Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “ViewSonic to Release the First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “ViewSonic to Release the First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet”


ViewSonic to Release the First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet

Posted: 12 May 2011 05:13 AM PDT


ViewSonic is preparing to launch the world’s first 7-inch tablet based on Android 3 or Honeycomb, Google’s mobile OS designed for tablets, Pocket-lint reports.

The ViewPad 7x will weigh 380 grams and sport a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, dual cameras, a HDMI port and HSPA+ support, which makes it a capable device, worthy of testing the Honeycomb waters in 7-inch format. It is not known whether it will have the freshly launched Honeycomb 3.1, or the initial 3.0 version of Google’s tablet platform.

The device is slated to be launched on May 31 at this year’s Computex fair in Taipei.

ViewSonic’s current tablet lineup includes the 10-inch ViewPad 10, which we’ve first seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, as well as a 7-inch ViewPad 7 which is based on Android 2.2 (Froyo).

[via Pocket-lint]

More About: android, Google, honeycomb, Tablet, ViewSonic

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New Angry Birds Rio Episode Coming, Trailer Released [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:37 PM PDT


As promised, Rovio is rolling out an episodic update to its Angry Birds Rio game. The Angry Birds Rio: Beach Volley update will be available by the end of the week.

According to BGR, Rovio says there will be a new episode of the Angry Birds Rio series released each month through November.

Viewing the new trailer above, this looks like loads of fun, but we’d rather see more levels where the object of the game is to set birds free, rather than to mangle those annoying little monkeys.

Commenters, do you like the Angry Birds Rio series better than the original? Either way, you can now play the original version of Angry Birds on a web browser.

More About: Angry Birds Rio: Beach Volley, New Episode, rovio, trailer

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Google Explains Life After the Desktop [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:58 PM PDT


Google announced the availability of two Chromebooks — laptops based on Google’s Chrome OS — at the Google I/O conference Wednesday, but the hardware specifications of those machines are almost completely irrelevant.

According to Google, what makes these laptops interesting is not what they have, it’s what they lack: programs, messy desktops or locally stored documents. A Chromebook is not really a laptop, and it’s not really a computer, Google claims. It’s the web in a “computer-like object” and if you believe Google, “you can do everything on the web.”

Of course, the lack of desktop software does have some benefits, such as a startup time as fast as 8 seconds. Furthermore, the fact that your files are stored in Google’s cloud mean they’re quite safe: You can literally throw your Chromebook into a river and you won’t lose your stuff.

The question, however, is whether the world is ready to completely move into the cloud? According to Google’s own notice on the official Chromebooks features page, “when you do not have network access, functionality that depends on it will not be available.”

Can you imagine having a Google Chromebook as your main computer, or doing serious work on it? Check out Google’s promo video below and share your opinions in the comments.

More About: Chrome OS, Chromebooks, Conference, Google, google io, laptop

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Samsung Chromebook Series 5: What You Need to Know [PHOTOS]

Posted: 11 May 2011 08:41 PM PDT


Google and Samsung have unveiled the “world’s first chromebook,” the Chromebook Series 5. We had the opportunity to take it for a test drive.

On Wednesday, Google announced the upcoming availability of Google Chrome OS notebooks. The first devices will make their debut on June 15 on Amazon.com, Best Buy and other stores in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands. Google SVP of Chrome Sundar Pichai revealed that Acer and Samsung would produce the first launch devices.

At a starting price of $429, the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 is cheaper than an iPad and it’s certainly cheaper than a standard laptop or MacBook. But is its hardware, speed and Chrome OS software enough to get consumers to pull out their credit cards?

Check our our first impression and photo gallery of the device below, and let us know what you think in the comments.


Specs


For anyone who has used the Cr-48 prototype Chrome OS notebook, you can breathe a sigh of relief: the Samsung Chromebook is much faster. The biggest change from the Cr-48 is that the Chromebook boasts an Intel dual-core processor, providing a noticeable performance boost. The Chromebook is also sleeker and includes a more vibrant screen.

Here’s an overview of the specs for the Samsung Chromebook:

  • Size: 0.79-inch case, 3.3 lb total
  • Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB SSD
  • Processor: Intel dual-core processor (Samsung and Google aren’t disclosing processor speed) Update: Amazon says it’s an Intel Atom Processor N570 running at 1.66GHz
  • Screen: 12.1-inch SuperBright Display, 16:10 resolution — Samsung claims it is 36% brighter than a standard LCD display.
  • Battery: Up to 8.5 hours of normal usage, up to 5 hours of video playback
  • Software: Google Chrome OS. Bootup time is less than 10 seconds
  • Peripherals: Two USB ports and an SD/SDHC/MMC card reader
  • Price: $429 for Wi-Fi. $499 for the 3G version, which includes 100MB free per month for two years
  • Input: The trackpad is “oversized” and the Chromebook sports a full-sized Chiclet-style keyboard.

First Impressions


I had the opportunity to take the device for a test run, with the help of Google Chrome OS Product Manager Kan Liu.

If you’ve seen the Google Cr-48, then the interface of the device should be familiar to you. Google Chrome OS loads fast and is simple to use, thanks to the lack of desktop apps. Thanks to the improved hardware of the Samsung Chromebook, you won’t be screaming every three minutes at it for failing to load a simple Flash video. The dual-core processor makes a huge difference.

One important change to Chrome OS is its ability to link to web apps for uploading images, videos and other multimedia. I downloaded several images from the web and was able to quickly upload them to a Box.net account right from the file folder. Once Flickr, Picnik, Vimeo and other multimedia-sharing services sync up with the Chrome OS API, it should make uploading and downloading images a lot easier to manage.

Still, Chrome OS takes some time to get used to, and it isn’t for everyone. It can’t run Skype, it can’t run Photoshop, and it simply isn’t a good machine for a power user. However, it’s ideal for businesses that only need machines for data entry. Casual users may find some use out of the Samsung Chromebook (here’s Google’s video explaining the Chromebook), but they will probably be better off with an iPad 2 or an Android tablet.

The device itself, though, is sleek and sexy. It’s light, portable and pleasing to the eyes. I wouldn’t mind dropping into a coffee shop with the Arctic White version of the device. Its hardware is solid, but I need to test it more extensively to see whether it can take the use and abuse of daily work.


Gallery: Samsung’s Chromebook



Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Front View




Here's a front view of the Chromebook


Samsung Chomebook Cover




Here's the top of the Arctic White version. The Chromebook comes with the Samsung and the Google Chrome logos. Google and Samsung didn't have any of the Titan Silver version for us to photograph, unfortunately.


