Saturday, 10 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 23 News Updates - including “Sims Social Zooms Past FarmVille to Become Number 2 Game on Facebook”

Mashable: Latest 23 News Updates - including “Sims Social Zooms Past FarmVille to Become Number 2 Game on Facebook”

Sims Social Zooms Past FarmVille to Become Number 2 Game on Facebook

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:35 PM PDT

So you thought planting crops and ploughing fields was the quintessential casual game activity on Facebook? Think again. As we reported two weeks ago, The Sims Social — Electronic Arts’ latest version of its bestselling avatar-based franchise — is growing faster than a FarmVille weed. A week after its release, Sims Social had 4.6 million players logging in every day, which made it the 10th most popular game on Facebook.

Now things are looking even better for EA, and even more serious for Zynga. In just two weeks, Sims Social has leapfrogged nine games, including longstanding Zynga hits Empires & Allies, Texas Hold 'Em, Pioneer Trail and — yes — FarmVille. In the last 24 hours, 9.3 million people played Sims Social, while 8.1 million played FarmVille, according to Facebook tracking site

Next in the Sims’ sights: CityVille, the roost-ruling Zynga hit with 14 million players entering daily.

Part of what’s going on here is the successful transposition of the Sims, which had such addictive qualities it sold more than 140 million copies in its various PC versions. By letting you connect to your Facebook friends’ avatars, the Sims Social is finally delivering on the promise of The Sims Online, a massively multiplayer game released in 2002 and shut down in 2008.

But we’re also witnessing the slow decline of FarmVille. At its peak last year, more than 32 million people harvested crops and collected coins every day. There was an English Countryside add-on, and a Lady Gaga version. But some users complained that the game was too much of a time-suck; if you didn’t check in often enough, your crops would wither and die. Zynga made sure to reward players who paid for extra items that would “unwither” their crops. You could buy FarmVille currency at 7-Eleven, and cash in your Amex reward points to grow more crops.

Contrast that with the Sims, which has no penalties for infrequent checkins; your avatar and her house are just as you left them. Could its popularity herald a new era of kinder, gentler, less manic Facebook games? If the Sims can overtake CityVille as well, it just might.

More About: electronic arts, farmville, sims social, Zynga

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Create & Send Real Postcards From Your iPhone — No Address Required [PICS]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 08:27 PM PDT

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

Name: Postcard on the Run

Quick Pitch:Send real postcards directly from your phone to friends and family.

Genius Idea: Automatic address retrieval.

You’re enjoying the ambiance of a beautiful beach on the island of Maui when you decide to share this perfect moment with your folks and friends back home.

You take out your iPhone, fire up an app, snap a photo, and select who you’re sending it to. You don’t even need to remember their addresses. You add a message, sign your name with your finger, and add a map of the surrounding area — just so you can be sure they’ll be jealous.

Then, for little more than the price of a stamp, the app converts your words and images into a real postcard.

This is the promise of Postcard on the Run, a freshly-launched startup with an iPhone application of the same name. An Android application is supposedly just around the corner.

“The mobile photography space is red hot, especially as a means of sharing experiences,” says Josh Brooks, founder of Postcard on the Run. “Nothing illustrates that experience better than the actual photograph.”

Postcard on the Run creates and mails high-quality photo postcards from your phone from $0.99 a pop. It can even retrieve the addresses of your contacts, so you don’t have to.

The mobile postcard generator application has been done before. You may have heard of Postagram. But, says Brooks, Postcard on the Run is all about refining the details and throwing in personalized touches.

Postal Gopher, for instance, is the startup’s in-app address retrieval system so you don’t have to manually look up and enter contacts’ mailing addresses. You select a contact from your phone’s address book and carry on creating your postcard. Postal Gopher will ping your friend via SMS or email and ask her to verify her address. When she does, your address book is updated with her address and your postcard is shipped off tout de suite.

And what if you could add a smell to capture the mood of your experience to your postcard? In a few weeks time, you’ll be able to do just that. The pending feature, called “smell mail,” will let you select scratch-and-sniff scents such as sun tan lotion, Christmas tree or holiday spice.

Postcard on the Run makes an SDK for developers looking to add postcard printing services to their own applications, which means you may soon find a send-a-postcard option in your favorite iOS or Android photo apps. Camera Genius and Photogene, two popular photo apps for iPhone, will be adding the feature in future app updates.

You can also expect the startup to venture beyond postcards and allow you to turn your mobile photos into other keepsakes.

Postcard on the Run is a four-person team based in Los Angeles. The startup is currently in the process of raising an Angel round of funding.

Postcard on the Run

Choose Photo

Write Message

Change Text Color

Change Font

Sign Postcard

gps enabled photo

Preview Card (front)

Preview Card (back)

Order Complete

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, Postcard on the Run, spark-of-genius

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3 Ways to Commemorate 9/11 By Giving Back Online

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:42 PM PDT

flag image

Any anniversary of September 11 brings with it somber remembrances and a deep respect for those who lost their lives in the attacks.

Organizations aim to honor their sacrifice by turning this Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, into a national day of service and good will.

