Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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The Most Important Gadgets Of 2012

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 09:22 AM PST


Rather than looking back (which I’m sure we will), I thought it would be nice to look forward to 2012 and beyond and note some of the gadgets that will change the world in the next few years. I’ve included mobile, gaming, and computing gadgets but I think 2012 will also be the year of Windows Phone, 3D printing, and fitness technology that actually makes a difference.

I’m not expecting much in the way of massive change this next year, just more of the same, but better. Here are our picks for the best of 2012.

Autom and Fitbit – Fewer things sell more products than weight-loss claims. Luckily, thanks to some new devices designed to help us get fitter, those claims are no longer snake oil. Take a look at Autom and FitBit (and the other devices competing in the cyberhealth space). These devices promise what geeks crave – stats – and also promise better health and decreased body mass. It’s a desk-jockey trifecta.

While many fitness devices won’t make it past 2013, I think weight-loss systems like Autom and pedometers like FitBit are the future of fitness. You can’t change what you can’t measure, and these devices let you measure just about everything.

Nokia Lumia 710 – A year ago I would have written Nokia off as a dead company. They were rudderless, without product, and perceived, at best, a commodity feature-phone player in a very competitive smartphone world.

With the arrival of cheap Windows Phones, however, Nokia is looking to take back the low end and win the business of folks who are either too busy, too annoyed, or too cash-strapped to invest in iOS or, increasingly, the more powerful Android flagships. To the anti-Microsoft contingent, Windows Phone is too little too late. In reality, we’re talking about Microsoft: when have they ever been on time.

There are plenty of folks out there without smartphones and no one ever got fired for picking something from Redmond for their IT fleet. Sure, the $50 Lumia 710 requires a two year contract with rebat and all that rigamarole, but the key number isn’t “2-year contract:” it’s $50.

Makerbot – This small, Brooklyn-based company isn’t very big but it’s very powerful. The company just raised $10 million and is working on better ways to get 3D printing to the masses. While not many of us – myself included – can see the value in a 3D printer in the home, I see 3D printing as a technology that just hasn’t caught up with our imagination. A decade ago a laser printer was a distant dream machine that cost thousands of dollars and seemed out of reach for many consumers. Now you can get a color model for a few hundred and every tech-savvy household has at least one color inkjet that can produce better photos than almost any photo lab.

3D printing is in the same boat: the machines are prohibitively expensive and complex, but with a few UI and marketing twists, I foresee a day when the kids print out model car parts the way they print out book reports.

Ultrabooks – Thinking back on the great netbook debacle of a few years ago: the rise in popularity, the fall in pricing, and their eventual death, it’s not difficult to imagine the ultrabook is phase two of the hardware-maker’s lemming rush. However, ultrabooks are a necessary addition to the laptop ecosystem and should be taken seriously. I could definitely see a large buyer picking up a few thousand ultrabooks for employees rather than a few thousand fat-and-heavies from Dell and Lenovo. It makes sense in terms of power, price, and portability.

Kindle Fire – Love it or hate it, the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s first salvo against the iTunes juggernaut. Amazon wants to sell you stuff. They don’t want to impress you with a tablet that runs Ice Cream Sandwich and can compute SETI@Home strings. The device is Amazon incarnate, an all singing, all dancing tablet for readers that will become, for many, the primary way to consume streaming video.

I’m not suggesting the Kindle Fire is great, but future Fires will be on the 2012 Christmas lists for many casual tablet users.

PSP Vita – I put the Vita here not because it will be particularly successful (handheld gaming is a hard business and phone gaming is making it even harder), but because it is the first of the next gen consoles to roll, inexorably, towards our living room. The Vita will ship in 2012, followed by E3 announcements by all the majors about updated hardware (I’m betting on a new Xbox announcement this year, but I doubt it will be released until 2014). The Wii U is next on the upgrade list while Microsoft and Sony are still trying to figure out what a next gen console is supposed to do and what it’s supposed to look like.

Nearly 40% Of Facebook Use Is From Mobile Apps

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 08:52 AM PST


According to new data from Benedict Evans for Enders Analysis, the number of monthly active users of Facebook’s mobile apps recently passed the 300 million mark. This is primarily due to heavy use of the iOS and Android apps, but it also takes into account apps that run on BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Phone, iPad and feature phones.

That number equates to roughly 40% of Facebook’s currently disclosed 800 million active users.

What’s interesting is that Facebook announced in September that over 350 million active users access Facebook through their mobile devices – a number that includes mobile web users as well as users of its mobile apps. Explains Evans, you can track the number of app users by going to the Facebook Page for each app then adding them up. (Alternately, one could use a service like AppData to do something similar).

At the time that Facebook announced 350 million mobile users, there were 250 million mobile app users, he says. That means that over the past few months, Facebook has seen another 50 million+ become active app users. Impressive.

Evans’ findings also back up TechCrunch writer Josh Constine’s earlier report that Android has finally surpassed iPhone in terms of daily active users. But on a weekly and monthly basis, iPhone and iPod Touch are still coming out ahead. In fact, in terms of monthly active users, over 100 million are using iPhone/iPods, says Evans. (The iPad is broken out separately).

