web 2.0

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Google Buys Simplify Media To Power Music Syncing For New iTunes Competitor

Posted: 20 May 2010 09:17 AM PDT

Google just announced that it bought Simplify Media, a startup that offers software that lets you share your iTunes music across platforms.

The software lets you share your photos and music using programs like iTunes, iPhoto and Windows Media player .According to the startup’s site Simplify Media “connects people directly with their content, without the hassles of synching or uploading all their files. Simplify users can also share their personal media with family and close friends in a private, secure group.”

Um, Did Google Just Quietly Launch A Web-Based iTunes Competitor? Yep.

Posted: 20 May 2010 09:12 AM PDT

Today at Google I/O, Vic Gundotra introduced Froyo, aka Android 2.2. But he also went a bit beyond Froyo. Coming soon, is a way to download an app through the Android Market over the web — and have it automatically download on your Android devices too. But that’s not all. Gundotra also showed off a new section of the Market — Music. Yes, an iTunes competitor on the web from Google.

Details are sparse at the moment, but here’s how this basically works. You go to the Market on the web, find a song you like, click the download button, and just like with apps, the song starts to download on your Android devices. So it’s iTunes, over the web, with auto-syncing. No word on who the partners are for this, what the prices will be, etc. Undoubtedly, we’ll hear more about that soon.

More to come.

The Gloves Are Officially Off: Google Vs. Apple

Posted: 20 May 2010 09:07 AM PDT

At this morning’s I/O keynote Google’s Vic Gundotra unveiled all the neat features of the Android 2.2, Froyo, but the biggest elephant in the room was Apple and the increasing tensions between the two giants. Gundotra enjoyed several jabs at the iPhone maker, making fun of Apple for not supporting Flash, the relatively slow load time of the iPad, and for trying to control the mobile ecosystem. His opening remarks set the tone: Google doesn’t want a future where one man controls mobile. Hmm, whoever could that be?

Google was trying to articulate a clear message: Apple is closed, we are open. Gundotra must have said the word “open” at least a dozen times. This theme reemerged several times throughout the keynote, at one point, Gundotra turned to the audience and simply said: “It turns out, on the internet, people use Flash.”

Gundotra also used his address as an opportunity to refute previous comments from Steve Jobs, most pointedly, his recent claim that: “on a mobile device search hasn't happened. Search is not where it's at, people are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop.” Gundotra says not so, he announces that Google has seen a 5x growth in search in the past two years — across in all smart phones. "People love Google search” Gundotra says.

Updating with the best zings.

Who Is Checking-In To Google I/O And What Are They Using?

Posted: 20 May 2010 09:06 AM PDT

Who is checking in to Google I/O and what are they using to do it? Buzzzy, the search engine that started out as a Google Buzz interface, is busily adding features and the latest is location. This maps a person's geo-location data to events or locations. So it can look at where and when someone uses a location enabled device to tag them and provide context. The obvious choice today is anyone at the Moscone West center in SF during the Google I/O event. Anyone there will get tagged as an I/O attendee and then tracked. Check it out here. So who is winning, Foursquare or Gowalla... or what?

Google Now Activating 100,000 Android Devices A Day — 50,000 Android Apps

Posted: 20 May 2010 08:43 AM PDT

Today at Google I/O Vic Gundotra made a big revelation. Last year, Google was activating 30,000 Android phones a day. The past February, that number jumped to 60,000. Today, Google is now activating over 100,000 Android phones a day.

Android was the second best-selling smartphone this quarter, Gundotra says. They are only behind RIM — and yes, ahead of that other rival. Gundotra also pointed out the stat from AdMob that Android was first in terms of web and app usage among smartphones.

And that’s not all. Gundotra also announced that there were now over 50,000 apps available for the platform. And there are some 180,000 developers working on the platform.

There are now over 60 compatible Android devices from 21 OEMs in 48 countries. The devices are spread across 59 carriers.

Live Blogging The Second Google I/O Keynote: The Day Of Android And Google TV

Posted: 20 May 2010 08:40 AM PDT

The second day of Google’s I/O conference is kicking off, and we’re quite certain there’s going to be some major news about both Android and Google TV. As with yesterday’s keynote, the event will be live streamed on YouTube — we can’t embed the stream, but you can watch it right here. I’ll be live blogging the keynote; my notes are below. Note that most quotes will be paraphrased.

