web 2.0

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

The Sun Newspaper Gets iPad Page 3 Girl Past Apple Porn Ban

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 09:03 AM PDT

Ok, so what's this? Porn on the iPad?! Well, not quite. The Sun newspaper in the UK is well known for retaining this throw-back tradition from the 1970s, but somehow, somehow, they've managed to get their infamous "Page 3 Girl" into the new iPad edition of the newspaper, despite Steve's war on porn. Users will be charged £4.99 for the initial app download (it comes with the first month free), and then a £4.99 subscription every 28 days. It's all part of Rupert "King Canute" Murdoch's attempt to keep the sea of free content at bay. But despite Apple's strict policy on nudity in iPad and iPhone apps, here is the proof that the app is uncensored (the moustache is a TechCrunch addition).

The Skiff Ereader Is Dead

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:54 AM PDT

Not to say I told you so, but I told you so. The Skiff newsreader that made waves at last CES is dead, abandoned by News Corp. who bought the e-reader software but not the device from Hearst. The software will probably be used in News Corp’s “Next Issue Media” endeavor that was supposed to be Hulu for magazines.

In the end, the Skiff was too strange to survive. Outsized, ugly and backed by Hearst and Sprint it was a project doomed to failure, designed more as a proof-of-concept than an actual project.

Read more…

Big Change At Hunch; Caterina Fake Predicts “Traffic Will Plummet,” But Quality Will Rise

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:37 AM PDT

Decision site Hunch is making a big change today which co-founder Caterina Fake predicts will cut traffic in half, at least, but improve the overall experience for those who remain. The site will no longer be open to users who don’t log in, although you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Hunch helps people make decisions by taking new users through a long series of questions so that it can build a “taste profile” and recommend the best answer on any given topic. When users are not logged in, Hunch doesn’t get the benefit of knowing what recommendations they have served up in the past or what kind of preferences that person may have. Results or logged in users are 20 to 40 percent better than for non-logged in users, she tells me.

I caught up with Caterina at the Wired Business Conference yesterday, where she told me the news (see video). I asked here what she thinks the impact will be on the site’s overall traffic. “I think traffic will plummet,” she says, “but users who are using the product will have a significant lift in the quality of results.”

It is a risky move. Hunch started to see decent growth about a year ago after it removed the requirement to answer 20 Questions before being able to get any benefit from the site. Now it is going back to that model because it produces better data. According to comScore, the site grew sixfold over the past year to 750,000 unique U.S. visitors. Fake told me the internal numbers were about 1.5 million visitors.

The more that Hunch can turn answering questions into an actual game, the less it would seem like a chore. For instance, I’d love to know how my friends answered similar questions or what types of personality buckets my friends fall into based on their answers.

E3 2010 Is All About Nintendo And Sony Today

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:25 AM PDT

Microsoft had their dog and pony show yesterday. Project Natal got a proper name and is now called Kinect and the Xbox 360 is now a bit smaller and quieter. In retrospect, there really wasn't anything all that special announced. Hopefully that won't happen today.

Is Mixlr An Audio UStream For DJs And Bands? Get An Invite And Try It

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:08 AM PDT

Mixlr, a sort-of UStream for audio, wants to make it easy for DJs and bands to share and stream live performances to fans. The service, founded by London-based Rob Watson (a recent graduate of the Music Informatics department at the University of Sussex), is currently in a closed beta, although TechCrunch Europe has 200 invites to give away readers. In its current incarnation, Mixlr is a pretty simple offering, although that's partly by design. Comprising of a Mac-only client (although a Windows and iPhone app is planned), users can plug-in any audio feed to their Mac and begin live streaming, pushing out a URL of their feed via Twitter, Facebook and MySpace or to share in other ways. Live performances can also be uploaded, archived, and tagged (including location), as well as sent to a SoundCloud account, a service that Mixlr both complements and potentially competes with.

Twitter Spammers Try Sending Malware Via Random Replies

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:00 AM PDT

We're all well aware of Twitter spam accounts but these are gradually turning nastier and nastier. They started out with - usually - pictures of nubile young women whose profile link might lead you to some nefarious site. But now they are starting to embed payloads in these links while @'ing random Twitter users to catch their attention. The link in the post above is blurred, but leads on to a site hosting some JavaScript. As security analysts trendmicro points out, if this JavaScript is executed by the browser, an "unpleasant payload" is delivered to the user's PC.

