TWiST #221 News Websites
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TWiST #221 News

News stories we're covering for This Week in Startups Episode #221, airing on Friday, January 6th, will be posted here. This is an open list, so in addition to voting for the stories you want to hear about, now you can go to the bottom of the page and suggest your own! The big startup and tech industry stories from the week that get the most votes will be featured on the show, and if you suggested them, we may even give you a shoutout on the air! And don't forget to click through to Page 2 to see all the stories we're working on!

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    The Incubator Debate

    *Andrew Clay Shafer recently wrote in a blog post that he thinks the recent "explosion of incubators" isn’t necessarily a good thing *Shafer argued that, unless an incubator can make hand-offs to investors personally, or get the right audience in the room for demo day, then the value of the program is severely limited *In an article about the post, Om Malik said that he believes most incubators will end up flaming out *QUESTION: Do you agree with Om? Is there a glut of incubators and are they helping or harming the startup ecosystem? *Shafer's article:

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    Yahoo! Hires Scott Thompson as CEO

    *Thompson leaves a job running eBay’s large PayPal online payments unit *In an interview with AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, Thompson says he was approached in November about the Yahoo job, although sources said it was just offered this week and took eBay by surprise *Of the position, Thompson said: "Its potential is still enormous, but the dialogue has not been about what the company is. I want to get this wonderful brand to where it could be again … so, as a starting point, this is a great starting point." *Thompson admitted that his lack of advertising experience could be problematic, as it’s Yahoo’s biggest business *QUESTION: Was Thompson the right hire and will he be able to make any substantial changes? Or would someone with more ad experience have been a better choice? *SOURCE: AllThingsD

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    Google+ Sees Massive Membership Growth

    *Google+ recently had its strongest-month ever and, at least according to one analyst, is on track to reach 400 million users by the end of the year *Experian Hitwise reported Monday that Google’s social networking site experienced a huge traffic jump in December and more than doubled its traffic in just one month *Google+ has declined to comment on its membership numbers, but founder and analyst Paul Allen told the Daily Mail that the site recently surpassed the 62 million members mark *That would mean that, of those 62M members, 25% of them signed up in December alone *This growth rate is significant since Facebook (now at 800M users) didn’t pass 60 million members until nearly four years after its debut * At this rate, Allen predicts Google+ will reach 400 million users by the end of 2012 *QUESTION: Do you think Google+ membership will pass Facebook in the f*ture? Will the increase in Android phone sales be a big contributing factor to G+’s success? *SOURCE: Mashable

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    Walmart Labs Makes Tech Acquisition

    *Wal-Mart’s technology division, Walmart Labs, has acquired Small Society, a mobile agency in Portland, Ore, for an undisclosed sum *In a blog post, Wal-Mart said the company will join another acquisition it made in the Northwest, and both will work closely with its Silicon Valley offices *Small Society has developed apps for large organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, Zipcar and Starbucks *Walmart Labs was born in April 2011with the $300 million purchase of Kosmix, whose founders now run the division *QUESTION: Why would Walmart chose to build its own e-comm platforms and social media tools rather than rely on existing options? *SOURCE: AllThingsD

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    Chrome Extension Warns You When You Browse A SOPA-Supporter's Website

    *The Chrome browser extenstion ‘No SOPA’ gives users a warning message reading "SOPA Supporter! This company is a known supporter of the dangerous 'Stop Online Piracy Act'," every time they visit a SOPA-supporting Web site *SOPA would block access to sites accused of violating U.S. copyright laws and could be up for a vote in the Senate as early as Jan. 24 *The measure has been called Draconian by opponents who say it would fundamentally change the free-flow of information across the Internet *Proponents, however, say the measure is needed to block sites which flagrantly flaunt copyright laws and make content available for free without paying copyright owners *Hackers have already been working on other fixes to use if the law passes, including a satellite network and a Firefox add-on that directs the browser directly to a blocked site's IP address *Such extensions are being created in part to show the regulations, if passed, will be ineffective in stopping traffic to blacklisted sites. *QUESTION: Anyone want to step up to defend SOPA? *SOURCE: ReadWriteWeb

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    Amazon Further Squeezes Retail Chains

    *Major retail chains released their December sales figures, which were largely disappointing, while Amazon’s outlook remained bright *Wall Street forecasts a 40% year-over-year sales growth for Amazon in the last quarter *Barnes & Noble—whose biggest competitor is Amazon—expects retail same-store-sales to grow a meager 1% this year *Target’s December sales were below expectations in Electronics & Music, and Movies & Books *Best Buy also reported lousy sales growth and predicted declining margins, with comparable store sales growing only 0.3% during Q4 *While e-commerce makes up less than 5% of U.S. retail sales, that number continues to grow while brick-and-mortar figures decline *QUESTIONS: Amazon has had success with the Kindle Fire, so should they still be focusing most of their energy on e-commerce or hardware--or both? *SOURCE: SplatF

