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Samsung S3500 Entry-Level Slider

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Entry-level phones generally don’t look too pretty, but Samsung’s S3500 does look rather pretty. The phone was recently approved by the FCC, hinting that AT&T or T-Mobile might be launching it in the US, though there hasn’t been any mention of a price for this phone just yet. Features of the Samsung S3500 include:

* Quad-band GSM/EDGE connectivity (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)
* QVGA display with 262K colors
* Music player
* FM radio
* 2-megapixel camera
* Bluetooth and USB
* WAP browser, email
* 35MB of internal memory
* microSD card support
* 99.9 x 48.0 x 13.9 mm

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9:27 PM

Ecamm BT-1 Wireless Mac Webcam

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Ecamm Network introduces the world's first Bluetooth® webcam.

Top-notch Video and Sound

Integrating advanced technologies, the BT-1 streams H.264 video and AAC audio, taking advantage of Mac OS X's rich multimedia capabilities to provide a truly seamless experience.

Complete Freedom from Wires

The BT-1 frees Mac users from the constraints of a built-in camera, allowing for maximum versatility in camera position, pan and tilt. The included flexible mini-tripod makes for easy desktop mounting. Features include:

* 640x480 H.264 video and 48 kHz AAC stereo audio
* Compact 2" x 2½" x 5/8" design
* 4 hour talk time
* Compatible with iChat, Skype and more
* 10 - 30 foot wireless range
* Standard tripod mounting screw

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It Includes a flexible mini-tripod and USB charging cable.
Requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or newer and Bluetooth v2.0+EDR or better.

Price: $149.99
Availability: Late Q1 2009

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9:22 PM

Gmail: Best E-Mail Program Ever

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As of this week, Gmail has reached perfection: You no longer have to be online to read or write messages. Desktop programs like Microsoft Outlook have always been able to access your old mail. There is a certain bliss to this; if you've got a pile of letters that demand well-composed, delicate responses (say you're explaining to your boss why you ordered that $85,000 rug), unplugging the Internet can be the fastest way to get things done. That's why offline access is a killer feature—it destroys your last remaining reason for suffering through a desktop e-mail program.

Google's not alone in providing this option. Microsoft's Windows Live Mail, Yahoo's Zimbra, and the mail app made by the Web startup Zoho, among other services, also provide some measure of untethered e-mail access. For now, Google calls this addition "experimental"—you've got to turn it on explicitly, and the company is asking users to report any bugs—but I found it easy to set up and a delight to use.

To get offline access, you first need to download and install a small program called Google Gears (except if you're using Google's Chrome browser, which comes with Gears built in). Then, after you enable Gmail's offline capability, the system will download two months of your most recent messages, which should take 30 minutes to an hour. Now you're good to go: When you're offline, type www.gmail.com into your browser, log in—yes, Gears enables you to log in even when you don't have a Web connection—and there's your e-mail. Though I work from home and rarely find myself away from a hot Wi-Fi connection, I shut off my router and parked myself on my couch for about an hour yesterday. I loaded up Gmail on my laptop, and it responded seamlessly—I could read, search through, and respond to any message I'd received during the last two months, all through the familiar Web interface. Eureka! I'll never again be mailless on a plane, a subway, or anyplace else where you don't have the Web but do have a lot of time to kill.

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9:15 PM

Google Chrome Funny Logos

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These are some funny Google Chrome logos..

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9:09 PM

Click Fraud At Record High

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17.1% of all clickthroughs on web advertising are the result of click fraud - the act of clicking on a web ad to artificially increase its click-through rate - according to the latest report from Click Forensics, a company that specializes in monitoring and preventing internet crime. The level of clickfraud is the highest the company has seen since it started monitoring for it in 2006, dashing our hopes that it might hold steady in 2008. The company recorded a rate of 16.3% in Q1 2008.

Also alarming is the fact that over 30% of click fraud is now coming from automated bots - a 14% increase from last quarter and the highest rate Click Forensics has seen since it started collecting data. Click fraud for ads on content networks like Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network was up to 28.2% from 27.1% last quarter, though that figure has decreased since Q4 2007, when it was at 28.3%. Outside of the US, Click Forensics reports that the most click fraud came from Canada (which contributed 7.4%), Germany (3%), and China (2.3%).

Click Forensics also notes that it has seen a reemergence with some old-hat tricks, like link farms. The company speculates that the increase may be tied to the poor economy, which has spurred a rise in activity like phishing and other cybercrime.

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8:17 PM

New features in Microsoft Internet Explorer 8

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Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8), the long-awaited successor to IE 7, is about to turn a lot of heads, as Microsoft nears completion of a browser upgrade that does significantly more than tack on enhancements to existing features.

The challengers keep coming, but Microsoft's Internet Explorer still holds the lion's share of the Web browser market. Most estimates put Internet Explorer's market share at around 72 per cent, which means that when a new version of the browser is released, a lot of people will likely be upgrading. Here's what's in store.

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Faster

Perhaps the biggest news about IE 8 is what Microsoft has done for performance of the browser. In short, the browser is faster in almost every respect. It loads faster, switches pages faster, and renders complex graphics and videos faster than in previous versions.

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No doubt Microsoft is responding, as it has in Windows 7, to users' insistence that performance is consideration number one when it comes to software. But IE now also has considerable competition from Google's recently released Chrome browser, which loads faster than any other browser on the market.

Load times, while they may seem trivial on the surface, are actually very important to most of us, since the Web browser is typically called up many times during the day, and for many different reasons. Waiting for the browser to load, therefore, becomes a serious productivity issue.

Accelerators feature

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With IE 8, Microsoft has recognised that performance is about more than just the speed at which the browser opens, however, a few new features of IE 8 are aimed at recognising the types of activities you perform on a regular basis and helping you to get those tasks done more quickly.

For instance, how many times have you found an address on the Web and then proceeded to Google Maps, MapQuest, or Microsoft's own Live Maps to find directions? If the answer is "plenty", then IE 8 will be a boon to your productivity. Thanks to the browser's new "accelerators" feature, you can highlight an address, right-click, and select Map to get almost instantaneous directions from your location, assuming you've registered your existing address with whatever mapping site you use regularly.

The same principle applies to email addresses, words you'd like to define, words you'd like to translate, or email addresses to which you'd like to send a message.

Private browsing mode

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Beyond performance enhancements, IE 8 plays some catch-up with features that other browsers have pioneered. Among them is the new InPrivate browsing mode, which allows you to browse the Web without having your browsing history stored for others to see.

Google's Chrome calls this Incognito mode. In Firefox, you can achieve something close to Incognito mode by choosing to clear private date from the Edit - Preferences - Privacy dialog box.

Whatever the name, the intention is the same: to give you a way to browse the Internet without enabling others to see which sites you've visited. The ramifications of this feature are obvious, but the fact is that users want it, and browser makers are delivering. Microsoft's InPrivate mode works as well as Google's Incognito, and it means never having to worry about whether the sites you visit can be revealed to those who snoop after you.

Web slices

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For those who frequently visit the same website over and over again, waiting for updates, IE 8 introduces Web Slices, a feature that allows you to be notified via IE's favourites bar when a site has been updated with new information.

Sites have to be "Web slice enabled" in order for this feature to work. When they are, a green Web slice button will appear in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window. Click it, and you are subscribed to the site and notified instantly of updates.

Security features

Enhanced security was the headline feature of IE 7, and IE 8 improves on the foundation built in its predecessor. A new SmartScreen filter is a refined version of the phishing filter found in IE 7. Even better, an impressive domain highlighting feature helps to alert you when you stumble upon a potentially unsafe site. Lots of malicious sites use spoof domain names that resemble legitimate ones.

When IE 8 detects that you're on a potentially dangerous site, the entire address bar turns red. Additional security controls help to prevent malware from being loaded onto your computer surreptitiously.

Compatibility mode

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The pre-release version of IE 8 is not compatible with all existing Web technologies. Microsoft is aware of that and consequently has incorporated a "compatibility mode" into IE 8, accessible by clicking a toolbar button.

Unfortunately, not everyone will even know that a compatibility mode exists, so website owners who find that their sites do not display correctly in IE 8 will want to avail themselves of code that forces IE 8 into compatibility mode. There are ample instructions on how to do this at various locations on the Web.

Users, on the other hand, can only hope that Microsoft works hard to ensure that its newest browser doesn't break a number of existing websites. If it does, that commanding market share that Microsoft enjoys just might become endangered.

Beta 2 of IE 8 is available now at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/Internet-explorer/beta/default.aspx. It works with Windows XP and Windows Vista.

