web 2.0

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

GulfCoastSpill.com Attempts To Aggregate All That #gulfspill Social Data

Posted: 17 May 2010 09:07 AM PDT

Here in Europe we're a little preoccupied with the volcanic ash cloud but apparently there was a major oil spill over in The Gulf of Mexico. Once again, social media is coming to the rescue. As we discovered recently, a group of a dozen or so organizations including BP, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Department of Defense, and OSHA have set up Deepwater Horizon Response, a "Unified Command" established to "manage response operations." This also involves several social media accounts. And now there's a theory that if enough people tweet information using the hashtag #gulfspill the environmental mess will clear itself up. OK, perhaps not, but the newly launched Gulf Coast Spill Coalition thinks that using social media to record and share information related to the oil spill can make a difference. And that's exactly what Gulfcoastspill.com has been setup to do.

Kevin Rose Gives A Glimpse Of The New Digg

Posted: 17 May 2010 07:58 AM PDT

Yesterday, while he was visiting his father and working beside a Colorado stream, Kevin Rose sent out a seemingly bland, lazy Sunday Tweet:

Working on @digg stuff while relaxing with my dad in evergreen, co. Home tomorrow #lifeisgood http://twitpic.com/1ofwqh

But the payload of that Tweet, a link to picture showing a glimpse of Rose’s computer screen, is much more interesting. The laptop is angled, but if you squint through the glare you can spot some features of what may be the long-awaited new Digg design. I’ve blown up the photo above and annotated it. The image is clearly different than the one on the new Digg sign-up page.

I was able to spot at least three new features. The first one that struck me is that each item now has two icons: the familiar Digg counter and a second social icon which looks like a Digg avatar. The second is that underneath the headline and action links, there is a third line with what appears to be a realtime status update, perhaps a Tweet, about that story. And third, the page Rose is on is a personalized tab along with what looks like a list of personalized topics along the left-hand column. Can you find any more new features in the pic? You can see the original and a bigger annotation-free blow-up below (along with a screenshot of what Digg looks like today, for comparison purposes).

Of course, this could just be a customized view that Rose uses for himself or maybe he is testing out new features which may or may not make it into the final design. But Rose keeps hinting that the new design is around the corner. Rose recently took over as CEO of Digg from his longtime business spartner Jay Adelson left, and cut 10 percent of Digg’s staff. Rose has a lot riding on this redesign. Hopefully, there is a lot more than what we see here. Our advice to Rose: don’t listen to Digg’s hardcore users and go with your gut instead.

Is Groupon’s CityDeal Acquisition A Disaster For German Innovators?

Posted: 17 May 2010 07:50 AM PDT

The Groupon acquisition of CityDeal is being hailed by many across Europe as a good exit for the German-based clone (yes, there is no point in saying it is anything else but a Groupon clone). But luckily there are more than just clones in Germany. The burgeoning cluster in Mitte, central Berlin, is producing startups such as Soundcloud, hiogi, Babbel, Twinity, SongBeat and aka-aki. Nokia bought Dopplr and with it set up an innovation lab amongst the beating heart of Berlin's startups. Hamburg has spawned many others include Qype, Europe's Yelp, and more recently the interesting Apprupt. VCs in Hamburg and Munich vie over raw engineering talent out of German universities, and our TechCrunch Europe Munich and Berlin events last year were buzzing. As US-born Germany-based VC Paul Josefak recently guest posted for us, he's coming across "multiple companies who recently closed either initial or follow-on rounds." Berlin is now vying with London as the second tier cluster in Europe with a decent critical mass. But there are clouds on the horizon, and they come in the shape of an attack of the clones, if you will, or more accurately, Pollution of the Clones. While the market for copycat businesses aping the latest startups form the Valley is well known, it's been a component, but never the only aspect, of the German scene. With Groupon's acquisition of CityDeal the Clone Scene could now threaten to overtake it's younger brother, the Innovation Scene. Here's why.

Eying Asia, Kit digital Acquires BenchMark Broadcast Systems

Posted: 17 May 2010 06:22 AM PDT

Online video management software company KIT digital has agreed to acquire privately-held Benchmark Broadcast Systems, based in Singapore, for approximately $10 million.

KIT digital’s chairman and CEO, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, in a statement says they’ve been working on the acquisition for quite some time, and that the deal is testament to the company’s ambition to become leader in video asset management in the BRIC markets.

Benchmark is a video asset management provider and broadcast video systems integrator with six regional offices throughout Asia, where it employs about 100 people.

The company serves clients in 12+ countries and expects to generate at least $10 million in revenues during the next 12 months. Its clients include companies like CNBC, Express News, ESPN Star, ETV, MediaCorp and NDTV.

