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TC Cribs: Meebo’s Headbanging, Rocket-Flinging Office (With Magical Passageways)

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 08:30 AM PDT

We’re back with another episode of TC Cribs, taking you inside the offices of some of the tech world’s hottest companies. This episode features Meebo, which rose to popularity as a multi-protocol web-based chat client, and has since gotten tons of traction with their Meebo Bar (not to be confused with the numerous drinking holes located in the office, as you’ll see in the episode)).

Tune in to learn about Meebo’s traditions, their giant cookies, their hidden staircase to the happiest place on Earth, and the wooden board they call a ‘rock wall’ that is much, much harder than it looks. Seriously, it’s really hard. You’ll see. And do be sure to watch til the end.

Also be sure to check out our past episodes of TC Cribs:

As always, credit to Ashley Pagán and John Murillo for the camera work, and to Mr. Murillo for the fantastic editing (he’s seriously a wizard).

Hack Attack: Sony Confirms PlayStation Network Outage Caused By ‘External Intrusion’

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 01:42 AM PDT

Unfortunately for PlayStation Network and Qriocity services users, it looks like the widespread network outages will continue.

Since Sony’s PlayStation and music networks went down two days ago, there has been a fair amount of public speculation over the cause of the outage. (Largely due to Sony’s tight-lipped handling of public relations.) Many blamed vengeful gremlins loose in Sony’s server clusters and datacenters, while others immediately pointed the finger at Anonymous, the merry band of hackers that metastasized out of 4chan.

Thankfully, after 24+ hours of communication silence, Sony has updated its blog and ended the speculation. According to the electronics colossus, “an external intrusion” is responsible for the ongoing outages of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity. (It probably sounded like this at Sony headquarters. Or this.)

As to who these nefarious “intruders” are: It seems that Sony does not yet know who is responsible for the breach, or if it does, it is instead smartly spending its time sealing areas of vulnerability and trying to get the network back up and running. And though reports of PlayStation’s outage began heating up early Thursday morning, Sony reports that it in fact self-defensively shut down the Network sometime Wednesday evening.

According to the network’s blog, “An external intrusion on our system has affected our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. In order to conduct a thorough investigation and to verify the smooth and secure operation of our network services going forward, we turned off PlayStation Network & Qriocity services on the evening of Wednesday, April 20th. Providing quality entertainment services to our customers and partners is our utmost priority. We are doing all we can to resolve this situation quickly, and we once again thank you for your patience. We will continue to update you promptly as we have additional information to share.”

So, when I said Sony has ended all speculation, I was really only half-correct. Sony is still not naming the party responsible for the breach, so the speculation will likely continue. (Can you hear the blogosphere cheering?) Anonymous has prior beef with Sony and has attacked the company before, so it’s not surprising many blamed them for the service disruption. (You can read more about Anon’s prior grievances with Sony in yesterday’s post.)

However, AnonOps (Anonymous Operations), the group’s mouthpiece and network through which members frequently communicate, has adamantly stated via its news wing that it was not responsible for the outage. Though, it seems that this particular announcement was made prior to Sony delivering the news that the problem was in fact due to hacking. So, Anonymous pointing to Sony’s incompetence as the cause of the outages is off base. Sort of.

More likely, as Anonymous makes mention of in the announcement, the hack was perpetrated by some offshoot of the group, which is either more angry at Sony than the majority, or is more eager to get its precious “lulz”. (While I have to admit that I sometimes find myself sympathetic to some of Anonymous’ philosophical stances, it’s hard not to use words like “fundamentalist” when referring to “factions” within the group, and draw structural comparisons between black hatters and terrorists. There are obviously important distinctions here, and line-blurring, but there it is.) Or, on the other hand, we might soon be learning of an as-yet-unknown hacker entity that is making a run at Anonymous for public notoriety. Gulp.

The PlayStation Network currently has over 70 million users and is Sony’s online medium for its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable consoles. Both the Network, and Sony’s Qriocity music service were targeted. As stated previously, in its most recent blog post, Network spokespeople make no mention of how long the outage will continue, but it’s likely that it may take several more days to sort out. And this is after Sony posted yesterday saying that the outage may last for a “full day or two” — and after Amazon’s web and cloud services suffered from their own major outage.

At this point, the outage has lasted for over 48 hours and has become quite a disaster for Sony. (Or a “kerfuffle”, if you prefer a softer word.) Now, if this were in fact the result of denial-of-service attacks, it’s hard to place the blame entirely on Sony. Few networks can defend against large-scale DDoS attacks, which is, sadly, the point. That being said, the company has known since Wednesday night that there was an intrusion, so I find it odd that it would wait for two days to inform its users — and remove a post from its EU blog early Thursday saying that the outage is a result of "targeted behaviour by an outside party".

