web 2.0

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

CubeSat XI-V: Japan gets tweeting satellite

Posted: 10 May 2010 09:09 AM PDT

As if the Akiba Pulse Box (the Twitter heart beat posting device) or the Bowlingual (the iPhone Twitter app for dogs) weren't enough: Japan now boasts the world's first tweeting satellite, the CubeSat XI-V. Developed by the Nakasuka Lab at the University of Tokyo, the pico satellite (four inches) is currently orbiting Earth and keeps posting [JP] various data to its followers on Twitter.

Does A Bug In Twitter Force Anyone To Follow You?

Posted: 10 May 2010 09:08 AM PDT

We've been tracking down some of Facebook's little quirks and flaws lately. But let's get back to an old favorite. Twitter, which appears to have sprung a leak as well. Is there a bug in Twitter which literally forces any account to follow you?

Oversharers, Rejoice! Now You Really Can Cc:Everybody (500 Invites)

Posted: 10 May 2010 08:23 AM PDT

One of the few places you can still have a private conversation online is in email. But now you can publish any email on the Web with a new service called Cc:Everybody. As the name implies, if you Cc your Cc:Everybody account on an email, the whole thread goes up on the Web, where it will resemble a forum post. Any further back and forth on that email that includes the Cc:Everybody address will be added to the thread. People who visit the page can add their own comments.

The service is in private beta. We have 500 invites for TechCrunch readers. Enter the following invite code when prompted: techcrunch-invite

Many people will be horrified at the prospect of yet more oversharing. Others will rejoice. The idea behind the service is that sometimes people put a lot of work into their emails and share a lot of valuable information, which is usually only ever seen by a few other people. By putting it online, it can be shared with everyone—or at least with the search engines that will find your knowledge, and index it. Identifying emails and phone numbers are automatically crossed out, and whoever publishes the email can edit out other personal details.

Many people still prefer to express themselves via email. Now when they write a long, detailed email they feel is brilliant and not too personal, they can instantly publish it simply by adding their Cc:Everybody account to the Cc: field of the email. For instance, here is my account, and here my reply to Cc:Everybody’s founder Ran Geva. (He is also the CEO of forum search engine Omgili, which I wrote about here). These are probably not the best examples, since my reply was one line. But I can see people taking a great email exchange and publishing it this way.

I can also see this getting ugly very fast. People using it to publish personal emails from spurned lovers or mean bosses. You get the idea. Every time the barrier to publish on the Web is lowered, so are the standards of what gets published. I wonder how much spam will find its way onto Cc:Everybody, or frustrating exchanges with customer service departments.

TechStars Graduate Localytics Raises $700K For Mobile App Analytics Suite

Posted: 10 May 2010 08:07 AM PDT

Mobile app analytics provider Localytics, a graduate of the 2009 TechStars Boston class, has scored approximately $700,000 in funding to add to the $18,000 it had already received from TechStars as part of the program.

The funding, which will be formally announced tomorrow, is the company’s first ‘real’ round and was led by Boston-based Launchpad Venture Group in tandem with New York Angels.

Avi Fogel of Majorlee Investments and a member of both Launchpad and NY Angels, will be joining the company’s board of directors. Fogel comes with over 20 years of investment and board experience: as an entrepreneur the man has had six successful exits already, most recently as Chairman and CEO of ProActivity, which was acquired by EMC.

It’s possible you remember the name Localytics from its recent report on Blackberry usage during the workday, which terribly unsurprisingly came in higher than was the case for iPhone owners. Or perhaps from its report on iPhone app usage, which it claims surges around 9PM on weeknights.

Localytics gets that type of data from its mobile analytics solution, which it offers in two distinct flavors. One is the ‘Community’ product, which is free of charge and providers app developers and publishers with real-time reports on how customers use their applications on Android, Blackberry, iPad and iPhone devices. The product can be used to monitor basic usage, but also custom events, and enables publishers to dynamically generate custom segments and chart results with hourly granularity. You can see a demo here.

Launched in late April, the ‘Enterprise’ version of its software suite builds on the Community version, adding support for location services, custom chart templates and export APIs for integrating mobile analytics data with other enterprise reporting packages.

Its Enterprise service is available as a fully hosted or a licensed first-party software solution, and supports other platforms aside from those listed above (e.g. Palm webOS or Symbian).

After taking part in the 2009 class of TechStars in Boston, Localytics was chosen to be an inaugural resident at Polaris Ventures’ Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge, MA. The company claims its customer base has expanded rapidly since, with end-user reach growing 50% per month, according to CEO Raj Aggarwal.