Vic Gundotra has taken the stage.

Talking about when he first met Andy Rubin and his skepticism. Andy said we need an open mobile OS. He said there’s a future we don’t want, where one man controls mobile. Shows an album cover for 1984.

Over 60 Android devices so far. Last year we reported we were getting 30K units a day activated. In Feb we announced 60K units today. Our daily activations is now past 100K a day. We are now second in the US in smarphone sales, only to RIM. According to AdMob data we’re first in total web and app usage.

When we launched Google Navigation 6 months ago, we set a milestone for 1 billion miles navigation with Google Navigation. We’ve surpassed that.

There are some who say people don’t use Google search on smartphones. We’ve seen a 5x growth in search in the past two years in all smart phone categories. “People love Google search”. He is taking direct shots at things Steve Jobs has previously said.

We’ve passed 50,000 applications.

Today we’re announcing the release of Android 2.2, Froyo.

What’s in Froyo?

a) Speed
Dalvik VM has been fast, efficient and automatic. But we can do even better. In Fryo we’ve added Just-In-Time compilation 2x-5x application speed boost on existing hardware.

b)New enterprise features. Now Microsoft Exchange friendly — auto-discovery, integration with global address book. Security policies. GAL lookup. Also new APIs for device management.

c) New services for developers. Application data backup API. In the past Android would backup the apps. But your personal data did not. Starting with Froyo we’ll provide a n API that moves that data with the application.

New API cloud/device messaging API. “This is not a push notification API designed to compensate for a lack of functionality like multitasking in the OS” (Zing!). As a dev you can send message to server and do things like collapse similar messages, handle latency. Can do things so a message can trigger Android intent.

Example-If you’re browsing maps on the web. Hit ‘Send to phone’ — instead of sending an SMS, it actually kicks you into the Maps app on the Android device. Send a link from the phone to the device. It opens up the browser, opens right up to the article. Don’t have to open anything else. This looks really powerful.

Announcing: Tethering and portable hotspot (we broke this news last week). Demoing the hotspot. Enable the hotspot, give it a name. Tethering hotspot active.. Now saying “let’s go to a device that doesn’t have that connectivity. How about the iPad”.

Browser: 2x-3x Javascript performance boost. V8 for Android (The JS engine from Chrome is now on Android).

Showing a JS speed demo where Nexus One does laps around iPad browser. “I really wonder if we’ll be able to get that in the App Store. Oh, it’s a web app. How great is that?”

HTML5 and Beyond. Orientation, camera, speech. Wouldn’t it be great if you could access that from the browser. We’re going to show something beyond Froyo. Showed a browser based maps app, where you can rotate the phone and the map rotates (the browser can access the digital compass). Also a Buzz demo that can access camera from the browser.

Showing voice commands (which Android has had for a while). What’s coming next is the ability to analyze human intentions. “Call Fifth Floor Restaurant”. Going to be many more intentions.

Web app -Translate. Microphone in the web app. Voice commands work in it.

Announcing Flash Player 10.1 public beta. AIR Developer Pre-Release. “It turns out that on the Internet, people use Flash. Part of being open means you’re inclusive rather than exclusive.” My daughter picked up her iPad and this is what she saw on Nickelodeon site — and saw a blank orange site. Worked on Android device.

Android Market. We’ve listened carefully. On average we see users are installing more than 40 apps on their device. First new feature. Search apps. Can quickly just search through the apps on your phone. Also improved search so developers can plug into search framework. Can search through data of an app (showing demo using Mint’s app).

Another issue — people want to move apps not just to internal memory but to SD card. We’ve enabled that in a secure way. We’ve enabled this in a secure way. And the user never has to worry about it — it is done automatically (though they can move an app to SD card if they want).

Update All – Today you have to update each up individually. Now you can just hit “Update All”. We’ve gone one step further. Now with user permission and allow automatically updating.

Announcing – Application error reports. Find and fix bugs faster. Now users can submit bug reports. Developers can see entire stack trace of what happened (loud applause — the devs really like this).

Sneak Peek: What’s next for Market?
A new Android Marketplace, accessible from a browser in a PC. Can browse apps look at reviews. Can sign in, can see every Android device you have direct from the browser. Can browse to an App. Now on other system you browse to it, tether to it, download to PC, then sync it. Hit confirm and the app is send over the air to the Android device. (Sound familiar?)

