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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Google Buzz Adds Rebuzz Feature — But Don’t Call It That, That’s Lame

Posted: 27 May 2010 09:10 AM PDT

No matter the social service, a common key feature is the ability to reshare something. Facebook has “Share,” Tumblr has “Reblog,” and, of course, Twitter has “Retweet,” to name a few. The feature provides a simple way for users to do something social without having to do much themselves. And today, Google Buzz is gaining its own such feature — but don’t call it “Rebuzz,” instead, it’s called simply “Reshare.”

When added to Buzz’s current arsenal of “Comment” and “Like” (and Email), Reshare completes the social circle that most of its competitors have set up. It works exactly as you’d expect: if you see a Buzz post you like that you want to share with your followers, simply go to the bottom of the post and click the Reshare button. An input area will drop down and you’ll be able to add your own comment on top of whatever Buzz you’re resharing. This will then get injected back into your followers’ Buzz streams.

The key to this may be the ability to leave your own comment on top of anything you reshare. This makes the functionality more like a Tumblr Reblog than a Twitter Retweet. The inability to leave your own comment with a Twitter Retweet has been the subject of much controversy amongst Twitter users. Previously, Retweets were an organic thing done by the community, in which you shared something simply by copying and pasting a previous tweet led by “RT @username.” Twitter, in the hope of making this process more streamlined, baked it into the service, but left out the ability to add your own commentary. As a result, some people still do it the old, manual way (or use clients that do it the old way).

A few notes about Buzz Reshares:

  • As you might expect, you can only reshare public Buzzes
  • It’s a two-click process (“Reshare” then “Post). Google debated making it one-click, but decided having the option (in the drop-down) to reshare something with a limited group of people was important.
  • Everyone who has reshared a post will show up (as a tiny icon) below your comment when you reshare something.
  • The same content being reshared multiple times will be collapsed below the latest one in your feed.
  • The reshare function forks the conversation to a new thread. Google thought a lot about this, but ultimately decided this was the best way for now. They’re thinking about a non-forking option too though.
  • Liking a shared post only “likes” the reshared version, not the original share.

So, about the name. I asked Google why they chose to go with Reshare rather than the obvious “Rebuzz.” They pointed me to the picture below. Apparently, Rebuzz was being considering but was ultimately killed because it “sounds kinda lame.” That’s somewhat true, but for branding purposes, I think it may have been the right call. And I suspect people may call it this anyway. They also considered “Repost” but wanted to avoid introducing a new verb. So ultimately they went with the most literal choice.

The ability to reshare was one of the most requested features, the Buzz team says. And it competes a strong run of 16 new features in 15 weeks (they had been shooting for one new feature a week) — of course, many of those were features that users demanded to make Buzz less annoying. It’s getting there.

This Reshare feature will be rolling out to all Buzz users over the course of the day.

Friends Around Me IPhone/iPad App Lets You Interact With Friends Or Strangers, Just Like They Were Really There

Posted: 27 May 2010 09:09 AM PDT

Friends Around Me is a mobile app for iPhone and iPad that searches around you for nearby friends -- or anyone else willing to say hello -- and enables you to view their profile, look at and rate their photos, chat with them, or send them virtual gifts. The service joins together your Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook networks, allowing you to check in to venues and update your Twitter/Facebook status from one place. Best of all, the service doesn't require yet another social network registration: you can sign in using Facebook Connect or the Twitter API. One cool thing about the service (that will probably freak out the privacy paranoid) is that there are no restrictions on whose profile you can view, or who you can chat to. Plus, you get to see and respond to everyone who has viewed your profile, making it a great tool to meet new people. Of course, there are options to hide yourself from strangers, but where's the fun in that?

Andreessen Horowitz Makes Strategic Investment In Mobile Payments Platform Boku

Posted: 27 May 2010 08:46 AM PDT

Recently-launched mobile payments startup, Boku, has announced that they have received a strategic investment from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Boku has declined to reveal the funding amount from this round, but to date the company has raised a whopping $38 million since its launch a year ago. As part of the deal, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz will also take on an advisory role for Boku.

Boku, which just raised $25 million and rebranded its platform in January, doesn't require users to have a credit card or bank account to make a micropayment. Users enter their cell phone number on the site, reply to a text message and then all virtual charges are automatically charged to the user's monthly cell phone bill. As we've said in the past, it's ridiculously easy. The company also acquired Paymo and Mobillcash over the past year, systems that had significant international reach, Boku gained a strong base of users around the world. Currently Boku is available in more than 60 countries and on over 200 carriers worldwide.

The company has also made a few key hires on the product side. David Yoo, former SVP and Chief Product Officer at AT&T Interactive; and Kevin Grant, former VP of Sales for MobiTV, are joining the executive team as SVP of Strategy and SVP of Sales, respectively. Both will be working to create new partnerships and reduce carrier fees in the mobile payments space.

While mobile payments are set to gain considerable traction on social network, one potential obstacle to adoption are the high fees that mobile carriers charge to the payment systems (which are then passed on to the publisher). Boku told us last June that different cell phone carriers charge varying fees that range between 10% to 50% of the purchase price, which is a hefty amount in transaction fees. But Boku is steadfast in its commitment to remedy this issue. Ron Hirson, Boku’s marketing chief, says the company is ramping up negotiations with carriers to lower these fees. He says that carriers will eventually see the benefit in lowering fees as they will gain a critical mass of users. “We want to do what PayPal did for email to the mobile phone,” says Hirson.

Of course, Boku faces another obstacle besides just carriers. The company faces competition from fellow mobile payments giant Zong, which just raised $15 million in funding and is the mobile payment provider for Facebook Credits. Zong also recently launched an alternative payments system, called Zong+, which lets users bill microtransactions to credit, debit and prepaid cards.

