21 May, 2012



GitHub finally releases its Windows app (looking at you, enterprise developers)

Posted: 21 May 2012 09:15 AM PDT

GitHub has maintained a long and profitable love affair with all things Apple, but today, the folks behind the most popular code repository site are sullying their allegiance to Cupertino with — get ready to gasp and clutch your pearls — a Windows app.

The reason for the existence of the GitHub desktop app for Windows is easy enough to explain: GitHub users are sometimes also Windows users, and they often find collaborating on code projects to be a pain in the patootie.

“We thought Git was going to get better on its own on a couple other platforms, but it wasn’t advancing … and that’s sort of a shame,” said GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath in a phone conversation with VentureBeat.

“It’s the same situation on enterprise, but even more so — they want to use GitHub, but they’re having a hard time doing so,” he said. And of course, the bootstrapped startup doesn’t want to leave any of that tasty enterprise money on the table, and the enterprise is besotted with Windows.

But, Wanstrath said, the company made the decision primarily for love, not for money. “It was definitely motivated by the trouble people were having,” he told us.

Also, as the small company grows ever larger and as its userbase becomes more diverse, Windows tools are increasingly requested both inside and outside the company. GitHub has grown from a tiny collective of hackers to a 73-person small business, and naturally, some of those 73 folks are Windows enthusiasts.

“Our philosophy is that we wanted [the desktop app] to be by Windows developers for Windows developers,” said Wanstrath. “That’s been our success so far — the things we create, we want to use ourselves.”

That philosophy is part of why it took GitHub so long to roll out its Windows app in the first place: It needed to have the right people who would want to build the app for themselves and eat their own dogfood, to use a rather revolting idiom from the startup ghetto.

“We did the Mac app first because when we first started making desktop apps … we wanted to make something we’d use at the company, and most of the company was Mac users,” said Wanstrath. “We were a lot smaller then.”

The company also wanted to make sure that a desktop app would be used and loved by the community before sinking more resources into multiple applications, he said.

So of course, if you start thinking about platforms hackers love, you start thinking about Linux. But Wanstrath wasn’t ready to commit on that score — not yet, anyhow.

“We can’t really come out on that yet with a yes or no,” he said “but if that’s something people want, if that’s a neeed they have, maybe.”

Over the next few months, expect the Windows desktop app to see the same kind of loving attention and frequent updates the Mac desktop app has had since its launch. Wanstrath promised the Windows app would be maintained as well as the Mac app “if not better.”

“We’ve been growing a pretty serious team to work on this app,” he concluded. “It’s going to be a big part of GitHub.”

Filed under: dev

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David Karp: CrunchFund now an investor in Tumblr

Posted: 21 May 2012 09:04 AM PDT


Tumblr CEO David Karp said today at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York that the Michael-Arrington-led CrunchFund has joined as an investor in his popular blogging company.

Karp was speaking with CrunchFund partner MG Siegel on stage at Disrupt. CrunchFund has also invested in Yammer, Highlight, Voxer, and a host of other startups.

Karp also said he will not rule out adding new promoted and advertised content on Tumblr, which could help build revenue streams. He said there is a precious balance that needs to be maintained between original and promoted content.

He also said he’s sad that he has moved away from coding day-to-day and transitioned to a true leading-vision-CEO role. While it’s tough for him to not get to develop in the trenches, he said he’s come to appreciate white-boarding an idea and seeing a team develop an idea. “It’s an amazing feeling,” Karp said.

Concerning Pinterest, which just raised a new round of funding, Karp said he doesn’t view it as competition and that other social media properties help Tumblr grow. “We’ve tried to promote content across networks,” Karp said. “Facebook and Twitter are now driving more traffic to us than Google.”

David Karp photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: social

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Ubisoft’s Chris Early chases Ghost Recon fans on multiple platforms (interview)

Posted: 21 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Ghost Recon is one of Ubisoft’s major video game franchises. So the French maker of console games is using the upcoming launch of Ghost Recon: Future Solder — a major cross-platform title coming May 22 — to launch a series of related social and online titles. Ghost Recon Commander, developed by Loot Drop for Ubisoft, will debut on Facebook shortly. And a free-to-play first-person shooter game, Ghost Recon Online, debuts this summer. By creating more casual, free-to-play titles, Ubisoft hopes to widen the interest in Ghost Recon and eventually convert those players into hardcore fans, said Chris Early, vice president of digital publishing at Ubisoft. Here’s a transcript of our interview with Early.

GamesBeat: How many Facebook games has Ubisoft done now?