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8:05 PM

Google, Microsoft hiring in thousands

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Amid the gloom enveloping the jobs market worldwide, top 20 employers including Google and Microsoft, are looking to hire over 7,000 people, US magazine Fortune said.

"As many big companies are announcing mass layoffs, these 20 top employers have at least 350 openings each right now," business magazine Fortune said.

The magazine had come out with a list of 100 Best Companies To Work For, which recognised firms that have gone out of their ways to please their employees despite the economic slowdown.

Fortune in a related report, has named 20 firms that are recruiting even in the gloomy environment. The list includes Internet major Google, which has 350 vacancies for engineering, marketing, product management and legal sales and Edward Jones with 1,040 job openings for financial advisors and branch office administrators.

Interestingly, Microsoft, which had announced on January 22 that it would be cutting up to 5,000 jobs in the next year and a half, is also looking to hire thousands of employees.

"But it (Microsoft) is still looking for software design engineers, financial analysts, human resources, administrative and marketing and sales talent, particularly in online ad sales," the magazine stated.

Other companies offering jobs include Wegmans Food Markets (2,000 jobs), Cisco Systems (500), Genetech (585), Whole Foods Market (800) and Ernst and Young(2,800). Global consultancy firm Ernst & Young is planning to hire around 2,400 experienced professionals and nearly 5,000 students from campus for opportunities in the US and Canada for fiscal year 2009. E&Y has openings in assurance, tax and several of the advisory practices.

Further, the companies looking to hire include KPMG, Booz Allen Hamilton, T-Mobile (2,163), PricewaterhouseCoopers (500)and Accenture.

Besides, in the Fortune list of best employers, storage and data management services provider NetApp topped the charts this year, moving ahead of Google, which had been at the top position for the past two years and stands at the fourth position now.

On Monday, a staggering over 80,000 job cuts were announced in a single day across the world, with construction machinery manufacturer Caterpillar, pharma major Pfizer, telecom firm Sprint Nextel Corp and home improvement retailer Home Depot together accounting for 61,000 lay-off announcements.

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8:04 PM

Access your Gmail offline!

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If you have been banking on Gmail for your communication needs, there have always been times when you have desperately wanted to access your account to dig out that important mail but have found yourself haggling with an unreliable or unavailable connection. Not any more.

If the Google Gears version of Gmail rolls out smooth, you can open your web browser, go to the mailbox, and get to your mail even when you are offline. In a nutshell, your Gmail is going offline.

The logic is simple but it could be a great value ad. If you install the Google Gears plug-in to your browser from the Gmail Lab, Gmail detects when you are offline. The new version caches your e-mail so that you can read it, respond to it, search it, star it, or label it. When you are connected to the Internet again, it sends all the messages that you have prepared while being offline. You can even open attachments.

As Gmail product manager Todd Jackson puts it, "it works exactly the way Gmail already works on mobile phones such as the Android and those that support Gears. The underlying sync engine is exactly the same for Android and offline Gmail."

Here's how it works. Once the feature is turned on, Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you're connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail's servers.

When the connection is lost, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer's hard drive instead of the information sent across the network.

Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. And if you're on an unreliable or slow connection, you can choose to use "flaky connection mode," which is somewhere in between: it uses the local cache as if you were disconnected, but still synchronizes your mail with the server in the background.

According to web reports, Google is making offline Gmail available to everyone who uses Gmail in US or UK English over the next couple of days. If you don't see it under the Labs tab yet, it should be there soon.

The only bad news is some features that require an Internet connection, such as spell check, won't work offline. And while you can open attachments, you won't be able to add attachments at launch. But Google promises to make them available soon!

The system is in beta and accessible through Gmail Labs. But it won't be immediately available to everyone - Google is parsing out access as it experiments with the new feature.

If Gmail lives up to the user expectations, then this would be a big step forward in bringing web mail offline given that presently there are options of offline access to your mailbox, but they all come with strings. You can access your Gmail account through a client like Mozilla Thunderbird. But that doesn't give you all the Gmail functionality like labels.

Yahoo Mail has offered offline access since last summer using Zimbra Desktop. But that also involves using a client on your desktop. For offline access to Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft suggests using their Mail client software.

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8:04 PM

Camera Click! sound could become legally required

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With the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act being prepared to protect individuals from being illegally photographed without their knowledge and permission, the way we utilize our cell phone cameras could soon change.

This has been a topic of discussion by users for many years, but now our government seems ready to deliver its citizens some legislation designed to force an audible camera click sound when a picture is captured. Many cell phone manufactures already have compliant devices as user's like that audio feedback, but there are others which allow photographers to turn their cameras to silent mode so that their picture snapping then becomes undetectable. Even in many phones where the camera click sound is not able to be silenced, sneaky individuals have figured out methods to hack into the firmware in effort to remove to the sound.

In other countries such as Korea and Japan, for example, similar laws are already in place. And so far, the device manufactures have had no issues complying with laws such as these.

The proposed act would fall under the Consumer Product Safety Commission's domain, and would provide the status of a "safety requirement". The current draft of the legislation also demands that the camera click would have to be audible from a "reasonable distance", though the legal definition of "reasonable distance" has not yet been laid out or determined.

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7:58 PM

Is security in Google Chrome flawless?

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Google Chrome was built from the ground up to be a more secure Web browser, and Google and its Chromium developers should be applauded for the attention they have brought to browser security. Google deserves much credit for the wealth of security information posted on the Internet and on the Google Chrome blog, and for making Chrome's source code available for anyone to examine.

The security model Chrome follows is excellent. Chrome separates the main browser program, called the browser kernel, from the rendering processes, which are based upon the open source WebKit engine, also used by Apple's Safari. The browser kernel starts with all privileges removed, the null SID (a security identifier in Windows Vista that denotes the user as untrusted), and multiple "restrict" and "deny" SIDs enabled. On Windows Vista, Chrome runs as a medium-integrity process.

Every Web site is given its own separate rendering process, memory space, global data structures, access token, tab, URL bar, desktop, and so forth. Currently, Chrome will open as many as 20 separate processes, one for each Web site, and start sharing processes between Web sites after that. Rendering processes are highly restricted as to what they can and can't do. On Windows Vista, Chrome's rendering processes run with low integrity, much like Internet Explorer in Protected Mode. But Chrome actually uses Vista's mandatory integrity controls more securely than Microsoft does. For one, Chrome attempts to prevent low-integrity browser processes from reading high-integrity resources, which is not normally prevented. (By default, Vista prevents lower to higher modifications, but not reads.)

Both the browser kernel and rendering processes run with DEP (Data Execution Prevention) and ASLR (Address Space Layout Representation) enabled, and with virtualization disabled. Any supplementary browser add-ons are run in a separate, medium-integrity (or higher-integrity) process. This screen image shows the various browser processes and their security settings, as enumerated by Process Explorer on Windows Vista. Chrome even has its own Task Manager and internal page to show memory and CPU statistics. With respect to the base security model, Chrome is leading the pack. It's beautiful.

Interesting innovations

A slightly questionable choice is Google's decision to allow Chrome to be installed without requiring Administrator-level access. This can make Chrome installs difficult to manage in an enterprise environment, but Microsoft is encouraging this sort of behavior in all vendors (to prevent Windows system modifications). Chrome is just one of the first major apps to follow Microsoft's advice.

Chrome also installs the Googleupdate.exe application, scheduled to run automatically in Windows Vista Task Scheduler, which frequently dials home (although only when the user is logged on and the computer is idle) and checks for browser (and other Google application) updates, and silently installs them. This is a great way to keep the browser up to date (patches are currently applied more frequently than once a week), but it riles many security administrators because there is no notification of the outward-bound search, no notification of pending patches, and no approval requested for patches to be applied; plus, this behavior cannot be easily changed.

Another interesting concept is Chrome's virtual JavaScript machine, called V8. Google's Chromium team built its own virtual environment for all JavaScript execution. V8 even converts JavaScript code into native machine language (to speed up Web-page loading) and has its own memory garbage-collection processes, source-code inspector, and debugger. V8 significantly limits what can be accomplished by JavaScript against the user's system, including preventing the normal JavaScript pop-ups. In testing, Chrome did pretty well against pop-up ads but suffered from UI problems and slowness on some of the JavaScript modal tests.

Chrome has many standard security features, including a browser-session privacy mode (called Incognito); anti-phishing capability (called Google Chrome's Safe Browsing); one-button setting resets; forced file saves before launching; moniker handling (which helps thwart attempts to fool the browser into launching helper applications that can be exploited); and MIME content-type sniffing (which helps thwart attempts to fool the browser into downloading malicious content). Chrome actually has many more security features that I could go on about; so far, so good.