But Hirson says that Boku also has a presence on Facebook and is steadily growing its availability on the world’s largest social network. The startup powers mobile micropayments for a number of popular game developers, including Playdom and Playfish, which was acquired by Electronic Arts last year.

Tweetdeck Adds Location Column, Integrates Foursquare

Posted: 27 May 2010 08:26 AM PDT

TweetDeck, the popular Adobe Air desktop app for social networks (though an HTML5 version is on the way), has now integrated Foursquare into its latest release. The move represents the latest from the startup to grab the "social dashboard" crown against the likes of Seesmic and others, although Tweetdeck seems to be heading towards a kind of "Pro User" space more than anything else. Now, adding your Foursquare account into Tweetdeck adds a location column. This has the handy benefit that Foursquare tweets can now be filtered out of your "All Friends" twitter column. A lot of people will probably welcome this as they tend to polute Twitter rather than adding anything to it. Now, the location column has a map button at the bottom. Clicking on this lets you view a live map of friends checking into Foursquare. Tweetdeck plans to extend this map shortly to be available in a separate view on a check-in item in the location column.

YouTube Integrates Google Moderator

Posted: 27 May 2010 08:01 AM PDT

YouTube has always been known for its, shall we say, vocal community. But until now, the only way users had to respond to each other was through the site’s infamous comments, or via video responses — there hasn’t been a particularly good way for YouTube video uploaders to ask their subscribers for opinions. Today, YouTube is launching a new feature that allows channel owners to poll their audience in a more structured manner: it has embedded a customized version of Google moderator, a tool that launched back in fall 2008. The tool allows your subscribers to vote responses up and down, and has been tweaked to allow for both text and video responses (it is also embeddable).

Moderator has previously been integrated for a handful of YouTube events on CitizenTube, including interviews with President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; now it’s open to anyone. The feature is pretty straightforward: you enter your question/topic, decide whether you want to allow both text and video responses, and decide how long the poll will run.

This is a perfect feature for YouTube. Many of the site’s millions of users do actually have something interesting to say, but their voices can be lost among the myriad spammy (or just plain stupid) comments left by other users. This gives channel owners an easy way to engage with their audience, without having to sift through the cruft to find the good responses.

Here’s a video showing off how the feature could be used:

Check-Ins, Geo-Fences, And The Future Of Privacy

Posted: 27 May 2010 07:59 AM PDT

Facebook is under a lot of heat right now for how it shares our personal information. So much so that it is trying to simplify its privacy controls to so that nobody gets surprised when that embarrassing drunk photo you thought you were sharing only with a close set of friends finds its way all over the Web. (Hint: don’t put up drunk photos of yourself on Facebook). But this problem is only going to get worse.

Right now, what people share on Facebook is usually pretty tame: a status update, photo, a link, a video, an action in an app. The ones with the greatest potential to creep people out are the geo-specific ones, which probably explains why Facebook is taking its sweet time to roll out its own geo features like geo-tagged updates and photos. If you think the current uproar over Facebook privacy is bad, wait until Facebook embraces location-based apps in a big way.

This is not just a Facebook problem. It is an issue every major Web service is starting to deal with from Google to Twitter to Foursquare. They all want us to overshare and make it almost too easy for us to do so. The more we share with them about where we go and what we like to do, the more they can show us what other people who we care about are doing nearby or have done in the past. That basic premise is what is so compelling about geo apps. I can check in at a restaurant in the West Village on Foursquare and see that Fred Wilson ate there once and loved the lamb bolognese. That is a very powerful recommendation because I see that right before I look at the menu when I’m hungry and trying to decide what to eat.

When it comes to geo-privacy there are two extremes. Foursquare makes you explicitly check into each place where you want to share your location. That is good for privacy—you only have yourself to blame if you broadcast your location from the strip club—but it makes using the application a bit of a chore. You have to remember to pull out your phone every time you enter a new place and look like a dork while you are checking in. It is also rude when you are at a bar or restaurant with friends and everyone (all the guys, usually) are looking down at their cell phones, but I digress.

On the other end of the spectrum is Google Latitude, which constantly broadcasts your location everywhere you go, but only to people you allow to see it and only at the level of detail you are comfortable with (by city or general neighborhood, for instance). Latitude is a set it and forget it model. This makes you look like less of a dork, but the problem is that you do forget it and you end up either broadcasting your location when you would rather not or, worse, you never have any reason to interact with the application.

Somewhere in between the concept of the explicit check-in and constant geo-tracking is the notion of geo-fences. The idea is that you would basically draw fences around neighborhoods or other locations from where you want to broadcast where you are and places where you don’t. So maybe anytime you travel a certain distance from your home or office, the geo-sharing could begin. This concept is easier said than done, but startups like SimpleGeo are working on making it possible.

Drawing geo-fences is still a lot of work. What would be more helpful, perhaps, would be the ability to tell an application to broadcast your location anytime you are in a public space—a restaurant, a park, a bar, a conference. It would then tell you via a notification when it detects that you are in such a place before it shares out the location. But getting constantly pinged as you walk down the street could get annoying as well. Maybe it would know to ask only a few times a day or when it detects your friends or lots of other people nearby.

As apps and mobile devices become more geo-aware, a balance will need to be struck between the over-sharing creepiness of constant location broadcasting in the background and the annoyance of the constant check-in chore. On Tuesday, at our Disrupt conference, Facebook’s VP of Product Chris Cox described a future where phones are “contextually aware” so that they can “check into flights, find deals at grocery stores,” and do other things for us at that right place, at the right time. “These things take a bunch of clicks now—it's all wasting time,” he said. “The phone should know what we want.”

