Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Watch the New Trailer for ‘Alan Wake’s American Nightmare’ [EXCLUSIVE]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Watch the New Trailer for ‘Alan Wake’s American Nightmare’ [EXCLUSIVE]”

Watch the New Trailer for ‘Alan Wake’s American Nightmare’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 16 Feb 2012 04:59 AM PST

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a game spun off from the popular psychological thriller Alan Wake, will be released in less than a week, and here’s an exclusive look at its newest trailer.

The game, set to be released on the XBox Live Arcade, is described by developer Remedy as not a sequel to Alan Wake, but another segment of the story. For those new to the original, Alan Wake was a thriller game, where a writer sees his wife pulled below the surface of a lake by a terrible monster, and then must fight through the darkness to try to save her. The game unfolds episodically, with many cliffhangers and plot twists.

The trailer shows Alan in the deserts of Arizona, and promises “the final confrontation” with his nemesis, Mr. Scratch. The game promises to be more action-focused than its predecessor; Remedy said it designed the game to be more approachable, making it a better fit for the Xbox Live Arcade experience. The story was inspired by pulp action adventures, according to Remedy.

The game will be available Feb. 22 and will cost 1200 Microsoft points, or about $15.

More About: alan wake's american nightmare, Gaming, xbla, XBox live

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Facebook Will Verify Celebs — And Let Them Use a Fake Name

Posted: 16 Feb 2012 02:03 AM PST

Facebook will today start offering some users the possibility to verify their accounts, TechCrunch reports.

The feature will start as invite-only, allowing public figures (in the beginning, only users with high subscriber counts will be invited) to change their account to verified status.

Once the account is verified, it will appear more frequently in the “people to subscribe to” list.

Twitter launched verified accounts back in 2009, and Google+ launched a similar feature shortly after launch.

However, unlike Twitter’s version of this feature, Facebook won’t display any sort of badge on verified accounts – a somewhat odd decision, since having a way to distinguish the real person from impostors is precisely why this feature is useful to most users.

Instead, verified users will have the option to display a nickname (Facebook normally requires all users to use their real name) instead of a real name, or have their real name places in parentheses.

To verify your account, you’ll have to send Facebook an image of a government-issued photo ID, or a combination of two alternate IDs (such as birth certificate and credit card). While this will certainly make some users uneasy, Facebook promises to delete this data after verification.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Jirsak

[via TechCrunch]

More About: Facebook, social networking, trending, verified accounts

Inside the First Missions of Prototype 2 [Preview]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 11:55 PM PST

Prototype 2 Screenshot

The new protagonist, Sgt. James Heller.

Click here to view this gallery.

The opening scenes of Prototype 2 have got a lot of blood in them. The sequel to Radical Entertainment’s open-world, anti-superhero video game, Prototype, promise to improve on the first game with more skills, features and a much-deserved Mature rating.

Mashable got a chance to try out the first couple missions of the game and experiment with a fully-powered main character as part of a special demo from Activision, the game’s producer.

The Story

[No major spoilers were shown save for some background info on the main character]

Prototype 2 takes place 14 months after the first game and the threat of a bio-weapon virus has racked New York (now called “New York Zero”). The hero from the first game, Alex Mercer, is the new bad guy. Infected with a virus, he was given strange superpowers like the ability to glide through the air, shoot organic tendrils from his body or even consume other humans to assume their appearance.

Mercer is blamed for a new outbreak of the same virus and New York has been broken up into three zones: Green (government lockdown), Yellow (medical quarantine) and Red (total f-cking chaos).

The player is thrown into the Red zone as Sgt. James Heller and the virus has run rampant with bodies and bio-mutations growing over the buildings. Heller and his military squad are attacked by Mercer who infects Heller and leaves him for dead. Heller is recovered by the government and turned into a bio-weapon against his will after showing an unnatural ability to fight the virus.

Mercer helps break Heller out of the medical facility and tries to convince him that the whole virus is a government plot. Fair enough, but Heller also blames Mercer for the death of his wife and kid who were both killed by an attack from infected civilians.

The game is all about Heller’s quest for revenge as he tries to figure out exactly who — Mercer, the government, or something else — is to blame.

New Features

prototype 2 image

The player assumes control of Heller as he’s wandering through the Yellow zone coming to grips with his new bio-powers and avoiding government and military patrols looking to take him in. All of the game’s powers return, such as the ability to consume enemies for health, new costumes and even plot points (absorbing certain enemies grants you their memories). Players can also turn their hands into giant blades or hardened fists, shoot tendrils from their bodies like webbing, or even cause bio-spikes to shoot up from the ground.

Players can now assign two of these powers to hot buttons allowing them to chain together bio powers with standard kicks, punches and picked up items such as guns. This adds another layer to combat and lets players fight in their own way (range vs. brute force, etc.). Emphasis has been put on special moves and finishers as opposed to exhaustive move lists and complex button inputs. The skills and powers can be leveled up throughout the game.

The team also wanted Heller to feel more like a hunter, preying on targets. To wit, the character as a sonar-like ability that allows him to track down key enemies and goals by sending out a biological pulse, of sorts.


We had a chance to test out some of Prototype 2‘s new powers and moves as a fully-evolved Heller fighting all manner of militia. The game’s combat feels similar to that of Batman: Arkham City: Moves have an appropriate heft and weight from punching out guards to ripping cannons off of tanks. The game can feel like button mashing thanks to the streamlined controls but variety comes in mixing and matching special abilities and powers to adjust to situations. The combat is surprisingly deep and rewarding regardless of your ability.

Non-combat sections focus more on surveying your surroundings and blending in then the high-wire parkour of the first game. It’s clear the team took some notes from the Assassin’s Creed series but the game still feels all its own.

Verdict (So Far)

It’s too early to tell if the game can keep up the tension and narrative pace through the whole experience. The opening missions give a promising look at the new face of Prototype and the combat feels good. The game didn’t blow us away but its clear Radical Entertainment is swinging for the fences.

Is Prototype 2 going to hit it out of the park or does it sound like just more of the same? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: Gaming, preview, video game

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MSN Launches msnNOW Social Trends App on Facebook, Web and Mobile

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 09:00 PM PST

msnNOW Homepage

The homepage highlights top trends, biggest movers and topic tabs.

Click here to view this gallery.

msnNOW mobile Main Page

One of the Web’s oldest portals, MSN, is about to dive headfirst into one of the Internet’s hottest trends: Social Media.

No, Microsoft, which runs MSN, is not launching its own social network. Instead, the 17-year-old content destination is unveiling a new social reader, msnNOW, on Facebook, the Web and in a new web-based mobile interface.

The initiative is actually two components. According to MSN General Manager Bob Visse, a team of 20 editors will use a new Demand Dashboard to measure velocity and volume of trending topics across Facebook, Twitter, the Bing search engine and (a joint MSN/NBC venture).

Stories that are trending will appear on msnNOW in a constantly updating “Biggest Movers” box. In addition, a team of editors will select topics and stories from among those social (and search) trends and create 100 word write-ups for posts that will appear in msnNOW’s What’s Trending homepage.

The page, which will look pretty much the same on the web and in the new Facebook app, will feature a large main story and a grid of other popular stories below. Visse described it as a “river of real-time content”. Within each area, reader will find small icons for Twitter, Facebook and The presence of each will indicate on which social networks the stories and topics are trending.

