frozen north, Facebook. I look forward to stalking your offices.

Google Leads $23 Million Round In TV Ad Startup Invidi

Posted: 05 May 2010 06:54 AM PDT

TV ad startup Invidi has secured over $23 million in series D funding led by Google, with GroupM, Motorola Ventures, Menlo Ventures, InterWest, and EnerTech Capital, Westbury Equity Partners, BDC Capital participating in the round. The Business Insider broke the news yesterday evening.

Invidi provides software applications that track targeted advertising and offers a digital set-top box application that delivers targeted advertising and marketing messages to individual viewers. The technology also facilitates the sales of digital products, digital tiers, and digital services, such as VOD, PVR, and pay-per-view events; Internet, voice, and wireless services; and triple play offers.

In conjunction withe the funding, Shishir Mehrotra, Director of Product Management for Google TV Ads and YouTube Ads, has joined Invidi’s board of directors. In addition to its investment in Invidi, Google has committed to working with the startup on a number of products relating to TV advertising. Of course, it is expected that Invidi’s technology could be integrated with Google’s development of an Android-based software for TVs.

Founded in 2000, Invidi currently has distribution agreements with Dish Network and DirecTV. Invidi’s technology was recently tested in Comcast's Baltimore, MD, system with Starcom MediaVest, and the trial showed addressable ads to be 65% more efficient and 32% more effective.

Google just shared updates on its venture arm, Google Ventures, and announced additional investments in mobile payments startup Corduro.

Newsy Raises $2 Million For Multi-Source Video News Platform

Posted: 05 May 2010 06:50 AM PDT

Newsy, a news destination website that collects and analyzes perspectives from multiple sources, has raised $2 million in funding from undisclosed investors.

The funding will be used to grow news operations and to build distribution and marketing partnerships. Newsy monitors, analyzes, curates and presents the world's news coverage through short 2 to 3 minute video segments available both on the web and mobile devices. It is useful for quick news consumption on the go, but also helpful in understanding context around stories covered by media outlets from around the world.

Newsy offers an iPhone app (my colleague Robin Wauters is a fan), Newsy just launched a nifty iPad app that allows you to watch high-quality Newsy videos, which highlight the differences in how global media outlets report a story. Users can flip through videos in a nifty cover flow type fashion, which should be familiar to anyone that uses Apple’s iTunes interface.

Video: Facebook Security Hole Lets You View Your Friends’ Live Chats

Posted: 05 May 2010 06:20 AM PDT

You've got to hand it to Facebook. They certainly know how to do security -- not. Today I was tipped off that there is a major security flaw in the social networking site that, with just a few mouse clicks, enables any user to view the live chats of their 'friends'. Using what sounds like a simple trick, a user can also access their friends' latest pending friend-requests and which friends they share in common. That's a lot of potentially sensitive information. Unbelievable I thought, until I just tested the exploit for myself. And guess what? It works.

Here’s An Easier, Faster Way To Embed Tweets

Posted: 05 May 2010 02:25 AM PDT

@robinwauters I made a bookmarklet for twitter blackbird: http://bit.ly/aL4QVG (3 steps instead of 9 to embed a tweet), could be useful 4 uWed May 05 07:18:34 via Tweetie

As we had noted earlier, Twitter yesterday launched a new tool that allows you to easily embed tweets into a website or blog post. The tool, called Blackbird Pie, simply asks you for the URL of a tweet and lets you “Bake it,” meaning you get a preview of how it will look on the Web and a box with the code you need in it. Simple enough as far as I’m concerned.

But as Xavier Damman from Publitweet points out, it takes eight steps (not 9 like he says in his tweet) to use Blackbird Pie for embeddable tweets, and that is just unacceptable. Well, it’s acceptable, but there should be an easier way.

Enter Xavier’s bookmarklet (get it here), which you can drag to your bookmark bar and click whenever you’re looking at a tweet you’d like to embed. Three steps instead of eight. Will save you a couple of microseconds. No need to say thanks.