Samsung Chomebook Keyboard




The Chromebook sports an island-style chiclet keyboard.


Chrome OS Login Screen




It only takes seconds to reach the login screen.


The New York Times on the Samsung Chomebook




This gives you an idea of the screen brightness and resolution on the Samsung Chomebook.


Google's Chrome Web Store




This store becomes a very important page for launching your web apps.


Side View of the Samsung Chomebook




The left side of the Chromebook includes the headphone jack, power plug, a monitor slot and a USB port.


USB Port




A closer look at the USB port.

More About: chrome, Chrome OS, chromebook, First impression, gallery, Google, google chrome, google chrome os, Hardware, Photos, review, samsung, trending

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Startup Tweets You Offers Based On Where You Check In

Posted: 11 May 2011 08:04 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: Local Response

Quick Pitch: Local Response tweets deals to customers based on where they check in.

Genius Idea: Scanning Twitter for location-revealing checkins from Foursquare, Foodspotting, Instagram and other services.


While your friends might not care about the photo of your lunch you just blasted to their Twitter feeds, it could be valuable information to the restaurant where you’re eating. The latest wave of social networks document, photograph and broadcast your every move, opening an unprecedented opportunity for small businesses and big brands alike to target consumers based on their whereabouts and activities.

Local Response wants to help businesses collect and respond to their customers’ public posts. The platform scans Twitter for explicit checkins to locations, like on Foursquare, as well as natural language that indicates location (ex. “I’m going to…”), and responds with Twitter @mentions on behalf of businesses. Messages most often include a coupon or offer in a bit.ly link.

In other words, when customers check into a store on Foursquare, the store can send them a coupon while they are there. If customers tweet a photo through Instragram from a competing store, they might get the same coupon.


So far, the platform’s @mentions have a 25% to 40% click-through rate — not bad when compared to the .08% click-through rate for banner ads on social networks, estimated by digital advertising agency MediaMind.

“The consumer has already publicly expressed a relationship,” explains Local Response president and Media6Degrees co-founder Kathy Leake. “The messages are also highly contextual.”

Local Response grew out of Buzzd, a location-based city guide that founder Nihal Mehta started in 2007. Verizon Ventures and Charles River led a $1.5 million round to finance the pivot, which switched the re-branded company’s focus from competing with Foursquare-like services to capitalizing on the data that they provide.

On Monday, the company launched a platform for brands in addition to its existing small business self-service platform. Coca-Cola, a major department store and a major mobile carrier have already signed on.


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, check-ins, local response, startup

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iKeyboard Enhances Touch Typing on iPad

Posted: 11 May 2011 07:27 PM PDT



Inventor Cliff Thier thinks the iPad is perfect except for one thing: Its touchscreen is not suitable for touch typing. That’s why he invented iKeyboard.

This simple overlay to an iPad’s touchscreen lets users feel where the keys are, minimizes mistakes, and lets touch typists take advantage of tactile feedback, just the way they do when they’re typing on a conventional keyboard.

Cliff says, “Imagine sitting in a classroom trying to take notes but having to exclusively look at a virtual keyboard so you’ll be able to hit the right letters. If you’re thinking about where the next key is to tap, you can’t take notes because you can’t simultaneously think about what the teacher is saying.”

He has another good point: Separate keyboards for iPad, many of which we’ve reviewed and enjoyed using, take away part of the appeal of this slim tablet. They add bulk, weight, enlarge the device’s footprint, and give users one more thing they have to be careful not to lose when they’re typing on the go.

The iKeyboard is a Kickstarter project, where backers pledge a dollar or more and if there are enough investors by the given deadline, the product gets manufactured and sold. This one will only be funded if $4,000 is pledged by June 28, 2011. We’re thinking this is one project that deserves to actually find its way underneath the hands of users, don’t you?


Hands On Keyboard





Screen On





Lower Angle




More About: accessories, iKeyboard, ipad, kickstarter, Touch Typing, trending

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Tiny Banjo Band Tears It Up [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:48 PM PDT


Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

Banjos: They’re not just for those dudes in Deliverance and hipsters anymore. A video of a crew of brothers from New Jersey tearing it up on the banjo, fiddle and guitar has recently been popping up all over the web.

The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys‘ cover of “Flint Hill Special” is sure to make you look back at your own grade school band days with utter and complete shame. Anyone else get an “F” in recorder? Nope, just me.

More About: banjo, music, video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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The End Is Nigh — For Computers, at Least [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 May 2011 04:41 PM PDT


When it comes to our gadgets, we live by Moore’s law, which implies that as time goes by and tech gets better, the hardware we use gets smaller and more sophisticated.

Now that we’ve whittled machines that filled whole rooms down to an MP3 player the size of a Triscuit, it’s hard to say how much smaller our devices can get — but computing is continuing to evolve.

In ten or twenty years, what we now call “computers” and how we do our computing are both guaranteed to be radically different and almost unrecognizable.

In this REM-flavored infographic (which will surely get that song solidly stuck in your head for the rest of the day) we take a look at the progression of hardware from its beginnings in research to its future in quantum theory and even our own DNA.

Click image to see full-size version.

[source: OnlineComputerScienceDegree.com]

More About: computers, Hardware, infographic, moore's law, trending

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Google I/O in a Nutshell: All the News You Might Have Missed

Posted: 11 May 2011 03:44 PM PDT


Google I/O 2011 has officially ended, so here’s a quick “all killer, no filler” recap of everything you need to know that happened at the conference this year.

The event was full of announcements, including big pieces of Android news, updates on Google TV, announcements for the super-slick Chromebook, and perhaps most significant of all, the official launch of Google Music.

And it wasn’t all consumer app news. Believe it or not, this developer conference also brought actual news for developers, too. We’ll wrap it all up for you right here:


Google Music Launched


What you need to know: Google’s music service lets you upload any music files you have — including iTunes libraries and playlists — to the cloud. You can access, organize, and play your tunes from any connected device, including computers, tablets and mobiles. Best of all, tunes are automatically synced any time you add new songs on the desktop.

But you can’t buy music through Google Music — not yet, at least. And you can only get an invite from Google directly, so don’t click on any spammy links you see out there on the web claiming to “give away” Google Music Beta invites.


Chromebooks Are Coming


What you need to know: Google Chromebooks, elegant little netbooks that run Chrome OS, are becoming commercially available beginning June 15. Samsung and Acer will be the first companies to manufacture the devices.