Be that as it may, the fledgling startup faces stiff competition from a large number of companies, including Medialets, Flurry, Pinch Media, Motally and Mobclix.

Man Found Guilty After Twitter Joke About Blowing Up An Airport

Posted: 10 May 2010 07:51 AM PDT

A man who threatened on Twitter to blow up Doncaster airport has been found guilty of sending a "menacing electronic communication". He is thought to be the first person in the UK country to have been arrested for comments on Twitter. He is now the first person to be found guilty for being "menacing" on Twitter. On January 6 Paul Chambers joked on Twitter "Robin Hood airport is closed," he wrote. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" He was annoyed that snowfall threatened to delay his plans to travel to Ireland on January 15.

Management Shuffle At AOL’s Legal Department (And A New CTO)

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:49 AM PDT

AOL‘s chief legal officer Ira Parker, who has taken up that role since 2006, is transitioning to an advisory role at the company. Replacing him at the helm is Julie M. Jacobs, who joined the company back in 2000 and is now being promoted to Executive Vice President and General Counsel at AOL.

The company also finally appointed a new chief technology officer, Alexander Gounares, who will lead all aspects of AOL’s technology strategy, platform development and external technology partnerships, as well as play a key leadership role in the overall strategy and direction of the company.

Julie Jacobs will oversee all AOL’s legal affairs, manage its legal department and provide counsel to senior management on a range of issues. In this role, she will report directly to Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, as will Gounares.

Jacobs most recently served as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, where she managed all the corporate and transactional legal work for the company including securities law compliance, corporate governance, M&A and commercial transactions.

Ira Parker, who is stepping down as chief legal officer, played an instrumental role in leading AOL through the 10-month process of spinning off from Time Warner back in the day, Armstrong said in a statement. His signing off is timely, as the company hosted its very first shareholder meeting as the newly independent AOL just last week.

Gounares, AOL’s new CTO, joins from Microsoft where he was a Corporate VP and Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft’s Online Services Division. He also served for three years as Technology Advisor to Microsoft Chairman and founder Bill Gates, as well as Corporate Vice President of Corporate Strategy in Microsoft’s Finance Department. He will join AOL on May 13.

He succeeds Ted Cahall, whose departure was announced previously.

There’s been a lot of churn in AOL’s executive and employee ranks since Tim Armstrong became CEO. Recently, Mike Rich, the senior VP in charge of AOL Entertainment (which includes AOL Music, Moviefone, and AOL Television), departed. He joined a growing list of the old guard leaving the company (Bill Wilson, David Liu, Grant Cerny) in the wake of Armstrong’s new hires.

Behavioral Data Bank Demdex Raises $6 Million Series A

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:29 AM PDT

Data is the lifeblood of the Web, but when it comes to advertising some of the most valuable data ends up all over the place. New York City startup Demdex captures behavioral data on behalf of Websites and advertisers and stores it in a “behavioral data bank.” The 14-employee company just raised $6 million in a series A financing, led by Shasta Ventures. Seed round investors First Round Capital and Genacast Ventures also participated, bringing the total capital raised by the startup so far to $7.5 million.

Here’s how I described what the company does when it came out of stealth last December:

They put all of this user profile data into a "behavioral data bank" and then score each user across more than 40 behavioral and demographic variables to come up with a "traitweight." This number is supposed to be able to help websites segment their audiences better and advertisers target their messages more exactly.

. . . All of this behavioral data is currently locked away in black boxes inaccessible to the advertisers themselves or the Websites. If a big advertiser decides to switch technologies or ad networks, all that historical behavioral targeting data typically gets left behind. DemDex makes the data portable and puts it in the control of the Websites and advertisers themselves. They can plug it into whichever ad server or service they are currently using.

Demdex wants to cash in on giving control of that behavioral data back to the advertisers and publishers on whose behalf it was originally collected.

Network Infrastructure Company Infineta Raises $15 Million

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:25 AM PDT

Infrastructure technology startup Infineta Systems this morning announced that it has closed a $15 million Series A round of venture capital funding with backing from Alloy Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners. The financing was first covered by Venturebeat last week.

Acton Closes 150 Million Euro Growth Fund For Europe And US Tech

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:19 AM PDT

Acton Capital Partners, the Munich-based investor in consumer internet and mobile companies formerly known as Burda Ventures, has closed its new Heureka Growth Fund, worth €150 million. The growth-equity fund will invest in, you guessed it, internet and mobile communications companies in the consumer space for e-commerce, media and marketplaces, mainly within Europe but also in North America.

