Category Archives: Social Networking

Google bought Jaiku, instead of Twitter

Finnish short messaging and microblogging service Jaiku has been acquired by Google. 
Notable fact here is the fact that Google bought Jaiku instead of its competitor Twitter, a service founded by Blogger founder Evan Williams.

We think a possible reason of that situation could be the current overvaluation of Titter.  Jaiku may also be better on the mobile platform than Twitter.

Technology has made staying in touch with your friends and family both easier and harder: living a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle is easier (and a lot of fun), but it’s more difficult to keep track of everyone when they’re running around at warp speed.

That’s why, Google said, we’re excited to announce that we’ve acquired Jaiku, a company that’s been hard at work developing useful and innovative applications for staying in touch with the people you care about most — regardless of whether you’re at a computer or on a mobile phone.

Google has lately been rolling out a number of very young mobile services. Interesting fact from the past of Google is yet another acquisition of very similar company called Dodgeball that went literally no where. 

RedMonk analyst James Governor, who has blogged extensively about the business value of Jaiku competitor Twitter has some interesting thoughts on the news. Governor says he’d like to see RIM buy Twitter but thinks Yahoo! is much more likely. He says the Jaiku mobile download could be a key addition to the Google Phone kernel but fears that all the leading microblogging services will be quickly overrun with commercial messages. Perhaps that is the commercial future of the microblogging services.

At the time of the deal took place Twitter was full with conversation on the acquisition, according the tracking service Twitterverse, the hottest word across Twitter in the last hour is Jaiku.

With easy group creation, RSS import and threaded conversation, amongst other features, Jaiku is probably a superior service to Twitter. Creation of new accounts have been stopped at Jaiku with news of the announcement.

More about Jaiku

Jaiku’s main goal is to bring people closer together by enabling them to share their activity streams. An activity stream is a log of everyday things as they happen: your status messages, recommendations, events you’re attending, photos you’ve taken – anything you post directly to Jaiku or add using Web feeds. We offer a way to connect with the people you care about by sharing your activities with them on the Web, IM, and SMS – as well as through a slew of cool third-party applications built by other developers using our API.

The most powerful instrument of social peripheral vision is your mobile phone. We’ve put in a special effort to create Jaiku Mobile, a live phonebook that displays the activity streams, availability, and location of your Jaiku contacts right in your phone contact list. We modestly believe it is the best solution out there for seeing what your friends are up to. Currently Jaiku Mobile is available for phones based on the Nokia S60 software platform.

To learn more about Jaiku, this video interview may be found insightful and interesting. It is done by the new European outfit Intruders.tv with company founder Jyri Engestrom, trained as a sociologist and formerly from Nokia.

Jaiku’s founders have commented on the home page of their site on the acquisition.

While it’s too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you’ll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

But fear not, all our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will be able to invite your friends to Jaiku.

More

http://jaiku.com/
http://jaiku.com/blog
http://google.com/
http://www.jaiku.com/blog/2007/10/09/were-joining-google/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_acquires_jaiku.php
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/reach-out-and-message-someone.html
http://jaiku.com/help/google
http://us.intruders.tv/Essential-Web-07-Interview-with-Jaiku-co-founder-Jyri-Engestrom_a93.html
http://twitterverse.com/
 

RockYou named one of the top innovations for 2007

RockYou is amongst the top 6 innovation leaps for 2007 according CNN. Below is what Michael V. Copeland from Fortune wrote about the company.

While the giants of social networking battle for the attention of Internet users, the guys behind RockYou are happy to sit in the middle. They make their money shipping the tiny apps known as widgets that add value to the Web sites–and generate ad revenue for RockYou. “MySpace and Facebook are like my two divorced parents,” says Shen, who launched the company with Tokuda in 2005. “And I am their child whose love they are trying to buy.”

No wonder. RockYou today is the hottest widget factory on the Web. More than 35 million people in 200 countries have used its little programs, which rack up 180 million page views per day. What do RockYou’s widgets do? The things people who populate MySpace and Facebook love to do, like post silly notes and videos on RockYou’s Super-Wall, quiz each other with RockYou’s Likeness’s trivia questions, or test their astrological waters via RockYou’s Horoscope. Look for the company’s widgets to start showing up in your e-mail, your instant messages, and, perhaps by 2009, your cellphone.

Interesting fact is that RockYou seems to be heavily relying on organic traffic despite its popularity. On its home page it is clearly visible a text link “Create SlideShow” which points to: http://www.rockyou.com/slideshow-create.php. When searched on Google that page appears #3 out of millions results returned. http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=Create+SlideShow.

Indeed the company looks very healthy to us. Quantcast reports for almost 7M global unique visitors while the Americans alone are slightly over 2M/mo. Compete is showing pretty much the same number of visitors – almost 6M per month, only American traffic.

The company founders are Lance Tokuda and Jia Shen and RockYou is based in San Mateo, Calif. Co-Founders Lance Tokuda and Jia Shen were sued by their former employer Iconix in 2006. Iconix claimed Tokuda and Shen were working on a slideshow application for them at the same time the pair created RockYou. A preliminary injunction favored Iconix before the intellectual property theft case was settled out of court.

The company is partnering with some of today’s webs top sites like Bebo, Friendster, Flixter, WordPress and Hi5, among others.

Slide.com is  the RockYou’s main competitor. However now RockYou!’s Super Wall app has overtaken Slide’s similar FunWall app for the #1 spot, with 3.1 million daily active users. RockYou! has recently put up a press release claiming there are more popular than Slide, with CEO Lance Tokuda calling it “a significant milestone for RockYou.”
RockYou has recently signed a deal with PlayFirst, who just got $16.5M in series C round of funding led by DCM that included original investors Mayfield Fund, Trinity Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners. The new round brings total funding for PlayFirst to $26.5 million. Under the deal RockYou will distribute PlayFirst games through its widget and social networking service, with Wedding Dash the first title to be made available to Facebook users. PlayFirst sees the deal a way of tapping into the growing popularity of social networking sites as a gaming platform.

Most recently, the company has also launched its own Facebook-specific ad network.

More about RockYou

RockYou is a leading provider of applications and widgets on the web. RockYou widgets include photo slideshows, glitter text, customized Facebook applications and voicemail accessories that are simple to use and enable people to frequently refresh their online style. Founded in 2006, RockYou has over 35 million users, serving over 180 million widget views per day in more than 200 countries. RockYou applications are customized for easy integration across all social networks including Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Tagged and hi5. RockYou’s cost-effective, results-focused advertising platform is the largest Ad Network on Facebook and the most dynamic method for rapidly acquiring Facebook application users. New applications can reach over 100k users in 24 hours, spanning a suite of applications across multiple publishing partners.

Widgets offered are as followed:

  • Slideshows (your photos with music, captions and a theme)
  • PhotoFX (stylize your photos)
  • Glitter FXtext (add glitter and more to your text)
  • FunNotes (choose a theme, caption and effects for your note)
  • Countdown Timer (countdown to important events)
  • Group Corkboard (you and your friends can add pictures, text and more to the corkboard)
  • MySpace Layouts (make your myspace page aesthetically pleasing)
  • ShoutOuts (record your voice and send it to a friend)
  • Scratcher (scratch your picture like a lottery ticket and see what’s hidden behind)
  • VoiceMail (allows your friends to leave voice comments on your page)
  • Games (make your profile or blog more fun by adding games to it)
  • Horoscope (get daily horoscopes and find out your compatibility with friends)
  • Movies (let your friends know what your favorite movies are)
  • Avatars (create an animated version of yourself to put on your profile)

RockYou was originally named RockMySpace. RockYou is funded by Sequoia Capital, Partech International and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company took funding in two rounds where Series A was $1.50M and the VCs participating were First Round Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital and the Series B round of funing was for $15.00M and participants were the same VCs plus Partech International. The total funding is $16.5M to date.