Google TV’s Getting More Apps


What you need to know: Google TVs will be getting access to the full Android Market — as well as Honeycomb 3.1 — this summer. New apps might mean better PR for a product some say is in a slump.


A New Version of Honeycomb


What you need to know: Google is rolling out a new version of Honeycomb, its tablet OS. Android 3.1 upgrades will start with Motorola Xoom customers now and will be coming to Google TV this summer. The OS is bringing new, expandable widgets as well as support for USB peripherals, including cameras, joysticks, etc.


The Newest Android OS: Ice Cream Sandwich


What you need to know: Android 4.0 will be Ice Cream Sandwich, and it will close the 2.X/3.X fork. Ice Cream Sandwich will run on all kinds of devices, including tablets, mobile phones and more. Google is hoping this will patch the OS’s overarching fragmentation issues.


Goodies for Developers


What you need to know: App Engine is coming out of preview. Version 1.5.0 will bring Backend support and a fast-compiling runtime for Go, Google’s homebrewed programming language. The company also rolled out a Google Plugin for Eclipse.


Android@Home Does Home Automation


What you need to know: Google announced the all-new Android@Home framework, a set of protocols for controlling light switches, alarm clocks and other home appliances through any Android device.


Google Movies for Android


What you need to know: Google Movies for Android is an all-new app that allows users to rent and play movies on their tablets or phones.

More About: Google, google io

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Twitter Gives Its Mobile Web App a Massive Upgrade

Posted: 11 May 2011 02:50 PM PDT


Twitter has begun rolling out a vastly improved version of its mobile website for touchscreen devices, one that mimics the functionality of its native mobile apps.

The new version of Twitter for iPhone utilizes HTML5 and other modern web technologies to recreate the experience one might find on the company’s Android and iOS apps. Like Twitter for Android, the options to check one’s Twitter feed, @mentions and direct messages is available at the top of the screen, along with access to search and profiles.

In our brief tests with the mobile web app, we found that functionality such as pull and release to refresh, tab switching and gesture control are reliable and rich. It’s a very big leap from the previous version of Twitter for mobile, which looked and felt like it was built in 2005.

Twitter says that it is rolling out the new mobile app to a “small percentage of users” on iPhone, Android and iPod Touch today, but it will roll out to the rest of the Twitterverse in the coming weeks. We’re currently playing with the mobile app now and will update you if we learn more.

What do you think of Twitter’s new mobile web app? Let us know in the comments.

More About: android, HTML5, iOS, iphone, Mobile 2.0, trending, twitter

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8 Great YouTube Channels for Music News

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:40 PM PDT


As we well know by now, YouTube isn’t only about cats running into mirrors and hyperactive video bloggers. There’s also a lot of great music-related content yonder.

We’ve combed through YouTube to find a selection of channels boasting music news and videos that will appeal to a spectrum of fans; from those who like hip-hop to those who prefer punk, and a goodly selection of genres in between. And, bonus, there’s hardly a hyperactive video blogger in site.

Check out the gallery below and share your favorite music news resources in the comments below.


The Needle Drop


Run by Anthony Fantano, The Needle Drop is a blog/vlog and NPR-affiliated radio show about indie music. Unlike many YouTube vloggers, Fantano is actually pleasant to listen to -- even when he's going on 15-minute diatribes about Odd Future.


BryanStars Interviews


Bryan Odell, a 20-year-old music blogger from Lincoln, Nebraska, has managed to get interviews with some pretty big names: Korn, Creed and contestants from American Idol, to name a few. Check out his interview with a member of Slipknot.


RockItOutBlog


Like good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll? Well, Sami Jarroush's YouTube channel is for you. We especially dig quirky features like "Rock Star Resurrection," in which Jarroush and commenters speculate on where deceased rock stars would be were they alive today.


BVTV "Band of the Week"


Run by a bunch of teenagers in Sacramento, CA, this is your channel if you're into pop/metal/emo music. The guys feature interviews with bands (more on their second channel) and tons of live show footage.


Rap-Up TV


As the YouTube presence of magazine Rap-Up, this channel features tons of interviews from the likes of Keri Hilson, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa. No rambling reviews here -- just artists talking about music.


Blank TV


If you're into punk, ska, hardcore and indie music, Blank TV should be your go-to. It's basically a curated site of live footage and videos, like this one, which is the premiere of Point Juncture, WA's "Violin Case."


Billboard


One of the oldest magazines around, Billboard also has a pretty robust YouTube channel, featuring artist interviews and tons of concert footage from artists both established and up-and-coming


La Blogotheque Take-Away Shows


Chryde, founder of the website La Blogothèque, partnered up with filmmaker Vincent Moon to create a series of "Take-Away Shows," featuring musicians playing live in unconventional venues.


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

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano 

More About: features, List, Lists, music, video, youtube

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Who Owns Your Twitpics?

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:39 PM PDT


Twitpic has just updated its terms of service and issued a statement clarifying some copyright and intellectual property issues for its users.

Specifically, the company addresses the matter of ownership: Who owns a user’s Twitpics? The user? Twitpic? The Internet at large? Anyone who chooses to download the images?

In a brief post, Twitpic founder Noah Everett reassured his users that each person actually does own and hold rights to all images he or she posts to Twitpic. This is the same policy Facebook and most other mainstream social media applications have with regard to ownership of online content.

“Our goal with Twitpic from the beginning has been to create the best way to share your photos and videos on Twitter and to always keep our user's best interests at the forefront,” Everett writes. “You, the user, retain all copyrights to your photos [and] videos.”

He also explains that as the service and Twitter itself have grown, many mainstream media organizations have turned to these real-time social venues as sources of content around breaking news. Often, Twitter updates, Twitpic media content or mobile-uploaded YouTube clips are some of the first pieces of information reporters have about important international events.

Still, Everett states that Twitpic users don’t have to let any website or media company use their images or videos without permission.


Should Twitpic Consider Creative Commons?


Another option Twitpic hasn’t yet made available is Creative Commons licensing.

For contrast, popular image-hosting and sharing app Flickr allows users to choose from a robust set of ownership options, such as licenses that allow the images to be freely shared with attribution or shared among noncommercial entities, among others.

And on Flickr, media organizations looking for the next big scoop can search specifically for content that is licensed with them in mind. In this scenario, reporters win because they get the news they need, and amateur photojournalists win because they get links back and more exposure.