Also cool: if you use the bookmarklet instead of Blackbird Pie, the embedded tweet will display the exact date and time of tweets instead of "X minutes ago", which is admittedly rather pointless as it doesn’t update the timestamp going forward.

Bonus: when you open a Twitter profile (say @TechCrunch) or a list (say the @TechCrunch team), you can click the bookmarklet to make new links appears alongside all tweets on that page. Simply click those links and voilà, an embed code appears.

Offermatic Is The Freak Love Child Of Mint, Groupon And Blippy

Posted: 04 May 2010 11:50 PM PDT

The best way to describe Offermatic is this – imagine if Mint, Blippy and Groupon went off to Vegas for the weekend, got wasted and ended up in bed together. Nine months later, out pops Offermatic.

Like Mint, Offermatic is a front end user interface to Yodlee’s robust financial network. And the service digs through your credit card transactions just like Blippy does (although they aren’t posted for the world to see). And like Groupon, Offermatic is pushing special offers to users.

The result is something unique, though, and some people may love it. Here’s how it works: You register your credit cards with Offermatic via the Yodlee back end (which is secure). Offermatic then downloads your individual credit card purchases and matches offers from advertisers relevant to your purchase history. If you buy something at Home Depot, for example, you may get a $30 off coupon from Lowes. You’ve spent money on textbooks and you get a special offer from Chegg. Etc. All offers will be 40% – 90% off normal retail, says Offermatic.

Offermatic also offers users actual cash just for registering credit cards. Each month that any of your credit cards has at least 20 transactions and $1,000 in total charges, you’ll get $1.25. You can theoretically make up to $15/year on up to each of four credit cards. The company says they’ll pay that out via check or paypal.

The service hasn’t officially launched yet and it isn’t clear how much, if any, outside funding they’ve received. Normally that might give users pause before entering in sensitive financial data on the site. But we’ve seen how eagerly you people jump on new services like Blippy without a care in the world, so do what you will. The fact that Yodlee is running the back end certainly makes us more comfortable about Offermatic, too.

Booyah Launches MyTown 3.1, Introduces Check-In Limits

Posted: 04 May 2010 09:52 PM PDT

Foursquare should pay attention, Booyah’s got some serious legs.

The geo-based gaming service is launching MyTown 3.1, the latest iteration of its increasingly popular iPhone app. The new version includes a check-in limit, add-ons to customize your property and a revamped menu of nearby locations that will now also show your friends’ favorite destinations and trending places (nearby spots with the highest levels of activity).

In addition, one of the key updates is a new policing system: when you pull up a friend’s recent locations you’ll see an accuracy indicator button next to their check-in, coded in green, yellow or red. The accuracy indicator will tell you how close your friend was to that location when they checked-in with green being very close and red implying that your friend is a big fat liar. It’s similar to Foursquare’s recent crack down on fake check ins by launching a "cheater code" that evaluates your phone's location versus your check-in— you only get points and badges if your location is verified.

Here’s a closer look at some of the features mentioned above: the first screen shows you the “what’s nearby” menu with a special section for your friends’ favorites, the second screen depicts one of the new collectibles you can get (premium collectibles can be purchased) to customize your property, and the third screen shows a friend’s recent check-ins and the new accuracy indicators. Hmm…turns out Tracy wasn’t actually at the Peninsula Fountain & Grill two days ago.

For die-hard MyTown residents the biggest change in 3.1 is the limitation on the number of check-ins. In this version, you will be capped at 25 check-ins. According to Booyah VP of Business Development, David Wang, this quota is intended to inspire check-in fidelity and to level the playing field by preventing users from gaming the system. He says people should think of check-ins as a limited resource and think twice before using a check-in.

While I could see how someone with  a thousand daily check-ins is abusing the system, I am concerned about the high-frequency user who also depends on MyTown to notify their friends about their locations. 25 check-ins is a lot but not impossible to surpass. Wang says in the next version (due out likely in May) Booyah is planning to allow users to check-in after 25,but these additional check-ins will not help you accrue points. The team is also willing to change the 25 check-in benchmark depending on community feedback.

