Yahoo Implies It Can Still Shake Down Facebook For Patent Money. Bloody Unlikely |

Fishy

Yahoo and Facebook signed a contract today that says they cannot sue each other over patents. Yet Yahoo may be trying to convince investors that Facebook would still pay to buy or license some Yahoo intellectual property. But according to a source familiar with the exact wording of the Yahoo-Facebook contract, the two companies have rights to each other’s entire patent portfolios, so Yahoo would have no leverage to extort money or value from Facebook.

I smell something fishy. Let’s investigate.

Facebook’s press release states the agreement does “include a patent portfolio cross-license”, and my source says the word ‘portfolio’ means each company’s entire patent repertoire.

Kara Swisher had a scoop that the agreement was signed. Yet in a follow-up interview about details, “the pair” of Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg apparently told Swisher that “The deal encompasses licensing of a little more than half of Yahoo’s rich portfolio of digital patents and an agreement not to sue on the remaining ones, which Facebook can license or even buy in the future.” Swisher tells me this information is attributed to “both companies”.

So the question is, is this case shut tight and Yahoo can’t make money off of Facebook via patents? Or is there still potential for Yahoo to salvage some direct compensation beyond the value of a deepened partnership?

The contract’s details are confidential, so we may never get a definitive answer on this. But here’s what I believe based on my sources and the press release:

What Swisher was told and published would cause people to believe Yahoo might still make money directly from its patent assault on Facebook. The same assault that Swisher said former CEO Scott Thompson promised Yahoo’s directors would earn it a huge settlement pay-out from Facebook. The same assault that deeply hurt Yahoo’s reputation by making it look like a troll fighting against innovation.

The only chance for Yahoo would be if Facebook eventually wanted to outright buy its patents to assert them against other companies. But Facebook has said and shown it’s not interested in patent aggression. Plus with stockpiles already purchased from IBM and AOL/Microsoft, there would be little need to buy or license IP it already has rights to.

Seems like Yahoo has a lot to gain by somehow painting today’s agreement as leaving space for it to still recoup some of its losses from fighting the case. But that gain comes by misleading investors into thinking patent-based monetary gains for Yahoo from Facebook are still on the horizon. And while Facebook is trying to claw its way back to its IPO price, now it has investors worrying there could be more Yahoo patent woes.

Unfortunately for Yahoo, I don’t think that’s true and I see nothing on the patent horizon but the open sea its sinking in. Even as Facebook threw it a life preserver of an ad sales partnership, Yahoo is still trying to act macho. This was a chance for Yahoo to start over, but now I’m thinking old habits die hard, and the deceitful ghost of Scott Thompson lingers.

[Image Credit: Zazzle]


TechCrunch » SocialTechCrunch


Why Google+ Doesn’t Care If You Never Come Back |

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Google Leave Me Alone

Ad targeting. Google+ is designed to power ad targeting, and for that it only needs you to sign up once. This lets it combine the biographical information you initially enter such as age, gender, education, employers, and places you’ve lived with your activity on Search, Gmail, Maps and all its other products to create an accurate identity profile. And this powers targeting of more relevant ads it can charge more for.

So despite comScore showing that the average Google+ user only spends 3 minutes per month on Google+, VP Bradley Horowitz wasn’t lying when he told the Wall Street Journal ”We’re growing by every metric we care about”.

Maybe when it first launched, Google+ had aspirations of stealing away some of your content feed reading time from Facebook and Twitter. While it needs a lot of work, the design and features Google+ have launched are solid, and I have the utmost respect for team team doing the best it can. The problem is that it doesn’t solve a problem. Facebook owns the social graph and the relevance-sorted news feed of your friends’ activity, and Twitter owns the interest graph and the firehose of news and real-time updates.

But that was not why Google made building social functionality a priority. Nor was improving its already dominant search feature. It’d would love this engagement but it doesn’t need it. Google scrambled to build Google+ because it watched Facebook and saw users were willing to volunteer biographical data to their social network, and that data is crucial to serving accurate ads users want to click. Search keywords and algorithmic analysis of your Gmail and other content weren’t enough. It had to start the journey to identity after shortsighted years of allowing users to sign up without asking who they really were. 90 million signups is a good start.

Isn’t it curious that Google+ doesn’t actually show you any ads? It’s because the time-on-site and page views there are trivial. Hit the road, Jack. Don’t you ever come back and post an update, upload a photo, or add anyone to your Circles. It doesn’t matter. What’s important to Google is getting your biographical data. That’s why Google founder Larry Page said that by “baking identity into all of our products…you’ll have better, more relevant search results and ads.” on the 2011 Q3 earnings call.

