Kamis, 24 Desember 2009

Russian Investment Firm DST Now Owns 5% of Facebook

A couple of days ago, we wrote that Russian venture capital firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST) had invested around 180 million dollars in Zynga, the company behind popular Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

The same group already invested $200 million in Facebook back in spring, which got them a 1.96 percent stake in the company, and now they’ve purchased another $200 million in common shares from Facebook’s (Facebook) employees.

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, DST bought the shares at $14.77 per share; altogether, this investment got them another 3 percent stake, which brings the total to around 5 percent.

Comparing this to the first time DST invested in Facebook, it sounds like a pretty good deal. Back at the time, many were speculating that Facebook’s 15 billion dollar valuation was nothing but hot air and that the social network was actually worth two or three billion dollars. In the meantime, the economic situation has gotten better, Facebook has amassed another 150 million users and it finally started earning money. DST is serious about Facebook, and if the optimistic revenue predictions for 2010 and beyond come true, the price they paid for their stake might turn out to be quite cheap.

Facebook Unveils Most-Mentioned Topics

  • Last week, Twitter revealed its list of the most-discussed topics of 2009, based on Twitter’s trending topics. Now Facebook has come out with their own list, based on data from the millions of daily status updates of its users.

    While the world’s largest social network took a different approach than its upstart competitor (explanation below), it did match some of TwitterTwitterTwitter’s “most discussed” topics of 2009. However, it seems as if FacebookFacebookFacebook’s data analysis has revealed that people care a great deal about family (#5), Facebook apps (#1), Lady Gaga (#12), and, yes, even Twitter (#10).

    First, How Facebook Performed the Analysis

    Dubbed Facebook Memology, the company analyzed one- to four-word phrases within the Facebook status updates of 2009. They went even further, though, taking “bursts of activity” and other factors into account.

    Facebook’s explanation:

    “To generate the list, we started by looking at how many times each phrase with length from one-to-four words occurred in U.S. Facebook status updates, then we computed the rate at which each phrase occurred in 2009 compared to 2008. Using some data-mining methods detailed here, we analyzed important bursts in activity around words and series of words to find the key trends for the year. All personally identifiable information was removed from the status updates to conduct this analysis, and no one at Facebook read the individual status updates.”

    The result is rather different than Twitter’s list of top topics: It groups together key topics and doesn’t discount frequently used words such as “I” (the #15 Facebook memology trend of 2009).

    If you want more details on the technical side of the analysis, the Facebook Data team has posted a thorough explanation of its methodology.

    The Top Facebook Topics of 2009

    Facebook grouped specific keywords and phrases together to build their list of the most discussed topics on Facebook. Here’s the full list:

    Facebook provides a very detailed analysis of their top 15 Facebook status trends, but most are self-explanatory.

    The number one trend was Facebook apps, specifically the discussion of FarmVille in status updates. The game, which has taken Facebook by storm, has made not only FarmVille a popular phrase on the social network, but “Farm Town” and “Farm” as well.

    One of the more interesting trends is family, which came in at number five. Specifically, discussion about family, moms, dads, daughters, etc. jumped during 2009. With Facebook users getting older, this isn’t a big surprise. However, the fact that the mention of “kids” jumped by a factor of five this year is rather dramatic. It’s tough to know what this means, though.

    Facebook also acknowledged Twitter’s growth, as it is number 10 on this list. Specifically, Twitter and “RT” became popular trends on Facebook. Still, the company couldn’t help but make a minor dig at its rival by declaring that “mentions of the word Twitter decreased over the past few months.”

    What do you think of these top topics? Does any of the data surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

Facebook Is Destroying the Sanctity of Marriage

Stop the digital presses: People use Facebook to cheat on their spouses and said cheating leads to d-i-v-o-r-c-e (in case there are kids in the room), or so says a rather reactionary piece in the Telegraph.

