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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

iOS Usage Around The World: US Has 3.45% IPhone/iPad/Touch Penetration

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 09:20 AM PDT

Our buddy Jack Deneut of Nelso looked at some of the AdMob mobile metrics reporting and came away with an interesting look at the penetration of iPhone/Touch/iPad (iOS) around the world. The biggest user of iPhones by population? You'll never guess. Jack looked at the total numbers and compared it to population. For example, China has .05% penetration with 922,138 iPhones and Touches in a population of 1,338,612,968 while the US has 18 million devices in a population of 309 million for 3.45% penetration.

Glam Swings For The Fences With Glam Adapt, An Ad-Serving Platform Built For Brands

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 09:09 AM PDT

As big brands move more of their ad budgets online, what they want most is not just to capture clicks, but to capture the attention and mindshare of consumers.  The buzzword in the online advertising industry for this attention capturing quality is “engagement.”  Every ad platform out there is promising to deliver more consumer engagement.  Today, Glam Media, which itself is both a publisher of women’s sites and an ad network, announced an entirely new ad-serving technology platform called Glam Adapt it’s built over the past 18 months to help brands find and target the most engaged consumers.

GlamAdapt works with existing ad-serving technologies and networks such as DoubleClick, Atalas, and iBlaster, but Glam CEO Samir Arora has bigger ambitions for it.  ”It also can be used as a complete replacement for Doubleclick,” he says.  GlamAdapt came out of his own frustrations as a publisher and ad network.  ”We were running into a wall in terms of having technology that do what the brands are asking,” says Arora: “targeted properly, engaging, detailed analytics and reporting,  the aha of television. I decided to build a third generation ad-serving stack that can work with existing technologies.”

The current generation of ad-serving technologies, he points out, are built to “optimize clicks.”  GlamAdapt is built around a broad set of engagement metrics, including audience targeting (demographics, location, income), contextual targeting (by topic, page placement, etc.), by device or ad type (display, video, iPhone, iPad, smartphone), brand metrics (such as sentiment), content metrics (by the authority of the source), and social metrics (such as buzz on Twitter, Facebook, etc).  GlamAdapt includes a content rank, which aims to augment Pagerank as a way to determine which pages might be the best for a brand to place their ads on.  Content rank will take into account the authority of a source down to the author level, social buzz, sentiment, as well as how much that article is being linked to.

GlamAdapt is built on open APIs which other partners can build on top of to create their own brand engagement targeting capabilities. Arora gives the example of a sun screen manufacturer who was testing the system in beta and wanted to target ads to people in cities with the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation.  So it imported its own geo-data for UV levels across thecomScore,  country and used that to target ads.  Partners like Quantcast, and Pointroll can build in their own targeting capabilities tied to their existing data. For instance, a brand could target based on Quantcast or comScore demographic variables.

AdMob CEO: Apple’s New Mobile Advertising Rules Will Hurt Developers

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 09:05 AM PDT

Yesterday, All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka pointed out the possibility that Apple could be limiting Google-acquired mobile ad network AdMob from selling ads on the iPhone and iPad platform. The language was a little vague in Apple’s new developer licensing agreement, but indicates that only "independent" ad-serving companies will be able to serve ads. AdMob could be prevented from showing ads because it is not independent as a part of Google, which “develops and distributes mobile devices and operating systems.” AdMob founder and CEO Omar Hamoui told us hours before Apple’s new terms of the agreement came out that nothing good would come of disallowing AdMob to serve ads. But today the company has officially responded to the potential issue.

Hamoui confirmed that the current Apple developer terms “would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google's advertising solutions on the iPhone.” AdMob is wisely using the developer angle to help boost its case. The post states that the new terms would hurt both large and small developers in terms of revenue. Essentially, competition is good for developers because the more ways they have to make money, the better.

AdMob argues that less competition results in decreased innovation and lack of progress. Separately, there’s the question of what happens if an independent ad network, like Greystripe or Millennial, gets bought by Microsoft or another large tech giant. The rule seems arbitrary.

AdMob does have a point, but ultimately Apple can decide to let whoever they want serve ads on their devices. But this clearly comes across as anti-competitive, which is ironic considering that the Google-AdMob deal was nearly crushed by the FTC for anti-trust grounds.These types of moves could lead the FTC to get involved if Apple products continue to dominate the mobile advertising market.

Here’s the full text of the announcement:

Apple proposed new developer terms on Monday that, if enforced as written, would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google's advertising solutions on the iPhone. These advertising related terms both target companies with competitive mobile technologies (such as Google), as well as any company whose primary business is not serving mobile ads. This change threatens to decrease – or even eliminate – revenue that helps to support tens of thousands of developers. The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. And because advertising funds a huge number of free and low cost apps, these terms are bad for consumers as well.

Let's be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it's clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.

Since I started AdMob in 2006, I have watched competition in mobile advertising help drive incredible growth and innovation in the overall ecosystem. We've worked to help developers make money, regardless of platform – iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, Blackberry, Windows, and others. In the past four years, AdMob has helped tens of thousands of developers make money and build real businesses across multiple operating systems.

I've personally worked with many iPhone app developers around the world, including one who created a fun and simple game in the early days of the App Store. He built the app because he was interested in the challenge. He built this single app into a multi-million dollar advertising revenue stream with AdMob, hired a whole team, and turned a hobby into a real business.

We see these stories all the time. We want to help make more of them, so we'll be speaking to Apple to express our concerns about the impact of these terms.

Topguest Rewards Travelers For Check-Ins At Hotels, Airports, And More

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 08:37 AM PDT

Location based services are moving towards establishing rewards program for check-ins; Foursquare just announced that it would be testing rewards offers to users this week. Topguest, which is backed by the Founders Fund, has an interesting take on the LBS arena; the platform gives travelers loyalty points and rewards for check-ins on Foursquare, Twitter, Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt and even Google Latitude.

So when you 'check-in' at a hotel, frequent flyers' lounge, board a plane, or rent a car you would would be able to collect a reward from a program you participate in. Topguest will give travelers loyalty points from established programs, such as Intercontinental, Starwood, or Delta’s programs.

You don’t actually have to download a separate application to take advantage of Topguest. You sign up for Topguest with your accounts on the various LBS services you use, and points are automatically credited from all of applications you used to check-in on Topguest.

