The Latest from TechCrunch

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Google Cleans Up Image Search With Better Sorting By Subject

Posted: 09 May 2011 09:14 AM PDT

If you’ve ever done an image search on Google, you’ve probably gotten back a page filled with the same or similar images as the top result. If that is what you are looking for, then that’s great. If it’s not, then you have to keep clicking through until you find a decent image, and it can be a real chore.

Google lets you sort by image size, type (face, photo, clip art, drawing), and color, which helps, but is still not perfect. Today, Google announced a new way to sort photos by subject that will roll out during this week, and it’s better than any of the previous sorting mechanisms. If you search for “dog,” it will sort the pictures by different breeds. If you search for “coffee,” it will sort by pictures of coffee in cups, coffee beans, people drinking coffee, and so on.

All of this is done algorithmically of course. The effect is to finally clean up image search, and help you drill down to exactly the type of photo you are looking for. One sorting filter it is still missing in the left-hand menu, however, is to be able to search only for Creative Commons images. (You can do that with advanced search, but it would be better if it were a sorting option in the main UI).

With New App, Ustream Aims To Take Live Streaming On Facebook “To A New Level”

Posted: 09 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Exclusive - Ustream is today launching a new and improved Facebook application that it says will take live streaming within the hugely popular social networking site “to another level”.

The app, which is currently available to anyone with a Facebook fan page, be they businesses, artists or general user communities, enables users to opt-in for reminders for upcoming streaming events using Facebook Oauth and receive notifications whenever a certain broadcaster turns on a live stream (the ‘Join Crowd’ feature).

Facebook page administrators can now also customize their application’s look and feel, require users to ‘like’ their Facebook page prior to viewing, and more.

One of the first to give the new Ustream for Facebook app a whirl is Black Eyed Peas front man Will.I.Am, who will be broadcasting live on Facebook today at 2PM Pacific time.

You’ll also be able to catch it on BEP’s Facebook page

For more background on Ustream, read these recent articles:

Ustream 2.0 For iPhone Lets You Broadcast And View Live Video, All In One App
Ustream Hits 10M Broadcasters, 60M Monthly Unique Viewers

Finally, a tutorial video for the new app:

Russian Search Giant Yandex Prices $1.2B IPO At $20 To $22 Per Share

Posted: 09 May 2011 08:35 AM PDT

As we wrote last week, Yandex, one of the leading Internet companies in Russia, filed for a public offering on NASDAQ under the symbol “YNDX”. Today, the company is announcing price range of the offering, which will be $20.00 to $22.00 per share. The company aims to raise as much as $1.2 billion from the sales of its shares, according to the filing.

Yandex proposes to sell 15,400,000 shares in the offering and certain of its shareholders propose to sell an aggregate of 36,774,088 shares. In addition, Yandex and the selling shareholders have granted the underwriters an option to purchase, in aggregate, up to an additional 5,217,405 shares to cover over-allotments, if any. The total amount of shares offered in the filing is 52,174,088 shares.

Basically what this means is that $1.3 billion worth of shares will be sold, with as much as $338 million (at $22 per share) from the IPO going to Yandex and the rest going to the shareholders who sold stock.

Yandex operates the most popular search engine and the most visited website in Russia (it is also the largest Russian Internet company by revenue). In 2010, the company generated 64% of all search traffic in Russian, trumping Google. In March 2011, website attracted 38.3 million unique visitors. Aside from Russia, Yandex has operations in Belarus (, Kazakhstan ( and Ukraine ( Total revenues for 2010 hovered around $440 million. The company says that in the past three years, Yandex generated more than 97% of its revenues from advertising.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the company had been given a preliminary valuation of between $6 billion and $9 billion.

Gaming Industry Vets Raise $3 Million For New Social Games Development Studio

Posted: 09 May 2011 07:41 AM PDT

Row Sham Bow, a new game development studio founded by gaming industry veterans and focused on creating games for social networks and direct-to-consumer platforms, has raised $3 million in funding from early-stage VC firm Intersouth Partners.

John Glushik of Intersouth Partners will join the company's board of directors.

Founded earlier this year by president & CEO Philip Holt (former VP and GM of EA Tiburon) and CTO Nick Gonzalez (former Chief Software Architect at EA Tiburon and former CTO of video game technology company Massive), Row Sham Bow is based in Orlando, Florida.

