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September 04 2011

Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years

What were you up to 13 years ago? Maybe you were perfecting the ideal AIM screen name. Or you might have been surfing the “WestHollywood” neighborhood of GeoCities. Chances are, you had been using Yahoo! or AOL as your primary search engines. But Google’s debut on this day in 1998 would change the World Wide Web forever.

On September 4, 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin filed for incorporation as Google Inc. — they had received a $100,000 check from an investor made out to Google, Inc., and needed to incorporate that name so they could legally deposit the check.

Prior to the launch, Page and Brin met at Stanford in 1995, and soon decided to launch a search service called BackRub in January 1996. They soon reevaluated the name (and the creepy logo) in favor of Google, a play on the mathematical figure, “googol,” which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources. And that they did.

Since then, Google has become a household name to billions of people worldwide. You’ll overhear senior citizens command their grandchildren to “google” the price of foot cream. You’ll witness toddlers punching the screen of the latest Android phone. And chances are, you’ve navigated the circles of Google+ (if not, let’s get you an invite already).

SEE ALSO: 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

We’d like to guide you on a trip down Google lane, presenting the key products and acquisitions that were born in the first Google garage office, and innovated in the Googleplex. In the comments below, please share how Google has had an impact on your life, and join us in wishing Google a happy birthday!

1996-1997: BackRub

Google was first launched under the BackRub nomer. Soon after, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the Google.com domain name in September 1997. The two arrived at the name as a play on the mathematical figure, "googol," which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources.

1998: Google's First Homepage

The original Google homepage prototype debuted in November 1998. Earlier that year Google received a $100,000 check made out to as-yet-unestablished Google Inc. from first investor Andy Bechtolsheim.

In September 2008, the two founders set up shop in Susan Wojcicki‘s garage in Menlo Park, CA, deposited their check and hired their first employee, Craig Silverstein.

1999: The Uncle Sam Homepage

Apart from adding Uncle Sam to its homepage, in 1999 Google outgrew its next office and moved to its first Mountain View, California location. The team announced $25 million in equity funding from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins in its first press release.

2000: Google Becomes Yahoo's Default Search Provider

Apart from its partnership with Yahoo, in 2000 Google announced that its index reached the 1 billion-URL mark, making it the largest search engine in the world. Google also launched AdWord, a self-service ad program that allowed people to purchase keyword advertising that would appear alongside search results.

2001: Google Image Search

Image search launched in July 2001 with an index of 250 million images. That same year Google acquired Deja Usenet and archived its index into categories that ultimately made up Google Groups.

2002: Google Search Appliance

Early in 2002 Google marketed its first hardware, the Google Search Appliance, a device that plugged into a computer and provided advanced search capabilities for internal documents. In May Google announced Labs, a resource for people interested in trying out beta programs emerging from Google's R&D team. Later Google launched its News tool that provided links from 4,000 sources.

2003: AdSense

Google announced the world's largest content-targeted ad program, later dubbed AdSense after Google acquired Applied Semantics. Earlier in the year Google acquired Pyra Labs, the creator of Blogger.

2004: Gmail

Google launched Gmail on April Fool's Day 2004, but the beta version required an invitation to join. In January Orkut launched as Google's foray into social networking. In August, Google's initial public offering contained 19,605,052 shares of Class A common stock at $85 per share.

2005: Google Maps

Google Maps launched in February 2005, to go live on the first iPhone in 2007. Additionally, code.google.com went live to provide resources for developers, and included all of Google's APIs. The company also acquired Urchin, whose content optimization service helped create Google Analytics, launched later that year. In June Google released Google Earth, a satellite-powered mapping service. In October Reader was unveiled to help organize and consolidate content into a single feed.

2006: YouTube

In a $1.65 billion stock transaction, Google acquired YouTube in October 2006. Google also unveiled Trends, a tool that allows a user to evaluate popular searches over a specific timeframe. Earlier that year Google released Gchat, a Gmail-based instant message service derived from Google Talk. Google Checkout emerged later as a way to pay for online purchases.

2007: Android

In November 2007 Google announced its first mobile venture, Android, which the company called "the first open platform for mobile devices."

2008: Google Chrome

In September 2008 Google introduced Chrome, its open source browser. The surprise was spoiled when the comic book that was meant to help debut Chrome leaked a day ahead of schedule. Later that month T-mobile announced the G1, Google's first Android-powered mobile device. That year Google also added Google Suggest capabilities and site search.

2009: Google Wave

To much anticipation, Google announced its venture into real-time communication via the Wave platform. Little more than a year later, however, Wave was no more. That same year Google launched Mac-based photo application Picasa.

2010: Google Apps Marketplace

In 2010 Google launched its Apps Marketplace, an app store that allows third-party developers to sell their creations. That same year Google unveiled Google Buzz, its latest attempt at social sharing that originated in Gmail. The company also released Google TV after teaming up with Intel, Sony and Logitech.