All in all, the company’s public relations strategy is, at the least, very confusing. While it’s true that millions of gamers are being inconvenienced and are being forced offline, sure, it’s certainly not the end of the world. But, both for the sake of the company — and its users — a higher frequency of communication and level of transparency has to be achieved. In today’s world, a company can’t allow its official Twitter streams (@Playstation has nearly 800K followers) to go without an update for 24 hours. Especially when 70 million people are affected.

So, for everyone’s sake, I hope the Network can get up and running before this turns into the longest widespread network outage (due to hacking) in recent memory. If it isn’t already.

We will update this post over the weekend as we learn more. Stay tuned.

Firefox 4 About To Hit 100 Million Downloads After A Month

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 11:59 PM PDT

Mozilla released its new Firefox 4 exactly a month ago today and within a day it had more than twice as many downloads as Internet Explorer 9 after its launch. Some where around midnight tonight the browser build will hit 100 million downloads after one month in existence, according to the Firefox download stats ticker.

What’s more impressive is that the browser has now taken over 7.94% of the worldwide browser market according to StatCounter, with Internet Explorer 8.0 at 29.99%, Firefox 3.6 at 24.43% and Chrome 10 at 15.35%.

When compared to the percentages two days after its launch it looks like Firefox 4 has taken a solid chunk out of Firefox 3.6 usage: On March 22 IE had 45% of the global market, followed by Firefox 3.6 with 30% and Chrome with 17%. Firefox 4 was at 1.95% then.

Like Erick I too had stopped using Firefox because it was so excruciatingly slow, and was pleasantly surprised at how much faster 4 was compared to 3.6 and even compared to Chrome when loading Flash heavy sites.

But maybe being speedier isn’t enough to win the high stakes browser wars? On the Firefox 4 launch day, Chrome came out with its Chrome 11 beta, including support for an HTML5 speech input API (which essentially means that you’ll be able to talk to your computer).



Posted: 22 Apr 2011 10:40 PM PDT

Enterprise chat platform HipChat has entered the 101 Battle of the Billboards, putting up the above memetastic masterpiece on the 101 North after the Whipple exit this past Friday. For the uninitiated, the “Y U NO USE HIPCHAT?” billboard is a take off of the startup friendly Y U NO guy meme, which has already spawned at least one parody Twitter account run by YCombinator hopefuls.

Billboards on the 101 cost a whopping 30K, so companies haven’t always been so willing to use that expensive real estate to appeal to those of us used to trolling 4Chan. But the billboard creative in SF and SV has really upped the intellectual ante ever since younger startups started buying the roadside placards: “We made it because we were sick of billboards like this,” HipChat co-founder Peter Curley explains.

(Why is it always Microsoft?)

And the company’s appeal to the more internet savvy of drivers among us seems to be working, as search traffic for “HipChat” has gone up 300% since the billboard went up, according to Curley. Also, they got another TechCrunch post.

Unrelated: Here’s the HipChat “Arrington” emotion. Yes, this exists.

Tim Armstrong, Mary Meeker, Dennis Crowley and Chris Dixon To Be At Disrupt NYC

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 05:11 PM PDT

We couldn’t wait any longer to announce another batch of special guests for this year’s Disrupt in NYC. We had around 80 speakers last year and we have even more this year.

We are pleased to announce that Tim Armstrong, Mary Meeker, Dennis Crowley, and Chris Dixon will all be with us on stage at Disrupt NYC. They will join the guests we announced yesterday—Charlie Rose, Ron Conway, Roelof Botha, and Arianna Huffington. As you can see, we are not messing around. We said Disrupt would be big this year and we meant it.

Tickets are still on sale and you can find the best deals here. As we said before, make sure you purchase them as soon as you can since prices will go up as we get closer to the event. We are giving away 1 free ticket each week, and our giveaway for this week started this morning at 10am PST. We will be picking the winner tomorrow, so if you want to enter make sure you do so soon!

Tim Armstrong
CEO and Chairman, AOL

Tim Armstrong was appointed CEO and Chairman of AOL in March 2009. Before becoming the CEO of AOL, Armstrong presided over Google's North American and Latin American advertising sales and operations teams. His team provided customers with local partnerships as well as centralized sales and services. They worked with some of the world's most widely recognized brands and advertising agencies in addition to some of the fastest growing medium-sized companies. Armstrong joined Google from, where he was vice president of sales and strategic partnerships. Prior to his role at, he served as director of integrated sales & marketing at Starwave's and Disney's ABC/ESPN Internet Ventures, working across the companies' Internet, TV, radio, and print properties. He started his career by co-founding and running a newspaper based in Boston, MA, before joining IDG to launch their first consumer Internet magazine, I-Way.

Mary Meeker
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mary Meeker has joined the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner. Previously she joined Morgan Stanley in 1991 as the Firm's PC Software/Hardware & New Media analyst. Earlier, she served as a Technology Research Analyst at Cowen and at Solomon Brothers. She received an MBA in Finance from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York (1986), and a BA in psychology from DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana (1981) . Meeker's work has been recognized in various Wall Street Analyst Polls including those conducted by Greenwich Associates, Institutional Investor, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Red Herring. Her research coverage includes PC software companies such as Adobe, Corel, Intuit, Macromedia, Microsoft, and Symantec. In PC hardware, she follows companies that include Apple, Compaq Computer, and Dell Computer. Her new media coverage includes America Online, Avid Technology, Broderbund Software, Electronic Arts, Maxis, Netscape, and The 3DO Company.