These are not icons for sharing these posts, but Visse promised that sharing options would be obvious on the Web site and in the Facebook app, where there will be opportunities to share and comment.

Along with each MSN-created post, readers will find related Bing search terms, Tweets and other content. Not every topic or story will get an MSN write-up. For those, What’s Trending will link to a Bing result, which will also offer a link directly to the original content source. “We give the best of the web regardless of where that content or hot story originated from," Visse told us.

Visse explained that MSN is targeting a younger “always socially connected consumer who lives an online lifestyle for information gathering and seeking.” That may mean that some of the trending content will be a little edgier than what you traditionally see on the portal. It’s all designed to start a conversation. Even the design has the younger demo in mind. It’s image-centric, with what Visse calls “short, pithy headlines.”

It’s also one of the first times that MSN has launched a new product across three separate platforms at once and, as Visse noted, it's the first time MSN “has done anything interesting with the Facebook social reader experience.” msnNOW, however, will not launch with Google+ integration, though Visse said Microsoft is open to tracking volume and acceleration on the still young social network at a future date.

Visse calls the msnNOW project a “transformative experience for MSN.” Even so, the design is still decidedly MSN-centric across all platforms. Visse contends that while msnNOW is not yet a Metro design (the cubist-look Microsoft is painting across virtually all of its interfaces), msnNOW’s “component-like design is not a big leap to get a Metro-like design.”

The intention with the current look is for a really good, super-easy-to-use interface. The mobile interface, in particular, is designed for easy touch and swipe consumption across multiple mobile devices (the mobile web site should work well on the latest iOS, Windows Phone and Android browsers).

Though MSN currently enjoys a reported 125 million monthly visitors, with 75 million visiting the MSN portal homepage each month, msnNOW will not take over that hot destination. Visse told Mashable that msnNOW will have a hard and visible link from the MSN homepage and msnNOW content that does make the main homepage will feature msnNOW artwork and insignias.

msnNOW is an interesting bet for Microsoft, the big software company without its own big social network. Can it be the aggregator instead of the creator? And will content and media companies like the 100-word write-ups — or will they think such stories are cannibalizing their content?

Visse, though, has other concerns. “I’m waiting to see how it works out. Did we connect with the younger demo in the way I think we’re going to? Are the edit choices and the way we package them together interesting and exciting for users?” All good questions and Visse acknowledges that he won’t know the answers until they launch the product.

What do you think of msnNOW? Check it out and then give us your critique in the comments below.

<a href=';vid=24b787a7-8dfe-46f6-bfc2-80da29a71a67&#038;from=sharepermalink&#038;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='msnNOW Arrives Today: Know About It'>Video: msnNOW Arrives Today: Know About It</a>

More About: bing, Facebook, microsoft, msn, Twitter

The Jeremy Lin Meme Roundup [PICS]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 08:42 PM PST

1. Linsanity

The classic.

Click here to view this gallery.

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has certainly taken the Internet by storm over the past week or so. But his legend has not yet birthed a single, definitive uber-meme akin to “Tebowing,” the drop-to-one-knee-and-pray craze that dominate the web a few months ago in honor of (or perhaps mocking) Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

The closest Lin has come yet is the endless stream of puns that capitalize on using his surname as a springboard. A number of other tributes have popped up online as well, in a variety of forms: a fan who converted a jersey of the Knicks’ highly paid megastar Carmelo Anthony into a Lin shirt, multiple YouTube raps in his honor, and other edited images that play off his unique underdog persona.

The #Linsanity hashtag has also been extremely popular, trending on Twitter multiple times over the past week as an umbrella under which fans pay homage to his greatness.

But is Lin-(insert word here) as cohesive as the Internet’s collective meme-generating brain trust will get? Or will a more precise meme emerge to rule them all? As that drama plays out, check out the gallery above to see some of Mashable’s favorite tributes so far.

And for those who aren’t yet familiar, here’s the #Linsanity backstory, in Cliff’s Notes form: No major college teams wanted him out of high school, so he played at Harvard University. Then no NBA teams drafted him in 2010. He later caught on as a rookie free agent before getting cut twice by teams.

He joined the Knicks at the end of last December and barely got any playing time until about ten days ago, when he got his first chance to start. Since then, he’s somehow scored more points in his first five starts than any player in modern NBA history. If you need more, check out Mashable‘s previous coverage here, here, here and here.

Which Jeremy Lin tribute is your favorite so far? How long can the #Linsanity last? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Jeremy Lin, memes, sports, trending, Twitter

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Stealth Search Engine Offers Private Internet Browsing

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 08:23 PM PST

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: Stealth

Quick Pitch: Search the web anonymously

Genius Idea: Stealth is a search engine that does not store cookies, track IP addresses or save search terms.

Your internet footprint can be minimized with a new stealthy search.

The Stealth search engine allows users to search the Internet without being trailed by cookies and other tracking devices. The startup is all about protecting privacy.

Jon Cook, the founder of the startup, was inspired by the intermingling of Google’s social media and search engine. Google’s updated privacy terms nudged Cook to roll out a service that allows users to avoid being tracked online.

Stealth doesn’t store cookies, track IP addresses or save browsing history like many of the top search engines such as Google and Yahoo do. Websites and a user’s browser communicate and share information through cookies, which can pick up private data from users.

“One of the scary things about Google is they track everything you do even when you aren’t on Google,” Cook said. “I think people want real privacy and that is what Stealth offers.”

Stealth works differently from other search engines. To secure private information, Cook said, Stealth reroutes clicks to a website so private data — such as a user’s IP address — are not passed to the site. Stealth uses secure encryption to prevent sharing search terms with sites visited via Stealth’s search.

Stealth’s home page is simple — there’s a single search bar with search, news, photos and video options listed below the search button. Search results are revealed on a single page with a “More” button at the bottom to expand results. Cook said he created his own algorithm for his search engine and he lists reasons to switch search engines.

“I entered the search engine marketplace because there’s a huge opportunity,” he said. “Stealth search results are definitely different, but better.”

Stealth currently does not have advertising or any other source of revenue or funding. In the future, users may see ads on Stealth, but the ads won’t be targeted based on Internet surfing habits.

Cook has been involved with other startups in the past. The Las Vegas programmer was a co-founder of Veribu, a video chatting website overshadowed by Skype and Google Hangout, before he started working on Stealth a few months ago.

Stealth is so stealthy that it is nearly unsearchable on Google search. Go to to get your Stealth on.

Will you try out this new search engine? Tell is in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, fotosipsak

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, Google, search engine, spark of genius series, stealth

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Apple MacBook Air Patented; Beware, Ultrabook Makers

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 07:33 PM PST


Apple was just awarded 19 patents, one of which is for the design of the MacBook Air.

In theory, Apple could leverage its patent on the Air to try and block manufacturers of other light, thin laptops from marketing their products in the U.S.

The patent, No. D654,072, refers to an “ornamental design for an electronic device,” and lists Steve Jobs as one of its inventors. While the term “MacBook Air” isn’t cited, the drawings of a laptop with tapered design is unmistakable.

Just before the patent was awarded on Valentine’s Day, a report on 9to5 Mac alleged that Apple had approached one of its Taiwanese suppliers, Pegatron, about ceasing production of another laptop with an eerily similar design, the Asustek Zenbook.

Pegatron, which recently began manufacturing iPhones for Apple, will reportedly cease Zenbook production in March, forcing Asus to look elsewhere.