EA Sports Madden 12 Creative Director Ian Cummings and CTO Richard Wifall have also joined Row Sham Bow in similar roles, we’ve gathered.

Also involved are Christopher Staymates, former software engineer at Livewire and EA Tiburon, and Jeremy Paulding, former Technical Director at Electronic Arts.

Row Sham Bow is certainly ambitious – the startup plans to create 60 “high-wage” jobs in Central Florida according to a Orlando Business Journal report.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name of the new venture, click here.

Limelight Buys Web And Application Acceleration Technology Startup AcceloWeb

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:55 AM PDT

NASDAQ-listed Limelight Networks this morning announced the acquisition of AcceloWeb, a Tel Aviv-based provider of technology that helps speed the presentation of websites and applications. We wrote about the company back in July 2009 when it was still called FasterWeb. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but we've learned that the transaction was completed with a combination of Limelight Networks common stock and cash. Founded in 2008, AcceloWeb is headquartered in Israel with US offices in Boston. 

Exclusive: The Story Of The (Almost) Forgotten European Behind Twitter — And His New Startup

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:51 AM PDT

Six years ago when Twitter was just a side project by a podcasting startup called Odeo, there was one member of the early team that wasn’t American. In fact, he wasn’t even based in the U.S., and for two years worked remotely and unknown to the world from an apartment block in Hamburg, Germany.

This is the story of the almost forgotten founding member of Twitter’s earliest crew, a typically modest European, Twitter user number 12, who helped build one of the world’s biggest platforms, today worth as much as $10 billion.

And today he is poised to emerge with a new startup, which, once again, hints at global domination. In fact he describes his excitement about the startup as feeling “exactly like Twitter.”

NVIDIA Buys Baseband And RF Technology Company Icera For $367M In Cash

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:34 AM PDT

NVIDIA this morning announced its acquisition of Icera, which provides baseband processors for 3G and 4G cellular phones and tablets. The acquisition, for $367 million in cash, has been approved by both companies' boards of directors and is expected to be completed in approximately 30 days.

Amazon Ramps Up Fulfillment Center Expansion In Arizona And Indiana

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:26 AM PDT

As we heard in the company’s most recent earnings call, e-commerce giant Amazon is planning to open at least nine fulfillment centers to meet growing demand in sales across the globe. Today, the company is announcing an expanded center in Phoenix, Arizona and brand new center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Amazon's fulfillment centers enables the company and third-party merchants to store inventory and fulfill orders. Amazon currently has over 50 fulfillment centers across the globe.

In Arizona, Amazon plans to add a 400,000-square-foot expansion to its fulfillment center in Phoenix. Once complete, the facility will be more than 1 million square feet in size, making it one of the larger Amazon fulfillment centers in North America. Additionally,Amazon operates two additional fulfillment centers in the Phoenix metro area.

Amazon also plans to open an approximately 900,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Indianapolis, Indiana and will create several hundred full-time jobs and hundreds of seasonal jobs at the facility. Amazon currently operates two fulfillment centers in Whitestown and Plainfield, Indiana.

Gilt Groupe Nabs $138 Million From Softbank, Goldman, Other Investors

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:25 AM PDT

Luxury group buying service Gilt Groupe is joining the mega-round bandwagon today with a new $138 million funding, led by Softbank, which took nearly half the round. Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Growth, Pinnacle Ventures, TriplePoint Capital and Eastward Capital also participated, as did existing investors General Atlantic and Matrix Partners.

Gilt Groupe operates a growing family of flash-sales sites, including the original Gilt, Gilt Home, Gilt City, Gilt Children, Gilt MAN, and Jetsetter. Members are offered discounted prices for a limited time, which drives demand. Gilt was one of the earliest flash sale sites, and now there are dozens of copycats. (HauteLook, a smaller flash sale site, was acquired by Nordstrom for $270 million last February).

Social commerce, in general, is attracting a lot of capital. Groupon raised $1 billion earlier this year and is on its way to an IPO. LivingSocial raised $400 million at a $2.9 billion valuation. Those two focus more on local commerce and require a certain number of consumers to commit to a deal before it goes into effect, whereas Gilt acts more like a merchandiser picking the products it thinks its members will want to buy.

Gilt is smaller in revenues than Groupon—on track to be more in the $500 million range than the $2 billion+ range that Groupon is in—but is growing rapidly. A big round like this is usually a precursor to an IPO, which is the next logical step.