Dennis Crowley
Co-founder, Foursquare

Dennis Crowley is a co-founder of Foursquare, a location-based social networking service. Previously, he co-founded Dodgeball, a network of the same nature which sold to Google in 2005. He has been named one of the "Top 35 Innovators Under 35" by MIT's Technology Review magazine (2005) and has won the "Fast Money" bonus round on the TV game show Family Feud (2009). His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Time Magazine, Newsweek, MTV, Slashdot and NBC. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Chris Dixon
CEO and Co-founder, Hunch

Currently, CEO & Co-founder of Hunch. Previously, CEO & Co-founder of SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee). Personal investor in early-stage technology companies, including Skype, TrialPay, DocVerse, Invite Media, Gerson Lehrman Group, ScanScout, OMGPOP, BillShrink, Oddcast, Panjiva, Knewton, and a handful of other startups that are still in stealth mode.

Senator Al Franken Thinks My Future Is Bright, And I Have The Letter To Prove It

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 04:28 PM PDT

As if my ego needed another boost.

Last month at SXSW, I had the opportunity to interview Senator Al Franken, who was speaking at the conference to discuss the importance of Net Neutrality. The interview went well (I doubt you can tell he was my first Senator), and as I walked out of the room Senator Franken slapped me on the back and said I had a bright future ahead of me.

Instead of responding with one of my famed witticisms I mumbled something about keeping my fingers crossed and went on my way, only to begin cursing myself a few moments later. One of the most level-headed members of the United States Senate had just complimented me — and I had failed to ask for it in writing. Bright future, indeed.

A week later I sent an email to Franken’s staff thanking them for helping to arrange the interview. I may have  mentioned that getting the compliment in writing would be nice, but I included a winky face to indicate that I was joking.

But it seems the members of Senator Franken’s staff could see past the winky face into my heart of hearts. Three weeks later, something special arrived at TechCrunch HQ. You’ll find it above. Can’t miss it.

So thank you, Senator Franken. I can only hope to become half the man Jason Robards was. In the mean time, you’re looking at my new resume above.

And here’s the interview for those of you who missed it.

How Twitter Can Save $50 Million: Forget TweetDeck, And Go Freemium On Its API

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 03:21 PM PDT

Editor’s note: In this guest post, serial entrepreneur Nova Spivack gives Twitter some suggestions for how to make money. Spivack’s latest startup, Bottlenose, is looking at new ways to mine the Tweet stream.

I've been puzzling over Twitter's recent tactical moves around their API, Ubermedia and Tweetdeck, for a few months now, and it just doesn't add up. In fact I think Twitter's current strategy may take them in a direction where they end up missing out on their biggest potential win.

If Twitter continues to go down the media company path, without incorporating their API into the plan, that could not only force a large part of their ecosystem to go elsewhere, but it could deprive them of a much larger potential infrastructure revenue opportunity, and could even end up costing them the company.

After all, Silicon Valley is littered with the  burned out wreckage of once-great media companies that failed create and keep third-party app ecosystems: AOL, Friendster, MySpace, Yahoo – to name a few. It's very hard to maintain leadership as an online media company without an ecosystem of outside apps increasing reach, innovation, and stickiness.

In light of this, I've been exploring an alternate path for Twitter that leverages their API in a much bigger way, and this path appears to be a better strategy. According to my own experimental revenue  projections for Twitter, this alternative path is not only a good tactical move, but it's a good business move because it increases Twitter's reach, number of active users, and revenues massively.

This path fulfills the promise of Twitter as an infrastructure, without sacrificing the media company play. A media company + an infrastructure is a much stronger strategic position to be in than either on their own.

Another side-effect of this proposal is that it eliminates the need for Twitter to buy Tweetdeck, or Ubermedia. It makes the wholediscussion about the risk of Tweetdeck and Ubermedia to Twitter completely irrelevant, a non-issue, and will save Twitter $50 million in unnecessary acquisition costs.

It also eliminates the tension between Twitter and their ecosystem of third-party client apps. And it returns more revenues to everyone, especially Twitter. In the end, this could make Twitter a much bigger and more important company, and would certainly lock in their dominance of global realtime messaging and advertising.

To understand my proposal, first, what is Twitter really? Well, if history is any indication, it's a messaging infrastructure for the Web. Let's shelve the question of whether it's the optimal messaging infrasture (it's not, by a long-shot), but it works well enough for the moment.

Twitter's APIs are a big piece of how Twitter grew so quickly: Twitter surged because of third-party developers pumping data in and out of Twitter via these APIs in all manner of apps and services, which massively extend the reach, innovation, and impact of Twitter.