In consideration for 100% of Benchmark’s shares, the transaction includes guaranteed payments of approximately $9.5 million directly to the company over time ($4.5 million in cash plus $5 million in KIT digital common stock) plus approximately $1.1 million paid to employees over the next two years.

The transaction also includes corporate performance-based contingent considerations at the first and second anniversary of the transaction.

KIT digital has acquired quite a number of smaller rivals in a variety of countries so far, most recently picking up competitor Multicast Media for net consideration of approximately $18 million.

The company has itself raised $20 million in venture funding from KCP Capital and now trades on NASDAQ under the KITD symbol.

Yoomoot Tries For Better Conversations In Blogs And Forums

Posted: 17 May 2010 05:57 AM PDT

Discussion forums are broken and threaded comments found on blogs don't cut it either. Too much of the conversation gets lost and any lasting knowledge is buried. That's the view taken by yoomoot, a new startup just out of private beta. The standalone site aims to make public online discussions more productive and useful, although in the future yoomoot is planning a subscription-based version for organisations who want to hold private discussions and a plugin for other publishing platforms, such as Wordpress.

Google Teams Up With Intel, Sony To Help Make Web TV A Reality

Posted: 17 May 2010 05:54 AM PDT

The FT reports that Google, Intel and Sony will announce a “significant breakthrough into consumer electronics and the broadcast industry” later this week with the launch of a so-called "Smart TV" platform.

In case that sounds familiar, that’s because Bloomberg and the WSJ reported as much on April 29, apart from the apparent name of the Web TV platform that would be making its debut at Google I/O.

Google’s developer conference will be held May 19 – 20 in San Francisco.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini last week at the company's analyst meeting said that it was looking to boost use of Atom processors in the mobile and digital home device segments. The company stated that its latest chip, named Dragonpoint, offers better audio and video performance, wider and open software support and is cheaper than the competition.

France Telecom and Telecom Italia are said to be among the list of customers lined up to put the chips in set-top boxes.

According to the FT, Google is expected to call on its Android developer community this week to create custom applications for Sony, which is looking to web-enable its televisions and Blu-ray DVD players, and likely other manufacturers in the future.

We’ll see how it goes – Google has been looking to extend its reach to TVs since 2007.

Are you waiting for Google search, native support for YouTube videos and maybe even an iteration of the Chrome browser on your next TV screen? Or do you want them to make advances in the field just so Apple would wake up and maximize the potential of Apple TV?

Google Shuts Out TechCrunch From Zeitgeist – We’re Seeing Too Much Of Eachother, OK?

Posted: 17 May 2010 05:51 AM PDT

Right now entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and Google executives are milling around in a swanky hotel outside of London at Google Zeitgeist. Last year we were there too and managed to even break some news. But this year we're not allowed in. Why? There's not enough room. Here's my email exchange with their PR people.

Vision Solutions Buys Out Double-Take Software For $242 Million

Posted: 17 May 2010 05:18 AM PDT

Vision Solutions, a portfolio company of PE firm Thoma Bravo, has agreed to acquire Southborough, Massachusetts-based Double-Take Software, a provider of backup and recovery solutions. Under the terms of the agreement, Double-Take stockholders will receive $10.55 in cash for each share of common stock they hold, a premium of approximately 39% and 21% to Double-Take's enterprise value and closing share price of $8.71, respectively, on the last business day prior to Double-Take's announcement that its BOD was considering indications of interest to be acquired. The deal, which was announced today, values Double-Take Software at approximately $242 million.

Growth Equity Investor Summit Partners Buys Majority Stake In Ogone

Posted: 17 May 2010 04:51 AM PDT

Ogone, a European electronic payments service provider, has received an undisclosed majority investment from US-based growth equity firm Summit Partners. In conjunction with the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of this month, Christian Strain, a Principal of Summit Partners, and Scott Collins, a Managing Director with Summit, will join Ogone's board of directors.

Google Refreshes Android Market Website – It Inexplicably Still Lacks Search

Posted: 17 May 2010 03:03 AM PDT

We’re not 100% sure when it popped up first, but Google has seemingly updated the Android Market website. Don’t pee your pants just yet – they’ve apparently merely shuffled some things around along with other layout changes. Still no search, still no way to download apps OTA, still no statistics of any kind.

On the bright side, the interface is more straightforward than it used to be. You can see a screenshot of the ‘old’ UI in this post, in which Jason Kincaid rightly calls for an Android Market desktop client – as you can tell the new website makes it a tad easier to browse different categories for both free and paid apps.

