Tag Archive | "experiences"

Facebook testing Foursquare-like details on iOS app

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FacebookiOSContextAn update Wednesday to Facebook’s iOS app borrows from Foursquare, showing detailed information — context cards — over the News Feed after a user checks in or after they link to something like a movie or song in a status update.

Facebook notes that this is a test that will roll out to iOS users starting today.

For instance, if you check in at a local park or restaurant, Facebook will show which friends have also checked in there and how recently, as well as photos from their experiences. If you post a structured status update saying that you’re listening to a certain artist or watching a movie, it will show friend who have done the same.

A Facebook spokesperson explained this new feature:

These cards can help you discover information about where you are or what to do next, or inspire conversations with your friends around you. This feature respects all existing privacy settings, and the card will only show you information that you could already see elsewhere on Facebook.

The feature also injects some color into the Facebook app. Within these new info cards, friends’ birthdays will be shown in blue (and include a prompt to write on their timeline), location information red, photos yellow.

Readers: Do you like this new feature?

Image courtesy of Facebook.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Facebook acquires virtual reality company Oculus VR for $2B

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On the heels of its acquisition of popular messaging app WhatsApp, Facebook isn’t done shopping. Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday that Facebook has purchased virtual reality firm Oculus VR for roughly $2 billion.

The cost includes $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock. The agreement also provides for an additional $300 million earn-out in cash and stock based on the achievement of certain milestones.

Zuckerberg posted to his Facebook timeline about what this means for the company:

Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.

Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.

But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.

Brendan Iribe, Co-Founder and CEO of Oculus VR, commented on the acquisition in a press release:

We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world. We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.

Facebook will hold a conference call later today to discuss the acquisition.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

SparkLabs Global Adds Former Disney Interactive Exec As Advisor, Invests In Good.co And Zanbato

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SparkLabs Global announced today that John Pleasants, the former co-president of Disney Interactive and former COO of Electronic Arts, has joined the fund as an advisor. SparkLabs Global, which focuses on seed-stage startups around the world, also disclosed new investments in Good.co and Zanbato.

Pleasants joined Disney Interactive after it acquired Playdom Inc., the online gaming company he founded, in July 2010 for $563 million. During his three years at Disney Interactive, Pleasants oversaw the launch of Disney Infinity.

In a statement, Pleasants said: “I’m excited to be part of SparkLabs Global because the depth of their experiences and global reach. The timing for such a seed-stage fund is ideal because of how rapidly innovation and great companies are being founded throughout the world, and many are looking for help to cross the Pacific and Atlantic which this team excels at.”

Based in San Francisco, Good.co is a career site that wants to help put the “human” back in human resources. The startup has raised $1.45 million from Norwest, Sparklabs Global, and other venture capital firms. Good.co users fill out a variety of surveys to help determine what their working style is, and whether or not they are a good fit with specific companies or managers.

The site’s goal is to enable job seekers find positions they will flourish at, which in turn helps employers save the hassle and expense of hiring people who end up leaving or getting fired within a few months. Good.co fits into the same niche as startups like 15five and Culture Amp, in that they all seek to increase employee retention rates boosting workplace morale.

SparkLabs Global also invested in Zanbato, a platform that helps institutional investors find opportunities in alternative asset classes. The company’s founders include Joe Lonsdale, the co-founder of Palantir Technologies, Nico Sand, Dan Settel, and Kevin Leung.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Microsoft Wants You To Rethink Internet Explorer

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Internet Explorer has long suffered from the bad reputation it inflicted upon itself, and Microsoft is painfully aware of this. Ever since IE9, though, it’s been a pretty good browser and the latest versions have embraced open web standards, added a very fast JavaScript engine and new features like touch support. Still, even for Microsoft, IE remains the “browser you love(d) to hate.”

Over the last year or so – and especially in the lead-up to the launch of IE11 – Microsoft partnered with a number of organizations and developers ranging from Red Bull to Atari and GlacierWorks to showcase what a modern browser can do, and today it’s launching Rethink IE to aggregate all of this content and to start a new conversation around IE.

Rethink Home PageAs Roger Capriotti, Microsoft’s senior director for Internet Explorer marketing, told me earlier this week, the idea here is to showcase IE’s “leadership in trying to move the web forward” and to highlight the experiences IE has helped to create. Rethink IE brings together the work Microsoft did with its partners (though Cut the Rope is missing), both for consumers and developers. Developers get behind-the-scenes looks for how the different experiences were created, but the main idea behind the site is to continue Microsoft’s overall IE marketing theme of trying to redeem Internet Explorer in the eye of the public.

