MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple changes course on iAd

The WSJ.com reports that Apple is softening its approach to its iAd mobile advertising service due to the tepid response as it loses ground to Google in the fast-growing mobile-ad market.

Marketers say they have been turned off by iAd’s high price tag as well as Apple’s hard-charging sales tactics and its stringent control over the creative process which has forced Apple to make some changes.

Facebook is probably not the first place that comes to mind when contemplating new career opportunities.

But Monster.com, the career search website, hopes to change that with BeKnown, a professional networking app that allows users to build their professional identities within Facebook.

Staying with Facebook, Bloomberg reports that the social networking site is planning its first push into mobile advertising by the end of March, giving the company a fresh source of revenue ahead of a possible initial public offering, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

A more controlled stumbling with StumbleUpon channels

It’s been two-and-half years since online social media service StumbleUpon hit the eject button from eBay, its one-time corporate parent.

Since then, the company has grown its users and its staff. The San Francisco-based company now has 100 employees (25 percent of whom are former Googlers, the company says), up from 30 employees at the time of the eBay spin-off.

And the service, which lets users discover interesting Web content that has been flagged by friends and people with similar interests, now counts 20 million registered users, compared to 10 million about one year ago.

Got an idea but nowhere to pitch it? Try Intel and Facebook

Have you dreamed up the next social media sensation, energy-efficient engine or hot consumer gadget but don’t know where to pitch your idea? If you’re between 18 and 24 years old, log onto Facebook.

Intel and Facebook are teaming up in a new program called Intel Innovators to give young people a forum to debut new ideas and give feedback on other people’s. And $100,000 a month are up for grabs to help turn winning concepts into real start-ups — as long as you’re in the United States.

Through the Intel Innovators platform on Facebook, participants can lay out their business ideas and receive suggestions from fans to help refine and improve their plans.

Facebook is starting to lose its touch

By Kevin Kelleher
The opinions expressed are his own.

Facebook is steamrolling forward. It now boasts 800 million active users. The company is reportedly preparting for an initial public offering. It’s laying plans to sell a Facebook phone, strengthening its presence on the mobile web. But Facebook’s plans may be hampered by a new backlash against the company’s efforts to get its users to share more of their lives online.

In September, Facebook announced at its annual f8 developers conference that it was upgrading its Open Graph technology. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Open Graph in 2010 to let web sites and apps share information about users with Facebook. The revamped Open Graph takes sharing to a new level, allowing apps that automatically share what articles users are reading or what music they’re listening to.

Zuckerberg said the new feature would allow “frictionless experiences” and “real-time serendipity.” At the time, only a few observers found them to be scary. “They are seeking out information to report about you,” wrote developer and blogger Dave Winer. But suddenly, a critical mass of critics are speaking up about the changes, how they affect users and publishers alike.

Facebook downgrades Six Degrees of Separation to Four

You’re closer to just about anyone in the world than you think.

According to a new study conducted by Facebook and researchers at an Italian university, 92 percent Facebook’s users are connected by four degrees of separation – that is, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.

Four degrees is much fewer than the famous six degrees of separation theory, which dates back to 1929 story by a Hungarian author and a study in the 1960s (and which was popularized in the eponymous 1993 film starring Will Smith).

What’s more, according to the study which Facebook conducted with the Universita degli Studi di Milano, the average number of connections between people is shrinking as the now-800-million user social network grows: The average distance between Facebook users in 2008 was 5.25 “hops,” while it is now 4.74.

Congress plans Facebook “hackathon” to boost engagement with public

Top legislators on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Thursday they will work with Facebook engineers and independent developers to make it easier for the public to engage with lawmakers and follow the legislative process.

The first-ever Congressional Facebook Developer Hackathon will take place Dec. 7 at the Capitol, bringing together lawmakers, academics and developers to find ways to make Congress more transparent and accessible.

A hackathon, a term coined by computer programmers over a decade ago, generally refers to a meeting where new programs and applications are collaboratively developed.

Tech wrap: Microsoft shareholders grumble

Microsoft Corp shareholders left the software giant’s annual meeting grumbling that they did not get to ask more questions in their once-a-year opportunity to quiz Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer. One thing the chief executive did tell shareholders was that there is no benefit in breaking the company up. In response to a question about how the company can jolt its stock price out of a 10-year rut, Gates played up the company’s strong balance sheet and said the market would respond to innovation.