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley and Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra were also on that panel. Crowley built Foursquare specifically around the check-in and the idea of getting rewarded for exploring the real world. Gundotra later told us:

There are some people who want to check in and who love the game dynamics. There are other people who may want much more of a passive model where the phone just passively gives them dynamic information and it is less about the game dynamics.

Intuitively, the idea of our devices working for us automatically in the background is much more appealing. But you have to ask yourself: Do you want ease of use or do you want control? Somehow these companies are going to have to give us both.

Image Credit: Flickr/TheGiantVermin

Gist Rolls Out Android App To Manage Your Communication Streams On The Go

Posted: 27 May 2010 07:59 AM PDT

Gist, a recently launched web service that aims to organize your communication streams, has released an Android app. Gist, which offers services that help you keep tabs on the people in your professional network, allows you to see past messages and attachments from each contact, news about their company, and their recent messages on services like Twitter. The company also has a free iPhone app available on the App Store.

The Android application includes a dashboard with new, blog posts, Twitter updates, and Facebook updates for your contacts. Gist’s app will create in-depth profiles for every contacts including updates from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, mentions in the news, and email correspondence across multiple inboxes, including Gmail, Outlook and Lotus Notes. And an events tab will give you updates on meetings and information about contacts you are set to meet.

Gist, which raised $6.75 million in funding last year, launched in 2008 as a “professional” communications manager, aimed at satisfying the filtering needs of a business user. Like the web service, the app organizes your streams according to your email contacts so it’s a useful way of following your colleagues, friends and professional contacts.

The company was founded by T.A. McCann, an entrepreneur and former senior employee in Microsoft's Exchange Server Group. It was started and initially funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital. Gist also recently acquired Learn That Name, a game that uses your LinkedIn contacts to help you remember the names of your business acquaintances. The company also just launched a nifty gadget for Gmail.

Saplo Raises $500K For Semantic Text Analysis Technology

Posted: 27 May 2010 07:24 AM PDT

Saplo, a Swedish startup that uses semantic technologies for text analysis, has raised $500,000 in seed funding from Professor Göran Grosskopf, Chairman of the Stichting INGKA Foundation (the parent company of the IKEA Group) and Martin Liljeberg, Founder of the SOVA chain of stores (Sweden’s largest chain of bed stores).

Saplo’s technology extracts data from articles, forums, blogs, wikis, and will evaluate opinions on a given topic, find related articles, or produce relevant tags. Saplo will be able to tag articles by classifying words, and extracting topics from text. The technology can also find articles in large text collections that have similar meaning and can be used for contextual recognition or sentiment analysis.

These technologies can analyze text from blogs, news articles, Tweets, documents, web text and more. Currently, Sapplo only works for the English and Swedish languages. Media companies rely on these semantic technologies to tag and organize the enormous amount of content on their platforms. Saplo faces competition from Nstein, and others.

B&N Launches a Nook iPad App

Posted: 27 May 2010 06:39 AM PDT

If you've been waiting to get the Nook experience on your iPad, your wait is over. Barnes&Noble just announced the availability of their Nook app, available free from the App Store. Nook is behind in the race to ereader hegemony so they've decided to add a few iPad specific including eight different fonts, customizable line spacing and margins, different font sizes, and themes. In short, B&N reps said, "It's a giant canvas." The app has two book "views:" grid - showing all of the covers and split which shows details of the book on a split screen with the cover. You can also lend books to friends by shooting emails to contacts using the built-in contact book interaction. The app supports in-book search, bookmarks, and syncs among devices. It also supports ePub formats. They also said the Android App is arriving this summer. Click through to read the full release.

Brits Get Their iPads Early But Not Everyone Is Happy

Posted: 27 May 2010 04:29 AM PDT

Who said Christmas never comes early? It's iPad day tomorrow in the UK, when the device officially launches. But, for those that pre-ordered, it hasn't stopped delivery vans across the country turning up this morning with Apple's shiny new toy in hand. And most customers are delighted, of course. Yes, I said most.

And The Winner Of TechCrunch Disrupt Is… Soluto!

Posted: 26 May 2010 05:03 PM PDT

It’s that time. After seeing 20 startups plus two audience choices present at TechCrunch Disrupt, last night, that list was whittled down to five finalists: Betterment, MOVIECLIPS, Publish2, Soluto And UJAM. And now it’s time to announce a winner.

Without further ado, the runner-up is UJAM. And the winner is… Soluto.

The Israeli-based startup offers something that millions of people want — no, need: a way to make their computers run better. One thing that’s interesting about this company versus most of the others in the competition is that they’ve created native software. It monitors your PC to find the things that are likely most annoying to users. For example, it tracks down printing problems, crashy apps, resource hogs — all the good stuff.

That alone is interesting. But more interesting is that it offers up solutions for how you can fix your computer issues. And the data they’re (anonymously) collecting about PC problems should be useful across a range of industries and services.

Quite simply: if Soluto can convince the millions of frustrated PC users to use their software, they could transform the industry. Or, disrupt it.

The company has previously raised $8 million over two rounds, but has been in beta until now.

Other award winners tonight include:

Must-have technology: LiveIntent

Biggest New York disruptor: Betterment

Most promising media concept: LiveMatrix

Congratulations Soluto! And congratulations to all the finalists. Each will undoubtedly prove to be disruptive in their own way.

Soluto will be the first company to get the TechCrunch Disrupt Cup. In the Fall, they will hand it off to the next winner. We look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco in September.