Although the action, if true, occurred prior to the date when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple its patent on the MacBook Air, it shows that Apple won’t hesitate to move against any competitor it sees as copying its ideas. The patent could embolden Apple to go after other makers of Ultrabooks, the Windows PC world’s answer to the MacBook Air, a project that Intel spearheaded.

SEE ALSO: How Intel Plans to Make Ultrabooks a Lot Cheaper [VIDEO]

There are several Ultrabooks on the market now, with dozens more on the way. If Apple decides to go after Air clones the way it’s waged its legal war against Android manufacturers, the consumer PC industry could be in trouble. Many companies — with Intel in the lead — have a lot riding on Ultrabooks, and the prospect of fighting Apple in court would make any CEO nervous.

However, there’s a simple way around the patent: Just design something different. Ultrabooks like the HP Spectre and Lenovo Yoga look nothing like the MacBook Air and should be in the clear.

However, Dell and Samsung — Apple’s favorite legal target — might want to start preparing counterarguments.

BONUS: The Best, Worst and Craziest Ultrabooks From CES 2012

Acer Aspire S5

The skinny:
Claiming to be the "world's thinnest" Ultrabook, the Acer Aspire S5 measures just 0.68 inches at its thickest point and weighs just 3 pounds. It has a 13.3-inch screen.

Interesting feature:
Besides its überthinness, the S5 also boasts next-generation connectivity with a Thunderbolt port, with provides a high-speed connection to peripherals. Acer's Always Connect tech keeps the machine logged into services when it goes to sleep, and you can wake it up via smartphone.

Potential roadblock:
The price, which is currently unknown.

Bottom line:
The Aspire S5's thickness certainly comes in well under Intel's guidelines. If it can perform the same trick with the price, Acer will have scored a home run.

Click here to view this gallery.

[via Patently Apple]

More About: apple, laptops, macbook air, patents, trending, Ultrabooks

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Roomba in Space? Swiss Robot Spacecraft to Clean Up Orbital Junk [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 07:02 PM PST

A team of Swiss astronauts and university professors are working to create a robot spacecraft called CleanSpace One, which will grab inactive satellite parts from space and bring them back to Earth.

About 700 active satellites are in orbit around Earth, sending us weather, phone, television and GPS signals. But they are in constant danger of smashing into old inactive satellites.

"It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation," says Claude Nicollier, an astronaut and professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

A 2009 collision between American Satellite Iridium with an inactive Russian satellite caused $55 million worth of damage. The accident also left 2,000 additional pieces of debris in space.

Thousands of satellites have launched since Sputnik‘s 1957 pioneering voyage into space. Over 16,000 pieces of broken and inactive satellites have collected in orbit causing a risk of collisions.

SEE ALSO: NASA Wants To Send Astronauts To Mars Within 20 Years in New Deep Space Vehicle

Before CleanSpace One is ready for space, there are technological hurdles to overcome. One being the machine’s ability to come within range of an object in space, to be close enough to capture it. Another hurdle is developing robotic arms that can “grab” the item. After being captured, the debris will be taken by the robot spacecraft back into the Earth’s atmosphere, where both will disintegrate upon re-entry.

Although space junk has been proposed as a serious threat to NASA equipment and personnel, this is currently a university-funded project and not a full-fledged multi-million dollar development, EPFL members say.

The maiden voyage will cost about $11 million, which the EFPL space team is hoping to raise over three to five years. Considering insurance premiums for satellites already go for about $20 billion, companies may be prompted to donate to the cause so insurance premiums don’t increase if the problem gets worse.

Thumbnail image courtesy of EPFL.

More About: gps, space, Tech, Video

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How Much Do Sports Fans Love Social Media? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 06:31 PM PST

Sports and social media are a marriage made in heaven. News and score updates break constantly. Heated debate is a big part of the fun. And fans love any chance to interact with the athletes they idolize. But just how much do sports fans love and use social media overall?

The brand-engagement firm GMR Marketing recently conducted a study and came up with interesting results, presented in the infographic below.

According to GMR, people today are 10 times more likely to check the Internet for breaking sports news than they are to turn to sports radio. Slightly more people use Facebook and Twitter than national news websites, at 41% to 40%. By comparison, just 13% said they get their breaking sports news from TV, and 4% from radio.

And it doesn’t matter where fans are; social media lets them get their sports fix in any place, any time. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they’ve checked social media for sports news at a party, nearly 70% during a meal, and 58% said they’ve done so while in the bathroom.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Check out this infographic and then let us know in the comments what jumped out at you:

Infographic courtesy of GMR Marketing

More About: infographics, Social Media, sports

Path Releases Valentine’s Day Metrics in Wake of Privacy Controversy

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 06:07 PM PST

Path released a list of Valentine’s Day stats Wednesday, just one week after a privacy controversy prompted Path’s CEO to issue an apology.

In a press release, Path lists mentions for certain terms such as “romance,” “engaged,” and “single” on Valentine’s Day. The stats are somewhat interesting, however it seems ill-timed considering the hot water Path was in last week surrounding privacy issues with its app.

Developer Arun Thampi discovered that users unknowingly submit their entire address book to Path’s servers through the app, reporting the issue on his blog Feb. 8. Path CEO Dave Morin issued an apology on the company’s blog that same day, admitting Path made a mistake. He added that the information was only used to improve the “Add Friends” feature and alert users when a contact joined Path. Morin wrote that user’s address books were sent to servers “over an encrypted connection” and “stored securely on our servers using industry standard firewall technology.”

The way Path sourced this Valentine’s data is different from last week’s issue. With aggregate usage data, it analyzes all Path users as a whole without looking at any one individual.

Numerous social network companies are privy to information about popular terms and what you’re accessing on their sites without violating privacy policies. But this new batch of information could possibly keep concerns about what information companies such as Path can access front-and-center in user’s minds.

Last week’s Path problem was a result of the fact the app didn’t ask users’ permission before it accessed their information – a rule for all iOS apps. Permissions on Facebook’s new apps drew similar concern from some experts and generated criticism, because to access the app, the opt-in agreement is usually mandatory.

Here are the stats from the press release:

Path metrics for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. on February 14, 2012:

  • Comments with the word “love” on Path up 26%
  • Comments with the words "romantic" or "romance" up 153%
  • Comments using the words "marry," "date" or "engage" up 54%
  • Negative comments about Valentine’s Day up 38%
  • Comments with the word "single," up 53%
  • Percentages of moments tagged with other people up 33%
  • Love (hearts), 43.5%
  • Happy (smiley face), 25%
  • Laugh (laughing face), 18%
  • Surprise (surprised face), 8.6%
  • Sad (sad face), 4.9%

Top 10 songs people listened to on Valentine’s Day:

  • Someone like You by Adele
  • Young, Wild and Free (feat. Bruno Mars) by Wiz Khalifa
  • Set Fire to the Rain by Adele
  • We Found Love (feat. Calvin Harris) by Rihanna
  • A Thousand Years by Christina Perry
  • It Will Rain by Bruno Mars
  • The One That Got Away by Katy Perry
  • Paradise by Coldplay
  • I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
  • Take Care (feat. Rihanna) by Drake

Top 10 Artists listened to on Path:

  • Drake
  • Adele
  • Rihanna
  • Coldplay
  • Beyonce
  • Whitney Houston
  • Bruno Mars
  • Chris Brown
  • Katy Perry
  • Maroon 5

  • Average time users went to sleep, 12:11 a.m.