Chris Early: More than a dozen. And I say that with the proud bruises that go along with that because most of those games were learning experiences for us. We’ve taken a route with Ubisoft of building our talents from within. We haven’t gone out and spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying a company or something along those lines. We’ve used our 26 studios around the world that we have; we’ve found out who’s interested in making these kinds of games. Some were interested at one point but aren’t anymore because they realize it takes a different mentality making a console game than it is making a game that’s a service, like a Facebook game should be.

Yet there are some studios that are doing it well — that like it. They’ve helped us move forward with that. It’s been a learning process for us, both from a development standpoint and from the operational side of things. I think our first big success you’d probably recognize is CSI Crime City, which came out a while ago now on Facebook. But really, it helped us recognize the power that our brands have, and what we can accomplish in the Facebook space.

I’m pleased to see now that a year and a half later, we’ve now begun coming out with our own game brands on Facebook as well. Earlier this month, last month, we came out with a new brand, Horse Haven, which is the first Ubisoft brand that was there. The first branded Ubisoft game. And with Ghost Recon Commander, we’ve got the first real gamer’s game coming out on Facebook.

GamesBeat: And Assassin’s Creed for Facebook: How do you look back on that?

Early: So we didn’t brand that on Facebook. We did Project Legacy, which is what you’re referring to, on Facebook, which was something of an experiment for us — to see if it would work. At the time, everyone was telling us that gamers don’t play on Facebook. Right? I didn’t believe that because I look at myself as a gamer and I look at my friends and people like that. I thought people were there, and that’s what we found out — that tons of people actually connected from Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood [the console/PC game] to Project Legacy. But it was such an experiment for us — we didn’t even brand the Facebook game with the Assassin’s Creed brand.

GamesBeat: So Ghost Recon, then: What does that represent for you guys now as far as progress or lessons?

Early: Well, it represents a tremendous amount of progress for us because it’s the validation point. We came from the Assassin’s Creed, Project Legacy, and CSI Crime City, and so forth. Moving forward, this is a big brand. Ghost Recon is one of the top five brands that Ubisoft has. It’s breaking the mold a little bit of what you can do on the Facebook platform. We didn’t with this franchise go after a match-three version of Ghost Recon or a bubble-popping version of Ghost Recon. We’ve already got that.

We actually set out, purposefully, to make a gamer’s game. And then tying that across to the other Ghost Recon games helps reinforce the main gaming side of things. We want to have a gamer who’s interested in the Ghost Recon franchise have a place to play, a screen to play on, wherever they happen to be. That’s why I’m interested in this. With this game, too, in a few months, we’ll also be coming out on mobile. And so whether you’re at your desk at work or at your desk at home or on your console or on your phone, you’ll have a place to play Ghost Recon.

GamesBeat: And so the purpose of the game, too, is sort of to stand alone and make money by itself, or is it feeding users into Future Soldier? What are the different purposes of a Facebook game?

Early: We look at it — at every game in the companion gaming strategy — as its own stand-alone game and its own stand-alone business venture. We are planning that Ghost Recon Commander is a profitable game on its own, that entertains players all on its own, and you never have to play another Ghost Recon game, and you’ll have a great experience playing Ghost Recon Commander. From a business standpoint, this game will stand up and be profitable on its own.

Now, we also, as you know, have a number of ties to the other Ghost Recon games. So I think in some cases that will encourage people to try the other games or encourage players of other games to go play Ghost Recon Commander. I know from my standpoint in the past when I’ve seen this advantage in other games. I’m a gamer. I’m going to take advantage of whatever I can; I’m going to play to get that advantage. And so I think there will be some crossover play — some cross-pollination between the different versions of Ghost Recon. I think probably that may happen even more with Ghost Recon Online, where you can earn some things — some of the symbols that you would ordinarily have to pay for in that game. You can earn them by playing Ghost Recon Commander for free. So we do hope that fans of the franchise now have a variety of places to go. The basic premise is to entertain Ghost Recon fans and be stand-alone games and stand-alone businesses.

GamesBeat: You hired Loot Drop to make this game. How do you benefit from having tapped into a studio that specializes in Facebook games? They’re not inside Ubisoft, but this is what they do. They make Facebook games.

Early: I’ll take a step back from your question and look at what we do overall for our Facebook games. About half of the games we make are made internally and about half of them are made with external partners. What that really brings us is the ability to develop the talents internally — from a development standpoint and certainly from an operational standpoint — and still get the freshest amount of influx that we can from people who are experts in the field. In the case of Loot Drop, I think we’re very fortunate because we have a company that has solid social gaming skills and has a deep background in hardcore games. For us, they were the perfect match.

GamesBeat: So the other internal teams: Are they coming out of Facebook studios, too, or are they actually part of the hardcore console studios?

