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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Facebook’s Market Cap On SecondMarket Is Now $25 Billion (Bigger Than Yahoo’s)

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 08:34 AM PDT

If Facebook were a publicly traded company, its market value would rival Yahoo’s and be ten times bigger than AOL’s, if demand for its private shares are any indication. Shares of Facebook on private-company stock market SecondMarket are going through the roof right now. This week, Facebook shares traded on SecondMarket passed $50, giving Facebook a total market value of $25 billion, according to sources with access to the market. (SecondMarket itself does not disclose pricing or valuation of the private stocks it trades). In comparison, Yahoo’s market cap on the publicly traded stock market is currently $21 billion, while AOL’s is $2.3 billion.

These aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons because SecondMarket is a private stock market with thinly traded shares where demand often outstrips supply. (By definition, private stock sales trade in an illiquid market). But it is a real market with buyers and sellers, and right now that market is putting a $25 billion value on Facebook. The last time we checked in on how Facebook’s shares were doing on SecondMarket was in January, 2010 when the company was valued at $14 billion (which was up from $11 billion the month before).

Back in August, 2009, DST was buying back common shares at a $6.5 billion valuation, so that’s been an incredible rise in value over the past year. Even Microsoft’s $15 billion valuation (albeit for preferred shares) does not seem so crazy anymore in light of what investors are paying on SecondMarket.

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt, SecondMarket’s chief strategy officer Jeremy Smith explained how the market works to Beet.TV, and that so far a total of about $100 million worth of Facebook stock has been traded through SecondMarket (watch the video).

Not A DONE Deal: NBC Agrees To Sell Women.com, Backs Away, Gets Sued

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 07:31 AM PDT

DONE! Ventures, a Manhattan Beach, California-based Internet marketing and publishing firm, is slapping NBC Universal with a lawsuit after a domain name sales deal went awry.

DONE! CEO Ben Padnos claims NBC Universal accepted an offer to sell the domain names Women.com and Women.net for $1 million, only to have President & CEO Jeff Zucker overrule and block the transaction after the agreement was reached.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, June 3, alleges breach of contract on those grounds. According to the complaint, which we’ve embedded below, NBC Universal signed an exclusive agreement with domain brokerage firm Sedo.com for the sale of both domain names, each for $600,000, about two weeks ago.

DONE! Ventures says it made a $1 million offer on May 21, and that NBC Universal accepted this offer on May 24. Three days after the agreement was reached, Sedo informed DONE! that Zucker personally overruled the transaction and the domains were no longer for sale.

DONE! is now asking the Court to enforce "specific performance", requiring NBC Universal to transfer ownership of the domains. The company says it is currently developing an online content network for which the domain name Women.com is critical, as the target audience will consist of “modern, powerful, intelligent women”.

As far as we know, GE-owned NBC Universal has never used the Women.com and Women.net domain names for any active websites, even though the company owns and operates iVillage, a media outlet specifically targeting women.

We asked NBC Universal for comment and are awaiting their response.

Update: the official response is … no comment.

Complaint FINAL_v2

Google’s iTunes Competitor Will Likely Be Called Google Music

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 07:06 AM PDT

At Google I/O a few weeks ago, Google teased the audience with a glimpse of a web-based iTunes competitor that would be a new section of the Android Market. Details were sparse during that time, but we may have found the name of the service through a new logo that is hosted on Google’s domain: Google Music. You can tweak that url to see more product logos, including Android and Docs.

While the name is unsurprising, the idea behind Google Music, if that is what it in fact it will be called, is pretty compelling. You would go to the Market on the web, find a song you like, click the download button, and just like with apps, the song would start to download over the air onto your Android devices. Google also announced the acquisition of Simplify Media. Using Simplify’s technology, Google will offer a desktop app that will give you access to all DRM-free media on Android devices remotely.

This new market wouldn’t be Google’s first foray into music. Last fall, Google announced Music Onebox, new kind of Google search result that lets you instantly stream songs directly from Google's results page; and Google Discover Music, a search engine to find songs on the web.

Google Music had better launch soon. Apple is rumored to be prepping a cloud-based version of iTunes this summer, which could steal the thunder from whatever Google has in store for its music market.

HTC EVO 4G For Sale Now

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 03:21 AM PDT

"History will be made across the nation as anxious customers get their hands on America's first 3G/4G wireless phone, HTC EVO 4G, packed with industry-leading features." A little over the top right there, but anyway: you can now purchase the HTC EVO 4G at Sprint.com, Sprint retail stores, at RadioShack, Best Buy and Walmart. The device sells for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement and after a $100 mail-in rebate with a new line activation or upgrade.

Context-Aware Infrastructure Startup SoGeo Raises €1 Million

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 02:56 AM PDT

[Amsterdam] SoGeo, provider of a context aware platform for mobile and Web, this morning announced that it has secured €1 million (roughly $1.2 million) in funding from investor group BlueBubbleLab. SoGeo is in the midst of building a location-aware information sharing platform and API with social and community features, including a suite of mobile and web apps that interface with it. SoGeo is targeting businesses interested in the platform, essentially a set of technologies that collects, analyzes and stores location data, photos and videos, user accounts and attention data, to engage with their customers.

Google Pays $75 In Gift Checks To Test New Blogger Features On Windows PCs

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 02:18 AM PDT

At least 18 years old? Own a Windows PC? Have 60 minutes to spare?