What information do you feel comfortable providing to social networking sites? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, oonal

More About: Path, privacy, valentine's day

8-Year-Old Sophia Grace is the Best Red Carpet Interviewer Ever [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 05:36 PM PST

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

Move over Joan Rivers — there’s a new queen of the red carpet and she’s still in elementary school.

You might remember adorable cousins Sophia Grace and Rosie from their previous appearances on YouTube and Ellen. Sophia Grace, who is 8 years old, can perform “Super Bass” just as well as Nicki Minaj.

Ellen invited the two young girls, both hailing from Essex, England, to interview musicians on the red carpet during the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. The results are delightful and adorable.

Sophia Grace is particularly on point, knowing how to get the big celebrities to talk to her, being aware of Taylor Swift’s wardrobe choices and of course, understanding the importance of Flo Rida’s shades.

Frankly, if these little girls hosted all red-carpet affairs, awards show nights would be a lot more fun. Who would you like to see Sophia Grace interview? Let us know in the comments.

More About: ellen degeneres, grammys, red carpet, sophia grace, the ellen show, trending, viral-video-of-day, YouTube

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Panda Live Stream Hopes You’ll Fall in Love With the Planet

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 05:11 PM PST


Wildlife enthusiasts, nature buffs and, most importantly, puppy cam lovers are in for a treat when they see the latest in furry live streams: the 24-hour-a-day panda stream.

Philanthropic media organization has launched the first HD video live stream of pandas, from the world’s largest panda reserve in Ya’an City, China. The stream, which went live in early February, tracks some of the young pandas living at the facility, which works on species preservation and reintegration into the wild. The stream broadcasts live during the daytime and runs highlights at night (local time).

Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, director of Explore, hopes the broadcast will make people across the world fall in love with one of China’s natural treasures.

“My belief is that if you see the natural world you live in, you will fall in love with it and want to become a better custodian for it,” Weingarten told Mashable “We’re hoping these cameras can bring people together in a global place. Hopefully these animals will do the heavy lifting for humanity.”

Weingarten jokingly refers to the project as “panda diplomacy,” a play off Richard Nixon’s 1960s “ping pong diplomacy.”

In the early phases, the cameras focus on four bears born in 2009 in two separate locations of the Ya’an Panda Base. Yaoman and Shenbing, two females, live in one house. Yaoxin, a female, and Lulin, a male, live in another. An additional feed, the “cubby cam,” is planned to launch shortly, focusing on five 2-year-olds, who you can get to know in the below gallery.


Name Meaning: "pride"

Sex: Male

Birthday: August 1, 2010

Weight: 33.6kg

He a bit of a loner, and likes to stay by himself with little interaction with other pandas.

Images courtesy of Explore.

Click here to view this gallery.

Weingarten’s interest in panda preservation stems from a trip to the Wolong Reserve in China, two years before a devastating 2008 earthquake that destroyed the facility. The panda reserve was wiped away by major rains, threatening the bamboo food supply. Weingarten connected with panda researchers during that trip who have helped him to launch the streams.

There are only about 1,300 pandas living on earth today, roughly 150 of which live on the Ya’an base.

Explore says the panda stream has the most action between 8 p.m and 7 a.m ET, during the daytime in China. The organization is streaming on its Endangered Animals Facebook Page between 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET each evening.

The panda stream is Explore’s second Pearls of the Planet initiative showcasing endangered species. In November 2011, the organization broadcast the migration of polar bears in the arctic. One-quarter million hours were watched on Explore’s site as well as thousands of additional hours on the National Geographic and CNN.

You can also watch live cameras of Beluga Whales at the Vancouver Aquarium, tropical fish at the Long Beach aquarium and sunsets in Santa Monica, Calif. on Explore.

Do you think live streams are a good way to get people around the world to care about the environment? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Watch Some Panda Cam Highlights

More About: china, environment, live streaming, live streams, Social Good

Why QR Codes Won’t Last

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:40 PM PST

Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Jon Barocas is the founder and CEO of bieMEDIA, a Denver-based online marketing and media solutions company that specializes in video content production and distribution, mobile visual search, technology platforms, SEO, VSEO and more.

Like most technology fans, I am always ready and willing to try any technology that promises to simplify my life. QR codes seemed to present an accessible and uniform way for people with smart devices to interact with advertising, marketing and media. Those little squares of code seemed to open a world of opportunity and potential. But after using them for a length of time, I shifted my perspective.

My initial honeymoon with QR codes was very short-lived. The initial rush that I had received from trying to frame the code on my device had lost its luster. I started to view QR codes as a barrier to additional information. And in many instances, the rewards (whatever I received as a result of scanning the code) did not measure up to the effort of the transaction itself.

Consider a recent study by comScore, which states that only 14 million American mobile device users have have interacted with a QR code. In essence, less than 5% of the American public has scanned a QR code. So where's the disconnect?

Inadequate technology, lack of education and a perceived dearth of value from QR codes are just three of the reasons mobile barcodes are not clicking with Americans. But it goes deeper than that.

Humans are visual animals. We have visceral reactions to images that a QR code can never evoke; what we see is directly linked to our moods, our purchasing habits and our behaviors. It makes sense, then, that a more visual alternative to QR codes would not only be preferable to consumers, but would most likely stimulate more positive responses to their presence.

The QR Alternative

Enter mobile visual search (MVS). With MVS, you simply point at a product or logo and shoot a picture with your smartphone's built-in camera. Within seconds, the MVS application will provide product or company information, or even the option to make a purchase right then and there on your mobile device.

MVS is a far more compelling and interactive tool to enable mobile marketing and commerce. In today’s increasingly mobile world, instant gratification is the norm, and taking the extra step of finding a QR code scanner on your mobile device no longer makes sense. With MVS, you are interacting with images that are familiar and desirable, not a square of code that elicits no reaction.

The opportunities are boundless with MVS. Unlike two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes, MVS will have wrap-around and three-dimensional recognition capabilities. Even traditional advertising will be revitalized with MVS. For example, picture an interactive print campaign that incorporates MVS as part of a competition or game. Marketers can offer instant gratification in the form of videos, mobile links, coupons or discounts as incentive for taking the best pictures of a particular product or logo.

The world has already started to migrate to MVS. For example, companies in Argentina and South Korea currently allow commuters waiting for subways or buses to view images of groceries or office supplies. Embedded within these images are recognitions triggers: Smartphone users place and pay for an order to be delivered or picked up within minutes. 

Also, MVS can cash in on word-of-mouth marketing. Marketers will seamlessly link their campaigns to social networks so consumers can share photos and rewards, such as vouchers, coupons or music downloads, with their friends and followers.

QR Code Security Risks

In addition to being a more versatile medium, mobile visual search is also more secure than QR code technology. Cybercriminals are able to cloak smartphone QR code attacks due to the nature of the technology — QR codes' entire purpose is to store data within the code. There is no way to know where that code is going to take you: a legitimate website, infected site, malicious app or a phishing site. MVS's encryption modality will eliminate the opportunity for malicious code to download to your smartphone.

Recently, there have been documented cases of QR code misuse and abuse around the globe. For instance, infected QR codes can download an app that embeds a hidden SMS texting charge in your monthly cellphone bill. QR codes can also be used to gain full access to a smartphone — Internet access, camera, GPS, read/write local storage and contact data. All of the data from a smartphone can be downloaded and stolen, putting the user at risk for identity theft — without the user noticing.

