Archive for January, 2011

Blekko Bans Content Farms Like Demand Media’s eHow From Its Search Results

January 31st, 2011 01:57 admin View Comments

Blekko, the perky little search engine startup that lets you customize your search results, is taking the fight against web spam to a new level. It already allows searchers to mark results as spam and keeps a spam clock that counts how many spam pages are on the web (743 million and counting). Now it is about to block content farms like Demand Media’s eHow and Answerbag entirely. The top 20 sites its users have marked as a source of web spam will now be blocked (see full list below).

Concerns are rising that spam is increasingly taking over search results. So much so that Google recently vowed to become more vigilant and downgrade content farms specifically in search rankings.

Now Blekko is going to do one better and ban the worst offenders entirely. Here is the list of banned sites:

Your move, Google.

Source: Blekko Bans Content Farms Like Demand Media’s eHow From Its Search Results

London Stock Exchange Was ‘Under Major Cyberattack’ During Linux Switch

January 31st, 2011 01:16 admin View Comments


An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Computerworld UK: “The London Stock Exchange’s new open source trading system may have been hacked last year, according to a report. The alleged attack came as the LSE began the switch over to the Linux-based systems, according to the dates referred to in the Times newspaper. The continued threat of cyber attack has resulted in the LSE keeping a close dialogue with British security services, which this year branded cyber attacks as one of the biggest threats to the country. There were major problems on the exchange on 24 August, when stock prices of five large companies collapsed.”

Source: London Stock Exchange Was ‘Under Major Cyberattack’ During Linux Switch

Deals Juggernaut Next Jump Hires a CFO, Looks To Add 100 Engineers In San Francisco

January 31st, 2011 01:10 admin View Comments

Groupon gets all the attention, but another deal juggernaut that should be on your radar is New York City-based Next Jump. The company runs group discount shopping programs for 90,000 corporations and organizations, and powers MasterCard’s loyalty rewards program. Investment bankers are sniffing around.

Merchants offer deep discounts through Next Jump as a way to acquire new customers (read my initial profile for more info). Last November, Next Jump started to let people buy things with loyalty points as well. Its 60 million active shoppers are now spending 100 million loyalty points every month (each loyalty point is worth a penny, so that comes to $1 million a month). Before November, they were only burning through about 1 million loyalty points per month. CEO Charlie Kim believes that combining deep discounts with loyalty points is the best way to keep consumers coming back for more.

Next Jump is on a hiring spree. It just hired its first chief financial officer, ex-Googler Angus Kelsall, who used to run Google’s international businesses in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Another new addition to the executive team is Andrew Beranbom (he once ran Yahoo Shopping), who will take on the roles of chief social officer and VP of products. It acquired Y Combinator startup Flightcaster for its talent and plans to hire about 100 more engineers in San Francisco, mostly mobile. They will work under Sandeep Gupta, Next Jump’s chief mobile engineer it nabbed from Yahoo last summer.

Mobile shopping apps are going to be a huge area of concentration for the company this year. Next Jump CEO Charlie Kim derides most mobile shopping apps as either being meer extensions of websites (eBay and Groupon) or “built for the wrong audience—men not women.” He is looking to change that equation.

Source: Deals Juggernaut Next Jump Hires a CFO, Looks To Add 100 Engineers In San Francisco

Apple Reportedly Blocks Sony Reader App, Could Foreshadow War With Amazon Kindle

January 31st, 2011 01:08 admin View Comments

This evening the New York Times published an article titled Apple Moves to Tighten Control of App Store. An alternative title, should the report prove accurate, could be, Apple Underscores The Downsides Of Its Closed Platform. Really, things look like they are going to get nasty.

According to the report, Apple blocked Sony’s e-reader application from the iPhone and mandated that it would need to sell content via In-App purchases:

Apple told Sony that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.

The move could affect companies like and others that sell e-book readers that compete with Apple’s iPad tablet and offer free mobile apps so customers can read their e-book purchases on other devices. An iPad owner, for instance, has not needed to own a Kindle to read Kindle books bought from Amazon.

The implications here could be huge, particularly for Amazon.

Amazon’s Kindle platform has proven to be very popular, and not just because of the millions of Kindle hardware devices that Amazon is selling. In addition to the dedicated e-reader, Amazon has developed applications for a slew of devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android, desktop computers, and more. And while the platform isn’t open in the same way that Google Books is, it’s still very convenient and far more flexible than Apple’s iBooks, which is only available on the iPhone and iPad.

