Category Archives: Business

Google is taking on Wikipedia

Once known as one of the strongest and beneficial friendships on the Web between two hugely popular and recognized giants is today going to turn out into an Internet battle second to none.

It is no secret on Web that Google was in love with Wikipedia over the past years turning this small and free encyclopedia project into one of the most visited sites on Web today with over 220 million unique visitors per month. It is believed that at least 85% of the total monthly traffic to Wikipedia is sent to by Google. One solid argument in support of that thesis can be the fact every second article on Wikipedia is being ranked among the first, if not the first, results in Google’s SERPs resulting in unprecedented organic traffic and participation.

It is also well known fact that Google wished they had the chance to acquire Wikipedia and if it was possible it’s believed they could have done this even years ago. Due to the non-profit policy and structure Wikipedia is built upon it provided no legal pathway to such deal for Google to snatch the site in its early days.

Basically one can conclude that Google has always liked the idea and concept upon which Wikipedia is built up and since, due to obvious reasons, they were not able to buy the site they seem today are up to an idea dangerously similar to the Wikipedia and are obviously taking on the free encyclopedia.

News broke late yesterday that Google is in preparation to launch a new site called Knol to create a new user generated authoritative online knowledgebase of virtually everything.

Normally we would not pay attention on such type of news where a large-scale corporation is trying to copy/cat an already popular and established business model (concept) that did not turn into a large-scale company itself. This is happening all the time and is part of the modern capitalism except we found a couple of strategic facts that provoked us to express our opinion.

First of all the mythical authority and popularity of Wikipedia seems to be under attack and unlike any of the other attempts encountered before this time it is Google, a company that is possessing a higher degree of chance to make it happen, undermining Wikipedia despite its huge popularity and idealistic approach today.

A couple of weeks ago we have written an in-depth analysis how yet another mythical site Dmoz.org has fallen down and is on its half way to totally disintegrate itself and the only reason behind this trend we have found is the voluntary approach and principle the site relied ever since – almost 10 years of existence.

We think the same problem is endangering Wikipedia too and perhaps it is just matter of time we witness how the hugely popular free encyclopedia today will some day in the future start disintegrating the same way it happened to Dmoz.org due to the same reason – it hugely relies on and is heavily dependant upon the voluntary principle and the contribution of thousands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals. However we all know there is no free lunch, at least not in America. And once Wikipedia has its mythical image, today everyone wants to be associated with, lost and is no longer passing authority and respect on to its free knowledgeable contributors the free encyclopedia will then most likely start disintegrating and what’s today known to be an authoritative and high-quality knowledge data base will then become one of the biggest repository of low-quality and link rich articles of controversial and objectable information on the Web. Pretty much the same has already happened to Dmoz.org. The less the Wikipedia volunteers become interested to keep contributing their time and knowledge to the free site while fighting with an ever growing army of spammers and corporate PRs the more the low-quality and less authoritative information on the Wikipedia will grow to and that process appears unavoidable.

This is what Google seems to be up to and is looking forward to change. Google wants to compensate those knowledgeable contributors on a long term run that way avoid a potential crash in the future, which is unavoidable for every free-based service on the planet that had the luck to grow out of size. 

Having more than $10 billion in annual sales (most of it represents pure profit), and willingness to share that money with these knowledgeable people around the globe, as well as relying on more than 500 million unique visitors per month Google seems to be on the right track to achieve what Wikipedia will most likely fail at.

Otherwise Wikipedia is a greater idea than Google itself but anything the size and ambitious of Wikipedia today does require an enormous amount of resources to keep alive, under control and effectively working for the future. Wikipedia has been trying to raise money for a long time now with no viable success. On the other hand, Google has already these resources in place.

Google has already said that Knol results will be in Google’s index, presumably on the first page, and very possibly at the top: “Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” Google wants Knol to be an authoritative page: “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read” and that’s already a direct challenge to Wikipedia.

If Wikipedia is being replaced in the first top results on Google with pages from Knol respectively, Wikipedia traffic will definitely decrease, and possibly as a consequence so will broader participation on Wikipedia.

Will Knol be the answer of the Web of Knowledge everybody is looking for? We do not know but one is for sure today it is going to hurt Wikipedia and not the ordinary user of the aggregated knowledge base Wikipedia is. The entire army of both users and contributors will possibly move to Knol, for longer, or at least until Google finds ways to pay for the knowledge aggregation and its contributors.

Other companies that will eventually get hurt are as follows: Freebase, About.com, Wikia, Mahalo and Squidoo.

Below is a screenshot of the Knol’s reference page and how it would eventually look like:


More

[ http://www.google.com/help/knol_screenshot.html ]
[ http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/encouraging-people-to-contribute.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/13/google-preparing-to-launch-game-changing-wikipedia-meets-squidoo-project/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/14/google-knol-a-step-too-far/ ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/knol_project_google_experiment.php ]
[ http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9834175-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware ]
 [ http://searchengineland.com/071213-213400.php ]
[ http://www.news.com/Google-develops-Wikipedia-rival/2100-1038_3-6222872.html ]
[ http://www.micropersuasion.com/2007/12/wikipedia-and-w.html ]
 

AdultFriendFinder.com finally sold out – $500M

We have been hearing for quite long time that the company’s founder Andrew Conru kept on trying to get rid of the AdultFreindFinder.com and its affiliate sites during the past 2 years pitching various potential acquirers. The company was recently rumored to have revenues in excess of $300 million annually and the acquisition price was said to be 3x revenue, or around $1 billion.

These days it turned out that the company was not sold for $1 billion but rather for half a billion and the buyer is Penthouse Media Group. It is confirmed already and taking into consideration the revenues the company is bringing in the acquisition now looks more like fire sale rather than major liquidity event for the owners.

Penthouse Media Group has acquired the adult-oriented social network operator Various Inc. for $500 million. Various runs a vast network of social net sites under its flagship site, AdultFriendFinder.com.

Andrew Conru is the founder. He is a mechanical engineering doctoral student at Stanford who grew up with churchgoing Lutheran parents in northern Indiana and he started the first online dating site, WebPersonals, in the early ’90s. He sold it in 1995, pocketed a minor windfall, and started all over again. Now he owns 27 sites under an umbrella company called Various, controlling twice as much online dating traffic as better-known rivals Match.com and Yahoo Personals.

Aside the Friend Finder Network Andrew Conru is also involved with several other companies like Dine.com (online restaurant reviews), ConfirmID.com (3rd-party personal info verification service), QuizHappy.com (free etests), GradFinder.com (alumni locator), BreakThru.com (spam-free free email), GuanXi.com (Chinese business networking), NiceCards.com (free ecards), ShareRent.com (roommate directory), LikeMyPhoto.com (photo review site), FriendPages.com (free homepages), and HelpCrew.com (remote customer service).

Prior to these companies, he started the first Internet website development company (Internet Media Services – 1993), the first company to centralize Internet advertising (Focalink Communications/AdKnowledge – 1995, sold to Engage and CMGi in 2000), the first online personals site (WebPersonals.com – 1994), and the first commercial website personalization software company (W3, Inc – 1995). “I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to use emerging technologies to solve real-world problems” says Conru.

Of all the dating sites Conru has launched–ones for Latinos, seniors, Asians, Jews, churchgoers–the biggest by far is AdultFriendFinder, which accounts for more than 60 percent of Various’s revenue. Conru says his privately held, 450-person company brings in well over $200 million in annual revenue, averaging 40 percent growth for the past nine years. With more than 35 million visitors in 2006 and 75,000 new users registering each day, AFF ranks among the 100 most popular sites in the United States.

For instance both Compete and Quantcast report for slightly more than 20 million unique visitors to the AdultFriendFinder.com but considering the fact that these sites are mostly reporting on American traffic it is likely the Various claims for 35M unique visitors per month to be true.

While porn remains one of the most profitable areas of online media, more traditional companies like Penthouse and Playboy have been struggling to catch up on the digital side. Playboy CEO Christie Hefner boasted of 50 percent gains in digital revenue earlier this month at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, thanks in part to the launch of its social net PlayboyU.com this past year. She cited the investment in a community site as a way to extend Playboy’s brand.

Penthouse CEO Marc Bell also points to brand building among 18- to 34-year-old men as the impetus behind the purchase. Various brings Penthouse an existing membership base of more than 260 million users, with roughly 1.2 million paid subscribers. The combination would bring in an estimated $340 million in revenue this year.

In addition to its porn-related social nets, Various also has sites that aren’t centered around sex, including Italianfriendfinder.com, gradfinder.com and a faith-based community site called bigchurch.com. The company also owns Passion.com, alt.com and outpersonals.com; and Streamray, Inc., with its popular video chat site Cams.com. Penthouse now expects to absorb all of Various’s holdings.

Apart from the acquisition, Various has settled charges brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission related to adware issues. While the suit specifically named its AdultFriendFinder.com site, Various’s agreement with the FTC, which includes a promise to clean up its marketing tactics and use of pop-up ads, cover all of its properties. Since this was its first violation, the company is not subject to fines, according to FTC rules.

Penthouse Media Group Inc., parent to Penthouse Magazine, one of the world’s leading men’s lifestyle publications and producers of online, licensed and broadcast content and materials, announced today that it has acquired internet social networking giant Various, Inc. and its subsidiaries for $500 million in cash and securities. With $340 million in projected combined 2007 revenues, this acquisition makes Penthouse the largest adult entertainment company in the world.

“We are very excited to welcome Various and its employees as a part of the Penthouse family,” said Penthouse Media Group CEO Marc H. Bell. “Various is an attractive addition to our already strong print platform, and one that puts Penthouse in a very robust position in the ever-growing online social networking arena. We like where the business combination puts us and that this transaction will enhance PMGI’s current and future licensing, print and interactive ventures.”

“We are excited to be combining our substantial internet presence with one of the most recognized adult entertainment brands in the world,” said Lars Mapstead, VP of Marketing for Various, Inc. “Together we will expand in many areas, both online and offline, to solidify our position as the world leader in adult entertainment.”

The transaction is the latest step in Penthouse’s expansion march, with the company having previously acquired Danni.com and the Jill Kelly Productions library in separate 2006 transactions. Penthouse is continuing its acquisition program as it continues to consolidate the industry into one global brand.