Mobile visual search is a safer and more secure technology that can provide more information and content than a QR code, without as many security risks. By focusing on real-world objects and images rather than code, MVS lessens the risk of a virus or Trojan attack.

Safety, security and versatility — there are many reasons that MVS will supplant QR codes. However, there is one important, largely overlooked reason to favor MVS over QR codes: For the first time, we will be able connect with our actual surroundings in a truly interactive way. We will be able to provide a virtual marketplace that is familiar and accessible. Humanizing this interaction and making it more visual are the foundations of MVS’s imminent success.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, youngvet

More About: contributor, design, features, mobile apps, Opinion, QR Codes, security, trending

Adele Raked in More Than 10,000 Tweets Per Second During Grammys

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 03:45 PM PST


Throngs of Twitter users logged on to the site during the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, with over 10,000 tweets sent every second in the moments after Adele won Record of the Year.

Twitter wrote via a blog post on Wednesday that a whopping 10,901 tweets were sent each second after the soulful singer raked in her sixth Grammy award of the night. This was the most tweeted moment of the night, as many quoted her charming acceptance and emotional acceptance speech and commented on her award sweep.

Tweets about the Grammys started to pick up hours before the broadcast and lasted long after the show wrapped, Twitter said. In fact, "Grammys" was mentioned in more than 5 million Tweets on Sunday between noon and midnight PT.

Not surprisingly, tweets about Whitney Houston — who was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room just a day before the Grammys — also made the rounds online. Houston was the fifth most frequently mentioned artist during that 12-hour period.

The most-mentioned artists during that time was @OfficialAdele (no. 1), @ChrisBrown (no. 2), @NickiMinaj (no. 3) and @Rihanna (no. 4).

SEE ALSO: Social Media Helps Grammys Achieve Huge Ratings in Broadcast and Social TV

According to Bluefin Labs, the Grammys earned 13 million social comments across all social networks. That breaks the record from last week's Super Bowl and dwarfs every other entertainment event from the last year.

The Grammys wasn’t just a hit on Twitter — it attracted 39.9 million TV viewers, making it the second-largest audience ever and the best ratings since 1984, according to CBS.

Social media monitoring company NetBase ran sentiment analysis on the Twitter chatter surrounding the show and found that Adele was the most mentioned celebrity with positive sentiment from Feb. 11 – 13. Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj had the most negative sentiment, followed by Chris Brown.

However, negative sentiment regarding Chris Brown picked up steam on Tuesday night when he tweeted — and then deleted — a series of messages addressing all of his “haters” (shown below).

Chris Brown's offensive tweet, where he yelled at people criticizing him.

More About: grammys, Social Media, TV

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Zynga’s Earnings: Social Gaming Revenue by the Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 02:44 PM PST

Social gaming juggernaut Zynga released its 2011 Q4 earnings on Tuesday — its first public report since hitting NASDAQ in December.

The numbers were promising for investors, but revealed that scaling might pose challenges for longterm profitability. Our friends at Statista have taken a deeper look at the report and rendered the graphs below to show the relationship between Zynga’s massive user base, wavering growth patterns, and how much users are paying for content.

SEE ALSO: Understanding Zynga: A Post-IPO FAQ

Have you purchased stock in Zynga? Do you expect it to be a longterm win for your portfolio? Let us know what you think of the report in the comments below.

Infographic courtesy of Statista.

More About: Business, data, Gaming, infographic, Revenue, social gaming, stock, Zynga

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Golf, Meet Social Media: PGA Tour Gets First Branded Hashtag

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 01:51 PM PST

Even golf — that centuries-old Scottish sport stereotyped as rich old white guys puttering around in goofy outfits — has hopped aboard the social media train.

At the Northern Trust Open this week, golfers sponsored by the TaylorMade brand are sporting hats emblazoned with the Twitter hashtag #driverlove. The hashtag references TaylorMade’s larger campaign that plays off the special connection that some players feel with their clubs. It appears to be the first time a hashtag or explicit social media reference has appeared on PGA Tour golfers or playing surfaces.

While other sports have added interesting social media twists to their players and fields, golf is a game deeply rooted in tradition and not necessarily eager to humor cutting-edge fashion trends and tech fads. But that leaves an opening for brands willing to innovate, according to TaylorMade’s chief marketing officer, Bob Maggiore.

“For our sport as whole, the social media space has really been a slow-moving river,” Maggiore told Mashable. “So it’s interesting for us, because we’ve kind of given up on doing certain things the old way. We like to get out in front and try different things.”

TaylorMade is among golf’s most prominent brands, and Maggiore said the company had a record setting year financially in 2011. He said the hashtag plan was hatched in December, and has already sparked a modest “cult following” among golfers and fans after less than two days of practice rounds and pro-am play at the Northern Trust. (The first round officially tees off Thursday morning.)

The front of the hat features a simple heart design, and the #driverlove hashtag is emblazoned on the side of the cap, where Maggiore said a pedestrian company logo would usually appear. According to Maggiore, the hashtagged hat is an example of how social media allows TaylorMade to market in more abstract — but possibly more effective — ways.

“Versus just directing people to these brand homes, we’re able to get people engaged with these bigger, great ideas, like here that it’s okay to love your golf equipment,” he said. “The hashtag has been really powerful in our TV spots, but once we activate it with live athletes it’s going to be that much more powerful.”

At the Northern Trust, top TaylorMade golfers including Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia are donning the caps. If they make it into the tournament’s final rounds, where there is increased broadcast and fan attention, the hashtag should gain even more attention and drive more conversation.

“We just want people to jump right into the space and get tangled up in the fun that we’re having with it,” Maggiore said. “The win for us is people taking it and going as deep as they want with it.”

Do you think sports teams and brands should do a better job of incorporating social media in their marketing efforts? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Business, Marketing, Social Media, sports, Twitter

Facebook Timeline for Brands Coming Later This Month [REPORT]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 01:34 PM PST

Facebook is planning to make its new Timeline format available for brands later this month, according to a report.

Citing “executives briefed on Facebook’s plans,” Ad Age is reporting that Facebook will use its Feb. 29 conference for marketers in New York to announce the initiative. Facebook will start in beta with a “handful of brands,” says Ad Age.

Facebook announced Timeline, its photo-heavy new format for profile pages, in September. Since that time, the company has been vague about if and when Timeline would be rolled out for brands. In December, when the social network rolled out Timeline for all users, a rep told Mashable that brands were not part of that announcement.

Meanwhile, since Facebook announced Timeline, Twitter and Google+ have both rolled out brand pages.

Opening up Timeline gives brands some new options for self-expression on Facebook. In addition to outlining their corporate history (something Lexus already tried via a Facebook app), they can also take advantage of Gestures that go beyond Liking. The design also employs a large image at the top of the Page, which could make the individual Pages more distinctive that the old template. Back in September, we asked some top digital firms to imagine how branded Timeline Pages would look. Their designs are below:


From New York agency Skinny.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, Marketing, trending

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Google+ iPhone Update Makes iCloud’s Photo Stream Redundant

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 01:23 PM PST


Google snuck out an update to its Google+ iPhone app Tuesday, adding a powerful feature that should make people interested in sharing photos and videos (read: everyone) take notice.