The British paper seeks to cast FacebookFacebookFacebook as a enemy to the sanctity of marriage, citing evidence along the lines of:

“One law firm, which specialises in divorce, claimed almost one in five petitions they processed cited Facebook.”

Although the ratio of one in five is staggering, the fact that the reporter only mentions a single law firm is wholly unconvincing. I’m sorry, Telegraph, but one law firm does not a trend make.

The piece does make a strong case for how social media has broadened the definition of cheating (Does sex in Second Life count as sex?) and made it easier to reconnect with old flames, but it seems too early to point the finger at Facebook when it comes to couples calling it quits. In fact, the article states that the UK’s divorce rate has fallen in recent years.

Yes, Facebook and social media users have utilized online tools to screw over their spouses — the Telegraph mentions a woman whose husband notified her of their impending divorce by updating his relationship status on Facebook — but it seems rather simplistic to blame the onset of martial malcontent on a website.

Although Facebook may facilitate cheating — as well as public displays of affection (or loss of affection as the case may be) — the old argument comes into play when you start pointing fingers. Is it the medium or the message? Would these marriages have ended anyway, somewhere down the road, even if there were no incriminating chats on the laptop screen?

Facebook’s COO to Join Disney’s

Disney’s getting a social media infusion at the highest level. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, has just been nominated to join Walt Disney’s board of directors. Facebook’s second-in-command will join the board once she’s elected next year (a virtual certainty).

She’s certainly qualified. Before becoming Facebook’s COO in 2008, she was the VP of online sales and operations at Google (Google). Before that, she was chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department. Once elected to the board, she’ll become co-workers with another tech titan: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple.

Why did Disney choose her? Beyond the fact that she’s more than qualified, it’s a signal that Disney is looking to push its web and social media presence to new heights. Sheryl’s expertise in online advertising and management could prove invaluable as it increasingly looks to its web properties (e.g. Hulu (Hulu)) to bolster its revenue and expand its reach.

Senin, 14 Desember 2009

Facebook Now Has Its Own URL Shortener

URL shorteners have been around for years, but they were mostly afterthoughts rather than legitimate businesses. That all changed with the rise of Twitter and short-form, 140-character blogging. With limited space for tweeting, the URL shortener business has boomed. Bit.ly has grown tremendously, companies like Coke have even made their own and even Digg has gotten in on the action.

Bit.ly has not had any major threat to its market share, but that’s about to change. We’re learning that Facebook now has its own URL shortener. It’s unclear how long fb.me has been operation. What is clear, though, is that it’s appearing more and more in mobile links and within the TwitterTwitterTwitter stream.

Currently, Fb.me seems to be rolled out on a limited basis. As Inside Facebook points out, the Facebook URL Shortener is already in use on the mobile interface. Whenever links are shared within a mobile interface (i.e. an m.facebook.com link), it is now automatically shortened using fb.me.

It’s also active for FacebookFacebookFacebook usernames. For example, the short URLs fb.me/mashable and fb.me/benparr will take you to the MashableMashableMashable fan page and my profile page respectively. This works for any username in the Facebook system.

Facebook CEO Takes One for the Team

markzWhile privacy watchdogs, security firms and users digest the implications of Facebook’s new privacy settings, at least one high-profile individual is embracing them: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

TrueSlant seems to have been first to notice that the usually very private Zuckerberg has opened up his profile so that anyone can see his wall, photos and events. While their report speculates that perhaps Zuckerberg doesn’t understand the new settings, it’s far more likely that he’s simply opened up to try and show everyone else that it’s okay to do so.

So what’s in Zuck’s profile? Not too much of interest that you wouldn’t expect from your typical twenty-something billionaire. The CEO’s wall reveals he actively uses the site’s commenting and “like” features. His photo album is far from scandalous, although Gawker has rounded up their “favorite” images. And he’s apparently a fan of Lady GaGa, The Oprah Winfrey Show and location-sharing service GowallaGowallaGowalla.