Do you think Twitpic should explore Creative Commons for Twitpic’s often news-breaking images? Let us know your opinion on the matter — and whether or how you might want your own Twitpics shared around the web.

image courtesy of iStockphoto user arosoft

More About: content, copyright, images, internet, IP, ownership, twitpic

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Coca-Cola’s Headquarters Gets 3D Makeover [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:19 PM PDT

Coca-Cola is celebrating its 125th anniversary in a very 2011 way: With a 3D projection display on its headquarters building in Atlanta.

That 3D technology has been the rage with marketers. In the past year or so, Samsung, Hot Wheels and BMW, among others, have launched 3D projection campaigns. Coke's campaign, which started on May 6, may be the largest one yet. A spokesman for the company says it takes 45 projectors to create the effect shown in the video above. The effort will run through the end of the month.

There's also a social media component. Coke will pick photos from fans on its Facebook Page to be projected into the stream.

More About: 3D projection mapping, advertising, coca cola, facebook, MARKETING, trending

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Foursquare Checkins Get Customers Gas Discounts

Posted: 11 May 2011 12:54 PM PDT


Here's one way to bring location-based checkins to the masses — use them to shave off a few dollars at the gas pump.

Murphy USA, a gas station chain with 1,000 locations situated in the parking lots of Walmart and Sam's Club stores, announced Wednesday that it's offering $2 off a $20 purchase of gas with a Foursquare checkin. To sweeten the deal, the chain is also offering a free pack of Stride gum. The chain announced the deal on its Twitter feed and Facebook Page.

The offer comes as gas prices have hit $4 a gallon in many areas of the country. And Murphy has been at the forefront of social media marketing in a category not known for such outreach. The chain also has an iPhone app that helps customers locate the stores.

On the other hand, Murphy's embrace of technology may be causing a rift among its target users: After the deal was announced, many fans on the brand's Facebook Page are complaining that the Foursquare deal penalizes consumers who don't have or can't afford smartphones.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 1001 Nights

More About: foursquare, location-based, Murphy USA

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Twitter Users Are Way Bolder Than Facebook Users [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 May 2011 12:52 PM PDT


Have you ever noticed that the phrase “Follow me on Twitter” seems a lot more common than “Friend me on Facebook“?

Alterian and Sevans Strategy decided to look into this phenomenon. The two tracked 3.3 million such “asks” in March by running keyword searches on various platforms including Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter. The researchers found a whopping 95.9% of the requests related to Twitter. The most popular come-on: “Follow me.” Most of the time, this message was relayed on Twitter.

Why?

Although you might assume that the only people who would read the message “follow me” would be people who already follow you, Sarah Evans, president of Sevans Strategy, points out that the message can also be retweeted and found in searches.

Meanwhile, research shows that people are a lot less bold on Facebook, which only accounted for 2.2% of asks. Just 0.03% of asks came from Foursquare. One caveat: The researchers only looked at public Facebook Pages, which means a huge amount were left out. Still, Evans says, “Our best guess was that there wouldn’t be any private pages asking people to ‘Like’ them.” It may also be that Facebook is more of a personal medium than Twitter, though marketers of late seem to have no problem asking consumers to “Like” them.

Men and women were also pretty much equally likely to ask, though men were a lot bolder on Facebook. Other findings showed that Americans were way more forward than Canadians, and that Indiana led the 50 states in asks. Perhaps in the future, the Hoosier State could be renamed the “Ask Me” state.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Yuri_Arcurs

More About: alterian, facebook, infographic, twitter

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Why Connected TV Is Poised To Revolutionize Entertainment

Posted: 11 May 2011 12:33 PM PDT


Ron Jacoby is the chief architect and vice president of Yahoo! Connected TV, a leading platform for Internet-connected TV, available across top TV brands worldwide including VIZIO, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and LG.

While mobile has dominated the headlines over the past few years (thanks to rise of the smartphone and the success of apps), another movement is under way in the living room — Internet-connected TV. Just as DVRs and on-demand programming have become the standard, soon we won't be able to remember our TVs before they were web-enabled.

Right now, more than 30 million U.S. households are using digital TVs, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles for viewing some form of online content in the living room, and that number is on the rise. According to Parks Associates, less than a quarter of HDTVs were connected to the Internet in 2010, but by 2015, that number will spike to 76%. The reason for this massive jump? With increasing consumer demand for connectivity in the living room and faster broadband speeds, device makers will make it convenient for HDTVs to connect directly to the Internet without an extra device in-between.

So how will Internet-connected TV change how we use the television? And why would someone need a connected TV? Just look at your phone to see how the Internet transformed this familiar device. From music to videos to games to search, social media and instant messaging — it's all happening again, this time optimized for a screen 10 feet away from the couch.

Today, early adopters are accessing full-length TV shows and movies, news and information, social networks, music, casual games and more from their connected setups. But how can the industry cross the chasm from early adopters to broad adoption?

My company’s research and platform usage data reveal a few key trends that we think will spur the mainstream into flipping the switch on connected TVs.

First, It's Got to be Social.

Consumers love TV shows and talking about them with friends.

  • Content around TV shows and social media will spur the growth of this new landscape, especially among women.
  • 60% of those surveyed said they would be interested in looking at online content on their TV related to the program they were watching.
  • Among those who showed interest, 28% want to include their friends via social media when watching TV.

Second, Tablets and Phones Will Have an Impact on the Connected TV

  • 25% of people who purchase a tablet say they use their connected TV more since the purchase.
  • Internet-connected TVs need to be multi-screen to take advantage of the interactive features like touchscreens, gestures and media playback.

Last, and more surprisingly, advertising will be a key driver of usage for connected TV.

  • Two in five consumers said they are interested in content relevant to the commercials they see. In fact, more than half of survey respondents reported that they are likely to interact with an ad.

Here's a look into what the future looks like for Internet-connected TV.


Attention Developers: There's a TV App for That?


Broad consumer adoption will happen when developers can create apps that sync web content with live TV. This will enable the consumer to interact with TV shows and advertisements. Here are a few ways we see this playing out. Consumers will be able to:

  • Participate in TV show trivia
  • Vote for a favorite actor
  • Purchase an item seen on TV
  • Play along with a favorite game show
  • View related videos and photos

In terms of discoverability, TV apps currently use a pull model, meaning you have to actively browse through the app gallery and select one to use it. In the future, TV apps will be integrated right into the broadcast experience, through what the industry calls "broadcast interactivity." Personalized, relevant content will soon be pushed to you. In short, it will appear seamlessly on your screen, a lot like the promotional text you already see today along the bottom of certain TV shows.


