web 2.0

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Live From The Google I/O Keynote

Posted: 19 May 2010 09:03 AM PDT

Google’s biggest developer conference is kicking off, and it’s starting with a 90 minute keynote that’s sure to bring some major news. My live notes from the event are below. Note that Google is live streaming the event — we can’t embed the video, but you can get to it by clicking on the photo above, or by going here.

-Google VP Vic Gundotra has taken the stage. He says that this is the third I/O and it sold out faster than either of the events before it

-The web is the most important platform of our generation. And it is the only one that belongs to all of us. It was at this conference. HTML 5 is taking off. The first spike is YouTUbe adoption. The second was Apple’s adoption (I think it was a late night Steve Jobs email or something).

Now Open To Everyone, Google Believes Wave Is Finally Ready To Roll

Posted: 19 May 2010 09:00 AM PDT

<It was one year ago at Google I/O that company unveiled one of its most ambitious projects to date: Google Wave. Sadly, ambition doesn’t always equal success. In fact, you might say Google Wave was too ambitious. It was promising to be too many things — it needed focus. And it needed polish. Now, all this time later, Google believes it finally has both.

Today, Google is announcing that Wave will be open to everyone. This includes not only consumers with Google accounts, but also Google Apps customers. The project is now a part of Google Labs, where it will remain as work continues on it. But much work has already been done — if you haven’t tried it in the past few months, now is probably a good time to revisit it, as is it much more stable and faster than it was in the past. And it’s full of some new features that should make it more obvious what it can be useful for.

You may recall this video from last year showcasing Google Wave on stage at Google I/O — it got over 9 million views and had people clamoring for the exclusive invites. But the video failed to answer perhaps the fundamental question, “what do we do with it right now?,” developer Lars Rasmussen tells us. ”That’s because we weren’t sure,” he admits. People would load it up and get overwhelmed or confused. “But we know that now — it’s about groups of people adopting Wave,” he says.

Over the past year of watching usage, Rasmussen’s team concluded that the “sweet spot” for Wave is group collaboration. While these days, most sexy new services are some variety of social network where people share things, Wave is about “people getting together to get work done,” he says. And that’s the market Wave now intends to go squarely after.

Google is known for shipping projects early and letting them evolve as people test them out. But the company acknowledged from day one that Wave was being put out there early even by Google standards. The intention was to see how people would use it. While that may make it sound like everything has been going according to plan, that hasn’t been the perception. I asked Rasmussen if looking back now, he felt it was a mistake to release Wave the way they did. Rasmussen admits that Google wasn’t expecting as big of an initial reaction as they got. This was followed by a huge amount of backlash (which Rasmussen gave me props for predicting, which I appreciate). It’s been a bumpy ride.

But again, he says they’ve learned a lot from the past year. And the team believes that Wave will follow the Gartner Hype Cycle — we had the Peak of Inflated Expectations, followed by the Trough of Disillusionment. Now we’re ready for the Slope of Enlightenment, if the theory holds.

Wave has about a million active users now, Rasmussen says (not to be confused with the numbers from December when one million Wave invites had been sent out). While this compares favorably with another year-old service with a lot of hype, Foursquare, Wave had the benefit of Google backing it, so a million may seem low. But Wave also didn’t get the kind of piggyback Google Buzz did when Google launched it inside of Gmail — a service with nearly 200 million users. I asked the Wave team if they’d like to see some sort of similar placement for Wave in the future. “We’d be very happy if that happened,” Wave developer Stephanie Hannon says. She notes that Gmail Labs experiment may be perfect for something like that. It’s something Google and the Wave team is thinking about, Rasmussen confirms.

When I asked if they thought Buzz was stepping on their toes in some regard, Rasmussen said that while there is some overlap, the services are quickly proving to be two different things. Buzz is about sharing with a lot of people, while Wave is about realtime collaboration with a smaller group of people, he says.

I also asked Rasmussen about his thoughts on the state of HTML5, since Wave is one of the key big projects hoping to utilize some of the newer web features. “You’ll never hear me say I’m happy with the pace of HTML5 development,” Rasmussen says with a laugh. That said, the Wave team remains completely committed to the web, and thinks their technology needs could help push it forward even faster.

Mobile usage/development has been a weakness for Wave right now, according to Rasmussen. But he hopes that will changes soon with the launch of several new APIs — another part of Wave’s Google I/O announcement today.

It will be interesting to see how Wave fares in year two, with less hype and more functionality. If the team is able to get it into Gmail or Google Docs, they’ll get their chance to prove whether it’s the ultimate collaboration tool or not. And remember, almost all of this has been talk about Wave the product — the belief has always been that Wave the platform would be much more important. But the truth is that it’s hard to built a platform people will use without a product. So Wave better hope that this is indeed the Slope of Enlightenment.

Bubble Motion Adds Sharing And Commenting To Twitter-Like Voice Blogging Service For Mobile Phones

Posted: 19 May 2010 08:56 AM PDT

We recently wrote about Sequoia-backed voice messaging company Bubble Motion’s foray into voice blogging, Bubbly. While the thought of a Twitter-like voice blogging service is a little strange, the service is picking up steam in India, where politicians, brands and actor are using Bubbly to connect with fans. Today, Bubble Motion is releasing a new, more interactive version of Bubbly, the voice-blogging phone service where people share voice updates with friends, family, fans and followers instantly via SMS alerts.

With Bubbly, you can record and broadcast messages from any mobile device. When a users records audio messages and updates, followers can listen in whenever they want. To start voice-blogging, you enter a short code onto your phone, and start recording your messages. To follow another voice-blogger, users dial the phone number for whomever they want to follow. Whenever there's a new audio update, followers are notified via SMS with instructions on how to listen. Deployed through partnerships with mobile operators, Bubbly is an extension of BubbleTalk, a click, talk, and send' messaging service that doesn't require any calling.

Users can now vote on popular content, and comment on messages, allowing voice-bloggers to send a recorded voice reply. Users can also now forward compelling, funny, or inspiring blog updates to other interested parties. While Bubble Motion is seeing strong traction in India, the service will be making a big push on other countries in Asia through recent partnerships with the largest mobile operators in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

As we’ve said in the past, India seems like a perfect market for Bubbly, especially considering the success and rapid growth of the Indian Twitter-like SMS microblogging network, SMS GupShup. But it should be interesting to see if Bubbly can take off in other parts of Asia.

Bubble Motion, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., has raised a total of $35 million in funding since the company’s launch in 2003.

Exclusive: Former Sony Pictures President Yair Landau Joins MK Capital

Posted: 19 May 2010 08:38 AM PDT

Yair Landau, former Vice Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and President of Sony Pictures Digital, is joining venture capital firm MK Capital as a Partner, we’ve learned.

Under Landau's direction and with the help of the VC firm’s other LA-based partner Mark Terbeek, MK Capital’s West Coast office will pursue investment opportunities with particular emphasis in the digital media, digital production and gaming categories.

Yair Landau spent 17 years working for Sony, most recently serving as Vice Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and President of Sony Pictures Digital.

The latter was formed by Landau back in 1999 and consisted of Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Online Entertainment. As head of corporate development for Sony Pictures, Landau was responsible for securing the underlying rights to the SPIDERMAN franchise, as well as launching Movielink, the 5-studio movie download service.

Landau also formed and managed Sony Pictures Animation, a full-scale animation unit producing full-length CG animated feature films. He also guided Sony Online Entertainment into a major player in the massively multiplayer online games industry before it was transitioned under Sony Playstation following his departure in March 2008.

Landau is the president and founder of Mass Animation, an online animation studio collaboratively producing entertaining digital content. He’s also listed as a partner of Jerusalem Venture Partners on the firm’s website, but we’re not sure that’s still the case.

Some of Chicago-headquartered MK Capital’s investments include BladeLogic (sold to BMC Software for $800 million in March 2008), Multicast Media (acquired by KIT digital for $18 million last month), Kontiki (repurchased from VeriSign in May 2008), Generate, Junction Solutions, Netuitive and Machinima.

Google, Mozilla, And Opera Take On H.264 With The WebM Project, A New Royalty-Free Video Codec

Posted: 19 May 2010 08:30 AM PDT

Just when the H.264 video codec is starting to take over a large portion of new Web videos, along comes Google to shake things up again. Today, along with Mozilla and Opera, it is launching the WebM Project, an open, royalty-free codec that can run in HTML5 browsers without the need for Flash.

