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Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

A Guide To 3D Display Technology: Its Principles, Methods, And Dangers

Posted: 19 Jun 2010 07:31 AM PDT

Whether you buy into the hype or not, it’s plain fact that 3D is everywhere these days. From movies and games to laptops and handhelds, pretty much every screen in the house is going to be 3D-capable in a year or so, even if you opt not to display any 3D content on it. Those of you who choose that path may stop reading now, and come back a little later when you change your mind. Because if you have kids or enjoy movies and games, there will be a point where you’re convinced, perhaps by a single standout piece of media, that 3D is worth it at least some of the time.

But 3D isn’t as easy to get used to as, say, getting a surround-sound system or moving from 4:3 to widescreen. Why is that? Well, it’s complicated, but worth taking the time to understand. Moreover, like any other new technology, 3D is not without its potential risks, and of course studies will have to be done to determine the long-term effects of usage, if any. For now, though, it must be sufficient to inform yourself of the principles behind it and make your own decision.

Continue reading…

Might Threaded Conversations Be Coming To Twitter?

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 06:24 PM PDT

There’s no question that Twitter’s web experience has been improving pretty rapidly over the past several months. However, one area that’s still lacking is a good way to view conversations. Clicking on the “in reply to” links is tedious for long conversations. Several third-party apps (including Twitter’s own native iPhone app — which they bought) are much better at doing this. One of those is an app called Twitoaster. And its creator just got hired by Twitter.

Twitoaster is the work of French developer Arnaud Meunier. As he tweeted and blogged today, he’s going to work for Twitter after getting to know some of the team following the Chirp conference in April. Of note, Twitoaster’s speciality was the threaded conversation view it gave to tweets.

So does that mean this is coming to Twitter? Not necessarily — Twitoaster eventually added a number of other features — such as analytics — that could point to how Twitter could use Meunier’s skills as well. But given the direction Twitter has been going with its web product, I would be surprised if some sort of better conversation view wasn’t added to the site relatively soon.

Another key focus of Twitoaster is tweet archiving. That’s another feature Twitter could definitely improve upon. Currently, thanks to Twitter’s search limitations, once a tweet is a couple of months old, it’s basically lost in the Twitter.com ether. If Twitter had a better archiving mechanism for old tweets, it could extend the life of them, and make them much more useful.

All of this, of course, is some fun late Friday afternoon speculation. But Twitter was clearly impressed with what Meunier built, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they use his skills in a similar fashion on their core product.

Meanwhile, Twitoaster will live on, but Meunier says not to expect any new features as he’ll be focused on his new job.

[thanks Richard]

Lijit Proves Search Company Really Means Ad Company – Takes $6 Million Series D

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 04:19 PM PDT

Colorado startup Lijit is best known for providing websites with really good search. And it does search well – sites from Fred Wilson’s blog to ICanHasCheezburger use it.

But Lijit is really an advertising network. Publishers that use Lijit also get access to lots of stats about what’s going on with site searches. And they have an option to join the Lijit ad network to put display ads up on their sites – not just on search results – targeted via that data. So far, so good. Lijit doesn’t take inventory unless they can get the publisher a minimum $1 CPM, and 30% of their 700 million page views on publisher sites serve Lijit ads. They say that will grow to 1 billion page views by end of September this year.

Gross revenue, mostly from those display ads, is on target to hit $4 million – $5 million this year, CEO Todd Vernon told me earlier today. And most of their display ad publishers have joined Lijit in the last 90 days. Last year, revenue was near $0.

Vernon says that the company is able to get premium advertising rates for publishers by combining that search intent data with demographic and content targeting, and that they work very well with mid and long tail publishers who aren’t yet big enough to hire their own sales force.

All that growth and potential means Ligit gets a new round of funding. Existing investors Foundry Group, Boulder Ventures and High Country Venture have put another $6 million into the company, bringing the total to $18.3 million to date.

If revenue trajectories continue the company will get to profitability by the time they’ve spent this round, says Vernon.

Use The iPhone 4′s Gyroscope Right Now — Without The iPhone 4 Or The Gyroscope

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 03:59 PM PDT

One of the highlighted new features of the upcoming iPhone 4 is the gyroscope. With it, developers will be able to build all new kinds of games that take your body’s movement into account. Apple CEO Steve Jobs showed off a Jenga-like game at the WWDC keynote. And you can imagine augmented reality apps will love this as well. But what if you’re not going to get an iPhone 4? Well, there’s a developer out there who has built a software engine for the iPhone 3GS or iPad that does the same thing.

