Tag Archives: techcrunch

Hour.ly Lets Employers Interview Potential Temp Hires With Browser Based Video Chat

Hour.ly, a New York City startup that matches temporary job seekers and freelancers with prospective gigs and employers online, unveiled two new features and partnerships on Tuesday with Trufina and Tinychat.

Co-founded by Brooke and Lynn Dixon (Left to right, in image below), Hour.ly has been in pre-revenue, beta mode since September 2010. The bootstrapped company’s newest site features should have it generating and sharing revenue in the second quarter of 2011.

Through its partnership with Trufina, Hour.ly will allow temporary job seekers to pay for and run their own identity and criminal background checks, so that employers won’t have to, and so that hiring decisions won’t be delayed. Hour.ly will also enable employers to conduct an in-browser video chat interview with job seekers — through its partnership with Tinychat — rather than requiring them to download and use a service like Skype or Jabber.

Lynn Dixon, EVP of sales and business development at Hour.ly, explained that her company’s early market research found a large number of temporary job seekers online — for example substitue teachers, barristas and cooks who might not require use of this technology at work — do not have existing accounts with (or even familiarity with) standalone video chat services.

Hour.ly started with a focus on temp hiring needs within the hospitality industry, inspired by Ms. Dixon who holds a culinary degree, and worked for a celebrity chef of the NYC fine dining scene, Daniel Boulud, after spending years in media and technology business development.

Among Hour.ly’s 10,000 active users today, she said, 8 percent are employers. Users can create a profile to apply for and get automatically matched with jobs on other sites with listings like Craigslist, or Indeed. Ms. Dixon reported that the greatest demand for qualified workers via Hour.ly, however, is split between tech and web design, hospitality and retail.

Brooke Dixon, the company’s chief technology and executive officer (and Lynn Dixon’s husband) noted that recent economic trends have driven people to seek temporary employment, yet existing job sites [ranging from Monster and CareerBuilder, to Mediabistro and Simply Hired] have not adapted to the quick sales cycle and price sensitivity of this market.

Hour.ly lets job seekers and employers build “dynamic work profiles” and job listings for free. Through Hour.ly, workers and potential employers get matched automatically, based on their location, availability within a range of time, keywords, multiple job functions that a worker would be willing and able to do, rate of pay, and experience.

(from techcrunch)

 

Social Networking: The Present

Social Networking in Web 2.0: Plaxo & LinkedIn

Mark Suster who joined GRP Partners in 2007 after having worked with GRP for nearly 8 years as a two-time entrepreneur. Most recently Mark was Vice President, Product Management at Salesforce.comI wrote in his last post where he discussed the origins of social networking online, beginning with CompuServe, Prodigy, the Well, then the rise of AOL, Geocities and Yahoo Groups. Next began the era of “spam-based” networks of which Plaxo (founded in 2002) was the king.  Co-founded by Sean Parker (yes, the same one who worked with Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of Facebook), it encouraged groups of people to email everybody in their email address books and “connect” on Plaxo so that when any of their contact information was changed online it could by synchronized with everybody’s local computer version and thus we could all stay in touch.

There was a backlash against the Plaxo spamming yet it paved the way for everybody who came after them to get users to drive viral adoption and we’d throw up our arms and say, “oh boy, here goes another social network that my friends are going to spam me about” mentality that made it acceptable for everybody who came afterward.

And come after they did.  While Plaxo never figured out what to do with us once we were all connected online, LinkedIn did.  They formed us into networks of networkers.  It was suddenly now not only about whom I was connected to, but who they knew and how I could get access to them.  We suddenly all wanted intros.  It added a new dimension to online social networks … business networking.  And they encouraged us to part with a lot more data about ourselves making LinkedIn our virtual resume.

And importantly Web 2.0 ushered in the era of “participation” – we all know that.  But less considered is the fact that the success of the Web 2.0 companies versus the Web 1.0 ones were enhanced because they coincided with hardware that allowed us to capture more content instantly – namely images and video – otherwide Web 2.0 might have been a lot less differentiated.  Suddenly we were all creating blogs on Blogger.com, Typepad & WordPress.  We started uploading images of ourselves to our blogs.