Opening up is certainly a smart, if not highly calculated, move by Zuckerberg, who would look hypocritical in saying that the site is no longer simply about friend connections while simultaneously keeping his profile limited to his friends. That said, it’s unlikely that the move will do much to convince those skeptical of FacebookFacebookFacebook’s intentions that opening up is really in your best interest.

How have you adjusted your privacy settings since the new rollout? Let us know in the comments.

Don’t Facebook Friend Lawyers

facebook-judges-260-1While we understand that conflicts of interest are a serious matter in the judicial realm, a recent ban on friending between judges and lawyers on social networking sites does seem a bit extreme. The ruling, from the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee arm of the Florida Supreme Court, would prevent judges from adding lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” and vice versa on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, et al.

The reasoning behind the ban is to prevent the appearance to the public that friended lawyers might wield some sort of undue influence over the judge. Because the judge’s friends list is most likely available to the public (even more true with Facebook’s recent privacy changes), the committee found that friending a lawyer would violate Canon 2B of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which states, “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”

Digging down deeper into the proclamation, there’s an interesting loophole: Lawyers are still allowed to be a “fan” of judges on FacebookFacebookFacebook. The committee says that’s because the judge doesn’t have to explicitly approve the lawyer as a fan, nor do they have the power to reject them. It’s that act of direct approval that seems to bother the committee, which makes us wonder how these rules will apply to TwitterTwitterTwitter where lawyers can “follow” judges in the same manner without requiring approval. The proclamation focuses primarily on Facebook and doesn’t mention Twitter by name, but according to the logic of the argument it wouldn’t be too surprising if judges were expected to block lawyers who followed them.

We know that this ruling is in the interest of thwarting corruption, special interests and
backroom dealings in the courts, but honestly, is disallowing Facebook friending really going to have any impact? What do you think?

Facebook Connect 365 Days, 60 Million Users, 80,000+ Web Sites

On December 4, 2008, Facebook Connect opened for business. It was the first major extension of the Facebook platform, allowing users to log into their favorite Web sites with their Facebook credentials and move their social graph anywhere on the Web.

Now a year and five days later, FacebookFacebookFacebook is (belatedly) celebrating the birth of one of its most successful products. Sixty million users successful, in fact.

The company revealed that, since December of 2008, Facebook has become integrated on more than 80,000 Web sites (probably not including the countless ones using apps like DisqusDisqusDisqus) and is in use by more than 60 million Facebook users. That amounts to 160,000 new Connect users every single day.

While those numbers are indeed impressive, they still only represent 17 percent of Facebook’s 350 million total users. Still, that gives Facebook Connect more users than both TwitterTwitterTwitter and LinkedIn.

Connect has been an incredible platform and a major driver for Facebook’s increasing growth and influence around the Web. It originally began as a counter to MySpace’s data availability initiative and was in fact integrated with key partners all the way back in July 2008, which I kind of consider Connect’s real birthday.

Regardless, the platform keeps growing and has avoided the pitfalls that have taken down other Facebook products, most notably Beacon. Happy belated birthday, Facebook Connect.

Facebook Chose to Limit Google and Spare Twitter Search

Google really unleashed a torrent of news and updates today. While events such as the launch of Google Goggles are very interesting, the big news is clearly the launch of real-time search within Google. Now as events unfold, Google will capture the chatter about it in real-time from sources such as Twitter, Yahoo Answers, news media and Facebook.

The inclusion of FacebookFacebookFacebook in this list of real-time sources is one of the most important aspects of today’s announcements, and it is something that could have major implications for Twitter and its ambitions to become the world’s water cooler. In fact, Facebook held back the opportunity to deal a heavy hit to its microblogging rival. But why?

Facebook Didn’t Treat Google and Microsoft Equally

The new integration of Facebook into Google Search doesn’t actually feed all that much Facebook information into GoogleGoogleGoogle search results. In fact, only the updates of public Facebook pages are included in the real-time stream. Profile updates are not part of this deal.