CHINICT: China’s biggest tech conference, streaming right here on TechCrunch

Posted: 26 May 2010 05:02 PM PDT

Disrupt may be over, but half way around the globe, another world-class conference is just beginning. As explained last week, we’re really excited to be live streaming this year’s CHINICT two-day conference which kicks off in Beijing right now.

The full agenda can be found here. The live stream is right here…

Startup Battlefield Round 3: The Final Disruption

Posted: 26 May 2010 03:18 PM PDT

We’re down to the final five companies at the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield: Betterment, Movieclips, Publish2, Soluto, and UJAM. This afternoon these companies are all making their last appeals to a panel of expert judges, explaining how they disrupt their respective markets. My live notes from the session are below.

The judges:
John Borthwick
Ron Conway
Marissa Mayer
Sam Schwartz
Quincy Smith

Read our post detailing Publish2 here.

MM: One question. What percentage of AP’s rev. is derived from Co-op?
A: It doesn’t break out. If you ask a cable TV provider, what percentage is consumer paying for this. But if you look at how AP presents itself.. without the co-op they can’t present themselves as comprehensive.
MM: I get the sense that if you look at AP they have bureaus. My question is that I’m worried it’s a small percentage of overall business. I think this is a great area that needs disruption. One thing that I’m concerned about — I want a sense of reliability. Who can you count on as a source? How do you defend brands in this network? I’m worried about overall biz model. There are people who believe real time news are being commoditized. This also couples in with distribution. What’s your plan for getting dist. in the beginning? Chicken and egg problem. With users, you think, can I monetize them directly?
A: They do a tremendous amount of reporting nobody else does. Story in Haiti.. I don’t think that’s a majority of their content.
RC: How big is AP?
A: 700M dollar business. We think globally, there’s a billion+ dollar market. By adding efficiency it will shrink to say half a billion, we think we can take 20% of that.
QS: You need to know your market a little bit better. They are being told by multimedia holding company, in your marketing pitch, if you’re going to replace it, something you have to own and feel accomplished with.

Read our post describing Soluto here.

Dives deep into Windows kernel. Starting with PCs, to eliminate things that are annoying/frustrating.
SS: We get about a million calls a day of customers trying to fix PC problems. They blame it on our connection 90% of the time. I think diagnosing that problem could be multifaceted, if you can do what you say, I think you have a nice exit in front of you.I think you’re tackling: boot sequence, crowdsourcing solution, database of problems. Lot of things to tackle.
A: We have been approached by Comcast already for a partnership.
RC: Is this hardware or software?
A: Doesn’t help you if your CD drive is clicking, but if it’s the driver, yes.
RC: Is it automatic? Or does consumer have to identify the problem?
A: Depends if they want to pay us. Free version, we tell them how to help themselves. Free is paid service.
JB: Talk to me about trust. I wake up one day and this behavioral targeting. How do I know that won’t happening.
SS: A lot of software when it crashes, it asks your permission.. if you’re going to crowd sourcing answer, how much is exposed.
A: We don’t want to know who our users are. There is no registration. All we gather is completely anon. technical information.
JB: I love it. I wish it worked on a Mac. It runs all the time. Normally those things cause more problems than they help.
A: … I think that being very clear and transparent, by contributing all the info we gather back, openly for free, it’s a pain so many people have they want a solution.
MM: I want to offer kudos, you have a great knack for consumer marketing. I think this is a really clever idea. When we launched Google Desktop, we had a conflict with photo software on HP PCs. took 2.5 months to track it down. One concern: we’ve seen that in markets where spyware and negative software runs rampant, people are living more in the cloud, and reimaging machines. If that’s the strat. it circumvents it. I think netbooks, hardware shifts/platform shifts can move and change faster than people thought. So in terms of shifts and ways to get around it how do you respond to that.
A: I think the cloud option is a sad outcome… We think if we are succesful we can stop that. I think it can be comparable in pricing. Regarding the shift we think most of the data is going to the web and it’s great. Still think bad programmers will create frustrations on netbooks, every other platform. This is relevant for every platform.
QS: Remember, in going after Apple.. The beauty of Apple is you go to genius bar, you’re trying to replace the touch. My rec would be to find these geeks early who are luminaries. Get some personalities out there who are advocating. Alt biz model: you have some PC recommendation ideas. You may not disrupt CNet, but maybe join something like that.
A: At present it’s very important to build trust with users of being objective, trusted. Not being affiliated with companies we may be passing judgement. We aren’t passing judgement, but it can be inferred.

Read our post describing Betterment here.

QS: Are you an application or a company? Is there a strategy where you coopt other guys and offer your platform.
A: Yes we can sell through intermediaries (investment advisors, brokers). We’ve build flexible backend. We have ability whitelabel this. Stockmarket basket can be adjusted.
RC: If I put my dial for stocks only, who will pick that portfolio?
A: On our team we have decades of exp. in markets and banking. We’re putting together investor committee. It’s passively managed. Based on fundamentals. Professors, hedge fund managers.
SS: Why not use index fund?
A: We’re not managing it actively. We’re created a portfolio, it’s an index fund of index funds.
MM: I see two issues. You started by saying this a replaceement for savings accounts. Because it’s riskier than in classic savings accounts. Better to say turn savings account into investment portfolio. I’m worried on that same front, that the speed dial isn’t going to be sufficient to educate users.
A: Agree about understanding risk. We want to show people to show potential for loss, we disclose that before you sign up, as you make allocations.
SS: But I wonder if having to move that dial is one choice too many.
Michael Arrington: When Mint launched people were saying it was too cute, this is hard.
MM: I don’t think that’s my criticism. I think it’s about positioning.
JB: I think it’s got this toyish feel to it. I think you need to think about the brand. I thought it was about social investing. I think the UI/interface. You’ve simplified things.. that doesn’t mean reducing things to simple graphic with one bar.
A: It’s hard to reduce complexity to simplicity. There’s a lot of complex stuff behind the scenes.
SS: You’re bothering users with that dialing asset allocation decision.
A: This is the most important decision.
QS: The blippys, swipelys, clearly people are getting more used to simple interfaces. What’s your target market?
A: We’re going after young professionals. People who are lost when it comes to investing. Open etrade and say, I dont know what to do.
RC: Customers want to know who your fund managers who are picking these things.
A: We’re working on investment committee.
RC: You’re going to need Warren Buffet.