Social TV


Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not detracting from our TV consumption. Rather, they are creating a hybrid experience around TV content. The socialization of television is extremely important and very exciting.

As an example, let's take a look at the news of Osama bin Laden's death. President Barack Obama's speech about the military operation in Pakistan drew more TV viewers than any other speech of his presidency — 56.6 million according to Nielsen. At the same time, the news set records on Twitter, with more than 5,000 Tweets sent per second at times before and during the speech. What this shows is that millions of people were not just watching TV at that moment — they wanted to participate in the news.

With connected TV, broadcast and social experiences will blend. Imagine watching the speech, reading the tweets, and pulling up the White House pictures on Flickr about what it was like to be in the room when the raid happened.  Most people are already doing this — with a tablet, smartphone or laptop in hand. Now, you could do it on the big beautiful screen in your living room. 

As the television becomes a two-way device, TV networks are already exploring the potential by developing TV apps that, for example, enable viewers to vote on their favorite characters or contestants. This social enrichment of programming will let networks gain valuable insight into audience engagement and reaction to their programming.


Connected TV Advertising


In 2010, television advertising expendetures were the largest for all media, coming in at $69 billion. What this signifies to many is that television is still a tremendous medium to drive product, services and brand awareness.

Connected TV is a Holy Grail scenario for an industry that has been trying to bridge the emotion and effectiveness of television advertising with the metrics, interactivity and audience targeting of Internet advertising. For example, rather than distributing a standard car commercial, the company could run the same ad with the option for connected consumers to pull up additional information on the car, read consumer reviews and find a local dealer — all with the click of the remote control.

Additionally, with connected TV, ad content can be locally relevant and based on consumers' interests and behaviors. This means ads will be more personalized and tailored to you.

For example, your favorite sandwich shop can distribute a message to you about a "Sunday Special," just in time for the big game. This creates a whole new layer of experience around TV viewing that is hugely compelling and powerful, both for consumers and advertisers.


T-Commerce


As with the web and mobile industries, there is significant opportunity for businesses to capitalize on the ability to make purchases directly from the television — “t-commerce,” if you will. According to the Parks Associates report, by 2015 there will be more than $8 billion worth of transactions conducted via web-enabled consumer electronics.

There are so many interesting scenarios for t-commerce. There's the obvious — browsing and shopping for products on Amazon and eBay. But what if you could buy the exact shoes your favorite character was wearing on tonight's episode of Gossip Girl with a click of the remote? Or what if you could pull up the menu of a local restaurant to order dinner for delivery? These scenarios are all possible through t-commerce, and the best part is, you can do all of it while you're watching live TV.


The Future is Bright


The best part about the connected TV movement is that it is happening now. Right now there are millions of web-enabled TVs on the market with libraries of on-demand movies and TV shows available directly from your television — without the need for a console or set-top box. There are TV apps to play games, socialize, shop and get the latest in sports and news.

But what's most exciting is yet to come — the experience of seamlessly interacting with programming and ads, and communicating in real time with friends and family right from your TV. As the web has transformed the print and music industries, it is surely on track to revolutionize television.


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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Terraxplorer

More About: connected tv, social media, television, tv, video

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You Can Now Tag Pages in Facebook Photos

Posted: 11 May 2011 12:15 PM PDT


Ever had the urgent need to tag the Coke can you’re holding in that beach picnic picture on Facebook? Well, now you can, as the social network has added the ability to tag Pages in Facebook photos.

Starting Wednesday (although the feature does not appear to be live yet), users will be able to tag Pages for Brands & Products as well as People (more options coming soon) in their Facebook photos.

Tagged photos will appear in the Photos tab of a Page, rather than on that Page’s Wall, and anyone can tag a Page — even if a user hasn’t “Liked” it. Page admins can also nix photos from the tab by going into Edit Page > Posting Options > and unchecking "Users can add photos.”

For those who concerned about their privacy, Facebook assures us that privacy settings will still apply; if your photos are visible to everyone, everyone will be able to see the tagged snap, and if your photos are set to “only friends,” only friends will be able to check out that pic of you standing in front of the local Rite Aid.

This move could definitely be beneficial to certain brands. Imagine if people started tagging themselves wearing, say, Levi’s jeans. All of those snaps would then go to the Levi’s Facebook Page and result in free advertising.

Will you start tagging brands and celebs in your Facebook pictures?

More About: facebook, Photos, social media, Tagging, trending

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Don’t Expect Google Chrome OS on Tablets Anytime Soon

Posted: 11 May 2011 11:59 AM PDT


Despite recent indications that Google is preparing Chrome OS for tablets, Google says that it is “fully focused on notebooks” for the foreseeable future.

Google raised some eyebrows last month when it made changes to Chrome OS’s source code. It added multiple references to touchscreens and tablets, including a new touch-optimized tab page. The idea of a Chrome OS tablet isn’t new though; Google even made mocks of such a device in February 2010.

When asked about Google’s future plans for Chrome OS beyond the notebook, Google SVP of Chrome Sundar Pichai said that Chrome OS is “agnostic” to the hardware it runs on. In other words, Chrome OS can easily be ported to tablets, desktops and other Internet-connected devices.

With that said, Pichai made it clear that Google is laser focused on Chrome OS for the notebook. He noted that Google wants to reach the greatest amount of people possible, and most people use notebooks rather than tablets or desktops. “We are fully focused on notebooks,” Pichai said.

That doesn’t mean that Google is ignoring tablets, though. On Tuesday, Google released Android Honeycomb 3.1, the newest version of its tablet-optimized OS. With an operating system already optimized for phones and tablets, Google doesn’t have any incentive to bring Chrome OS to tablets anytime soon.

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Social Media Fights Ugandan Anti-Gay Legislation

Posted: 11 May 2011 11:48 AM PDT

uganda avaaz image

An online petition and social media movement helped save lives in Uganda's homosexual community following the Ugandan Parliament’s attempt to re-introduce an “Anti-Homosexuality” bill that could sentence LGBT Ugandans to death for “aggravated homosexuality.”

News about the bill broke late last week, and the international community immediately jumped onto social media to sign petitions and protest the bill. AllOut, an organization defending LGBT rights, launched an online appeal to the Ugandan government. Within 30 hours, more than 300,000 people from every country in the world signed the petition with more than 200,000 shares on Facebook and other social media channels.