Early: The locations of our Facebook studios are in the same places as our other studios around the world. We have some in China, we have some in Canada, we have some in India. And the people that are in those studios that are focused on the Facebook games — I would say maybe two-thirds come from within Ubisoft and other game development efforts and about a third come from the outside and the social gaming worlds.

GamesBeat: How is it coordinated so that they all finish at the same time?

Early: I don’t want them to finish all at the same time. If I look at what’s ideal for us, we want to look at the players we’re entertaining. I don’t really want to bombard you as that player with that opportunity with the next one before you’re done with the first one. Just take what we’ve launched: CSI Crime City and House. Those are both procedural drama games. In my opinion, we waited too long between those two games to launch them. Because you could have played through CSI and been interested in that overall game loop of “hey, there’s a mystery, investigate it, and solve the case,” which is essentially the same thing that you’re doing in House: “Hey, here’s an illness, let’s investigate it, and solve the case.” If that’s the style of television show you like or a Facebook game you like to play, it would have been good for us to have them closer together. I also wouldn’t have wanted to launch them at the same time because now I’m competing with myself even for somebody who likes those types of games.

GamesBeat: So this is 10 levels? That sounds like a short game. I mean, you can do things like go to 50 levels or more in Farmville, right? How much time do you think there is in the game? For how long do you think people can play it?

Early: I’m not sure what their estimate as far as hours is, but I don’t view this as a short game at all for a couple of reasons. To begin with, there are 10 levels, but there are multiple levels of accomplishment within each of those levels. You can essentially — after you solve them on the rookie level, you go back over and over again to improve your performance in each level, and you get more rewards, which allows you to build up your base camp better. So you’re going to want to, in some cases, even possibly before you finish the tenth episode, go back and play some of the earlier episodes a couple of times if you want to improve your Ghosts and your base camp. Of course you don’t have to do that — you can also use microtransactions to get there — but you may want to do that from a play standpoint. And then there are other elements and scenarios in the game that are coming as well that extend throughout this play region, which are more missions that are coming. They are under development.

GamesBeat: What are some things that you wouldn’t do in a Facebook game that you could do in the console version? As far as cooperative styles of play go.

Early: This is an asynchronous game, and as such, our multiplayer, if you want to think of it that way, is asynchronous. The mechanisms that Loot Drop used here actually make me care more about what my friend has done than just adding them to my friends bar as a place to go gather some energy because I’m building a team that’s going to help me go succeed. If you happen to be that great assault player and I’m taking on a hard mission, then I’m going to want to hire you to be part of my team. And I’m going to care more that you continue to play — that you continue to upgrade your base. And I might actually not hire you for some time when I need to go on more of a stealth mission because of the character that you’ve built up. In that way, we’re introducing the value of your friends but from less of a synchronous standpoint. I think that we’ve taken care to also not have this be a mature title because of the broader reach of the Facebook platform overall whereas what we have on the console is definitely not the same as what we have on Facebook.

GamesBeat: I guess it would make sense to do mobile versions, too, but you guys aren’t going there yet?

Early: We are. We’re launching the Facebook version first and then Loot Drop is also making a mobile client for the game. That mobile client will use the same backend, so you can carry your progression from when you happen to be at your screen at your desk, and then when you go on your phone, your character will be in the same place and you can continue on with the same missions, same progression, same statistics.

GamesBeat: And what are you buying if you’re buying something in the game?

Early: You’re buying skulls, which is the premium currency. You can earn some of them throughout the course of the game, and then you can purchase more of them. The purchasing allows you to go ahead and buy more of the base attributes, or health, or let you continue to play for a longer period of time.

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

Filed under: games

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EU giving Google one last chance to settle antitrust search case

Posted: 21 May 2012 08:50 AM PDT

European Union

European Union’s antitrust chief has given Google a final chance to settle matter related to anti competitiveness with its main search engine, according to a Reuters report.

The EU first opened up an investigation about the matter in November 2010 after rival companies like Microsoft accused Google of abusing its dominant position in the search market to boost up its own advertising services. If Google is found guilty, it could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its global financial turnover.

EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said both regulators and Google are eager to reach a settlement, thus avoiding lengthy proceedings that risk becoming obsolete due to the rapid growth of technology, according to the report.

“I believe that these fast-moving markets would particularly benefit from a quick resolution of the competition issues identified. Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always better than lengthy proceedings,” Almunia said. “Google has repeatedly expressed to me its willingness to discuss any concerns that the Commission might have without having to engage in adversarial proceedings, this is why today I’m giving Google an opportunity to offer remedies to address concerns that we have identified.”

In a letter to Google, Almunia is said to have given the search giant a matter of weeks to come up with a first proposal that would satisfy all the EU’s issues regarding anti competitiveness.