The Difference Engine Brings TechStars/YCombinator Mentality To UK

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:12 AM PDT

The Difference Engine is shaping up to be the kind of raw, Web 2.0 incubator the UK has lacked for some time. Whereas Seedcamp tends to take more fully formed early stage startups on, The Difference Engine is closer to having a hacker mentality. When you want to just go and build a product, this might be the kind of programme that appeals. Word on the street is that the programme is sidling up to the TechStars programme in the US, but nothing is confirmed as yet.

Make Up Your Mind Facebook, Because Your Privacy Controls Are A Mess

Posted: 10 May 2010 05:55 AM PDT

Since last week's chat exploit, I've received further tips of Facebook 'security bugs'. Only each time they've turned out not to be bugs at all, but, well, features. With regard to the site's privacy controls, users are clearly confused. This confusion, I suspect, is leading to over sharing, which Facebook's critics say is intentional. More sharing equals greater monetization opportunities. As an example, a privacy quirk on Facebook appears to produce the following scenario: User A sends a friend-request to user B but they choose not to accept, at least not yet (it's a pending request, so they haven't declined either). However, just by issuing that request, some of user B's activity begins showing up in user A's Facebook News Feed under 'Most Recent'. That's probably OK, assuming user B knows what they are doing. But, more bizarrely, the feed could also show who user B has recently befriended.

Dice Pays Up To $9 Million To Acquire Worldwideworker

Posted: 10 May 2010 05:46 AM PDT

Dice Holdings, which provides specialized career websites for professional communities, has acquired the online and career events-related businesses of WorldwideWorker, a Dubai-based company active in recruitment for the energy industry.

The purchase price consists of initial consideration of $6 million in cash. Upon achievement of certain operating and financial goals within the next two years, the purchase price can mount up to a maximum of $9 million in cash.

WorldwideWorker boasts an extensive international resume database and is behind recruitment events held at conferences around the globe. According to the official statement, more than 400,000 energy professionals have registered with WorldwideWorker, two-thirds of which are based in Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

In June 2009, Dice Holdings moved to purchase another niche recruitment player, AllHealthcareJobs.com, in a mix of $2.8 million in cash and stock, with earn-out.

(Via press release)

AdReady Raises $5.3M From Madrona, Bain And Khosla, Strengthens Board

Posted: 10 May 2010 05:23 AM PDT

Seattle-based online advertising startup AdReady has raised $5.3 million in funding.

Xconomy had the scoop last week based on an SEC filing, but now we also know the names of the investors, all of which have invested in the company in the past.

AdReady raised its third round from all of its prior backers: Madrona Venture Group, Bain Capital and Khosla Ventures. The Series C round brings the total of financing raised to $17.3 million.

AdReady has also announced the addition of software industry vet Steve Singh, Chairman and CEO of Concur, to its Board of Directors. He will be joining Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, among others, on the company’s board.

AdReady develops software tools that make display ads more efficient to produce and monitor, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. The company aims to provide centralized, single-point control across all major publishers for end-to-end display advertising management. More info about its products here.

The startup was co-founded by Aaron Finn in 2006. Its President and CEO is Karl Siebrecht, previously general manager in charge of ad platform product management, search and display marketing, and mobile and gaming advertising for Microsoft and prior to that President of Atlas at aQuantive (before its $6 billion acquisition by the Redmond software giant).

Yahoo Japan And China’s Taobao Announce Cross-Border E-Commerce Tie-Up

Posted: 10 May 2010 04:59 AM PDT

Big news from the Asian web world today. Yahoo Japan (Japan’s biggest website) and Taobao (China’s largest e-retailer) have agreed to launch a cross-border initiative under which both services will link their online shopping services starting June 1. Through the tie-up, Yahoo Japan and Taobao merchants will be able to sell products to buyers in each other’s markets.

For that purpose, Yahoo Japan will launch a so-called China Mall in its shopping section, carrying about 50 million products from China (in Japanese language) right from the beginning. Taobao plans to initially offer about 8 million products from Japan-based merchants on “TaoJapan”, a Chinese-language section on Taobao’s homepage.

Sellers and buyers are said to notice not much of a difference, as they will continue to list products, handle sales and pay for purchases just like they used to and in their native languages (product information will most likely be machine translated).

Rumors about negotiations between Yahoo Japan and Taobao first came to light early last month, and both companies sure have the power to pull this off. Yahoo Japan Shopping is the country’s second biggest e-commerce platform, while Taobao’s 190 million registered users generated a transaction volume of a whopping $29 billion last year.

