Friday, November 02, 2007

Will Privacy Concerns Take the Boom out of Online Ads?

The world eagerly awaits the Facebook's social advertising platform, likely to be announced on November 6th at the Ad:Tech conference in New York. The new advertising innovation is said to be a rival to Google's (GOOG) AdSense, prompting some to label the opportunity big enough to deem Facebook a (ludicrous sounding) $100 billion company .

Add to this upcoming announcement, recent frenzy of mergers and acquisitions, and private equity investments such as the $100 million infusion into Specific Media, what you have is a online advertising (bubble or) boom of unprecedented proportions.

Much of this fervor is inspired by behavioral targeting, where advertisers can use sophisticated cookie technology to highly target ads to individuals. The same behavioral targeting approach, however is beginning to risk the ire of privacy advocates and is coming under extreme scrutiny by the US Government.

Privacy Groups are proposing a do-no-track list, which is I guess a web version of the dubious, Do-not-call list. According to Advertising Age , "Privacy advocates say current standards for collecting such data, such as the Network Advertising Initiative, don't do enough to safeguard consumers against the potential pitfalls of data collection, and that most consumers don't understand how such data is being used."

The debate, which so far seems to restricted to the Beltway crowd is starting to spill into the mainstream press. This being the political season, and privacy concerns being politically-popular fodder, expect to see more noise level, which might result in if nothing, increased headaches for online advertising companies.

The groups backing this Do-Not-Track-List are your usual suspects: the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Federal Trade Commission is going to host a Town Hall entitled "Ehavioral Advertising: Tracking, Targeting, and Technology" starting today.

Google is responding by setting up a Google privacy channel, and attending the FTC Townhall. Other advertising industry executives such as Dave Morgan, chairman of Tacoda, a company owned by AOL dismisses their concerns and says this is an "advocate looking for a cause." (What's ironic, is that his dismissive attitude is in sharp contrast with his corporate master, AOL's willingness to play ball. "We want to make the opt-out process as simple and transparent as possible," Jules Polonetsky, AOL chief privacy officer was quoted by WebProNews.

He might be right - most of us are irritated by advertising and find that most of the time it is irrelevant. Better focus of advertising with certain degree of annonyminity is acceptable to many if not all Internet users.

But that kind of behavioral targeting might soon take a backseat to more individualistic targeting. Facebook's social advertising plans revolve around leveraging user information and their relationship information - something that should give a chance to privacy/consumer advocates to get their bullhorns ready, volume turned to maximum.


$200 Linux PCs On Sale At Wal-Mart

Placid sends in a Wired blog entry on Wal-Mart's new sub-$200 Linux-based PC. Wired calls it "a custom distribution of Ubuntu Linux," and the AP identifies the distro as gOS, made by a small company in Los Angeles. Wal-Mart began selling Linux PCs in 2002 but they have been out of stock for a while. From the Wired blog: "It has a 1.5 Ghz VIA C7 CPU embedded in a Mini-ITX motherboard, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Normally, this would simply mark it as unacceptably low-end for use with modern software. By using the fast Enlightenment desktop manager (instead of heavier-duty alternatives like Gnome or KDE), the makers say it's more responsive than Vista is, even on more powerful computers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Consolidate Your Phones with GrandCentral [Screenshot Tour]

There's been all kinds of talk about the web-based, all-in-one phone management solution GrandCentral since we first heard about it, but it's been closed to new users ever since Google acquired it. If you've been dying to see what all the hype's about but didn't get signed up for GrandCentral on time, today we'll take you step-by-step through everything GrandCentral has to offer.

First off, here's a quick rundown of what GrandCentral is and what it does for those who don't know. The quick version: GrandCentral gives you one number that, when called, can ring all of your phones (or only certain phones, depending on your settings and the contact who's calling). It also provides you with one central voicemail inbox, including web access to your voicemail management along with the traditional voicemail checking via phone you're already used to. Best of all, it's completely free of charge.

calling.pngFirst, let's talk about GrandCentral's bread and butter: the one number to rule them all concept. When you first join, you'll want to add your various phone numbers to GrandCentral. This gives you one single point of access for all of your calls, and just one phone number to hand out to contacts. That may seem like a terrible idea, but GrandCentral lets you determine what calls are routed to which phones. That way, if you handed out your number to a business contact, for example, only your work number will ring when they call your single GrandCentral number. With GrandCentral's advanced screening options, you can feel comfortable giving your phone number out anywhere.

calls-go.pngOn the other hand, when your mom calls, GrandCentral can ring just your home number and cell phone—or even every phone you've got, depending on how badly you want to talk to you mother. And when it comes to screening calls and spam calls, GrandCentral is smart. The service provides several ways to screen calls (which you can see in more detail below), including a very clever option to play the standard "This phone number is no longer in service" recording.

The actual GrandCentral interface is—well—kind of ugly, but luckily for them, it's got a lot of functionality packed in (and surely Google's designers are working on cleaning it up as we speak). Now that you've got a basic idea of GrandCentral's one-number concept, let's take a closer look at the nitty gritty.

Check out several different views of the web-based GrandCentral inbox and web management interface in the gallery below. Clicking the play button in your voicemail inbox will, obviously, play back that voicemail message, but it also drops down a ton of other functionality to help you act on that voicemail.

Before you play back a voicemail, GrandCentral displays the caller (clicking their name, if they're in your address book, takes you to their contact information), the time the call was made, and the caller's number. You can flag any message (I wouldn't be surprised to see this turn into a star once Google finishes re-branding it) and sort messages by any of the fields.

Once you play back the message, you can add unknown callers as new contacts and adjust settings on your current contacts, including the phone type (home, cell, work, etc.) or group (family, friends, work, etc.—these will come in handy with GrandCentral's other features). If the call was from a telemarketer or someone you don't want to be able to contact you, you can choose to either mark the call as spam, play a "number not in service" recording, or always screen the caller next time the number calls.

The integrated email features are also pretty fair (though who knows where it could go if it integrates with Gmail). You can forward voicemails to any email address or reply to voicemails by email. So imagine getting an hilarious voicemail from a friend that you want to share with another friend, or you got a voicemail from your co-worker and an email reply would be more efficient than calling back.

Calling contacts from the GrandCentral web interface is as simple as clicking the call button and choosing which phone you'd like to route the call to .