Questionable controls

But then reality hits hard. One of the most glaring lapses is the inability to disable JavaScript. Because JavaScript is involved with most malicious Web attacks, all of Google's competitors allow its use to be disabled globally, or per site or per zone (albeit Firefox requires a third-party add-on, NoScript, to be site-specific). The world has yet to create a virtual machine that was not able to be breached, so despite all the cleverness that went into V8, I cannot understand how Google committed such an oversight, even if the company is trying to promote JavaScript-enriched applications and sites. If a large JavaScript exploit happens against Chrome -- or rather, when it happens -- the only recommendation Google will be able to offer, it seems, is to stop using it.

Most user-selectable security settings are under an option tab called Under the Hood. It's when you first go here that you realize how little Chrome offers in the way of fine-grained security settings. The options are very sparse and often lack a secure default. For example, all cookie types (both first- and third-party) are allowed by default. This isn't surprising for a company that makes its living from ads. But even the third-party-cookie restricted mode allows the reading of any third-party cookie, which is almost as bad as allowing modifications. In another example of a poor default, HTTP data is allowed to commingle with HTTPS data in the same view, without warning to the user.

Another critical security feature that's missing is the ability to place different Web sites into separate security zones or domains. Most browsers provide at least two zones (Internet Explorer has five) or the binary ability to whitelist or blacklist sites. Chrome is also glaringly absent of enterprise management features. SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) server revocation checking is enabled by default, but Chrome does not support the more efficient OCSP (Online Certificate Status Protocol) revocation-checking protocol, though all of its competitors do.

Google has also washed its hands of responsibility for the security of add-ons. Reviewers are very mixed on this approach. While it is true that browser vendors should not be ultimately held responsible for others' add-ons and applications, Chrome offers no add-on management. You cannot easily determine which add-ons will render particular content, nor easily disable them.

Many users are perturbed by the treatment of their own saved passwords. Chrome allows the current user to reveal the saved log-on names and passwords in plaintext with a few clicks of the mouse. This is convenient for the user -- and for anyone else who wants to learn all of the user's passwords and finds the computer left unattended for a few seconds. Internet Explorer doesn't allow this at all, and Firefox and Opera at least have the ability to assign another password to protect the saved passwords. On the Password Manager Evaluator testing Web site, Chrome scored the worst among all of the browsers I've tested (including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari), passing only 4 of 21 tests.

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7:47 PM

Apple releases iPhone Software 2.2.1

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Apple on Tuesday released a software update for its iPhone and iPhone 3G devices.

According to notes provided with the update, the new version addresses two issues. First, Apple says the update provides improved stability for the Safari Web browser and secondly, an issue was fixed where some images saved from Mail do not display correctly in the Camera Roll.

The update is available to all iPhone and iPhone 3G users by plugging the iPhone into your computer and clicking on the Check for Update button in iTunes.

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7:44 PM

Apple shipping iLife '09 tomorrow

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Apple said that iLife 09, the latest version of its comprehensive suite of integrated digital lifestyle applications, will be available tomorrow. The application suite will come pre-installed on every new Mac free of charge, but existing users will upgrade for $79. The long overdue refresh to iLife '09 brings interesting feature sets that extend the capabilities of each application into new areas. To date, iLife has remained an important part of the overall Mac appeal, one that entices new users to Mac's fold. It is remarkable that despite years of iLife existence, Windows PCs still lack such a tightly integrated package to manage digital media.

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Apple said that iLife 09, the latest version of its comprehensive suite of integrated digital lifestyle applications, will be available tomorrow. The application suite will come pre-installed on every new Mac free of charge, but existing users will upgrade for $79. The long overdue refresh to iLife '09 brings interesting feature sets that extend the capabilities of each application into new areas. To date, iLife has remained an important part of the overall Mac appeal, one that entices new users to Mac's fold. It is remarkable that despite years of iLife existence, Windows PCs still lack such a tightly integrated package to manage digital media.

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8:14 PM

YouTube: Users can delete their own comments on other videos

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Today, YouTube announced a new feature which allows users to delete their own comments.

According to YouTube's blog, "Whether you misspelled 'pwned,' back in the day when you were just a n00b to the internets, or you simply said something you wish you could take back -- now you can remove your commentary at any time."

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8:10 PM

Google: Spam Mail on rise again

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Today, Google's Enterprise blog posted an article which shows that spam is once again on the rise, up 156% since November following a massive sting which reduced spam email significantly. While no scales are specifically given, graphs indicate spam levels fell to roughly half of what they were prior to the November sting operation, but have once again risen to levels comparable with the lowest months seen in 2008 (August/September). And in 2009, the trend is still rising.

The data shows how many more spam emails are being blocked for each individual user in 2008 as compared with 2006 and 2007 data. In 2006, for example, a cumulative total of approximately 22,500 spam emails were blocked for each user by year's end. In 2007 that number increased to approximately 35,000. And in 2008 it is around 45,000 - and this despite a notable downward trend shown in the line shown in/around November, 2008. It might have been 50,000 had that operation not happened.

From the Google Enterprise blog:

"As seen from the roller-coast ride of spam and viruses in 2008, spam has again demonstrated its resiliency. Despite eliminating a major source, spam keeps coming back. Spammers are re-investing with increasing speed to evolve their systems into decentralized, harder-to-detect ecosystems."


See the entire blog on Google Enterprise, posted by Amanda Kleha, Google Message Security Team.

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8:06 PM

GOCE: The European space satellite will map Earth's gravitational field

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A new European Space Agency satellite will be launching this year, possibly as soon as February. Its job will be to map out the planet's gravitational field in extreme detail. The Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will be launched for the purpose of gathering data to be used in oceanography, climate change, and solid Earth physics. GOCE is the first Core Earth Explorer satellite to be developed as part of ESA's Living Planet Programme.

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Whats the mission behind it?

The satellite will be capable of measuring the Earth's gravity from location to location as it circles the globe. This effort will provide a complete, uniform global picture with detail and accuracy never before possible. This new sampling will give scientists and researchers more insight into the circulation of the ocean, how it affects climate change and even hints as to the interior structures of the Earth.

The basic theory is this: The strength of Earth's gravity varies by tiny amounts at different locations around the globe based on its makeup. As the GOCE orbits the Earth at 155 miles above the surface, over its 20 month mission it will compile a full 3-D map of every point in orbit.

Scientists report they'll even be able to use the satellite's compiled data to accurately measure heights for various features around the globe - such as Mount Everest and Mount St. Helens, both of which currently have varying height estimates which span a fairly wide range.

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If successful, the GOCE will deliver an improved accuracy of the Earth, forever changing the way it is perceived by man and science.

See an August, 2006 GOCE article on ESA's website, along with the other Core Earth Explorer satellites, including ADM-Aeolus scheduled for launch in 2010 (to measure wind using lidar) and EarthCARE due for launch in 2013, along with nine additional satellites.

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7:56 PM

Monster.com hacked

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Monster.com, the employment seeker and recruiter site, reported last Thursday that its databases were hacked by outsiders who stole "Monster user IDs and passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data." No social security or financial data was compromised.

Monster said “we recently learned our database was illegally accessed and certain contact and account data were taken, including Monster user IDs and passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data.” The company is recommending you immediately change your password and look out for phishing emails. USAJOBS (the U.S. government official job site) was also affected.

In 2007, hackers again attacked Monster.com with malicious ads that even if not clicked, still installed malicious code on the local machine and stole personal information from Monster. The personal information was then sent to a remote server. During that specific attack, more than 1.6 million entries of personal information from Monster.com users was compromised, according to internet security company Symantec.

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7:52 PM

Britannica giving Wikipedia stiff competition with online editing

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In effort to compete with Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica company is opening up their online version to editing by contributors everywhere. Unlike Wikipedia, however, all changes will be reviewed and edited before being posted.

The new website features will enable the inclusion of user generated content, and will be available on the site within the next twenty four hours.

Encyclopedia Britannica is a 241 year old publication, and they are making these changes to their site to encourage more community input, more use, and - most importantly - to increase their rankings on search engines.

Unlike Wikipedia updates, all of the additions and changes made on Britannica will have to be reviewed and edited before the changes go live on the site. The company has set a 20-minute turnaround to update the site with user-submitted edits to existing articles - though with the popularity of Wikipedia, this may not be possible if the service takes off.

The concept behind user generated content is that much of it will eventually appear in the printed version of the encyclopedia - which is published every two years.

Not only will Britannica.com offer community editing features, it will also allow approved users to add their own creative content which will be placed alongside the authorized article.

