A massive earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeastern coast on Friday— taking 1,200 lives, with thousands still unaccounted for and ten thousand feared dead by police — also damaged multiple nuclear power plants there.
On Sunday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said a partial meltdown at the Fukushiman Dai-ichi nuclear complex, was likely under way. The partial meltdown follows a blast on Saturday at one unit of the complex, where operators are working to cool the reactor core by injecting seawater and boron into its containment vessel.
Also on Sunday, according to the International Atomic Energy Association Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported a state of emergency at a another facility, the Onagawa nuclear power plant; while its three reactors remained under control, the emergency alert was related to radioactivity readings in the area that exceeded allowable levels.
Eric Talmadge and Mari Yamaguchi reported for the Associated Press:
At last year’s SXSW I caught a moment of Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai’s time to briefly chat about the company and their plans for the upcoming year. We were able to speak again this year and Naveen gave me the update on what has changed for the company since our last conversation.
The short answer is that both the company and user-base have grown significantly. When I last spoke with him there were around 300,000 people using Foursquare to check-in and now there are over 7 million users. That, coupled with their recent loyalty deal with American Express, means we should be on the lookout for expanded services and features in 2011. Check out the video below for the update.
It’s that time again: time to revel in Web 2.0! We’re teaming up with TUAW and Peel for our first annual SXSW Interactive reader meet-up in Austin. Meet the TC crew. Have a TC brew. Enjoy some TC chew (quantities limited). All this – and more – will be made available to you.
Please RSVP here and remember that its at 201 E 5th St Unit #108 [Map] (It’s a big loft) from 6pm to 10pm. Expect food, booze, and music plus Peel’s own brand of Interactive TV featuring the Peel Fruit. Plus fun. Lots of fun.
Although Android adoption is growing at a huge clip compared to the iPhone (not hard, since there are so many more devices and plans), iPhone apps still remain the benchmark for the smartphone app experience. In part this is down to the fact that many companies build an iPhone app first and an Android version some time later, which is often inferior in user experience. Part of the reason is that little things like the pull-down-to-refresh features that are often in Phone apps come default with the iOS platform. But to make that kind of feature work in an Android app you have to build it from the ground up.
Yesterday, Twitter made a swift and sweeping move to alter their ecosystem. In an email to developers, Twitter laid out the new rules. Essentially, third-party developers should no longer try to compete with Twitter on clients; instead they should focus on things like data and specific verticals for tweets. Not surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of backlash against this maneuver.
In making these changes, Twitter also had to chance their API Terms of Service. And we thought it would be interesting to compare the old ToS to the new one. We can do that thanks to the magic of Google, which has a cached copy of the ToS dated January 3, 2011.
SCVNGR has had a big week — on Thursday the site launched a spinoff service called LevelUp that combines some of the retention mechanics seen in location-based games with the steep deals offered by sites like Groupon.
Priebatsch, who maintained an apparently super-human energy level throughout his talk, discussed how many of the gaming mechanics seen in the virtual world will be applied in the physical world to create a so-called “Game Layer”. “It’s brand new and has not been built,” Priebatsch says. “The last decade was the decade of social — it took connections between friends, family, and coworkers and put them online. It’s called Facebook. The social layer traffics in connections.” Conversely, Priebatsch says that the Game layer traffics in influence — “It will influence where we go, what we do, and how we do it.”
By now, even if you’re not at SXSW, you’re likely sick of SXSW. Why? Because every other damn tweet is about SXSW. I’m here, and tweeting about it, and I’m sick of it. But luckily Lanyrd has created the perfect extension.
Not at SXSW is an extension for both Chrome and Firefox that alters Twitter.com to remove all tweets that reference the conference. But that’s not good enough. So the extension also blocks tweets from all those Twitter users known to be attending SXSW!
It’s brilliant. It’s not perfect, but it’s close.
And it’s easy enough to turn the extension on and off from Twitter.com (just click on the new link at the top of your stream that shows you how many tweets are being hidden due to SXSWness). From here you can also decide to just hide tweets with the hashtag #sxsw or #sxswi and/or the known attendees.
For the next four days if you’re in the tech industry you’re going to hear a non-stop stream of information about SXSW. It’s the time of year when many new startups are struggling to rise above all the noise and be heard. And when everybody is shouting it becomes overwhelming.
I’m actually in Austin at the moment. It turns out this is “the year of group messaging” and since I’m a shareholder in the largest player in the space, TextPlus (7.7m monthly actives), I thought I should come here to represent.
