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January 17 2012

Irony Alert: Google ‘Good to Know’ Ad Campaign Educates Users About Privacy

Google introduced Tuesday a multimillion dollar ad campaign focusing on the importance of protecting personal information online in an attempt to ward off charges that the tech giant violates users’ privacy,

The campaign, based on an initiative the company launched last October, has a large offline component, including billboard ads and print executions in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today.

The ads take an understated approach to the subject matter. For instance, an execution that’s running in the New Yorker this week features a cartoon drawing of a man trying to find a plumber. “You live in Peoria. Do you really need a plumber from New York?” the copy asks. The ad goes on to explain that Google’s search results are based on your location, which is revealed by your IP address.

Other topics covered in the ads include password management and the use of information gleaned from behavioral targeting to produce more relevant search results.

Google’s handling of private information has been a touchy topic for the search company. In particular, the Federal Trade Commission took Google to task for employing users’ private information from Gmail for Google Buzz, its ill-fated social network, in 2010. Google settled with the FTC last March. One of the conditions of the settlement is that Google had to implement a privacy program and undergo regular privacy audits over the next 20 years. (Another target of an FTC privacy probe, Facebook, agreed to a similar deal with the FTC in November. The FTC is also reported to be looking into Google’s recent integration of information from Google+ into its searches.)

It’s not clear whether this latest campaign is part of that settlement. Google reps could not be reached for comment. Google told The Associated Press, though, that the campaign’s budget is in the “tens of millions.”

What do you think of Google’s new ad campaign? Convincing or does it reek of contractual obligation? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Advertising, FTC, Google, google buzz, privacy

October 20 2011

Google Reader to Get Google+ Integration

Google Reader, the company’s RSS reader, will get a new look and integration with Google+ next week that will let you create reader-specific Circles.

The changes, which are “highly requested,” according to Google software engineer Alan Green, include a new design and the retiring of features like friending, following and shared link blogs inside of Reader, which will be supplanted by Google+.

You may “feel like the product is no longer for you,” Green writes, in which case you can export your subscriptions, friends, likes and shared items to another RSS reader. Google gave Reader a social makeover with follows and friending in 2009, when Digg, among other social news services, was much more influential.

Like Google Buzz, which was retired last week, those social features are being excised as the company focuses on growing Google+.

More About: Google, google buzz, google reader, rss reader

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October 14 2011

RIP Google Buzz

Google is shutting down the last remnants of Google Buzz to focus on Google+, the company announced on Friday.

“In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+,” Brad Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product, wrote on The Official Google Blog. “While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it using Google Takeout.”

In addition, Google is shuttering Code Search on Jan. 15 and other social media offerings, including the Twitter-like Jaiku — which will also be discontinued on that date — and iGoogle’s social features. As previously announced, Google Labs will also shut down.

Launched in February 2010, Google Buzz was initially seen as a threat to Twitter and Facebook, but never lived up to its promise, becoming one of the biggest flops of the year. It is likely that Buzz will be viewed as a forerunner to Google+, which had a stronger start, hitting 40 million users in its first three months, according to Google CEO Larry Page.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, traveler1116

More About: Google, google buzz, google labs, Jaiku

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

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

July 15 2011

Are You a Facebook Defector for Google+? [POLL]

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable News for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

Google+ has only been out for about two weeks, but a few users are so taken with the service that they’re exiting Facebook entirely.

For instance, Chris Brogan, president of the consultancy Human Business Works, put an “I have moved” message on his Facebook Page, where he has more than 3,000 friends.

“I never liked Facebook,” Brogan wrote on his G+ profile page Friday. “I never used it to stay in touch with friends. I never had a great experience with the platform. I never had it work well (if at all) for my business. So, I didn’t bother. I used it grudgingly.”

Another user, Jeff Patch, wrote on Facebook, “My Facebook feed has become unmanageable. I’m de-friending anyone who is not a close friend, family member or colleague. Find me on Google+.”

Jack Lesley, another Facebook defector also wrote, “Leaving Facebook. Have about half of my friends moved, will be deleting my FB account on 31 July!”

Google+ already has about 10 million users. But users may be reacting to the novelty of a new social network. Facebook, with more than 750 million users, has seen would-be social networks, like Google Buzz, invade its turf before.

And to be sure, there are some who think Facebook defectors are daft.

“Wondering if that’s a career-limiting move considering clients who will still want council on Facebook on the years to come,” David Armano, executive vice president of global innovation and integration at PR agency Edelman, wrote regarding Brogan. “Of course, it’s perfectly viable to build a niche outside Facebook since so many others are focused there.”

What do you think? Are you planning to reboot your social network on G+? Do you think these defectors are crazy? Let us know in the comments and cast your vote in our poll.

Are You Considering Leaving Facebook for Google+?

More About: facebook, Google, google buzz, Google Plus

For more Social Media coverage:

July 14 2011

Google+ Mentions Beat Buzz, But Not Facebook Or Twitter [STATS]

If you think the buzz around Google+ is bigger than it was for Google Buzz, then you’re right. But if you think Google+ is monopolizing social media conversation, you’re way off.

That’s the gist of new research from Sysomos, a social media analytics firm. At Mashable‘s request, Sysomos compared the social media chatter for Google Buzz when it launched in February 2010 to Google+’s introduction this summer.

There’s little comparison between the two launches, according to Sysomos. Google Buzz’s social media mentions peaked at 150,00 while Google+ surpassed 250,000 mentions.

Since its launch a couple of weeks ago, Google+ has garnered more than 106,000 mentions in blogs, close to 30,000 news stories, and 1.9 million tweets. Some 85% of those combined mentions were positive. Those findings were published on Sysomos’s blog on Thursday.

Now for the bad news. Google+’s mentions are nowhere near as prevalent as Facebook’s and Twitter’s. Each of those services gets more than twice as many mentions per day as Google+.

Sheldon Levine, community manager for Sysomos, says he was surprised at the findings. “From my perspective, it seemed like everyone was talking about Google+ a lot,” says Levine. “But it could just seem that way inside the social media world.”

Screenshots: Inside Google+

Google+ Logo

This is the Google+ logo.

Google+ Icons

The Google+ icons. Starting top left and circling to the right: Circles, Hangouts, Home, Sparks, Profile, Photos.

New Google+ Navigation Bar

All Google sites will sport the new Google+ navigation bar. It includes notifications, profile information and content sharing options.

Google+ Stream

This is the Google+ Stream, where users share content and see what their friends are sharing. It is similar to the Facebook News Feed.

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles is Google's version of the Facebook friend list or the Twitter List. Users can select multiple friends and drag-and-drop them into groups. This makes it easier to send stuff to friends, family or the entire world.

Google+ Circles Editor

This is the Google+ Circles editor in action. Google has created unique animations for adding and removing friends through HTML5.

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks is Google's content recommendation and discovery engine. Users can search different topics and find relevant articles, videos and photos. Users can then share that content with their friends.

More About: google buzz, Google Plus, sysomos

For more Social Media coverage:

April 29 2011

What’s The Matter With Google TV?

Google and its partners made a major bet on Google TV, an ambitious attempt to bridge the gap between the web and TV worlds. But so far it has failed to pay dividends — quite literally, in the case of Google partner Logitech.