That is a huge detail. Often the most relevant and personal information comes from Facebook profiles, not pages. Pages are primarily controlled by businesses and public figures, making their updates less raw and less personal. You won’t see a lot of companies updating their status with their feelings about the Tiger Woods scandal, but you will see a lot of profiles, even public ones, discussing breaking news about his affair.

There’s also a lot of multimedia in Facebook profiles. They don’t just include status updates, but also photo albums, video uploads and useful links. As more people turn their profiles public (something that could happen when Facebook asks users to update their privacy settings), this data will only become richer. In short, Google is limited in the data it is allowed to pull.

Two Reason Why Facebook Limited Google

You have to ask yourself: Why did Facebook limit what information it is willing to give to Google? After all, Microsoft has access to all Facebook public profiles through its search deal with Facebook for BingBingBing. It’s not a technological problem, and we don’t think Google declined the inclusion of more information into its search engine.

In fact, here are two likely reasons for why Facebook limited its real-time stream to Google. First, Facebook views Google as a direct competitor and threat to its goals. As we’ve discussed previously, the two companies are quietly set to clash in a real-time search war. Not only that, but the two companies are competing to be the gateway to the Web with Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connectgoogle friend connectgoogle friend connect respectively.

The second reason Facebook didn’t give public profile data to Google is simple: Microsoft is an investor in Facebook. The Windows maker dropped $240 million into Facebook for not only a small piece of the social networking site, but for the right to preferential treatment. As a result, they have inked everything from ad deals to search partnerships. The last thing Microsoft wants is for Facebook to help out its arch rival — especially as an investor. You can bet Facebook factors Microsoft’s wishes into its decisions.

The Twitter Aspect

Facebook could have really showed off its muscle within the results of the world’s largest search engine, but chose not to. Twitter should exhale a sigh of relief.

Here’s what could have happened: Facebook makes a deal with Google that not only lets it have access to public profile data, but allows it to display the images, videos and links that are on Facebook. Rich, multimedia search results become an integral part of Google searches, revealing the limits of Twitter data and TwitterTwitterTwitter search results.

They could have really punctured and deflated the balloon on Twitter’s real-time search potential. Instead, Facebook determined that Google having access to more Facebook data was a worse option than completely clobbering Twitter in search. The social network had little choice — it couldn’t give Google the same amount of data as Facebook.

Thus for now, Twitter’s real-time search survives as one of the best places to get updates on what’s happening right now. Google’s solution is slick and filled with data, but without Facebook, it’s incomplete.

Facebook pulled its punches with Twitter this time. Don’t expect the story to be the same next time.

Selasa, 01 Desember 2009

5 Big Changes to Watch in Facebook’s Upcoming Redesign

Just over a month ago, Facebook rolled out a new homepage redesign. Now it looks like the social network isn’t completely satisfied with the results, as it’s now testing yet another homepage redesign.

We don’t know when the new design will launch yet, but we have analyzed several screenshots of the new Facebook (Facebook) that were sent to us. While most of the changes are minor, there are a few that really stand out and reveal Facebook’s strategy and future direction.

Here are our top five observations about the upcoming Facebook homepage redesign, along with screenshots:

Changes to Facebook’s Redesign

1. All of the notifications have been moved to the top left. Notifications, requests, and inbox are prominently displayed next to the Facebook logo. Chat remains on the bottom, however.

2. Search is far more important in this redesign. As my fellow usability experts can attest, placing the search box in the middle of the page instead of the right hand side increases the number of searches users make. Facebook wants to focus on its real-time search engine as it prepares to compete with Twitter.

3. Your profile picture and status appears on the homepage. If you look on the current homepage design, you’ll find the updates of all of your friends, but yours isn’t constantly there, reminding you to update your old, outdated status.

This is a problem Facebook has needed to fix for a while. Now it’s addressed with a new section at the top left of the homepage with your face and your most recent status update, along with a prompt to update your status.