In many ways MyTown is different than Foursquare. Both rely on game mechanics to encourage users to check into locations, but MyTown is focused on gaming while Foursquare emphasizes social utility. On MyTown you can purchase different location sites with virtual currency, visitors pay you rent when they check into your property, and you can win points, unlock bonus items and gain currency by checking-in. But for all their differences, Booyah and Foursquare are true competitors, vying for a greater slice of the geo-based gaming market. Foursquare may have dominated the headlines with all the takeover rumors and sky-high valuations, but Booyah is generally outpacing Foursquare when it comes to the numbers. Here’s some of the latest, according to the company:

-3.5 to 4 million check-ins per day or roughly 40 to 46 check-ins per second

-The average user spends more than an hour per day on Booyah.

-The app serves 200 million virtual items a month.

-The app is ranked #12 overall.

To put that growth in perspective, the Kleiner Perkins iFund company was logging just 6 check-ins per second less than four months ago. MyTown had 500,000 users in January, and 1 million in February, if that growth rate stays constant, MyTown should be adding 500,000 users per month. For comparison, Foursquare hit the millionth user mark just weeks ago. Wang argues that there should be plenty of room for all the Foursquares, Gowallas, MyTowns in this increasingly competitive space, but of course, “if push comes to shove, we want to be that only check-in.”

Oh God No. A Dating Site For Apple Fans

Posted: 04 May 2010 08:39 PM PDT

Every once in a while something hits our inbox that is just so…wrong…that we can’t not post about it. Today is one of those times. A new site called Cupidtino is preparing to launch. It’s a dating site for Apple fanboys and fangirls. Yep, you read that right.

Our own resident Apple fanboy MG Siegler, who loves all gadgets as long as they are made by Apple, would be perfect for this. The site’s name is a play on Cupid and Cupertino, California, where Apple is headquartered. From the landing page:

Cupidtino is a beautiful new dating site created for fans of Apple products by fans of Apple products! Why? Diehard Mac & Apple fans often have a lot in common – personalities, creative professions, a similar sense of style and aesthetics, and of course a love for technology. We believe these are enough reasons for two people to meet and fall in love, and so we created the first Mac-inspired dating site to help you find other Machearts around you.

Cupidtino will launch in June 2010 exclusively on Apple platforms – including sweet location-based social apps for the iPhone and iPad.

My thoughts on this: Apple fans can be annoying when they’re on their own. The thought of them breeding and creating little Apple fans, a whole family of hard core hipster Apple lovers, is just not a good thing. On the other hand, making sure that Apple fans only date other Apple fans is a good way of stopping them from spreading their Apple fan genes to the general population, I guess. So maybe this site isn’t all bad.

Dropbox Launches Android App & Mobile API, Gives iPad Cloud Sync Apple Should Have Built

Posted: 04 May 2010 08:34 PM PDT

Dropbox’s effortless file sharing service is going mobile in a big way: the service has just launched its official Android application, a native iPad app (which comes in addition to a previously released iPhone application), and a new mobile API. The latter is most important: application developers on the Android and iPhone OS platforms will now be able to integrate Dropbox into their applications, allowing for effortless syncing from third-party apps like QuickOffice, GoodReader, and Fuze Meeting to your desktop.

One of the best parts of the new mobile API is the fact that it works with iPad applications. There are plenty of things to love about the iPad, but Apple has badly botched the flow to actually share files created on an iPad with your PC or Mac — the convoluted process involves syncing with iTunes, which isn’t the first application you’d think of when you’re trying to save, say, a Word document. With applications that integrate the Dropbox mobile API, you can skip that entirely: just tap save from your iPad. Your file will sync to your Dropbox account, and it will immediately pop up on all of your synced computers. In short, this is the file syncing service that Apple should have built (but better, because it works with Android apps too).