Google being Google, I’m really surprised the new website still lacks search functionality.

I mean, it’s fine that you can look up apps from your Android phone, but what if you don’t happen to have it on you? There’s no way to check if there’s a Skype or Facebook client for Android by browsing the Market website, unless you happen to stumble upon them in the listings of featured, top free or top paid apps.

Granted, they are clear about the Android Market website serving as a showcase of apps only right at the top of the new website, but that doesn’t explain why they choose not to make it more useful.

Good thing there are sites like Cyrket and AndroLib (update: and AppBrain) to do what Google apparently can’t or won’t: make a decent website for people who’d like to peruse the Android marketplace.

(Thanks to Charly Omer for the heads up)

Tawkon Releases BlackBerry Radiation App, Visits Apple To Discuss Rejection

Posted: 17 May 2010 02:27 AM PDT

Tawkon, whose cellular radiation measurement iPhone app was initially rejected by Apple, is today announcing availability of an app with identical functionality for BlackBerry.

From our initial review of Tawkon:

The purpose of Tawkon's app is to provide the user with an indication—or "prediction" as they call it—of the radiation level being emitted by the iPhone. This level changes based on environmental conditions, distance from cell towers, and even the manner in which the device is held. To illustrate: the iPhone's antenna is located at the bottom of the device. If the user cradles the phone too tightly in the palm, the antenna has to work harder, thereby increasing radiation.

The 3GS models have improved chipsets, so radiation would be lower on them compared to previous versions, and Tawkon takes this into considering when calculating its prediction.

Tawkon for BlackBerry is available for download today, at a cost of $9.99. The biggest difference between the iPhone version and the Blackberry version, is that the latter is able to run in the background. All calls are automatically monitored without the user needing to proactively engage Tawkon (as was the case for the iPhone app we reviewed).

Once running, a small icon on the main screen provides constant indication of the current radiation level. A green icon means all is fine and a yellow indicates a moderate radiation level. A red icon means there’s a high level of radiation, in which case the Tawkon app will prompt to use precautionary measures such as to distance the phone from your body while making a call.

TechCrunch’s initial review of Tawkon created a wave of interest for the iPhone app, along with additional frustration at Apple’s rejection of it. It seems this did not go unnoticed by the good folks at 1 Infinite Loop, who reached out to the Tawkon team and invited them in to the HQ. Gil Friedlander, Tawkon’s CEO, gave us his impressions:

"Apple definitely saw the media and user interest in tawkon. They've been very positive about working together with us to open undocumented APIs to get tawkon on the App Store. It's been quite a ride – through a series of exploratory phone calls and a very productive meeting with Philip Shoemaker [Director of Application Technology] and his team at their Cupertino headquarters.

The iPhone team complimented our app, and we're now optimistic that we'll get onto the App Store. Now we just really need to show Apple that people want the opportunity to use their phone responsibly with minimal exposure to radiation when necessary."

You can help Takwon makes a stronger case to Apple, by joining their petition, here.

Booyah Raises $20 Million From Accel, Expects 6 Million Users By The End Of This Summer

Posted: 16 May 2010 11:58 PM PDT

Booyah is the not-so-little location based engine that could. The company behind MyTown has raised $20 million in new funding from a group of investors led by Accel (current investors, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and DAG Ventures, also participated in this round). Accel’s Jim Breyer, a board member of Wal-Mart, Dell and Facebook, will join Booyah’s board. (According to a source close to the deal, the valuation was sizable but definitely under $120 million.)

For months, the location based market has been dominated by Foursquare drama, as Dennis Crowley’s “well-oiled machine” (his words), attracts buyers, adds users and snaps up high-profile partnerships, like its recent deal with NBC. In terms of hype, Booyah has taken a backseat to Foursquare’s billion-dollar-shine but Booyah is chugging along quite nicely.

The company has now raised $29.5 million since 2008 and MyTown has more than 2.1 million users, according to CEO Keith Lee. While Foursquare has yet to reach that milestone, Booyah is preparing for serious acceleration. Lee says Booyah will hit 6 million users by the end of this summer across MyTown and its future products(!).

It’s not exactly fair to compare Foursquare and Booyah, Foursquare focuses on social utility, Booyah focuses on gaming, but both are trying to unlock the power of the check-in and create a massive user base. Booyah, via MyTown, is trying to merge a virtual gaming world with the real world. Users can check-in to real world locations to unlock virtual rewards, they can also “purchase” their favorite properties, collect rent from others and update their properties. Like Foursquare, you can see where your friends are checking-in and pick up local deals.