If you want to do some good this weekend, we’ve collected four ways to give back or show your support on September 11. Let us know how you’ll be participating in the comments below.

1. Action America

action america image

Action America is a coalition of major tech, service and media companies, including AOL, the Boy Scouts of America, Twitter, Tribeca Film Festival and others. They’ve put together a website encouraging users to become “Actionists.” The site lets users donate to relevant charities, participate in an Annual 9/11 5K run or choose from several service opportunities. Action America also has a forum in which users can share their memories, post media or support the cause on their social networks.

The Action America initiative is a principal partner in the federally recognized September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

2. Serve.Gov

The official White House service site serves up a slew of volunteer options. By heading to the specific 9/11 page, users can look up local volunteer options, download a 9/11 banner to place on a website, tag tweets with #IWill or #911Day, or read up on stories from the National Service Blog.

3. The 9/11 Tribute Movement

tribute image

The 9/11 Tribute Movement empowers users to post a message, volunteer or support a cause. The site also has a section of tools and resources to help groups like teachers and non-profits contribute to the movement’s national day of service. American Express, one of the site’s leading funders, has also put together a Facebook app called “I Will” to help direct users to local volunteer opportunities.

Current volunteer opportunities available range from revitalizing schools in New York City's Lower East Side, to beautifying community gardens in Phoenix, to transforming an abandoned airport hanger into a Los Angeles community center.

Take a look through just a selection of some of the tributes below from celebrities and every day people planning to pitch-in.

Julianne Moore

User Video Submission

Tim McGraw

User Video — Sophia Row

Jordin Sparks

Kathleen Turner

Congresswoman Doris Matsui

Coach Jim Fassel

Mark Teixeira

Samuel L. Jackson

Image courtesy of Flickr, Beverly & Pack

More About: 911, september 11, Social Good, Social Media, US, volunteer

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Sprint Cancels Store Leave, Confirms iPhone 5 Launch Window [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 05:45 PM PDT

Remember when a company memo telling employees they can’t take any time off in a two-week period was an occasion for gloom? That’s certainly not the case with the leak of an internal memo from Sprint management, which seems to suggest the iPhone 5 will be launching — on Sprint, as well as Verizon and AT&T — in the first half of October.

The memo, obtained by SprintFeed, reads: “due to the possibility of a major phone launch in October we are blacking out September 30th through October 15th.” In other words, batten down the hatches. No Sprint employee is leaving the store in the first two weeks of October. Something big is coming down the pike.

Bear in mind that we’ve seen reports since late August that Sprint will be a launch partner for Apple’s iPhone 5. Best Buy inadvertently confirmed that last weekend, via a leaked document that claimed the Sprint iPhone 5 would be available in the first week of October. And early Friday came word that Sprint’s unlimited data plan would be available on the iPhone 5 as well as other Sprint phones — making the number 3 carrier a serious competitor in the iPhone 5 stakes.

Our best guess for the iPhone 5 launch date is still Friday October 7. That lines up with the Best Buy report, another leak from an AT&T executive, another report from 9to5Mac — and it’s smack dab in the middle of Sprint’s blackout period.

More About: apple, iphone, iPhone 5, sprint

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Share Your Memories of The Internet in 1996 [OPEN THREAD]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 04:44 PM PDT

Prodigy Boards. Netscape. ICQ Chats. That awful 56K dialup sound that can still haunt your nightmares.

The conversation sparked by our story Internet of Yesterday & Today: 1996 vs. 2011 took the Mashable staff on a trip down memory lane. The time when the Internet was in its infancy was one of excitement, endless possibilities, obnoxious blinking GIFs, and impossibly slow modems.

To jog your memories, thanks to the wonderful website Geocities-izer, we give you what Mashable would have looked like circa 1996.

We at Mashable have our own memories of the Internet when it was young, and members of the Mashable community have already shared theirs. But we want to hear more.

You Tell Us!

Facebook Fail: Posting via Other Apps Can Cut Likes & Comments by 88% [STUDY]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 03:13 PM PDT

Does posting to Facebook via third-party apps make any difference to how engaged your fans are? Does Facebook’s algorithm discriminate against content management apps?

The people at Applum, creators of Edgerank Checker, decided to find out. They analyzed more than a million Facebook updates on more than 50,000 Pages in order to test the theory that posting to Facebook via third-party apps simply doesn’t generate as much engagement as posting directly on Facebook.

The results were surprising. Applum found that posting via one of the top ten third-party APIs gave you an average of 88% fewer comments and likes, compared to posting directly to Facebook yourself.

Applum’s speculative reason: Facebook penalizes third-party apps in its complex algorithm. Indeed, Facebook updates from some third-party apps are condensed into a single News Feed story. This effectively eliminates opportunities for the kind of impressions and engagement you would get on separate posts.

Facebook users can decide to block all updates from any third-party app, which could also be a factor.

However, Applum notes, it may also be the type of content that is being posted through these apps — and its timing that is causing the problem. Many posts in third-party apps are scheduled or automated, which can lead to weaker engagement. Content from third-party apps is often not optimized for Facebook. For example, Twitter posts don’t usually include links with descriptions and thumbnails.

