Facebook keeps getting more like Twitter

Facebook has a new question for its users: Who do you want to tell?

The social network is revamping its publishing and privacy capabilities, giving individuals greater control about who sees the status updates, photos and messages they post on the service.

Facebook announced the new features, which are currently in beta testing, in a blog post on Wednesday. The changes provide greater control to limit who sees particular content – pictures of the kids can be viewable by a customized list of family members as opposed to someone’s broader group of Facebook friends.

But the real significance of the move may be in encouraging Facebook users to share their messages with the world at large instead of only with their group of approved group of friends.

Facebook is increasingly emphasizing the “real time” elements of its social network amid competition from microblogging service Twitter. The Twitter stream of real-time messages, viewable to everyone, have gained currency as a way to quickly find out the latest discussion about a particular topic, from the protests in Iran to the new iPhone.

Facebook’s 200 million active users and the content they constantly churn out represent a valuable source of real time news and the changes could help make that content more widely available.

A new social network — more than an electronic scrapbook?

No one needs another Facebook or Twitter so any social networking site had better have something new. Serial entrepreneur Vince Broady, who has experience in knowing what people like through his background with games and entertainment, is convinced he has one. It launched this week as

Broady’s idea is to let people create what he calls “moments,” which I would call electronic scrapbooks. ThisMoment is designed to work in lots of places — on the thisMoment website, within Facebook (some security issues are still being resolved, he says, but you can use your Facebook ID to sign up), or on an iPhone.

Content can come from anywhere so long as it’s digital: text, YouTube, a video camera, your digital camera, Flickr, Picassa or Facebook. OK, all that might be tough in your old high school scrapbook.

So long analog TV; it was great knowing you

Isn’t today the big big day for the transition to digital television? You can be forgiven for forgetting — in fact that’s just how the Obama administration wants it.

Ill-prepared back in February, when the U.S. was supposed to go all-digital all the time, the government decided to push back the switchover date by four months. Experts tell the Los Angeles Times that the delay should help avoid major problems, although about 2.8 million people could be left out in the cold when they try to turn on the tube.

The smart folks over at RPA, the advertising agency based in Los Angeles, put together of list of the markets that are best prepared — and those that aren’t. It cited data from The Nielsen Co, which has been studying preparations for the transition.

New Apple iPhone features get under your skin

Among all the limelight-hogging features and rock-bottom prices unveiled at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers’ conference on Monday, two underscored the potential for the consumer electronics giant to sidle up and get up-close and personal with users – whether they like it or not.******For the hundreds gathered in San Francisco for the company’s annual developers’ pow-wow, Apple previewed a new iPhone feature that will allow users to remotely locate their  device if they ever get separated from it. Executives highlighted another application that, eerily, can directly monitor a person’s vital signs.******In this day and age, when millions advertise not just their location but what they had for dessert via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s unclear how consumers will respond to functions that monitor their movements or their inner workings. Favorably, judging from the applause and hooting when those features were expounded upon.******Find My iPhone allows users to remotely locate their device via the Web. Logging onto Apple’s MobileMe, users can locate their phone on a map; send a text message to the phone, asking that it be returned; or play a strdient alert or alarm. The feature is intended to aid finding a phone left unattended at a restaurant or hidden under a couch cushion, developers said.******The new software also has a feature that allows users to remotely “wipe” the device of all data if it is truly lost or stolen – but allows users to reload the wiped data via Apple’s iTunes Web site — which usually offers music, applications and even video for sale — if the phone is then found, meaning data is periodically stored via a user’s iTunes account.******Besides additional uses of the phone’s GPS capability, Apple on Monday highlighted a third party app that allows doctors to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely - accessing real-time heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and other data collected by hospital devices on their iPhones – clearly helpful for on-call doctors but also very private information.******The app would allow doctors to zoom in and out, measure different parts of the data, and scroll through historical data.******The Critical Care app from AirStrip Technologies has yet to be approved by the FDA, but the company said it was in advanced testing and expects the app will soon be available.******(By Clare Baldwin)

Live blogging the Apple WWDC

Reuters is sending live updates via Twitter from the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, scheduled to start at 10 am Pacific Time (1 pm Eastern). Read the updates below or follow us on Twitter.