But the really sad part is that soon, biographical data won’t be enough either. Facebook, having successfully determined who over 845 million people are, now wants to know what they do. It wants behavior data, and has created the Open Graph platform to foster apps that tell it what you do in structured way it can target ads against.

Google’s a talented company with a trove of Android usage, search, email, and maps data Facebook and Twitter lack. But now it needs to think hard, come up with a brilliant strategy, and leap-frog. Otherwise Google is going to find itself playing catch up in a race that’s already over.


Virtual Currency and Pay Per View 2.0: World Series Of Beer Pong To Stream On Facebook |

World Series Of Beer Pong Stream By Milyoni

In Facebook’s early days the company planned a national beer pong tournament, but then cancelled it out of fear it would promote underage drinking. Tomorrow, that dream will be revived in a new way when social video and ecommerce company Milyoni streams The World Series of Beer Pong through its Facebook app. For 50 Facebook Credits/$ 5 PayPal pre-sale or 70/$ 7 once the games begin, viewers can tune in to all the boozy action from doubles to rebuttals. The stream could demonstrate whether live sports could work as Facebook pay-per-view programming.

For those scratching their heads, yes, some people take throwing ping pong balls into red cups of beer very seriously. Enough to spend all day practicing to compete for the $ 50,000 World Series grand prize. The game’s a popular spectator sport at colleges, but only amongst people waiting to play next. I doubt there’ll be a huge turnout for this streaming event.

For Milyoni it may be more about seeing if sports drama drives use of the social features baked into its video player. Viewers will be able to leave timed comments, chat live with others watching, and possibly share clips with friends. While one team sinking the final cup might not be huge news, it could show if users would want to share clips of a boxing match knockout to the news feed. The TV Free Media stream carried by Milyoni will be accessible from the web, smartphones, and tablets.

The event is also a milestone for Facebook’s virtual currency Credits, through which the social network will earn a 30% cut of any Milyoni user that pays with Credits. While Milyoni has previously been used for streaming concerts and movies, sports is the premier vertical for pay-per-view. Major League Baseball briefly tested streaming games over Facebook, but it’s social features weren’t up to snuff.

If the Milyoni stream of the World Series of Beer Pong fares well, it could encourage more sports leagues to license their content for Facebook streaming. One day, you might be able to watch big boxing matches, mixed martial arts fights, pro wrestling, or soccer matches on Facebook pay-per-view. This would create a significant virtual goods and services revenue stream for Facebook beyond social games.

Those who want to buy streaming access to BPONG’s World Series Of Beer Pong VII can visit BPONG’s Facebook Page. The games begin at 2pm PST on January 4th, 2011.

[Featured Image Credit: Josh Constine’s final Anthropology 101 paper]


Well’s Social List-Making App Thinks Outside The “To-Do” |

Well

 

Well, a new social and collaborative to-do list application from former Digg, Blip.fm and Rackspace engineers, is officially launching today on iPhone, web and mobile web. But according to ex-Digg engineer and Well CEO Arin Sarkissian, the focus for the application isn’t only on typical “to-dos” which is why the app’s name doesn’t include “to-do” in its title. Instead, the idea for Well is to serve as a repository for any type of list, whether that’s books to read, movies to see, things you like or don’t like, or even a collection of things you may be comparing in advance of a future purchase.

This loose idea surrounding list-making is one of the things that makes Well intriguing, because its structure is that which doesn’t necessarily require the usual checklist of things that have to be accomplished within a given timeframe. However, for today’s launch, the nomenclature of “to dos” is present in the app, but the team is going to see where the community takes things going forward.

Already, we’ve spotted some very non-traditional lists, including lists of bowling balls someone likes, apps someone hates, and even an uh…let’s just call it a list of attractive people. (I’m not going to repeat that list’s title in polite company here. Arin admits that there may be some need for having the service itself automatically set some lists to private in the future!)

Making lists within Well is simple. Currently, the app doesn’t pull data in using APIs and third-party sources, but rather offers the ability to create basic text-based entries for each item entered. However, that’s not to say the app doesn’t have a visually inspiring layout. The lead image for each list is either selected from a database of attractive stock photos, or can be added via the phone’s camera roll or Instagram. When browsing through the app, the photos give what’s normally a boring thing – a to-do list – a more visual, and therefore more inspirational, look-and-feel.

There’s a social element to Well, too. Using a Twitter-like model, friends can find and follow each other and make suggestions which can be added to each other’s lists. For example, a list about a “trip to NYC” might see incoming suggestions about restaurants to try or places to sh0p. Users can control which of these items are accepted (that is, added) to their own list. They can also proactively reach out to others to collaborate on lists, like a list of things to buy for their home, which may be shared with their partner.

Like Pinterest, users on the app can check out their friends’ lists and those that are public and “relist” (the equivalent of the Pinterest re-pin) items they like back to lists of their own. And I have to add that I’m personally thrilled with the detailed level of customization the app offers in terms of email and push notifications. It’s really granular. (App developers, this is how it should be done).

For now, the app is only available on the web and iPhone, but Android users can participate through the mobile web experience. Unfortunately, that will remain the case for the near future – the team is more focused on general improvements, including ways to better highlight trending list items, than it is on going cross-platform right now.  Eventually, the goal is to connect the items being listed – the purchase intent – with services that can help users complete those tasks.

The San Mateo-based startup is currently a team of five with three ex-Digg engineers as co-founders. (The full team includes Arin Sarkissian, Mike Mayo, Jamie Lottering, Ryan Downing, and Addison Kowalski). Arin says he was inspired to create Well following his time with Digg, as his position there had previously allowed him a high level of visibility into what his engineering team was up to. Later, he pondered, “why don’t I know all the stuff my friends want to do?” Hence, Well.

The startup raised just over $ 1 million in funding in a round that closed in late March with participation from Venrock, Pivot North Ventures, Accelerator Ventures, Chris Kelly (ex Chief Privacy officer at Facebook), Ben T. Smith IV (former CEO of Merchant Circle & Spoke Software, currently ShopCo), Chris Tolles (CEO Topix), Tim Stevens (VP of Business Development, Cloudera), and Ben Ling (COO of Badoo).

You can grab Well for iPhone here or sign up here to use it via the web instead.


TechCrunch » Social


Users Claim Twoo Is Spamming Their Friends, Social Network Says It’s “Just Not Clear Enough” |

Twoo

 

Users are complaining that Twoo, a social networking service, is sending unwanted messages to their contacts. Co-founder and CEO Lorenz Bogaert counters that this is a misunderstanding and the company is working to fix it.

Users, both those who have emailed me and who have posted public reviews in the app store, say that the mobile app is intentionally designed to be tricky and cause the user to invite their entire address book.

The app auto-selects all of the user’s friends with no unselect all button, meaning the user must manually unselect every friend. While the “connect” button fairly obviously pings all of the user’s contacts, the “next” button will also send messages to all of the user’s friends. Additionally, the orange outlines around contacts’ images signifies that they are selected; however, this is not obvious as the app auto-selects all contacts and the orange outline appears to be part of the design.

 

On the browser version, users have told us me the site shows just seven contacts and an “other” profile, which has the rest of the users contacts. Rather than a scrollbar down to all of the user’s friends (like on Facebook and others), it appears as though only seven or eight friends have been highlighted, while all of the users’ contacts have again been selected.

“We do not send any messages without the prior consent of the user,” Bogaert tells me.

But multiple users in the Apple App Store have complained recently:

 

As have users in the Google Play app store:

 

Boegart notes that these are just a handful of users of millions of Twoo users; however, he adds that they have noticed the complaints and “had already decided to add an additional confirmation step to avoid any unintended actions.”

He says the additional step should be live in the next 24 hours.

While I’d like to believe that this was a simple miscommunication between developer and user (Boegart describes it as “just not clear enough for some users”), it would be very easy for a social network to grow this way until users complain and then change it. After all, it’s often easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

At the very best, the site is unnecessarily confusing. At the worst, it is purposefully complex in order to message unsuspecting users’ contacts to increase its membership.

Neither one is a very positive descriptor.


Ustream’s Broadcast For Friends App Brings Live iPhone Video To Facebook –

Ustream

 

Livestreaming service Ustream is throwing a big party tonight, and like so many Silicon Valley parties, it’s doubling as a product launch, where executives are demonstrating the company’s Broadcast For Friends app for iOS. (It stands for BFF, which is, okay, actually kind of clever.)

Senior Vice President of Marketing David Thompson took a break from party-planning to give me a quick demo of the app. He says one of the main goals is simplicity, which is one reason why BFF is launching as a standalone product, rather than an addition to the existing Ustream iPhone app. To start making a video, you just enter a short description, a privacy setting (whether you want it to be viewable to everyone, just to your Facebook friends, or entirely private), and choose filter.

Then video is posted on your Facebook Timeline, and here’s the cool part — your friends can start watching live footage, directly from Facebook. When people leave comments or “like” your video, you get notified as you’re filming within the app. Once you’re done filming, the video switches from a livestream to a recording.

