As Zynga prepares for the largest technology public offering since Google, I hash it out with Reuters’ tech editor Peter Lauria and reporter Liana Baker over Zynga’s estimated $9 billion valuation.
Imagine you’re a reporter and you suddenly witness a major news event occurring right before your eyes. Do you snap it to the wire, file a story to your website, or tweet it out to your followers? If you’re at the AP, you damn well better not choose the latter.
In a perfect world, you’d want to do all the above, though your employer is going to likely want you to do the first two before you tweet. Today, Reuters is a lot more than just a wire service. We’ve built — and are continuing to build — what we think is the world’s greatest news website, in the form of Reuters.com, and part of that is providing our readers with reliable and timely news, information, opinion and analysis.
An extension of that website is the information we post on our social media accounts, at Google+, Twitter and on Facebook. We’re not just reporting our own news there, but have become a beacon for all news, being as comprehensive as possible so readers come to us first for all they need to know. We’ve got things like Counterparties, created by Ryan McCarthy and Felix Salmon that does a great job at bringing news from around the web to our readers.
Google has had a series of embarrassing flops when it comes to new products. Google Wave was too complicated and didn’t solve a problem anyone had. Google Buzz never caught on with enough people to become useful. Now, they’ve set their sights directly on Facebook with Google+ and after spending a little less than a day with it, I have to admit I am intrigued.
There are a couple of things that make Google+ compelling. The first is that despite the fact it’s still in limited beta, with many folks begging for invites from friends, it feels active and alive. When you log in, it appears like the early days of Facebook, before they piled on app after app and feature after feature.
Being the new thing is an advantage, because you can focus on the features that people really want. Google+ focuses on a feed of updates, similar to the Facebook Wall, and forces people to place their contacts into “Circles” which is similar to Facebook’s “Groups” that seems to be utilized only by a small audience.
The first time I used Skype I was in awe. The video quality, the effortlessness it allowed me to see and hear my family far away over my laptop computer screen was magic. It was even more magical when I tried it on my iPhone — a Dick Tracy moment. And it was more impressive than FaceTime because it allowed me to talk to anyone with Skype, not just with those who had an iPhone.
Today, Skype will likely begin to be lost in the maw that is Microsoft. Sure, Microsoft still remains one of the most valuable companies this country has ever produced but aside from the XBox, it hasn’t been on the leading edge of innovation in many years. Apple, Google and companies like Facebook and Twitter are seen at the forefront of the digital age. Microsoft, in comparison, seems like the once great star athlete, a Michael Jordan attempting to regain some glory by playing minor league baseball.
The best case scenario here is that Microsoft rolls Skype into a product like Kinect, which hasn’t quite taken the world by storm, and becomes a simple, easy to use videoconferencing device for the living room, that takes us beyond just hunching over our computers to interact with our friends who are far away.
Is Facebook just an elaborate direct marketer’s masterwork? Should I think twice before using my existing Twitter account to log into various services all around the web? Should I be worried about handing my credit card over to Sony? These and other perfectly valid and simultaneously conspiracy theoretical ideas tend to float in and around my head from time to time. The big scare du-jour, is if Apple’s iPhone and Google’s mobile OS, Android, are tracking and archiving our every movement.
A journalistic tennis match on this topic took place over the course of the last few days. First, this is old news. Apple responded to congress regarding this almost a year ago. Digital forensics specialists have known you could track locations on iOS devices for some time, and have used the data to assist law enforcement. Alex Levinson, an RIT student, even published a research paper and subsequent book last December detailing data acquisition techniques for iOS products, like the iPhone and iPad. He says that Apple is not collecting the data.
The Wall Street Journal added Google to the mix, citing that Apple is not alone in the practice of collecting user information. Julia Angwin at the Journal claims that not only are Apple and Google collecting the data and storing it locally on the phone, but they actually regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google. The endgame? Angwin believes they’re racing to build a massive database of location information in order to tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services. Today, Apple seemed to indicate that was part of their plan, as they revealed they’re building a crowd-sourced traffic service.