And both companies already have a close, albeit indirect, relationship. Yahoo Japan’s largest shareholder, telecom giant SoftBank, happens to own a 33% stake in Alibaba Group, Taobao’s parent company. Under the e-commerce tie-up, Alibaba subsidiaries in Japan and China are expected to manage functions like cross-border shipping, payment settlement, cloud computing services etc.

E-commerce players like Amazon or eBay should be looking closely at what was established in the world’s largest and third largest Internet market today. At the news conference announcing the Yahoo Japan-Taobao partnership in Tokyo, SoftBank President Masayoshi Son said the future marketplace will be visited by some 260 million people, which – according to him – will make it the world’s largest by potential customers.

And in January, China’s leading search engine company Baidu and Japan’s biggest e-commerce platform Rakuten announced plans to invest $50 million in a giant virtual shopping mall that is scheduled to go live later this year. Expect a lot more cross-border activity in Asia’s e-commerce sector in the near future.

Facebook Hires Former US FTC Chairman Tim Muris

Posted: 10 May 2010 03:42 AM PDT

Facebook has hired former US Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy J. Muris in the face of increased government scrutiny of its privacy policies. The former senior Bush administration regulator will be defending the social networking company’s privacy practices in Washington.

The hiring of the top gun antitrust lawyer comes at a time when the FTC is busy taking a close look at complaints against the company that were filed by privacy advocates, sources tell the Financial Times.

Just last week, Muris picked up the Miles W. Kirkpatrick Award, in honor of his “significant and lasting contributions” to the FTC, antitrust law, and the cause of consumer protection.

(As FTC Chairman, Muris created the popular US Do Not Call Registry.)

In the same week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based advocacy group, asked the FTC to investigate recent changes made by Facebook that make more information public by default and automatically share information with other websites.

On May 5th, TechCrunch uncovered a huge security hole that enabled any user to view the live chats of their 'friends' (it wasn’t the first security issue we ran into). This morning, peHUB also published an embarrassing story about the breaching of the Facebook account of venture capitalist (and Facebook board member) Jim Breyer.

His extensive experience notwithstanding, Muris has got his work cut out for him. And to think Facebook hasn’t even turned on its major location feature yet.

Lucky for him, Muris won’t be alone in his quest: Facebook had earlier hired Tim Sparapani, an ex-American Council of Civil Liberties lawyer, to become its director of public policy.

Tween Virtual World Woozworld Spins Off From Tribal Nova, Raises $3 Million

Posted: 10 May 2010 02:59 AM PDT

Woozworld, a virtual world for tweens (ages 9-14), has scored $3 million in Series A financing.

With the new funding round, which was led by iNovia Capital and ID Capital, a division of Telesystem Group, Woozworld will be spinning off from virtual world developer Tribal Nova, which incubated and launched Woozworld in December, 2009.

Woozworld claims over 350,000 members and one million user-generated virtual spaces (up from about 50 at the end of last year).

Woozworld says it intends to continue developing and promoting its ‘Web 2.0 virtual world’ where tween users build an entire world where they can engage with their peers, design their own virtual spaces, set up the activities they choose and even manage their own businesses.

Chris Arsenault of iNovia Capital and Daniel Cyr of ID Capital will be joining the spin-off’s Board of Directors.

Spanish Groupon Lookalike Groupalia Grabs €2.5 Million

Posted: 10 May 2010 01:53 AM PDT

Groupalia, a Spanish Groupon clone group buying service provider, has raised €2.5 million in its first institutional round. The financing comes from Nauta Capital, who led the round with an investment of €805,000, and Spanish bank la Caixa who contributed €250,000. The rest comes from individual investors, namely Lucas Carné and Jose Manuel Villanueva (the founders of Privalia, another Nauta portfolio company) with an investment of €660,000, and Groupalia CEO Joaquin Engel (€125,000).

iPad’s International Roll-Out Begins: Here’s What You’ll Be Paying

Posted: 10 May 2010 01:10 AM PDT

People in Australia, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Japan can now pre-order the iPad from their respective Apple Stores, reports Boy Genius Report.

Late last week, Apple had already shared some details on the international roll-out, including the fact that the tablet computers will effectively hit stores in the nine countries cited above on May 28.

Details on pricing at the time weren’t disclosed yet, but now these are live, too.

