20 October, 2011

CrowdStar takes a stab at a global gaming audience with Trident

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT
CrowdStar is unveiling its three-pronged business strategy — known as Project Trident — for growing its game business into a huge multi-platform empire today.
Peter Relan, chief executive of Burlingame, Calif.-based CrowdStar, said in an interview that Project Trident is a plan to take a hit franchise and leverage it across multiple platforms and multiple territories.
“We are building global multi-platform game franchises,” he said.
Relan has outlined his ambitious strategy to reach a billion gamers before. CrowdStar is creating mainstream female-oriented games for Facebook and it is also extending those games to smartphones and tablets. And it is also launching its games in various markets in Asia.
“The big transformation happening for us is we are moving from Facebook game company into a company that makes social game franchises on a global basis and on multiple platforms,” Relan said in an interview. “So far it is going very well.”
To take its games global, CrowdStar is launching eight different variants of its popular games in the fourth quarter so that its shopping and fashion-oriented “Girl” franchise games (It Girl on Facebook and Top Girl on mobile) will be available in all major territories in the world across 10 different social networks on the web, iOS, and Android, Relan said.
That’s a considerable jump in distribution, since the company was pretty much Facebook only at the start of the year. While Relan is trying to make a game that reaches a billion users, he said that goal remains sometime away.
CrowdStar will take its Girl franchise into Asia in a partnership with Korea’s online game giant NHN. In a deal with NHN Japan, CrowdStar’s It Girl will debut in the Japanese market. Sometime later, the company also hopes to launch new games in Korea and China. The company plans to introduce five versions of It Girl and Top girl across five different social networks in Asia.
For mobile games, CrowdStar’s Top Girl game has been downloaded more than 4 million times in four months. As a result, mobile game revenues are expected to be half of the company’s revenues this year. As CrowdStar takes its games to different territories, it is customizing the art, theme, characters and other details to fit the local language and culture. It Girl has 330,000 daily active users and 3.4 million monthly active users on Facebook. But the Girl franchise across all platforms has 1 million daily active users and 8 million monthly active users across Facebook, Asia, and mobile markets.
The company is still building games for Facebook and expects to launch a game this weekend. Rivals include Electronic Arts and Zynga.

Filed under: games, mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT
Popular web design and development community Forrst has just launched a new service for posting and finding jobs on the site.
The new job posting and job listings portions of the site allow employers and great web pros to find one another for full-time and freelance collaboration.
“I’ve hired three people (two full-time and one freelance) from Forrst myself,” said the site’s founder, Kyle Bragger, in an email exchange with VentureBeat earlier this week. “I believe in it that much.”
This news is especially timely; employment (or rather, unemployment) has been a hot-button issue this fall, and the web sector certainly isn’t exempt. In fact, just this morning, Facebook announced it was partnering with the Department of Labor to help unemployed Americans get back to work using the social web.
Forrst’s new job listings do exactly that, too: take a vibrant professional community (which includes more than 40,000 web developers and designers) and turn it into a marketplace for employment opportunity.
Of course, there are tons of job-finding resources out there for web work already. But Bragger says Forrst’s service is different in a few ways. Foremost, employers should know that Forrst jobs are only visible to members, and getting a Forrst account currently requires members to have active GitHub accounts or invitations to join. In other words, posting a job here isn’t your average spec work cattle call.
“We can use our reputation engine to selectively display jobs, surface better talent, etc.,” Bragger said. “In that vein, jobs are visible only to Forrst users, so we always have some data on respondents, versus [a site] where anyone can come and apply.”
Bragger says Forrst’s jobs listings will also feature “a different set of questions and fields we ask for when posting jobs… definitely more to fill out than just ‘Job Description,’ but I feel really strongly about being able to tell a compelling story with a job post and really pitch the vision.”
While any person or company can post a job listing, Bragger says, “We have an approval flow to make sure they’re quality listings that are going to be respectful of our users’ time and talents.”
But don’t get cutesy with your listing, employers; the cheeky founder said, “Also, I won’t approve anything with rockstar, ninja, guru, etc. in the post.”
Posting a new job on Forrst will cost employers $159 for a 30-day listing. Responding to classifieds is free for members.
Bragger concluded, “What we are launching is just scratching the surface of the types of things I think we can do with the community and platform we’ve got.”
Here are some sample listings already up on the site:

Filed under: dev

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:21 AM PDT
Speaking at an event in Hong Kong, Yahoo co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang told the audience that while Yahoo’s board is famously exploring all its options, it’s not necessarily up for sale.
At AsiaD, Yang said, “The intent going in is not to put ourselves for sale. The intent is to look at all the options."
This coy wording may come as a disappointment to the slew of would-be buyers already in line to snap up the struggling web company.
Aol’s Tim Armstrong has been pitching a Yahoo acquisition or merger to the company’s top investors. Microsoft has also been flirting with the idea of buying Yahoo. And earlier this month, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma overtly stated he was “very, very interested” in buying the company lock, stock and barrel.
Also on the list of Yahoo’s potential buyers is Yang himself. Just days ago, we learned that he was interested in raising some funding, buying Yahoo back and taking it private.
Right now, however, Yang and the rest of Yahoo’s board are concerned about maintaining the company’s hold in Asia (Yahoo! Japan is a SoftBank subsidiary, and the company also has a 40 percent economic interest with 35 percent voting rights in Alibaba), reaching “better and higher growth” globally, and finding a new CEO.
But in acknowledging all of Yahoo’s moving parts and its many “options,” Yang didn’t specifically nix a sale, either.
Noting that he wants the company to reach its full potential, Yang stated, "There are many ways of creating that environment. So far, we have not ruled out any possibilities."

Filed under: deals

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:12 AM PDT
android-happyInvestment firm DCM is moving forward with its $100 million A-Fund for Android startups, announcing today its first round of investments with seven promising startups.
Announced back in April, the A-Fund is the first dedicated entirely to Android, and it competes directly with Kleiner Perkins’ $200 million iFund for iOS startups. DCM points to Android’s massive growth — Google said last week it has activated a total of 190 million Android devices, with 600,000 new activations daily — as the main reason it chose to focus on the platform.
Given its global presence, DCM is eyeing startups from all over the world for the A-Fund. It’s also stage-agnostic, so the startups the A-Fund is investing in are all over the map in terms of their maturity. The fund’s investors include Japanese mobile social gaming network GREE, Japanese mobile carrier KDDI, and Chinese Internet company Tencent.
Here are the first round of A-Fund investments:
Appia: Formerly known as PocketGear, the company relaunched earlier this year as Appia and allows carriers to create mobile app stores of their own. It now processes over one million app downloads per day for its partners, including mobile operators, handset companies, and more.
Billing Revolution: A mobile payments company that offers single-click mobile payments.
PapayaMobile: The top Android mobile social gaming network in the US and China. It has over 30 million users, and developers have integrated its engine into more than 350 games.
Happy Elements: A social game maker that has taken the non-English Facebook market by storm. It has 2.5 million active daily users, the most popular game on the Kaixin001 network in China, and the second and third most popular games on Japan’s Mixi service.
Kanbox: A leading cloud storage and sharing service in China.
Loki Studios: Pioneering location and environment-aware smartphone games, Loki has launched the Pokemon-esque game Geomon.
Kakao Corp: Creators of the cross-platform mobile messaging app KakaoTalk, which has over 25 million users globally.

