Facebook Working On FourSquare Killer

Checking-in” has suddenly become sexy and every startup in town is trying to incorporate it into their core service. After Yelp and Gowalla, Facebook too is trying to introduce a “check-in” feature to users of its mobile website.

Checking in was first introduced by New York based startup, FourSquare. The service that offered reward points for multiple check-ins has proved to be extremely popular among its users that other LBS startups too have been trying to introduce the service to their users.

However unlike Yelp or Gowalla, Facebook is a massive network that can squash the ambitions of a small time startup like FourSquare. However, Dennis Crowley, Founder of FourSquare seems unfaced and is in fact enthused by the entry of Facebook which could help make checking-in the “commodity of the year”. Crowley says

“I think we’re doing this better than anyone else and I think we’ll continue to do so. We have so much stuff on the whiteboard that we haven’t even touched yet… we’re really just getting started.”

Competition in this segment is just heating up and it will be interesting to see how 2010 pans out for each of these startups.

[via Business Insider]

iPad Originally Priced At $399?

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad on Wednesday, everyone expected the price to touch $999. But to everyone’s astonishment, the price was nearly halved and the starting price was announced as $499 – something that got the world applauding.

However, it now appears that the original price of the iPad was supposed to only be $399. ValleyWag reports that people close to the product were caught offguard when an additional $100 were added to the final price. It is not clear if this rumor is true and if it is, why Apple chose to increase the price at the last moment.

ValleyWag proceeds to reveal that the initial rumor of $999 was also spread by Apple’s marketing team to keep the competitors guessing. What do you think? Do you see any truth in these rumors?

[via ValleyWag]

Microsoft’s Local Search Algorithm A Privacy Nightmare?

Local search is big and everyone is jumping into this segment. And for a fact, we all tend to realize that the local results from major search engines is nothing to brag about; except if you are in a high internet density area like New York or San Francisco.

While companies have been devising different ways to go local, Microsoft’s new technology seems to offer you very relevant local search results; except that it can be a privacy nightmare.

In a patent filed recently with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Microsoft has described a new way to rank local search results. The inventors cite the following issues with current search results

  • Search engines make use of link authority to rank results. While they are good for most cases, they are not exactly relevant when a person is searching for say ‘Italian restaurants near MG Road, Bangalore’. This is because restaurants around MG Road in Bangalore might not necessarily have good PR value
  • Some search engines make use of  ‘click popularity’ where sites which have been clicked a higher number of times tend to be ranked higher. These sites create a positive feedback loop which does not help in showing the relevant results

To overcome these, Microsoft has proposed the usage of the users’ access log in order to study the pages visited in a specific time period and build an implicit pagerank for pages from the user log which will be used as a factor while  displaying search results. So in the earlier example, if the user has visited BangaloreRestaurants.com, results from this website could fetch higher weightage than results from a site like Yelp.

Microsoft says this technology will be particularly useful while ranking pages from intranet websites. While the algorithm sounds interesting, making use of a user’s access log sounds scary. Users are not always comfortable giving third party websites access to the sites they visit. Something does not sound right in Microsoft’s plan to record this log, processing them for implicit pageranking and delivering results back to the user.

What do you think? Are the fears justified or are they unfounded?

Bank Of America Brings Proximity-Based Authentication

Next time you forget your login credentials for your BoA account and ask for the password to be sent to your mobile phone, chances are that the system will track the location of your device as well.

In a new patent filed by the company, the inventors claim one way of minimizing risks in false authentication is by ensuring that a mobile device the password is sent to is at more or less the same location as the computer terminal used to access the online account. The inventors say this location based service could help add an alternative way to authenticate the user over the existing methods.

The inventors say the location of the mobile phone can be tracked by one of several ways such as GPS, Wireless IP geolocation, cellphone tower signal triangulation,etc.

Do you see this technology helping authentication or do you think this is a needless additional layer?

Zune Phone : Further Evidence That It’s Coming

If Apple, Google can make their foray into the handset business, why can’t Microsoft do the same? Now there is further evidence that the much rumored Zune phone might actually be coming.