We’ve taken the liberty of checking out all nine local stores to see what the respective starting prices look like:


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: A$ 629
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: A$ 759
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: A$ 879

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: A$ 799
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: A$ 928
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: A$ 1,049


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: $549
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: $649
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: $749

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: $679
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: $779
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: $879


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: £429
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: £499
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: £599

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: £529
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: £599
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: £699


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: 499 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: 699 €

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: 699 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: 799 €


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: 499 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: 714 €

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: 699 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: 814 €


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: 499 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: 699 €

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: 599 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: 699 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: 799 €


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: CHF 649
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: CHF 779
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: CHF 899

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: CHF 799
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: CHF 929
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: CHF 1,049


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: 479 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: 579 €
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: 679 €

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: 579 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: 679 €
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: 779 €


iPad Wi-Fi – 16GB: ¥48,800
iPad Wi-Fi – 32GB: ¥58,800
iPad Wi-Fi – 64GB: ¥68,800

iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 16GB: ¥61,800
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 32GB: ¥71,800
iPad Wi-Fi + 3G – 64GB: ¥81,800

Are you in any of these countries? Then tell us if you like those prices and if you will be pre-ordering an iPad (provided you haven’t already purchased one in a different way).

Facebook Confirms Its Location Product

Posted: 09 May 2010 11:56 PM PDT

As I said earlier tonight, code doesn’t lie. Facebook has now confirmed their location-based feature, which is apparently due to launch shortly if the code found on their touch.facebook.com site is any indication. Of course, they only confirmed it so they could clarify something else.

There are currently no plans to add marketing partners to this product. We may consider working with marketers to enhance the experience in the future, but have no plans to do so at launch,” a Facebook spokesperson tells us in response to our story. You’ll notice two key words in there, “product” and “launch.” So Facebook is acknowledging the “product” that we found. And you have to believe they wouldn’t bring up a “launch” or know details about it if it weren’t happening soon.

This was in response to the section of my previous post where I say, “This information seems to go along well with reports last week in AdAge that Facebook was teaming up with some big brands for their location functionality. Presumably, these brands will be populated, and maybe even some highlighted, in this new Places tab.” Facebook wants it to be clear that there will be no marketing partners at launch (but there could — and likely will — be later).

Actually, this is what AdAge said in its most recent article about marketers and location on Facbeook. “Marketers, which have taken a keen interest in both Facebook and geo-targeted marketing, will be integrated into the system sometime after [the launch],” Michael Learmonth and Emily Bryson York reported last week. Facebook wouldn’t talk about a specific product for that article, but did have the same line about there being no marketing partners at launch.

I asked Facebook for a comment about the launch timing, all I got back was, “Sorry – nothing to share around timing.” But again, this acknowledges that the code we found on the site, is in fact what’s coming. That means a check-in service built around a new Places component.

Social Game Publishers Hit Payday From Mother’s Day Flower Offers

Posted: 09 May 2010 10:04 PM PDT

Thanks to the increase in number of gamers signing up for flower delivery offers for Moms, Mother’s Day was payday for social game publishers this year, with ad-funded payments skyrocketing during the holiday. TrialPay, a startup that powers an offers-based payments platform on Facebook, has released a number of data points that show the strength of the Mother’s Day market this year.

Mothers Day represents a huge gift giving market, second only to the holiday season. Last year lone, $14.1 billion was spent on Mother’s Day-related gifts. In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, about $1 million per day was generated by “gifts for mom” promotions that paired offers from online flower merchants like 1-800-Flowers with free in-game virtual goods and currency. According to TrialPay, social game publishers running Mother’s Day campaigns saw five-fold increase in offer-based revenue, which generally accounts for 15-20% of a social game’s total revenue.

Visitor conversion rates more than doubled during Mother’s Day (player-to-payer conversions). And 40% of consumers were first-time buyers that had never made a purchase through a game.

TrialPay Facebook-focused offers platform is used by a number of big-name social game publishers including Playfish and Playdom. In fact, Facebook recently announced its foray in the offers game, and partnered with TrialPay to use their offers in the test round. Clearly, there’s a lot of money in the offers space and Facebook wants a piece of the pie.

Spotted: Facebook’s Check-In Functionality And New “Places” Tab

Posted: 09 May 2010 06:14 PM PDT

Code doesn’t lie.

Over the past several weeks, there’s been a lot of speculation about Facebook’s location functionality. At least part of that speculation can end now. We now know what Facebook is planning to launch with regard to location shortly, because it’s right there in their code.

Specifically, it’s right there in the JavaScript on the touch.facebook.com version of the site. This is the mobile version of Facebook that is optimized for phones with touchscreens like the iPhone and Android phones. Visiting this site on the Safari web browser (which, of course, the iPhone uses a version of) causes something interesting to happen: it just hangs. And when you enable debug mode, it’s easy to see why.