On Thursday, Logitech released its fourth quarter fiscal report, and the results were a mixed bag. Operating income was a mere $3.6 million, a far cry from the $24.5 million it made a year ago. But sales were up 4% compared to last year.

Logitech’s income missed the mark largely due to its investment in Google TV, which was revealed in dramatic fashion at last year’s Google I/O developer conference. Logitech developed the Revue, a $299 Google TV-powered set-top box.

As GigaOm points out, Logitech expected to sell $18 million in Google TV-related products in Q4. But in its earnings report, the company revealed that it only sold $5 million in Google TV devices. Logitech also revealed that its inventory is up 28% in Q4 — thanks to all those unsold Google TV devices.

A Series of Setbacks

When we first saw Google TV, we gave Google credit for its ambition. However, we also had a warning for the search giant: get the user experience right at launch. Otherwise, it risked alienating potential users.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Reviews were lackluster. Users complained about a complicated user experience and an array of bugs. Google delivered an update last month to fix some of these problems.

In December, we heard a rumor that Google would use Android 3.0 to fix Google TV. What we’re hearing now is Google TV will merge with Android Honeycomb and Gingerbread to create one multifaceted OS. This should make system updates and Android app development a simpler process. It could also be the start of the development of Android apps for Google TV, a major potential selling point.

Google’s Options

Google and its partners are far from giving up on their TV project. For one thing, there isn’t one major rival dominating the space. Connected TVs were a hot ticket at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the market is young and there isn’t a clear winner yet.

The search giant will have a second chance to breath new life into Google TV at its Google I/O conference in May, the same place it first introduced the product and the company’s best shot at sparking new interest in the platform.

So what might Google be able to do to lift Google TV sales and save it from Google Wave’s fate?

First of all, it can go all-in with Android, rallying developers to create amazing apps for the TV screen. Being able to use your favorite Android apps on the big screen — especially games — could be the selling point the search giant needs to get people interested.

Secondly, it can work with its partners to reduce the price. Apple TV costs $100, the Boxee Box retails for $190 on Amazon, and the Roku costs only $59 at Best Buy. The Logitech Revue, which originally retailed for $299, still costs $230 on Amazon. While Google TV is definitely a different product than Apple TV or the Roku, consumers are bound to shy away when they see the price difference.

To distance itself from the negative sentiments that linger around Google TV, the company may feel the need for some kind of public relaunch, with a fresh look and feel to the device. Call it Google TV 2.0. After all, it took multiple releases of Android before the Google phone OS began to gain traction.

Regardless of the strategy, if Google can’t get its TV engine roaring soon, partners and developers may start abandoning the platform — and there is no recovering from that.

More About: Apple TV, boxee, Google, google tv, logitech, Logitech Revue, Opinion, roku

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

April 18 2011

RIP Yahoo Buzz

Yahoo Buzz, once an attempt to counter aggregation sites, like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon, is being discontinued.

Yahoo announced the move on its Yahoo Buzz site Monday. “This was a hard decision,” the company wrote in its post, which notes that the site will shut down on April 21. “However this will help us focus on our core strengths and new innovations.”

Yahoo reps could not be reached for further comment.

Introduced in February 2008, Yahoo Buzz was presented as a “new way for you to tell us (and the world) what you think is cool,” according to a blog post at the time. For a while, Yahoo Buzz buttons, similar to Digg’s or (later) a Facebook “Like” button, appeared widely on editorial content outside of Yahoo’s network. The idea was if you liked a story or blog post, you could “Buzz Up” it and then Yahoo would present a list of the most-Buzzed items on a dedicated site. By May 2008, comScore reported that Yahoo Buzz had more monthly unique visitors in the U.S. than Digg.

Yahoo’s bid to be a social news aggregator, however, never quite coalesced. The reason: The marketplace seemed to favor Facebook, Twitter and one more — maybe Digg or Reddit. Over time, Digg lost its influence and even Google failed to get much traction with a similar platform called Google Buzz.

“I think in any market, there’s always room for three — one dominant, second-based and the third is a niche type of player,” says Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. Owyang adds that Google’s inability to crack the market is a function of the company’s size. “Google has gotten so big, it’s hard for them to be as nimble. Yahoo is the direction Google is heading if they can’t become nimble again.”

Others blame Yahoo’s execution. “I think [Yahoo Buzz] was far too confusing and muddled,” says Erik Martin, community manager for Reddit. “The users were never sure what was at the top because it was from a Yahoo site, what was at the top due to actual user voting, and why the Yahoo editors selected some links to be featured on the Yahoo homepage and didn’t promote others.”

Rick Liebling, director of digital strategy at Coyne PR, says Yahoo initially had a chance to make Buzz a standard, but its undoing came from its lack of innovation. “I frequently used Buzz when it was first introduced, but as other services with similar features were introduced, Yahoo Buzz never seemed to develop into something more/different,” Liebling says. “We’ve seen now that constant iteration is the key to success.”

More About: digg, facebook, google buzz, reddit, twitter, yahoo buzz

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March 30 2011

Google Settles With FTC Over Buzz Privacy Issues

Google has agreed to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission charges that its social network, Google Buzz, violated the company’s own privacy policies and used deceptive tactics when it launched in 2010. The proposed settlement, announced Wednesday, requires the search giant to implement a privacy program and undergo regular privacy audits for the next 20 years.

The FTC’s main complaint is that Google used information collected from Gmail users to generate and populate Google Buzz. It automatically enrolled users in some features of the network regardless of whether they opted out, and an auto-follow option automatically added Gmail users’ most-emailed contacts as publicly visible friends on the network.

Within four days, complaints about these features had persuaded Google to make significant privacy changes, and the company later settled a related class action lawsuit lawsuit for $8.5 million.

Google’s privacy statement at the time said, “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.”

The FTC alleges that Google violated this policy by misrepresenting its opt-out option. Even those users who responded that they didn’t want to use the service or used a “turn off Buzz” option were enrolled in some features of the social network.

Similarly, a “How do you want to appear to others?” section falsely indicated that consumers could control what information was shared when the auto-follow option made their Gmail contacts public by default.

Wednesday’s settlement requires Google to establish and maintain a “comprehensive privacy policy” that will stipulate methods for protecting its users’ privacy and data. The company will also be required to hire an independent auditor to examine those efforts every two years for the next 20 years.

“Essentially Google must demonstrate how it will maintain reasonable privacy protection for each piece of information they collect from consumers for the next 20 years,” explained Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press conference call.

This is the first time the FTC has mandated such a program. In addition, Google will be required to ask users to opt-in every time it makes a change to one of its products that may result, as Google Buzz did, in sharing their data with third parties.

If the company violates any of these terms, misrepresents its privacy policies or misrepresents its compliance with the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework, it will be fined $16,000. That penalty might not sound like much for a company with a current market cap of $187 billion, but in the past, the FTC has counted each consumer affected by a company’s violation or each day the violation occurred as a separate violation.

“This is a legal agreement and goes beyond voluntary compliance,” Rich said.

More About: FTC, Google, google buzz, privacy

For more Social Media coverage:

February 13 2011

HANDS ON: MiMedia Backup Now Shares With Facebook, More

Storage and backup service MiMedia has added the ability to link to backed-up photos, music and videos from 16 different social networks. At the same time, it lets you send photos directly to Facebook from their backup location in the cloud. I had a chance to try out the new features, and here’s my review.