In addition to allowing users to save documents from their mobile devices to their desktop, the API also gives Dropbox’s native mobile applications an ‘Open With’ function. In other words, if you’re browsing your Dropbox account using the new iPad app and you come across a presentation file, you can choose to open it with Keynote.

Dropbox is calling the new mobile API ‘Dropbox Anywhere‘ and promises that an API suited for the desktop is on the way and a BlackBerry application will be coming this summer. You can see some of the launch applications for the mobile API here. I expect we’ll see quite a few applications add support in the near future.

Anyone else think this is going to spark a bidding war between Google and Apple?

Update: As pointed out in the comments, Dropbox competitor SugarSync also offers an API that should allow for similar file transfers. The key here will be getting developers to adopt the APIs — neither will be much use if they aren’t integrated into apps.

With Major Downtime, Foursquare Well On Its Way To Being The Next Twitter

Posted: 04 May 2010 07:50 PM PDT

It’s like deja vu all over again.

Two years ago, Twitter used to be down all the time. It doesn’t seem like this should be a major issue, but it actually is quite annoying during conferences when so many rely on the service for information. And, back in those days, people used to rely on it to know where everyone was going drinking afterwards.

Today, those same people now use Foursquare for that purpose. And that’s why when its down — as it has been tonight for the past couple of hours — it matters. How on Earth am I supposed to know which Web 2.0 Expo afterparty to go to without Foursquare?

Half-kidding aside, I was hardly the only one echoing this sentiment after Web 2.0 Expo this evening. Foursquare went down soon after the conference concluded, and at least a half dozen friends and colleagues I bumped into on the street were running around like chickens with their heads cut off not sure where to go without the aide of Foursquare. Yes, it’s kind of pathetic, but this is the age we live in.

So what caused Foursquare to go down? Apparently, an outage in Amazon’s cloud services — in Virginia to be precise. Supposedly, it’s in the process of coming back on, but Foursquare is still very much down.

Worse, this is the second time today that Foursquare has gone down. Earlier, they were up and down for a few hours, attributing the down time to “growing pains” — again, sound familiar? On the plus side – Foursquare is doing a great job at communicating with users (appropriately, over Twitter) about the downtime. Back in the day, part of the problem with Twitter being down is that no one in the company would say a word about the problems (of course, they obviously didn’t have the luxury of tweeting out updates).

Most of the comparisons between Foursquare and Twitter are silly (though, maybe I can be accused of starting that trend). They’re two completely different services. But tonight they found a very common link in some major downtime. And look, Foursquare even has its own Fail Whale now: the Emo Mayor.

Update: And they’re back.

Wednesday Is D-Day For Google-AdMob Deal

Posted: 04 May 2010 06:32 PM PDT

The Federal Trade Commission will decide whether or not to approve the pending Google-Admob acquisition in a meeting tomorrow that will include the commissioners and the FTC chairman, says a source who’s been briefed on the matter. The $750 million deal was first announced in November 2009.

The FTC has taken a particularly close look at the deal, and Google has made a significant lobbying effort for approval. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC was considering challengine the deal: “Discussions with FTC staff members suggest the agency could be preparing to block Google’s $750 million agreement to buy AdMob on the grounds it would shrink the mobile in-application advertising market from three to just two key players…”

But what hasn’t been clear until now is exactly when the FTC would make its decision. That time is tomorrow, says our source, and says that Google is prepared to fight a FTC blocking of the deal in court.

Nothing about this deal has been normal. Most tech industry insiders that we’ve spoken with don’t see it as a particular threat to competition with strong product offerings from Apple, Yahoo and others. Unlike the proposed Google/Yahoo search deal in 2008 which could have strangled competition in search, the Google/Admob deal is unlikely to stop innovation and real competition in mobile advertising.

Perhaps that’s why 4INFO, a direct competitor to AdMob, was willing to write to the FTC earlier this year in support of the deal. The deal just isn’t striking fear into the hearts of mobile advertising companies at all. Perhaps the FTC should take that into account, along with all the Washington politics, when they make their decision. If anyone is stifling innovation and competition in mobile, it’s Apple. And I certainly don’t think the government should interfere with that company, either.