Google wants you to test usability of its Blogger service on your own computer, and is prepared to give you $75 in American Express gift checks if you participate in a screen sharing session and a phone call with some of their people. Also, you must allow them to record audio or video of said session.

We think you can keep your clothes on, but have been unable to confirm.

On the sign-up page, Google explains that you can register to participate in a usability study and provide feedback on “something that’s currently in development”. It’s unclear what those new developments entail, and participants are required to accept the company’s Usability Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Google only says the study will “help the Blogger team better understand your needs in order to incorporate them into future product enhancements”. It’s anyone’s guess what those are, but considering the fact that they’re specifically asking for users who have computers running Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000, we daresay it concerns a desktop client of some sort.

The Mythical Sheryl Sandberg Wink And Smile (Starring Al Pacino)

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 01:55 AM PDT

In an an email newsletter yesterday Jason Calacanis, bizarrely referring to himself as Serpico (played by Al Pacino in the 1973 movie) talks about an interaction he had with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Wall Street Journal’s D Conference earlier this week.

Calacanis has long been over the top critical of Facebook, even recently referring to Zuckerberg as “an amoral, Asperger's-like entrepreneur” and says “Zuckerberg is clearly the worst thing that's happened to our industry since, well, spam.”

So it’s not surprising that he got in Mark’s face again in person. According to Jason, he first asked Mark to play poker with him, and then made comments to Mark as they both watched Steve Jobs on stage:

Steve said the folks at Apple were really concerned that some kid might get attacked–or worse–because someone tracked them with their technology. That could never happen right? Oh wait, Facebook is under assault for just this type of issue in Australia. Details:


While the audience cheered Steve’s position, I turned to Zuckerberg behind me and said: “I hope you’re taking notes.”

Zuck laughed, and Sheryl Sandberg–the adult brought in to keep Facebook and Zuckerberg out of trouble–shot me an aggressive stare from over his shoulder.


Then, out of site from Zuckberg, she winked and smiled at me.

Well played Sandberg, well played. In one complicated glance she admonished me for busting on the Golden Child, and then sent me the clear message that she appreciated that I’ve been educating the kid.

…. at least that’s how I read it.

So that’s a pretty serious allegation – that Sheryl Sandberg, the COO and clear no. 2 at Facebook, secretly enjoys seeing Mark criticized over Facebook’s privacy missteps.

Is it true? I asked Sandberg flat out via email. Her response: “absurd.” Plus a few other off the record comments that suggested it was really absurd.

Why the repeated Serpico references (really – he says “I am Serpico.”)? He’s getting pressure from “influential people,” he says, to fall into line and support Facebook. But he’s not going to stand for it:

Walking around the D conference I felt like Serpico. It feels like I crossed the Blue Line, where technology executives don’t get into big public fights that are bad for business. There are a lot of folks who are getting rich selling Facebook shares on SecondMarket today, and there are many more people–including friends of mine–who have a large percentage of their net worth in Facebook shares.

The sad part about the situation is that the person who sent me the email demands has massive influence over the industry, the people I work with. He could buy and sell me many times over. In short, this
power broker could make my life and career in technology miserable.

In fact, he could probably get me fired… and he let me know that in so many words.

The thing is, though, that this is good for business. Jason is the master at creating controversy. And controversy is fun, up to a point. But trying to disrupt a management team by suggesting that there’s strife when there really isn’t is crossing a line.

I’ve written recently that media and blogging attacks on Facebook are getting out of hand.

We love to tear apart the people and companies that are trying to do big things. And nothing is bigger in tech right now than what Facebook is trying to accomplish – a restructuring of the Internet around a social architecture. It may be time for us all to step back and realize that we’re witnessing the creation of a massive company, one that touches the lives of half a billion people a month, on the fly.

We’re seeing sausage being made, never a pleasant experience, by a company that is inventing the sausage as they go.

Wired UK Crowns Foursquare King, But The Local Peasants Revolt

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 01:49 AM PDT

This month's Wired UK magazine has pulled out the stops and put Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley on the cover. In spades. Crowley is pictured wearing a crown and is dubbed "The New King of Social Media". The subhead is "Why Google, Yahoo and Facebook want to unlock his world." That's a pretty big accolade and, indeed, Crowley has written a long explanation about how the cover story and shoot came about. He says "not to nerd out, but this is the stuff that Little Denny College dreamed big about back in 1997 (for real)... so I'm pretty happy with it :)" As you can see, the photographer made him wear some makeup "but I think my luscious lips and forearms are photoshopped," says Crowley. Not everyone is happy with Wired's angle, but more of that parade-raining later. Meantime, here's Crowley's take:

Foursquare Blocked In China, Possibly Related To Tiananmen Square Check-Ins

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 12:57 AM PDT

Looks like Foursquare is experiencing the questionable honor of getting the attention of the Chinese government. Authorities appear to have blocked the service, at least in mainland China, according to many a tweet from Chinese location sharers.

While this obviously can’t easily be confirmed, it appears as though the block is a result of Foursquare users checking in to another kind of square: Tian’anmen Square, the infamous plaza in China’s capital of Beijing (Peking).

The Chinese government is likely keeping a tight lock on which Internet services it allows its citizens to use today because of the sensitivity of the date.

Background: the protests of 1989 at Tian’anmen Square, which resulted in the massacre of Chinese protesters, occurred on the night of June 3 and the early morning of June 4.

