Microsoft to launch ‘Green X’ Campaign

5 11 2007

Microsoft has reportedly teamed up with 15 partners to launch an online scavenger hunt called “X Marks the Spot.” Microsoft will be giving ten clues daily from November 5, 2007 to December 10, 2007. If you find all of the devices you will be entered into a drawing to win over $100,000 in prizes. But don’t believe my word, check it out to see the exact prizes.

 Check it out yourself!

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Apps Already Coming for Google’s New OpenSocial

3 11 2007

A day after MySpace and Google sent shockwaves through the Web 2.0 world, third-party developers already are announcing plans to build applications using their jointly developed social network APIs.

MySpace and Google announced Thursday that they had joined forces

to create a set of APIs that can be used to by third parties to create social applications on a variety of sites.

Plaxo, for example, Friday unveiled new dynamic profiles that support Google’s new OpenSocial APIs. Users of Plaxo’s Pulse social network can now create distinct professional and personal profiles that include photos, contact information and privacy settings. Any applications written to the Google OpenSocial APIs can be embedded in the profiles, Plaxo said.

The impetus behind OpenSocial, Google said, was to allow developers to learn one API and then be able to write a social application for any OpenSocial partner site. “And because it’s built on Web standards like HTML and JavaScript, developers don’t have to learn a custom programming languages,” noted Amar Gandhi and Peter Chane, group product managers at Google in a blog post.

Google estimates that more than 200 million users of the Web sites that have committed to OpenSocial, like MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn, will have access to these applications.

“Perhaps most interestingly, we will see social capabilities move into new contexts,” the two noted in the blog. “OpenSocial will also work in nontraditional social contexts, such as on Salesforce.com and Oracle. With a common set of APIs, it will be even easier to extend social functionality. Beyond the many fun and entertaining social applications we already have seen, we think we’ll see a number of social applications emerge in business contexts.”

Marc Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape (later acquired by AOL in 1998) blogged that OpenSocial dispels the common assumption held by some that Facebook has established unquestionable dominance in the social networking world. He noted that while many people assumed in the mid-1990s that AOL owned the Web because it had amassed tends of millions of users, it lost its dominance when broadband became widely available and people no longer needed a dial-up ISP.

“I am not predicting the death of Facebook,” Andreesen blogged. “I think the Facebook people are brilliant and are going to do very well over the next several years. But the idea that you hear from time to time that ‘all the users are on Facebook’ and ‘the game is over; the Facebook platform has won’ is silly, as you can see every time you use a web site that doesn’t end in aol.com.”

Andreessen, of course, founded Ning, a company that allows users to build their own social networks and is an OpenSocial partner. Ning plans to make OpenSocial applications available to all of its 113,000 social networks later this year or early next spring, the company said. OpenSocial applications will run inside social networks across Ning, the company said.

“All of the partners finalizing and releasing all of the initial OpenSocial container and application implementations, of course,” Andreessen noted in his blog. Everyone can just smell the opportunity, and people are going to drive to ship as quickly as possible.”





Facebook’s Stock options

1 11 2007

Cash is good, and Facebook, following its $240 million investment from Microsoft, now has plenty of it. It might have much much more if reports prove true that other investors have, or will soon, join in. With those lofty sums, Mark Zuckerberg and his crew can hire armies of programmers, build data centers, acquire other startups and do whatever else they need to do to make the company grow.

There’s at least one way, however, in which the fallout from this blockbuster financing round could hurt: it will make Facebook’s stock options — the main financial incentive to work at any Silicon Valley company – much less attractive. Options, of course, give the employee the right to buy stock at a given price. That price will go up significantly for options granted to new employees following Microsoft’s investment and Facebook’s jump in valuation to $15 billion. That means that options granted from now on will be less valuable than those the company awarded before the financing round.

Jim Breyer, a Facebook board member, declined to comment on the specifics of the financing or the valuation of employee stock options. But he said Facebook was likely to remain attractive to many recruits. Read the rest of this entry »





Google’s OpenSocial is not a Facebook killer

1 11 2007

For the last year, Sergey Brin has been campaigning at Google with the slogan “features not products” in an attempt to reduce the sprawl of the company’s eccentric creativity.

This campaign may have gone too far, at least when it comes to Google’s new OpenSocial initiative. Google’s new programming interface that allows social networks to communicate with applications is a nifty add-on feature, but it’s not a product. And thus it doesn’t compete with Facebook, despite the dozens of blog posts that say it does.