As of Wednesday morning, the number of signatures totaled more than 450,000. Much of that reach can be attributed to the speed of an engaged social media community: “At last count, we’ve had 1,072,441 pageviews on the campaign and almost 60% of that has come through Facebook and Twitter,” said AllOut co-founder Andre Banks. “What we’re seeing is not an entirely new phenomenon — people have always activated their networks in times of crisis and called them to action. What’s different is the speed and ease that platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow.”

allout image

The AllOut petition was bolstered by Avaaz, a political activism website. The Avaaz petition has received more than 1.25 million online signatures at time of writing.

While the Ugandan Parliament has not issued a direct response to the tremendous international outcry, the Anti-Homosexuality bill appeared to be dropped from the debate agenda, MSNBC reported on Wednesday.

The bill’s author, David Bahati, has said a new version would not contain the death penalty, although no amended version has been publicly released.

A similar anti-homosexuality bill was raised last year but was dropped in part because of tremendous online opposition from the international community. Even though the current bill has been removed from the agenda, homosexuality is a contentious issue for Uganda. In the past year, LGBT Ugandans have been targeted, attacked or sometimes even murdered, with local tabloids running headlines like “Uganda’s Top Homos: Hang Them.”

“Personally, it means a lot to me to know that my brothers and sisters in the USA and Europe and other countries in Africa are in solidarity with us in opposing this bill,” said Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. “Uganda has become the toxic dump for homophobia and it is also their experiment to see how far they can get away with this before the international community becomes concerned. So we need support to counter their lies and misinformation and to stop the madness that has resulted in this proposed bill.”

What do you make of social media’s ability to spur political action? Are these kinds of petitions crucial for galvanizing the social good community? Sound off in the comments.

More About: activism, allout, avaaz, gay, homosexuality, LGBT, petition, social good, social media, Uganda

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Google Reveals Details of Chromebook Leasing Plans

Posted: 11 May 2011 11:32 AM PDT


Google confirmed at its I/O developer conference Wednesday that it will lease Chrome laptops to schools and businesses.

The program, called Chromebooks for Business & Education allows businesses and educational institutions to pay Google a monthly fee in exchange for a supported, updated Chromebook. Business users will pay $28 a month for each Chromebook and educational institutions will pay $20 a month per unit.

Here are the details of the subscription plan as we know them now:

  • Schools and businesses will order their Chromebook units directly from Google at google.com/chromebook, beginning June 15, 2011.
  • Google will cover phone, email and hardware replacement for Chromebook Business & Education users.
  • IT managers can use virtualization platforms like Citrix to offer access to non-web apps, essentially making the Chromebook a thin client on steroids.
  • Administrators have various management options for configuring and monitoring lots of different units.

Although the potential for education sales is vast — especially at the $240-a-year price point — we think the bigger play for Google is in the business space.

Google has actively courted small, medium and even large businesses to migrate to Google Apps for email, cloud-based document management/creation and file access. The company has successfully wooed some high-profile customers — especially in regards to email — but Google still trails enterprise giants like Microsoft, Novell, Oracle and IBM.

If the Chromebook subscription offering works, it could really make Google a big player in this space. Of course, that is a big “if.” The promise of thin clients and network computers are nearly as old as the web itself. The Chromebook may be the best implementation of Larry Ellison’s vision to date.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, that’s for sure.

Check out this video Google put together explaining the Chromebook for Business & Education:

Would you be willing to pay a monthly fee to “rent” a Chromebook?

More About: Chrome OS, chromebook, cloud computing, Google, google io, thin clients

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Google Quietly Protests Internet Censorship in India

Posted: 11 May 2011 11:17 AM PDT


Google is taking issue with India’s new Internet regulations, according to a recently obtained memo.

The rules, enacted last month, require that websites remove all objectionable material, including anything “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous,” “ethnically objectionable,” “disparaging” or that impersonates another person. Internet service providers and social networks are required to bar certain kinds of content in their terms of service contracts with users, and websites must remove within 36 hours all content that authorities identify as objectionable.

The February memo, reviewed — but not released in full — by the WSJ [subscription required] Wednesday, says that such language is “too prescriptive” and bars material that might not even be illegal in India. Google suggested the wording of the rules be modified to ban content that “violates any law for the time being in force.”

Google also protested a provision that decreed that an online company “shall not itself host or publish or edit or store” banned material, which could make Google liable for content unknowingly posted by third parties.

Google additionally took issue with a requirement to remove any objectionable content an Internet company comes before authorities. Google requested that it be relieved of the responsibility of deciding what’s legal in favor of a written notification from “a court of law or other legally empowered public authority.”

A final version of the rules kept the provisions, minus a few minor changes.

Although the memo appears to have focused largely on how the new policies could damage Google’s business, the company also took a stand on civil rights. Internet companies “play a crucial role in determining how free a medium of communication the Internet will be for the world’s peoples, especially the millions of Indians who are increasingly making use of it in their everyday lives,” the memo reads. It echoes an earlier — and much more publicized — protest against China’s Internet censorship policies last year.

Google attracted 56.3 million visitors in India in March, making it the country’s most popular website, according to data the WSJ obtained from research firm ViziSense. An estimated 80 to 100 million people in India are Internet users, and that number is expected to double by 2015, according to research conducted last year by investment bank Caris & Co.

More About: censorship, Google, india

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How Crowdsourcing Is Improving Global Communities

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:50 AM PDT


The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

You can crowdsource almost anything these days — news, music videos, fashion advice, your love life or even your entire life. While these examples are all very useful (or just plain amusing), there are a plethora of examples of how innovative entrepreneurs and eager philanthropists are using crowdsourcing techniques to improve local and global communities in real, substantive ways.

Below are examples of how individuals are taking part in crowdsourced microloans, direct funds and volunteer efforts aimed at bettering their communities. Let us know which sites and services you’d add to the list in the comments below.


Microfinancing


“Microfinance offers poor people access to basic financial services such as loans, savings, money transfer services and microinsurance,” according to CGAP, an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor.

One of the biggest services in the microfinance sector is microcredit, or small loans given to low-income individuals interested in starting or growing small businesses. The idea is that in the end, borrowers will be able to pay back their loans as a result of building a sustainable and profitable business that would not be possible otherwise.

Dr. Mohammad Yunus is credited with pioneering modern microfinance in Bangladesh in the 1970s. In 1983, he founded Grameen Bank, one of the most recognized names in microfinancing, and in 2006, he and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their efforts to create economic and social development in areas with the most need.