Twilio Releases OpenVBX, An Open Source Google Voice For Businesses

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 08:00 AM PDT

Ever since it launched in late 2008, Twilio has a knack for making cool products. Its core service is a telephony API offering a set of commands that make it easy for developers to integrate phone and SMS services into their web-enabled applications. And today they’re releasing an open source platform based on that technology that has the potential to disrupt business-oriented call routing services in a big way — Twilio is describing it as a sort of Google Voice for businesses, with more flexibility. It’s called OpenVBX.

So what exactly does it do? OpenVBX lets you set up an advanced telephony service for your business using a drag-and-drop interface. Want a certain phone number to be routed to your entire sales team? Easy — just drag and drop each of their names into the appropriate area. And that’s only the beginning: OpenVBX lets you take advantage of all of Twilio’s integrated services, like text to speech, voice transcription, voicemail forwarding, and SMS messaging. You can have voicemails left at a certain number (say, tech support) automatically forwarded to your entire support staff. If you’re running a restaurant, you can use the service to automatically return a listing of your specials whenever someone sends the word MENU to your number. And all of this is done via drag and drop (see the video below for an example).

Even better: OpenVBX allows for the integration of plugins, allowing you to connect your phone system to other web services. One plugin Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson showed me hooked into 37signals’ Highrise, a web-based contact manager. Using this, you could automatically check to see if the phone number of an incoming call was already in your contact database, and route the call to a certain sales rep accordingly. A second plugin (which was actually created by a third-party developer) hooks into Foursquare, allowing you to change your telephony settings depending on where you’re located. For example, if you checked in at work, it would know to route any incoming calls to your office number rather than your house.

The open-source nature of OpenVBX can be a little confusing. Like WordPress, OpenVBX is a downloadable software package that you upload to your own server and are free to tweak as much as you’d like. However, unlike WordPress, which offers a hosted solution at WordPress.com, Twilio isn’t offering a hosted service yet (though it’s quite obvious that they’re working on launching one in the future). For the time being you’ll have to host it yourself, though Lawson notes that Dreamhost currently has a 1-click install setup, which should make things pretty simple.

Of course, OpenVBX relies heavily on Twilio’s service, tapping into Twilio SMS and telephony APIs. When you use OpenVBX you’re charged Twilio’s normal rates, which run $1 per phone line per month ($2 for a toll-free number) with usage charges of 3 cents per minute (or SMS). Lawson says that it is technically feasible for someone to use OpenVBX with a backend other than Twilio, but that it would take quite a bit of configuration.

Twilio has always been focused on catering to developers, and OpenVBX isn’t any different. While the product will obviously appeal to businesses, Twilio is encouraging developers to take the technology and make it their own by integrating tweaks and plugins. For example, an enterprising developer could tweak OpenVBX so that it’s perfect for restaurants, and then resell it as their own service. Twilio still gets paid through their per-minute and phone line charges, and the developer can charge a hefty premium on top of it.

OpenVBX will be facing a few competitors, including Grasshopper and OneBox, a well established virtual PBX solution that caters to businesses. Lawson acknowledges that there’s quite a bit of feature overlap here, but says that with its plugin system OpenVBX is more extensible than the competition.

Also see Line2, another business-specific Google Voice alternative that we’ve covered before.

Microsoft Office 2010 Now Available Worldwide

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 06:37 AM PDT

Mircrosoft’s much hyped new version of its productivity suite, Microsoft Office 2010, is debuting to the public today and will now be available for purchase at 35,000 retail stores and a number of online retailers including Best Buy and Amazon.com.

Of course, many will find the new version pre-installed in their PCs upon purchase. In a release, Microsoft says that in the next year, more than 100 million PCs will ship with Office 2010 preloaded, which users can then purchase.

The suite, which was announced last year (see our coverage here), had 9 million downloads in its beta program. One of the more notable features in the suite is the interconnectivity between the web and the desktop.

Office 2010 Home and Student is priced at $149, and Office 2010 Home and Business runs at $249. However, you can already find discounted versions of the suites on Amazon.com

IBM Acquires Web Analytics And Marketing Software Company Coremetrics

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 06:18 AM PDT

IBM is jumping into the web analytics software space with the acquisition of San Mateo, CA company Coremetrics. With the purchase, IBM intends to expand its business analytics capabilities with Coremetrics' cloud-based delivery platform, which enables companies to gain real-time insight into consumer interactions internally through social and other online media networks to increase the performance of their marketing campaigns. Financial terms were not disclosed.