Individuals wishing to edit the Britannica website will have to register utilizing their real name and address prior to modifying or writing their own articles. This differs from Wikipedia which allows anonymous modifications to be made with only the user's IP address being logged.

Encyclopedia Britannica was first published in 1768. Their virtual space was founded in 1994 and contains articles comprised of over 46 million words.

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 and is available in 250 languages and attracts 700 million visitors annually. Wikipedia's recent public request fund drive was able to raise nearly $4.5 million dollars in just under three week (see TG Daily's analysis). This may be part of the driving force for Britannica's new movement as they can see how popular and receptive the public is to user-editable online content resources.

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3:04 AM

Internet has record one billion people now

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TechPulse360 has posted a chart showing that for the first time ever the number of 15-yr and older individuals on the Internet has exceeded one billion.

In terms of geographic regions, the Asia-Pacific regions accounts for 41% of online users, with Europe accounting for 28%. North America (Canada, United States and Mexico) accounts for 18% with Latin America accounting for 7%.

China took the number one spot with 179.7 million users online. The United States was a close second with 163.3 million. The following then came in order, Japan at 60.0 million, Germany at 37.0 million, United Kingdom at 36.7 million, France at 34.0 million, India at 32.1 million, Russia at 29.0 million, Brazil at 27.7 million, South Korea at 27.3 million, Canada 21.8 million and Italy at 20.8 million.

According to comScore CEO, Magid Abraham, who originally compiled the "World Metrix" chart, "The second billion will be online before we know it, and the third billion will arrive even faster than that."

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3:01 AM

How Obama can help IT Inc

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As the first Black President Barack Hussein Obama steps into the White House, he inherits an economy mired in a recession that could be the worst since the Great Depression. Among the numerous challenging that the new Prez faces, none seems as pressing as reviving the troubled economy.

In the past few months, the country has lost lakhs of jobs and the number is accelerating. The housing crisis, credit crunch, the list of economic pain points seems to be growing. In this gloomy scenario, Obama shows hope. As he said in his speech, “The challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met.”

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IT Inc's wishlist for Barack Obama

India Inc too hopes that the new President will help deepen India-US economic ties. The industry also wishes that the US' tech-savvy president supports the role of Indian companies in America's healthcare and software sector. Here's a wishlist of India IT sector from the new regime at White House.

More H1B visas

What clearly tops the Indian IT Inc's wishlist is an increase in the number of H1B visas. As NASSCOM said in its congratulatory message to the Obama administration, “shares many of the same economic and diplomatic goals outlined by President-elect Obama during the course of his campaign. Specifically, we support expanding the H1B visa program so that highly skilled workers can help companies lead the way on innovation and contribute additional jobs and economic growth in the United States. “

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However, during his campaigns Obama focussed on preserving jobs for US citizens and is against companies lobbying the system to secure visas for employees. He said that he would support "comprehensive immigration reform", including the H1-B visa programme "to attract some of the world's most talented people to America".

As Obama's tech paper says on the issue: An Obama administration will invest in human capital to ensure that our young people have the skills to fill the growing number of information technology jobs being created globally, and will also support pilot programmes that provide incentives for businesses to grow their information technology workforce in inner-cities and rural communities.

Obama says that he wants to make "immigrant workers less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country, and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers".

Outsourcing booster

Obama's conservative stance on outsourcing poses a threat to the growing Indian IT industry already reeling under the effects of the turbulent global economic crisis.

India Inc hopes that the business benefits and necessity of outsourcing will help mould Obama's stand. As CII Chief Mentor Tarun Das said, "Obama's concern over saving American jobs is fair but not discouraging outsourcing. We hope there will be no interference with the normal processes of business between Indian and American companies."

FICCI in its own wishlist for Obama stated that, "We expect Obama to view outsourcing as a business decision for US companies especially in the current situation where costs will play an important role. A US Chamber of Commerce study shows that 74 per cent of the benefits of outsourcing actually go to US companies."

Earlier, during his campaigns Obama advocated ending tax breaks for companies that ship US jobs overseas. His tech paper says on the subject, "An Obama administration will foster home-grown innovation and ensure that we can retain and grow high-paying jobs in fast-growing sectors in the sciences and technology rather than exporting those jobs to lower cost labor markets abroad. As offshoring becomes more of a long-term workforce management strategy and less of a perceived short-term cost savings, it presents a significant challenge to young people growing up in America’s historically low-income and working-class communities."

Though to the much relief of Indian IT Inc Obama clarified his stand and said, "We know that we cannot and should not put up walls around our economy." Acknowledging that global competition is a fact that cannot be reversed, Obama said, "But we must find a way to make globalisation and trade work for American workers."

IT infrastructure development

President Obama's economic stimulus plan is expected to include $700 billion to $800 billion in new investments. Analysts speculate that much of this will go to the technology sector. Prior to his inaugural address, Obama also hinted at steps that his administration would take in improving IT for Americans, including digitizing health care records and increasing broadband deployment in rural and unserved areas of the country.

And just like analysts, India Inc too hopes that the economy stimulus may help revive IT spending. As FICCI in its wishlist emphasised on the critical role of Indian IT companies in America's economy.

In a statement, FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra said, "Engagement of Indian industry in President Obama's plans to spend large amounts for infrastructure development, IT and skill formation in the US, engagement of Indian industry with US in the healthcare and software domains and engagement of Indian companies and government with the US for launching a second green revolution will come as a big boost."

Tackle recession

Barack Obama has stepped into the White House at a time when the US economy is facing one of its most trying times. The massive jobs cuts and bankruptcy filing by some of the biggest industry icons point out to the grave economic environment.

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Hopes are high that Obama administration will help pull out the economy from the dismal state it is in. The new Prez too seems to have economy high on his agenda, as he said in his address, "The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together."

In the present world, where no country is immune to the ups and downs in the global economy, the revival of US economy is sure to energise Indian economy. The improvement in the US economy is sure to benefit Indian IT industry which earns majority of its business from US.

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2:47 AM

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google Billionaires

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Topping the Web billionaires list are the Google duo Sergey Brin and Larry Page with a net worth of $18.7 billion and $18.6 billion respectively.

Brin, the president and head of Google's technology division, started Google along with Page in 1998 out of a friend's garage. Moscow-born Brin received a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in mathematics and computer sciences from the University of Maryland.

He is currently on leave from the PhD programme in computer science at Stanford University, where he received his master's degree. Brin continues to share responsibility for day-to-day operations along with Page and Schmidt.

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Larry Page is Google's founding CEO and grew the company to be the behemoth it is today. In 2001, he moved into his role as president, products. Son of a computer science professor at Michigan State University, Page's love for computers began at age six. He earned a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Michigan.

Despite getting Eric Schmidt (chief executive of Google) on board, Page is still credited with being intensely involved in company's affairs. He is said to go through CV of every employee before the person is hired at Google even today.

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2:43 AM

Yahoo freezes salaries

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Yahoo said it is freezing employee pay as it works to curtail costs and improve the pioneering Internet firm's fortunes.

The news comes five days before Yahoo announces its earnings for the final quarter of 2008. "The executive team decided that providing annual salary increases would not be in the best interests of the company or shareholders," said Yahoo spokeswoman Kim Rubey.

Some analysts are predicting that newly-appointed chief executive Carol Bartz will shake-up Yahoo. Veteran Silicon Valley executive Bartz took over the helm of Yahoo last week, vowing to revive the ailing Internet giant and calling on critics to give it room to breathe.

Bartz, 60, replaces Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, who stepped down on November 18 after a rocky tenure as chief executive of the Sunnyvale, California, firm that lasted a little over a year.

Yang, who founded Yahoo in 1994 with Stanford University classmate David Filo, will remain at Yahoo and the board said his "iconic stature in the industry makes him an invaluable resource."

Yahoo has been outshined by Internet-search star Google and stumbling in the wake of a failed courtship with Microsoft, which offered last year to buy Yahoo for nearly $47 billion.

Yang's rejection of Microsoft's 33-dollar-a-share takeover bid was met with disapproval by many shareholders including billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who led a revolt against Yang and was eventually named to Yahoo's board.

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2:36 AM

Google loses best workplace crown to NetApp

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California technology firm NetApp has taken Google's crown as best company to work for in 2009, according to an annual Top 100 list published by Fortune Magazine.

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Google held the Fortune title of "Best Company to Work For" for two years, knocking biotech drug firm Genentech from the top spot in 2007.

Google sank to fourth place in rankings published in the February 2 issue of Fortune. St. Louis-based brokerage Edward Jones was second followed by Boston Consulting, a management consulting firm.