Facebook’s Buchheit: The Future Is Lightweight Conversations

Posted: 04 May 2010 04:28 PM PDT

Today at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Paul Buchheit took the stage to talk about his current role at Facebook, as well as his previous roles at FriendFeed and Google (where he coined the phrase “Don’t be evil”).

Buchheit is always a good interview because he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Today, among his quotable bits included that Facebook is an amazing product because it “has all the users.” “The real power is in the people,” Buchheit stated rather obviously.

More interesting were Buchheit’s thoughts on what’s coming next for the web. Making it easier to have lightweight conversations is the future of communications on the web, Buchheit said. This means something coming from the man who created Gmail.

He noted that he thinks the company he co-founded (and sold to Facebook), FriendFeed, got this right. Now some of those elements are spreading throughout the web, such as Facebook’s newly ubiquitous ”Like” button.

Buchheit noted that if you were to go back in time 20 years and tell someone that everyone will have a mobile phone in their pocket, but that they’ll use it to send short text messages rather than make voice calls, people would have thought you were crazy. And if you told them those messages would cost about $0.20 each, they would have thought you were insane. And yet, that happened. That’s thanks to the simplicity and ease of sending these messages, he said.

We’re going to see more of that. It’s the pattern of Facebook and Twitter,” he concluded.

Below find my live notes (paraphrased):

Sarah Milstein: The big theme is around the power platforms. How is Facebook most interesting as a platform.

Paul Buchheit: The real power is in the people. It’s an amazing product because it has all the users (laughs). It’s also about connecting with friends on other sites when you extend it.

SM: Have you talked to other developers about their ideas of it?

PB: Yeah we’ve talked to a bunch of start ups. And we used it at FriendFeed. It was a mixed experience back then. But with the new Open Graph API, it was “repaired.” A lot of that came out of our FriendFeed experience.

SM: Can you explain Open Graph?

PB: A very simple RESTy API that lets you get at all the data in Facebook (that you have permission to get). It’s all about being simple. It’s the same data basically as the old API, it’s just easier to get to.

SM: How about privacy on Facebook?

PB: I changed my privacy settings to be more public. I like the idea to share things easily — except my phone number and email. This again goes back to FriendFeed. It’s about serendipity. but it’s hard to predict what those things will be. Things tend towards being better the more we share.

SM: Are Zuckerberg’s the default settings?

PB: Not sure. But if you go to his page, it looks like it’s mostly public.

SM: So after Gmail and FriendFeed – what’s coming next on the web do you think?

PB: FriendFeed was all about making it easy to share things – and have conversations around them. The “liking” that pops up everywhere these days. I won’t say we invented it, but I can’t remember seeing it anywhere else before we did it. Comments were very easy — there were no line breaks. It was very quick and lightweight. That’s the future of a lot of what’s upcoming in the communication mediums. Making it easier to do lightweight conversations.

Imagine going back 20 years and telling people they won’t make voice calls, but instead they’ll be sending tiny messages (SMS). It would sound insane. And these things cost $0.20 each! That’s an interesting question — why is this popular? It’s because it’s so lightweight, and it doesn’t have to interrupt you. We’re going to see more of that. It’s the pattern of Facebook and Twitter.

It’s not too shallow. It creates the context for conversations later on.

SM: Let’s talk about your investing. What’s most interesting these days?

PB: I don’t have any formula. The thing I want to know is “why?” Why do they care? You shouldn’t start a company because you want to be rich. The best companies are aiming for impact. Inside Google and Facebook it’s the same. There is a vision from the founders down. You may not see that from the outside, but it’s there.

Google is about information, and making things fast. Facebook is about sharing and the connection.

SM: Any trends you’re seeing?

PB: I think everyone is moving towards lightweight, rapid iteration. It’s the lean startups. That’s a great trend. That’s what we tried to do at FriendFeed — launching features on the same day you come up with them. I could never survive in the old software world.