IE, Capriotti stressed, had a pretty good year, and last November, it saw its highest market share since 2012, with quite a few Chrome and Firefox users moving (back) to IE. “We want you to rethink what IE has become,” he noted, and for Microsoft, that specifically means IE on a tablet like the Surface. In Capriotti’s view, Chrome and Safari were developed for desktops and ported to mobile without fully taking advantage of the new platform. He believes that by designing the Metro version of IE from the ground up, Microsoft is a step ahead of its competitors. “If you look at Chrome on a tablet,” he said, “it looks like on the desktop.”

He also believes that now that load times and fast rendering engines are standard, the ability to build new experiences on a browser with the help of touch and other new technologies will be what sets browsers apart (while still maintaining support for open web standards, of course).

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Foundation: Nest’s Tony Fadell on the Power of Focus

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As part of our annual Google Ventures CEO Summit, Nest founder and CEO Tony Fadell and I filmed a live Foundation episode in November in front of a few hundred startup founders in the GV portfolio. Tony told stories about his entrepreneurial roots as a kid selling eggs door to door, his experiences at Apple, angel investing and what the future looks like for the connected home.

Tony is a remarkable leader, and the news that Google plans to acquire Nest is a testament that leadership, as well as to his excellent team focus his team.

Tony’s advice on how to stay focused:

I learned the power of ‘no.’ No is really important. Entrepreneurs are told to say ‘yes, yes, more, more.’ To help you focus, to help you really understand what you’re doing, you have to say no a lot. When you say yes to everything, you get distracted. When you say no, you have to get the one thing you’re doing really right.

Kevin Rose is a general partner at Google Ventures. You can watch Kevin’s prior Foundation episode, an interview with Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong, here.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Glow, The Fertility App Founded By Max Levchin, Crosses 1,000 User Pregnancies

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An image shared on Glow's 'Success Stories' page by an app user

When Glow launched its iPhone app for tracking female fertility earlier this year, it garnered attention for its slick design, $6 million Series A funding, and of course well-known founder Max Levchin. But its real success — how many women conceived with the help of using the app — couldn’t be judged right away. These things take some time.

Now that it’s been a little over four months since its public launch, Glow is finally talking numbers, and they are pretty impressive. More than 1,000 women have become pregnant with the help of the fertility-tracking app, Glow announced today. The company also rolled out a new section of its website called glowing.com/stories, dedicated to the success stories of people who have conceived while on Glow (the feature image is one of the photos shared to the site.) The entries are pretty touching, and they show a personal impact not often seen in consumer tech.

Also today, Glow issued an update to its iOS app and a new feature called Glow Community, which is a social space to allow couples who are trying to conceive and parents-to-be to share their experiences. The updated app also has some revamped calendar features that purport to help users track their fertility with more precision.

Max Levchin has said that his goals for Glow go much farther than what we see on the surface. Levchin’s larger vision with HVF, the umbrella company that Glow is operating under, is to use machine learning and big data to solve the world’s big problems, particularly those concerning healthcare. Pregnancy is just the first piece of the puzzle.

Levchin talked to TechCrunch TV about what inspired him to launch Glow at the app’s launch in August. You can watch that in the video embedded below:

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Is advertising to millennials on Facebook, Instagram a lost cause?

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A constant Facebook storyline is the belief that teens and millennials are leaving the site for other social networks. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even confirmed this in the third quarter earnings call, noting that Facebook has seen a decline in teen users.

Those that are on Facebook and Instagram are becoming impervious to advertising, with many of them blocking out ads on these social networks. So is advertising to millennials a lost cause? Greg Shove, CEO of SocialChorus, says no — advertisers just need to get smarter.

A new study by Social Chorus shows that only 6 percent of millennials polled find online advertising to be credible. 83 percent of those asked said that ads on social networks make the experience worse. When SocialChorus asked a group of younger users about Facebook ads, they said that they “hardly notice,” them, and that they “don’t even see them.”

Shove said that this forces a brand to be engaging on Facebook and Instagram in other ways:

The bar for what content a millennial will think is engaging or appealing when it comes from a brand is very high. The reality is that it’s much higher than most brands and consumer agencies realize. The whole notion of, “Would someone else share this?” I think agencies and brands sometimes stop short, when you think about this. Is this going to be accepted by my targeted customer? Using Instagram ads as an example: Is this photo with a clever hashtag not going to be too intrusive or is it going to be something that’s going to be cool?

What do younger users trust on Facebook and Instagram? Their friends. 95 percent of users in the age group polled said that the most trusted information comes from their friends and 91 percent said they’d consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it.

SocialChorus recommends that brands step back and let millennials tell their tale. If they love the product or have some kind of passion for it, that can be the centerpiece of a campaign. The company also recommends that brands seek out key influencers on Facebook, rewarding them accordingly.