More about the Investors

Sequoia Capital
Sequoia Capital provides startup venture capital for very smart people who want to turn ideas into companies. As the “Entrepreneurs Behind the Entrepreneurs”, Sequoia Capital’s Partners have worked with innovators such as Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Bob Swanson of Linear Technology, Sandy Lerner and Len Bozack of Cisco Systems, Dan Warmenhoven of Network Appliance, Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo!, Jen-Hsun Huang of nVIDIA, Michael Marks of Flextronics, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen of YouTube, Steve Goldman and Sujal Patel of Isilon Systems and Dominic Orr and Keerti Melkote of Aruba Wireless Networks. To learn more about Sequoia Capital visit www.sequoiacap.com.

Lightspeed Venture Partners
Lightspeed Venture Partners combines extensive venture capital and operating experience to assist entrepreneurs in creating industry-leading technology companies. Lightspeed manages $1.3 billion of committed capital and focuses on seed and early-stage information technology investments in the U.S., Israel and Asia. The firm’s partners have invested in more than 100 technology companies over the past two decades and have contributed to the success of market leaders including Blue Nile, Brocade, Ciena, Galileo Technology, Informatica, Kiva Software, Metasolv, Phone.com, Quantum Effect Devices, Sirocco and Waveset. For more information, please visit our Website at www.lightspeedvp.com.

Partech International
Founded in 1982, Partech International is a leading global venture capital firm with $850M under management and offices in the U.S., Europe and Israel. Partech invests exclusively in Information Technology and the firm’s internationally integrated team of investing partners work together closely to find the most innovative companies demonstrating high return potential and disruptive technologies in the Software & Internet, Communications & Components and Healthcare IT sectors. Partech has a unique 20+ year track record assisting its portfolio companies to become global market leaders. To learn more go to www.partechvc.com.

We basically think RockYou is one of the top acquisition targets for 2008 as the price could be anything but in the “hundreds of millions” range.

More

http://www.rockyou.com/
http://www.rockyou.com/corp/about.php
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.sixleaps.fortune/4.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/03/05/more-information-on-rockyou-financing/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/RockYou
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/02/rockyou-app-slides-to-top-spot-on-facebook/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/rockyou_vs_slide_facebook_app_developers.php
http://widgetygoodness.com/2007/12/03/rockyou-number-one-widget-maker/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/02/rockyou-climbing-past-slide-to-be-number-one-widget-maker/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/18/playfirst-takes-165-million-series-c-inks-deal-with-rockyou/
http://adage.com/article?article_id=121326&search_phrase=rockyou
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2007-11-26-widgets_N.htm
http://internetcommunications.tmcnet.com/topics/enterprise/articles/14503-zazzle-rockyou-offer-custom-glittertext-products.htm
http://www.cio.co.uk/concern/infrastructurerefresh/features/index.cfm?articleid=551
http://mashable.com/2007/11/13/zazzle-rockyou/
http://xml.sys-con.com/read/456371.htm
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201894.html?hpid=moreheadlines
http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/11/01/facebook-rockyou-google-technology-cz_vb_1102rockyou.html
http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9805410-2.html
http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-google31oct31,1,5536114.story?coll=la-headlines-technology&ctrack=1&cset=true
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_7110470
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119370202753875653.html
http://www.quantcast.com/rockyou.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/rockyou.com/?metric=uv
http://uk.intruders.tv/Jia-Shen-of-RockYou_a231.html

Some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals during 2007

As the end of the year approaches us we would like to briefly sum up some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals for the 2007, as we know them. 

All deals will logically be ranked by their sizes and less weight will be put on the time the deal happened through out the year. Deals from all IT industry sectors are considered and put in the list, from Web and Internet to the Mobile industry as well. The size’s criterion for a deal to make the list is to be arguably no less than $100M unless the deal is symbolic in one way or another or either of the companies involved was popular enough at the time the deal took place. Otherwise we think all deals are important, at least for its founders and investors.

Under no doubt the year we will remember with the number of high-profile advertising company acquisitions for large-scale companies like DoubleClick, aQuantive, RightMedia, 24/7 Real Media, among others. Putting all acquisition deals aside, one particular funding deal deserves to be mentioned too Facebook raised $240 million from Microsoft in return of just 1.6% of its equity. The Honk Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing later joined the club of high-caliber investors in Facebook by putting down $60M for unknown equity position.  

Other remarkable funding deals include: Alibaba.com raised $1.3 Billion from its IPO; Kayak raised $196 Million; Demand Media took $100 Million in Series C; Zillow totaled $87 Million in venture capital funding; Joost announced $45 million funding from Sequoia, Index, CBS & Viacom, among others. 

Yet another noteworthy deal is the Automattic (wordpress.org) turning down a $200 Million Acquisition Offer. 

And the 2007 Web 2.0 Money winner is… Navteq for its deal with Nokia for $8B. Apparently Microsoft has this year lost the crown of being named the deepest pocket buyer.

Nokia Buys Navteq For $8 Billion, Bets Big On Location-Based Services

Nokia (NOK), the Finnish mobile phone giant with nearly a third of the global handset market, has decided to bet big on location based services (LBS), and is buying Chicago-based digital map company NAVTEQ (NVT) for $8.1 billion. That works out to about $78 a share. This is one of Nokia’s largest purchases to date — the Finnish mobile giant has a mixed track record when it comes to acquisitions. This is also the second megabillion dollar buyout in the maps (LBS) space.

SAP Germany makes its biggest deal ever – acquires Business Objects for 4.8B EURO (around ~$6.8 billion)

SAP, the world’s largest maker of business software, has agreed to acquire Business Objects SA for €4.8 billion euros, which was around ~$6.8 billion at the time the acquisition deal was announced. The deal is amongst the largest for 2007 alongside with Oracle’s Hyperion deal for over $3.3B and the Nokia’s Navteq for over $8B. [more]

Microsoft to buy Web ad firm aQuantive for $6 Billion

Microsoft Corp. acquired aQuantive Inc. for about $6 billion, or $66.50 a share, an 85 percent premium to the online advertising company’s closing price at the time the deal was publicly announced. Shares of aQuantive shot to $63.95 in pre-opening trade, following news of the deal. The all-cash deal tops a dramatic consolidation spree across the online advertising market sparked when Google Inc. agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.

Oracle to buy Hyperion in $3.3 Billion cash deal

Oracle Corp. has acquired business intelligence software vendor Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion in cash. Oracle has agreed to pay $52 per share for Hyperion, or about $3.3 billion, a premium of 21% over Hyperion’s closing share price at the time of the deal. Oracle said it will combine Hyperion’s software with its own business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools to offer customers a broad range of performance management capabilities, including planning, budgeting and operational analytics.

Cisco Buys WebEx for $3.2 Billion

Cisco has agreed to acquire WebEx for $3.2 billion in cash. In 2006, WebEx generated nearly $50 million in profit on $380 million in revenue. They have $300 million or so in cash on hand, so the net deal value is $2.9 billion.

DoubleClick Acquired by Google For $3.1 Billion In Cash

Google reached an agreement to acquire DoubleClick, the online advertising company, from two private equity firms for $3.1 billion in cash, the companies announced, an amount that was almost double the $1.65 billion in stock that Google paid for YouTube late last year. In the last month for this year the US Federal Trade Commission has granted its approval for Google to purchase DoubleClick.

TomTom Bought Tele Atlas for $2.5 Billion

It took $2.5 Billion dollars for TomTom to buy mapping software company TeleAtlas, this will set the stage for TomTom to be big rival of Garmin across Atlantic. Tele Atlas went public in 2000 on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and last year, it bought another mapping firm, New Hampshire-based GDT.