After Delicious, YouTube Founders Acquire Business Intelligence Platform Tap11

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:12 AM PDT

AVOS, the new company formed by YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, has acquired Tap11, a real-time business intelligence platform. The company’s platform integrates social publishing and analytics into a single dashboard to allow marketers to monitor, engage, and measure the impact of their campaigns.

According to the press release, Tap11 works with over 500 major brands, media companies, and agencies. The company had raised funding from US Venture Partners, Alloy Ventures and Palomar Ventures, although it’s unclear exactly how much.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition closely follows AVOS’ recent acquisition of social bookmarking service Delicious, which was launched in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo in 2005.

Said Hurley:

“Our vision is to create the world’s best platform for users to save, share, and discover new content. With the acquisition of Tap11, we will be able to provide consumer and enterprise users with powerful tools to publish and analyze their links’ impact in real-time.”

Adam Zbar, CEO of Tap11, will stay on as head of business operations & strategy while CTO Braxton Woodham will become head of engineering at AVOS.

The YouTube founders say they’re “aggressively hiring to build a world-class team to build the best information discovery service on the web”.

musiXmatch, An IMDB For Legal Song Lyrics, Raises $3.7 Million To Expand Globally

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:01 AM PDT

European music startup musiXmatch will be announcing today at the MusicTech Summit in San Francisco that it has closed a $3.7 million series A funding round for its digital lyrics platform. The round was led by Italian investor Francesco Micheli Associates. musiXmatch adds to the prior $700K it has raised in seed funding from both Francesco Micheli and a former Dada executive.

Lyrics are one of the most searched for terms on Google, and I think many of us have found ourselves looking to Google and one of the many lyric sites to either help us win an argument, or clean up the lyrics of a favorite old song playing our heads. There are, of course, tons of song lyric sites floating around the Web, but the large majority of them are unofficial, or don’t have the rights to be broadcasting free song lyrics to the public.

Founded in 2010, musicXmatch is a startup trying to build the largest database of legal song lyrics on the Web. The startup is off to a good beginning, having collected 5.3 million songs to date, but not only is musicXmatch about becoming a database kosher with international rights management, it’s developing an API that will distribute its lyrics to music publishers, services, OEMs, and app developers.

This means that musiXmatch’s API allows both commercial entities as well as music lovers and developers to search lyrics using either unstructured queries or opensource identifiers, to use search-engine-friendly lyric displays without the worry of copyright infringement, get a complete list of performing artists, organized and filtered in a variety of ways, including biographies and images, and view a complete discography for each performing artist complete with release dates, tracks and cover art.

Thus, musiXmatch is hoping not just to be another site with annoying pop up adds full of stagnant, boring text — it’s going after metadata, too, hence my (albeit perhaps reaching) comparison to IMDB.

musicXmatch works with songwriters and music publishers to assist in lyric distribution and monetization, providing them with reports on usage statistics and allowing them to manage content rights on a country-by-country basis — as well as to take advantage of its revenue-sharing model. The startup’s API enables online music services to increase user engagement using officially licensed lyrics and music metadata and is available in 18 languages.

The platform’s music matching algorithms serve both end users and music providers with accurate song lyrics and allows music lovers to access lyrics from their favorite music services as well as their personal music library. Not too shabby.

While musiXmatch has already partnered with BMG, Kobalt, Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony ATV Music, Harry Fox Agency, among others, it plans to use its new funding to continue adding strategic partnerships and expanding its business throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

eBay Gets Closer To Closing $2.4 Billion GSI Commerce Acquisition

Posted: 09 May 2011 05:20 AM PDT

eBay last month announced that it has agreed to buy GSI Commerce, a provider of ecommerce and interactive marketing services, for $29.25 a share, or total consideration of approximately $2.4 billion.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, GSI Commerce reserved the right to solicit acquisition proposals from alternative parties for a period of 40 calendar days.

That “go shop” period has now expired, and GSI Commerce and its financial advisor Morgan Stanley say they have not received any alternative purchase proposals in time, although they claim to have contacted “numerous potential acquirers”.

This opens the door for eBay to complete the merger faster than anticipated.

GSI and eBay currently expect to complete the merger at the end of the second quarter of 2011 (they previously expected the transaction to close in the third quarter of this year).

