Facebook Responds to Google+ Features, Unveils Smart Lists

  • Facebook has unveiled improvements to its “friends” lists with a new feature dubbed “Smart Lists” that automatically generates friend groups so that users no longer need to manage their own lists.
  • The improvement — which follows the lead of popular Google+ features — is currently based on categories that create lists based on workplace, school, family and city. “For example, if a user lists their college on their profile, Smart Lists will automatically find all their friends that did the same, and group them together for easier sharing of content between them,” reports CNET.
  • While the social networker has previously made list creation available, the company explains that users complained about “how time-consuming it is to organize lists for different parts of your life and keep them up to date.” These improvements should address this concern. Facebook also points out that users can still manually add or remove friends from their lists.
  • Additionally, a new “Close Friends and Acquaintances Lists” component has been added. The option allows users to categorize friends into either their “Close Friends” list or mere “Acquaintances.” The distinction will help funnel updates through the news feeds; users will see all updates from close friends and just important updates from acquaintances.

Nielsen Report Details the Rise of Social Media: Companies Take Note

  • Americans currently spend more than 22 percent of their online time engaged with some form of social media, indicates a new report from Nielsen.
  • According to the research company’s “State of the Media: The Social Media Report,” these networkers spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May of this year (following Facebook was Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter and LinkedIn).
  • With 70 percent of users now shopping online, social media has become a crucial tool for many companies, says Nielsen executive Radha Subramanyam. “Social media is becoming increasingly mainstream,” she notes, and as a result, “there’s a need for companies to engage even more strategically in the space” than they already do.
  • It is interesting to point out that in regards to the Facebook tracking, 62 percent of the visitors were females. Additionally, while more women than men were reported to watch video clips on blogs and social networks, men streamed more videos and spent more time actively watching them.

Facebook Doubles Revenue: The New Operating System for Online Ad Delivery?

  • Facebook’s revenues have doubled the first half of 2011 to $1.6 billion, putting the social network on course to possibly earn $4 billion this year.
  • “It’s simply too late for anyone, perhaps even Google, to create a social network that can compete with Facebook,” writes Robert Hof in a related story.
  • Reuters suggests this news underscores the social networker’s appeal to advertisers. “We really see Facebook as becoming like the operating system for delivering ads on the Internet,” said Dave Williams, CEO of Blinq Media.
  • Williams added that Facebook’s “like” feature, that now helps endorse products and companies, provides valuable data that other online services can’t match.
  • “Companies like Yahoo are relying on third party user behavioral data based on things like cookies. On Facebook that’s data that users have revealed about themselves,” he said.
  • “The price that companies pay for every consumer that clicks on a Facebook ad increased 62 percent between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011, according to Efficient Frontier, another firm that helps companies deliver ad campaigns on Facebook,” reports Reuters.

Music Integration: Will Facebook Become an All-In-One Social Media Hub?

  • Facebook has informed media executives that it will begin allowing online music services such as Spotify and Rdio to publish user activity on Facebook pages and could allow music playback without leaving the site.
  • The announcement is part of Facebook’s efforts to become a social center for media including music, games and movies.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal: “CNBC reported Wednesday that Facebook was working to create a music platform. In response, Facebook said: ‘Many of the most popular music services around the world are integrated with Facebook and we’re constantly talking to our partners about ways to improve these integrations.'”
  • Facebook was reportedly encouraged to pursue the music plan following success with social games such as “FarmVille” by Zynga Inc. The social media site is also integrating movies through deals with the likes of Warner Bros.

Security: Facebook Pays $40,000 to Hackers in Bug Bounty Scheme

  • Facebook has already paid out $40,000 to hackers for identifying flaws in its website, just three weeks after the social networker launched its “Bug Bounty” program that offers compensation for finding vulnerabilities in the site’s code.
  • “Schemes such as Facebook’s illustrate the push towards greater disclosure of security weaknesses and hacking incidents, as the technology industry strives to pool its resources to protect itself better,” reports The Financial Times. “The approach has won praise from digital advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”
  • “The program has also been great because it has made our site more secure — by surfacing issues large and small, introducing us to novel attack vectors, and helping us improve lots of corners in our code,” explained Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer.
  • Facebook joins others such as Google, Mozilla and HP that have programs in place to offer payments to outsiders who identify vulnerabilities.

Samsung ChatON: Do We Need Another Instant Messaging Service?

  • Samsung is poised to release its own free mobile messaging service.
  • ChatON is designed to simplify mobile communication by connecting users on all major smartphones. It will support Bada, Android, BlackBerry, iOS and PCs.
  • “The idea is to enable users to communicate instantly with each other using any mobile phone, along with sharing hand-written notes, images, and video,” reports Digital Trends.
  • “Samsung has vastly simplified mobile communication by allowing users to connect to our upcoming feature phones and all major smartphones in the market,”said Samsung’s media solution center chief Ho Soo Lee. “Users around the world can now enjoy easier and richer interactivity with whoever they want, in the format they want — this is mobile communication reinvented and democratized.”
  • ChatOn will have an aggressive launch, initially available in more than 120 countries in 62 languages. Digital Trends reports that it will boast a wide range of social services including interaction with Facebook and support for conversation windows, photos and videos.

Flipboard Hopes to Integrate Video with its Social Media Magazine

  • Palo Alto-based Flipboard plans to add film and TV to its social media magazine platform. Flipboard is currently available only on the iPad, but an iPhone version is expected to launch in a few weeks.
  • Reuters reports that the company “hopes to cut deals with studios to carry movies and episodes of TV shows, getting into territory staked out by Netflix, Hulu and Facebook.”
  • Mike McCue, chairman and chief executive of Flipboard, explained he will begin the video project at the end of this year and also hopes to sell electronic books.
  • Flipboard’s service takes a cut of the revenue from advertising. “We’re trying to create the largest company possible,” said Danny Rimer, general partner at Index Ventures, a Flipboard investor. Reuters points out: “Rimer believes display advertising revenue’s migration online is ‘a very big opportunity.'”

Miramax is the Latest to Offer Facebook Movie Rental App

  • Miramax is following in the footsteps of Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal by making its films available on Facebook.
  • The Miramax eXperience will initially offer 20 titles in the U.S. and 10 each in Great Britain and Turkey (available films include “Good Will Hunting,” “Spy Kids,” “Chicago” and “Cold Mountain”).
  • Movies will be made available for 30 Facebook credits (equivalent to $3) and can be viewed on Facebook, the iPad and Google TV.
  • Miramax hopes to build its reach to 150 million+ Facebook friends in the next 18 months.
  • “The iTunes-like nature of Miramax’s Facebook movie rentals (i.e. per-movie charge, rather than a subscription fee) could prove very effective,” reports Social Times. “A lot of online movie watchers aren’t ready to commit to a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu Plus. Renting a single movie from Facebook may be more their style, and a $3 movie rental sounds like a pretty good deal, if you ask me.”

Flingo Sync Apps Provide the TV That Watches You

  • Flingo, a new San Francisco-based startup, says its technology can watch what you are viewing on TV and with your permission present you with relevant Web content.
  • “Any mobile app or Web page being used in front of your TV can ask our servers what is on right now,” says David Harrison, cofounder and CTO of Flingo. “For example, you could go to Google or IMDb and the page would already know what’s on the screen. Retailers like Amazon or Walmart might want to show you things to buy related to a show, like DVDs, or what people are wearing in it.”
  • Additionally, social sites such as Facebook or Twitter would be able to connect viewers to a TV show’s official page or stream.
  • A major TV manufacturer will build Flingo’s Sync Apps into their TVs, which will reportedly retail for less than $500.
  • Flingo has relationships with CBS, Fox and MTV.

