MediaFile

Betwixt and between: Facebook’s act of desperation

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is considering lowering the minimum membership age to include tweens. It raised eyebrows and kindled a new discussion about privacy and the propriety of inviting youngsters into what the company aspires to make the world’s biggest salesroom.

But I have a different concern: Soliciting children would be pretty strong evidence that Facebook needs a big boost to its already staggering 900 million membership to justify its valuation and business model. Having courted every early, middle and late adopter possible, there isn’t much low-hanging fruit for Facebook anymore. But courting tweens would inevitably invite scrutiny and regulation, since the prospect of cyberstalking is even more toxic that cyberbullying.

In other words, the potential rule change looks like an act of desperation. Coming off a miserable stock market debut, both the merits and atmospherics of this notion are decidedly bad.

It’s easy to see why this would be on the table. Facebook has to prove that it can sell things on a massive scale, that it is the 21st century’s answer to television. All of that seemed possible before it went public on May 18, as the company’s valuation was pushed up steadily for months in thin trade on private exchanges among well-heeled insiders. But the question of just how good an advertising medium Facebook can be has been pressed by a steady decline in its share price during 12 days of trading – to about 60 percent of its historical high. Until Facebook can prove its business model, it’s a good idea to keep bulking up so that a leveling off of membership, or even a decline, doesn’t turn the story really ugly.

For Facebook greater, and growing, numbers are essential. Like panning for gold, you need a lot of water to come up with a few grains. So to achieve gold-rush growth, Facebook has to mine the young end of the spectrum.

Facebook’s No. 1 music app raises $16 mln

Rihanna is one of BandPage's most popular artists

RootMusic is not one of the better known names in the digital music business, but in just 18 months  it has built the most popular music app on the world’s largest social networking platform, Facebook.

That service is called BandPage and allows artists’ to post their video, sell  songs and promote their tours on Facebook.

Though this might seem like a service with a  relatively low barrier to entry — it is free and up to the artists or their representatives to post their videos — RootMusic has done a quietly efficient job of achieving scale and now claims some 250,000 musicians using BandPage.

Tech wrap: Apple vs HTC, round two

Apple has kicked its intellectual property dispute with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC up a notch. The company filed a new complaint against HTC with a U.S. trade panel over some of its portable electronic devices and software, according to the panel’s website.  Apple filed a similar action against the company last year and could be trying to strengthen the case against its rival by adding new patents to its claim this time around, notes AllThingD’s John Paczkowski. “It’s another broad warning to the industry,” he writes.“If you’re bringing a new smartphone to market, you had better make damn sure it doesn’t infringe on Apple’s IP.”

The first e-reader to fully integrate Google’s eBooks platform into its design goes on sale exclusively at Target stores across the U.S. next weekend, Google said in a blog post.  The iRiver Story HD lets users buy and read e-books from the service over Wi-Fi and store their personal collections in the cloud. Google offers more than 3 million free titles for download through its eBooks service, with hundreds of thousands more for sale.

LinkedIn, the online networking website aimed at professionals, surpassed Myspace in June to become the second-most popular social network in the United States, according to a new survey from comScore. Just how much more popular is LinkedIn now? According to the figures, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors in June, a jump of about a half a million from May. Myspace, on the other hand, saw its traffic decline to 33.5 million American visitors, a drop of about 1.4 million users from the previous month.

Tech wrap: Verizon ditches unlimited data plan

Verizon Wireless customers, say goodbye to the days of  unlimited Web surfing for a set fee on your smartphone. The biggest U.S. mobile provider will stop offering its $30 all-you-can-surf  deal later this week, replacing it with a new tiered approach to data pricing. Customers who keep their smartphone use to 2 gigbytes (GB) of data per month or under won’t see a change to their bill, but those who go over that limit will be slapped with an extra $10 charge per GB. Heavy mobile users will have the option of signing up for a 5 GB or 10 GB plan for $50 or $80 respectively. AT&T made a similar move last year, meaning Sprint is now the last major wireless carrier offering unlimited data use. CNET reports that Verizon will also start charging for access to its mobile hot-spot service, which up until this week has been free and without bandwidth restrictions.

Aspiring cord cutters across Latin America and the Caribbean, rejoice. Netflix is on its way. The company, which offers TV shows and movies over the Internet and DVD rentals through the mail, will be expanding its online video streaming service to 43 countries in the regions later this year. Shows and movies will be available to subscribers in Spanish, Portuguese or English on PCs, Macs and other mobile devices that are able to stream from Netflix, the company said in a blog post. The overseas expansion marks the company’s second foray outside the United States. It began offering its services in Canada last year.