2011: Google+

Google's most talked-about and participatory social platform thus far, Google+ launched in June 2011 with invite-only access. The tech giant also announced its most expensive acquisition to-date when it bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

More About: Google, media, Tech

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July 16 2011

46 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Get ready for Mashable‘s weekly roundup! This week, we’ve performed original Google+ analysis, prepared you for the Mac OS X Lion release, and pointed you toward the best fictional Twitter accounts. We’ve celebrated startups and mourned space shuttle finales.

So review the list of important resources you may have missed over the past week. Tune in for more great stories and tools coming at you sooner than you can say “Spotify.”

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

For more tech news and resources, follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Image courtesy of Flickr, webtreats.

More About: business, List, Lists, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, social media, tech, technology

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July 13 2011

Are We In A Tech Bubble? Here’s The History [INFOGRAPHIC]

We’ve spent the past year wondering whether we’re currently in a tech bubble akin to the last decade’s dotcom boom.

Mashable has offered facts and opinions on both sides of the question. We’ve heard that the current boom is much different from the heyday of the late 1990s and that we have cause for confidence.

But we’ve also heard (from the likes of legendary investor Warren Buffet, no less) that the newest crop of tech darlings are highly overvalued at worst and unpredictable at best.

And we’ve even asked you, our readers, what you thought about current startup valuations and funding amounts. (Most of you responded that you were not optimistic about the future of the tech startup ecosystem.)

Now here’s a few straightforward graphs and charts to help you get some better perspective on the issue. Clearly, the dotcom era was a different beast. But looking back on that insanity should help temper our excitement about new technologies with realistic revenue expectations.

Click image to see full-size version.

Top image courtesy of iStockphoto, patrickheagney

More About: bubble, investment, startups, tech bubble, technology

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July 12 2011

Step Into a Mobile Photo Booth With PopBooth for iPhone & iPad

Startup Sincerely, makers of Postagram for iPhone and Android, continues its mobile-photos-meet-the-real-world mission with the release of PopBooth, an iPhone and iPad 2 app that turns your mobile device into an old-fashioned photo booth.

PopBooth for iPhone and iPad uses the front-facing camera to let you snap four shots in a photo booth-like fashion. You can then choose to apply a filter, à la Instagram, to all captures.

The final result is a photo strip you can send and share via Facebook or email, or have printed and shipped for $2.99. The hard copy PopBooth photo strips are printed at 300dip resolution on thick card stock are delivered as two printed six-inch photo strips.

The inspiration for PopBooth, says Sincerely co-founder Matt Brezina, was fellow co-founder Bryan Kennedy’s wedding. “People love photo booths at weddings, but they are expensive,” says Brezina. “He thought it’d be cool if someone could pass around an iPad with a free app and get the same result at a much lower cost.”

It seems fitting then that the PopBooth for iPad application includes a Party Mode feature that the Sincerely team believes is ideal for weddings, conferences and other social gathers. The idea behind Party Mode is to transform the iPad 2 into a digital and mobile photo booth that attendees can use to make their own photo strips.

PopBooth cleverly re-imagines the photo booth for a mobile photo-obsessed generation and we suspect Sincerely’s second product will become a fast hit on the App Store.

PopBooth Photo Strips

PopBooth iPad 2 Camera

PopBooth iPad 2 Filters

PopBooth iPad 2 Order Form

PopBooth iPhone Filters

PopBooth iPhone Order Preview

More About: iPad 2 apps, iphone app, Mobile 2.0, mobile photo sharing, PopBooth, Sincerely

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July 04 2011

5 Free Virtual Firework Shows To Celebrate July 4

If your favorite part of July 4 celebrations is the fireworks, then we’ve got a fun gallery for you. We’ve found five tools that offer virtual fireworks you can enjoy right at your desk.

Whether you want to send someone an animated message, play around to create a mesmerizing browser show or add fireworks to your own site, we’ve found web sparklers to suit.

Light the touchpaper, stand at a safe distance and rocket through the gallery. You can find out more about the tools by clicking on the blue title text at the top left of each slide. Let us know which ones you like in the comments below.

1. Enjoy Canvas Fireworks

This hypnotic HTML5 Canvas experiment offers three different shapes of fireworks that you can control with your mouse for a 3D wow experience.

2. Write a Message in Fireworks

This is tons of fun. Compose your own message and see it written across the London skyline in fireworks. You can also share it with an automatically generated tiny URL.

3. Add Fireworks to Your Own Site With Fireworks.js

You can add fireworks to your own site with this nifty Javascript animation experiment. Or if you're just firecracker-curious, you can play around with it on the dev's site.

4. View Augmented Reality Fireworks

Simply print off the marker, fire up your webcam and you can enjoy your very own miniature augmented reality fireworks show.

5. Go Old School With Fireworks Just For You

Dating back to 2002, this particular desktop show is perfect for kids, offering mesmerizing fireworks generated by the click of your mouse.

BONUS: Join the HTML5 Fireworks Festival

If you're handy with HTML5 then join the "Hanabi fireworks festival" by forking the sample code, or creating your own from scratch. The resulting entries will then be revealed as an online spectacular on July 7.