But the masses didn’t want to blog.  They wanted to publish pictures of themselves & their friends, share them, communicate with others, stay connected, have common experiences, find people to date, etc.  As I’ve said, it’s the same shit as the 1980′s – I swear.

Modern Social Networking: Friendster, MySpace & Facebook

We all know Friendster was the trailblazer in this category allowing people to create personal pages and connect to other people in a LinkedIn style but without the “business” and with a little more interactivity (let’s face it, for the longest time most users “friended” people on LinkedIn but then never really did much else).  But Friendster’s computer systems couldn’t keep up with the explosive growth (reportedly due to the complexity of the security model set up to control connections, privacy and authenticity of users) so MySpace was hot on the heels and swept up the market in a very rapid ascent.  Friendster was DOA.

And there it was – MySpace was growing at the exact time we all had cheap digital cameras, smartphones with cameras and new, cheap video cameras like the Flip that allowed us to create video.

Except that MySpace didn’t handle images or video well.  Luckily Photobucket & ImageShack did.  So users put all their photos on Photobucket & their videos on YouTube and shared them with their friends through MySpace.

Fox bought MySpace for $580 million and then did a deal with Google worth more than the purchase price to serve up ads.  For a nanosecond Rupert Murdoch seemed like the smartest guy on the Internet.  Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion, which at the time seemed laughably high and now seems prescient.  Google turned YouTube into one of the most valuable future Internet properties.  MySpace would have liked to own YouTube but didn’t have the public stock valuation to purchase them at the price that Google did.

MySpace later bought Photobucket for $250 million + $50 million earn out.  It did not have the same success as Google’s acquisition and MySpace sold Photobucket 2 years later to a relatively unknown Seattle-based startup called Ontela for a reportedly $60 million.

Murdoch seethed at these “startups” getting rich off the back of MySpace.  The conventional wisdom at Fox’s headquarters is that MySpace had “made” both YouTube & Photobucket by allowing them distribution.  MySpace vowed not to create anymore million dollar successes off of their backs that Google could then acquire.

So Fox ludicrously set up a quasi internal innovation center called Slingshot Labs.  The goal was to create innovations outside of MySpace and then MySpace would acquire them at pre-agreed prices based on how well they performed.  This was Politburo-style innovation and was laughable. I literally snortled when I heard that they were going to do this.  It was obviously a scheme set up by young entrepreneurs to line their pockets and some big-company executives who didn’t understand innovation.

Enter Facebook.  It had grown stratospherically from 2004-2007 to 100 million users, which actually was slightly smaller in December 2007 then MySpace was.  Facebook was everything that MySpace wasn’t.  It was: up-market, exclusive, urban, elite, aesthetically pleasing, ad-free and users were verified.  MySpace was: scantily dressed, teenaged, middle-America, design chaos and on ad steroids.

But the critical distinction in the direction of both companies was that while MySpace was putting up moats to keep outside companies from innovating and making money off their backs, Facebook took the opposite approach.  It launched open API’s and created a platform whereby third-party developers could come build any app they wanted and Facebook didn’t even want (yet) to take any money from them to do so.  So along come companies like Slide, RockYou & Zynga who wanted to build apps across all the social networks but were green-lighted the hardest by Mark Zuckerberg.

It was at that moment that a 22-year-old Mark Zuckerberg completely schooled the 75-year-old Rupert Murdoch.  Within the next 12 months Facebook users doubled to 200 million while MySpace stayed flat at 100 million.  The lesson was learned over 30 years in Silicon Valley: you create ecosystems where third-parties can innovate and thrive and you become the legitimate center of it all and can tax the system later.  Ask Microsoft, Autodesk or Salesforce.com – the evidence was there from Seattle to Sand Hill Road.

