MediaFile

Google walks into privacy Buzz-saw

Google touted its 176 million Gmail users as a key advantage in its latest attempt to break into the red-hot social networking market, dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But email may turn out to be Google’s Achilles heel.

Less than four days after introducing Google Buzz, a social networking service that is built-in to Gmail, the company is already moving to address a growing privacy backlash.

GoogBuzzAt issue is the network of contacts that Buzz automatically creates for new users based on their existing email contacts, saving people the laborious chore of manually building a social graph from scratch.

The problem is that Google’s ready-made social network is composed of people’s frequent email contacts – which are not necessarily the folks you want to receive regular status updates and random musings from (e.g. your landlord).

But the bigger problem – as many blogs and online publications have pointed out in recent days – is that people’s email contacts are in inherently private and the mere fact of making them publicly accessible can be dangerous.

What’s Happening, Twitter?

Twitter’s been making a lot of changes lately. They’ve introduced new technologies like lists — which is kind of like a friend filter on Facebook — and a new way to share one another’s Tweets.

Usage on the company’s website has taken off like a rocket, up 1,703 percent year-over-year in September, and that doesn’t even count people who access the service through text messaging or specialized applications on their smartphones or computers.

But today was perhaps the most radical change of all. Twitter changed its cosmically deep and evocative signature query, “What are you doing?”

On Facebook nobody knows you’re a dead language

Gaudeamus Igitur!

Friday was a day of great joy and merriment for seminarians, academics and other devotees of Latin following Facebook’s announcement that the world’s largest social networking website is now available in the language of Caesar.

Latin may be considered a so-called dead language, but that didn’t stop Facebook from adding it to the 70 language options offered on the website.

“Most of the time when we stumble upon a Latin phrase, it’s etched in stone: carved in the hallways of universities, chiseled on facades of government buildings or carefully imprinted in cathedral foyers and churchyards,” read a Facebook blog post announcing the news.

Social gaming startup eyes big opportunity

Social gaming startups, which offer free-to-play games on sites like Facebook and MySpace, have been all the rage, scooping up funding from the venture capital community and nabbing executives from traditional gaming outfits. The hoopla seems warranted given the meteoric growth many expect to see in the space over the next few years.

Playdom, which was launched last year but only emerged from stealth mode in March, recently made a big splash when it lured John Pleasants from his perch as COO of Electronic Arts to become its CEO. Playdom battles rivals Zynga — which predicts revenue of $100 million or more this year — and Playfish in an increasingly competitive space.

In an interview, Pleasants called his return to the startup space “refreshing” and used a whiteboard to make a convincing case about the industry’s potential. He pegs the overall social gaming market at around $500 million, but expects that to increase ten-fold in the next several years.

from Shop Talk:

Cola truce? Coke and Pepsi trade niceties on Twitter

Cola rivals Coke and Pepsi gave their long-standing feud a rest last week after a user-provoked experiment on Twitter prompted the two pop makers to trade friendly greetings on the popular social networking service.

Coca-Cola responded first to a clever user's message suggesting that the two make nice on Twitter, offering "A gracious (yet competitive) hello" to Pepsi. In return, Pepsi extended a Twitter-style olive branch of sorts to its competitor: "Can rivals and tweeps coexist? We're willing to find out. :)" Tweeps, for those unversed in the lingo, is a cutesy term for Twitter users.

The whole episode began with the single Twitter message sent by a digital media consultant from a web marketing firm called Amnesia Razorfish based in Sydney, Australia, but quickly grew as other users got in on the fun and repeated (or "retweeted") the message to their own friends and followers across the social network.

New Facebook headquarters celebrates the quirky

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***Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wore the only tie on display when he welcomed reporters for a reception and tour of his company’s new headquarters, tucked below a hill in a residential area of Palo Alto, not far from the Stanford campus.******The old HP research facility was refurbished for comfort, not for luxury. Facebook tore out a sea of cubicles to reveal wide open spaces for desks and oversized terminals. Nearly everyone sits there, including all company executives.******The result is something like a dream college dorm, with good food available throughout the day in a cafeteria .******“It’s a temporary space. It’s not going to last us forever. It’s an experiment so we can decide what sort of building we want for ourselves going forward,” said Aaron Sittig, who took reporters around the 137,000 square foot building that celebrates the quirky.******Privacy is afforded in meeting rooms, some with names that are mashups of  video games and condiments, like Donkey Kong Chutney and Guitartar Hero.  A leftover crane from HP days decorates one of the snack kitchens. There is an outdoor basketball court, an indoor ping pong table (mixed doubles were going on when reporters walked by) and RipStiks are scattered around for quick transport.******”It’s a rite of passage to learn how to use these to get around,” said Sittig.******Facebook has 700 employees in the building and another 200 in other cities. It will stay in its new home for a few years, until Stanford — which owns the land — wants it back.******Photo: David Lawsky

Facebook crushes MySpace in minutes, but lags on video

Facebook won the bragging rights to being the world’s largest social network site last year, based on the worldwide number of unique visitors to its site.

But what about some of the other metrics that advertisers care about?

According to the latest figures from Nielsen, Facebook and rival MySpace each have key strengths to woo advertisers with.

When it comes to “engagement,” that is how much time people are actually spending on a site, Facebook is making big gains. In April, the total number of minutes spent on the site in the US surged a whopping 700 percent from April 2008, to 13.8 billion minutes.

Make way for AOL

Today marks the beginning of the end of what is probably one of the most disastrous media mergers in recent corporate history — AOL and Time Warner. In 2000, AOL shelled out nearly $150 billion for Time Warner, but things didn’t quite work out as planned.

The folks at Time Warner have given ample hints that a separation from AOL was inevitable, especially as part of a strategy shift that will (hopefully) result on the media conglomerate returning to its core business. Hiring former Google executive Tim Armstrong to head AOL had created even more speculation that the split was coming soon.

Now that the spin-off has happened, what lies in store for AOL as an independent company? In January, AOL said it will focus on three areas: content, advertising and social networking. But things haven’t exactly been rosy at AOL, revenue-wise. So for the time being, it gets to hold on to the access line business, which loses value day by day as more people move to broadband, but still generates enough cash to make it an asset worth coveting.

It’s not easy being Biz

In the adrenalin-fueled world of Internet start-ups, where “Biz” is usually followed by “Dev,” where did Twitter co-founder Biz Stone get his nickname?

After talking to the Reuters Technology Summit of growth rates and future revenue possibilities, the Twitter co-founder chatted with the Reuters San Francisco bureau about his unusual moniker and why it can pose traveling hiccups.

Christopher Isaac Stone said his parents first began calling him Biz when he mispronounced Christopher, saying “Biz-ah-bah” instead.

MySpace friends ex-Facebooker

It looks like MySpace is getting closer to raiding the competition — at least, one step removed. Facebook veteran Owen Van Natta is expected to be named as the new head of News Corp’s MySpace social network on Friday.

The appointment comes after Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate said earlier this week that MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe would not renew his CEO contract, which expires in the fall. News Corp also said  co-founder Tom Anderson was in talks about taking a new role in the company.

Facebook has already surpassed MySpace in worldwide users. Even though Van Natta, like other high-profile Facebook executives, had left the company already, the question now is whether he can sprinkle some much-needed fairy dust on MySpace that will help it improve its flagging performance. In one sense, this might be starting already. Kara Swisher, proprietor of the Boomtown blog at the News Corp/Dow Jones-owned All Things Digital, reports that part of Van Natta’s remit will be to recruit more new talent to MySpace.