Instead of abandoning their DNA and clamping down on API use and competing with their own ecosystem, my analysis shows that Twitter would do far better through a combined strategy.

In the combined strategy Twitter would continue to have a destination portal and their own official apps, but would also actively encourage – and monetize – an ecosystem of third-party apps on their APIs, including client apps that effectively competed with their destination. This competition would however not harm Twitter, it would make the ecosystem even bigger, and would deliver very significant incremental revenues to Twitter as well.

The key to the combined strategy is a new way for Twitter to monetize their API's. Let's call this the "freemium API" option. Here's how it works conceptually:

Twitter would change their API terms to give third-party apps two choices: Either use the API for free but accept in-stream ads from Twitter, or pay a very nominal fee per tweet (around $0.1 per thousand tweets in or out of the API, a 10 cent CPM). Apps that opt to pay for the premium API could easily monetize with their own ads or subscriptions to more than compensate for the 10 cent CPM to Twitter, and would make money on the delta. Even if you think that’s too high, Twitter could cut that in half and still make money.

Here's the model in a little more detail:

  1. Third-party apps that don't mind carrying Twitter's ads could use the free API. They would be able to run their own ads outside the stream, but not inside the stream in their apps – only Twitter's ads could appear inside the stream for the free API. These ads would come from Twitter and could even be personalized or targeted per user or topic.
  2. Third-party apps that either don't want ads at all, or don't want Twitter's ads, could use the premium API, pay the fee, monetize, and make money on the spread. They could monetize with their own ads or through subscription models or commerce or whatever they want. In this option, third-party apps would not be allowed to inject their own ads into the outgoing stream; instead they could display their own ads interleaved within the stream, in their user-interfaces, but these ads would not be pushed out to Twitter, they would only appear for their own users. This way Twitter would not be flooded with ads.

By launching this freemium API model, in addition to their existing portal business and their official client apps, Twitter would be able to monetize their entire ecosystem, including every third-party app. The beauty is: Twitter gets paid no matter where a user enters their network or views content; Twitter makes money from 100% of all tweets and views. It's a vastly more scalable business model than just being a destination or media company and trying to own 100% of the user-experience.

As an experiment, I've run the numbers and they look good; See for yourself. Of course these numbers are based on anecdotal data, such as a rumor I heard from a credible source that Twitter's actual revenues this year are closer to $75mm. It could add another $20 million off the bat with a freemium API strategy.

My projections simplify matters in several dimensions for the sake of convenience in sketching out the scenarios, and perhaps have growth rate and audience share assumptions that are debatable – but regardless, even if we were to tweak the model a bit, the conclusion is the same: Twitter would have a bigger audience and greater revenue growth if they included the Freemium API model and made it a priority.

Interestingly, Twitter currently licenses all of its bulk data through a third-party company, Gnip. Gnip prices their data at $0.0001/tweet or $0.1/1K tweets – exactly what I proposed in my model. Instead of that money going to Twitter, some or all of it is presently going to Gnip. This makes very little sense to me.

Why would Twitter give away their API – their platform – to an outside company, especially when at its root Twitter is an API? I think it would ultimately make more sense to take that in-house, and if I were Gnip I would be worried about that. Perhaps Gnip is an acquisition target by Twitter in the future? In fact, Gnip is a much bigger potential threat for a company like Twitter than Tweetdeck or Ubermedia are, in my opinion.

So far we've analyzed what happens if Twitter DOES take the strategy of offering a freemium API. But what happens if they DON'T? Either of two sub-optimal outcomes:

  • If Twitter allows 3rd party clients but does not monetize the API in any way – then eventually 3rd party clients will take significant market share away from them. This is the problem they are facing with Tweetdeck and Ubermedia currently.
  • If Twitter tries to stop (A) by blocking or clamping down on 3rd party clients – it won't work. First of all this will cause existing 3rd party client apps to leave the Twitter network, taking large portions of high-value power-users with them. There are numerous stealth projects now underway to create alternative networks to Twitter, and sooner or later one of these will succeed. More importantly, if Twitter blocks use of their API they will cut themselves off from being a platform and infrastructure, making them vulnerable to attack by competing services (like Facebook or Google) that might be more developer friendly and that take more of a platform approach.

The conclusion of this is that it is clear, to me at least, that if Twitter turns its back on their platform and API DNA, they are missing out on what may be their most important tactical opportunity.

Being a platform and having thousands of 3rd party apps will increase their reach, massively increase adoption and engagement, and create a much more powerful and sticky network-effect. In short, killing their own ecosystem to save their portal business would be cutting off their nose to save their face.

So what should Twitter do? Simple. They should not buy Tweetdeck or Ubermedia. There is no need to worry about Ubermedia or anyone else. They should not clamp down on their API or try to block third-party client apps.

Twitter could solve all these problems, and double the value of their business, in an instant by simply launching a freemium API, along the lines of what I've proposed here.