Up till now, the battle between Flash and HTML5 video has centered around the H.264 codec, which is gaining broad adoption. Apple supports H.264 in all of its devices such as iPads and iPhones, and it is one of the technical reasons Steve Jobs cites for why there is less and less need to support Flash. H.264 is a modern codec, fast and light. It’s great except for one thing. It is owned by the MPEG-LA consortium, which doesn’t charge royalties for its use today, but currently plans to start enforcing royalties in 2015. The royalty threat is the reason Mozilla supports an older open codex called Ogg Theora in Firefox instead of H.264.

But Google is donating a much better codec, called VP8, which it acquired with its purchase of On2 Techchnolgies. The WebM Project is a new container file format for Web video. It includes the VP8 video codec, the open Vorbis audio codec, file extensions and a new mime type. Any video player can adopt it, including Flash.

Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers will all support WebM, and Google will give it a big push by making YouTube videos support it as well. Will Safari and IE join as well? Apple is pushing H.264 pretty hard, but there is no reason it couldn’t support WebM as well in the future. If it doesn’t, we might have a Web video standards war on our hands.

Touchnote Signs Global Deal With Sony Ericsson For… A Postcard App?

Posted: 19 May 2010 08:01 AM PDT

Touchnote, the mobile app startup which allows you to snap a picture and send it to someone as a physical postcard, has signed a non-exclusive deal with Sony Ericsson which will see it distributed on SE handsets on a global basis. The deal means the Touchnote-branded app will appear on SE's Android and Symbian handsets and integrated into the camera and gallery. On first use users will get offered free product to whet their appetite. But why a postcard app? There's no doubt it was Touchnote's business model which probably swung the deal with Sony Ericsson. Unlike with most applications, SE will get a revenue share from postcard sales made via the Touchnote application. Very few other apps actually general money for handset makers. It costs $1.49, Euro 1.49 or £1.50 to send the postcard to anywhere in the world.

10 Things The IPad Is Good For… And 5 It Isn’t

Posted: 19 May 2010 07:36 AM PDT

We’ve all had plenty of time to digest the iPad and all its magical wonders and in the few months we’ve had it it has sold over a million units. But that just means another few billion people are still on the fence about it! Here are a few things I’ve discovered about the iPad in my travels thus far and I hope will help you make your iPad buying decision.

1. It’s a great e-reader
The iPad is a great ereader. It’s easy to find books on any one of the various stores available to you – Kindle, Nook, and iBooks – and the screen is clear, bright, and eminently readable. It’s great on the train or plane – just get a case and hold it in one hand. You can also grab formatted text like PDFs and open it in GoodReader. There is one caveat, however, which we’ll discuss later.

Read more…

Attorney General Tom Corbett Subpoenaes Twitter To Identify Anonymous Critics

Posted: 19 May 2010 07:28 AM PDT

Tom Corbett, current Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania and Gubernatorial Candidate, has subpoenaed Twitter to appear as a Grand Jury witness to “testify and give evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of Pennsylvania”.

The subpoena orders Twitter to provide “any and all subscriber information” of the person(s) behind two accounts – @bfbarbie and @CasaBlancaPA – who have been anonymously criticizing the man on the popular micro-sharing service.

According to the subpoena (embedded below), the information that Twitter is ordered to provide includes “name, address, contact information, creation date, creation Internet Protocol address and any and all log in Internet Protocol address”.

A Twitter representative was supposed to appear as a witness before the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigation Grand Jury on Friday, May 14. We’ve asked the company to comment, but a Twitter spokesperson said they don’t comment on legal matters. We’re still waiting to hear back from Corbett’s office.

As the subpoena notes, if Twitter failed to attend, a warrant for arrest could be issued and the company could be held liable under penalty of law for Contempt of court.

The account @CasaBlancaPA, whose owner is identified as ‘Signor Ferrari’ (a criminal in the film Casablanca, played by Sydney Greenstreet) on Twitter, links to this blog in the bio section. The blog, hosted on Google’s Blogger service, is dedicated to “exposing the hypocrisy of Tom Corbett” according to its subtitle.

Some choice tweets that may have gotten the @CasaBlancaPA account owner in trouble:

- “Is it wrong to mix campaign work with taxpayer business? Apparently not when Tom Corbett does it bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

- “Corbett erupts at campaign event; security tries to eject questioner #bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

- “Quiz! Who sputters with indignation over failure to recuse from cases involving contributors? #bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed by a former state employee against the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office that alleges public dollars were "illegally paid out to vendors" and contends wrongful termination. However, there have been no charges filed or evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Corbett.

