Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Between Nothing And A Blog: Check Out CheckThis, A Cool New Micro-Publishing Tool

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:08 AM PST


I don’t often get a chance to write about a startup from my home country (Belgium) that I’m super excited about, so consider me a happy camper. Meet CheckThis.com, a new micro-publishing service that lets you create and share a single, good-looking Web page in mere seconds.

CheckThis is designed for people who need a little more space than a tweet but don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up a new blog. In literally instants, you can use CheckThis to create a stand-alone page to sell your bike, hire a new developer for your startup, tell people what you’ve been up to today, set up a really quick poll, share an Instragram or Flickr photo, a party invitation with a map, a Vimeo video or whatever other casual need you might have. Quick, simple, beautiful.

CheckThis creator Frédéric della Faille describes the service as ‘between nothing and a blog’ and also ‘tweets with attachments’, both of which are decent ways to illustrate what CheckThis is about.

Ultimately, his goal was to create a publishing tool that helps people do things online that usually take some time (like selling a product, posting a recruitment ad and whatnot) and make the experience as rapid and smooth as posting a status update on Twitter or Facebook, no registration required.

Without any marketing, apart from della Faille telling some of his friends about the tool, CheckThis users have created more than 10,000 personalized pages in the past 3 months, including this great one entitled People with Lana Del Rey lips. So what do you want to do?

Subscription Billings Startup Recurly Raises $6 Million

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST

Recurly, a startup that makes it easy for other companies to manage their subscription billing, has raised $6 million in a Series A financing round led by BV Capital, and including Polaris Venture Partners, Harrison Metal Capital and FreeStyle Capital. This brings Recurly’s total funding to $8 million.

Recurly’s service allows businesses to quickly implement a subscription billing system, handling tasks like credit card number storage (it also supports integration with financial software like QuickBooks). Recurly automates many of the complexities involved with subscription billing management, such as customer upgrades and downgrades, credit card errors and declines, automated customer communications, and customer retention management.

Recurly also recently launched a payment gateway designed specifically to handle the unique requirements of recurring billing. The startup’s technology can be integrated directly with payment processors’ backends and more efficiently manage recurring transactions.

Recurly now powers recurring billing for over 750 small/medium enterprises, including JibJab, Fox News Radio, Justin.tv, SlideShare, GOOD.is, and Weather Underground. The new funding will be used for hiring in engineering and support and for growth expansion.

Lookout’s New App Visualizes Mobile Security Threats As They Are Detected Around The World

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST


Lookout, a company that offers security services for a number of smartphone platforms, is debuting a new Android app that lets you see mobile threats as they are detected around the world. Launched from Lookout Labs, the new app basically visualizes what's happening in the mobile landscape and also shares details on top weekly threats & distribution of malware vs. spyware.

For background, Lookout's web-based, cloud-connected applications for Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and most recently iOS devices help users from losing their phones and identifies and block threats on a consumer's phone. Users simply download the software to a device, and it will act as a tracking application, data backup and a virus protector much like security software downloaded to a computer.

Lookout collects data from its Mobile Threat Network, a cloud-based network which constantly analyzes global threat data to identify and quickly block new threats with over-the-air app updates. The network includes more than one million apps and 15 million user devices worldwide.

With the Lookout Mobile Threat Tracker, you can now see the thousands of threats that Lookout identifies and catches every day via the network. Within the Mobile Threat Tracker you can quickly see the top three trending threats. For example, if you tap on the name in the app, you can learn more about each threat. For example, this week’s top threat, RuPaidMarket masquerades as a useful app, but actually sends premium SMS messages without allowing you to opt out, or letting you know that you will be charged.

The data is updated hourly so you can see mobile threats appear and disappear overtime.The app shows the top three mobile threats for the past week are RuPaidMarket, Legacy and Depositmobi. And the current distribution of malware vs. spyware is 60 percent malware and 40 percent spyware.

While the app may not be one for a daily check, the newest Lookout offering could be a useful way to routinely see what the possible threats are for your Android phone at any given time. Lookout predicts that malware, spyware and other mobile security risks will only increase in 2012, so users will have to be more vigilant about protecting their smartphones in the coming year.

New Trademarkia Feature Exposes Biggest Trademark Bullies; Apple, Zynga Among Top Five

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST


For a long time, it was easy to search for patents on the Web, but trademarks? Not so much. Thanks to startups like TechCrunch 50 grad Trademarkia, anyone can now do a simple keyword search and pick through each and every U.S. trademark filed since 1870 — if your heart so desires, of course.

If trademark search seems a bit obscure, that’s because it is. But for big companies and startups alike, trademark registration is important for protecting their brand. What’s more, the ability to search by company, theme, product category, or even filing attorney for any and all things trademark can be a big timesaver. It’s also a great resource for research, for those getting ready to file a trademark, or for product and brand logo designers looking to see what’s out there (or who may be infringing). Then, with Trademarkia, users can even register trademarks directly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for about $160.