More About: apps, fireworks, HTML5, july 4, List, Lists, software, web apps

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June 30 2011

Time Editor Mark Halperin Calls Obama “Kind of a Dick” on MSNBC [VIDEO]

Time Editor Mark Halperin Calls Obama 'Kind of a Dick' on MSNBC

Time magazine editor Mark Halperin said President Barack Obama was being “kind of a dick” during Thursday’s live Morning Joe show on MSNBC. Naturally the comment prompted an avalanche of social media reactions and has become a trending topic on Twitter.

The video clip of the incident (embedded below) shows that Halperin actually made a very unfortunate joke. He asked the show’s host if there’s a seven-second delay — sometimes employed on live television, precisely to avoid situations like these — and then makes the aforementioned comment.

The reaction from the show’s host is telling enough: “What are you doing? I can’t believe you. I was joking! Don’t do that. Did we delay that?” he says in utter disbelief.

Reactions on Twitter are just as harsh as the comment itself. Here are a couple:

  • @Eleanddon tweets: “I will not watch MSNBC or NBC again (that includes my beloved Rachel) until Mark Halperin is fired as a commentator!”
  • @pamannb tweets: And he considers himself professional?
  • @maxberger tweets: BREAKING: Mark Halperin reveals himself to be kind of a dick

Halperin quickly apologized after the incident (embedded as the second video below), but it seems that the damage has already been done.

What do you think: Is Halperin’s apology enough? Did he need to apologize at all? What do you think of the reactions on Twitter? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[via The Blaze]

More About: Mark Halperin, obama, time magazine, twitter

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June 27 2011

Olympic Committee: 2012 Athletes are Welcome to Tweet

Athletes competing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London are free to tweet during the competition, the Olympic Committee said.

The athletes are actively encouraged to “take part in social media and to post, blog and tweet their experiences,” the guidelines from the Olympic Committee (AOC) say, as long as it’s not for commercial purposes.

There’s a couple other stipulations, too: tweeters must steer away from curse or vulgar words, use “first-person, diary-type formats,” and they shouldn’t report on events in the manner of journalists. On the other hand, “accredited media may freely utilise social media platforms for bona fide reporting

As far as photos go, anyone who takes one is welcome to upload it to social media site, but is not permitted to sell it or distribute it in other ways. During the last Olympics, held in Beijing in 2008, uploading photos taken at venues was prohibited.

Broadcasting audio or video taken inside the venues will stay prohibited in the 2012 London Olympics. Breaching the guidelines could mean getting banned from the competition.

Read the entire document here.

[via Reuters]

More About: 2012 London Olympics, 2012 Olympics, athletes, blog, blogging, Olympic games, olympics, social media, social media for social good, tweet, Tweeting, twitter

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June 18 2011

Could Kickstarter Be Better Than Government Grants for Artists?

Artist Molly Crabapple has just been given $17,000 to lock herself in a paper-covered room for five days and make art until the walls are covered.

But that sum didn’t come from the National Endowment for the Arts or a wealthy patron; Crabapple, like many in her subversive art-making shoes, turned to Kickstarter to find funding for the stunt.

In her Kickstarter proposal, she outlined the basic premise of the project, dubbed “Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell.” Anyone who donated a dollar to the effort would get to watch a live stream of the whole five-day shebang. Anyone who pledged $10 or more would get to name an animal for inclusion in the artwork; donations of $20 or more would get an actual piece of the ink-filled paper sent to them. And backers who fronted $1,000 or more would get an absinthe-infused lunch with the artist.

Crabapple set a $4,500 fundraising goal; so far, the total raised is $17,000 — enough to make a short film about the project, which Crabapple says will debut online shortly after Crabapple’s Week in Hell wraps.

Why Art Needs the Web

This is a project that Crabapple says could never have existed without the Internet.

“I mean, before the Internet, I could have gotten a room and markers,” she told Mashable in an email. “But funding it? Pre-selling an entire body of yet-to-be-created-art in an alternative space? Even the logistics of finding the space and gathering my staff would have been infinitely harder offline”

Historically, the kinds of projects that do best on Kickstarter are actually film and music. Over the past two years, these two categories have accounted for more than $32.7 million in fundraising — more than every other category combined.

Crabapple says the Week in Hell is her third Kickstarter project. She did a Kickstarter proposal last year to help fund SketchyCon, a gathering of organizers for Crabapple’s unique life drawing events, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School. And she did ker second Kickstarter project just a couple months ago to fund a stop-motion paper puppet film.

“An artist like me (ie a poxy illustrator who dropped out of school) has basically no chance with the grant system, and Kickstarter has been amazing for helping me bring my most ambitious projects to life,” said Crabapple.

Why Grants Don’t Work

While entrepreneurship projects such as the ill-fated Diaspora do exist on Kickstarter, they get relatively little attention on the site when compared to the overwhelming popularity of the arts. For artists who seek funds to further their dreams, the crowdfunding model of Kickstarter is something of a godsend. Gone are the lengthy, difficult grant application processes and the endless pitching to would-be patrons.