Google+ for iOS now has instant upload, a feature previously available only on Android devices. Now, whenever you snap some photos or record video with your iPhone, it’s automatically uploaded to Google+, accessible — and shareable — from any device. All media is private by default, only visible to others if you explicitly share it.

How is that different from iCloud’s Photo Stream feature? Photo Stream fundamentally is more about making sure the photos you take on all your iOS devices are accessible from all your iOS devices. Although those photos also exist in the cloud for a time, they’re pushed to your devices’ storage, so they’re treated like any other piece of media. Google+ pics are in the cloud.

Practically, this translates into four key differences:

  1. Cloud sharing: When you share a photo or video from Google+, it’s already online, so there’s no data transfer when you want to share or email it. If you’re on a stingy data plan, and you upload lots of video, that can help a lot.
  2. No expiry date: Apple says Photo Stream pics are only in the cloud for 30 days. There’s no expiry date for Google+ photos, and you can store as many as you like (Photo Stream maxes out at 1,000).
  3. It works with videos: Just what it says on the tin — Photo Stream is only for photos whereas Google+ does video as well.
  4. Cross platform: Google+ instant upload will work with any device that has the app, which includes all your Android devices, too.

Now, nothing’s free or unlimited, so there are trade-offs. The maximum resolution for photos handled by the instant uploader is 2,048 x 2,048 pixels. If you’re on an iPhone 4S, those 8-megapixel pics are going to be down-rezzed. And for video, your clip can’t be any longer than 15 minutes.

Last but not least, the Google+ app will only upload your content when it’s launched or recently put in the background, so it’s not quite as automatic as photo stream. Of course, users can decide whether or not to upload over both Wi-Fi and cellular networks or Wi-Fi only — something the app will ask you when you launch the updated version for the first time.

Are you an iPhone user? What’s your take on the introduction of instant upload to the Google+ app? Have your say in the comments.

BONUS: Google Merges Search and Google+ Into Social Media Juggernaut

Google Search plus Your World Personal Results

Integrated social search is immediately evident in three spots on your search results page. You have to be signed into Google+ to see all this.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mkurtbas

More About: Google, iOS, iphone, photo sharing, Photo Stream

iPad 3: Which Features Do You Want? [POLL]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 01:10 PM PST

The iPad 3 rumor mill is ramping up, with the latest report that Apple’s newest tablet offering will feature 4G connectivity.

Many expect the next iteration of the iPad to be unveiled at an Apple event in early March, though Apple has yet to announce such an event. Behind the latest wave of rumors come reports that resales of current iPad products are shooting up. If you’re an owner of an iPad looking to upgrade, now might be the time to resell — though at a risk, of course, as we don’t actually know when the new device will arrive.

Of course, you could spend all your time trying to keep up with the latest Apple rumors and still not actually know anything. Nevertheless we enjoy the endless speculation. I asked Mashable‘s expert staff what features they want to see and what they hear users say they’re craving the most in a new iPad. Our poll below reflects the most common and most realistic expectations.

There were some more outlandish responses, too, for ideas that are unlikely to appear in the next iPad. For example, Pete Pachal suggested he’d like to see a bendable body, solar charging capability, and handwriting recognition. Not to be outdone, Matt Silverman suggested…cupholders.

We want to hear what you’re hoping to see. Take our poll below and let us know in the comments what features we’ve left out.

More About: apple, Gadgets, ipad, ipad 3, rumors

Facebook Police: German Cops Get Social Media Users to ID Suspects [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 12:55 PM PST

Police lineups in Germany have gone digital, with Hanover Police asking people to identify photofits of crime suspects on its Facebook page.

The police department has nabbed eight criminals since March 2011 when it started crowdsourcing suspects’ photos via Facebook for its pilot manhunt called "Fahndung via Facebook.” The success has prompted the rest of Germany’s law enforcement to consider using Facebook in the same way.

The Hanover Police Department wrote this on its Facebook wall: “Dear Facebook Community, We are pleased with the positive response to our pilot. [It helps] us greatly if you ‘share’ the witness calls and messages.”

SEE ALSO: British Tourists Barred From Entering U.S. Over Tweet About 'Destroying America'

While police have seen success, citizens of Germany aren’t so sure of the department’s new suspect identification method. Some are concerned the wrongly accused may face undeserved public scrutiny that suspects wouldn’t receive if the photographs were kept confidential. Additionally, photofits — the digital method of constructing a suspect’s image based on a witness’ description — aren’t always accurate.

What do you think of law enforcement’s use of social media in Germany? Tell us in the comments below.

[via The Next Web]

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr, Keith Allison

More About: crime, Facebook, germany, mashable video

Samsung’s Anti-Apple Ad Wins Twitter’s First Ad Scrimmage

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 12:38 PM PST

The 2012 Twitter Ad Scrimmage pitted Marvel superheroes against David Beckham, M&M characters and supermodel Adriana Lima. But Samsung’s “Thing Called Love” ad, featuring the upcoming Galaxy Note, was this year’s Twitter favorite, taking home the title of 2012′s favorite Super Bowl ad.

The commercial, which aired during the fourth quarter of SuperBowl XLVI made fun of Apple fans who wait on long lines outside stores on product release days — without ever actually naming their product. In the ad, the fans kick down metal fences to play with the Note to the tune of The Darkness’s “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.”

Fans voted with the hashtag #VoteForNote, bringing in 13.4% of the votes for users’ favorite commercials.

Marvel’s “The Avengers” trailer came in second place, receiving 12.4% of the votes, followed by H&M's "David Beckham Bodywear," M&M's "Just My Shell," and Kia’s “A Dream Car, for Real Life.”

Social media made marketers big winners in this year’s Super Bowl. One in five commercials used a hashtag to drive conversation.

Though Beckham was third in this race, the H&M commercial received the most Twitter mentions during the game.

You can watch the Twitter Ad Scrimmage Winner Samsung’s “Thing Called Love” above, and the full slideshow of Super Bowl commercials are included below.

Phone Innovators: Official 2012 Best Buy Game Day Commercial

Watch as phone innovation meets phone-buying innovation, at Best Buy. Choose Phone Freedom and get any phone, any carrier, and all of their plans, with lots of unbiased advice. Reserve a $50 gift card at now for your next upgrade.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Advertising, samsung, Social Media, SuperBowl XLVI, Twitter

Apple: Access to Contacts Will Require Explicit Permission

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 12:10 PM PST

apple world

Apple said Wednesday that iOS apps accessing users’ contact lists will require explicit permission, following a week of accusations that a number of iPhone apps were storing data on their servers.

"Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. "We're working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release."

The recent controversy began after an OS X developer discovered Path had been storing users’ contact lists. While Path CEO Dave Morin quickly apologized, other apps such as Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp came forward to state they planned to change their mobile permission settings.

Apple’s response comes on the heels on an inquiry from the U.S. government. Two members of congress wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook Wednesday, expressing concern that app developers are accessing and storing data without obtaining user permission. Reps. Henry Waxman and G.K. Butterfield, both ranking members on the subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade, asked Cook to examine the steps required to get data stored on users’ phones.

What do you think of Apple’s statement? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s the complete text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Cook:

Last week, independent iOS app developer Arun Thampi blogged about his discovery that the social networking app "Path" was accessing and collecting the contents of his iPhone address book without ever having asked for his consent. The information taken without his permission – or that of the individual contacts who own that information – included full names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Following media coverage of Mr. Thampi's discovery, Path's Co-Founder and CEO Dave Morin quickly apologized, promised to delete from Path's servers all data it had taken from its users' address books, and announced the release of a new version of Path that would prompt users to opt in to sharing their address book contacts.

