There’s no doubt that Bitcoin is getting plenty of attention these days – we’ve seen folks like the Winklevoss Twins and Chamath Palihapitiya throw their financial weight behind Bitcoin in a big way – but despite all that it still hasn’t been embraced by the teeming millions just yet
Arguably, all it would take is the support of one big name to get the ball rolling, and for months Bitcoin aficionados have wondered if eBay would be willing to take up that mantle. It’s not hard to see why – in a brief interview with the Financial Times, eBay president and CEO John Donahoe said that the company was keeping its eye on Bitcoin and that in the months and years to come, digital currency is going to be “a very powerful thing”.
Granted, Donahoe’s admission that eBay is monitoring Bitcoin is far from a ringing endorsement for the cryptocurrency, but this is hardly the first time he’s tackled the Bitcoin question in this way. He told the Wall Street Journal this past April that the company was “watching Bitcoin closely” and that there may be ways to fold eventually fold Bitcoin support into PayPal. And PayPal president David Marcus is perhaps just as fascinated with Bitcoin, as he noted on multiple occasions that the notion of embracing Bitcoin isn’t completely out of the question.
While some argue that warming consumer sentiments toward Bitcoin could reduce the need for services like eBay’s PayPal altogether, a potential tie-up of eBay and Bitcoin up needn’t be so contentious. Official eBay support of Bitcoin could mean (among other things) an expansion of the markets that eBay and Paypal are able to reach, and naturally one more (admittedly massive) place for Bitcoin hoarders to spend their funds. And eBay’s PayPal – with all its experience and support systems geared toward escrow – could conceivably act as a trusted middleman for Bitcoin transactions, a known quantity that may ease the qualms of Bitcoin newbies and facilitate smoother sales between established players.
eBay’s fascination with Bitcoin apparently doesn’t end with its brass either. Back in early September, a post appeared on eBay’s official Deals blog that posed a simple question to readers: “What’s the deal with Bitcoins anyway?” The story itself offered little in the way of answers, but the company apparently thought the subject was weighty enough to warrant embedding a YouTube video featuring what has to be one of the most layman-friendly Bitcoin explanations I’ve ever come seen. That video, which was uploaded by a user named B Sil who doesn’t seem to have ever touched the account again, proclaimed at the end that it was “brought to you by eBay Deals”.
Only time (or a chatty exec) will tell if eBay ever does make a grand overture toward the Bitcoin users of the world, or how strongly those users would react if such a thing ever happened. If eBay can’t be bothered to help legitimize Bitcoin and help itself in the process, the task may come down to startups like Circle which recently raised a $9 million Series A in a bid to make Bitcoin more accessible to consumers and merchants alike.
And as far as virtual currency buffs go, they’ll have to make do with other online shopping outposts and fortunately they have more than a few to choose from. Bitcoin payment processor BitPay recently surged past the 10,000 merchant mark (a vast majority of whom are located in the United States), and those looking for a slightly more eBay-esque shopping experience often turn to sites like Bitmit.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
We already knew that Chamath Palihapitiya, ex-Facebook executive, and founder and partner of The Social+Capital Partnership, was bullish on Bitcoins. But how bullish? He actually owns the equivalent of $5 million in Bitcoins, representing one of the largest positions in the world with the Winklevoss twins.
But that’s not all, Palihapitiya wants to own even more than that – up to $10 and $15 million. He didn’t say whether he counts on an increase in value of Bitcoins or whether he will start right away to purchase more Bitcoins.
Palihapitiya seems to be very aware of the risks involved with betting on a digital currency, but is willing to take those risks. He already shared his thoughts about Bitcoins and why he believes that it is a disruptive idea. But until now, we didn’t know how much Bitcoin he actually owned.
Buckle up, people: We might be closer than ever to our first official Bitcoin IPO.
It was just a couple months back that it emerged that Winklevoss Capital, the investment firm/family trust founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (of early Facebook fame), had bought up approximately one percent of all the outstanding quantity of Bitcoins, the alternative digital currency — a portion that was then worth around $11 million. The firm has gone on to invest in startups that deal exclusively in the Bitcoin space, such as Bitinstant.
Today, it looks like they are looking to spread the ownership of some of that investment around to the public — with all its potential gains, and losses. An entity called “The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust” has apparently filed for an initial public offering of 1 million shares, to raise up to $20 million in capital.