Silicon Valley insiders speculated the sag in Google's status could be related to cost-cutting measures such as the cancellation of an annual ski outing for the northern California Internet giant's snow-loving employees.

The magazine noted that Google attracts 770,000 job applicants yearly, despite having done away with "frills" such as afternoon tea.

Fortune praised NetApp for a "legendary egalitarian culture" and down-to-earth management ethos.

Rather than business plans, workers at the company specializing in data management and computer storage draft "future histories" describing their visions for coming years, according to Fortune.

Worker benefits reportedly include paid days for volunteer work, cash to supplement adopting children and medical coverage for family members with autism.

Veteran network-equipment company Cisco in the heart of Silicon Valley ranked sixth on the list, while its neighbor Adobe Systems was listed in 11th place.

The rankings are done by San Francisco's Great Place to Work Institute, which reportedly surveyed more than 81,000 employees from 353 companies.

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2:31 AM

Facebook double the size of MySpace

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In November 2008 Facebook drew 200 million unique worldwide visitors; more than 1 in 5 people who accessed the Internet that month visited the site. When sites are that big growth generally stagnates, but in Facebook’s case it’s still skyrocketing. In December, 222 million people visited the site says newly released Comscore stats, a 10.8% month over month growth rate. 22% of the total Internet audience went to Facebook in December.

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Facebook now has nearly 100 million more worldwide users than MySpace, which added 4 million new users in December to 125 million total. The page view difference is more dramatic - Facebook had 80 billion monthly page views in December v. 43 billion for MySpace. Just six months ago the sites were about the same size.

Facebook, still a private company, is the world’s default social network. MySpace is still the king in the U.S., but trends suggest that 2009 is its last year on top. By January 2010, at current relative growth rates, Facebook will overtake MySpace as the largest U.S. social network as well.

We reached out to MySpace for a comment on the growth trends. They say “We are laser focused on building a sustainable global business which we measure by profits and revenue - not just eyeballs. In a tough economic climate, our international revenue is up 30 percent year over year and we continue to focus on those markets with the strong monetization opportunities. Additionally, MySpace continues to dominate the U.S. market–where the bulk of online advertising revenues reside–both in terms of monetization and user engagement with more than 76 million unique users and a 40% spike in engagement year over year.”

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11:58 PM

Steve Ballmer writes layoff email to employees

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From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 6:07 AM
Subject: Realigning Resources and Reducing Costs

In response to the realities of a deteriorating economy, we're taking important steps to realign Microsoft's business. I want to tell you about what we're doing and why.

Today we announced second quarter revenue of $16.6 billion. This number is an increase of just 2 percent compared with the second quarter of last year and it is approximately $900 million below our earlier expectations.

The fact that we are growing at all during the worst recession in two generations reflects our strong business fundamentals and is a testament to your hard work. Our products provide great value to our customers. Our financial position is solid. We have made long-term investments that continue to pay off.

But it is also clear that we are not immune to the effects of the economy. Consumers and businesses have reined in spending, which is affecting PC shipments and IT expenditures.

Our response to this environment must combine a commitment to long-term investments in innovation with prompt action to reduce our costs.

During the second quarter we started down the right path. As the economy deteriorated, we acted quickly. As a result, we reduced operating expenses during the quarter by $600 million. I appreciate the agility you have shown in enabling us to achieve this result.

Now we need to do more. We must make adjustments to ensure that our investments are tightly aligned with current and future revenue opportunities. The current environment requires that we continue to increase our efficiency.

As part of the process of adjustments, we will eliminate up to 5,000 positions in R&D, marketing, sales, finance, LCA, HR, and IT over the next 18 months, of which 1,400 will occur today. We'll also open new positions to support key investment areas during this same period of time. Our net headcount in these functions will decline by 2,000 to 3,000 over the next 18 months. In addition, our workforce in support, consulting, operations, billing, manufacturing, and data center operations will continue to change in direct response to customer needs.

Our leaders all have specific goals to manage costs prudently and thoughtfully. They have the flexibility to adjust the size of their teams so they are appropriately matched to revenue potential, to add headcount where they need to increase investments in order to ensure future success, and to drive efficiency.

To increase efficiency, we're taking a series of aggressive steps. We'll cut travel expenditures 20 percent and make significant reductions in spending on vendors and contingent staff. We've scaled back Puget Sound campus expansion and reduced marketing budgets. We'll also reduce costs by eliminating merit increases for FY10 that would have taken effect in September of this calendar year.

Each of these steps will be difficult. Our priority remains doing right by our customers and our employees. For employees who are directly affected, I know this will be a difficult time for you and I want to assure you that we will provide help and support during this transition. We have established an outplacement center in the Puget Sound region and we'll provide outplacement services in many other locations to help you find new jobs. Some of you may find jobs internally. For those who don't, we will also offer severance pay and other benefits.

The decision to eliminate jobs is a very difficult one. Our people are the foundation of everything we have achieved and we place the highest value on the commitment and hard work that you have dedicated to building this company. But we believe these job eliminations are crucial to our ability to adjust the company's cost structure so that we have the resources to drive future profitable growth. I encourage you to attend tomorrow's Town Hall at 9am PST in Cafe 34 or watch the Webcast.

While this is the most challenging economic climate we have ever faced, I want to reiterate my confidence in the strength of our competitive position and soundness of our approach.

With these changes in place, I feel confident that we will have the resources we need to continue to invest in long-term computing trends that offer the greatest opportunity to deliver value to our customers and shareholders, benefit to society, and growth for Microsoft.

With our approach to investing for the long term and managing our expenses, I know Microsoft will emerge an even stronger industry leader than it is today.

Thank you for your continued commitment and hard work.

Steve

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11:51 PM

Google's Q4 results 2008: $5.70 billion revenue

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As expected, Google announced its Q4'2008 fiscal results. Exceeding analyst's expectations, Google posted $5.70 billion in revenue, which is up 3% compared to Q3 and 18% compared to a year ago quarter. Net income was $382 million, down considerably from $1.29 billion in Q3, and down even further from $1.62 billion a year ago.

Google's site revenue was $3.81 billion, 67% of total revenue. It's up 4% from Q3 and 18% from Q4'2007. Network revenues through AdSense were $1.69 billion, or 30% of total revenues, up 1% over Q3 and 4% over Q4'2007.

CEO Eric Schmidt said in the press release:

"Google performed well in the fourth quarter, despite an increasingly difficult economic environment. Search query growth was strong, revenues were up in most verticals, and we successfully contained costs. It's unclear how long the global downturn will last, but our focus remains on the long term, and we'll continue to invest in Google's core search and ads business as well as in strategic growth areas such as display, mobile, and enterprise."

Google's international revenues were $2.86 billion, 50% of total revenues. Google ended the year with 20,222 full time employees, up from 20,123 full-time employees as of September 30, 2008.

Google also announced today that it plans to offer its employees a voluntary, "one-for-one stock option exchange" - which is intended to create additional incentive for employees to remain at Google.

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9:41 PM

Obama inauguration pictures seen from space

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GeoEye-1, the satellite that will supply Google with high-resolution imagery of the Earth, took a high-resolution photograph of the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The satellite is expected to start producing data for Google in coming weeks, but in the meantime, this shot shows a bit more tantalizing detail about what will show in Google Earth and Google Maps. It was taken from 423 miles up as the 4,300-pound satellite traveled 17,000 miles per hour.

GeoEye launched GeoEye-1 in September, and Google has exclusive rights to imagery for online use.

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Update 7:52 a.m. PST January 21: Google Earth users can view the photo through the software, according to Google's Lat Long blog. And GeoEye has added the image to CNN's Photosynth view of the inauguration.

GeoEye-1 took this satellite photo of Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony. Note the shape of the crowd gathered around the large-screen TV in upper right.

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GeoEye-1 took this satellite photo of Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony. Note the shape of the crowd gathered around the large-screen TV in upper right.

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GeoEye-1 took this satellite photo of the Mall during Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony.

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9:27 PM

Digg laying off 10% but hiring new sales team

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Digg CEO Jay Adelson on Thursday morning is announcing that the social media site is laying off a "very small" portion of its workforce, but will also be hiring a new direct sales force and head of sales to drive the company to profitability this year.

The overall job cuts at the 75-person company will be "microscopic in size," Adelson said to me, later confirming a figure of "about 10 percent." He reiterated that Digg this year is focusing on profitability and growth, and for the first time is building out its own advertising support structure, "which we've never really focused on before." Adelson posted a brief item about the news on the Digg blog.