The study shows that millennials want to be marketed with, not at, and they connect best to brands willing to form a long-term commitment:

This generation wants to communicate with everyone and brands are no exception. Brands must make them feel like their voices are being heard. They want to share their experiences – so brands should allow them to do so. When brands arm millennials with content and make it easy to share, they will happily share their experiences with their friends and networks.

To do this, Shove recommends that brands get better about thinking on their feet and have some wiggle room in their calendar. By being a timely brand that responds quickly, the company can become more relevant in the eyes of millennials through Facebook and Instagram.

Readers: If you’re a marketing agency, what works best in terms of resonating with millennials?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

‘The Circle’ Author Dave Eggers Denies Reading Facebook Memoir That He’s Accused Of Plagiarizing

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One of the weirder things to come out of all the discussion around Dave Eggers’ upcoming novel The Circle (which focuses on life at a fictional tech company) has been the accusation by Kate Losse that parts of Eggers’ book are lifted from The Boy Kings, her memoir of her experience as an early Facebook employee.

McSweeney’s, the San Francisco-based publishing company that Eggers founded, just sent me a statement from Eggers denying that he read Losse’s book at all. To be honest, I’ve found Losse’s claims to be pretty unpersuasive (more on that in a second), but the statement also includes some interesting commentary about the research that Eggers did (or didn’t) do for the novel, so I figured it was worth noting. Here it is:

I’ve just heard about the claims of Kate Losse that my novel, The Circle, was somehow based on a work of nonfiction she wrote. I want to make it clear that I have never read and have never heard of her book before today. I did not, in fact, read any books about any internet companies, or about the experiences of anyone working at any of these companies, either before or while writing The Circle. I avoided all such books, and did not even visit any tech campuses, expressly because I didn’t want The Circle to seem to be based on any extant companies or upon the experiences of any employees of any extant companies. Because The Circle has not been released, it’s my understanding that Kate Losse has not read my novel yet, so I trust that when she does read it she’ll understand that I have not read, and certainly never lifted anything from, her book.

This denial probably won’t persuade people who seem to agree that there are suspicious parallels between Losse’s book and Eggers’, so maybe we should take a closer look at the claim. As noted in the statement, Losse says she hasn’t read the book (the official publication date is Oct 8), so she’s basing her accusation on an excerpt published in The New York Times Magazine, and she posted quotes from The Boy Kings, with annotations highlighting similarities.

Losse first notes that like her, Eggers’ protagonist is hired to work in customer experience/support at a tech company, which isn’t exactly a telling or hugely specific detail — when I left Stanford in 2006, applying for those jobs was one of the default paths for liberal arts graduates who didn’t know what they were going to do with their lives. (True story: I applied for multiple customer support jobs at Google and was rejected for all them.)

That first note also says, “Her name eerily echoes mine in its phonetic structure: Katherine Penney Losse/Maebelline Renner Holland & in short form as well: ‘Kate Losse/Mae Holland.’” Hmmm.

Losse’s next annotation notes that both books include scenes where someone (Jake in Losse’s book, Jared in Eggers’) tells the new employee what their job will be like. The one after that points out that both books include discussions of company passwords. And so on.

It all seems to me, at least, to consist entirely of broad parallels covering experiences that will be familiar to many TechCrunch readers. I’m not trying to dismiss some of the bigger issues of cultural appropriation that Losse brings up, but I’m not sure an unconvincing claim that someone is “ripping off” your book is the best arena for that discussion.

The other interesting thing about Eggers’ statements is that he goes out of his way to deny doing any research related to specific tech companies, whether it’s reading books or visiting offices. That might dampen the enthusiasm of writers who see the book’s sinister tech company (which, like the novel itself, is called The Circle) as a way to take “vengeance” on Google and Facebook. Eggers seems to be arguing that he isn’t attacking any particular company, and that the book is meant to be a broader critique of tech trends and culture.

Of course, if you wrote a novel implying that Facebook and Google are evil, it might just be easier to disavow any specific attack and let others make the comparisons.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Set.fm Raises $1.2M To Help Artists Make Money By Selling Instant Live Recordings

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Anyone who’s ever aspired to be a professional musician (my 12-year-old self included) knows that it’s a tough lifestyle with little guarantee of financial security. That’s why a new startup, Set.fm, is providing musical artists with another stream of revenue by selling live recordings. Set.fm has raised $1.2 million in seed funding, led by Golden Venture Partners, to launch its mobile app so fans can easily download audio recordings of live performances.

To use Set.fm, musicians pay their own production and venue fees, choose which recording solution to use (iPad, iPhone or desktop) and hit the record button once the show starts. Set.fm software will then stream the music from the soundboard, convert the analog signals into digital signals and encode the performance and metadata all in real time. Uploading and transcoding the show as it is recording allows fans to download the performance seconds after it ends.