Filed under: deals, games, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT
okta cloudCloud security and management startup Okta has become the first company to offer integrated single sign-on and multifactor authentication for cloud applications, a move that will improve security and stability for organizations using cloud-based software.
“We’re the first company to offer this all-in-one package to give secure access to users in the cloud,” Okta CEO Todd McKinnon told VentureBeat.
Okta is of many companies in the emerging cloud software space, but Okta defines itself by solving the tricky problem of secure cloud access. Okta adds a layer of security on top of existing cloud applications, and it serves high-profile customers like Box.net, Pandora and AMAG Pharmaceuticals.
Companies who have a hard time trusting in the reliability and security of the cloud will appreciate what Okta is trying to do. Today’s announcement means organizations desiring to use the cloud can have even more secure access to both cloud and on-premise applications using Okta’s software.
Using Okta’s multifactor authentication means that if a user loses a password or uses an terrible password like “password” or “qwerty”, another layer exists to stop intruders who don’t belong.
“With this solution, organizations don’t have to rely solely on a password to authenticate users,” McKinnon said. “Organizations can ask an additional security question or use a soft token to make sure people are who they say they are.”
This development means Okta is one step ahead of much bigger competitors like Microsoft, VMware and Oracle. If you use one of those companies to secure your cloud and want multifactor authentication, you have to go to other companies to fill in that gap, rather than having the tools in a single dashboard like Okta has.
“We’re making it easier for the IT guy because he won’t have to spend as much time managing cloud access,” McKinnon said.
San Francisco-based Okta was founded in 2009 and currently has more than 40 employees. The company’s most recent funding totaled $16.5 million and was led by Greylock Partners with participation from new investor Khosla Ventures and existing investors Andreessen-Horowitz and Floodgate. The company has raised $27.5 million in total.

Filed under: cloud

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:58 AM PDT
After an avalanche of negative press and a general market downturn, Groupon is gearing up for its IPO at a valuation of less than $12 billion.
Previously, sources close to the deal said the valuation was between $15 to $20 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the $12 billion figure will be pitched to Groupon’s investors during its IPO roadshow.
Previously, we told you that the company’s roadshow, in which it would the company’s executives would travel around the country to create interest among potential investors, had been indefinitely delayed due to August’s wild market volatility.
However, the company has chosen to press forward with an initial public offering, and it seems that the roadshow could begin as early as next week.
The company filed for an IPO back in June, when we described Groupon itself as “swimming in cash.” Since then, however, Groupon amended an SEC filing (just as the stock market jitters began) to show $102.7 million losses for both the first and second quarter of 2011. Around the same time, the market downturn began to impact the IPO window in general. Many startup IPOs were delayed, and other companies raised far less than they had anticipated.
Also not in Groupon’s favor are a class-action lawsuit brought by employees and reports that the service’s daily deals might not be such a great deal after all. Small businesses, too, are weighing in, many saying that Groupon’s vouchers have a negative effect on their bottom line.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:53 AM PDT
visuallyInfographics startup Visual.ly has raised a new $2 million round of funding, the company announced today.
Visual.ly is currently building a service that will allow people to create beautiful, custom infographics using information from various databases and APIs. The service will be automated, which means users only need to specify the kind of information they want to visually display to produce an infographic. The company produced an example of what the service can do with its Twitter Visualization Project in July.
With the rising demand for timely, relevant infographics among news publications and communications organizations, Visual.ly is filling a need in the marketplace. Right now, most organizations that produce quality infographics have to hire out a designer and dedicate resources to gathering information — a process that can be both costly and time intensive.
Visual.ly’s new round of funding was led by Crosslink Capital, SoftTech and 500 Startups  with participation from Kapor Capital, Giza Ventures, Naval Ravikant, Mark Goines, Josh James and others. The startup intends to use the additional capital to grow its development team and hire additional data visualization specialists.
The startup already has several partnerships for the Alpha release of its service. Visual.ly has produced infographics for several of its media company partners, such as The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, AskMen, CNNMoney, The Economist, NASDAQ, National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal.
Over 26,000 companies signed up for Visual.ly’s beta testing. But if that isn’t enough to gauge the high level of interest from people, the company also revealed that it has created over 300,000 infographics, doubled the index of infographics hosted on its website and has more than a million monthly page views.
Check out a demo of the service embedded below.

Filed under: deals, enterprise, media, social

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT
Today in Washington, D.C., Facebook announced a partnership with the Department of Labor and other government agencies to help unemployed Americans get back to work.
The Social Jobs Partnership, as the initiative is properly called, will “help to close the gap between people and employers, said Facebook’s VP gloabl public policy Marnie Levine.
Basically, the partners in this initiative realize that people are already using social media to find jobs, and companies are using social networks to both find and screen candidates. So the government and Facebook are trying to optimize that process to put a dent in the national unemployment rate.
“It represents the Obama administration’s committment to customer service on the most important issue of our time: helping people find work,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis (pictured).
“There’s a gap we can’t seem to close,” Levine continued. “There are great people out there looking for jobs and great employers who can’t find the right talent.”
Levine noted that employers and applicants are already using social media to find each other.
The partnership has three primary parts. First, Levine announced a new Facebook page called Social Jobs, which she described as “a one stop shop for people looking for jobs. Think of this as a free online job fair.”
Second, Facebook is focusing on education. The social network will create targeted public service announcements on Facebook in the states with the highest unemployment rates and will also be distributing matierials to job seekers and employers.
Finally, Levine said Facebook would be investing in new social technology to find new ways to help alleviate unemployment and will conduct in-depth survey research about the ways in which job seekers, college career centers and recruiters are using the social web. Using this research, partners will develop new ways to get job postings delivered virally through the Facebook site at no charge.
“Our labor market is changing, and so should the tools we use to find jobs,” said Levine. “This is really just the beginning.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have noticed that a troubled economy and job creation have been at the forefront of a heated national political debate. From glitzy stages to gray streets, everyone’s talking about jobs.
And for good reason; unemployment rates in the U.S. today are higher than they’ve been since the early 1980s:

“We face a national crisis of joblessness for Americans,” said Marilyn Mackes, executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). But there’s one thing the unemployed of the 1980s didn’t have going for them that modern job-seekers do, Mackes noted: “Today’s generation of college graduates never knew a world without the connections and access offered by the web.”
“Facebook began as a vehicle to connect people to people,” said Solis, continuing to say that the network will now “connect people with jobs.”
Solis went on to announce a social media team within the Department of Labor (DOL), noting that while DOL has the tools, Facebook has the audience.
Next, the DOL will also be connecting with Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular social sites to do better outreach.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:59 AM PDT
There’s lots of good news for AT&T today, as the carrier is reporting strong earnings with some major growth in wireless business, as well as the fact that it has sold over 1 million iPhone 4S units as of last Tuesday.
Revenues totaled $31.5 billion for the third-quarter, down $103 million (.3 percent) from last year, but that slight dip was buoyed by plenty of other growth: The company finally surpassed 100 million wireless subscribers, wireless churn (or users leaving AT&T) is down, and wireless data revenues increased by $857 million, 18 percent compared to last year.
The announcement of 1 million iPhone 4S activations is just the icing on the cake — though it doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since Apple announced that it had sold 4 million units of the phone over its launch weekend. As the premiere iPhone carrier in the US,  I had figured AT&T accounted for a big chunk of those launch sales.
The company gained 2.1 million new wireless subscribers during the quarter, reaching a total of 100.7 million. AT&T points to increased sales in several segments, including smartphones, tablets, prepaid, and other connected devices, as a reason for the growth.
AT&T’s also announced that its sales of non-iPhone smartphones — including Android, Windows Phone, and others — are going strong, accounting for half of its 4.8 million smartphones sold in the quarter. Additionally, “branded computing subscribers”, which includes those with AT&T tablets, MiFi devices, tethering plans, and the like, increased by 505,000 to hit 4.5 million.
The company reported a slight drop in its wireline revenues — which includes U-Verse TV, phone, and internet services — reaching $9.3 billion for the quarter, a 2.7 drop compared to last year. AT&T blames “economic weakness in voice and legacy data products” for the fall — in other words, landline phones and slower DSL service. But it still managed to grab 504,000 more subscribers for its U-Verse home broadband, reaching a total of 4.6 million subscribers.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 09:12 PM PDT
60 Minutes tweeted today that Walter Isaacson, author of the biography of Steve Jobs, will appear on the show on Sunday night just before the book goes on sale on Monday.
The booking of Isaacson such a mainstream media show, which doesn’t often drill down on the subject of technology, shows just how deep an impact Jobs had on culture. The book is called iSteve: The Book of Jobs. Steve Croft will interview Isaacson, a former time magazine editor who wrote a biography on Ben Franklin and also spent a lot of time with Jobs.
The book was scheduled to be published in 2012 but Simon & Schuster moved the date up to Oct. 24, presumably because of Jobs’ poor health and subsequent death on Oct. 5. It isn’t clear just how much Isaacson will reveal about Jobs on the show. But Isaacson conducted dozens of interviews with Jobs and clearly this is going to be a book that just about every person in Silicon Valley, the wider tech industry, and students of history will want to read.

Filed under: media

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 09:02 PM PDT
cat watching cat on ipadWith consumers watching more and more video content over the web via tablets and smartphones, carriers and ISPs are going to need help preparing their networks for the onslaught of traffic.
Enter Qwilt, a new startup emerging from stealth mode today aiming to offload the stress of providing popular video content to consumers. The company also announced today that it has raised $24 million across two rounds of funding from Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Crescent Point Group and others.
With video now taking up 40 percent of consumer traffic on the web, carriers will have to scale their networks by ten times to keep up with the demand expected in five years — that is, unless they take advantage of Qwilt’s solution. The company offers a product that can be seamlessly integrated into network providers’ existing infrastructure, and which intelligently determines popular video content and pushes it to subscribers.
That means less stress for networks, since videos can be accessed more locally instead of constantly being downloaded from the web. And despite that change, users won’t notice any difference in how the video reaches them.
Qwilt’s network will also offer carriers a way to monetize the video that goes through their networks, similar to the services currently provided by content delivery networks like Akamai.
“The recent rise of bandwidth-usage caps shows how difficult and costly it is for carriers to deliver sophisticated video services today,” said Qwilt CEO Alan Maor in a statement today. “Their networks are simply not architected for it. Qwilt offers a win-win-win solution for carriers, content providers and, most important, users.”
Silicon Valley-based Qwilt was founded in 2010 by Maor, VP of marketing Dan Sahar, chairman Yuval Shahar, and serial entrepreneur Giora Yaron.
Image via drianita on MetaTube

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:50 PM PDT
Apple said today that more than a million people from around the world share their memories, thoughts, and feelings about Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder who died on Oct. 5. The remembrances are running in a live page that scrolls from one tribute to the next in an unending expression of grief and respect for the departed tech leader. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer at age 56.
The remembrances are messages that people send to the rememberingsteve@apple.com. The one thing those people share in common is “how they’ve been touched by his passion and creativity.” Apple unveiled the remembrance page today after the company’s own employees had a memorial service for Jobs. The page is Apple’s own unique way of remembering the passing of a leader whose life was devoted to technology.
Apple stores around the world closed for a period of time during the service. Store windows were covered with white sheets. Inside, employees watched a broadcast of the employee event at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Artists Norah Jones and Coldplay performed at the employee event.  Jobs was also remember in private ceremony on Sunday at Stanford University that included a number of Silicon Valley movers and shakers.
The messages are heartfelt and show that the world is still in mourning over the loss of one of the tech industry’s most beloved figures. Web site visitors can still send their tributes.
Here’s an example of one of the messages:
Sad day
Steve, Thank you for all that you’ve done. I remember the glee on my little face when we got our first computer; the Apple IIc. The years I spent sticking by you and your products many years later. You’ll be missed — Misha.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:19 PM PDT
Leading digital advertising company Federated Media and WordPress developer Automattic forged a strategic partnership today that allows for greater interaction between advertisers and audiences from over 24 million blogs hosted by WordPress.com.
The partnership, which was announced during the Web 2.0 Summit event in San Francisco, Calif., gives WordPress.com blog owners the ability to place advertisements on their sites. In turn, advertisers on Federated Media’s network gain the ability to target their ads by matching them with the right audiences from specific WordPress.com blogs.
Blogs hosted on WordPress.com — not to be confused with the free, open-source content management system on WordPress.org or the premium WordPress VIP service — are typically created and managed by people as a side job or hobby. The WordPress.com blogs are limited in what they can change on the site, meaning most third-party WordPress widgets and advertising solutions aren’t supported. It also means the blogs are limited in how much money they can bring in.
However, the new agreement with Federated Media has the potential to transform casual blogging into a source of revenue for bloggers using a site hosted by WordPress.com. Yet, neither company has disclosed its plans for sharing revenue, and it’s entirely possible that Automattic will use the ad partnership to boost its own revenue — especially since it offers WordPress.com accounts for free.
As for what the new ad integration itself, I imagine it will look and perform similar to the advertising on many sites hosted by WordPress VIP. For instances, VentureBeat — which uses the VIP hosting, often has a row of potentially related VentureBeat stories that appear as thumbnails below the body of a blog post. One of the thumbnails is always a sponsored post with an outbound link to another site.
The new partnership, along with Federated Media’s recent acquisition of Lijit Media, gives the companies a combined reach of nearly 247 million unique visitors in the U.S., according to Quantcast data cited by Federated Media.
Disclosure: VentureBeat is a WordPress VIP customer. Also, Federated Media powers some of the advertising on VentureBeat.