Lee says MyTown and its unnamed, new products (he was tight-lipped on details but expect major announcements in the next few weeks) will build on that base with a host of new features that will increase the value of the check-in experience. Lee talked in abstracts, but he is interested in adding layers of information on top of the basic GPS check-in: “it’s about validating the activity you do in the real world— a check-in only takes you 70% there.” Booyah is interested in unlocking the information surrounding a check-in through QR codes, bar code scanning, the Facebook Open Graph, etc. For example, instead of just checking into your gym, imagine if you could easily transmit information about your workout, or if you’re at a store, automatically telling your friends what items you like. It’s not clear how these new tools will be implemented but they obviously represent a huge opportunity for Booyah and others, if properly executed. If MyTown, or one of Booyah’s mystery projects, became a popular retail/shopping tool, Booyah would amass valuable consumer data and possibly new monetization opportunities.

On the subject of monetization, Lee would not disclose whether Booyah was in the black, but revenues are indeed rising. Earlier this month, MyTown was averaging 6.7 million virtual item impressions per day, now it’s averaging 8.3 million a day (or 250 million a month). Why does that matter? The popularity of paid virtual goods, which account for 1/3 of MyTown’s revenues, is fueling growth— although the MyTown iPhone app is free it’s a frequent member of Apple’s Top 50 grossing list thanks to the large volume of virtual purchases. Booyah is also making money from paid partnerships with large clients like H&M and the Travel Channel.  Lee says he’s quickly shoveling money back into the company, to expand their product, prepare for the move into foreign markets and to grow the staff. He says a major portion of the new funds will be used to hire the right talent— expect Booyah to nearly double its staff from 24 to 40 by the end of this year.

Why Does Jetsetter Stand Apart from the Group Buying Crowd? It Solves a Big Problem

Posted: 16 May 2010 10:10 PM PDT

I've long been critical of how hotel rooms are found and booked online. It's impossible to tell quality and cleanliness from a standard write up, photos and a star rating, let alone have any idea of the quality of things like the restaurant on site, the friendliness of the staff or the millions of other little things that can make a hotel stay a pleasure or a nightmare.

And no, consumer reviews don't solve it. I recently stayed at a top rated hotel on Trip Advisor that was one of the worst customer service experiences I've had in the last year. And given that I spent about 30 weeks in hotels in the last year, that's saying something. Among other issues, the hotel-in-question "accidentally" charged me nearly $700 mid-stay, let alone my final bill was supposed to be under $200. It took hours out of each day to resolve. The hotel wound up refunding us, but the trip was already ruined.

That's what makes booking a hotel online such a risky proposition: A bad flight you can forget, but a hotel necessarily sticks with you during a trip, making or breaking it. A good flight is more of a commodity product, defined by price and route and, of course, being on time the day of travel. And aisle seat is an aisle seat, and a window seat is a window seat. There's a shared vernacular of what things mean for that period in the sky, even across international carriers. On a domestic flight in China, the flight attendants required that everyone do calisthenics half way through to prevent bloodclots, but we still got the same beverage cart, same reclining seats, same overhead bins and same bathrooms I'd get on a United flight to New York

With hotels there are a host of intangible variables, and that makes booking a core problem of trust. I've stayed in more than 20 hotels in the last year. In almost all cases, a personal recommendation from someone I trust has scored me the best experience, anything booked online or with an agent has been acceptable to bad—no matter what the photos looked like online.

Finally, one site seems to have solved a piece of the problem: Jetsetter. Yes it's part of the much-written-about Gilt Groupe. But while most of the group-buying trend is about convenience and saving money, for me Jetsetter actually solves a core problem. Not only do a get a great discount on top properties, this is the first online travel site where I actually trust the recommendations.

While mass-market travel sites compete on bigger inventory and "virtual room tours," Jetsetter comes the closest to replicating what happens in the real world: They are picky. They curate the best properties. The pictures are visually stunning enough that browsing the site is actually fun. (Have you ever said that about, say, Hotels.com?) Someone has clearly stayed at each property and writes up the unvarnished good and the unvarnished bad. And of course, being part of Gilt, it has great deals. Most the hotels I have looked at or booked through Jetsetter hovered around or under $200 a night for some amazing $300-$400/night properties.

So curating itself is a big part of why I trust Jetsetter, but equally as important is that the site, so far, curates incredibly well, at least according to my preferences. Just using the site a few months, Jetsetter has offered specials by three of my all-time favorite hotels: The Opposite House in Beijing (above), The Sonoma Mission Inn in Wine Country and The Royal Palms in Phoenix. It's as if the site is reading my mind—the pinnacle of a good user experience.