As a result, Trademarkia has been seeing some traction over the last year, as it’s nearing $50 million in sales, 3 million pageviews (and 1.5 million uniques) per month — its users filed over 10,000 trademarks last year. Last month, Josh wrote about the startup’s new sound trademarking service, which collects the USPTO’s bevy of sound marks (including digitizing the many old analog sound trademarks) to let users listen to existing trademarks — and apply for their own.

Looking to continue building out a suite of services around their flagship trademark search functionality, the Silicon Valley-based company is today launching a new feature that intends to, among other things, expose the aggressive tactics of the world’s trademark bullies — in other words, pull back the curtain on the big companies that routinely go after smaller companies for alleged use and misuse of their trademarked brands and products. (Alleged being the key word here.)

This new feature lets users search the USPTO’s database of trademark oppositions by year, category, the biggest bullies, victims, and “hecklers,” the latter of which includes those companies that file extended oppositions to trademark applications to slow down the review/approval process.

Interestingly, according to the USPTO’s data, Kellogg North America is the top “Trademark Bully” for 2011, with The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Apple, Zynga, and ski and snowboard maker, K-2, rounding out the top five. Mark Zuckerberg’s legal team ranks in at number eight.

Granted, trademark bullying has been around for years, but it’s been difficult to see which companies are the biggest offenders — and the biggest losers. In 2010, the USPTO embarked on an effort to curb trademark bullying, and asked practicing trademark attorneys, trademark-owners, and others “about their experiences with litigation tactics”, according to IPB. This resulted in the organization attempting to better track trademark opposition, which Trademarkia has made universally available (and searchable) today.

Obviously, for companies, policing one’s trademarks is essential to ensuring that no one (or no entity) is infringing on their valuable intellectual property. However, it’s been difficult to find out which companies are just standing up for their rights and which companies are actively bullying. Trademarkia’s searchable database goes some of the way towards improving this, letting users view plaintiffs and defendants within each category, and to quickly browse prosecution history and trademark details.

This allows users to get a better sense of the bullies vs fair opposition problem, and more easily make ourselves aware of when Facebook sues a company because they have “book” in their name or “face” — or Apple claims it owns “Pad” or bullying users of “app” and “pod” — for example. (And, in its defense, Facebook has often found itself on the victim’s end as well.)

Certainly, these examples draw attention to the question of whether or not a company can own a word, and of course Apple and Facebook are hardly the only ones. The Lance Armstrong Foundation has repeatedly attempted to block use of the word “strong” by other companies, for instance. Obviously, without a lot of attention from the press or other avenues, it’s difficult for small businesses opposed by the Goliaths to do anything but give in — or hire a better legal team.

Trademarkia CEO Raj Abhyanker says that he thinks that the legal outcomes of these many trademark cases can have an impact on stock prices, future product launches, and even domain ownership.

To give users a better sense of the results of trademark litigation, Trademarkia’s listings include angry faces for an active bullying attempt, a sad face meaning the “little guy” lost, while a smiley face means the victim prevailed. Obviously, users should be careful here — as it’s not always that simple.

Lastly, for companies looking to protect their existing trademarks, the startup’s service also offers a free 30-day tracker, which lists all new trademark applications filed within the last 30 days. Users can also sign up to receive automatic alerts (through an email notification) for trademark applications submitted that have similar keywords.

It’s a wild and wooly world out there in trademark land, and hopefully Trademarkia’s new features will help bring some clarity and accountability to the process. Bullies: You’re on notice.

Will This Be Apple’s First $40 Billion Quarter?

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 08:27 AM PST


Everyone is expecting a record quarter from Apple, which reports earnings today. “We expect a big quarter from Apple,” writes analyst Colin Gillis of BGC in a research note, “and we expect most investors expect a big quarter from Apple. Our pet fish expects records from Apple.” Apple is expected to announce record revenues, earnings, iPhone sales, iPad sales, and Mac sales.

Here are the numbers Apple needs to beat today for an upside surprise when it announces after the markets close:

Revenues: $39 billion
Earnings: $10.08 per share
iPhone sales: 33 million
iPad sales: 13 million
Mac sales: 5.3 million

In fact, while the consensus revenue estimate is $38.9 billion, Apple doesn’t have to surprise too much on the upside to hit its first $40 billion quarter. To give you a sense of Apple’s expected revenue growth, it’s September quarter was $28.3 billion (And the year-ago December, 2010 quarter was $26.7 billion). So a $40 billion quarter would be a 49.8 percent jump from a year ago, and a 41.3 percent increase over last quarter.