If Twitter simply embraced their API roots instead of turning against them, all their "frenemies" would become friends again, and Twitter could focus on building the best realtime ad network and messaging infrastructure in the world, instead of competing with their own channel partners.

If Twitter doesn't do this, then mark my words, they will eventually lose their dominant role, as well as all the goodwill they currently have. And they will force the market to come up with competing solutions.

At the end of the day, without an ecosystem, Twitter's network effect will fall apart pretty quickly. If Twitter loses their ecosystem by competing with it, they will end up in the graveyard of once-great Internet companies. I personally would not like to see that happen.

I would like to see Twitter function as an infrastructure, not merely a media company. It's better for Twitter, it's better for their ecosystem, and it's better for the world. But if they fail to do that, I'll happily embrace better solutions when they emerge. Weathers Amazon Cloud Disaster On Earth Day

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 02:28 PM PDT

Everyone’s favorite under-estimator of social media, Malcolm Gladwell, might get a chuckle out of Amazon’s EC2 problems this week. First, they took out Foursquare, Reddit and Quora service, as TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher reported yesterday. The disaster in the cloud also put a stop to those who would Tweet the revolution via, a site that gets petitions going virally, online.

The site and service was still out of order as of publication. founder Jim Gilliam said:

“We usually get several thousand activism tweets a day. That hasn’t happened for 36 hours, because of these issues with Amazon and another service provider we use, Heroku, also effected. I can’t access the data to tell you what our petition creation, retweets and general user interactions looked like last year on Earth Day, because I don’t have access right now. But the timing on something like this is a bit of a shame, really.”

According to Gilliam, petition creation and sharing tends to spike sharply around particular events, from the earthquake in Japan, to a calendar holiday like Earth Day. petitions in the past have ranged from environmental to entertaining. They have encouraged “web citizens” to demand that phone manufacturers source materials used in their devices sustainably, or to get the EPA to regulate ostensibly harmful pesticides and food additives more carefully.

Staff members at The Young Turks, the popular political news series and site, regularly send out petitions, and got in touch with Gilliam to vent and gripe about the Earth Day blackout.

Gilliam is also the founder of, a site that he says is not effected by the problems in the cloud.

Anyone can use to whip up awareness and inspire problem solving around a cause, online — at least when it’s up and running.

Donald Trump Is Not An Anonymous Internet Commenter

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 02:19 PM PDT

Let me start of by reiterating how much I hate Donald Trump.

Hate is, of course, a strong word. But then again so are “liar”, “crypto-racist” and “criminally-irresponsible publicity whore”. And there can be fewer more hateful blots on the current landscape of American politics than that of Trump – looking for all the world like a pugnacious Oompa-Loompa with a comb-over – dog whistling to the racist “birther” movement in order to promote his crappy reality TV show.

And yet, for all that I despise Donald Trump and everything he represents – including his range of ties, and his Vegas hotel – there is one aspect of his recent behavior for which I need to give him unqualified credit.

For all of Donald Trump’s faults, at least he isn’t an anonymous Internet commenter.

In fact, Trump has consistently stood out in a shining contrast against those pathetic cowards who troll blogs, spewing their misspelled, abusive bile from behind a sandbag of anonymity. When Donald Trump comments on the Internet, Donald Trump comments on the Internet.

Just look at what happened when Salon’s Justin Elliot wrote a piece about how Trump could run for President and still hide his net worth. Four days later, Elliot received an email from Trump’s assistant. The subject line was unambiguous: “Message from Mr. Donald Trump.”

Attached was a scanned image of a print out of Elliot’s article, on to which Trump had hand-scrawled a reply.


Bravo, Donald Trump, BRAVO. Apart from the shouting, his approach to Internet commenting is faultless: he keeps a civil tongue, he spells and punctuates correctly, and – most importantly – he signs off with his real name.

What’s more, as Elliot points out, this isn’t an isolated incident. Last month, Trump sent a similar print out – this time by mail and enclosing an embossed business card, to Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter, after writer Juli Weiner wrote an unflattering blog post about Trump’s presidential run. You can see a scan of Trump’s response here. It’s pretty amazing.

I mean, sure; printing, scrawling, scanning and sending is not the most efficient way to post a comment on the Internet. But, compared to certain other billionaires, Trump is positively Scoblerian in his rapacious embrace of new technology. (One of my favourite passages in Nicole LaPorte’s DreamWorks biopic, The Men Who Would Be King, describes how Jeffrey Katzenberg had an intern carry out Internet searches on his behalf, videotaping the results so he could watch them later.)

And, as Elliot explains, Trump even uses a billionaire equivalent of Google Alerts…

Oh, and how did Trump see my article? Is he a Salon reader? I asked his assistant, Thuy Colayco.

“You’d be surprised,” said Colayco. “Anything that gets written about him is forwarded to him.”

Oh, the super-rich: they’re just like you and me.