Naspers acquires yet another European company – Tradus for roughly $1.8 Billion

Simply put a fallen dot com star with eBay ambitious, once worth more than 2B British pound (around $4B) and collapsed down to £62M at the end of 2000 is now being basically said rescued by the South African media company Naspers that is spending money at breakneck pace. The offered price is £946M (more than $1.8B) based on just £60M annual revenues. [more]

HP acquired Opsware For $1.6 Billion

HP has acquired IT Automation company Opsware for $1.6 billion. Whilst any acquisition of this size is interesting in itself, the back story to Opsware is even more so; Opsware was originally LoudCloud, a Web 1.0 company that took $350 million in funding during the Web 1.0 boom.

AOL acquired TradeDoubler for $900 Million

AOL has acquired Sweden-based TradeDoubler, a performance marketing company, for €695 million in cash, which was about US$900 million at the time the deal took place.

Microsoft acquired Tellme Networks for reportedly $800 Million

Microsoft Corp. has announced it will acquire Tellme Networks, Inc., a leading provider of voice services for everyday life, including nationwide directory assistance, enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search. Although the price remains undisclosed, it is estimated to be upwards of $800 million.

Disney acquires Club Penguin for up to $700 Million

Club Penguin, a social network/virtual world that has been on the market for some time, was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. An earlier deal with Sony fell apart over the Club Penguin’s policy of donating a substantial portion of profits to charity. The company, which launched in October 2005, has 700,000 current paid subscribers and 12 million activated users, primarily in the U.S. and Canada.The WSJ says the purchase price is $350 million in cash. Disney could pay up to another $350 million if certain performance targets are reached over the next couple of years, until 2009.

Yahoo acquired RightMedia for $680 Million in cash and stock

Yahoo has acquired the 80% of advertising network RightMedia that it doesn’t already own for $680 million in cash and Yahoo stock. Yahoo previously bought 20% of the company in a $45 million Series B round of funding announced in October 2006. The company has raised over $50 million to date.

WPP Acquires 24/7 Real Media for $649 Million

Online advertising services firm 24/7 Real Media was acquired by the WPP group for $649 million. The old time internet advertising firm had its origins serving ads for Yahoo! and Netscape in 1994 and was formerly founded the following year as Real Media. After numerous acquisitions it took its current name and grew to have 20 offices in 12 countries, serving over 200 billion advertising impressions every month.

Google bought the web security company Postini for $625M

Google has acquired e-mail security company Postini for $625 million, a move intended to attract more large businesses to Google Apps. More than 1,000 small businesses and universities currently use Google Apps, but ‘there has been a significant amount of interest from large businesses,’ Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise, said in a Monday teleconference.

EchoStar Acquires Sling Media for $380 Million

EchoStar Communications Corporation, the parent company for DISH Network, has announced its agreement to acquire Sling Media, creator of the Sling suite, which lets you do things like control your television shows at any time, from their computers or mobile phones, or record and watch TV on your PC or Windows-based mobile phone. The acquisition is for $380 million.

ValueClick acquired comparison shopping operator MeziMedia for up to $352 Million

ValueClick has acquired MeziMedia for up to $352 million, in a deal consisting of $100 million in upfront in cash, with an additional sum of up to $252 million to be paid depending on MeziMedia’s revenue and earnings performance through to 2009.

Yahoo Acquires Zimbra For $350 Million in Cash

Yahoo has acquired the open source online/offline office suite Zimbra. The price: $350 million, in cash, confirmed. Zimbra gained wide exposure at the 2005 Web 2.0 Conference. Recently they has also launched an offline functionality.

Business.com Sells for $350 Million

Business.com has closed another chapter in its long journey from a $7.5 million domain name bought on a hope and a prayer, selling to RH Donnelley for $350 million (WSJ reporting up to $360 million). RH Donnelley beat out Dow Jones and the New York Times during the bidding.

AOL acquired online advertising company Quigo for $350 Million

AOL announced plans to buy Quigo and its services for matching ads to the content of Web pages. The acquisition follows AOL’s September purchase of Tacoda, a leader in behavioral-targeting technology, and comes as AOL tries to boost its online advertising revenue to offset declines in Internet access subscriptions.

eBay bought StubHub For $310 Million

eBay has acquired the San Francisco-based StubHub for $285 million plus the cash on StubHub’s books, which is about $25 million.

Yahoo! Agreed to acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 Million in cash

Yahoo! Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BlueLithium, one of the largest and fastest growing online global ad networks that offers an array of direct response products and capabilities for advertisers and publishers. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 million in cash.

CBS to buy social network Last.fm for $280 Million

CBS is known to have paid $280 million for the Last.fm site, which caters to music fans. CBS Corp bought the popular social networking website organized around musical tastes for $280 million, combining a traditional broadcast giant with an early leader in online radio. Last.fm, claims more than 15 million monthly users, including more than 4 million in the U.S.

AOL Acquired Tacoda, a behavior targeting advertising company for reportedly $275 Million

AOL has announced the acquisition of New York-based Tacoda earlier this year, a behavior targeting advertising company that was founded in 2001. The deal size, which we haven’t had confirmed, is likely far smaller than Microsoft’s $6 billion for aQuantive , Yahoo’s $680 million for RightMedia , or Google’s $3.1 billion for DoubleClick. The price might be low enough that it isn’t being disclosed at all.Jack Myers Media Business Report has confirmed the $275 million price tag

MySpace to acquire Photobucket For $250 Million

MySpace has acquired Photobucket for $250 million in cash. There is also an earn-out for up to an additional $50 million. Oddly enough MySapce has dropped Photobucket off its social networking platform. The dispute that led to the Photobucket videos being blocked on MySpace letter also led to acquisition discussions, and the block was removed. They have hired Lehman Brothers to help sell the company. They were looking for $300 million or more, but may have had few bidders other than MySpace.

Hitwise Acquired by Experian for $240M

Hitwise, the company that performs analysis of log files from 25 million worldwide ISP accounts to provide relative market share graphs for web properties, has been acquired by Experian for $240 million.

$200+ Million for Fandango

Comcast paid $200 million or perhaps a bit more. Fandango revenue is said to be in the $50m/year range, split roughly evenly between ticket sales and advertising. Wachovia Securities analyst Jeff Wlodarczak estimated the multiple-system operator paid $200 million for Fandango, whose backers include seven of the 10 largest U.S. movie exhibitors.

Intuit Acquires Homestead for $170 Million

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. [more]

Naspers Acquired Polish based IM Company Gadu Gadu (chit-chat) for reportedly $155 Million

South Africa’s biggest media group Naspers Ltd offered to buy all outstanding shares in Polish Internet firm Gadu Gadu S.A. ( GADU.WA ), a Polish IM service, for 23.50 zlotys ($8.77) per share. The current majority shareholder of Gadu Gadu has agreed to tender its 55% shareholding in the public tender offer. The price is $155M. [more

Studivz, a Germany Facebook clone, went for $132 Million

German Facebook clone Studivz has been sold to one of its investors, Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a German publishing group, for €100 million (about $132 million). Other investors of Studivz include the Samwer brothers, founders of ringtone company Jamba (sold for €270M) and Alando (sold to eBay for €43M in 1999).

Feedburner goes to Google for $100 Million

Feedburner was acquired by Google for around $100 million. The deal is all cash and mostly upfront, according to sources, although the founders will be locked in for a couple of years.

Answers.com has purchased Dictionary.com for reportedly $100 Million

Question and answer reference site Answers.com has acquired Dictionary.com’s parent company, Lexico Publishing, for $100 million in cash. Lexico can really serve all your lexical needs because it also owns Thesaurus.com and Reference.com.