BlackBerry devices and feature phones are still somewhat holding their own, while Symbian and the practically insignificant contributions from Windows Phone trail the number of iPad users whether you’re looking at daily, weekly or monthly active user counts.

One thing we don’t know – and can’t know, unless Facebook itself reported it – is how many users only access Facebook on their mobile phone, never visiting the desktop site. Evans estimates that number is high, but it’s impossible to tell using currently published data.

Despite Attacks, Klout Is Poised To Boost its Influence

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 08:27 AM PST

Photo Credit: Creative Commons Flickr / Mike Licht,

Editor's note: TechCrunch contributor Semil Shah is an entrepreneur interested in digital media, consumer Internet, and social networks. Shah currently works at Votizen and is based in Palo Alto; you can follow him on twitter @semil

If you even so much as whisper your Klout score within specific circles, you're likely to be met with a piercing stinkeye. Based in San Francisco with a small pot of funding, there's something about Klout's mission — to rank online influence — that ironically draws the ire of many influential people.

A few months ago, TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis kicked things off with a great, provocative post (check out the comments, too) arguing results don't match up with the offline reality of one's influence. GigaOM's Mathew Ingram artfully pointed out Klout is being used by companies for promotions and even in hiring. Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a short post describing how Klout provides value, helping him sort various Twitter feeds by ranking accounts. There's also a fascinating Quora thread detailing a host of other sentiments. Whether you're a fan of the service or not, there's clearly something polarizing about Klout which generates a range of reactions.

Despite the sentiments, Klout continues to roll with the punches because our online identities are fragmented across different services. These different sites rank their own users, of course, but typically only factor inputs tied down within their own gardens. The main forces, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, certainly weight their own users' activity for various reasons, but Klout has built one single, unified score based on its own independent algorithm across these services.

Of course, this "PeopleRank" subjects the company to scorn, yet immunizes them against any changing winds within the different social services people use. A few months ago, Klout announced an algorithm adjustment that seemed to lower many Klout scores, which generated even more suspect reactions. In the the follow-up to that announcement, Klout hinted that integrating Quora was on their product roadmap, but Quora hasn't been shy about wanting to rank people, too, so if Klout is able to pull this off, it would be a significant signal toward their own growing clout.

I see no problem with Klout's aggressive expansion. In fact, in the absence of any viable alternative, it seems to work, more or less. Even PR giant Edelman wants a piece of the space, as does new competitor Kred, but Klout has a great head start. While critics bang the drum for more transparency around the algorithm or hold their nose toward the idea of comparing their rank with others, Klout has been able to manufacture an incredibly simple, strong brand in a relatively short period of time. Larger companies and brands have taken notice, running campaigns with Klout and helping the small startup actually earn money and test revenue models, so much so that they have already hired an experienced Chief Revenue Officer.

Klout is a relatively young company. It is not perfect. It is going to make mistakes, and will continue to rub some people the wrong way. In the future, the company may elect to be more transparent about their algorithm, or expand their "perks" offering, or simply soften their onboarding pop-ups. Just as numerous brands are testing the effectiveness of routing messages through the service, Klout itself is experimenting with a range of ways to make this better for users and, in the process, attract more brands. This kind of ad-targeting is already in full-swing on many other sites—it's just that it's more overt on Klout.

All of this tends to bend back to semantics. "Clout" is a powerful word, which has various definitions, and in this context, we think of "having pull" or "influence." With that connotation comes the impression of power, and that triggers different reactions. It's worth remembering that Klout only claims to measure one's online influence, and I tend to think that much of the backlash against the company is rooted in the misconception that one's Klout score maps to the offline world. It's easy to grandstand and take a publicly moral stance against what Klout is doing, but as it is with entrepreneurship and certainly the web, there are no rules. Companies and users are making the rules as they go, and that's just the way it should be.

On the eve of  2012, I wouldn't be surprised to see Klout move into scoring so-called "expert pundits" in high-value content verticals such as sports, politics, and even technology reporting, as well as partnering with startups themselves to help better tune their initial social-proof marketing efforts. They may also begin to experiment with ad campaigns outside U.S. borders, and could even be an influential social media player as attention focuses around the upcoming American presidential election.

Finally, I believe there's something about the founder Joe Fernandez and team that positions them for success and will help them weather these current and future storms, embodied in the story of how their domain was obtained in the first place (Fernandez tracked down the previous owner of the domain via Twitter, showed up at a restaurant, and plunked down $5,000 in cash on the table). In fact, I'd argue Klout will get bigger and grow even more influential itself in 2012. With all the "newsfeeds" out there driving the information we consume, and as that content surfaces to mainstream channels, every feed will need some mechanism for surfacing consistently relevant and trustworthy content. If Klout can figure out a way to keep making money via brands and help people find the most relevant signals, it will not only grow, but secure its place within the fiber of the social web.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons Flickr / Mike Licht,

Gillmor Gang Live 12.29.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang – Esteban Kolsky, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor – are recording live at 8am PT.

Recording is concluded.