See our post describing MovieClips here.
Partnered with the six studios.
Biz model: All about volume.
RC: How you got all the studios is amazing. But imagine how big YouTube sales would be if you were a cofounder…
A: Hulu is knocking down the door.. YouTube did a deal with Vevo. We think we could be a great addition to add to their premium vertical with movie clips.
JB: I’m skeptical. I think a lot of people mash up videos today, it’s not a problem that people have per se. I’m always concerned about a company when I hear them say I got a deal that nobody else can get.
SS: How do they pick which movies?
A: We pick the movies, we do all the clips.
JB: Is this just the crappy movies?
A: A-Class, premiere titles.
QS: Two things I like. Cool thing about what you’re doing, if you do it right, you’re doing fantasy sports for movies. You’re additive and complementary. I like how you’ve coopted studios to see how this is good from promotion, marketing, monetization way. Nobody spends more money online than movie guys. My issues: if you get too successful. Hulu/Vevo.. other guys have skin in the game. SAG. All the guilds. Read all SAG negotiations before we went in.
SS: We own Fandango.. Does the user actually put own vid adjacent to clips.
A: Just compilation of professional video, can’t put own in.
MM: I think the deals are really amazing. I think they’re a good omen. Because next you need dist. I think it’s really fun. Next question has to do with search. What would make it successful is being able to search. But I am not a big fan of metatags.. I like full closed captioned search. The way people talk to each other about scenes.
A: We do have all the captions across 11k movies. Search is very important.
SS: Did you have to guarantee a minimum.
A: Yes. That’s part of the arena. We have to make this worth their time. There’s a rev share with the studios.
SS: What do you have to do with a clip to get ROI positive.
A: If we get 3 million uniques we cover min guarantee.
QS: Data – movies don’t do a good job obtaining, leveraging it. Other partner interesting here is Amazon.
JB: I think people are already doing mashups… movielinks… (he’s not buying it)
RC: This will be as viral as viral can get.

See our post describing UJAM here.
JB: The technology is amazing. I think the whistle example displays tech even better. How do you make this social?
A: One way is people sharing music on social networks. Enabling collaboration. If I can sing well, my buddy is better is drumming, can collaborate in creating music. Service will have an API. Client is already built on API. Can be build to other platforms.
RC: Is the size of market a subset of karaoke, and how big is it?
A: I don’t know the exact number, it’s huge. Karaoke sites could use UJam as a core tech. I think it’s more than that.. It’s not recreating something, it’s creating something new.
SS: I think it’s incredible this is a web app. Very impressive. Strikes me as something you’d see on your Xbox. Because it’s on the web, wonder if there’s more you could be doing with it. This could turn into a whole community.
RC: You’d have to do that in order to make it succesful.
QS: When Google came around search was being used and innovated on my many companies, Google did it better. You guys do it better. There has been online collaboration jamming… but I have a theory there will be more music disruption online. It’s the easiest way for people to get behind an experience. In terms of adoption, applying killer tech, it’s badass. My question — what is the exit? What is the exit value? I’m not seeing what this look like in 5 years. But from a tech/implementation/user adoption it’s compelling. Top buyers today are different from top buyers tomorrow. Look at FB, they’re eating more or less the internet. FB would be a logical one. Yahoo to the extent they might be interested in content. MySpace.
RC: Activision. Nintendo, Xbox, Wii.
MM: I think the tech is impressive> I think the speed it puts together the tracks is great. I think the wow moment is transposition from voice to music. I’m not very compelled by biz models as they have been presented. Seems like you’re making music creation industry much larger. Why not monetize it the way music creation has been monetization?
A: We think that’s why we came up with freemium. People who want to use it occasionally, if you want more, if you want to aspire, sound better. They can customize it and upgrade. Buy more functionality.

Video: Sean Parker And David Kirkpatrick Talk Facebook Privacy, Justin Timberlake

Posted: 26 May 2010 03:15 PM PDT

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, one of the most interesting talks was when Sean Parker and David Kirkpatrick sat down to talk about the state of Facebook with our own Michael Arrington. Parker was the founding President of Facebook (and still has close ties to the company, as he’s a major shareholder). Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, has a new book coming out, The Facebook Effect, which he spent two years writing getting unprecedented access to the company.

It was a good day for the chat, considering that Facebook just unveiled its new privacy controls. They talked about privacy for quite a bit, but it wasn’t all privacy. They also talked about a number of other things — including Parker’s take on Justin Timberlake playing him in the upcoming Facebook film, The Social Network.

We’ve decided to post the entire talk below (sorry, it starts out with a ComScore presentation — feel free to skip about 8 minutes in). Enjoy.

Watch live streaming video from disrupt at livestream.com

Exclusive: The Helio Ocean 3 That Could Have Been

Posted: 26 May 2010 03:13 PM PDT

Yesterday was a sad day for me, albeit one that was a long time coming. Yesterday, Helio, a wireless MVNO co-operated by EarthLink and South Korea’s SK Telecom, let out its final death cry. As I predicted in March, Virgin Mobile, who had acquired the failing company just two years prior, was pulling the plug on the post-paid side of their service that Helio had become. The lights were dimmed, the blinds were closed, and accounts were terminated. Just like that, Helio was dead.