Then of course when you're in calls, you can take advantage of features like ListenIn, which lets you listen to voicemail messages as they're left (like an old-school answering machine). Likewise, here are several other simple and worthwhile features you might want to take advantage of if and when you decide to become a GrandCentral user (and don't forget how you can get free calling anywhere):

GrandCentral is already an excellent solution to a problem that most of us didn't know we had, but I do have a few features and improvements I'd like to see. For example, the interface is atrocious. Most likely it'll get the regular Google treatment before it re-releases, meaning that—while it probably won't be snappy—you can count on it being clean and easy to navigate. Other features I'd like to see include:

  • Integration with the new Gmail Contact Manager
  • Reply to voicemail by SMS
  • Map user address or phone number location rather than mapping the area code

Whether or not you've got access to a GrandCentral invite, you can reserve a GrandCentral phone number beforehand. If you've been using GrandCentral regularly, we'd love to hear about your experience in the comments. Likewise, if you haven't tried it, let us know whether or not you'll be reserving your own number and why.


Transform Cellphones Into a CCTV Swarm

holy_calamity writes "Swiss researchers have developed java software that has bluetooth-capable camera phones form a distributed camera network. Each phone shares information on visual events with its neighbours and can work out the spatial position of phones around it (pdf). The software will become open source sometime next year, and the creators say it could be used to make a quick and dirty surveillance system. 'The phones currently use the average speed people walk to guess the distances between themselves, based on how long people take to move from one phone's view to another's. In testing, the system determined the distances between each phone with about 95% accuracy. They were placed 4 metres apart, making it accurate to about 20 centimetres. In future, recording the speed at which objects pass by would make more accurate judgments possible.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


MOTO Q 9h Coming Tomorrow on AT&T for $200 [Announcements]

15540_MotImage.jpgOK, so we were a little off in the timing, but the MOTO Q 9h is now making its way to AT&T. The new WM6 phone is the first Motorola Q with full, quad band GPRS/EDGE support, meaning you don't need to rent a loaner the next time you jet set to Paris for lunch. And while it manages to stay just 11.8 millimeters thick, there's not much else special going on in this model other than UMTS/HSDPA for all your 3G downloading fun (and the 2MP camera, GPS and potentially interesting My Q Packs software). AT&T will be offering the Q 9h starting tomorrow (Nov 2) for $199 with contract. [pr]


Sony's X-Ramen Rader Finds Hot Noodles Wherever You Are [Specificity]

X-Ramen_Radar.jpgHere's an unexpected product from Sony: ramen radar. Yeah, it's a piece of software designed to help you find a ramen noodle shop wherever you are. Now, as someone who's gone on the record about his near-obsession with ramen , this sounds pretty amazing to me, albeit also kind of ridiculous. The X-Ramen Radar works by using Sony's PlaceEngine system that uses a database of local WiFi hotspots to determine your location, then cross-references it with a database of ramen shops. Or something, it's a little confusing and Japan-only. It could clearly be used for anything, but the fact that it's made exclusively for ramen joints just makes it a real head scratcher. [Product Page via Digital World Tokyo]


Mitsubishi Unveils 27-Million-Pixel, 340-Degree DLP Panorama Screen Room [Gigantic Screens]

mitsubishi_panoramic_display.jpgMitsubishi just unveiled a pretty amazing set of giant screens set up to create a walk-in panorama. Consisting of a whopping 17 pairs of 67-inch panels arranged in a 340-degree near-circle, this $1.3-million setup creates a feeling of total immersion. The screens are all DLP, and in total it's packed with 27 million pixels. It was custom-built for a rich, secretive customer, but Mitsubishi hopes to start producing the setup for museums and other such institutions in the future. Holy crap do I ever want to play video games on this thing. Let's make that happen, Mitsubishi. [Iza via Pink Tentacle ]


Your BlackBerry Curve Can Record Video via BlackBerry OS 4.3

The still image camera of your BlackBerry Curve will soon transform itself into a proper video camera thanks to new BlackBerry 4.3 update that's due very soon.

video recorder  blackberry curve

That means if you have own a BlackBerry 8300 Curve, you'll be able to capture video clips with your BlackBerry phone in addition to still images.

Video recording feature are probably integrated in the latest BlackBerry Curve models like the BlackBerry 8320. Thanks CrackBerry.


EZfetch Wireless HD Digital Media Player gets official

We certainly haven't been starved for media streamers of late, and if you reckoned the feature-packed EZfetch Wireless HD Digital Media Player would be priced right out of your league, guess again. This multifaceted unit, which appeared just days ago on the FCC's website, is now officially available to anyone interested -- and for $249, no less. Yep, for the price of a (likely sold-out) Wii, users can can pick up a snazzy streaming box that pulls in content from Nokia N-series mobiles, PCs, NAS drives and a slew of WiFi-enabled devices in order to light up your living room TV. Furthermore, the gizmo plays nice with more formats than you can shake a stick at, and it's shipping now to those who simply can't resist.

[Via eHomeUpgrade]


It's Official: Netflix (NFLX) Destroys BlockBuster (BBI)


For a few minutes, it seemed BlockBuster's Total Access plan might actually post a problem for Netflix: After all, the in-store pick-up and drop-off just seemed so convenient.  Well, the results are in, and the answer is "no."

As Peter Kafka reported yesterday, BlockBuster's Total Access subscription business got crushed in Q3, with subs declining by 500,000.  Netflix's subscriber base, meanwhile, resumed growth, climbing 286,000.  Analysts are now justifiably fretting about the growth of subscription business overall (it shrank for the first time), and Netflix's next challenge is to figure out how to thrive in a digital-delivery world. 

But in this latest example of how hard it is to transform a physical-world business model to compete with a focused online competitor, the word "BlockBuster" need never again come up on a Netflix conference call.  That fight is over.  (The final insult?  Netflix's market cap is 2X Blockbuster's)


20+ Tools To Sell Your Photos and Templates Online

November 2, 2007 — 01:24 AM PDT — by Sean P. Aune Share This

We've done a lot of toolboxes on how to design your sites and get yourself up and running. Well, have you found yourself with a lot of discarded work as you tried different things? Maybe some spare photos? A tossed aside template? Why not turn them in to money makers for you? We've gathered together 20+ sites for you to sell off your photography and templates, and you never know, it could become a whole new revenue stream for you!

Don't forget to check out our post where you can suggest future toolbox topics! (This list, for example, came from one of the suggestions.)