In fact, at this point there’s no reason to buy books through iBooks when you can just as easily download Amazon’s Kindle app from the App Store, which has access to a larger catalog of books, and lets you read those books on more devices. But instead of beating Amazon on price or features, it looks like Apple might just cut them off. Or force them to use in-app payments, which give Apple a 30% cut and would kill Amazon’s margins.

I’m sure Apple apologists will be quick to back their logic here. Of course they don’t want competitors selling premium content through channels that Apple doesn’t control — otherwise Amazon or Google will start selling movies and TV shows and music through their own media stores. Of course Apple wants its cut of all content that is sold on iOS devices. And then there’s the magazine publishers, who will surely cry foul if they have to run their purchases their Apple but the e-book vendors don’t.

But the fact that Apple is apparently changing the rules so late in the game is unnerving. Sony, Amazon, and others have already built these applications and have developed their strategies under the impression that they would be able to sell their own content. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have gotten used to jumping between reading on their iPhone and Kindle device depending on if they’re sitting in their living room or on the subway. That’s the beauty of this one-platform-multiple-device approach.

Perhaps Apple will grandfather existing applications (namely, Amazon’s Kindle app) in under the existing rules. But I can’t think of a time that’s happened on iOS. And Apple hasn’t been afraid of pulling the rug out from competitors before — Google Voice was rejected for arbitrary reasons in summer 2009 (it was accepted a few months ago), and who can forget Apple’s decision to block all apps developed using Adobe CS5 (which it later reversed course on).

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment.

Source: Apple Reportedly Blocks Sony Reader App, Could Foreshadow War With Amazon Kindle

China Starts Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project

January 31st, 2011 01:18 admin View Comments


greg_barton writes “The Energy From Thorium blog reports, ‘The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology. It was announced in the Chinese Academy of Sciences annual conference on Tuesday, January 25.’ The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor is an alternative reactor design that 1) burns existing nuclear waste, 2) uses abundant thorium as a base fuel, 3) produces far less toxic, shorter-lived waste than existing designs, and 4) can be mass produced, run unattended for years, and installed underground for safety.”

Source: China Starts Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project

33Needs Brings Crowdsourced Funding To Social Startups

January 31st, 2011 01:48 admin View Comments

The crowdsourced funding craze is picking up steam. Tonight we see the launch of 33needs, a site where socially-minded startups can raise initial seed funding from individual contributors on the Web. It is Kiva meets Kickstarter.

Social startups post their “needs” in terms of how much money they are looking to raise, what problems they are going to solve and how they are going to do it, along with a video to help spread the word virally. People can invest $10, $100, $1,000 or more, and in return instead of getting shares in the company, they get a promised percentage of revenues for a specified period of time like 5 percent of revenues for three years.

The startups seeking funds are for-profit ventures, as is 33needs. Some of the launch startups include Emergent Energy Group, which wants to bring renewable energy projects to different communities in the U.S., and HalfUnited, a new clothing company which feeds hungry children with part of its profits (see video below).

33needs itself takes a 5 percent cut of any money raised, and nothing if the goal is not met. Generally, thee social startups are trying to raise anywhere from $50,000 or more get their businesses off the ground. They all try to mix profits with creating social good, which increasingly also resonates as a marketing strategy to consumers who want to feel like they are making a difference in the world. Whether or not they actually are is a different matter, but the most enduring social startups will end up being those who create a measurable impact.

The company was founded by Josh Tetrick, a social entrepreneur and former Fulbright Scholar who worked in Africa and for President Clinton. He doesn’t see 33needs as a replacement for angel or seed capital, but rather as a launching pad for ideas that may otherwise never have made it beyond a dinner conversation. “It’s a launching pad that builds fans, breeds a loyal base of people who’ll buy your stuff and use your product,” he argues. “There is so much pent up demand to invest in this stuff—not donate, but invest.”

But using crowdfunding to help start companies, as opposed to microloans for projects (Kickstarter) or people (Kiva), sets a higher bar. These require more money than a simple project. One of the key learnings from Kickstarter, for instance, is that small projects can grow into full-blown startups, but they don’t have to (watch this interview with Kickstarter founder Perry Chen). With 33needs it will be all or nothing. So the startups better make their pitches really good.