I’ve realized over the past couple of months I’ve been testing MiMedia that this is more than a mere automated backup service, saving a copy of all of my important files every night. It also lets me access my backed up data and play music, view photos and use it from where it sits in the cloud.

MiMedia has an unusual approach to getting your files from home to cloud, first mailing you a hard drive on which you put all the files you’d like backed up (unfortunately, it’s PC-only for now). After an easy transfer routine of about 25GB of my most important files, I simply placed MiMedia’s hard drive back into its postage-paid packing case and returned it to the company. A few days later, I went to my portal on the MiMedia site, and there were my files, backed up in the cloud with no lengthy transfer necessary. That would’ve taken a long time even with relatively fast broadband service.

Once the files resided on my portal on MiMedia’s servers, I noticed how easy it was to view photos and listen to music I had stored there. MiMedia it doesn’t break digital rights management (DRM), so you won’t have much luck with protected content, but for MP3s, the web-based music player works beautifully. It wasn’t as good for viewing videos, many of which were so large it was hard to view them in a practical amount of time.

So what’s new about it? The latest innovation has a “Share” button that lets you select an item and then share it directly to your Facebook account. It’s a simple matter of logging into Facebook from the MiMedia portal, giving MiMedia the necessary permissions, and then sending your photos directly from the cloud onto a new or existing Facebook album. You can’t do that with video yet, but MiMedia says that’s on the way.

For other social media services, MiMedia lets you connect to them and share a link. For example, if you’d like to share photos on Twitter, select a photo or album, and MiMedia helpfully inserts a link into a tweet for you, linking visitors to a slideshow inside your MiMedia portal. It’s efficient — I like the way there’s no need to transfer photos anywhere else after you’ve already placed them on your backup drive.

The company has set up 16 different social media sites for sharing: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, Friendfeed, Mixx, Delicious, Bebo, AOL Lifestream, Blogger, Yahoo Buzz, and MySpace.

With these refinements, MiMedia moves closer to an ideal cloud-based media viewing and backup space. Make it Mac-friendly and give it Dropbox-like undelete and versioning features, and it’ll be practical for a lot more users. For now, the service is a good value for $5 per month for 25GB of storage, $10 for 100GB, $20 for 250GB and $35 a month for 500GB.

Facebook Sharing

Create a new album on Facebook, or put photos into an existing one.

Send it to Facebook

Here are three photos on their way to a Facebook gallery.

On Facebook

Your photos end up on Facebook.

Share using a link

Picvk your service, and share a link back to your MiMedia portal for a photo or video.

Link to a Video

To share a video? Place a link on a social feed, and your viewers vcan watch the clip on your MiMedia portal. This doesn't work well with large clips yet.

More About: backup, cloud, facebook, media player, MiMedia, review, social networks, twitter

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

December 28 2010

Tech’s Biggest Win, Flop and Surprise of 2010

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

In 2010, we got the iPad, the Nexus One and Nexus S, the Facebook Open Graph, Gmail Priority Inbox, the fall of Digg, the iPhone 4 (and Gizmodo controversy), Google’s acquisition of ITA, the WikiLeaks phenomenon and the ascension of Mark Zuckerberg.

How’s that for an eventful year in tech? And this list only scratches the surface of tech’s biggest stories. But while many companies rocked the tech world in 2010 (in both good ways and bad), only a few companies can lay claim to creating tech’s biggest win, its biggest flop and its biggest surprise.

So which products and companies top the list? After browsing the Mashable archives and pondering the question over many cups of tea, I have come up with my list for tech’s biggest win, flop and surprise, along with runners-up in each category.

As I am not the end-all for what’s hot in tech, I expect many people to disagree with my picks, so I encourage you to challenge my choices in the comments with what topped your own list.

Tech’s Biggest Win of 2010: Apple iPad

The past year was the year of Facebook and Apple. Both companies grew by leaps and bounds, increased their valuations by billions of dollars and made a significant impact on the world.

Only one, however, established an entirely new market that it now dominates with an iron fist. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t even been a year since Apple launched the iPad, a device that has turned the tablet form factor into a must-have. Apple is expected to sell 13.3 million iPads this year, up from… well, up from zero iPads in 2009.

It’s not just the fact that Apple single handedly created a new multi-billion-dollar revenue stream, but that it’s redefining all of computing. Notebook sales have dropped since the iPad’s introduction. Apple accelerated the rise of HTML5 with its tablet device at the expense of Flash. Its influence is already affecting countless web apps. Oh, and it’s redefining the meaning of “mobile.”

Apple isn’t done, though. The iPad 2 will arrive in the next few months, and its difficult to find any circumstance where it wouldn’t extend Apple’s supremacy over the market it created.

Runner-up: The Facebook “Like” Button

It took Facebook just one week to get the “Like” button on 50,000 websites. Now 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook every day.

Few things have permeated the web as quickly as the Facebook Open Graph and its ubiquitous “Like” button. In 2010, Facebook gained reach and interest data at a scale that has Google running scared.

Tech’s Biggest Flop of 2010: Google Buzz

Google Buzz doesn’t top my list of biggest tech flops because it had a spectacular crash-and-burn event, nor does it top my list because, along with Google Wave, it exposed the search giant as a mortal company with many flaws.

No, Buzz’s failure tops my list because of the vast repercussions it will have on both Google and the web.

With the exception of YouTube, Google has failed at social. Blogger, Orkut, Dodgeball, Picasa, Jaiku, Google Friend Connect, Google Latitude, Google Wave, and Google Knowl have either been shut down or dominated by upstart competitors like Foursquare, Facebook, WordPress and Twitter.

With Google’s biggest attempt at social now a mere afterthought, nothing stands in Facebook’s way. The social network will eventually surpass its Silicon Valley rival both in terms of net worth and dominance of the web. Google will become the next Microsoft, profitable but unable to grow, and Facebook will become the next Google whose influence will be felt for years to come.

Runner-up: Microsoft Kin

Microsoft wrote off $240 million in costs due to the abysmal failure of the Kin phone, but it likely cost the company far more than that. Interesting in concept, a wave of bad decisions led to its quick destruction.

Now Microsoft will try to wipe that failure from its memory with Windows Phone 7, the company’s challenger to the rise of Android and iPhone. It’s off to a slow start, but Microsoft has made it clear that it is in the mobile game for the long haul.

Tech’s Biggest Surprise of 2010: The Rise of Groupon

In April, Groupon was worth $1 billion. By November, it was worth $6 billion. In other words, the group-buying website’s average value is growing by more than $20 million in value per day. That makes it the fastest growing company in history.

Chew on that one.

Groupon now has more than 3,000 employees selling brands on the daily deal business model. And business is booming. Now the company is shooting for greatness after turning down Google’s $6 billion offer. The eventual Groupon IPO will be the most anticipated public offering since Google (unless Facebook beats them to the punch).

Nobody could have predicted that Groupon and the group buying business model would explode like it did in 2010, not even Groupon’s founders. Local business and advertising has been changed forever by the flood of daily deals that now permeate the web. And remember this: We have yet to see the limits of the Groupon phenomenon.