So is Facebook deliberately downgrading third-party apps? “We’re focused on ensuring that users see the highest quality stories in News Feed,” a Facebook spokesperson told us. “As part of this, related stories are typically aggregated so users can see a consolidated view of stories from one app. In some cases, we work closely with trusted partners, such as Preferred Developer Consultants, to test new ways of surfacing stories, and gather feedback to improve the Platform experience."

UPDATE: An earlier version of the Edgerank Checker post, and of this article, broke out figures for two third-party content management apps: Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. After being contacted by at least one of those services, Edgerank Checker has removed all mention of either of them. We’ve reached out to the author of the post for further explanation.

More About: facebook, facebook apps, hootsuite, tweetdeck

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How Social Media Affects Content Relevance in Search

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 02:19 PM PDT

Shane Snow is co-founder of, an "agile publishing" platform for brands-turned-publishers and freelance journalists.

Old school SEO pros cover your ears, or be prepared to adapt your craft: Search engines are changing, and social media is a huge part of that change.

Bing, Google, and an increasing swath of nimble little search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo are incorporating social data into their results. This is potentially great news for new businesses trying to achieve visibility in search. It's less great news for sites that rely heavily on link buying (illegal, but hard to catch), producing huge volumes of borderline-useless content (long-tail, content farm approach), or just really old domains (previously an SEO trump card).

Both Bing and Google admitted in interviews that their search results are positively affected by social signals, such as tweets, Facebook Likes, and +1s.

SEE ALSO: How User-Generated Content Is Changing SEO

"As ideas, thoughts, questions and answers are shared more freely and easily than ever, the increased amount of information from social sources provides great benefits to users," says a Microsoft spokesperson for Bing (who asked to remain anonymous).

"The links that you build through social media, the references, the authority — all can have an impact in various ways on how you are ranked and listed even in 'regular' search results," says Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, in an email interview. "Social media allows for people to provide more trusted signals."

Search Engines Adapt to Survive

Since the early Internet days of Excite and Webcrawler, the principal goal of search engines has been to help people find what they're looking for. Google rose to dominate the industry by tracking better indicators of content quality than anyone else. It developed a complex algorithm that measured which websites were "voting" for others by linking to them.

Essentially, it was social media, but for websites rather than people. If your site had lots of links from relevant sites, your Google rank climbed. Plenty of other factors, like putting keywords into headlines and titles, remained in play (and continually evolved), but the game changer of the last decade was links.

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry emerged to help webmasters play the "me rank higher" game with Google. On the one hand, website owners attempt to adhere to Google's standards and prove they are high quality (creating relevant, high quality content and formatting it to Google's taste). On the other hand, shadier sites try to trick Google's secret formula, "pretending" to be good content without having to bother with creating useful stuff.

The spammers have done well for themselves. Over the last few years, searchers have increasingly complained about the number of irrelevant or spammy results returned in searches.

The battle to the top of search keeps search engines on their toes. Every so often Google, makes an abrupt change in its algorithm, like the "Panda Update" of early 2011 that wiped out a significant number of content farm results. Periodically, new search engines launch to try to outdo Google. Bing, Microsoft's search engine, has climbed to 30% market share since its launch in 2009. Blekko, an "anti-spam" search engine, has climbed to a million searches a day since its launch in 2007.

And now, social media is factoring in to make results even better.

Social Media Changes The Game

Social networks produce an immense amount of data about what real people like enough to share with their friends.

Today, people share 30 billion pieces of content on Facebook and over 5 billion tweets — about a quarter of which contain links to content — per month.

In an industry where knowing what humans like is crucial to success, search engines have figured out — and taken to heart — a delightfully simple mantra: If people share your content, it's probably pretty good.

In a white paper called New Signals To Search Engines, Search Engine Strategies Advisory Board chair Mike Grehan says, "End users who previously couldn't vote for content via links from web pages are now able to vote for content with their clicks, bookmarks, tags and ratings. These are very strong signals to search engines, and best of all, they don't rely on the elitism of one website owner linking to another or the often mediocre crawl of a dumb bot."

We're already seeing proof of search engines taking social data into account when serving results.

Social Data Is Personalizing Results

Last year, Bing started incorporating Facebook like data into its search results. Results for pages that a searcher's own friends had liked show up more prominently.

And more recently, Bing announced better results through Facebook data and "collective IQ," meaning that things popular throughout Facebook (not just among your friends) rank more prominently.

SEE ALSO: Why Web Personalization May Be Damaging Our World View

"Search is better when it's not just based in math and algorithms, but also infused with the opinions of people," writes the Bing team in a blog post.

Google answered back to the Bing-Facebook deal with its own +1 button, and subsequently Google+. When searching as a logged-in Google user, you now see this social data personalizing your results.

Sullivan recounts how automaker Ford rose in his Google results after he added Ford to his Google+ account. "Ford gets into the top results for cars not because of links, not because of the content on its page, but because I was ‘friends’ with it," Sullivan says.