The partnership Digg has with Microsoft to sell standard advertising units will continue. But Digg will be rolling out higher-profile advertising programs, and features on the site to support them, that his internal sales force will be pitching. He pointed to Digg Dialogg as an example of a vehicle that could be sponsored by a higher-profile advertising program.

It's a difficult time for all media companies, of course, but Adelson says that Digg has not seen any CPM erosion--the price they get for the ads on the site--and that the Microsoft is doing well for the company.

Even though Digg has "multiple years" of cash on hand for operating expenses at the current burn rate, Adelson said, it's a brutal economy today. "It's true we have cash in the bank, but getting to profitability makes more sense to us." Sounding like almost every other Web start-up CEO on the state of his business today, he continued, "If things don't get worse this year, if we get to the second or third quarter and things look good, I can bring some of that talent back in. But if we go in the other direction, that's not a burn rate we can maintain. I'd rather be in front."

The company raised new capital and doubled in size in 2008.

Adelson says Digg's engineering and core development group won't be hit by the layoffs. The cuts will come in areas "not core to our function. We'll be shifting some of that cost to a sales force."

The Digg CEO backed away from discussing the valuation of the venture-backed Digg today. "We aren't focused on that," he said. "Our plan is to be independent. Our investors look at this as a multibillion-dollar opportunity. We need to go it alone and be much bigger than we are today." Furthermore, he added, "This is not the best market to be discussing exits. Even our investors are desensitized to that."

What this means to Digg users?


While not providing specifics, Adelson said the company will be adding features "that enhance engagement, giving users more reasons for sticking around." He pointed to incremental improvements like the new "related stories" links that appear on Digg permalink pages.

The company is also moving to make Digg more personalized, so everyone gets a different experience, based on who they are and what they like. "We can't apply the same collaborative filter to everyone," he said.

Also coming: New tools to allow Digg to integrate with third-party sites like Facebook and Twitter. And without providing specifics, he added, "We have some ideas in the pipeline that will blow peoples' minds."

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9:08 PM

Apple still a money-making machine owing to huge sales of iPod touch and Macbooks

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Apple's just posted its quarterly earnings and gave analysts a positive pause. Although iPhone slightly disappointed and Mac desktops fell on the lack of iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro refreshes, it was new unibody Macbooks and iPod touch that saved the day. Despite slightly contracted annual U.S. iPod sales, the music player is conquering international markets while the iPod touch emerged as the cornerstone of iPod's success story. We also learned that Jobs remains in charge and even if he steps down, Apple can rely on its pool of "wicked smart" talent.

Apple beat most analyst's expectations with its quarter earnings posted earlier today. The depressed economy hurt iPhone and Mac desktop sales but high-end products that are often deemed as overpriced, didn't falter amid decreased consumer spending and a gloomy economy outlook. Just take a look at some key stats: The $10.17 billion revenue, up from $9.6 billion a year ago, beat Wall Street's $9 - $10 billion guidance, with nearly half sales (46%) coming from international markets. The company remains a money-making machine, even in tough times.

Apple kept up a 34.7% gross margin, the same as a year ago, thanks to a more favorable component pricing, lower than expected transportation and warranty, in addition to favorable adjustments related to prior quarter supply chain.

All this helped move net quarterly profits to a record $1.61 billion, up from $1.58 billion a year ago. The performance earned Apple over $3.6 billion in cash during the quarter, increasing total cash reserves to $28.1 billion with zero debt. Some of this money will go towards opening 25 planned retail stores in fiscal 2009 with about half of those internationally. Apple labels its retail stores as "amazingly productive." The $1.78 earnings per share reported for the quarter exceeded both analysts' $1.39 consensus and Apple's own guidance from the previous quarter that fell in the $1.06-$1.35 range. Positive news sent Apple shares up 8.6% to $89.99 in after-hours trading.

Mac

Mac sales grew 9% annually. In the first three fiscal 2008 quarters Apple already eclipsed the 7.1 million Macintosh units sold in all of fiscal 2007. The 2.52 million units that Apple added in current quarter (compared to the 2.5 million consensus) sent fiscal 2008 Mac sales to nearly 10 million. These results surprised investors frightened by gloomy reports. For instance, NPD said Mac sales remained flat in November while Windows PCs grew 7%, a surprising change given that Macs have been outgrowing Windows PCs for 14 of the last 15 quarters. NPD's explanation for the change blamed long overdue Mac refresh and the lack of sub-$1000 Mac notebook. "For notebooks, there is a little extra value to consumers [to buy Apple]," NPD analyst Stephen Barker told Reuters. Though, Apple greatly surpassed NPD's gloomy outlook.

Similarly, Gartner estimated last week that Apple surrendered its third place in U.S. computer sales to Acer, sliding to 8% down from 9.5% in Q3 2008. Eagle-eyed readers will remember that Gartner's summer report put Apple at the #3 slot, ahead of Acer, in terms of U.S. computer sales. Apple told investors it is "proud" of Mac sales in the context of an overall market contraction during the December quarter. The company did say, however, that Mac desktop sales for the quarter fell to 728,000 units, down from 977,000 a year ago, the lowest figure since Q3 2007.

But at the same time, Apple shipped a record number of Macbooks: nearly 1.8 million units, up from 1.34 million a year ago. Mac notebooks accounted for a whopping 71% of all Macs sold during the quarter and drove Mac sales. Still, the analysts were right: Mac desktops are long overdue for refresh - especially the iMac. Rumored upgrades should include Core i7 processors, Nvidia graphics, DisplayPort interconnect and better storage and memory.

iPod ruled Christmas

iPod results left analysts scratching their heads in a big surprise. The company shipped 22.7 million iPod units in the quarter, a 3% growth, setting a record and exceeding the 18.6 million consensus by a large margin (22%). Apple said the iPod held over 70% of the U.S. music player market during the quarter (Japan: 60%, UK and Australia: 70%, Canada: 50%). Despite the fact that Apple does not break down iPod sales by models, most analysts believe that the iPod touch contributed the most to these figures. Although U.S. iPod sales contracted by 3% annually, international markets pushed iPod sales well into positive territory. Most of sales from non-U.S. markets came entirely between Christmas and New Year.

The touch-based music player mimics iPhone in nearly all aspects but the phone part. It can run App Store programs and games and access the Internet, but most customers purchased the gadget to play games. Apple recently reported that customers have downloaded over half a billion applications from the App Store in the six months since the store opened for business last July.

Although iPod touch costs more than the iPhone 3G, it doesn't come with an obligatory 2-year service contract like the iPhone so the gadget comes down much cheaper than nearly $2,000 that iPhone user ends up paying for the service over 24 months.

iPhone needs a price cut

Apple sold somewhat disappointing 4.4 million iPhone 3G units during the quarter, up 88% annually. The company's total unit sales in 2008 were 13.7 million, beating its self-imposed 10 million target predicted in January 2007. Had Apple accounted iPhone sales directly, not according to subscription-based GAAP rules, it would have added another billion to total revenue. Despite its significance to Apple's bottom line, the iPhone could be in trouble due to tough economical climate.

Everyone but Apple wants $99 iPhone 3G. Analysts told Apple to bring the price down in order to grow its share of the smartphone market but the company disagrees. Apple underscored during earnings call that it will not play in the low-end voice phone business. "That's not who we are, that's not why we're here," Apple told investors. "[Our] goal is not to lead unit sales, but to build the world's best phone."

Some think the iPod touch is to blame for weaker than expected iPhone sales for the quarter, an irony in itself given that analysts typically feared that the iPhone might undercut iPod sales. While Apple might lower the iPhone 3G hardware price to $99, prospective customers might still be put off by pricey service plans. Apple's Tim Cook confirmed that the recession may have changed the perspective for some customers who now deem iPhone 3G as too pricey. The acknowledgment does not necessarily confirm the $99 iPhone 3G but might signal change in Apple's business model and possibly cheaper service plans.

Timothy Cook: Apple has 'wicked smart' people

Apple gave no update about Steve Jobs' health status. Faced with a blatant inquiry from Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital who wanted to know if Tim Cook is Jobs' successor in case of the worst, the executive avoided direct answer but praised Apple's employees as "wicked smart". "There is an extraordinary breadth and depth and tenure among Apple's executive team," said Cook. "And these executives lead over 35,000 employees that I would all call 'wicked smart'," he said, adding his observation applies to all parts of Apple, from engineering, to marketing, operations, sales, and all the rest."

Chief of finance Peter Oppenheimer added that Jobs remains in charge. "Steve is the CEO of Apple and intends to be involved in major strategic decisions," he said.