Facebook went on become larger than even Google and Yahoo! in terms of time spent on the sites.  Slingshot Labs was unsurprisingly closed within a short period of time and its properties sold-off or dismantled.  Duh.

Social Networking goes Real Time: Twitter

While Facebook was built on the idea that all our information was private and shared only between friend (before they changed this after the fact), Twitter was born under the idea that most of the information shared there was open and viewable by anybody.  This was revolutionary in thinking and worked because as a user you understood this bargain when you started.  Twitter is not the place to share pictures of your kids with your family.

Another Twitter innovation was “asymmetry” because you didn’t have to have a two-way following relationship to be connected.  You could follow people who didn’t necessarily follow you back.  This allowed followers to be able to “curate” their newsfeed with people that they found interesting.  Twitter restricts each post to 140 characters so users often share links with other people – one of the most important features of Twitter.  So this combination of following people you found interesting who share links drove a sort of “news exchange” that mimicked many of the features of RSS readers except that it was curated by other people!

Twitter is much more.  I’ve written extensively on the topic, but in a nutshell it is: an RSS reader, a chat room, instant messaging, a marketing channel, a customer service department and increasingly a data mine.

But what is magic about Twitter is that it is real time.  In most instances news is now breaking on Twitter and then being picked up by news organizations.

The one major thing that Twitter doesn’t have figured out quite yet is that platform thing or at least how to encourage a bunch of 3rd-party developers to build meaningful add-on products.  Twitter seems to have become a bit allergic to third-party developers (or maybe vice-versa).  18 months ago 25% of all pitches to me were ideas for how to build products around Twitter’s API.  Now I don’t get any.  Not one.  Yet the number of businesses looking to build on the Facebook platform seems to have increased.

Given I’m a passionate user of Twitter, I sure hope somebody there will re-read the MySpace vs. Facebook section above.  Lesson learned (to me at least) – let people get stinking rich off your platform and tax ‘em later.  That way other companies innovate on their own shekels (or at least a VCs) and let the best man win.  Close shop to try and control monetization and you can only rely on your own internal innovation machine & capital.  Seems kinda obvious or am I missing somethign?  Rupert?

Social Networking is Becoming Mobile: Foursquare and Skout

The trend that is unfolding before our eyes is that Social Networking is now becoming mobile and that adds new dimensions to how we use social networks.  The most obvious change is that now social networks become “location aware.”  The highest profile brand in this space is Foursquare.  Pundits are mixed on whether Foursquare represents a major technology trend or a fad but undoubtedly it has captured the zeitgeist of the technology elite at this moment in time.  At a minimum it has been a trailblazer of innovation that a generation of companies are trying to copy.

As our social actions become both public and location specific it opens up all types of future potential use cases.  One obvious one is dating where players like Skout are trying to cash in on.  When you think about it, young & single people go out to bars & clubs in hopes of meeting people to “hook up” with.  In a perfect world you’d like that person to be compatible with you in additional to being attracted to them, yet as a society we go into bars and have no idea what it behind any of the people we see other than the immediacy of their looks and whether we can get enough liquid courage into ourselves to talk with them and learn more.

It’s obvious to me that the future of dating will involve mobile, social networks that tell us more about the compatibility of the people around us.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how big people like Match.com and eHarmony became on the trend of helping us find our dating partners and why this would be improved my mobile, social networks.  How long this trend takes is unclear – but in 10 years I feel confident we’ll look back and say, “duh.”

FourSquare obviously brings up a lot of interesting commercial opportunities.  For years I saw companies pitching themselves as “mobile coupon companies” and I never believed this would be a big idea.  I’m not a big believer that people walk around with their mobile devices and say, “let me now pull out my device and see wether there are any coupons around me.”  I always said that if an application could engage the user in some other way – like a game – it would earn the right to serve up coupons as a by-product.  I think that is what Foursquare has done well.