We’re digging further into this.

Update: ‘Ferrari’ writes:

We believe this is more about the blog than the Tweets. We have not received notification of a subpoena to Blogger, so we really don’t know. We are seeking legal representation and plan to ask Twitter not to comply.

Although the subpoena was to appear last week, we believe Twitter asked for additional time because we received notification last night. We believe in the constitutionally-protected right of Americans to criticize public officials anonymously.

iPhone And Android Now Make Up 25 Percent of Smartphone Sales

Posted: 19 May 2010 06:24 AM PDT

Google-powered Android phones and iPhones are both gobbling up market share. The combined worldwide market share of both operating systems reached 25 percent in the first quarter, up from 12 percent the year before, according to Gartner. The iPhone still has a bigger share, at 15.4 percent (up 5 points), but Android is catching up fast with 9.6 percent (up 8 points). All other smartphones lost relative share during the quarter, even RIM Blackberries, although they still grew in absolute numbers (see table below)

Android is now the fourth largest smartphone operating system, displacing Windows Mobile, which is now No. 5. The iPhone OS is No. 3, RIM is No. 2, and Symbian is still No. 1 on a worldwide basis. If you look at all mobile phone sales, RIM is No. 4 with 3.4 percent share, and the iPhone is No. 7 with 2.7 percent share.

While Android is rising faster than the iPhone in relative share, it is still trailing in absolute numbers. Gartner estimates consumers bought about 8.4 million iPhones in the first quarter, compared to 5.2 million Android phones. Apple sold 4.9 million more iPhones in the first quarter than the year before, while Android sales were up by 4.6 million units.

Can Android sales catch up to the iPhone?

Table 2
Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 1Q10 (Thousands of Units)

Company 1Q10


1Q10 Market Share (%) 1Q09


1Q09 Market Share (%)
Symbian 24,069.8 44.3 17,825.3 48.8
Research In Motion 10,552.6 19.4 7,533.6 20.6
iPhone OS 8,359.7 15.4 3,848.1 10.5
Android 5,214.7 9.6 575.3 1.6
Microsoft Windows Mobile 3,706.0 6.8 3,738.7 10.2
Linux 1,993.9 3.7 2,540.5 7.0
Other OSs 404.8 0.7 445.9 1.2
Total 54,301.4 100.0 36,507.4 100.0

Source: Gartner (May 2010)

mSpot Now Brings Your iTunes Music To The Cloud And Android Phones

Posted: 19 May 2010 05:58 AM PDT

Mobile entertainment startup mSpot is debuting a free music cloud service today that allows you to sync your entire music collection across Android phones and PCs/Macs. You can upload your music into the mSpot Cloud, which is still in private beta, and then can listen to it from your browser and Android phones almost immediately. We have 500 invites for TechCrunch readers. You can sign up here with the code “TechCrunch”.

Here’s how it works. The service’s application that operates in the background of your computer managing the upload and day-to-day syncing of your music library. In addition, it can upload playlists, coverart, ratings and song information you may have entered using iTunes. The application will manage your music for you, making automatic updates whenever changes occur in your library, and on across different connected devices.

The service will be open to the public in the next few months. Right now, private beta users have free access to 2 gigabytes of storage but have the option of paying to upgrade to more storage.

Of course Lala did this as well, but Apple has shut that service down after acquiring it. And we expect that Apple will be launching a cloud-based version of iTunes soon, which would pose a serious threat to mSpot’s offering.

Mspot is best known for its Mobile Movies site, which will let users stream full-length movies on their mobile phones, on the web, so you can enjoy mSpot’s online streaming movie service on your computer. mSpot has struck deals with Paramount, Universal, Image Entertainment, and Screen Media Ventures to stream full-length movie rentals to users' PCs and cell phones, allowing you to switch between both devices as you pick up and leave off throughout a movie. The PC streaming functionality builds upon the mobile movie service mSpot launched last year. The service, which just launched an iPhone app, includes 1000 titles that can be streamed to both a computer and mobile device.