Cell reception in the TechCrunch office is terrible, so Thompson demonstrated the app for me over WiFi, and the footage was, indeed, streaming live to Facebook with a delay of only a few seconds. Apparently the BFF app does a bandwidth check before you begin streaming. If you don’t have enough bandwidth, the app just records the footage instead, and then immediately uploads it once you’re connected again.

There has, obviously, been a lot of interest in mobile video sharing in the past few months. For the most part, however, the big competitors haven’t focused on live video. In fact, when Justin.tv launched Socialcam last year, one of the team members told me that the company had learned from the Justin.tv mobile livestreaming app that users care more about video quality and social features than they do about whether the video is live.

Thompson counters that only Ustream has built the technical infrastructure to support live mobile video of this quality. He also argues that there are many moments that are just so much more powerful when they’re live. For example, he shared his baby’s first steps through the BFF app — if you’re part of the family, it’s nice to watch a video of the first steps, but if you get to see those first steps as they happen, “that’s something you’ll never forget.” The same argument could apply to things like sports, concerts, or really any special events.

The app should be available “very soon,” Thompson says. Also coming in that promising-but-vague timeframe: The ability to view live video not just on Facebook’s desktop site, but on mobile too.


Twitter’s Succès De Scandale: Olympics Suspension Fiasco Drove Signups |

Twitter

 

There’s no such thing as bad publicity. A source tells TechCrunch that mainstream news mentions of the temporary suspension of an NBC Olympics coverage tweeter / hater gave Twitter’s signup rate a boost. The same source revealed that the debacle led to internal communication within Twitter, describing the scandal as having a silver lining: “A good thing”.

That Twitter would tattletale on a tweeter and encourage an offended company to file complaint against them has surely shook confidence of its core user base, many of which revel in the service’s free speech. The company has apologized.

Right now Twitter needs user growth to power its ad model and lay a nest egg. So its understandable that user growth in any permutation, no matter the cause, is viewed positively.

The unfolding Guy Adams drama, from suspension to NBC withdrawing its complaint to reinstatement, piggybacked on the Olympics to become a top world news story. Articles about Twitter dominated the tech blogs, but also garnered tons of coverage from mainstream outlets like the USA Today and Huffington Post as well as sports press like Deadspin.

Seems many readers became curious about Twitter and signed up. Without the hubbub they might not have. The infamy could help Twitter build on its 500 million-plus registrations or get people to revisit the 330 million inactive accounts that have been set-up but abandoned over the years.

This months new signups could be hard to distinguish from increases sparked by the Olympics themselves. Coverage of the suspension likely combined with the service’s s heavy involvement in the London games to get people saying “alright, I’ll check this Twitter thing out.” Similar spikes are thought to have resulted from mainstream press mentions of Twitter surrounding the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

Twitter’s ad products have shown a lot of promise. Promoted tweets are getting 1-3% click through rates, even higher on mobile, and insiders told Bloomberg it expects to hit $ 1 billion in revenue by 2014. That may depend on the Twitter taking flight with average joes — the kind this month’s “negative press” may have brought in.

We’ve also heard rumors that Twitter may be trying to drum up hype before announcing plans to IPO or raise a massive funding round. The $ 1 billion revenue projection and sources telling the New York Times that Apple was interested in buying a stake in Twitter both could have been purposeful leaks to this end.

The debacle that ensued from booting Guy Adams surely wasn’t manufactured. But what better way to convince the world of Twitter’s importance than one person’s removal making headlines around the globe?


Unmetric Scores The Virality Of Brands’ YouTube Campaigns –

Unmetric

 

Social benchmarking startup Unmetric just expanded its tools to include YouTube, giving brands a new way to measure the effectiveness of their video campaigns.

Of course, companies can already see plenty of stats about their videos — views, likes, and more. But Unmetric tries to synthesize all that data into a single score, and then shows how that score stacks up against competitors.

The company was already providing scores for Facebook pages and Twitter handles. On YouTube, Unmetric says it looks at 24 different metrics, including tags, views, comments, favorites, and ratings, then gives a channel a score between 0 and 100. Customers can also drill down on individual videos or on specific factors to see what they could be doing better. For example, Chevrolet (Unmetric score for May: 60) has uploaded 66 videos adding up to more than three hours of content, while Ford (Unmetric score: 43) has only uploaded four videos/six minutes, and Dodge (34) and Chrysler (35) only have four minutes between the two of them.

The company’s other YouTube features include the ability to compare the length of videos to see whether long or short videos lead to more videos and combining tags into a word cloud to see the types of content that seem to work.

Unmetric says it has already scored the YouTube channels of more than 1,750 brands. You can explore the results for here.