And music. How about some music. Can send music using the internet, OTA. Looks like an Android music store. With over the air music sync. Very cool.

We recently acquired a company called Simplify Media. Lets you at home run a simple piece of software makes all non drm software at home available to Android device. Say you’re on you’re Android device. Make home library available to Android device as a stream. Streaming music from your iTunes library to Android. This is huge.

This is our tenth year of advertising, we know a lot about it. We’ve learned if you want a healthy ecosystem of advertising, you need advertisers, and we have hundreds of thousands of it. We’re not new at this game “we’re not working with a handful of partners and charging them a million each to be part of a program” (another Apple zinger). Flexible formats. Advertising needs to be measured. Useful tools (analytics, adwords, adsense, doubleclick). Showing off formats. Announcing new – expandable ad format. Users if at all possible like to stay within the application. Ad expends right out, slides back in. Expandable format available today. Another one. Can be not just display but also rich media (has embedded movie). Another expandable ad. Very popular add format – click to call. Leverage fact that user gives permission to use location. Direct TV wants to make special offer to customers in SF. Click to call. Another ad format – Expandable format. Includes a map and directions and click to call.

Another example. Click on ad, full screen immersive ad. Trailers, multimedia. Tap at bottom can purchase. Ad was served by medialets. That’s openness.

Mobile Social Network MocoSpace Launches Android App

Posted: 20 May 2010 08:30 AM PDT

Mobile social network MocoSpace, which has over 11 million registered users, has made its first foray into the world of smartphone applications with an Android app.

MocoSpace, which launched in 2006, was previously only mobile web-based and prided itself on its users mainly being non-techies who don’t own an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry device. The site makes money with its virtual currency and through advertising and mainly reaches the 18 to 34 age demographic. And MocoSpace claims to generate 3 billion pages per month, with users mobile users accessing the site over 5 times per day on average.

The functionality of the Android app is fairly simple. It allows for live chat with friends currently on app or on the mobile website, photo uploads, profile viewing and commenting and message notifications. The company decided to launch an app on the Android platform first because number of Android users accessing the MocoSpace mobile website had spiked by 40% over the past six months and is growing faster than other devices, including the iPhone and Blackberry.

Though not nearly as popular as Facebook or MySpace, MocoSpace is now one of the largest mobile-only social networks. It should be interesting to see if the network can create a userbase from smartphone apps.

Betaworks Leads $3 Million Series B In Highflyer TweetDeck, New Desktop Goes Live

Posted: 20 May 2010 08:13 AM PDT

Highflying stream reader TweetDeck just raised a $3 million Series B round led by its biggest investor, betaworks. That brings the total capital raised by the company to $5.3 million. Ron Conway and Danny Rimer also invested in this round, as did all existing seed investors, including the Accelerator Group, Roger Ehrenberg, and Howard Lindzon.

TweetDeck is the most popular Twitter client by one estimate, with more than 15 million downloads so far. Over the past year, it has been moving beyond Twitter, adding streams from Facebook and MySpace. And just a few minutes ago, it released its latest update, which incorporates streams from Google Buzz, Foursqaure, and more. It is now truly a general stream reader.

TweetDeck is also working on an HTML5 Web browser version of its stream reader, which is currently an “internal research project,” according to CEO Iain Dodsworth.

Below is a video demo of the new TweetDeck features. Don’t you just love the way those Brits say “Google Buzz”? The best feature though has to be how easy TweetDeck makes it to do a fake check-in via Foursquare.

Don’t Cry For the Workers at Foxconn

Posted: 20 May 2010 08:08 AM PDT

I’ve been interested in gadget manufacturing for a while now and, as I reported a few months ago, things are pretty bad but they’ve been worse. Now, however, we’re seeing clusters of suicides at Foxconn as well as an undercover “report” from Foxconn’s “Hell Factory.” I’m calling bull.

First, consider that Foxconn has 400,000 employees in Shenzhen alone. Cleveland, Ohio has 478,403 residents as of the 2000 census and I suspect that’s gone down. You’re not amazed by the number of suicides in Cleveland, right? It’s par for the course. People go nuts in Cleveland, even though they have a great meat market and the Cleveland Clinic is really nice. People don’t want to live, sometimes, right?