Now, there are a number of large microfinancing institutions, including Kiva, ACCION, Prosper, eBay-owned MicroPlace, and Wokai, an organization focused exclusively on China.

Microfinance institutions are essentially crowdsourcing social good, as they connect investors with borrowers. Oftentimes, lenders will contribute small amounts to a particular project. For example, in the project pictured above, Margarita Lanoy is applying for a $125 loan to purchase more fruit to sell at her fruit stand in the Philippines. Lenders can lend as little as $25 to help her cause.


Direct Funding


While microfinancing focuses on providing loans and other financial services to the poor that must be repaid at some later point, there are many other crowdsourced funding opportunities that involve direct cash flow to communities, without the need to repay.

Crowdrise is one such platform that enables users to start or donate to fundraisers. Eleven-year-old Abby Hofstetter, for example, set up a fundraiser to raise $10,000 for Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen with four New York City locations. She reached her goal in 17 days and has since increased her goal to $25,000.

DonorsChoose is a site that enables American teachers to post project requests, ranging from a xylophone for music class to calculators for mathematics and science. In the end, the kids learn and the philanthropists get to see photos of how they helped out (along with homemade thank you cards).

While funding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo aren’t exclusive to fundraising for cause-related projects, a fair amount of community-focused fundraisers can be found on each site. On Kickstarter, for example, Shawn Batey is raising money to produce Changing Face of Harlem, a film he has been working on for 11 years. With more than 200 hours of footage, the film promises to be “a unique contemporary historical piece looking at Harlem as you've never seen it before,” bringing light to socio-economic challenges and improvements over the years.


Volunteering Online


Services like the Taproot Foundation, Catchafire and Sparked enable specialized professionals to donate their time towards projects that are in need of their skills.

With Taproot, individuals apply to specific consulting opportunities (such as “HR Generalist” or “Web Developer”) and eventually work within one of those roles on a four to five person project team.

Unlike Taproot, Catchafire and Sparked list all current projects on their sites for users to choose from. Catchafire features a simple list of open projects that can be filtered by expertise (such as “Human Resources,” “Social Media” or “Multimedia”).

Sparked is unique in that it asks users to note their skills and what types of causes they are interested in. In turn, users receive a list of suitable “challenges” that might be a good fit. Sparked is based around the concept of microvolunteering; volunteer work that is convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced and network-managed — in other words, volunteering that fits into your schedule in small chunks of time, as chosen by you. Typically, the work is done via a computer or mobile phone, instead of in-person.


Crowdsourcing Knowledge


To fix a problem, one must first know about it. SeeClickFix is a great example of how active citizens are using crowdsourcing to report neighborhood issues. Of course, it’s easier if everyone in a community is keeping an eye out for local problems, instead of a handful of people or organizations. That’s the idea that SeeClickFix is all about.

Using the website, mobile apps, widgets or voicemail, users can report non-emergency issues — such as pot holes on the street or the lack of recycling bins in a certain neighborhood. From there, citizens can vote on neighborhood issues or forward them on to people who may be able to help. In other instances, “neighborhood groups, elected officials and advocates monitor key issues, and publicly propose solutions on how to resolve them,” states SeeClickFix’s website.


What Innovations Are Improving Your Community?


Do you know of a forward-thinking startup or technology that deserves to be a part of the Global Innovation Series? Let us know about it in the comments below.


Series Supported by BMW i


The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Nikada

More About: Catchafire, Crowdsource, crowdsourced, crowdsourcing, Global Innovation Series, Grameen Bank, indiegogo, kickstarter, kiva, SeeClickFix, social good, Sparked, Taproot Foundation

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Google Chrome OS Notebooks Available June 15

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:32 AM PDT


After two years of development, the first Google Chrome OS notebooks will make their worldwide debut June 15.

Samsung and Acer will be the first companies to launch Chrome OS devices. Samsung’s device will sport a 12.1-inch screen with an 8-hour battery life, while Acer’s device will be a 11.6-inch display and a 6.5-hour battery life. Samsung’s device will retail for $429 for the Wi-Fi version and $499 for the 3G version. Acer’s more portable notebook will start at $349 and up.

Google SVP of Chrome Sundar Pichai said during Wednesday’s keynote at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco that both Chrome OS notebooks will be available starting June 15. It will launch in the U.S. on Amazon.com and in Best Buy stores nationwide, but the United Kingdom, France and other countries will get the chance to buy Chrome OS notebooks at the same time.

Google has been testing Chrome OS in the wild through the CR-48 notebook, but those devices sport unstable developer versions of Google’s web-centric OS. Since then, Google has fixed most of Chrome’s bugs and made it compatible with Intel’s dual-core processors.

Chrome OS is the search giant’s attempt to create a cloud-based operating system. Unlike traditional desktop operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X, Chrome OS only runs web-based applications through a modified version of the Chrome browser. As a result, Chrome OS can start up in a matter of seconds and has a longer battery life.

Originally designed for netbooks, the rise of tablets has forced Chrome OS to evolve into a notebook OS and could even make its way onto tablets and other form factors.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, jsemeniuk

More About: chrome, Google, google chrome, google chrome os, trending

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Angry Birds Invade the Web Browser

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:23 AM PDT


Game maker Rovio Mobile appeared on stage at Google I/O Wednesday to show off the newest version of Angry Birds: Angry Birds for the web.

Built using WebGL and using local-caching for offline access, the full Angry Birds experience will be available in the browser.

Rovio will offer the game via the Chrome Web Store, although it appears likely that the game will be accessible in other browsers too. Rovio has designed a few Chrome-specific levels of Angry Birds featuring Chrome graphics for blocks and bombs.

The Mighty Eagle in-app purchase, which made its debut on iOS, will be coming to the Chrome version of Angry Birds, using the new Google Payments in-app purchase feature in the Chrome Web Store.

The game is available now here. Are you excited about playing Angry Birds in the browser? Let us know!

More About: angry birds, chrome web store, games, google io, opengl

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Google Chrome Web Store Launches Worldwide

Posted: 11 May 2011 10:05 AM PDT


Google’s Chrome Web Store just made its worldwide debut in 41 languages.

The Chrome Web Store is Google’s attempt to recreate the experience of Apple’s App Store for the web. It allows users to download and install web-based applications through the Chrome web browser with modern web technology such as HTML5.