SM: Final question: Who do you admire on the web?

PB: I follow a lot of random links. This morning I was reading some random guy’s blog — I don’t even know where it came from. I just found it off of someone’s FriendFeed. That’s what’s so exciting about the web — almost anyone can become important. A message can reach the whole world.

Live From Web 2.0: Microsoft Unveils Spindex, ‘Your Social Personal Index’

Posted: 04 May 2010 04:19 PM PDT

Today at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Microsoft’s Lili Cheng took the stage to give a keynote presentation feature some of Microsoft’s latest social projects. Cheng heads up Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs group, which was formed last fall to study the new social experiences that are emerging on the web.

Cheng first outlined some of the projects that have already come out of the FUSE group, including the integration of Twitter results into Bing. She then talked about Microsoft’s recently-launched Docs.com, which allows for document collaboration with Facebook friends.

Finally, Cheng showed off Spindex, a new project from FUSE. The app is only available to Web 2.0 attendees for now. The service shows you an aggregated stream of updates from your various social services, including Twitter, Bing and Facebook. Using that data, the service will generate your own personalized trending topics and a personal search engine. Information is presented in multiple columns (at first glance it reminded me a bit of Threadsy).

Groupon Adds Reward Points Program To Further Entice Shopaholics

Posted: 04 May 2010 03:30 PM PDT

Groupon, the already incredibly profitable startup from Chicago, gives users a deal a day in their home city. A friend of mine recently used them to get a two day surf lesson for $50, for example. She’s hooked on Groupon and seems to get more fun out of buying stuff than even necessarily using it.

Now the site is adding a rewards program that will likely make it even more like crack for shoppers. The currency, G’s, are awarded for viewing deals and buying deals. And if you buy a deal early (a minimum number of buyers have to go for a deal or else no one gets it), you get even more G’s.

100G’s equals a dollar, says Groupon, and can be exchanged for discounts at partner businesses. Or, if you’ve accumulated enough of them, you can get that day’s deal for free.

Groupon recently closed a massive $135 million round of funding that valued the company at $1.35 billion. We expect Groupon to hit $350 million in revenue this year.

Gadgets Of Days Gone By

Posted: 04 May 2010 03:00 PM PDT

Writing about the newest technology can be tiring. As a man once said, “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.” More storage! More speed! I want apps and GPS and privacy! The days before terabyte external drives and gigahertz phone processors were a more tranquil time, though admittedly we look back on it through a rose-tinted lens. Still, in between all the underpowered Windows 98SE PCs, fragile flip-phones, and mammoth laptops, there were plenty of gadgets we still remember with no small affection.

So this week at CrunchGear we’re taking a little time to remember and celebrate some of the gadgets and technologies that have held a special place in our hearts, whether they were simple and reliable or just really fun to spin. We’ll be adding reminiscences all week, and we encourage you to add your own memories.

OpenTable’s $150 Million Mobile App (And Q1 Earnings)

Posted: 04 May 2010 02:42 PM PDT

Since OpenTable launched its iPhone app in November, 2008 it has booked restaurant reservations for 3 million diners through it and other mobile apps. With a $50 average check, that comes to $150 million in revenues coming from mobile apps to restaurants all over the world. (OpenTable takes a cut). The bulk of that is from the iPhone.

About a year later, the company announced that it had seated one million diners through all of its mobile apps. So it is up 200 percent since then just on the mobile side. (It seems like everyone is hitting the 3-million user mark today).

To put that number in perspective, OpenTable seated a total of 24.2 million diners in the past two quarters, roughly two million of which were via mobile apps, or about 8 percent. (The milestones don’t exactly match the end of each quarter).

OpenTable just released earnings for the first quarter of 2010. Revenues were up 33 percent to $21.3 million, and profits were up almost sixfold to $2.5 million ($0.11 EPS, or $0.14 EPS if you look at non-GAAP consolidated earnings, versus a $0.12 consensus estimate). Its mobile app is still contributing a relatively small part of those overall revenues, but it is growing faster than any other part of OpenTable’s business.