The biggest challenge for Topguest (besides competing with the rewards programs of the location-based services themselves) will be striking meaningful partnerships with airlines, hotels, and rewards programs. But the startup has already signed on a premium partner-Andre Balazs' Standard hotels. A Topguest users who checks in on any supported geolocation application and stays at all four Standard hotels in a week will receive a complimentary week stay at The Standard Hollywood, Downtown LA, Miami Beach or New York. Users are also eligible for 25% off their next reservation after 10 check-ins at any Standard hotel, bar or restaurant. Other location-varied rewards include spa treatments, Standard boutique discounts, and cocktails. And the startup has also signed up three other top loyalty programs as well that will be announced later this summer.

Of course, the number of people who will stay at all four Standard hotels in one week is extremely limited. But the rewards for check-ins at Standard bars and restaurants is actually compelling.

SponsorPay Raises Further $4.6m For Its Virtual Currency Ad Solution

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 08:12 AM PDT

SponsorPay, Europe's leading provider of advertisement-based payment systems, has secured a further €3.8m (approx. $4.6m) of funding. The new round comes from Hasso Plattner Ventures, Moscow's Kite Ventures, and Team Europe Ventures who are the original backers of the Berlin-based startup. The injection of capital solidifies SponsorPay's dominant position in Eurpope, having recently acquired its equally young rival, Hamburg-based GratisPay, in early February. The combined properties' customers cover the majority of the major online and social game publishers across Europe, including Gameforge, Bigpoint, InnoGames and Frogster.

Zynga’s FrontierVille Looks To Recreate The Success Of FarmVille In The Wild West

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 08:00 AM PDT

It’s been almost exactly one year since social gaming powerhouse Zynga unleashed what was destined to become an online phenomenon: FarmVille. The game has 70 million monthly active users, many of whom are total addicts. But some gamers are doubtless ready for a new fix, and today, they’re getting just that — Zynga has launched FrontierVille, a Wild West themed game that shares many similarities with FarmVille, but with some new twists designed to instill a greater sense of adventure. We discovered the game back in April when it was still in early testing stages, but it hasn’t been available to the masses until now. To get a better understanding of what FrontierVille brings to the table, I stopped by Zynga headquarters yesterday for a full rundown of the new game, including a thorough demo.

If you’ve played FarmVille, you’ll be right at home in FrontierVille. Many of the same game mechanics are here: you can purchase and harvest crops, and in order to maximize your harvest and in-game bonuses you’ll have to check in at regular intervals throughout the day. But it also has some key differences. For one, the game obviously has a different theme (and it’s one that hasn’t already been pioneered by another popular game, which appears to be a first for Zynga). Perhaps more important, from a gameplay perspective FrontierVille has a number of new features designed to help add a feeling of spontaneity and a better social connection with your in-game friends.  In order to better understand how this differs from FarmVille, I asked FrontierVille GM Brian Reynolds to run through the main differences:

  • One of the biggest changes in FrontierVille involves your neighbors (basically, the friends you’ve connected with in the game, who are always shown in a panel at the bottom of your screen). In FarmVille when you visit a friend’s virtual farm, your potential actions are quite limited — you can’t do much to engage with your friend’s plot of land. In FrontierVille that dynamic has changed. You can now swing by a friend’s plot of land and tend to some of their chores, like harvesting their crops. Doing so gives you a reward, and also helps them save time. There’s one caveat to this though: your friend will have to approve your actions before they take effect (some players prefer to trudge through these tasks on their own).
  • Another social gameplay element is the notion of “hiring” your friends, which entails paying some in-game money to have a buddy harvest your plants or do other tasks. In reality your friends aren’t actually sitting at their computers doing this “work” themselves (which would be pretty boring). Instead, you’re merely controlling their in-game avatar. The social element of this stems from the game’s stat system: over time you can accumulate multiple kinds of experience points, based on how much you’ve engaged with your friends and what you’ve accomplished in the game. The more points you have, the more ‘work’ you do for your friends when they hire you, which in turn makes it more likely that your friends will be looking to hire your avatar.
  • FrontierVille is also putting a much bigger emphasis on its storyline. Soon after you start the game, you’ll encounter a letter from your betrothed who is stuck “out east” — it’s your job to build up your home and garden so that they can come out and join you. Once that happens you can start having children, who you design to look exactly as you want them to. Family members can be used to help decorate your land (which sounds a little weird, I know), and can also help speed up the rate at which you collect resources like wood. In addition to these story elements, there are also new missions that are designed to help mix up gameplay. For example, the game may instruct you to harvest flowers (something that you may not normally do) for the purpose of making a bouquet to woo your spouse.
  • Finally, there’s a new set of features that Reynolds refers to as the “living world effect”. In short, these are events that are beyond your control, which help the virtual world feel more alive. Log off for a few days, and you’ll find that you may have some weeds growing in the yard. Trees will grow larger over time, and eventually they’ll start to drop seeds where seedlings will start growing. And an array of creatures like snakes and bears will sometimes encroach on your territory. They won’t ever actually harm your property, but they drain energy when you’re close to them.

One other addition is a robust item collection mechanic that’s borrowed from Mafia Wars. Gamers can collect a wide array of special items as they play; collecting a “set” of related items usually gives the gamer a stat boost. It’s also worth pointing out that the game will integrate Facebook Credits, obviously a result of the recent agreement that Facebook and Zynga reached after sparring over the payments system.

So will FrontierVille be a success? Probably — Zynga has these gameplay mechanics down to an art, and I don’t doubt that they’ll be able to attract plenty of FarmVille fans to this new game. What’s more, when you start playing FrontierVille you’ll notice that Zynga has integrated a special invite system that lets you immediately invite all of your FarmVille-playing friends to join you (the logic being that folks who like FarmVille will probably like FrontierVille).

That said, despite the new additions, in many senses this is more of the same. The game still relies heavily on repetitive tasks that are restricted by time, and your social interactions with friends are asynchronous (in other words, you aren’t going to be playing alongside your friends at the same time). There are obviously still a huge number of people that enjoy this kind of game. But these game mechanics are going to get old, and I’ll be surprised if Zynga sees another industry-shaking hit of the same magnitude as FarmVille until they start to mix things up more.

Group Buying Site Tippr Acquires White Label Deals Startup FanForce

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 07:40 AM PDT

Group buying site Tippr.com has acquired Austin-based deals site FanForce for an undisclosed sum. This follows the company’s acquisition of fellow deal of the day site ChicagoDeals last week.