This incident raises questions about whether Apple's iOS app developer policies and practices may fall short when it comes to protecting the information of iPhone users and their contacts.

The data management section of your iOS developer website states: "iOS has a comprehensive collection of tools and frameworks for storing, accessing, and sharing data. . . . iOS apps even have access to a device's global data such as contacts in the Address Book, and photos in the Photo Library." The app store review guidelines section states: "We review every app on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria. This review criteria is now available to you in the App Store Review Guidelines." This same section indicates that the guidelines are available only to registered members of the iOS Developer Program. However, tech blogs following the Path controversy indicate that the iOS App Guidelines require apps to get a user's permission before "transmit[ting] data about a user".

In spite of this guidance, claims have been made that "there's a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user's entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It's common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database."[8] One blogger claims to have conducted a survey of developers of popular iOS apps and found that 13 of 15 had a "contacts database with millions of records" – with one claiming to have a database containing "Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison's home phone number and Bill Gates' cell phone number."

The fact that the previous version of Path was able to gain approval for distribution through the Apple iTunes Store despite taking the contents of users' address books without their permission suggests that there could be some truth to these claims. To more fully understand and assess these claims, we are requesting that you respond to the following questions:

    Please describe all iOS App Guidelines that concern criteria related to the privacy and security of data that will be accessed or transmitted by an app.
    Please describe how you determine whether an app meets those criteria.
    What data do you consider to be "data about a user" that is subject to the requirement that the app obtain the user's consent before it is transmitted?
    To the extent not addressed in the response to question 2, please describe how you determine whether an app will transmit "data about a user" and whether the consent requirement has been met.
    How many iOS apps in the U.S. iTunes Store transmit "data about a user"?
    Do you consider the contents of the address book to be "data about a user"?
    Do you consider the contents of the address book to be data of the contact? If not, please explain why not. Please explain how you protect the privacy and security interests of that
      contact in his or her information.
      How many iOS apps in the U.S. iTunes Store transmit information from the address book? How many of those ask for the user's consent before transmitting their contacts' information?
      You have built into your devices the ability to turn off in one place the transmission of location information entirely or on an app-by-app basis. Please explain why you have not done the same for address book information.

    Please provide the information requested no later than February 29, 2012. If you have any questions regarding this request, you can contact Felipe Mendoza with the Energy and Commerce Committee Staff at 202-226-3400.


    Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade
    G.K. Butterfield, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade

    cc: Dave Morin, Path, Co-Founder and CEO

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, courtneyk

More About: apple, congress, tim cook, trending

The Future of Sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 11:55 AM PST

Users of social networks are getting tired of sharing — but that doesn’t mean sharing is on the decline. A new study analyzes sharing behaviors on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and makes predictions for the future of sharing.

Digital agency Beyond released the study for Social Media Week, along with the below infographic. Beyond makes six predictions about where sharing is headed based on the responses of 2,000 social media users in the U.S. and UK, between ages 16 and 40, who are active on either Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Among those users, 98% were active on Facebook, 60% of whom log in several times daily.

First, sharing to selective lists — the Google+ Circles model — is on the rise. While only 40% of social media users have grouped their friends and followers into lists, the concept appeals to 62% of users.

Second, frictionless sharing — Spotify songs shared to Facebook, for example — is on the rise. Some 67% of social media users have allowed an app to post to their profile, listened to a song that was automatically shared to their profile or read an article that was automatically shared to their profile.

Third, discounts and giveaways will spur sharing of branded content. People are more willing to share content if there are incentives. Some 60% of social media users say they would opt to post about a product or service if they were offered a discount or deal.

Fourth, the rate of social sharing will plateau as Facebook reaches the majority of the world’s population. New users are more excited than seasoned users to share content, and as all users become veterans they will be less frequent sharers.

Fifth, sharing will become personal again, as it was in the early days of social networking for many of us. New apps will focus on personal achievements and actions.

Sixth, the same three factors — informing friends, expressing an opinion and humor — will continue to drive us to share content. Some 88% of users update their status and 85% add photos multiple times per month.

Beyond suggests that the “billion dollar opportunity” for brands will be to win at frictionless and incentivized sharing.

What do you think of Beyond’s predictions? Check out the infographic below and let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Google, social sharing, trending, Twitter

iPad Owners Rush to Sell Devices Ahead of iPad 3 Announcement [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 11:40 AM PST

Apple hasn’t yet officially announced the launch date of the iPad 3, or even confirmed its existence. But owners of the first and second generations of Apple’s tablet are already rushing to sell their devices based on reports that the iPad 3 will debut in March.

According to the Boston Herald, Gazelle, an online service that buys used electronics and resells them through retail outlets, saw a 500% increase in iPad resale orders last Thursday, a number that grew steadily stronger over the weekend.

A similar service, NextWorth, saw a 400% traffic increase to the iPad section of its website and in the volume of iPads available for resale.

Last year, Gazelle bought 10,000 original iPads from the time of the iPad 2 announcement to its launch. Those who sold their iPads first were able to fetch the highest prices. Thus, iPad owners who are looking to upgrade to the iPad 3 are likely smart to trade in their iPads now.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, wdstock

More About: apple, gazelle, ipad, ipad 3, nextworth, trending

Google+ Most Popular With Male Users, Students [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 11:17 AM PST

The stereotypical Google+ user is a male engineer, but that’s only half right. According to new research, Google+ is still definitely male-skewing, but students outnumber software engineers by a wide margin.

That’s one of the most compelling bits of data compiled by Website-Monitoring. A little more than a half year after launch, Website-Monitoring took a look at the demographics behind Google+. One surprise is the number of students on the network — 20%. That compares to the next most-popular profession on the list, software engineers (2.65%). Consultants and managers are also popular on the network. Men also make up 67% of G+’s audience. That’s an improvement over July, when males made up 86.8% or 73.7% of G+, depending on the source.

Meanwhile, the site seems to be popular in India. Bangalore, Hyperabad and Calcutta made the list of the top 10 G+ cities and Bangalore was number one, edging out New York. The U.S., however, still has the largest share of G+ users — 31.49% vs. 13.69% for India.

Unfortunately, the research doesn’t outline the average age of Plussers, though a glance at some bands that are popular on the network — Coldplay, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam — conjures up someone in the Gen X range. That, however, may change since Google opened the network to teens last month.

More About: Google, Google+

Twitter: Yes, We Keep Your iPhone Contacts Too

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 11:02 AM PST

Twitter has acknowledged the “Find Friends” feature on its iPhone app stores contact lists on its servers, echoing a recent controversy surrounding the Path iOS app.

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, Apple issued a statement saying iOS apps accessing users' contact lists will require explicit permission.

After users opt to have the Twitter app search their phones, the company stores their address book’s names, emails addresses and phone numbers on its servers for 18 months.

Like many other iOS apps, Twitter allows users to have the app “scan your contacts for people you already know on Twitter.” Until now, the storage aspect had not been explicitly stated in Twitter’s privacy policy nor did the Find Friends function specify it would be transmitting and storing data.

Twitter’s policy stated that “Log Data” could include IP addresses, browser types, referring domains, pages visited, mobile carriers, device and application IDs, and search terms, among other activities.

Twitter says it will be updating its apps to clarify this process to users.