Parature Brings A Customer Support Tab To Facebook Pages

Posted: 04 May 2010 02:40 PM PDT

As Facebook increasingly becomes a channel for brands to interact with consumers, it makes sense for companies to tap into the social network to manage customer support. Salesforce’s Service Cloud, Get Satisfaction and a host of others have launched deep integrations with Facebook to allow companies to engage with the 400 million plus consumers on the social network. Today, Accel Partners-backed Parature, an on-demand customer service software, is launching a customer service product for Facebook Pages.

As customer conversations are increasingly taking place on the walls of Facebook Pages, Parature’s application allows companies to actually integrate a branded “Support” tab. Customers can post a comment to a corporation's Facebook Support wall, which is then pushed into Parature’s software as a ticket with the Facebook customer listed on the ticket. And the customer service representative can push an update by responding directly on the wall.

Parature’s support app also allows companies to include a number of commonly asked questions about a product or brand. This allows a customers to search for a service answer from within the Facebook page. If a customers’ question hasn't been answered, Parature’s technology will allows a user to create a ticket that will be pushed to a representative.

And as live web chats are increasingly becoming a common support technology to include on a company’s website, Parature allows the option for a customer to start a live chat with a customer service rep directly from the Facebook Fan Page. Of course, one of the goals of these features is to get the customer to share their positive support experiences with their friends through Facebook streams.

There’s no doubt that Parature’s move to integrate support technology on Facebook is the future of customer service. And the Parature, whose clients include Rosetta Stone, NPR, Turner and T Mobile, has been working directly with Facebook (both companies are backed by Accel) to develop an application that provides a comprehensive service application while still fitting seamlessly into the social network’s interface. This isn’t Parature’s first move to incorporate social media with customer service; Twitter support was recently added to Parature’s software as well.

WSJ: Google To Launch Digital Bookstore This Summer

Posted: 04 May 2010 02:15 PM PDT

The battle for e-book supremacy is about to get more interesting. This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is planning to launch its own digital book store by early summer. The new product will be called Google Editions. In addition to offering what sounds like a standard booksearch/storefront, Google also plans to allow independent book vendors to sell Google Editions from their own websites.

The WSJ article notes that Google’s goal is to distinguish itself from other digital book vendors “by allowing users to access books from a broad range of websites using a broad array of devices”. This contrasts with Apple’s iBooks, which are only available through the iPad and the iPhone. Amazon’s Kindle is more flexible than that (it offers desktop software, and has built applications for both the iPhone and iPad in addition to its own hardware Kindle device). But it sounds like Google’s solution will out-open both of these, allowing consumers to access their content from an array of devices that presumably won’t need dedicated native applications.

AudienceScience Acquires Hispanic-Focused Digital Marketing Firm Consorte Media

Posted: 04 May 2010 01:38 PM PDT

Online ad targeting company AudienceScience has acquired Consorte Media, a fellow digital marketing firm that caters specifically to the Hispanic market, we’ve confirmed. Consorte Media’s San Francisco office will now become an AudienceScience branch. The company is not disclosing the terms of the deal.

Consorte Media was founded in 2005 and had raised $10 million over two rounds of funding. Customers include Best Buy, Dealix, and SendMe Mobile (case studies are available on the company homepage). We hear that Consorte founder and CEO Alicia Morga will be leaving the company to pursue other ventures.

AudienceScience, which closed a new $20 million in funding late last year, was formerly known as Revenue Science. The company changed its name in early 2009 to better reflect its expertise in targeting specific online markets.