Barnes & Noble Announces PubIt! for Aspiring Authors

Posted: 19 May 2010 05:54 AM PDT

Everyone has a book in them, right? Well Barnes & Noble wants to give you the opportunity to push that book in front of a few million people using their PubIt! service. The new service allows you to upload a document, convert it to epub, and sell it on their B&N reader system, including on the Nook and iPad. It's coming this summer and is currently accepting sign-ups. Interestingly, they're focusing on independent publishers, which suggests that we won't see too many scrawled treatises on alien mind control in the Carter cabinet or the how the ghost of Jack Ruby is coming to inappropriately touch an older man in Boca Raton. There will be a "competitive royalty model" but they're not announcing specifics right now.

Pakistan Court Orders Temporary Facebook Ban Over Prophet Caricatures

Posted: 19 May 2010 05:33 AM PDT

A Pakistani court this morning ordered authorities to temporarily block social networking service Facebook over a competition encouraging users to publish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the site. Pakistani muslims stepped up to condemn the user-generated contest for blasphemy, as the depiction of any prophet is strictly prohibited in Islam (favorable or not).

The Facebook group “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” has generated heaps of criticism in the predominantly Muslim Islamic Republic of Pakistan – Muslims faithfuls set up online campaigns and other protests to grab the attention of the authorities.

A group of lawyers called the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement went a step further today and petitioned the court to order a blanket ban on Facebook in Pakistan. About 45 million Pakistani use the social networking site, according to various reports.

Justice Ejaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court directed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block Facebook until May 31, when the court will open a detailed hearing into the case, and to submit a written reply to the petition by that date.

In February 2008, Pakistan’s telecoms regulator imposed restrictions on YouTube.

(More on BBC, Al Jazeera English and AFP)

Payvment Raises $1.5 Million To Help Retailers Set Up Storefronts On Facebook

Posted: 19 May 2010 04:56 AM PDT

Payvment, a startup that allows anyone to create and operate a retail storefront on Facebook, has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding round led by BlueRun Ventures, with a number of angel investors, including Dave McClure, participating in the round.

Payvment's Facebook App lets anyone create a retail store on the social network. The app lets you set up products, categories of products (i.e. shoes, T-shirts, sweaters), import photos, list terms of service and shipping options and more. Once you set up your online shop on Facebook, it will show up in a separate tab on your profile or page under "storefront".

Since the company launched in November, over 20,000 businesses and individuals have started to sell goods on Facebook and over 500,000 Facebook users have shopped for products in stores using the Payvment app. Most recently, Payvment launched the ability for for retailers to provide instant discounts and coupons to users that become Fans or "Like" their fan pages. Other compelling features of Payvment’s technology is the ability to review items from within the store and the ability to allow shoppers to carry their goods with them across thousands of Payvment-powered storefronts on Facebook. It makes shopping on Facebook almost like shopping at Target, where you can visit multiple departments and buy all of your diverse purchases at once.

Noticeably missing from Payvment is monetization channel. But founder Christian Taylor says that the startup is still working on developing its product and will approach the revenue question at a later time. But as retailers flock to Facebook for both brand awareness and e-commerce, Payyvment’s free offerings are attractive because the platform is a one-stop shop for both efforts. However, Payvment isn’t the first to implement this strategy; 1-800-Flowers started offering discounts to users who became fans of its page last July. The startup also faces competition from BigCommerce, Alvenda and others.

Web TV Network Blip.tv Raises $10.1 Million More From Canaan And Bain

Posted: 19 May 2010 04:53 AM PDT

Online TV network blip.tv today announced the closing of its third round of institutional capital, which effectively more than doubles the amount of money the company has secured to date. The Series C round was led by Canaan Partners and existing investors Bain Capital Ventures.

The company says it will use its new funding to accelerate the growth of the independent Web shows that the network hosts and distributes, expand its content services team, grow its international advertising sales force and develop new products for both viewers and producers.

The company turns five this year, and says it currently welcomes more than 44,000 independent show producers to the blip.tv show creator dashboard on a daily basis, to review statistics, engage with their communities of viewers, manage their shows, and release new episodes across blip.tv's distribution network.

Blip.tv claims that the shows attract more than 90 million video views a month in aggregate (up from 85 million views in February).

The network currently serves more than 50,000 original Web shows, from scripted sitcoms and dramas to news and how-to programs. Blip.tv hosts and syndicates shows to iTunes, YouTube, Vimeo, AOL Video, Verizon FiOS, TiVO, Sony Bravia, The Roku Digital Video Player and Facebook. Blip.tv splits all advertising revenues with show creators 50/50.