Filed under: deals, media, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:26 PM PDT

When we read or watch something online, we’re not quite the same person as we when we decide to share it.
No one knows this better than Bit.ly, the link shortener that has a front row seat on the world’s realtime data, especially content shared over social networks. Hilary Mason, bit.ly’s chief scientist, presented insights based on her research, comparing our online browsing behavior to footprints on a beach.
Exploring those footprints in aggregate reveals remarkable trends. On a given day the most popular content people share among their social networks gives a very unique perspective into human events. For example, looking at click activity inside Tunisia last spring showed the revolution in progress.
What was most fascinating, however, was that what we’re sharing and what we’re reading are radically different. Mason compared our browsing habits to the cat in the chicken hat. ”On top is what you read.” said Mason. “On the bottom is your identity.” While we’d like our reading habits to be heroic, they rarely are.

The issue has come up again and again as music sharing sites like Spotify “scrobble” our music choices, broadcasting the songs we listen to into our Facebook feed. Based on what we explicitly share, our taste in music or Web content is refined, progressive and eclectic. But when you look at what we’re actually listening to, it’s clear we’re happy to enjoy the same link bait and pop music as everyone else.
Wrapping up her short talk , Mason said that it’s important that we continue to safeguard people’s right to browse the Web privately, while letting people put on a superhero face in public.
Mason is also a co-founder of HackNY, a non-profit organization that connects talented student hackers from around the world with startups in NYC.
Image via: Cheezeburger Network

Filed under: cloud, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:18 PM PDT

Facebook has no plans to integrate with Google+, Facebook’s chief technical officer Bret Taylor said today at the Web 2.o Summit in San Francisco.
"Every service is better when it's social,"  he said. Apparently that dictum doesn’t apply, however, when it comes to services like Facebook and Google+ socializing with each other.
The sitdown with Taylor followed closely on the heels of a conversation with Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Vic Gundotra, the lead engineer on Google+.
"Are you guys and Google going to get over it, and start sharing?" asked Federated Media founder John Battelle, the host of the Web 2.0 Summit.
"Sharing, what do you mean?" replied Taylor.
Battelle wanted to know whether there could be a mutually beneficial arrangement where data flows between Facebook and Google. For example, populating one's Google+ network with Facebook contacts is one clear use case. However, based on today’s conversation, that kind of integration seems unlikely, at least for now.
Google has made several less-than-successful attempt to challenge Facebook’s social networking dominance, which means the two companies are competitors. But the reasons Taylor cited were technical rather than strategic.
"Data portability is very easy in the context of single-user services," said Taylor. However, everything Facebook and Google do happens at massive scale. Should your personal phone number or email be available to other services just because you shared it on one platform? These are among the issues that stand in the way of social data portability, he said.
While Facebook continues to poach anyone it can from Google, not many people understand the internal workings of both companies better than Taylor, who came to Facebook after his company FriendFeed was acquired in 2009. Prior to his experience as a founder, Taylor was a prolific member of the Google team, working on more the launch of more than 25 products, including Google Maps and the Google Web Toolkit.
In his role as CTO of Facebook, Taylor has largely avoided the temptation to take shots at his former employer, though the afternoon was not free from provocation.
"There's a reason why not every thought in your head comes out of your mouth," said Gundotra in reference to Facebook's frictionless sharing on the Open Graph, which was a key feature of the Facebook platform updates announced at the f8 conference in September. Central to the Google+ experience are its granular privacy controls, which are intended to be easier to manage than Facebook’s. When questioned, Taylor said that most heavy Facebook users are tweaking their privacy settings regularly, and that most college students are well aware of what they’re sharing with their dorm mates versus their family members.
But any integration of Facebook and Google+ data seems unlikely for a more basic reason. While Google+ is making impressive strides bringing social to what Google does best, such as Maps, and a broad list of products, Facebook has long seen itself as a platform, and not a destination.
When a question was asked how Facebook could avoid ending up dead on its back, Taylor answered that Mark Zuckerberg's focus has been on Facebook as a service, and not just a destination. Facebook enables many of the services Taylor says already uses to be social. As an example, Taylor said that Facebook is integrated into his Xbox, so that he can easily post pictures of a in-game car crashes to his friends.
Google+ has quite a mountain to climb before it becomes the development platform of choice to make “everything social.”

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 04:18 PM PDT
iTunes Match notificationApple has added an iTunes Match on/off switch to iOS 5′s settings screen under the music tab, which could signal that the company is planning to launch its cloud-based music service soon.
iTunes Match is a music service that gives legal access to any songs currently in your iTunes music library. For $25 a year, subscribers can download their songs from Apple’s cloud to any device running the iOS 5 mobile operating system, such as iPhones and iPads, for no additional cost. The service is scheduled to roll out before the end of October, according to Apple.
Since the service hasn’t launched yet, trying to toggle on the iTunes Match switch brings up a notification that reads: “You are not currently subscribed to iTunes Match. Use iTunes on your computer to subscribe.” Similarly, the button to subscribe to the new Match service within the iTunes store is also unavailable — displaying a “Coming Soon” message beside it.
Originally, the service was intended to launch alongside version 10.5 of the iTunes desktop application, but Apple pushed it to the next update. Presumably, the public release of iTunes 10.5.1 will enable Apple customers to sign up for the service.
iTunes Match button