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8:20 PM

The next Android Smartphone

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If you live in the United States then utilizing a phone that runs Google’s new Android operating system is nearly impossible, especially if you don’t like the T-Mobile G1. This shortage of Android phones might be coming to an end however. Rumor has it that Samsung will soon be unveiling their own Android smartphone which can be used with either T-Mobile or Sprint wireless providers.

Samsung’s representative, TechRadar, claims that the company will be expediting the development of their own Android-powered device in effort to keep up with the competition. The phone will debut sometime in 2009 and will be available for purchase by Sprint and T-Mobile customers.

Sources about the Internet are reporting the device will be similar to the Samsung Instinct, or much like the Omnia - a phone that is currently only available in Asia and Europe. Mainly these rumors lead one to believe that the phone will definitely be a touch-screen device without a slide-out keyboard.

More than likely the phone will be very different from the G1, as T-Mobile wouldn’t be inclined to carry devices that are very similar - so they’d be able to capitalize on the success of the original phone.

One online rumor that could be true is the introduction of the phone, which might happen during next month’s Mobile World Congress, to be held in Barcelona.

Until then, we’ll just have to wait it out.

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8:05 PM

Apple sold 4.4 million iPhones in the last quarter

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We’re just minutes into Apple’s quarterly earnings call, and the iPhones sales numbers for the first fiscal quarter of 2009 (which ran from Oct. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31st, 2008) are already in. Over the past 3 months, Apple has sold over 4,363,000 iphones.

Compared to the 2.3 million iPhones sold in their fiscal first quarter of last year, this number is astronomical. Compared to the 6.9 million iPhones sold last quarter, however, it seems relatively low. While it may be that the demand caused by the 3G model of the iPhone may be wearing off, I’d expected Christmas purchases to pull sales on par or above Q4 of 2008, along the lines of the sudden App Store sales boost we saw in December.

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7:56 PM

Gog.is Vs Tinyurl: The Debate

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I am sure you must have shared some important URLS with your friends or even colleagues and for this, you must have used tinyurl.com, a very famous website for URL shortening. The biggest problem with tinyurl is that you can never decipher whats behind the URL. You are required to use some tools to see the hidden URL behind it.

Here http://Gog.is comes very handy. With Gog.is, its very simple to create a short URL for any Google search query. Lets say for an example, if you want to share a Google search URL which search for "Most Impressive Laptops", you can provide the URL "gog.is/Most+Impressive+Laptops". The advantage of using the URL "gog.is/Most+Impressive+Laptops" is that it will open the same google search page results as "http://www.google.com/search?q=Most+Impressive+Laptops+" however as you can see, its difficult to share the latter URL.

To cite more examples, these are some sample URLs:

1. http://gog.is/Technology+Laptops
2. http://gog.is/Recession+Impact

Now, one would wonder what can be the exact comparison between the leader http://tinyurl.com and http://gog.is.

Let me give you some reasons which I feel bends in gog.is favor rather than tinyurl.com

1. Unambiguous: As I already mentioned, URLs shortened by http://tinyurl.com are very unambiguous. Its impossible to judge whats behind the URL generated from tinyurl.com, leave alone the tools for this purpose. However, gog.is is crystal clear. You can easily use gog.is without thinking much.

2. Easy to create: Before giving the advantage of gog.is, I would like to mention that in oder to shorten a URL from tinyurl.com, firstly you are forced to visit tinyurl.com in order to create shortened URL.However, the beauty of http://gog.is is that you can create a shortened URL on fly. You are only required to append your search query separated by "+" sign after http://gog.is like for an example http://gog.is/

With this information, how many of you still wants to share complex Google queries with tinyurl.com instead of http://gog.is?

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8:20 PM

Twitter surpassed visits to Digg

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According to Hitwise, last week visits to Twitter surpassed visits to Digg for the first time. Hitwise measures visits in terms of “market share,” which isn’t a very helpful metric (both have 0.021 percent market share, but Twitter is ranked No. 84 and Digg is No. 85). This data is of last week, when visits to Twitter surged following the much-Tweeted emergency landing of a plane on the Hudson. (Note that these numbers do not include usage on mobile devices, desktop apps, or through other Websites via Twitter’s API).

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Today, traffic to Twitter was even higher with everybody feeling compelled to let everyone else know that, yes, in fact, the U.S. has a new president and that they saw his inauguration speech. (You too?) Twitter co-founder Biz Stone blogs that Twitter saw five times as many Tweets per second today compared to last week. (See chart below). So maybe those two lines between Digg and Twitter will keep diverging, or at least keep converging.

For what it’s worth, Google Trends for Websites also shows Twitter catching up to Digg (but not yet passing). Other measuring services, such as Quantcast, Compete, and comScore, still show a wide gap. For instance, in the U.S. for December, comScore shows Digg.com at 6.8 million unique visitors versus 1.9 million for Twitter.com. (Update: See second chart below). That’s a pretty big gap to bridge in less than one month. I don’t agree much with the Hitwise numbers. What about you?

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8:13 PM

How Would You Grade Obama?

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The time has changed. United States have a new President ie Barack Obama and change is imminent. But even though Obama enjoys high approval numbers as he takes office, it doesn’t guarantee that we’re all going to agree on the issues all of the time. So where do we go to sound off on the good and the bad?

We can obviously turn to Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook to express our collective voices socially, but there seems to be a growing number of services trying to be the central hub of crowdscored approval ratings and opinions on Obama’s policies. GradeObama is the latest entrant to this space and aims to let you do just that - grade Obama from A to F.

The new site, from convinceme.net, allows users grade Obama on the issues.

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The application presents big picture issues, each with their own grade, and specific policies housed underneath the umbrella categories. Users can then vote on the policies, add a comment, share it with a friend, view how others are grading and commenting, as well as add new topics, subscribe to RSS feeds, and follow the site on Twitter for new updates.

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If joining yet another social network isnt easy for you, but you like the idea behind the application, you might consider using the Facebook application instead. The Facebook alternative offers the exact same functionality as the website, and the convenience of seeing which of your Facebook friends are already grading Obama.

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7:54 PM

Presidential Transition as Obama arrives: @TheWhiteHouse Twittering

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Its a day marked by transition, another interesting one to note: @thewhitehouse, the Twitter account previously maintained by the Bush Administration, has changed hands to the Obama team.

The Bush team updated Twitter more than 1,500 times, mostly with links to content like the President’s weekly radio address and more recently, text of executive orders issued in the final days of Bush’s tenure. Today, along with the rollout of a new Whitehouse.gov, the account is now featuring updates (and a new avatar) from Obama’s new media team, with links to the text of the inaugural address and the new White House blog.

It’s unclear how interactive the Twitter account will be, but it will certainly help appease those who have criticized the Obama team for failing to update the @BarackObama account since Election Day (though a few updates have recently been posted). @TheWhiteHouse is following only 7 other users – links for other departments of the US government as well as @wxchicago – the weather forecast in Obama’s hometown.

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7:52 PM

IPTV: Taking by storm

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IPTV is in contention. Whether it is from a business perspective or from a regulatory point of view, this new technology has created quite a storm.

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a service where the customer can get digital TV signals (voice, data and video) through their landline telephone connections, rather than the traditional method of cable lines.

Well, this technology is considered a threat to DTH, conditional access system (CAS) and the cable TV industry and just remember, it is not television over the internet.

Right now, the telecom sector and the cable industry are involved in a slugfest over who can provide this service. Telecom players such as BSNL and MTNL have already launched IPTV on the grounds that the universal access service license (UASL) permits this service. Other service providers such as Reliance Communications, Bharti Airtel and HFCL Infotel are also slated to launch IPTV services soon.

Not wanting to lose ground to telecos, the cable industry is demanding the inclusion of IPTV under the Cable TV Act. At the same time, the cable TV industry has also warned the government that unless the regulatory and policy issues for this sector are addressed, telecom operators will have a free run and introduce over 3,000 unauthorised television channels, which content cannot be controlled by the government.

The Indian government has finally decided to form inter ministerial group (IMG) to formulate a policy and regulatory framework on IPTV to remove ambiguities surrounding the services. But the slugfest between telecos and cablecos isn’t just over regulation. That’s one side of the story.

Both segments see huge potential in IPTV over the near future and the fight is to grab a part of this pie.

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9:36 PM

Yahoo/Twitter combo develops a news search engine

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Individuals that are tech savvy have learned that you seem to be able to receive breaking news updates via Twitter faster than you can your local and national news sources. This is due to fast, quick messages which can be delivered by individuals witnessing the events first hand - much like in the case of the airplane landing in the Hudson River, the Mumbai attacks, and the California wildfires.