I've stayed at all three of these hotels and the room, food, customer service and amenities were all impeccable. I was already planning to go back to the Opposite House in May, but thanks to Jetsetter I got a great rate. As for The Somona Mission Inn and the Royal Palms, I had stayed at both in the last few years as part of speaking gigs where my rate was included in my fee. I never thought go back, even though I enjoyed the experience because the rates were out of my normal writer-salary price range. But the Sonoma Mission Inn for less than $200 a night is suddenly a do-able weekend getaway. What's more: Because Jetsetter has picked three of the best hotels out of the 40 or so I've stayed at in the past few years, I just trust its recommendation on nearly any property they show me in a way that I don't on any other site. Like a friend, I feel like we have the same taste.

The clear problem here is scale. Right now, Jetsetter can't solve all my travel problems because of what makes them great: They are picky and rely on special sales. It's a site that I may only book through a few times a year mostly for weird cases when their specials happen to overlap with my schedule (in the case of the Opposite House) or when I have a week off for a Holiday and want to go somewhere but don't quite know where (in the case of the Sonoma Mission Inn) or if I know I need to get to, say, New York for work at some point, but exactly when is flexible.

A Jetsetter customer doesn't have to spend a lot—most of these properties aren't much more than a basic Marriott or Hilton Express and what you get is frequently over-the-top amazing. But you do have to be a frequent, spontaneous or somewhat random traveler to use the site consistently.

My fear is that Jetsetter will try to be a site for everyone, instead of continuing to do what it has done so well: Curate, editorialize and get stellar deals on truly amazing properties. This is the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0—the market is big enough you don't have to be all things to all people, you can serve a part of the population better than anyone else and win. I would rather the site didn't solve all of my travel problems, and solve a few this well than become a high-end Hotels.com for the masses.

Please, Jetsetter, don’t follow the classic Web playbook and grow so big you strangle something great.

Five Years In, YouTube Is Now Streaming Two Billion Views Per Day

Posted: 16 May 2010 09:00 PM PDT

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been five years since YouTube launched and changed the way people share video online (it was acquired by Google a year and a half later). To celebrate its birthday, YouTube has just announced a major new milestone: it’s streaming a whopping two billion views per day (the company notes that this is “nearly double the prime-time audience of all three major US television networks combined”).

To help commemorate the occasion, YouTube is also launching a new channel of videos called “My YouTube Story”, which includes a collection of clips featuring people around the world talking about how YouTube has changed their lives. The initial batch of clips were filmed by documentary filmmaker Stephen Higgins, and some of them are quite touching. YouTube users can upload their own video stories as well; YouTube will be plotting these videos on a global map, and will also offer an interactive timeline of clips.

We should point out that YouTube announced it had passed 1 billion views a day in October 2009, but that number was probably a bit lower than the actual figure —  we had reported that it had crossed 1.2 billion views a day the previous June.

YouTube has also compiled some stats and timelines as it reflects on its first five years.

Here are the site’s most current stats:

2 Billion views a day
3rd most visited website (Alexa)
Localized in 23 countries across 24 different languages
15 The average number of minutes people spend on the site each day
24 Hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute
45 Million home page impressions every day
70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S.
100 Years of video scanned by copyright managent technology, Content ID, every day
1700 Years it would take you to watch the hundreds of millions of videos on YouTube

Here are some other goodies YouTube is sharing:

The First YouTube Homepage, 2005

A Brief History of YouTube

Key Milestones

First video uploaded to the site (April 2005)
Ronaldinho video is first to reach 1 million views(July 2006)
Google acquires YouTube (October 2006)
CNN/YouTube debates (June 2007)
YouTube mobile site launches (January 2008)
YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (April 2009)

Product Milestones
YouTube enables embeds on other sites (June 2005)
Partner Program launches (December 2007)
InVideo Ads launches (August 2007)
Content ID launches (October 2007)
YouTube videos available in HD (December 2008)
Shows and Movies (April 2009)
YouTube XL (June 2009)
YouTube Direct (November 2009)
HTML5 Supported Videos (January 2010)

Top 5 Most Viewed Videos of all time
Lady Gaga Bad Romance with 196,115,524 views
Charlie bit my finger with 185,714,255 views
Evolution of Dance with 142,679,738 views
Miley Cyrus – 7 Things with 117,413,641
Pitbull – I Know You Want Me with 118,410,161

Top 5 Most Subscribed Partners
nigahiga with 2,186,108 subscribers
Fred with 1,721,0095 subscribers
ShaneDawsonTV with 1,486,594
smosh with 1,461,046 subscribers
RayWilliamJohnson with 1,223,753 subscribers

NSFW: Leave Britney Alone! (Where by Britney I mean Steve, Mark and Jimbo)

Posted: 16 May 2010 05:31 PM PDT

There’s the unmistakable smell of revolution in the air this week. And if I were Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Jimmy ‘Jimbo’ Wales I’d be keeping an eye out for angry French peasants dragging guillotines.