Read more…

Zynga Enters Asia With Acquisition Of Gaming Startup XPD Media; Opens Office In Beijing

Posted: 20 May 2010 07:57 AM PDT

Yesterday, we reported that Zynga was possibly setting up shop in Beijing and making a few notable hires in China. It looks like we were on to something because today, the social gaming giant is announcing the acquisition of Beijing-based social gaming company XPD Media. Along with the acquisition, Zynga is also announcing the opening of the Zynga Beijing studio, the second international office for the gaming company (Zynga set up shop in Bangalore, India in March). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This is Zynga’s fourth acquisition over the past two year (that’s been made public, that is); the company previously bought YoVille, Serious Business, and My Mini Life. For Zynga, the acquisition represents the company’s initial foray into the Asian gaming market, which is rapidly growing. One of Zynga's biggest competitors, Playfish, already has an office in China. The deal is more of a talent acquisition and less of a userbase acquisition—XPD Media has a number of talented developers and and engineers, and Zynga is planning in hiring on hiring a CTO, HR manager and software engineers in the new office.

Backed by True Ventures and Pilot Group, XPD Media is one of the largest social game publishers in China and publishes games for the international markets on Facebook, MySpace, Renren and Orkut. XPD Media's CEO, Robin Chan (who was an angel investor in Twitter and in Square), will become Zynga's GM of Asia Business Operations. Co-Founder Andy Tian (who was one of the first employees at Google China) will lead the Zynga Beijing studio. The XPD team of 40 employees will be immediately integrated into Zynga's global workforce and focus on engineering and product development.

Currently, Zynga does not have any games on any Asian social networks. Zynga would not elaborate on its future international or game localization plans involving XPD Media.

As Sarah Lacy wrote in her report yesterday, the entry of Zynga and other Silicon Valley gaming companies into China differs from Yahoo, eBay, and Google round expanding into China, because there are a host of Chinese publicly-traded gaming competitors that already have a strong place in the arena like Tencent and Shanda.

And this also means that there will be more competition from gaming talent in China and Chinese startups may not be so happy about that. But we’ve heard from more than a few sources that there’s trouble in paradise with Google's Beijing staff after the search giant threatened its pull-out of the market earlier this year, so perhaps Zynga will be able to poach talent from this office.

This has been a big week for Zynga. The social gaming giant just entered a five-year partnership with Facebook, amidst rumors that Zynga was leaving the social network partially due to Facebook’s policies over its virtual currency, Credits. But all is well–for now, at least. Zynga says that this will be a big summer for the company, and will continue to focus on building our its own independent business. Clearly that business will have an international angle.

Cisco Pays $99 Million In Cash For Optical Networking Firm CoreOptics

Posted: 20 May 2010 06:19 AM PDT

Cisco is to buy privately held CoreOptics, a designer of digital signal processing solutions for high-speed optical networking applications. Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay approximately $99 million in cash and retention-based incentives in exchange for all shares of CoreOptics. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the second half of calendar year 2010.

IAC Buys Into Fitness Social Network DailyBurn

Posted: 20 May 2010 05:34 AM PDT

Dailyburn, formerly known as Gyminee, a social network for fitness and diet tracking, online accountability, and motivation, has been sold. IAC has acquired a majority stake in the company for an undisclosed sum.

DailyBurn will become part of IAC’s Mindspark Interactive Network, which is also is home to social and entertainment destinations like Zwinky, IWON and Girlsense, personal interest sites such as Life123 and Excite, and interactive products such as Webfetti and My Fun Cards.

From our earlier DailyBurn review:

The overall purpose of the site is to help you lose weight and gain muscle by tracking every aspect of the food you consume and your workouts, all presented in a very attractive interface. The site offers a database of thousands of foods, allowing you to quickly figure out how many calories you've eaten throughout the day.

You can input stats from your daily exercise regime (number of miles run, bench-press weight, etc.), so you can track your progress over time on slick graphs. The site's social features allow users to share exercise plans and try to motivate each other.

DailyBurn currently has about 500,000 members.

The company was launched as Gyminee and debuted publicly at TechStars’ Demo Day In August 2008. The startup went on to raise $525,000 more in seed funding in a round led by FF Angel (Founders Fund), with a number of angels including Garrett Camp (StumbleUpon), Matt Mullenweg (Automattic) and Tim Ferriss participating.

For TechStars, DailyBurn marks the fifth significant exit after Socialthing (AOL), Intense Debate (Automattic), Brightkite (Limbo) and Filtrbox (Jive Software).