One Tax Break Later, Twitter Announces Plans To Move To Central Market SF Office

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 02:03 PM PDT

It’s finally official: Twitter has just announced on its blog that it will be moving to Market Square in SF’s Central Market neighborhood, just on the edge of the Tenderloin (one of the city’s most blighted areas). Twitter says it expects to move into the new office in mid-2012.

The announcement has been a long time coming: Twitter was engaged in much-publicized negotiations with San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors over a proposed tax break incentive that would give a six year payroll tax deferral for net new jobs (the city approved the agreement earlier this month). San Francisco typically requires businesses to pay unusual taxes on payroll (including stock options), causing Twitter, Zynga, and other tech companies to threaten to leave the city and take thousands of jobs with them. The tale is perhaps best illustrated by the goofy video below.

From the Twitter blog post:

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Mayor Ed Lee; the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (in particular Supervisor Jane Kim and Supervisor David Chiu); Jennifer Matz and Amy Cohen from the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development; Charlie Malet from Shorenstein Properties; and, everyone who worked with them for their vision, effort and perseverance in spearheading legislation that will help revitalize an area of San Francisco where office space has sat vacant for decades.

We are proud that Twitter will be among the first companies moving into the Central Market area and will be playing a role in its renewal with the city and with other businesses, arts organizations, and the numerous community organizations that have been doing hard work in the neighborhood for many years.

Conde Nast Taking A Breather On Tablet Editions Of Its Magazines

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 02:00 PM PDT

Despite enormous sales of the iPad and iPad 2, it seems like the digital publishing world isn’t quite ready to support the digital magazine editions coveted by media giants like Conde Nast. This is the company, if you’ll remember, that was busting to get iPad editions ready before the iPad had even been announced.

It seems, though, that these well-laid plans, or at least extravagantly-laid, aren’t quite paying out just yet, according to a report at Ad Age.

Continue reading…

ValueClick To Acquire Mobile Ad Network Greystripe

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 01:42 PM PDT

The value of mobile advertising networks is well established at Google and Apple: Google bought Admob for $750 million and Apple bought Quattro Wireless for $275 million. So far though the independent ad networks have stayed on the sideline.

Until now. A source tell us that ValueClick (NASDAQ: VCLK) has acquired mobile advertising network Greystripe for $75 million in cash.

Greystripe has raised $18.1 million in funding to date over four rounds. They have a direct sales force that sells rich mobile ads directly to brands, and are on pace to bring in $25 million – $30 million in revenue this year, with about $6 million in gross profit.

There are still a number of independent startups in this space looking to be acquired or even have a public offering. 4INFO is among the strongest, and focuses on the platform (app) side of the business over the sales side. JumpTap recently raised $20 million and has raised a total of nearly $90 million to date. Millennial Media is said to be considering an IPO in the near future.

Vayable Is A Marketplace For Unique Travel Experiences

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 01:17 PM PDT

Like an Airbnb for travel experiences, secondary market place Vayable launches today to offer travelers the opportunity to buy experiences in exotic locales all over the world, from Rome to Rio as the well worn cliche goes. Founders Jamie Wong and Samrat Jeyaprakash tell me that the key difference between Vayable and that other “Airbnb for experiences” Skyara is that Vayable is targeting travelers specifically, especially those who are tired of the relative banality of activity offerings from travel sites like Orbitz and Expedia.

Wong and Samrat actually met on Airbnb themselves and were roommates for about two weeks when they came up with the idea for Vayable, attempting to provide a solution to the “what do I do once I get there?” travel problem. The service currently has a modest 200 users, but there are still plenty of interesting things to do on Vayable, including a taking Bob Dylan Walking Tour in NYC, joining a local king on a fishing trip in Fiji or indulging in a weekend sailing experience around Cinque Terre in Italy.

"Travel has seen tremendous innovation in flight and accommodation booking, especially with sites such as Hipmunk and Airbnb disrupting the industry. But once their reservations are booked, travelers still rely on old-school (and costly) guidebooks, travel agents and online forums to plan their itineraries. It's the blind spot of the travel industry," Jeyaprakash explains.

The site currently has 70 listings and while the offerings are admittedly sparse, activities like Textile design in a sustainable village and a trek through Singalila in India are unique and inspirational enough to become the focal point of trips yet to be planned.

Vayable monetizes by taking a 15% commission from those offering experiences (which you can sign up to provide on the site if you’re a “local expert”) and a 3% from travelers. It also plans on eventual affiliate partnerships with companies who offer accommodations and flight services, eh hem Hipmunk and Airbnb.

Vayable’s grander vision is to become the go-to spot for curated “hi-res” travel experiences, “If a model like ours isn’t implemented, there will be nothing but visits to Starbucks and McDonalds [available for travelers] in 10 years,” Jeyaprakash tells me, exaggerating slightly.