Samsung Ships 1 Million Galaxy Note Phablets

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 07:49 AM PST


When we first heard about Samsung’s 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, we didn’t really know what to do with it. Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? Oh, look! A stylus!

It was weird.

But apparently people like weird, as Samsung is now reporting that it’s shipped over 1 million Galaxy Note phablets globally. The device launched back in September, and devices shipped is normally a higher number than the devices actually out in the real world, but it’s still a solid number nonetheless.

Samsung expects the numbers to grow once the Note makes its way to U.S. shores. Since we’ve been made to wait, it’s worth wondering if the U.S. version will be all that different. Rumors suggest AT&T LTE at the moment.

Time shall tell, dear friends, so if you’ve a nice pair of man hands and believe in the stylus, I’d suggest listening up during Samsung’s CES announcements. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more about the U.S.-bound Note come January.

BP, Shea Ventures, Google Ventures And Others Invest in Cool Planet’s C Round

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 07:39 AM PST


Today, Cool Planet BioFuels, Inc. announced that BP Technology Ventures has made an investment in the company's C round led by Shea Ventures. Current Cool Planet investors,  General Electric, Google Ventures, ConocoPhillips, NRG and North Bridge Venture Partners also participated.

The amount of funding was not disclosed.

Cool Planet BioFuels is working to develop bio-based, renewable, reduced carbon gasoline that can be blended with conventional gasoline and used in today’s vehicles. The gas, which is chemically indistinguishable from crude oil derived product, can only be detected by radiocarbon isotope analysis.

Here’s how the company describes the process of making its fuel:

Our proprietary biomass fractionator technology extracts useful hydrocarbons from biomass, leaving behind the excess carbon as a high purity solid. The process generates activated carbon with a very high surface area which will allow it to be used as a soil enhancer similar to “terra preta.” By burying this carbon in an appropriate manner, we can greatly enhance soil fertility while sequestering carbon for hundreds of years. In contrast, normal plant decomposition occurs in just a few years, releasing the plant’s carbon as CO2 and even more harmful methane gas. Our process yields about the same amount of carbon as gasoline so, if we sequester this carbon as a soil enhancer, or simply bury it as coal, the associated fuel has a N100 Negative Carbon Rating.

BP, ConocoPhillips and others are currently testing and evaluating Cool Planet’s fuel and the company also expects to announce other strategic relationships in the coming year.

The C round financing was a year ahead of schedule (the B round closed this spring) because Cool Planet wants to speed  up the development of its modular fuel production plants which it plans to mass produce on a production line. Over the next few years, the company expects to deploy hundres of these plants around the country, in order to save on high transportation costs.

The terms of the B round were also undisclosed, but Cool Planet had raised $8 million in 2010 from GE and North Bridge.

Mobilewalla: The Highest Rated Mobile Apps Of 2011

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 07:16 AM PST

iPhone Apps

Mobile analytics firm Mobilewalla has ranked the top apps across all four mobile platforms for 2011, using its own ranking system known at the “Mobilewalla Score.” Instead of looking at raw user ratings, this scoring system is an algorithm that analyzes a variety of factors in addition to ratings, including an app’s position within its own category, volume, social media sentiment and more.

The scores are a numerical value between 0 and 100, with a higher score indicating a more successful app. It’s an interesting way to slice the data, and gives a different picture of the app store ecosystem than typical year-end lists do. Those often look solely at download numbers and tend to include apps which have been popular for years – like Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds, etc. Other lists, meanwhile, are editorially selected or curated, like some of those we’ve featured here.

The list below is grouped by platform (Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone): 

Pixlr-o-matic (Android Free): 97.5 out of 100

Super Stickman Golf: (Android Free): 97.5 out of 100

Smurfs’ Village (Android Free): 97 out of 100

Crime Story (Android Free): 96.4 out of 100

Marvel Comics (Android Free): 96.3 out of 100

MADDEN NFL 12 by EA SPORTS™ (Android Paid): 93.6 out of 100

Dragon, Fly! Full (Android Paid): 92.3 out of 100

Earth And Legend (Android Paid): 92.4 out of 100

Great Little War Game (Android Paid): 92.2 out of 100

SHADOWGUN (Android Paid): 91.8 out of 100 At Bat Lite (Apple Free): 96 out of 100

My Horse (Apple Free): 95.3 out of 100

Family Feud® & Friends (Apple Free): 93.5 out of 100

Funny Videos & Pics by – Free (Apple Free): 92.8 out of 100

MetalStorm: Wingman (Apple Free): 92.3 out of 100

Angry Birds Rio (Apple Paid): 93.9 out of 100

Tiny Wings (Apple Paid): 92.9 out of 100

Craigslist + Notifications. CraigsPro+ Craigslist + Photo Wall + Posting + Photo previews (Apple Paid): 91.7 out of 100

Where’s My Water? (Apple Paid): 91 out of 100

Lock My Photos – Password lock photos & picture data for peace of mind! (Apple Paid): 89.7 out of 100