Runner-up: HP, Mark Hurd and Oracle

HP was on track for record profits and a big push into mobile through its acquisition of Palm. Then CEO Mark Hurd shocked the tech world with his resignation after a sexual harassment scandal that played out for weeks in the tech press.

Then Oracle CEO Larry Ellison brought Mark Hurd on board as co-president, sparking a fight between Oracle and HP and bringing their rivalry to a whole new level.

Oh, and who would have guessed HP would choose former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker as its new CEO? We certainly didn’t.

Bonus Surprise/Flop: Digg’s Total Implosion

After writing this post, I had to add an honorable mention to the list: The dramatic fall of Digg from the social web’s graces.

Remember when Digg was one of the web’s biggest traffic referrers? Remember when Digg users could take down a website or create a major controversy?

Those days are over. In its place is a new version of Digg that its users hate. The heavy competition between publishers for the front page of Digg is gone, replaced by the rise of Twitter, Facebook and other social news tools.

Digg gambled and it lost big. Now the company is just trying to survive. It’s a dramatic change from just a year ago, when it was one of the kings of the social media universe.

Reviews: Android, Apple iPad, Digg, Dodgeball, Facebook, Google, Google Buzz, Google Wave, Jaiku, Mashable, Orkut, Picasa, Twitter, Wikileaks, Windows Phone 7, WordPress, YouTube, blogger, foursquare, google friend connect

More About: apple, Column, digg, facebook, Facebook Like, Google, google buzz, groupon, HP, ipad, mark hurd, Opinion, oracle, Social Analyst, tech

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December 17 2010

Win Xbox 360 With Kinect, “Guitar Hero” & 22 Tech Prizes in Today’s MashPack [GIVEAWAY]

‘Tis the season and Mashable has been getting into the holiday spirit by showcasing some of our favorite wish list items in the Mashable 10 gift guide.

But what spreads holiday cheer more than the gift of giving? That’s why we’ve been giving away a MashPack filled with awesome social media and tech prizes every weekday during the past two weeks. Since it’s our final day of the giveaway, today’s collection of prizes is the biggest and best yet.

Today’s grand prize is the coveted Xbox 360 with Kinect and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Other big prizes include a myTouch 4G and E-Ink watch. You’ll find a list below detailing the 22 other fantastic prizes in today’s MashPack — and see information on how to win. Yesterday’s MashPack went to Jason Williams from St. Louis, Mo. (Congratulations, Jason!) For those who haven’t won yet, today is your last chance. Good luck!

Happy holidays from Mashable!

How To Win The Final MashPack

Tweeting for today’s MashPack will end Monday, December 20 at 12 p.m. ET. Please use your real identity in the submission so that we may contact you via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook to let you know that you’ve won. We’ll contact the winner after the contest closes. The contest is limited to those 18 and older in the U.S. For contests and prizes, also make sure to “Like” us on Facebook.

Xbox 360 With Kinect

Kinect brings games and other media to life with pure motion. Once you wave your hand to activate the sensor, your Kinect will be able to recognize you and access your Avatar. Then you’ll be able to jump in and out of different games, and show off and share your moves. You become the device controller as you direct which movies and music are played with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice. Technology evaporates with full-body play, getting you off the couch and engaged in the entertainment experience.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock sends players on an epic journey to save rock n’ roll. The set list has more than 90 tracks, plus the option of adding songs from previous Guitar Hero games. You’ll find a new set of gameplay features, including the first-ever Quest Mode, which allows players to build an army of rock warriors. It comes with a redesigned guitar controller for the ultimate rocking out experience.

T-Mobile myTouch 4G

Today’s grand prize is a myTouch 4G Android phone. The new myTouch features a 3.8-inch WVGA display, a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, an 8 GB microSD memory card, and a 5-megapixel camera capable of recording 720p video. It was designed by HTC, and it runs the latest version of Android: 2.2. It also has a second, front-facing camera and video calling capabilities, as well as Wi-Fi and HSPA+ connectivity. The myTouch 4G has made a name for itself in Hollywood with pop star Pink and her husband Carey Hart, both fans of the phone.

Phosphor E-Ink Watch

Phosphor’s new World Time Curved E-Ink digital is on the cutting edge of time telling devices. It has a dual time zone display and provides a selection of 24 time zones. This means you can chose one of the 24 zones for the main display, while displaying a second time zone simultaneously. The watch can also be configured to display just the time of day or both the date and time in either over-sized or conventional-sized segments. There are five total display options. It’s curved case is sleek and ultra-thin, measuring 9.3mm thick. The Phosphor World Time Curved E-Ink watch’s assortment of different functions and display modes can’t be beat!

Sony MHS-TS10 Bloggie Touch HD Camera

Sony’s Bloggie Touch camera captures Full HD video and 12.8-megapixel still shots with the simple touch of its single record button. The large touch screen showcases your photos and videos, which are stored on built-in memory. Its size makes it readily available from your pocket or purse, and you can easily upload your photos and videos to your favorite social networking sites while you’re on the go.

Aperion Audio: Audio Link

The Home Audio Link (HAL) by Aperion transmits high-quality uncompressed audio up to 100 feet. This means you can stream music from your computer, home theater, MP3 player or any other audio source to almost any speaker system in your home — wirelessly! With additional HAL receivers, you can stream a single audio source to up to three listening zones, giving you true whole-house audio without running wires across rooms.


The iPom from Speakeal is a 2.1 stereo speaker system that plays music from a USB Memory stick, SD cards or any other music device that has a 3.5mm output, such as an iPod. You can adjust the volume and which song you’re listening to just by touching the device. It has three speakers that are strategically positioned for 360 degree sound separation and distribution. Bass is adjustable and the airflow design is optimized for consistent sound performance. It has a 3.5mm AUX input jack to connect to your TV, gaming Console, MP3 player or other music sources. It comes in several colors for brightening up your listening experience!

Griffin Technology PowerDockDual

Your iPad and your iPhone (or your iPod) get seats of honor in PowerDock Dual’s built-in charging dock, while the valet dish is a resting place for your change, keys and whatever else might live in your pockets. It has an AC power supply with four international plug adapters, 10 watt (2 amp) charging for your iPad and 5 watt (1 amp) charging for your iPhone or iPod. The screens and speakers are unobstructed while the batteries get charged, so you can listen while you watch. It’s perfect side table entertainment!

Griffin Technology AirCurve Play

The AirCurve Play acoustically amplifies the speaker of your iPhone without batteries, cables or electricity. It collects the sound from the built-in speaker of your iPhone, amplifies it in a built-in coiled waveguide, and projects it out into the room. AirCurve’s transparent polycarbonate body lets you appreciate the waveguide’s graceful curves, inside, that do all the work. Its internal engineered waveguide requires no power, making it a perfectly portable audio/video conference phone, and self-contained music player and video viewer.

Caseable Custom-Designed Mashable Laptop Case

Caseable, a startup based right in Mashable HQ’s backyard — Brooklyn, New York, creates handmade, customized cases for just about any size laptop or tablet. You can get any look you’d like by handpicking your colors for each detail — even the zipper! Caseable made specialized 15-inch Mashable cases exclusively for our holiday MashPack winners. They’re quite snazzy, if we might say so ourselves.