Photography - Offers two payment systems: 50% of individual high res photo sale, and $.36 per subscription download. - With over 10 million images, you may get a little lost in the shuffle here, but if you can sell your work, you'll get 65%. - Normal downloads will make you $.50 to $1.00. Special downloads (people who wish to produce products with your image) can make you $60. - A mixture of selling news images and stock photos of daily life. They will also accept camera phone images for news images. Payout of 50% of the proceeds. - You have to be approved by the quality of your images for inclusion, and the payout is a tiered system that is fairly complex, so it is best that you look at the chart they provide, but payouts can reach as high as 80%. - Offers sites for various countries, commissions for sale of your photos averages 52%, and goes as high as 80%. - One of the best known stock image sites, has a pay out of 70%. - Provides you with your own ecommerce site to sell your photos as well as goods featuring your images. 85% of the sale goes to you. - A marketplace for your news related images, sold in an auction format. Commissions can be up to 85%, but the system isn't clear. - An agency for selling your images to the media. Upload your photos and they will try to sell them exclusively for 12-months. If they can't use them, they will tell you so you won't be under contract, and at the end of the year, the exclusivity ends. Pays 40% of final sale. - Offers a lot of features for photographers including the chance to fulfill buyer requests. Has an 85% payout. - Since it is a subscription based system, you are paid per the download. Currently the payout is $.25 per download. Also allows for uploading of stock video footage. - Sell stock images for approximately a 60% commission after fees. Unique "bounty" system where people list what they want, what they'll pay, and you can fulfill it for extra work. - Earn 50% ofthe sale, and with prices ranging $1 to $10, it could rack up quickly. - A stock image seller for over 20 years, seems pretty selective in the work they except, and no mention of prcentage.

Templates & Themes - Allows you to sell all sorts of templates and themes, they keep 12% of each sale. - Sell a full Flash page or just a menu. Customotion takes approxiametly 1/3 of the price charged to the customer.

Earner's Forum Marketplace - A message board for you to advertise your themes, templates, complete websites and more. - Templates for just about everything from business sites, Power Point, and even parties. Pays an average of $10 a template. - A recently launched marketplace for WordPress themes. Not real clear on how much of the sale they keep. Does emphasize selling unique designs and not selling over and over.

SitePoint's Template Marketplace - List your templates for various systems here and connect directly with your buyers.


Toshiba Rolls Out 22-Inch 3840x2400 Monitor [Monitors]

WQUXGA_resolution_demo.jpgCan you say WQUXGA? Toshiba can. According to a translated promo page, it built the 22" "super Kousei small LCD monitor" with a resolution of 3840x2400. That's 200 dots per inch! Toshiba admits, though, that the contrast ratio is 300:1, pretty bad even if you don't believe in contrast-ratio reporting. In Japan, MSRP for this sucker is 2,079,000 Yen (about $18,000). The XP-compatible PCI card required to run it will set you back another 312,900 Yen ($2,700). Oddly enough, in our search for an image, we found this reportedly WQUXGA monitor by ADTX, selling for the mysteriously low price of 198,000 Yen ($1,700)—wonder what the contrast ratio is on that. [ Toshiba via Akihabara News; Source image from Matrox]


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why the Newspapers Still Don't Get It - re:Linking

Washington PostThis morning I was pointed to an article on the Washington Post about travel. If you want to find it, you can go to the Washington Post site and look around. I am sure you will find it eventually. Maybe, maybe not. Click here, click there, search, and perhaps you will find the article called "Web Travel Resources, Part I". Wouldn't it be easier if I just linked to it?

Yet in the article, the authors names about 20 Web sites without one link. You as the reader are forced to copy and paste and hope that the site is and not, or any other variant. Why wouldn't they want to link? This is the same issue with almost every newspaper Web site. Rarely a link within a story to the relevant sites. Bloggers are quoted everyday on the New York Times site but they won't link to the blog.

The newspaper sites still don't get how to join the conversation. It starts with something as simple as a link to the sites and blogs who provided the content. In this case, the links should be provided to the travel sites that are mentioned. To steal a word from Uncov, FAIL.

Yet, they are willing to slap a link on the word "Apple" to their stock page. Is it desperation to hold on to the visitor?

Of course many of the big bloggers seem to have adopted similar out-linking policies. More to come about that later. Check out our previous Washington Post coverage including a video review of their new social site.


Zlio Readies New Version

ZlioOnline store creator Zlio is in the beginning stages of launching their Version 3 of their application. When we interviewed founder Jeremie Berrebi he described Zlio as, " Zlio helps you start your own online shop in 5 minutes! Even if you don't have anything to sell! Zlio offers you to choose from an exhaustive catalogue of thousands of products and arrange your own ZlioShop without programming anything!"

Check out the Zlio blog for more details on the upcoming release which appears to launch "soon". They are using the strategy of sharing bits and bits before the full launch. This can have positive and negative buzz effects. If they keep it to a short duration and deliver on the dates they promise, it's positive. If they miss dates, and/or keep the game going for a long period, their shopkeepers might become frustrated.

The first piece of the upgrade is the management interface split between store promotion and store management. Here is an example of the updated version:



Miro kicks Joost's ass

Augustine says: I love Miro too and love the content from Nature, National Geographic, and TedTalks. I would be proud to contribute the    visual search interface (currently demo-ing YouTube API) and additional AJAX or UI engineering time to support this worthy project to keep Miro growing and innovating.

The Participatory Culture Foundation has published a compelling chart comparing the free, open Miro video player to Joost, a closed and proprietary system that's crippled with DRM and only carries content from those few producers lucky enough to get a deal with Joost. By contrast, Miro has done extensive outreach to indie creators, has no privacy-invading tracking of your viewing habits, delivers HD video, and is built on free software and open standards.

Using Miro is as easy as using a TiVo. Download the free software, pick the channels you want (over 2,500 of them at present, and anyone can publish new channels), and Miro will subscribe to your favorite net-shows, checking their RSS feeds for new episodes and downloading them with BitTorrent, so that the folks who make your shows don't go bankrupt on bandwidth bills. As a bonus, BitTorrent means that the more popular a show gets, the faster you'll get it -- no more sites being clobbered because too many people are using them at once. It doesn't matter what video format the shows are in, because Miro includes VLC, the open video player that can play pretty much every file-format on the net.

Miro is produced by a nonprofit, the Participatory Culture Foundation, who pay a staff of 11 (mostly hackers) to continuously improve and enhance the free/open Miro codebase. Miro is available for the Mac, Windows and Linux, with all versions being released simultaneously.

I'm proud to volunteer on the Foundation's board, and delighted to see how well we stack up against Joost, a company with more than 100 employees and a gigantic marketing budget (Miro's marketing budget is zero). Joost is a pretty nightmarish vision for the future of Internet video: a DRM-crippled, locked up future where video producers and viewers are beholden to a single company that chooses what does and does not get shown. This is the Internet, after all, not cable TV. Let's keep it that way! Link, Link to download today's new Public Release 3 of the Miro software for Mac, Windows and Linux

(Disclosure: I am proud to volunteer on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation, which produces Miro)


Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro quietly updated

Filed under:

The rumors were rampant about the pending upgrade; now the deal is done. The Apple MacBook has finally moved to the Santa Rosa architecture with a healthy GMA X3100 video bump from the lethargic GMA 950 of yore. Available now starting at $1,099 for the 13-inch, 80GB, 2GHz white model on up to $1,499 for the 160GB, 2.2GHz black variety of hard-posing laptop.