Shared Content Now Ranks Higher in Organic Search

Both Google and Bing have added real-time results to their searches, meaning Twitter (and now Google+) results show up prominently above other content.

In addition, several experiments have shown that sharing stories on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can dramatically affect regular search results as well.

In July this year, Rand Fishkin of search engine authority performed a series of experiments to see if 1) social shares affected Google search results, and 2) how quickly those results appeared. (Find the full details on the experiment here.)

Spoiler Alert: In every test Fishkin performed, tweets and Google+ shares dramatically affected the rank of new, previously unindexed content. The results in most cases were nearly instant.

"We're experimenting with clicks on +1 buttons as just one of the hundreds of signals that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results," says a Google spokesperson (who wished to remain anonymous), via email. "As with any new ranking signal, for +1's and other social ranking signals, we'll be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality."

A Microsoft spokesperson (who also requested anonymity), says via email that tweets and Facebook Likes do indeed positively affect a URL's ranking in search results on Bing. "To be candid," she says, "we are experimenting with placements in order to strike a balance between this new social signal and the other signals we have honed to determine relevance."

"Social signals that say quality are pretty straight forward," says the Microsoft spokesperson. "Look to things such as likes, re-tweets, shares, etc. Beyond that, watch for the sentiment surrounding the action. Are people sharing your content via Twitter yet flagging it with #fail? If so, it's a clue they’re displeased."

When we go to a search engine, we want to find what we're looking for, immediately and hassle-free. It's clear that social media is helping search engines deliver more immediacy and more relevant results. In the long run, this will help SEO-directed businesses focus on what they should be doing: creating content people love.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hillaryfox, ilbusca

More About: Search, SEO, Social Media

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“Trash Tycoon” Brings Eco-Responsibility to Social Gaming

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 01:50 PM PDT

trash tycoon

Trash Tycoon is a green-themed game for Facebook from social gaming startup Guerillapps. The game, which launched this week, teaches players about environmental issues and sustainability while they compete.

Trash Tycoon highlights upcycling, the concept of converting trash into new products. Users take on the role of a recycling entrepreneur, collecting trash and finding new environmentally friendly uses for discarded items such as plastic bags or building material. As you complete upcycling tasks, you earn points, money and ultimately the title of “garbage tycoon.”

The game’s creators believe social play has the ability to affect real-life behaviors. “Something as simple as a social game where players earn points for recycling in the real world is capable of changing people's behavior for the better," says Raviv Turner, cofounder and CEO of Guerillapps.

In addition to teaching sustainable behaviors, Trash Tycoon will donate 10% of its in-game purchases to, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting climate change.

Do you think good behavior can be taught through gaming? Take a look at some shots from the game below and let us know what you think in the comments.

Welcome Screen

Join a Team

Trash Outside City Hall

Cleaning Up

Goal Accomplished

Help Your Friends Clean

A Team Leaderboard

Improving Sustainability

More About: entertainment, social gaming, Social Good

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9/11 Exhibit App Builds Future World Trade Center Out of a Photo [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 01:33 PM PDT

The majority of the 9/11 remembrance exhibit in the New York Times’ lobby appropriately focuses on the tragedy of 10 years ago, but one digital gallery looks forward rather than back at the site of the World Trade Center.

Three iPads loaded with an augmented reality app sit on a table next to the atrium, in a section set apart from the moving collection of historic Times coverage that makes up the rest of the gallery. The app provides an accurate digital model of the future World Trade Center site and Memorial Pools by pointing the camera at a photo of the World Trade Center construction site. Few people intuitively picked up the iPads to try out the app, but those who did seemed pleasantly surprised by the information.

“This is a wider side of the exhibit,” explains Brandon Melchior, the Times‘ creative director of marketing who designed the gallery. “It’s set aside from the heavier part.”

Graphics editor Graham Roberts worked with an architect to design the digital model, which is based on physical models and architectural plans for the office buildings, arts center, PATH/Subway hub and museum that are planned for the site. The memorial pools, which will be constructed to resemble the footprints of the twin towers, are integrated into the model.

It’s one of the first times the R&D team has worked with Augmented Reality. In the future, similar features could become a part of its storytelling platform. The iPad app might one day, for instance, have the capability to expand a photo on paper or the Times website into a 3D model telling a deeper story.

“9/11 Remembered: A Gallery of Reflection” will be on display through Monday, Sept. 12 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

More About: Augmented Reality, new york times, september 11

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Tumblr Passes 10 Billion Posts

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 01:03 PM PDT

Tumblr, the popular New York-based blog and social networking service, surpassed 10 billion total posts on Friday.

The company celebrated the occasion by temporarily displaying digital pink, yellow, purple and red confetti on its users’ dashboards.

In mid June, Tumblr was hovering around 6.5 billion total posts. The site saw an additional 4.5 billion posts in just three months, which means the quantity of daily posts each day is on the rise — just as appears to be the case with traffic to Tumblr’s website.

The milestone achievement could not have come at a more opportune time; the company is rumored to be in the midst of raising a substantial funding round that could value it at $800 million. Plus, news of its continued success could even drown out recent complaints from dissatisfied fashion marketers.