In the future I don’t believe that Foursquare’s “check-in” game with badges will be enough to hold users interests but for now it’s working well.  I’ve always said that if Foursquare has a “second act” coming it could be a really big company.  In the long-run I believe that check-ins will be more seamless – something handled by infrastructure in the background.  So I expect more and new games from Foursquare in the future.  One awesome features of today’s Foursquare that often isn’t talked about is the ability to graph your friends on a real-time map and see where everybody is.  This is a killer feature for the 20 and 30 something crowds for sure.  Me? When I go out I mostly prefer to eat in peace with my wife and friends without people knowing where we are – I guess we all get old ;-)

In the next post I will make some predictions about where social networking is going next.  And only one hint —it isn’t all dominated by Facebook.  Stay tuned.  If you can’t wait you can get a sneak peak in the PowerPoint presentation below.

(from techcrunch)


Social Networks: Past, Present & Future

The Future Is Here: DoubleTwist Brings Wireless Sync To Android For Music, Photos & Video

Earlier today, Winamp released a new version of its Android application that allowed users to sync their music wirelessly with their Windows desktop (disclosure: Winamp and TechCrunch are both owned by AOL). It’s a great feature, but in the race to become the ‘iTunes of Android’, another contender may already be about to lap Winamp.

DoubleTwits offers a desktop media player that looks a lot like iTunes (which is no accident given the ‘iTunes for Android’ theme), and it’s added support for the Android App Store, a music store through Amazon MP3′s API, and a directory of Podcasts. Today it’s launching what’s probably its coolest feature yet: wireless sync, which they’re appropriately dubbing ‘AirSync’. And it’s not just for music — DoubleTwist will let you wirelessly sync your movies, music, and photos.

Given how powerful the feature is, setup is relatively painless. Install the latest DoubleTwist client for your Mac or PC, then download the new version of the Android app. Set your phone to connect to the same Wifi network as your computer, fire up the Android app, and hit the new ‘AirSync’ button. The desktop app will detect your phone, ask you to key in a passcode (this is similar to the Bluetooth pairing process), and from there you can configure the application to sync music, photos and video (photo sync is only available on Windows for now, but is coming soon for the Mac version).

All in all, the process takes around three minutes, though the sync itself will take significantly longer — possibly hours —depending on your Wifi speed. There is one caveat though: DoubleTwist’s Android application has historically been free; that’s still true for the basic functionality, but you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version if you want AirSync — it’s a 99 cent upgrade for the first 10,000 users, and then will jump to $4.99 for everyone else.

The coolest part about AirSync is that after the initial setup, everything should work automatically. Whenever you walk within range of your wireless network, DoubleTwist (the desktop client) will detect any new content on your phone and sync it back to the computer; you can also sync new content from your computer back to your device. This means that you can go out and shoot some videos on your phone, and, provided you don’t walk immediately to your computer after getting home, they should already be waiting for you when you sit down at your desk (Ok, this also assumes you leave your computer on).

It’s quite impressive. Unfortunately there appear to be some issues.

In a word, this is the future. Whether DoubleTwist or Winamp or an official solution from Google becomes the standard, a world without annoying tethering is clearly the way things are headed. DoubleTwist is the first that offers such deep integration, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Given the timing of the launch (which was originally slated for yesterday but was pushed til today to QA test a new version), I reached out to DoubleTwist to see what they thought of Winamp’s release. Aside from pointing out some feature differences (Winamp doesn’t support Macs and is for music only at this point), they also had this to say — they’re not exactly mincing words:

In general, we do not consider Winamp a competitor as they are geared towards a specific subcategory of users who don’t mind endless menus, preferences and options. We are more focused on the mass market, average user who just wants to make the most out of their device without being overwhelmed by technology.

(from techcrunch)

Track your iPhone with an app instead of MobileMe

The drawback of owning a smartphone that holds all of your apps, photos, music and more is the possibility that you may lose the device. With all of the information and content iPhones hold, it can be frustrating to lose the device in one fell swoop. There are a number of apps and services, such as Find My Phone and ApplesMobileMe, that will help track your iPhones location if the device is lost. Today,TekTrak is entering the mix with its app that allows you to track the GPS of an iPhone remotely from any web browser.