Source: 33Needs Brings Crowdsourced Funding To Social Startups

Real Estate Community RentJuice Gets $6.2 Million From Tim Draper And Highland Capital

January 31st, 2011 01:05 admin View Comments

RentJuice, an online community that allows real estate agents and brokers to view rental data in real time is announcing its Series B round of $6.2 million in funding today, led by Highland Capital and esteemed Draper Fisher Jurvetson founder Tim Draper.

While not consumer facing, RentJuice is still useful to consumers as it can provide a broker with up to the minute data on whether a given property is available, thus preventing inaccuracies. It gives brokers “one-click syndication” or the ability to automatically post properties to consumer real estate sites like Craigslist, Trulia and Zillow. RentJuice also offers premium accounts where users can upgrade to features that automate administrative work like lead gen, advertising and paperwork.

RentJuice attempts to disrupt the days it usually takes for landlords to complete paperwork and manually fax over hotsheets to agents and is focused on speed. Said CEO David Vivero, “With this capital, we can speed up development of our real-time rental platform and make it available to property managers and leasing agents all across the country.â€

RentJuice will also be using the money to expand its staff, and is currently hiring.

Source: Real Estate Community RentJuice Gets $6.2 Million From Tim Draper And Highland Capital

Err, Call Me: Vumber Gives You Throw-Away Phone Numbers For Dating, Work

January 31st, 2011 01:33 admin View Comments

By now you’ve probably heard of Google Voice, a service that lets you take one phone number and configure it to ring all of your phones — work, mobile, home, whatever — with plenty of settings to manage your inbound and outbound calls. But what if you wanted the opposite: a service that lets you spawn a multitude of phone numbers to be used and discarded at your leisure? That’s where Vumber comes in.

The service has actually been around for four years, but it was originally marketed exclusively toward people on dating sites. The use case is obvious: instead of handing out your real phone number to strangers, Vumber lets you spin up a new phone number, which you then redirect to your real phone. Then, when your date reveals that he hates animals and has lived in his mother’s basement for a decade, you can simply deactivate the number. Around 30-40% of the service still caters to online dating, but Vumber can be used for other things.

Cofounder Cliff Wener says that some of Vumber’s biggest customers are advertising agencies that use it to assign different phone numbers to regional ad placements in print media, so that they can track the response rate (this isn’t unique to Vumber — other firms that cater exclusively to advertisers offer similar features). Beyond these two examples, Wener says it’s tough to track down the more niche use cases, because the whole service is anonymous, and you don’t have to tell Vumber what you’re using a phone number for. But it’s not hard to come up with some creative ideas.

The service works with just about any phone, and it’s now bolstering its smartphone presence to streamline its interface. An application is already available for iOS, with an Android app coming next month and SMS support on the way as well.

Vumber isn’t the only service that lets you set up a secondary phone number — Line2, which we’ve covered before, does as well. But Line2 is really catering to users who just need one extra number, not a slew of them. Vumber costs $9.95 per month for your first number, with additional numbers available on a sliding scale starting at $3.95 (you can negotiate bulk discounts).

Vumber raised $2.5 million in private capital before the company was acquired by video chat community Paltalk in November 2009 for an undisclosed sum.

Source: Err, Call Me: Vumber Gives You Throw-Away Phone Numbers For Dating, Work

Last Available IPv4 Blocks Allocated

January 31st, 2011 01:13 admin View Comments

The Internet

stoborrobots writes “Following on from APNIC’s earlier assessment that they would need to request the last available /8 blocks, they have now been allocated 39/8 and 106/8, triggering ARIN’s final distribution of blocks to the RIRs. According to the release, ‘APNIC expects normal allocations to continue for a further three to six months.’”

Source: Last Available IPv4 Blocks Allocated

Google Dethrones Nokia As Top Seller Of Smartphones

January 31st, 2011 01:33 admin View Comments

Android has passed yet another milestone in its race to the top: With 32.9 million handsets sold globally this last quarter, it has ousted longtime champion Nokia (with 31m) for the title of most popular smartphone OS maker in the world. It’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, of course, since Nokia also makes its own handsets, but quibbling aside, the toppling of such an iconic mobile company is no small event.

The numbers don’t seem to include tablets, though it recently transpired that even the top-selling Android tablet sales were, to quote Samsung, “quite small.” We won’t see the Honeycomb effect until later in 2011. But it seems as though Android still has nowhere to go but up — that is, if you consider downmarket “up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Source: Google Dethrones Nokia As Top Seller Of Smartphones