That would be almost a $12 billion spike from the previous quarter. As a result, analysts are expecting $10.08 a share in earnings, which is up from $6.43 a year before and $7.05 last quarter. Apple had a very good holiday season, indeed.

What is driving this unprecedented growth is sales of iPhones and iPads and iPads mostly. Apple needs to sell 33 million iPhones and 13 million iPads to beat expectations. In the September quarter, it sold 17 million iPhones and 11 million iPads. Apple sold 4.9 million Macs last quarter, and Gilles expects a total of 5.3 million this quarter (Apple is now the No. 3 PC maker in the U.S alone).

On the downside, Gilles cautions: “Apple may run into a supply situation where it sells every phone it was able to make but falls short of expectations.” That should give you a sense how crazy-high expectations are.

Another issue for Apple is the rise of sub-$200 tablets, especially the Kindle Fire. Despite offering an inferior experience, the Fire could cut into iPad sales by as much as 1 million units, warns Gilles. Expectations of an even better iPad 3 this spring could also be holding back sales as consumers wait for the next version to come out.

$299 Droid RAZR MAXX To Hit Verizon Shelves On January 26

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 08:26 AM PST


Looks like that flubbed product page turned out to be right after all — Verizon Wireless has just announced that the ever-so-slightly-tweaked Droid RAZR MAXX will indeed be hitting store shelves on January 26.

One of the big issues Jordan noted in our original Droid RAZR review was that the battery could leave some heavy users in the lurch, but that (hopefully) won’t be the case with the RAZR MAXX. Despite sporting near-identical specs to its slimmer brother, the MAXX also packs a fairly ridiculous 3300 mAh battery without sacrificing too much of its alluring profile.

The MAXX also features 32GB of onboard storage, a considerable bump up from the original’s 16GB allotment. If you can live with just a little extra heft (the MAXX comes in at 8.99mm thick, compared to the original’s 7.1mm waist line), this is looking like the Droid RAZR to beat.

With the RAZR MAXX preparing to take its place in Verizon’s top-tier smartphone pantheon, you can expect the price tag to match its status. It’ll cost $299 out of the gate with a two-year contract, though the penny-pinchers among you should know that the original model (sans SD card) has recently dropped down to a more reasonable $199.

Producteev Drops Slew Of New Apps; Now Lets You Crowdsource Your Tasks On TaskRabbit

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 08:00 AM PST


The key to success in the task management space, among so many other things, is offering a product that integrates with as many services as possible while keeping things simple. When it comes to task management, complexity in a service is, put simply, a no-no. There are a lot of task managers out there, and many of them are thriving. As each company and workforce has its own requirements, they pick and choose. Some prefer Basecamp, while Facebook Founder Dustin Moskovitz’s group task manager Asana has been turning heads. (It’s even up for a Crunchie Award this year.) Or there’s Apollo, ProTasker, and many more.

Each of these startups and companies approaches the problem in a slightly different way — some are group task managers, while others focus on individuals. Some are project-oriented, others focus on CRM. When it comes to the group/individual split, Producteev tries to find a balance. The New York City-based startup has created a minimalist, user-friendly interface that’s channel agnostic, and throws in some game mechanics for good measure. (Disclosure: TechCrunch uses Producteev to manage event-related tasks.)

Granted, I’m biased, as my experience using Producteev has been largely without hiccups, but there were a few holes in Producteev’s catalog when it came to finding a unified product across more than a couple of platforms. Today, Producteev is unveiling a slew of new apps, including a significantly upgraded web app, iPhone and Android mobile apps, and new Windows 7 and Mac desktop apps. The startup is reaching for the (asymptotic?) goal of universal, or at least cross-platform, task management, as professionals and businesses want (and need) to create and store tasks across platforms, devices, and services — from email and IMs to voicemails and notes.

Today marks a big step forward for Producteev, as the service now leverages the cloud to sync its new apps, managing tasks and to-do lists across most of today’s popular devices and platforms. As to its traction since launching in 2008? Producteev Co-founder Ilan Abehassera tells us that more than 1,000 business customers are now using the service, including Orbitz, Trulia, Logitech, Financial Times, and Boston College, and more than 7 million tasks have been created to date. More than 50 percent of its clients are checking in more than once a week, and the co-founder also said that the startup raised another round of venture investment late last year, adding to its existing bank of $1.3 million.

While it still has miles to go, Producteev has had early success thanks to (I’d say some great customer service), but also because of its integration with a full roster of complementary and competing services, like Google Apps, Google Tasks, Astrid, Gmail, IM clients, etc. And today, Producteev is making a play at boosting the social functionality of its task management service by integrating with TaskRabbit — as it becomes the first to use the popular collaborative consumption service’s newly-launched API. By using TaskRabbit and Producteev in tandem, users can now outsource any task from Producteev to TaskRabbit with one click, in the hopes of driving the adoption of social crowdsourcing via task management.

