Company & Product Profiles
Gary Vaynerchuk is a busy guy. I don’t expect him to pick up the phone every time I call. After all, he’s on a book tour or something, and busy tweeting, and drinking wine. But then I saw the picture above. Yup, that’s Gary V on his cell phone in front of a poster advertising his new book, The Thank You Economy. The poster lists a phone number, (646) 401-0368, and asks prospective readers to:
Call now and the author Gary Vaynerchuk will answer this or any other question about The Thank You Economy.*
*Unless he’s in a plane or meeting
I thought I’d prank call him and ask him some questions about the book, like, “What the hell is the Thank You Economy?” His last book, Crush It!, needed no such explanation. The title says it all, and it’s fun to say (Crush It!”). The Thank You Economy sounds too polite and vague. I have no idea what it means. I guess I should read the book. But the poster promised me that Gary would answer these questions himself. All I can say is: False Advertising!* (*Unless he was in a meeting or something).
Two days ago, I published the chart below with monthly estimates of Groupon’s U.S. revenues. The chart shows a startling 30 percent falloff in February from the month before. As I noted in the post:
Again, these are just estimates based on the equivalent of scraping Groupon’s site, and thus could be missing something.
Well, at least for February, it looks like those numbers are way off. The post obviously caused some ripple effects to the extent that Groupon had to start addressing the issue with potential hires. As a result, it knocked loose the real revenue numbers for February and January. Groupon wouldn’t comment on the revenue numbers when I asked them about it, but according to a source, Groupon is now privately countering the numbers in my post: instead of $62 million in U.S. revenues, the company did $103 million in February. And that is up from $92 million in January (compared to the $89 million in the original data below).
I did some checking around, and I’ve been able to confirm that these two numbers (the $103 million and the $92 million) are right. I was also able to confirm that the 60/40 mix between U.S. and international revenues is about right.
Google is moving in many directions—mobile, browsers, productivity apps, operating systems, social. At first glance, it may seem like it is trying ever so hard to move beyond its giant one-trick pony: search. What people keep forgetting is that it is a pretty good trick. Benchmark Capital VC Bill Gurley reminds us how good this trick is in an excellent post that looks at Google’s market expansion strategy not as one of a series of aggressive offensives, but rather a highly defensive strategy.
Warren Buffet famously describes the best businesses as “economic castles protected by unbreachable ‘moats.’” Search is Google’s economic castle (perhaps with other forms of online advertising such as display thrown in there), and everything else is a moat trying to protect that castle. Android is a moat. The Chrome browser is a moat. The Chrome OS is a moat. Google Apps is a moat. These are all free products, subsidized by search profits, that are intended to protect the economic castle that is search.
Apple mobile iOS devices (iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches) are used by 130 million people, but they present a huge blindspot to advertisers. All Apple mobile devices use the Safari browser, as do millions of Apple laptop and desktop computers. Safari blocks third-party cookies by default, which is good for privacy and good for consumers. But it is bad for advertisers who rely on browser cookie tracking to measure the effectiveness of their ads.
Marin Software, which offers a way to manage paid search advertising, conducted a study it provided to TechCrunch which shows that 80 percent of the time iOS devices don’t count paid-search conversions (i.e., clicks) because cookie-tracking is turned off. On the Mac, the undercounting occurs 50 percent of the time. All told, when you count all browsers, 38 percent of all paid-search clicks are not being counted.
For all the angst about the lack of Flash on Apple’s iPads and iPhones, most of the discussion seems to center around video. But a bigger impact by far is on display advertising, which tends to be done mostly in Flash. Adobe needs non-Flash alternatives for tablets and smartphones, particularly for people who design display ads.
Today, Adobe announced that it is integrating Medialets’ mobile ad platform into its own creative suite. Designers will be able to insert Medialets ads into InDesign layouts and then serve them on mobile apps. The reason this is notable is that Medialets essentially will become the de facto plug-in mobile ad server for Adobe. Medialets’ technology works with iOS devices and will also work with Flash in Adobe AIR apps. It powers the ads in The Daily iPad app, for example, a position it won over Apple’s own iAds.