For Jobs, the rebellion  is opening up across several flanks: from once-loyal partners like Adobe bitter over Apple’s decision not to support Flash to once-loyal journalists penning op-eds about heavy-handed treatment of the fourth estate and blanket censorship of adult content on the iPad. For Zuckerberg, as I wrote last week, it’s the continuing user-generated outcry over privacy. For Wales it’s an alleged mutiny by wiki editors over his decision to unilaterally delete hardcore pornography from Wikipedia.

In each case the specifics are different but the thrust is the same: having built hugely successful and popular companies in their own image, some of technology’s leading visionaries are coming under attack from the people who were once their biggest allies.

It’s worth pointing out that, for all their ferocity, the attacks are having little noticeable effect on the performance of the companies concerned: all three continue to go from strength to strength. But clearly for the founders themselves there’s a real  impact. Last Tuesday, it was reported (although later denied) that Wales  has voluntarily surrendered almost all of his editing privileges over Wikipedia, reducing his status to that of a junior editor. For his part, the normally unflappable Jobs has taken to protracted and snippy late night exchanges with a Valleywag writer who asked “If Dylan was [sic] 20 today, how would he feel about your company?” Zuckerberg’s suffering, meanwhile, is positively Alighierian: with leaked email exchanges and a Hollywood movie conspiring to destroy any last vestiges of privacy that the 26-year-old enjoys. I suspect all three have stopped reading their Google News alerts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of schadenfreude as much as the next failure, but as I listen to the growing chorus of disapproval at some of technology’s most iconic founders I can’t help but feel uneasy.

No matter what Danah – sorry – danah Boyd – sorry – boyd – might say, Facebook isn’t a public utility, and nor should it be treated as such. (The test by the way for if X is a utility: if the sentence ‘Millions of children in Africa have no access to x’ doesn’t sound like a headline from the Onion. Try it with electricity, water and Facebook. See?) No matter what some bloggers might think about the First Amendment implications of banning porn, Steve Jobs is not an arm of the US government. Likewise Jimmy Wales’ democratic powers are safely confined to the space between the words Aardvark and Zyxt – is it really a pseudo-constitutional scandal for him to delete a bit of porn?

The problem here is one of perspective. We hardcore internet users might do well to realise that, just because we spend our days trawling TechCrunch and TechMeme and Hacker News doesn’t mean that the wider world shares our belief that privacy settings for photos we’ve chosen to post online, Flash on the iPad or our God-given right to see erections on Wikipedia are the most important issues in the world today. And why should they? By and large, Jobs, Zuckerberg and Wales are going about their lawful business, providing fun digital toys that we could easily survive without, but choose not to.

The second problem is one of entitlement. Just because the founders of web and technology companies are inherently  more accessible to us than other CEOs (see Jobs replying to emails or Jimmy Wales’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s frequent conference appearances) doesn’t mean that they are any more answerable to us. The respective visions of Jobs, Zuck and Wales have created companies that we gladly use every day in our millions. What right do we have to tell them that their vision is suddenly wrong, just because it happens to clash with our own?

As Mike Arrington wrote on Wednesday in relation to Digg, it’s simply not the obligation of an entrepreneur to make decisions based on what the crowd demands. In fact it’s ludicrous to think that a business which has attracted millions of fans thanks to a founder’s singular vision should suddenly start taking their orders from those fans. The whole point of a visionary is that they can see things that others can’t; if thousands of users think they know what path a visionary should take then that path is inherently the wrong one.

I may disagree with Steve Jobs’ approach to pornography on the iPad (I do), or with Zuckerberg’s high-handed approach to privacy (I do) or with Jimmy Wales’ spontaneous clean-up operation to avoid bad press (I don’t, actually) but provided they remain within the law, I will shrug my shoulders to the death in defence of their right to do what they think best.

If they continue to make the right calls, their companies will continue to grow, and if they make the wrong ones, then they will fail. Until there’s any meaningful sign of the latter happening to Apple, Wikipedia or Facebook we – the journalists, the bloggers, the Twitterers and the shrill activists – should probably put away our guillotines and consider that maybe, just maybe, when it comes to their businesses, these visionaries know what they’re doing.