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    Iowa Tested Social Media's Ability To Make Political Predictions

    *Although politicians are active in the social media sphere, Twitter, Facebook and the like didn’t appear to play much of a role in Mitt Romney’s victory in the Iowa Caucus *Jenn Deering Davis of TweetReach, a social media analytics service, said, "We track more tweets in an hour about a single TV show than we have in five days about all nine candidates" *If the outcome had been predicted by social media scorecards alone, Ron Paul would have been the clear-cut winner, as he garnered considerable pre-caucus hype on Twitter and in the tech press *However it was Romney who got the most number of retweets, with an average of 150, followed by Paul at 110 *While SM serves as a way for voters to connect and follow their favored candidates, undecided voters seem to still be turning to mainstream and traditionally objective media sources *88% of U.S. social media users are registered to vote, but the average Twitter user's age is 31, and younger people tend not to make it out to the polls on election day *During the 2010 midterm elections, 22% of online Americans said they used social media to follow politics *QUESTION: While political movements like Occupy have taken off with the help of social media, when will we see it become a bigger factor in elections? *SOURCE: ReadWriteWeb

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    A HIPAA-Compliant Social Network?

    *Careverge launched this week as a privacy-focused (and HIPAA-compliant) social platform for health and fitness, where users share highly personal information about themselves under pseudonyms *The site aims to be a resourceful community, as well as a "gamification" service that incentivizes better health *Users can do things like set up and track fitness goals and get SMS reminders to take medication *Careverge was started by Audax Health, a D.C.-based company that has raised $16M in venture funding *The business model is to make money from health insurers, who give their customers promo codes to sign up for Careverge anonymously, in return for deductions on premiums *Insurers receive anonymized information about their members, with the intent of reducing costs by having healthier customers *QUESTIONS: Are niche services like this the f*ture of social networking? How much private data do you think people are willing to give up, even with the supposed assurance of privacy? SOURCE: AllThingsD

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    Zynga’s First Post-IPO Game Intends to Capitalize on Hidden Objects Trend

    *Zynga launched Hidden Chronicles this week, the company’s first-ever "hidden objects" game on Facebook *The game is seemingly designed to compete with Gardens of Time by Disney’s Playdom division, the most popular game of 2011 on Facebook *The launch is important to Zynga since it marks one of the first times it is branching out from creating ’Ville games *The games FarmVille and CityVille laid the foundation for Zynga’s $1 billion public offering in December *The premise of the game is that your Uncle Geoffrey has died under suspicious circumstances, and he’s left behind a number of clues to solve the mystery *Some of the puzzle solving is based on interacting with friends, but you can chose to pay to unlock clues if you wish to play solo *QUESTION: Zynga’s stock is currently at $9.19/share, just below its $10 opening figure. What’s the outlook? Will new games like this have a big impact? *SOURCE: AllThingsD

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    Kanye West Hiring “Tech Guys” for New Startup

    *After a long sabattical from his Twitter account, Kanye West returned to the internet last night with a flurry of thoughts *The big news, he is forming a new company, DONDA (named after his late mother) *It’s not entirely clear what the mission of the company is, but it seems like the tech set can get involved: *"I am assembling a team of architects, graphic designers, directors musicians, producers, writers, publicist[s], social media experts, app guys, managers, car designers, clothing designers, DJs, video game designers, publishers, tech guys, lawyers, bankers, nutritionist, doctors, scientist, teachers. DONDA will be comprised of over 22 divisions with a goal to make products and experiences that people want and can afford." *QUESTIONS: Too many to ask. *SOURCE: Betabeat

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    The Facebook “After Death” App

    *If I Die is a Facebook app that allows you to send out pre-recorded last wishes and post messages to your friends years after you’re gone *After installing the app, you choose three "trustees" (Facebook friends) who are charged with verifying your death *When your trustees confirm your death, your messages can be published all at once to your Facebook wall or released on a designated schedule *If I Die currently only publishes to a user’s public profile, but private messages and even messages that can be sent to people not on Facebook are in the works *The public postings will be free to use, though the private messages will work on an annual subscription model *QUESTION: Is this unbelievably morbid, a valuable service or both? Will other social networks move to adopt more posthumous features like this? *SOURCE: Mashable

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