Developer Vishal Srivastava (who recently left a job at Microsoft after 5 years there) has built what he calls the “Perspectiverse Engine.” With it, you can use the iPhone 3GS or iPad in the same way the iPhone 4 with the gyroscope works. That is, you load up an app and move your body around to manipulate the action happening on the screen. You can see it in action right now in the app Magic 3G Easter Egg Painter, which is currently live in the App Store.

Even cooler is a game Srivastava is working on called Gyromaniac (formerly called “Colonoscapade”). In it, you move your body around to make your way through a colon and other interesting interiors. It’s both disgusting and awesome. Srivastava actually showed me a demo of the game well before the iPhone 4 was announced (and obviously before anyone knew about the gyroscope feature). It’s very impressive how well it works considering there is no gyroscope in this older hardware. Check out the videos below.

So how does it work? The engine “uses a combination of device sensors to constantly align the game world with the real world. No matter how you orient your phone, north in the game universe is the same as north in the real world, south is south, up is up, down is down, and so forth. This allows you to interact with that game universe as if you were in it,” Srivastava tells us.

The engine works in older devices too but it reverts to tilt-only controls, Srivastava says.

So now that the gyroscope is coming in iPhone 4, is Srivastava worried the engine he built engine will be obsolete? No — if anything he’s excited that it can make his games more accurate.

He’s calling his company Subversus Interactive. Gyromaniac will be coming out shortly, but you can find Magic 3D Easter Egg Painter live now in the App Store — for a limited time it’s only $0.99.

Pogoplug Updates Android App: Control Your Drives From Your EVO 4G

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 03:05 PM PDT

PogoPlug just released its upgraded Android app. The app allows you to browse media and music on connected drives, share files publicly from drives, and search for files. You can also manage the folders on your connected drives.

It is available in the app store now. As you recall, the Pogoplug is essentially a NAS adapter that plugs right into the wall and then pop in the Ethernet cable. Any USB drives connected to it are automatically shared on the Internet (password-protected, of course) and you can manage the entire drive from anywhere in the world. The device itself is available for $129.

Click through for full details.

Read more…

SGN’s 3D Shooter EXO-Planet Elite Comes To The iPhone

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 02:59 PM PDT

Earlier today we learned that SGN, a mobile gaming company that focuses on the iPhone/iPad and will soon be expanding to Android, had raised $2 million from Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Tomorrow Ventures and Xing founder Lars Hinrichs. Today SGN is also making its 3D shooter EXO-Planet Elite available for the iPhone and iPod Touch in the hopes of recreating the success of its hit Skies of Glory. The game runs $4.99, and you can buy it on the App Store here.

EXO-Planet, which was an iPad launch title but wasn’t available on the iPhone or iPod Touch until now, is a third-person shooter set in space, with a nifty grappling hook mechanic that lets players fling themselves to the other side of a room with one tap. Gameplay is primarily multiplayer — hit Deathmatch or Capture the Flag, and the game’s matchmaking system will usually have you playing a game in a few seconds. This update also introduces a single player time trial mode.

We first profiled the game in early April, and it was one of the first games I tried when I got my hands on an iPad. At the time, I wasn’t too impressed — the game looked compelling, but the controls were really difficult. Despite a lifetime of gaming experience, I couldn’t figure out how to get my character unstuck from the magnetic ceiling, and then I somehow flung myself into an endless abyss. Fortunately, it looks like those problems have been fixed, and the game is starting to live up to its potential.

I fired up the iPad version for the first time in months and quickly jumped into an online multiplayer Deathmatch. The game was still a little disorienting for a few minutes, but I quickly got the hang of it and managed to rack up three kills in my first game (I may have died ten times, but that was a lot better than I did the first time I tried to play).

And it looks like the iPhone version is actually better than the iPad version — the smaller form factor makes it a bit easier to control. And the iPhone obviously has a much larger userbase than the iPad, so despite the game’s slow start a few months ago, SGN may be able to turn EXO-Planet into another hit.

Here’s a video review done by the folks over at AppSpy that gives you an idea of how the gameplay works.

Foursquare Check-In Stickers Coming To A Store Window Near You (Video)

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 02:56 PM PDT

How can Foursquare get more people to check into places as they go about town? One way is stickers. Next month you will start to see stickers in storefront windows reminding Foursquare users to check in and unlock specials. Foursquare’s director of business development Tristan Walker flashed one of the stickers in front of my camera when I was visiting the New York offices earlier today.

In the video above (forgive the iPhone audio) he confirms the company will start to ship the stickers soon to popular Foursquare venues. The stickers are part of Foursqare’s new business-friendly focus. They are just regular stickers that say, “Check-in Here on Foursquare” and “Foursquare Special Here.”