In addition to the expiration of the “go shop” period, GSI Commerce this morning revealed that has received notice from the FTC granting early termination of the mandatory waiting period under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. Accordingly, the condition to closing in the merger agreement under the act has been satisfied.

As a result, the company says it expects to file shortly with the SEC definitive proxy materials related to the special meeting of its stockholders to vote on and approve the merger. The special meeting will be held on Friday, June 17, 2011.

GSI Commerce recently reported a net loss of $13.6 million for the first quarter of this year, a loss that widened from the year prior because of higher costs and expenses, including eBay acquisition-related expenses. This despite a 19 percent increase in revenues.

LinkedIn Prices IPO At $32 To $35 Per Share; Expects $146.6M In Net Proceeds From Offering

Posted: 09 May 2011 05:11 AM PDT

After disclosing its intention to list its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LNKD, LinkedIn has released a new filing with the SEC that shows that it is pricing its IPO between $32.00 and $35.00 per share. LinkedIn filed its initial S-1 in January, with the total offering amount of $175 million.

LinkedIn is offering 7,840,000 shares in its IPO, offering 4,827,804 shares of its Class A common stock and the selling stockholders are offering 3,012,196 shares of Class A common stock. There are currently 94,498,627 shares outstanding.

The company expects proceeds from the sale of the shares of stock in the offering will be approximately $146.6 million (in total the company will be raising $274 million but some of this money goes to fees etc.). LinkedIn says it will use these funds from the offering for general corporate purposes, including working capital, sales and marketing activities, general and administrative matters and capital expenditures. The funds could also be used for acquisitions investments in complimentary technologies. Currently LinkedIn has no commitments or agreements to enter into any acquisitions or investments. LinkedIn adds that based on its current financial position, it will not need to use the funds raised from the offering in the next year.

As we wrote in January, Chairman and co-founder Reid Hoffman is LinkedIn’s largest shareholder, owning 21.4 percent of the company. Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners are the second and third largest shareholders.

LinkedIn’s IPO should debut on the NYSE fairly soon and it will be interesting to see how the Street reacts to the offering. One factor to consider is that LinkedIn is growing revenue—the company just reported that Q1 revenue in 2011 was up 110 percent to $93.9 million. Net income increased to $2.08 million, from $1.81 million in Q1 2010. The increase in sales came from the company’s hiring solutions, a paid offering which helps recruiters search for professionals and list jobs on the site.

Tabbedout Raises $4M For Restaurant Mobile Payments Platform

Posted: 09 May 2011 04:00 AM PDT

Between PayPal, Square and NFC technologies, mobile payments are heating up. There’s no doubt that your mobile phone will soon serve as your wallet. Today, startup Tabbedout, a platform that allows you to pay your restaurant or bar tab with a smartphone, has raised $3.7 million in additional funding from New Enterprise Associates to complete the company's Series A round of venture funding, totaling $5.75 million. This brings the company’s total funding to $6.5 million.

Tabbedout’s apps, which are available for the iPhone and Android platforms, partners with restaurants and other establishments to allow users to pay for their bills via the designated app. Unlike other mobile payment platforms, Tabbedout allows users to store credit card information directly on their phone, encrypted and under passphrase protection, instead of on Tabbedout’s host servers. That way, consumers are safe from the threat of lost or stolen credit cards.

Within the app, you can search for restaurants in your area that accept Tabbedout. Once you are seated in a restaurant that accepts the payments platform, you open tab within the app and show this to your server. The server is given a code when you open the tab and you order normally. Tabbedout then ecurely encrypts your name and credit card number and sends it electronically to the restaurant or bar’s point of sale system. When you are ready to leave the restaurant, you enter your tip, select the card you want to use and hit pay tab. Users can also share their experiences with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. And Tabbedout supports split payments and will email you receipt from any tab opened via the app.

Currently, Tabbedout has enabled thousands of mobile payments at a network of bars and restaurants across 20 states in 90 cities. Of course, the success of Tabbedout depends on whether the startup can scale its platform to point of sale systems at restaurants/ Last week, the company announced that major POS vendor for restaurants MICROS will now embed Tabbedout into its POS offering, significantly impacting the number of merchants offering.

Tabbedout has doubled both the size of its staff and its national footprint since October. The new investments will be used for further expansion to point of sales systems and restaurants.