As Crabapple told us, “I once sat through the introductory session for applying for a Brooklyn Artists Grant. In between the forms filled out in 8-plicate, having to have a nonprofit organization sponsor you, and the fact that the grant was forbidden from covering the entire cost of the project, I figured it was probably just easier to earn the money.

“A Kickstarter is populist and fast, where a grant is elitist and foot-dragging.”

Crabapple said she was surprised, though, that the project got so much interest and so many pledges.

“Week in Hell is a deeply personal project, and there’s always a risk of those coming off as horrifically wanky. I posted it with some trepidation on Sunday at midnight, and woke up to find it funded. In my fever dreams I never would have imagined such an incredibly warm, generous response.”

Keep an eye out for the Week in Hell event, as well as subsequent photos and film, to take place from September 3 through 8 in a secret location in Manhattan.

Image courtesy of Facebook, TheLegion

For more Media coverage:

June 17 2011

June 14 2011

LIVE BLOG: The 2011 Webby Awards

The 2011 Webby Awards are about to swing into action. Who’s going to be taking home the awards for the best of the web?

We’re live from New York, where Friends, Bandslam and P.S. I Love You star Lisa Kudrow is hosting the festivities for the 15th annual Webby Awards show.

The nominees were announced back in April and include such entities as the Old Spice Guy, Angry Birds, Justin Bieber and the YouTube hit, “Bed Intruder Song,” featuring Antoine Dodson.

Mashable is at the event, and we’re going to live blog the whole thing. Check out our commentary below:

More About: 2011 webbys, internet, live, live blog, Webby, webby awards, webbys

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June 11 2011

CafePress Files for $80M IPO

Custom fashion and gifts site CafePress has just filed with the SEC for its initial public offering.

The site allows users to customize and create all kinds of goods such as T-shirts, drinkware, stationery and more.

The company, which was founded in 1999, hopes to raise $80 million in the IPO.

In its filing, CafePress stated it has seen more than 325 million unique products sold through its site since its inception. The company also reported $128 million in revenue and $2.7 million in profit for last year.

CafePress would be the latest ins a string of high-profile tech IPOs. Last month, LinkedIn’s IPO dominated headlines, as well as raising the personal worth of its founders and leaving the company valued at around $9 billion.

Last week, daily deals coupon app maker Groupon filed for a $750 million IPO. And web-based radio startup Pandora filed with the SEC back in February.

Other rumored IPOs include Yelp, Zynga, and Facebook, which company “expects to start filing public financial reports no later than April 30, 2012,” according to a statement made in January.

More About: CafePress, ipo

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June 02 2011

Startup Publisher Gives Readers Control Over What Books Get Printed

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

readName: Unbound

Quick Pitch: Unbound crowdsources funding for books.

Genius Idea: Ending the hunt for the next bestseller and the innovation bottleneck that comes with it.

The book publishing industry, says Unbound co-founder Dan Kieran, is broken.

“Publishers spend huge amounts to secure potential bestsellers, but only a very small number of those work out,” he says.

In the quest for the next big seller, authors who are known for one kind of book are encouraged to continue publishing that kind of book. Covers are designed to be eye-catching rather than beautiful. And innovative ideas that haven’t yet proven themselves as sellers can get left in the dust.

Kieran and his two co-founders, who are all authors and/or publishers, decided to rethink publishing in a way that shifts its focus from what might sell onto what readers have already declared they will read. Unbound, which launched on Sunday, allows authors to pitch their ideas directly to readers instead of editors. If enough readers support it — usually between 1,500 and 5,000 — the book will be published. If not, they get their money back.

Readers can pledge their support in different denominations. At the first level, they’ll receive an ebook edition of the book if it is published. At the most expensive, they’ll receive two invites to the launch party, lunch with the author, two signed first editions of the book and two ebook editions.

All supporters get their names printed in the back of the book and access to the author’s “shed,” where they can read updates about the book’s progress, draft chapters and other extras.

So far the platform only has five book proposals listed on it. Former Monty Python team member Terry Jones has pitched a comic book of “cautionary fables” involving machines and novelist Tibor Fischer has pitched two stories. Less than a week in, none of the proposals are anywhere close to gathering enough support to publish. Jones and Fischer have had the most success, each achieving 2% of their goals.

All of the proposals are from somewhat established authors with fan bases that have provided much of the support. Eventually, however, the platform hopes to be more like Kickstarter, which allows anyone to post a project for potential crowdfunding. But then why don’t authors just take advantage of Kickstarter’s already established user base and put their book pitches there?

Kieran says that Unbound provides all of the editing and distribution services of a publishing house, which the more broadly focused Kickstarter obviously doesn’t. That makes forking over 50% of book profits — much less than Kickstarter project leaders take home (95%), but much more than the typical publishing house pays its writers (about 7% to 15%) — worth signing up for. That, and the creative freedom that advance sales create.