Picaboo Madison Photobook

Picaboo photo books can be fully customized by dragging-and-dropping photos and captions anywhere on your pages. You have complete creative control with powerful-yet-simple editing options. The Madison’s heavyweight, archival quality lay-flat pages are ideal for highlighting panoramic, two-page spreads, and the paper’s pearlescent sheen coating adds a luminous glow to your photos. The elegant custom cover features a photo of your choice under a protective laminate and a full-grain glove leather wrap around the spine and back cover is available in five colors.

Skullcandy Earbuds

Skullcandy headphones are known for their funky fashion and durable design. Their style is in line with an impressive list of celebrities who endorse the brand, including rap czar Snoop Dogg; snowboarding legends Terje Haakonsen, Mark Frank Montoya and Devun Walsh; skate pros Lizard King, Theotis Beasley and Greg Lutzka; surf rulers Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, Kolohe Andino, the Gudauskas brothers, and Clay Marzo; as well as free-ski greats Tanner Hall, Kaya Turski, and Tom Wallisch.

Merkury Innovations Universal Square Stereo Speakers

The Universal Square Stereo Speakers are just one example of Merkury Innovations’ fun and stylish electronic accessories. These battery-free speakers will work with audio devices featuring a 3.5mm audio jack. The slim design and exciting metallic colors can complement any decor. Their compact size make them convenient for toting from room to room in the house or packing up for a friend’s party.

Ben Folds’ Lonely Avenue Deluxe Album

Lonely Avenue contains 11 new songs featuring music by Ben Folds with words by Nick Hornby for what The Huffington Post calls “one of the most interesting collaborations of the year.” This special deluxe edition includes the album on CD and vinyl, four short stories by Nick Hornby and 15 images by acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz, all in a hardbound, 152-page book.

Hard Candy iPad Case

Hard Candy Cases merges fashion and function to distinguish and protect mobile phones and now tablets from the wear and tear of daily use. It’s one of the fastest growing brands in the Apple accessories industry with distribution in the United States, Singapore, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, France, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Indonesia, Ireland, UK and Malaysia, among others.

ZAGGsparq 2.0

The ZAGGsparq 2.0 is a mobile device charging unit that plugs into a standard outlet and provides two USB ports to plug devices into. When it’s unplugged, the ZAGGsparq 2.0 carries four complete recharges, so even the most power-hungry smart phones can live on while you’re on the go. It can be used for just about everything portable and chargeable, be it a cell phone or a hand-held gaming device. It also works with iPad, bringing it from 0% to 60% at the same rate as the iPad wall charger.

Desk Pets Skitterbots

The Skitterbot is a speedy legged robot that travels at one foot per second and is controlled by a unique patent pending five button USB remote controller/charger. Made by Desk Pets, it moves forward, backwards, turns left and turns right and stops. The Skitterbot comes in four different colors and four different frequencies, so they can race, battle and explore together. Thirty minutes of charge gives you 15 minutes of play.

Power Support USA iPad Leather Sleeve

Constructed with premium quality leather, the Power Support USA iPad sleeve protects while complimenting the aesthetics of the device. The sleeve’s soft inner lining prevents scratching while using this sleek carrying case. Its clean design and superb manufacturing techniques make for high-quality iPad protection.

Power Support USA iPhone 4 Anti-Glare Films

Power Support USA films protect your iPhone 4 screen from scratches, dirt and dust while reducing glare, fingerprints and smudges. It’s specially formulated to be compatible with retina display and resist glare and fingerprints while protecting your screen. The static cling adhesive film leaves no residue if film is removed.

Power Support USA iPhone4 Designer Collection Cases

Power Support has teamed up with cutting-edge designers Tibi, Rachel Pally and Rory Beca to create a set of super stylish air jackets. Measuring under 1 mm, the jacket snugly hugs the back of your iPhone 4. You can keep your phone protected from dings and scratches while looking fashionably fresh with the Power Support Designer Collection. It’s a win-win for any iPhone 4 owner!

Smartfish ErgoMotion Laser Mouse

The Smartfish ErgoMotion Laser Mouse isn’t your average desktop mouse. It provides the fluid, air-like comfort of the patented ErgoMotion pivot system. The mouse pivots with your natural wrist movement for comfortable and relaxed flexion, preventing cramping, fatigue and injury while promoting comfort and productivity.

Like and Dislike Stamps

Preloaded with ink good for 5,000 assertions, the Like and Dislike stamps let you make your opinion known on tangible things in real life. The idea for the stamp was born in summer 2010 after a joke image of a wooden-handled “Like Button Stamp” circulated on the web. Soon after, the Jailbreak Collective and Nation Studio in the U.K. collaborated to create real Like and Dislike stamps. It’s a formidable duo of approval and distaste.

Twournal Twitter Journal

Twournal allows you to create, buy and sell Twitter books printed from your tweets. All Twournals have color covers, can include replies and Twitpic/Tweetphoto/Yfrog pictures in color or black and white. You can choose a custom picture for your front cover. Select which tweets you want to start and end at. And you can add a dedication message to appear after your title.

More About: contest, giveaway, guitar hero, Holiday, kinect, mashpack, prizes, xbox

December 12 2010

YouTube Tops 2010’s Most Buzzed-About Social Network List

YouTube has come out on top in a ranking of 2010’s most buzzed-about websites and social media services.

This year was the year of video- and photo-sharing; 2010 saw the rise — in volume and positive mentions — of YouTube and Flickr and the fall of some of the first social networking sites.

The Zeta 2010 Buzz Awards measures the mentions of 125 of the top social media sites to determine not just popularity but how people feel about those sites, too.

“We held a mirror up to the social media world and try to get an understanding of what people are saying about the various social networking sites,” said Al DiGuido, CEO of Zeta Interactive, a digital marketing agency in New York City.

People seem to be saying good things about YouTube and Flickr. The blogosphere spoke positively about YouTube 91% of the time and about Flickr 98% of the time. Those positive mentions, along with the sites’ volume of mentions, landed them in the top two spots on the list.

“Flickr was very, very strong in terms of volume ranking but even stronger in terms of tone. That’s the highest number we’ve ever seen in terms of positive ranking in this category,” DiGuido said.

Craigslist, Friendster, MySpace Drop From the Top 10

Some of the first sites for networking online have fallen from the most buzzed-about list. Craigslist, which was ranked fifth in 2009, and Friendster and MySpace, at the ninth and tenth spots respectively last year, didn’t make this year’s cut.

“If you look year over year, sites that have had problems with security, like Craigslist, Friendster and Myspace, these sites have kind of all dropped off from 2009. It shows the rising stars in terms of social networking sites and those that are on the wane… in the number of people at least speaking about them,” DiGuido said. “If you’ve got issues with security and privacy, you’ll deal with it pretty directly with how people are talking about it. People want to feel their information being exchanged is secure. Big mistakes will be aired in the marketplace.”

Although Facebook still made its way onto the list, security concerns dominated the buzz about the world’s largest social networking site. “Security,” as well as “information” and “safety,” were some of the words most often used in association with Facebook, which ranks sixth on the list.

Facebook’s mentions were just 68% positive.

Groupon, StumbleUpon, Google Buzz Make the Cut

Newcomers to the list include Groupon, StumbleUpon and Google Buzz.

It’s been said before that 2010 has also been the year of the daily deals, and Zeta’s data seems to support that statement.