FanForce offers a white-label Groupon of sorts, allowing small businesses to create their own deals. FanForce takes care of the promotion of deals and offers, sell the vouchers and collect payments. It’s similar in theory to TC Disrupt startup ChompOn, which launched a few weeks ago. The founders of FanForce will join the Tippr management team, including Samy Aboel-Nil who joins Tippr as President/COO, Dane Knecht who joins Tippr as VP of Product Management, and John Whitmarsh, who joins Tippr as CFO.

The collective buying space has seen considerable consolidation as of late. Tippr’s competitor Groupon just bought European deal site CityDeal. And with the growing number of similar sites joining the space, I’d expect the consolidation to continue.

Disclosure: My husband is an employee of Groupon.

California Primary Election Results: Fiorina And Whitman Prevail, Kelly Out

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 07:00 AM PDT

Former tech executives Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman prevailed last night in their respective races in the California primaries. Fiorina, former CEO of HP, won her campaign as the republican candidate for the U.S. Senate for the state of California, taking 54 percent of the vote. She will face incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer come November. TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld interviewed Fiorina in January, where she spoke candidly of her views on government spending, Sarbanes-Oxley and more.

Former eBay exec Meg Whitman won her campaign as the Republican candidate for the California governor’s race, taking 64 percent of the vote. Whitman will face former governor and current State Attorney General Jerry Brown in November. Both Fiorina and Whitman dropped millions of their own money to fund their campaigns. The LA Times reports that Fiorina spent $5 million on her primary campaign and Whitman spent a whopping $71 million of her own money towards her race.

Another former tech exec, Chris Kelly, was not as successful in his bid to be the State Attorney General. Kelly, who was the former Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, lost the primary election to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. Similar to Whitman and Fiorina, Kelly spent some of his own fortune on his race; $12 million to be exact.

Twitter Quietly Adds World Cup Theme

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 06:57 AM PDT

If Twitter is fast becoming the world’s watercooler as it is, watch what happens in the next few weeks as the World Cup takes over the planet. And as with any event of that size and – being a football fan at heart – importance, rest assured that hip Internet companies will be scrambling to lay some easter eggs.

Yesterday, we learned that Google has a special surprise in store for those who search for ‘world cup’ – scroll to the bottom if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours and you don’t know what we’re referring to.

An eagle-eyed reader just alerted us to the fact Twitter itself is also doing its part, by quietly adding a custom ‘South Africa 2010′ theme to its design gallery.

We don’t know how long it’s been there, but here’s how to get it: go to Twitter.com, log on, go to Settings and then click the Design tab. The theme can be found at the bottom.

Update: also, staff picks on the SUL for World Cup (thanks @Orli)

On a sidenote, the official Fifa World Cup 2010 Twitter account is @fifaworldcuptm, the most-used hashtags seem to be #WC2010 and, of course, #worldcup.

(Hat tip to Michel Wester)

Online Event Management Software Company Etouches Raises Funding

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 06:32 AM PDT

Etouches, a web‐based SaaS provider that caters to event organizers, has raised an undisclosed amount of venture capital funding from a group of investors led by Greycroft Partners II (the firm started by iconic VC Alan Patricof).

Etouches started out 12 years ago as a self-funded, independent meeting planning company, but has since transitioned into a full-fledged software company offering a suite of integrated event management and marketing tools designed to implement and support every phase of the event lifecycle. The product is said to currently serve over 2,000 event programs all around the world annually, and is available in 27 languages.

In addition to Greycroft, the investment group that has now backed Etouches with this initial round of funding includes Connecticut Innovations, Rocky Hill and Cava Capital. The company plans to use the funds to increase and enhance product development as well as marketing and sales efforts.

Etouches was founded by CEO Leonora Valvo and counts two noteworthy independent board members: Leon Shapiro, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations at Warner Music Group and Christa Carone, Chief Marketing Officer of Xerox.

CustomMade Connects Custom Goods Buyers With Artisans, Raises $1.15M

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 05:58 AM PDT

CustomMade, which operates an online marketplace designed to connect buyers of custom made furniture, cabinetry, and other products with artisans, today announced it has secured an angel round of funding for $1.15 million.

The funding will be used to expand consumer-based marketing, branch out into other custom verticals and hire more staff for website development and sales.

CustomMade essentially provides custom goods makers such as woodworkers, metalworkers and glass makers with tools to find an audience for their services. For manual workers and other providers of custom services, CustomMade doubles as a local directory and an online window to their work and skills. For consumers, CustomMade can help in locating the right custom maker for the job.

CustomMade co-founder and CFO Seth Rosen says the company was initially looking for venture capital, but decided to hold off because of accelerating revenue growth, and took in convertible-debt bridge round instead. Rosen adds that the round was quickly oversubscribed.

The fresh capital comes from three unnamed Boston-based angel investors – one of the company’s seed round backers led the round with a $500,000 USD investment.

Rosen and the other co-founder, Mike Salguero, purchased CustomMade in 2009 and grew the community of 350 woodworkers to over 1,200 paying custom artisans today, we’re told.

Markit Buys Website And Application Developer Wall Street On Demand

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 05:57 AM PDT

Financial information services giant Markit this morning announced that it has agreed to acquire Wall Street On Demand, a company that has specialized in the design, development and hosting of financial services websites and applications. Wall Street On Demand is based in Boulder, Colorado, has over 350 employees and claims to provide its services to most of the major brokerage firms in the US, Canada, and Australia. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Today’s Guardian App Could Teach The NY Times A Thing Or Two

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 04:27 AM PDT

We've seen how The New York Times became enraged by the audacity of the Pulse iPad application [iTunes] to use it's RSS feed in one of the best news readers to appear on that device. Controversially, the app was pulled by Apple after the NYT complained, despite being lauded by Steve Jobs. It's now been reinstated, without the NYT as a default feed. So consider a different scenario: the newspaper that embraces new technology and new ways of reading to the betterment of its audience and the subsquent deep engagement it could garner.

Google Switches On Maps Navigation, Voice Search For More Countries

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 04:07 AM PDT

Google Maps Navigation for Android now works outside the US or UK as the free turn-by-turn navigation system has been switched on for users in Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium (update: and Portugal).

In addition, Google Search by voice is now available for French, German, Italian, and Spanish speakers. English, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese were already supported.

Google also detailed how it goes about adding new languages for Voice Search:

Our goal is to bring Google Search by voice to speakers of all languages. We follow a rigorous process to add each new language or dialect. Working directly with native speakers in each country, we spend weeks collecting spoken utterances to create the specific models which power the service.