Filed under: cloud, media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 03:57 PM PDT
clean technologyVenture Capital deals in the third quarter of 2011 dropped 12 percent in dollars invested compared to last quarter. Clean technology and life sciences industries were particularly hard hit, according to a report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
"Public policy challenges in the life sciences and clean technology sectors are impacting investment levels this quarter as is the IPO market that basically came to a screeching halt in August,” explained National Venture Capital Association president Mark Heesen in a statement.
The venture capital industry is often reflective of how the markets are doing, according to Heesen, though it does support company, product and job creation. Along with the drop in dollars invested, the number of deals made also decreased 14 percent to 876 completed deals, down from the 1,015 in quarter two 2011.
Clean technology fell in line with the overall venture capital economy, a 13 percent drop in dollars invested, totaling at $891 million. Last quarter the investors spent $1 billion on the industry.
But while green wasn’t great, the software industry did better — it topped all industries in dollars spent and deals completed. Software had a 23 percent increase in dollars at $2 billion, where last quarter the industry saw 1.6 billion. Software deals completed, while at the top this round, actually dropped 1 percent from last quarter, reflecting that even an industry’s success in one quarter is still subject to the whims of the market.
The full report by MoneyTree from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association outlines the venture capitalist markets overall.
[Photo courtesy of tommiphoto/Shutterstock]

Filed under: deals, green

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 03:08 PM PDT
spotify-blackberryStreaming music service Spotify has finally launched an application to bring its service to BlackBerry owners who love having access to copious amounts of music.
Spotify has seen substantial growth in its revenue and number of paid subscribers since its launch in the U.S. in July. As of October, the service has more than five million active users, with two million paying subscribers. On the mobile side, it’s not doing quite as well: It offers somewhat mediocre iOS and Android apps that sync with playlists you’ve made using the PC or Mac application.
But the company has been really far behind when it comes to providing an application to BlackBerry users, whereas streaming music competitors like Rdio and Rhapsody have offered a BB app for some time. Although Research in Motion and the BlackBerry brand look a little tired next to what Apple and Google are serving up, there are still a huge number of BlackBerry users out there that might be willing to give Spotify a spin.
Many BlackBerry users can now download a preview version of Spotify’s app direct from Spotify, with inclusion of the app to BlackBerry App World coming soon.
Unfortunately, the app is only available to select BlackBerrys at this time. The app works for users running phones on GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.) and only works on the following models: 9780 Bold, 9700 Bold, 9300 Curve, 9000 Bold, and 8520 Curve. (Hopefully Spotify will quickly add more models to this list.)
To use the application, you must have a premium subscription to Spotify, which runs $10 a month for mobile access on top of PC and Mac access.
Personally, I see Spotify as one of top streaming music services going today, along with MOG, Rdio and Rhapsody. Hopefully the company is looking to improve its mobile applications to keep pace with its competitors.
Spotify has raised about $120 million in funding so far and is valued around $1 billion. It raised a round of financing earlier this year from Russia's DST, the investment company that has previously backed Facebook, Groupon and Zynga.

Filed under: media, mobile

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 03:03 PM PDT
LinkedIn ClassmatesIn addition to its new headhunting service Talent Pipeline announced today, LinkedIn also unveiled a new way to keep track of your alumni networks.
Keeping track of alumni and friends after college is a challenge. If they’re lucky, college friends get new jobs, move to all corners of the country, get married and were it not for social networks, you’d never know they married your ex. While, that particular friend you may not want to keep in contact with, there are plenty of reason to follow up with people from your alumni network. Particularly now, they can serve as a useful job-searching tool.
Enter what LinkedIn has named “Classmates.”
“Beyond the knowledge you gained in school, your alumni network is one of the most important benefits you earned,” wrote LinkedIn director of product management Christina Allen in a blog post.
LinkedIn Classmates ProfilesThe Classmates feature allows you to see an interactive diagram of where alumni work, in what industry and where they live. You can only access alumni network data from schools that you designate on your LinkedIn profile as your own. You can also change the results by specifying a date range or graduation year. For those that do not list dates of attendance, there is a toggle called “show alumni with no graduation year listed.”
When you’ve got the results, you can see your degree of connection and you can click for a short summary of their profile.
Networking wise, you can use Classmates to find people in a specific industry and city, knowing you already have a viable connection to them. If not for networking purposes, it’s another cool way of seeing where the people with your degree are working and living.

Filed under: social

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 02:38 PM PDT

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said today that the Google+ social network is working surprisingly well and is part of a “bouquet” of services to come.
Brin (pictured in the middle) made a surprise appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit alongside senior vice president Vic Gundotra (pictured left). Brin said that he was very happy with the launch of Google+, which has hit 40 million users just weeks after its release. Since it has only penetrated roughly 4 percent of Google’s entire audience, there’s still a lot of room to grow.
Gundotra said that Brin was actively involved in the design of Google+, weighing in on Google Hangouts, which lets users hold free video conferences with up to 10 people in real-time. Brin also liked the idea of circles, which let you share things with people who are in a certain group, rather than forcing you to share with either everybody or nobody, Brin said.
“I am very enthusiastic as a user,” Brin said. “I’ve connected with old friends.”
Brin acknowledged that other Google projects haven’t worked well, and the company is still known for search.
“I completely agree that some of our products and services seemed scattered,” Brin said. “We’re cleaning up the look. We are cleaning up the sharing model across all of them. It has been a change of approach. Before it was let a thousand flowers bloom. At some point, you want to put together a coherent bouquet. You will see more and more of that.
John Battelle (pictured right), co-host of the summit, said that Facebook, with its 800 million users, has huge advantages of network effects. In plain English, it’s hard for newcomers to steal users away from where all of their friends are.
Gundotra responded, “The incumbent has a huge advantage. But we’re going to play a different game.” He said that many users are already using Google products and now Google+ will give them a reason to use these products together.
Gundotra said the service is growing at a fast clip and that over time it would catch up. For instance, he said that in the last week alone, 3.4 billion photos were shared on Google+.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out. To be human is to curate.”
Gundotra acknowledged it was embarrassing to see a Google engineer mistakenly share an internal memo with the outside world, in criticizing Google+.
“I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it was not a bad day,” he said. “We never like to see that. It gave the outside world of what we do internally. Larry and Sergey have fostered a culture of open discussion and open dissent at Google. That’s a different culture than other places I’ve worked.”
The engineer criticized Google for not getting external developers involved with Google+. Gundotra said that his company would be careful about releasing an applications programming interface for Google+.
“I’d rather do it slow, do it carefully,” he said.
Gundotra said that the circles of Google+ are particularly family friendly, and that families are using features such as Google Messenger. Gundotra said Google+ services for brands will be coming in a matter of days.
“By Christmas, you will see the Google+ strategy come together,” Gundotra said.
Brin said there are 550,000 Android handsets being activated per day. There are about 200 million devices in the market.
“It has been a phenomenal success,” he said, noting the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone is stellar.
Brin said that he spends one day a week with the top executives and then puts the remaining four days into infrastructure and advanced research projects. Those projects include things like Google’s self-driving car.
As for games, Gundotra said the company prioritized getting games on the service early. But he said they were careful about viral channels because game messages can really annoy some people.
Photo credit: Chikodi Chima/VentureBeat