Yahoo Acquires Rivals for $100 Million

Yahoo has acquired college sports site Rivals.com, reported the Associated Press in a story earlier this year. The price is not being disclosed, although the rumor is that the deal was closed for around $100 million. Rumors of talks first surfaced in April 2007.

UGO Acquired By Hearst for reportedly $100 Million

Hearst has acquired New-York based UGO. Forbes reported the price should be around $100 million. UGO is a popular new media site that was founded in 1997 and, according to Forbes, is generating around $30 million/year in revenue. UGO media is yet another web 1.0 veteran and survivor.

Fotolog Acquired by Hi Media, French Ad Network for $90 Million
 
New York-based Fotolog been acquired by Hi Media, a Paris-based interactive media company for roughly $90 million – a combination of cash and stock, according to well-placed sources. 

Online Backup Startup Mozy Acquired By EMC For $76 Million

Online storage startup Mozy, headquartered in Utah, has been acquired by EMC Corporation, a public storage company with a nearly $40 billion market cap. EMC paid $76 million for the company, according to two sources close to the deal.

eBay Acquiring StumbleUpon for $75 Million

The startup StumbleUpon has been rumored to be in acquisition discussions since at least last November (2006). The small company had reportedly talks with Google, AOL and eBay as potential suitors. At the end of the day the start-up got acquired by eBay. The price was $75 million, which is symbolic with the fact the site had only 1.5m unique visitors per month at the time the deal took place. The company was rumored to be cash-positive.

General Atlantic Has Acquired Domain Name Pioneer Network Solutions

General Atlantic has acquired Network Solutions from Najafi Companies. Network Solutions was founded decades ago in 1973 and had a monopoly on domain name registration for years which led Verisign to pay billions to buy it. Najafi Companies purchased NS from VeriSign in November 2003 for just $100M. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal and no price tag is publicly available, although we believe it is way over $100M, but NS made our list due to its mythical role for the Internet’s development. That deal is symbolic for the Internet. 

MSNBC made its first acquisition in its 11-year history, acquired Newsvine

In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum. Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site.  We think the price tag for the Newsvine is anywhere in the $50/$75M range, but this is not confirmed. [more]

Google to buy Adscape for $23 Million

After some rumors of a deal earlier this year, Google has expanded its advertising reach by moving into video game advertising with their $23 million acquisition of Adscape.

Disney buys Chinese mobile content provider Enorbus for around $20 Million

Disney has bought Chinese mobile gaming company Enorbus , for around $20 million, MocoNews.net has learned. Financial backers in the company included Carlyle and Qualcomm Ventures.

BBC Worldwide Acquires Lonely Planet

BBC Worldwide, the international arm of BBC, has acquired Lonely Planet, the Australia-based travel information group. The amount of the deal was not disclosed, but Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler get to keep a 25% share in the company. We truly believe this deal is in the $100M range, but since no confirmation was found on Web and therefore we cannot put a price tag for the sake of the list. Even though a global brand their site is getting just 4M unique visitors per month.

AOL Acquires ADTECH AG

AOL has acquired a controlling interest in ADTECH AG, a leading international online ad-serving company based in Frankfurt, Germany. The acquisition provides AOL with an advanced ad-serving platform that includes an array of ad management and delivery applications enabling website publishers to manage traffic and report on their online advertising campaigns. No details about the acquisition price were found on Web but we would suspect a large-scale deal and rank it very high. 

Amazon Acquires dpreview.com

Amazon have announced the acquisition of the digital camera information and review site dpreview.com. UK based dpreview.com was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey as a site that publishes “unbiased reviews and original content regarding the latest in digital cameras. Dpreview.com has in excess of 7 million unique viewers monthly. The value of the deal was not disclosed but we believe the purchase price should be in the $100M range (not confirmed).

HP Acquired Tabblo

HP announced the acquisition of Cambridge, Massachusetts based Photo printing site Tabblo this morning. The price was not disclosed.

eBay Gets Stake in Turkish Auction Market

eBay announced yesterday that it has acquired a minority stake in Turkish-based GittiGidiyor.com, an online marketplace structured in a similar manner to eBay. GittiGidiyor reportedly has more than 400,000 listings and 17 million users, which is a considerable percentage of the Turkish population. With the stake in GittiGidiyor, eBay now has the opportunity to enter the Turkish market via a system that’s already similar to theirs in functionality and purpose. Istanbul-based GittiGidiyor.com was founded in 2000. GittiGidiyor is Turkish for Going, Going, Gone. Terms of the deals were not found publicly available. Looking at the size of the Turkish site and the buying habits and history of eBay, the price should be considerably high, at least for the region.