Update: The MacBook Pro can now be configured with an optional 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo for a $250 premium over the previous 2.4GHz flag-ship configuration.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Privacy Groups Mull 'Do Not Track' List for Internet

Technical Writing Geek writes with a Reuters story about a collection of privacy groups looking to set up a 'Do Not Track' list online, similar to the 'Do Not Call' list meant to dissuade telemarketing. "Computer users should be notified when their Web surfing is tracked by online advertisers and Web publishers, argue the Consumer Federation of America, the World Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among other groups in a coalition promoting the idea. Rather than burying privacy policies in fine print, companies should also disclose them more fully and provide easier ways to opt out, the groups said. The organizations submitted the proposals to the Federal Trade Commission, ahead of the consumer watchdog agency's workshop on Nov. 1-2 to study the increasing use of tracking technology to target online ads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


More Facebook Music Rumors

i think Facebook might just buy iLike, especially with Microsoft money ...  :-)

facebook-music1.jpg Is Facebook finally going to take on MySpace as a place for bands and music fans to hang out? We've heard various Facebook Music rumors before. The latest one comes from CO-ED (so you know it's got to be true!).

According to CO-ED's executive editor Stephen Gebhardt, who says he heard it from a group of marketing managers at a major music label, Facebook has been holding secret meetings with all the music labels and will announce Facebook Music next week at New York's ad:tech conference (where it is also expected to announce its social ad network).

Here are the details Gebhardt was able to gather: Facebook Music will essentially be a way for musicians (or their labels) to create their own fan pages just like on MySpace, each with a separate sub-domain within Facebook. Facebook members will be able to join any artist's network as a "fan." This will be similar to joining a group, but centered around music. Members will be able to listen to streamed songs, watch videos, add music to their own pages, find out about upcoming tours, and meet other fans. Facebook is also supposedly working on sales widgets for these pages (to be introduced at a later date) so that artists can sell downloads directly through Facebook. (Watch out iTunes).

MySpace, Apple, Google . . . who will Facebook pick a fight with next?


Ad Infuse Continues to Grow

ad infuse.JPGAd Infuse, a company that delivers personalized mobile handset advertisements, announced today that it has closed 14 new mobile advertising and marketing deals and 22 new publishing deals so far in 2007. Ad Infuse hopes to finalize several more contracts by the end of the year. The company added that inventory across its content channels will exceed 160 million impressions per month as of October, 2007.

Ad Infuse thinks that the future of mobile advertising will be more personalized than mass market oriented. By bringing together carriers, brands, content providers and consumers, Ad Infuse specifically targets consumers, so advertisements can be more cost efficient than the old impersonalized advertising method.

"Advertising on the mobile device is a new frontier," said Brian Cowley, CEO of Ad Infuse. "Companies that do it right can increase consumer loyalty, build revenues and extend "brand awareness. Ad Infuse creates a customer-centric mobile environment where people can connect to and interact with the brands that define their lives."

I'm not sure if it is fair to say that advertising on mobile phones is a new frontier. In this quick tempo technological world, if an idea has been around for more than a few months it starts to get the label of being old. This probably isn't fair but some people feel the need to criticize a good idea they didn't think of. Specifically targeting individuals or small groups of people, with specially tailored advertisements may be the future of advertising not only on mobile devices and computers, but also in other media formats. I can see a time when two different television sets in two different houses in the same neighborhood are tuned to the same show, but different advertisements are watched by each household.


Real-Time Videoconferencing for Today’s Mobile Phone

tN_KTTechlogo_jpg.jpgKT-Tech, a small start-up company, has revealed its mobile phone videoconferencing application, KTvid. KTvid allows person-to-person videoconferencing in real-time over today's mainstream cellular networks. The application doesn't require the high-bandwidth of a 3G cellular network for quality two-way video and audio connectivity so its potential can be realized today. I don't know how good the picture and sound is but you can be assured that KT-Tech thinks they are high-quality.

"Video has created enormous business opportunities on the Web, but the high cost and low quality of video on today's cell phones has hindered the adoption of mobile video consumption, real-time video reporting and mobile videoconferencing," said Rob Lerner, COO of KT-Tech Inc. "We are aiming to lower the barriers to adoption of mobile video by enabling high-quality video on today's handsets, over today's cellular networks."

KT-Tech reveals its videoconferencing application today at the 2007 CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment convention which is being held in San Francisco on October 23-25. If you are at the convention stop by Booth #112 and look at KT-Tech's product for me. Leave a message in the comments section of this MobileCrunch post and give your opinion as pertaining to the quality of the video and audio, and whatever thoughts you may have.



Google's Plans for a Social API

NewsCloud writes "After tonight's Breaking Open Facebook with Free Open Source Software, TechCrunch reports Google plans to announce an open API for social networking tomorrow. "OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks: 1) Profile Information (user data) 2) Friends Information (social graph) and 3) Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)" Says Om Malik: "OpenSocial attacks Facebook where it is the weakest (and the strongest): its quintessential closed nature...Even if you take Facebook out of the equation, the task of writing and adapting widgets for the every increasing number of social platforms was going to be turn into a colossal mess.""

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Drop that Tilt: HTC releases WM6 upgrade for AT&T 8525

from Engadget by

Filed under:

So if you don't really need that extra megapixel and auto-focus on the camera, and you're doing just fine with your Bluetooth GPS receiver, HTC has just given you one less reason to upgrade to the AT&T Tilt by finally posting an official Windows Mobile 6 update for the 8525 / Hermes. From today tomorrow through February of next year, 8525 owners can download their first non-cooked version of Redmond's latest mobile OS, giving them some much-needed conveniences like simplified tethering -- and a much-needed refresh for an operating system that's grown a little long in the tooth. So, plug in your Hermes and go nuts; just remember to backup all your info and applications, because they'll be gone daddy gone in less than five minutes.