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 02:17 PM PDT
The judge in the ongoing Google/Oracle lawsuit over Android and its use of Java has issued a stay. That means the trial will be delayed, and no new date has yet been set.
Sources close to the matter tell us the trial, which was previously scheduled to begin on October 31, had to be put off because of the judge’s full schedule, which includes a particularly thorny gang trial.
Also, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is still in the process of reexamining the patents and claims in question.
While many of us do not imagine the lawsuit will actually end in a trial but rather, as many corporate disputes do, in a settlement, the judge in the case had already ordered three mediation hearings. A Google spokesperson told VentureBeat today that all of those hearings have already taken place, and, as he said, “Nothing was settled.”
Google has been shown to be open to the idea of settling out of court. However, the search-focused company may actually be at some degree of fault — the operative word being “may.” And if Oracle can wrest prohibitive licensing fees out of Android sales, it might make a significant dent in the OS’s profit margins.
We asked our Google source whether the Android operating system itself was in danger of, at worst, coming to a premature close, as many consumers have worried throughout the initial findings of this lawsuit.
“Absolutely not. There’s no indication that Android is under threat,” said the Googler.
“From a consumer standpoint, consumers should not be concerned about losing their Android phone. But they should be concerned with the way in which Oracle is taking a platform they supported for years [the Java programming language] and is now trying to capitalize on our success.”
Oracle has owned and maintained the open-source Java language since its acquisition of former Java owner Sun two years ago. However, Android is also Java-based and has roundly crushed the Oracle-owned Java ME mobile OS. As you can imagine, that hasn’t gone over too well with Oracle, and the resulting lawsuit has raised massive questions about how intellectual property law comes into play when open-source software is on the line.
“We’re actively pushing back on Oracle to preserve choice in the marketplace in the long term,” said the Google rep, who repeated Google’s well-known intentions about keeping the Android operating system open-source.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 02:03 PM PDT
VentureBeat and DEMO will be heading to New York City next week, where we’ll be throwing a party on Tuesday, October 25 at the Katra Lounge (Bowery and Rivington), and we want the best of the NY tech scene to be there.
This is a great chance to meet some of the VentureBeat writers and have an opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs and other movers and shakers. Or just come by and have a drink!
And if you have a new tech product in development (ideally one that you may like to launch at the next DEMO; April 2012 in Santa Clara, Calif.), we want you to come out and pitch your idea. We’ll be inviting 10 potential DEMO companies to present at the party. So if you’re looking to spread the word about your new startup, or get some good feedback from the VentureBeat staff, fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch shortly if you make the top ten.
If you’d just like to attend, please register here. The first 25 folks through the door are getting drinks on us. There’s a First Round Capital party that night as well, and many of us will head there afterward.
Looking forward to seeing you in NYC next week!

Filed under: DEMO

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 01:56 PM PDT

Kobo today launched Vox, a new, priced-to-sell Android tablet. Or is it an e-reader? Does anyone know the difference these days?
Vox is a color, 7-inch touchscreen, Android-running gadget that features music, video and social widgets and apps. It has a web browser, an email client, and even an app store stocked with more than 15,000 free Android applications.
The product directly competes with the much-hyped Amazon Kindle Fire, a similar device set to start selling November 15. The $199 Fire is another combination tablet and e-reader with a color touchscreen, apps and web browsing. Likewise, Barnes & Noble is now touting its updated Nook Color, which has apps, email and other tablet features; the Nook Color retails for $249.
All three of these gadgets are a dang sight cheaper than the iPad 2, which starts at $499. And being much better priced for a mass market is a key component to these devices’ success as holiday shopping season (how I loathe the commercialism of that nevertheless appropriate phrase) approaches in a bad economic year.
One question we’re asking is why the device is running Gingerbread, a.k.a. Android 2.3, an operating system for smartphones, rather than Honeycomb, a.k.a. Android 3.0, the fork of the OS intended for tablets. Better yet, why isn’t it running the brand-new Ice Cream Sandwich, code name for Android 4.0, the newest version of Android that’s supposed to work on all devices. We’re waiting to hear back from the company on that and will update this post when we get more information on the subject.
Kobo is the maker of the third most popular e-reader, also called Kobo, after Amazon’s wildly popular Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Earlier this fall, Kobo launched Pulse, a new e-reader platform with some interesting social implementations. Pulse will also be featured on the Vox.
You can buy the Vox now on Kobo’s website; orders start shipping next Friday. The device will later be available in the “usual suspects” retail outlets where consumer electronics are sold, including Best Buy and Fry’s.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 01:43 PM PDT
With Lytro’s new light field camera, you’ll never have to worry about your photos being out of focus — because it’s the first camera ever to let you focus your pictures after taking them.
The company debuted its new cameras at a press event today, which will start at $399 for the 8-gigabyte version, and $499 for the 16GB version.
Lytro made some bold promises when it debuted in June, saying that it would start a “picture revolution.” The company’s technology captures the entire light field in a picture, allowing you to focus on individual elements after the fact. Lytro’s light field tech also lets you display pictures in 3D. You can get a taste of Lytro’s technology with interactive photos on its website.
As you can see, the Lytro cameras don’t look like any other high-end shooters on the market. They resemble a child’s toy more than anything else. But under their boxy exterior is the biggest shift in camera technology since digital cameras. The Lytro units feature a f/2 aperture and 8X optical zoom, while its Light Field Sensor can capture 11 million light rays. (We’re not quite sure what a “light ray” is in this context, or how big it is, but we’ll update this post as we learn more.) The cameras only have two buttons — power on and shutter — and there’s also a small 1.46-inch touchscreen display on the rear that lets you view photos and instantly change their focus.
Lytro says that the cameras also remove the typical lag with taking a picture on a normal camera, since the don’t have to calculate autofocus settings or deal with shutter lag.
The Lytro cameras are available for pre-order today on the company’s website, and they’re due to ship some time in early 2012.
Photos by VentureBeat’s Heather Kelly, except for the stock photo with a pretty girl holding a Lytro camera, which is courtesy Lytro.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 01:03 PM PDT
Google has been placing a lot of emphasis on its virtual keyboard for Android, and a lot of the recent changes have been inspired by startup SwiftKey.
“We’re doing very interesting things that have caught the attention of people all the way up to the top of Android… and Google,” said SwiftKey chief marketing officer Joe Braidwood in a call with VentureBeat this morning.
The company focuses on the artificial intelligence of text correction and prediction, and many of its hallmark features have been appropriated in recent versions of various Android virtual keyboards.
While we were anonymously tipped that Google was, in fact, looking into acquiring the startup, Braidwood demurred during our talk today.
“We haven’t done anything directly with them, which is a shame,” he said, adding that he knows the company’s work is on the Android team’s radar.
“There are people close to Google who’ve told us Google would be mad not to acquire us,” Braidwood continued.
“Google focuses on engineering, and if you look at the areas of expertise they have around natural language processing… that is, as its core, the same technology [Google founders] Sergey [Brin] and Larry [Page] were using to improve search. And that’s what we’re doing… There are symmetries between what we’re doing now and what Google’s been doing for the past 10 years.”
A Google spokesperson said, “Thanks for checking in; however, we don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”
The company started as a research project three years ago; it started hiring engineers and working on a product a year and a half ago.
Essentially, SwiftKey’s software uses powerful natural language processing tools in the background to parse the way humans use and organize words and groups of words.”That’s a very difficult problem, one that has been researched for decades in various science labs,” said Braidwood.
Modeling the way you, yourself, use language as opposed to how people in general use language means that SwiftKey takes into account not just how you text but also how your group and spell words on Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.
“On top of that, we continually model the way they use the keyboard itself,” said Braidwood. “If you loop all those things into each other, what you get is an intelligent infrastructure that can determine your next words. Where there’s ambiguity, it looks at context and offers predictions and corrections that are actually useful.”
So instead of getting predictions one word at a time, you can see what phrases you’d be most likely to type next. By comparison, Braidwood said competitor and fellow Android virtual keyboard maker Swype is "just a user interface.”
“They don’t model the way you use language, and that’s the big difference between us and Swype.”
Another big difference is that Swype’s big acquisition had already happened. The company got scooped up for $102.5 million earlier this month by communications company Nuance, according to SEC filings.
In the meantime, the SwiftKey team is flattered by the imitation they see in other virtual keyboards but is remaining focused on creating better products and features. “We’re at a stage where we’re planning vigorously for the future,” said Braidwood, who confided that he’d been in meetings all day.
“We’re releasing stuff in January and February that’s going to blow people’s minds.”
Also, at a recent Android event, a SwiftKey user beat the Guinness Book of World Records record for fastest SMS texting.
“It was a bit of fun more than anything,” Braidwood told us. “About 50 people entered; they could use any Android keyboard… Some were using a hard keyboard, some were using the Android keyboard. No one using Swype made it into the finals.”