Oracle Acquires Data Security Company Secerno

Posted: 20 May 2010 05:26 AM PDT

Oracle is acquiring Secerno, an Oxford, UK-based provider of database firewall solutions for Oracle and non-Oracle databases. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and Oracle expects the transaction to close before the end of June 2010. Until the deal closes, each company will continue to operate independently. Secerno's solution adds a critical defensive layer of security around databases, which blocks unauthorized activity in real-time.

Millennial Media: Android Ad Impressions Rise 77 Percent In April, iPhone Sees 8 Percent Drop

Posted: 20 May 2010 04:56 AM PDT

Mobile ad network Millennial Media, which claims that its mobile advertising network reaches 83 percent of 72 million mobile web users in the U.S., is reporting that Android ad requests grew 77% month over month, and have grown 282% since January. This growth is higher than the rise in impressions in March, which clocked in at 72%.

Although the Apple OS had a month-over-month decrease of 8% it still remained the leading OS on Millennial’s network in April with 62% share of Smartphone impressions. RIM’s BlackBerry remained the second largest OS on Millennial’s network for the ninth consecutive month with a 3% increase month-over-month and a 17% share of impressions. Android’s took a 10% share of impressions for the month of April.

Android Smartphone manufacturer, HTC, entered the top five this month for the first time and represented the largest increase within the Top 15 Manufacturers in April with a 2.5% impression share increase month-over-month. All Android devices, including the MyTouch (Magic), HTC G1 (Dream), G2 Touch (Hero), experienced month-over-month increases in impression shares. In terms of type of device, the majority of ad impressions took place on smart phones (45%), with Feature Phones seeing 35% of ad impressions, and Connected Devices, like the iPad, seeing 20% of impressions.

Clearly the Android is seeing impressive growth in terms of ad impressions and even sales. That being said, it still seems to be way behind the iPhone and needs a lot more ad impressions and use to even come close to what the Apple device is seeing.

Millennial has been seeing strong growth, just launching an iPad SDK, and is now one of the largest mobile ad networks in the space. The Baltimore-based startup is growing; in February Millennial Media acquired mobile metrics and analytics firm TapMetrics. Additionally, the ad network raised $16 million in Series C funding last November.

It should be interesting to see how things play out for ad networks like Millennial and competitor Greystripe with the Apple’s iAd format entering the space. And the Google/AdMob acquisition (which may be derailed) could add another formidable competitor to the party. Interestingly, AdMob also recently reported a faster growth in Android ad traffic than iPhone traffic (although, similar to Millenial’s report, iPhone OS took a greater share of traffic).

After Selling Citydeal To Groupon, Samwer Brothers Get Some Panfu

Posted: 20 May 2010 03:38 AM PDT

The Samwer brothers are at it again. Shortly after cashing in on Citydeal, Germany's most prolific startup investors have put millions into Panfu. Their incubator Rocket Internet joined by Holtzbrinck Ventures has invested a rumored seven digit Euro sum in the multi-language educational gaming world for kids. It's their third joint investment in Panfu, former rounds were done together alongside other investors. Since its launch in December 2007, Panfu has become Europe's leading website for kids between 6 and 14 years with nearly 13 million registered users and has been profitable since early 2009.

Procter & Gamble Opens Online Store In The US, With Flat Shipping Rates

Posted: 20 May 2010 03:38 AM PDT

Procter & Gamble, one of the largest consumer goods corporations in North America and beyond, has opened a direct online store for customers in the US. The Internet store, dubbed the eStore, debuts today with a beta tag attached to its name.

The eStore is owned and operated by PFSweb and features the breadth of P&G brands, including Tide, Head & Shoulders, Pampers, Swiffer, Gillette and Febreze.

P&G has launched the eStore with a single, flat rate for standard shipping rate of $5, regardless of quantity or product size.

From the press release:

The eStore’s main function is to act as a “living learning lab” for developing e-commerce innovation to win with shoppers. Shopper insights will continue to be a strong influence in the eStore’s ongoing development to help deliver tools, features and expertise that are great for consumers and also create value and sales for PFSweb, P&G and P&G’s retail partners.

In other words, P&G insists the venture’s main goal is to learn more about online shopping, and not to compete with stores and online retailers that also sell its products. Yeah, right.

Prior to the national launch, the eStore was tested on some 5,000 shoppers to help guide the design and development of the “ideal” on-line shopping site.