Mapping is a big boy’s game, with Google Maps, Bing Maps, and MapQuest dominating maps on both the Web and mobile. But sometimes it takes a startup to push things forward. 3D mobile mapping startup UpNext is hoping to get on the map, so to speak, with its detailed 3D maps of cities and venues like the Super Bowl stadium. The New York city startup, which has been around since 2007, just raised a $557,000 series A round of preferred shares, according to an SEC filing. That amount includes $57,000 that converted from a previously-undisclosed friends-and-family round in 2009. The new round is $500,000 and investors include Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, David Cohen of TechStars (who invested individually), David Tisch and Oleg Tscheltzoff
In the world of online video, there is a battle brewing over the next dominant standard for online video, especially on HTML5 Web pages. Today, Google took the gloves off and declared that it will soon stop supporting the H.264 video codec in its Chrome browser. Instead, it will only support open-source technologies such as its own WebM initiative (with its VP8 codec) and the open-source Theora video codec, which is used by Firefox.
You could see this a mile away. Google announced the WebM project last May, along with other partners Mozilla and Opera (Apple, which relies on H.264 in its mission to squash Flash, was conspicuously absent). The H.264 codec is owned by the MPEG-LA consortium, and may in the future require a license. Although the consortium was pressured into promising that H.264 streaming would be free forever that is only for non-commercial Internet video.
In a post today on the Chromium blog, product manager Mike Jazayeri gives teh following explanation for why Chrome will no longer support H.264:
We expect even more rapid innovation in the web media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. To that end, we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.
But how can Google justify dropping support for H.264, but not Flash (which also uses H.264 for video)? Simple, Adobe is also one of the WebM partners and will support WebM technologies inside Flash. Yup, Flash is siding with Google on this one. So the battle lines here are really between Google and Apple, which is still sticking with H.264 (the non-Flash variety). Just when it looked like H.264 was winning too.
Google’s approach to developing its Chrome browser is to release updates early and often. Its goal is to put out a new release every six weeks or so. Updates have become so routine that Google barely even mentions them anymore.
Anthony LaForge, the technical program manager at Google overseeing Chrome development, created the presentation below (and posted it on Google Docs) to explain how Chrome’s development cycles work. Instead of a traditional software development cycle where features are crammed into each release or delay the release, Chrome puts out a new release no matter what every six weeks. If new features aren’t ready, they wait for the next release, just like waiting for the next scheduled train at Grand Central.
Another thing that speeds things along is that the Chrome browser is simultaneously developed along three different “channels” (dev, beta, and stable). Users can pick which one they are most comfortable with, and their browsers are updated automatically. New features are introduced first in the dev and beta channels, which merge with the stable channel as those features get patched and stabilized.
The versions start to blend together. The approach is more like updating a website than a piece of client software. The version numbers don’t really matter. What version of Amazon are you on? Exactly.
You can get TweetDeck, the popular realtime stream reader, as a desktop client, on your iPhone and iPad, or Android phone. But up until now, there was no Web browser version (unlike Seesmic, which is best known as a browser-based app). Today, TweetDeck released its first Web client as a Chrome app in the new Chrome Webstore.
“It’s definitely our best version of a desktop TweetDeck so far,” says CEO Iain Dodsworth. You can sign in with your existing TweetDeck account, and add different realtime streams in different columns—Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare checkins, Google Buzz. Soon it will support Gmail as well. ChromeDeck, as it was codenamed during development, borrows some UI elements from its most recent Android app. There are combined columns labeled Home (all timelines from various accounts), Me (all mentions and messages directed at you such as Twitter @replies), and Inbox (direct messages, and soon Facebook and Gmail messages).
The Chrome app is supposed to be faster, more stable, and less of a memory hog than the desktop AIR version. Once you “install” it onto your browser, it exists within its own tab. And it is always available for you, with any other apps you install, when you launch a new blank tab.
The first thing you notice if you are a regular TweetDeck user is that it is completely silent. That silence won’t last long, however. Dodsworth & Co. is working on “getting some TweetDeck sounds recorded and added to all the apps” in an effort to try to “create a social soundscape whereby you don’t even need to look at your screen and you have a sense of what’s going on.” Oh boy, my wife is going to love that. Bleep, Zoink, Boop.
Google’s Chrome browser is now being used by 120 million people on a daily basis, which is up from 70 million the last time the company disclosed internal usage numbers last May. The new figures were disclosed moments ago at Google’s Chrome event, which Jason is covering live.
The Chrome browser has been seeing big jumps in market share recently, currently taking the No. 3 spot with a 9.26 percent overall share according to Net Applications. On TechCrunch, it is now the top browser used among our readers.