Jimmy Wales: Fox News Is Wrong, No Shake Up

Posted: 16 May 2010 04:58 PM PDT

Contrary to several reports, Wikipedia’s Founder Jimmy Wales is not relinquishing his editorial control of Wikipedia and its related projects. On Friday, Fox News reported that “a shakeup is underway at the top levels of Wikipedia…Wales is no longer able to delete files, remove administrators, assign projects or edit any content, sources say. Essentially, they say, he has gone from having free reign over the content and people involved in the websites to having the same capabilities of a low-level administrator.”

The report was picked up by Venturebeat and CNET.

An interesting story— except it’s not true according to Jimmy Wales in an e-mail on Sunday. Wales says the Fox News reporter hasn’t even tried to contact him to discuss the alleged “shakeup.” Ouch. Contrary to Fox News’ report of “chaos” at Wikipedia (the article cites an unidentified source close to the company), Wales says everything is fine.

Well, relatively speaking, Wikipedia is still on the defense after Fox News released a report in late April, accusing the site of knowingly distributing child pornography. The article cites former co-founder Larry Sanger (left Wikipedia in 2002), who wrote a letter to the FBI “outlining his concerns and identifying two specific Wikimedia Commons categories he believes violate federal obscenity law.” Wikipedia responded with a statement, defending its editors and its commitment to actively patrol the site: “If and when we are informed by law enforcement agencies of illegal content that has not already been removed through self-policing, we will take quick action to delete it."

I’ll update with more information soon.

Groupon Invades Europe With Acquisition Of Citydeal

Posted: 16 May 2010 01:59 PM PDT

Daily deal service Groupon, hot off a new funding that valued the company at $1.35 billion, may not love all those clones of its service out there. But they’re certainly being realistic about things – tomorrow they’ll announce the acquisition of German startup Citydeal, CEO Andrew Mason just called to tell me.

Citydeal first launched in January, raised €4 million in funding, and now has offers in 80 European cities. They have over a million subscribers to their daily deals, says Mason, compared to about 5 million for Groupon. Citydeal’s 600 employees will join Groupon’s 300 or so, and the combined company will now operate in 18 countries and 140 cities.

The Citydeal services will be rebranded Groupon. Currently each city is under a different domain name and there are some variations on the name – see citydeal.de and mycitydeal.co.uk, for example.

This is Groupon’s second acquisition. Earlier this month they acquired Mob.ly and opened a Silicon Valley office.

More at TechCrunch EU.

iPhone App Sales, Exposed

Posted: 16 May 2010 12:25 PM PDT

This guest post was written by Alex Ahlund, the former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps, which was recently acquired by mobile app directory Appolicious. He is currently an advisor to Appolicious.

One of the most commonly asked questions we get from both developers and industry outsiders is: how much money can I make developing apps? It’s a hard question to answer.

So we decided to conduct a survey. We asked for sale sdata from 124 developers that market applications ranging in price from 99 cents to $79.99. This survey was conducted on apps that ran the gamut of popularity, from wildly successful to barely breaking three figures. Developers were anywhere from funded companies with multiple titles under their belt, to first time, single-person authors. Both regular app developers, as well as game developers were included. This mining of data was intended to cover the entire iPhone app industry as a whole, without allowing outliers to skew the data too much in one direction.

There are many different metrics that must be taken into account – just because product X sold well does not mean product Y will. As a longtime publisher of app reviews, I’ve always been a bit apprehensive about sharing cold, hard statistics because of this issue. Taken as a precise gauge for future iPhone apps, statistics can be completely misleading. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to interpret this information only as an overview of the industry, which, like any others, has its blockbusters, stragglers and everything in between.

The following financial information is pulled from 96 developers who provided in-depth sales data and pricing metrics.

The average total number of units sold was 101,024 copies within an average period of 261 days. The average number of units sold per day was 387. The average price was $5.49, although the data skews due to the $49.99 outlier. In most cases, the price point was $0.99. The average number of updates released was 3.89, with the average total development cost amounting to $6,453. Several developers omitted development costs and most did not include their personal time in these figures. It is safe to assume the cost would be at least five or ten times more when using a contracted team. But on average here, iPhone developers are seeing a return of more than 15 times their initial, albeit small, development costs.

Market success still top-heavy

However, when the top 10% of the most successful apps are removed from the data set, the numbers skew much lower, giving a far better impression of what the iPhone industry looks like for most developers. In this scenario, the average sales were 11,625 total units, averaging 44 copies/day. Approximately 23% of apps sold less than 1000 units from launch (ranging from 12 to 370 days in the App Store). Further, 56% of apps sold less than or equal to 10,000 units, while 90% sold less than 100,000 units, with the remaining 10% achieving sales of 127,000 – 3,000,000 units.