Various, Inc. is based in Palo Alto and is the trend-setter in the online personals sector, distinguished by its creative marketing programs and technological innovation.

The company has developed dozens of owned and operated sites along with many popular co-branded partner sites. Its holdings include FriendFinder Network, Inc., a group of multi-cultural and multi-lingual dating, social networking and personals websites; AdultFriendFinder.com and similar venues for more intimate social networking such as Passion.com, alt.com and outpersonals.com; and Streamray, Inc., with its popular video chat site Cams.com. Visit www.friendfinderinc.com for more information.

We have researched to find out who are the investors in the company but found nothing worthwhile aside that venture investors seem to have shied away from him, in part because of “sin clauses” in their contracts prohibiting investing in adult companies.
Via

[ http://adultfriendfinder.com/go/page/corporate.html ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/adultfriendfinder.com/ ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/adultfriendfinder.com ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/17/whoa-adult-friendfinder-may-have-been-acquired-for-1-billion/ ]
[ http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/04/01/8403370/index.htm ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-penthouse-buys-adult-themed-social-net-various-inc-for-500-million/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/071212/clw048.html?.v=101 ]
[ http://conru.com/ ]
[ http://venturebeat.com/2006/11/01/owner-of-adult-site-adultfriendfindercom-raking-in-100s-of-millions/ ]
[ http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/15899851.htm ] {expired page}

No IPO for Classmates.com

On November 27, 2007 we have reported that Classmates Media has just filed to go public at a valuation of $600 to $700 million. It then appeared that Classmates is trying to cash in on the social networking market craze.

Classmates Media Corp., which operates the online social networking site Classmates.com, (when the company started they did not call themselves social networking site) expects its planned initial public offering to total 12 million Class A shares and price between $10 and $12 each.

Today we learned they have canceled their IPO in US. If it did go through it could have been the first pureplay social networking IPO in the country. And probably Facebook could have gathered some vital market information on how far they could eventually go to with their planned IPO in 2008 or 2009. But as it seems things did not work out.

United Online (NSDQ: UNTD) has canceled the proposed IPO of its Classmates.com social networking unit. By citing the standard “market conditions,” the company now says that such a move wouldn’t be in the interest of stockholders. In other words, the interest wasn’t there. While there had been some excitement over a social networking pure-play IPO, Classmates.com, with its subscription-driven business model and earth-bound growth rates, couldn’t fully capture the buzz. United Online said it will take a $4.5-$5.5 million charge in Q4 associated with the aborted process.

There could potentially be countless reasons for that decision but certainly several of them are standing out:

  • IPO market is sort of cooling.
  • The filing anyway did not appear any serious from the get-go.
  • Classmates is far beyond the buzz level some other social networking sites are enjoying today.
  • They have tried but it seems nobody else was buying Classmate’s story.
  • The FTC investigation (The company’s auto-renewal system has come under investigation at the FTC, potentially causing churn to spike).
  • Hints of self-dealing.
  • User engagement is 95 percent lower than say on Facebook, suggesting that users see little value in the service they’re paying for. Classmates has little value for young users, since there’s no need for them to re-connect; they’re already connected through other sites.
  • Facebook is making major inroads into Classmates’ adult demographic.
  • Classmates is sort of Web 1.0 company.

Taking into consideration some of the above points it is no wonder the investors passed.

An interesting question was asked by Techcrunchers: How is United Online going to get back that $50 million it “loaned” to its subsidiary now?

A recent report from Cowen & Co. analyst Jim Friedland spells out exactly why United Online couldn’t cash in with Classmates. One line sums up his thesis: “We expect the Classmates.com subscriber base to peak in the first half of 2008, followed by a steady decline to zero by 2012.” Much of the report hones in on the fact that Classmates is no Facebook. The biggest difference is that Facebook is free and offers far more robust features.

While we do not take the Facebook reason for a valid point, since Facebook itself is most likely going to become paid in some parts at some point in the future, we think the problem with Classmates is more on the aspect of the fact it is generally declining business rather than rapidly growing with viable future as for example some of the newer social networking players, including but not limited to, MySapce, Facebook, Bebo and a countless number of market-niche specific social networking sites and community sites of new type and breed.

While we are not sure how profitable Classmates is the revenues for the full year of 2006 were $139 million and 2005 revenues were $85 million. 2007 is expected to bring in more than $140M.

Via

[ https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/11/27/classmates-prepares-for-an-ipo/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/12/update-classmates-ipo-is-pulled/ ]
[ http://www.nytimes.com/paidcontent/PCORG_317818.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/26/classmates-ipo-tries-to-cash-in-on-social-networking-craze/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/071126/classmates_media_ipo.html ]
[ http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1409112/000104746907009507/a2179839zs-1a.htm ]

BillMeLater – $1 Billion in funding so far

By putting different pieces together we have just realized that all the funding for the so called credit card alternative BillMeLater totals $1 Billion. Pretty impressive at first sight but on second reading we guess it is in norms for a financial company with such ambitious goals and operations.

BillMeLater is a young seven-year-old company that is taking on the major competitors, including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, which made its name as an online payment provider. BillMeLater has landed as merchants some of the most popular on-line retailers like www.Overstock.com, www.Walmart.com, www.usairways.com, www.officemax.com, www.brookstone.com, www.continental.com, www.etoys.com, www.hotels.com, www.1800flowers.com among others. Amazon will be offering the payment option as well.

The company incorporated initially as I4 Commerce and has changed its name to Bill Me Later, Inc. in 2007.

Bill Me Later, Inc. has developed and operates the PayCapture® technology platform and its suite of credit tools including its flagship Bill Me Later®–the first new payment method since credit cards to be broadly available within the United States.

Managed by a team of industry leaders, the Bill Me Later® Payment Suite allows merchants to leverage payments as a strategic tool to enhance customer loyalty, drive higher sales and expand profit margins.

Bill Me Later, Bill Me Later Business, the Preferred Account Program, and Promotional Financing tools are the first in a series of solutions designed to help merchants meet the demands of an increasingly competitive marketplace.  Leveraging existing infrastructures, most merchants can fully deploy these next-generation credit tools in a matter of weeks as opposed to the months it can take to set up other payment methods or private label accounts.

Millions of consumers rely on the safety and convenience of Bill Me Later, Inc.’s payment solutions when shopping online, via catalog and in-store to help save both time and money. 

On the consumer part it is:

Bill Me Later is the new way to pay that’s simple, fast and secure. 

Easy and Convenient
Bill Me Later is a convenient and secure new payment method designed for purchasing on the web or over the phone. As a credit account, Bill Me Later provides you with the flexibility to purchase without using your credit card. To request a Bill Me Later account, you do not have to complete a lengthy application prior to making a purchase. Simply select Bill Me Later at checkout to complete your request.

Security You Can Count On
With no card number for making purchases and no physical card, Bill Me Later gives you an extra level of security. Plus, Bill Me Later offers “zero fraud liability” protection, which means you are not responsible for unauthorized charges.

It operates much like a credit card company largely because its founder and chief executive Gary Marino has a long credit card pedigree, having served as chief credit officer for both First USA/Bank One and Citigroup. He started Bill Me Later after an investor suggested that online billing options be as simple as the “bill me later” tear-out form that comes inside magazines.

Revenues

It is the sixth-fastest-growing company in the country by revenue – on track to bring in more than $100 million this year – according to Inc. magazine’s September issue. No information publicly available whether the company is profitable.

The People

Gary Marino is the company’s chief executive officer and founder.  Gary has over 20 years of experience in the credit card industry with expertise in credit management, marketing, Internet strategy development, and general management.
Prior to joining Bill Me Later, Inc., Gary was Executive Vice President, Chief Credit Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer of the consumer lending division at First USA/Bank One. Gary also held numerous executive positions in his 13 year career with Citibank’s European and North American Card Division. These include Chief Credit Officer and member of the Bankcards Executive Planning council.

Other executive include

  • Steve Burleson – Chief Financial Officer
  • Craig Eckstrom – VP Sales and Account Management
  • Carolyn Groobey – Head of Consumer Strategy
  • Adam Joffe – Chief Information Officer
  • Tom Keithley – VP Credit and Integration
  • Mark Lavelle – VP Corporate Development & Strategic Planning
  • Bill Seligman – VP Credit Operations
  • Bill Shupert – VP Human Resources
  • Vince Talbert – VP Marketing
  • Marita Ventura – Chief Technology Officer
  • Chris Williams – VP Consumer Marketing

Investors & Tranches

The company, which is about 7 years old, has received $200 million in venture capital funding from investors such as Chase Paymentech and Azure Capital Partners, as well as a $640M credit line from Citigroup. The past month BillMeLater raised a whopping amount of $72 Million as well. The past week Amazon.com has just put yet another amount into the company as terms of the deal were not disclosed. Earlier last year the company secured $27.4 Million in Venture Funding.

Some of the investors as included below with short bios and company information.

ChasePaymentech is the payment solutions company of choice for online and offline transaction processing. A leader in the industry for more than sixteen years, ChasePaymentech processes one out of every two U.S. Internet transactions. ChasePaymentech is also a strategic investor in Bill Me Later, Inc.

Azure Capital Partners was founded in April 2000 with a focus on infrastructure technologies. Their philosophy of investing is to support and accelerate companies throughout their lifecycle of growth, ranging from early seed stage through maturity in the public markets.

GRP Partners is a global venture capital firm focused on retailing, retail technology and financial services technology. With $650 million under management, GRP finances early-stage and late-stage companies that develop solutions meeting pressing customer needs.

First Data Corporation processes payments for 312 million accounts around the world. As the leader in payment services, First Data serves approximately 3 million merchant locations and 1,400 financial institutions. First Data also provides consumer account processing services for Bill Me Later® and is a strategic investor in Bill Me Later, Inc.

Crosspoint Venture Partners invests in virtual service providers and broadband infrastructure. With over $1 billion under management, Crosspoint was recently named the #1 venture capitalist based on three – year returns.

CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT), a leading commercial and consumer finance company, provides clients with financing and leasing products and advisory services. CIT, a Fortune 500 company and a member of the S&P 500 Index, holds leading positions in cash flow lending, vendor financing, factoring, equipment and transportation financing, Small Business Administration loans, and asset-based lending. With its global headquarters in New York City, CIT has approximately 7,500 employees in locations throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking is the most complete financial partner to corporations, financial institutions, institutional investors and governments in the world. As a global leader in banking, capital markets, and transaction services, with a presence in many countries dating back more than 100 years, Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking enables clients to achieve their strategic financial objectives by providing them with cutting-edge ideas, best-in-class products and solutions, and unparalleled access to capital and liquidity.

Citigroup (NYSE: C), the leading global financial services company has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Major brand names under Citigroup’s trademark red umbrella include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney and Banamex.

Equifax is today’s number one provider of real-time consumer information with the world’s largest repository of consumer credit information.

T. Rowe Price: Founded in 1937, Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price is a global investment management organization that provides a broad array of mutual funds, subadvisory services, and separate account management for individual and institutional investors, retirement plans, and financial intermediaries. The organization also offers a variety of sophisticated investment planning and guidance tools. T. Rowe Price’s disciplined, risk-aware investment approach focuses on diversification, style consistency, and fundamental research.

Legg Mason, Inc.: Legg Mason, Inc. is a global asset management firm, with over $1 trillion in assets under management as of September 30, 2007. The Company provides active asset management in many major investment centers throughout the world. Legg Mason is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland and its common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: LM).

Via

[ http://www.bill-me-later.com/wss/help/aboutus.do ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/11/amazon-invests-in-bill-me-later/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071211/20071211005292.html?.v=1 ]
[ http://www.corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/Content.do?pageID=15 ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/ ]
[ http://www.bill-me-later.com/wss/index.do ]
[ http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.billmelater04dec04,0,4892376.story?page=1&coll=bal-technology-headlines ]
[ http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/credit/2007/11/26/profit-from-holiday-credit.aspx ]
[ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/27/AR2007112702246.html ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=Citi Financing (2).pdf ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=funding03_28_06.pdf ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=Bill Me Later Inc. Announcement.pdf ]

Exclusive: Imeem inks a deal with the world’s largest record company

In what is believed to be a big leap for the relatively small social networking site called Imeem they announced today a licensing agreement allowing its users to listen free to the music of Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group.

Universal Music, the world’s largest record company, has opened a new chapter in the industry’s experiment with advertising-supported music by backing Imeem. Imeem now boasts deals with all four major record companies, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group, all of which have already inked deals with the social network.

It’s a sharp turnaround from earlier this year, when none of the majors were willing to sign on to imeem’s new ad-supported interactive service. In fact, Warner sued Imeem, arguing that by allowing its members to upload and share MP3s of Warner music, it was infringing on its copyrights.

After months of negotiations, the companies have concluded a deal in which Imeem will have full access to Universal’s catalogue, making it the first social networking site to reach licensing agreements with each of the four big record labels.

Imeem has received attention from music executives because it has quickly built an audience of 19 million monthly visitors, up from the 16 million they reported in May 2007.

Despite these claims and the deal itself, Imeem’s traffic seems to have fallen off since earlier this year, from a peak of 5 million visitors in April to 2.37 million in November according to Compete.com. Quantcast is showing even worse numbers – only 2.4 Million American visitors. The traffic curve there is permanently falling down over the past 6 months.

Imeem is an online community where artists, fans & friends can promote their content, share their tastes, and discover new blogs, photos, music and video. Here are some of the things you can do on imeem:

Discover
-Enjoy the latest videos, music, photos, or blogs posted on imeem.
-Stay up-to-date with your personal network of fans and friends with “What’s New” notifications.
-Get in-depth stats for all your content and track their popularity.

Interact
-Tag, comment, rate, and share any of your friends’ cool (or embarrassing) content.
-Create or join groups for your favorite band, event, topic, and more!
-Start discussions with other imeem users and make new friends.
 
Share
-Embed your media on other pages (such as your blog, Bebo, etc.).
-Recommend stuff to your friends or add it to your “Favorites” list.
-Easily add media to your Del.icio.us, WordPress, Blogger, or Typepad.

Imeem is hoping to make money from advertisers, a portion of which will be shared with its music partners. It has signed up Puma, Nike and Microsoft among others, though it does not disclose revenues.

As part of the deal, Universal is said to have received an upfront payment worth more than $20 million, as well as an equity stake in Imeem. Universal will also receive a small payment each time one of its songs is streamed on the site of Imeem. A person familiar with the discussions said that the pay out Universal is about to receive is an equivalent to a fraction of a cent in addition to receiving a share of advertising revenue associated with a given song, that is, ads running near where a song is accessed. Most licensing deals with services that combine free music with advertising tend to offer labels only a share of revenue.

Imeem isn’t the first ad-supported music service to gain the support of all four major labels. Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI have also been making their music available to ad-supported music downloading service Ruckus. Ruckus had an early advantage over other services in securing the majors’ cooperation because it targeted colleges and universities, where illegal music downloading is a particularly serious problem and is basically not possible.

In a statement, Universal Chairman Doug Morris called Imeem “innovative,” and praised Imeem for “ensuring that our artists are fairly compensated for the use of their works.”

According to eMarketer, spending on advertising on social networks will rise from $900 million this year to more than $2.5 billion in 2011.

Imeem is based in San Francisco and takes its name from “meme” – a term coined to describe the ideas that communities, adopt, and express. Dalton Caldwell is the CEO of the company and the co-founded together with Jan Jannink. The company used to be in Palo Alto and is known to have launched in 2004. Known investors in the company are Morgenthaler (Series A founding) and Sequoia Capital, the venture capital fund that supported Google and YouTube.

Via

[ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ff0a7e34-a6c3-11dc-b1f5-0000779fd2ac.html ]
[ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119725218005518932.html?mod=googlenews_wsj ]
[ http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=204800459 ]
[ http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/12/10/imeem-universal-music-biz-media-cx_lh_1210bizimeem.html ]
[ http://www.news.com/8301-13577_3-9831163-36.html ]
[ http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1004896 ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/12/10/imeem-universal/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/09/imeem-pens-a-deal-with-universal-music-now-has-all-the-majors/ ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/imeem.com ]
[ http://www.crunchbase.com/company/imeem ]
[ http://imeemblog.imeem.com/ ]
[ http://lifehacker.com/software/social-networking/not-just-another-social+networking-site-208719.php ]
[ http://www.demo.com/demonstrators/demo2005/54152.php ]
[ http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/29/imeem-pioneers-free-music-with-ads/ ]
[ http://www.morgenthaler.com/content/Ventures/Articles/Articles%20documents/imeem%20in%20venturewire.pdf ]
 

Dmoz.org – a falling star

While researching over the popular business directories business.com and allbusiness.com, both recently acquired, I came across some very interesting details about Dmoz.org – the famous Open Directory Project (ODP).

Once mythical site millions of web sites were desperately relying on for Web authority, today Dmoz.org is declining in every aspect you can imagine of – from traffic, site usage, indexation level, PageRank(tm) to overall authority, trustworthiness and beyond. All traffic measurement companies are revealing similar and very unpleasant trend for the old web directory. Quantcast is reporting for slightly above 1.7 Million visitors per month. The situation at Compete is even worse – 1.5 Million where huge 33% decline is seen from the previous year on month-to-month comparison basis. Even the not-so-accurate Alexa is showing significant decline in the Dmoz.org’s popularity – once used to be close to Alexa 100, as far as I remember, today’s Alexa rank is in the 680 range. Just like to outline the negative trend the site’s yesterday rank (Dec 05, 2007) was 1143. If you take a look at the traffic’s graph from Alexa (shown below) for Dmoz.org you will see there is a constant decline in popularity over the past 6 months, at least. Just like this is not enough, even Google’s indexation level has dropped to only 211,000 pages, out of millions before, as we last checked it out. The Google PR has also dropped down from 9 to 8.

In matter of honesty we do believe the real traffic is bigger than what is shown on the sites above yet it appears the traffic today is times less than what Dmoz.org used to have in the past.

While the site is still claiming to have 4,830,584 sites, 75,151 editors and over 590,000 categories we are sort of agreeing only on the part of the number of sites and the categories. The active human editors in our belief are way below the number shown on the web site. For example, there were 7407 active editors during August 2006 (Open Directory Forum – General – Analyzing editor numbers – page 1, 13 August 2006).

I cannot help but ask why? What’s happening with Dmoz.org anyway? While there are potentially many reasons for the current situation behind Dmoz.org and we claim no accuracy here at all, I will try to summarize some of the issues below:

  1. The Open Directory Project’s main strengths, today, seem to be turning into its main shortcoming and its greatest weakness. Dmoz.org has always been run by volunteer human editors ensuring that listings remain high quality. However, this fact is fast becoming Dmoz.org‘s downfall most notably in the last 6 months.
  2. There have long been allegations that volunteer ODP editors give favorable treatment to their own websites while concomitantly thwarting the good faith efforts of their competition. Such allegations are fielded by ODP’s staff and meta editors, who have the authority to take disciplinary action against volunteer editors who are suspected of engaging in abusive editing practices.
  3. Dmoz.org.org has been accused a number of times by tens of thousands of small web sites and individuals in elitarism and corruption in how they were listing and delisting the web sites in the directory. 
  4. According to the masses pointing fingers at the ODP, some editors’ heads have become too big for their body. These rumors are also backed up from some Dmoz.org editors themselves. Allegedly, some editors have become too lazy to do their jobs properly. More serious allegations joined the fray. It became clear that editors have become petty and have started declining the applications for Dmoz.org listing for no valid reason. Other claims of corruption in the ranks of the listings became widespread. This began another round of rumors that said editors have turned dictatorial in their approval to protect their own interests; that is, if an editor perceives a site to be his competition, that web site isn’t going to get approved at all, and there’ll be no explanations given for the rejection.
  5. Other alleged abuses have occurred at the executive level, with company management leveraging the link value from ODP to accelerate new privately funded projects. Although site policies suggest that an individual site should be submitted to only one category, as of October 2007, Topix.com, a news aggregation site operated by ODP founder Rich Skrenta, has more than 10,000 listings*.
  6.  Early in the history of the ODP, its staff gave representatives of selected websites, such as Rolling Stone magazine, editing access at ODP in order to list many individual pages from those websites.
  7. ODP’s paid staff has imposed controversial policies from time to time, and volunteer editors who dissent in ways staff considers uncivil may find their editing privileges removed. One alleged example of this was chronicled at the XODP Yahoo! eGroup in May of 2000. The earliest known exposé was Life After the Open Directory Project, later appearing as a June 1, 2000, guest column written for Traffick.com, by David F. Prenatt, Jr. (former ODP editor “netesq”) after losing his ODP editing privileges. Another example was the volunteer editor known by the alias The Cunctator, who was banned from the ODP soon after submitting an article to Slashdot on October 24, 2000, which criticized changes in ODP’s copyright policies.
  8. We have been witnessing many corporate, brand and social battles and wars on Dmoz.org over the past years, similarly to what is today happening with Wikipedia.
  9. As we said above the number of active editors is getting lesser and lesser over the years while the backlog of web sites in the queue waiting to get listed is increasing. There were websites that had to wait years before they got listed. When Dmoz.org was first established listing could take a matter of a few weeks. Over time as Dmoz.org popularity grew so did listing times.
  10. It became known that some categories inside Dmoz.org did not even have any editors. In other categories editors became inactive and the backlog of submissions just continued to mount up.
  11. Many Dmoz.org editors are believed to have moved to Wikipedia through out the past 2 years.
  12. Dmoz.org began taking more flak when people started saying that the reason Dmoz.org is so lacking in editors – which leads to some categories not having editors at all for a great length of time – is the fact that the powers at Dmoz.org are reluctant to admit new editors to their ranks.
  13. Uninhibited discussion of ODP’s purported shortcomings has become more common on mainstream Webmaster discussion forums.
  14. On October 20, 2006, the ODP’s main server suffered a catastrophic system failure that prevented editors from working on the directory until December 18, 2006. During that period, an older structure of the directory was visible to the public.
  15. Many site submissions were found to be in conflicts with the financial interests of the category editors.
  16. Underlying some controversy surrounding ODP is its ownership and management. Many of the original GnuHoo volunteers felt that they had been deceived into joining a commercial enterprise. As ODP’s content became widely used by most major search engines and web directories, the issue of ODP’s ownership, management and governance became of greater importance to the public interests.
  17. Dmoz.org listings are also a powerful force in the world of expired domain traffic. Due to the popularity of the Open Directory and its resulting impact on search engine rankings, domains with lapsed registration that are listed on ODP have attracted domain hijacking, an issue that has been addressed (at least tried) by regularly removing expired domains from the directory.
  18. Competition. Dmoz.org clearly has missed the web 2.0 evolution and was left behind by better organized (semantic approach), bigger in size and more effective (contextual links) modern directories, an example of which is LinkedWords with its more than 38 Million English categories, sub-categories, phrases and words to get listed with. Basically LinkedWords is large-scale contextual platform which has similarity with Dmoz.org in its huge ontology directory structure but is entirely built up upon the spirit of web 2.0 with greater flexibility (adding pages, categories, sub-categories in real time), functionality (automated creation of contextual listings, yet there is zero spam) and technology (maximizes contextual linking among web sites, not just lists them). Having the web sites listed on its platform contributing, on daily basis, to the popularity of LW with in-text contextual links spreading around the Web is yet another advantage. This way sites like LinkedWords are not only helping more the web sites involved by connecting them together on a contextual basis but they are also helping the algorithmic robots find, classify and organize the information in context (following the in-context linked words) and not last the common users are also given with a chance to find the information in-context and on demand while reading around the web by clicking on the same in-text linked words.
  19. Google has begun to disassociate itself from the Open Directory Project. Nothing can be more symbolic than Google’s relegation of the directory from a prominent position in Google’s site to a position reserved for ordinary ‘worth checking but not really that important’ type of site, regardless of the high page ranks of most of the categories at Dmoz.org.
  20. Since the clamor of discontent has reached such a high degree and Dmoz.org’s staunchest ally – Google, has begun to keep its distance, Dmoz.org is like a decaying dinosaur that other animals are steering clear of it to avoid the vultures that are expected to feast on the beast when it dies. The death toll has been sounded for Dmoz.org.

While many of the points listed above may be arguable in one way or another – depending on points of view and interests – since they are gathered from the public Web during our research, they reveal the true picture behind Dmoz.org and it is easily to understand why the decline is so huge in the Dmoz.org’s village.

All of the above raises the reasonable question, how can Dmoz.org remain useful when people no longer trust its human editors?

Money makes the world go round they say. In 2007 it is also true that money makes the World Wide Web go round. In a world where online businesses can easily sell for a billion dollars the original lure of Dmoz.org for both webmasters and editors is waning. Today, Dmoz.org is still being used when web masters want their web sites listed. However, people no longer attribute much importance to it.

That pretty much sums up ours and a million other people’s sentiments about the current status and usefulness of this Open Directory Project. Sweeping changes and general reform, from political to technological, are required for the ODP to change from a Web 1.0 decaying dinosaur into a modern and effective directory with web 2.0 functionality.

For the people who do not know what Dmoz.org is, below we will include some basic information and historic facts about the ODP project. No, not everybody knows about Dmoz.org. In our basic estimate there are probably more than 400 million online users today that have no idea what the ODP project is.

The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.

The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as Dmoz.org (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.

ODP uses a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings. Listings on a similar topic are grouped into categories, which can then include smaller categories.

ODP was founded as Gnuhoo by Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel in 1998. At the time, Skrenta and Truel were working as engineers for Sun Microsystems. Chris Tolles, who worked at Sun Microsystems as the head of marketing for network security products, also signed on in 1998 as a co-founder of Gnuhoo along with co-founders Bryn Dole and Jeremy Wenokur. Skrenta was already well known for his role in developing TASS, an ancestor of tin, the popular threaded Usenet newsreader for Unix systems. Coincidentally, the original category structure of the Gnuhoo directory was based loosely on the structure of Usenet newsgroups then in existence.

The Gnuhoo directory went live on June 5, 1998. After a Slashdot article suggested that Gnuhoo had nothing in common with the spirit of free software, for which the GNU project was known, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation objected to the usage of Gnu. So Gnuhoo was changed to NewHoo. Yahoo then objected to the usage of “Hoo” in the name, prompting them to switch the name again. ZURL was the likely choice. However, before the switch to ZURL, NewHoo was acquired by Netscape Communications Corporation in October of 1998 and became the Open Directory Project. Netscape released the ODP data under the Open Directory License. Netscape was acquired by AOL shortly thereafter, and ODP was one of the assets included in the acquisition. AOL later merged with Time-Warner.

By the time Netscape assumed stewardship, the Open Directory Project had about 100,000 URLs indexed with contributions from about 4500 editors. On October 5, 1999, the number of URLs indexed by ODP reached one million. According to an unofficial estimate, the number of URLs in the Open Directory surpassed the number of URLs in the Yahoo! Directory in April 2000 with about 1.6 million URLs. ODP achieved the milestones of indexing two million URLs on August 14, 2000, three million listings on November 18, 2001 and four million on December 3, 2003.

I find similarities between Dmoz.org and Wikipedia.org. So, is it possible the same to happen with Wikipedia at future?

Via

[ http://www.Dmoz.org ]
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Directory_Project ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/Dmoz.org/?metric=uv ]
[ http://alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/Dmoz.org ]
[ http://www.skrenta.com/2006/12/Dmoz.org_had_9_lives_used_up_yet.html ]
[ http://www.newswriter.us/ShowAdminArticle-17.htm ]
* [ http://search.Dmoz.org/cgi-bin/search?search=topix (accessed on 18th October 2007)]
[ http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/xodp/messages/1 (XODP Yahoo! Group Message Archive)]
[ http://www.traffick.com/story/06-2000-xodp.asp (David F. Prenatt, Jr., Life After the Open Directory Project, Traffick.com (June 1, 2000))]
[ http://slashdot.org/articles/00/10/24/1252232.shtml (CmdrTaco, Dmoz.org (aka AOL) Changing Guidelines In Sketchy Way, Slashdot (October 24, 2000)]

Interesting web buy for Dun & Bradstreet Corp

Today Dun & Bradstreet Corp., a major business information company, said it has bought AllBusiness.com for $55 million in all cash deal.

Based on this the company subsequently raised its 2008 revenue outlook to account for the acquisition.

Dun & Bradstreet bought the online media and e-commerce company in an effort to expand its Internet business and presence. The purchase will have no effect on the company’s 2007 financial guidance, but AllBusiness is expected to generate about $10 million of incremental revenue in 2008. Dun & Bradstreet expects the acquisition to add to earnings in 2009.

Dun & Bradstreet raised its guidance for core revenue growth in 2008 to between 8 percent and 10 percent, before the effect of foreign exchange, from previous guidance of 7 percent to 9 percent growth.

The company also reaffirmed earnings-per-share growth, before non-core gains and charges, of 11 percent to 14 percent in 2008.

Shares rose 15 cents to close at $90.03, and continued to gain in aftermarket trading, jumping $2.37, or 2.6 percent, to $92.40.

AllBusiness.com is an online media and e-commerce company that operates one of the premier business sites on the Web. The site has received critical acclaim and notoriety from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business 2.0, Fortune, The New York Times, US News & World Report, USA Today, and other publications. AllBusiness.com helps business professionals save time and money by addressing real-world business questions and presenting practical solutions. The site offers resources including how-to articles, business forms, contracts and agreements, expert advice, blogs, business news, business directory listings, product comparisons, business guides, a business association and more.

Business professionals can access AllBusiness.com’s content and services through a number of channels, including the AllBusiness.com Web site; RSS feeds and email newsletters; and through its partnerships with leading Web properties.

Their content, products and services are featured on a number of sites, including: BusinessWeek, CBSNews, NYTimes, SFGate.com, Washington Post, and Yahoo!. AllBusiness content also appears in the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle as part of their business advisor program.