Some of Facebook’s estimated 800 million global users received a shock over the past 24 hours when unsolicited graphic content such as pornography and violent images appeared in their news feeds. It is unclear how the material was distributed across the social network but many Facebook users vented their anger through other social media such as Twitter. “It seems every other day there is some new Facebook ‘threat,’ but this is just the new reality of Web 2.0 and social networking,” online security expert Paul Ferguson told Reuters. “It is ‘low-hanging fruit’ for criminals.”

The LinkedIn lockup is almost over and shareholders are winding up to sell more than 6.7 million shares. They are looking to realize gains in the stock, which has risen 74% since its initial public offering in May. Bain Capital is unloading its entire stake in the professional networking company now that the lockup period restricting insider sales is expiring, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Bain led a $53-million investing round in LinkedIn in 2008 which valued the company at more than $1 billion.

Google’s Two-Deal Thursday: Katango and Apture in the bag

Google’s dealmakers sure are busy these days.

On Thursday, the company announced two separate acquisitions, adding Katango and Apture to the Google mix.

Katango, which has developed an algorithm for organizing friends on social networks into different groups, looks like an obvious fit for Google – and indeed rumors of Google’s interest in the start-up surfaced back in September.

From the get-go, Google+ has sought to distinguish itself from Facebook by giving users more control over how they organize and communicate with their contacts, based on the notion that your conversations with work colleagues or family might be quite different from what you talk about with poker buddies.

Tech wrap: Can Nook tablet take on Kindle Fire?

Let the low-end tablet wars begin. Barnes & Noble unveiled a Nook-branded tablet on Monday, the company’s answer to Amazon.com’s recently announced Kindle Fire. At $249, the 7-inch Nook tablet is a bit pricier than the $199 Fire, but Barnes & Noble is betting that consumers will pay the extra $50 for the device because it offers faster processing speeds and 16 gigabytes of storage space compared to the Amazon tablet’s 8 gigabytes. Both devices hit shelves next week. Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of 700 U.S. bookstores, also lowered the price on its Nook e-book devices in an effort to take on Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, which were recently reduced in price.

Early reaction to the device was varied. One analyst characterized it to Reuters as a “wow” product, while another said it will keep “Barnes & Noble shoppers loyal.” All Things D’s Peter Kafka called Barnes & Noble’s product pitch “a bit muddled” when it came to explaining how people will access content on the device: “Unlike Amazon and its Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble isn’t marketing its tablet with a proprietary cloud service that will get you access to music, movies and TV shows. Instead, the bookseller is leaving that up to other cloud-based services, like Netflix and Pandora. But make no mistake — these are cloud-based services,” he writes. Why then was the company so eager to play up the Nook Tablet’s extra storage capacity if it expects you’ll be streaming most content, not storing it, wonders Kafka.  Engadget takes the new tablet through its paces in a hands-on video.

Google+ expanded its circles to make room for businesses who are looking to reach out to customers on the social network. Called Google+ Pages, the new service will allow corporate brands and businesses to set up a special page within the social network . Google said that 20 businesses, including Toyota, Pepsi and retailer Macy’s, have set up special pages so far, and that any organization will soon be able to join as well. Until now, only individual users have been able to sign up for Google+. Businesses are increasingly using online social services, such as Facebook, to reach new customers and to cement relationships with loyal customers through special offers and promotions.

YouTube + Google+ = Engagement?

Google hasn’t had much trouble getting people to sign up for its Google+ social networking service. But getting people to come back every day and use the service as obsessively as they do with Facebook has been a trickier proposition.

Sure, Google says that more than 3.4 billion photos have already been uploaded by users on Google+, but as anyone who’s been on the service can plainly see, there just doesn’t seem to be the same frenetic level of user activity as there is on Facebook.

That’s where YouTube comes in.

On Thursday, visitors to Google+ were greeted with a small YouTube logo button, displayed prominently on the top right-hand side of their newsfeed. Click on the YouTube Logo and it slides open to reveal a text box asking “what would you like to play?”