EU flags photo via jorisvo/ShutterStock

Filed under: search, VentureBeat

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Fred Wilson: We invested in DuckDuckGo for the Reddit, Hacker News anarchists

Posted: 21 May 2012 08:08 AM PDT


Fred Wilson, managing partner at Union Square Ventures, shed some light today on why his VC firm invested in search engine startup DuckDuckGo, even as it pales next to Google and Bing.

DuckDuckGo has seen incredible growth in the past few months, and it doubled traffic from 500,000 searches a day in December 2011 to 1 million searches a day by mid-February. Union Square Ventures is one of the few investors in the search engine.

“We didn’t invest in it because we thought it would beat Google,” Wilson said today at TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York. “We invested in it because there is a need for a private search engine. We did it for the Internet anarchists, people that hang out on Reddit and Hacker News.”

Recent Experian Hitwise numbers suggest Google has about 64.4 percent of the search share, with Bing at about 30 percent. That means other search engines fight for about 6.6 percent of the remaining share. Wilson said DuckDuckGo could become a top 5 player in the search engine category because of its steep emphasis on privacy.

Fred Wilson photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Are You a Human replaces annoying CAPTCHAs with games

Posted: 21 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Websites need to verify that a visitor is a real person and not an automated bot. But the CAPTCHA test that they came up with — where you have to type in the word that you see in a blurry distorted font image — is extremely annoying and often leads to multiple failures.

So a Detroit-based startup, Are You a Human, is replacing the CAPTCHA with simple minigames instead. It is releasing its human authentication tool, PlayThru, to help companies fight spammers and bots that have begun to circumvent CAPTCHAs. Companies using it include Quicken Loans and Fat Head, and users have played nearly 2 million games to date.

The term CAPTCHA was coined in 2000 by Carnegie Mellon University researchers who based it on the word “capture” and used it to as an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. The security tests have been used on sites that require users to sign up for an account, buy tickets, participate in online polls, or post comments. But since that time, hackers have figured out how to bypass the security test by re-using the session identification of a known test image.

On top of that, CAPTCHAs are frustrating to users who can’t discern the distorted text. About 20 percent of the users will leave a site rather than complete a CAPTCHA, according to the company’s research.

With Are You a Human’s tool, companies can embed a simple game instead. For instance, one minigame requires users to look at a set of five images and pick up the two tools and put them in a tool box. Or the user can drag and drop toppings onto a pizza. Since the games are dynamic and always changing, they are hard for computers to solve but easy for people to complete. PlayThru can improve security and entertain users at the same time, and it works easily on touchscreen smartphones. The company’s own survey of 1,000 users showed that they preferred PlayThru four-to-one over traditional text-based CAPTCHAs. Sites using it have seen their submission rates go up by 40 percent.

"Text-based CAPTCHAs are difficult to decipher and easy to break, which forces them to become increasingly more difficult to solve,” said Reid Tatoris, chief operating officer of Are You a Human. “This vicious cycle makes it frustrating for users, who many times will give up before following through to a site. PlayThru combines intuitive puzzles with proprietary algorithms to distinguish human interaction from malicious automated attacks, giving content providers confidence they are dealing with real humans and giving end users a much more pleasant experience."

On a technical level, PlayThru integrates with multiple CMS platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, PHPBB, and vBulletin as well as libraries for all popular code formats. Tatoris said in an interview with GamesBeat that the idea came along when his co-founder Tyler Paxton, chief executive, was trying to get Hannah Montana concert tickets. Every time he snagged a seat, it was taken because he took too long to fill out the CAPTCHA.

“We stumbled on the idea of games and talked about the problem from a security view,” Tatoris said. “Natural patterns are hard for computers to pick up.”

They did a prototype in September 2010 and began working on it full-time in April 2011. They got seed money last year from Detroit Venture Partners and began testing at the end of November. The company has seven people.

Now they have more than 200 sites using it and are running 300,000 to 400,000 plays per month. On average, it takes 10 seconds to 12 seconds to play a game while the average CAPTCHA takes 12 seconds. Tatoris said the company plans to raise money in the next few months. They will incorporate branded games at some point in order to make money.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Threatened by wireless carriers, Time Warner, Comcast, Cox team up for CableWifi

Posted: 21 May 2012 07:55 AM PDT

Digital life of moms Facebook Pinterest

It’s rarely a good thing when the country’s biggest cable providers partner up, but subscribers might be okay with today’s news.

Customers of Bright House, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner will soon be able to connect to each other’s Wi-Fi networks. The combined network, named “CableWifi” will vastly expand each company’s hotspot offerings under a larger, cross-compatible umbrella.

Connecting to CableWiFi will work via a single set of credentials that can be used across all of the partnership’s 50,000 hotspots in New York City, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, and Philadelphia.