Microsoft Acquiring ScreenTonic for Mobile Ad Platform

Microsoft is acquiring ScreenTonic, a local-based ads delivery platform for mobile devices, for an undisclosed amount. Paris-based ScreenTonic was founded in 2001, and has created the Stamp platform to deliver text or banner links on portals, text message ads and mobile web page ads, that vary depending on the recipients’ geographical location in a so called geo-targeting approach. 

~~~

Fashion Fix for Facebook users

Developing Facebook applications and taping into their millions of registered users appears to be yet another marketing instrument employed even sometimes by brick and mortar retailers like the UK’s TopShop.  

The new Topshop Fashion Fix which has recently been launched on Facebook allows users to see the newest must-have pieces for the season from their Facebook profile. Facebook users can view items in detail and stamp a “love it or lose it” comment for their friends to see. Pieces can be shared and passed to other Facebook friends to talk about the latest styles, plan outfits or simply arrange shopping trips.

The Topshop Fashion Fix application was created and produced by a digital agency called Poke, and developed in collaboration with the Topshop internal web team.

Poke is a six year old creative agency for the digital age. Poke has built a reputation for engaging, challenging design communications work with a select group of high profile clients. Poke is the only UK-based agency to have been awarded the digital industry’s equivalent of the ‘Oscars’ – New York’s Webby Awards – three years in a row (2005-2007). Poke opened a US office in New York in April of this year.

Poke has worked with Topshop since 2003 conceiving and delivering a number of successful online projects, including the design of their e-commerce store, the Kate Moss collection and the Topshop video podcast.

The launch of the Kate Moss fashion line for TopShop accounted for a surge in traffic to parent company Arcadia Group’s website, which enjoyed a 17% boost in unique users.

As an added incentive for Facebookers eager to try out the new application, during the run-up to Christmas, Fashion Fix users can play a weekly game of “Snap” on Facebook to win anything from 10%-off at Topshop.com to a year’s supply of shoes.

With thousands of groups already networking about Topshop and swapping ideas about what they’re about to buy, this application ensures that they’re the first to see what’s new in-store. The Fashion Fixes’ sharing and commenting features also allows them to have lots of fun in the process – and makes sure that their friends know exactly what they’re planning to wear at the weekend.
More about Topshop.com

With daily updates and over 3000 different items to shop at any one time, Topshop.com is one of the UK’s biggest online retailers with an exciting and dynamic site to reflect the brand’s image as an innovative fashion authority.

Topshop.com is Topshop’s second biggest store and a leader in the digital market place. Communicating to it’s customers via the weekly ‘Style Notes’ email (a magazine-like reminder of news with 350,000 subscribers), two RSS feeds (the ‘Style Blog’ and ‘Daily Fix’), their cute desktop ‘widget’ and video podcasts (including 9 London Fashion Week catwalk movies published within 24 hours of the shows), Topshop engages with their young and dynamic audience in ways that they understand.

Topshop was established in 1964 within a Sheffield department store called Peter Robinson, however, a year later, the same store allocated Topshop space in the basement of its Oxford Circus store in London. In 1974, Topshop was taken out of Peter Robinson and set up as a standalone retailer.

When Jane Shepherdson became Brand Director in 1999 her vision was to establish the brand as a fashion authority. Since then, Topshop has gone onto become one of fashion’s major success stories with over 309 fashion stores nationwide, including the world’s largest fashion store at Oxford Circus, which attracts over 200,000 shoppers each week!

In September 2005 Topshop showed its in-house design collection Unique (created in 2001) as part of the official London Fashion Week schedule and subsequently forged exclusive partnerships with international boutiques ‘Opening Ceremony’ in New York, ‘Colette’ in Paris and Tokyo’s ’10 Corso Como Comme des Garcons’. During summer 2006 ‘Barneys’ in the US began retailing Topshop’s best selling Baxter jean in its flagship stores.

Plans to expand internationally are also underway with stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg due to open in 2008.

The story was initially picked up from EPR Network.

More

http://www.topshop.com/
http://apps.facebook.com/topshopfashionfix/
http://www.topshopfashionfix.com/
http://express-press-release.com/44/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.php
http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TopCategoriesDisplay?storeId=12556&catalogId=19551
http://express-press-release.com/44/docs/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.doc
http://express-press-release.com/44/pdf/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.pdf
http://express-press-release.com/44/print/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.html
http://www.topshoppodcast.com/
http://blog.express-press-release.com/2007/12/12/topshop-has-now-launched-on-facebook/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/jun/27/digitalmedia.facebook
http://express-press-release.com/Industries/Apparel-Fashion-press-releases.php
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattiasgunneras/2057868910/

MSNBC made its first acquisition in its 11-year history, acquired Newsvine

In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum.

Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site. 

Newsvine is one of the good CJ [Citizen Journalism] web sites. Others include Digg, Reddit and Netscpae’s Propeller among others. Newsvine is a good example of a startup CJ site aimed to be a mainstream news destination in the future. Along with most of the other current CJ sites, Newsvine uses many of the ‘web 2.0’ functionalities in its design – such as user-generated content, reputation, voting, comments, friends lists, tags, and more. Newsvine was among the first sites on web to implement basic semantic tagging based on the content submitted. The first site, as far as we know, was NosyJoe.com with its intelligent tagging engine.  It allows users to ‘seed’ stories, by adding a link and short description. Users can also write a full article as well. Newsvine is arguably more advanced in its design than other CJ sites, often trying new things and design techniques – e.g. the Newsvine, a color-coded visual representation of a user’s impact on the site.

The site opened as a private beta in December 2005 and was officially launched on March 1, 2006. Newsvine CEO is Mike Davidson and the company is based in Seattle which is the home of MSNBC too. Calvin Tang is the Co-founder and COO. More details about Newsvine can be found below.

“Over the next few years, Newsvine technology and content will make its way onto msnbc.com, and vice-versa where it makes sense.” Davidson explained further.

Newsvine officially became part of MSNBC on Friday, October 5th, but Davidson said they’d “been talking since May.” The company will continue to be based in Seattle, perhaps due to the location of the MSNBC too.

What is MSNBC getting, anyway? Mostly the citizen journalism community and features combined with some basic (compared to MSNBC’s) traffic but representing a very loyal community. From our perspective this deal looks more like acquiring technologies, features and mostly practical experience from the citizen journalism and the social news sector. It could also be an employment through acquisition. Basically Newsvine successfully established and positioned itself especially within the social news arena yet the site cannot be clearly identified as a popular site with its only 1.2M unique visitors per month. So, MSNBC is clearly trying to tap into the social news space and is buying experience.

The following statement from the company supports out thinking:

“While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the “Vine”.

Davidson, the Newsvine’s CEO has explained the reason why he sold out to MSNBC.
It seems it is all about scale and partnering with bigger media company to achieve that:

“Why would a young, efficient independent news startup become part of a large organization? For us, the answer is simple: it’s all about growing the community and spreading the idea of participatory news as far and wide as possible. Although going from zero to over a million users a month in less than two years is heartening, msnbc.com operates on another scale entirely. While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the ‘Vine. In order to spread this idea further, we could have gone out and raised a lot of money, quadrupled our staff, and gone it alone, but when one of the finest news organizations in the world is headquartered right across Lake Washington, the potential of partnering with such a great team is dramatic. We feel strongly that we can learn from the successes of their experienced team, in a way that will empower Newsvine to become the worldwide mouthpiece of the citizen journalist.”

This is the MSNBC’s first acquisition in its 11-year history and is a good fit for MSNBC.com. Newsvine will report directly to the Publisher/President of MSNBC.com.

Neither of the companies would disclose terms of the all-cash transaction, but deals for other social media sites have ranged as high as the $75 million that eBay was reported to have spent for StumbleUpon.com, which claims about 3 times the number of users as Newsvine.

It appears as Newsvine will move to the server farms of MSNBC.com to allow for greater reliability and expansion.

Reach

Back in July 2007 the stat numbers were reported by the founder Mike Davidson, to be in about 1.2 million unique visitors per month and Newsvine has grown at an average rate of 46% per quarter. Newsvine community members view an average of 21 pages per day and spend an average of 143 minutes per month on the site. The site gets about 80,000 comments a month and 250,000 votes a month.

Where the site stands at today?

Quantcast is reporting for slightly over 260,000 unique visitors per month but Newsvine is not quantified there. Compete on the other side is reporting for 409,000 unique visitors.  Both sites are reporting on only the American traffic.