As Greenpeace Knocks IT Sector For Bad Energy Habits, Google Buys More Wind Power

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 01:07 PM PDT

On Thursday, Greenpeace published a study on energy consumption and choices made by IT companies including Akamai, (Amazon Web Services), Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo, entitled “How Dirty Is Your Data?”. The study roundly criticizes the sector, especially Facebook, for using “dirty energy” — power produced from hydrocarbon based sources, especially coal — to meet growing IT demand. It also criticized companies for concealing details about their own, overall energy footprint and practices.

Greenpeace specifically noted (excerpt from the environmental activists’ own summary):

    Data centers, which house the explosion of virtual information, currently consume 1.5 to 2 percent of all global electricity and are growing at a rate of 12 percent each year

    Companies in the sector, as a whole, do not release information on their energy use and its associated global warming emissions

    One of the most popular social media companies, Facebook, is among the most dependent on coal-powered electricity at 53.2 percent

Shortly after their report circulated, Google announced that Google Energy LLC had signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy 100.8 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to run its Okalahoma data centers from a NextEra Energy Resources’s Minco II Wind Energy Center under development in Grady and Caddo counties in Oklahoma. The companies hope the wind plant will be operational in late 2011.

If you’re familiar with PPAs, skip this paragraph. If not, here’s some detail: PPAs are usually conditional agreements between a renewable energy development company and a power purchaser that really begin if or when a proposed facility comes online. This particular deal amounts to Google saying to NextEra Energy, we will buy this wind power if you build the facility and deliver the power as promised. Technically, there’s no guarantee when a PPA is signed that a given project will be completely financed, or completed at the scale proposed. Likewise, there’s no guarantee that the amount of energy produced by a proposed facility, will in reality live up to the amount offered through the PPA.

Even Greenpeace praised Google’s efforts, and issued a special statement to the press about Google’s new wind PPA. But how much of a difference do PPAs make? Are such purchases meaningful, in the grand scope of Google’s energy consumption?

TechCrunch reached out to Google’s green energy czar, Bill Weihl, to try to obtain further details. We asked: How much energy do Google’s data centers in Oklahoma consume in a year? How much power did Google consume, overall, last year? How much of that came from outside, renewable sources? How does Google measure its energy footprint? Does the company use metrics like those modeled by Global Reporting Initiative?

Weihl declined to comment on the nitty-gritty details, for now. He did note:

“We have cut our energy consumption by more than 50% over the last five to six years through improvements in server and data center designs. We've also been reporting the operational power usage at a number of our large facilities for more than two years.”

He referencesdthese reports which include Power Usage Effectiveness numbers, representing “the ratio of the total power consumed by a data center to the power consumed by the IT equipment that populate the facility.” (They’re not the user-friendly stats that some investors, environmentalists and energy professionals would prefer to see.)

Weihl was able to discuss what Google looks for as far as technology, projects or contracts in the green energy space. He said:

Efficiency is critical, but it is not enough…We will continue to look for improvements, there but we’re also working on these energy initiatives. We only invest in things that make economic sense over the long-term.

Here’s what we look for: If you're talking about changing server architecture and the data center, we need to know what the capital cost is, and what's the total cost of ownership going to be over the life of the equipment. In the case of a PPA, we need to know what are the power costs. On PPAs in particular, that whole area is complicated in some ways.

A big issue for Google is the question of “additionality.” Basically, we ask: will our purchase [of power from a renewable energy provider] result in something new happening beyond business-as-usual.

If we go to our local utility, see they have 20% wind power they can offer, and ask them to assign that to us, are we considered that green? If the utility just assigned it to us, and the same amount of ground power is still going to other people, not reducing the emissions, then it’s not ideal.

We try hard to look for projects and agreements that result in more renewable power being put on the grid.

Whether the efforts of Google — and other IT giants — are enough to satisfy Greenpeace today, making IT cleaner, and more efficient is increasing in importance throughout the sector. A survey of 650 IT business executives, out from CompTIA research this week found: “In 2009 only 9 percent of firms rated green IT as an upper half organizational priority. That number rose to 37 percent in 2011, and is expected to rise to 54 percent in 2013.”

Google Responds To Smartphone Location Tracking Uproar, Says Android Is Opt-In

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 12:41 PM PDT

Over the last few days there’s been quite a hubbub over the location tracking going on in the background on iOS devices, namely the iPhone and iPad 3G. The report that sparked it all focused on a database file stored on iOS devices that stores a record of the rough location of the device over long periods of time — and is unencrypted. Senator Al Franken subsequently sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for an explanation.

Then, last night the Wall Street Journal published an article with a new revelation: Apple and Google (with its Android devices) are both sending some location data from these devices back to their home servers. That sounds pretty sinister, but as a long-time Android user it didn’t ring true to me — I vividly remembered a checkbox that asked if I wanted to allow Google to collect anonymized data, which means it isn’t really a secret, and you can opt-out of it. Unsurprisingly, Google confirms that this is indeed the case.

Here’s their statement:

"All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user."