The company raised $500,000 in seed funding back in 2005 and went on to close two more financing rounds, $2.5 million and $5.2 million respectively. With the new round of funding, the total of capital raised has reached $18.3 million.

An iPod Touch With 2MP Cam Appears In Vietnam

Posted: 19 May 2010 04:51 AM PDT

What's going on in Vietnam? Unannounced Apple products seem to be falling from the sky. The same group that released the second round of iPhone 4G pics got their hands on an iPod touch with a 2MP rear-facing camera. The DVT-1 stamp clearly states that it's not a production model, but rather a pre-production or prototype model, suggesting that this boy might not ever get a release.

Yes Folks, The Official iPhone Twitter App Is Here

Posted: 19 May 2010 04:04 AM PDT

We already knew it was hours if not minutes away - see our earlier report - and it's perhaps no surprise that New Zealand gets the goods ahead of Europe and the US (a bit like New Year's day). Yes folks, the official Twitter app for iPhone is here, you know the one expected based on Tweetie ever since Twitter bought the company. We expect other iPhone app stores around the world to propagate shortly.

Context Optional Allows Retailers To Offer Coupons And Target Customers By Location On Facebook

Posted: 19 May 2010 03:55 AM PDT

Context Optional, a SaaS offering that allows users to build, monitor and manage brand presence on Facebook, is launching a customized application for retailers. The Facebook focused marketing suite aims to help retailers engage with users both on brand pages and the stream.

The suite’s offerings include the ability to create and publish coupons on a Facebook Page and in the stream, and to launch interactive product catalogs to a Facebook Page and in the stream where users can comment and share the item. The suite also allows retailers to target and customize messages to fans based on their location, publish images, video and links to the stream with built-in tracking and engage fans with interactive polls in the stream. Marketers can also track fan growth, measure consumer engagement over time and compare campaign results.

Currently Kohls, Safeway and Threadless are using Context Optional’s retail offering to engage with fans on Facebook. And Radio Shack, Toys R Use and Home Depot are soon to be using the suite as well. As Facebook continues to grow in terms of users, the network is fast becoming a center for retail engagement, customer services and even e-commerce. Marketing tools like Context Optional not only help retailers keep a pulse on the conversation happening on Facebook about their brands, but also allows them to engage with customers in more mean meaningful ways.

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Joins Tokyo-Based Digital Garage’s Advisory Board

Posted: 19 May 2010 02:50 AM PDT

It seems Twitter is poised to go into overdrive in Japan, the world’s third largest Internet nation. Yesterday, we reported that major mobile carrier SoftBank Mobile collaborates with Twitter to bring cell phones with Twitter pre-installed to Japanese customers. And today, Digital Garage (the company’s partner in Japan since 2008) announced [JP, PDF] Twitter’s co-founder and creative director Biz Stone has joined its advisory board.

Established in 1995, Tokyo-based Digital Garage has incubated and localized a number of large web brands, i.e. Twitter, Japan’s leading price engine Kakaku.com, or Infoseek. For the next three years, Stone will not only help the company to grow Twitter’s business in Japan but also advise CGM Marketing [JP], a Digital Garage subsidiary that markets Twitter in this country.

Stone also steps in as a mentor for Open Network Lab, a Y Combinator-like incubator Digital Garage and two other companies established last month in Tokyo, joining the likes of Napster founder Shawn Fanning, Tim O'Reilly, ot LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman (who has been a member of Digital Garage’s advisory board since 2007).

Is Zynga Opening Offices in Beijing?

Posted: 19 May 2010 02:18 AM PDT

When it comes to social games and virtual goods, Silicon Valley is relatively new to an industry that Asia has been building since the early 2000s. Zynga, apparently, wants some of that Chinese talent. DigiCha has a great catch about three job listing that were put on Beijing Craigslist– and then promptly pulled down. The three jobs were Chief Technology Officer, Human Resources Manager and Software Engineer. Given that two of those are management, I’m guessing they’re not hiring just one software engineer. DigiCha’s Bill Bishop expects the announcement to be made Thursday.

Online gaming has been hot in China, and the Western tech scene is taking notice. One of Zynga’s biggest competitors, Playfish, already has an office there. One source says its staff is likely to be a big poaching target.

