Facebook Buys Instagram for $1B (and How It Helped 2 Ex-Gowallans)
Of course, earlier this week, Facebook acquired the mobile photo app juggernaut Instagram for a cool $1 billion. The 13-person company - founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger - had built up an empire of over 30 million users in just two years after launch. The app was only available for iOS up until last week when it became available in the Android app store and got more than a million new users in under 12 hours. Systrom and Zuckerberg both pledged to keep Instagram alive and well inside of FB
The fact that Facebook was shelling out so much for a photo sharing service that would be relatively simple to replicate - and a company that has no revenue - fueled further "tech bubble" speculation.
All that aside, PandoDaily uncovered an interesting sidenote to the Facebook/Instagram saga. It seems that, though the team was about 30 strong at the time of its acquisition by Facebook, only 4 former Gowalla employees actually work at Facebook. Two of the ex-Gowalla team - Philip McAllister and Tim Van Damme - didn't make it to Facebook for whatever reason, and instead wound up at, of all places, Instagram after Gowalla got purchased. Now they'll end up working for Zuck anyway... but at a significantly higher pay rate.
QUESTIONS: Instagram makes no money AND most of its 30 million members probably already have Facebook accounts. It’s out of character for Facebook to make such a large acquisition. Is that a tell that they saw Instagram as a serious threat? Was it worth $1 billion? Why? Why do you think so few Gowalla team members ended up at Facebook?
SOURCE: Pando Daily
Google+ Gets Revamped Navigation
This week, Google+ got a revamped navigation with drag-and-drop elements and actions that appear when you hover over individual names or items. Also introduced were new features aimed at making it easier to find active conversations, new profile pages, a dedicated page for Google+ Hangouts and more.
The new interface moves all the navigation off to the side, and it's more customizable, allowing users to reorder the icons as they wish. As you hover over each icon, related actions will appear. For example, hover over Photos for access to a big red button to "Add Photos" from either your phone or album.
The Explore icon is also a new addition, taking you to a page showing the trending and popular content across the network. This is reminiscent in some ways of Twitter's "trending topics" feature, and hopefully improves on the "What's Hot" box that has graced the service for the past few months.
Hangouts, one of the network’s main selling points, are now more of a focus, with a dedicated featuring a list of Hangout invitations from people in your Circles. It's also easier to find and join live, public Hangouts, and there's a rotating billboard showing popular Hangouts.
In a press release, Google touted G+ as having over 170 million users--but it's worth noting that includes people who share via Search, Gmail and YouTube.
QUESTION: Why has G+ failed to take off so far? Can a new design and amped-up features draw traffic into Google+?
Yammer Acquires OneDrum
Yammer made its first acquisition this week when it bought OneDrum for an undisclosed sum. OneDrum is a British start-up that produces a collaborative app for use with Microsoft Office. The company is still early-stage, with just 10 employees and a combined $2M in capital raised.
Yammer users will now be able to see the contents of the folders they share with other people on the service, as well as collaborate on Office documents live. Yammer CEO David Sacks highlighted the added convenience of Yammer with OneDrum, including updates Yammer whenever documents are altered, plus the ability to text search from Yammer for any documents that are being shared.
When Yammer raised a $85M funding round last month, they signaled that they planned to use some of the money to make acquisitions. Last year, Jive, a rival service to Yammer, purchased OffiSync, another Microsoft Office collaboration tool, for $30 million.
QUESTION: Expect any more acquisitions from Yammer?
Facebook Opens Up Access to User Data
Facebook announced this week that it has updated and expanded the "Download Your Information" tool, which allows users to backup and store detailed information about your account and social networking activity. More detailed information will be available, including whole new categories of data, such as previous names, friend requests you’ve made and IP addresses from which you've accessed the service.
Since 2010, the Facebook account history archive already allows users to obtain a copy of photos, posts, messages, a list of friends and chat conversations. The social network had previously come under fire over its access to private information and its use of personal data for third-party apps and advertising services. Facebook says it will roll out the update gradually, adding more data to it in the near future. The company also stressed that users will only be allowed to access this information on their own accounts, and the status updates, photos and so on uploaded by friends will not be available. Even user comments made to threads started by other users will be blocked.
QUESTION: Do you think access to this information may help users understand how much information they're sharing with Facebook? Is this a sign that Zuckerberg may be rethinking his approach to privacy, or just a PR move?
SOURCE: The Next Web
Apple Has a $600B Market Cap
Although the broader market was down, shares in Apple rose to a new 52-week high on Tuesday: $644
That jump was enough to carry Apple’s market cap across the $600B threshold. The new milestone came only a month after the company reached the $500B mark.
Apple is the second company ever with a market cap this large. The first was Microsoft, which nabbed a $604 billion market capitalization in December of 1999. Apple’s market cap is the largest in the world by a good measure, gaining ground against the former record-holder, Exxon Mobil.
QUESTION: If the $600B threshold has been broken, is it inevitable that Apple will eventually reach a trillion dollar cap? Think the loss of Steve Jobs will have any long-term negative impact on Apple's value or financial future?