The site today features Brand Shop pages (dedicated shopping sections per brand, e.g. Pantene PRO-V), service options and tools for customized product selection, social media integrations and a rating & review section for shoppers to provide feedback on their shopping experiences.

P&G says there will also be a mobile phone application available soon, which will help shoppers purchase their favorite products at the eStore with photos from their mobile phones.

If I were Alice.com, I’d be a little worried.

Doyoubuzz Launches In The US To Crush Word-Processed Resumes

Posted: 20 May 2010 03:16 AM PDT

For Nantes-based Doyoubuzz, the days of the Microsoft Word-based resumes are numbered. So what better to do than set-up shop in San Francisco in hopes of conquering the US web 2.0 generation with its online resume service and personal branding platform? Founded in 2008, the company currently counts roughly 45,000 resumes - primarily in the 20-35 age-range. The "MySpace of professional resumes" is a Netvibes-like widget-based platform, allowing users to create personalized resumes online. But while the service obviously resembles that of Linkedin or Viadeo (who also recently launched in the US), Doyoubuzz oddly sees itself in competition with the traditional, word-processed resume format. OK, sure, when you can add rich content and multimedia to your Doyoubuzz profile, I guess it doesn't really resemble the one-size-fits-all standard profiles of online professional networks. Plus, users can actually export their Viadeo profiles onto Doyoubuzz to avoid having to regenerate the same content. Practical.

Jason Calacanis’s JasonNation Hits Reply All To 23,286 Members [Updated]

Posted: 20 May 2010 02:53 AM PDT

In a typical Jason Calacanis move today, the West coast based entrepreneur will delete his Facebook page live on the Internet. He has 22,969 fans. You'll be able to watch it here. Jason announced this move today on his JasonNation newsletter, which replaced his regular blogging way back in 2008. In a less typical move however, he now appears to have set up the newsletter list to allow every one of his 23,286 members to reply to the entire list. Whether this was intentional or not is unknown. [Update: It was a tech glitch, see updates below].

The iPad Store Is Going Global

Posted: 20 May 2010 02:28 AM PDT

BREAKING: The Apple iPad store is now popping up in other countries allowing iPad users to purchase apps directly on iPad using your their iTunes account. So far we've confirmed it's appeared in the UK, Belgium, Spain, Israel, France and New Zealand among others. In fact, a quick check around the other stores also confirms that this looks like a worldwide release. However it looks like there is no iBooks or iWorks app outside the U.S., yet. European iPad users could pre-order the iPad on May 10, with shipping expected on May 28.

Buy.com Gets Acquired By Japanese E-Commerce Giant Rakuten For $250 Million

Posted: 20 May 2010 01:53 AM PDT

When I covered Rakuten back in July last year, I called it “the biggest e-commerce site you never heard of”. And in fact, the eponymous Japanese company behind the B2B2C market place (which is currently used by over 33,000 Japanese merchants) generated less than 10% of total sales overseas at that time. But that’s about to change very soon.

Rakuten (which, in its home market, is much bigger than Amazon Japan) today announced [PDF] it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire California-based shopping portal Buy.com for $250 million next month. The all-cash deal will be handled by Rakuten USA (headquartered in Boston), which is expected to merge with Buy.com in the process.

Rakuten in Japan counts 64 million members, while Buy.com claims 14 million customers who are mainly located in the US and Europe. Last fiscal year, the Japanese company reached $3.2 billion in sales, and currently boasts a market cap of $9.4 billion at the Tokyo Stock Exchange

Rakuten already expanded into selected markets in Asia (subdisiary Rakuten Travel, for example, is active in Korea, Thailand, China and elsewhere), after acquiring New York-based advertising network LinkShare for $425 million five years ago. But the Buy.com deal marks the first try for the Japanese to seriously enter the American e-retail market, with Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani saying he sees the acquisition as a chance to set up a truly global marketplace that can eventually be used by sellers and buyers regardless of their location.

There seems to be a lot going on in Asia’s e-commerce sector lately. The Rakuten-Buy.com deal follows the spectacular cross-border partnership forged by China’s e-commerce behemoth Taobao and Yahoo Japan just ten days ago. Rakuten itself and China's leading search engine company Baidu announced plans to invest $50 million in a virtual shopping mall that is scheduled to go live later this year back in January.