“We want to be clear and transparent in our communications with users,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. “Along those lines, in our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are updating the language associated with Find Friends — to be more explicit.

“In place of ‘Scan your contacts,’ we will use ‘Upload your contacts’ and ‘Import your contacts’ (in Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android, respectively).”

Twitter users can opt to remove their contacts from Twitter’s database on the desktop website.

Twitter’s announcement comes one week after Path — a social network that limits your total connections to 150 — was found to be storing contact lists on its servers by a Mac OS X developer.

Path CEO Dave Morin published an apology to users Feb. 8, writing that the company had since deleted all of the information stored in individuals’ contact books, which Path had stored.

Path subsequently released a mobile update (version 2.0.6), which allows users to opt out of sending their contact lists to Path’s servers and gives users the option to have the servers delete information should they have accidentally stored their data in the past.

Following the Path incident, two members of Congress sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook Wednesday, instructing the company to clarify its consumer privacy policies.

Are you concerned about what mobile apps do with your information? Are there any other apps of note you’ve caught storing your information? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, SimmiSimons

More About: iphone, Mobile, Path, privacy, trending, Twitter

The New Rules of Relationship Marketing [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 10:50 AM PST

Mari Smith has been deeply immersed in social media since 2007, but even before social media started to really pick up steam, she was evangelizing the idea of relationship marketing through the Internet and email for almost a decade. In 2008, Fast Company dubbed her "the Pied Piper of the Online World" because of her thought leadership on Facebook and Twitter for business.

Smith’s new book, The New Relationship Marketing, explores how the discipline has changed and why personalizing your brand is so important. As Smith likes to say, there’s no longer B2B or B2C — the new rules are about P2P, or people to people.

In this episode of Behind the Brand you'll learn some of the tips from Smith’s new book, including how to grow your social media followers, fans and engagement, how to become a curator to establish yourself as an expert, how to leverage OPC (other people's content) to build real attention and how to keep your content fresh.

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More About: behind the brand, Business, Marketing, mashable video, relationship marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Video

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Twitter Tool Will Help Journalists Break News [VIDEO]

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 10:44 AM PST

A new software tool will help journalists see breaking news tweets as they are happening. The program, called Seriously Rapid Source Review, is still under development — but will act like a sieve that pull tweets from key sources currently sharing reports, images and video from the ground.

Researchers at Rutgers University and Microsoft developed Seriously Rapid Source Review to give journalists access to breaking news like never before. Reporters won’t have to comb the web — or Twitter’s 200 million tweets a day — for sources.

Nick Diakopoulos, one of the project’s authors, stated in a blog post that the program was built to deal with how much news is breaking on social media these days. Its features should help journalists distinguish accurate and trustworthy sources.

SRSR features include automatic identification of eyewitnesses with approximate 89% precision and will list users in various archetypes — journalists, bloggers, organizations or unaffiliated citizens.

To avoid a false tweet problem, such as the preemptive report of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's death in January, SRSR will use context clues to assess the verity and credibility on sources based on their Twitter profiles. The program will determine where a person says they are, plus look at the locations of friends and followers within a source’s network.

Another component will look at the top five most mentioned companies, people or places mentioned in someone’s feed.

The SRSR culls data from Twitter profiles, user-provided descriptions, data from follower and following lists. A report based on a search term will compile the sources sharing tweets that match the search terms.

SEE ALSO: How Whitney Houston News Broke — and Exploded — on Twitter

The SRSR is still in its development stage. The researchers have not used been able to use real-time Tweets because of limitations in applying the Twitter API. For this project researchers used pre-collected and processed data from Twitter.

As for using the current prototype to catch the first couple tweets about Whitney Houston’s death, Diakopoulos tells The Poynter Institute, it’s unlikely that SRSR would have caught the very first tweets. Future developments, however, can lead to these connections.

Tell us in the comments if you personally take steps to verify tweets before retweeting or reporting news.

[via Poynter]

More About: journalism, Social Media, social networking, Twitter

Chris Brown Isn’t Dead, But His Twitter Handle Almost Is

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 10:29 AM PST

Despite the fact that #RIPChrisBrown has become a Twitter trending topic, the hip-hop artist is alive and well Wednesday. His Twitter account seems to be wasting away, however, with all but four tweets deleted.

Brown caused controversy on Twitter since his performance at the Grammys. Although Brown was one of the most talked-about celebrities that evening, trending topics such as #wifebeater suggested the reasons were mostly negative.

Other celebrities, such as Miranda Lambert, Michelle Branch and Wil Wheaton also raised their eyebrows at the Grammys’ choice of performer.

Brown responded to the hate with a strongly worded tweet.

Just minutes later, Brown attempted to delete all evidence of his tantrum on Twitter. We captured the offending tweet, however, while eagle-eyed reader Andy Smigelski captured the entire stream of tweets from Tuesday night, all of which have since been deleted. Check them out below.

Twitter users responded to Brown’s behavior by making “#RIPChrisBrown” a trending topic. Earlier this morning, the account retweeted talk show host Wendy Williams, who asked if this sort of behavior warranted a Grammy. The response to Williams’ question has been mixed, from “give it a rest already” to “based on talent YES.”

Brown has since taken back his retweet of Williams, and there are now only four visible tweets attached to his account, including a link to his new music video.

This is not the first tantrum we’ve seen from the artist, who deleted his account in 2009 after accusing retailers of blackballing him and not giving his album proper space.

Brown’s newest tweet to his followers expresses a different tune: “Be Happy.”

If you were Chris Brown’s publicist, how would you handle this situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: chris brown, Entertainment, grammys, trending, Twitter

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Pinterest for Video? Chill Completes its Latest Makeover

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 10:12 AM PST

Chill transformed from a for video to a Pinterest for video when it launched its redesign last month. The startup completes its metamorphosis on Wednesday with a new ‘categories’ feature that looks suspiciously like Pinterest’s pinboards.

Now when you bookmark videos, you can sort them into categories of your choice. Chill co-founder Brian Norgard, for instance, has category pages for underwater cinematography, big wave surfing and nature time-lapse videos.

Other users can follow your specific category pages in order to see updates to them on their home boards. Previously they had a choice between following all of your updates or none of them.

If you’re at all familiar with Pinterest, you’ll recognize the system. Norgard acknowledges the similarities.

“Everywhere we go, there's this Pinterest for video comparison, which isn't all that inaccurate,” he tells Mashable. “But the reason we think it's important is because the web has been so diffuse that eventually you need to move to a curational model. Algorithms are not going to solve everything.”

Chill isn’t alone in borrowing some design tips from the hot visual bookmarking startup. And the pinning system makes sense, especially for video.

YouTube users alone upload eight years of video every day, and many social video startups such as Shelby.TV, VHX and Squrl are trying to help sort them out. The visual model Chill has hit on might not stand apart from Pinterest, but it does stand out from the startup’s competitors in video.

This isn’t Chill’s first pivot. After beginning as a platform for discussions called Namesake, the startup decided to pursue a for video in which “VJs" could earn points from others in the room for spinning YouTube videos. It then pursued social synchronous viewing of shows from sites such as Hulu, Vevo, Livestream, Ustream and Viewers started watching the videos at the same time and participated in a conversation while it played.

All of the above features have now been deleted from the site.

We’re curious to see how the Pinterest model will serve Chill — and how long it will last.

More About: Chill, pinterest, web video

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