A ticker for the stock has yet to be determined. The filing explains the entity’s mission thusly:
“The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust (Trust) will issue Winklevoss Bitcoin Shares (Shares) which represent units of fractional undivided beneficial interest in and ownership of the Trust. Math-Based Asset Services LLC is the sponsor of the Trust (Sponsor) and [TRUSTEE] is the trustee and custodian of the Trust (Trustee) using proprietary and patent-pending technology to administer the Trust. The Trust intends to issue additional Shares on a continuous basis.”
We’re reading through the filed documents, and working on getting more details from the Winklevosses directly, so this story will be updated as the information becomes more clear.
For now, check out the interview I had just a couple weeks back with Cameron and Tyler here at the TechCrunch TV studio. We talked in depth about why they’re so bullish on Bitcoin and their plans for future investments in the currency.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Facebook has found a successor to Ted Ullyot, the company’s General Counsel for the past 4 1/2 years. Facebook announced Thursday that Colin Stretch has been promoted from Deputy General Counsel to Vice President and General Counsel into the role of lead attorney.
Stretch will lead Facebook’s legal and security departments.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg welcomed Stretch to his new position in a press release:
Colin has been an instrumental leader on the Facebook legal team and has earned the trust and confidence of management, the Board of Directors and our entire company. We are very excited to have him as our new General Counsel. … Colin’s appointment is a testament both to his abilities and to Ted’s leadership. Ted built a strong team at Facebook that we have grown to depend on for world-class counsel, which made promoting from within our company the clear and best choice.
Stretch joined Facebook in 2010, after serving as a partner for Washington, D.C. law firm Kellogg Huber Hansen Todd Evans & Figel, and has been a vital force behind some of the company’s high-profile legal cases. He was the lead negotiator for Facebook’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 and led the appellate victory in the Winklevoss case. Most recently, Stretch has been advising Facebook on the legal issues regarding new products.
Stretch noted in the press release how he’s excited to start:
Helping advance Facebook’s mission of connecting the world is at the center of our team’s work, and I look forward to the opportunity this new role represents. This is an extremely talented group of lawyers, and an awesome responsibility. I can’t wait to get started.
In other Facebook business news, some top Facebook execs sold company shares recently.
Photo courtesy of Stretch’s Linkedin page.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook
The Winklevoss twins, the 31-year-old Harvard grads who are probably best known for their years-long legal fight with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook, have put $18 million of their Facebook settlement cash toward buying a brand new bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills, according to a report today out of TMZ.*
The reason for the move out west? It’s not because the statuesque pair wants to give Armie Hammer a run for his money on the silver screen. TMZ reports:
“The Winklevii have their eye on SoCal as the new Silicon Valley (which is home to Facebook and Apple) thanks to L.A.’s booming tech scene.”
The new mansion will reportedly be inhabited mostly by Tyler, who will use it as his home base while launching West Coast operations of the brothers’ new NYC-based venture capital firm, Winklevoss Capital.
I love to rib the Winklevoss twins as much as anyone, focusing more on California does seem like a smart move to show that they are serious about tech investing. The San Francisco Bay Area is still the epicenter when it comes to tech, and Los Angeles has indeed been heating up as a startup hub in recent years. We’ll have to see how often the Winklevosses jaunt up north to Silicon Valley — that could result in some interesting run-ins to say the least.
If you’re in the mood for gawking and feeling vaguely jealous, you can leaf through the photos of the Winklevii’s new house on this slideshow.
* Yes, the showbiz gossip site that some prickly readers like to compare to TechCrunch, which I think is meant to be an insult but could be a compliment? Hey, no one can say TMZ doesn’t get the best scoops in its field. I’m rubber, you’re glue, etc.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
When Yahoo chief executive Scott Thompson got on his first investor conference call after taking over in January, he bragged to media and investors about the great wealth of talent and IP that existed at the struggling company. He said that it needed to “build great innovative products and put them inside customer experiences.” The news that it is suing Facebook over alleged infringement of ten “method” patents by the social network, however, points to a different strategy to move ahead.
The action has ignited some strong opinions from the gallery: Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures pulls no punches and calls the suit a “crock of shit” because it “crossed the unspoken line which is that web companies don’t sue each other over their bogus patent portfolios. I don’t think there’s a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn’t been for well over a decade.”
But this is not the first time that Yahoo has leaned on a big company with its patents just before the target has gone public — Facebook is planning an IPO that could value the company at $100 billion — nor is it the first time that Facebook has found itself in court.
Last year alone, the social network was involved in 22 separate patent suits, according to Reuters division Westlaw, double the number from 2010. These cover areas like message transmission to large numbers of users.
Up to now, Facebook, which has only around 40 patents granted to its name (compared to Yahoo’s 3,300), has only been the plaintiff in one suit.* That small number, and Yahoo’s large size, may mean a lot more cases like this one up ahead, making social media and web services the next terrain for patent litigators.