On top of that, the startup is releasing new mobile apps for iPhone and Android that work in conjunction with mobile and cloud services, enabling users to add and designate tasks, set deadlines and upload files, or generate reports while on the go. They’ve also released a native Windows app for Windows 7, so that PC users can manage their tasks from their desktop in the same manner as they can from its mobile apps.

Both the new Windows app and Producteev’s updated Web app come with a slew of upgrades (the Web app has a whole new UI), which you can learn more about here. The CEO tells us that the company is set on building the Evernote/Dropbox for task management, and while it still has a ways to go, boosting their cross-platform offerings (and clever strategic integration with TaskRabbit) certainly put the right foot forward.

More here.

Mobile App Highlight Gives You A 6th Sense About Who’s Nearby

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 07:59 AM PST

Highlight Featured Image

Checkins are not the future. They interrupt the moment and quickly become outdated. Highlight, a mobile app launching today, offers a better gateway to serendipitous meetups. All you do is download Highlight, turn it on, and let it run passively in the background. Then when you come within a few blocks of another Highlight users who’s your Facebook friend or that you have friends or interests in common with, Highlight sends you a push notification and lets you message them.

Highlight’s founder Paul Davison excitedly explains, “Nothing effects our lives and happiness more than the people we’re closest to, but the way we learn about them is totally random.” When his sister moved to the US from London and needed to meet new people, Davison got the idea for Highlight. Davison previously worked for Benchmark Capital and at Metaweb through its acquisition by Google, but is now half of the extra-lean bootstrapped two-man team behind Highlight called Math Camp, inc.

The iOS app’s home screen shows a reverse chronological list of all the people you’ve crossed paths with. Clicking through to someone reveals basic information they’ve added, mutual friends and interests, Highlight status updates, and a log of every time you’ve been nearby them. The app can drain battery life as it runs GPS in the background. However, Davison says he hasn’t heard many complaints from users, and it should become even less of an issue as the app is further optimized and mobile tech improves.

Highlight’s internal message feature can help you meetup with friends who might be in the coffee shop next door, or introduce yourself to potential business contacts, buddies, or romantic interests. A pause button lets you go off the radar until you next open the app if you don’t want to share your location.

By default your profile can appear to anyone you cross paths with, but a privacy option lets you restrict visibility to friends of friends only. Some people are still sure to think Highlight is creepy right now. Like many great social technologies, though, Highlight may be ahead of the curve. Davison insists creating a safe, trusted network where both men and women feel comfortable is a priority.

“Whether we do it or someone else does it, I know this 6th sense is going to exist and it’s going to change the world”, Davison believes. “In the future we’ll look back and say ‘I can’t believe we didn’t have it and walked around blind.’”

Highlight could disrupt existing location services like Foursquare and Facebook Places, or at least spur them to evolve. Those companies may attempt to copy its passive functionality, so Highlight needs to establish traction now. But really, Highlight does something new. The way Instagram makes you see art everywhere you look, Highlight makes you feel connected where you were once surrounded by strangers.

Highlight is now available for iOS to anyone in the US.

Facebook Timeline Now Pushed To Everyone, Users Get A Week To Clean Up Profiles

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 07:18 AM PST


You can run, but you can’t hide. Facebook’s biggest user interface overhaul since the Wall, the Facebook Timeline, is now becoming mandatory for all users. According to the company, over the next few weeks, everyone will get the new Timeline. And here’s the important part: when you do, you’ll have just seven days to preview what’s there now, and hide anything you don’t want others to see.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the Facebook Timeline makes it far easier for you to travel back through your Facebook posts – posts which normally disappeared off your Wall and into oblivion. The posts from these previous months and years are now accessible through new navigational elements on the right-side of your screen that let you quickly travel back in time to the day you were born.

You can fill in data from your pre-Facebook years using the new status update box, which now includes support for adding a specific year and various “life events.”  These events include things like marriages, births, deaths, new jobs, trips and vacations, new homes, and other things you might want to record in the scrapbook-like Timeline.

With Timeline’s added ability to find older posts, including those from the days before your boss, grandparents, mom and dad were on Facebook, users will need to do a rapid cleanup on their profiles when the Timeline goes live.

Facebook explains how to hide posts you don’t want to appear on your Timeline (click the pencil to hide, delete or edit a post). You can also use the privacy drop-down to change who can see posts (e.g. “Only Me”).

In addition, the company is releasing a new tool today called Activity Log, which is where you can review all your posts and activity, from today back to when you first started using Facebook. Fortunately, only you can see your activity log.