In details about Newsvine

Newsvine is a website consisting of community-driven news stories and opinions. Users write articles and save links to external content, vote, comment and chat on article pages created by both users and by professional journalists.

Seattle-based “Newsvine, Inc.” was incorporated in March of 2005 by Calvin Tang. Mike Davidson, Lance Anderson and Mark Budos subsequently left The Walt Disney Internet Group and together began development of Newsvine during the summer of 2005, as the four co-founders of the company. Josh Yockey joined the company shortly after development began, with Tom Laramee following in the spring of 2006. Eric Glomstad joined as an intern over the summer of 2006 and has stayed on with the company since. The development team consists of several veterans from the Disney Internet Group and ESPN. Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine Inc. was interviewed in episode 8 of Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur’s weekly Inside the Net podcast.

Community

Newsvine is a community-driven news site similar to sites such as Slashdot, reddit and Digg. It combines user submission of information with items from the Associated Press and provides each user with a blog-style “column” for writing their own ‘posts’.
Features
 
Seeding
Newsvine allows users to “seed,” or post links for others to view. Seeds usually contain a short description or direct quotation from the linked article. With the “Newsvine Button,” users can select “Seed Newsvine” from their bookmarks and a seeding dialog will appear. Seeds allow for all of the same options as articles except the ability to insert photographs.

Articles
One of the most defining features of Newsvine is the ability for users to write their own articles. Commonly known as citizen journalism, this allows for users to express their opinions for public disccusion or even report in a journalistic manner. The most popular articles for top tags appear in the “Featured Writers” section, where article writers can receive extra publicity.

While writing articles, users are also given the ability to upload their own photographs or choose from a list of Flickr photos registered under a Creative Commons license for addition to the post. Captions can be written as well to clarify the meaning of the photograph.

Voting
Another common feature among social bookmarking websites is the ability to vote for content. Users who enjoy reading an article/seed or agree with its content are encouraged to vote for the content. Articles and seeds with the most votes appear in the “Top Wire,” “Top Seeds,” or “Top of the Vine” sections of the site.

Newsvine also allows for users to vote for comments that they enjoyed reading. This aspect of commenting encourages better content and friendly discussions. When a comment receives at least five votes, a green star is placed in the upper right-hand corner, signifying that many users enjoyed or agreed with the comment. Clicking the star will lead viewers to the next highly rated comment.

Negative votes are also registered, and a comment that receives too many negative votes will often be collapsed, so that it can only be viewed by deliberately opening it. This limits discussion under that comment, since new comments under it will not be seen automatically.

Commenting
The ability to comment on seeds and articles allows for extra discussions regarding the content to take place. While debates are welcome, useless, insulting, and self-promoting comments are not. If a comment receives enough reports, that comment will be collapsed and its contents can only be shown by choosing to expand it. The Newsvine comment system also allows for threaded comments, easing the confusion of comment direction. While users do not yet have the ability to edit or delete their own comments, writers are allowed to delete comments on their own content. Unregistered users are also allowed to have their say, but comments by unregistered users are not made public until that user creates a registered account.

User Columns
Newsvine user columns give users the ability to manage and share their articles, seeds, friends, recommendations, and other statistical information. Every user has one, and each is given their own subdomain to access it (<user>.newsvine.com). User columns are customizable: aspects of the layouts can be moved or hidden, a user photo and biography can be added, a header (such as a welcome message) can be added, friends can be invited to Newsvine or added to your friends list, recommendations (such as favorite books, bands, blogs, etc.) can be shown, and comments and feedback from other users can be managed. Also, through user columns, members have the ability to add others to their watchlist and friend list or to send another a chat invitation.

Earnings
Newsvine tells users that they will receive 90% of ad revenue from ads on their personal Newsvine pages. These earnings are “based on traffic to your articles and seeds,” but it is unclear exactly how Newsvine calculate earnings. The remaining 10% go to whoever referred the user to Newsvine, or for site maintenance if there was no referrer. Newsvine does not publish the amount of revenue that has so far gone to users.

Chat Lobby
The Chat Lobby is a section of Newsvine that manages the various chat rooms available or open. Every article or seed on Newsvine has the ability to have a chat room created for it, where users can discuss the subject matter real-time rather than posting a comment. While this feature is not often used, the capability is there for those users that want to participate in a discussion.

Watchlist
If a user finds a particular writer or tag that he/she enjoys to read content from, it can be added to the Watchlist. Watchlists are lists of members and tags that a user can compile to easily find interesting news. Items on a user’s watchlist appear on the left column and, if there is content that the user has not read by a watchlisted author or tag, a number will appear next to the item name signifying how many articles or seeds have not been read.

Conversation Tracker
Much like the Watchlist, the Conversation Tracker allows users to track other members. However, the Conversation Tracker is a notifier of new comments. There are three sections to the Conversation Tracker: new comments from a user’s Newsvine column, new comments from articles that a user has commented on, and new comments from an article a user’s friend has commented on. If a user has added members to the friend list that share a common interest in content, the Conversation Tracker can act as a list of recommended articles.

Friends List
The Friends List gives users the ability to meet new people and find others with common interests, but there are no requirements in doing so. Creating a populated friends list gives users the ability to find interesting new articles through the Conversation Tracker. Once a user adds a friend to the list, the added friend receives a notification and is given the ability to accept or decline the offer.

Vineacity

Vineacity is a measure of six different elements that contribute to a Newsvine user’s overall rating as a positive influence to the Newsvine community. Earned as ‘branches’ on a Newsvine logo icon displayed next to the user’s name, the six areas of excellence include:

  • Courtesy – Earned when a user’s positive feedback outweighs any abuse reports they may have received.
  • Longevity – Earned when the users has been active for at least two months after registering.
  • Fruitfulness – Earned when the user has submitted a substantial amount of content or comments that have received votes.
  • Connectedness – Earned when the user appears on a substantial number of watch-lists and/or friend-lists.
  • Random Act of Vineness – Earned for an exceptional moment of greatness on Newsvine.
  • Lifetime achievement – Earned when a user has received a combined number of votes on all articles, links and comments around Newsvine.

 Newsvine is known to have had only 6 employees at the time the deal was announced.

About MSNBC

MSNBC.com is a privately run news organization started by Microsoft and NBC in 1996. The site is one of the most decorated, highly trafficked news sites on the web, serving more than 29 million unique visitors per month. Contrary to popular belief, msnbc.com is run independently from both Microsoft and NBC and even the MSNBC news channel. It is its own organization, headquartered in Redmond, and has been growing and profitable for several years now. MSNBC.com employs about 200 people.

More

http://www.newsvine.com/
http://www.newsvine.com/_cms/info/companyinfo
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21138371
http://blog.newsvine.com/
http://blog.newsvine.com/_news/2007/10/07/1008889-msnbccom-acquires-newsvine
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/newsvine_acquired_by_msnbc.php
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_state_of_citizen_journalism_pt1_newsvine.php
http://www.centernetworks.com/future-of-web-apps-mike-davidson
http://www.centernetworks.com/newsvine-acquired-msnbc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsvine
http://www.calvintang.com/blog/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/breaking-newsvine-acquired-by-msnbccom/
http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2007/10/msnbc.com-acquires-newsvine
http://www.fimoculous.com/archive/post-3267.cfm
http://tang.newsvine.com/_news/2007/10/07/1008988-the-future-of-newsvine-and-what-it-means-to-you
http://www.quantcast.com/newsvine.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/newsvine.com/?metric=uv
http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/CompanyDetail.aspx?CompanyID=98714299&cs=QHF4kK7Uk&pc=compete

Naspers Acquired Polish based IM Company Gadu Gadu (chit-chat)

South Africa’s biggest media group Naspers Ltd offered to buy all outstanding shares in Polish Internet firm Gadu Gadu S.A. (GADU.WA), a Polish IM service, for 23.50 zlotys ($8.77) per share. The current majority shareholder of Gadu Gadu has agreed to tender its 55% shareholding in the public tender offer. In order to gain 100% acceptance of this tender offer the total investment will amount to around $155 million. Gadu Gadu (GG) is listed on the Warsaw stock exchange (Poland), and Naspers will launch a public offer to buy the shares. As a side note Poland became a European Union member in early 2004.  Poland is the EU’s fifth most populous country with 38 million inhabitants, exhibiting fast growth in the penetration of broadband connectivity, usage of the internet and online internet advertising.