Twitter is a great place to search for breaking news, unfortunately Twitter posts can often times be wrong, or posted by individuals who are misinformed. Even though Twitter is a great source for finding information, it's not a place where you can expect to find the entire story.

When individuals want the whole story, and get the true scoop they seek out news venues such as Google News and the major news websites. Unfortunately Google News relies on complicated algorithms which are designed to rank stories, and this could take breaking news a little time to reach the top. [As a reference, most "hot news stories" take 25 minutes or longer to reach Google's news pages.]

Lucky for those seeking to find a great solution to the news delivery, Yahoo BOSS engineer Vik Singh has developed TweetNews. TweetNews combines the results from Yahoo news and compares it with the topics which are hitting Twitter. The service then organizes the Yahoo News based upon what has popularity among individuals using Twitter. This will deliver a search engine that tracks breaking news using Twitter search results. Which will give individuals using Twitter exposure to more detailed information regarding breaking news Tweets.

Basically TweetNews will be capable of delivering high ranking stories on Twitter which could potentially not have enough inbound links for a system designed around an algorithm to properly prioritize them. It also operates by individual's direct input, similar to Digg, BuzzUp or other services which rely on community feedback - and not algorithms.

During the Mumbai attacks, individuals were stressed when trying to get more details and it was difficult to find news articles as the news was breaking. This is actually where the inspiration for TweetNews came from. So now, when you search for Tweets on a specific topic, you are also delivered additional links to news articles.

This is just a starting point for how news could eventually begin to be delivered.

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8:19 PM

Google's Gdrive coming in 2009 that will drive you crazy

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Chicago (IL) - Google Drive, or Gdrive as it is better known, has to be the most anticipated Google product so far. When it arrives, Gdrive will likely cause a major paradigm shift in how we use computers and bring Google one step closer to dethroning Windows on your desktop.

The service has the potential to eclipse even Gmail, Google's second best-known product after their google.com search engine. That said, it's no wonder users have been ripe with anticipation for years - yes, that's how long the rumors have persisted. Gdrive is basically online storage where Google servers have enough capacity to hold the entire contents of your hard drive. It will likely also come with enough brains to do cool tricks now with bigger things down the road - like booting your computer from online drive to load the Google operating system.


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Gdrive is basically a cloud-based storage that should have two faces: A desktop client that keeps local and online files and folders in two-directional sync via a web interface for accessing your desktop files anywhere and anytime, using any network-enabled computer. In addition, it will come tightly integrated with other Google services to enable editing of supported document types, like spreadsheets and presentations via Google Docs, email via Gmail, images via Picasa Web Albums, etc.

This opens powerful possibilities. For instance, you could start working on a spreadsheet at home and continue via Gdrive web interface accessed in an Internet cafe. When you arrive back home, changes to the spreadsheet have already trickled down from the cloud to your desktop. The idea, of course, is all but revolutionary, but Google's execution could set it apart.

If the company applies its "free-everything" policy to Gdrive, a free version should give us enough online storage to match the capacity of hard drives typically found in the machines of average users. Paid versions could offer true- or near-unlimited storage. Added intelligence could enable other neat features as well, like comprehensive backups with the ability to go back in time like Apple's Time Machine and revert previous file versions, automatic file scanning against known viruses and malware, searching the hard drive on your desktop remotely via google.com, and more. Yes, we're speculating here, but there are facts which indicate that Gdrive could arrive soon, and likely this year.

So, Google gets to see all my stuff, right?

With Gdrive, privacy implications could overshadow its benefits. Remember how privacy advocates chased Google "to hell and back" for indexing content of Gmail messages? It also didn't help any that the company scanned your email in order to serve better, more relevant ads when viewing a message. Gdrive would scan everything you upload to it, just like Google Desktop - the company's application that brings the power of its search engine to your desktop (it scans the content of authorized files and folders on your machine).

Pieces of the Google operating system fall in place

The Gdrive "leads and hints" mentioned in this article does not mean that a product exists, but they strongly indicate a new Google-branded online storage service is in the works. Google Web Drive, Gdrive, or whatever name Google decides to call it, may be just around the corner. Online sources are now sure Google will unleash Gdrive in 2009. Google watchers have no doubt that the product will stun users.

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8:06 PM

5 Twitter improvements people are still waiting for

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I'll be the first to admit that I'm addicted to Twitter. Each day, it's kept in the coveted second tab in my Firefox window, lodged between Gmail and Meebo. But that doesn't mean it offers me everything I want or that I have no desire for more features.

In fact, I have a list of features I'd like added to Twitter.

Groups

I still don't know why Twitter has failed to add groups to the service. Maybe the company believes that groups would make it too closely resemble a social network, but who cares? Twitter is great, but that doesn't mean like-minded users shouldn't be able to form their own community.

Think of it this way: if Twitter added groups, it would give you the opportunity to have private areas where only your friends and colleagues could converse and it wouldn't stop you from meeting and corresponding with new people outside those groups. There's no downside.

Services like Present.ly and Yammer offer enterprise employees an opportunity to communicate with one another based on groups that are assigned by their employer. Twittermoms.com is an entire site dedicated to bringing mothers who use Twitter together. Granted, those services aren't nearly as popular as Twitter, but they certainly prove that there's a market for groups. And so far, Twitter hasn't delivered.

Tweet filter

I know Twitter has a block feature, but I don't use it. What I'd really like to see is a Tweet Filter feature that lets me block specific kinds of tweets from making their way into my stream.

I don't necessarily want to block everything some followers say, I just want to block the annoying messages like, "DonReisinger is now listening to Womanizer by Britney Spears," followed by, "DonReisinger is now listening to Take My Breath Away by Berlin." To be honest, I don't care what songs a follower is listening to and I don't need updates from a script they're running to tell me.

That said, I do want to see what they're saying when they tweet actual messages. That's why I want Twitter to devise a tool, similar to a spam filter, that would allow me to tag certain tweets, have Twitter analyze them, and ensure that anything of the sort won't make its way into my stream again. That sort of functionality works beautifully in Gmail. I'd love to see it work that well on Twitter.

Unfollow notices

Why doesn't Twitter provide us with daily updates about who unfollows us? It informs us when someone starts following us. Would it be that hard to track those who unfollow us, as well?

I would really like to see who unfollowed me. Maybe those people were upset that I had too many updates on a certain day or perhaps they didn't like something I said. Without a notice, I'll never know they're gone. But with a notice, I can send them a message and ask what happened to possibly repair our broken relationship.

Maybe some wouldn't like receiving additional e-mails announcing when a user decides to unfollow them, but I think it provides significant value. It can give you hints about what your followers do and don't like and it makes you a better Twitter user, since the last thing you should be doing is annoying your followers.

Profile stats

I'd love to know how many people view my Twitter page each day. It's not that I have a vain desire to see how many people are looking me up. Instead, I'd like to know how many of those people become followers.

People find their way to another user's Twitter page, look at the tweets they've been making over the past few days, and decide then if they want to follow them. I've done it. Sometimes I decide that, yes, this is a person worth following. Other times, I see that all they've done is linked to their blog and failed to converse with other users, and decide that following them probably isn't in my best interest.

But having data detailing the number of people who view my Twitter page and how many become followers would be ideal. Based off that information, I could determine the value of my tweets to other Twitter users and experiment to see if I could devise a way to increase my follower conversion rate.

Twitter is all about being part of a community. Knowing what that community likes and doing what you can to appeal to that community is incumbent upon us all. Twitter stream stats would help in that endeavor.

200 characters

When Twitter first started, the service had a strong SMS focus. Because of that, the company wanted to ensure that tweets would fit in the 160-character SMS limit, allowing room for the message and usernames. But as Twitter has grown into a service with a strong online focus, it's blatantly clear that 140 characters is not enough.

I just don't see any justification for providing only 140 characters anymore. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to write a tweet, only to run out of room with just two or three characters remaining. Like everyone else, I'm forced to find places to cut down what I say just to add in those necessary characters.

I understand that those who wish to use SMS might be left out in a 200-character world, but that doesn't mean it should stop Twitter from pursuing this strategy. There are a slew of applications, like Twitterific, that are designed specifically for mobile phones that allow users to update their Twitter stream without using SMS. And although some devices don't support third-party apps and using text messages to communicate with their followers will be practically impossible after the 200-character switch, I think Twitter needs to accept that and move on.

Twitter is a growing service that has moved past its SMS past. It's time its executives embrace its new role as a mainstream microblog and improve the service while being mindful of its strong online presence.

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7:57 PM