I can’t believe OpenSocial, in itself, can revive Google’s Orkut social network, which is moribund most everywhere except Brazil. That said, if there are developers who write applications in Portuguese, Orkut could become even more popular and more widely used in Brazil than it already is.

Think about Facebook. If you like Facebook, it’s still because of its core features — the way it lets you communicate and keep tabs on your friends. If you like any of the new applications, it is because on the margin they let you do what you already like doing a bit better. You can throw a sheep at someone instead of poking them. I haven’t seen a Facebook application so compelling that you would join Facebook just to use it.

The frenzy about open platforms misses an essential truth: no one will go through an open door if there isn’t something worthwhile on the other side. The best example of the sort of platform that works is Google Maps. It is a powerful, flexible way to display geographic information. When combined with interesting data, the results can be compelling. (Here is the Los Angeles Times’s wildfire map. Here is a blog with many more examples.)

Social networks do have interesting data that could be used in a mashup application: Profiles of members, and links that define the relationships between members. But this data is only useful if the network has deep penetration of the people users care about. I can see why Marc Andreessen’s Ning, which helps create custom social networks for little league teams and such, might find OpenSocial useful. Read the rest of this entry »





Google leads group assault on Facebook

1 11 2007
The search engine and its allies will offer a single, cross-site open platform, hoping to lure developers away from Facebook

Google and some of the world’s largest social networks have launched their most aggressive attack yet on Facebook, their young rival.

An alliance of companies led by the search engine is planning to introduce a set of common standards that will let software developers write programs for Google’s social network, Orkut, and others such as LinkedIn and Friendster.

The strategy draws inspiration from a feature introduced by Facebook earlier this year, which enables outside developers to write applications for the site, which can then be downloaded and shared by Facebook users.

A cross-site, open platform will, Google hopes, be more attractive to developers than Facebook, and siphon off some of the momentum from the rapidly growing site, for which more than 5,000 applications have been written since it opened its platform in May. Read the rest of this entry »





Verizon shows off its future tech

1 11 2007

BASKING RIDGE, N.J.–Intelligent services are on the way for Verizon Communications customers as the company expands its fiber-to-the-home and 3G wireless networks.

Imagine how much easier life could be if your phone company’s network was smart enough to route your messages to the device you’re using right now, freeing you from keeping track of independent and separate e-mail, SMS, and instant messaging accounts.

Or what if you could start playing your favorite game, Bejeweled, on your PC and then continue playing the same game without interruption on your cell phone as you leave the house to commute to work.

For Verizon customers, services such as these may be just around the corner. Last week, Verizon invited several members of the press to its development facility here, where Chief Technology Officer Mark Wegleitner and his team of executives showed off how some of these innovative services might work.

While many of these services are technically possible today, none is offered yet by Verizon. Executives were careful not to make big promises, but the applications and services they’re showcasing are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new services that are possible using Verizon’s all-fiber network called Fios and the newly expanded 3G wireless network of its joint wireless venture with Vodafone, Verizon Wireless. Read the rest of this entry »





Mac OS X vulnerable? Trojan horse on the move

1 11 2007

Security software firm Intego is warning Mac OS X users today about a trojan horse that targets the Mac. OSX.RSPlug.A is showing up on pornography sites disguised as a movie. When someone clicks the link to watch the video clip, a Web page states that a new QuickTime codec must be installed. Opening the disk image that downloads results in the installer asking for an administrative password (which is the first serious sign of trouble); if the option to Open “Safe” Files After Downloading is enabled in Safari, the image opens automatically (you should disable that feature in Safari; see “Significant Safari Exploit Discovered,” 2007-09-07).

Once given root access, the trojan changes the computer’s DNS settings to point to phishing sites or ads for other pornography sites. Even if the DNS is reset manually, a background task added by the trojan changes the DNS again automatically.

Rob Griffiths at Macworld has written up instructions for removing OSX.RSPlug.A manually; Intego’s VirusBarrier X4 with updated virus definitions for 31-Oct-07 also identifies and removes the trojan. Griffith writes: “This is really bad. Really. And even though it’s targeted at porn surfers today, the malware could easily be associated with anything else, like a new viral video site, or a site that purports to show commercials from the upcoming Super Bowl.”

As always, the best defense against such attacks is to not install third-party software that you’re not familiar with, especially any that require an administrator password. Although the Mac has proved remarkably resilient to the threat of viruses and other malware, it’s not immune.