This is different from the Yahoo, eBay, Google round of Valley startups expanding into China, because this time there are already a host of strong Chinese publicly-traded competitors waiting whether they are scrappy upstarts like Giant or giants like Tencent and Shanda. And this time a lot of these companies are going after the talent in China, as much as they are going after the huge Chinese market. Chastened by how badly the dot com bubble crop did, it’ll be interesting to see if the Web 2.0 generation can do any better.

All this means the market for gaming talent in China is getting tighter amid all the interest, and Chinese startups can’t be happy about that. But when it comes to management positions at least there’s one big multinational anyone can poach from: Google. I’ve heard from more than a few sources that Google’s Beijing staff was none-to-happy about the search company leaving them out of the loop earlier this year when it threatened its pull-out of the market.

Check.in Checks Out Of Closed Beta And Into Your HTML5-Compatible Device

Posted: 18 May 2010 09:47 PM PDT

Back in March, I wrote about the problem of check-in fatigue. That is, with so many location-based check-in services now out there, it’s exhausting to open each one every time to check-in to the same place across multiple networks. The solution, for now at least, is Check.in. And it’s ready to open to everyone tonight.

Check.in is an HTML5 web app made by Brightkite that allows you to check-in to a venue on multiple location-based services. Those services including Foursquare, Gowalla, and of course, Brightkite. This works by taking advantage of those services’ APIs alongside some backend place matching that Brightkite does on its end. The result is being able to check-in across multiple services in a few seconds rather than taking a few minutes to load up the various apps and hit the required buttons on each to check-in.

Since Check.in went live in closed beta in March, over 6,000 users have tried it out, generating some 135,000 check-ins, I’m told. The average user checked-in 20 times, and there were over 2 million place queries in the beta period.

That last statistic speaks to why we need some sort of unified Places database (this app just does place matching, not unification). Brightkite had indicated they’d be willing to do something like that, but the problem is the other companies who are all saying the right things now — but may not be so quick to hand over their databases with the places they’ve collected. It’s also an extremely hard problem to solve since not all the data is perfectly aligned (misspellings, slightly off GPS, etc).

The point is, even if everyone seems to say they want it, it’s not happening anytime soon. And so we have Check.in.

Since the closed beta began, Brightkite has also added two new services to the check-in roster: Whrrl and TriOut. Each of these is still experimental alongside Gowalla, which is currently on Check.in thanks to an API work-around (Gowalla has a read-only API at the moment).

Some other data that Brightkite saw during the beta trial was that people check-in most often on Friday, and least often on Sunday. And most users opt to use two of the check-in services, followed by those who choose to use three. Four and five were much less popular (though Whrrl and TriOut weren’t available the entire time), and one was somewhat popular — though I’m not sure what the point of using check.in is if you’re only going to use it with one service.

Since it’s HTML5, Check.in will work with iPhones, Android phones, and yes, the iPad. Just point your web browser here to find it.

Former Plaxo CEO Ben Golub Joins Gluster, An Open Source Storage Platform Startup

Posted: 18 May 2010 09:46 PM PDT

Back in March, long-time Plaxo President and CEO Ben Golub left the social address book company after five years. Today, he’s announcing his next move — he’s taking the reins at Gluster, a startup that offers an open source software solution for storing very large amounts of unstructured data. Golub will replace current CEO Hitesh Chellani who is transitioning to become VP of Operations.

Golub says that during his time at Plaxo he experienced the struggles web companies have to go through to serve large amounts of data to large numbers of customers, which often involved quickly adding large amounts of storage capacity. He says that along with other Web 2.0 companies, large media companies like Comcast, which acquired Plaxo, have to deal with similar problems. Gluster helps deal with these issues, allowing services to use commodity hardware to store large amounts of data while also making it quickly retrievable (Gluster’s software will also work on enterprise-grade storage area networks).  The software has been downloaded around 100,000 times.

Microsoft Sues Salesforce, Claims Infringement On Nine Patents

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:57 PM PDT

Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against Salesforce.com, alleging that the CRM company is infringing on nine of its patents. The move is somewhat surprising, as this is only the fourth time that Microsoft has sued another company for patent violations (though it has been the target of plenty of them). Here’s the statement from Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing:

"Microsoft has filed an action today, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, against Salesforce.com for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by their CRM product.