Our helpers are asked to read popular queries in their native tongue, in a variety of acoustic conditions such as in restaurants, out on busy streets, and inside cars. We also construct, for each language, a vocabulary of over one million recognizable words. It's no small feat, but we love doing it.

A side-effect of this approach, Google says, is that if you’re a Spanish speaker in Mexico you may find that the service doesn’t work as advertised because of the difference in accents.

Voice Search works on the iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia S60 devices. Obviously, it also works on Android devices, although you best check the blog post announcing the addition of the newly supported languages to know how you can active it. Also, the application is only available in the Android Markets for France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Google Maps Navigation is available in version 4.2 of Google Maps, on Android devices 1.6 and higher.

Sprint: Yeah OK, We Didn’t Sell That Many HTC EVO 4G Phones

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 03:21 AM PDT

HTC EVO 4GRemember when Sprint said the total number of HTC EVO 4G devices sold on its launch day was three times the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined, last Monday?

Yeah, that didn’t really happen.

The company now admits it had “inadvertently overstated” the launch day sales of the HTC phone, and that in reality it was in line with the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined. That makes a world of difference.

The press release, which you can still find on the Sprint website, has been updated with the following statement:

This release was distributed on June 7, 2010. It was updated on June 8, 2010. June 4, 2010 sales of HTC EVO 4G marked the largest quantity of a single phone sold in one day ever for Sprint – the record was previously held by both Samsung Instinct and Palm Pr. Launch day sales of HTC EVO 4G were six times greater than launch day sales of Samsung Instinct and nearly twice the launch day sales for Palm Pre. We continue to see sales of EVO 4G outpace sales of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre.

We originally reported that the total number of HTC EVO 4G devices sold on launch day was three times the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined. We inadvertently erred in the comparison. The total number of HTC EVO 4G devices sold on launch day was in line with the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we have published three different takes on the HTC EVO 4G so far, by MG Siegler, Matt Burns at MobileCrunch and now Michael Arrington.

The gist of their reviews: don’t buy it.

The news of the numbers mix-up on Sprint’s behalf has now led analysts to also cut their sales predictions, assisted by the fact that the phone has sold out in most outlets across America, while additional stock is low.

Google Calendar Caught In An Infinite Loop For Some Users

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 03:00 AM PDT

Looks like a subset of Google Calendar users are running into the same issue when trying to load the service this morning. Based on a flurry of complaints vented on Twitter, it looks like the service gets caught in an infinite loop and keeps reloading / redirecting for some users, regardless of which browser they use.

From what we can gather, also from the Google Calendar Help forum, clearing cookies seems to fix things (but yelling doesn’t).

Update: Google has updated its Apps Status Dashboard and released a brief notice:

We’re aware of a problem with Google Calendar affecting a significant subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Calendar, but we’ve provided a workaround below. Google Apps Premier Edition users are not affected by this problem. We will provide an update by June 9, 2010 9:02:00 AM UTC-7 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

To resolve this issue, clear your cookies or sign out and then sign back into your Google account.

Google Calendar has been plagued with downtime for an extended period of time last April, and again in May. Does that mean we now get a monthly appointment with the FAIL?

UPDATE 2: Google has resolved the issue.

Don’t Buy The HTC EVO, It Is A Seriously Flawed Device

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 02:18 AM PDT

Let’s start things off with a disclaimer – I love Android phones. Last year I left the iPhone and switched to Android largely because of the amazing usefulness of Google Voice, and only Android devices truly let you take over your phone with a Google Voice app and have the perfect experience. I have extensively tested nearly all Android phones to date.

Around TechCrunch I’m the die hard Android Fan (Jason Kincaid is a close second). MG Siegler irrationally loves the iPhone and it has become an important fashion accessory and self confidence crutch in his San Francisco hipster lifestyle. I’m pretty sure Apple could remove the iPhone’s ability to make calls entirely and MG would still find a way to love it. You can read his review of iPhone 4 here. Summary: “It’s Awesome.”

I was happy to use the TMobile myTouch when I first left the iPhone. When the Droid launched it was a serious step up, and the fact that it’s on Verizon doesn’t hurt either. But it wasn’t until the Nexus One that I began to think that Android phones could stand toe to toe with the iPhone even without the Google Voice boost.

Nexus One uses the Snapdragon 1 GHz core processor, which just rocks. The device is slim and has decent battery life. And it’s a clean install of Android with no messy additional carrier or OEM software to muck everything up. The phone, launched in January, is now ancient by mobile product cycle standards. But it is aging very gracefully.

When MG reviewed the new HTC EVO, which is now selling out in the U.S., I wasn’t surprised he gave it a thumbs down. The device was too big in his opinion, the software too flaky. And the battery life isn’t just bad, it’s 90′s laptop bad. You need to be near a power source at all times.

But the commenters came at him anyway, attacking so viciously that they were actually starting to act like the evil twins of rabid Apple fanboys. “Android Fanboys Have Arrived,” quipped MG.

Well, I’m an Android Fanboy, and I’m telling you not to buy this device. The battery life is abysmal – MobileCrunch calls it a “dealbreaker” and I agree. Yes you can do a few things to get a little extra time out of it, but this device routinely runs out of power while sitting on standby overnight next to my bed. You aren’t just charging this once a day. Or twice a day. You need to be thinking about your next power fix just about any time you are using it. I keep chargers at home, in my office, in my car, and an extra one to suck power from my laptop. That keeps it going, but it isn’t fun.

And it’s more than that. The HTC Sense user interface and all the extra HTC and Sprint software on this device just makes it a joke for anyone that wants to fully control and customize their device. You can get rid of or at least turn off much of it, but it’s a pain to do that. And worse, you can’t upgrade the Android OS to new releases until HTC and Sprint are ready to let you do that. See Gizmodo for a full analysis of the problem.

And all this software trying to work together and in layers really does result in lots of bugs – particularly with photos. Quite often they fail to save and you have to reboot the device.

If you want an Android phone right now, get a Nexus One. In January I believed it was by far the best phone on the market. The new iPhone 4, though, is clearly superior. I’d rather see you buy that device and deal with the Apple dictatorship than get a phone you aren’t going to be happy with. Or wait a few months for a better Android phone. It won’t take long for something even better to come along.

And if you insist on getting an EVO, I highly recommend you pick up a second phone, perhaps a $25 prepaid type device, so that you can actually make phone calls when your EVO’s battery dies.

MG might be the most loyal Apple Fanboy in the world, but his review of the EVO was dead on.

Did Facebook Doom Chris Kelly’s Run For CA Attorney General?

