Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook faces jury trial over Timeline trademark

Facebook has failed to strike from its own history an unfortunate matter involving the trademark for Timeline, the storytelling version of the profile that attempts to chronicle each member’s life events.

The social network, which was first sued in September 2011 by Chicago company Timelines Inc. for infringement, now faces a jury trial, scheduled for April 22, over the mark.

U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah said today that Facebook was not able to invalidate Timelines’ claim to the mark, Bloomberg reported. “At this stage in the proceedings, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as to this group of users, ‘timeline(s)’ has acquired a specific meaning associated with plaintiff,” the judge wrote in the ruling.

Launched in 2009, Timelines.com is a Web site that lets users collaborate to document historical events. The company, which has 1,000 active users, is seeking damages equivalent to advertising revenue generated from Facebook’s Timeline, Timelines attorney Douglas Albritton told Bloomberg.

When reached for a comment, a Facebook spokesperson declined to provide a statement on the legal matter.

Facebook to put own spin on Android with ‘new home’

A Facebook media event invitation the company released last week might be saying more than originally thought.
Last week, Facebook sent out an invite for an event it’s hosting on Thursday. On the invitation, the company says, “Come See Our New Home on Android.” Other than making clear that it the event will be Android related, the company provided no additional details.

However, the invitation’s message might be coded to include the name of a new product the company has been working on, called Facebook Home, Google news site 9to5Google reported, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. Facebook, the site’s sources say, has been working on a version of the Android mobile operating system that will run on HTC devices and will put upfront Facebook’s many features and apps, including messaging, photos, and contacts. The project is called Facebook Home, according to 9to5Google, thus the mention of the company’s “New Home on Android.”

The sources that 9to5Google is in touch with did not say exactly what will be shown at the event, but they expect Facebook to detail how its operating system, which is built on top of Android, actually works. So far, no carriers have signed on to carry the devices, 9to5 Google reported, but both Facebook and HTC are in talks to change that. Facebook and HTC will also launch an ad campaign to promote Home, the news site said.

Facebook interested in buying mobile chat app WhatsApp?

WhatsApp, the maker of a popular cross-platform mobile chat program, has been in talks to be acquired by Facebook, sources tell TechCrunch.

TechCrunch had no information about a possible price range or how advanced the talks might be. CNET has contacted Facebook and WhatsApp for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

Founded in 2009, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company provides a smartphone app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone that delivers text messages as well as images and audio and video messages. The ad-free app reportedly has about 100 million daily users, with a presence in 250 countries on a variety of platforms.

The startup announced in October 2011 that it was serving up 1 billion messages per day: “Just how much is 1 billion messages? That is 41,666,667 messages an hour, 694,444 messages a minute, and 11,574 messages a second,” the company wrote in a blog post at the time. The company added that it was a “small step closer towards our goal: providing a great mobile messaging system for a global market, regardless of your handset.”

The WhatsApp Messenger app came under criticism recently from security and mobile researchers who alleged security risks based on its authentication process. Several anonymous bloggers called the process a “security nightmare,” saying the app leaked data collected off the device when it’s being sent to servers. A research paper also concluded that the local database storage encryption could be decrypted.

Will the Facebook IPO Ruin Facebook?

With Facebook’s IPO today, the big question has been how Facebook is going to raise revenue to fit with stock valuation. There are several options, and many of them involve more ads: pushing more ads onto mobile interfaces, more ads in general, more narrowly targeted ads, more back-end data sales, further expanding Facebook Connect, and further expanding Facebook Payment. In all, though, I think Facebook’s best option is to reconcile revenue and valuation the other way around. Don’t raise revenue to fit with valuation. Instead, let the bubble burst.

So much of Facebook’s success has to do with network effects, not with the quality of the site itself. Just as a telephone represents little value to you until and unless people you want to talk to have telephones as well, so too Facebook is valuable to users primarily because a great many other users are also there. Now, surely, there are things Facebook could do that would drive more users away, and there are things that Facebook has done very well, but for the most part we go to the site because of network value (we want to talk with our friends and share pictures with family), not because of intrinsic value (the site itself is good per se).

This gives Facebook something of the character of a utility. We just want it to work, and for the company itself to be as unobtrusive as possible. The only good conversation with your cable provider is no conversation. Nobody likes thinking about their phone plan.

Facebook’s encroachment into the user experience and into user data is precarious, and perhaps already overextended. If Facebook were one site among many, from which we could freely choose what we preferred, there would be little issue with cutting new bargains with users—but the fact that what Facebook primarily offers to the user is nothing other than its own wide adoption means that it has a de facto monopoly. So if we don’t like the deal they offer us—e.g. the tradeoff between data privacy and number of ads—we can’t just walk away from it to another service provider (unless we convince most or much of our network to walk away with us).

The monopolistic, public-utility-like aspect of Facebook’s business model of trading on network effects ought to make users concerned that they may be exploited or abused. And so they should be! Where network effects inhibit competition that might otherwise bring about market-based regulation of corporate behavior, we are left with little recourse but to hope that a company will simply choose to treat users fairly. And indeed, there seems to be more and more anti-Facebook sentiment, even in college kids; my students today are usually wary of or troubled by Facebook, where only a few years ago my students were generally uncritical of it. The fact that discomfort with Facebook is so often expressed on Facebook itself is neither ironic nor hypocritical; instead it is simply reflective of the problem: the fact that it’s the only place to have a conversation along with several hundred friends and contacts makes it both deserving of concern and discussion, and at the same time an unparalleled location to voice that concern and to have that discussion.

Facebook has managed to maintain this precarious position so far, but a step in any direction risks a fall. More ads on either the standard or the mobile site will most certainly annoy users. They likely will be perceived by some as crass and trashy, although users will, I’m sure, tolerate them so long as there remains no real alternative. A further complication is the targeting of ads. Right now, most everyone seems to be getting “dumb” ads: broadly-based ads, not the narrow targeting that Facebook’s data analytics promises; no more demographically well-informed than a billboard in one section of town rather than in another. Combined with the abysmal click-through rate of online ads, this is not a terribly impressive sort of ad to sell. But, as Target reportedly discovered in the recent Case of the Pregnant Teen, well-targeted advertising can quickly become creepy.

Selling data from the back end presents its own problems. Facebook has to let purchasers and investors know what kind of saleable demographic trends and correlations they can mine from their unprecedented data stores—but the more valuable that information seems to be, the more Facebook will draw the scrutiny of regulators and the ire of users. There’s a similar catch-22 with Facebook Connect and Facebook Payment: as Facebook further leverages its de facto monopoly into increased ubiquity and indispensability, the perception of its economic value will be tied to awareness of its anti-competitive effects. How much further can Facebook expect to expand before conversations about the Sherman Antitrust Act arise again?

It’s true enough that a public company has certain obligations, both legal and moral, to shareholders. These obligations, notably, do not include sacrificing long-term profits and viability in the name of short-term return on investment. Many companies no longer exist today because they learned too late that working for the quarterly report is a poor form of stewardship. (Or, put more cynically: the public LLC structure is built to focus on the short term, and executive compensation through stock options encourage cycles of overvaluation and collapse.) With the large percentages of shares being retained by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, and other previous owners—along with Zuckerberg’s values-based letter accompanying the IPO—it seems like Facebook is welcoming public ownership on its terms rather than being transformed by an imagined need to sacrifice fundamentals in the service of the stock ticker.

And so I suggest to Facebook: stick with what’s working. Don’t offend users’ sensibilities and make Facebook feel tacky and unfriendly and monetized through a new barrage of ads. Don’t creep users out by mining and selling ever more detailed data about user demographics. Don’t make users feel trapped by expanding out Connect and Payment and making Facebook ever-present, unavoidable, and stifling. Do not build a tower on these shifting sands, pushing revenue to reach ever-greater heights, but instead let the stock values fall to earth. Push us too far, and we will break you or abandon you; you will go the way of either Ma Bell or MySpace.

Facebook + Instagram = one big acquisition flop

I know, I know. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram hasn’t even been finalized yet and I’m already calling it a complete waste of a billion dollars. How can I say that? Easy.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we? Facebook paid about $28 for each of Instagram’s 35 million users. As such things go, that doesn’t seem so bad– as long as Instagram’s users stick around. But the reality is that faithful fans of the photo-sharing program are royally ticked off by the deal. Those who are frantic to get their pictures out of Instagram before Facebook takes over may well be wary of Facebook’s lousy privacy record. If you don’t want your Instagram photos used in Facebook ads, you’d better make sure you have your privacy settings adjusted properly — and then hope Facebook doesn’t change its privacy settings yet again.

Moreover, $28 per user is cheap only if Instagram’s users aren’t already Facebook users. In its pre-IPO S1, Facebook claims it has 845 million active monthly users. I strongly suspect that there’s a good deal of overlap between that 845 million and Instagram’s 35 million.

So when you boil it all down, what Facebook has really bought is some Web 2.0 software for tweaking pictures. I haven’t programmed in years, but I bet I could put together a team of developers, whip up an Instagram clone, and launch it on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud over a weekend. This is not rocket science.

Mind you, I’m not sure that Steven’s Instagram would be worth even the six figures it would cost to build. Today, Instagram’s cutesie photo filters are popular — but they generate no revenue. Tomorrow, they could be as passe as Pet Rocks.

Here’s what will happen: Facebook won’t see a noticeable increase in users. And Instagram fans who loathe the idea of Facebook getting its hands on their images will move to another platform.

What the heck, though. Mark Zuckerberg is still mostly playing with fantasy dollars, and if he wants to waste a billion of them on Instagram, he doesn’t have stockholders to answer to — yet.

Tencent aims to be China’s Facebook, Twitter and Google

encent Holdings Ltd is the third largest internet firms in the world, headquartered in China and planning to diversify its services so that it can become Facebook, Twitter and Google all in one.

The future is promising for Tencent, despite de world economic crisis. The company has been estimated at 50 billion dollars on the stock market, four times than the price it was valued at two years ago. It started as an online gaming producer, but over time its aim followed a more diversified path: e-commerce, social networking and search engine. The new services put Tencent in the position of a gambler, risking to be swallowed up by strong competitors like Baidu Inc, SINA Corp and Alibaba.com.

Analysts like Hover Xiao, from the technology research firm IDC, believe that the company should not waste its forces on so many sectors, for it will not be able to sustain its economical power gained so far. “Tencent needs to look for other gold mines to counter slowing online gaming growth. Otherwise, they won’t be able to maintain the strong growth they’ve had over the past few years” Xiao said.

So far, Tencent, who’s mascots are two cute penguins wrapped around in scarves, has been relying on the online game business, which brings the company 60 percents of the revenues. In 2010 it summed up the equivalent of 3 billion dollars. This June, the company opened the Q+ platform, an open system meant to attract foreign software developers. At this point, Tencent’s strongest rivals are Facebook and Apple.

Tencent has other developing plans as well. It is now seeking to enter with a boom on the Chinese e-commerce market. It also plans on launching into the search engine sector, aiming at the number two spot in the following years. At this point, the company ranks third in the wireless search engine sector, after Baidu and Easou.com.

Half of the company’s staff works now in research and development – near 6,000 employees – and 10 percent of the revenue goes to the research sector.