“Groupon’s coming on real strong,” DiGuido said. “We’ve been watching a lot of different verticals, brands, commercials in the last couple years, and this year is the year that deals — sites focused on deals, value, saving money — are going incredibly strong. Groupon has totally captured the social networking world.”

Google Buzz rounded out the list at the number-ten spot, but it had the second lowest tonal rating with just 68% positive.

Newbie StumbleUpon, on the other hand, had a whopping 94% positive mentions. Words most often used in association with the site include “advice,” “recommend,” “web/site,” “new,” and “original.”

Here’s the complete list of this year’s top 10 most buzzed about sites. Were you surprised by any of the findings? What changes do you predict for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More About: craigslist, eHarmony, facebook, flickr, friendster, google buzz, groupon, linkedin, Match.com, myspace, stumbleupon, twitter, youtube

For more Social Media coverage:

October 21 2010

5 Superior Social Media Management Tools [Mashable Awards]

Mashable Awards Image

As part of the ongoing Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Social Media Management Tool.” Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas! Sponsorships are available. Please contact sponsorships@mashable.com for more information.

social media management imageSo many statuses, so little time. As the popularity of social media continues to grow, so too do the number of networks to update and monitor. Whether you’re keeping track of personal Facebook and LinkedIn profiles or juggling 25 company Twitter accounts, it’s becoming tougher and tougher to keep up.

Luckily, tools to help you manage a growing social sphere are popping up just as frequently as new networks. Some work best for maintaining multiple accounts on one site while others consolidate your web presence across many networks. No matter what type of user you are, there’s likely a tool (if not several) that can make your online social life a little easier.

Here are five social media management tools that can make your life easier. What do you use to keep track of multiple social accounts? Let us in the comments below.

1. One Person, Many Networks

TweetDeck is your best (and free) bet if you’re looking to manage all your personal social media profiles. TweetDeck allows you to connect across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google Buzz. You can update all or just a few with the same status at one time.

The design is clean, user friendly and even makes some networks more fun. For example, it integrates Google Maps into your Foursquare feed, visualizing your friends’ checkins. You can also view photos and videos from within the tool.

As you might have guessed from the name, TweetDeck is best at managing Twitter accounts. It makes the experience more customizable by organizing feeds, mentions, messages and searches across columns.

TweetDeck is probably best when dealing with four or five accounts at a time (whether that be all Twitter accounts or a mix of the other networks it supports). Though the dashboard is generally easy to use, it can get bogged down if your streams have a lot of activity, making it difficult to keep up with updates and engagement.

Also worth checking out: Seesmic

2. Personalize Business Replies

CoTweet is an excellent tool for small businesses or divisions of larger businesses that spread social media duties among team members and have a customer-service approach to engagement.

Like many SMM services, CoTweet allows updates and follow-up messages to be assigned to specific social media managers. This can make responses more relevant as team members with certain knowledge bases can handle appropriate questions and comments from followers. The responder’s initials are included at the end of the tweet, letting the follower know there’s a person behind the handle.

What’s different about CoTweet is its OnDuty status, which notes who is responsible for social streams at a certain time. Aside from organizing your SMM schedule, it allows for more passive monitoring. The person on duty can receive e-mails when something needs to be acted on, freeing him or her up to go to meetings or take calls while remaining aware of social media activity.

CoTweet supports Twitter and Facebook and recently launched an iPhone app. The Standard edition is free and allows up to six Twitter accounts. The Enterprise version costs $1,500 a month but you can request a free demo.

Also worth checking out: Postling

3. All Monitoring, All the Time

Small to medium-sized businesses that have one or two dedicated social media managers should try HootSuite. Its free version allows you to add five networks and supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, PingFm and WordPress.

HootSuite is best for actively-managed accounts because its design focuses on streams, which are housed in customizable tabs. You have the flexibility to organize tabs by account, network or content, making it easier to monitor a specific type of feed more closely.

One of the greatest benefits of social media is finding out more about your audience. HootSuite takes this to the next level by providing a follower’s bio and Klout score along with links to his or her social media profiles. You can also create lists of followers you want to keep a closer eye on and increase engagement with.

Stats in the free version don’t give you much information, but paid subscriptions offer Google Analytics integration and unlimited insights. Pricing starts at $5.99 a month and maxes out at $1,998.99 a month for the Enterprise package plus vanity URL service.

Also worth checking out: Scroon, Buddy Media

4. Analyze That

spredfast image

For agencies managing social media for several companies with high ROI demands, SpredFast has everything you need.

Its biggest advantage over other SMM tools is analytics. Measurement is determined by the amount of content distributed, how many people were reached and whether the intended audience was engaged. Spredfast integrates analytics from clicks by tracking bit.ly links as well as data from each social network. This information is formatted in presentation-ready graphs, which is ideal for agencies bringing clients up to speed on outreach progress.

Most useful is Spredfast’s benchmarking feature. Managers can compare social campaigns to other strategies in the industry or to the same type of campaign as it was run in another industry. As businesses continue to experiment with social media as an outreach tool, this context answers key questions about how to best leverage each network.

These first class analytics come with a hefty price tag; Plans range from $12,000 to $1 million a year.

Spredfast began as an in-house tool and went public in January 2010, then made a name for itself at Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW. The latest version launched on Friday. Though the Austin, Texas startup has some big endorsements, it’s always good to be wary of the risks that come with investing in a newer company.

Also worth checking out: Radian 6, Objective Marketer

5. Big Business Made Easy

engage121 image

Franchise companies looking to maintain consistent messaging while giving local branches a hand in social media strategy should give Engage121 a shot. Though its competitors are few, Engage121 is best in its class at encompassing monitoring, broadcasting and engagement.

The tool is incredibly customizable and can support just about any site with a social presence. Corporate managers can create a company-wide promotion message and use mail merge to broadcast it with a local store’s name and address. Permissions may be set to allow a branch to approve a message from corporate before it is distributed to area followers, maintaining a local voice and brand consistency at the same time.

With the amount of buzz around big-name brands, monitoring and engagement are particularly challenging. Engage121 simplifies these with customized filters, giving managers total control over what types of messages they see. Just underneath each message is an engagement button. When clicked, a very user-friendly interface pops up where managers can easily respond to followers’ messages or start conversations with social media influencers.

Engage121 CEO Jon Victor said the analytics component measures social media in about 100 ways, depending on the different stats useful to corporate divisions and local branches. Pricing also varies with business needs. Individual stores generally pay $25 per month with a separate charge to corporate. If the company incurs the total cost, the price tag ranges in the thousands, depending on the number of outlets, Victor said.

Because virtually every aspect of the tool is customizable, you should have a strategy in place before jumping into Engage121. Its functionality seems endless and could be overwhelming without a set social media objective.

Also worth checking out: Valuevine

What’s Your Take?

Which of the above tools has worked for you? Are there any social media management tools that you could recommend for personal use? Business?

Let us know in the comments or nominate them for the Mashable Awards.

The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)

In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)

Register for Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage (Las Vegas - 2011 International CES convention) [Ticketed Event] in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

Thanks to our sponsors:

Mashable Awards Gala Partner:

cirque logo From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now a global entertainment organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has over 5,000 employees, including more than 1,200 artists from close to 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to nearly 100 million spectators in 300 cities on five continents. In 2010 Cirque du Soleil, will present 21 shows simultaneously throughout the world, including seven in Las Vegas.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com

Mashable Awards Online Partner:

The Fresh DietHave you ever wished for your own personal gourmet Chef?