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:48 PM PDT
wevideo-youtubeCloud video editing startup WeVideo has announced that its service will be accessible through YouTube starting today, a move that will give YouTube’s astounding amount users much better video editing tools free of charge.
WeVideo launched at DEMO Fall 2011 in mid-September and it was one of the most promising and talked-about companies of the conference. Its premise is letting users access a powerful Flash-based video editing application accessible from any browser and eventually it plans to let users access video editing tools from Android devices too.
But today’s YouTube partnership helps show what else WeVideo has been up to. YouTube users will be able to access WeVideo’s editing tools by going to YouTube.com/Create page later today. There, YouTube users can access the free version of WeVideo’s service and edit clips with effects, music, color correction, titles and animations.
WeVideo isn’t the first company we’ve seen intergrate its promising service into YouTube. Automated video editing service Magisto added its “magical” editing tool into YouTube about a month ago. Magisto makes it possible to turn otherwise boring clips into fun shorts with music, whereas WeVideo gives you a lot of control over your final product.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based WeVideo currently has 15 employees. At launch, the company was self-funded, with its co-founders CEO Jostein Svendsen and CTO Bjorn Rustberggard ponying up a total of $1.4 million. This week, the company grabbed $1.1 million from private European and U.S. investors. The company is also in talks with several large VC firms for a round of funding in the first quarter of 2012.
A short video outlining the integration of WeVideo and YouTube can be viewed below:

Filed under: cloud, media

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:40 PM PDT
Facebook ZipcarZipcar launched a Facebook application today, for the company’s “tech-savvy” customers.
“We know that our members are tech-savvy and actively engaged in social media, so providing members with the ability to reserve a Zipcar directly through Facebook is a natural next step," Scott Griffith, chief executive of Zipcar in a statement.
According to member surveys performed by Zipcar, 88 percent of Zipcar users are also Facebook users who spend roughly 15 hours a day on the social network. So why not capture the audience where it spends the most time? Not to mention the obvious opportunity to acquire new customers from Facebook’s 800 million active users.
Visitors to the Zipcar Facebook app will be able to find and reserve available cars, get direction to the car’s locations, and of course, share the reservation with friends. You will also be able to extend or cancel a reservation directly from Facebook and because it is a canvas app, there is no reason for Zipcar member to leave the Facebook website.
Facebook recently made a slew of changes to its platform allowing these apps to really flourish. These changes include updates to it’s developer-focused Open Graph, the ability to integrate different vocabulary into your “likes,” and more.
Zipcar users can also stay mobile through Zipcar’s mobile app available on both Android, iPhone and website.

Filed under: social

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:38 PM PDT
If you’re an expert on any subject, you can become famous and get paid for it. Even if you’re just writing posts on the internet. That’s the message delivered today by Joanne Bradford, chief revenue officer at web media giant Demand Media.
“Every expert deserves to be followed,” Bradford said.
The problem is that there are sometimes too many experts. Those people turn knowledge into a commodity, the price for that commodity falls in the perfect competition on the internet, and nobody makes any money. But Bradford said it is possible for writers to bring their value back.
The key is to take content expertise and combine it with the data that becomes obtainable based on all of the data collected by web sites.
Bradford mentioned Jerri Ferris, who was a successful home and gardening writer. Ferris was the author of many books on home and gardening and she wrote for a lot of magazines. But she went through a tough period as many of those magazines went out of business as the internet took and the recession its toll on them. About 18 months ago, Ferris took a job for $2.50 per story, copyediting stories for Demand Media. She did four to five articles hourly.
Then she became editor in chief of the company’s home and gardening site and now makes more than six figures. The site became hot because it gathers reams of data on what users like and where they like to read it and gave more of it to them. It then serves advertisements related to the topics at hand, and so the site makes money.
“It is a story of reinvention,” Bradford said. “What has to happen is every writer has to become an expert and get a following.”
Bradford also mentioned Cracked, a crowdsourced comedy site that takes the best ideas from 2,500 writers and then assembles them into funny things to read. The site gets 22 million page views a month. It isn’t just the work of three comedy writers in a room. It is based on analyzing a bunch of data and funny material and then putting the best stuff out there in the places where it will get noticed.
“You have to take the data and make it valuable,” Bradford said.