Set.fm also provides users who want to capture their experiences by phone recordings with a higher-quality file than they could obtain themselves. Founder and CEO Matt Peterson says most venues have audio at around 120 decibels, while an iPhone microphone can only handle about 95 decibels before the quality starts to degrade.

Depending on the size and type of artist, the musician and Set.fm split the profits after any transaction fees. Recordings run from about $5 to $20 to download, and Peterson tells me about 14 percent of audiences purchased the live recordings. He believes that music purchases are moving away from studio recordings, which are mainly being distributed through platforms like Spotify and Pandora.

“There’s almost no revenue left from those sources. It’s not 
that fans aren’t spending as much, they’re just not spending as much on studio recordings,” Peterson tells me. “There’s boom there for the live concert recordings.”

Peterson isn’t the only one who’s looking to maximize on the increase of live recordings. Another recently launched startup, Lively, has raised $500,000 to help users record audio and video of their live performances. iTunes also has a platform called Live Nation for buying exclusive, live performance recordings of its events.

While companies like iTunes and YouTube might be the go-to for fans of well-known artists, Peterson’s app is geared towards what he describes as “professional indies.” These musicians don’t necessarily want to become famous rock stars, but are looking to simply make a living performing their music. For these artists, Set.fm is meant to be a supplementary source of revenue, as well as a way to keep connected with fans.

Peterson is not keen on expanding to offer video recordings, because he says Set.fm is focused on instant availability. Although integrating video services would make Set.fm more competitive with similar services, it would also add in a slew of complications that could slow recording.

Founded in 2011, Set.fm has been a bootstrapped company until this first round of funding, which will go toward technical development of the platform and expansion in marketing. The service is available in about 60 venues across the United States and is moving into Canada, as well.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Jawbone Announces The MINI Jambox, Its Third Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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Jambox Mini

First came the Jambox. Then came its bigger, beefier brother, BIG Jambox. This morning, Jawbone is announcing a third addition to its lineup of portable Bluetooth boomboxes: Mini Jambox.

Now, before that “Mini” bit in the name starts invoking dreams of an itty-bitty, keychain sized Jambox: it’s not that much smaller than the original Jambox. In fact, it’s really only smaller on one dimension. It’s almost identical in height and width (it’s about a millimeter wider than the original, actually), but they’ve shaved off about 1/3 of the device’s depth. Still, the difference is quite noticeable; it takes the Jambox from something you’d need to throw in a bag to something you might squeeze in your coat pocket.

It’s similiar enough in size, really, that upon first seeing the device I actually figured that the Jambox Mini would replace the original Jambox – a successor of sorts, it’s “Mini” name just acting to further clarify the difference between the standard/BIG models. However, Jambox says that they plan on selling all three: BIG Jambox at $299, and both the original and Mini variants at $179.

Side-by-side (MINI Jambox vs Jambox):




The Mini Jambox matches its slightly-larger predecessor in its battery life, each promising around 10 hours of playback from its rechargeable battery.

Much of the Mini’s new-found slimness comes from a new unibody design, with almost all of of its exterior skeleton having been milled from a single piece of anodized aluminum. The Mini Jambox’s new design aesthetic is considerably more svelte than Jawbone’s past offerings — which, in all honesty, were pretty solid to begin with — with the anodization process allowing it to be shipped in 9 colors, from a deep, royal purple to one that’s a hue-for-hue match with Apple’s aluminum MacBook line.

Jawbone is also debuting a new app for iOS and Android, aptly dubbed the “Jawbone App”. The app was built to act as an all-in-one music hub, bringing all of your playlists from Spotify, Rdio, iTunes (and Deezer, if you’re in Europe) into one place, but it’s got one other feature up its sleeve: on-the-fly Jambox configuration. Previous models of the Jambox have long allowed users to tweak the device’s built-in sound effects or add things like live 3D audio — but doing so meant plugging the Jambox into your computer and logging into Jawbone’s online configuration manager. With Mini Jambox (but only Mini Jambox, unfortunately), you can make those changes right through the companion app.

Jawbone let me borrow a Mini Jambox to fiddle with for a few days, and I’ll likely do a proper review sometime in the next week or so. If I had to wrap up my experiences so far in a few sentences, though, they’d be: It sounds pretty good, for its size, but it hasn’t blown me away the same way its predecessors did. The Jambox Mini’s audio sounds a bit clearer than first Jambox (especially at higher volumes) but its smaller dimensions come at the sacrifice of the bass found in the original.

Mini Jambox goes up for pre-order today, and will be available at most of the big box outlets (Apple, Target, Best Buy, etc.) within a few weeks.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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