I asked Walker what he thinks about QR codes, those 2d barcodes people can scan with their cameras which are on the stickers Google sent out to local merchants a while back. He is not “particularly bullish” that they will catch on anytime soon. (I’ve argued in the past they could become a backdoor check-in for Google, but I tend to agree that cell-phone barcode scanning is still an unnatural act for most people)

And since he’s been Tweeting all day how much he thinks Twitter’s Promoted Trends is a goldmine business model, I asked him about that also. On camera, Walker was a little shy, but he points out that it is a fascinating way for advertisers to get in front of a large portion of Twitter users. Of course, there are also ways to geo-target the promoted trends by city or even neighborhood. Maybe there is a Foursquare tie-in there, Promoted Specials! Nah.

AdMob Deal Breakdown: $530 Million In Stock, $220 Million In Cash

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 02:26 PM PDT

Thanks to an SEC filing, another detail emerged today about Google’s acquisition of mobile ad network AdMob. We already knew the $750 million Google-AdMob acquisition was a cash and stock deal but we didn’t know the breakdown between the two. According to an SEC filing submitted by Google today, the search giant sold $530 million worth of stock as part of the deal, indicating that AdMob (and its investors) may have taken home the remainder, $220 million, in cash (because of some accounting issues, this number may not be exact).

So was AdMob happy with the split between cash and stock? I guess that depends on whether they think Google’s stock will keep going up. Google paid for the bulk of the deal with stock, and the deal will hardly make a dent in its huge cash reserves (the company has $26.5 billion in the bank).

The deal itself was drawn out due to concerns from the FTC over anti-trust issues. Over six months after announcing its plans to acquire AdMob, Google finally closed the deal at the end of May, a week after the FTC unanimously approved the deal.

Square Delays Mass Roll-Out, Admits They Began Before Things Were “Fully Baked”

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 02:19 PM PDT

When Jack Dorsey’s new startup, Square, was first unveiled in December, there was a lot of excitement about it. And rightly so. It looked like it could revolutionize the way individuals accept payments for their work using their smartphones. But the road to the revolution has been a bit rocky. Today, Dorsey sent an email to the early adopters of Square explaining some of the reasons for delays in getting the product up to speed — and announcing a new indefinite delay.

Of note, he admits that, “we've let our excitement get the best of us and have released parts of Square before they were fully baked.” Square had hoped to have the service ready to roll in “early 2010,” but it’s already the middle of the year now and many users are still without units. Dorsey says that while initial hardware shortage issues have been resolved (by sending co-founder Jim McKelvey to China where the devices are made), now a credit processing issue is hampering the service.

As such, Square has decided to halt the mass shipment of Square readers (the little hardware dongle required to read credit cards). They are now “rethinking and expanding our underwriting infrastructure,” Dorsey notes. The main problem now is that to ensure credit fraud doesn’t run wild on Square, they limit transactions numbers — but customers are complaining those limits are too low. Square agrees, so they’re trying to figure out a new way to handle things.

So when might this problem be resolved? “We’re working on the ETA for mass shipments,” Dorsey tells us via email. “We want to make sure the underwriting is solid to manage the fraud and risk,” he continues.

Below, find the full email Dorsey sent to Square users:

Dear Square user,

We announced Square with the phrase: "0 to $60 in under 10 seconds."

Square's goal is to enable people to accept payments immediately, everywhere. We realize the amount of time we've taken to ship our Square readers has been frustrating, sometimes confusing, and has generated a number of questions. When we announced the company last December, we estimated Square would be ready in the U.S. sometime in early 2010. Since then, we've let our excitement get the best of us and have released parts of Square before they were fully baked.

A recent email from our support team to a Square user sums up where we are:

Until recently, we were facing a big hardware shortage, but that is now resolved (we sent our co-founder Jim to China for a couple weeks to arrange better manufacturing, and that did the trick). The problem has transitioned to something we've been working on simultaneously, a credit processing and risk issue. We need to strengthen our underwriting infrastructure so that we can handle the huge demand for readers and still manage the risk of chargebacks and fraud. This is the last thing preventing us from shipping readers as fast as we'd like, and we have pretty much the entire team working on it.

The way we are handling the risk of chargebacks and fraud is through transaction limits, but we have received feedback that those limits are too low. We are rethinking and expanding our underwriting infrastructure to address this issue. As soon as we finish, we will send you an email to confirm that you would like us to run a credit check (or you can cancel your request to process cards with Square which will securely remove your personal information). We will then ship your free card reader and activate your account to accept card payments.