The offer, however, isn’t entirely new. Independently, cable companies have been offering similar deals for their customers for some time. And they’re not new to working together, either: The current partnership is an expansion of a previous one between Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner that appeared in 2010.

Instead, the news here is that the five companies, all of which have very significant user bases, are working to counter a greater threat: Wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T which threaten to steal away all of the cable companies’ customers’ mobile Internet time.

To counter that, companies like Time Warner have had to make their mobile Wi-Fi offerings more compelling — making their wireless networks as large as possible is one of the best ways to do that.

But the companies still have a while to go. While 50,000 hot spots is significant, the cable companies’ offerings pale in comparison to those of metro Wi-Fi providers like Boingo, which offers over 500,000 W-iFi hotspots.

Via CNet; Image via Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Facebook shares fall to $33 on second day of trading

Posted: 21 May 2012 07:26 AM PDT

Zuckerberg rings the opening bell on the first day of Facebook trading on the NASDAQ

Facebook’s shares tumbled this morning to a low of $33.01, well below the company’s initial price of $38 on Friday.

Pre-market trading of Facebook’s stock was already below $38, reports USA Today, but it quickly sank to $33 within the first hour of trading. At the time of this post, the stock was hovering around $33.86 with a market cap of $91.54 billion (down from its initial $104 billion valuation last week).

The company’s stock began trading at $42 last Friday, but didn’t explode like many were expecting (Nasdaq’s errors didn’t help), which led to a surprising ricochet effect with other big tech stocks. By the end of the day, the company’s stock sat at $38.23. Facebook was both criticized and praised for the stock’s performance — one camp saw the lack of a pop as a weakness, while others argued that the stock was priced perfectly.

However you frame it, there’s no doubt that Facebook’s stock will be annoyingly scrutinized for some time to come.

Images: Top via Facebook, below via Google Analytics

facebook stock day 2

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Hulu teams up with Kevin Smith on new original show for the summer

Posted: 21 May 2012 07:05 AM PDT

Hulu Kevin Smith

The summer season is usually when the lesser-known cable channels decide to debut their own original programing, and this year Hulu is jumping into that game — with three original shows and seven exclusives.

Probably the most recognizable of the bunch is a new show by cult film maker Kevin Smith called Spoilers, which kicks off June 4. Essentially, the show will be a mix of group chats featuring Smith and his entourage talking about film as well as some animated shorts. And despite the likely low-budget cost of doing the show, it looks like Hulu has only ordered a 10-episode trial run of the series.

The other two series — unscripted travel show Up to Speed from acclaimed director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Slackers) and self-described “bro-mantic” basketball comedy We Got Next from Kenya Barris and Danny Leiner — won’t debut until August, according to Hulu. (List and descriptions of Hulu’s original shows included below.)

Smith’s show brings Hulu's original programming lineup to eight total, with another five said to be announced before the end of the year.

With increased competition coming from both Netflix and Amazon on the original programing front, Hulu wants to be more than just a destination that airs popular content from the big broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, Fox, CW, and the cable giant Viacom). Chief executive Jason Kilar has previously stated that the company will spend about $500 million on content for 2012, and a portion of that will go toward these new original shows.

Here are Hulu’s seven exclusive shows, which will kick off June 3:

Rev – Rev. is a contemporary sitcom about the enormous daily frustrations and moral conflicts of an inner-city vicar. Cast includes Tom Hollander ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), Olivia Colman, Steve Evets, Miles Jupp, Lucy Liemann, Simon McBurney and Ellen Thomas. Originally broadcast on BBC Two in the U.K. The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on June 3rd from BBC Worldwide Americas Digital Distribution. Six (6) episodes in season one; seven (7) episodes in season two.

The Yard – A mockumentary miniseries that originally aired on HBO Canada, "The Yard" offers a bizarre juxtaposition of two rival cliques of elementary school children, where tension develops much like the quintessential crime-family thriller. The show has comically been referred to by Canadian television critics as "'The Wire' and 'The Sopranos' with kids." Premieres: June 7, 2012, entire series available July 12.

Derren Brown: Inside Your Mind – Derren Brown is a performer like none other in the world. He uses psychology, magic, showmanship and suggestion to achieve things that for anyone else would be impossible. In the U.K., he is multi-award winning performer and has done a variety of huge and baffling stunts including predicting the national lottery and playing Russian roulette on live TV. New episodes premiere every Saturday beginning on July 7; Entire series available on July 28

The Booth at the End (Season Two) – Xander Berkeley, best known for his roles as "George Mason" in FOX's "24" and "Percy" in The CW's “Nikita,” stars as an enigmatic man occupying the corner booth of a diner. He possesses the power to grant desires, contingent upon recipients performing mysterious tasks. This half-hour psychological thriller begs the question: "How far would you go to get what you want?" Directed by Adam Arkin ("Justified," "Grey's Anatomy"), season two premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus in July. Five (5) episodes.