PBworks Gets Into The CRM Game With Customer Relationship Edition

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 06:03 AM PDT

Startup PBworks, which was formerly known as PBwiki, specializes in helping businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions collaborate via wikis. The startup has steadily added innovative, real-time features to its platform, most recently integrating Twitter-like microblogging and tapping into the real-time stream. Today, the company is merging realtime collaboration with CRM in the new PBworks Customer Relationship Edition, which extends CRM solutions such as Salesforce.com by offering shared online workspaces for collaborating with customers and prospects throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

PBworks Customer Relationship Edition offers a shared environment that companies can use with their customer throughout the relationship lifecycle, from prospecting and sales to ongoing account management and support.

Businesses can use the new CRM edition to collaboratively author content such as sales proposals and agreements, share documents and files such as contracts and collateral, set meeting agenda, take real-time notes, and capture and assign action items, manage critical processes like RFPs with project management tools, and communicate in real-time with built-in chat, instant messaging, and teleconferencing.

The Edition works as a standalone product, and PBWorks’ API allows integration with any CRM product. In fact, PBWorks has already built a Salesforce.com connector that allows 1-click creation of PBworks customer relationship workspaces from within Salesforce.com.

PBWorks, which had an overhaul of its user interface and features in 2008, offers businesses with a project management application and a customized wiki workspace, with mobile support, document management, access controls and more. Currently, PBworks manages 1 million hosted workspaces, with over 3 million users and has accumulated a loyal client base. The company serves teams at over a third of the Fortune 500, and was home to three presidential campaigns, the United Nations, The Financial Times and Harvard University.

Like Salesforce, PBworks is a paid subscription service, with no advertising. The company has raised nearly $2.5 million in funding, with its most recent funding round of $2.1 million announced in 2007. Competitors include Microsoft Sharepoint, Jive, and Socialtext.

Taptu Opens US Office, Taps Former Yahoo Mobile Europe Exec Mitch Lazar As COO

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 05:51 AM PDT

Hoping to conquer America, touch-friendly mobile search engine Taptu is opening a US office in Denver, Colorado. But, perhaps more interesting, it's to be headed up by former Yahoo Mobile European MD, Mitch Lazar, who joined the Taptu Board as recently as March. Not long in that role, his new title is President and Chief Operating Officer, which will see him "heading home" after 11 years in London. Lazar will be charged with driving "business development, marketing and product management locally", a move prompted by Taptu's "rapidly growing American audience", says the company.

IDC Forecasts 19.8% Growth For PC Market, Slower Netbook Sales In 2010

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 04:45 AM PDT

IDC reports impressive year-over-year growth for global PC shipments of 27.1% in the first quarter of 2010, which has prompted the company to revise its projection for the entire year. In light of slow but certain economic recovery, IDC now foresees 19.8% growth in 2010, according to its Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Unlike most of 2009, netbooks are no longer driving the volume as much as in recent times. IDC says the recent market recovery has notably seen a small rebound in higher priced computers, including e-readers and tablets. Although low to mid-range portable PCs continue to dominate the market, desktop computers also recovered with its first yearly growth since the second quarter of 2008.

Context Optional Acquires Facebook App Development Platform Buzzeo

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 04:15 AM PDT

Context Optional, a SaaS offering that allows users to build, monitor and manage brand presence on Facebook, has acquired Unwrap, the developer of Buzzeo, a platform for Facebook application creation. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Buzzeo allows companies to easily create apps that engage Facebook users though e-commerce, including virtual goods and gifts. Buzzeo will remain a standalone product and will continue to be offered to customers free of charge. A number of high profile brands are using Buzzeo, including Ben & Jerry's and Gold's Gym.

Buzzeo’s platform will be complimentary to Context Optional’s customized application for retailers, which aims to help retailers engage with users both on brand pages and the stream. The suite's offerings include the ability to create and publish coupons on a Facebook Page and in the stream, and to launch interactive product catalogs to a Facebook Page and in the stream where users can comment and share the item. The suite also allows retailers to target and customize messages to fans based on their location, publish images, video and links to the stream with built-in tracking and engage fans with interactive polls in the stream. And of course, Buzzeo will be included in Conext Optional’s Social Marketing Solution.