AllBusiness is based in San Francisco, California and backed by VantagePoint Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Reed Elsevier Ventures. Kathy Yates is the CEO of AllBusiness.com

AllBusiness is said to generate high-quality traffic (perhaps business heavy) by publishing rich content on the Web and leverages its expertise in search engine optimization to generate higher listings of its content on each search inquiry. The company is reaching more than 2 million unique monthly visitors, and it monetizes its traffic through online display advertising by national advertisers. The AllBusiness acquisition also provides a platform to generate cross-selling opportunities for D&B products aimed at small business professionals, which is the key online market that D&B serves today.

2 million uniques per month web site sells for $55M is not a bad deal after all if we offset the fact it was earlier bought for $225M in 2000. The acquisition deal is probably also including the brand name and web site maturity (launched in 1999) as well as the library of content rich articles and business information.

If anything its evidence that there’s not a web 2.0 bubble, valuations now are much more sensible then during Web 1.0 (Buying in 2000 for $225M  and selling in 2007 for $55M).

D&B (listed on NYSE:DNB) is the world’s leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses, enabling companies to Decide with Confidence  for over 165 years. D&B’s global commercial database contains more than 115 million business records. The database is enhanced by D&B’s proprietary DUNSRight’s Quality Process, which provides the customers with quality business information. This quality information is the foundation of D&B’s global solutions that customers rely on to make critical business decisions.

In s similar deal, a couple of months ago, business.com was bought by R.H. Donnelley for $345M off its slightly over 5M unique visitors per month and about $15 Million dollars a year in revenue. The Dow Jones and the New York Times were both bidding on the company.

Via

[ http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles…d91f9bdb06b003.htm ]
[ http://www.allbusiness.com/technology/software-services-applications-search-engines/4974054-2.html ]
[ http://www.allbusiness.com/company-activities-management/company-structures-ownership/4974051-1.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/04/the-ghosts-of-web-10-are-being-acquired-allbusinesscom-sells-for-55-million/ ]
[ http://www.allbusiness.com/2984615-1.html ]
[ http://www.dnb.com/ ]

Microsoft Acquires WebFives, yet another multimedia sharing site

Microsoft has acquired yet another photo/video and audio sharing site called WebFives.

The agreement has been reached during November 2007 and according it Microsoft has acquired all rights to WebFives technology, patents pending, trademarks, and software to incorporate into its products and services over time. In order to make WebFives’s wind down process as easy as possible for their users, Microsoft has agreed to provide them with a license to continue operating WebFives until the end of the year, giving their users time to copy any information you would like to keep to your own PCs or another service prior to the end of the year.

WebFives has initially been founded by a former Microsoft engineer Mike Toutonghi as Vizrea, which later became WebFives. Vizrea launched in 2006 and is based in Seattle and had a handful number of employees in both locations Seattle and Prague (Czechs Republic). Originally they idea is known to have started in August of 2003 with a vision of making video, photo, music sharing, and blogging easy and accessible to everyone from any device. The company launched with the support from some early Microsoft executives. Mike Toutonghi was the engineer who initiated the Media Center version of Windows at Microsoft before leaving for the startup world.

The company realized that building a great sharing and social network means serving the community at first place. They are making it possible for anyone who creates videos, pictures, or music to easily share their creations in stunning quality to the entire world or just a small group of friends. WebFives includes advertising so they can offer you a great, free level of service for creating and sharing videos, pictures, blogs, and audio on your own personal WebFives website. Users are provided with standard social networking profile pages complete with blogging, and have the option of accessing their sites via computer or via a WAP specific page.

Some of the site’s fundaments:

1 WebFives is Quality
The video you watch and share on the web doesn’t have to be fuzzy and low quality any more. WebFives can deliver full-screen, digital-TV quality video, and CD quality audio. It’s high quality on mobile phones too.

2 WebFives is Everywhere
Easily share what you create. You and your friends can use the web browser on almost any phone to upload to WebFives, and watch WebFives video or listen to WebFives music. You can also use multimedia messages (MMS) to send movies and photos directly from your phone to WebFives. (Your web address is: webfives.com/username, your mobile address is: wap.webfives.com/username. It really is as simple as that.) Plus, for some phones we have additional, optional software.

 3 WebFives is Friendly
Already using another service? No problem, WebFives likes them all. Easily put your high quality WebFives media on other sites like MySpace, Xanga—or even on all of them at the same time. Send a video from your phone to WebFives and it’ll update for all of your friends right away.

4 WebFives is the Whole Enchilada
It’s got everything you’d expect from a sharing service—video, music, blogs, comments, ratings, tags, ‘friends,’ fast and easy search, and more—on both PCs and mobile phones.

5 WebFives is You
It’s designed from the ground up with you in mind, so it’s easy and fun to use. You can whip out great looking, custom web pages in minutes, and decide who can see them. (People who can’t see them don’t know they exist.)

Other prominent acquisitions within the sector are Photobucket by MySpace (News Corp/Fox Interactive), Flickr by Yahoo and Picasa by Google some years ago. In just recent weeks American greetings has acquired Webshots Inc, one of the leaders of Photo sharing sites. 

The deal terms and the acquisition price were not disclosed and typically for big buys (Microsoft, Google, etc.) the site stopped working and current users are given with 30 days to have their content downloaded and moved away from the site.

Via

[ http://mashable.com/2007/12/01/microsoft-acquires-photo-sharing-site-webfives/ ]
[ http://www.webfives.com/whatis.aspx ]
[ http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/258559_vizrea07.html ]
[ http://blogs.zdnet.com/mobile-gadgeteer/?p=723 ]
[ http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/brierdudley/2007/11/microsoft_buys_toutonghis_seat_1.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/30/microsoft-acquires-mobile-focused-social-networking-site-webfives/ ]
 

Force.com takes $25 million from Bay Partners & Bessemer Venture Partners

Bay Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners have teamed up with Salesforce to invest $25 million in businesses building on the recently announced Force.com application platform over the next three years. Investments will be around $500,000 each where some convertible notes are also included. Investments may go as high as $2 million depending on the company’s stage and needs.

Force.com is owned by Salesforce.com, Force.com is presented and offered as platform as a service (PaaS).  Force.com is the world’s first Platform as a Service (PaaS), enabling developers to create and deliver any kind of business application, entirely on-demand and without software. It’s a breakthrough new concept that is making companies radically more successful by letting them translate their ideas into deployed applications in record time.

With Force.com Salesforce is planning to enter the custom software market. It is a new platform that will allow developers to create database driven applications and deploy them as services. So if Salesforce doesn’t offer what you are looking for, and no one has built it for you on Salesforce’s AppExchange, you can simply build it yourself using the Apex framework.

Basically there is a number of rival start-ups that are focused on offering users easy way to create and deploy database driven applications – DabbleDB, Zoho Creator, Rollbase (from former Taleo executives), LongJump, Coghead  and WyaWorks, among others. Unlike some experts predicting that this is sort of game ending for some of the start-ups above, we think this is just a step towards improving the custom software market’s environment and competitiveness among the players from which the end users would only benefit from. Also, some of the smaller companies within the sector are cost-effective and are positioned towards different market niches by targeting different customers when compared to the Salesforce.com. To me it looks more like a beginning of the game.

Many experts in enterprise SaaS right now know that ultra-configurable platforms such as Force.com are the envy of the industry for many reasons. Suffice it so say they enable extremely rapid expansion of the core and beyond into adjacent market segments as well as completely new markets – even long-tail micro-markets driven and executed entirely by end-users.

Bottom line is that users are being given more and more power to develop their own on-demand apps. This is a mega-trend in enterprise software and all significant players will need a strategy to deal with it. Users are becoming much more empowered to design, build, deploy and even distribute their own custom business apps without even knowing how to program.

Highly configurable do-it-yourself SaaS for business users is the future of software and Force.com is a fantastic example of where things are headed. Just about every enterprise software company, especially those targeting SMBs, will want to be running on their own version of this kind of platform over the next several years in order to compete.

Again, this is by no means a game-ending proposition for any of the companies working in this space. Oppositely, some great strategic acquisitions will emerge here as enterprise software companies figure out how to deal with this phenomenon. Multi-tenant, meta-data-driven, configurable SaaS is difficult stuff to build right. The startups that can and are doing a good job now will command a premium in the near future.

On the other hand Salesforce.com has always been seen and known as an aggressive company.

Salesforce.com is the worldwide leader in on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) services. More companies trust their vital customer and sales data to salesforce.com than any other on-demand CRM company in the world.
 
Why? Perhaps it’s because we deliver integrated, completely customizable enterprise applications for companies of all sizes. Or maybe it’s because Salesforce is so easy to learn and use, and thanks to the power of the on-demand Force.com platform, it can be up and running in weeks or days—not the months or years required by traditional client/server CRM software. Or it could be the unprecedented speed with which our customers see real, tangible ROI. Or maybe it’s because of our 100-percent dedication to the success of our customers.

In fact, more than 35,500 companies worldwide depend on Salesforce to manage their sales, marketing, customer service, and other critical business functions. We are proud to be contributing to the success of companies of all sizes, in all industries, around the globe including:

  • Corporate Express
  • Daiwa Securities
  • Expedia Corporate Travel
  • Dow Jones Newswires
  • SunTrust Banks
  • Kaiser Permanente

Salesforce.com was founded in 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, who pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple Web site. Salesforce.com is constantly building on that legacy by improving and expanding our award-winning suite of on-demand applications, our Force.com platform for extending Salesforce, and our one-of-a-kind AppExchange directory of on-demand applications.

Salesforce.com has received considerable recognition in the industry, including:

  • Technology of the Year (InfoWorld, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Editors’ Choice Award (PC Magazine, 2002, 2003, 2004)
  • Visionary Award (SDForum, 2004)
  • Best of the Web (Forbes, 2003)
  • CRM Excellence Award (Customer Inter@ction Solutions, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Top 100 Innovators Award (BusinessWeek, 2006)
  • Innovation Award (AMR Research, 2005)
  • CODIE Award for Best CRM (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)

The growing list of global business partners dedicated to providing complementary products and services to salesforce.com customers includes IBM, Microsoft, BEA Systems, Sun, TIBCO, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Miller Heiman, and dozens more.

It is believed that the partnership will provide Bay and Bessemer early leads to new companies and Saleforce’s assistance during due dillegence.