Pramface – Jamie and Laura are two young, free and single teenagers who, after hooking up at a party, soon find they have a very big complication on their hands. Laura is pregnant. So even though they barely know each other, they now have one thing in common – and it's getting bigger. "Pramface" brings humor and heart to a tricky subject, following these two unexpected parents-to-be as they try, and frequently fail, to negotiate family, sex and what happens once nine months is up… The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on July 19th from BBC Worldwide Americas Digital Distribution. Six (6) episodes. New episodes premiere every Thursday beginning on July 19; Entire series available on August 23

The Promise – The serial drama examines the origins of the Middle East conflict in events that took place under British rule sixty years ago. The bold and honest series cuts between the life of Erin, an 18-year old Londoner in present day Israel and Gaza, and that of her military grandfather who was part of the British peace-keeping force in Palestine at the end of the second World War. The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on August 11th. Four (4) episodes.

Little Mosque – Little Mosque is a light-hearted and comedic fish-out-of-water tale about a small Muslim community that rents the parish hall of a small town church to use as a mosque. It will premiere on Hulu and Hulu Plus this summer. 91 episodes.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Google Chrome is now the world’s top web browser, says StatCounter

Posted: 21 May 2012 06:38 AM PDT

Google Chrome isn’t just for uber geeks anymore. Google’s minimalist web browser is now the most popular web browser in the world, according to the latest figures from StatCounter.

For the week of May 14th to May 20th, Chrome edged out Internet Explorer — which has been losing market share precipitously — for the first time ever. StatCounter’s data shows that Mozilla Firefox has been slowly dipping in popularity, and that Chrome surpassed it in market share in early November last year (though Firefox usage shot up a bit in recent weeks).

The news isn’t too surprising, since Google has done a remarkable job of quickly improving Chrome and adding features that tie easily tie into your Google account. Last week, the company added a useful tab synchronization feature to the latest version of Chrome, which likely helped drive new downloads.

Looking at the browser market by region, it’s clear that South America gave Chrome a big push in worldwide numbers. Chrome’s popularity skyrocketed in South America over the last year, almost doubling to 52 percent. It’s unclear what exactly is driving Chrome’s numbers in the region, though I assume the popularity of Google’s Orkut social network in Brazil has something to do with it.

In North America, Internet Explorer is still slightly more popular than Chrome, though Microsoft’s browser has been steadily dropping in popularity over the last year. That generally seems to be the story of most regions — even though Internet Explorer 9 was a surprisingly intriguing release, it wasn’t enough to fight against the rising tide of Chrome hype.

Via The Verge; Photo via Van_PC/Flickr

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Mixin lets users insert comments into video and share with friends (exclusive)

Posted: 21 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Mixin, a social video startup, is coming out of stealth mode today with a personal video sharing technology and more than 200,000 users.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company allows users to mix their personal comments into online videos and then share the customized results with their friends on their social graph, such as Facebook users. The company has gathered users quietly for more than a month and is publicly unveiling its partnership offering for other web sites today.

The technology was developed in Jerusalem, Israel. It allows people to start customizing and sharing videos within minutes on either a partner site or on mixin.com. You can add comments or a number of icons. The sharing is compatible with Facebook’s privacy settings so that users’ comments are only seen by their intended audience.

The first users of the technology include AnyClip and Viumbe. They will integrate the technology into their own video players. AnyClip allows users to access clips from over 12,000 feature films from studios including Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Vivendi Entertainment, First Look and Virgil Films. Viumbe provides 35 million video streams to 20 million users a month via properties such as eBaum’s World, Celebremix, and Your Daily Media.

"Most online video is all about searching and algorithms with some minor social features tacked on,” said Jon Goldman, chief executive of Mixin. “Mixin's technology starts with social interaction as the foundation so that videos serve as a way to connect friends and increase sharing. The customization, commenting and posting to Facebook allows users to add their personal stamp and humor to the videos they love.”

He added, “Now we are able to add this functionality to partners which means any content owner looking to add to video engagement and sharing can use our 'next generation' commenting as a solution."

Mixin users can choose to watch only videos created by their friends or select from the broader Mixin community.

"Once a user sees how much more fun Mixin can make something like Gotye's 'Somebody that I Used to Know' music video, they are hooked," says Goldman.  "With our white label offering, old school scrolling-style commenting is on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

Mixin is part of Qlipso, which has funding from Jerusalem Venture Partners. Qlipso was founded in 2009 to create social videos, and Mixin was established four months ago. The division has 14 employees. Goldman is the former chairman and chief executive of video game publisher Foundation 9 Entertainment. Rivals include Chill, Frequency, Socialcam, and Viddy. Goldman said that Mixin tries to be more consumer-friendly with easier authoring capability.