Microsoft has been a leader and innovator in the software industry for decades and continues to invest billions of dollars each year in bringing great software products and services to market. We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard that investment, and therefore cannot stand idly by when others infringe our IP rights."

The relevant patent names are:

  • Method and system for mapping between logical data and physical data
  • System and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu
  • Method and System for staking toolbars in a computer display.
  • Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications
  • Aggregation of system settings into objects
  • Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information
  • Method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer
  • System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network

According to Cnet, in January Salesforce revealed in an SEC filing that “a large technology company” was accusing Salesforce of infringing on its patents. At the time, Salesforce was in discussions with the unnamed company and no litigation had been filed. Sounds like those negotiations didn’t work out. Salesforce declined to comment.

Yandex Adds Foreign Content Filter To Search

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:40 PM PDT

Russian search engine Yandex is now allowing users to limit search to only foreign websites (non Russian sites). Now users can click on the global search filter (as shown in this screenshot) to see results from foreign sources. The global search is also available at the company's experimental Yandex.com portal launched for testing new search algorithms.

Yandex has been indexing foreign websites and adding global content to its search results for the past two years and caters towards Russian users, obviously. But the feature will allow a users to filter results more accurately if they want an answer from a website outside of Russia.

So, the search query TechCrunch on yandex.ru returns a long list of websites in Russian; but with the global search filter enabled, the results lead to English sites. Currently, Yandex indexes more than 4 billion pages in Latin languages, with the majority of these pages being in English. Yandex's search results page now has the option to view either local or foreign search results separately. By default, Yandex search prioritizes local websites as before.

Yandex says that user queries in one of the Latin-alphabet based languages total 12-15% of all searches on the search engine. Yandex also plans to expand its search index to deliver multimedia results and other useful answers.

Yandex, which launched in 1997, has been able to outrun Google in Russia. Yandex has an estimated domestic market share of 63.6% according to LiveInternet.ru, with Google trailing at 21.8% in April.

Xobni Puts Gmail Gadgets Into Outlook

Posted: 18 May 2010 04:48 PM PDT

Earlier today, Google announced a new Gmail API that allows developers to create contextual gadgets for Gmail. Google itself uses this API so that when somebody sends you a link to a YouTube video in an email, the video gets embedded right inside the email. Now outside developers can do the same thing to create Gmail gadgets that show the social networking activity or profiles of the person whose email you are reading, or anything else they can imagine. Xobni will be using the new contextual gadgets to finally bring Xobni to Gmail (they’ve already built a quick and dirty Hoover’s gadget for now).

But Xobni is doing something else that could prove even more interesting. It is releasing a developer preview which lets any developer port their Gmail gadgets to Outlook. Xobni, of course, is a popular Outlook plug-in. Using the Gmail API, and contextual gadget created for Gmail can now also exist within Xobni, which exists within Outlook. It’s a backdoor way for Web developers to create gadgets for Outlook by piggybacking on top of the Xobni plug-in.

The gadgets can be triggered off of any contextual information within the email. So, for instance, if there is a link to a Flickr album, the thumbnails can appear at the bottom of the email. Flight times can trigger travel info app, a UPS number can trigger a tracking app.

Playdom Acquires MMORPG Publisher Acclaim Games

Posted: 18 May 2010 04:07 PM PDT

Playdom is continuing its shopping spree of game developers. The gaming giant is acquiring social game publisher Acclaim Games today. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Acclaim has built a name for itself in the casual and MMORPG gaming space. The company also has launched RockFree, a Facebook guitar game, in March 2010, which now has tens of thousands of daily active users. Acclaim is currently developing another Facebook game due to launch this summer.

Acclaim will become the newest team to join Playdom’s growing number of gaming studios and talent. Acclaim CEO Howard Marks, a former Activision 2.0 co-founder and Chairman of the Activision Studios, will run the Acclaim studio for Playdom and serve in a senior strategic role for the parent company focused on Playdom’s business development activities. Acclaim’s Chief Technology Officer, Neil Malhotra will now act as the studio’s senior technical officer.

Playdom has been on quite a shopping spree over the past few months. The company, which recently brought on a new CTO, has steadily been expanding its presence on Facebook, most recently acquiring Facebook game developer Offbeat Creations and developer Three Melons. Playdom also invested $5 million in Facebook game developer MetroGames. And Playdom just bough popular branded game developer Merscom.

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


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