“The difference is that because the books have already been sold, it gives an opportunity to change the way they’re made,” Kieran says.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, books, publishing, startups, unbound

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May 19 2011

Whereberry Helps You Make Real-World Plans With Friends

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: WhereBerry

Quick Pitch: Whereberry helps you make non-virtual plans with friends.

Genius Idea: Focusing on future plans instead of current checkins

If you have a list of activities you want to do, chances are most of them would be more fun with a friend. Whereberry, which launched Tuesday, makes that list social so that it’s easier to coordinate plans.

After connecting your profile to Whereberry, your Facebook friends who have also signed up are automatically added as your friends. As with Twitter, you can also choose to “follow” anyone on the platform. You will get email notifications when these people post events, and those events will also show up in your Whereberry newsfeed.

Within the newsfeed, it’s easy to add to your own list activities that your friend posted and to work out logistics in a group. There’s also an option to post the activity to your Facebook feed and avoid the “Does anyone want to go to a movie this weekend?” comment thread.

Whereberry focuses not on what you’ve done, as most checkin services originally did, but rather on what you plan to do. These types of preemptive check-in services are popping up everywhere — recommendation engine Ditto, plan maker ImUp4, and location-based Q&A app Localmind are just a few examples. Even Foursquare has cast its gaze toward the future.

When people note what they are going to do rather than what they’ve done, brands connected with that activity have an opportunity to reach consumers at a decision point. Not so if the consumer is already standing in the restaurant. Whereberry eventually plans to sell brands the opportunity to offer deals to relevant consumers.

That monetization plan makes sense, but Whereberry will need to acquire users first — something that may be tricky as many wonder whether anyone needs another social service.

If you don’t already have friends on Whereberry, it’s hard to make a case for joining. While there’s a list of activities that populates the newsfeeds of the friend-less, activity guides can be found on the Internet without connecting a Facebook profile. The post-to-Facebook feature is one way you might convince friends to join you on the platform, but truthfully, it’s easier to just post a status message.

But the startup didn’t earn a spot in Y Combinator this winter for nothing. A social network for making plans like Whereberry would be useful if a good chunk of your friends used it. The million dollar question is how to incentivize that environment.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, startups, Whereberry, y combinator

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May 18 2011

Bear Grylls Responds to Internet Meme in Hilarious Fashion

Bear Grylls doesn’t mind two things: drinking his own pee and having a laugh. The British adventurer is known for his television series Man vs. Wild, in which he confronts the elements and is often forced to resort to extreme survival tactics, which sometimes includes drinking his own urine.

This has spurred an Internet meme in which Grylls is depicted drinking his pee for no good reason, but he proved he can take a joke by responding to the meme via Twitter.

In a recent tweet, Grylls says “In honour of all your @replies about pee drinking. am on vacation in LA. Looks like I’ll have to drink my own pee!” The tweet is accompanied by a Twitpic (pictured above) of Grylls drinking liquid from a cup with a pained expression on his face.

The tweet itself is now one of the top stories on Reddit, where the meme was first widely distributed (check here for some examples), with more than 2,000 upvotes at the time of this writing.

This is another example of how a positive, timely response to an Internet phenomenon (no matter how cruel these memes sometimes are) through social media can net you an army of fans.

In a similar example, Chuck Norris reacted positively to the phenomenon of “Chuck Norris facts,” clever jokes about the invincibility of the legendary actor. It resulted in the release of The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book, a satirical book of jokes penned by Chuck Norris himself.

More About: Bear Grylls, drinking pee, internet meme, reddit

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April 26 2011

4 Ways Behavioral Targeting Is Changing the Web

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, which offers inbound marketing software that helps small and medium sized businesses get found on the Internet by the right prospects and converts more of them into leads and customers. Learn more.

We’ve already seen signs of it — targeted ads on Facebook, suggested people to follow on Twitter, even Google Instant seems to know what you’re thinking — but how is behavioral targeting changing the Internet at large?

Here’s how behavioral targeting works: Targeting companies establish an agreement with a publisher, who puts a piece of code on his website. (That publisher must have a clearly stated policy for the consumer to opt out from having data collected.) Then, when you’re browsing the web, the site will put a cookie on your browser, which populates as you surf. (Though one interviewee, ContextWeb, targets based on content and not cookies.)

Now that your browser has a cookie, the targeting begins. Data points amass as you click your way from site to site, taking note of what you buy, what you read and what you search for. The more time goes on, the more data is collected. Back in 2003, we had audience targeting, which assigned people to various demographics and targeted these demographics based on age, gender and location. Now, with more data, the targeting can be — and is — much more dynamic, and can gauge your interests and preferences. Companies that specialize in targeting can nearly promise more ad engagement by targeting people who have indicated -– through their behavioral patterns on the web -– that they might be interested in the product at hand. It’s a more costly form of advertising, but the conversion rate can offset the increased cost.