Bike Baron (Apple Paid): 87.3 out of 100

Memory Booster Pro (BlackBerry Free): 95.1 out of 100

BlackBerry Protect (BlackBerry Free): 95.1 out of 100

Memory Booster (BlackBerry Free): 95 out of 100

AppsLock – Password Protect Applications (Full Version) (BlackBerry Free): 94.7 out of 100

Slider Lock Free – slide to unlock your phone (BlackBerry Free): 94.5 out of 100

Sea Storm Animated Theme 2.0 (BlackBerry Paid): 94.7 out of 100

Love Is Love – Great Offer of Valentine’s Day (BlackBerry Paid): 92 out of 100

Playboy’s Animated Luck O’ The Irish (BlackBerry Paid): 90.4 out of 100

Underwater HD Animated Theme (BlackBerry Paid): 90.1 out of 100

Juicy Girl Theme – On Sale! (BlackBerry Paid): 89.5 out of 100

TuneIn Radio (Windows Phone Free): 96.7 out of 100

Penguin – Dictionary and Thesaurus (Windows Phone Free): 96 out of 100

gMaps (Windows Phone Free): 95.7 out of 100

PhotoFunia (Windows Phone Free): 95.7 out of 100

Phone 8 (Windows Phone Paid): 92.2 out of 100

Weather Live (Windows Phone Paid): 91.7 out of 100

Fuse (Windows Phone Paid): 89 out of 100

iFun (Windows Phone Paid): 89 out of 100

SuperTube (Windows Phone Paid): 88.4 out of 100


Top image: Daniel Y. Go

Amazon: We Sold Over 4 Million Kindle Devices This Month; Gifting Of E-Books Up 175 Percent

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 06:12 AM PST

Kindle Fire

Amazon has just released new data regarding its Kindle sales for the holiday season. According to the e-commerce giant, Amazon customers purchased millions of Kindle Fires and millions of Kindle e-readers. And 2011 was the best holiday ever for the Kindle family, as customers purchased over 1 million Kindle devices each week.

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said in a statement: "We are grateful to our customers worldwide for making this the best holiday ever for Kindle.” Bezos also highlighted the fact that the #1 and #4 best-selling Kindle books released in 2011 were both published independently by their authors using Kindle Direct Publishing.

The Kindle family, including the Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch and Kindle, held the top three spots on Amazon’s best seller list, respectively. The Kindle Fire, Amazon’s new tablet device, was the most gifted and wished for product on Amazon this season, and was the top selling product un the UK, France, Spain and Italy. The Kindle Fire was also the best selling product on Amazon’s mobile site.

Gifting of Kindle books was up 175 percent between this Black Friday and Christmas Day compared to the same period in 2010 and Christmas Day was the biggest day ever for Kindle book downloads.

For third-party sellers on Amazon, this year proved to be a merry Christmas as well. 2011 was also a record-breaking holiday season for businesses that sell on Amazon. Third-party sellers experienced record holiday growth, with the number of sellers who exceeded $5,000 in sales during the holiday season increased 44 percent year-over-year. For the year, businesses on Amazon sold hundreds of millions of units worth billions of dollars worldwide.

Amazon says this was a record-breaking year for the Kindle family in terms of sales, especially with respect to its newest device, the Kindle Fire. As we wrote previously, the Kindle is actually outpacing the iPad's post-launch sales rate. And the company hasn’t faced any backorder issues yet.

In the past, Amazon has been reluctant to reveal exact numbers for the quantity of Kindles sold and are even hedging a bit by stating that “over” 1 million Kindles were sold each week in December as opposed to just giving us a precise number for units sold. Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps expected expects 5 million Kindle Fire tablets sold this year.

Other interesting facts revealed by Amazon:

Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" book to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest.

The cumulative weight of the Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells purchased by Amazon customers would outweigh more than 70 adult elephants.

If you unfolded and stacked each pair of jeans purchased by Amazon customers this holiday, the height would be 2,500 times taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Amazon customers purchased enough sweaters to outfit each of Santa's reindeer during Christmas Eve deliveries for the next 14,000 years.

Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Just Dance 3 to give 15 copies to each person who participated in setting the world record for simultaneous dancing.

Amazon customers purchased enough HeatMax HotHands Handwarmers to give a pair to each resident of Iceland.

Amazon customers purchased enough Rory's Story Cubes to give a cube to each person watching the New Year's Eve ball drop live at Times Square.

Rumor: Apple Will Debut Two iPads Next Month, Retina Displays In Tow

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 06:09 AM PST

Screen shot 2011-12-29 at 9.04.42 AM

The Apple rumor mill never takes a break, even during the holidays.

In the past months we’ve heard two very specific allegations concerning the iPad — both out of Digitimes — focused on a smaller sized Apple tab at 8.75 inches and a release date of early 2012. As Devin explained so well, the notion of a smaller iPad out of Cupertino is a bit hard to believe. It would mean that Apple is going back on its word that the iPad is the right size.

Today Digitimes backtracks from its previous rumor with a new one: Instead of the 7.85-inch iPad, Apple will supposedly be bringing two new Retina-style iPads to the market to fill in the mid- and high-end market segments, while the current iPad 2 hangs around to take on the Kindle Fire.

Apple’s stuff tends to be a bit pricier than the competition, but Cupertino still likes to round out its categories. Just look at the iPod. Each model, ranging from Classic, to Touch, to Nano, to Shuffle is a very different product, but combined they still cover very different price points.

Digitimes sources claim that the new models will hold true to Apple’s 9.7-inch screen, but with a QXGA resolution (1536×2048) and dual-LED light bars. And if said sources are to be believed, Sharp is now taking the lead on panel supply, with a little help from LG Display and Samsung Electronics.

The report goes on to say that Samsung will continue to supply Apple with its chips, specifically the quad-core A6 this time around, and that Samsung has come on as a supplier of CMOS sensors. Apparently Samsung will be supplying 5-megapixel sensors for the mid-range model, while Sony provides 8-megapixel sensors for the high-end iPad.

Digitimes has also gathered information regarding the new iPad batteries, stating that Simplo Technology and Dynapack International Technology have both taken orders for batteries with a capacity of as high as 14,000 mAh. And if that weren’t enough, Digitimes even claims to know when the new models will be unveiled: January 26, 2012 at the iWorld conference.

Granted, this is quite a hefty amount of information and I’d wager that not all of it is 100 percent spot on (Digitimes has been wrong before… but also right). Still, I think higher-res iPads with better cameras make much more sense out of Cupertino than a smaller tablet just for the sake of following competition. The Kindle Fire is selling great, and Apple doesn’t want even one competing tablet to start draining market share. But Apple has never fought back by copying.

The true assault will be a price drop, and from what we’ve seen happen with the iPhone 4 in recent months it wouldn’t be that surprising to see the current iPad 2 shed a couple hundred bucks from its price tag.

In order to compete with the $200 Fire, it’d have to.

Video: Electric Car From Japan Reaches Over 300KM Travel Range

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 06:06 AM PST

Picture 2

We spent two posts on SIM-LEI, an electric car developed by a a spin-off startup at Keio University in Tokyo in collaboration with a total of 34 domestic and foreign companies, in the past months. And it seems that the startup, SIM Drive Corporation, is on track to start mass-producing the vehicle in about 2 years. The company was set up in August 2009.

The main selling point of the newest version is that it can drive over 300km at a constant speed of 100km/h. In spring, SIM Drive said the SIM-LEI ("Leading Efficiency In-Wheel motor") can reach 333km under "general urban traffic conditions in Japan".

The new model is equipped with a 65kW/700 newton meter engine, an in-dash 19-inch display, and a set of side-view cameras.

This video, shot by Diginfo TV in Tokyo, provides more insight:

7moments Is A Beautiful New Way To Share Private Photos In A Group

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 05:04 AM PST


We’re all familiar with the pain of having to share photos with people. I’m not talking about the staff party album on Facebook, I’m talking about moments that matter – the family holidays, the weddings, big days like those. And this remains an ongoing issue. We can share Dropbox folders all we like. Everything still has to be downloaded and the interface does not suit viewing, especially on tablets. We can ask friends and family to sign up to a private Flickr group, but that’s still another hurdle. Lots of photo and file sharing services are rubbish and many people remain afraid of Facebook’s now quite public nature. Now, a new startup out of Berlin has come up with something it calls the ‘Dropbox for photos’ where you can privately exchange photos in a group: 7moments. Mobile Social Network Startup Raises $2.7 Million

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 04:56 AM PST

justme, a stealth startup incubated by Palo Alto, California-based Archimedes Labs has raised $2.7 million in Series A funding according to an SEC filing. The company earlier secured $600,000 in seed financing from SV Angel, Google Ventures, True Ventures, Betaworks and a couple of other high-profile angel investors such as Don Dodge, Michael Parekh and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington.

I reached out to Keith Teare, CEO and sole founder of (and also technically also a co-founder of TechCrunch, for full disclosure), but he politely declined to comment on the funding round.

Sources close to the company, however, were kind enough to inform us that the Series A round was led by a new investor, namely Khosla Ventures, and that True Ventures also participated again.

Teare tells me he’ll have more to share about the company’s vision when gears up for public launch, which should occur in March 2012.

From what I’ve gathered so far, the company is building a ‘new type of social network’ that lives on your smartphone and the cloud and can be accessed from your desktop browser, rather than the other way around (e.g. what Facebook does). Basically, it sounds like wants to turn your phone into the post-PC centerpiece of your social graph, and not just a tool to gain access to it.

More once we learn more.

LG To Showcase 84-Inch 3D TV With 4K Resolution At CES 2012

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 04:55 AM PST


It seems that 55-Inch OLED TV wasn’t enough for LG: the Korean company today announced it’s ready to showcase another monster TV at the CES 2012 in Las Vegas (which kicks off on January 10). This model comes with a 84-inch 3D LCD display with 4K resolution (3,840×2,160 pixels).

To put things into perspective: 4K resolution, which LG calls “Ultra Definition”, is four times the resolution of full HD. Other details are scarce at this point, but LG promises “slim and narrow bezel design”, controllable 3D picture effects, and 3D sound zooming capability.