But, even then, the WSJ article also refers to data that isn’t actually being anonymized by Google:

Google previously has said that the Wi-Fi data it collects is anonymous and that it deletes the start and end points of every trip that it uses in its traffic maps. However, the data, provided to the Journal exclusively by Mr. Kamkar, contained a unique identifier tied to an individual’s phone.

Google explains that when a phone transmits data back to its servers some location data is actually assigned a unique identification number, but it says that this number is in no way associated with the device’s IMEI, the user’s name, or other information. In other words, they’d have a hard time associating a user with that data.

Beer Gardens NYC App Goes 2.0 For Beer Garden Season

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 12:38 PM PDT

Beer, the sweet elixir that draws me to the doom of oblivion, is apparently available in places called “Beer Gardens” here in NYC (and in various other locations, but this is NY-centric.) These “Gardens” are not actually gardens at all but are, in fact, large patios where people can sit and drink beer until they reach a heightened level of joviality and fun and convivial relations (until, of course, you have to fight your way to the bathroom.) But how is one supposed to find these “Gardens?” Are they secret, like in that one movie? Or are they like a mysterious Brigadoon, appearing and disappearing every few eons?

Nope. They’re real, and thankfully, there’s an app for finding them.

Read more…

Lightbank Leads $1.2 Million Round In Enterprise Mobile Startup DoubleDutch

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 12:36 PM PDT

Enterprise mobile startup DoubleDutch has raised $1.2 million in funding, led by Lightbank, with Charles River Ventures, Launch Capital, Accelerator Ventures, Venture51, Zig Capital, and angels participating in the round.

DoubleDutch allows companies to essentially build their own Foursquare, enabling the development of mobile, location aware apps that connect employees, customers, and communities. It’s kind of like the Ning of geolocation apps.

The startup’s platform can create apps with location-based networking, social interactions, employee mapping and more. And apps can be customized with logos, content, splash screens and more and supports development on iOS, Android, and BlackBerry platforms. The startup’s customers include Cisco, HP, Adobe, Gannett, and TED.

For example, DoubleDutch’s mobile conference collaboration platform allows companies to build apps around conferences and trade shows, which combines location functionality with basic event information like scheduling, content, and more. Or the startup can help create an app for a company’s mobile and remote workers to correspond about job activity.

Keen On… Scott Harrison: Water Changes Everything (TCTV)

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 10:49 AM PDT

Happy Earth Day everyone!

And to have a good Earth Day, and I mean a really good one, you need to watch a three minute video that was released today. It's called Water Changes Everything and it's been made by charity: water, an amazing non-profit organization founded by the incomparable Scott Harrison and actively supported by many Silicon Valley notables including Michael Birch, Jack Dorsey and Chris Sacca.

And then, after you've watched Water Changes Everything, please watch three short Earth Day interviews I conducted with Scott Harrison in which he talks about ways that we can both save water and help solve the water crisis afflicting a billion people around the world. Did you know, for example, that 50% of schools in the world still don't have clean water or that a $5,000 donation can finance a well which will provide water to an entire village?

Yes, the water crisis is solvable. That's the great news this Earth Day. Now go help solve it.

How water changes everything

Why you should stop drinking bottled water

Why tech loves charity: water

TechCrunch Giveaway: Another Chance To Win A Ticket To Disrupt NYC #TechCrunch

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 10:13 AM PDT

Here is another chance to win a free ticket to this year’s Disrupt in NYC. We have confirmed some incredible guests and speakers, a few of which we announced yesterday. We will continue to announce more as we lead up to Disrupt, along with a few special surprises as well.

We also announced some other exciting news yesterday. Disrupt NYC is so big this year, we have taken over a whole pier in New York City. We will be holding this year's Disrupt NYC at Pier 94—overlooking the Hudson River in west Midtown Manhattan. At over 133,000 sq. ft., this venue is by far the largest venue we've ever had and will make for an amazing event. A special congratulations to Matt McCarty for winning last week’s giveaway.

This promises to be our biggest Disrupt yet. If you want a chance at winning this free ticket, all you have to do is follow the steps below.

1) Like our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (including the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Or leave us a comment below

The contest starts now and ends tomorrow, April 23rd at 7:30pm PST.

Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will make sure you follow the steps above, choose at random, and contact the winner this weekend with more details. Anyone in the world is eligible.

Please note this giveaway is for 1 ticket only and does not include airfare or hotel.

Good luck everyone.

AT&T Admits They Weren’t Ready For The iPhone

Posted: 22 Apr 2011 09:10 AM PDT

AT&T’s FCC filing for their planned T-Mo merger brings up a few interesting points about AT&T’s network. To wit:

A smartphone generates 24 times the mobile data traffic of a conventional wireless phone, and the explosively popular iPad and similar tablet devices can generate traffic comparable to or even greater than a smartphone. AT&T's mobile data volumes surged by a staggering 8,000% from 2007 to 2010, and as a result, AT&T faces network capacity constraints more severe than those of any other wireless provider.

Read more…


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