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 02:05 AM PDT

Did Facebook doom Chris Kelly’s run for Attorney General of California?

According to early results, Kamala Harris won the Democratic primaries on Tuesday night, leaving the former Chief Privacy Officer in second place. At first glance, the idea of blaming Mark Zuckerberg for Kelly’s downfall seems absurd. Kelly, after all was the underdog, a less known candidate that had consistently trailed Harris (the San Francisco DA) in the polls from a comfortable distance.

However, while the Facebook effect is an improbable theory, it’s still very plausible. Let’s look at the facts.

A May 10 SurveyUSA poll showed Harris in the lead with 22%, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo with 16%, and Kelly with 11%. Kelly narrowed that gap in recent weeks to six percentage points, thanks to an aggressive ad campaign— the last SurveyUSA poll, conducted this week, showed Kelly with 20%, Harris with 26% and 15% still undecided. This recent advance in the polls, and his leapfrog over Delgadillo, shows that Kelly was able to largely overcome the latest Facebook backlash (which began in earnest in early May). While those numbers suggests that Kelly’s tie to Facebook’s privacy policy didn’t cripple his bid for Attorney General, there is a strong possibility that without the controversy he could have gained more ground in the final days.

Full disclosure: we heartily endorsed Kelly back in August 2009 and we were the first news outlet to report his candidacy. Further Clarification: We have also never sued Chris Kelly for assault and battery and infliction of emotional distress, despite reports.

Kelly was spearheading a well-funded campaign, investing roughly $12 million of his personal fortune. The battle between Harris and Kelly had intensified in the last few months, with each going for the jugular and launching highly charged, negative attacks. Kelly criticized Harris’ conviction rate as district attorney and her role in the police crime lab controversy, Harris questioned Kelly’s campaign financing (which involved Facebook stock) and his role as Facebook’s privacy honcho. As Harris wrote in a campaign statement: “Was Kelly simply a fox guarding the hen house at Facebook?…If Kelly couldn’t stand up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on behalf of Facebook users, how on earth can Californians trust Kelly to go to bat on their behalf as attorney general?”

If that message wasn’t crystal clear try this brief video ad paid for by Kamala Harris’s campaign, the announcer says: “His only experience is designing a Facebook privacy policy condemned across the country. Chris Kelly released your privacy information.” Note to self, do not pick a fight with Kamala.

Harris’ warpath was clear: she would use the popular site as a vehicle to question Kelly’s ethics– both literally and metaphorically. Serendipitously for her campaign, the Facebook media frenzy broke out just as her battle was approaching its crescendo. Ultimately, the Facebook backlash fizzled and the Fair Political Practices Commission gave the green light on Kelly’s financing, but Kelly did not escape unscathed. There was a spate of reports in publications like Time, SFGate, Wall Street Journal, asking if Facebook would “torpedo” Kelly’s hopes. That’s not the kind of press you want to court in the final hours of your campaign trail. The attacks also put Kelly on the defense, his spokesperson reminded reporters that he had effectively left the company last August (excluding him from the latest round of privacy shenanigans) and Kelly himself issued a statement to distance his campaign from Facebook: “I strongly encourage Facebook to structure all its programs to allow Facebook users to give permission before their information is shared with third parties….When I am Attorney General, Facebook, like every company, will have to comply with its obligations to adhere to the law, provide truthful information to consumers and to keep its promises about their privacy rights.”

Because Facebook formed the foundation of Harris’ offense, it’s fascinating to consider what would have happened if the social site was out of the equation. Sure a majority of the voters probably don’t care about Facebook or its privacy policy, but it could have made the difference for some of the undecided.  And if so, has internet privacy just been catapulted to the rank of major domestic issue? Probably not, but I’m sure it’s a thought that’s crossed Kelly’s mind today.

An iPhone Lover’s (Initial) Thoughts On iPhone 4

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 11:40 PM PDT

This morning, my colleague Jason Kincaid wrote a very good and very level-headed post about the new iPhone (and the new iOS 4 software) from the perspective of an Android user. I’m going to come at it from the other angle.

Recently, I’ve written my takes on both the Nexus One and the EVO 4G from the perspective of an iPhone lover. Obviously, I don’t have an iPhone 4 yet, and so this isn’t a full review, but after the keynote yesterday we did get some hands-on time with the new device. So I figured I’d write down my initial reaction after playing with the new hardware for about 20 minutes or so. Before I go any further, I’ll save you the suspense: it’s awesome.

The Build

The biggest thing that stands out in my mind one day later is that immediately after I put down the iPhone 4 and went back to my iPhone 3GS, the latter felt kind of like a toy in comparison. Now, I’ve always been a fan of the design of the first iPhone over the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS — that is, I liked the aluminum flat back of the first one more than the plastic backs of the second two. The iPhone 4 is a return to form — literally — but it’s even better now, as the aluminum has been replaced by glass (in either black or white).

As Jason noted, the device feels rock solid in your hand. It is without a doubt the most impressive piece of mobile hardware I’ve ever held. There’s nothing on the device that feels janky. Aside from the backside upgrade, all the external buttons on the device are now improved as well. The iPhone 4 is pretty much identical in weight to the iPhone 3GS, but it’s significantly thinner. This may be a bit hard to notice in your hand as the iPhone 3G/3Gs has the curved back (so you mostly handle the thinner edges), but I have no doubt it will be noticeable in your pocket.

The Screen

When the iPhone 3GS first launched, I wasn’t sure that the boost in speed would be enough to make an upgrade worth it. I was wrong. Once I had an iPhone 3GS and went back to using an iPhone 3G, the latter almost seemed unusable to me. Thanks to the screen on the iPhone 4, this seems likely to be the case as well.

As Steve Jobs joked in the keynote, “once you go Retina Display, you can’t go back.” After just 20 minutes of using it, I’m hooked. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber noted yesterday, it’s not just that the iPhone 4 has four times the pixels of the earlier iPhones, it’s that much of the distance between the glass you touch and the pixels have been removed as well. It’s subtle things like this — things that most people will never even realize they’re noticing (but they are) — that make Apple, Apple.

With the iPhone 3GS (or any of the other iPhones), if you bring the device close enough to your face, you can see the pixels. With the iPhone 4, you can’t. It’s really not like looking at a computer screen at all. It’s like looking at a picture — or when something on the screen is moving, film.