GrouponLive: An Online Ticketing Deals Marketplace From Groupon, Live Nation

Posted: 09 May 2011 03:24 AM PDT

Local deals juggernaut Groupon and Live Nation have a formed a joint venture to develop a new online ticketing deals channel dubbed GrouponLive. The site will serve as a local resource for Live Nation events, ranging from concerts, sports, theater, arts and other live events, as well as clients of its ticketing business Ticketmaster, the companies said in a joint statement.

Visitors of the new marketplace will have access to limited-time discounts on a variety of Live Nation events, albeit limited to North America.

It isn’t clear exactly when GrouponLive will go fully live (pun intended), although the companies said they’re on schedule for the site to make its debut in time for the summer concert season.

According to the press release, the deal was struck in large part thanks to Madonna manager and angel investor Guy Oseary, who advised on the deal. Oseary is on Groupon’s advisory board, and has worked with Live Nation through his role as artist manager and event promoter.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In 2010, Live Nation Entertainment's concert ticket sales were down 10 percent, and for the year it reported a loss of $228.4 million on $5 billion in revenue. Last week, the company announced that the first quarter of 2011 reflected ‘improvement’ in ticket sales – Live Nation reported a 17.4 percent increase in revenue compared to Q1 2010.

Also read: Groupon's "Real" U.S. Revenue Numbers For February 2011

Broadcom Acquires Security Software Developer SC Square For $42 Million

Posted: 09 May 2011 03:13 AM PDT

Consumer device chip maker Broadcom has acquired SC Square, a security software maker based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the company announced over the weekend. Broadcom will pay $41.9 million, net of cash, to purchase all of the outstanding shares of capital stock and other equity rights of SC Square, which provides a number of chip security and communication products and solutions. Shuns Outdated Resumes For Its Job Matching Algorithm

Posted: 09 May 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Anybody who has had to sift through hundreds of resumes at a time or placed a job advert that's gone unfilled for months will know that the recruitment process isn't always as efficient as it could be. It's not surprising then that many startups have tried to bring recruitment kicking and screaming into the Internet age - from various job sites to the professional social networking giant LinkedIn. However,, which launches out of Beta today, thinks that most of these efforts still place too much emphasis on the traditional resume, a format that is outdated with its tendency to list countless "key accomplishments" and one that encourages "dull corporate speak", says founder Octavian Popescu. Instead, professionals are defined by three simple criteria: previous employers, skills and personality, he says, which is precisely the format that standardises on.

Bon Voyage! Alven Capital Puts $1.4 Million Into Custom Travel Site PlanetVeo

Posted: 09 May 2011 02:15 AM PDT

Whoa, so Alven Capital has been a pretty busy bee this year - especially for a French fund. This is something like the 5th investment that the fund has announced since January, totalling over €8.5 million ($12.25 million) invested in companies like Entropysoft, HappyView, MobPartner and QuelleEnergie. Today's investment of €1 million ($1.4 million) goes to custom travel site, Planetveo.

New UK Programme Joins The Accelerator Vogue, Offers Evergreen Funding

Posted: 09 May 2011 01:31 AM PDT

There’s no denying that startup accelerators are now officially in vogue. Whether that is a sign of a bubble (or even a Blubble) or not I will leave to you.

However, today the movement is joined by the Oxygen Accelerator a UK-based investment programme designed to intensively mentor super-early stage startups. The 13-week programme will take applications from around the world, so long as the startup sets up a UK limited company.

The programme is unusual in that it’s offering an “evergreen” loan of £20,000 to start with, in return for a 6% equity stake. In effect this covers the startup’s costs and ‘ramen noodle’ living expenses during the programme (they are working with local athorities to also provide subsidised or free accommodation for teams).

And teams won’t need to ‘pay back’ the loan until its raised more investment or the business can afford to repay it. After which that £20k is designed to re-circulate back into the programme. It’s also unusual in that the £200,000 fund covering 10 teams is coming from one individual businessman with no previous history in the tech industry. Shows You Who In Your LinkedIn Network Works At The Sites You Visit

Posted: 08 May 2011 09:20 PM PDT

Finally there’s a reason for young people to use LinkedIn! If you’re having trouble keeping track of where your friends work in this current startupgasm, WhoWorks.At was made for you.

Just download the Chrome extension and it will let you know who in your LinkedIn network works at whatever site you’re currently browsing in Chrome, whether it be Facebook, Google, TechCrunch or some stealth startup. It is amazing.