All of the data that has been collected by targeters has huge implications for the Internet of the future. We spoke with three experts in the field of behavioral targeting to discuss the biggest effects that targeting will have on the web as we know it.

1. Your Internet Experience Will Be More About You

You know how Amazon suggests items that might interest you, based on the items you’ve perused? That’s how the entire Internet could be soon. With systems tracking your cursor and keeping tabs on your browsing history, the Internet can get to know you better — and be smarter than ever. In fact, Amazon’s algorithm is a paragon of excellence for targeters.

“Amazon does a fantastic job at making the Amazon experience reliable for the consumer. The entire experience is relevant and more efficient,” says Jeff Hirsch, president and CEO of AudienceScience.

And since data collection has been ongoing for years at Amazon, the data points and algorithms have been refined. Years ago, a man might buy a princess outfit for his 3-year-old niece, and then be presented with ads for toddler items the next few times he logs on. That doesn’t happen anymore, says Ted Shergalis, founder and chief strategy officer of [x+1]. “As targeters accrue more data and more sophisticated algorithms, they can lessen the impact of statistical outliers,” he says.

And what’s been done to the algorithm at Amazon is happening all over the web. Shergalis cites the advent of Google Instant as a huge shift in the web’s evolution — results are repositioning information in a way that is more focused on the query. “Marketers are hoping to do that with all of their work,” he says, meaning that the web might be able to tell you what you’re looking for before you even finish typing it.

Hirsch jokes that in 10 years, we may very well look back and laugh that we ever had to type something into Google to find what we were looking for. “Smarter” and “more useful” are two terms he uses to describe how the targeted curation will affect your web experience.

Best of all for marketers, Hirsch says, is that more relevant content can lead to more engagement.

Rose Ann Haran says ContextWeb, where she is the CMO, strives to “curate content so that we can drive a better experience for people online.” She cites how TV and radio, which now have hundreds of content channels, have evolved so that we can curate what to consume. Technology allows us to hand-pick what programs we’d like to watch and when, along with what kind of music we’d like to listen to. That’s exactly where the web is going, she says. “If you think about the online experience, you can really make the analogy to TV and radio.”

2. The Web Could Change Its Appearance For You

So when the web is all about you, will it also change its interface, too? Shergalis says the data that would drive such customization is available today, but that cost, time and resources are what’s hindering us from getting to that next level.

But, he says, “Consumers are going to come to expect it — you can’t just have a simple, one-size-fits-all experience” for all consumers.

“I think the expectations are increasing. I don’t see people wanting to go back to a less personalized, less social, more irrelevant experience, so I think [the customization] trend is going to continue,” Shergalis adds. Especially because there’s so much more information to gather, and the more consumers share their interests with marketers, the more relevant and suited products will be for us, he says.

Haran cites her own Google homepage — and how radically different it is from her daughter’s page. She says they have different widgets above and below the fold and they each have a different number of ads, based on their preferences. So it’s clear that customization on the web isn’t a farfetched idea, and sites could soon know whether you like a clean page with only two ads, or whether you’re tolerant of up to eight ads.

“The tech is there to be able to provide that unique experience for you,” Haran says. But since there are so many players in the market, only “an orchestrated approach would allow us to do that [targeting].”

3. It Will View You as a Multi-Dimensional Person With Many Interests

So you browsed through ESPN.com — does that mean you’ll only get Nike and Adidas ads from now on? No, because there’s more to you than your interest in sports, and the data knows that. It won’t try to pigeonhole you.

This is especially important because there is concern that curation and customization lead to tunnel vision and ignorance of everything else that’s out there. That’s why behavioral targeters are testing demographics and creating algorithms to determine other interests and speak to a person’s depth and varied interests and give them an element of choice. Such algorithms will help marketers “discover a whole new audience and develop a new understanding” of this dynamic, multifaceted audience, says Hirsch.

As mentioned before, ContextWeb targets based on content. Instead of interpreting CNN as a news site, it breaks it down into retirement, personal finance, education — it’s no longer a one-dimensional perception of the site. And that precision helps to refine the algorithm.

“We’re all multi-dimensional people who consume content in different contexts,” says Tanayia Washington, insights and analytics manager at ContextWeb.

4. It’s Tapping Into Social and Mobile

To some, behavioral targeting seems like an invasion of privacy, though the FTC has taken steps to ensure that privacy is respected (no data is personally identifiable).

But privacy seems to be less of a priority among millennials, who tend to be more accepting of behavioral targeting than their boomer counterparts. Perhaps it’s because they grew up with LiveJournals and were the first generation on Facebook, so they’re used to living their lives out loud. Whatever the reason, the things they broadcast on social networks -– where they are, what they’re buying, who they’re with -– are ripe for the picking by marketers, says Shergalis. By virtue of being on these platforms and being so socially connected, young users are essentially opting in and showing a “willingness to participate” for advertisers and marketers. Therefore, behavioral targeters can take advantage of the wealth of consumer information that’s out in the open on Twitter and Facebook, learning tweet by tweet about the audience it’s trying to reach.