The TV, a prototype without price or release date at this point, will also feature Smart TV functionality (access to various 3D movies online, about 1,200 apps, etc.).

LG isn’t alone in the race of next-generation TVs: Toshiba, for example, has just rolled out a 55-Inch Naked-Eye 3D TV with 4K resolution, while Sharp seems to be ready to sell a 60-inch 4K LCD in Japan next year.

Daily Crunch: Ambient Thing

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 01:00 AM PST

12 Things That Won’t Happen In Online Video in 2012

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 10:59 PM PST

online video

Editor's note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojo.  Follow him @ashkan.

There are no shortages of "predictions" articles, here I look at a dozen things that won't happen in the world of online video in 2012, even though they should.

1)    We Will Have Standards and Definitions (No, we won't)

By the end of 2011, the online video industry didn't yet have a common definition and standard for a video view.  It also wasn't sure if the click-through-rate or completion rate would become the ultimate yardstick for success.  A lot of experts are coming out and saying that 2012 will mark the year where we define these standards and agree on one.  Personally, I think that is wishful thinking, 2012 is the year where we admit that we have this problem, but it won't matter, as online video advertising continues to grow despite a sea of confusion, smoke and mirrors.

2)    Year of Mobile (Where have I heard that before?)

Every year is intended to be the "year of mobile", and every year ends with a prediction that "next year, mobile will take off".

Here's the thing, mobile has been growing rapidly for years, but it's been all about text and apps.  While the video ecosystem is emerging and growing rapidly, the actual revenue will remain marginal.

3)    Death of Television (Really?)

If there's one thing we keep expecting each year more than the  "rise of mobile" it's the "death of television", and frankly, neither one ever happens – even though in all honesty, the trend line does favor both of those things.  But the worst kept secret is that while video is an increasingly important and popular social activity, economically it's pretty tiny: online video ads will account for about $2 billion in the US and over $3 billion worldwide.  Television ads will remain a $70+ billion market.

Meanwhile, television keeps becoming more meaningful to the average American (not the people who live on Twitter and die on Facebook).

4)    Cord Cutting is Real (Oh, please)

Oh, my effin G-D (how's that for self-censorship?) if I hear any more about cord-cutters or cord-nevers or any other fictitious demographic, I am going to die. Yes, fewer people will "need" cable and without a doubt, one day, the cable industry will have to change, but people, last time I checked, you still need cable to watch news, sports, most decent programming. How about we don't mention the terms "cord cutting" until a cable company issues a material earnings hit as a direct result of the "cord cutting" phenomenon, and when they do, you can all "tweet me" to say "I told you so", but until then… drop it…

5)    Apple TV or Google TV will Rule the World (What the hell is OTT?)

Everyone keeps talking about Google TV or Apple TV, and without a doubt, they will make a big splash, but I don't think either one will make a big wave in 2012, or anytime soon.  I'm a "supposed online-video expert" (notice the quotation marks) and any time I consider buying a set-top, over-the-top connected device, I don't quite know if I'm risking jail time for piracy or electrocution for short-circuiting my television… and that means that 99% of the population out there isn't considering OTT devices even though we all assume they are. Apple and Google also know this, which is why there is so much talk of them getting their software into real TVs.

6)    Where's the ROI? (Who cares)

It's normal to keep asking "where's the ROI?"  But if the idea is that online video will steal ad dollars from television, then it's worth noting that TV is arguably the least measurable – but most visible – ad platform.

As such, while one would think that ROI is going to become more important to secure ad dollars, I actually think it will become more irrelevant because, to quote Eric Schmidt, advertising is the "last bastion of unaccountable spending in corporate America."

7)    Advertising will be less robotic (sadly, it won't)

Yes, the "quants" destroyed Wall Street by bundling crappy mortgages and passing them off as AAA-rated assets, which annihilated Main Street.

But for some reason, we think it shall be different on Madison Avenue: ad exchanges and networks are eating up market share by extolling the "virtues" of quantitative analysis, while targeting by audience reminds me of the mortgage debacle, but nonetheless, even though anyone with a clue realizes this toxic blend will end up killing advertising, don't expect a letdown as underpaid-yet-overworked media planners are asked to spend more money online.

8)    Publishers Will Get a Clue (They Won't)

You'd think that after display ad networks decimated publishers in the early 2000s, media companies would have learned their lesson and prevented a repeat with video ad networks, but nope: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on… stupid publishers who actually allow history to repeat itself by handing the video budgets on a silver platter to ad networks and exchanges.  As much as you hear publishers saying they will "take back their audiences", they won't.

9)    Tablets will… (blah-blah-blah)

Yes, tablets like the iPad are neat, but to give credit to Jann Wenner, they won't really make a difference to traditional media companies.  Despite the lessons of the print and music industries, expect Hollywood to make the same mistake and i) over-estimate the potential opportunity of tablets and ii) under-estimate the continued potential threat of the Web.

10) Branded Content (Is Usually Lame)

We're all holding our breath and expecting branded content to move from concept to reality… but let's face it, the reality is that marketers will continue to favor low hanging fruit like pre-rolls over tougher executions like branded content.