Western Digital Ships 320GB 2.5-Inch Drives for Laptops [Storage]

WD_Scorpio_320GB.jpgIt's official: you can now buy a 320GB drive from WD for your laptop, and for just $200. The WD Scorpio SATA drive spins at 5400rpm and has a 8MB cache. The press release says it's "extraordinarily quiet while running at cool operating temperatures." I hope that doesn't mean it's extremely loud while running at super high temperatures. The important thing is, this timing coincides with the arrival of Mac's Time Machine and the Windows Home Server, two easy ways to offload your laptop's entire contents, swap out the internal drive, then restore your old image without a lot of tinkering. I know some of you like tinkering, but this is the future. [WD]


Free Documents at DocStoc [Document Sharing]

docstoc2.jpgNeed a template for your business plan, a tutorial on Python programming, or a copy of the Gettysburg address? Document sharing web site DocStoc has more than 12,000 files posted for free browsing and downloads. Registered members can keep personal "folders" on the site with links to useful docs and get notified by email when another user uploads a file type they request. Those looking for straight-up legal forms have other options, but DocStoc's wide range might make it a useful bookmark for when you just need to see an example—or you need a PowerPoint template to modify in a hurry.


A PERFECT web 2.0 service


Samsung A737 Ultra-Thin Slider Unveiled for AT&T

Samsung SGH-A737 - View Specs

AT&T today unveiled the Samsung A737, an ultra-thin sliding phone with accelerated multimedia and entertainment features. The A737 offers Video Share, AT&T Mobile Music, stereo Bluetooth 2.0 technology, a 1.3-megapixel camera with video record, external memory microSD cards up to 4GB and advanced messaging options. The sliding design allows for a larger screen, which is ideal for browsing, reviewing photos and Video Share calling.

Users can share one-way live video while participating in a voice call. Both customers must be in an area served by the company's 3G network and have a Video Share-enabled phone. Users can also send messages to friends and families any way they choose with Text Messaging, Mobile Email, AOL, Yahoo! and Windows Live Instant Messaging.

AT&T Mobile Music allows customers to use Napster and eMusic to load music on the handset. The A737 supports over-the-air music downloads through eMusic Mobile, and other services including Music ID, XM Radio, music video viewing, The Buzz music news portal and more.

Inside the A737, users will have 3G connectivity to AT&T's network in more than 170 major metropolitan areas across the U.S. Data coverage outside 3G service areas is available via AT&T's nationwide1 EDGE network. AT&T's EDGE network is available in more than 13,000 cities and towns and along some 40,000 miles of major highways.

- Samsung A737 Specs


NBC Universal Hires SinglePoint

from MobileCrunch by

singlepoint.JPGNBC Universal has hired SinglePoint, a wireless messaging service, to launch one of the biggest mobile marketing initiative ever conducted by a media company. SinglePoint will manage and execute multiple participation media campaigns such as mobile voting, sweepstakes, contests, and mobile text news alerts. By outbidding its competitors, SinglePoint has won the largest Interactive Television (iTV) contract of its kind in the mobile marketing arena.

SinglePoint will be developing and managing large-scale, cross carrier iTV messaging events for multiple properties across NBC Universal including NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, USA, NBC Sports, NBC News, iVillage and venue-related activities for Universal theme parks.

"In today's competitive TV environment, we constantly evaluate how new technologies can better engage viewers and, ultimately, build stronger relationships with them," said Jon Dakss, Vice President of Technology Product Development for NBC Universal. "SinglePoint stands apart in the increasingly critical mobile segment thanks to their ability to manage the entire participation media process - from connectivity to carrier relations to client services. Working with SinglePoint will allow us to strengthen our market leadership, as well as win and maintain the loyalty of our viewers."

"There is no question that the wireless industry has given new meaning to participation media by adding entertainment, social and economic value to some of today's most popular TV programs," said Rich Begert, President and CEO of SinglePoint. "We can not express enough how extremely pleased we are to work with NBC Universal and drive the mobile component of their leading franchises. Our tools empower customers to drive growth, connect to end-users and enhance viewing experiences. We expect this strategic partnership will set a new bar for participation media in the U.S."

For decades television viewing has been criticized as being a totally passive activity that at the very least leads to lazy thinking. I have always thought that it isn't if you watch T.V. but what you watch and how you watch it that is important. A service like the one SinglePoint is providing for NBC will make viewers feel like they are part of the show, which has the potential for generating more viewer loyalty. By actively engaging with content, viewers' minds will be more engaged and stimulated then if they watch the content without an outlet for expressing an opinion.


Sopogy, Small Scale Solar Thermal Raising Cash

sopogy.jpg Everyone from Google's "green energy czar" to Vinod Khosla to several well-funded startups are looking at solar thermal as one answer to offering massive amounts of utility-scale clean energy. But what about solar thermal on a smaller scale — even on rooftops?

Honolulu-based Sopogy thinks there is a market for lil' solar thermal and the 5-year-old company is in the process of raising a $9 million Series B round, which Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura tells us is already 80% committed.

The company has already raised $3 million from investors Energy Industry Holdings, Kolohala Holdings, and Tradewinds Capital Management, and has a $10 million commitment in revenue bonds from the state of Hawaii to build and operate a solar plant in the company's home state.

Most solar thermal technology uses mirrors to concentrate rays onto tubes of liquid that in turn can power turbines. Several startups like Ausra, Solel, and BrightSource are working on large-scale solar thermal power plants.

Sopogy, on the other hand, says it has reduced the manufacturing process of its collectors so that the technology is lower cost and easier to install than larger solar thermal systems, and delivers on a scale in the single megawatts. CNET says each individual collector produces 500 watts, but that the collectors can be strung to together for more wattage.

We're not sure how the economics will eventually play out, or if industrial and commercial sites will look to this technology for an answer to clean energy. But the startup is testing its technology at the utility Avista's Clean Energy Test Site and is working on getting a 1 megawatt solar system up and running in Hawaii. The company says that Hawaii's "highest electricity rates in the US" give its technologies "a competitive marketplace to develop and mature."


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cookie tracking: How Facebook could be worth $100 billion?

By Eric Eldon 10.29.07

facebooklogo-latest2.jpgWhen Facebook launches its "SocialAds" advertising product on November 6th, the technology will reportedly rely on cookies — unique identifiers sent to each user's computer from Facebook, and tracked by Facebook when they visit web pages.

The cookies can then be used to serve users contextually relevant ads on other sites, as those users surf across the web.

This could be how Facebook's $15 billion valuation implied by Microsoft's investment last week will start to make sense.

Lee Lorenzen, of Altura Ventures and Facebook application company Adonomics, cites sources in Microsoft and Facebook as well as other developers during a long essay on the possibility of Facebook using cookies to track users, while AllFacebook confirms the rumor.

A Facebook user, for example, who's a 26-year-old male and lists that he likes beer in his Facebook profile might get served an ad for a beer company when he goes to check his favorite team's scores on an outside sports site.

Cookies are pieces of data containing information about web pages that users look at, that are stored in the user's web browser by sites. Facebook already uses cookies to recognize existing users as they return to its site for a new session, so they don't have to login every time. The difference going forward would be that the cookies could be used by to track users beyond Facebook's site.