It remains to be seen if Foursquare will remain blocked for the foreseeable future or if this is just a temporary ban.

(Thanks to CL for the heads up)

The Future Of Netflix’s Business Laid Bare — By Netflix

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 11:52 PM PDT

When it comes to slideshow presentations, few do them as well as Netflix. Last year, they released one that was sent around internally about their culture. If you read it, you probably wished you worked for Netflix afterwards. And now they’ve released one about the future of their business — it’s also fascinating.

The 40-slide presentation is great because it gives direct insight into Netflix’s view of its competition, and why they think they’ll succeed in the end. Long story short, they’re transforming the company from a DVD-by-mail service to a streaming video service. Anyone who has followed the company over the past year or so will know this, but it’s pretty interesting to read about just how much they’ve thought the transition through.

For example, they know there’s a demand for new release DVDs, but they’re giving up that market to competitors so that they can focus on building the biggest back catalog of movies available for streaming. They know that DVD-by-mail will continue to grow for a few more years (they think 2014), but after that, it will decline just as rapidly as it grew as streaming takes over.

Netflix doesn’t want to be the end-all source for all video content, they just want to focus on the catalog streaming ability, and exist as a supplemental service to other video services such as pay-per-view. The key to this is to make the service ubiquitous (which is why they’re focused on signing device deals) and cheap (they’re targeting around $10 per user). Once DVD-by-mail starts going away, most of their costs will be related to paying the studios to get access to their back catalog films.

So what are Netflix’s biggest concerns going forward? Hulu and piracy. Hulu, with it’s forthcoming subscription model “could be significant competitive threat for us,” notes one slide. Piracy could also be a major problem as it may become just as bad for video as it was for music, another slide notes. I’d argue that Netflix isn’t helping that by giving up on new release rentals, but it’s hard to argue with their logic about carving out a very specific, catalog-based streaming niche for themselves.

Find the full presentation below:

Yelp Stats Show iPhone App Usage Staggeringly Deeper Than Website

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 11:13 PM PDT

Yelp, hot off the news of their Open Table integration, also has some interesting user information that they say they’ll officially announce tomorrow. We’ve got the details.

Yelp says their website had over 32 million unique visitors in May from all sources (Comscore says 11.2 million in April, the most recent month they track, but they do tend to undercount).

Yelp’s iPhone app has had 1.4 million uniques in the last thirty days, they say. That’s a small percentage of total traffic to the service, but the amount of activity and interaction from those users is significantly more than on the normal website:

  • A whopping 27% of all Yelp searches come from that iPhone application.
  • Over half a million calls were made to local businesses directly from the iPhone App, or one in every five seconds.
  • Nearly a million people generated point-to-point directions to a local business from their Yelp iPhone App last month.

Yelp will also be releasing a new version of the iPhone app shortly, their fifth iteration. Users will be able to earn badges to help show off where they are checking in. Says CEO Jeremy Stoppelman: “For example, if a yelper loves to get their nigiri on at sushi restaurants, they can earn the “Sushi Sensei” badge. The Sensei badge is only one of many badges you can unlock — it’s up to our users to figure out how. Once earned, badges can be shared with friends both via the Yelp iPhone app, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.”

So get ready, all you competitive types. It’s no longer enough to just be the mayor of your local cafe on Foursquare. The real men and women want to be the King or Queen of San Francisco on Yelp. Or wherever.

Apple Unveils A New HTML5/Web Standards Showcase — Safari Required

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 10:05 PM PDT

Under fire for its App Store not being more open, recently, Apple’s response has been that there is a portion of its devices that is totally open: the web. If developers don’t like some of the App Store’s restrictions, they should make a web app, Apple reasons. No shortage of critics think this response is disingenuous since it’s in Apple’s best interest for people to make native apps for their devices, not web apps that can be used anywhere. But a new site launched by Apple today looks to disprove that.

Apple’s new HTML5 page on its site is a showcase for what you can do with the technology. There are seven impressive examples of things you can do using only HTML5: Video, Typography, Gallery, Transitions, Audio, 360, and VR. “Standards aren't add-ons to the web. They are the web,” Apple writes.

But what’s a bit odd is that you can only view the examples using Apple’s Safari web browser. Other HTML5-compliant browsers — like Google Chrome — are blocked. If you try to load the examples, Apple pops up a message that you need to download Safari to view the demo. “This demo was designed with the latest web standards supported by Safari,” the message reads.

This site serves another purpose for Apple too. While it shows some commitment to the web (alongside its commitment to WebKit, the render engine which Apple helped make into the dominant force it is today — as Apple likes to remind everyone), it also shows a commitment to web standards. In fact, the page is actually called ”HTML5 and web standards.” Why? Undoubtedly because Adobe Flash is not a web standard. The first demo on the page shows the cool things you can do with HTML5 video.

All of these demos point to a “Safari Demos” page on the Apple Developer site — a page which can’t be found yet. It’s likely Apple is going to say more about this at its WWDC event starting on Monday.

Update: The Safari Demos link is now working, and you can find a few other HTML5 demos there. And interestingly enough, you can use the demos there without Safari (I just got them to work using Chrome).

[via Daring Fireball]

Screenshot Hints At YouTube “Live Stream” Option

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 09:16 PM PDT

YouTube has been dabbling with its own live streams for almost two years now. It’s live streamed presidential speeches, healthcare debates, cricket matches, and a U2 concert. But so far it’s stayed away from opening up live streaming to the general YouTube populace. The copyright liability would be insane.

Nevertheless, the shadow of YouTube hangs over the budding live video streaming industry, where startups like Livestream, Justin.tv, and Ustream are making their mark. Rumors persist that YouTube is planning to enter live streaming in a bigger way than it has so far. The screenshot above hints at what that might look like. I grabbed it from this YouTube help page for Google Moderator on YouTube. It shows the channel settings for a YouTube content producer (in this case, obviously someone who works for YouTube).  The last button, which I’ve circled above, is for “Live Stream.”

Max Haot, the CEO of Livestream, believes the screenshot provides”strong evidence that Youtube is about to launch a live streaming feature,” despite the fact that it looks like the “Live Stream” button is only enabled right now for YouTube employees. “We are not sure about their choice of name,” he adds.

The simple explanation here is that the screenshot, which was put up to illustrate a different feature (the Moderator module), comes from a YouTube employee with producer access to CitizenTube, the YouTube political channel that often shows live streams. Inside YouTube, that is the button they use when they want to run a live stream.

But the button is there, and if YouTube wanted to it could roll it out as a feature to trusted partners such as brands or politicians. In fact, YouTube is actively courting political candidates and their advertising dollars with all sorts of campaign tools. It would make sense to add live video to the mix. Live virtual town hall meetings could be very popular. Officially, however, YouTube says it has no immediate plans to do so.

Bit.ly Links Now At 4.7 Billion Clicks A Month As Yahoo, MySpace And Others Go Pro

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 05:24 PM PDT

There are over 150 million clicks on Bit.ly links each day. The amount of data running through the service is massive, and continuing to grow at an incredible pace. But we’ve known that for a while. Just as impressive may be what Bit.ly is doing with its premium service, Bit.ly Pro.

Today, the service is announcing some of the huge names across the web have signed up to use Bit.ly Pro. Yahoo, MySpace, The Huffington Post, Politico, Pepsi, NPR, Scribd, Toys”R”Us, CSPAN, Dailymotion, IMDB, the New York Times, Bravo, Mozilla and Amazon have all joined in recent months. We started using the service shortly after it launched in December — those tcrn.ch you see all run through Bit.ly Pro.

There are now over 12,500 publishers and brands using the Pro version of the service, Bit.ly says — that’s more than double the number they released just two months ago. All told, there are over 1.7 billion monthly uniques for these Bit.ly Pro users.

Overall, Bit.ly hit 4.7 billion decodes (their term for clicks) in May. That’s nearly double what it was just this past February. The service is now the 76th most visited site on the web, according to DoubleClick.

Bit.ly is also announcing a new partnership today with Webtrends. Later this Summer, Webtrends will start incorporating Bit.ly data into its analytics packages.

OpenTable Finds An Opening On Yelp

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 04:58 PM PDT

Yelp is adding a nifty feature today which will make scoring a table at restaurant a breeze. The reviews and listings site is integrating OpenTable’s reservation system into Yelp.

This essentially allows any logged-in Yelp user to make a reservation without having to leave the site. There is now an OpenTable section on the Yelp listing page for all restaurants who are listed with the reservations site, which is currently taking reservations for 11,000 restaurants. You can then make an OpenTable reservation much like you would on reservations site. The feature is only available in the US only. Additionally, you don’t need to have an OpenTable account to make the reservation.

However, if you use the same email to create an Yelp account and an OpenTable account, you will receive your OpenTable points if you make a reservation on a Yelp business page. It’s surprising the feature hasn’t launched earlier; it’s certainly something that will be useful for all Yelp users.

The deal is part of OpenTable’s affiliate program which includes Zagat, Yahoo, MenuPages and TripAdvisor. OpenTable, which is profiting from its rapidly growing mobile business, has seated a total of 24.2 million diners in the past two quarters.

Yelp also released a few interesting statistics today. Over 29% of the reviewed businesses on Yelp are restaurants. And the reviews site just passed its11 millionth review and had more than 32M unique visitors in the month of May.

Yelp has had a tumultuous 2010. The company raised a large round of funding in January and was one of the initial partners with Facebook a few weeks ago to launch personalized experience (which unfortunately had a security hole). But the startup was hit with a number of lawsuits claiming extortion in March.

But useful features like this will only help Yelp become the defacto reviews and listings site and perhaps even overtake main competitor Citysearch.

Location 2012: Death Of The Information Silos

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 04:38 PM PDT

Editor's note: The following is a guest post written by Robert Scoble, who travels the world for Rackspace interviewing tech geeks for building43.com. He’s one of the most popular (stalked) users of location-based services and has 8,215 friends on Foursquare. Here he writes about what the location-based world could look like in 2012 and what might keep it from happening.

It’s January 2012 and you’ve just gotten your new Android 3.0-based phone. You’re going on a road trip so you start up the newly-released Foursquare. Gone are the checkins of 2010. Now you tell it where you’re going. This time we’re headed to Harrah’s at Stateline, Nevada. But this is no Foursquare you’ve ever seen before. They’ve finally integrated Waze, Tungle.me, and Yelp information into it. So, let’s discover more of what happens on our trip.

As we pull out of my driveway in Half Moon Bay we cross a geofence that sends alerts to the various systems that I’ve connected to Foursquare. Tungle.me knows I’m meeting Mike Arrington for dinner at Harrah’s. He gets an alert on his mobile phone that I’m on my way and Glympse sends him the ability to watch my progress so he’ll know if I’ll be on time. Plancast lets me know that four friends are attending the Black Eyed Peas concert at Harrah’s tonight. I see that Siri is offering to find me tickets, so I ask it to find me some tickets under $400 each.

Later in our drive, the kids are screaming. Hungry critters, they are. So, we pull out our cell phone and tell Siri: “we need fast food along the freeway.” Siri has already been tracking us as we drive along and it now contacts the APIs from Foursquare and Yelp and then compares both of their databases and quickly learns that we mostly check into McDonalds and In-N-Out. The system talks to us: “we found a McDonalds five miles ahead right off the freeway and there’s an In-N-Out eight miles ahead.” It continues: “If you want to try something else other than your two usual choices, or if you need a recommendation for the kids, let us know.”

McDonalds sounds fun, because Milan likes their Chicken McNuggets and also likes playing in their Playland play rooms. So, we ask Siri: “does that McDonalds have a Playland?” Siri runs off to McDonalds database of Playland locations and comes back with: “no, but we’ve found a location with a Playland 25 miles ahead of your location. Would you like to choose that one?”

After McDonalds we hit Sacramento and now Foursquare, which has joined with Israeli-company Waze, pops up with a new warning: “there’s an accident ahead and travelers in front of you are reporting delays of 15 minutes.” Up pops a photo of the wreck that an anonymous user has posted. Soon we find ourselves stuck in that traffic and so we start chatting with people also stuck in the traffic. “Hey, have you tried the Beatles station on Pandora?” someone asks. Damn, is that Steve Gillmor stuck along with us?

As we drive down the road we’re constantly checking into various things and places. We ask Siri about National Historical places along our route and it pulls up Wikipedia entries about what we’re passing onto our screens.

When we arrive at Harrah’s, we cross another geofence which lets Arrington know we’re here. It also checks us into Foursquare, and tells us: “there are 29 other people we know about, including three of your friends.” Then Siri (which received a message from our geofence) chimes in with: “are you still having dinner with Mike Arrington at 8 p.m. at Friday’s Station Steak & Seafood Grill?” I answer: “yes.” That goes away, but on screen is a Yelp review about that restaurant and I
realize that the attire is dressy and I only have jeans and t-shirts. So, I ask Siri: “are there any other four-star restaurants like Friday’s Station nearby?” It answers with a list from Yelp and then it starts showing places that still have spots left for us this evening by querying OpenTable’s APIs. Siri then tells me it has found two seats for tonight’s show at Harrah’s outdoor arena, and asks if it should buy them from Stubhub?

Since there’s a couple of hours before dinner, I figure I’d find a cigar shop since I have a feeling Arrington might like a good cigar since the 12th Techcrunch Disrupt conference was a huge success. Siri again finds me a place named “Puffin,” which is a short walk away from the hotel.

While at dinner, Arrington says he’d love to take the Heavenly Valley Gondola up to see the view. We make arrangements to meet the next morning to do just that and off I go with Maryam to see the concert. Oh, and Siri automatically checked us into the Pepsi Loot app, because we were in one of the official restaurants that uses Pepsi and that gives us free stuff for checking in at Pepsi-serving locations.

The next morning, when I walk out the hotel to meet Arrington at the Gondola ride I walk through another geofence that Tungle.me has setup around my hotel (it manages my schedule and knows where I am) and it sends an alert to Siri saying: “I see you’ve left the Harrah’s hotel, can you let me know where you are going?” I say into my phone: “I’m going to meet Mike Arrington at the Heavenly Valley Gondola.” It quickly brings back a link for the Gondola ride and asks: “is this where you are headed?” I say: “yes.” It says: “if you buy your ticket at your hotel you’ll save $6 per ticket; see the concierge.”

After I get home, Siri talks to yet more webservices: Blippy, to get my credit card statements, and Expensify, for expense reports. Siri fills out my expense report with details gained from me along the way. It knows which dinners were business ones, and which ones were personal based on things I’ve set along the way (in Google Calendar, for instance, I mark my personal meetings with a tag).

I can hear you saying “Scoble, what are you smoking?”

Seriously, you can do a whole lot of what I’m talking about (including saving the $6 on the gondola ride) today BUT there is something wrong: these services are all information silos that aren’t aware of each other.

I tried to do most of this scenario this weekend. What happened?

  • I found out about the concert at Harrah’s too late to buy tickets.
  • I found out about the $6 discount on the Heavenly Gondola after I had gotten to the top.
  • I found out about the traffic jams after I had already gotten caught in them and didn’t know much about what caused them. And the system couldn’t tell us the best spot to have dinner based on traffic conditions (maybe if we had waited an hour and a half we would have spent less time in traffic).
  • I almost got a ticket because I didn’t know about a speed trap up ahead of us. If more people used Waze or Trapster that wouldn’t be a problem, but Waze doesn’t know about Trapster’s users and Trapster doesn’t know about Waze’s users.
  • We ate at a McDonalds that didn’t have a Playland. Siri doesn’t know about Playland, or that McDonalds has a page where you can look for locations that have Playlands. Our dinner date didn’t know we were running late because of the traffic jam (yeah, we called, but in the future they’ll just know exactly where we are and how long they should expect to wait for us).
  • Siri, when it worked, didn’t bring us anything serendipitous because it didn’t know what people on Google Buzz were talking about. It didn’t know anything about how many friends were checked in at the hotel, or at places near us. It didn’t know that a popular concert would start in a few hours and that it might have been able to get us seats.
  • As we drove along using Waze it didn’t tell me about historical landmarks. It didn’t show me where the In-N-Outs were. And when we wanted some coffee we had to switch to Google Maps to find Starbucks.
  • When in Google Maps I turned on the Google Buzz layer and it showed me lots of Buzzes from people but it didn’t try to point out important ones that might impact my experience. It forced me to click on dozens of Buzz items on a map in an attempt to find anything useful. Ever pick up rocks in a stream wondering what you will find underneath? That’s sort of like Buzz’s experience.
  • When I checkin with the new Pepsi Loot, it doesn’t check me into Foursquare, Loopt, or any of the other loyalty services that are coming out over the next few months.
  • If we flew into Reno instead of driven, TripIt wouldn’t know anything about my Google Calendar and couldn’t warn people on my calendar if our flight was late. And TripIt isn’t able to check us into the airport even though it knows our plane landed.
  • Yahoo news didn’t know that we left Half Moon Bay, so didn’t know that it should bring us news about Stateline, Nevada.
  • Gilt didn’t warn my wife when we passed by the outlet stores in Vacaville that there were some great deals on purses she was considering.
  • Paypal or Square weren’t able to be used for anything on our trip.

So, who are the winners and losers here?

Overall, the losers, so far, are us. In 2010 we’re seeing more and more location data silos being produced. The most recent ones are Loopt Star and PepsiLoot. These new services add more of a “tax” and don’t really combine in ways to make our lives interesting. That can’t continue if companies actually want us to use location-based services.

The losers, also, are the whole industry. Everyone will see slower adoption of all location-based services because of their limited utility if this doesn’t change.

But more specifically, the winners and losers:


  • Apple, because it already owns Siri, which is the best UI for smartphones for interacting with the world around you. And hooking up all these different services will be pretty easy for them to do over the next 18 months.
  • Google, because it already has so much location and scheduling data and is gathering more every day.
  • Facebook, because it already has so much data about people that it can use to present location information to us and can sell access to that data to others, like Apple, who will use it to augment their experiences.
  • SimpleGeo, because they are becoming an arbitrage system for moving data in real time between all of these players. That should be monetizable in the way that Twitter is selling data streams to Google and Microsoft.


  • Yahoo, because they haven’t yet figured out how to get us to share much location data with it.
  • Microsoft, because it is locked out of most of this new world too.
  • Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, because they haven’t made any moves yet to present malleable social graphs in the way that Foursquare has.
  • Individual loyalty programs. The first ones, like Pepsi Loot, will probably be popular because they are first but others will find tired and unengaged consumers and will need to join up with bigger players to get traction.

Along for the ride?

  • Plancast, TripIt, Blippy, Tungle.me, Expensify, are all along for the ride. They provide unique data that the others don’t and unless someone else comes along that provides that data in a better way than these folks do, I think they are safe for the moment.


  • Yelp and other restaurant listings could be disrupted in this new world where you’ll choose your restaurants based on where you actually are, what friends you’ve added to systems like Facebook, and tips from your friends (which are quite different from the crowd reviews at Yelp).
  • Yahoo News could be dramatically disrupted. Today, I met with the Yahoo news team and talked about needing different news based on where I was (I found out about riots in Guangzhou, China, after we arrived there and Twitter friends asked us if we were caught in the riots?)

Commerce winners?

  • Gilt, Foursquare, and Loopt seem to be aimed in the right direction by bringing users goodies for using these services. But it’s too early to say that one of these will be a clear winner in bringing promotions and offers to us. Bigger companies, like Google, with its huge sales teams, or, better yet, eBay, which has relationships with lots of small-town retailers, could totally change the game here.

So what could keep the world I laid out here from happening?

I’ve already caught wind of plans that Apple has to build Siri into a much more complete offering. You’ll be able to talk to your iPhone that will come out next year (Siri is owned by Apple but won’t be built into iPhones in a serious way until 2011) and you’ll be able to do a variety of tasks from ordering a pizza, finding a taxi or a movie time, to recommending a restaurant to take your date to. But what happens if Apple ends up building its own maps, its own location checkin service, it’s own advertising system for bringing promotions and offers to you, its own payment system, and its own travel apps? Well, then, this system would happen for Apple customers but that would weaken the ability for other companies to compete. And that would force Google’s hand into competing, or buying, these companies up, which would keep Apple from having access to some of these companies’ APIs.

But Google buying these companies and integrating them together with its voice recognition systems is probably the best possible scenario. Facebook isn’t a mature enough company yet to properly integrate all of these into some sort of new business graph and make that all usable by 2012.

Some companies are trying to integrate these services, or provide infrastructure that makes integration possible as well.

CloudMade is using the OpenStreetMap to hook these services together on a common map. And the IETF is working on a variety of standards to make it easier for companies to interoperate with their location. If they can succeed, the vision I laid out of 2012 should be a reality.

[photo: flickr/pinto 2003]

Review: Kobo eReader

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 04:11 PM PDT

The Kobo is one of the cheapest e-book readers on the market today, which is an approach few companies are taking, opting instead for more features. Can a $150 reader stand up to the Kindles and Nooks of the world? I think the real question is: does it even need to?