As a small (yet lovely) chunk of our MobileCrunch readers may know, Helio was of some importance to me. On a whim one weekend, long before I became a writer here, I founded a community called Heliocity — which, as you could probably guess by now, was focused on Helio. It was a pretty tightly knit group of 10 thousand-or-so of the geekiest geeks you’ll ever meet, hacking at — and nerding out over — every Helio phone we could get our hands on. That community got me into blogging, which took me to all sorts of industry events, where I in turn met all the people who eventually lead me to my job here at TechCrunch.

To celebrate this nostalgia and recognize the rather cool company that once was, I present: the Helio Ocean 3. This is the phone that was to be Helio’s savior; this is their unfinished magnum opus. Prior to today, it was a myth; no one outside of the company had seen it, and the number of people within the company who had seen it could be counted on two hands.

Read the rest at MobileCrunch >>

CrunchGear’s Maker Bar at TechCrunch Disrupt: Assembling MP3 Players From Scratch

Posted: 26 May 2010 02:23 PM PDT

The time: Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt. The place: CrunchGear's Maker Bar. Given all the attention focused on Chinese factory conditions lately, we thought it would be interesting to have conference attendees (and sponsors and startup guys) assemble some basic MP3 players from the components an assembly line worker in China is likely to use. No soldering, though, we used ready PCBs (to the disgust of some). I managed to put one together in just under two minutes — it's harder than it looks. Sorry about the noise in the background, that would be the compressed-air-powered stabber-bot nearby. Why I picked a place like that to shoot a video is a mystery to you and me.

Wirehog, Zuckerberg’s Side Project That Almost Killed Facebook

Posted: 26 May 2010 02:09 PM PDT

We put a bullet in that thing.”

That’s how Sean Parker fondly looks back at Wirehog. According to him and author David Kirkpatrick it was a side-project that Mark Zuckerberg found equally as interesting as Facebook itself. According to both of them, it was also the thing that almost killed Facebook.

The two made the revelation today on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. Both were on the stage with our own Michael Arrington to talk about the state of Facebook, as well as Kirkpatrick’s new book about its history, The Facebook Effect.

So what was Wirehog? It was a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service that hooked up to Facebook. When it launched in 2004, it was Zuckerberg thinking ahead of his time, Parker says. It was an app that worked on top of Facebook. This was well before f8, before the Platform. It existed until early 2006 when, according to Kirkpatrick, it died “because Sean killed it.

Parker, of course, had a history with file sharing services — he was one of the founders of Napster. About Wirehog, Parker says it was “a great idea, if it were legal.” “I had seen that movie before. We would have killed the baby in the cradle.”

You can read more about Wirehog on Wikipedia, or check out Kirkpartrick’s book when it goes on sale — he goes more into it.

The Best Of The Best #TCDisrupt Hackers Show Off Their Creations

Posted: 26 May 2010 01:44 PM PDT

The TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon saw over 300 hackers battling through the night, fueled by pizza and caffeine. Three projects were selected and the people that hacked those together got a free pass to the conference, and more importantly some stage time alongside the five Startup Battlefield finalists.

Future Mario (from the Eyewriter guys) is an application that allows you to play Super Mario Brothers with your voice, by blinking your eyes, and by tracking actual eye movement.

Twitter Demographics mashes up tweets with geolocation and demographic data. So if you search for a specific keyword using the service, you can see the percentage of users who tweeted about the keyword within certain income ranges and even by political party.

Worst Phone Ever searches for baseband crashes on your desktop, uploads them, and saves them to a database. The results are tabulated and added to the total, eventually leading to a detailed class-action lawsuit.

We’ll have the video of all three presentations up soon. Tell all your friends.

Art.sy Wins The TechCrunch Rookie Disruptor Award

Posted: 26 May 2010 01:28 PM PDT

Raymie Stata, Chief Architect at Yahoo, just handed an award he himself decided to dub the TechCrunch Rookie Disruptor Award to an amazing startup that didn’t make it to the finals.

Taking home the award is Art.sy – the picture above shows founder Carter Cleveland.

From our review (also check out the video of their presentation):

The new social site is "the place to discover and share original fine art online." Okay, it's easy to say that. But Art.sy's approach is to make it easy to discover this art through searching. Their custom search engine allows you to find art by period/style, the portion of their career that the artist is in, or the regular stuff like size, color, and, of course, price.

They'll also recommend new art to you based on preferences from your social graph. And there's a Facebook application to leverage the largest social graph. Plus they believe the Art.sy domain will be key for sharing art on Twitter. They also hint that an iPad app is coming.

Congratulations Art.sy!

Sean Parker: Credits Poised To Make Up 1/3 Of Facebook’s Income In The Next 12 Months

Posted: 26 May 2010 01:04 PM PDT

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, David Kirkpatrick and Sean Parker sat down with Michael Arrington to talk about the state of Facebook. There were a lot of interesting things said (more on that in posts to come), but one thing that definitely stood out was an answer Parker gave to a question from the audience.

The question asked what Facebook’s next big source of revenue would be? Parker, who was the founding President of Facebook, still works closely with the company as he’s a major shareholder. He noted that Facebook PR might not like his answer too much, but he decided to give it anyway: the Credit system.

Parker believes that the Facebook Credit system (that is, its payment platform), or any other things Facebook uses as a “tax and toll” on the Platform, will become a third of Facebook’s income in the next 12 months. In other words, he thinks it’s going to explode.