Facebook has been in courts over other issues as well, beyond patents. That’s the price of success these days.
Just last week, Facebook lost a ruling in Germany over how it handles user information and applies its “Friend Finder” feature: both were found to violate privacy laws. That case, brought by Germany’s Central Consumer Association, an umbrella group for consumer rights organizations, was originally filed in 2010. It will be finalized in the next week or two and then Facebook will have one month to modify its services to comply with the findings. In a separate case around privacy in Germany, Facebook is being sued by the Hamburg data protection authority over its facial recognition feature.
Germany was also the focus of a copy-cat case for Facebook: The German social network StudiVZ won a case lodged by Facebook over alleged IP theft and source code theft. That was back in 2009, and to be honest the sites have evolved away from each other quite a lot since then.
Further back than this, there are also the cases involving Paul Ceglia and the Winklevoss twins.
As for Yahoo, it is not known for bringing lots of cases against its competitors or for having to defend itself against other’s allegations, but it’s not exactly a stranger to enforcing its patent rights.
According to Reuters, in 2004, Yahoo took patent claims to Google before it went public, and in exchange got shares in Google worth some $201 million at the time. It could be that this is what is behind Yahoo’s intention this time around, too.
*As Lenny Kravets points out in comments, the number of patents granted to Facebook is currently 42, with the other 120 being patent applications. Our original article had said that Facebook had around 160 patents.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
The Winklevoss twins had their original case against Facebook dismissed yesterday, causing tech media to write another slew of “The Winklevosses’ Case Against Facebook Is Over But Wait Actually It Isn’t” headlines. The seven-year battle is indeed not over, as the Winklevosses intent to file a motion under Rule 60b, which alleges that the Facebook withheld evidence during the first trial that could have been used in the settlement, evidence which would increase the value of the Winklevoss Facebook shares to around $200 million (which is about $200 million more than I or probably any of you have).
This news comes shortly after former Harvard president Larry Summers called the twins “assholes” at the Fortune Brainstorm tech conference in Aspen, in response to a question about the veracity of a scene in “The Social Network.”
“One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case,”
The twins responded to Summers’ comments by writing an official-looking letter to the current president of Harvard, condemning Summers’ actions, which only reinforced the “asshole” characterization for many.
Because wading through piles of legalese isn’t something that I (or you) can spend most of my time doing, for better or for worse, I don’t understand the ins and outs of the case. But, thanks to “The Social Network” and the simplification engine that is popular culture,
Facebook Spent 320K on Lobbying in 2Q – TechCrunch reported this week that Facebook spent $320,000 on lobbying in the second quarter; the company has already surpassed its 2010 total lobbying spend in the first two quarters of this year.
Judge Dismisses Second Winklevoss Lawsuit – Reuters today reported that Facebook was awarded a dismissal of a second lawsuit filed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The suit, filed in Boston, had sought to bring the twins more money on top of the $65 million settlement they had already received as the outcome of a suit claiming they came up with the idea for Facebook.
Facebook Testing a Phonebook App – VentureBeat reported that Facebook may be testing a phonebook app for mobile users, allowing them to see their contacts on Facebook as a phonebook and then dial them directly from the Facebook app on their phones. However, this could have been developed by Google to deepen the integration of Facebook with its mobile OS.
“Who Owns Facebook?” Website - Venture capital directory publisher Massinvestor has launched a website called “Who Owns Facebook?” that features profiles of all of Facebook’s biggest stock holders.
Fraction of Facebook for iPhone Users Complaint About Bugs – The Financial Times reported this week that there is a “revolt” amongst Facebook for iPhone users regarding bugs in the latest version of the app. In fact, the 20,000 users complaining make up just a tiny fraction of the app’s 84 million monthly users, and therefore does not represent widespread discontent.
Which Facebook Employees are on Google+? – AllFacebook reported this week that a slew of Facebook employees are on Google+, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and several members of the executive team. Here’s a list of some of them.
Harvard President Slams Winklevoss Bros – Larry Summers, who was president of Harvard University when the Winklevoss twins had their spat with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook, seems to have been no fan of the brothers. He basically called them a vulgar name, hinting that they are jerks.
Talenthouse to Develop Fan Skill Competition Apps - Talenthouse is a platform for running promotions on Facebook where fans can compete to donate their skills, such as blogging or video editing, to help complete projects for their favorite celebrities. AllThingsD reports that the company has signed a deal to provide apps for Universal Music Group artists.