This touch version of Facebook’s site is attempting to populate something called the “places_tab.” Unfortunately, Facebook hasn’t enabled that yet, so it throws the error. While that alone is interesting, much more interesting is what you find when you dig deeper into this JavaScript.

Based on the code, this is what it seems that Facebook is about to launch: A mobile version of the site using the HTML5 location component to grab your location information from your phone. Once it does that, you’re taken to this new Places area of Facebook that presumably will have a list of venues around you. From here you can click a button to check-in. Yes, there will be check-ins.

But it’s slightly more interesting than that as well. Facebook will record not only your latitude and longitude, but also your altitude, heading, and speed, according to this code (and assuming they can get all of that information). It will also record the accuracy of the location measurement. I’m just speculating here, but perhaps that will help curb cheating that has begun to run rampant on other location services like Foursquare.

Again, this code is only found on the touch.facebook.com version of the site right now (and this code is specifically in a directory for the iPhone). That may suggest that Facebook will launch the functionality here first, and then move it to the native mobile applications on platforms such as the iPhone and Android. This also means that it may not be on Facebook proper to begin with. This makes some sense since only some desktop browsers support location right now. Still, you have to assume that the Places area will reside on Facebook.com somewhere, even if you can’t check-in from the desktop at launch.

This information seems to go along well with reports last week in AdAge that Facebook was teaming up with some big brands for their location functionality. Presumably, these brands will be populated, and maybe even some highlighted, in this new Places tab.

After reading those stories, I wondered if Facebook was planning to do check-ins, or perhaps do something more along the lines of Twitter: simply let people tag their location to status updates. It’s now clear (assuming that they fully deploy this code) that check-ins are in fact coming.

That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook allows other location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla to populate location parameters through Facebook Connect or the newer OpenGraph APIs. Then the question is if Facebook would also use those services’ places databases to build out its own — or if they have already been doing that behind the scenes. As I wrote yesterday, Facebook is likely to be a key component in moving towards a place database that everyone seems to want, but no one can seem to deliver on.

And just to add a little more intrigue to all of this, we hear that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in New York City yesterday meeting with Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley. A second source confirms that the two sides have been talking again recently (not that it’s unusual for two companies to talk, but the timing is interesting). So was this meetup yesterday one last friendly meeting before they start going head-to-head? A meeting to solidify a partnership? Something more? We should find out shortly…

NSFW: Facebook Breached My Privacy, And Other Things That Whiny, Entitled Dipshits Say

Posted: 09 May 2010 03:32 PM PDT

Starting this week, I’m implementing a rule for readers of this column.

The fact is, I express some pretty controversial views here on TechCrunch. Views on subjects like race and prostitution and terrorism and mental illness. Views that you – as a smart, educated TC reader – are perfectly able to process and discuss in a mature way, but views that could easily be misconstrued by the wider internet community, should they be reposted on other blogs, or quoted out of context.

From this point forward, then, I’m banning you from reposting, quoting or even discussing my columns outside of TechCrunch. It’s to protect my privacy more than anything else: I mean, sure, I’ve chosen to share those views online – in an inherently unsecure environment – but still I reserve the right to be shocked and outraged should they find their way from one semi-controllable online environment to another slightly less controllable one.

And I reserve that right to be outraged for one reason alone: I am fucking delusional about how the Internet works.

This week everyone‘s talking about online privacy. Specifically, they’re talking about Facebook and how the company protects user data, especially after it began sharing some of that data with ‘trusted’ third party sites like Pandora, Yelp and Microsoft’s Docs.com (whatever the hell that is). You’ve probably seen The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook animation, which illustrates in stark terms how much more open the service has become in the past five years. Everyone’s weighing in with their opinion: from Jeff Jarvis’ view that Facebook needs to respect the difference between the public and your public to Scooby’s excitement over the prospect that privacy is one step closer to the grave.

Meanwhile, you can’t throw a sheep without hitting some preachy tutorial on how to keep your embarrassing photos hidden online, especially with graduation time rolling around and college partiers trying to reinvent their image for the workplace. A typical story is told in the New York Times by Laura M Holsen who wrote yesterday about how the ‘Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Offline‘…

“Concerned about her career prospects, [college student Min Liu] asked a friend to take down a photograph of her drinking and wearing a tight dress. When the woman overseeing her internship asked to join her Facebook circle, Ms. Liu agreed, but limited access to her Facebook page. "I want people to take me seriously," she said.”