Previously, users had to go out and get Timeline for themselves. Facebook was specifically trying to not push it too hard. It wouldn’t show News Feed stories announcing your friends had migrated, for example, as the company wanted the Timeline to be an opt-in decision that allowed people enough time to moderate their profile posts. Giving users seven days to do the same is somewhat an extension of that thinking, although could prove troublesome for irregular Facebook users who don’t realize they’ve been migrated, leaving themselves exposed when the week is up.

If you want to be proactive and get the Timeline now, go to the Introducing Timeline page and click “Get Timeline.” Or you can wait until you see an announcement at the top of your profile.

Timeline will also be available on Android, m.facebook.com and iOS.

Location-Based Shopping App Shopkick Now 3 Million Users Strong; 1B Deals Viewed

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST


Shopkick, an innovative geo-coupon system that is backed by Kleiner Perkins, Greylock, SV Angel and others, is debuting a number of momentum numbers today. The startup’s service now has 3 million active users, up from 2.3 million active users in September.

Here’s how Shopkicks works. Instead of checking in, as you would with a geo app like Foursquare, Shopkick automatically recognizes when someone with the free Android or iPhone app on their phone walks into a store. Once a Shopkick Signal is detected, the app delivers reward points called "kickbucks" to the user for walking into a retail store, trying on clothes, scanning a barcode and other actions.

Kickbucks can then be redeemed across all partner stores for gift card rewards or for Facebook Credits. User can also receive special discounts on specific products at partners stores like Macy's, Best Buy or Target. National retail partners in the loyalty program include Target, Best Buy, Macy's, Crate & Barrel, Old Navy, American Eagle, Sports Authority, Toys R Us, Simon Malls and others, and 20 brands (P&G, Unilever, Kraft, Colgate, Clorox, Disney, HP, Intel). For example, one of the partner retailers is estimating $50 million in measurable incremental revenue as a result of the Shopkick mobile app.

To date, Shopkick has seen 1 billion in-app deals and offers viewed, and in December, saw 5 million walk-ins to partner stores, doubling in four months. The app has seen 10 million product scans, up from 7 million in August 2011 and 3 million in February 2011.

During the 2011 holiday shopping season, shopkick users interacted with stores through the app more than 3.1 million times per day on average, up from just over 1 million in August 2011. Sixty-four percent of all shopkick users are now women and the average shopkick user is 30 years old.

As we’ve written in the past, Shopkick’s technology is helping physical retailers drive traffic and conversions in the store, which has been a challenge of late.

Onavo’s Data-Compressing Mobile App Raises $10 Million Series B From Horizons, Motorola Ventures

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:57 AM PST


Onavo, makers of the money-saving, data-compressing app mobile app, just raised $10 million in Series B funding. Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Li Ka-shing, led the investment along with Motorola Mobility Ventures, the strategic equity investment arm of Motorola Mobility, Inc.

The company’s previous investors, Sequoia Capital and Magma Venture Partners, also participated in the round.

As a part of the new funding, Jason Wong from Horizons Ventures joined Onavo's board of directors.

Onavo, for those unaware, is a cross-platform mobile application which runs in the background, monitoring the data usage on your mobile device. When you use your phone’s data connection, the app steps in to route the data in a compressed format through its own cloud servers, before the data reaches the carrier. (Yep, it’s basically a proxy server.)

The app makes sense for price-conscious consumers, who can’t afford high dollar mobile data plans. It’s also helpful for travelers, who need access to data while overseas, but can’t afford the astronomical bill that accompanies such usage.

On iOS, the app actually compresses the data (the company claims up to 80%), but, in a weird turn of events, it’s actually the Android version that’s less powerful. For now, the Android app only warns users of data hogging apps, providing increased visibility into the apps and services running on the mobile user’s handset. It doesn’t actually compress data.

Although some consumers may see such an app as a way to thumb their nose at carriers’ and their high mobile data prices, the truth is that carriers, too, are facing the increased burden of users’ growing desire for more and more mobile data. They’re not as opposed to a data-saving app like this as you may think.

Says Jason Wong of Horizons Ventures, “mobile data use continues to grow exponentially, which creates issues for carriers and consumers alike…We believe Onavo’s unique data compression solution will prove compelling to both carriers and consumers."

Was Megaupload Targeted Because Of Its Upcoming Megabox Digital Jukebox Service?

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:44 AM PST


Last Thursday the US Justice Department came down hard on Megaupload and its mega founder, Kim Dotcom. In the days since, there has been a shake-up of sorts in the digital storage realm. Several smaller sites have drastically changed their business models. Others, like MediaFire, reached out to me after I published this post attempting to distance themselves from Megaupload.

However, yesterday, a new theory surfaced that indicates Megaupload’s demise had less to do with piracy than previously thought. This theory stems from a 2011 article detailing Megaupload’s upcoming Megabox music store and DIY artist distribution service that would have completely disrupted the music industry.