Afraid Of Commitment? iPhone 4 Available SIM-free And Unlocked In UK

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 03:40 AM PDT

Today is the day that most of the UK mobile carriers are taking iPhone 4 pre-orders. But, if like me, you're afraid of commitment - well the 2 year mobile contract kind, anyway - then you might want to hold off for now. Apple today has announced the availability and pricing of its latest smartphone SIM-free (sans contract) for British iPhone-touting wannabes shy of signing on the dotted line.

Late Night Fanboys Bring The iPhone 4 Pre-Order System To Its Knees

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 02:11 AM PDT

You’d think 1 AM PT (4 AM ET) would be a pretty safe time to put something up for pre-sale. You’d think that — and you’d be wrong.

As we’re seeing tonight with the iPhone 4 pre-sale, there doesn’t appear to be a safe time to avoid Apple fanboys. Apple and AT&T’s online purchasing system for the new phone has been a complete and utter failure for the past hour. Judging from comments, tips coming in, and personal experience, most people don’t even seem to be getting past the first step of entering their existing AT&T information when the system simply times out.

But there’s hope. I’m told that if you order the phone through AT&T’s website, it appears to be working. The downside there is that rather than having the option to pick it up in-store, you’ll have to have it delivered to you on the 24th.

This is all a bit reminiscent of the iPhone 3G launch two years ago when an AT&T activation failure prevented people from walking away on launch day with working iPhone (and delayed others by hours in some cases). You’d think they’d have this system down by now.

Who knows, maybe either AT&T or Apple caught a bit of whatever Twitter had earlier. And just imagine if they white version was actually available to pre-order too!

Facebook Starts Prompting Users To Log On To Skype To Connect With More Friends

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 01:27 AM PDT

To find more friends on Facebook, you can do a search for them or have the service go through your contacts on other communication platforms like your email account (e.g. Gmail) or instant messaging client (e.g. ICQ). One of the options is to log on to Skype and have your contact list cross-checked with Facebook’s vast database of identifiable users.

Some time this morning, Facebook started actively prompting users on their homepage, up on top, to connect to Skype and to discover more friends. As you can tell from the screenshot above, sent in by an eagly-eyed reader, Facebook even makes things easy for you by already filling in your Skype handle (not to panic, that means you shared it on your profile page).

Upon refresh, our tipster didn’t see the dialog box anymore even though he did not log in to Skype, so it seems like Facebook is randomly pinging a subset of users to share their Skype contact details and expand their social graph on the network.

I did a quick search for other reports on this and haven’t been able to find anything on blogs and news sites, so I’m assuming this is new. As far as I can tell, people only started talking about seeing the message appear on top of their Facebook homepage on Twitter since this morning.

Update: Ouriel Ohayon spotted it about a week ago.

One user took another screenshot, and others are just diligently sharing that they’re seeing something that wasn’t there before.

We’ve asked both Facebook and Skype for more guidance.

Are you seeing it?

(Thanks to Andres for the tip)

Apple’s Midnight Surprise: A Redesigned Mac Mini With HDMI

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 01:27 AM PDT

Most Apple fanatics have been counting down to June 15 as the date the iPhone 4 would be available for pre-sale. But Apple had another trick up its sleeve tonight as well. While everyone is distracted on the iPhone page, Apple has quietly refreshed its Mac mini line of computers. And it’s more than your standard spec bump.

The Mac mini has been given an entirely new slimmer (1.4 inch) aluminum case made using the same unibody technique that Apple uses on the MacBooks. More importantly, the thing packs a powerful processor and supposedly twice the graphics performance. But the big news is that the device has an HDMI output for the first time. You know what that means: this thing just became a lot of people’s media center.

Also new is that the Mac mini now has its power supply completely built-in. This means no more power brick. And it even has a removable bottom panel to easily upgrade the memory.

The new Mac mini comes with 2.4 or 2.66 Intel Core 2 Duo chip and start at $699. There’s also a new Mac mini Snow Leopard server that starts at $999.

Between this thing (which unlike the Apple TV, will give you access to things like Hulu) and the new ESPN Xbox Live service, you really should be able to kill off your cable service. I look forward to doing just that.

iPhone 4 Up For Pre-Order — Black Only

Posted: 15 Jun 2010 01:08 AM PDT

Henry Ford once famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” The same can now be said for the iPhone 4.