The Speed

In terms of speed, it’s hard to know what is the new iOS 4 and what is the new hardware, but the device does seem to run a little bit smoother. It’s not noticeably faster in the way that the iPhone 3GS was noticeably faster than the iPhone 3G, but I would attribute this to the fact that there are already rarely any lags in the iPhone 3GS with iPhone OS 3. I suspect some new games that come out may push the new A4 chip though.

The Camera

As has already been noted, FaceTime is brilliant in that it requires absolutely no set-up to work. Yes, it sucks that it’s WiFi-only, but that will change with time. It also would have been brilliant for Apple to get this working with iChat on Macs (as others have also noted), but since it’s supposedly going to be published as an open protocol, that will probably come too.

I can see the new front-facing camera doing wonders for startups like DailyBooth — and yes, maybe even ChatRoutlette.

The key feature of the camera though has to be the ability to shoot HD (720p) video. There’s some debate out there as to whether this will or won’t kill the Flip cam. My reaction is that while the iPhone 4 alone may not, I can’t see how all of these new smartphones gaining this feature (the EVO 4G can do it as well) won’t.

The Android Question

I know that it’s shocking to some of you that I would love this device. Most interesting may be my thoughts on what this means or doesn’t mean for Google’s Android platform.

As you’ve undoubtedly read a lot in recent weeks, Google is making fast gains in terms of the Android software. I was beyond impressed at Google I/O with everything that was shown off. With Android 2.2 (which I have running on the Nexus One), most system speed issues seem to have been resolved. That said, in my view, there is still no Android device that is better than the iPhone 3GS. And so obviously, the iPhone 4 just widens the gap.

The fact of the matter is that while the software may be getting there from a practical perspective, it still lacks the polish of the iPhone OS (now iOS). A number of people (on both the iPhone and Android sides) I’ve spoken with recently agree, but point to Google’s recent hiring of Palm’s design guru Matias Duarte as a sign that this may change. I hope so.

Overall app quality on Android also still lags behind the iPhone. And the fact that you have to use third-party task killing applications to get devices like the EVO 4G to run the way it should, is completely unacceptable from a users’ perspective.

With the iPhone 4, Apple has refined the hell out of their winning combination of hardware plus software. It’s hard to imagine it getting much better in this form factor — and that’s why I think we may see some radically different things next year for iPhone 5 (well, aside from a Verizon version).

The Mac vs. PC debate has often found people using a car analogy to explain things. I keep coming back to that when thinking about iPhone vs. Android. For a long time, iPhone felt like a Lexus while Android was more like a Kia. With recent upgrades, Android has transformed into more of a Honda. But with iPhone 4, the iPhone is now an Aston Martin (it was James Bond, remember).

But the crazy thing is that the iPhone is an Aston Martin with a Honda-price. Meanwhile, Android remains a Honda at a Honda-price — it’s a good deal, but it’s not an iPhone-deal.

In fact, it’s such a good deal that I continue to say that the only thing really holding back the iPhone (in the U.S.) is its carrier, AT&T. Even if you have no problems with AT&T, you have to acknowledge that they’re becoming the big barrier to the iPhone’s potential growth. There are simply always going to be million of users not on AT&T. In fact, there will always been more users not on AT&T than are on it. So Apple needs to move beyond it to keep expanding.

And if they’re the Aston Martin being sold at Honda-prices, when they’re sold at other dealerships (other carriers), they’ll dominate, right? Well it’s not that simple.

The Honda-like price is only thanks to the sweet deal Apple gets from AT&T. Without the deal, Apple would undoubtedly sell the iPhone for more money (to keep up their margins), and it would be a less attractive purchase for people. It’s the same reason why everyone doesn’t buy an Aston Martin (or a Lexus, to be more practical). Would some people still opt for the Honda if it was more customizable? Sure, some would. But most would opt for the nicer machine, all things being equal.

But all things aren’t equal because the iPhone is tied only to AT&T. And all things are unlikely to ever be equal because prices might have to go up if the sweet AT&T exclusive subsidy goes away. But seeing the success Apple has had being at the luxury end of the PC market, I’m not sure how much they’ll ultimately care. But the fact that they seem to now (as evidenced by pointing out their market share vs. Android in keynotes) is interesting.

As Jason noted in his piece (and I have in the past), the fact of the matter remains that a strong rivalry between iPhone and Android is a good thing for us all. Android continues to improve at a healthy pace and they have some features (like Google Voice integration) that it seems unlikely now that Apple will ever get. Meanwhile, Apple continues to improve their hardware/software combination at a rate that it’s not clear that Google (and their OEM partners) will be able to match.

It’s two different approaches. And that makes sense since the two have different motives. At the end of the day, Android exists so that Google can get more people searching — and keep them searching as mobile devices overtake computers. The iPhone exists to be one of the mobile devices that overtakes computers so that Apple can keep selling high-margin machines.

In my view, for most consumers, the iPhone remains the winning argument in the space right now. And the iPhone 4 just extends that.

Why Japan Matters: iPad Mania, Cloud Computing, And Social Intelligence

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:59 PM PDT

Editor’s note: Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com, really loves Japan. And if you are a startup founder or tech executive, he thinks you should too. He explains why in this guest post, culled from observations from his most recent visit.

Thousands of people lined up last week to buy iPads. And, if you didn’t notice them, it's because they were in Tokyo.

I've been living in Japan for the past three weeks and couldn't miss the madness around the introduction of the iPad here. I couldn’t believe the demand for this new "magical" computer. After all, this is the country that developed and built some of the world's most popular PCs—and now the iPad, which was designed somewhere else, is revered. It's bowed to. (Reportedly, about half of Japanese business and technology magazines are featuring the iPad on their covers.) I expect that out of the 10 million iPads sold this year, at least 500,000 to one million will be sold in Japan.

Something else amazing in Apple-mania happened last week. Apple's market cap passed Microsoft. I suggested in a post last April, “The end of Microsoft. A door opens to a new cloud”, that this seminal event was about to happen. Steve Jobs described it as being "Surreal". I agree. It is surreal—both unbelievable and fantastic. This is a milestone that signifies a dramatic change of computing: Windows is on the decline, and new technologies such as iPads and iPhones, Android and Google Search, and Cloud Computing are on the way up.

I have to admit, I love Japan. I love the people, the culture, the language, the architecture, the food—everything. I love walking through the temples and gardens in Kyoto. And, I love the philosophy of "Zen." I love working in Tokyo, which runs at a frenetic charge that's even higher than New York City.