Filed under: social, VentureBeat, video

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Game of Thrones Ascent aims to please fans with a Facebook game (exclusive)

Posted: 21 May 2012 05:30 AM PDT

Game startup Disruptor Beam has announced today the first Facebook game based on the award-winning novels by George R.R. Martin and the award-winning television show on HBO. Titled Game of Thrones Ascent, it is slated for an unspecified “future release” on Facebook. The developer plans to impress fans of the show and books alike with an authenticity and close-hewn relationship to the story-lines and characters of the popular series.

In Game of Thrones Ascent, players will lead the life of a noble during the time of upheaval as portrayed in the books and the series. Set in Westeros against a background of political and sexual intrigue, players will choose their allegiance to a great house, secure their holdings, develop their lands and reputation, and assign adventurers to quests while forging alliances with Facebook friends.

There will be an open beta for Game of Thrones Ascent, details of which can be found at Disruptor Beam's website or their Facebook page.

"Everyone at Disruptor Beam was a huge fan of Game of Thrones long before we began working on the game, so we recognize that other fans expect character-driven conflict and intrigue to take center stage in our new game,” said CEO of Disruptor Beam, Jon Radoff, in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat. He promised this won’t be just another media tie-in experience.

Disruptor Beam is a Boston-based game company backed by a group of technology and gaming entrepreneurs from the Boston area. HBO is a premier-content cable entertainment company that produces and airs Game Of Thrones, a television show based on fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. Radoff was the former chief executive and founder of gamer social network GamerDNA.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

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Not magic, motion control: The Leap controls your computer with a flick of a finger

Posted: 21 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Anyone who has wanted to point their finger at their computer to make something happen will appreciate the Leap, a new motion control peripheral from startup Leap Motion. The small aluminum device uses finger waves and hand gestures to interact with operating systems and computer programs.

Thanks to Microsoft’s Kinect, motion control has gained more popularity and better precision in recent years. While the creators of the Leap, David Holz and Michael Buckwald, admired the Kinect’s motion sensing abilities, they knew they could create a much more precise device in a tinier package.

Holz and Buckwald’s goal was to create a device that takes the place of a mouse. Instead of being hunched over in front of a computer using a mouse and keyboard, people could use the Leap to browse through their computer with a finger, Holz told me.

Slightly larger than a USB drive, the Leap is accurate to 1/100 of a millimeter according to the company. This means it is responsive to small finger movements, even if your finger only moves a few millimeters.

The Leap motion control

The Leap device

The Leap creates a four cubic feet interactive space around it, where it can detect finger, hand, and arm movements. Depending on the program connected to the Leap, you can create drawings, zoom in and out of maps in Google Earth, play touch-based games, or interact with 3-D models with the device and you fingers.

At Leap Motion headquarters, I got a demo of the technology and spent some time playing the mobile game Fruit Ninja with the Leap. The precision and fluid motion of the Leap’s technology was impressive. Playing Fruit Ninja with the Leap was faster than on my smartphone, which suffers from friction between the screen and my fingers.

Leap Motion’s technology is an extension of what we’ve seen from the Kinect and webcam-based motion control systems. Flutter, for example, developed a program that uses your webcam to control music and video playback. The Kinect senses your hand movements when browsing through the Xbox’s interface and people have hacked the device for other motion sensing projects.

The Leap has the benefit of working with computer programs and operating systems, giving it access to a vast number of programs. Anything a mouse can do, the Leap can do, said Holz and Buckwald.

Beyond the novelty of flicking your finger to scroll through a webpage, the Leap can benefit people who are unable to use a mouse because of physical limitations. It’s also useful for presentations, as I saw during the demo — you can make drawings on a presentation or flip through PowerPoint slides with the flick of a hand.

Leap Motion is accepting pre-orders for the Leap starting Monday. It will retail for $69.99 and will begin shipping in winter 2012. Software developer kits are also available so developers can create Leap-based programs.

Leap Motion was founded in 2010 in San Francisco. The company has raised $14.55 million from Highland Capital Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, and other angel investors to develop its motion sensing technology.

Magical hands image via Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Yahoo agrees to sell back half of Alibaba stake in $7B deal

Posted: 20 May 2012 06:24 PM PDT


Yahoo and Alibaba have finally hashed out terms that will see Yahoo sell back half of its stake in the Chinese e-commerce site in a $7 billion deal, according to an AllThingsD report.