Ten days ago Google discovered that apparently innocuous Android apps were in fact infested with “DroidDream” malware that included an Android rootkit, with the apparent intent of creating a smartphone botnet. It infected more than a quarter of a million devices before Google intervened. The thriller writer in me immediately began to wonder what would happen if black hats built a wildly popular game that doubled as a botnet beachhead. Imagine if Angry Birds was secretly the world’s biggest botnet: even without root access to its install base, those hypothetical black hats could grab private data from tens millions of people, and/or probably DDoS every wireless network in the developed world, especially if it ran as a background service with location access.
Nimbit, a direct-to-fan marketing, sales and distribution platform for musicians, announced today that it has closed a $1.25 million series A investment round. The round was led by Common Angels and Hub Angels and, according to VP of Marketing Carl Jacobson, will be used to ramp up the company’s hiring efforts.
Nimbit adds to the cumulative $3.5 million of seed funding it raised during three prior seed rounds beginning in May of 2006. The seed rounds were also led by Common Angels and Hub Angels, with LaunchCapital and Rose Tech Ventures contributing.
Social gaming giant Zynga has joined the Internet’s efforts at donating to Japanese Tsunami relief tonight, by enabling in-game donations through virtual good buying in Zynga games like FrontierVille, FarmVille and CityVille as of 7pm PST. 100% of the virtual goods purchase prices will be donated to Tsunami relief.
Zynga will be specifically partnering with Save the Children to raise money for its Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children Emergency Fund. Altruistic players can contribute by buying designated virtual goods like a sweet potato crop in CityVille, a Kobe cow in FrontierVille, radishes in FarmVille and a royal flush for Zynga Poker.
Since then, Greplin has been rapidly expanding the social applications it can search and index, adding Yammer, Highrise, and Google Contacts last month to its already healthy set of networks and services. On top of these, you can authorize it to search Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Evernote, Basecamp, and Gmail. With a single search query, sha-bang!, Greplin can search nearly your entire personal cloud for that address, contact, or invitation you just can’t seem to find.
What’s more, today Greplin is announcing the addition of a Chrome extension to its search presence, so that you can search your social data directly from your browser without having to go to Greplin’s website to login. Check out the extension here and Greplin’s widget in the image to the right.
Greplin employs the new Chrome Omnibox API so you can get auto-completed results, regardless of what site you are on. For those unfamiliar with Omnibox, it’s another word for Chrome’s search bar, which allows you to type URLs and regular old keyword searches into one unified place, rather than having to go to Google.com. Omnibox’s API, then, lets extension developers to make the tool even more powerful by adding their own keyword command, so that user can type a query prefixed by the keyword, enabling the extension to suggest potential completions and react to the user’s input.
The company also announced the addition of Aaron Sarazan (formerly at Spark Plug Games), who will be working on creating a native mobile app. Co-founder Robby Walker told me that Greplin is currently looking to beef up its staff, so all expert engineers looking to get involved with a hot young startup attempting to provide us with the “other side of search” should heed the call.
Walker said that Greplin will continue to add to its list of searchable social apps, with Basecamp and Salesforce among the services currently being offered in private beta. (And Box.net and Google Voice coming next.) TC readers can preview these by emailing email@example.com.
Get it here, while it’s hot.
The browser comes not only with speed improvements but also a simpler settings interface (see video) and an extension of Chrome’s sandboxing tech to the integrated Flash Player.
In addition, you can now quickly log on to the websites you frequent even when you switch computers by synchronizing passwords across all your Internet-enabled devices. You can also choose to sync bookmarks, extensions, preferences, themes and more.
“A good player goes where the puck is. A great player goes where the puck is going to be”—The Great One
Google made a few interesting announcements this week. First, Google Docs Viewer support for a sheaf of new document types, including Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop and PostScript. Second, Chrome’s new ability to run background apps that run seamlessly and invisibly behind the browser. Third, they released Google Cloud Connect, which lets Windows users sync Office documents to Google Docs. They also announced the Android 3.0 SDK – but despite the ongoing tablet hysteria, in the long run, the first three are more important.
Little by little, iteration by iteration, the Chrome browser is quietly morphing into a full-fledged multitasking operating system in its own right. Oh, sure, technically it’s actually running on another OS, but you increasingly never need to launch anything else. View and edit documents in Google Docs, watch and listen to HTML5 video and audio, communicate via Gmail and its Google Voice plugin, use Google Docs as a file system – and the line between “Chrome OS” and “Chrome on any other OS” suddenly grows very fine.