While industry wisdom states that application updates always boost downloads and sales, Apple has changed how updated apps are given exposure and this now doesn’t quite hold true. Some developers reported that updating the app gave only a small—and brief—spike in downloads. What did seem to have a larger impact on sales was a drop in price, although this also tended to taper off quickly.

Being featured by Apple is the greatest contributor to spiking sales. The level of Apple
promotion, as expected, reflected what sort of increase the developer would see. Areas such as “New and Noteworthy” produced slightly less gains than “Staff Favorites” or “What’s Hot.” Generally speaking, it is safe to assume a 2-20X sales spike following being featured, with the effect lasting roughly a week or so before returning to average numbers. The key here is to use this dramatic spike to propel the app onto a top list—be it the universal top 100 or in a top list for a specific section or country. Once there, the app has a much better chance of moving up and reaching a higher plateau of sales.

From a marketing perspective, the same tactic could be applied. While not all apps have the likelihood of being featured, focusing promotional efforts within a tight timeframe can be the key. Instead of spreading out marketing and advertising over the life of a product, focusing efforts into a narrow window (preferably, in terms of days) can be much more effective in getting the app onto a top list.

Now, let’s take a look at specific applications. I encourage examining the apps themselves to understand what exactly went into them. The production values, complexity, niche, and pricing determine why they produced either excellent or paltry sales results. The following list reflects 50 applications from the data set that covers the range of sales:

App Name Total Sales Days in Market App Price
Xpong 20 210 0.99
ShingleNav 28 156 4.99
Fumbers 62 40 1.99
Greenthumb! 87 231 1.99
FastTrac 199 60 4.99
splojit 217 238 0.99
Size Convert 354 210 0.99
Handbook of High-Risk Obstetrics 436 210 49.99
Traveler’s Quest 532 97 2.99
Cougar Call 800 229 0.99
Seasonalysis 1000 200 49.99
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle 1179 223 13.99
Star Ride 1200 270 2.99
Star Fusion 1323 217 0.99
Germs 1465 102 0.99
iWasted 1500 201 0.99
Silly Songz 2000 365 0.99
School timetable 3648 395 0.99
Pi Cubed 3775 316 9.99
CardSnap 4690 342 14.99
Adaptunes 4754 272 0.99
Theme Park Madness 4788 367 2.99
Birthday Reminder 10000 250 1.99
Craigly 10000 400 0.99
EleMints 10224 505 4.99
Gridlocked: Traffic Control 12500 270 0.99
MeetMe. 15000 180 0.99
MicroCars 16613 230 1.99
Green Screen Studio 17025 210 2.99
NineGaps 18120 278 0.99
Distant Suns 20000 450 6.99
Numerology 34905 518 4.99
iEscaper! -Escape From the Ninja’s Lair- 35000 215 2.99
TapFormsDatabase 35100 517 8.99
A Doodle Flight 38000 225 0.99
Mini Touch Golf 40000 596 0.99
Art Envi 40000 580 0.99
Mover+ 46000 195 2.99
Orbital 50000 180 1.99
Scanner Pro 52514 143 6.99
Movie Challenge 53402 475 1.99
Formula Racing 127483 127 0.99
Stitch’em Words 200749 353 1.99
Air Hockey 300000 578 0.99
Finger Physics 418000 155 0.99
Fling! 500000 205 0.99
Moto X Mayhem 800000 218 0.99
PocketGuitar 1300000 530 0.99
Flight Control 2000000 361 0.99
Bejeweled 2 3000000 600 2.99

Common marketing techniques include Facebook, forum posts, Twitter, own website, press releases, LinkedIn, app Review sites, blogs, friends, contests, YouTube, advertising (Print, PPC, and banners), flyers, newsletters, Flash Demos, physical networking and podcasts. While each of these methods helped developers in some ways, the real marketing power to make or break an app product rested in the hands of Apple and their selection choices. Apps with successful products in other industries (tie-ins) gained a significant boost from that relationship. The same held true for developers with a known presence already on the web.

The iPhone app market is something that is still in its infancy when one considers what it will look like only a few years from now. Although we are at more than 200,000 apps released, one million doesn’t seem so far fetched given the rate of growth thus far. These sales analytics should offer a starting point for understanding the general landscape, but are not necessarily indicative of one’s own app success. We’ve seen apps made in a weekend earn millions and apps taking months or more earning next to nothing. Developers can either find a niche and get extremely lucky, or produce a fantastic product with high production values. In the end, the latter is the safer route to success. Time to get crackin’…


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