The reason I've been spending so much time in Japan is because it has become salesforce.com’s second largest market. We've found that the Japanese love Cloud Computing because it gives them great software that is eco-friendly, equal for all businesses, and upgrade-free. When I was at Oracle, Japanese customers were always waiting for our special “J” products (the port of our English versions), or the bug fix of a “J” port. It was often a long and painful wait. Cloud Computing solves all of these problems, and Japanese customers receive new software on day one, as well as bug fixes as they happen. Instant gratification.

One of the things that captivated my attention in Japan was how utterly swept the country is with social networking—there is a Japanese Facebook Imperative underway. Japan is already one of Twitter's largest markets, and local social vendors like Mixi are pervasive. Japanese customers have easily and rapidly adopted social networking as it is highly compatible with their community-based culture. Japan, more than any other country, is ready to accelerate social networking with mobile. The wide penetration of 3G will be an engine for this movement. In fact, Japan has the highest percentage market penetration of 3G of any country, according to InfoCom. The combination of dominant social market share and broadband wireless is a powerful catalyst for Japan's IT industry.

In my own personal experience here, I’ve seen this willingness to embrace social communications firsthand. Over the past few weeks of demonstrating Salesforce Chatter, salesforce.com’s new enterprise social networking service, I was amazed to find that Japanese customers made unusually quick decisions to pursue it. Customers in other parts of the world (including the U.S.) have required a great deal of testing and evaluation. But in Japan there was an innate understanding of our app to be a Twitter or Mixi for the enterprise, which translated seamlessly—and drove adoption. This experience inspired me to think about what I call “Social Intelligence,” an idea I believe will launch us past business intelligence as the next major theme in enterprise computing.

In Tokyo I enjoyed dinner with one of my friends, John Hinshaw, the global CIO of Boeing. I already knew Boeing is preparing to release the Dreamliner, the most advanced airplane in the world. But, I didn't know that 35% of the Dreamliner is manufactured in Japan. In fact, the entire all-composite wing—the first of its size and sure to set the standard for how commercial airplanes will be made—is made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya. Each 98-foot long wing is then airlifted to Washington for assembly in Boeing's special cargo plane, “the Dreamlifter”. If you aren't sold on Japan's abilities for the complex yet, consider that Japan also leads the world in energy and environmental patents and it is also the global leader in energy research and development expenditure and efficiency. I can certainly understand why Boeing is also focused on Japan.

When you get an iPad, the new iPhone 4, or iPod you can't miss seeing "designed by Apple in California"—the tagline that has generated heat from critics who get upset because the device is assembled in China. But what most people don't recognize is that the parts are made all over the world, with some of the most important components being produced in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Take the iPod Nano. The flash memory is made by Toshiba, the Li-Ion battery is made by Sanyo and Sony, and the color LCD is made by Sharp, Toshiba, and Matsushita—making the total of the Japanese share in terms of cost 81%. The reality is the iPod is made possible by some of the most important technology in the world—and a lot of it is from Japan. Even 10% of the iPad comes from Japan (the rest is made by Taiwanese and Korean manufacturers). Japan is one of the countries doing some of the most exciting research and development in the most complex components, which is what drives the most compelling products.

While in Japan I learned that Japan's political and technology leaders recognize that embracing new technology and developing fundamental infrastructure are at the core of this country. Anyone who has experienced the bullet train, driven on Japan’s highways, or made a cell phone call in Tokyo, knows Japan fully commits to these two tenets. Cloud Computing is viewed as a critical next step for Japan, and it is the fastest growing part of Japan’s IT industry. Japan is always focused on getting the next big thing right. (And it usually does. I think the energy around the iPad last week demonstrates that they're ready for Cloud 2—the next transformation in computing being defined by cloud + social + iPad.

One of the greatest surprises during my trip was that then-Prime Minister Hatoyama requested a meeting with me. I spent almost an hour with him demonstrating the power of Cloud Computing in Japan. Then he had a final meeting with the Chinese President. And, then he resigned. Why would he care so much about the Cloud to spend some of his final moments in office with me? I think he realized that he needed to send a clear signal that this new technology is pivotal to the future of Japan.

Right before I left Tokyo for home I met with John Roos, the new United States Ambassador to Japan. John is the former CEO of Wilson Sonsini, and is a Bay Area native. Interestingly, he had never been to Japan before being nominated to his position. He asked me why more entrepreneurs in the U.S. weren’t focused on the amazing markets in Japan. I told him that although the Japanese IT market is the second largest in the world, it's notoriously difficult for many Americans to navigate. I am grateful to my Japan guru, Larry Ellison, with whom I was fortunate enough to experience many trips to this country while I worked at Oracle for 13 years. If it wasn’t for that direct education, I don't think salesforce.com would be as successful as it is here.

Japan is accessible through several non-stop flights from San Francisco every day. And while the Japanese market and Japanese customers wait for the arrival of the next great thing, most entrepreneurs, and even VC firms, focus instead on China and India. I have never understood why, as China and India represent a market that is an order of magnitude smaller than Japan when it comes to key technologies, like software. Sure, India and China are fast-growing markets, but the current buyers are in Japan. The way I see it: If you are overlooking Japan you might as well overlook the West Coast of the U.S. The Japanese city of Osaka has a bigger economy than the state of California.

As the second largest IT market outside of the US, the reality is Japan still matters. The world is changing profoundly (just look at my favorite Apple vs. Microsoft market cap chart), but there are some traditional and established entities that retain a significant influence. Entrepreneurs should take note that 85% of all enterprise software is still essentially bought in three core markets: the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. Ignoring Japan means ignoring one of the most important opportunities. And, if you need a hand in this market, come with me on my next trip. I can't wait to get back.

Winning The App Store Lotto: What A Week At No.1 In The App Store Looks Like

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 05:40 PM PDT

Ever wonder what a week as the No. 1 free iPhone app in the App Store translates to in downloads and ad revenues? One of the employees at mobile ad management platform Burstly created an app called Air Horn, which simply makes a very loud horn noise. The app, which had been out for over 6 months and had zero marketing dollars spent to promote it, recently hit the No. 1 spot on the Free App list.

Developed in less than three hours by Alex Miyamura, Air Horn was at the top spot for 8 days and just dropped to no. 2 this morning. Over the past week, Air Horn has made $20,000 from advertising (ad banners) and in-app purchases.

Three days before the app hit the top spot, Air Horn had 5,453 downloads within a day and was ranked 804 on the list. On May 31, the app’s first day at the top of the list, the app had grown to 173,002 downloads that day. As of Monday, June 7, the app was still No. 1 with 129,286 daily downloads.