Just moments ago, Apple’s latest mobile device was put up for pre-sale on Apple’s Online Store. But as was rumored, it’s only available for pre-order in black. As the store notes, “White iPhone currently unavailable for pre-order or in-store pickup.They don’t give an estimate as to when the white one will be available, but it will undoubtedly be at some point this Summer.

Meanwhile, if you want the black one, you can pre-order it now. As expected, it’s $199 for the 16 GB version, and $299 for the 32 GB version (assuming you sign a new two-year contract with AT&T for each). The phones will be delivered on June 24, or available for in-store pick-up if you choose that option.

You can also pick up the last-generation iPhone 3GS (8 GB) for $99 now — it too will be available in stores on June 24.

Update: There are numerous reports of failures when people try to pre-order the new phone. There seems to be some sort of hang-up on AT&T’s end. But if you order the phone through AT&T’s website I’m told it’s working (but you have to have it delivered).

Skype Now Available For Sony Ericsson Symbian Phones (Satio And Vivaz)

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 11:31 PM PDT

Internet communication service provider Skype this morning announced the availability of the popular service on three Sony Ericsson smartphones based on the Symbian platform. Users of Satio, Vivaz and Vivaz pro devices can now use Skype over WiFi or mobile data connection (that is: 3G, GPRS and EDGE). If that's your smartphone and you like free calls to your Skype friends on the go, head over to skype.com/m or visit the Sony Ericsson Play Now arena later this month. Read on at MobileCrunch.

Twitter Is Very Down, And Could Be Well Into The Night

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 09:27 PM PDT

Earlier today, Twitter rolled out a pretty killer new feature: Place support for geolocation. With it, you can tag your tweets to a specific place you’re at, or pipe in your check-ins from Foursquare and Gowalla to do the same thing. Tonight, Twitter can’t seem to find anything, let alone the new Places. The service has now been completely down for over an hour.

For long-time users of Twitter, this type of downtime is nothing new. But for the majority of users who have signed up in the past several months, they’re likely accustomed to a pretty stable service. Well, welcome to our world. I don’t know what’s been going on the past couple of weeks, but Twitter has definitely been struggling to stay up.

A note on the Twitter Status blog tonight reads:

We are experiencing site-wide availability issues due to scheduled  maintenance. We're currently working to address the issues. We'll update with more information as it is available.

Hmm. That doesn’t sound like a regular “scheduled maintenance” message to me.

Might I recommend 15 or so alternative things to do?

Update: The latest from Twitter:

We're currently experiencing site availability issues resulting from the failed enhancement of a new approach to timeline caching. Our infrastructure and operations engineers are currently working to resolve this. We'll update you soon with an ETA.

Update 2: I just heard back from Twitter — bolded part (mine) is key:

We’re currently experiencing site availability issues resulting from a failed enhancement of the site. Our infrastructure and operations engineers are currently working to resolve this.

The site could be down until approximately 3am PT. We’ll continue to update the status blog.

That’s 5 hours from right now.

Who Wants To Be A Tech Star? (Awesome Video)

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 07:29 PM PDT

Fans of the Richter Scales’ work will love this, too. Last year investment banker Terence Kawaja had a music video produced (to the tune of American Pie) celebrating the death of old media. This year he turned things up a notch and went upbeat – lip syncing entrepreneurs singing a song called Tech Star – a parody on Nickelback’s famous Rockstar video from 2007.

I’ve embedded both videos below. And Kawaja has a gift for you if you think you know your stuff – guess as many of the entrepreneurs that you see in the Tech Star video and put your results in the comments. Whoever gets the most right will win a Flip MinoHD camera. I’ll start things off for you by pointing out Fox/News Corp. exec Adam Bain early in the video jokingly complaining about his boss.

Tech Star:

Mad Avenue Blues:

How the Chinese Internet Needs to Up Its Game

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 06:24 PM PDT

Back in March I thought that Google pulling out of China would hurt Google's Chinese employees and shareholders more than anyone. The search engine was a distant number two in the market to Baidu, and many of the people already using Google in China, I assumed, were doing so through VPNs anyway, meaning the government blocking it wouldn't immediately change much in terms of users’ experience. Beyond that, I figured startups in China’s thriving Web scene would rush in to fill any void.

But I underestimated one big thing: The impact that the lack of Google would have on China's Web businesses. By essentially handing Baidu a short-term monopoly on keywords, user acquisition costs have gone through the roof, infuriating many of the people who were originally sympathetic to Google's case just a few months ago. "They should have just not come into the market to begin with if this is how they were going to act”: if I heard that statement once in the last two weeks I spent in China, I heard it a dozen times.