Find more information about Rakuten in our extensive case study from last year.

Google Offers Up A Few More Details About The Chrome Web Store

Posted: 20 May 2010 01:31 AM PDT

Perhaps the biggest story of day one at Google I/O was the announcement of the Chrome Web Store. This store is meant to highlight web apps while at the same time, providing a way for developers to better monetize them (if they choose to). But the store isn’t ready to be shown off just yet, and so as you might imagine, there are a lot of questions about it. Throughout the course of the day today, Google addressed some of them.

One question that came up a few times in various discussions was if the Chrome Web Store would be Chrome-only? It will, for now, Google VP of Product Sundar Pichai acknowledged. The store itself will be limited (and built-in) to Chrome and Chrome OS (when it’s available). That said, apps written for the web are apps written for the web, so they should work on any browser. Of course, those that rely on some sort of Chrome Web Store payment structure likely won’t be accessible without the store (though Google won’t say either way).

A follow-up question asked if Google would consider allowing other browsers to run the Chrome Web Store? Pichai noted that as with everything Google does, they’d prefer it to be open. That’s not really an answer, but he did say they were talking with other browser makers about possible partnerships for the store. That said, again, at first, it will be Chrome-only.

One person asked if Google Checkout would be used for payments through the store. Google said that they weren’t ready to give details just yet, but that users could expect the structure to work similar to the way it does on Android. There’s a good chance it will be Google Checkout powering the store.

In terms of revenue sharing, Google says it will be consistant with standard practices. Pinchai later confirmed that it would be a 70/30 (developer/Google) split. This is the split in the Android Marketplace, as well as Apple’s App Store.

More questions were answered in the Google Group forum for Chromium Apps.

Someone wondered how updates to apps would be handled. Apparently, it will work just as updates to extensions in Chrome are. That is to say, automatically.

Interestingly, Chrome Apps will have less security clearance than Chrome Extensions do. Googler Aaron Boodman explains this rationale:

If you need cross-origin requests, you can implement your app as a Chrome extension. Extensions are higher privilege, and have more strenuous security warnings. We want to keep web apps nice and safe so that the install can be very lightweight.

Yes, Flash apps will work just fine as Chrome Apps — the demo of Plants vs. Zombies was run in Flash during the keynote.

A number of questions wondered why if these new apps are just web apps they would need different file extensions? Google says they need to wrap apps in minimal “glue” to get them listed in the Web Store and to make them installable within the Chrome browser.

More often than not, Google’s answer to questions about the Chrome Web Store was that today’s unveiling was just a preview, and that more details would come shortly. Considering that early app-enabled builds are already popping up in the latest batches of Chromium, shortly may indeed be very soon.

Google Apps To Get Unified Search In The Not-Too-Distant Future

Posted: 20 May 2010 12:52 AM PDT

Today during a press discussion at Google I/O, Matthew Glotzbach, Google’s Director of Product, Enterprise, strongly hinted that Google Apps would soon be getting a key new feature: unified search across all of a user’s Google Apps. In other words, there’s a good chance that we’ll soon be able to enter a search query into, say, Gmail, and see not just matches from Gmail, but also results in Google Calendar, Docs, and Wave as well.

The topic was brought up by a reporter during the event, who asked if a unified search feature was in the works. Glotzbach coyly responded that “he couldn’t agree with [him] more” about the benefits of such a feature, but that “he had nothing to announce on that front.” He then reiterated that he thought it was a great idea, and hinted that we’d probably see a “unified search layer” first across Google’s own Apps, and that eventually it would be worked into other applications available through the Google Apps Marketplace.

This would be great news to the millions of consumers and businesses on Google Apps. Under the current system, if you want to search through Google Apps for a certain document, event, or email, you need to open up the corresponding App. It’s hardly a deal-breaker, but those lost seconds and extra mouse clicks add up.

Obviously there isn’t a timeframe for when this will launch yet, but it sounded like this is well beyond the initial planning stages.