Folks at IStartedSomething have detected a few lines of code referencing to the elusive Zune Phone in a recently updated Zune software. This Zune.INF file, which is responsible for devices connected to the Zune driver explicitly mentions Zune Phone as one of the devices recognized. Here is an excerpt of the code from the file

%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\MS_COMP_MTPZ
%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0710
%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_063E
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0640
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0641
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0642

With an announcement regarding this very much expected during the Mobile World Congress to be held next month, this discovery has reignited hopes of us being able to see a Microsoft phone soon.

[via I Started Something]

AMD Radeon HD 5830 Launch Delayed Due To Defect

AMD’s launch of the ATI Radon HD 5830 reference boards were expected to be made earlier this week. However, an apparent issue with the circuitry that was detected in the eleventh hour has prompted the company to delay the launch of the device and conduct further investigation on the product.

A source speaking to Taiwanese publication, DigiTimes has said

“The issue is related to circuits on the board, and is triggering an error on card makers’ software testing platforms, the sources explained. AMD has already decided to retrieve related boards for further investigation.”

As is evident, AMD has refused to comment on speculations and has insisted that the products are undergoing their normal batch of tests.

[via DigiTimes]

iPhone OS To Be Renamed iOS?

The iPhone OS is Apple’s Operating system that drives not just the iPhone, but also iPod touch. Now with Apple Tablet on the verge of being unveiled, yet another device running the iPhone OS is on the cards.

Apparently, among the several announcements scheduled for the media event that is to happen in a few hours from now is one that the iPhone OS could be renamed as iOS to better reflect the diversity of devices running the software.

We have absolutely no info on the veracity of these claims. Folks at MacDailyNews are pointing to a video grab that points towards this, but then, with so many rumors and speculations surrounding the event, it is pretty possible that this one too is fake. Watch the video and let us know what you think.

[via MacDailyNews]

Farmville Users To Get ‘Pay By Facebook’ Option This Week

Users of the hugely popular social game on Facebook, Farmville can expect the ‘Pay By Facebook‘ option to be rolled out sometime this week. The Business Insider reveals that Facebook’s payment gateway integration is so close to being implemented on Farmville that it could have been introduced last week itself.

The payment gateway is expected to be a huge money-spinner for Facebook, the world’s most popular social network that is now inching towards the 400 million registered users mark. However, despite the huge popularity of its application platform, the website itself had only been making money from advertising which did not contribute to much, considering the major part of revenues from gaming were to be made from purchase of virtual goods.

Facebook is expected to charge a 30% commission on transactions over its payment gateway. Despite this high charge, it is believed that developers would be willing to opt in considering the “Facebook stamp”. The Business Insider also notes that gaming app developers like Zynga believe a payment gateway from Facebook will in fact encourage more users to spend money, thus increasing overall revenues from the gaming apps.

[via Business Insider]

Motorola Developing The Nielsen Ratings Equivalent For Mobile TV Broadcasting

The Nielsen ratings is one of the best known tools for tracking television viewership and audience composition. This is widely popular across the world and is taken as the benchmark when it comes to assessing the popularity of television programs.

However, with mobile TV getting prominence over the past few years, there does not exist a standard to track viewership from the mobile devices. Motorola seems to have taken the first step as a recent patent filed by the company shows.

In this filing, titled “Method for Collecting Usage Information on Wireless Devices for Ratings Purposes”, the inventors write about a technology that will enable them to assess viewership ratings from mobile devices. The inventors explain

“An illustrative system and method are described herein that enable the collection of information from mobile devices that are used to receive broadcasts of television or video programming over a wireless network. According to one illustrative embodiment, one or more ratings servers collect information associated with the use of one or more mobile devices to view broadcast video or programming. The collected information can then be used to calculate ratings.”

Motorola Patent For Mobile TV Ratings

We are not sure if Nielsen already methods in place to track mobile TV viewership. A CNET article that dates back to 2005 talks about Nielsen working on something similar though it is not clear if Nielsen’s technology, if it exists, would be regarded prior art.

What do you think?