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Breakthrough: The Secret to Making Processors 1,000 Times Faster [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 12:31 PM PDT

If you want to make processors 1,000 times faster, you’re going to need some serious technology, right? That would be the conventional wisdom. But 3M and IBM have unlocked a secret low-tech shortcut.

The companies found a much simpler way to hit that elusive goal — not by creating some spectacular new circuitry or using exotic quantum mechanics, but with the invention of a new variety of a mundane substance: glue.

This is not just any glue. It’s an adhesive that dissipates heat so efficiently that layer upon layer of chips can be stacked on top of each other into silicon “towers” up to 100 layers high, glued together with this special adhesive that keeps things cool. The result? Faster chips for computers, laptops, smartphones and anything else that uses microprocessors.

With IBM supplying its microprocessor and silicon expertise and 3M contributing its super-cool adhesive, the two companies aim to stack together processors, memory chips and networks into monster “skyscrapers” of silicon they say will be 1,000 times faster than today’s fastest processor.

When can we get our hands on this breakthrough tech? IBM’s media relations representative Michael Corrado tells us, “By the end of 2013 it should go into production. It’ll show up on servers first, and then a year after that consumers might see it.”

And to think, we were impressed with a promise of processors that will be 20 times faster.

Here’s a video illustrating this exciting new breakthrough (no sound):

[via IBM and DVICE]

More About: 3M, future tech, IBM, Processors

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Groupon Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit Against Company

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 12:11 PM PDT

Hundreds of Groupon sales department employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company charging it failed to pay overtime.

Ranita Dailey, a former salesperson at Groupon, is lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed last month in Illinois North District Court in Chicago. The suit demands back wages for the past three years plus punitive damages for non-payment of overtime.

Dailey could not be reached for comment, but her attorney, David E. Stevens, confirmed the existence of the case, which was originally reported by PaidContent.”We dont comment on litigation,” says a Groupon rep, “but we’ll fight this vigorously.”

This isn’t the first time Groupon has been the subject of such a suit. In March 2010, law firm Edleson McGuire filed a class-action suit alleging the company violated gift certificate laws by including expiration dates on them. That suit was eventually dismissed, but Groupon responded on its blog, stating: “We didn't start Groupon so we could spend our time fighting with lawyers, so we're happy to try and end this and get back to making cool stuff for our customers.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, swanksalot

More About: groupon, lawsuits

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AOL Eyes Merger With Yahoo [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 11:42 AM PDT

Reports have surfaced that AOL and Yahoo are once again discussing combining the two languishing Internet companies.

According to Bloomberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is discussing the possibility with Yahoo advisers. This development follows the firing of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz earlier this week.

However, CNBC has since reported that a “source close to Yahoo says no interest in a deal with AOL,” so this rumor may be nothing but wishful thinking on AOL’s part.

This isn’t the first time AOL and Yahoo have been linked. Yahoo was said to be considering a deal with AOL following its rejection of Microsoft’s unsolicited buyout offer in 2008. Last year, rumors again surfaced, focusing on a combination that would see AOL split its content and dialup subscription business (yes, it still exists), and merging the former with Yahoo.

SEE ALSO: Internet of Yesterday & Today: 1996 vs. 2011 [INFOGRAPHIC]

While no deal has come to fruition, both companies have continued to face their share of struggles and seen their valuations shrink. Yahoo’s now worth less than half of what Microsoft offered to acquire the company, and AOL has been on a similar trajectory since being spun off from Time Warner as an independent company.

And while AOL finds itself in the midst of integrating The Huffington Post and dealing with fallout surrounding another acquisition, Yahoo is currently being run by committee as it looks to hire Bartz’s replacement.

In other words, the conditions at both companies seem far from perfect when it comes to executing what would be a complicated merger. But given the desperate situation both are in, perhaps it’s finally time to see if two is better than one.

More About: aol, carol bartz, Yahoo

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Airbnb Provides Guests With 24/7 Access to Local Concierges

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 11:18 AM PDT

Whether you’re renting a room, house, country or even Coco’s TV studio on Airbnb, you won’t have to sacrifice on service, thanks to the launch of the atypical travel site’s Concierge service.

The site promises to pair customers with a locally versed Airbnb Concierge for access to “premier service” and information on local food, top travel tips and trip logistics.

“Why should Airbnb guests have to choose between a unique local travel experience and being pampered with world-class service?” Airbnb says of its new service.

Guests will receive a phone number to dial with each reservation made through the site. Travelers can call the concierge day or night — “24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” according to Airbnb — for local weather forecasts, show tickets, dinner reservations, flight assistance, help with medical inquiries and so forth. Presumably, valet parking, laundry service and baggage assistance is not included.

Airbnb partnered with personal assistant service MyAssist on the initiative, Christopher Lukezic, director of communications tells Mashable. The Airbnb Concierge service will be free for users during a three-month trial period, at which time the company will assess if the extra service is adding value to users’ trips. The startup has no plans to charge for the service at this time.