The Fresh Diet is like having a Cordon Bleu chef prepare your meals in your own kitchen. There’s no cooking, cleaning, shopping – just fresh prepared delicious meals, hand delivered to your door daily! Whether you want to lose weight or just want to eat healthy, The Fresh Diet can help you meet your goals. The best news, we’re giving away a FREE week of The Fresh Diet every day on our Facebook page. Just click here to become a fan and you could be the next winner. Join now!

Mashable Awards Gala VIP Lounge sponsor:

Influxis image

Influxis specializes in the deployment of creative streaming solutions. Services include large scale deployment, mobile streaming, turn-key applications, and enterprise support with custom network options. With the unique combination of a worldwide network, knowledgeable developer support and nearly a decade of streaming media experience, Influxis is an essential partner to businesses, advertisers, developers, educators, and others who seek expertise in innovative streaming.

Sponsorships are available. Please contact sponsorships@mashable.com for more information.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sodafish

Reviews: CoTweet, Facebook, Foursquare, Google Analytics, Google Buzz, Google Maps, HootSuite, LinkedIn, Mashable, MySpace, Seesmic, TweetDeck, Twitter, WordPress, foursquare, iPhone, iStockphoto

More About: cotweet, engage121, hootsuite, List, Lists, mashable awards, mashable awards 2010, social media, social media dashboard, social media management, social media tools, spredfast, tweetdeck, web apps

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September 03 2010

Google Settles Buzz Privacy Lawsuit for $8.5 Million

Google has agreed to pay a hefty sum to make a class action lawsuit concerning Google Buzz disappear — $8.5 million, to be exact.

The lawsuit dates back to February, when lawyers filed a class action complaint against Google on behalf of Eva Hibnick, a 24-year-old Florida resident and Harvard Law School student. The complaint alleged that Buzz violated several communication privacy laws related to protecting user privacy.

Google Buzz caught a lot of flak for its auto-follow and opt-in features, so much so that Google quickly made privacy fixes after launch. They weren’t enough to quell the criticism though, so Google launched a privacy reset for Buzz, giving users a new opportunity to adjust their privacy settings.

According to the settlement, these changes addressed the key privacy issues surrounding Buzz. “Google has made changes to the Google Buzz user interface that clarify Google Buzz’s operation and users’ options regarding Google Buzz,” it stated.

That’s not all, though. While the settlement acknowledges that Google Buzz’s privacy issues have been resolved, it says the company must do more to educate users about Google Buzz’s potential impact on privacy. The $8.5 million from the settelement will go towards lawyer fees (30%) and the seven named plaintiffs (up to $2,500 each), with the remainder going towards organizations and non-profits focused on Internet privacy.

Now that the privacy issues have been settled, Google can focus on a more important problem: actually producing a winner in the social media space.

[via AFP]

More About: Googl, google buzz, law, lawsuit, privacy

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August 18 2010

You Like? Facebook Makes Updates To Its “Like” Button

Facebook is rolling out updates to the design of its popular Like Button, which now looks similar to the newly introduced Tweet Button. The revamp also provides a subtle yet noteworthy change in the button’s usability.

The button now displays the “Like” count to the right of the icon in its own box, instead of floating on its own. Clicking prompts a thumbs-up image to appear, alongside a count of the number of people who have Liked it. Before, the button would turn a dark blue and the language would change to “Unlike.” This changes the user experience, because now it’s a bit trickier for a user to Unlike something, which makes the Like a bit more solidified.

The option to take back your Like still exists, although it only appears when you hover over the thumbs-up icon. Depending on whether the Like button has an integration to also show the faces of friends who have also Liked the piece of content (such as in this post), the response to a user hitting the Like button is different. With the faces feature integrated, the option to Unlike a post gets pushed to the right, and the button transforms into a Facebook icon, also giving you the option to comment on the post.

The new design seems to resemble the compact versions of the new Tweet button and Google Buzz buttons. This may be welcome news for designers, providing them with a uniform design that could reduce some of the clutter created by a plethora of differing share buttons. It could also provide a better user experience, making it easier for them to share via multiple channels.

New Like Button

Post-Like Button

More About: facebook, google buzz, like, like button, sharing buttons, sharing tools, social media, social plugin

For more Social Media coverage:

August 16 2010

Why Location-Based Social Media Needs to Get “Passive” Aggressive

Location Apps

Jesse Thomas is the CEO and Founder of JESS3, a Creative Interactive Agency. JESS3 designs products and experiences for brands like Google, Nike, Facebook, MySpace, C-SPAN, Microsoft and NASA.

Ten years ago, Seth Godin predicted the demise of “interruption marketing” and the rise of “permission marketing.” His idea was that intrusive advertising, like traditional television commercials, were on the way out, and that inclusive methods were on the rise — not just product placements, but customer loyalty programs, rewards and quid pro quo agreements that required some level of trust between the business and customer. He’s been right.

But we’re still being interrupted in new ways, and one I’ve been thinking about lately is Foursquare. And I’d like to predict the demise of “interruption checkins” and the rise of “permission checkins.”

Stopping whatever you’re doing to check-in when you arrive at a location is just lame. If you’re arriving at a happy hour, you might lose a conversation while you’re busy tapping away. If you visit a store, you’ll be standing just outside or inside and getting in the way until you’ve checked-in. The active checkin requirement is one thing holding back location-based social networks (also called “geosocial” networks) from widespread adoption. (According to Forrester, only 4% of Internet users have ever used them.)

Passive Checkins: Are We Excited Yet?

GPS technology, as it currently works, can determine where I am, accurate to about my current neighborhood. But let’s say you’re in the Empire State Building, with many stories above or below. It doesn’t know whether I’m on the first floor or the 100th.

Other technologies are trying to solve this problem. Cell tower triangulation probably won’t, but in big cities, wifi triangulation might. No matter the solution, one is necessary for smart, passive checkins. More advanced systems could also guard against “cheating” because they would keep you honest: Your phone is like your IP address. If we can find smart ways to stop fictional checkins, this in turn will make rewards and prizes for loyalty more relevant.

One of the main obstacles in Foursquare’s usability is that it actually takes a while to update. If you were to be “OnGrid,” you would be checked-in or asked to be checked-in if you are at a place for more than 15 minutes, but could tweak whether you wanted to be “findable” or not. The next step, once you have approved the checkin, would be whether you would push this information to Facebook and/or Twitter. The option would of course exist to be easily “OffGrid,” if you don’t want to be found.

This feature would also make a lot of sense for “swarming.” A swarm is a proactive thing, one of the cornerstones of social networking and a real payoff for geosocial. If a predictive system was implemented, the service could then know when to expect a swarm and how many people would likely be there — data that would be extremely valuable for a variety of businesses.

What we want is a passive geosocial experience, and we don’t care who brings it to us. Foursquare is a big player here now, but alone they don’t have all the pieces to make a truly useful and satisfying service. That’s why other startups are trying to fill the gap, such as Future Checkin and Shopkick. These companies and others may hold pieces of the puzzle, but they’ll only be role players in the overall solution.

Who Can Play?