What we don't know is whether Facebook would control the cookie data (forcing other sites to partner with Facebook, by opening their pages to advertising wanting to access the platform) or whether Facebook would license the data away to another network willing to pay big bucks, for example a BlueLithium or Tacoda..

Krishna Subramanian of BlueLithium, an ad-targeting company recently bought by Yahoo for $300 million, tells us the addition of social data to ad networks can greatly improve the value of banner advertising.

Cookies help advertisers target ads to individual Facebook users, because these cookies reportedly could automatically identify each Facebook user as they surf the web, and then serve advertising relevant to their stated interests on Facebook.

Advertisers would be able to clearly see interests in beer and other such personal information for 50 million Facebook users, for the first time. Right now, the ad networks record actions like surfing or clicking, but lack specific data about what you're actually trying to accomplish through your actions. There aren't many places besides a Facebook profile where the average young man will write "I like to drink beer" next to their name.

Cookie-tracking technology is already in place at ad networks such as aQuantive, a company bought by Microsoft earlier this year.

CPMs, or the amount of money gained per thousand views of an advertisement, are low on social networks — as low as $0.10 per thousand impressions. The people who would benefit most: Vertical advertisers like beverage makers, Subramanian tells us. While he notes not every type of advertiser may benefit, some may be willing to pay CPM rates that are double what they are paying now.

Microsoft's strategic investment in Facebook means it not only has the chance to play with the company's rich and untapped data set, it gets to keep it away from Google.

Lorenzen has previously claimed that Facebook could be worth up to $100 billion because of its ability to drive relevant online advertising. Others scoff at his valuation.

The rumor of a highly-targeted Facebook ad network has been going at least since August ( our coverage here).


Guess Who Makes the World’s Fastest Windows Vista Laptop

apple macbook pro Can you guess which company manufactures the fastest notebook computer that runs Windows Vista ? Your choices are Sony, Lenovo, Acer, Gateway, Dell, HP, Toshiba or none of these.

According to PC World benchmarks, the fastest Windows Vista notebook they they've ever tested is the MacBook Pro from Apple.

This 17″ Apple notebook is not just the fastest Vista computer, it is also the lightest 17-inch notebook available at 6.6 pounds and just 1 inch thick. Wish there was a Tablet version of the MacBook.

Last year, Gearlog dubbed Apple MacBook Pro as the fastest Windows XP Core Duo notebook in the market. Thanks David.


Human-generated ozone will damage crops, according to MIT study

Could reduce production by more than 10 percent by 2100

Nancy Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative
October 26, 2007

A novel MIT study concludes that increasing levels of ozone due to the growing use of fossil fuels will damage global vegetation, resulting in serious costs to the world's economy.

The analysis, reported in the November issue of Energy Policy, focused on how three environmental changes (increases in temperature, carbon dioxide and ozone) associated with human activity will affect crops, pastures and forests.

The research shows that increases in temperature and in carbon dioxide may actually benefit vegetation, especially in northern temperate regions. However, those benefits may be more than offset by the detrimental effects of increases in ozone, notably on crops. Ozone is a form of oxygen that is an atmospheric pollutant at ground level.

The economic cost of the damage will be moderated by changes in land use and by agricultural trade, with some regions more able to adapt than others. But the overall economic consequences will be considerable. According to the analysis, if nothing is done, by 2100 the global value of crop production will fall by 10 to 12 percent.

"Even assuming that best-practice technology for controlling ozone is adopted worldwide, we see rapidly rising ozone concentrations in the coming decades," said John M. Reilly, associate director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. "That result is both surprising and worrisome."

While others have looked at how changes in climate and in carbon dioxide concentrations may affect vegetation, Reilly and colleagues added to that mix changes in tropospheric ozone. Moreover, they looked at the combined impact of all three environmental "stressors" at once. (Changes in ecosystems and human health and other impacts of potential concern are outside the scope of this study.)

They performed their analysis using the MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, which combines linked state-of-the-art economic, climate and agricultural computer models to project emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone precursors based on human activity and natural systems.

Expected and unexpected findings

Results for the impacts of climate change and rising carbon dioxide concentrations (assuming business as usual, with no emissions restrictions) brought few surprises. For example, the estimated carbon dioxide and temperature increases would benefit vegetation in much of the world.

The effects of ozone are decidedly different.

Without emissions restrictions, growing fuel combustion worldwide will push global average ozone up 50 percent by 2100. That increase will have a disproportionately large impact on vegetation because ozone concentrations in many locations will rise above the critical level where adverse effects are observed in plants and ecosystems.

Crops are hardest hit. Model predictions show that ozone levels tend to be highest in regions where crops are grown. In addition, crops are particularly sensitive to ozone, in part because they are fertilized. "When crops are fertilized, their stomata open up, and they suck in more air. And the more air they suck in, the more ozone damage occurs," said Reilly. "It's a little like going out and exercising really hard on a high-ozone day."

What is the net effect of the three environmental changes? Without emissions restrictions, yields from forests and pastures decline slightly or even increase because of the climate and carbon dioxide effects. But crop yields fall by nearly 40 percent worldwide.

However, those yield losses do not translate directly into economic losses. According to the economic model, the world adapts by allocating more land to crops. That adaptation, however, comes at a cost. The use of additional resources brings a global economic loss of 10-12 percent of the total value of crop production.

The regional view

Global estimates do not tell the whole story, however, as regional impacts vary significantly.

For example, northern temperate regions generally benefit from climate change because higher temperatures extend their growing season. However, the crop losses associated with high ozone concentrations will be significant. In contrast, the tropics, already warm, do not benefit from further warming, but they are not as hard hit by ozone damage because ozone-precursor emissions are lower in the tropics.

The net result: regions such as the United States, China and Europe would need to import food, and supplying those imports would be a benefit to tropical countries.

Reilly warns that the study's climate projections may be overly optimistic. The researchers are now incorporating a more realistic climate simulation into their analysis.

Reilly's colleagues are from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory. The research was supported by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

It is part of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), an Institute-wide initiative designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the challenges of the future. MITEI includes research, education, campus energy management and outreach activities, an interdisciplinary approach that covers all areas of energy supply and demand, security and environmental impact.


Eye-Fi Adds Wi-Fi to Almost Any Digital Camera

eyefiimage.jpgThe gadget: The Eye-Fi. It's an SD memory card that adds Wi-Fi to any camera. Plus the free Eye-Fi service supports automatic uploads to 20 different web photo sites (like Flickr) as well as a computer on your home network.

The verdict: It works flawlessly.