When you click on the button at the right of your Chrome toolbar, your first 1st degree LinkedIn connections will show up first, followed by your 2nd and 3rd level connections. You can also toggle the extension to view people who have been recently hired or promoted at the company you’re visiting. I’m not kidding, this is a godsend if you’re a recruiter or a journalist/investor.

Creator John Britton, who is also a developer evangelist at Twilio, plans on integrating with other services including Facebook and Rapportive, which was the inspiration behind the service. Interestingly enough, doesn’t use a public LinkedIn search API (non-existant despite high demand), but instead finds its connections through the searchbox on LinkedIn that auto completes company names.

Says Britton on his future plans, “I’ve been in contact with the founders of Rapportive and they’ve put me on their beta list. As soon as they have public APIs available I plan to enhance the functionality of WhoWorks.At to be less dependent on LinkedIn. Additionally I would like to add the ability to star people, view recent gmail conversations, and take notes on contacts. Facebook integration will come further down the line, depending on user feedback.”

Ooh, Facebook integration …

For those of you who can’t wait, invites for the first 250 TechCrunch readers are available here. And if you don’t make it in time you can sign up like a mere mortal for the beta here. Don’t worry, they’re pretty fast to respond.

By Way Of Lawsuit, The Location FUD Creeps Up On Android As Well

Posted: 08 May 2011 06:56 PM PDT

About a week and a half ago, I wrote a post defending Apple against the location FUD being spread. Due to some real, but minor issues (which have already been resolved) Apple was at the center of this. Then the focus immediately seemed to shift towards Google. If Apple is “watching you” with the iPhone, Google must be as well with Android devices, right? Sure — if you’re a paranoid looney who doesn’t really understand what the situation is.

Naturally, that group includes the United States government. In an effort for some lawmakers to attach their names to these highly publicized complaints and companies, they’ve called upon executives to testify before Congress. On Tuesday, those companies will head to a panel in Washington to answer questions. In other words, Congress will be getting a Location 101 briefing.

As I noted in the previous post, the press certainly isn’t helping with any of this FUD — and may actually be more than a bit to blame for it. After the Apple FUD started spreading, who else but The Wall Street Journal started digging into Google’s location approach as well. The shocking discovery? An email from a Google project manager to co-founder Larry Page stressing how important it is for Google to have their own location database for Android.

WHOA. Wait, you mean they’d like to maintain and control a technology that is vital for making location services work on their devices? Stop the damn presses.

Naturally, WSJ used the headline “Google Calls Location Data ‘Valuable’” which led to a thousand subsequent headlines in other publications who read it in the intended nefarious way. This just in: Google wants to know where you are at all times. And your kids. And your grandparents — that’s essentially how these stories are set up to read.

To flesh out their article a bit with a quote from an industry expert, WSJ brought in Ted Morgan, the CEO of Skyhook Wireless, who gave them a juicy (but not really juicy) quote about, again, how important owning a location system is to Google.

No. Shit.

The choice of Skyhook’s CEO to bolster the argument is questionable at best. Skyhook is currently suing Google for interfering with existing wireless contracts and patent claims (both of which are noted in the article). In fact, that lawsuit is the reason these internal Google emails came to light in the first place.

Just a couple days ago, this very same lawsuit was the basis of a ReadWriteWeb article questioning Google’s “openness” due to the Skyhook suit. Regular readers of TechCrunch will know that no one gives Google more shit for the “open” stuff than I do. At best, I view it as pure marketing nonsense. At worst, I view it as a way to empower the greedy carriers. But the claims made in RWW’s article are a joke.

It is absolutely true that Skyhook got a “win” in court last week when a Massachusetts Superior Court judge dismissed Google’s request for a summary judgment. But that only means that the discovery phase of the lawsuit will continue instead of being thrown out. And the only reason Google filed a request to have it thrown out is because of another ruling from this past December when Skyhook filed for a a preliminary injunction. That request was denied by the court and the judge had some less than favorable things to stay about Skyhook’s case in the process — hence, Google filing to have the suit thrown out.

We’ve embedded that document, which is public, below for your viewing pleasure.

The RWW argument is framed around Morgan’s argument that Skyhook is upset because they were led to believe that Android would be an “open” platform. Now they’re being squeezed out as Google pushes their own similar technology. All of this, naturally, is now being framed in a nefarious manner from the location collecting and entrapment perspective.