Where to begin with poor old Min Liu? Let’s first be charitable and not point out the hilarious contradiction in quietly removing photographs of your college drinking from Facebook and then describing those same photographs in the New York Times. Let’s instead consider her apparently sensible decision to ask friends to remove potentially embarrassing photographs, and to give her new boss “limited access to her Facebook page”. Privacy advocates would nod with approval at a young woman who takes her online privacy seriously, while those same advocates would – and do – call for Facebook to respect her choices and keep her private data private. Scoble on the other hand would tell her to calm down, smoke a bowl and upload the resulting photos to Twitpic.

For my part, I have a different kind advice to those like Ms Liu who want to keep private photographs private. A third way, if you like…

Don’t let them be uploaded to the Internet in the first place.

I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve heard whining recently that photographs they uploaded to the web (or in the case of Liu, photographs they presumably were aware were being taken and were heretofore happy to remain online) have now ended up in the public domain.

A couple of weeks back, a friend complained to me that a photograph of her taken at a party had been posted on a blog without her permission. The photograph has attracted mean comments which, she said, was a breach of her privacy. Hmmm. Copyright, yes, privacy no. Until the unkind  commentary started, she was perfectly happy with the photograph being online – blithely assuming that only her friends would care enough to look for it. It was only after the wrong kind of people started Googling her (in her case, the wrong people were snarky bloggers; in Min Liu’s case they were prospective employers) that she suddenly became concerned about privacy.

Likewise every day thousands – millions – of college students upload photographs to Facebook, labouring under the assumption that only their friends will care to look for them. Every day those same students attend parties and pose for digital photographs, knowing full well that they’ll end up online, but again assuming that no-one but their social circle will care to track them down.

Subsequent wailing about privacy settings on Facebook or any other social network is at best a red herring, at worst disingenuous bullshit. “Oh, but my Facebook account is private…. but my Twitter stream is locked!” Oh please. If all it takes to break a privacy system is for one of your friends to copy and repost your “private” photos or tweets then they’re not private at all. The only true privacy is not to post anything on a social network that you wouldn’t want the world to see. It’s like that old advice for sending credit card numbers by email: think of it like a postcard; you wouldn’t send your credit card number that way, so don’t do it by email. Think of photos on Facebook as the colourful side of that postcard. We can blame Mark Zuckerberg all we like for killing privacy, but the truth is all he’s doing is giving us the rope with which to hang it ourselves.

I’ve written before about how as more and more of this stuff becomes public, we’ll all become much more blasé about the youthful indiscretions of others, be they friends, political candidates or prospective employees. But that Utopian future will be a long time coming: it’ll still be a couple of generations before bosses stop making key hiring decisions based on the private life of candidates. So if privacy tools are a red herring, Scoble’s (and my) dream of a world of openness is years away, and there’s no sign that college students are going to stop partying any time soon, then what advice can we give to kids like Liu to ensure they’ll still employable once their intern supervisor stumbles across their “private” Facebook photos?

Actually, it’s much the same advice as grown-ups have been giving college kids for decades: think about your résumé. The only difference between now and ten years ago when I started college is that the advice is now pluralised: now you have to think about your résumés.

Résumé number one is the once we all understand: the work résumé. From day one of college, this is the document that students obsess over – how getting these grades, joining this club, or organising this social event will “look good on my résumé”. Right from the start there’s a lazer-like focus on picking and choosing the activities that will look good on the all-important piece of paper which will guarantee them employment on graduation.

But today, thanks to social media, everyone a second résumé – call it the ‘social résumé’ – and it’s just as important to obsess over what’s going to look good and bad on it. The social résumé is the one that a prospective employer finds when he Googles your name, or when she joins your Facebook friend circle and discovers that you haven’t been quite as careful with privacy settings as you should have. It’s the résumé they find when they stumble across your friend’s Flickr account, or the MySpace page you’d totally forgotten about. It’s like the traditional section at the end of your work résumé where you list your interests “music, reading…” except that, because it’s partly crowd-sourced, it’s much, much harder to edit after the fact.

Harder, but not impossible.

Sure you should go to parties and get drunk – it’s college for Christ’s sake – but you should also train yourself not to pose for photos while you’re doing it. It’s perfectly possible if you take the idea of the social résumé seriously enough: countless of my drunken friends hold down sober jobs simply through their survival instinct of knowing when there’s a camera pointing at them, or only confiding in people who aren’t going to ‘OH:’ their every word. (By contrast my drunken exploits are a matter of public record – but there’s a reason why I’m not looking for a job in teaching or at a bank.)