4. There’s a new border around the main content. It separates your left-hand navigation and notifications from your Facebook news feed.

5. The ability to see your inbox from the homepage. We want to stress how important this change is to the new Facebook design. It gives you direct access to your most recent messages without leaving the homepage, which should increase engagement.

Facebook’s Goals

Facebook hasn’t changed all that much with the design. To us, it’s more like a tweak to help improve engagement numbers that have probably been lagging.

The reemphasis seems to surround search, the inbox, responding to notifications, and status updates. Moving the search box is a very smart move as the company looks to make search a core experience, like it is currently with Twitter (Twitter).

Being able to view the inbox from the homepage should also spur more messages. Finally, prompting users to update their status, something present in older iterations of the Facebook homepage, will likely increase the amount of content users generate.

We’re going to investigate this design and find out when it launches. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new Facebook in the comments.

Facebook and MTV to Host Avatar Webcast Featuring James Cameron

avatar-facebook-smOne of the most anticipated films of the year is James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Last week, we wrote about the film’s interactive trailer (awesome) and now that the release date is just a few weeks away, Fox has really started to amp up the publicity campaign, including new social media outreach.

Variety reports that Fox is teaming up with MTV.com and Facebook (Facebook) to bring a live webcast roundtable of the film to fans on Thursday, December 3 and 3 PM ET.

Although live webcasts are becoming an increasingly common way for movie studios to promote themselves using social media (see “This Is It” and “New Moon”), the MTV/Facebook webcast is going to be a little bit different.

Director James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, and stars Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington will be interviewed by MTV News’ managing editor Josh Horowitz about the film and the experience making the nearly $500 million sci-fi epic. However, fans can start submitting their own questions to the cast and crew now via the official Avatar Facebook Page.


Although having fans send in questions — whether it’s through YouTube (YouTube) or Facebook or something else — isn’t exactly new, we rarely see such high profile films (and especially directors of high profile films) interacting with social media and taking part in live webcasts. The webcast will last 30 minutes and portions of it will then become part of an upcoming MTV “Behind the Scenes” special that airs on December 16. Avatar comes to theaters worldwide on December 18, 2009.

What do you think of how movie marketing is adapting to the age of social media?

Hulu and Facebook Shatter Online Video Records

YouTube’s huge lead in online video just got a little bit smaller due to surging growth from two up-and-comers in the video space: Hulu and Facebook.

Web analytics firm ComScore released their data for online video usage in October, and the numbers are astounding. While Google/YouTube (YouTube) continues to dominate with over 125 million monthly viewers (and over 1 billion views per day), both Hulu (Hulu) and Facebook (Facebook) had double-digit percentage gains, shattering their previous video records.

Stats: Facebook and Hulu Are On the Rise

Online video continues to sustain its surge in growth. According to ComScore, there were 27.94 billion videos viewed in October, up a big 7% from September. Out of that, Google (Google)/YouTube is still on top with 10.52 billion videos viewed.

The big mover in October though was Hulu. In September, the News Corp/Disney/NBC joint venture delivered 583 million views. In October, that number shot up by 31.8% to a total of 855 million video views. This is by far a record for the TV video website. Most of this however can be attributed to the fall primetime season being in full swing:

In terms of unique viewers though, there wasn’t that much of a change. YouTube had 125.3 million unique viewers in October, nearly identical to its 125.5 million in September. Hulu didn’t have a lot of growth, either: 42.4 million people tuned in to the service in October, compared to 38.7 million in September.

In fact, the biggest winner seems to be Facebook. In September, it had 31.18 million unique viewers. In October, that number skyrocketed by nearly 25% to 41.15 million uniques. Once again, this is a record for the world’s largest social network, and one that speaks to how powerful Facebook is becoming in the video space.

There were some other eye-popping numbers (84.4% of U.S. Internet users watched at least one online video in October and the average person watched 10.8 hours of video), but the central theme is the same: online video continues to grow and the end is nowhere in sight.

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