11) Consolidation (Probably won't happen, again)

Most of the VC-backed video companies date back to 2003-2008.  Investor fatigue has already set in, but that doesn't necessarily mean we will see the catalyst event we've been waiting for to unclench a wave of divestment and consolidation.

12) VCs will wake up

Every imaginable trend suggests that VCs will start to invest more in content companies at the expense of aggregation, distribution, tech, and advertising, but after predicting this for 6 years, I think you can rule this one out, too.

They say that even a broken clock is right twice a day, so some of these may happen in 2012, but most probably won’t.

Image credit: Cybrain/Shutterstock.

Gillmor Gang 12.28.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 09:47 PM PST

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang goes enterprise in a conversation with Paul Greenberg, the eminence grise of the CRM, now Social CRM world. Gangsters John Taschek and Steve Gillmor decrypt Paul’s latest report from the front. Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor. Recorded live Wednesday, December 28, 2011.

@stevegillmor, @jtaschek, @pgreenbe

Why We Should All Give Google+ The Finger

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:29 PM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-28 at 12.39.23 PM

“Google+ is about sharing the right updates with the right people – making sharing online just like sharing in real life. Just like in real life, sometimes you just want to hang out with friends. Hanging out on Google+, with your family, your friends, or new friends you don’t yet know, is more than just multi-user video chat. It’s about eliminating borders and bringing people together around the world. It’s about people.”

This blogger we all know got a pic of himself flipping off a camera removed from Google+ yesterday, and another blogger blogged about it, and then the original blogger blogged about that blogger. Here’s why the image removal was significant, via BoingBoing’s Rob Beschizza.

“But Google describes Plus as "sharing in real life". It describes it as an "identity service". The middle finger, pointed at no-one in particular, is hardly a scandalous gesture; here it triggers a vaguely-defined policy that's being applied to a service marketed heavily as a public venue for free expression.”

First of all if you’re not flipping any specific person off in your photo, you’re not really offending anyone are you? Someone I know actually innocuously points to things with their middle finger because they grew up in a place where individual fingers aren’t assigned obscene status. Just like in real life, sometimes you just want to just extend your middle finger, for whatever reason.

To actually remove someone’s photo because of such a culturally-specific constraint (a gesture indicating what, exactly?) is absurd. What’s more absurd is that the protocol is hard to scale; It’s easy to track what MG Siegler is up to with his avatar because he’s so visible. I’ve been subtly flipping people off on Google+ all day, and my pic is still up, though it might not be after this post.

In Greece it is an insult to show the palms of your hands to people, in the Middle East the soles of your shoes, is Google going to start censoring this kind of stuff too?

Internet companies have different ways of dealing with the issue of “mature or offensive content” imagery. Facebook runs through profiles manually to boot out the nudes and Instagram uses a community review process that filters for different categories. It is essentially up to the company what kinds of content it does and does not accept, sure.

BUT it’s just too funny (and begs to be harped on) that of all the social networks, the one that wants to be the most “real” is the one that blocks the bird, and not all these porny posts. What’s next, it starts starring out the word “fuck” in status updates?

Something’s gotta give Google. Can you really, truly argue that a middle finger is that universally offensive? And if anything it’s “immature” content. Already a good number of Google+ users have changed their pics in homage to Siegler (Hey, it’s an easy and surprisingly satisfying fight).

So will Google block each and every one of those profile changes or just be happy that Google+ is for the moment interesting again?

We’ll keep you posted. Just Raised $6 Million, But Where Is The Audience?

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 05:58 PM PST Traffic

Blip Networks, which operates, is raising more money. According to an SEC filing, the New York City company sold $6 million worth of stock beginning on December 22, 2011 in an offering that could expand to as much as $11.1 million. Presumably, this is part of a Series D offering, since Blip raised a $10 million Series C in May, 2010, almost 18 months ago. The total raised to date is now $24 million.

Blip is trying to become a destination for indie online videos. But it is becoming increasingly hard for any video site that is not Youtube to carve out a niche for itself. A quick glance at comScore and Quantcast shows that’s audience has been pretty much flat all year. ComScore estimates’s U.S. visitors at 1.4 million, down from 1.6 million in July. The Quantcast numbers show a similar trend line, with 1.1 million U.S. visitors and 2.4 million global (see chart above).

Blip has always been more of a distribution network to other video sites than a pure destination. It serves the top native Web video talent by giving them one place to manage all of their videos across the Web, including YouTube. The team there is talented and has been a fixture of the online video industry since its early days. But last Spring it made a big push to become more of a video destination site in its own right. It doesn’t appear that strategy is paying off.

Update 12/29: I spoke with COO Steve Brookstein this morning. He confirms that CEO and founder Mike Hudack is leaving the company, as was previously reported by Peter Kafka, but so is co-founder Dina Kaplan (as BetaBeat also covered). Brookstein is running the company as a search for a new CEO “steeped in digital media” continues. (Brookstein is from the cable industry and is more of an operator). The $6 million was an inside round by’s existing investors, Bain Capital and Canaan Partners, and the round is still open.