And that’s just one aspect of behavioral targeting’s branching out — targeting will also impact the web experience on iPhones, iPads, Androids and other mobile devices. “You’ll see some pretty amazing innovations … and that will get caught under the heading of behavioral targeting,” says Shergalis.

What’s Next?

When you’re on your laptop, a targeter can assume that you’re the only user. But let’s say there’s a family of four that shares a desktop computer. How do you know if it’s the accountant dad, the PTA mom, the soccer star son or the Bieber-obsessed tween daughter? What if the husband is shopping for the jewelry for the wife, and then the wife starts seeing diamond ads?

“[Data] is not personally identifiable, so in a family of four, you wouldn’t really know who was browsing at what point,” says Hirsch. “There is some efficiency lost in that respect, which is a good example of why consumers need choice.”

In short, behavioral targeting is not perfect, but it has immense potential to change the way we consume and search for information. And this potential is more within reach every day as more data is collected and analyzed. In fact, by the time you read this post, millions more data points already will have been collected, making the Internet that much smarter.

Series Supported by HubSpot

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, which offers inbound marketing software that helps small and medium sized businesses get found on the Internet by the right prospects and converts more of them into leads and customers. HubSpot’s software platform includes tools that allow professional marketers and small business owners to manage SEO, blogging, social media, landing pages, e-mail, lead intelligence and marketing analytics. Learn more.

More Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- The Pros and Cons Of Tumblr For Small Business
- 4 Innovative Ways to Use Web Video for Small Business
- Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make
- What to Look For When Hiring a Community Manager
- 3 Ways Companies Can Reach Generation Z

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alexsl, Maxrale, quavondo.

More About: ad targeting, behavioral advertising, digital marketing, Digital Marketing Series, MARKETING, online marketing, targeting

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April 13 2011

April 07 2011

March 10 2011

HOW TO: Promote Your Startup for Free at SXSW

This post originally appeared on Dyn.com, a world leader in managed DNS, powering the best brands on the web including Gowalla, Mashable, Twitter, Wikia and more. Follow @DynInc on Twitter.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Never are these words more true than at the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, where startup legends are born through a combination of crowd appeal, guerilla marketing tactics, whispers from the right influentials and free booze.

If you’re looking for some free and easy ways to promote your startup, look elsewhere — if it were easy, everybody would do it. Realistically, you’ll need to do plenty of heavy lifting, but there’s no reason why you can’t take a few free shortcuts to get some major attention. And that’s where we come in.

What follows are some tried and true ways to network better, socialize more effectively and ultimately work the system that is SXSW to get your startup’s name on the lips of those that matter.

Go Speed Dating with VCs

Impressing the crowd is tantamount, but getting the ear of a potential investor is equally as important (and hard).

Venture capitalists and angel investors no doubt will be invading Austin, but they’ll likely carry a lower profile than most, flitting about between private parties and hosted dinners. There are social media stalking techniques you could use to find them. Alternatively, you might want to consider a 10-minute quickie.

Blumberg Capital and Intel Capital are hosting a speed dating event entitled 10 minute VC on Sunday, March 13 at 3:00 p.m. to get the sparks flying between investors and entrepreneurs. Intel Capital’s Christine Herron, Lucy McQuilken and Aldo Franciscolo will join Blumberg Capital’s David Blumberg, Bruce Taragin and Jon Soberg for the event.

Would-be or current entrepreneurs and founders can pitch, ask questions or simply try to make a strong enough impression on the VCs to warrant a second date.

Get Mentioned in the Sessions

Every panel speaker, presenter or keynoter is busy finalizing his talking points. One thing they all have in common is that they’re anxious to say something fresh.

Do your homework and scan through every single SXSW Interactive session. Where there’s a topic that even slightly overlaps with your product or history, send a note to the speaker and introduce him to you and your startup. Your goal: To make the speaker’s job easier with information on a product that applies to his session.

If you have a group messaging app, for instance, try to ensure that your startup’s name gets a mention in every panel that is addressing related topics. If you’re mentioned in the sessions, you’ll most likely be mentioned on Twitter and in the halls. And if you’re mentioned in the halls, you’re on your way to attracting press attention or user traction.

Ride the Social Media Hype Train

When folks like Gary Vaynerchuk or Robert Scoble tweet or talk about your startup, people sit up and listen, especially at SXSWi where the masses look to these social media “hypsters” to set the trend.

Mr. Vaynerchuk is also famous for holding flash mob parties organized via Twitter, and the Scobleizer is rarely seen without his video camera in tow. Use their social media obsessions (read: addictions) to your own advantage.

Plus, sometimes we reporters turn to our influential, uber-connected friends to tip us off to the trending or up-and-coming SXSW startups we should cover. Vaynerchuk, for instance, whispered to me that Foursquare would be the breakout startup two years ago, so I made it a point to dig deeper.

Long story short: Know who controls the hype cycle in your niche, find them and come up with a compelling reason for them to give you a shoutout to their legions of followers.