“This is in line with the commitment we have to build products and features that make the experience on Airbnb better,” Lukezic says. “It’s a nominal cost considering the value it brings to our community.”

The convenience, a counter to concierge services offered by hotels, may help sway first-time guests to book with Airbnb, as well as send a little positive PR in the direction of the heavily financed site, which is still recovering from an unfortunate summer scandal.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Paysage du temps

More About: AirBNB, startups, travel

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Internet of Yesterday & Today: 1996 vs. 2011 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 10:58 AM PDT

Where were you in 1996? If you were in cyberspace, surfing the World Wide Web, chances are you were waiting a long time for pages to load, laughing at the first Internet meme and suffering through some god-awful graphics.

My, how times have changed! While some of you weren’t even born yet, I was working on the web back then, and it certainly did feel different from today. Most comments came via email, servers were rickety and crash-prone, and even though HTML coding was a lot simpler, it still took a lot of patience to get things done.

SEE ALSO: AOL Eyes Merger With Yahoo [REPORT]

But you know what? We knew this Internet thing was going to be big. Even then, many of us were predicting that the web would soon be the home of every major publication, TV network and retailer, accompanied by services we hadn’t even imagined yet.

Did you see this coming? Let us know in the comments about your experiences in the old days on the web.

Infographic courtesy Online University

More About: 1996 vs. 2011, design, infographic, web

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What Does the Future Hold for Social Games? [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 10:07 AM PDT

Technology expert Scott Steinberg is the CEO of high-tech consulting firm TechSavvy Global, and a frequent keynote speaker and media analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN who's covered the field for 400+ outlets from NPR to Rolling Stone. A celebrated author and entrepreneur, he also hosts video series Gear Up and Game Theory, hailed as "the smartest take on the video game industry."

Zynga’s on a roll with the recent release of Adventure World, a Facebook game that offers more complexity than your average FarmVille. We’re seeing this trend across a lot of titles and companies. Does this herald a new chapter in the world of social and casual gaming? We break it down for you in this week’s episode of Tech Industry Insider.

Do you have a question about the tech industry?

Leave a question in the comments section below, and we can answer it in our next video episode.

More About: Gaming, Social Media, video

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Sprint to Offer Unlimited Data Plan for iPhone 5 [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 09:02 AM PDT

The financially ailing Sprint Nextel may offer consumers a solid reason to use its services this fall — an unlimited data plan for the iPhone 5.

Sprint will become the U.S.’s only wireless carrier to offer unlimited data for the iPhone 5, Bloomberg reports, citing “people familiar with the matter.” Details about pricing were not disclosed. Sprint currently offers unlimited data and voice for $99 a month for some smartphone models.

AT&T and Verizon will offer the phone with tiered pricing plans. AT&T’s plan ranges from 200 megabytes of data for $15 a month to 4 gigabytes for $45 a month. Verizon’s plans range from $30 for 2 gigabytes to $80 for 10 gigabytes. Both offer unlimited voice plans for the iPhone for $69.99 a month. AT&T scrapped its $30 a month unlimited data plan in June 2010. Some veteran AT&T customers were grandfathered in under the unlimited data plan.

Offering a competitive advantage could surely boost Sprint’s fortunes. The carrier lost $847 million in its most-recent quarter as customers flocked to its two larger rivals to access the iPhone, the best-selling smartphone on the market. But Sprint and its investors have lately had reason to be optimistic. In addition to getting the iPhone, Sprint is also seen as a beneficiary of the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

However, you may want to take the report with a grain of salt: A similar rumor surfaced before Verizon got the iPhone, which never came to pass.

More About: apple, att, iPhone 5, sprint, verizon

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Why Businesses Must Adopt a Multi-Channel Messaging Strategy

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 08:29 AM PDT

money image

George Schlossnagle is president and chief executive officer of Message Systems and a recognized expert on messaging and the PHP language. He's published numerous technical articles and is the author of Advanced PHP Programming. Follow George on Twitter at @g_schlossnagle or through @MessageSystems.

Social media and smartphones are disrupting the established patterns and practices for B2C interactions. To be successful, businesses have to engage with customers through their preferred channels, whether that be mobile, IM or social networks.

The link between technology and consumers is, however, a two-way street. Take, for example, Facebook notifications (the auto-generated email or text alerts you get when someone posts you on your wall or comments on a photo). These alerts constitute B2C dialogue, though they operate under the guise of a C2C interaction.

The initial attraction of social networks like Facebook and other pioneers in the space was bringing groups of people of shared interest together on the web. Adding a messaging capability to the basic web presence extends the social experience beyond the website. Without notifications, you'd have to go online to Facebook to hangout with your friends. With notifications, your friends — and the Facebook brand — come and check in with you throughout the day via your inbox.

This kind of messaging lets businesses participate in, inform, and add value to the social interaction (wall post/sharing) without ever forcing users back to the site.

Going Beyond Basic Transactional Messaging

Adding messaging to social media is a simple advancement that is having a big impact on the way we all connect. For instance, transactional messages – automatically generated notifications – were largely one-way communications. You bought something on Amazon or paid for something online through PayPal and you got a receipt emailed to you. That message probably contained a link to a support site if you had questions, but usually the interaction terminated right there.