Gadu Gadu is one of Poland’s largest instant messaging companies, with millions of unique users, mainly in Poland, and a 43% share of the Polish market. It also has a social network mojageneracja, which has just under million uniques. Gadu Gadu is one of the many entrants for the instant messaging market. Should Naspers get this public tender offer, it will be adding to its global reach, especially in Europe, where it’s somewhat less influential than some of the other countries it has a presence in.

Gadu-Gadu stands for “chit-chat” in Polish and is commonly known as GG or gg and is a Polish instant messaging client.

Gadu-Gadu runs under Windows 98/2000/Me/XP/2003/Vista and is operating under the license of adware. Gadu-Gadu makes money by displaying advertisements. Just like with ICQ, users are identified by their serial numbers. There are numerous add-ons available to provide extra features. The official version provides over 150 smiley icons, and allows off-line messages, data dispatch, and VoIP. Since version 6.0, an experimental SSL secure connection mode can be used.

One of the most popular features of Gadu-Gadu is the status option, allowing users to display short text messages visible under their buddy icons on other users’ contact lists. Gadu-Gadu uses its own proprietary protocol. Many unofficial plug-ins have been created to expand its capabilities. Even though Gadu-Gadu service provider officially forbids to access the network with 3rd party applications (changes in use Terms and Conditions introduced in 2006), several other instant messengers have the ability to communicate with GG protocol such as:

  • Kadu, an open-source instant messenger similar to Gadu-Gadu (Linux/Macintosh)
  • Tlen.pl, a Polish instant messenger (Windows)
  • Miranda IM (Windows)
  • Adium (Macintosh)
  • Proteus (Macintosh)
  • Pidgin / Finch (multi-platform)
  • Kopete (multi-platform)
  • AmiGG (AmigaOS and MorphOS)
  • EKG (Linux/Macintosh) console client
  • GNU Gadu (Linux/Macintosh)

Gadu-Gadu is the most popular IM in Poland. There are over 7.8 million registered accounts, and every day approximately 6.5 million users are online.

Many users consider the latest version too overloaded by unnecessary addons (Gadu-Gadu Radio Station etc.), so the older versions (especially 6.1 build 158) are still as popular as the new one. However, the new version is generally regarded as being much more stable.

Gadu Gadu S.A. was established in 2000.

About Naspers

Naspers is a multinational media company with principal operations in electronic media (including pay-television, internet and instant-messaging subscriber platforms and the provision of related technologies) and print media (including the publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books, and the provision of private education services). Naspers’ most significant operations are located in South Africa, where it generates approximately 76.4% of its revenues, with other operations located elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand and China. Naspers creates media content, builds brand names around it, and manages the platforms distributing the content. Naspers delivers its content in a variety of forms and through a variety of channels, including television platforms, internet services, newspapers, magazines and books. Many of Naspers’ businesses hold leading market positions, and Naspers capitalises on these strong positions when expanding into new markets.

As a side note early this year Naspers announced voluntary delisting from NASDAQ and instead Naspers Limited Received Listing Approval for London Stock Exchange. Naspers is listed on the stock exchange in Johannesburg and up to date stock quote can be found over here: http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=NPNJn.J

With the current acquisition Naspers is hoping to expand its instant messaging services beyond what it already owns in the sector. Naspers operates local IM/online services in Russia (Mail.ru), China (Tencent) and Thailand (M-Web/Sanook).

The company is headquartered in Cape Town, RSA. 

More

http://www.gadu-gadu.pl/
http://www.naspers.co.za/pdfs/press_04_october_2007.pdf
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-south-africas-naspers-offers-to-buy-polish-im-service-gadu-gadu-for-155/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/04/naspers-gadu-gadu/
http://www.naspers.com/English/home.asp
http://www.reuters.com/article/mergersNews/idUSWEB835920071004
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadu-Gadu
http://finance.paidcontent.org/paidcontent?GUID=3379356&Page=MediaViewer&Ticker=NPSN
http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=GADU.WA

Small round for Mesmo.tv

The social video bookmarking and recommending service Mesmo.TV and provider of a very popular Facebook application, has secured over half of a $900,000 round of Series A financing.

Mesmo.TV’s Davin Miyoshi informed the public that Aydin Senkut’s Felicis Ventures, Mike Maples’ Maples Investments, Naval Ravikant’s The Hit Forge, and Georges Harik participated in the round. Simply put their tool allows users to rate and tag the videos that they enjoy. Mesmo.TV is then recommending videos to you and introduces you to other viewers with similar viewing habits and interests.

This tool, however, has not turned out to be the most successful part of Mesmo.TV’s business. The company’s TV Show Trivia  Facebook application, which launched in August, has garnered over 1.3 million users and over 125,000 daily unique visitors. This puts the application amongst the top 45 applications on Facebook, and made Mesmo.TV the largest TV show community on that social network.

Mesmo.TV plans to continue focusing on its social network efforts and looks forward to expanding to other networks, such as MySpace, who might open up in the near future. The company is also talking with TV networks to bring online videos to its users.
About Mesmo TV

“Mesmo TV” (formerly called TV Show Trivia) is the largest social TV application and community on the Facebook Platform. On Mesmo TV you can play TV trivia, discuss your favorite shows and share your favorite characters and quotes with your facebook friends. MesmoTV is building highly engaging, fun, social TV applications that that allow you to engage with your friends and favorite shows.

Mesmo.TV has been funded by a group of talented and successful entrepreneurs and some of the key people are listed below.

Davin Miyoshi Co-founder/CEO 
Jesse Hull Co-founder/CTO 
Debarshi Kar Co-founder/VP of Engineering 
Daphne Carmeli Board Member 
Auren Hoffman Board Member 
Cindy McCaffrey Board Member 
Munjal Shah Board Member 
Ben T. Smith, IV Board Member 
Aydin Senkut Investor 
Mike Maples Investor 
Naval Ravikant Investor 
Georges Harik Investor 

More

http://www.mesmo.tv/
http://blog.mesmo.tv/2007/05/about-us.html
http://apps.facebook.com/tvtrivia/?entrySource=mesmohomepage
http://apps.bebo.com/mesmotv/?entrySource=mesmohomepage
http://apps.facebook.com/tvtrivia/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mesmo.tv
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/04/social-video-company-mesmotv-raises-900000-of-series-a-funding/
http://www.pehub.com/article/articledetail.php?articlepostid=8047
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/17/mesmotv-discovers-videos-you-like/

Sportingo has raised $3.2 in funding, moves to London

Sportingo, a sports fan portal and blogging community, has raised $3.2 million in funding from London-based Ingenious Media. 

Launched early this year in Israel, Sportingo is a site where users can write their own match reviews and commentary, and discuss others’ content. With the type of content that’s created on Sportingo, this is very much a blogging community for users to contribute to the larger discussion around different sports. A wide range of sports is covered on Sportingo, from cycling to swimming, cricket and rugby to soccer and beyond.

Sportingo is known to have already acquired a UK soccer blog, CaughtOffside, in June. The site has since opened an office in London. This deal could be classified as employment through acquisition this way effectively hiring the CaughtOffside’s author Chris Toy as chief editor.

The founder of the company is the Israeli Ze’ev Rozov who has recently moved from Israel to London, UK.

About Sportingo

Sportingo is all about sport. Whether we follow football, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, cycling, darts or tiddly winks, as fans, the main thing that we all share, is a passion for our sport. This passion has led to many late nights, arguments over pints of beer and cups of tea and neglect of partners and friends, whilst we debate the greatest sporting moments of all time, the top football players and their monetary worth, the virtues of one day international cricket matches and the need to retain the tradition of Rugby Union and Rugby League as 2 different games.

Sportingo is about fans sharing their opinions with the sports community. All fans are invited to register and write articles about any sport related event ranging from match reviews and team performances to nostalgia articles about memorable moments in sport.

Sportingo is about fans writing for fans; fans commenting and ranking the articles of other fans; fans deciding what are the topical and important stories of the day, fans setting the sport agenda.

Sportingo recently acquired the award winning football blog CaughtOffside. CaughtOffside was founded in 2006 and quickly became a leading football blog in the UK and across the world. The site focuses primarily on English football clubs and has developed a strong culture and reputation amongst the online football community.

Sportingo exists for the fans and because of the fans. As fans you are part of the website’s success. We welcome you and look forward to your contributions.

About Ingenious

Ingenious is an independent and integrated group of companies advising and investing solely in media, thereby providing a unique service to clients and investors.

Founded in 1998 by Patrick McKenna, Ingenious is one of the leading investors in the UK’s creative industries.

Our collective knowledge and experience has positioned us as the market leader in media investment and strategy and through our extensive network of relationships we are able to provide an unrivalled service to our clients.