What’s left out in all of this is what the court found in December. Namely that while Google does want their partners seeking to be certified as “Android-compatible” to use their location services, they’re open to those partners using Skyhook’s as well — provided they work as advertised.

Further, according to the documents, it was Skyhook, and not Google, who were saying that they can be the only service collecting location data from Android devices. Not surprisingly, Motorola rejected this and terminated the contract (which they had the right to do because of a clause that locked them into Skyhook services unless it interfered with existing contracts — like the one they had with Google).

There’s a lot more along these lines in there (seriously, read it if you’re interested in this topic). And after looking the facts presented at the time over, the court stated that, “As the record stands thus far, in the Court’s view, the platiff’s showing is not strong.” Skyhook is suing Google for tampering with these deals, but in these documents it seems pretty clear that Google was willing to work alongside Skyhook, but Skyhook was not willing to do the same. And it was the partners that ended the deals as a result.

Again, discovery is ongoing and we’ll see where this eventually leads. But it’s simply unfair right now to twist this as a case against Google being “open” and as FUD for location in general.

The arguments with regard to location suggest that Google, like Apple, are out to get you by tricking you into sending them this data. That’s simply not the case. These companies need these location databases or half of the services you know and love on your smartphones would be crippled — or would not work at all. And future services that will alter our lives for the better would stop springing up. I’m sure that will be the case these companies make before Congress next week.

A granny tracker app is not hidden, running in the background on either the iPhone or Android phones.

So, I’m Back On Twitter. Addiction Is A Hell Of A Thing

Posted: 08 May 2011 03:35 PM PDT

Back in August of last year, with a small amount of media fanfare, I quit Twitter and every other social network.

At the time, I was in the midst of making final edits to The Upgrade as well as writing three columns a week. For someone who makes a living writing about himself, I explained, Twitter is a huge distraction from paid work. It is also, as I discovered while researching the book, fatal to good record keeping: creating a string of disconnection, context-free updates, rather than the kind of consistent narrative you might find on a blog.

To those who suggested I simply cut back on my Twitter usage, rather than quitting cold turkey, I pointed to my struggles with drinking. The slightly-pathetic truth is, I’m cursed with an addictive personality; an all-or-nothing-mindset that has been, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, the cause of and solution to all of my problems.

And so I quit Twitter.

Fast forward eight months and, with my book ready for release….

(whore-plug: the UK/Euro paperback is available from Amazon now, the Euro Kindle edition will follow this week – US readers can order the paperback with free global shipping here)

…and a month-long trip to Las Vegas in the offing, I was invited to write a daily diary for the Huffington Post. And, like all HuffPost authors, I was expected to provide a working Twitter account so that readers could send me their feedback, or abuse or whatever it is that HuffPost readers use Twitter to send.

I knew what would happen of course. Ordering me to rejoin Twitter for a month is like ordering me to go back to drinking for an hour. Sure another, a month later, my Vegas trip is over but my Twitter addiction is back with a vengeance: almost 1000 tweets in the past month.

As was the case in my drinking days, I’m surrounded by enablers. My publicist, Jess, is cock-a-hoop about the additional promotional channel my return to Twitter provides (a couple of well-timed tweets bounced the book into the top 50 travel writing books on Amazon UK, whatever that means). Meanwhile, my friends welcomed my return to bitching about trains, Criss Angel and whatever else half-formed thought flits through my brain; and I’m sure even my enemies are buoyed by the additional couple of dozen things a day to hate about me.

The speed with which my Twitter addiction has returned is made more remarkable by the fact that – as I wrote before – I really didn’t miss it. Again, there are parallels with my other big addiction: people frequently ask me whether I still crave alcohol, but the truth is that most of the time I don’t. When I was drinking, I couldn’t imagine getting through a stressful day – or a stress-free day, or any other kind of day – without the option of a beer. Within a week or two of quitting, though, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss had been about. I was able to have just as much fun – really – sober as I did drinking. The only difference was I could remember it the next morning.

Likewise, during my Twitter hiatus I was constantly told by friends how much I ought to miss it. “Surely it must be killing you to be off Twitter?” they’d say, as if my brain was slowly filling up with 140 character bon mots and would surely soon explode if they weren’t released. But no, had the Huffington Post diary not happened, I’d have quite happily rumbled on; my urge to share my hugely important thoughts confined to my meager output of columns, blog posts, freelance features and books.