We thank you for your continued patience as we work to deliver a utility you can use every day and for allowing us the time to get it right.

Jack Dorsey
Square CEO

SGN Takes Investment From Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 12:10 PM PDT

Palo Alto based Social Gaming Network, which focuses on multiplayer iPhone/iPod/iPad games, has raised a first tranche in a second round of financing – $2 million from Tomorrow Ventures (Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s investment firm) and Xing founder Lars Hinrichs.

The company previously raised $15 million. Founder Shervin Pishevar says this new round is the first tranche in a much larger Series B funding.

Unlike most social gaming companies today, SGN has focused on very high quality games that allow multi-player gaming from different devices. Skies Of Glory is the office favorite. The company will soon be releasing titles for Android devices, says Pishevar.

Twitter Tweaks The Fail Whale Based On TechCrunch Commenter Feedback

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 11:09 AM PDT

Sometimes our commenters are a little insane — but we love them anyway. And other companies do too. And here’s proof.

Twitter has tweaked the Fail Whale page (you know, the page you see all the time when Twitter is down) based on a comment one TechCrunch reader left on a post about Twitter’s downtime earlier this week. Okay, it’s not a huge change, but it’s a very useful one. On the Twitter Fail Whale page from now on, you’ll see a link to the Twitter Status blog below the headline: “Twitter is over capacity.”

Twitter wrote to us to let us know about the change and that it was based on the comment from one TechCrunch reader, Stepshep (Stephen Shepherd). That person left a comment saying:

One would assume that the link to the Status blog would be bigger on the Fail Whale pages. New users don’t read the fine print/have the status blog on RSS. As a side note I use Twitter to login with intensedebate, not anymore.

It was a good question and a great suggestion, and our team made the change this week,” a Twitter representative wrote to us. “We’re listening,” they continued.

This is a good idea, because previously when Twitter would go down, people would often come to sites like TechCrunch to find out why. To be clear, we hope you still do that. But it’s good for those who don’t, to have a link to the Status Blog (which resides on a different server from Twitter itself, so it stays up during downtime) for updates from Twitter on the situation.

So there you go TechCrunch readers, leave a useful comment, and it just may make a difference.

Lakers Victory Sets Twitter All-Time Record With 3,085 Tweets Per Second

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 10:41 AM PDT

Twitter has been seeing record numbers of engagement thanks to the World Cup games in South Africa and as a result the network has been going through significant downtime. Today Twitter is giving us some insight into the numbers of Tweets taking place through the platform and the most Tweeted “goals” from the tournament and last night’s Lakers-Celtics championship game.

These goals had the highest Tweets-per-second (TPS) count in the 30 seconds after a goal was scored: Japan scores against Cameroon on June 14 in their 1-0 victory (2,940 TPS), Brazil scores their first goal against North Korea in their 2-1 June 14 victory (2,928 TPS) and Mexico ties South Africa in their June 11 game (2,704 TPS).

These numbers from the World Cup were all time records until last night. It appears that basketball fans may be the most voracious Tweets of all because last night’s Lakers win in the deciding game of the NBA Championship set an Twitter all-time record. The Lakers victory generated 3,085 TPS as the game ended. On an average day, Twitter sees about 750 TPS and 65 million total Tweets a day.

The recent downtime is affecting Twitter in more ways than one. The network just rescheduled its ‘oauthcalypse’ for August because of the heavy usage during the World Cup. And while sports events are helping Twitter reach these records, comScore numbers just released today that show the microblogging network is back on the growth track.

Latest comScore Stats Show Twitter Growth Is Still Strong

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 10:30 AM PDT

Online analytics firm comScore has released its latest batch of data, and this month’s results show that Twitter is still exhibiting strong growth. According to comScore’s numbers Twitter grew from 83.8M unique vistors in April to 90.2M in May worldwide — an increase of 7.6%. By comparison, there was 5.5% growth between March, when Twitter had 79.4M, and April’s 83.8M. To give some perspective, a year ago comScore showed that Twitter had 37.3M million uniques.

It’s important to note that these numbers aren’t necessarily a good measure of the total number of people people using Twitter’s platform (it only includes data for people who have been to Twitter.com, and not any applications that access Twitter through the API). And last week Twitter COO Dick Costolo shared the company’s internal stats, which show that Twitter gets 190 million visitors per month, and 65 million tweets a day. One other caveat: not everyone who visits Twitter.com is actually tweeting (some people are just using the service passively).

Still, while there’s obviously a discrepancy between the numbers, comScore data can be used to track the growth trend. And after a lull in the winter, it’s clear that Twitter is back on track.


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