Sure there are going to be times when that instinct breaks down, or when someone takes a photo without your permission and refuses to keep it private – and in those situations I’m a firm believer that Facebook et al have an obligation to act to defend a person’s reasonable assumption of privacy. But in almost every case where we hear someone griping about privacy online, it’s over something they have either willingly posted on a closed, but essentially public, network themselves – or has allowed one of their friends to post.

In other words, their problem is not that something ended up online, simply that they were unable to keep control of something they willingly shared with at least a portion of the world. And it’s that attitude that needs to change – from one of retroactive bleating about privacy to one of proactive filtering of what we choose to share in the first place.

Blaming Facebook’s flaky approach to privacy for the ills of the exhibitionist generation is just yelling at the stable door, long after the horse has bolted.

[Photo credit: 'What Would Scooby Do?' by Jamie Klinger (Wig, model's own)]

Happy Mothers Day! Get Her A Geni Family Tree Poster

Posted: 09 May 2010 03:20 PM PDT

A couple of weeks ago Yammer CEO David Sacks came by the office to give us some news. Sacks, who is also the CEO of genealogy site Geni, also told me about a new product Geni is launching; – family tree posters.

There are two 16″ × 20″ versions – $30 for a printed poster, $120 for a canvas, framed poster. One of Geni’s key features is to allow the merging of family trees, so it’s easier to create one tree going back four generations. If you have pictures it makes the poster a really cool gift. I gave the one Sacks made for me to my parents and they love it (my father has diligently created our family tree on both sides of the family, with help from his sister).

Sacks also talked about Geni’s overall business. Over $1 million in revenue and he says they’ll be profitable within the year. The company has raised $16.5 million over three rounds.

A Closer Look At Microsoft Spindex, An Experimental Social Aggregator

Posted: 09 May 2010 03:11 PM PDT

Earlier this week during a keynote presentation at Web 2.0, Lili Cheng, head of Microsoft’s Future Social Experiences Labs (FUSE) group, unveiled their latest research project: Spindex, a ‘social personal index’ for your web content. The site is in a private beta, but some beta invites were handed out at the conference, and I’ve just *cough* taken it for a spin.

My initial impressions are below.

When you first fire up Spindex, the site asks you to link your Twitter, Facebook, and Evernote accounts, as well as any RSS feeds you follow. After you do that you’re kicked into the main site, which is broken into three sections: a left sidebar for navigation, and two columns with content. In the navigation sidebar you select which source  you want to browse through (based on the accounts you linked earlier), and there’s an option to see a combined stream of the data inputs called ‘All’. At the very top of the page is a search box that lets you search all of your friends’ recent updates (it’s like Twitter search, but restricted to just your friends).

In the middle column is “My Stream” — depending on what filter you’ve selected in the Sources panel, you’ll see a stream of the most recent updates from your Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds in reverse chronological order. Beneath each of these posts are the basic sharing options you’d expect from each service: you can Comment on, Like, or Share a Facebook item, and can Reply, Favorite, and Retweet Twitter posts. The interface for this is well done — hitting Reply or Comment causes a text box to appear in-line, as opposed to using popup windows.

The far right column is where Spindex’s special sauce lies (though it’s clearly got a ways to go). When you first log into Spindex, this column gives you a quick overview of what your friends have been talking about and sharing. There’s a section for commonly shared links, as well as a “Most commented on post”. Below that are a handful of thumbnails showcasing the images your friends have been sharing recently. And at the very top is a list of trending terms (these are based on items your friends have been sharing, as opposed to the entire Facebook or Twitter communities). Below this social content are a bunch of popular news stories, as determined by Bing.

As you interact with items in your stream (the middle column), this far right column changes. Hit ‘reply’ to a tweet about Mother’s Day, and the right column will show Bing search results that have the keywords “mothers” and “day”. The right column also shows a few recent tweets or status updates from the person you’re replying to.

The site is still rife with quirks, which are to be expected given that it’s a tech preview. I noticed that if I refreshed my Facebook feed multiple times, I’d often wind up with a different “Most commented” post, and sometimes I wouldn’t see one at all. After linking my Twitter account with Spindex, the only way I could get the service to import new tweets was to log out and back in. And after staying logged in for around twenty minutes, I found that ‘My Stream’ no longer had any results available from Facebook or Twitter.

All of that said, Spindex has potential, provided Microsoft FUSE can fine-tune their algorithms to help give an accurate overview of your Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds. Of course, it’s still a research project, so it may be quite a while (if ever) before it’s released to the public. In the mean time, you might want to check out TC50 finalist Threadsy, which also presents your social streams in a multi-column format.


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