The performance: Like we said, the Eye-Fi works flawlessly. Setup takes roughly five minutes (you program the card through your computer and bundled card reader). From there, you simply snap pics in the range of your router, and chances are, by the time you go back to your computer, the pictures will be viewable. If your router dies, you turn off your camera, or even if you take out the card and put it back in, the photos will upload when you get things sorted out again. It's actually a normal 2GB memory card underneath all of the other functionality and can work as such.

The catch: We figured it must drain more battery—but apparently in-camera SD power standards dictate that this extra consumed power needs to be minimal, to the level of not being noticeable to the end user. Unfortunately, the product doesn't support hotspots.

The price: $100

The verdict Part II: Sure, the Eye-Fi is basically a cradle replacement. But snapping photos and automatically uploading them in real time to share is truly fantastic, especially when the images can be better than one's camera phone. And the entire product experience is built with simplicity. If you can get over the price and are sick of cords, we strongly recommend the purchase. Available now. [eye-fi]


A Global, Long-Term Perspective on Crop Production

The effects of climate change are turning the outlook for long-term food production into an increasingly dire one, according to an MIT study released this week and a report delivered last week by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Food.

UN expert Jean Ziegler is calling for a five-year global moratorium on converting agricultural land into biofuel crop acreage. The use of food crops for production of biofuels, notably corn, he argues, has sent food prices rocketing in a world where the majority of African countries have to import food. Obviously such a move would have a negative impact on the world biofuel market, even if the U.S. were to ignore the advice, as we likely would.

It might seem strange for an advocate for poor African countries like Ziegler to oppose biofuels, considering that many (like the UN ) are quick to point out that climate change would have a disproportionately negative impact on poor communities living in marginal ecological areas. But in many regions, as the MIT report points out, increased carbon dioxide levels would actually be good for crops and soil. Seen purely through a food production lens, a warm, CO2-heavy world might not be such a bad thing.

Still, the desire to head off climate change without starving people living on 50 cents a day is a catch-22 for defenders of our world's poorest populations, and not one that's likely to go away.

But there was bad news for crop production out of the MIT report that biofuel and food proponents can fret about together. The MIT researchers project that ozone would cut crop yields per acre by 40 percent by 2100 if nothing is done to stop its increasing concentration in the atmosphere.

While we normally think about ozone in terms of keeping it intact high in the atmosphere (ah, the hole in the ozone layer ), at ground level it's actually is a nasty pollutant that damages lungs and plants alike. A 2006 Yale study found that even low concentrations of ozone cause higher mortality rates among people.

So, what's causing increased ozone concentrations? Surprise: burning fossil fuels. Scrubbing ozone out of our lives seems like a great challenge for cleantech entrepreneurs looking for fresher fields in which to lay seed capital.


The Really Really Viral Game

Guess the 3 sites. What can we learn? Think about what is super viral yet no one publicly talks about…

Winner gets a $1 check mailed to them:)


USB to DVI Adapter Expands Screen Space Without Adding Video Cards [Adapter]

sewellusb.jpgThe idea of driving a DVI or VGA display with a USB adapter isn't new, but Sewell's latest adapter seems to be fairly cheap and useful. Their adapter costs $119 and has 128MB RAM on board, which is then powered by USB ports from your computer to drive a 1600x1200 resolution monitor at the same time as your standard monitors. Sewell claims that these USB-driven monitors have the same quality as standard DVI monitors at displays of up to 20-inches. If you're trying to power anything bigger, like a 22 or a 24-inch, you're better off getting a new video card anyway. Unless you're on a laptop, in which case you're boned. [Sewell via Sewell]


Facebook's NY Rent: $29k/Month

fb-rent-thumb.jpg First we found Facebook's secret Midtown office. Now, thanks to a helpful reader with access to a real estate database, we can tell you what Mark Zuckerberg is paying for the 5,350 square feet he's renting in the French Building: $65 per square foot, or $347,750 a year. That's $29,000 a month. Full details after jump.

Our tipster wonders why Facebook is slumming it in midtown: While the French Building has cool art deco flourishes, it's considered a "B" building by commercial real estate standards, and it's not really wired for state-of-the-art IT companies. Google's Chelsea space, by comparison, is famously situated right over a major Internet hotbed. But this doesn't seem like a mystery to us: Google's NY office is heavy on actual engineers, and there's actual technical work happening there. Facebook's NY outpost, at least for now, is a sales office with a heavy Madison Avenue orientation.

Related: Inside Facebook's Secret NYC Office, Facebook's NYC Digs: Photos! fb-rent.jpg


First Technical Review of the Samsung LED Backlit LCDs [LCDs]a

IMG_2539.JPGGary Merson backs up our review of Samsung's new LED driven LCD displays, agreeing with my impression that its the best LCD I've ever seen. Gary's tests went deeper, revealing that the TV resolves 800 lines of motion which means that these sets have better blur resistance than even most 120Hz sets, and even some plasmas.

He also disliked the set's handling of 480 content, reporting massive jaggies. But scaler aside for a moment, anyone can tell this set looks good, technical tests or not, by looking at it plain and simple. If you're considering this TV, he also drops in comparisons to plasmas and some other sets so reading his review is worth it. [HD Guru and Samsung's 81 Series on Giz]


Anti-ripoff megapost from The Consumerist

The Consumerist has posted a giant round-up of their advocacy articles called "The Ultimate Consumerist Guide To Fighting Back." It breaks down into three sections:

Section 1: "I've been wronged! What do I do next?"
Section 2: The Consumerist Corporate Executive Directory
Section 3: Success Stories

and each section contains links to excellent articles on everything from timestamping your communications with customer-service lines to "launching an executive email carpet-bomb" to the delightfully named "Underlying Principle For Forcing An Uncaring And Adversarial Company Fix Your Problem." The next time I'm ripped off, I'm starting here. Link


Anti-Stealth for College Applications

In the same way that Path 101 wants to bust open the data lockbox for the job market, showing you what others like you are doing with their careers, PeerDecision is aiming shed light on college admissions.  This is fascinating, because I don't think there's anything more competitive and cutthroat than college admissions (except maybe Upper East Side Nursery School admissions), and so I could imagine students swarming on this in a hurry. 

I wonder if the anti-stealth nature of it might cause a little fudging.  I'm sure Jack actually got a 1480 on his SAT, but how do we really know for sure?  :)

This is data I think everyone wants to see, but perhaps this is a case where public profiles aren't a good idea.  If people start comparing themselves to others, is that going to open up some really negative interactions?  I think people want to compare aggregate numbers, but I think singling out individuals might get too personal, and maybe even downright ugly. 

They also have voting, where you could vote people up or down depending on whether or not you'd make certain schools.  Again, this might bring out the worst in people.

So, I REALLY like PeerDecision, I just think people are evil... especially overambitious high school kids.