Filed under: media

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:36 PM PDT
Anne Wojcicki, chief executive of genetics firm 23andMe, said today that her company has been able to find a way to attack a rare form of Parkinson’s disease that her husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is susceptible to.
At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Wojcicki said that genetics information that her company has collected from volunteer subjects has yielded some useful information about diseases and our genetic predisposition for getting them. So far, in two years, the company has collected genetic data on 125,000 people. Of those, 6,000 are susceptible to Parkinson’s disease. And of those, 200 are susceptible to the rare variant known as LRRK 2 (pronounced “lurk 2″).
Of the people who are susceptible to LRRK 2, not everyone has the disease. Wojcicki said her team has tried to figure out why and if changes in lifestyle, environment, or diet could affect the outcome. While many people are spooked at the notion of finding out their genetic heritage and what could kill them, Wojcicki said it is time to overcome our fears about that, gather the data, and use it to find out how to avoid killer diseases.
“I grew up interested in this notion of nature (genetics ) vs nurture (environment),” she said.
Wojcicki said that she started the company to disrupt the existing healthcare system, that focuses on treatment, which is expensive, rather than prevention, which is much cheaper.
“It’s about how we can use our data and change how we are approaching healthcare, research and drug discovery,” Wojcicki said.
23andMe is offers consumers the ability to spit in a cup and, after the DNA analysis is done, get back a sequence of genes that amounts to a digital family history for $999, for 50 million pieces of data. For 1 million pieces of data, you pay $99. A genome is the genetic information in your DNA. An exome is the parts of DNA that are recipes for proteins. 23andMe can make those exomes — with tens of millions of bits of information — available to people. Just a year ago, this kind of data would have been 10 times more expensive. Thomas Goetz, the Wired editor who interviewed Wojcicki, said that “Moore’s Law for genetics” is moving forward. That is, cheaper and cheaper computing power it making it less costly to sequence genetic information.
Wojcicki said that her company is now collecting huge amounts of data on people with genetic predispositions for certain risks and will be able to give that data to researchers so they can come up with treatments.
One of the obstacles is that people find this spooky, because they don’t want to know what will possibly kill them. But Wojcicki says her company has created videos teaching people who genetics is not fate and that there are things you can do to deal with predispositions to prevent yourself from getting a disease.
Brin, for instance, has started drinking coffee and is doing other things to make sure that he can avoid Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, Michael J. Fox, the famous actor who has Parkinson’s, has a foundation that is studying the data and is seeing if it can be turned into a drug. Wojcicki said that her company may have found a “modifier,” or a gene that can inhibit the LRRK 2 form of Parkinson’s. Only one in 10,000 people has the predisposition and Wojcicki says her company has the largest cohort of data on it in the world.
“Until now, the consumer has never been empowered,” Wojcicki said. “We have the potential to own our data. We are all at risk for something.”

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 12:00 PM PDT
Photo of Sand Hill Road highway exit sign by Mark Coggins
NOTE: Subscribe to my newsletter and you can read these columns a whole day before they appear on our website.
In the past four weeks, “Occupy” protests have spread from Wall Street to San Francisco to nearly every major city in the U.S. and many others around the world.
I’ve been trying to figure out the movement’s relevance to Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general. Why aren’t people occupying Sand Hill Road, the home of most Valley venture capitalists? Why aren’t people blocking the entrances to Google, Oracle or Apple?
I’ll admit, I’m a bit confused by the movement and its targets — but the answer, I think, has to do with the way finance works in Silicon Valley versus Wall Street.
In broad strokes, Silicon Valley investors are focused on building huge, billion-dollar companies. While you can get to a billion dollar valuation, at least temporarily, with a really weak, unscalable idea, you can’t stay there long without creating something of real value. You certainly can’t create a billion dollars in revenue without doing something meaningful — and, by the way, employing a lot of people along the way.
Wall Street, by contrast, defines “innovation” in terms of new financial instruments: investment vehicles that are increasingly complex and hard to understand and that do little for the country besides generate record profits for the banks that invented them.
Also, the venture capital industry is a midget compared to overall financial services. In Q4 2010, VCs pumped $5.7 billion into startups. Meanwhile, the financial industry as a whole took $379 billion in profits in the same quarter.
Yes, those aren’t comparable metrics, but they do indicate the relative size of the VC industry. Despite that tiny outlay, venture-backed startups have turned into some of the biggest employers around: Google, Oracle, Apple, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard.
I spend a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs and VCs, but the topic of the protests has yet to come up. Nevertheless, I think it’s something that the tech industry will have to face.
Fortunately, it’s in a good position to do so. First, though, it needs to address a huge perception issue: that tech billionaires don’t care about the rest of the world.
protestors in front of a Wells FargoI reported on one of the Occupy protests last week, when helicopters were hovering over the downtown San Francisco area where VentureBeat’s offices are. While my story focused on the incongruity of an “Occupy San Francisco” protest happening in one of the most pro-entrepreneurial, pro-startup, pro-business parts of the country, after consideration I think that the protest’s motivation makes some sense.
If you can fault the “one percenters” for anything, it’s that they’ve done far less public good with their wealth than they ought to. The exceptions prove the point: Bill Gates may have been a rapacious capitalist, but in his post-Microsoft days he’s pledged almost his entire fortune to charitable causes. He’s not just funding opera houses and university buildings named after him, either: He’s tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, like malaria, education, health care, poverty. Mark Zuckerberg, similarly, has pledged $100 million to the Newark, N.J. school system. His company hasn’t even gone public yet and he’s far from retiring, so it’s an impressive move.
But most tech billionaires are nothing like this. Where was Steve Jobs in the philanthropic world? If he did anything with his $7 billion in wealth, we have yet to hear about it. When will we hear from Jerry Yang? What great things are Larry Page and Sergey Brin doing with their wealth?
It’s not just about sharing the wealth or pledging fortunes to charity. The problem, as it appears to the “other 99 percent,” is that there’s little sense of responsibility attached to these fortunes.
As the beneficiaries of an economy that has made them wealthy, the rich ought to help ensure that the system works for all people, not just the lucky few. That change could start right here in Silicon Valley. After all, the computer and internet revolutions had their roots in hippie populism and government-funded research projects.
It wouldn’t take much for the titans of tech to start giving back to the system that has given them so much.
And meanwhile, the Occupy movement can keep picketing the Wall Street banks.
Top image via Mark Coggins/Flickr, bottom image by Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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