Yahoo will sell half of its 40 percent stake, and with Alibaba valued at $35 billion, the value of Yahoo’s holdings are worth around $7 billion. The taxable Yahoo-Alibaba deal has reportedly been cleared by Yahoo’s board. After taxes and fees, Yahoo should end up clearing about $4 billion.

Both Yahoo and Alibaba have been bickering over the terms of their relationship for years, so it only makes sense for Yahoo to finally give up a portion of its stake in the company. And Yahoo seriously needs cash to help it come up with new direction and new products, especially in light of the company losing CEO Scott Thompson recently in an embarrassing resume-padding scandal.

Photo credit: Flickr/Yahoo

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Gaming art for your Facebook Timeline (Part 1: The Modern Era)

Posted: 20 May 2012 05:00 PM PDT

Facebook timeline covers

Facebook’s Timeline lets you place an image at the top of your profile. Sure, you could add a crummy, awkwardly cropped family photo — or you can use a kick-ass cover from your favorite video game.

We’re releasing seven days’ worth of artwork, each with a different theme, that you can use to decorate your Facebook profile:

  • Sunday: The Modern Era (today)
  • Monday: Modern/Retro
  • Tuesday: The Indies
  • Wednesday: 8/16-bit
  • Thursday: Social & Mobile
  • Friday: Arcade
  • Saturday: Future Games

Today’s batch of covers features 10 titles from the current generation of games. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures, then right-click (or ctrl-click for Macs) them and hit “save image as” to save to your computer.

Timeline cover thumb Asura's Wrath
Asura’s Wrath

Timeline cover thumb Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3

Timeline cover thumb Rayman Origins
Rayman Origins

Timeline cover thumb Killzone 3
Killzone 3

Timeline cover thumb Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2

Timeline cover thumb Halo Reach
Halo: Reach

Timeline cover thumb Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption

Timeline cover thumb Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII

Timeline cover thumb Mirror's Edge
Mirror’s Edge

Timeline cover thumb inFAMOUS

Check back tomorrow for more Timeline covers.

Filed under: games

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Nasdaq admits screwing up early Facebook IPO trading

Posted: 20 May 2012 03:57 PM PDT


Nasdaq chief exec Robert Greifeld admitted Sunday that the exchange was at fault for some glitches in early trading of Facebook’s IPO but said it had nothing to do with the stock’s uninspired performance.

Social networking service Facebook went public Friday with the largest tech IPO in history. Facebook expected trading to begin at 11 a.m. ET, but it did not begin until about 11:30 a.m. The stock did not “pop” in early trading and ended up disappointing many analysts and social media enthusiasts by closing 9.5 percent down from its $42 opening price and just barely above its $38 original IPO price.

Greifeld told a handful of reporters Sunday that the Nasdaq’s systems got backed up because there were quite a few order cancellations that came in late in the IPO process. In turn, the entire system was backed up and did not let some traders know their orders went through until after 2:30 p.m., according to the New York Times.

The New York Times reports Greifeld said the exchange was "humbly embarrassed" about the delay in confirmations, but that it was not responsible for losses incurred by trading. Charlie Gasparino at Fox Business says angry traders are demanding that Nasdaq repay them for “$100 million or possibly more.”

At the least, the SEC plans to look into the Nasdaq trading debacle.

Read more about Facebook:

Filed under: social

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Microsoft silently launches So.cl, its attempt at a social networking site

Posted: 20 May 2012 11:26 AM PDT


Microsoft has officially launched an “experimental” social networking site called So.cl, which combines facets of social networking, search, and media sharing with a user interface resembling Google+.

When we last heard about it, So.cl (pronounced “Social”) was being billed as an "experimental research project" and was only available to students studying information and design at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University. While the project is still billed as experimental, it’s now open to anyone who wants to give it a shot.

To get access to So.cl, you sign up using your Facebook or Windows Live ID. When you sign in for the first time, the site describes the experience as such:

So.cl is an experiment in open search. That means your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and will also be available to third parties.

So.cl does not automatically post your searches, comments, or likes to your Facebook stream unless you choose this option. Also, we don't contact your Facebook friends unless you invite them.

After logging in you’ll notice the layout closely resembles Google+’s layout, but it also takes ideas from Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can follow other So.cl users or follow interests like food, art, or movies. There’s also a “bookmarklet” feature that adds a “Share on So.cl” button to your bookmark bar so you can share content anywhere around the web with other So.cl users. Additionally, So.cl naturally appears to have close ties with Bing’s recently revamped social search.

Looking at the “Everyone” feed, it’s easy to see what all So.cl users are searching for and sharing with the world. But alas, one of the biggest problems with “social search” is that we don’t always want to see what everyone else is searching for:


You can read more about So.cl at the site’s FAQ page. Let us know in the comments what you think of it.

Filed under: social

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