Facebook notifications are an entirely different animal. You can respond to them, post comments in return or click through to see entire comment threads. It's a transactional email or text as a starting point for two-way interactions. These kinds of communication are bound to spread to more conventional industries like banking, health care and retail especially in areas like customer care and marketing.

We're seeing other companies creating complex message-driven workflows to automate processes that previously relied on live operators, or online lookup — for example, banks enabling customers to text short codes to get current account balances or mini statements listing out the most recent transactions. Where things get interesting is when banks provide options for callback requests, click-to-call or click-to-IM options, so that the digital conversation can go beyond the initial message.

Content and Context

Done right, this kind of messaging sets up "context-aware" interactions. Much like a person-to-person conversation that progresses from email to Facebook message to SMS, context is preserved throughout this B2C interaction. A company will know the context of a user conversation even as the conversation bounces across message channels. Just as important, the account holder doesn’t have to re-explain their issue if and when the interaction turns into a live exchange.

Social media and smartphones have allowed individuals to conduct conversations across multiple channels that can stop and restart over hours or days, but within a sustained context. People increasingly expect to employ that style of communication with businesses as well.

The trick is having an intelligent messaging capability that can interface with multiple backend systems and handle outgoing and incoming messages in multiple formats. Large organizations hit roadblocks because they have multiple systems for email and text: Marketing has their own email vendor and data sources, customer care uses in-house infrastructure for email but outsources their SMS/MMS operations, and so forth. It becomes impossible for the organization to follow or maintain a coherent two-way dialogue if the customer decides to stray from email over to text or IM.

There's no going back to single-stream messaging. Businesses that can respond to consumer demand for multiple channels will better serve their customers and see real gains in loyalty and marketplace advantage.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hulya-erkisi

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“Back to the Future” Stars Promote Nike’s “Marty McFly” Shoe [VIDEOS]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:48 AM PDT

Nike’s build-up for its long-awaited “Marty McFly shoe,” the Nike Air Mag, continues with YouTube clips from Back to the Future stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

The 2-minute-plus ad shows Saturday Night Live‘s Bill Hader as a shoe salesman showing off the Air Mag to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who drops a few lines from the original movie. Then Lloyd, a.k.a. “Doc” Emmett Brown, bursts in and asks if the shoes “power lace.”

“Not till 2015,” he’s told. “This is 2015!” says Lloyd/Brown, who is then told it’s 2011 and realizes that his time machine has malfunctioned. Lloyd’s Delorian then disappears in the parking lot.

Nike announced the shoe on Thursday in a very limited run — just 1,500 pairs — all proceeds of which will benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for funding research to fight Parkinson’s Disease. Fox, who suffers from the disease, was also on hand to promote the shoes Thursday night on Late Show With David Letterman and in another YouTube clip below.

As for Lloyd, he was recently seen reprising the Doc Brown character in an ad for an electronics chain in Argentina.

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

The Nike Mag

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iPhone Tops U.S. Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Survey

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:37 AM PDT

Apple leads U.S. smartphone manufacturers in customer satisfaction, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

It’s the sixth time in a row the Cupertino giant has topped this survey. Apple scored 838 points with great marks in all areas, particularly ease of operation and features.

HTC came in second, followed by Samsung, Motorola and RIM. With only 721 points, Nokia’s performance was particularly poor, even finishing behind the now defunct Palm.

The report reveals customers have a sweet spot for almost every physical characteristic of their smartphone. For example, smartphones under 5 ounces are preferred over heavier ones. Overall, the key factors for evaluating smartphones are performance (35%), ease of operation (24%), features (21%) and physical design (20%).

The study also points out customers’ appreciation of 4G connectivity.

What are the most important features of a smartphone for you? Let us know in the comments.

[via Engadget]

More About: apple, customer satisfaction, Nokia, RIM, survey

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Today’s Top Stories: Facebook Friend Filters, Windows on Samsung Tablets & More

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:34 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. We're keeping our eyes on four particular stories of interest today.

Facebook Begins Testing Friend Filters in News Feed

Facebook has begun testing a slew of changes to the News Feed, including friend list filters and Smart Lists that automatically categorize your friends.

Samsung Tablets to Run Windows

Samsung is planning to begin running Windows in addition to Android on its tablet PCs, according to a report.

Demo Promises Fast Boot Times in Windows 8

A new Windows 8 demo video promises boots times as fast as eight seconds.

Twitter Ramps Up Promoted Tweets

After announcing that Twitter now has more than 100 million users who log in at least once per month, CEO Dick Costolo told tech press that the company was expanding its Promoted Tweets product to more platforms, including TweetDeck, as well as to users who don’t already follow participating brands.