This wasn't all Google's fault. Frankly put, the company didn't have enough market share to wreck things on its own. But it was icing on the cake of an increasingly unsustainable situation. Market forces—ie, so much venture capital backing so many new Chinese Web ventures—were already making the cost of acquiring traffic through popular online channels in China expensive. (For instance, there are said to be literally hundreds of Groupon-clones in China vying for traffic all of the sudden.) Now, sources say prices are almost totally out of reach for anyone but the most well-funded companies.

Marc van der Chijs co-founder of Tudou and CEO SpilGamesAsia told me a year ago buying traffic via keywords and listings in directory sites like Baidu-owned Hao123.com was a no-brainer. But he says within the last year, the prices have gone up as much as 10-fold. So high, van der Chijs finally walked away, glad he grabbed some users while they were affordable.

He's not alone. I talked to about a dozen startups who said they are spending the bunk of their money these days on user acquisition. It's creating some concern that newer, scrappier ventures are locked out of a market increasingly dominated by Web giants like Sina and Tencent.

The desktop directories at a Chinese Internet cafe show a similar picture. They are hopelessly crowded with hundreds of games and entertainment sites. (See the screenshot I took at a cafe in Xi’an to the right. It’s a small sample of the offerings jumping out at you as soon as you log on.) One of the newer online gaming success stories of China, Giant Interactive, caught everyone off-guard back in 2006 by using a veritable army of thousands of hip kids to travel around to Internet cafes like this one and talk up its game, offering specials and teaching people to play, side-by-side. Giant went public on the New York Stock Exchange in late-2007 largely off the success of that one game, ZT Online.

But even such extreme measures are a challenge now, since increasingly the Chinese Web is spreading beyond Internet cafes. "That's why so many companies are trying to have a social media element, so people will invite their friends and we can get more users for free," says Song Li, the founder of a few online ventures including online dating site Zhenai and location-based microblog Digu. Indeed, that’s a big reason Giant invested heavily in social network 51.com, said Giant’s CFO Eric He in Shanghai last week. (Valley-based Redpoint Venture is also an investor in 51.com.)

This is the first we're seeing of Chinese sites having this much trouble finding eyeballs, and it's a sign of maturity in the development of the Chinese Web. These days there are enough good services, content sites, games and social networks that a lot of people's basic Web needs are being met. As a result, the audience is becoming sophisticated and harder to lure.

The problem is scale. When the US went through this problem, it was around the early 2000s. We had a lull in new sites being created thanks to the dot com crash and around 150 million people were online. In China, there are dozens of new sites being created per day and the Web audience is surging past 400 million users. (At least that’s the number being bandied around these days. The claims for the number of people online in China seems as ever-inflating as the price of a Baidu keyword) It's a chaotic landscape of constantly shifting sands—even when you don't consider concerns about changing government regulations.

Some entrepreneurs are getting creative. For Zhenai, Li is starting to experiment with television for the first time, both traditional ads and what he refers to as "product placement." TV dating shows are all the rage in China these days, and they follow a specific script. A stage full of girls question and critique a would-be suitor saying things like "If you don't drive a BMW, don't even think about." As I understand it, the girls take themselves out of the running, round-after-round by turning off their lights. At the end, the poor guy finally gets to a make a choice out of the ones still illuminated.

Shows like these have concerned a lot of older Chinese citizens about the lack of morals among the youth who seem obsessed with money, sex and things, but Li sees something more subtle at work here. Shows like these are an outlet for a wave of women who came into the work force as China was opening up its economy. Even at young ages they are educated and economically self-sufficient, so they've decided not to settle for a man for the sake of security. This group had been teased in society and called "The Left Behinds." These game shows are a way of reclaiming their independence, their choice not to marry. And other women like them are living vicariously. There are about a dozen iterations of these shows showing throughout China's fragmented TV networks.

Dating sites like Zhenai see opportunity here. Increasingly, these sites are helping with the casting and when girls from a given site gets picked, the site is listed under her name, like a product placement ad. Hopefully, if she's alluring enough, that drives more would-be daters to the site. But setting up casting calls and culling through millions of members is a lot of work to find a telegenic few.