We have the necessary depth of professional experience and expertise to provide both a high level of advisory services and investment to companies operating in the film, television, music, games and publishing sectors.

Our independence and impartiality allow us to work with a broad spectrum of other advisers, companies and financial institutions. We understand the needs of both the media sector and the investment community, thereby enabling us to work easily with both.

Alongside our private equity investments and project financing capability, we offer a range of media consultancy and corporate finance services and, through our asset management division, provide innovative solutions to the private investor.

More

[ http://www.sportingo.com/ ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/10/02/sportingo-funded/ ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-sports-fan-portal-sportingo-wins-65-funding-for-marketing-and-developme/ ]
[ http://www.ingeniousmedia.co.uk/flash.htm ]
[ http://www.sportingo.com/about_us/1001,4 ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.co.uk/entry/419-sports-fan-portal-sportingo-wins-32-funding-for-marketing-and-developme/ ]
[ http://sportingoblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/new-round-of-funding.html ]
[ http://sportingoblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/move-to-london.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 ]

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 ]
 

Troubles and security issues in SecondLife and other virtual worlds

The Mercury News has a story where savvy security researchers have found a flaw in Second Life virtual world that allows them to strip a user’s character of all of its in-world money.

Charles Miller and Dino Dai Zovi, two experienced hackers, claim they have found a vulnerability in the way Second Life protects a user’s money inside the virtual world from being stolen. It has significance because that currency, dubbed Linden dollars, can be converted into real world dollars. But the risks for Linden Lab, the San Francisco operator of Second Life, are limited because the researchers say the flaw can be quickly patched.

Miller, a researcher at security firm Independent Security Evaluators in Baltimore, gained some notoriety this summer when he found a way to hack Apple’s iPhone. He said that he and Dai Zovi found the flaw by exploiting a known problem with Apple’s QuickTime movie playback software, which is used to play movies inside the virtual world. That QuickTime flaw was exposed on Monday and the pair completed their hack in a few days. That gave an opening to Dai Zovi and Miller, who had been mulling over Second Life security for months.

The exploit works because Second Life allows users to embed videos or pictures on their character’s or their virtual property. When someone comes nearby and is within view of the object, the Second Life software activates QuickTime so it can play the video or picture. In doing so, QuickTime directs the Second Life software to a web site. By exploiting the flaw in QuickTime, the hackers can direct the Second Life software to a malicious web site that then allows them to take over the Second Life avatar.

When we last tried to reach the page at ISE where the security problem is said to be explained in details the page http://www.securityevaluators.com/sl did not open.

In another story Swedish authorities said in January 2007 they would clamp down on Swedes earning money through Internet games such as Second Life.

Indeed, while Second Life may have started as a utopian world where gamers, geeks, and technophiles could gather and immerse themselves into the pure and innocent escapism of a genuine second life, the rocketing popularity of Linden Lab’s online world has now begun attracting the attentions of people that intent on destruction, and even violence, reports the Concorde Monitor.

Here are some recent incidents that happen at SecondLife’s and other virtual worlds around Internet.

  1. Australian broadcaster ABC has its luxury island turned into a crater by angry hackers.
  2. Worrying reports of rape and child abuse have started to gather around the supposedly idyllic existence to be ‘enjoyed’ in Second Life.
  3. The above mentioned rape incident, which took place earlier in 2007, caused outrage when with one virtual avatar sexually assaulted by another.
  4. The police in Belgium opened an investigation into, not who perpetrated said rape, but whether an actual crime had been committed.
  5. 17-year-old Dutch teenager was arrested this week on suspicion of stealing furniture worth £2,800 from a hotel room in the three-dimensional world Habbo Hotel, a children’s game that only exists on the internet.
  6. German authorities have also homed in on an incident of sexual abuse involving live images of a child avatar having simulated sex with an adult avatar.
  7. Virtual gangs killing off lone in-game players and stealing their wares, which are later sold on for real-world profit.
  8. Shanghai-based 41-year-old Legend of Mir 3 online gamer stabbing another cheating player repeatedly in the chest after he stole an in-game weapon reportedly worth some $850 USD.
  9. British cops will be going undercover in Second Life to investigate depictions of adult-child sex and track down pedophiles

All of this, of course, promotes the question of whether a virtual world such as Second Life should be governed by a virtual police force.

Independent Security Evaluators‘ mission is to provide the outside technical resources companies need to control their technology risk. The experts at ISE have vast experience in every facet of security. The team includes computer scientists, electrical engineers, and cryptographers. ISE experts have testified before Congress, served as expert witnesses, participated in creating standards, and evaluated systems for both government and private industry.

ISE researchers have published several influential books and dozens of scientific papers in the top refereed conferences and journals. They have also analyzed and helped repair several widely used commercial systems. ISE was formed to offer this expertise to the private sector.

On the other side, in respond to the security issues pointed out by the hackers, Joe Miller, VP, Linden Lab in San Francisco, CA has replied:

I want to reiterate that this is an Apple QuickTime issue, not a flaw inherent in Second Life, and as such, affects all platforms and browsers that use QT. Second Life remains a viable environment for conducting business, with a stable economy and the appropriate Resident and economic controls in place.

Linden Lab alerted all Second Life Residents of this exploit both on the official Linden Lab blog and at log-in on Friday afternoon. In addition, the Second Life community is doing a great job of spreading the word, and letting their fellow residents know about the potential issues surrounding the use of QT. I can assure you that no other affected platform is communicating with their customers as thoroughly as we are.

We have measures in place to deal with this type of exploited vulnerability – including the ability to log and track URLs, identify the attackers and take the appropriate measures, as well as making sure that affected Residents are reimbursed if they should lose any Linden dollars.

We’re hopeful Apple will remedy this problem as soon as possible, and we pledge to alert Residents as soon as the fix has been made.

According to the Second Life’s website, there were 6,491,898 residents in its alternative reality.  Second Life, created by San Francisco technology company Linden Lab, has attracted several real-world companies, including car manufacturers and sports clothing makers, which created 3-D stores.

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe. From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business. You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other Residents. The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world unit-of-trade, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden Dollar exchanges.

Other virtual worlds include:

Entropia Universe ( http://www.entropiauniverse.com/ ), the Swedish virtual world, which had a turnover of $365m last year.

Habbo ( http://www.habbo.com/), owned by a Finnish company, Sulake, boasts more than 80 million members today.

VOY Plaza Virtual ( http://www.voyplaza.com/vpv.html )

There.com ( http://There.com.com )

Club Penguin ( http://www.clubpenguin.com/) recently sold to Disney.

Active Worlds ( http://www.activeworlds.com/ )

Barbie Girls ( http://www.barbiegirls.com/ )

Cyworld ( http://us.cyworld.com/ )

Dubit ( http://www.dubitchat.com/ )

Faketown ( http://www.faketown.com/ )

BBC’s Adventure Rock ( http://bbc.co.uk/cbbc/adventurerock )

World of Warcraft ( http://worldofwarcraft.com )

Gaia ( http://www.gaiaonline.com/ ). The game has just got funded by Sony Pictures.

IMVU ( http://www.imvu.com/ )

Kaneva ( http://www.kaneva.com/ )

Millsberry ( http://millsberry.com/ )

Mokitown ( http://www.mobile-kids.net/ )

Neopets ( http://www.neopets.com/ )

Red Light Center (NSFW) ( http://redlightcenter.com/ )

Webkinz ( http://www.webkinz.com/ )

Zwinktopia by InterActiveCorp ( http://www.zwinktopia.com/ )

Openlife Grid ( http://www.openlifegrid.com/) Public Grid with Opensim Technology.

ViOS – ViOS 3D Internet Viewer ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ViOS )

Whyville ( http://www.whyville.net/top/index.html )

Citypixel ( http://www.citypixel.com/ )

Weblo ( http://www.weblo.com/ )

  

Via

[ http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/takahashi/2007/11/30/exclusive-hackers-say-they-can-pick-pockets-of-characters-in-second-life-virtual-world /]
[ http://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/659761 ]
[ http://www.securityevaluators.com/sl/ ]
[ http://secondlife.com/whatis/ ]
[ http://www.thelocal.se/7347/20070518/ ]
[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/nov/17/internet.crime ]
[ http://metasecurity.net/2007/06/05/crime-rife-in-virtual-second-life/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/05/virtual-world-hangouts-so-many-to-choose-from ]
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world ]
[ http://www.virtualworldsreview.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/ ]
 

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 ]

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 ]