Brookstein says the attempt to become a destination site is “just one pillar of a multi-tier strategy.” Total video plays worldwide are tracking at 300 million amonth, with 70 million of those in’s own player (which is where it can serve ads—it’s main source of revenue). The company has 55 employees and is “exactly on our business plan,” says Brookstein. It is not yet cash-flow positive. “We decided to continue investing in the business,” he says. Stay tuned.

Bank Shuts Down Local Online Advertising Company WebVisible For Not Paying Debts

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 05:11 PM PST


Local interactive advertising firm WebVisible has shut its doors. According to a note sent from the company’s CEO to employees, WebVisible ran out of cash, and Silicon Valley Bank is shutting the company down.

WebVisible’s software allowed advertisers to manage local online campaigns on Google, Yahoo, Bing and others. The company’s services were offered directly affiliate partners to local businesses, franchisors, and national advertisers Previous WebVisible partners include AT&T, British Telecom, Yellow Pages Group of Canada, EarthLink, and The McClatchy Company, among others.

WebVisible, which was founded in 2001, has raised over $17 million from Sutter Hill Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Adams Street partners.

Here’s part of the note sent to employees:

It is with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that today, December 27, 2011 is the last day of operation for WebVisible. I know this is a shock and has come abruptly. Even with all our efforts to recover throughout this past year, we found ourselves in a position in which the debt load of the company was simply too much to overcome. Our bank foreclosed on its loan which means they are taking over the company's assets and collecting all remaining payments. As a result they have forced the company to shut down….This happened quite suddenly, and the timing could not be more unfortunate…As of today there are no employees left at WebVisible, including myself and therefore there is no one to handle anything for you.. This is like a bad movie, I can't imagine a worse scenario for shutting a company down and laying everyone off, the only concession I was able to get from the bank was to wait until after Christmas. As the CEO I apologize that I have not been able to do more to avoid this event and this timing.

We are still trying to get confirmation from the company, and will update when we hear back.

Find Out Which Brands Are Winning On Google+ With ZoomSphere (Hint: Android is #1)

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 04:33 PM PST

ZoomSphere Launches Google Plus Charts

Facebook has AppData, Twitter has Twitaholic, and now Google+ has its own independent brand page rankings site: ZoomSphere. It shows which brands have the most followers, activity, +1s, shares, and comments, and slice the data by time, page category, and country. Oddly, the site doesn’t rank user profiles like SocialStatistics does — just brand pages. Still, by augmenting its existing charts for Facebook and Twitter, ZoomSphere could become a comprehensive resource for brands charting their own performance, assessing competitors, or scoping for potential partners.

So who’s winning six weeks after Google+ launched brand pages? Mostly news outlets, bands, and technology companies. Considering that Google+ is notorious for Google fanboys, it’s little surprise that Android tops the international follower charts, and 6 Google properties reside in the top 25. Mashable, The New York Times, Breaking News, and TechCrunch are all in the top 20. The most popular bands reveal a slightly more mature demographic on Google+, with older acts like Coldplay, Train, and Pearl Jam ranking significantly higher than on Facebook or Twitter.

No brands have come close to reaching 1 million followers, while only 3 individuals — Britney Spears, Larry Page, and Snoop Dogg — have accomplished the feat. This shows that mainstream users who casually subscribe to lots of their favorite brands and celebrities haven’t joined Google+’s 63 million registered users yet. Instead, avid technologists and news readers courted by the social network’s invite-only launch seem to make up its core user base.

One myth that could be dispelled by ZoomSphere’s charts? That there are no women on Google+. High rankings for country duo Sugarland, Burberry, and H&M which claims the #4 spot seem to suggest otherwise.

In terms of features and feel, ZoomSphere offers a solid product. Charts and graphs look polished, its easy to compare different pages, and the option to view by country reveals some interesting demographic distinctions. For example, Dell ranks #17 worldwide, but as #2 in the UK, showing Apple’s rise might not be so swift in Britain.

Some features that could improve ZoomSphere would be Google+ user profile charts, and the ability to view a single brand across its Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ presences. Established market research providers have been slow to launch Google+ brand charts, giving ZoomSphere an opportunity to become the go-to source for this data. Now it just needs Google to improve these pages so more brands actually want them.

Here’s the complete top 20 chart of Google+ brand pages by follower count as of 12/28/2011: 

  1. Android – 289,000
  2. Coldplay - 180,000
  3. Mashable – 179,000
  4. H&M – 166,000
  5. Train - 160,000
  6. The All-American Rejects – 158,000
  7. Marvel – 157,00
  8. Linkin Park – 156,000
  9. Pearl Jam – 152,000
  10. Sugarland – 148,000
  11. The New York Times – 139,000
  12. Breaking News - 131,000
  13. TechCrunch – 129,000
  14. Google Chrome – 129,000
  15. Anderson Cooper 360 – 118,000
  16. - 118,000
  17. Dell - 117,000
  18. Google+ – 115,000
  19. Good Morning America - 115,000
  20. ESPN - 103,000

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