Here’s part of the press release AudienceScience will be sending out tomorrow that outlines the logic behind the acquisition (namely, that the Hispanic market is large, growing quickly, and is underserved by mainstream ad targeting services):

The decision to acquire Consorte Media comes at a time of significant growth in the Hispanic market that has traditionally not been answered by the advertising community. According to a report by Research and Markets titled “Hispanic Purchasing Power: Projections to 2015,” income-producing Hispanic households in the United States are expected to represent 13.8 percent of the population by 2015; during the past decade, that rate of growth was more than two times the overall national rate. Additionally, U.S. Hispanic purchasing power was projected to reach as much as $1.3 trillion by 2015, equaling a projected 12 percent of overall U.S. purchasing power. Yet, according to Los Angeles advertising agency Orcí, which surveyed senior marketers at 9,300 companies across the nation, 82 percent of marketers say they have no plans to start or ramp up existing Hispanic marketing efforts.

Chrome Now Faster Than A Speeding Potato. Google’s Rube Goldberg-ian Video Proves It.

Posted: 04 May 2010 01:15 PM PDT

At this point, Google realizes that simply talking about browser speed isn’t enough. They have to show you.

Alongside the latest beta release of Google Chrome, the company has made a series of videos that intend to do just that. The Rube Goldberg-ian setup is fairly amazing. While the speed test videos themselves aren’t out just yet, Google has posted the making of the video (which I’ve embedded below). It’s a must-watch.

Says Google:

These speed tests were filmed at actual web page rendering times. If you’re interested in the technical details, read on!

Equipment used:
- Computer: MacBook Pro laptop with Windows installed
- Monitor – 24″ Asus: We had to replace the standard fluorescent backlight with very large tungsten fixtures to funnel in more light to capture the screen. In addition, we flipped the monitor 180 degrees to eliminate a shadow from the driver board and set the system preferences on the computer to rotate 180 degrees. No special software was used in this process.
- 15MB/s Internet connection.
- Camera: Phantom v640 High Speed Camera at 1920 x 1080, films up to 2700 fps

Again, all of this is simply to highlight just how fast the latest build of Chrome is. And it is fast. Google says the beta release today (version 5) represents the “most significant speed and performance increases to date, with 30% and 35% improvement on the V8 and SunSpider benchmarks over the previous beta channel release.” Even more remarkable, “In fact, looking back in time, Chrome's performance has improved by as much as 213% and 305% on these two benchmarks since our very first beta.” The first beta release was in September of 2008. Not even 2 years ago.

The new beta build (which works on Windows, Mac, and Linux) also adds some new features. Those include the ability to sync browser preferences, extensions in incognito mode, and a number of HTML5 features such as geolocation, web sockets, and drag-and-drop ability. This is also the first build of Chrome that has Adobe Flash baked-in to make it more stable, and perform better.

That’s all great, but I just want to see these videos. Google says they’ll post them tomorrow — and Google’s Matt Cutts predicts they’ll go viral. Google owns a little site that can help with that.

Eventbrite’s New iPhone App Brings Official Check-Ins To Conference And Parties

Posted: 04 May 2010 12:25 PM PDT

Before you go to a conference these days, everything is online. You can see the schedule, speakers, and buy a ticket all from your laptop. But when you get to the conference, everything reverts to paper. Even when you check in to get your badge, usually a volunteer has to find your name on a list and check it off with a pen.

Online ticketing service Eventbrite just made the check-in process digital with its new iPhone app which just launched today. The app is for people putting on conferences and other events who use Eventbrite to sell tickets. With the app, whoever is manning the registration table only needs an iPhone to check against the attendee list as people arrive. Of course, Eventbrite can be used to manage the guest list at parties, weddings, or any event.

Events can also be broken down into different dinners and meetings with different check-in lists. It can all be managed from the iPhone. The app also ties into the Eventbrite dashboard so that event organizers can see how ticket sales are doing from wherever they happen to be. The one thing the app cannot do is actually sell and issue tickets. “There are other apps for that like Square,” says CEO Kevin Hartz.

The iPhone app is another step towards “democratizing ticketing,” he says. Instead of a $3,000 custom-designed ticket scanner, all you need is an iPhone. And while the official iPhone app does not come with barcode-scanning feature to scan the tickets, Eventbrite’s APIs allow other developers to create such apps. In fact, Hartz expects the first Android app to have that feature and to come from another developer.


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