You’ve heard it before and now you’ll hear it again – the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone is on its way this September. Supply-side sources told Asian IT industry newspaper DigiTimes that Taiwan-based notebook maker Pegatron Technology has received an order to make 15 million iPhone 5/iPhone 4 handsets that are set to ship sometime in September.  The iPhone 5 is not expected to differ much from the previous model on the surface, according to the report. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out, the real differences are expected to be “under the hood” where you’ll find a faster processor and better rear camera among other improvements.

Tech wrap: And Myspace goes to . . .

News Corp’s hunt to find a buyer for once-mighty social networking website Myspace has finally ended. Specific Media, an online advertising firm, has agreed to buy the site for about $35 million, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters. News Corp will retain a minority 5 percent stake in the website it purchased six years ago for $580 million. More than half of the site’s 500 employees are expected to be laid off as part of the deal.

Tech watchers will have to wait at least another sleep to find out more about Zynga’s plans for an initial public offering. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the online social gaming firm behind popular Facebook game FarmVille is expected to file for an initial public offering with U.S. regulators on Thursday morning. Earlier reports suggested the company could raise up to $2 billion in the offering and value the firm as high as $20 billion. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher sizes up how Zynga’s expected IPO fits in with other recent filings from similar companies such as Groupon.

Twitter’s Biz Stone and Evan Williams are leaving the site they co-founded and helped popularize – sort of. Both men will continue to advise Twitter on strategic matters but will spend the bulk of their days working at the newly-revived Obvious, the tech incubator company they started years ago that led to the creation of Twitter. Stone summed up their new plans in a blog posting on his website: “Our plan is to develop new projects and work on solving big problems aligned along a simple mission statement: The Obvious Corporation develops systems that help people work together to improve the world.”

Tencent, De Wolfe among interested buyers for Myspace

De Wolfe and Murdoch in happier times (Photo: Reuters)

De Wolfe and Murdoch in happier times (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese Internet holding company Tencent, Myspace founder Chris De Wolfe and Myspace’s current management team are among the 20 odd names kicking the tires at the once might social network to see whether it’s worth buying outright or partnering in some sort of spin-out with current owner News Corp.

Tencent has previously said it is interested in possible US acquisitions.

The names come up in Reuters’ Special Report on ‘How News Corp got lost in Myspace‘,  a behind the scenes tale on how the focused Facebook beat the partying Myspace. (We have the story in a handy PDF format here)

In the story, we highlight some of the key problems Myspace faced,  some well-known and some not often mentioned:

from Reuters Investigates:

Myspace and Facebook: the numbers tell it all

Yinka Adegoke delves into what happened at Myspace in his special report today: "How News Corp got lost in Myspace."

Weak technology, management in-fighting and a rival called Facebook led to the rapid decline of the once dominant social network.

Read the special report in multimedia PDF format here.

These two graphics are telling.

Tech wrap: Amazon’s storm cloud

People sit in Washington Square Park at New York University in New York, October 21, 2009.Amazon.com faced a backlash from the music industry after it introduced Cloud Drive, an online “music locker” that lets customers store music files on the company’s Web servers instead of their own hard drives and play them over an Internet connection directly from browsers and on phones running Google’s Android OS. Sony Music was upset by Amazon’s decision to launch the service without new licenses for music streaming.

Amazon’s Cloud Drive “is an amazing value and pretty easy to use”, but won’t kill rival Dropbox just yet, Business Insider’s Steve Kooch wrote. The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Kafka thinks Amazon’s cloud move isn’t earth shattering and “if you’re a music lover looking for a paradigm shift in the way you consume tunes, this won’t be it”.

Mozilla released its Firefox 4 Internet browser for Android phones, which allows desktop users to synchronize their history, bookmarks, tabs and passwords, according to Mozilla.

Today In Music: MySpace’s entertainment focus to lead to job cuts. Tomorrow perhaps?

We’d previously heard that MySpace is on course to cut jobs soon and AllThingsD today put that number at around 550 to 600 jobs and promises the announcement will be coming tomorrow.

The way one person familiar with the company’s thinking puts it, MySpace will be restructuring to realign its staff better with its new focus as a social entertainment site targeting Generation Y. It would also give it an opportunity to resolve various legacy issues.  Being a social entertainment site would probably be an easier path than as a social networking site on a hiding to nothing versus the all mighty Facebook but there are probably still questions about how it will make its money beyond advertising. MySpace despite its troubles still remains a key venue for promoting established bands and thousands of aspiring musicians.

The other story from AllThingsD is that News Corp, as we’ve reported,  is also being considered for sale but ATD (which is also owned by News Corp) points out that the parent company is shopping MySpace primarily to private equity buyers though Yahoo is also being considered.

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 pets.com to AskJeeves.com 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.