Tuesday, June 29, 2010
  • Gavin O'Malley, June 29, 2010, 2:16 PM
  • Never one to shy away from a fight, Google is presently hard at work on "a full, first-class" Facebook killer, reports Inside Facebook, citing various sourcing, including early Facebook exec and chief technology officer Adam D'Angelo.

    "This is a real project. There are a large number of people working on it," according to Inside Facebook. Google, it reports, "realized that Buzz wasn't enough and that they need to build out a full, first-class social network. They are modeling it off of Facebook ... Unlike previous attempts (before Buzz at least), this is a high-priority project within Google."

    As Search Engine Land notes, it was actually Digg's Kevin Rose who got the rumor mill churning when he tweeted over the weekend that Google was working on a Facebook competitor, which is supposedly is being called "Google Me."

    Inside Facebook suggests that Google has been completely caught off guard by the unfettered success of Facebook -- speculation that leads Fast Company to believe that the search giant just doesn't get what makes social so special.

    "By the very nature of social networking it's a phenomenon that tends to grow virally -- the more people on Facebook, the more people get attracted to Facebook since more of their friends are already there: For Google's team to not understand this is surprising (and possibly explains the weak success of Google Buzz)," Fast Company writes. "There's also a hint in here that Google's management doesn't have a good grip on how people are interacting socially on the Web, and that they underestimated how people liked the friendly interactivity offered by Facebook."

    As rattled as Google might be over Facebook's success, "Currently Facebook is not a 'threat' to Google as a search engine," assured Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling. "Only with a radical overhaul could [sic] search on Facebook start to peel away usage from Google. I'm not saying that's not hypothetically possible. But it doesn't really look probable for the foreseeable future at least."

    "This obviously has the potential to be huge, and Facebook needs a strong competitor," writes TechCrunch. "But even if Google has an amazing site in the pipeline, creating the next Facebook is going to be easier said than done -- nearly 500 million people already have their content stored on Facebook, and despite what Facebook has claimed about being open, I doubt they'll make it easy for anyone to jump into the arms of a competitor."

    "Frankly, it would be more surprising if Google didn't soon create a common platform for all of these social networks," suggests Fortune. "The only thing Google doesn't have is organization between its groups to give this one consistrant [sic] look and feel." Read the whole story...
  • Following months of rumors and speculation, Hulu on Tuesday unveiled its subscription service, "promising access to episodes of more TV shows to customers who pay $9.99 a month," reports The New York Times' Media Decoder blog. Hulu Plus will essentially offer user more episodes of more shows on more platforms. "Hulu Plus amounts to a sweeping vision of the future of online, on-demand television viewing," concludes Media Decoder.

    "Bypassing cable and satellite companies, broadcast networks are collecting money from viewers directly and allowing them to watch entire seasons of hit shows." For the first time ever, Hulu shows will be accessible to subscribers on the iPhone, the iPad, and on some television sets. Shortly, the content should be assessable through the PlayStation3 and Xbox video game consoles. Adds Media Decoder: "The subscription service is a tacit acknowledgment of the tremendous pressure that Hulu's ad-supported business model has been under ... Hulu says it is profitable, but because those profits are split between dozens of content providers, no one company is making a meaningful amount of money from the Web site currently." Read the whole story...
  • Giving artistic license to auteur of all shapes and sizes, music licensing company Rumblefish has debuted a new music program for YouTube users that lets them buy a lifetime, worldwide music license on a particular music track for $1.99, which they can then fully edit into their videos. Visitors to the Friendly Music online store can access Rumblefish's catalog of copyright-cleared songs -- of about 35,000 tracks -- which they can use to create soundtracks for their videos. The service, which launched today but had been announced last week, provides a solution to CG videos getting pulled because they used copyrighted music.

    "Buyers receive an official license for every song they use, so when they upload their finished video to YouTube they can be confident it will not be blocked or deprived of its audio," writes TechCrunch. FriendlyMusic offers royalty-free songs by artists in generic styles ranging from rap, reggae and R&B to country, pop and techno, as well as full orchestral recordings of classical compositions. New music is reported added to the catalog on a daily basis, while, in the coming months, the company says the Friendly Music catalog will expand to include "handpicked collections of name artists. Read the whole story...
  • Faced with mounting pressure from Apple, Amazon is betting its success on new markets and ubiquitous device compatibility, Fortune learns in a wide-ranging interview with the company's distinctive CEO Jeff Bezos. And, so far, it seems to be working. Last quarter, Amazon reported a profit of $299 million -- up 68% from a year ago.

    Still, what does Bezos make of Apple's iPad? "It's really a different product category," he tells Fortune. "The Kindle is for readers." Regarding Amazon's ebook platform-agnostic approach, the CEO says "Our strategy with the ebookstore is 'buy once, read everywhere' ... You have this whole multitude of devices and whatever's most convenient for you at the moment." Beyond ebooks and ebookstores, Bezos wants people to think of Amazon as "earth's most customer-centric company, and that we work backwards from customers." Read the whole story...
  • In a game of high-stakes diplomacy, Google now says it plans to change how Web users in China access its search engine in light of objections from the Chinese government over its recent strategy of redirecting users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong. "It's unclear whether the small change to Google's Chinese site will meet with Chinese government approval and lead to the extension of the company's license to provide online content in China," reports The Wall Street Journal.

    In a blog post late Monday, Google said it had resubmitted its application to renew the license, which comes up for renewal on Wednesday. Three month ago, Google said it would stop obeying the Chinese government's requirement to censor search results, which it had been following since the China-based site opened in 2006. Since then, rather than provide users with censored search results, Google has been automatically redirecting users of google.cn -- its mainland Chinese address -- to an uncensored Hong Kong-based site, google.com.hk. Read the whole story...
  • Social gaming company Crowdstar is giving its nod of approval to Facebook Credits, which the social network recently launched as a sort of universal currency for all manner of ecommerce. Indeed, Crowdstar just made a five-year commitment to using Facebook's virtual currency, and will now scrap its own in-game currencies. "Crowdstar is a big player on Facebook, with more than 50 million users in games that include the hit titles Happy Aquarium, Happy Island, Zoo Paradise, Happy Pets and Hello City," reports VentureBeat.

    "In adopting Facebook Credits, Crowdstar is following in the footsteps of Zynga, the biggest social game company on Facebook." Zynga also recently struck a five-year deal with Facebook to adopt Facebook Credits in a strategic deal, the terms of which were not disclosed. Without getting into specifics, Crowdstar said its share of virtual currency transactions will be a respectable 70%. According to Venture, Zynga thought Facebook's 30% fee was too much, considering that fact that other virtual currency providers take a much smaller percentage. Read the whole story...