Now that I’m back Tweeting again, though, I can’t stop. Oh, addiction.

If I could put a positive spin on my falling off the digital wagon, it would be this: it has given me a vivid reminder of why I won’t be returning to social drinking any time soon.

For all that my alcohol addiction seems like a distant memory, I know if I try to have just one drink – maybe a couple, or three – then very soon, as with Twitter, I’ll be back to two dozen or more a day, with the nights in police cells, napalmed relationships and trail of career disasters that brought.

Compared to that possibility, the resurrection of @paulcarr doesn’t seem so bad.

Unfair and unbalanced

Posted: 08 May 2011 01:40 PM PDT

Digging out from under a mountain of stuff this weekend, I’m hopelessly behind. Disclosure: I work at, doing amazing things I can’t say anything about.

Apparently, the tech press is abuzz with controversy about Mike Arrington’s continuing success at actually saying what he thinks. Disclosure: I am a big fan of everything Mike does, and particularly his skill at reinventing the media. I should be considered completely biased in that regard, and you should discount everything I say accordingly.

Looking back over the past week of TechCrunch, several themes emerge. First, there’s an amazing amount of nothing going on by Apple, Google, and that company up north with the Windows thing. Apple is apparently moving toward going cloud big time. Disclosure: I love everything Apple does, and therefore am completely biased toward its products, strategies, and even idiosyncrasies like auto-replacing “its” with “it’s” even when it never means “it is” approximately 97 percent of the time.

Google is apparently getting ready to not announce anything about its social media strategy at its developer conference this week. Disclosure: I love Google and everything it does, just not as much as Apple. So when I say Android i’m really thinking iOS, and when I say AirPlay I’m really meaning AirPlay. We gave my brother Dan an Apple TV for his birthday, and are enjoying his attempts to integrate the box into his all Android all the time environment. Particularly amusing is his conjecture on the availability of the Remote app in the Android marketplace.

This past week was the first week where I literally never took my laptop out of its bag. Instead, I lived non-stop with the iPad, using the WordPress app to edit a typo in last week’s column, the Concur app to make a meaningless dent in my expenses backlog, and doing amazing work at throughout the rest of my waking hours. FaceTime and Skype kept me in the loop with family and friends, and yesterday I rented the episode of Grey’s Anatomy my father in law erased while taping Jeopardy.

A word about renting: I love renting shows for 99 cents and having them never touch a hard drive except for the brief caching period where Apple TV uses its “storage” to stage the show locally. I also love how Apple TV does the same thing when I use AirPlay to push a recorded show from my iPad to the big screen, saving battery time on the iPad once the show is cached. As more and more of my media consumption flows through the iPad, every little bit of battery conservation makes an increasing difference.

Somehow in the last few months of iPad living, my years of aversion to renting and preference for “owning” have inverted. I used to value the illusion that a book was mine to control, where the digital version was constrained and ephemeral. Disclosure: I’m about to make a Beatle reference. I love the Beatles and so does Apple. If I type beatles on the iPad it autocorrects to Beatles; try typing android and see what happens.

So I bought or was given the John Lennon autobiography by Philip Norman a few years ago. I read it in fits and starts, right up until someone (maybe me, maybe not) spilled coffee on it and saturated the first third of a very long book. I spent an hour separating the pages and drying them individually so as not to lose too much of the narrative. Then the iPad arrived, I downloaded the book from the Kindle app, and never touched the paper version again. Moral: you own the print version as in You Break It You Buy It. I own the coffee-stained stuck-together pages where John met Paul and decided to bring him in even though he would ultimately take over and spend weeks on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. I read about this on the iPad.

Today the world is about catching up and staying connected. Push notification is the mechanism that controls our access to information, defines the state we left ourselves in when last we connected, and maintains the new illusion of ownership — of ideas, trends, responsibilities, and commitments. In a world where bandwidth is the new gasoline, we rely on graceful failover as something more secure than the physical reality it used to emulate. Today the cloud is more real than the services it wraps. When the cloud breaks, we realize it becomes more secure as a result.

Every tweet is a disclosure of who, what, and where we are. Every @mention, a disclosure of who we care about, and why. Every time I see somebody doubt 140 characters is enough to communicate, I laugh. Disclosure: I am the sum of my conflicts of interest. My biases make me who I am. People who live in glass houses should invest in Windex.


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