And it very well could. One of the main reasons it is believed that there were tensions between Zynga and Facebook is because Facebook was starting to push its Credits system, which gives Facebook a 30% cut of the in-game money Zynga earns. The two sides recently reached an agreement which is believed to keep Facebook’s cut the same, but gives Zynga a significant discount on advertising on Facebook.

If virtual currency and goods are nearly a $100 million (revenue) a year business (last year) for Zynga, that’s a lot of money for Facebook. And that’s only going to grow — and likely fast if Parker is right.

Venture Capitalists Get Grilled (And Pitched At Urinals) At #TCDisrupt

Posted: 26 May 2010 12:18 PM PDT

It doesn’t always have to be the venture capitalists grilling the entrepreneurs – at TechCrunch Disrupt, we’ve disrupted that notion (see what I did there?) and hosted an open-mic session for entrepreneurs to challenge VCs, live and uncensored.

The investors in question were Mark Davis (Associate at DFJ Gotham Ventures), Rick Heitzmann (Managing Director, FirstMark Capital), David Lee (General Partner of SV Angel), Mike Brown (AOL Ventures) and Eric Wiesen (General Partner, RRE Ventures).

Q: Is there ever a situation where entrepreneurs should be paying to pitch investors?

A: Rick – while it’s hard to say never, I’ve seen more scams than good things when it comes to that. Entrepreneurs nowadays are much more able to reach out to good investors. Short answer: I don’t think there’s every any reason to pay a fee to pitch.

Q: Do you like it when people pitch you in a unique and creative way?

A: Mark – We encourage it, sure.

David – We like to see authenticity, because it’s something you can’t fake.

Q: What was the worst pitch you’ve ever experienced?

A: Rick – That would be 20 minutes ago, when someone started whispering in my ear at the urinals. Bad idea.

Mike: I never understand why entrepreneurs just show up at the door of a VC’s office without an appointment.

Q: Is it better to be a small fish that can swim through the net, or a fish big enough to make the net useless?

A: Eric – I’m assuming your metaphor is about competitive landscape. My answer is simple: you want to be in an industry where there’s opportunity for startups to disrupt, where the incumbents are slow.

Q: How do you know something is disruptive before it’s obvious to everyone else?

A: Mark – I think you can tell relatively early on; you look at product, team, market size, competitive landscape, positioning, etc.

Eric: But in the end, you don’t know, it’s not a science. The job is to predict the future, and it’s very hard to do.

Q: What do you expect from a first round meeting?

A: David – it varies, but we look for passion, the business should really mean something to you. Some examples: YouTube, 20×200. Also, we love data; we want something we can work with. Just a PowerPoint but no data, that’s not such a good start.

Q: In the spirit of disruption: you spend a lot of time looking for investments. But there are more and more ways for startups to get money. So how do you see venture capital evolving? Do you feel threatened by the changes you see happening on that front?

A: Rick – I think VC was easier in the past, you just needed to get to the right people to get $10 million. It takes less money to launch companies these days, and owners keep a larger share of the company. The situation forces us to evolve, but that’s good for the industry.

Q: Do you prefer functionality over design or vice versa?

A: Eric – the data usually answers that question for us. Your users will tell you, it will show up in the numbers.

Mike – I don’t care that much how long it took to build your product, but focus on users to get feedback.

David – we prefer entrepreneurs doing one thing very well, not a lot of things reasonably well.

Q: Everyone’s opinion on financially backing competitors of companies in your portfolio?

A: Mark – we try to stay away from that, conflict in portfolio isn’t something you want. Too much risk for exposure.

Eric – if a company in our portfolio changes course and ends up competing with another one in there, we won’t stop them, though.

David – We’re probably the exception. We don’t take board seats, so we’re able to manage conflicts differently. We invest in competitors all the time.

Q: Entrepreneurs take risks to become big. What kind of risks are you taking to become the next Sequoia?

A: Rick – By working hard and being supportive, good things tend to happen. You build your reputation from the bottom up, building relationships with and for your companies. Even if you don’t invest, stay close and be nice, it’s a karma thing.

Q: It takes less money these days to start a company. Will bootstrapping make the need for VC go away?

A: Mark – venture capital can be a good thing for some, a bad one for others. Sometimes VCs back companies that don’t need cash, and it never ends well. But some startups need funding to get to where they want to be.

Watch live streaming video from disrupt at livestream.com

The TechCrunch Disrupt Final Five: Betterment, MOVIECLIPS, Publish2, Soluto And UJAM

Posted: 26 May 2010 12:01 PM PDT

Eighty thousand people have tuned in to TechCrunch Disrupt to watch the launch of twenty new startups and products in the Startup Battlefield – nearly 2,000 in live attendance and another staggering 78,000 on the live video stream.

Of those twenty just ten made it to the second round, where the focus was on the business model. After long deliberations, and after calculating the total score of each startup based on our panel of expert judges and voting from the audience and viewers, we now have the final five TechCrunch Disrupt startups.

The winner takes home an experience of a lifetime, $50,000 in cash and the Disrupt Cup.

But first they have to prove once more on stage that they deserve to take the top spot. And the final judges – John Borthwick, Ron Conway, Marissa Mayer, Sam Schwartz and Quincy Smith – are not going to be taking it easy on them.

They have five minutes to explain their business and why it rocks to an overstimulated audience and those judges. And then they have to defend themselves on stage for ten more minutes under a barrage of skeptical questions.

Who will be the final TechCrunch Disrupt Champion? We’ll know soon enough.

Here are the finalists:

Betterment (watch)
MOVIECLIPS Mashups (watch)
Publish2 News Exchange (watch)
Soluto (watch)
UJAM (watch)

Which is your favorite? Watch their launch videos and tell us below in the comments.