TekTrak offers its location-tracking app for $4.99, in the Apple App Store. The Apps functionality is fairly simple: it allows an iPhones owner to access their devices location information in realtime from a browser. You can access all the location history of your phone (i.e. where it was and when); and the app runs in the background. You can also remotely ring or send push notifications to your phone.

TekTrak tries to tackle the pain of battery drain by running in the background and allowing users to check location at predetermined time intervals. TekTraks main competitor is Apple, which can be a challenge, but its app is fairly affordable compared to a MobileMe subscription which hovers around $99 per year.

Google Is Making Your Account Vastly More Secure With Two-Step Authentication


“Two-factor authentication” may be the least sexy-sounding feature I’ve ever written about. But if you’ve ever worried about being phished or having your password hacked, it could be your best friend — because it makes it much, much harder for a hacker to break into your account. Today, Google is announcing that it’s bringing the security feature to its millions of users: the feature will be rolling out first for Google Apps Premiere, Education, and Government edition customers, with plans to bring it to all Google users (even those who aren’t using its Apps suite) in the next few months.

So what exactly is two-factor authentication? Most of the login systems you’ve probably used are only ‘one-factor’ — you enter one password and you’re in, but if that password gets compromised, you’re toast. More secure systems are common in large businesses, and often require both a password and a physical card or dongle to login — these are called ‘two-factor’ systems, because they require both your password and another key, and are far more secure because a hacker probably isn’t going to have that physical token. Unfortunately these security systems are generally quite expensive. But Google is bringing one to the masses.

Google’s system doesn’t require a physical keycard. Instead, it relies on your mobile phone. First, you need to activate the optional feature from your settings page (again, this is only available to certain Google Apps customers at first). Then, when you go to sign in to your Google account, you’ll first be asked to enter your password as usual. Next, you’ll be brought to a screen asking for a verification code (see the screenshot above).

The verification code comes from your mobile phone, which you’ve previously linked up to your Google Account. Google has built a ‘Google Authenticator’ application for Android, the iPhone, and Blackberry — fire up the application, and it will give you the six digit verification code that you enter back into your browser (the system can also send you a SMS message or give you the code via voice call).

That’s it. The entire process only takes a minute or so, but it’s much more secure because anyone wanting to access your account will also need access to your mobile phone. You can opt to require this two-factor authentication all the time, or you can elect to only require it one time per computer (in other words, you’ll only need to enter it once on your home PC and/or work computer).

Like I said, this may not sound sexy, but it’s a big deal. Given how much data users are storing on Google, and the fact that plenty of people still fall prey to phishing scams on a regular basis, this is a major step in helping keep users secure. This is all optional (unless your Apps administrator sets a policy requiring it), but I suspect Google will be making a push to urge users to take advantage of the new system as it begins rolling out more broadly.

The news will also make Google Apps an even more tempting proposition for security-conscious businesses (Google notes that prior to this release, it was also the first company to receive FISMA certification in the collaboration/document sharing space). To make this more appealing to businesses, Google is also open-sourcing its authentication apps, so businesses can create their own custom-branded versions.

(via techcrunch)

Now You Can Search For Google Docs From Within Gmail (And It Catches Typos, Too)

Google may be synonymous with search, but some of the search functionality in its Apps products is sadly lacking — if you want to search for something in Google Docs, Calendar, or Gmail, you’ve had to do it from within its respective app. Today, it’s getting a bit better: Gmail has just launched a feature that lets you search for Google Docs and Sites directly from within Gmail. You can activate the new feature under the Labs section of Gmail settings — it’s called ‘Apps Search’.

Apps Search also activates another cool feature: when you make a typo in a search query, you’ll get a “Did you mean” suggestion. I’m not entirely sure how typo correction is related to Apps Search, but I’ll take it.