More on Apple:

La Russa V. Biz

He’s a legend on the baseball diamond.

But Tony La Russa is not inspiring any awe at Twitter, the red-hot microblogging service that La Russa sued last month.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone called the suit — which relates to a Twitter user impersonating the famed St. Louis Cardinals manager — an “unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous,” in a blog post on the company Web site on Saturday titled “Not playing ball.”

Stone said reports that Twitter has settled the suit and agreed to pay La Russa’s legal fees are “erroneous,” noting that Twitter’s policy is to suspend, delete or transfer control of false accounts and that its staff acted in accordance with the policy when it was notified about the La Russa situation.

Twitter vs. Facebook — you make the call

The top brass from Twitter and Facebook have been all over the place in recent days, starting with the Reuters Global Technology Summit. No matter the venue or the executive, the questions are pretty much the same: Are you going to put the company up for sale? If not, when are you going public? And how on earth are you going to make money? And when?

We’ll skip a rehash of yesterday’s news and interviews, but you can find articles just about anywhere you want. Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, BreakingViews, paidContent, Advertising Age, and, well, basically every other media outlet are carrying stories today about one or both of the web darlings.
So instead we’ll ask you a straightforward question. Which one — Facebook or Twitter — would you buy a piece of, if you could?

Keep an eye on:

    The following from TechCrunch: “Sources close to AOL tell us that the board of directors will make a final decision on the AOL spinoff at a board meeting this Thursday, May 28, possibly undoing the $147 billion 2001 merger of the two companies. Sources characterize the decision as ‘a done deal’.” Microsoft goes at Apple — again. The company plans to launch a new version of its Zune portable media player later this year in the United States, incorporating high-definition video, touch screen technology and Wi-Fi connection. (Reuters) BookExpo America isn’t looking so hot this year. In the New York Post, Keith Kelly writes that “the turnout is expected to be way down — about 20 percent less exhibition space was booked this year — and many big publishers like Random House are cutting back while others like Macmillan and Rodale plan to skip the floor show entirely.”

(Photos: Twitter’s Biz Stone (l.), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (r.); Reuters)

from Summit Notebook:

Facebook’s Zuckerberg talks MySpace, Twitter

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Tuesday and while he wouldn't touch TechCrunch's report about financing and valuation, he did opine about a few of Facebook's Web peers:

On the difference between Facebook and MySpace:

I think MySpace defines themselves as more of a media company and a media portal. A way to see the different content that is going on, or a way for a News Corp parent company to spread content through the network. Facebook has always been more focused on helping people build out their identity, helping people maintain their relationships and communicate really efficiently. We have talked about ourselves as a technology company a lot as opposed to a media company.

On the difference between Facebook and Twitter:

We respect Twitter and we think they are a great company. I think Twitter's focus different is markedly different from Facebook's. They are not really at all about a user's identity. They are more about real time communication. People are sharing more and more information...and on a more frequent basis. If you extend that out then there is a good amount of information that is being shared in real time. That's where a service like Twitter comes in, and that's why that's also one piece of what we want to do. If your friend does something important...there is no reason why you don't want that update immediately. Real time is clearly one of the growing trends but i don't think it's the whole picture.

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.

Counting Twitter users with Wolfram Alpha

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Monday that unless Twitter’s growth rate slowed, by the end of the year its user base would exceed the population of Planet Earth.

Break out those calculators, nerds!

Let’s put Biz’s admittedly tongue-in-cheek statement to the test, using some back-of-the envelope math and the much-hyped, newly launched online knowledge compendium Wolfram Alpha.

Estimates of Twitter’s user base vary widely. Let’s take the frequently cited figure of 10 million, and double it to 20 million, since we’re feeling generous and Oprah is involved.