Bay Partners have already invested in many Appexchange integrated companies (Xactly, Eloqua, Cornerstone, eProject) and are looking to get in earlier this time around. Notably, Bay Partners has also invested in Facebook’s platform by putting aside funds for 50 investments. So far they’ve closed three, as far as we know.

The investment program has been underway over the past couple of months. Bay has been looking at 12 deals and already committed to one. The deals are judged on a case by case basis.

The Force.com venture program is being led by Neil Sadaranganey and Salil Deshpande from Bay Partners and Byron Deeter from Bessemer Venture Partners.

Saleforce.com is one of the first web based companies to go against the practice to sell software as a product. Instead, they do believe that the software is best to be offered as a service – Software as a Service or so called SaaS. Marc Benioff is salesforce.com’s Chairman & CEO. 

The company is publicly traded on NYSE.

 SALESFORCE.COM INC (NYSE:CRM)  
 
After Hours: 56.73 0.00 (0.00%) on 11/30/07
 
Last Trade: 56.73
Trade Time: 4:02PM ET
Change:  1.47 (2.66%)
Prev Close: 55.26
Open: 55.62
Bid: N/A
Ask: N/A
1y Target Est: 59.36
 
Day’s Range: 55.29 – 57.73
52wk Range: 35.55 – 58.00
Volume: 3,314,902
Avg Vol (3m): 1,694,100
Market Cap: 6.70B
P/E (ttm): 630.33
EPS (ttm): 0.09
Div & Yield: N/A (N/A)

The company’s current market capitalization is more than $6 Billion. Larry Ellison is one of the early investors in Salesforce. 
 
Ok, when people speak for SaaS (Software as a Service), we should take into consideration the following aspects, as some SaaS entrepreneurs are pointing out.

1. Enterprise Software companies which have not yet switched to SaaS are feeling the pressure and in many cases this is already affecting their bottom lines.

2. In order to adopt a SaaS strategy a quick way to do this is to partner with SaaS and build on the Force.com platform, but this is not an end-game strategy, it is a stop-gap measure. Ultimately Salesforce will want to own all major categories, Benioff (Salesforce.com’s Chairman & CEO) wants to build the next SAP/Oracle/PeopleSoft on – demand and why wouldn’t he? However, this causes a fundamental conflict with a partner who would ever consider Force.com their primary platform.

3. It is hard to believe that other enterprise software companies out there are going to bow down to Force.com, give up, and hand over the keys to Benioff. Every enterprise software company will need a strategy to compete with this kind of platform and allow their own applications to be customized, expanded, and even new apps created in an ecosystem, in order to remain competitive. And there is much more of a business case for a successful stand-alone enterprise software company to build or buy to get there versus give up and run on Force.com. There could also be a number of consolidations within the sector of some of the smaller players.

Force.com is a fantastic platform, but it represents a very new very big change that is happening in enterprise software today. It represents an incremental shift in power to end-users in terms of their ability to customize and build applications specific to their business needs. It is the intersection of the do-it-yourself web with enterprise software (e.g. YouTube ==> YouSoft). To say that Salesforce.com has and will continue to have a monopoly on this sector is short-sighted.

Some of the Salesforce.com’s latest press releases, news and announcements:

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Named 2007 Agenda Setter and Top Ten Business Leader for Championing Software-as-a-Service (http://investor.salesforce.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=141811&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1081407&)

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Named 2007 Agenda Setter and Top Ten (http://investor.salesforce.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=141811&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1081140&)

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Named 2007 Agenda Setter and Top Ten Business Leader for Championing Software-as-a-Service (http://investor.salesforce.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=141811&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1080863&)

Salesforce.com Executive Vice President of Products and Marketing to Present at the Credit Suisse Technology Conference
(http://investor.salesforce.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=141811&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1081140&)

Toyota Motor Europe Standardizes on Salesforce across Europe (http://investor.salesforce.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=141811&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1080863&)

Via

[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/30/bay-and-bessemer-add-25-million-in-monetary-muscle-behind-forcecom/ ]
[ http://www.salesforce.com/company/investor/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/13/salesforce-enters-custom-application-market-with-forcecom/ ]
[ http://www.salesforce.com/company ]
[ http://www.salesforce.com/platform/ ]

Is Google trying to become a Social Search Engine

Based on what we are seeing the answer is close to yes. Google is now experimenting with new social features aimed at improving the users’ search experience.

This experiment lets you influence your search experience by adding, moving, and removing search results. When you search for the same keywords again, you’ll continue to see those changes. If you later want to revert your changes, you can undo any modifications you’ve made. Note that Google claims this is an experimental feature and may be available for only a few weeks.

There seems to be features like “Like it”, “Don’t like it?” and “Know of a better web page”. Of course, to get full advantage of these extras as well as to have your recommendations associated with your searches later, upon your return, you have to be signed in.

There is nothing new here, many of the smaller social search engines are deploying and using some of the features Google is just now trying to test, but having more than 500 million unique visitors per month, the vast majority of which are heavily using Google’s search engine, is a huge advantage if one wants to implement social elements in finding the information on web easily. Even Marissa Mayer, Google’s leading executive in search, said in August that Google would be well positioned to compete in social search. Actually with that experiment in particular it appears your vote only applies to what Google search results you will see, so it is hard to call it “social” at this time around. This may prove valuable as a stand-alone service. Also, Daniel Russell of Google, some time ago, made it pretty clear that they use user behavior to affect search results. Effectively, that’s using implicit voting, rather than explicit voting.

We think, however, the only reason Google is trying to deal with these social features, relying on humans to determine the relevancy, is their inability to effectively fight the spam their SERPs are flooded with. 

Manipulating algorithmic based results, in one way or another is in our understanding not much harder than what you would eventually be able to do to manipulate or influence results in Google that rely and depend on social recommendations. Look at Digg for example.

We think employing humans to determine which results are best is basically an effective pathway to corruption, which is sort of worse than to have an algorithm to blame for the spam and low quality of the results. Again take a look at Digg, dmoz.org and mostly Wikipedia. Wikipedia, once a good idea, became a battle field for corporate, brand, political and social wars. Being said that, we think the problem of Google with the spam results lies down to the way how they reach to the information or more concrete the methods they use to crawl and index the vast Web. Oppositely, having people, instead of robots, gathering the quality and important information (from everyone’s point of view) from around the web is in our understanding much better and effective approach rather than having all the spam results loaded on the servers and then let the people sort them out.

That’s not the first time Google is trying new features with their search results. We remember searchmash.com. Searchmash.com is yet another of the Google’s toys in the search arena, which was quietly started out a year ago because Google did not want the public to know about this project and influence their beta testers (read: the common users) with the brand name Google. The project, however, quickly became poplar since many people discovered who the actual owner of the beta project is.

Google is under no doubt getting all the press attention they need, no matter what they do and sometimes even more than what they do actually need from. On the other hand things seem to be slowly changing today and influential media like New York Times, Newsweek, CNN and many others are in a quest for the next search engine, the next Google. This was simply impossible to happen during 2001, 2002 up to 2004, period characterized with a solid media comfort for Google’s search engine business.  

So, is Google the first one to experiment with social search approaches, features, methods and extras? No, definitely not as you are going to see for yourself from the companies and projects listed below.

As for crediting a Digg-like system with the idea of sorting content out based on community voting, they definitely weren’t the first. The earliest implementation of this we are aware of is Kuro5hin.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuro5hin), which, we think, was founded back in 1999.

Eurekster

One of the first and oldest companies coined social search engines on Web is Eureskter. 
Eurekster launched its community-powered social search platform “swicki”, as far as we know, in 2004, and explicit voting functionality in 2006. To date, over 100,000 swickis have been built, each serving a community of users passionate about a specific topic. Eurekster processes over 25,000,000 searches a month. The key to Eurekster’s success in improving relevancy here has been leveraging the explicit (and implicit) user behavior though at the group or community level, not individual or general. On the other hand Eurekster never made it to the mainstream users and somehow the company slowly faded away, lost the momentum.

Wikia Social Search

Wikia was founded by Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder) and Angela Beesley in 2004. The company is incorporated in Delaware. Gil Penchina became Wikia’s CEO in June 2006, at the same time the company moved its headquarters from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Menlo Park and later to San Mateo in California. Wikia has offices in San Mateo and New York in the US, and in Poznań in Poland. Remote staff is also located in Chile, England, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and also in other locations in Poland and the US. Wikia has received two rounds of investment; in March 2006 from Bessemer Venture Partners and in December 2006 from Amazon.com.

According to the Wikia Search the future of Internet Search must be based on:

  1. Transparency – Openness in how the systems and algorithms operate, both in the form of open source licenses and open content + APIs.
  2. Community – Everyone is able to contribute in some way (as individuals or entire organizations), strong social and community focus.
  3. Quality – Significantly improve the relevancy and accuracy of search results and the searching experience.
  4. Privacy – Must be protected, do not store or transmit any identifying data.

Other active areas of focus include:

  1. Social Lab – sources for URL social reputation, experiments in wiki-style social ranking.
  2. Distributed Lab – projects focused on distributed computing, crawling, and indexing. Grub!
  3. Semantic Lab – Natural Language Processing, Text Categorization.
  4. Standards Lab – formats and protocols to build interoperable search technologies.

Based on who Jimmy Wales is and the success he achieved with Wikipedia therefore the resources he might have access to, Wikia Search stands at good chances to survive against any serious competition by Google.

NosyJoe.com

NosyJoe is yet another great example of social search engine that employs intelligent tagging technologies and runs on a semantic platform.

NosyJoe is a social search engine that relies on you to sniff for and submit the web’s interesting content and offers basically meaningful search results in the form of readable complete sentences and smart tags. NosyJoe is built upon the fundamental belief people are better than robots in finding the interesting, important and quality content around Web. Rather than crawling the entire Web building a massive index of information, which aside being an enormous technological task, requires huge amount of resources and is time consuming process would also load lots of unnecessary information people don’t want, NosyJoe is focused just on those parts of the Web people think are important and find interesting enough to submit and share with others.

NosyJoe is a hybrid of a social search engine that relies on you to sniff for and submit the web’s interesting content, an intelligent content tagging engine on the back end and a basic semantic platform on its web visible part. NosyJoe then applies a semantic based textual analysis and intelligently extracts the meaningful structures like sentences, phrases, words and names from the content in order to make it just one idea more meaningfully searchable. This helps us present the search results in basically meaningful formats like readable complete sentences and smart phrasal, word and name tags.