Latitude’s New Dashboard View Is Exactly What Passive Location Needs

Posted: 26 May 2010 12:00 PM PDT

There are a lot of people actively using Google Latitude3 million, in fact. But maybe “active” isn’t really a good word for how they use it, since Latitude is a location-based service that’s passive. That is, it is continuously updating your location in the background. You don’t check-in (at least not yet), so there’s not much to actually do. But a new feature today makes this passive service much more interesting.

The new Location History Dashboard gives you a number of ways to view your location history. If you’ve recently gone on a trip, for example, you can see step-by-step where you went and when. It’s a bit like Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs — only there are no birds to eat them.

Latitude has actually had this Location History feature available as an experiment for a little while. But with the changes today, the data is presented in a much more compelling way. For example, at the top of the Dashboard, you can see how many miles in total you’ve traveled with Latitude turned on, and how far you are from the moon. This Dashboard view will also highlight interesting trends for your travels.

Simply put, it gives me a reason to want to use passive location. It’s a bit like Foursquare’s new robust history, but with an engaging map element — and of course, it works without you having to worry about explicitly checking-in.

The key to this, in my mind, is that this data is private: it’s for your eyes only (at least right now). Some people don’t like Latitude because it tracks you passively, and some people think they’ll forget to turn it off. But with a feature like this, it gives me a greater incentive to leave it on all the time. It’s like a travel journal that you don’t need to think about.

And if there’s some place I want to erase from my history (not sure why, but there may be reasons), you can do that from the Dashboard too.

Naturally, for this to work you’re going to need a device that allows for location to update in the background. Right now, this means Android phones and some BlackBerry phones. With the iPhone 4.0 OS software due this summer, background location will be possible too — but Latitude doesn’t have an iPhone app. At least not yet.

This new feature is still in testing mode, so there are some bugs, product manager Steve Lee warns. And he notes that after you enable Location History in your Latitude settings, it will take a bit of time (a few days — maybe up to a week) for the results to start showing up in a reliable way.

And, of course, he’s quick to point out the privacy settings. Given what’s happening with both Facebook and Google surrounding privacy, this is something users will obviously care about. (And there’s probably a reason we haven’t seen Facebook’s location service yet.) Latitude is “entirely opt-in only and your location history is available privately to you and nobody else,” Lee notes.

ComScore Is Now Free For Startups

Posted: 26 May 2010 12:00 PM PDT

At TechCrunch Disrupt today, web analytics company comScore announced the free availability of its platform for startups.

The company is making Tagging completely free. "Tagging" means putting a comScore tag (i.e. pixel) on a publisher's web page so that the company can see the totality of a site's page views at the census level. This data is blended with its panel-based data for a comprehensive view. Previously, the cost of implementing these tags was $5,000, but ComScore will no longer be charging for that set-up cost.

ComScore has also launched its "Start-up, Step-up" program. Sites with less than one million unique visitors will be able to access a free comScore Dashboard and sites between 1 million and 2 million unique visitors will get special discounted pricing of $799 per month. The dashboard includes data on monthly unique visitors for your site, top ad categories, demographics (age, gender, household income), and more

This is great news for startups that fit into the traffic constraints who want a quality, in-depth analytics and traffic reporting system but don’t have the $5,000-$10,000 to shell out to comScore or another analytics company. We feel that comScore is one of the best analytics services out there, and this will no doubt help the company compete with Quantcast, Compete and others.

While comScore is growing in terms of revenue and through acquisitions, its business has been questioned in the past for not being startup-friendly. This move is probably a way to address that criticism. Of course, there is other benefit in freeing up its model for startups and less-trafficked sites. One of comScore’s weak points was tracking data for smaller sites, so this free model is a good way to integrate that data and then perhaps charge as the steadily grow bigger.

Boom, Indeed: Apple Passes Microsoft In Market Cap

Posted: 26 May 2010 11:15 AM PDT

Back in March, Microsoft was over $50 billion ahead of Apple in market cap. That gap was still huge, but it was the closest the two had been in that measurement of value in decades. The trend was clear: I predicted that Apple would pass Microsoft, it was only a matter of when.

Not even I thought it would be this soon.

Today, Apple has just passed Microsoft in market cap. Now, the stocks have been fluctuating quite a bit, so this could change before the market closes. But as of right now, Apple is ahead, and has been for the past few minutes.

Some publications reported this milestone happened back in April, but that was a slightly different metric. That was the market cap on the S&P 500, which uses float-adjusted numbers. Today’s milestone is straight-up market cap: numbers of shares outstanding multiplied by share price.

Of course, just how much this number means is a matter of debate. The truth is that it really doesn’t mean that much in terms how strong or weak a company is from a financial perspective. But it is a good indicator of trends, and obviously stock performance. That trend is obviously that over the past five years or so, Apple has been destroying Microsoft is gaining stock value.

Over those past five years, Microsoft’s stock has been largely stagnant: it’s up about 4%. Apple’s stock, meanwhile, is up some 550% over that same time frame.

Regardless of how the market closes today, you can likely expect Apple market cap to surge ahead in the coming days. A week from this coming Monday is Steve Jobs’ keynote at Apple’s WWDC event. There, he’s widely expected to unveil the new iPhone — and undoubtedly some other things. The mere speculation about what he’ll unveil will fuel the price. Microsoft, meanwhile, is losing key executives.

Boom! Fanboys go wild.

Update: And as the markets near closing time, Apple is now nearly $3 billion ahead of Microsoft.

Update 2: And sure enough, Apple did close the day ahead of Microsoft: $222.07 billion vs. $219.18 billion.


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