Hopefully this is the start of a new trend — it would also be nice if you could search for Google Calendar events from within Gmail (and vice versa).  Google also recently released the headache-reducing multiple accounts feature, which lets you hop between multiple Google accounts without having to repeatedly log-out and back in.

(from techcrunch)

Jolicloud 1.0 “the (free) iPhonesque OS for netbooks” goes live

It’s been roughly a year since Jolicloud‘s alpha release and the company founded by Netvibes founder, Tariq Krim, has just launched Jolicloud 1.0 to the public.

The iPhonesque open source OS oriented towards netbooks has more than just an incredibly sexy interface, with an App Store-like selection of over 700 apps (going on 1,000 before the end of the year) – giving users access to everything from Spotify to DropBox in a simple click. Jolicloud has also blended in a bit of social, allowing users a practical way to discover the best applications out there according to what their friends download and rate. Does that mean that the days of the unused Windows desktop icons are over ? Even better, users with the “Anywhere OS” installed on multiple computers automatically have access to all their applications and from whatever machine they’re on – definitely practical for when you are also transfering all your data entirely from one computer to another. Gotta love the cloud.

The Paris-based company is definitely aiming to make waves in cloud computing with its futuristic approach to operating systems, building its vision on the idea that tomorrow’s desktop computer market will be a combination of high-end Macs or netbooks – with not much in between. For anyone without the dough for a Mac, well, they’re probably going to shell-out no more than a few hundred bucks for a netbook. Thus, Krim could ultimately be banking on anyone without a Mac. Oh, but Jolicloud actually runs on a Mac as well.

Plus, that doesn’t mean Jolicloud is necessarily aiming to wipe out Windows either. Users can actually install the OS alongside Windows and use Wine for Windows-only products on the virtual desktop.

The start-up took $4.2 million from London-based Atomico Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners last summer and should be introducing their Freemium business model sometime soon. For now, everything is entirely free and given that the number of users supposedly increased by 50% within the first day of version 1.0′s release, I figure I’ll finish with one last thought (which also happens to be the company’s tag-line): you don’t need a better computer, you need a better operating system.

(from techcrunch)

Soho OS Lands $1M, Opens Business Management Suite To All Small Businesses

A couple of months ago techcrunch covered Soho OS,describing its offering as a soup-to-nuts “hybrid of Quicken + Zoho + SalesForce”. Today, the company is announcing that it has secured $1 million in funding from The Time. This is on top of the $250K the company had raised in its pre-seed round.

The company has already begun putting the money to good use. As noted in the initial post, “the interface could certainly use a UX overhaul,” and it got one, and a new logo to boot. With a new color scheme, layout and consolidation, the new interface’s look & feel is softer, more pleasant on the eye, and more convenient to use. A definite improvement on the interface we previously reviewed.

Soho OS also beefed up communications features with video chat, SMS, VOIP, voice messaging, as well as improved conference calling and broadcast emails.

I really like where Soho OS is going but would like to see them charging a tiered service fee rather than rely exclusively on cutting commissions off their 3rd party integrated services. There’s no shame in charging your customers kids, especially if you provide them with clear value. Tattoo that please.

(from techcrunch)

Evo vs. iPhone: second round

Google Earth: Hiker’s Edition

Google Earth just released a new edition of its desktop app which hikers, runners and cyclists are going to love. They call it Google Earth 5.2. I call it the Hike’s Edition.

One of the new features allows you to recreate the path of a hike or bike ride by ingesting geo-data from one of your GPS devices. The visualizations show you the speed, elevation, and other stats from your hike, which you can see as an animation inside Google Earth.

If you collect other data about your trip, such as your heart rate or other body monitoring stats, those can be overlayed as a graph below at the bottom of the screen. I’d love to see an iPhone or Android fitness app that takes advantage of these new capabilities.

Another new feature in Google Earth is the ability to launch a regular Web browser from within the desktop app. Hopefully, that is the first step towards bringing Google Earth completely from the desktop to the Web. Otherwise, it might end up like Second Life.

Below is a video Google Earth product manager Peter Birch made of his bike ride to work.

(from techcrunch)

Microsoft Rolls Out Impressive Enhancements To Windows Live Essentials Suite

The picture above is a complete fake. But more on that in a minute.

Microsoft is giving a preview of a variety of enhancements to its Windows Live Essentials suite – a set of online and desktop services that includes hotmail, messenger, sync, movie maker and photo gallery. Most of the desktop versions of these services are available only for Windows users, although the online components only require a browser from any operating system.

These enhancements come after Microsoft’s preview of the online version of Office, which is also within this suite. I had a chance to sit down with Brian Hall, GM of the Windows Live Business Group, today to see some of the changes.

Many of the changes are fairly minor, but at least two are going to be big crowd pleasers. First, Microsoft has made changes to their Movie Maker video editing software that allows for the creation of Animoto-like video clips containing photos and videos. They’ve added a variety of transition and effect options, as well as the ability to add music and text, to these clips.

But the really interesting changes are around Photo Gallery. Previously Microsoft had a facial recognition feature to allow you to quickly add names as tags to photos. But they are now adding facial recognition as well, and it takes a guess as to the person in the photo. In the demo it worked very well and saves time with tagging – a lot of time. The application also has one click sharing of photos to Facebook and other services and the tags go with it.

But by far the most impressive thing I saw today was the Photo Fuse feature that they’ve added. The general idea is you can take a bunch of pictures and turn them into a single photo that’s better than any of the originals. And it only takes a few seconds.

The best use case is clearly group photos that you’d take a a wedding or wherever. Someone always has their eyes closed or is looking away. With Photo Fuse you can take the best parts of a number of photos and create that perfect group picture.

Hall spent a lot of time today showing me Photo Fuse, which I zeroed in on among all the other new features launching. We even took a few pictures of Hall and his PR people – Michael Celiceo and Bonnie McCracken – and ran them through Photo Fuse.

This was the final result – a picture that was never actually taken (the top image – you just can’t tell). The working photos that are real are below it. There’s also a video of the whole process. Fascinating stuff.




The new suite will launch in a few weeks, says Microsoft. In the meantime we’ll give away 100 accounts now – details in the next post.

More screenshots from the new products:






(via techcrunch)

Udemy Launches Virtual Learning Academy

Online video education is a space that is growing rapidly, and even attracting the attention of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who thinks that web-based learning sites will revolutionize education. Today, Udemy is launching as a learning site that aims to democratize online education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online.

Udemy, which was incubated at the Founder Institute, provides the basic tools so anyone can create their own online course in minutes on any subject they like. Educators can upload presentations, videos, and write blog posts for their online course.

Udemy also enables instructors to engage with their users, providing participants with the ability to “subscribe” to courses so they are more engaged. They can also ask questions via the discussion boards and publish links and comments on course to Twitter and Facebook.

One of the most compelling features of Udemy is the live virtual classroom, where
instructors can host a live video conference with students using Udemy’s proprietary live video technology. Udemy Live has a whiteboard, presentation viewer, chatroom, and file-sharing component. Over 10 videos can stream on Udemy Live and 1000+ users can watch a session.

Founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar, Udemy hopes to become a portal for any education content, from a yoga class to a calculus seminar. While the online video education space includes a number of worthy competitors including EduFire and Myngle, Udemy ‘s live video technology is impressive and fairy simple to use. And perhaps as more universities and colleges offer online resources for students, video startups could license their technologies.

Silentale, the Dropbox-for-communications, opens to the public

After nearly a year in private Beta, Silentale, which is calling itself the “Dropbox for communications”, opens to the public today.

The service is a kind of personal CRM system, providing a searchable backup of your contacts, messages and attachments across various communication channels, including email and social networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s designed to address the fragmentation of electronic communication, combining a unified address book and archive of messages .

Adopting a classic freemium model, Silentale comes in two flavours, a free and paid version. However, premium accounts are being waved for users who sign-up before the end of May.

The free version is limited to 5 services (accounts) and can only be used to import 6 months of messages. The premium plans, which are being introduced on 1st of June, offer up to 10 accounts and the ability to import 2 years of messages for $49/year, or for businesses that need to manage multiple channels, a $99/year price plan that supports up to 20 accounts with unlimited import. However, premium accounts are being waved for users who sign-up before the end of May.

Since launching in private beta, Silentale says it has processed more than 50 million messages and 10 million contacts. Interestingly, users have been archiving data from an average of 4 accounts, which would full within the free version, so perhaps that doesn’t bode so well for the company or suggests that Silentale is really targeting business and enterprise customers not individuals.

The Paris-based company offers an API for third-party developers, and a Firefox add-on is currently available that shows a contact’s details and the latest messages exchanged when viewing an email from them or browsing their profile on the likes of LinkedIn, Salesforce, Facebook etc.

Additionally, Silentale says it has an accompanying iPhone app in the works, which is very close to release, along with one for Android and an Outlook plug-in.

How Can Social Media Save the Starving Children?

Social media has superpowers. Or so goes current tech-wonk opinion on Facebook, Twitter, et. al. From creating a “social Web,” to shaking up e-commerce, to mobilizing people behind a presidential candidate, social media has reached its tentacles into pretty much everything. Except places where there aren’t iThings and high-speed wireless. Ya know, most of the places on earth. Until now.

Facebook co-founder and creator of MyBarackObama.com Chris Hughes aims to make social media matter more with his latest venture, Jumo. He’ll delve into how social media can create offline change at TechCrunch Disrupt, our conference on media and technology, taking place May 24-26, 2010, in New York City. You can get tickets at our early-bird rate if you visit our ticket page. We’re also happy to announce speakers including Meetup Co-founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman –the guy behind 50K weekly meetups — and Gilte Group CEO Susan Lyne. She’s at the helm of a buzzed-about sample-sale startup that’s caused “couture” and “clickthrough” to occur in the same sentence. Some of our latest sponsors include GoogleBing –yes, you read that right — and DataRockIt.

So, back to social media. When I say, “matter more,” I’m paraphrasing a bit. Hughes’ actual wording in an announcement last month was: “leverag[ing] the participatory web to foster long-term engagement with the issues and organizations that are relevant to each individual.” If you visitJumo now, the preview site asks you Hunch-style questions about your preferences such as which do-good cause you’d spend $100 million solving, which language you’d like to learn, and what you’d name your child. (I chose “Grace” over “Crystal.”) At Disrupt, Hughes and Heiferman will discuss how social media can foment positive fallout offline, including in places that aren’t wired and wealthy. (Hughes probably won’t tell us much about Jumo, but we’ll hear some of the inspired thinking behind it, no doubt.) Heiferman’s laudable goal with Meetup is to offer a tool for people anywhere to create communities around any interest. If you want to hear more details on what Hughes and Heiferman are dreaming up with their ventures, you’ll just have to come to Disrupt.

(from techcrunch)

Google Street View Adds Local Business Listings

Last week, the newly renamed Google Places added a ton of features to help local businesses create a directory page right on Google. Today, Google’s Street View is joining the party by showing links to local business listings right in Street View. As you turn around in Street View, names of local businesses and other “Google Places” will show up overlayed on top of buildings. As you hover over those names, a small pop-up window shows some of the listing details such as business name, phone number, and ratings.

There have been links from business listings on Google Maps directly to Street View for almost a year, but now those business listings appear right within Street View itself. Google clearly wants to own local and is sprinkling these listings everywhere it can.

The next step I’m waiting for is to see Street view in a mobile augmented reality app, so that you can just point your phone camera at a building and see the businesses listed inside. That would be so Tonchidot of Google. Our augmented reality future awaits.

(from techcrunch)