Google’s long-term strategy seems to be to supplant Microsoft by first building the best browser, then making it easy to move your files to Google Docs … and finally, slowly but inexorably, making Windows and Office irrelevant. Obviously no one will abandon Microsoft products wholesale anytime soon; but as cloud computing grows more ubiquitous, Google steadily iterates feature after feature, and people grow accustomed to working in the browser, then one day, maybe only a couple of years from now, a whole lot of people – and businesses – will begin to think to themselves “Hey, we haven’t actually needed Windows or Office in months. Why do we even have them at all?”
The “network computer” dumb-terminal approach has failed many times before … but so did Six Degrees, Tribe.net, Friendster, and (eventually) MySpace, before Facebook came along. The original iMac was roundly criticized because it didn’t have a floppy drive, criticism that now sounds hilariously stupid. We might look back at the first Chrome OS notebook in much the same way. Of course, Chrome can’t actually compete with Windows until always-on broadband Internet access reaches the same level of reliability and ubiquity as electricity itself; but that’s only a matter of time. In the early days of electricity, every factory had its own power plant, and its managers would have been appalled by the notion of outsourcing that vital engine – but soon enough those inefficient installations were replaced by today’s electrical grid. Computing power is the new electricity, and cloud computing is the new grid.
Unlike most companies, when Google says “cloud”, they mean it. Compare Amazon’s cloud-computing service to Google’s. With the former, you essentially call up and configure one or more servers with the OS and specifications of your choice; but with Google’s App Engine, you don’t know anything about its hardware or operating system, because that no longer matters. It just runs the code you give it, and you don’t much care how. Similarly, Chrome is being built for a future where the ambient, omnipresent wireless Internet connects everything from clothes to computers to cars (which explains how their self-driving cars fits into their strategy) and it doesn’t much matter what OS any given device is running.
I’ve criticized Google pretty harshly of late, but credit where it’s due: they still think bigger and further than anyone else. The problem is that all these brilliant strategies are predicated on their continued dominance of the search space, whose users are forever just a whim away from jumping ship to an alternative, and they’ve taken their eye off that ball of late. But at least they’ve finally started cracking down on search spam. It’s a start. Maybe they haven’t grown too bureaucratic and sclerotic to make the Chrome future happen after all.
All is right with the world, as genius (and Googler!) Thomas Steiner has made this beautiful Chrome extension that corrects Twitter’s subject/object discrepancy on its “Who to Follow” feature. Grammar snobs (I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU COMMENT), rejoice!
In case anyone’s still confused about ”Who” vs. “Whom” usage, here’s a quick tip to differentiate courtesy of Shit You Should Know:
“To determine proper usage of who/whom, separate the who/whom clause and pose it as a question. If that question can be answered with “he”, use “who”; if it can be answered with “him”, use ‘whom’.”
You can change your entire life by downloading the extension here. Now if only Steiner would make one that eliminated all the typos on TechCrunch.
This feature has existed on various builds of Chrome/Chromium for some time now. But Google hasn’t been touting it, and it wasn’t really clear how it would be used and/or useful. Well today, it’s very clear. And again, very cool. Essentially, Chrome-based web apps are going to be able to be always open, but hidden in the background.
Why would anyone want to use a web app without seeing it? A couple reasons. First, this allows the browser to notify you in realtime of certain updates, like chat requests or new messages. Second, this may allow the browser to pre-render any page so when you do open it, it will load instantly.
Obviously, the trade-off is the memory hit you take by running an app in the background, but presumably these could be coded to have a minimal impact in terms of memory usage.
Essentially, this gives web apps a “push” notification functionality like Apple uses for the iPhone and iPad. It’s a bit different since that system uses Apple own servers to ping your phone and doesn’t require an app to be open at all, but the effect is the same. A user wouldn’t realize the app is open, but would still get alerts about it.
Of course, there’s a security risk there. But Google addresses that in this way:
To protect our users’ privacy, we’ve made this functionality available only to apps and extensions; regular websites will not be able to open background windows. Developers will also need to declare the “background” capability on their apps.
That’s important beyond the security issue. It could make installing web apps actually useful. Up until now, most of the apps in the Chrome Web Store are similar to the ones that already exist on the web. But with this system, you’d have to “install” an app to get this system working.
If Chrome’s best feature is its speed, it’s second best feature has to be the Omnibox. I’m still not sure why every browser doesn’t simply offer one box for both searching and typing in URLs. But the Omnibox is about to get even more powerful, as developers have started fleshing out extensions to take advantage of it.
Google first talked about the Omnibox API back in August of last year, but at that time, it was experimental. But today they’ve done a new post on the Chromium Blog to highlight the option. And developers are wasting little time getting extensions working for it.
In their post, Google highlights an extension called Switch to Tab. It’s a neat little extension that allows you to use the Omnibox to easily switch between tabs. All you have to do is type “sw” and then hit