Party Like a (Calculated) Rock Star

Hitting up every party in town and taking advantage of all the open bars is a sure-fire way to get drunk on someone else’s dime. This, however, is not the best strategy for making connections that will net you the relationships you need or the kind of buzz you want.

Still, the party circuit is critical to your mission — the more people you meet, the better. So, go in with a calculated plan that involves less booze and more schmooze.

Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you traipse about downtown Austin:

Do: Use apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, GroupMe, Yobongo or HurricaneParty to pinpoint the best events, exchange notes between friends and strangers or start your own impromptu gatherings.

Don’t: Flock to the biggest parties just because they’re big. Yes, important and influential people will be at these parties, but the likelihood of commanding their attention or getting them to remember your name is low.

Do: Prioritize parties based on size and crowd. Attend as many small and intimate dinners as you can. Work your personal network as much as possible prior to the event and find out how to get yourself on the list of these private, more exclusive events.

Do: Attend parties hosted by media companies and make it point to chat up reporters in a casual manner.

Mashable will be hosting a combination of private events, open houses, meet-and-greet opportunities and two nights of parties from Sunday, March 13 to Monday March, 14.

Do: Pitch to the point. Make it clear that you work for a startup, but don’t get too serious — after all, it’s a party. The best pitches are ones that don’t feel like pitches, but instead give the reporter the sense that they may have inadvertently found a one-of-a-kind story perfect for their audience. Walk away after a few minutes (or earlier if there’s no interest) and leave them wanting more.

Do: Know your story. Do you have San Diego roots or ties to Austin? Local beat reporters are always looking for a startup with hometown roots. If you bump into them, be prepared to talk up your local connection. Alternatively, attach yourself to industry trends. The Are we in a bubble? question is likely to come up repeatedly in Austin. Have an answer prepared and you could get a mention in a national news story.

Don’t: Lurk, stalk or follow a reporter around. We see you, and it comes off as really needy.

Do: Be flexible and stay out until the wee hours of the morn. Most often the best relationships are formed through chance encounters. Let the parties dwindle down, join folks in late-night food quests and just be amenable to meeting new people, regardless of their title or profession. This long-tail approach to networking could get you introductions to friends of friends after the show, and that’s when the real value of your SXSW connections kicks in.

Got your own tips on how founders can promote their startups for free at SXSW this year? Share them in the comments.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Thomas Hawk, toddwshaffer, magerleagues, Lan Bui, kk+

Interested in more Startups resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: MARKETING, startups, sxsw, sxsw 2011, sxswi

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March 07 2011

TweetDeck Announces New iOS App With Flexible Columns

TweetDeck has announced a major new version of its iOS app, due to be released in the “next couple of weeks.”

The new version has been rewritten from scratch and includes a redesign (the folks at TweetDeck claim the app will shine with the iPhone’s retina display) and one major new feature: fully flexible columns.

For those who aren’t familiar with TweetDeck, the app enables users to create columns containing various information streams, for example Twitter replies or direct messages. In the upcoming version, users will be able to combine several streams such as Facebook feeds, Twitter direct messages, mentions and lists, which is the kind of flexibility advanced users will surely love and appreciate.

The free app should go public after a couple of weeks of testing, but TweetDeck promises to show it off at this year’s SXSW, the annual music, film and interactive conference on March 11-20.

More About: App, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPod Touch, social media, social networking, tweetdeck, twitter

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March 01 2011

Startup Lets You Rent Fine Art, Netflix-Style

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Artsicle

Quick Pitch: Artsicle is a Netflix-style renting service for fine art.

Genius Idea: Purchasing fine art can be a frustrating project that requires traveling to multiple galleries, research, and fretting over a decision that’s hard to undo. Selling fine art, for many young artists, can be even more frustrating; galleries have limited space, and they aren’t apt to show work that doesn’t already have an established name behind it.

Artsicle, which launches today in New York City, aims to make the process easier on both sides with a try-before-you-buy model for selling fine art. Potential buyers pay a monthly fee of $50 for renting privileges. They can then browse Artsicle’s selection of art and select a work they would like to sample. Once a renter’s selected piece is delivered to her home, she can either keep it for as long as she’s willing to pay the $50 monthly fee, purchase it or exchange it for another piece to test out.

CEO Alexis Tryon says that the company aims to sell art that ranges in price from about $500 to $1,500 (fairly reasonable in the art world) from hand-selected, mostly young artists.

“We believe collecting original art should be accessible for everyone,” Tryon says. “We also believe in a future art economy that allows more artists to make a living from their work, while continuing to create.”

The company’s biggest expenses are insuring the work (obviously breakage is a concern when lugging fine art between strangers’ homes) and delivery costs. In order to cover these costs, the model will need to prove a successful way to not just rent art, but sell it. Art commissions are huge — according to University of Wisconsin’s art department, they can be as much as 50%. The startup plans to charge a lower rate than most galleries, but that still leaves a lot of room for profit.


Image courtesy of ollikainen

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: art, Artsicle, netflix, startups

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