Facebook Report: Engaging Readers on Pages – Facebook released an analysis of user engagement with posts by the Pages of news organizations Pages, noting the influence of thumbnail images, post length, photos, questions and more. This study fell in line with one we reported earlier of journalist Pages.
Buddy Media Expands to Europe – Buddy Media announced this week that it would open a European headquarters in London.
myYearbook, Quepasa Merge – myYearbook and the Quepasa Corporation agreed to merge this week, bringing the social game developer and Latino social network together. The $100 million deal reaches across Latin America, includes 70 million registered users, 2.2 million mobile app installs and 11.5 million mobile game installs.
French MXP4 Opens US Office, Signs Deal – French developer of music-based social games MXP4 will move business operations of its Bopler Games unit to a new office in Los Angeles, closer to US record labels. The week prior, MXP4 signed a deal with EMI to bring the music of the record label’s artists into Bopler Games.
Wispor Launches Using Faceboom Comments Plugin – Wispor is a newly launched discussion-based social network where users can start conversations about any topic. The site is built on top of the Facebook Comments Box social plugin in what appears to be the deepest integration of the commenting widget to date.
Third-Party Facebook Photos App Pixable Adds Video – Pixable, a Facebook app we’ve previously covered that helps users sort through all the photos their friends upload, now allows users to browse videos uploaded or shared by their Facebook friends.
RootMusic BandPage Launches Social Touring Feature – BandPage, a Facebook app that allows bands to set up a profile and stream their music, has launched an integration with concert date tracking services Songkick, Bandsintown, and SonicLiving. The Social Touring feature allows musicians to automatically have their tour dates imported to their BandPage from these services.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook
Facebook COO Sandberg Profiled – Facebook’s Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg is profiled this week in Bloomberg Business week. The article describes how her steady leadership has helped Facebook monetize. It also mentions that she may be more conservative towards entering China than CEO Mark Zuckerberg. [Image via Facebook]
Facebook, Syria Butt Heads – Facebook shut down the Syrian military’s Page recently because it called for spamming of politically opposing Pages. Then it appeared the Syrian government tried to launch cyber, man-in-the-middle, attacks on Syrian Facebook users.
7.5M Facebook Users Under 13 – Facebook’s minimum 13 year age limit is being flaunted by 7.5 million users, according to a survey from Consumer Reports.
Facebook Reiterates How Developers Can Keep Users Safe - Following claims of new security risk, a post to the Facebook Developers Blog explained how developers can assist its efforts to protect users by acquiring an SSL certificate (which will be mandatory starting October 1st), reviewing the updated authentication and OAuth 2.0 guide, and complying with its Platform policies. It also mentioned that the company is working with other web giants including Google, web browser vendors and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on several web security initiatives.
Facebook Patents Info Sharing – A Facebook patent was published recently, the “Controlling Access of User Information Using Social-Networking Information” patent covers the degrees of separation between people controlling whether different social networks can access information from other networks.
LinkedIn to Raise $274M – LinkedIn is set to offer 7.84 million shares to the public to raise an estimated $274.4 million. The shares are priced between $32 and $35 dollars and LinkedIn will take $146.6 million of the money raised.
Facebook Makes Minor Changes to Promotion Guidelines - As of May 11th, promotions, contests, and sweepstakes on Facebook may no longer use the Like button, comments, or other Facebook features as voting mechanisms, impacting some developers such as Offerpop. Also, promotions may only include Facebook’s names, trademarks, etc in disclosures, not in contest instructions.
Winklevoss Twins Get Sued – In a twist of fate, the Winklevoss twins who have been suing Mark Zuckerberg for several years, are being sued by a software developer in Boston. Wayne Change wants a piece of the twins’ $65 million Facebook settlement for work he did for the twins’ original Facebook rival, ConnectU.
Facebook’s User Info Suit Continues – A lawsuit in which Facebook was accused of sharing user information with third-party advertisers was partially dismissed. The plaintiffs still have a chance to sue Facebook.
Airbnb Takes to Facebook – Airbnb, a global home rental service, implemented Facebook Connect, now allowing users to connect with people in their personal network when renting places to stay.
Claritics Raises $1.5M – Claritics, a startup providing self-serve social analytics tools for brands and game developers, raised $1.5 million in series A funding this week, to be used to develop its analytics suite, as well as sales and operational staff, according to TechCrunch.
BitTorrent Releases Personal Social File Sharing Channels – BitTorrent, developers of the popular file transfer protocol for the same name, has released the beta of its Project Chrysalis. It allows users to create a personal file sharing channel to which friends from Facebook can be invited to download files that exceed Facebook’s file size limit, such as home movies that are over 1024 MB.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook