Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Can’t Wait for Marvel’s MMO? Pint-Size Version Available Now”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Can’t Wait for Marvel’s MMO? Pint-Size Version Available Now”

Can’t Wait for Marvel’s MMO? Pint-Size Version Available Now

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 12:28 AM PDT

If Marvel’s upcoming massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Marvel Universe sounds like your cup of tea, the company’s newly launched Super Hero Squad Online might be a fun way to kill a couple hours entertaining yourself — or a young person in your life.

Yesterday, we gave you some pretty exciting news about a totally free Marvel MMO called Marvel Universe; trouble is, the game’s launch is still quite distant. But today, you can play Marvel’s Super Hero Squad Online, a similarly themed game designed with youngsters in mind.

In this free online adventure, players adopt superhero identities and battle villains Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus or space dragon Fin Fang Foom to save Super Hero City. Gamers can play as some of the best-known superheroes in the Marvel pantheon, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Invisible Woman, Hulk, Wolverine and many others.

The game comes from Gazillion, the same company Marvel’s teaming up with on Marvel Universe. While it differs a lot in UI and content from the hardcore-gamer oriented MMO, if you’ve got young ones in your life, it’s a great way to introduce them to the nerdy world of comic book characters, MMOs and card games — that’s right, Super Hero Squad Online will soon include an offline card component. Your kids’ll be rolling d20s in no time.

Players can customize and decorate their own headquarters, which are packed with interaction opportunities and usable items. The game is entirely free to play; gamers can also subscribe to unlock even more superheroes, game areas and missions.

The game is playable from most web browsers, and downloading the game files takes about five minutes on a decent Internet connection. Gamers of all ages should find it accessible.

TQ Jefferson, Marvel’s VP of Games Production, said in a release, “We're thrilled to bring some of Marvel's beloved characters to life in Super Hero Squad Online. The world of free-to-play MMO gaming is one that we are excited to be a part of, and we look forward to bringing this interactive game to all families.”

Check out some screenshots of game play below, and in the comments, let us know what you think so far. Will you be playing yourself, or encouraging any kids in your life to play?

Super Hero Squad Online

One of the main areas of the game.

Super Hero Squad Online

Choosing a mission.

Super Hero Squad Online

Kicking butt...

Super Hero Squad Online

...and taking names.

Super Hero Squad Online


More About: comic books, comics, game, games, Marvel, MMO

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The Royal Wedding’s Best Meme? We Pick Frowning Flower Girl

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 11:10 PM PDT

The live-streamed-to-death Royal Wedding brought with it plenty of fodder for a meme-hungry Internet.

While we appreciate the cartwheeling clergyman and shudder with you at the thought of the Cthulhu Hat, our hearts were completely stolen by the scowling attendant now known as the Frowning Flower Girl.

Standing in front of Kate and William on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony where Prince Charles first publicly kissed Diana after the last generation’s Royal Wedding, it was not the bride but rather her three-year-old flower girl who stole the show.

As you can see in this video from the BBC, it seems the little girl, one Grace Van Cutsem, was merely protecting her tender eardrums from the roaring crowd, the din of which grew louder as the newlyweds kissed, and a handful of planes that flew over the palace moments later:

The child’s cranky mug has already been Photoshopped on every macro from Banker Cat to Sad Keanu, and we’d love to see more. We’ve got a lovely PNG of Frowning Flower Girl for you; show us your handiwork in the comments, and we’ll upload any interesting submissions to our gallery here with proper credit.

Frowning Flower Girl

Frowning Flower Girl

Frowning Flower Girl

Friday Frowning Flower Girl

by Phil Eligio

More About: flower girl, frowning flower girl, Meme, memes, royal wedding

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AppRadio: The Ideal In-Car iPhone Experience?

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 10:11 PM PDT

Did Pioneer design its forthcoming in-car AppRadio to look like the iPhone? Looking at that mock-up screen above, it’s hard to say otherwise — and the company isn’t denying it either.

Though the icons on that 6.1-inch capacitive touchscreen mockup might seem like those on the iOS interface, the AppRadio is not running Apple‘s smartphone operating system. However Pioneer claims it’s “exactly like the iOS experience,” with the iPhone seamlessly blended into the proceedings, according to CrunchGear.

Connect an iPhone to the AppRadio using an Apple dock connector cable, and it will use the iPhone’s cellular connection as well as any of its contacts and music. Pioneer’s apps will include Pandora, iHeartRadio, some unspecified social media apps — and probably many others if Apple lets the company get away with it.

The hardware boasts all the accoutrements befitting a higher-end automotive head-end unit, such as Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a rearview camera port and a microSD card slot through which additional apps can be added to the radio.

Our take: This is getting close to our dream car stereo. What we’d really like to see is technology GM alluded to when I recently visited the company in Detroit. GM’s goal: as soon as you sit in the car, your smartphone communicates with the car, wirelessly downloading contacts, music and any other data automatically.

But our dream car stereo would go one step further, with a screen that duplicates whatever is on the iPhone’s screen. For that to happen, Apple would need to get more actively involved in car stereo.

There’s one other issue: This kind of in-car infotainment is so distracting, it may well cause more accidents.

Graphic courtesy CrunchGear

More About: appradio, car stereo, iphone, pioneer

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Are You Making What You Should? Startup Guarantees a Raise

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 08:48 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: GetRaised

Quick Pitch: GetRaised tells you what you should be making and shows you how to ask for a raise.

Genius Idea: Helping users create a letter that explains why they deserve raises.

The gap between salaries of women and men with the same jobs is well documented, but the founders of Thrive, a personal finance site that purchased in 2009, discovered it on their own.

While the percentage of money that women were saving was higher than what men saved, the actual value of those savings was less. “We could have made those women the best savers in the world, and it wasn’t going to close the gap,” says co-founder Matt Wallaert, whose background is in social psychology (he studies how people make decisions).

After selling Thrive, Wallaert and Avi Karnani founded a new consultancy called Churnless. In the first of what they call the company’s “passion projects,” they decided to tackle the pay gap. They consulted academics — including the author of Women Don’t Ask –and interviewed human resource professionals before putting together what today is GetRaised.

GetRaised, like many sites, gives users an idea of how their salaries compare to those who share their title, experience level, and location. This portion of the service is free and based on a mashup of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and open job postings in the area. The algorithm also factors in data collected from other users.

More than 10,000 people have logged in to the salary comparison portion of the site since it launched in October (Karnani estimates that about 75% of them are women). But what sets the site apart from others like it is a $20 paid option that actually helps an underpaid person ask for a raise.

After answering a handful of questions about what she has accomplished at work and what her goals are, the site generates a polished letter that lays out the user’s case — complete with her market value and an explanation of her expanding role. If submitting the letter to a supervisor and reasonably following up doesn’t result in a pay raise, Churnless will refund the $20.

The founders both admit they were skeptical that a form letter could actually get the job done, but they have not been giving many refunds. According to Karnani, about 75% of subscribers to the service have succeeded in getting a raise within a month — a higher success rate than either founder expected. The average raise is about $6,500.

Not bad for a $20 investment.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, churnless, getraised, thrive

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The Daily Deals Bandwagon Dissected [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 07:50 PM PDT

Every entrepreneur and his dog is offering a daily deals service these days. From Groupon‘s slightly more original voucher system to Facebook’s newly launched Deals platform, deals have taken precedence in the web startup landscape.

Courtesy of Online MBA, here’s a cheat sheet for how four of the most popular daily deals sites and services — LivingSocial, Groupon, Facebook Deals and Google Offers — work, including how much money these companies are making and how many users each one might have.

Facebook Deals and Google Offers are the two newer competitors in this already crowded field. While these programs come from two of the biggest names and the most powerful companies in the Internet’s ecosystem, we don’t yet have enough data on these specific features to really judge how well they’ll perform in the real world, where Groupon and its pure-play ilk are already fairly well established.

Take a look at the information presented below, and in the comments, let us know if you think the tech behemoths will crush the deals-focused startups or if you believe the startups have staying power — or perhaps daily deals aren’t a zero-sum game and there’s room for all these companies to profit.

Click to see larger image and embed code.

Imfographic courtesy of

More About: daily deals, deals, Facebook Deals, Google Offers, groupon, infographic, LivingSocial

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Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Week: The Royal Wedding Parody Edition

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 06:05 PM PDT

So some British people got married, and everyone got really excited and stuff, so we guess we should acknowledge the event in some way — aside from, you know, all the articles. Hence today’s YouTube Roundup Theme: Royal Wedding Parodies.

Congrats, kids. May your union be blessed with laughter — some of which will inevitably be at your expense.

The Royal Wedding: King's Speech

Todd Wasserman: Not really a parody, but a decent royal rap.

Royal Romance: The Other Guys' Official Royal Wedding Video

Meghan Peters: An a capella version of Gaga's "Bad Romance" rewritten for Kate Middleton.

LOL Royal Wedding 2011

Ben Parr: The Royal Wedding Rap!

The Sims 3 | Royal Wedding Parody Trailer

Brian Hernandez: This Sims-style parody of the Royal Wedding features several smooches from the newlyweds, a shirtless Prince Harry and some badass dance moves from the Queen.

Vicar Does A Cartwheel

Brenna Ehrlich: Aw...

More About: favorite-youtube-videos, humor, pop culture, royal wedding, video, youtube

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We So Excited: Katy Perry Covers ‘Friday’

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:04 PM PDT

Friday at a concert in Melbourne, pop star Katy Perry broke into a chorus of Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, much to the delight of fans in attendance, who joined in and sang along.

“I’m so glad that someone wrote a song about Friday — finally!” the singer told the crowd. God bless you and your sense of humor, Ms. Perry.

Fellow popster Lady Gaga called Black a genius and the “Friday” viral video phenomenon “fantastic.” In fact, although “Friday” is the most hated video on YouTube, most of us can wholeheartedly (or at least ironically) defend the song — at least on Fridays.

Want more “Friday” covers? We’ve got you covered. Enjoy the weekend!

More About: Friday, humor, katy-perry, Rebecca Black, youtube

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Square Sets New Record: $2M Processed in One Day

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 04:47 PM PDT

Just days after landing an investment from Visa, mobile payments startup Square is already breaking records in how much money it processes via its iOS/Android dongle.

“Wow. @Square has already processed over $2,000,000 in card payments today (and it is far from over)!,” CEO and Jack Dorsey reported on his Posterous blog.

In a statement to Mashable, a Square rep confirmed the single-day $2 million transaction figure represents a new milestone for the startup.

“Square is becoming the default way for small businesses, sole proprietors and entrepreneurs to get paid,” said the spokesperson. “We’re growing, adding 100,000 merchants per month. We processed $66 million in Q1 and anticipate tripling that this quarter.”

In addition to the vote of confidence from Visa, Square has also received a helping hand from Apple which, as of April 19, sells the startup’s card reader in 235 U.S. Apple retail stores and online.

Above: The Square team celebrating.

More About: Mobile 2.0, Square, startup

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How Web Security Will Change With HTML5

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 03:11 PM PDT

Mike Shema is the engineering lead for the Qualys web application scanning service. He has authored several books, including Hack Notes: Web Application Security, and he blogs on web security topics at the companion site for his latest book, Seven Deadliest Web Attacks.

It's astonishing that 10 years of technological progress have produced web application behemoths like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! and Google, while the actual technology inside the web browser remained relatively stagnant. Companies have grown to billion-dollar valuations (realistic or not) by figuring out how to shovel HTML over HTTP in ways that make investors, advertisers, and users happy.

The emerging HTML5 standard finally breathes some fresh air into the programming possible inside a browser. Complex UIs used to be the purview of plugins like Flash and Silverlight (and decrepit, insecure ActiveX). The JavaScript renaissance seen in YUI, JQuery, and Prototype significantly improve the browsing experience. HTML5 will bring sanity to some of the clumsiness of these libraries and provide significant extensions.

Here are some of the changes HTML5 will bring and what they mean for web security

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing

An HTML5 feature with possibly the most potential for mistakes is the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) that relaxes the fundamental security mechanism of a browser, the Same Origin Rule. CORS isn't an arbitrary change; it's a step towards standardizing what developers are already trying to do in order to build higher-performance sites.

Basically, CORS defines a group of client and server headers that enable a site to define origins that are allowed to interact with another origin's context. It also provides granularity of lifetime and request methods for this site-defined access control. The following headers show how simple this is to implement from a server's perspective. (Obviously, we're just showing the HTTP headers and skipping the server-side code to generate and verify these.)

Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://domain
Access-Control-Max-Age: 86400
Access-Control-Allow-Methods: PUT, DELETE

The first one, Allow-Origin, is where the worst mistakes will happen. We'll see who the first sites are to use * in this field — thereby allowing sharing with any domain. There's already precedent for this in Flash crossdomain.xml file vulnerabilities.

The domain of the Origin matters, not its path, as the spec emphasizes in section 3 — Security Considerations: "… only cross-origin security is provided and that therefore using a distinct origin rather than a distinct path is vital for secure client-side web applications." Woe to developers who implement cross-origin requests without understanding this precaution.

Watch for potential "space invader" attacks in this area. Origin lists are space-delimited. For example, the following URL is intended to produce an Origin header from http://allowed.origin:


But a browser bug might turn this into:

Origin: http://malicious.spoof http://allowed.origin

Or worse, a server-side bug might turn this into an allowed destination for XHR requests if the page for some reason is building dynamic headers from the URL. In this case, the attacker would look for a weakness in the allowed.origin site that would enable CORS with the malicious spoof site. The vulnerable link might be something like this:


That produces an insecure access control header:

Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://other.allowed.origin http://malicious.spoof

This last bit about space invaders is pretty speculative at the moment, but possibly not too far off considering the history of browser security. Browser hackers will no doubt be targeting their fuzzers to see how well browsers parse and serialize these headers. URLs may be prone to all sorts of errors, from invalid domains, to invalid ports, to IDN characters — the incorrect handling of which might lead to a buffer overflow or security bypass.

Spoofed headers are a serious threat for CORS and have several possible attack vectors. Unencrypted Wi-Fi combined with HTTP are a recipe for disaster (the least of which is spoofed headers). In the past, browser plugins like Flash have been used to spoof headers in order to bypass security restrictions. Browser plugins are notorious for breaking browser assumptions and playing outside their security sandbox.

Web Storage

The push for richer browser-based functionality also brings the desire to store more data in the browser than normally handled by cookies. Cookies have been the historically clumsy method of saving stateful data. The HTML5 Web Storage specification provides a more flexible way for sites to store data in the browser using essentially a key-value database.

Like most security boundaries in the browser, web storage is based on the Same Origin Rule. As the spec itself reminds readers, this means that the more general threats of DNS-based attacks pose a risk to the security of data stored by a domain. The Same Origin Rule is an implementation of the "Vegas principle:" What happens in one domain is supposed to stay in that domain. The browser assumes that content coming from a domain name is always legitimate, but that isn't always the case if DNS isn't secure.

The other danger of web storage will be sites that rely too heavily on it for storing a user's sensitive data. We've already seen instances of sites that don't properly encrypt passwords in their database. Now we may see sites that store sensitive, personal information via web storage APIs. If the site has a cross-site scripting (XSS), then an attacker would be able to trivially extract this information.

Then there's the threat of malware. A site might be free of XSS vulnerabilities and otherwise secure, but store lots of valuable information in the browser. Many malware payloads already scan disks for items like financial information and gaming credentials. Now they'll start searching for data in these browser stores as well. Diligent devs will use this data storage to improve the user experience, but not at the risk of exposing sensitive information.

Speaking of XSS, HTML5 might have some unexpected consequences for validation routines. An XSS filter might be tripped up by new elements and attributes present in HTML5 that didn't exist in HTML4. Whitelisting-based filters should be more resilient because the new elements won't be handled. In any case, devs need to be aware that even though <audio> and <video> may be the most popular new tags, they're not the only new ways XSS could manifest.

Sins of the Past

The most dangerous security problems won't be due to features of HTML5. Too many experienced people have been working on the specs to leave egregious errors in the design or in browsers' implementation of it. The worst problems will come from developers who rush into new technologies without remembering sins of the past. It's far too easy to fall into the trap of trusting data from the browser just because some hefty JavaScript routines have been assumed to perform all sorts of security validation on the data.

Once data leaves the browser, an attacker can modify it in any way before it reaches the server. Trusting the client to always serve well-formed, valid data is the sure path to SQL injection, XSS, and worse vulnerabilities.

HTML5 doesn't just have security implications for web developers. The browser has become a highly coveted target for malware. With each browser's implementation of new HTML5 features will come buffer overflows and other coding mistakes that malware will seek out. As the browser's end user, there's little you can do on this front other than to keep your software up to date. All of the new HTML5 features will take a while before they're securely baked into the browser. Attackers will continually look for bugs by pushing different limits in the browser: Cross-origin requests for thousands of origins, deeply nested elements, resource consumption attacks (DoS) using multitudes of Web Worker threads, and so on.

Luckily, browser developers haven't been lazy this whole time. The last few years have seen laudable forays into better security and privacy protections. Browsers are starting to implement new headers that can protect against broad classes of attacks. For example, cross-site request forgery and clickjacking can be reliably defended against with Origin and X-Frame-Options headers. This stands in stark contrast to problems like cross-site scripting, for which no easy solution has been found.

Browsers have been pushing the privacy front as well with Do Not Track headers and private browsing options. It's important to keep perspective on the topic of privacy. While the browser can take steps to make your data protection easier, it has no control and little influence on how a web site will use and protect that data. HTML5 briefly touches on privacy issues and security has direct consequences for privacy.

HTML5 is not a security solution. It's a long-awaited update to the HTML spec. An update that took the time to be more explicit about both security and privacy issues. The new features of HTML5 will lead to exciting, powerful applications delivered through the browser. As such, it's important for developers to keep in mind a few basic security tenets: Validate all data from the client, prefer whitelisting approaches over blacklisting, use HTTPS wherever possible, and test your site to make sure it's performing how you intended.

Interested in more Dev & Design resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: dev and design, HTML5, technology, web security

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On Kickstarter, Film & Music Beat All Other Projects Put Together

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 02:57 PM PDT

To celebrate turning two, Kickstarter has released a slew of stats detailing which projects attracted the most pledges. Film and music, it seems, are the most popular when it comes to pulling dollars.

As you can see from the above chart (via Kickstarter’s blog), film reigns supreme when it comes to raising cash (fashion and comics — not so much), garnering $19,717,790 in pledges in two years. That revelation makes sense, considering Kickstarter recently partnered with Sundance to fund up-and-coming filmmakers.

The interest in funding music is also worthy of note at $13,094,547. Kickstarter seems to have inspired a legion of fan-funded record labels and startups (such as My Major Company) that expand upon the Kickstarter model, appealing more directly to music fans.

Note: A total of $53 million was pledged, but not collected (if you’re unfamiliar with Kickstarter, campaigns only get money if they reach a set goal). Forty million dollars have been collected by successfully funded projects, and $6 million are still live (meaning pledged to still-running campaigns). So the above numbers reflect pledges, not all the distributed cash.

Do any of these stats surprise you?

Photo by Calvin Knight

More About: Film, kickstarter, music

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Top 10 Royal Wedding Twitter Trends [CHART]

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 02:39 PM PDT

Most viewers turned on their TVs to watch footage of the Royal Wedding. But the event was also big online, breaking livestreaming records and sweeping the trending topics of major search engines and social networks.

As expected, many viewers turned to Twitter Friday morning to share reactions as they watched the broadcast on their TVs and other devices. By the time the ceremony began at 6 a.m. ET, all 10 worldwide trending topics on Twitter were related to the Royal Wedding.

We're still waiting for official numbers from Twitter, which likely won’t land until next week. But NBC has kindly shared the following stats, obtained via social monitoring tool Trendrr, with us:

  • Tweet volume was heaviest in London, New York, Toronto, New South Wales, Paris and Sao Paulo, in that order.
  • Sentiment was mostly positive (58%). 24% of tweets registered as neutral, and 18% were negative.
  • 64% of tweets came from women, versus 36% from men.
  • Mentions of the #RoyalWedding hashtag topped 1 million by mid-ceremony.
  • 42% of all Royal Wedding-related tweets came from 39% came from mobile devices.
  • Top hashtags include #royalwedding, #rw2011 (the officially Royal Wedding hashtag), #royalwedding!, #rw11, and #bodareal (Spanish for “#royalwedding”)

E!’s livestream proved among the most tweeted links, followed by The Telegraph‘s coverage of the wedding, a Flickr album with photos of the cake and The Today Show‘s Tumblr, Trendrr found.

Top influencers included @nytimes, @eonline and CNN news anchor @andersoncooper, according to Klout.

Liz Pullen of What the Trend has also shared a list of top ten trending topics for the week leading up to the event (Saturday to 11:30 a.m. ET, Friday 4/29). While most of the terms were pretty straightforward, there were a few surprises — not least of which is “QILF,” and the large number of comparisons being made between the bride and Grace Kelly.

Trend Points
William & Kate
Prince William and Kate Middleton. Also, the name of a TV movie shown all week.
The Royal Wedding hashtag and also a Twitter Promoted Trend
Royal Wedding hashtag
Brits asserting their national pride
Westminster Abbey
Location of Royal Wedding
Sarah Burton
Designer of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress
Buckingham Palace
Site of post-Royal Wedding reception and "the kiss"
"Queen I’d like to ____."
Users tweeted simultaneously at William and Kate’s first kiss at Buckingham Palace.
Grace Kelly
Users thought that Kate Middleton’s dress bore a resemblance to Grace Kelly’s
wedding gown.

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Amazon’s 5,694-Word Summary of Cloud Outage Visualized

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 02:19 PM PDT

Amazon offered an explanation for its recent outage of its “Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud” (EC2) with a long missive, all 5,694 words of it.

Don’t feel like reading 5,694 words right now? We’ve made it easy for you with a handy word cloud, giving you the gist of the company’s apology that’s long enough to be a book chapter.

Given Amazon’s usual pattern of disclosure (here’s a good example from 2008), we’re thinking the company had only the best of intentions with this lengthy explanation. More cynical observers might think the highly technical treatise used thousands of words to obfuscate the fact that the document was an apology.

Taking a look at the word cloud we created above, even though EBS (Elastic Block Store) figures prominently, we couldn’t find the words “sorry,” “apologize” or even “regret.” But after reading the huge document, we were impressed with how Amazon has gone to great lengths to prevent this from happening again.

And to be fair, Amazon did offer its apology in the last paragraph: “Last, but certainly not least, we want to apologize.” Nice.

What do you think? Was Amazon right in presenting this highly detailed technical summary to its mostly techie cloud services customers, or should the company have just written a short and sweet apology?

More About: amazon, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, EBS, outage, Word Cloud

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On Royal Wedding Day, Pippa Middleton Reigns on the Web

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 02:00 PM PDT

Friday was Kate’s big day, but it turned out to be pretty big for her sister Pippa too — on the social web at least. The bridesmaid’s figure and dress have caught the Twitterverse’s attention.

News sources, including ABC News, and individuals around the web are wondering if Pippa Middleton, 27, Kate’s younger sister, stole the show during Friday’s much-watched nuptials. Pippa is a Twitter trending topic in the U.S., UK, Brazil and elsewhere.

We’ll admit even some ladies of Mashable would kill to wear that bridesmaid dress by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen at our own weddings.

What do you think: Did Pippa steal the show? Have you been talking about the bridesmaid on social channels?

Image courtesy of Flickr,

More About: kate middleton, pippa middleton, royal wedding, trending

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Bose Founder Gives Majority of Company to MIT

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 01:35 PM PDT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology now owns the majority of home theater giant Bose — thanks to a donation from its founder.

Dr. Amar Bose, an alumnus and former faculty member of MIT, gave the university the majority of shares in the private audio technology company.

According to a statement on the MIT website, the gift is in the form of non-voting shares. MIT is barred from selling them, and the university will have no role in governing or running the company.

Bose’s links to MIT run deep. Not only did he receive bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the university, but he served as a faculty member between 1956 and 2001. Bose Corporation was founded during his time as a faculty member, in 1964.

While Bose Corporation is privately held and doesn’t share financial information, it’s clear that this is no small gift. Last year, the company had revenue of more than $2 billion, a spokesperson told — that’s significantly more than the 2010 revenue of Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora and Demand Media combined.

More About: Bose, Dr. Amar Bose, mit, stock

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Groupon for Concerts Will Help Bands Get Gigs

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 01:20 PM PDT

You know your band is rad — you have tons of Facebook fans mooning over your every ironic hair metal-inspired profile photo — but you still can’t book a gig. A soon-to-be-launched service called NuevoStage aims to help you finally bring your air kicks to a real stage

NuevoStage recently won the $50,000 grand prize at the Rethink Music Conference, in a business plan competition sponsored by Berklee College and Harvard Business School.

Like a Groupon for concerts, as founder Maxwell Wessel dubbed it, NuevoStage relies on buyer participation in order to book shows. Wessel has found that there are thousands of venues in the U.S. that are not using their performance spaces at least one night per week, which is a loss when it comes to cash.

NuevoStage allows artists to search for venues with open nights and create a listing for a potential show, which they can then pump through social channels. Bands then ask their fans to buy a ticket to the show (fans will have to enter in their credit card info), and if enough fans sign up, the show will go on. If only, say, four people buy tickets, there will be no show, and the fans will not be charged. Wessel plans to monetize the site by charging a ticket processing fee.

Wessel, a student at Harvard Business School, says that the site is still in private alpha, so we haven’t had a chance to check it out yet — aside from the demo above. However, he and co-founder Chris Allen plan to launch it this summer.

“I created this product because of an awesome University of Vermont band called Bearquarium,” Wessel says. “I saw them perform at the Middle East nightclub, a great alternative club in Cambridge, as an opener. When I approached them after the show I asked whether they ever headlined the club, to which they responded no.” Wessel then decided to create something that would help bands like Bearquarium leverage fans to get gigs.

While we’re interested to see this site come to fruition — it sounds like a cross between WHOOZNXT and Bandsurfing — we can see a few kinks that will likely need to be ironed out. First: Bands will have to have adequate lead time to actually booking shows. Imagine reaching the desired fan count the day before and scrambling to get a van/extra amp/ample supply of face paint. Second: The listings will have to make it extremely clear that the show is not a definite — otherwise bands will have some angry fans on their hands. It’s a proven fact (or at least it should be) that a lot of people don’t read carefully — listings will have to be idiot-proof.

Still, we like that Wessel is focused on lesser-known acts. “We’ll never be able to set up Lollapalooza or manage a professional tour the way some of the current systems can, but that’s not our goal,” he says. “Our goal is to take some part of the 30,000 stages that go unused on a weekly basis and put aspiring artists on them.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, susieq3c

More About: groupon, music, NuevoStage, rethink-music

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This Week in Politics & Digital: The Openness & Transparency Issue

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 12:28 PM PDT

us flag tech image

This week’s political/digital news focused on issues of transparency, from public records to open data to President Barack Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate online. It’s a clear indication that the web is an ever more important platform for engaging the public.

The web and social media have already become major battlegrounds in the run-up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Mashable is keeping you up to date on the details in this weekly series tracking the intersection of digital technology and politics. Have an opinion? Join the conversation in the comments.

White House Posts President’s Long-Form Birth Certificate Online

After years of speculation, the White House decided to release the long-form version of Obama’s certificate via the White House Blog Wednesday. The certificate, from Hawaii’s Department of Health, shows exactly what we knew from the short-form certificate released in 2008: Obama was born in the United States and is eligible to be the president. While the release calmed the debate, some — like Donald Trump — demanded more papers, such as Obama’s college records. (Trump’s actions forced at least one top-tier advertiser to distance itself from his NBC show, The Apprentice.)

"We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” Obama said at a press conference Wednesday. “We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do."

U.S. Congresswomen Denounce Hacker Attacks on

This week Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton asking her to publicly denounce attacks on, a social activism platform. The site recently suffered DDoS attacks from unnamed hackers following a campaign calling for the release of Chinese artist Ai WeiWei. Ai was taken into custody by police at an airport in Beijing earlier this month. has been sporadically blocked in China in the past few years, said a spokesperson for the social activism site. "There's no evidence that this has come from the Chinese government, but clearly the circumstantial evidence is pretty powerful," the spokesperson said.

DeLauro was joined by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., minority leader of the House of Representatives, who announced her participation with this tweet: “@NancyPelosi: I join @rosedelauro in denouncing attacks from China on @change because of activism to free Ai WeiWei.”

House Speaker & Majority Leader Call for New Data Standards

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., wrote a letter to the House calling for the development and adoption of new electronic data standards to help make legislative information more accessible and transparent.

“The Rules of the House, adopted on the opening day of this Congress, directed the Committee on House Administration to establish and maintain electronic data standards for the House and its committees. We have asked that this standard be developed … for the purpose of transitioning the House to more open data formats, such as XML.”

In the letter, Boehner and Cantor say that legislative data is the property of the American public and as such should be made available in order to “rebuild the trust between Congress and the people we serve.” Both pegged the Internet as the right tool to bridge that gap and promote transparency.

Donald Trump Dominates the Social Web

Given his penchant for controversy, it’s not surprising that potential presidential candidate Donald Trump is outranking all his competitors when it comes to social media chatter. An infographic released by Meltwater Group shows how much The Donald outranks major GOP players like Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

trump infographic image

Thumbnail Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Pgiam
Image courtesy of Flickr, TalkMediaNews

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Bank Lets Customers Pay Friends By Bumping iPhones

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 12:07 PM PDT

ING Direct customers can now transfer payments to friends with the bump of a cellphone — no account numbers needed.

The bank released an updated version of its iPhone app [iTunes link] on Wednesday morning that integrates an API from Bump Technologies, a startup that makes it easy to transfer information between phones by tapping them together.

Previously Bump’s technology has been used to exchange contact information, photos and music between users. This is the first time that a bank has leveraged it for person-to-person payments.

Many banks (including ING Direct) are experimenting with another technology called near field communication (NFC), which could one day power phone-to-phone transactions. But there are a limited number of NFC-enabled devices in the market, and security standards have yet to emerge.

Bump is much simpler.

The startup’s app and API recognize tapping motions and maps them. When a Bump is recognized, a signal is sent to cloud servers that match it with another Bump that occurred at the exact same place and time. It decides those two Bumps are a match, and exchanges information between them.

In ING’s case, each user will need to log into his or her secure account to send or receive payment. Bump’s role is to ID participants in a person-to-person transaction instead of requiring them to type and verify account numbers.

Both participants in an ING Direct Bump transaction need to have ING Electric Orange online checking accounts in order to use the new feature. In the future, says ING Direct CIO Rudy Wolfs, ING Direct account holders will also be able to Bump payments to friends who have accounts at other banks. Bump’s API is free and open, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see other banks implement similar features into their apps.

For now, the feature is only useful in limited circumstances: if you happen to be in the same place as the person who you want to pay, if you both bank with ING Direct and if you both have iPhones. However, if the stars do happen to align just right, you’ll easily be able to reimburse your half of a meal or the cost of a group gift without cash, checks, plastic or even account numbers.

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Groupon Distances Itself From Donald Trump

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 11:21 AM PDT

Groupon has announced it won’t be buying ads on any media with Donald Trump’s name on it, after rumors spread about the company advertising on Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice TV show on NBC.

Groupon says Trump and his TV show are “in the middle of some political criticism at the moment,” and the company wants to disassociate itself from the real estate mogul and possible presidential candidate.

Groupon says it never advertised on Trump’s show on TV and only inadvertently advertised on the show’s website. Groupon said it bought ads on, and those ads were rotated onto the Apprentice homepage:

“Groupon has never been a sponsor of The Apprentice on TV or on the web. We invest heavily in online advertising through networks that place ads on a rolling basis, meaning that we know one will appear on but not specifically which page. We know that some advertising appeared on The Apprentice home page a few weeks ago.”

After the poor reception for its Super Bowl ads and Groupon’s subsequent apology, the company apparently wants to keep its image squeaky clean. A political hot potato such as Trump is a potential problem Groupon wants to keep a distance from. “It's the same reason we don't run deals on guns or abortion…this isn't a political statement, it's avoiding intentionally upsetting a segment of our customers,” Groupon said.

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HOW TO: Avoid Common Mistakes When Offering an API

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 10:50 AM PDT

The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. Learn more about Rackspace’s hosting solutions here.

You don’t have to get hit by the proverbial bus to know it hurts, and you don’t have to make the same mistakes other devs have made on your way to a functional, widely used, efficiently managed API. In our final post on API management, our panel of experts has returned to give a few oft-committed mistakes for companies or developers offering an API for the first time — and how you can avoid them.

Clear & Fair Docs & Guidelines Are Key

Of course, offering an API involves a lot more than just creating the API itself. Guillaume Balas is an executive at 3scale, which offers full-featured API management and monetization tools. He says many of 3scale’s customers make mistakes such as not including documentation, sample code, or examples. He said that having no Terms and Conditions or unclear T&Cs is also unfortunately common.

Oren Michels is Mashery‘s CEO. His company does API management and strategy for more than 100 brands and 25,000 applications. He agrees that “lousy or inaccurate or missing documentation” is a common mistake, as is “terms and conditions that say ‘no commercial use’ or other things that suggest to developers that for some reason you get to make money and they don’t.”

And with your API, as with many other aspects of your business, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is a dictum you can’t afford to forget. “Complex registration and key issuance protocols, or worse yet, requiring people to email a key request and wait for someone to get around to responding” is a practice Michels cautions you to avoid.

Be Prepared to Market Your Butt Off

Shanley Kane works on the product team at Apigee, a company that offers a range of API tools for developers and software companies. She says a common mistake is hiding your API under a bushel. “For companies new to the API game, opening up can be scary. Many companies make the mistake of not talking about their APIs — to press, developers and partners — and then wonder why no one is using their API. Commit to making your API a success by embracing the new rules of developer marketing.”

Augusto Marietti founded Mashape, a marketplace for building, distributing and hacking with APIs. He says the biggest mistake many API-offering companies make is not having enough focus in the marketing in the initial months after an API launch.

“You have to target not all kinds of developers,” he says, “but only the developers who need your API to solve a real problem they have. You have to look around, find and contact them, one by one. Those early adopters will spread your API to the world and thousands of other developers.”

Moreover, he notes that in addition to focus, you’ll need a good plan, a lot of resources and a certain amount of stamina. “Launching an API is like launching a new product, in that you have to give it all of your effort for at least six months. [You must] go to meetups, organize contests with interesting prizes that devs really want to have, evangelize your API around the world and organize hackathons.”

Marietti also recommends partnering with other companies with APIs related to your business. You’ll attract more business and split the cost of marketing your API.

Dimitri Sirota is an executive for Layer 7 Technologies, which offers its own suite of API management tools for the enterprise. He says another marketing (or PR) mistake is “having references that don't relate to your business. Make sure you have references that look like you. For instance, if you are an enterprise, make sure you have enterprise customers supporting and referencing you.”

Get Feedback & Use It

Kane also cautions API-offerers to get feedback “early and often” to have a successful launch.

By “early and often,” she means getting select developers on-board and using your API in its most nascent stages. Invite a few trusted devs to use a private, “pre-alpha” version of your API, and put your API through a thorough beta stage, too.

While in these more formative stages, use the feedback you get to improve your design, find and squash bugs, and generally “make sure that the API is usable and pleasurable when you go live,” says Kane.

Brace Yourself for Traffic

Kane also says many API noobs are not prepared for the scope and scale of API traffic, which, she warns, is quite different from the traffic your web app might see.

“Your API will be accessed by mobile apps, web services and potentially hundreds of connected devices and platforms. Supporting that traffic means building out an API stack that will scale, prevent abuse and misuse, support mobile optimization and give you visibility and control.

“There are a number of API-specific solutions out there … but the most important thing is to understand how API traffic is different, and then you build your infrastructure accordingly.”

Sirota says many companies make the mistake of “not using a robust proxy that can provide a range of security and management controls.”

Understand How the API Will Affect Your — & Devs’ — Business

Michels gets the sage final word, saying that many companies make the mistake of not truly understanding how an API can grow their business. Instead, companies believe developers should all be paying for API access and should only get limited access, at that.

You might want to change directions, he says, if your API offers “no path to success — limits on traffic or usage that can’t be raised if someone is successful.” Or if your company is charging for your API, “believing that developers will plunk down a credit card and pay by the call, or by the thousands of calls.”

The overarching mistake here, he notes, is “not understanding how and why the API will improve and grow your business and focusing on making sure it does that.”

Sirota makes a similar point, saying a big mistake is “starting too big and worrying about revenue from the get-go. Start small. Get an API out there and learn — worry about revenue later.”

Do you have other tips for avoiding API mistakes? Let us know in the comments.

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More Dev & Design Resources from Mashable:

- Ruby on Rails: Scaling Your App for Rapid Growth
- Should Your API Be Free or Pay-to-Play?
- HOW TO: Get Devs to Use Your Company’s API
- Should Your Company Offer an API?
- 10 Tools for Getting Web Design Feedback

Image based on a photo from iStockphoto user alxpin.

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New Guinness World Record Set for Longest Freestyle Rap [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 10:19 AM PDT

During Thursday night’s first-ever MTV O Music Awards, Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege of Chiddy Bang broke the Guinness World Record for Longest Freestyle Rap, as well as the Longest Marathon Rapping Record.

Chiddy stole the throne from M-Eighty — who broke the record in 2009 by rapping for nine hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds — by freestyling for nine hours and 18 minutes. He also beat out D.O. (aka Duane Gibson, Canada) for Longest Marathon Rapping session — D.O. rapped for eight hours and 45 minutes.

Check out the video above, which shows the final countdown. He gets a little random toward the end, but rallies for a big finish.

Credit Tom Donoghue

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Coca-Cola’s Friendship Machine Rewards Cooperation With Cokes [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 09:47 AM PDT

The game of vending machine one-upsmanship between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo continues with Coke’s “Friendship Machine.”

Coca-Cola actually planted the machines in Argentina last August to celebrate International Friendship Day, but just this week uploaded the video to its YouTube channel. The machines appear to be about 12 feet tall and requires that you ask a buddy for a boost to use it. Coke rewards that bit of cooperation by dispensing two Cokes instead of one.

The program plays off of Coke’s “Happiness Machine” viral video of 2010, which shows a Coke machine spitting out free soda and pizzas to a group of delighted students. Coke also updated that idea in February with a “Happiness Truck” video that features a Coca-Cola truck giving out Cokes along with surfboards, beach toys and sunglasses.

PepsiCo responded to Coke’s experiments this week with a real-life vending machine that let you gift free Pepsis to friends and strangers via a text message.

More About: Coke, Pepsi, trending, vending machine, youtube

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The Secret Social Media Lives of Goldfish [COMIC]

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 09:24 AM PDT

Apple Patent Shows Powerful Fitness App for iPhone

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 09:01 AM PDT

Apple has applied for a patent for a Fitness Center App with social media components that might be able to bring a variety of fitness-tracking capabilities under one icon. The United States Patent and Trademark Office published Apple’s patent Thursday.

The app would include an extensive back end for fitness centers to interact with their customers, and the front end that will reside on the iPhone, helping users keep track of their workouts and find potential workout partners via social networking.

There’s a Groupon-like component to the software, which lets fitness centers start off their interaction with prospective customers by offering a “free pass,” as well as sending them “news, updates, daily promotions and daily activities,” according to the patent application outlined on

Besides benefiting fitness centers, users would be able to find potential workout partners, leveraging data they’ve input as well as profile information from their social networking accounts. The app could also pit one user against another, inspiring competition while motivating users to stick with their fitness plans.

Building on Apple’s Nike+ experience, the app would connect with smart exercise equipment, keeping accurate records of workout accomplishments, and then matching those against the user’s goals. In the patent application, Apple specified gathering fitness data via both physically connected exercise equipment and wireless coupling using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

While a lot of these functions are already available via apps and websites, if Apple decides to create this app, it will probably wrap all these different functions into a smoothly integrated user experience.

Let us know in the comments if you think this is an original idea that should be released or if you think Apple is copying multiple applications that already exist.

More About: apple, fitness app, iphone app, Nike, patent, social networking, USPTO

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Citizen Philanthropist Finds Better Way To Give to Charity For Entire Year

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 08:21 AM PDT

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Online philanthropy is swamped with one-off campaigns that raise a lot of noise around a major event and then die down for the rest of the year. But Carlo Garcia is doing the exact opposite with his online project. Garcia is back with his second year of Living Philanthropic, a one-man project to donate to charity 365 days in a row.

For round two, however, Garcia has revamped the model. Instead of donating to 365 different charities, he’s featuring one per month (12 total) and pooling his money to deliver larger personal donations to each charity. He’s also crowdsourcing a bit of help.

Last year, Garcia not only donated to 365 different charities, he also wrote a blog post for every single one, including what the charities did, why he chose them and how much he gave (usually around $10). That was a lot of work, especially for someone from a modest background with a day job as an actor and director. Perhaps the most compelling part of the campaign is that Garcia really is an ordinary guy trying to make a difference.

Garcia’s Tumblr is still live and kicking, but he’s also trying to have his audience help him spread the word. Garcia is accepting guest posts; some are from featured non-profits, while others are from members of his audience, explaining why they decided to join Garcia’s mission.

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Garcia says his mission has always been less about the money value than it is about the participation and spirit of giving. Last year, Garcia donated a little more than $4,000. However, that number was augmented by more than $15,000 in matching donations from everyday people inspired by his work.

Now, Garcia is giving them a voice as part of Year Two. “The thing I’m going to continue to push is that it really doesn’t have to be a lot,” Garcia says. “It doesn’t have to be $5 a day, it can be a dollar or $0.50. You might be surprised that $20 or $30 a month is going to make a great impact if everyone does it. It can really have a profound effect.”

He is also stressing that there are non-monetary ways to give, like volunteering or donating goods. Garcia says he’s picked about half of the year’s charities but wants to leave himself open to learn about new causes or feature a cause in dire straits.

In line with his grassroots mandate, Garcia sees the participatory nature of small donations as a necessary balance to larger organizations: “They’re both really important but with these smaller organizations, smaller donors can really mean life or death … the importance of the dollar can’t be underestimated.”

To help, he’s added some social media tools like a widget, and a growing community of “Living Philanthropists” to compliment his Crowdrise page.

Just one month into Year Two, Garcia is already planning collaborations to help get the word out about charitable giving. Is Year Three in the works? Absolutely, Garcia says: “If it inspires at least one person, then I don’t think you can call it a failure.”

Can one person make a difference? Is it better to feature 12 non-profits instead of 365? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: carlo garcia, charity, living philanthropic, non-profit, social good, social media, year two

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5 Tips for Closing a Sale on Facebook

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 08:02 AM PDT

Sean Cook is CEO of ShopVisible LLC. With more than 11 years of experience in online marketing, management and new technology innovation, Cook translates ShopVisible's premier e-commerce platform solution into bottom line results for clients.

Social ecommerce is becoming more and more important on networks like Facebook. More than another “new frontier,” it is attracting innovative marketers that are taking advantage of new technologies and responding to their consumers.

Working with fans to create unique shopping and sharing opportunities empowers the kind of viral experiences that were fundamental to Facebook's own rapid growth and consumer engagement.

But how can you maximize the social network to close sales for your own business? Here are five tips to help you design a Facebook presence that makes buying your products more desirable and easy.

1. Make it Unique

Your Facebook store should be different from your main website. The key is offering fans an engaging experience that makes sense within the environment. You can't just put a shopping cart in Facebook and expect people to use it. Give your consumers a reason to become fans and give your fans a reason to purchase on Facebook. Consider offering exclusive merchandise available only on Facebook or making products available before you can find them in stores.

2. Encourage Collaboration

Facebook is the perfect environment to create a compelling and collaborative buying experience. People love sharing on Facebook — it's what the space is built for. Letting people share this information is a great example of how retailers can join the conversation in a relevant way.

Retailers who harness the potential of comments, likes and shares will empower messages to go viral. Facebook makes it easy for your fans to share deals and purchases. Offering incentives, loyalty programs, checkin capabilities and other word-of-mouth generators will not only spread your reach further but give your fans a reason to purchase on your Facebook Page. The retailers who offer wish lists, collaborative shopping experiences and incentivized sharing on Facebook will likely see a surge in traffic and sales.

3. Create an Exclusive VIP Experience

We know from the success of companies like Gilt Groupe that people like to be "in the know" and they like to invite others to join the club. Let your Facebook fans be first in line to access new merchandise, limited edition pieces and products that are only available to them through Facebook. Your fans are more apt to share their limited-access purchase with other fans. This builds buzz for hard-to-get products and prompts Facebook users to become fans to get involved.

4. Privacy and Security are Paramount

Facebook stores that immediately ask permission to access personal data are a major deterrent for all consumers, especially those who are simply looking to browse. Offer an experience that doesn't require fans and consumers to install an application. Consumers are wary of their personal data being tracked, so if you do require an application installation, specify what information you are going to access and what you're going to do with it.

People like familiarity, especially when it comes to their financial data. Offering familiar alternative payment methods like PayPal or Amazon checkout will extend greater buying confidence. Make sure that consumers know you maintain the highest security during the checkout process. Make sure you only use technology partners that maintain PCI Level 1 compliance — it's the right thing to do.

5. Make it Easy to Navigate and Work

Don't want to lose your customer? Make sure your Facebook store is easy and intuitive to navigate. Consumers shouldn't endure more than two to three clicks to find the product they're looking for. Facebook recently introduced customizable navigation links on the left side of the page. Retailers can use these links to provide their customers with quick links to their top product categories. It's also crucial to offer search capability within your Facebook store. Implementing a search bar that also offers predictive text allows a customer to get directly to the item they're searching for.

Your website is not the community, and Facebook is not your company site. Don't just copy and paste between the two. There is a reason why Facebook is unique — it is a community for sharing, collaborating, being the first to know, and much more. Give your fans something of value and make it fun, and they'll reward you by telling everyone they know.

Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of Flickr, markhillary

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Microsoft’s Quarterly Profit Falls Below Apple’s for First Time in 20 Years

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 07:46 AM PDT

Microsoft reported a smaller quarterly profit than Apple for the first time in 20 years as the iPad ate into sales of laptop computers.

Microsoft's net income for the quarter was $5.2 billion compared to Apple’s $5.99 billion. According to Bloomberg, that's the first time in 20 years that Apple's quarterly profit eclipsed Microsoft's. The milestone comes after Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization last year.

Pat Becker, Jr., principal of Becker Capital Management, says there's "no doubt" that the iPad is cannibalizing laptop sales, at Microsoft's expense. Along those lines, revenues in its Windows segment fell 4.4% to $4.5 billion, which was "in line with the PC trends," according to a statement from the company. Microsoft is banking on Windows 8, which is likely to appear in beta form this summer and hit the mass market in 2012, to revive consumer PC sales.

Happily for Microsoft, other divisions of the company are doing better. Revenues for the company's Business Division grew 21% year over year. "The enterprise has been doing a refresh and upgrade and Microsoft's been riding that wave," Becker says. The Entertainment & Devices Division also grew its revenues 60% year-over-year thanks to the successful introduction of Kinect for Xbox 360 and continued strong sales for Xbox 360.

Despite those numbers, Microsoft seems to be feeling the heat from Apple and Google among others, as evinced by a company-wide pay raise given out last week, according to the Financial Times.

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How Startups Will Benefit if the SEC Relaxes Funding Regulations

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 07:28 AM PDT

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Bill Clark is the CEO of Microventures, a securities broker/dealer that helps startups raise capital through crowdfunding.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering easing the regulations on how private companies raise capital.

The areas that the SEC is going to review are general solicitation rules, the 500 share holder limit and regulations around crowdfunding. Easing these regulations will have a major impact on how startups raise capital and will help more startups raise funding.

Let's review each of the regulations and see how startups could benefit.

General Solicitation

The SEC restricts the solicitation of private securities to the general public. This is done to protect investors who could be targeted in a marketing campaign and could possibly put their life savings into a risky investment. Private companies like Facebook or Twitter don't have to share financial details with the public, so if you buy their private stock there is a lot more risk involved than buying shares of a public company, like Google.

Accredited investors are currently the only group that has access to purchase private securities. Relaxing the regulations on broadcasting that opportunity would not ultimately change the investor base. As Dan Primack points out in his Term Sheet column: "I know that a Tesla Roadster base price is $109K — but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t afford to buy it." In other words, being solicited to purchase shares of Facebook and knowing the stock is trading for $37 dollars a share with a minimum purchase of $500K doesn't mean that I can or will buy.

The ease of restriction on solicitation would mean a startup could message out to their social networks when they are looking for capital. This type of broad communication is not available today.

What if Twitter could have messaged out to their early adopters and others that they were looking for additional funding? They had a large foundation of followers who saw the potential of the service and would have possibly invested, which would have given those investors a great return based on the current valuation. There is certainly risk in soliciting funding from your user base when your startup is just beginning. Take the Vonage IPO as an example.

In 2006, the IPO was presented to Vonage customers as an opportunity to invest and take advantage of what was thought to be the next big thing in telecommunications. Early investors, a lot of them Vonage customers, watched as stock dropped 30% in the first week. This caused many issues for Vonage including a lot of unhappy customers. As an investor, we have to do our homework on any potential investment opportunity, regardless of how we found out about it. Receiving a solicitation about private securities should not change investor due diligence behavior.

I, like many, read about new startups online and often wish I could invest in them. If the idea is good enough, I will reach out directly and pursue them on my own. I am not alone, and startups could increase the number of funding partners if only they could promote their concepts to a broader audience. We are inundated every day with solicitations from a variety of companies to buy their products, but ultimately we decide whether to pursue or turn away. The same allowance should be given to private securities.

500 Shareholder Limit

The SEC thought process is that at a certain point, in this case 500 shareholders, a company has become large enough that it should start providing detailed insight into company operations. This number was instituted when brick-and-mortar was the main form of enterprise and your investors were within a 50 mile radius of the company. This outdated threshold must change to accommodate new ways of doing business. A private security has an ethical obligation to keep its shareholders informed, and this should not be based on an arbitrary number. Increasing the investor shareholder limit will help startups in a number of ways.

  • A startup company will be able to stay private longer, which could give them a competitive advantage. Under current regulations, when a private company hits 500 shareholders, there are several reporting requirements that it must file with the SEC. The company must disclose information on its operations, information on officers/directors including salaries, and financial condition of the business, which is audited by an independent CPA. This information would be made public and is very valuable to a competitor.
  • Preparing for and facilitating reporting can cost a startup $50,000 to $200,000 annually. Being able to delay this formal reporting and associated cost while the startup is still in its infancy will help improve probability of future success. This money could be better used during initial start up to grow profitability for shareholders.
  • Startups would be able to allow more investors to participate with smaller investments. This is especially important for crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding Regulations

Crowdfunding has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years as a way to fund creative ideas. The only downside to crowdfunding is that because of the private securities laws — like the shareholder cap and solicitation rules — it can sometimes be difficult to crowdfund a startup. Because of current restrictions, some crowdfunding websites can only offer small benefits for your investment, and are finding it difficult to offer actual equity.

As an example, Kickstarter is a site where an investor can fund a movie idea and in return get items like a signed DVD or a producer credit. What they cannot offer is a percentage of the movie proceeds or a part of their movie company. If crowdfunding startups like Kickstarter wanted to offer equity, they would have to navigate though securities laws such as registering the securities with the SEC in every state they intend to sell into, create funding documents and potentially register as a broker/dealer. For crowdfunding to work, the SEC will have to ease restrictions on both solicitation and the 500 shareholder limit.

The SEC is going to review the crowdfunding strategy which will help startups in several ways:

  • Allowing startups to crowd fund online will give the startup more visibility with more potential investors seeing the opportunity. More potential investors means a greater probability of a startup getting funded.
  • It will make smaller investments more feasible. It is sometimes easier to get $100 from 10 investors than it is to get one person to invest $1,000. To reach 10 times as many people to be potential investors, the cap has to be raised so startups can benefit.
  • It will also create exemptions from registration requirements. This will allow a startup to get funding from many states without the need to register the securities in each state. This could cost up to $15,000 if a startup had an investor from all 50 states.

What does it mean if all of these restrictions are eased? Startups will have access to more capital than they have ever had in the past through new, expanded investor communities. They’ll have a greater chance of successful capital funding, providing return on investment back to shareholders, and stimulating innovative growth in emerging markets.

Interested in more Startup resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, WillSelarep, and Flickr, Premshree Pillai.

More About: business, crowdfunding, ipo, regulation, SEC, shareholders, solicitation, startup

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Lady Gaga Takes Top Honors at MTV’s Digital Music Awards

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 06:50 AM PDT

In a move that surprised no one, Lady Gaga came out the victor at MTV’s newly launched O Music Awards, taking home “Most Innovative Artist” and “Must Follow Artist on Twitter.”

The new event, which honors achievements in digital music, kicked off Monday, at which time MTV started announcing winners. I took part in a panel that chose Most Innovative Music Video (Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up” won).

Thursday night, however, more awards were meted out in Las Vegas, including: Kanye West (Best Tweet), Lonely Island (Funniest Music Short), 30 Seconds to Mars (NSFW Music Video), Aquarium Drunkard (Best Independent Music Blog) and MJJ Fan Community (Best Fan Forum). Check out the dedicated site for the full list.

Awards were largely decided via fan vote at, social media venues and via mobile. On Friday, prizes for Best Music Hashtag, Best Remix and Best iTunes LP will also be announced.

To be honest, we’re a bit disappointed with some of these winners. For example, modern-day Robin Hood Lady Gaga seems an obvious choice for Most Innovative Artist, but what about some of her competitors? iamamiwhoami went viral for her YouTube videos, building buzz via mystery, The Flaming Lips are releasing new songs via gummy skulls and whatnot, and Odd Future just started its own record label.

Granted, “innovative” is open for interpretation (I still hold that “The Wilderness Downtown” or “Knight of Wands” should have won “Most Innovative Music Video”), but it would have been nice to see some less obvious champions win this race. The Grammy’s managed to surprise us with Arcade Fire’s win — even if the band did baffle the web in the process.

More About: 30-seconds-to-mars, andy-grammer, Aquarium-Drunkard, iamamiwhoami, kanye west, Lady Gaga, MTV-OMA, Odd Future, pop culture, The-Flaming-Lips

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Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 06:33 AM PDT

Thanks to this week's advertisers and partners for enabling us to bring you the latest social media news and resources. Mashable’s sponsors are as social media savvy as our readers!

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Mashable is seeking site sponsors for our large, diverse audience — social media users, venture capitalists, early adopters, developers, bloggers and many more. You’ll receive hundreds of thousands of views per day in addition to weekly recognition as part of our “thank you” to our premium sponsors. Are you interested? Contact us for more information and to receive our media kit and rate card.

This week, our valued sponsors are: Mygazines, GFI Vipre, BMW i,, Elance, Discover Digital Group, Global Strategic Management Institute, Mynewsdesk, Ford, Spigit, Sprout Social, Site24x7, IDG, Elsevier, Vocus, Hubspot, Level 3 Communications, Qualcomm's Snapdragon, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Sourcebits, Oneupweb, SoftLayer, SRDS, Buddy Media, Gillette, Clickatell, Microsoft BizSpark, MaxCDN and Eventbrite.

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GFI Vipre provides antivirus software. When it comes to antivirus protection, you deserve fast and easy: fast scan times, easy deployment, fast threat detection, easy administration, fast system performance, and easy-to-use management console. Vipre Antivirus Business: the protection you need, the performance you deserve.

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Discover Digital Group is a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. From developing new digital products to generating new audiences and revenue for existing online products, it creates smarter, more effective solutions for your business challenges. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.

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Global Strategic Management Institute is a leading source of knowledge for today's leaders. Its Social Media Strategies Series are the leading educational events for organizations looking to advance their online capabilities. Learn more at

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Site24x7, an online website monitoring service which allows users to monitor their website, web application and online web transactions. Users can get instant alerts when their website goes down. Site24x7 allows monitoring from across 25+ global locations. Site24x7 pricing starts from $1/Month/URL. Sign up for a 15-day Free Trial!

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With the explosion of mobile devices, advertising dollars will begin to shift to mobile for tech marketers this year. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke talks about the rise of social and how IDG helps marketers create social campaigns. The line is fading between social media and traditional media. Earned media or sharing of information within social networks is becoming mainstream whether on a PC or mobile device. Learn more.

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Elsevier‘s SciVerse Application Marketplace and Developer Network enables developers to build apps based on trusted scientific content. In 2008, the prominent science publisher Elsevier launched SciVerse to provide developers with access to ample research data. SciVerse also sponsors "Apps for Science," a $35,000 developer challenge to accelerate science. Learn more.

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HubSpot offers inbound marketing software that helps small and medium sized businesses get found on the Internet by the right prospects and converts more of them into leads and customers. HubSpot's software platform includes tools that allow professional marketers and small business owners to manage SEO, blogging, social media, landing pages, e-mail, lead intelligence and marketing analytics. Learn more.

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Vocus helps businesses get heard and talked about on social media and beyond. It brings you all the conversations that matter, without information overload, and lets you find influencers fast. Take a quick online demo and see what it can do.

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Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset platform is redefining mobility by offering an optimal combination of mobile processing performance, powerful multimedia, wireless connectivity and power efficiency. Inside your smartphone beats the heart of a dragon.

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Offered at the CUNY School of Professional Studies, the MS in Business Management and Leadership is designed to meet the needs of your busy schedule through the flexibility of online study. It is a great educational opportunity at an affordable cost, with in-state tuition for all students. Visit for more information.

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SoftLayer provides global, on-demand data center and hosting services from facilities across the U.S. it leverages best-in-class connectivity and technology to innovate industry leading, fully automated solutions that empower enterprises with complete access, control, security, and scalability.

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SRDS connects agencies, brands and media through its online database of media planning data. SRDS is committed to making it easier to buy online ad space and build integrated marketing campaigns. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of the SRDS consumer and business database here.

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Clickatell was the first provider of Online SMS Gateway connectivity, and after 10 years, is still the leading provider. Clickatell can deliver your SMS text messages to over 818 mobile networks in more than 222 countries and territories.

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BizSpark is a program which offers new software businesses and entrepreneurs access to Microsoft design, development and production tools with no upfront costs for up to three years. Learn more or connect with a Microsoft BizSpark advisor here.

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Webtrends founded the web analytics industry in 1993. Today, its leadership extends much further to social media measurement, paid-search optimization and connecting the online and offline data silos scattered throughout organizations. Webtrends helps you analyze the data generated by your web site, blogs, online campaigns and enterprise systems to understand your customers and, ultimately, business opportunities.

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Since 2007 W3 EDGE has assisted with creative, web development, and search and social media marketing for and its other web properties and projects. Day-to-day maintenance and support is handled by Frederick Townes and his W3 EDGE team.

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Rackspace Hosting is the world’s leader in the hosting and cloud computing industry. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support® to its customers across a portfolio of IT services. For more information, visit is hosted on Rackspace, and Rackspace sponsors Mashable’s Web Development Series. Check it out here, and follow Rackspace on Twitter.

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ConcentricSky offers web and mobile development with a focus on emerging technologies. With partners ranging from National Geographic and Encyclopedia Britannica to NASA and The World Bank, Concentric Sky is known for delivering innovative, world-class software solutions.

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Amazon Finally Apologizes & Explains Cloud Outage In-Depth

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:56 AM PDT

The outage of some of Amazon’s AWS services, which caused downtime to many prominent websites, is finally behind us. Amazon has issued a formal apology and a lengthy explanation of how and why it happened, along with a list of measures it plans to implement to prevent such incidents from happening.

System admins and developers will probably find the detailed (and quite technical) explanation an interesting read.

The document lists tweaks and improvements Amazon plans to put in place to reduce the possibility of such an outage happening again. First, Amazon plans to give customers the ability to take advantage of multiple Availability Zones, which are like independent server clusters in the cloud, designed to be insulated from failures in other zones in the cloud. Amazon also plans to do a better job at making it easier to deploy a service over multiple availability zones, which is — by its own admission — a daunting task.

Amazon also plans to invest in speedier recovery from failures and improve communication with its clients. “We switched to more regular updates part of the way through this event and plan to continue with similar frequency of updates in the future. In addition, we are already working on how we can staff our developer support team more expansively in an event such as this, and organize to provide early and meaningful information, while still avoiding speculation,” says the AWS team.

Amazon will also reimburse affected customers with a 10-day credit equal to 100% of their usage of EBS Volumes, EC2 Instances and RDS database instances that were running in the affected Availability Zone. The credit will be automatically applied to the customers’ AWS bill.

Finally, Amazon has formally apologized for the outage. “We know how critical our services are to our customers' businesses and we will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to drive improvement across our services,” the post concludes.

More About: amazon, AWS, cloud, outage

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