Traffic Vs Friendship: My Tough Decision To Turn On Facebook Subscribe |

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I’ve been using Facebook since its early years. So today it has the most complete and accurate set of connections to people I’ve known throughout my life. Exactly because of its success in assembling this group, I’ve avoided turning on its five month-old Subscribe feature — until now.

For those of you who want to gain a big personal Facebook following but don’t want to spam your friends, here’s my reasoning for taking my Facebook profile public.

Subscribe, if you’re not familiar, lets a Facebook user allow other users to follow their publicly-shared information without that person having to follow any of them back. It’s a more visceral way for users to connect with real people versus the relatively stilted and underused individual fan pages.

Like Twitter, and in contrast to Facebook’s 5,000 friend limit, any person who has enabled Subscribe can get as many followers as possible. Facebook may have adopted this asymetrical relationship model years after competitors, but because its 850 million user base is so much larger than anyone else’s, it can offer many more potential followers. It has also been boosting Subscribe growth by recommending users Subscribe to relevant users via a module on the right side of its home page.

All sorts of real celebrities, web mini-celebrities and even fellow tech bloggers have been racking up tens of thousands of subscribers. And these numbers aren’t just for vanity, they drive serious usage. When TechCrunch writers who have enabled Subscribe share their posts with their Facebook audience, they tend to get the most traffic out of the dozens of posts we publish each day.

I won’t reveal the specific stats for authors, although you can get a sense from the share numbers to the left of each post. But here’s a related measure to illustrate the high engagement that comes from Facebook. TechCrunch has a whopping 2,041,083 Twitter followers but only 421,657 Facebook fans. However, total Facebook pageviews to TechCrunch, whether from authors or the fan page, beat out the total from our Twitter account and author tweets over the last thirty days.

In fact, Facebook beat out every other traffic source over the same period, except for Google (which in contrast to Facebook also drives lots of traffic to older articles). This measure is complicated by the fact that we only share a few posts each day on Facebook versus blasting out every post on Twitter  – it could be that this more curated approach yields more engaged users, but it could also mean that we’re not maxing out the potential traffic we could get from Facebook.

But still. It has been impossible for anyone in the business of getting web traffic to ignore these types of results. By anyone I don’t just mean celebrities and journalists, I mean topical experts, marketers, any type of politician, any business driven by a personal brand, etc.

Which brings me back to the problem I’ve been wrestling with. How do I reconcile the incentives for new traffic and engagement from Facebook users with the obligation to not spam my real-life friends? You know, people who I’ve friended over the years with the implied understanding that we’d mainly be sharing information that we’re mutually interested in.

I’ve been through this question before, in 2008, when for a period of time I imported all of my tweets into my personal Facebook account. While some friends told me that they did appreciate learning about all the random tech stuff that I was covering at VentureBeat, I got the impression that I was being spammy because quite a few of the posts didn’t get serious interaction. I ended up turning off imports and switching back to only sharing personal information. Tech was far less mainstream them, so maybe people will be more interested now?

But here’s my approach, and it’s similar to what TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener does for our Facebook page. I’m only going to share a few stories here and there, that seem especially relevant. So, stories about Facebook (like this one, of course), or stories with a relatively straightforward consumery angle.

This is ultimately a kludge that encourages me to do exactly what Facebook doesn’t want, which is not sharing to Facebook. The real solution here will be on Facebook’s end. As Josh laid out in December, the company should just create a new sharing setting that allows you to just share with the people who subscribe to you but not your friends. Maybe its product leaders have thought of some scenario here that us tech bloggers haven’t, because every single person I talk to is surprised that such a feature doesn’t exist.


Tumblr President John Maloney Steps Down, Promises “Awesome New Stuff” |

Tumblr

 

Tumblr President John Maloney just posted (on his Tumblr, natch) that he’s stepping down from a day-to-day operational role at the company.

“It’s the right time for me and a good time for Tumblr,” Maloney writes. “We’re in great hands with David and the excellent leadership team we’ve built.”

However, he says he will stay involved in what sounds like an advisory role: “The transition from running ops is effective immediately, but I’m sticking close w/ [founder and CEO David Karp], the team and company. There’s more work to do and I want to help see it thru”.

Maloney became president of Tumblr in 2008, but his history with Karp goes back further — before starting Tumblr, Karp worked at Maloney’s startup UrbanBaby.

Oh, and Maloney also says that “the team will ship some awesome new stuff next week.” He doesn’t say what that will be, but he could be referring to the new paid promotional units that Karp mentioned would launch on May 2. (Random note: A Tumblr spokesperson previously told me that it’s not an “ad unit per se” but rather “a package of native promotion for the Tumblr post.”)


TechCrunch » Social