One thing I might consider is flipping the voting a little.  Have people try to gauge themselves...  vote which schools you think you have a good shot of making and then show me the aggregate data.   This way, I don't have a reason to mess up the voting, because I'd only be screwing up my own account.

Another thing they need to nail that Path 101 needs to nail as well is a reason to get people to add this data.  I could join and tell people what schools I made, but what do I get back immediately from that?  For Path 101, we can do some job skills and trend data, but PD is tackling something that's even a bigger data black hole... so I'm not sure how you could even prime the pump here.

What about maybe a way to gripe?  "What's the school that turned you down?  Tell us about it...add other schools".

It's interesting... check out their site...  It's a process I'd love to see them succeed in opening up more, but I'm not sure how to do that.


BenQ unveils the MP771 short-throw XGA projector

Filed under:

BenQ certainly loves to crank out the projectors, and the company's latest, the MP771, features a short-throw lens that's able to put up a 74-inch picture from just a meter away. The 1024 x 768-res unit puts 3000 lumens of shine behind your content with a 2000:1 contrast ratio and BenQ's UNISHAPE variable-brightness lamp tech, which varys the brightness of the lamp in sync with the DLP mirrors and color wheel, resulting in a 40% boost in brightness. Input include VGA, DVI-D with HDCP, S-video and composite, and BenQ says the wall-color correction system will put up an accurate picture on non-white walls with a minimum of fuss. No word on pricing just yet, but we should be seeing these hit in November.

[Via About Projectors]


Lightning Round: Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card [Review]

eyefiimage.jpgThe gadget: The Eye-Fi. It's an SD memory card that adds Wi-Fi to any camera. Plus the free Eye-Fi service supports automatic uploads to 20 different web photo sites (like Flickr) as well as a computer on your home network.

The verdict: It works flawlessly.

The performance: Like we said, the Eye-Fi works flawlessly. Setup takes roughly five minutes (you program the card through your computer and bundled card reader.) From there, you simply snap pics in the range of your router, and chances are, by the time you go back to your computer, the pictures will be viewable. If your router dies, you turn off your camera, or even if you take out the card and put it back in, the photos will upload when you get things sorted out again. It's actually a normal 2GB memory card underneath all of the other functionality and can work as such.

The catch: We figured iIt must drain more battery —but apparently in-camera SD power standards dictate that this extra consumed power needs to be minimal, to the level of not noticeable to the end user. Unfortunately, the product doesn't support hotspots.

The price: $100

The verdict Part II: Sure, the Eye-Fi is basically a cradle replacement. But snapping photos and automatically uploading them in real time to share is truly fantastic, especially when the images can be better than one's camera phone. And the entire product experience is built with Apple-like simplicity. If you can get over the price and are sick of cords, we strongly recommend the purchase. Available now. [eye-fi]


Meebo Opens Site to Developers

Meebo Opens Site to Developers

October 30, 2007; Page B4

Meebo Inc., a Silicon Valley start-up aiming to morph from a Web-instant-messaging company into a general-purpose media company, will open its Web site to software developers, throwing it into possible competition with the likes of Facebook Inc. and Google Inc.

You can, on Facebook, where thousands of free applications let you interact with friends in unusual ways. But while fun for users, developers are vying for eyeballs, hoping to turn a profit with ad dollars. Stacey Delo reports. (Oct. 29)

Two years ago, Meebo began offering technology that enables instant messaging through a Web site without the user downloading software from other companies. Now, in a bid to become a broader "destination" site and cash in on the online-ad market, the Mountain View, Calif., company will allow outside software developers to build programs and applications around its instant-messaging technology.

The new programs, which could expand Meebo's reach, will stress activities that can be enjoyed live online with groups of friends, like interactive speed dating and computer games. Meebo, backed by high-profile Silicon Valley investors Sequoia Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, hopes to make money by selling online ads inside the programs.

The company's transformation shows how hot the trend of social networking and Web-based "communities" has become, and how eager venture capitalists are to fund such ventures, despite questions about their profit potential. Meebo started collecting revenue only two months ago, from ads sold inside its chat rooms. The company, with its focus on live activities, "has the potential to be a fabulous business" and earn money, said Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia.

Facebook, a popular social-networking site, opened its Web platform this year. Since then, nearly 6,000 programs have been added to Facebook's site, the company says.

Meebo's initial rollout will feature services including Internet phone-calling and online video. The company is partnering with TokBox Inc., also backed by Sequoia, to provide video Web calling. It will work with Ustream.TV Inc. to offer live, streaming video. The idea is to encourage programs that stress the always-on nature of Meebo and its users, as opposed to the "static" set-up of sites like Facebook and Google's YouTube, says Seth Sternberg, Meebo's chief executive.

Instead of posting a video on YouTube, a Meebo user could stream video of an event as it is happening and simultaneously share it with a pre-selected group of instant-messaging friends, Mr. Sternberg says. He co-founded Meebo two years ago with Elaine Wherry and Sandy Jen.

This year, Meebo launched Meebo Rooms, which essentially are chat rooms. It has had success parlaying some rooms into larger media partnerships. CBS Corp., for instance, now links to the Meebo chat room about the offbeat TV show "Jericho" and has made it the main Jericho chat room on the CBS Web site.

"We want to encourage lots of different partners . . . to build really super-viral, super-engaged platforms to sit outside of," said Patrick Keane, an executive vice president and chief marketing officer for CBS Interactive. CBS provides behind-the-scenes Jericho footage and other tidbits for the Meebo chat room and has signed on as a Meebo advertiser, Mr. Keane says.

CBS says it is working with other sites, including Facebook. Facebook has added programs that offer instant-messaging to its site, which might reduce any advantage Meebo has. Meebo executives and investors say the company has established itself as a destination for instant-messaging, with more than six million unique users logging in monthly.

Write to Rebecca Buckman at


Monday, October 29, 2007

CE-Oh no he didn't! Part XLVII: NBC Universal chief says Apple "destroyed" music pricing

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker clearly did not get enough raisins in his cereal this morning, because dude was not holding anything back during that speech he gave at Syracuse's Newhouse School of Communications -- in addition to saying NBC had made only $15M in iTunes video sales despite being the number one producer of content, he flat-out said that Apple and iTunes had "destroyed the music business" in terms of pricing and that video was next unless "we take control." Of course, seeing as consumers can access Universal's entire music catalog with various subscription services for under $10 a month ($36 a year, in the case of Yahoo Music) and entire NBC shows for free on the web, but still choose to buy songs and shows straight-up on iTunes anyway, it might be fair to say that NBC Universal is still figuring out how to monetize its content effectively, but really, where's the fun in that? Round 7, fight!