The information is then clustered and published across the NosyJoe’s platform into contextual channels, time and source categories and semantic phrasal, name and word tags are also applied to meaningfully connect them together, which makes even the smallest content component web visible, indexable and findable. At the end a set of algorithms and user patterns are applied to further rank, organize and share the information.

From our quick tests on the site the search results returned were presented in form of meaningful sentences and semantic phrasal tags (as an option), which turns their search results into — something we have never seen on web so far — neat content components, readable and easily understandable sentences, unlike what we are all used to, some excerpts from the content where the keyword is found in. When compared to other search engines’ results NosyJoe.com’s SERPs appear truly meaningful.

As of today, and just 6 or 7 months since they went online, NosyJoe is already having more than 500,000 semantic tags created that connect tens of thousands of meaningful sentences across their platform.

We have no information as to who stays behind NosyJoe but the project seems very serious and promising in many aspects from how they gather the information to how they present the results to the way they offset low quality results. From all newcomers social search engines NosyJoe stands at best changes to make it. As far as we know NosyJoe is also based in the Silicon Valley. 

Sproose

Sproose says it is developing search technology that lets users obtain personalized results, which can be shared among a social network, using the Nutch open-source search engine, and building applications on top. Their search appears to using third party search feeds and ranks the results based on the users’ votes.

Sproose is said it has raised nearly $1 million in seed funding. It is based in Danville, a town on the east side of the SF Bay Area. Sproose said Roger Smith, founder, former president and chief executive at Silicon Valley Bank, was one of the angel investors, and is joining Sproose’s board.

Other start-up search engines of great variety are listed below:

  • Hakia – Relies on natural language processing. These guys are also experimenting with social elements with the feature so called “meet others who asked the same query“.
  • Quintura – A visual engine based today in Virginia, US. The company is founded by Russians and has early been headquartered in Moscow. 
  • Mahalo – search engine that looks more like a directory with quality content handpicked by editors. Jason Calacanis is the founder of the company.
  • ChaCha – Real humans try to help you in your quest for information, via chat. The company is based in Indiana and has been criticized a lot by the Silicon Valley’s IT community. Despite these critics they have recently raised $10m in Series A round of funding. 
  • Powerset – Still in closed beta and also relying on understanding the natural language. See our Powerset review.  
  • Clusty – founded in 2000 by three Carnegie Mellon University scientists.
  • Lexxe – Sydney based engine featuring natural language processing technologies.
  • Accoona – The company has recently filed for an IPO in US planning to raise $80M from the public.
  • Squidoo – It has been started in October 2005 by Seth Godin and looks more like a wiki site, ala Wikia or Wikipedia where anyone creates articles on different topics.
  • Spock – Focuses on people information, people search engine.

One thing is for sure today; Google is now bringing solid credentials to and is somehow legitimating the social search approach, which by the way is helping those so many smaller so-called social search engines. 

Perhaps it is about time for consolidation in the social search sector. Some of the smaller but more promising social search engines can now become one in order to be able to compete with and prevent Google’s dominance within the social search sector too, just like what they did with the algorithmic search engines. Is Google also interested in? Anyone heard of recent interest in or already closed acquisition deals for start-up social search engines?

On the contrary, more and more IT experts, evangelists and web professionals agree on the fact that taking Google down is a challenge that will most likely be accomplished by a concept that is anything else but not a search engine in our traditional understanding. Such concepts, including but not limited to, are Wikipedia, Del.icio.us and LinkedWords. In other words finding information on web doesn’t necessarily mean to search for it.

Via:
[ http://www.google.com/experimental/a840e102.html ]
[ http://www.blueverse.com/2007/12/01/google-the-social-…]
[ http://www.adesblog.com/2007/11/30/google-experimenting-social… ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/28/straight-out-of-left-field-google-experimenting-with-digg-style-voting-on-search-results ]
[ http://www.blogforward.com/money/2007/11/29/google… ]
[ http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-nosyjoecom-… ]
[ http://www.newsweek.com/id/62254/page/1 ]
[ http://altsearchengines.com/2007/10/05/the-top-10-stealth-… ]
[ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/business/yourmoney/…  ]
[ http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2007/05… ]
[ http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia ]
[ http://nosyjoe.com/about.com ]
[ http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/2005/11/08/sproose_up_your… ]
[ http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/10/quest-for-3rd-generation… ]
[ http://www.sproose.com ]

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing Invests $60m in Facebook. Funding totals $338.20M to date

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing Invests $60m in Facebook. Facebook now has $338.20M in cash to play with. Plans are the company to go public in 2008 or 2009 according to some rumors within the sector.

Facebook is hugely popular social networking site, second only to MySpace in terms of users. Other popular social networking sites are Bebo and Friendster, the second one tried to acquire Facebook in 2004 for just $10M.

The latest comScore metrics, we have seen, revealed that Facebook is actually site #16 (others claim it is #6 today) in US with nearly 70M unique visitors per month and more than 50M registered and active users.
 
Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and managing partner of the Founders Fund was the first angel investor in the company. He invested $500,000 into Facebook in early 2004. Later Accel Partners poured $12.7 million more in funding, at a valuation in the $100 million range.

The next year [2006], Facebook received $25 million in funding from Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital, as well as returning investors Accel Partners and Peter Thiel. The pre-money valuation for this deal was in the $525 million range.

Facebook is reported to have turned deals down from Friendster, Yahoo, Viacom  and the mighty Google a couple of months ago when Zuckerberg has chosen Microsoft to partner with. Microsoft de-facto has invested $240 million into Facebook for just 1.6 percent of the company in October 2007. This put the company’s valuation at over $15 billion on just $150 million in annual revenues.

Mr. Li Ka-shing is the Chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited and Hutchison Whampoa Limited. Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited is the flagship of the Cheung Kong Group which has business operations in 55 countries around the world and employs about 250,000 staff. In Hong Kong alone, the Group includes eight listed companies with a combined market capitalization of approximately HKD981 billion (31 October 2007). Hutchison Whampoa Limited is a Fortune Global 500 company.

It would be interesting to find out what’s the equity position Mr. Li Ka-shing has secured for his $60M considering what Microsoft has bought for their $240M. 

Via

[ http://www.crunchbase.com/company/facebook ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/30/another-60-million-for-facebook/ ]
[ http://kara.allthingsd.com/20071130/facebook-nabs-60-million-investment-from-li-ka-shing/ ]
[ http://www.hutchison-whampoa.com/eng/about/chairman/chairman.htm ]

Intuit Acquires Homestead for $170m

Small business website creation service Homestead, started out in the web 1.0 era, announced tonight that it has been acquired by Intuit for $170m. In addition to Intuit’s personal and small business accounting software, and the company’s partnership with Google to integrate services like Maps listing and AdSense buys, Intuit customers will now presumably be able to put up websites quickly and easily with Homestead. This transaction will enable Intuit to offer Web site creation and e-commerce.

The cash transaction is valued at approximately $170 million, including the assumption of Homestead’s outstanding options and restricted stock units.

The transaction is expected to close during the first calendar quarter of 2008 and is subject to regulatory review and other customary closing conditions. Intuit expects the acquisition to be slightly dilutive in fiscal 2008 and 2009.

This acquisition supports our growth strategy in small business by addressing an underserved need, and continues Intuits move beyond financial management solutions into helping small businesses solve other important problems, said Brad Smith, senior vice president of Intuits small business group. Homestead helps us solve one of small businesses highest priorities attracting customers by helping them succeed on the Web.

The backstory is a bit more interesting as per what the Homestead’s CEO says below:

Ever since I started Homestead in 1997, I have kept two lists.  The first list is all the acquisition offers we have received over the years (it’s nineteen long, not counting this one).  The second list is a “wish list” that contains companies I would actually consider selling our “baby” to; companies that have resonated with me and the Homestead philosophy of doing business over the span of my career (this list has four members).  Intuit is on the first list twice and, as you might guess, a member of the illustrious second list. You can read the full story on the Homestead’s blog over here

Intuit is the company behind QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax software.

[ via BW ]

[ via Homestead Blog ]

[ via Bizjournals ]

[ via Mashable ]

[ via Tradingmarkets ]

What’s common between Nokia, Motorola and Nintendo?

Nope, it is not a new mobile gaming platform the two companies are planning and working on.

The 3 companies, among others, are being slammed by Greenpeace in their ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’. While we are all waiting for the major companies to adopt the web 2.0 principles and enter the sector, it seems they are having serious green issues (environmental issues) to deal with rather than wasting time and resources on web 2.0 companies and technologies.   

The full list is enclosed below:

7.7 Sony Ericsson – New leader due to improved takeback reporting, new models PVC free, but falls down on takeback practice. More
7.7 Samsung – Big improvements, with more products free of the worst toxic chemicals. Loses points for incomplete takeback practice. More
7.3 Sony – More products free of toxic PVC and improved reporting on recycling and takeback especially in the US. More
7.3 Dell – Unchanged since the last version, still no products on the market without the worst chemicals. More
7.3 Lenovo – Unchanged since the last version, still no products on the market without the worst chemicals. More
7 Toshiba – Much improved on toxic chemicals but still lobbies in the US for regressive takeback policies. More
7 LGE – Unchanged since the last version, need better takeback for products other than phones. More
7 Fujitsu-Siemens – Unchanged since the last version, needs toxic elimination timelines, better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled.
More
6.7 Nokia– A steep fall! Strong on toxic chemicals but penalty point deducted for deficiencies in takeback practice in Thailand, Russia and Argentina during our testsing. More
6.7 HP – Finally provided timelines for eliminating worst toxic chemicals, though not for all products; needs to improve takeback coverage. More
6 Apple – Slightly improved with new iMacs and some iPods reducing the use of toxic chemicals, takeback programme still needs more work. More
5.7 Acer – Unchanged since the last version, needs better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled. More
5 Panasonic – Unchanged since the last version, need better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled. More
5 Motorola – Big faller due to penalty point for poor takeback practice in Philippines, Thailand and India revealed by our testing. Still no timelines for eliminating the most harmful chemicals. More
4.7 Sharp – New to the guide – some plus points on toxic chemicals elimination but poor takeback policy and practice. More
2.7 Microsoft – New to the guide – long timeline for toxic chemicals elimination (2011) and poor takeback policy and practice. More
2 Philips – New to the guide – no timeline for toxic chemicals elimination and zero points on e-waste policy and practice. More
0 Nintendo – New to the guide – first global brand to score zero across all criteria! More

Nokia fell from first place to ninth and Nintendo placed last in the Greenpeace’s latest guide to green electronics from .