TorrentFreak first reported about the service in early December 2011. Megabox was just in beta at that time with listed partners of 7digital, Gracenote, Rovi, and Amazon. Megaupload was in a heated marketing battle with the RIAA and MPAA who featured Kim Dotcom in an anti-piracy movie (5:10 mark). The site had just sued Universal Music Group for wrongly blocking Megaupload’s recent star-studded YouTube campaign. Things were getting vicious in December but the quiet launch of Megabox might have been the straw that broke the millionaire’s back.

Dotcom described Megabox as Megaupload’s iTunes competitor, which would even eventually offer free premium movies via Megamovie, a site set to launch in 2012. This service would take Megaupload from being just a digital locker site to a full-fledged player in the digital content game.

The kicker was Megabox would cater to unsigned artists and allow anyone to sell their creations while allowing the artist to retain 90% of the earnings. Or, artists could even giveaway their songs and would be paid through a service called Megakey. “Yes that's right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works,” Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak in December. Megabox was planning on bypassing the labels, RIAA, and the entire music establishment.

Megaupload was likely large enough to actually find success. Other services have tried what Megabox was set to do, but Megaupload was massive. Prior to its closure last week, the site was estimated to be the 13th most visited site on the Internet, accounting for 4% of all worldwide Internet traffic. It boasted 180 million registered users with over 50 million visiting the site daily. Megaupload was already a seemingly trusted service for artists to distribute their work. Megabox would have a monetized that popularity by passing on the bulk of the earnings back to the artists.

“You can expect several Megabox announcements next year including exclusive deals with artists who are eager to depart from outdated business models,” said Dotcom late last year. But that’s probably not going to happen. Kim Dotcom and several other Megaupload executives are now awaiting trial on various charges including racketeering, money laundering, and various counts of piracy. It seems they flew too close to the sun. High on success and a half a world away in New Zealand and Hong Kong, they attempted to take on the music industry head-on. Now they’re in jail.

New iOS Hack Lets You Natively Tweet By Talking To Siri

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:39 AM PST


There’s no shortage of novel things you can strongarm Siri into doing for you these days, but sometimes it’s the little things that get me excited.

While not as innately flashy as being able to start a car, a new (and currently nameless) tweak from developer InfectionFX does something that Siri should have been able to do from the beginning: tweet for you.

Sure, it’s already technically possible to do this — setting your Twitter account to accept tweets via text gets the job done, but its reliance on a mobile network means that illicit Siri users with iPod Touches can’t join in the fun. With this new tweak though, any user with a jailbroken Siri-friendly device will soon be able to verbally tweet with reckless abandon.

InfectionFX — also known as Grooveshark employee and part-time iOS hacker Tyler Nettleton — whipped up the tweak late last night after asking his Twitter followers if they wanted to see it happen. The demo videos that have since popped up show it that it works like a charm even in its pre-release state, as Siri remarks that the tweet was sent and the sound of a sweet little bird can be heard punctuating her announcement. Pay no mind to the displayed text though — the tweet seems to go through just fine even though Nettleton hasn’t yet changed her text response.

The Siri tweak isn’t available just yet though, but it should find its way into the third-party Cydia app store by the end of the week.

Hat tip to Phil Synowiec of iOSVlog for the video!

Vimeo Gets Its First Facelift Since 2007

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:08 AM PST

Brozar Clip Page

Popular  video site Vimeo is now starting to roll out a big redesign of its website.

If you’re a casual user of the site like me, you might not notice some of the changes, and indeed probably don’t think of Vimeo as being particularly in need of updating. However, CEO Dae Mellencamp says the design actually hasn’t been updated since 2007: “In Web years, that’s a lifetime.”

One of the main goals, Mellencamp says, was “intensely focusing on the video in a way that hasn’t ever been done before,” at least on sites with user-generated content. Vimeo has always tried to feature more original and high-quality videos than sites like YouTube, so that approach makes sense, and Mellencamp argues that it’s particularly appropriate now that people can shoot high-definition video without super-expensive cameras — you just need an iPhone.

You can see the new emphasis on making videos front-and-center in the main player page for each video, where the videos have apparently doubled in width. Basically, every other element of the page has been pushed into the background. Vimeo provides you with links to related videos, but they’re actually hidden from sight until you drag down the menu from the top of the screen.

You can also see the new approach in the new inbox, which offers a feed of videos from accounts that you follow. Now, rather than simply being presented with a list of video images and summaries, the Vimeo allows you to watch those videos directly within the inbox itself.

There are a bunch of other new features, including improved search options, a page for viewing Creative Commons-licensed work, and the ability to upload multiple videos at once. Many of these changes, Mellencamps says, aren’t “huge, sexy features” but rather “a ton of detailed elements that we think just improve the experience overall.” And beneath the visible improvements, Mellencamp says the entire Vimeo codebase has been rewritten, allowing the company to make faster changes in the future.