Is it worth all that work for the traffic? Even Li isn't sure. But give him credit for trying. The Chinese Web became lucrative because of entrepreneurs who excelled in distribution and monetization. These guys can do better than continuing to buy inflated keywords. They have to– all inflated markets pop at some point. The companies that have found a more lasting way to build their audiences will likely be the ones who build the second generation of Chinese Web giants.

Picture This: Yahoo Finally Takes Control Of Flicker.com For Flickr

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 05:47 PM PDT

As one of the most popular social sites on the planet, Flickr is also undoubtedly one of the most popular misspelled domains. Pronounced “Flicker,” Flickr decided to be all Web 2.0-cutesy with its name back in the day. That’s fine, except when someone else owns the Flicker.com domain. Yahoo, which bought Flickr in 2005, has finally done something about that — obtaining Flicker.com.

As we noted a year ago, Flicker.com put itself on sale in a very visible way. Anyone who visited the page was greeted by a logo and statistics about how much traffic the site receives. So how much traffic was Flicker.com getting? 3.6 million unique visitors a year, according to them. Almost all of those hits were direct (95%) undoubtedly because people would misspell Flickr.com as Flicker.com.

The Domains first reported that the WHOIS record has changed, and we’ve since confirmed with Yahoo that they did take control of the domain. “The FLICKER.COM domain has been transferred to Yahoo!," a spokesperson told us but declined to say anything further. Earlier today, Domain Name Wire reported that a lawsuit settlement gave Yahoo the domain. Back in 2007, Yahoo supposedly offered the owners of Flicker.com $600,000 for the domain, which they supposedly turned down.

For now, Flicker.com is still pointing to the old landing page, but you can probably expect that to change soon.

Update: Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake (no longer with the service — but working on a new startup, Hunch) left the following comment below to with some of the history behind the name:

We tried to buy the domain from the prior owner who made a beer called Flicker Beer. He wasn’t interested in selling. He then, I believe, sold it to the current/former owner. We liked the name “Flicker” so much we dropped the E. It wasn’t very popular on the team, I had to do a lot of persuasion. Then the dropped “E” thing became something of a cliché…

So there you go, Flicker Beer led to the service dropping the “e” and starting a trend (including, at one point, Twitter).

On The Xbox 360 Kinect Experiment And The Future Of Motion Controls

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 04:52 PM PDT

Microsoft has been busy over the last year. It was during E3 2009 that Microsoft blew everyone away with what was then dubbed Project Natal. It promised to bring full body motion control to the 360. We're getting our first real look at the system at E3 today after last night's theatrical reveal and, well, it's keeping that promise. That's not what's surprising, though. Project Natal, now called Kinect, was demoed extensively over the last year and most of the media had a chance to play with the early demos. The real surprise today is that Kinect isn't a Wii clone like it previously seemed. It's something entirely different that doesn't target just families or casual gamers. This thing is for real. Update: Now with a pic of our hotel's bathroom! You have to see this.

Twitter Joins The Place Race — Foursquare, Gowalla Come Along For The Ride

Posted: 14 Jun 2010 04:35 PM PDT

Since late last year, Twitter has included location as a key part of its API. Earlier this year, it was rolled out to twitter.com as well. But those locations have been abstract cities or areas. Starting now, Twitter is adding actual venues into the mix as well.

On both Twitter.com and mobile.twitter.com, you’ll now be able to tag tweets to specific places (such as venues), Twitter notes on its blog today. And clicking on those location names will bring up recent tweets from those places. Twitter says this is perfect for the World Cup matches currently going on in South Africa.

Notably, this also will work right off the bat with Foursquare and Gowalla — two of the most popular check-in services. When you click on a venue that has Foursquare or Gowalla information attached to it, you’ll also see check-ins at those venues on twitter.com. This is a big win for both of those services.

This new place information works with the Twitter API as well. Over the next week, it will be rolling out in 65 countries around the world thanks to data partnerships with TomTom and Localeze.

And alongside this launch, Twitter notes that the location functionality is working in more browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Safari (in addition to Chrome and Firefox, where it has worked for a while). And soon, Twitter Places will come to the native mobile applications for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.

All of this means huge things for location on Twitter. And the fact that this place data ties in with both Foursquare and Gowalla is excellent. But there still eventually needs to be some sort of unified place database. Maybe Twitter Places will help produce that. At least until Facebook’s location solution comes out and is inevitably incompatible — I kid, I kid. Or do I?

And don’t forget Google Places.


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