Yell Acquires TrustedPlaces To Add Yelp-like Local Reviews

Posted: 20 May 2010 12:51 AM PDT

It's been a four year ride, but TrustedPlaces, the UK's earliest and oldest Yelp-like local reviews site, has been acquired by Yell Group Plc, the holder of the Yell.com local business directory. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but we understand both founders and investors HOWZAT Media, the fund setup by dotcom veterans Hugo Burge and David Soskin, are "very happy". Sokratis Papafloratos, chief executive and co-founder of TrustedPlaces, is now joining Yell as head of social products in the UK. His former co-founder Walid Al Saqqaf departed last year for other opportunities but we understand the parting was amicable. The reason for the purchase is clear. Yell has been unable to innovate well enough to generate recommendations from local consumers. As a small fast moving startup which has iterated well TrustedPlaces now has a tonne of expertise in this. And the last we heard, the site also become profitable last year.

Firefox to Chrome: We’ll See Your 70 Million Users And Raise You 300 Million

Posted: 19 May 2010 11:19 PM PDT

Earlier today at Google I/O, the company announced that its web browser, Chrome, was now 70 million users strong. That’s a big number, and up more than 100% in the past year. But wait a second, let’s get some perspective. Enter, Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler.

As he points out on his blog this evening, while Chrome may be at 70 million active users, Firefox is at nearly 370 million active users. And while Chrome grew by 40 million users in the past year, Firefox gained over 100 million new users in the same span — yes, more users than Chrome has total. He also made a nice chart to underscore his point.

This also ties into the news from yesterday that Firefox co-founder Blake Ross thinks Firefox may be headed towards a massive decline over the next 3 to 5 years. His reasoning behind this is that Mozilla is too timid and beauracratic in handling the browser. Meanwhile, upstarts like Chrome are surging quickly. As Dotzler’s graph shows, Firefox is also still surging quite quickly itself.

The problem for Firefox is that pretty much all of those users are coming from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. That browser just dipped below 60% market share for the first time, but Microsoft seems committed to improving it with the IE9 release and beyond. Even if it’s still not perfect, it’s likely that the rate at which Firefox will be able to pull users from Internet Explorer will decrease. Firefox doesn’t appear to be pulling users from the other browsers (as they’re not declining), so their only other hope would be to get new people to start using the web (with Firefox, of course).

One big question over the next few years will be if Chrome is able to pull users from Firefox and IE faster than Firefox can pull new users from IE alone? The other big question will be how quickly the browsers on mobile platforms (including tablets) grow? As we’ve seen first-hand, the growth is already happening fast. Others are seeing it too.

Something else interesting in Dotzler’s graph: apparently, 10 million or so active Firefox users just stop using the browser during the holidays. Dotzler says this is normal given the time of year, but Chrome has no such dip.

Netflix Is The Latest To Talk The HTML5 Talk

Posted: 19 May 2010 09:40 PM PDT

As we all know, the battle between Flash and HTML5 for the future of online video is raging. But what about that other plugin some sites use for video? You know, the one made by Microsoft — Silverlight? A new posting tonight may call that platform’s future in video into question as well. Because arguably their most important client is looking to jump on the HTML5 video bandwagon: Netflix.

A post tonight by Adrian Cockcroft (as noticed by the blog Hacking Netflix), Netflix’s Director of Web Engineering, indicates the company’s intention to embrace HTML5 going forward. The move is apparently spurred on by Netflix’s move to Amazon’s cloud, which will require a re-architecting of the codebase, Cockcroft notes. So what better time to start supporting the latest technologies? “One of these is HTML5, which is raising the bar for cross browser support for advanced user interface features, and is now supported by a large and rapidly growing percentage of the visitors to netflix.com. In addition many TV based devices now embed webkit, which is the HTML5 compatible technology that underpins the Safari and Chrome browsers,” Cockcroft writes.

It’s interesting that Cockcroft never actually mentions the video capabilities of HTML5, instead he talks about the “advanced user interface features.” Still, I think we all know what he means.

He also points out that Netflix is looking to hire to make this transition happen. The one posting he highlights is for a Senior User Interface Engineer — HTML5. The position description reads as follows:

Are you passionate about building great website experiences used by millions of visitors each day? Come to Netflix where we are using HTML5 based web technologies to move ecommerce directly onto to televisions in our customers' living rooms. As part of our Customer Acquisition team, you will lead the way to our internationalized television user interface designed to help new customers find Netflix and start streaming movies in seconds. This new experience will be deployed to HTML5 capable embedded browsers and served from our cutting edge cloud based backend service.

This move shouldn’t be all that surprising considering that Netflix was one of the first apps to embrace the iPad, bringing its videos (h264 encoded) to the device through a native app. Still, this is a huge potential win for HTML5, presuming it happens.


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