Continue reading…

Survey: Up To Half Of All Media Sites Plan To Support The iPad And HTML5 Video

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 03:26 PM PDT

As everyone on the Web knows by now, Steve Jobs does not think too highly of Flash and therefore you cannot watch Flash videos on the the iPad (or the iPhone). Apple’s position has stirred a lot of debate about how much video on the Web is iPad-friendly. It turns out that about two thirds of new videos are currently being encoded in the H.264 format, which is playable on the iPad, but media sites still need to either package that video in an app or in an HTML5 video player viewable in the iPad’s browser.

Streaming Media decided to shed more light on the issue by surveying 1,147 online media professionals about their iPad and HTML5 video plans in a report available here. According to the survey, 49 percent plan to support HTML5 video on their media sites by the end of next year, and 36 percent plan to support video on the iPad either through dedicated apps or an iPad compatible Website.

At first blush, these two numbers don’t seem to make much sense. If 49 percent of media sites are going to support HTML5 video, then by default they will also support the iPad. But if you drill down into the survey responses on whether they plan to support the iPad specifically, a full 19 percent wouldn’t disclose one way or the other. Add that to the 36 percent who say they will support the iPad, and you get close to half, which is the same as how many say they will support HTML5 video. What this tells me is that either there is still some confusion on the part of the Web video industry or that there is more support for broader standards like HTML5 video which will work across different devices like Android phones and tablets.

Other than the iPad, support for mobile devices goes beyond Apple devices. While 65 percent plan to support video on the iPhone via apps or an HTML5 Web video, about 40 percent plan on supporting Android and Blackberry devices. Again, the way to kill many birds with one stone is with HTML5 video through the mobile browser rather than developing separte video apps for each device.

Already, YouTube, Brightcove, and many others are getting on the HTML5 bandwagon. There are still standards battles brewing between the underlying H.264 and new Google-backed WebM codecs. (Just today, Google enabled WebM support in Chrome, for instance).

Confusion is not good for adoption. A full 32 percent of the survey “respondents said that the lack of a single HTML5-compatible video codec is holding them back from moving to HTML5.” But small companies are moving faster than big ones (no surprises there). Only 13 percent of media companies with more than $1 billion in revenues plan to support the iPad in the short term, according to the survey, compared to 30 percent of organizations with less than $1 million in revenues. I predict the bigger media companies will come around soon enough.

Thanks For The Box Of Brown Sticky Goo, YouTube

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 03:20 PM PDT

I’d like to think we’re pretty friendly with the PR folks over at YouTube. Sure, some nasty words may have been exchanged when they stabbed us in the back by disabling our handy video download tool, but I thought that we’d long since smoothed things over. Today, though, I found out how they really feel.

I came back from lunch to find a FedEx package on my desk, marked both ‘Urgent’ and ‘Perishable’. Intrigued, I opened it to find a white gift box and a note from YouTube PR thanking me for covering them over the last few years (they just had their fifth birthday). I tossed that aside and went to open the box to see what treasures awaited me… only to find that my hands were now covered in brown sticky goo. It didn’t take long to figure out that the entire box was filled with a sludgy mess. Were they trying to tell me something? Thanks, YouTube. I think.

It’s probably just melted chocolate (I hope), but I’m not going near it again until we test it on an intern. And for future reference YouTube, my candy of choice is the York Peppermint Pattie. Even when they’re melted.

Update: Here’s what it was supposed to look like, via MediaBistro. Pretty cool, actually — it features the YouTube 5th birthday logo emblazoned on the chocolate.

Google Begins Adding VP8/WebM Support to Chrome

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 02:57 PM PDT

When Google unveiled the WebM project at Google I/O a few weeks ago, one partner’s browser support was notably absent: Google’s. Sure, they added VP8/WebM support to Chromium, the open-source browser behind Chrome, but that flavor is used by a small fraction of the people who use Chrome itself. Starting today, Google is finally joining Firefox and Opera with WebM support in Chrome itself.

As they note on the Google Chrome Releases blog, WebM and VP8 (the actual video codec) has been added to the dev channel of Chrome across Windows, Mac, and Linux. While it’s not yet in the beta or stable builds of the browser, it will probably be added there very soon, once it’s proven to work in the dev build (which you can download here).

And it is working. YouTube is one of the first sites with videos that support WebM, and anyone with a browser that also supports it can start watching the videos now. Simply go to the YouTube HTML5 page and opt-in to be a tester. One you do this, search for a video and add “&webm=1″ to the end of the URL to return WebM videos.

When you start playing one, you’ll know it’s working if you see the “HTML5 – WEBM” notation in the lower bar. The videos also works great in HD and when expanded to full screen mode.

So, WebM is now ready to roll in Chrome, now Google just has to worry about those pesky patent lawsuits.

Tips And Tricks To Extending The HTC EVO 4G And Incredible’s Battery Life (And What This Says About Android)

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 02:41 PM PDT

MG and I came at our EVO 4G reviews from different backgrounds. Even though I'm married to a  BlackBerry with a little Droid action on the side and he's a self-proclaimed iPhone fanboy, we both came to the same conclusion: the battery life on the EVO 4G sucks. Sorry, it does. But that's the state of high-powered Android phones at the moment. Both the EVO 4G and Incredible are in the same boat. The 1GHz Snapdragon CPU makes the phones a joy to use, but drains the battery in no time. It's not entirely the snappy dragon's fault either. Android users have been putting up with these type of shenanigans since the G1 debuted in late 2008. It's really sad that the battery life issue still exists and users have to work around it just to use the latest and greatest hardware. I read every single comment on my EVO 4G review with the hope that I was wrong about the phone's battery issue and was simply doing something wrong. But none of the suggestions significantly improved my EVO 4G's battery life. However, by doing a bunch of little things, I extended it's idle life from about 12 hours to 14:30 -- this is the phone's battery life with everything turned off besides 3G and it just sits. All the tweaks are easy to do, but you're going to have to forgo some of the more fun things about Android. It's a shame, really, that a user has to give up fun widgets, advance wireless connections, and auto setting just to squeeze a few more hours from their phone.