Vimeo is only releasing the redesign to a limited number of users today, with plans for a more open testing period soon. You can read more details and get on the list here.

Verizon Posts A Net Loss Of $2.02B In Q4 2011

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST


Ever since the AT&T/T-Mobile saga came to a grinding halt, you’d think that Verizon would be enjoying its reign in peace. But it would seem that the company has posted a net loss of $2.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. At the same time a year earlier, Verizon was seeing a profit of $2.64 billion.

According to Bloomberg, the loss can be attributed to a pension charge and higher subsidy costs for rising iPhone sales. But there have been gains, as well. Verizon lured in 1.2 million new subscribers — probably thanks in large part to the iPhone — and hopes that the high subsidy costs will eventually be paid off by consumers as they spend on calling and data.

Bloomberg enlisted the help of James Ratcliffe, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York, who said that “the average smartphone customer will spend about $2,000 over the two-year contract. If the subsidy is $400, you're still getting $1,600, and that's very cash-flow positive.” It would appear that smartphones are, indeed, where it’s at for Verizon, as the company reported that 44 percent of its customer base is now using a smartphone.

The carrier announced a total revenue of $18.3 billion for the quarter, representing a 13 percent year-over-year increase. Not surprisingly, data played a major role in bringing in the big bucks for ol’ Big Red.

In fact, 42 percent of all revenue for the quarter was made up of the $6.3 billion in data revenue, up 19.2 percent from the same time last year.

Full Circle: Boxee Brings OTA HDTV And Basic Cable To The Boxee Box

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST

Boxee Live TV (1 of 1)

Boxee just reinvented the box. The Boxee Box is no longer just a media streamer, thanks to the just-released Boxee Live TV. The little USB ATSC tuner integrates OTA HDTV and basic cable seamlessly into the Boxee Box’s menu system, and I found it’s as wonderful as it sounds. The little box is now the cord cutter’s best friend (if it wasn’t already).

Setup is easy. Connect an antenna or cable line to the dongle and then plug it into one of the Boxee Box’s two USB ports. From there, just select Live TV from the main menu to start watching after an initial channel scan. There’s even a basic content guide like that on most cable boxes.

The Live TV dongle ships with a small, passive antenna (pictured top), which managed to pull in just two ATSC stations in my area. The ancient aerial antenna on my roof pulled in eleven. But that’s to be expected; the dongle is simply an ATSC tuner. Like any over-the-air tuner, the bigger the antenna, the better the reception you will receive.

But the tuner isn’t just for OTA TV. It also pulls basic cable stations, too. Some cable providers provide a basic channel lineup with cable modem service for little or no cost. These stations (there are usually between 10-25) can be picked up with any TV tuner including Boxee’s Live TV dongle. Other companies pipe a full complement of unencrypted stations including HD stations through their wires that will work, too. Your mileage will very.

The tuner works as advertised but there are still several features missing for the Boxee Box to be the ultimate cord cutting device. For one, DVR functionality would be killer if, say, the Boxee Box could schedule and record live TV to a local or network drive. The Boxee team says they’re looking into the feasibility of a DVR so it could be in the works. The content guide could also use a little work. Right now, it’s just a list of stations on the left side of the screen. Boxee should look to TiVo and others to build a more complete guide.

As with the rest of Boxee, the app is social. Users can share what they’re watching on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

The bottom line is Boxee Live TV works. Plug in the dongle to bring live, somewhat traditional content to the Boxee Box. It’s that simple. Sure, most HDTVs already have a ATSC tuner built-in but using it is often a hassle. Boxee Live TV is as easy as the rest of the media stream. The Boxee Box was already the best device to rid oneself from the chains of subscription TV. Now it’s just that much better.

Boxee Live TV will ship this week for $49.99. It’s a tough sell to those that use a Boxee Box for a cable TV supplement, not a full replacement (like me). However, it’s a no-brainer for Boxee Box owners without any other form of pay TV.

ScholarPro Intelligently Matches Students With Educational Scholarships

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST


Chicago-based ScholarPro is launching today as an intelligent matching system for students and educational scholarships. Designed to ease the search and application process, ScholarPro’s adaptive matching engine promises to deliver smarter, targeted lists of scholarships. It aims to fix the current dated process that require students to navigate complex application processes and then fail to deliver relevant results.

On the site, you answer a few simple adaptive questions, such as where you are from, etc. and the platform will match you to scholarships that fit your needs. You can actually apply for the scholarships directly from ScholarPro.

As founder Francis Kim explains, the startup’s matching engine is actually built on the adaptive quiz and aims to strictly qualify student for scholarships so results are opportunities students actually qualify for.