Of course, ad impressions rose rapidly as the downloads rose. Daily ad impressions on Air Horn increased from 160,000 per day to more than 2,000,000 per day at peak. As of June 7, Air Horn had served a total of 4 million 3rd party ad network impressions since reaching No. 1. Over that time, the app served 4 million cross promotion impressions to promote Miyamura’s other app Annoying Sounds. Annoying Sounds subsequently shot all the way to the No. 5 on the list within a week. Before the cross-promotion, Annoying Sounds was not even a top-1000 app. Daily ad impressions on Annoying Sounds jumped from 35,000 per day to more than 1,000,000 per day at peak.

As impressions increased, so did the eCPM. The average initial eCPM on Air Horn was $2.06 and increased to an average of $2.62 over 8 days. As the app’s impressions scaled, certain ad networks started performing better and Burstly helped him optimize by prioritizing the high performing ad networks to serve the majority of the ad impressions. The click rate on the Annoying Sounds banner within Air Horn was 4.6% and the 3rd party ad network click rate averaged 3.4%.

Miyamura and Burstly CEO Evan Rifkin maintain that there is no solid reason as to why Air Horn rose to the top. One theory is that downloads increased because of the season of college and high school graduations. Rifkin does say that winning the App Lotto has shown that ad optimization works and the eCPM increased 27% over 8 days. And there’s virtue in App Cross Promotion, as evidenced by success of Annoying Sounds.

While App Horn is only one subjective example of an app’s rise to the top, it does prove that being No. 1 on the App Store’s list makes a significant difference in terms of engagement. And stats like these are always compelling because they shed light on the somewhat mysterious App Store ecosystem. But as for why a Air Horn noise app made it to the top, we’ll never know.

Caffeine: Google Finally Brews Its New Pot Of Web Results — 50% Fresher

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 05:19 PM PDT

In August of last year, we wrote about Caffeine, the codename for Google’s latest iteration of its search product. The idea behind it was simple yet encompassing: to “push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions." Back in December, it looked just about ready, but never came. Today, it’s finally ready to roll.

In a post on the Google Blog, the company is saying that the new web indexing system is complete. Significantly, it provides “50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered.” Basically, you’ll now be able to find more current links faster than ever before.

Google says that while the old index consisted of several layers (some of which were updated faster than others), the new Caffeine index will “analyze the web in small portions and update our search index on a continuous basis, globally.”

Some big stats they throw out about Caffeine:

  • every second Caffeine processes hundreds of thousands of pages in parallel -if this were a pile of paper it would grow three miles taller every second
  • Caffeine takes up nearly 100 million gigabytes of storage in one database and adds new information at a rate of hundreds of thousands of gigabytes per day
  • You would need 625,000 of the largest iPods to store that much information; if these were stacked end-to-end they would go for more than 40 miles

Twitter Hints At Content Recommendation Service With New Link Shortener

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 04:54 PM PDT

Today, Twitter has expanded the testing of its own URL shortner — which is now using the t.co domain. The expansion (which will eventually be available to all Twitter users) is interesting in terms of what it means for the URL shortening ecosystem. But it also should be interesting from a broader perspective to the entire ecosystem because it opens up some new possibilities, such as content recommendation.

Twitter developer Raffi Krikorian notes as much in the Twitter Development Talk Google Group today. Specifically, he writes, “we want to be able to build services and APIs that can make algorithmic recommendations to users based on the content they are consuming.” This will be possible because Twitter will be keeping track of all clicks (as they note, “in aggregate and not identifiable manner”).

Since they’re tracking these links, Twitter will be able to provide app developers with this data as well. This is obviously a direct assault on Bit.ly — but the content recommendations also seems to be going after the still-unlaunched Bit.ly Now service.

Exalead, The ‘French Google’, Is Acquired For $162 million

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 04:50 PM PDT

Exalead, the search engine that (no kidding) underlies Friendster and has been behind French government attempts to build a platform to rival Google (yes), has been acquired by Dassault Systèmes, a leader in 3D software for big company processes for about €135 million ($161.5m). Exalead was also key member of Quaero, a technology consortium with a five-year budget of €199 million, funded by the French government to develop multimedia search tools. Where is Quaero now?

Twitter To Begin Wrapping All Links With Official t.co Link Shortener

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 04:24 PM PDT

Big changes are coming to Twitter links. In a post just published on the Twitter blog, the company has announced that it will soon be using a new official link shortening service t.co to wrap all links shared on Twitter. Starting some time this summer, every time you share a link through either the Twitter web client or a third-party, it will be wrapped in a link with the format t.co/******.

So what does this mean for the Twitter ecosystem? Twitter VP of Product Jason Goldman says that the feature serves three purposes. First, it’s going to help Twitter crack down on spam, as the service will be able to accurately monitor the distribution of each link, and it can warn users when it thinks a link may be malicious. Second, it will allow users to better understand where links are going (more on that below). And third, it will help Twitter with analytics, which is related to its Promoted Tweets. Goldman says that Twitter is pre-announcing the feature, which is currently only active with three accounts, to give the developer community a heads up for what’s coming.

The confusing part about t.co is that many users won’t really be aware of it. That’s because Twitter is including metadata with each tweet that allows clients to display the link’s original URL, even when the link is being routed through t.co first. For example, if I shared a link to TechCrunch.com, the link in my tweet would still show up as http://techcrunch.com, despite the fact that users were being silently routed through t.co before they arrived at their favorite tech blog.  One other thing to note: while users will now be seeing expanded links show up in their tweets (which could be quite lengthy), each link will only count as twenty characters against the 140 character maximum. That’s because all t.co links will be exactly twenty characters long.

Goldman says that the “goal is not to build a brand around t.co”. Instead, it’s to increase the transparency of links that are being shared on Twitter.

This isn’t good news for link shorteners like bit.ly, but it isn’t necessarily their death knell either. Goldman says that bit.ly’s value-added services, like analytics and custom shortened domains, will still work properly with t.co, and users can obviously still use bit.ly for more general link shortening purposes. Thing is, most people sharing links through services like bit.ly are doing it because it’s what their Twitter clients do by default — they don’t need analytics or custom domains. For these users there’s now no obvious reason to use these services, because Twitter will be handling the shortened links itself.

Today’s news doesn’t come as a surprise — back in March, Twitter began routing direct messages through a new link shortening service as an anti-phishing mechanism. It didn’t take long for users and developers to question whether Twitter would soon be broadly launching a link shortening service, and Twitter confirmed that it would in April.


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