Contest: Comment To Win a Laptop from HP and Dolby

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 02:24 PM PDT

We had huge response yesterday and I'm pleased to report that it was a rousing success. Today is the final contest and it's a big one. It's open to entrants worldwide, so even if you live in Brussels or Burkina Faso, feel free to enter. The details, again: HP and Dolby would like to give you one of three HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition laptops complete with Blu-Ray player and Dolby Advanced Audio. Here are the details:
To celebrate HP's recent launch of its new Pavilion laptops all of which include Dolby Advanced Audio for providing stunning audio, Dolby is giving away three Ultimate Dolby PC Entertainment Packages for enjoying surround sound entertainment. Included in each package: · HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition with Dolby Advanced Audio and Blu-ray playback · The Hangover and Star Trek on Blu-ray featuring Dolby TrueHD loseless audio · Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus with Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator - the ultimate tool for creating the perfect movies and videos Dolby Advanced Audio gives new Pavilion users a personal surround sound experience with any set of headphones and will enhance their music, movies and games with a suite of technologies designed to provide the best listening experience from their PC.
What do you do to win? It's so simple even a child to could do it.

Reeder, The Best Feed Reader On The iPhone Is About To Launch On The iPad

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 02:03 PM PDT

Two months after its launch, there are no shortage of RSS readers for the iPad. But I’ve tried most of them, and still find them all lacking in some way. In fact, the one I’m still using the most is not optimized for the iPad at all — Reeder. As we noted back in March, with the 2.0 launch, Reeder finally brought an excellent RSS app to the iPhone. And shortly, it will be bringing an iPad-native experience as well.

The app was submitted to the App Store for approval three days ago, the developers noted on Twitter. That means we should expect it any day now. It will be a separate app from the iPhone version and will carry a new, slightly higher price, $4.99. But judging from the pictures below, and one stellar preview from MacStories, it will be worth it.

Below, find some screenshots of what it will look like. One nice touch is that sets of feeds can be drilled into using the pinch gesture, similar to the way you unbundle pictures in the iPad’s photo app. It’s also worth noting that if you have a blog and want one of the big favicons to appear, you should put a 120×120 apple-touch-icon.png file on your server.

Goodbye, Palo Alto: TechCrunch Moves To San Francisco

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 01:47 PM PDT

TechCrunch has always been a distributed company. we have employees and contractors all around the world – Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Japan, China, London, Brussels (lol), Paris and Tel Aviv. I think one of the CrunchGear guys lives in Detroit or Reno, but I’m not sure and WE try not to associate with them much.

But our headquarters has always been in Palo Alto, the heart and soul of Silicon Valley. For the first four years of TechCrunch, since June 11, 2005, we worked out of my home near Palo Alto, California. That was a great place for our small company, and the commute from my bedroom to “the office” was about ten feet. We threw some epic parties there, the biggest topping 600 people (remind me to tell you the story about the drunk venture capitalist who lost his keys and slept on my couch – keys were in his pocket it turned out). And the occasional entrepreneur would occasionally break into my house and post video of the experience.

But that all ended in early 2009 when the city of Atherton decided they didn’t want TechCrunch in their neighborhood any more – citing some obscure regulations about how having fifteen cars in my front yard just wasn’t reasonable. So we moved the company down the road to downtown Palo Alto, in a beautiful little building on Lytton and Bryant.

But we knew it would be short term. As nice as the building is, it lacks some essential structural reinforcement that effectively turns it into a death trap in an earthquake. So they’re tearing it down and we needed to find a new home.

And boy does the Palo Alto business real estate market suck right now. Our rent would be doubling for a space the same size but not as nice. Meanwhile, San Francisco is less than half the cost of Palo Alto right now for office space. And most of our team actually lives in San Francisco anyway.

So as of next week we’re moving. Our new building is at 410 Townsend . We’ve doubled our space and have a massive new video studio to build out TechCrunch TV. The train station is two blocks away, an easy way to get back down to Palo Alto.

We’ll have an event at our new place shortly. I’ll even fly down from my secret undisclosed location in Seattle to attend. See you soon.

AT&T Apologizes To The Guy They Threatened To C&D For E-mailing Their CEO

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 01:40 PM PDT

If you spend any more than a few minutes a day on the Internet, you’ve probably already heard the story of Giorgio G.: Upset with AT&T about his iPhone eligibility dates, he e-mails the company’s CEO. A few days later, he e-mails again for a different (albeit related) matter. Within a few days, AT&T responds… with a threat to send him a formal cease & desist letter unless he stops e-mailing the CEO.

‘Twas the voicemail heard around the blogosphere. Within a few hours, just about every gadget-oriented blog and news network had mentioned it, none of them too happy. Undoubtedly looking to save a bit of face in the situation, AT&T has publicly apologized to Giorgio.

Read the rest at MobileCrunch >>


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