Further News

  • AOL is still engaged in complex severance negotiations with TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington, reports AllThingsD.
  • Carol Bartz says Yahoo's board of directors "f***ed me over" and intends to remain on the board after being fired as CEO.
  • Google has finally launched an iOS app for Blogger, giving the blog network's millions of users a simple way to write, manage and publish posts from their iPhones.
  • Google has acquired local reviews service Zagat.
  • An update to Google Maps for Android now lets users add photos to their Places reviews.
  • Social checkin and recommendation service GetGlue has launched a dashboard for TV marketers.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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Samsung to Use Windows on Its Tablets [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 07:11 AM PDT

Samsung is planning to start using Windows in addition to Android on its tablet PCs, according to a report.

The company is planning to make the announcement next week at a Microsoft developers conference in California, reports The Wall Street Journal. Samsung released its first tablet, the Galaxy Tab, in September 2010. Though the product had positive reviews when it launched, more than one in 10 purchasers returned the device within a month. Samsung remade the device as the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

That product, which hit U.S. stores in June, has been the subject of an Apple patent infringement lawsuit in Europe, Australia and Japan. After some back and forth with Dusseldorf District Court in Germany, the device was banned for sale in Germany, but is still available in the rest of Europe.

Microsoft is expected to show off a new version of Windows for tablet PCs at the conference next week, according to Reuters. So far, the tablet market has been especially frustrating for Microsoft. The company has been showing off tablet PC OSes for about a decade but is yet to make serious traction. Meanwhile, Apple has been so successful with the iPad that it’s being blamed for the slowdown in PC sales.

Check out our gallery comparing Apple and Samsung’s products involved in the patent cases.

The Original iPhone

Apple released the first iPhone in June 2007.

Samsung BlackJack 2

This is the smartphone Samsung was selling in 2007, the BlackJack 2.

Samsung Galaxy S

This is the Samsung Galaxy S, which debuted in 2010.

The iPhone 3G

Released in 2008, the iPhone 3G differed only slightly from its predecessor but had a slightly different back/side-housing.

Samsung Showcase i500

The Samsung Showcase i500 was released in 2011 and shares similarities with the form factor and aesthetic of the iPhone 3G.

The iPhone 3GS

Released in 2009, the iPhone 3GS looks identical to the iPhone 3G, but was significantly faster under the hood.

Verizon Droid Charge

Apple amended its lawsuit against Samsung to include the recently released Droid Charge in the list of infringing devices.

Sprint Epic 4G

Sprint's version of the Galaxy S was the only version to include a slide-out keyboard. Nevertheless, Apple still included the Epic 4G in its list of infringing devices.

The Nexus S 4G

Google's Nexus S and Nexus S 4G devices have a curved glass screen but also share a similar shape and icon layout as the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS series.

Galaxy S Captivate

The application bar in the TouchWiz interface in the Galaxy S Captivate from AT&T resembles Apple's iOS.

Galaxy S 4G

T-Mobile's Galaxy S 4G shares similarities with earlier iPhone devices.

Galaxy S Vibrant

T-Mobile's first Galaxy S device, the Vibrant, also shares a similar body style as the iPhone 3GS.

iPhone 4

Apple released the iPhone 4 in June 2010.

Galaxy S II

The well-reviewed Galaxy S II is starting to hit stores in Europe and Asia.

AT&T Infuse 4G

AT&T's Infuse 4G looks similar to the body style and button layout as the iPhone 4.

The iPad

The iPad was first released in March 2010 and managed to reboot the entire tablet PC market.

The design, which many criticized as simply being an oversized iPod touch, was unlike any other tablet computer on the market.

Galaxy Tab 4G

Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 4G was originally released in a 7" form factor.

Slower than expected sales convinced Samsung to reconsider its size strategy.

iPad 2

The iPad 2 was released in March 2011 and has managed to sell out in every market.

Thinner than its predecessor, while still retaining the same beautiful screen, the devices is dominating the tablet market.

Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung went back to the drawing board and re-designed the Galaxy Tab 10.1 after showing it off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2011.

The final version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thin -- Samsung claims it's thinner than the iPad 2.

More About: apple, Galaxy Tab 10.1, ipad, microsoft, samsung, tablet pcs, Windows

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Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:27 AM PDT

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New Demo Promises Blazing Fast Boot Times in Windows 8 [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:05 AM PDT

Although Windows 8 is not slated to hit the market before 2012, we’ve already begun to see glimpses of what we can expect from Microsoft’s next desktop operating system. The latest post on Microsoft’s blog demonstrates a dramatically improved boot time in the next iteration of the OS.

We’re talking about 8 seconds from the moment the machine is turned on until it’s fully booted — a vast improvement over most machines running earlier versions of Windows today.

Of course, the boot time won’t be this fast on all machines. Having a fast PC with a lot of RAM and an SSD instead of a HDD will help out tremendously.

Still, it’s nice to see that Microsoft is working to reduce long boot times, which is one of the most annoying aspects of computing for many users. Microsoft’s own data shows that 57% of desktop PC users and 45% of laptop users shut down their machines instead of putting them in sleep mode.

Microsoft provides a very detailed breakdown of how, exactly, the engineers did it — it’s a hybrid between traditional cold boot and resuming from hibernate.

The impatient should probably just check out the video below, which demonstrates this ultra-fast booting sequence in action.

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