Andrew Losowsky Examines Reading In Four Dimensions

  • Andrew Losowsky, books editor for The Huffington Post, has released “Reading in Four Dimensions” (available as a 99-cent Kindle Single) — a fascinating essay on the future of publishing and how the Internet has impacted the reading experience.
  • Many of us are publishing in new ways via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. Readers are interacting with these “works” in a kind of social reading environment, which changes the way stories are written and read.
  • Physical books will get better, but there will be fewer of them. Books do not change like Web entries that become features and can travel with you like a time machine that catalogues the thinking of that time.
  • The TechCrunch post includes a video interview with Losowsky that addresses key points from his essay, including “how print brings permanence to digital publishing, how the concept of ‘publishing’ has translated online and the value of paper books in our increasingly digital world.”

Google+ Games: Should Facebook and Apple be Nervous?

  • The introduction of games to Google+ potentially threatens both Facebook (which also has games) and Apple (which takes a 30 percent cut versus Google’s 5 percent).
  • Google+ sees games as being core to their mission: “We don’t consider ourselves experts at making compelling games, but we can bring a lot to the party,” explains Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product for Google+. “There were some internal debates about whether Google was well-suited to have games in our repertoire and what is the value of games to the users. There’s tremendous value for users. They provide a way for people to connect, discover and interact with each other… We don’t see games contrary to our mission, or a diversion. We see them as being core.”
  • If HTML5 unifies the Web and mobile, it could become possible “for software to be written once and run across multiple devices.” And if Google+ games were to run via a browser on the iPhone or iPad, this could be an additional concern for Apple.
  • What do you think? Should Facebook and Apple be nervous?

Boxee iPad App Aggregates Video Content from Social Feeds

  • Boxee launched a free iPad app this week that aggregates video content from social feeds such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
  • If the user has the Boxee Media Manager client on a Mac or PC, the new app can stream video from the computer to the iPad.
  • The company also designed a bookmarklet that allows users to mark video content for later viewing.
  • “One criticism of the iPad application is that it doesn’t offer access to premium applications like Vudu, Netflix and Hulu Plus,” reports Digital Trends. “Missing premium applications is attributed to companies like Netflix preferring to keep content within its own application as well as Flash content on the Web that’s incompatible with the iPad.”

Facebook Introduces New Messaging App Dubbed Messenger

  • Facebook has announced a new iOS and Android messaging app named Messenger that will allow users to send and view messages to Facebook friends across the two most popular phone platforms.
  • The app will also include a group messaging feature that will enable users to message multiple people for a single large conversation. Additionally, Messenger will help with coordinating group events by allowing users to include their current location in messages.
  • “Now Facebook’s vision when buying app maker Beluga is becoming clear,” reports Digital Trends. “The company has taken Beluga’s group messaging app and married it with Facebook contacts and messages.”
  • Messenger joins other emerging messaging services such as Apple’s iMessage and Google’s Huddle, but Facebook has the advantage of its 750 million member user base.
  • Will Facebook’s Messenger have an impact on RIM’s BlackBerry?

Quixey Search Engine Targets Social Media Apps

  • Quixey is an app-specialized search engine funded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
  • The service hopes to make it simpler for social media users (developers and consumers) to find applications and widgets for social networks.
  • Last week, Quixey got closer to that goal when it added Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Foursquare integration.
  • The engine also indexes and categorizes tools and apps based on social chatter, blog posts, reviews and other third-party descriptions of their function. The search technology bypasses the clutter by efficiently mining data and app-related keywords.
  • Quixey co-founder Tomer Kagan explains: “A lot of apps on Facebook [for example] don’t even have a description attached — just a name. From a search perspective, if all you have to work with is like three words, it’s extremely difficult.”
  • The Mountain View, CA startup has raised $400,000 in seed money from Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

GLMPS iPhone App Creates New Approach to Image-Sharing

  • GLMPS (pronounced “glimpse”), a new iPhone app, hopes to stand out from the growing collection of available image-sharing apps by creating a new type of media that combines stills and video.
  • Digital Trends describes the basic premise: “When you take a picture with your smartphone through the app, GLMPS captures a photo as well as a short, 5-second video clip of what took place just before the picture was taken. When viewing the GLMPS file, the video plays first, and is then shrunken down and superimposed as a thumbnail over the photo. The video then plays on repeat, much like a GIF file.”
  • All images are automatically stored to the iPhone’s camera roll. Users can then share the images through the free app, or post GLMPS files to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.