Microsoft Buys Part of Netscape
Microsoft announced this week that it is buying a large portion of Netscape from AOL. The deal is one part of a $1 billion patent sale that AOL and Microsoft announced on Monday. As part of the transaction, AOL announced that it was selling off "stock of an AOL subsidiary" at a loss. The subsidiary in question? Netscape. Microsoft will buy the underlying patents for the old browser; AOL will retain the brand and the related Netscape businesses.
Netscape's web browser was once dominant, but in 1995, the company memorably lost a significant chunk of its user base to Internet Explorer in what was then referred to as the "browser wars."
QUESTION: What does Microsoft want with these patents? Think they're planning the next round of costly patent lawsuits?
Apple Slapped with an Anti-Trust Lawsuit
The U.S. government hit Apple and five of the nation's largest publishers with an antitrust lawsuit, alleging they conspired to limit competition in the sale and pricing of e-books. Specifically, the government claims the publishers met as a group about once a quarter, "in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants," and mutually agreed raise prices and block Amazon from selling e-books at $9.99. Along with collaboration from Apple, the group pursued the so-called "agency model" of book sales, in which publishers set the sales price without input from retailers. Amazon was given a choice of either accepting the agency model or losing the right to sell new titles until months after their release.
Three of the publishers - Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins - settled the U.S. suit and agreed to let Amazon and other retailers set the consumer price of e-books. Penguin Group (USA) and Macmillan are the other two publishers named in the suit.
Atty. General Eric Holder said of the suit, "As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles." Apple has responded as well, saying "The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry... Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore."
A separate settlement with states could lead to tens of millions of dollars in restitution to consumers who bought e-books.
QUESTION: How damning for Apple are the accusations in the suit? Does it sound like someone on the inside of Apple or one of the other publishing houses talked to the government?
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal
Are Google and Amazon Eyeing Travelzoo?
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Travelzoo, the 14-year-old deals site, is planning to sell itself. After apparently receiving some takeover interest from private equity firms, the company started seeking a financial adviser, setting off speculation that a sale was imminent. Their stock soared by nearly 30% after the news broke, gaining $6 to close at $27.06
A pioneer in the daily deals business, Travelzoo has been sending subscribers a weekly email highlighting what it calls the top 20 travel deals for more than a decade.
AllThingsD speculates that Google - which snapped up ITA Software and memorably tried to purchase newsletter-based deals giant Groupon - may be interested in Travelzoo, but also names Amazon, Expedia and Priceline as potential buyers.
Travelzoo’s revenue stream is based on an advertising model where companies pay a fee to get in front of its large email audience. The company’s market value is hovering around $300 million - the main sources of value are a sales team and its list of subscribers.
In 2011, the company reported revenues of $148 million, up from $112 million over the same period during the previous year.
QUESTION: With so many startups vying for acquisition by the big guys, it’s easy to forget that more well-established companies can also be ripe for the picking. What would a sale of a long-tailer like Travelzoo mean for the industry? Who do you think will get it?
Google Proposes New Class of Stock
Google started off its earnings call on Thursday by discussing its new 2-for-1 stock split for existing shareholders. As part of the restructuring, Google will create a new class of shares that are similar in all ways to other classes of Google shares, only without voting rights. As with the company's 2004 decision to create a special class of stock giving the founders significantly more voting control, this move seeks largely to centralize power in the hands of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Currently, the duo along with Eric Schmidt control 66 percent of voting power at Google.
In The Founders' Letter, Brin and Page defend the move, saying "After careful consideration with our board of directors, we have decided that maintaining this founder-led approach is in the best interests of Google, our shareholders and our users. Having the flexibility to use stock without diluting our structure will help ensure we are set up for success for decades to come." The pair also added that Google does not have any major acquisitions planned.
QUESTIONS: Is this what's best for Google and its investors? Should CEOs of public companies really expect to control this kind of centralized voting power?
Sony Launches Android-Powered Smart-Watch
Sony has launched its SmartWatch, a timepiece for the wrist that allows owners to read text messages, social updates and e-mail, manage calls, and control music. The SmartWatch connects to an Android phone via Bluetooth.
The device's strap is rubber and comes in white, pink, mint, and blue. Sitting atop the strap is the watch's touchscreen OLED display measuring 1.3-inches. To alert users to an event or an incoming call, the timepiece vibrates.
The watch will work with Android phones from Sony, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and others, and Sony says it can run four days on a single charge. Plus, it's both dust and splash proof!
Some may remember that, back in 2010, the company launched LiveView, another watch that interacted with Android phones. Although it floundered after launch, the device is still for sale on Amazon for $54.99. The new SmartWatch is $149.99 on the company's online marketplace and in stores
QUESTION: Is a smart watch a step backwards? If you want to know what time it is, tweet or read e-mail, isn't an Android phone already good for that? Why would Sony try again after the LiveView didn't live up to expectations? Do they know something we don't?
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