Since its launch in December, Google’s web-based app store has only been available in the U.S. Wednesday at the Google I/O developers conference, Google SVP of Chrome Sundar Pichai announced that the Chrome Web Store is now available for all Chrome users.

Google has been working toward the Web Store’s international release for the past few months. In February, Google released a preview of the developer dashboard for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Google’s Chrome Web Store team also announced in-app purchases for web apps. Developers will get 95% of the revenue from purchases made within web apps. Google will take a 5% fee, compared to the 30% cut Apple takes for its iOS App Store.

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Google Chrome: 160 Million Users & Counting

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:42 AM PDT


Google’s Chrome web browser has added 90 million active users in the past year, more than doubling its total user base.

During a keynote Wednesday at the Google I/O developers conference, Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP of Chrome, revealed that the browser now has 160 million active users. Compare that to last May, when Google said Chome had 70 million users.

Pichai also revealed that Chome is now at version 12, up from version 5 in May 2010. He explained that Google decided to change to a six-week release cycle in order to ensure that users have the most advanced browser technology at their fingertips.

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Would You Risk Your Virtual Life in Facebook Russian Roulette? [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:35 AM PDT

Would you risk the deletion of your Facebook account for a chance to win a week-long trip to Russia?

That’s the idea behind Russian Facebook Roulette, a concept campaign for a Russian vodka brand developed by the Miami Ad School Europe in Berlin.

The students envisioned a microsite where groups of four Facebook friends would hand over their login credentials in a game of virtual Russian roulette. One unlucky participant would have his or her Facebook account deleted permanently; the remaining three would be entered for a chance to win a week-long stay in Russia — “for real. Not on Facebook,” the copy reads.

Although it’s just a concept, we imagine a real version of the game — should it be possible — would attract massive attention on Facebook. It underlines both users’ love for virtual social games, and the lessening divide between our offline and online identities.

[via PSFK]

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Google Celebrates Martha Graham With Gorgeous, Dancing Doodle

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:19 AM PDT


If your search page looks a bit more dramatic than usual today, it’s because Google is celebrating what would have been American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham’s 117th birthday.

The Doodle joins a growing canon of elaborate logos, this one including a dancer who executes six Graham-inspired dance routines to spell out “Google.”

Graham died in 1991 at age 96, according to The Guardian. She was a revolutionary in her sphere, choreographing more than 180 works that went beyond the bounds of traditional ballet.

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HOW TO: Sync Your Band’s Myspace Page With Your Facebook Fan Page

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT


Myspace is out with a new Facebook App that allows bands to port their Myspace Pages to their Facebook Fan Pages.

“Every artist has a Myspace Page, so they’ve already published their content into our system,” says Sam Wick, head of marketing, programming and entertainment at Myspace. “We believe by allowing artists to use an app that feeds into Facebook, it reinforces the need to post content to Myspace. It also makes it easier to manage their digital identity.”

The app is extremely easy to use. If you’ve dealt with products like Band Pages or ReverbNation’s Facebook app, you should have no trouble installing it.

Simply search for “Myspace Music App” on Facebook and click “Add to My Page,” and then connect your Myspace to your Facebook. (You can also access the app through Myspace here.) After doing so, your Myspace page will show up as a tab titled “Music” on your Facebook Page, complete with all your songs, albums, videos, photos, blogs posts and events. When fans listen to tracks, the player opens as a pop-up, which is actually pretty nice if users want to navigate away from the page and continue listening.

You can also upload custom, clickable marquees and edit the theme of the app so that it matches that of your Myspace Page (customization is executed on Myspace).

It’s fair to say that Myspace’s latest Facebook crossover — the site announced a Facebook integration last year — enters a crowded field, what with Band Pages, ReverbNation, Topspin Media, damntheradio and others, already on the scene. Still, Wick believes that it will beat out the competition when it comes to appealing to bands.

“What the startup sites don’t have is millions of artists and tens of thousands signing up every day,” Wick says. “Marketing to that natural base that we have makes us very, very large.” Moreover, the app — unlike some of its competitors — is free.

Still, it lacks some of the features that services like ReverbNation boast: the ability to set up the ever-popular “Like-for-a-track” gate and robust stats in-app. (Myspace does offer stats on its backend thanks to an integration with ReverbNation.)

Wick does have a point, though: There are nearly 14 million bands on Myspace, and it would be far easier to port over all of one’s music and tour dates to Facebook than to start from scratch with another app.

The app seems a change of tone for Myspace — from social network/entertainment hub to content management platform, a move that could possibly make sense given the service’s embattled state (still, it faces some pretty stiff competition in that arena).

At this juncture, we know what you’re all thinking: Isn’t Myspace going to be sold? What effect will that have on the future of this app? To that, Wick responds: "Our main focus right now is innovation.”

What do you think of this latest offering?

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Pay & Split Bills With Friends Using PayDivvy

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT


Online bill pay service PayDivvy is launching Wednesday to help users pay their bills online, as well as divvy up statements between friends and contacts.

PayDivvy lets users view and organize bills online, pay more than 5,000 service providers, pay bills as groups and pay or collect money from friends.

The social and shared bill pay features are the hook. The startup’s promise to help users split bills between friends addresses a real world problem that many can often relate to.

“If you live with roommates or routinely split dinner bills among friends and family, you know how much of a nightmare it can be to manage group finances," says PayDivvy CEO Michael Melby. "Our goal is to be the one place that makes paying all of your bills as painless as possible, while at the same time adding some fun to the process.”

PayDivvy users “create a divvy” as a way to keep track of a transaction, and divvies come in three varieties: “Split a Bill,” “Send a Bill” and “Pay a Bill.” Divvies are named by their creators and are either active or inactive.

The Split a Bill option (pictured) is a mechanism that lets users split bills that have already been paid — dinner bills, travel expenses or other shared charges — by dollar amount or percentage. The Send a Bill divvy is for collecting funds for things like membership dues, ticket sales or charity donations. Pay a Bill offers individuals or groups a way to pay providers for recurring bills such as monthly rent, utilities, cable and Internet expenses.

There’s no question that consumers want faster and more convenient ways to pay their bills online. Whether they’re ready to replace their current bill pay system with something like PayDivvy remains to be seen. And while PayDivvy offers long term online bill pay convenience, the short term setup and user on-boarding process demands a lot from the user.

PayDivvy has raised $1.5 million in seed funding. It competes with Doxo and WePay in the online bill payment space.

More About: online bill pay, paydivvy, startup

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