Chrome product manager Sundar Pichai also announced today Google will be making the Chrome browser even faster with an enhancement called “Crankshaft.” He claims:
Do you ever want to share some photos, mockups or screengrabs with somebody else online quick and dirty? Go to DropMocks, drag and drop your images, and you are done. You get an instant image gallery that displays in CoverFlow style, along with a short URL to share it.
For instance, here is an example of a DropMocks I put together in 5 seconds by pulling some photos from my desktop. Same here with these screengrabs. You can name your gallery and save it, and that is pretty much it.
Browser market share numbers are out for October from Net Applications. Chrome made the biggest gains with a 0.49 percent jump from September to 8.47 percent.
Chrome is the third most popular browser after Internet Explorer (59.26 percent) and Firefox (22.82 percent). Both FireFox and IE saw their overall market share positions erode slightly by 0.39 percent and 0.14 percent, respectively. Safari was up a smidge (0.06 percent) to 5.33 percent, and Opera declined 0.11 percent to 2.28 percent.
Is Google serving up ads targeted at sites which categorize themselves as “extreme porn,” bestiality,” and “child porn”? Rest assured, it is not. But if you are a website publisher using DoubleClick’s Ad Planner to select categories to match your site to advertiser’s interests, you might think so. The screenshot at right and below shows what one publisher found when choosing self-descriptive categories. Under “Adult” and “Porn” are those three categories. The issue was first brought to Google’s attention in this help forum, and subsequently by TechCrunch.
It turns out this is a software bug, but what a doozy. DoubleClick, which is part of Google, maintains a blacklist of categories and keywords it will not serve ads against. Those include “extreme porn,” “bestiality,” and “child porn.” Somehow categories from the blacklist started appearing as regular options within Ad Planner. Google is removing those now and says no ads were actually served against those categories even if somebody selected them.
As you type into a search box on Yahoo or Google, a list of suggested keywords pops down below to help you complete your search faster. Today, Yahoo turned on a local component to its keyword autocomplete feature. The search assist now serves up different keywords based on your location.
So if you type in “Santa” in northern California, “santa clara county” might be the first suggestion, but if you type it in southern California, “santa barbara” might be first.
Location is often a very relevant way to filter search, so this makes Yahoo’s search assist smarter. But, as with many things Yahoo, it is lagging behind Google with this feature. Google’s search assist also factors in your location. And, from what I can tell, it does it better.
On Monday, Google made a big splash with a customized Arcade Fire video page that showed off all the cool things HTML5 can do, from video, animations and 3D rendering to gorgeous fonts and choreographed windows. It’s all cutting edge stuff as far as what is possible with a Web browser goes, but there is one very big problem. It doesn’t work so great in all browsers, even browsers that supposedly support HTML5. If you go to the landing page that launches the video in Firefox or even the forthcoming IE9 (which isn’t out yet, but is very HTML5-friendly), it detects your browser and suggests you use Chrome instead. I received the following message on Firefox:
This site was designed with Google Chrome in mind and is unable to render properly in your browser. For the best viewing experience, we recommend downloading Google Chrome and trying this site again.
For the past two years, Fwix has been building a hyperlocal news site for cities and neighborhoods around the country in a very automated fashion. Its homepage for every city has been three columns filled with recent news and blog headlines, along with other local data like weather (see second screenshot below). Today, it is scrapping that approach to become more of a hyperlocal places directory.
“We are automating Patch and building richer places pages and city pages,” says CEO Darian Shirazi. With everyone on the Web crazy for Geo and trying to tap into local commerce, places directories are becoming more valuable. (They are also better for SEO). Whereas AOL’s Patch is building out a directory of places in 500 small towns by hand, Fwix is creating an automated directory filled with maps, news feeds, events, photos, reviews, Tweets, status updates, and check-ins.
Google is a big proponent of HTML5, especially for video and rich graphics in the browser. To show off what HTML5 can do, Google Chrome teamed up with the Arcade Fire and director Chris Milk to create a custom interactive video for their song, “We Used To Wait.” The experience is called The Wilderness Downtown and is best viewed in Chrome or other HTML5-compliant browser.
You start by typing in the address of the house you grew up in, then it loads a video of a guy in a hoodie running through the streets. Different windows pop open on your screen, some with graphics, some with videos. Google Maps and Street View images of your old neighborhood are incorporated into the video. All the video is in HTML5, different windows open up triggered by the music, and you even see a fly-over of your neighborhood based on Google Maps’ routing API.