Nokia’s rank dropped mainly because Greenpeace claims the company fails to support its stated recycling programs in many countries arould the world. A Greenpeace video shows a mobile user entering a shop in Argentina that Nokia referred the user to in order to recycle an old phone. The shopowner says she doesn’t take back used phones and doesn’t know where to refer the person to do so.

Greenpeace awards scores to companies on the list based on many factors including recycling programs and toxic substances used in products.

Motorola also fell in the ranking for similar reasons as Nokia. Greenpeace found that Motorola staff in the Philippines, Thailand and India were poorly informed about the company’s phone take-back program. Also, Motorola doesn’t have a take-back service in Russia, Greenpeace said.

For the first time Greenpeace included gaming consoles on the list. Nintendo became the first company to score a zero for having no environmental credentials at all.

[ via Greenspace ]

[ via PC World ]

Classmates prepares for an IPO

Classmates Media has just filed to go public at a valuation of $600 to $700 million. Compared to Facebook’s $15 Billion valuation, which the company took as a private entity, it ranks the company more in the bottom level of the Internet sector rather than within the top 100. It appears that Classmates is trying to cash in on the social netwrking market craze.

Classmates Media Corp., which operates the online social networking site Classmates.com, (when the company started they did not call themselves social networking site) expects its planned initial public offering to total 12 million Class A shares and price between $10 and $12 each.

Based on the anticipated price range, Classmates would have a market capitalization of $600 million to $720 million. Assuming an offering price of $11 per share, the company expects to raise net proceeds of about $117.7 million after fees and expenses from the IPO. Mark Goldstone will be the CEO of Classmates Media, and he is personally getting 2.8 million options at the IPO price.

Here are some facts at a glance as taken from the Security Exchange Commission:

—Revenues the first nine months of 2007 weer $140 million. (Full-year 2006 revenues weer $139 million; 2005 revenues were $85 million).
—Net income the first nine months was $1.6 million. ($1.9 million loss in 2006; $8.2 million loss in 2005).
—50 million registered users as of September, 2007. Only 12.8 million of which are active and 3 million of which pay on average $3.33 a month to email and connect with old friends directly.
—Monthly churn of 4.6 percent

Classmates makes money primarily from subscriptions. It also relies on MyPoints, which is a loyalty program. The company also owns a French based social network, Trombi, and Sweden’s Stayfriends.

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Sercurities are serving as joint book-running managers for the IPO. Deutsche Bank Securities is also underwriting the offering. The underwriters have an option to buy up to 1.8 million shares from the company to cover any overallotments.

The company plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “CLAS”.

In an another story the FTC is investigating Classmates membership subscription auto-renewal policy, where it just keeps charging your credit card until you tell it to stop, reports Techcrunch’s Erick Schonfeld.

comScore’s October 2007 social networking numbers reveal Classmates had 14.4 million U.S. visitors, which represents a one percent year-over-year decline.

The company’s overview:

We operate leading online social networking and loyalty marketing services under our Classmates and MyPoints brands. Our leadership position is based on a number of factors, including the number of unique visitors to our Web sites, brand awareness and the number of registered members. Our success is driven by our expertise in growing and monetizing large online audiences in a cost-effective manner and enabling advertisers to reach relevant online consumers effectively. Revenues from our social networking services are derived from subscription and advertising fees, and revenues from our loyalty marketing services are derived from advertising fees.

On our social networking sites, we enable users to locate and interact with acquaintances from school, work and the military. Led by our flagship Classmates Web site, our social networking properties are comprised of a large and diverse group of users, with over 50 million registered accounts as of September 30, 2007. Social networking pay accounts at December 31, 2005 and 2006, and at September 30, 2007, were approximately 1.8 million, 2.2 million and 3.0 million, respectively. Using our interactive tools and features, our members have contributed to our social networking Web sites a substantial number of distinct, relevant pieces of content, such as names, school affiliations, profiles, biographies, interests and photos.

MyPoints, our online loyalty marketing service, provides advertisers with an effective means to reach a large online audience with targeted marketing campaigns, while also enabling consumers to earn points-based rewards by responding to email offers, completing online surveys, shopping online and engaging in other online activities. During the last year, we marketed the products and services of over 400 advertisers to our MyPoints members, including NetQuote, Inc., Office Depot, Inc., VistaPrint Limited and Waterfront Media, Inc. As of September 30, 2007, over 8.8 million members were registered with MyPoints, over 6.0 million of whom were registered to receive email marketing messages from us.

From all this it becomes clear for us that calling yourself a social networking site might be profitable these days.

[ via Techcrunch ]

[via Yahoo Biz ]

[ via SEC ]

Michael Dell is returning; reshaping the industry?

As we have seen today across multiple news reports Michael Dell is returning to the company and is in charge again of the troubled computer company he founded 23 years ago.

After a two-year absence, Michael Dell is back as CEO of the PC maker he founded in 1984.

Why troubled? Here are some facts as we know them explaining the situation behind Dell, Incorporated.

In August 2006 his company ordered the recall of 4.2 million batteries. Dell launched an internal investigation into accounting practices, which uncovered padding of profits by midlevel managers; after the SEC announced its own investigation the company restated its books to erase more than $92 million in net income.

In late January 2007 Dell booted Kevin Rollins, who was the chief executive since 2004, and James Schneider, the company’s chief financial officer. More startling, perhaps, was what he told his 82,000 employees: “The direct model has been a revolution but is not a religion.” It amounted to a repudiation of the gospel Dell himself wrote years ago, a business built on dealing directly with customers via the phone and Dell.com — brashly cutting out all retailers and wholesale dealers. For years the model worked brilliantly. Since going public in 1988 Dell has seen sales, net profit and share price all climb at compound annual rates between 28% and 33%.

The company is also overhauling customer service division after struggling with complaints. Also lowered PC prices, dropped Intel-only policy.

A little bit more about the company: Dell, Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, markets, sells, and supports computer systems and services that are customized to customer requirements. The company is based in Round Rock, Texas. Their stock information is enclosed below:

Price $ 26.13 Change 0.00
Open 0.00 % Change 0.0%
Prev Close 26.13 Volume 500
Market Value 58 bil P/E Ratio 20.7
Bid 26.25 EPS 1.26
Ask 26.28 Dividend 0.00
High 0.00 Yield 0.0
Low 0.00 Shares Out 2.24 bil
52wk High 30.77 52wk Low 21.61
Industry: Personal Computers
Sector: Technology

How Dell appears on the Forbes Global 2000: Sales Rank: 90; Profits Rank: 201; Assets Rank: 603 and Market Value: 142.

In less than ten months Michael Dell has made many changes, some of them drmatic, focusing on flashier products and marketing, new Web sites to handle customer complaints and ideas and a bigger push to sell value-added services. During that short timeframe the company has managed even to achieve a handful of interesting acquisitions. Nonetheless Dell is slimming down, starting to cut 10% of its workforce on every level, a move that could save $750 million a year, says Christopher Whitmore, a tech analyst at Deutsche Bank.

On the other side Dell has attracted a number of high profile names as executives. Mark Jarvis, the former marketing chief at Oracle. Steven Schuckenbrock, former president of EDS. Michael Cannon who was president of components maker Solectron.

The biggest step however seems to be the Dell’s push to move into the retain space by putting products in 10,000 outlets like Wal-Mart, Staples and chains in Japan, China, Russia and the U.K.

In other news Hypermarket chain Carrefour said it will sell Dell’s consumer PCs through its stores in France, Spain and Belgium beginning next year. Dell chose Carrefour because it is the world’s second largest supermarket chain, after Wal-Mart, and is present in numerous European countries. Carrefour also has operations in Latin America and China, which would be useful if Dell ever wanted to extend the relationship there.

Dell is also in a virtual war with Apple CEO Steve Jobs starting when Jobs first criticized Dell for making “un-innovative beige boxes”. On October 6, 1997, when Dell was asked what he would do if he owned then-troubled Apple Computer, he said “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Dell would regret these words after Jobs returned as Apple CEO in 1998. By early 2006 Apple was worth more (based on market valuation) than Dell. By October 2007 Apple was worth more than twice Dell’s value (AAPL:$160B – DELL:$62B). Dell resumed the CEO duties (replacing Kevin Rollins) at his troubled company in January 2007, and market value increased 11% in 9 months. During that same time Jobs’ Apple increased its market value 92%. Michael Dell said in late January of 2007 that his company would be worth more than Apple by the end of the year.

What’s intersting here to pay attention to is the fact that since Dell returned and replaced Rollins the company’s market value increased 11% in 9 months.

As of 2007, Forbes estimates Michael Dell’s net worth at $15.8 billion, making him the 30th richest person in the world and the 9th richest American. Dell currently resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Susan, and their four children. Dell also owns one of the most expensive houses built in Texas. He is also rumored to be buyer in International Paper’s recent sale of 900,000 acres of timberland.

Videos from Dell, Inc.  

Here are some Videos form the Dell Vlog account on YouTube which highlights some of the transformations takign place at Dell, Inc.

Dell about the Re-Generation

Walk in Video from Dell Oracle OpenWorld Keynote

Opening video from Dell’s Oracle OpenWorld Keynote

Complexity in the Industry – OOW Keynote Section 1

The Future is Simple – OOW Keynote Section 2

The Future is Virtual – OOW Keynote Section 3

The Future is Connected – OOW Keynote Section 4

The Future is Green – OOW Keynote Section 5

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[ via Forbes ]

[ via Forbes List ]

[ via reseller.co.nz ]

[ via Wkipedia ]

[ via Michael Jung ]

[ via USATODAY ]