Forget about Google Me, Facebook unveils its Google rival

For weeks, techies have speculated about Google Me, the company’s secret project to take on social networking king Facebook.

But Google isn’t the only one that can play that game.

On Wednesday, Facebook unveiled a new question-and-answer service for the 500 million users of its Internet social network that could have serious implications for Google.

FBQuestionsThe new service isn’t a traditional search engine, per se, but it addresses many of the same needs that a search engine does, and thus could pose a threat to Google’s lucrative search empire.

Facebook Questions, as the new service is called, allows any Facebook user to tap into the collective knowledge of the vast Facebook community for recommendations about restaurants and music, gardening tips, or whatever else tickles their fancy.

Facebook said on Wednesday that the service is currently being “beta” tested with a limited number of people, but that it hopes to make it widely available as quickly as it can. All answers to queries will be publicly visible to everyone on Facebook and classified according to topics or themes for easy browsing by Facebook users.

Facebook: Welcome PR “flacks” of the world

On Tuesday afternoon, representatives of the tech industry’s biggest corporations convened at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.

The attendees were not engineers or Internet monetization experts, but a less celebrated breed in the Silicon Valley landscape: public relations officials.

INTERNET-SOCIALMEDIA/PRIVACYFacebook had summoned the hard-working spinmeisters to Palo Alto make its own pitch to them.

Too much of a good thing: Flipboard launch hype overwhelms service

It looked like a product launch home run.

When Flipboard, a hot new social media iPad app, made its public debut on Wednesday it had all the key pieces in place: endorsements from influential tech bloggers like Robert Scoble (who declared Flipboard “revolutionary”), a $10.5 million funding round from big-name investors including some of the co-founders Facebook and Twitter, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and even Ashton Kutcher, and a slot to demo the product at this week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.

But the company appears to have overlooked one key checklist item: server capacity.

FlipBoardThe hype that Flipboard created for its new product was so great that the company was quickly overwhelmed by the resulting crush of demand. As users downloaded the app and attempted to use the service’s social networking features late on Wednesday, they were greeted with a message telling them the service wasn’t available and asking for patience.

Google buys into Zynga – report

zynga-pokerGoogle has invested as much as $200 million in social gaming company Zynga, as it looks to bolster its presence in the world of online gaming, according to technology blog TechCrunch.

According to TechCrunch, the investment may have been in conjunction with Softbank Capital’s deal to purchase a stake in Zynga, which makes games for social networks including Facebook and MySpace and profits by selling virtual goods.  In June, Nikkei reported that Softbank bought a stake in Zynga for about 13.5 billion yen ($147.4 million) through a private placement.

The site said that The investment was made by Google itself, not Google Ventures and that Zynga will be “the cornerstone of a new Google Games to launch later this year.” Zynga’s revenues for the first half of 2010 will be $350 million, half of which is operating profit, and is projecting at least $1.0 billion in revenue in 2011, according to the site.

from DealZone:

Facebook is more than just a pretty face

The social networking website of Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) is now worth $23 billion, close to the value of online shopping website Ebay, based on the price of a recent stock purchase by private equity firm Elevation Partners. Elevation purchased $120 million in Facebook stock from private shareholders, valuing the company at $23 billion, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

A valuation of that amount makes Facebook larger than Yahoo, which has a market capitalisation of $20 billion, and edging closer to the size of Ebay, at $27 billion. Still, it is a fraction the size of Google ($150 billion). Facebook's backers include Digital Sky Technologies, Microsoft Corp Corp, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and venture capital firms Accel Partners, Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital Partners.

from The Great Debate UK:

Facebook group defends “harassed” BP


BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward branded “the most hated man in America” may be surprised to find himself cast in the role of victim by a growing clan of web-based supporters on Facebook.

One such group ‘Support BP’ calls itself the defender of an “undeservedly harassed institution” and seeks to show that the public opprobrium BP faces over its now 60-day-old Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not universal.

Members have been increasingly vocal since a succession of strong rebukes of BP by U.S. President Obama and lawmakers at Thursday’s congressional hearing, which they are calling a “lynch mob”.

Twitter’s Costolo: not quite footloose and fancy free

You’d think fast-racing Twitter would keep one eye firmly fixed on the rearview and side mirrors.

With the Internet landscape littered with also-rans — from to to a Facebook-steamrolled MySpace — you’d imagine the one thing overnight Internet microblogging phenomenon Twitter would fear the most would be to get displaced by an up-and-comer with the same alarming speed.

Not so. Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo insists no one at the company he has worked at for less than a year worries about two theoretical guys in a garage dreaming up the next social networking sensation.

from Summit Notebook:

Even the best VCs strikeout — a lot

Got access to a couple million bucks and want to be a venture capitalist? A miner of start-up business gold? Then get used to being wrong.

That's one lesson we learned during a discussion with Venture Capitalists at the Reuters Technology Summit: even the most successful investors -- those who finance the bandwagon others jump on when it comes to the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter -- meet with entrepreneurs, like what they hear, write a check, and watch the investment go up in smoke.

Rich Wong, partner of Accel Partners, an investor in social networking site Facebook and mobile advertising network AdMob, the rate of picking winners is much like baseball batting averages, where top players like Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols or Ichiro Suzuki do not get a hit 7 of every 10 times they come to the plate.

Actually, Yahoo is not spending another $85 million on ads

The news that Yahoo is spending $75 million to $85 million on an ad blitz has provoked a wave of disparagement in the blogosphere, with many critics slamming Yahoo for throwing more money away on an ineffective marketing strategy.

But much of the outcry appears to stem from a misunderstanding.

YahooBannerThe $75 million to $85 million in advertising is actually part of the $100 million campaign that Yahoo announced in September; It does not represent an additional $75 million to $85 million in ad spending.

A Yahoo spokesperson confirmed that Yahoo has only spent between $15 million and $25 million on the “It’s You” ad campaign since it was rolled out in September, with the remainder of the $100 million budgeted for the new ads, which represent phase two of the campaign.