Fot now, ScholarPro only offers scholarships available in California but will be steadily expanding. Kim says the site is free to use and wouldn’t reveal revenue plans just yet. The startup recently raised just under $1 million and was led by Sandbox Industries with Sam Yagan, Mac Harman and KD Capital participating.

CouchSurfing Gets More Cash As Point Nine Capital Becomes Its First European Investor

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 05:36 AM PST


Exclusive - Berlin-based early-stage venture capital firm Point Nine Capital has become the first European investor in CouchSurfing, a site that helps travelers connect with locals worldwide to share accommodation, experiences and whatnot.

The investment is in fact an extension of the $7.6 million Series A round raised from Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network in August 2011.

Read more at TechCrunch Europe.

500 Startups Grad OneSchool Raises $750K For College Student-Focused App

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST


OneSchool, a free mobile app for college students which provides easy access to maps, course schedules, directories, bus routes, news, student groups and more, is announcing its official launch today in eight universities around the U.S. The company is also revealing it has raised $750,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups, Learn Capital and Magnolia Ventures.

The startup, which had the honor of being the first to raise angel funding after participation in the minority-focused accelerator called NewMe, also graduated from 500 Startups‘ fall class this past October.

For those unaware, what OneSchool aims to offer is a single, mobile destination for college students to find everything they need about their campus. This includes the above-mentioned student directories, course listings, maps, groups, etc. There’s even a bulletin board-like feature dubbed the “Wall,” which is like a dumbed-down version of Facebook’s own Wall, supporting only text posts and image uploads (the latter coming soon). The application is available for the mobile web, iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone, and requires an @edu address to sign up.

Currently more social utility than social network, OneSchool has been up-and-running in these eight schools since late August, but was in “testing mode” until today. It now supports Penn State, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, UCLA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Houston and the University of Waterloo.

To be clear, OneSchool isn’t partnering with the schools here – it’s pulling in publicly available information, and making it available in a useable mobile format. Based on demand, there are now 150 schools on the company waitlist, the company says. That’s one reason why they’re now considering creating a proces that would involve crowdsourcing techniques to get new schools online faster. However, no such tools are publicly available at this time.

In terms of market positioning, the company hopes to capitalize on the ubiquity of smartphones on college campuses today. “In 2008, just 10% of students across the country had smartphones,” says Co-founder and CEO David Adewumi, “but just last year, 57% of students were connecting to the Internet from their smartphone.”

Although some colleges and universities may have their own mobile applications, they don’t often include the kind of info students really need. The apps often are focused more on press releases and info for prospective students than on their current student population, the company found. There are also few schools that have even produced such an app, period. Says Adewumi, of the 4300 schools across the country, just 270 have a dedicated mobile application.

Clearly, the demand for this type of app has been high. At Penn State, the first school supported, OneSchool estimates that 83% of the iPhone and Android users on campus have adopted the app (based on current smartphone adoption rates). That’s 16,000 downloads out of 31,000 students, 18,000-20,000 of whom own a smartphone. Across the rest of the schools, around 50% of the undergrad population have done the same.

In addition to CEO David Adewumi (24), OneSchool’s young founders include CTO Pindi Albert (18) and Zach Johnston (20). David and Zach met at a fraternity at Penn State, where David’s father is a professor, and decided to create an entrepreneurship group there. Pindi, whose parents are also professors at Penn State, attended high school with David prior to joining OneSchool.

Adewumi says the idea for OneSchool came to him when he saw how much students were using their smartphones, including snapping photos of homework problems and texting them to friends for help.

“Students are really using their smartphones, but there wasn’t anything for them in a college-specific environment,” explains Adewumi. “Kids have had mobile phones for four to five years before coming into college. For most of these kids, their smartphone is their primary computing device…We saw that trend and realized there’s a big opportunity to deliver [OneSchool's content] on mobile devices.”

Xobni Brings Contact Manager Smartr To The iPhone

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 04:59 AM PST


As we reported last September, Xobni rebranded its email contact manager Smartr and launched Android and Gmail apps out of private beta. Today, Xobni is debuting the iPhone version of Smartr.

The Smartr Cloud automatically extracts all contacts from your iPhone’s email data (currently integrated with Outlook or Gmail), as well as data from social networks, and makes them easily searchable. A complete profile is created for each contact, including a photo, job title, phone numbers, company details, email history, common contacts and info from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

All contacts are ranked by importance, not alphabetically, so the most important people are at the top. Different tabs show you contact details, that contact’s recent social feeds, your relationship history, and other contacts you share in common. The Gmail add-on shows you contextual information about whoever is sending you an email culled from various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and company databases. It also shows you your relationship history with that contact, a list of pervious email conversations and related contacts, as well as contact search.

As Xobni explains, these rich profiles help you better understand your relationship with each contact, how you know them, when you last communicated, and whom you know in common.

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