Facebook and Google have a real opportunity here, as does Microsoft. Facebook seems to have the best ecosystem of companies with locations, though they currently lack a location system. But let us propose that they give everyone a “Locations” tab, and any time someone checks into a geosocial service, whether it’s an eventual Facebook-native service or not, this information is pushed to Facebook.

Any future service along these lines should look something like Dopplr — an early and unappreciated entrant into geosocial networking that helps you plan trips in advance. If a Dopplr-like service was part of your Facebook Locations tab, that location would be pre-saved and pop up when you are in proximity to it to facilitate checking in.

Checkins: The Game of Strategic Conquest

Facebook can’t be a player in this game without a major partnership. They certainly have the best social graph in the business, and it’s absolutely the company’s most valuable asset. But to make this work, Facebook needs a mapping service, and through their existing partnership with Microsoft, they may have one available.

Because this kind of service works especially well for live events like concerts, there is a very real opportunity for MySpace to get in on this, as well. Twitter has also started to geotag tweets, and a future version of the service may have tweets mixed with geosocial checkins, plus a tab to show just geosocial check-ins.

The part of the equation that could help both Google and Facebook (with the help of their Microsoft partnership) change the geosocial game is the use of content-rich maps. Google had the right idea with Latitude, although it was certainly ahead of its time. Maps are an important part of the war and will be a key weapon in the arsenal of whichever geosocial model comes out on top.

Although Google has taken its knocks for having trouble in the social space, they are the only player with a sophisticated social graph (Gmail, Buzz) and the ability to place social information on a map (Maps, Local and Latitude).

And when they do, it should be built on your Google account — that is, your Gmail address. If this sounds like Buzz, which was poorly received, you’re thinking too narrowly about these tools. It’s not always about sharing information with your friends; it’s also about organizing information about your friends. What’s important here is not that others see your social graph, but that you have access to a more powerful social graph — that is to say, your address book.

The Future is (Almost) Here

This post is based in part on a slideshow I produced about the failings of Foursquare and the missed potential of geosocial services. Since publishing it, several new mobile players have appeared that address some of the issues I have discussed above.

August 09 2010

July 20 2010

Google Launches Buzz Firehose

Today, Google has announced the launch of the Google Buzz firehose, which will give developers access to all public activity published on Buzz via a single feed with real-time PubSubHubBub syndication.

Google said the firehose was their most-requested features from developers. We’re also guessing that Google’s been eating their own dogfood, since they just launched Buzz results in Google Social Search a couple weeks ago.

In the announcement post, Google highlighted the pretty and mostly useless We Feel Fine-esque Buzz Mood, an app that parses Buzz updates for emotion-related verbs then relays them to the viewer with snappy, slide-y animations.

Partners for the firehose launch include some familiar names in the real-time space; both Collecta and OneRiot have integrated the firehose into their real-time search results, and Boulder-based social data firm Gnip was also among the first companies to use the Buzz firehose.

Buzz might not be the biggest source of currently available social data, but adding its firehose to a wider mix of real-time social update data can help expand and refine and application’s results.

Google is also releasing a few new API features today; users’ comments, users’ links and share counts will now be available via their respective feeds.

What do you have to say: Will you be using the firehose API in any of your applications? What do you find interesting or exciting about this development?

Reviews: Google

More About: api, firehose, google buzz

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June 30 2010

Keep Your Social Media Connections Organized with Cliqset 2.0

Social networking service Cliqset has just released what it is dubbing Cliqset 2.0, giving the service a pretty solid overhaul in the process.

Cliqset is a website that lets you manage multiple identity streams in one interface, making sharing and discovering information more manageable. The new release brings in a completely refreshed dashboard, stronger Twitter integration, support for Foursquare and Status.net, and an easier way to find and follow users.

Cliqset can integrate with more than 70 different social services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, LinkedIn and dozens of others. You can pull in and push out content from your social networks.

Full Twitter Integration

Cliqset has always had strong support for Twitter, but it now supports the Twitter API at nearly every level. Every Twitter feature, save user lists, are natively supported by the site. That means your @replies and direct messages, as well as Trending Topics, are all viewable and accessible within Cliqset.

It also means that when you reply to a tweet in Cliqset, it will automatically show up on Twitter as if you are replying with any other client. That makes your Twitter experience a lot more seamless altogether.

Additionally, you can easily view all of the replies to another user’s tweet in your stream and easily follow or unfollow users all from within Cliqset.

The improved Twitter integration also extends to signup. You can now sign up for Cliqset with your preexisting Twitter, Facebook, Google or Yahoo account, eliminating one more barrier for membership.

Better User Discovery

Perhaps the best new feature of Cliqset is that finding and following users is now much, much easier. In the past, the biggest problem I had with Cliqset and similar services was that in order to get any added value, my friends needed to be Cliqset members. Unless I just fed in a syndicated (and thus, non-interactive) feed of content, I could really only communicate with my Twitter or Facebook friends who had also signed up for Cliqset.

That’s now changed. Because of the way Cliqset interacts with Twitter and Google Buzz, you can now search for users across the entire social web and start following them from Cliqset, even if they don’t have a Cliqset account. If that user does sign-up for Cliqset later on, Cliqset is smart enough to consolidate that connection and allow access to Cliqset-specific features.

This is great news because coupled with an easier sign-up process, it means that the site is now infinitely more accessible for finding people and interesting topics.

More Support For More Services

Cliqset supports the Salmon API and messaging system so that you can send a message to anyone who is using a Salmon-enabled service, like Status.net. That means you can create private, customized messages that are sent out to a variety of users from different account types.

Cliqset now also supports geolocation and you can use it to directly check in to Foursquare. In your Cliqset stream, you’ll see an embedded map of your location updated to your stream and that info will also be pushed out to Foursquare.

Plans for the Future

I asked Cliqset CEO Darren Bounds about the company’s plans for mobile devices, and he told me that Cliqset is focused on bringing a HTML5-optimized mobile site to devices like the iPhone, the iPad and Android. However, Cliqset has also just updated its API, meaning that developers can build mobile or desktop apps based on Cliqset’s new features.

I think a mobile-optimized site for Cliqset is a great idea and I hope someone takes up the cause to create a Cliqset mobile client. In its current implementation, Cliqset offers a lot of value for users who want a way to aggregate various streams without losing out on ways to actually use those services.

Moving Forward

We like the direction the new Cliqset is taking. By making it easier to sign up and improving integration with other services like Twitter for discovery, Cliqset is now offering a lot of value that separates it from many other services. The fact that I can find and follow Twitter or Buzz users who don’t use Cliqset is huge. We hope that sort of integration continues with other services like Facebook, because it’s a feature that makes Cliqset infinitely more usable and useful.

The content and social aggregation game first kicked off by FriendFeed and expanded to a certain degree with Google Buzz is still evolving, but solutions like Cliqset provide a nice real-time, web-based alternative that truly does make managing many social connections easier and less noisy.

What do you think of the new Cliqset? How do you organize your presence on and use of multiple social networks?

Disclosure: Cliqset is a past Mashable sponsor.

Reviews: Android, Cliqset, Facebook, Foursquare, FriendFeed, Google, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, Mashable, Twitter

More About: cliqset, facebook, friendfeed, google buzz, social aggregation, social media tools, twitter

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