SiliconFilter

AOL Acquires TechCrunch

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After a few hours of wild speculation, TechCrunch founder and co-edit Mike Arrington and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong just announced that AOL has indeed acquired TechCrunch. According to Arrington, TechCrunch will be a fully owned subsidiary of AOL, but his team will have no "editorial boundaries" and AOL will allow the blog to operate as usual. Arrington will stay on with AOL for "at least 3 years," which – presumably – is part of the agreement. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Congrats to Mike and the rest of the team.

Below is the full press release.

AOL To Acquire TechCrunch Network Of Sites

Leading Authority on Tech News Will Expand AOL’s Growing Offering of World-Class, Audience-Relevant Content
San Francisco, CA, September 28, 2010 – AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) today announced that it has agreed to acquire TechCrunch, Inc., the company that owns and operates TechCrunch and its network of websites dedicated to technology news, information and analysis. TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence, further bolstering AOL’s position as one of the world’s leading providers of high-quality, tech-oriented content. The announcement will be made on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, CA.

Founded by Michael Arrington, TechCrunch operates a global network of dedicated properties from Europe to Japan, as well as vertically-oriented websites, including MobileCrunch, CrunchGear, TechCrunchIT, GreenTech, TechCrunchTV and CrunchBase. The TechMeme Leaderboard ranks TechCrunch as the No. 1 source of breaking tech news online, followed by AOL’s Engadget.*

"Michael and his colleagues have made the TechCrunch network a byword for breaking tech news and insight into the innovative world of start-ups, and their reputation for top-class journalism precisely matches AOL’s commitment to delivering the expert content critical to this audience," said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AOL. "TechCrunch and its team will be an outstanding addition to the high-quality content on the AOL Technology Network, which is now a must-buy for advertisers seeking to associate their brands with leading technology content and its audience."

Heather Harde, Chief Executive Officer of TechCrunch, said: "TechCrunch and AOL share a motivating passion for quality technology news and information, and we’re delighted about becoming part of the AOL family. This represents a compelling opportunity to extend the TechCrunch brand while complementing the great work of sites like Engadget and Switched. Our contributors, and our audiences, can look to the future with excitement about what we can build when we have the significant resources of AOL behind us."

Michael Arrington, Founder and Co-Editor of TechCrunch, said: "Tim Armstrong and his team have an exciting vision for the future of AOL as a global leader in creating and delivering world-class content to consumers, be it through original content creation, partnerships or acquisitions. I look forward to working with everyone at AOL as we build on our reputation for independent tech journalism and continue to set the agenda for insight, reviews and collaborative discussion about the future of the technology industry."

TechCrunch also hosts industry-leading conferences and events, including The Disrupt series, The Crunchies Awards and various meet-ups worldwide. These conferences bring together industry innovators, entrepreneurs and financing sources to exchange ideas, forge new relationships and discuss the current and future industry trends.
"Engagement with thought leaders is as important to AOL as our engagement with our contributors, audiences, publishers and advertisers, and TechCrunch’s conferences and websites will give us a promising, additional springboard to join and amplify these conversations. We’re committed to quality in everything we do at AOL, and look forward to working with Heather, Michael and the TechCrunch team to extend the brand," said David Eun, President of AOL Media and Studios.

The AOL Technology Network consists of AOL’s tech-oriented properties including Engadget, the Web magazine about everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics; Switched, which covers the intersection of the digital world with entertainment, sports, art, fashion and lifestyle; TUAW, the unofficial Apple weblog; and DownloadSquad, the weblog about downloadable software and other computer subjects. The AOL Technology Network ranks in the top five for tech news according to comScore Media Metrix, August 2010 data, and leads the top five in average time spent and average visits per user.

This acquisition will further AOL’s strategy to become the global leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high-quality, trusted, original content to consumers. TechCrunch will remain headquartered in San Francisco, CA, as a wholly owned AOL unit. Deal terms were not disclosed.



9:51 am



Paper: Android's Graphical Passcodes are Insecure

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Most Android phones allow users to protect their phones from unauthorized access by drawing a pattern on their device’s touchscreens. According to a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, however, these graphical passwords are actually extremely easy to crack, as “oily residues, or smudges, on the touch screen surface, are one side effect of touches from which frequently used patterns such as a graphical password might be inferred.”

The team, which presented its findings during the Woot ’10 USENIX workshop in Washington, DC, found that by simply taking photographs of the screens with the right lightning and camera positions allows unauthorized users to guess a user’s security pattern.

If you think that just cleaning the screen regularly would prevent this, then think again. According to the researchers, “smudges are surprisingly persistent in time.” They found that “it is surprisingly difficult to incidentally obscure or delete smudges through wiping or pocketing the device.” In the team’s experiments, the pattern was partially identifiable 92% of the time and in 68% of cases, it was fully identifiable.

You can find the full paper here.



10:10 pm


Voice Control Your Android Phone: Google Introduces Voice Actions

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If you own an Android phone with the latest Android 2.2 Froyo update, you can now use your voice to control almost all of the most often used features of the phone. With Voice Actions for Android, users can use voice commands to perform actions like sending text messages (“send text to Allison Miller Running late. I will be home around 9“), play specific songs from their music collection (“listen to the New Pornographers”), go to websites, send email, write a note, search Google and view a map and get directions.

google_phones_voice_controlled.jpg

To invoke this feature, Android users will first have to install the necessary application on their devices (Voice Search, Google Search widget and music apps that support this feature). Then, they can invoke the app by either tapping the microphone button on the Google search box on the home screen or by pressing the physical search button on their phone.

Here is a list of the available commands:

  • send text to [contact] [message]
  • listen to [artist/song/album]
  • call [business]
  • call [contact]
  • send email to [contact] [message]
  • go to [website]
  • note to self [note]
  • navigate to [location/business name]
  • directions to [location/business name]
  • map of [location]

Obviously, this is still a bit limited, especially when compared to the huge vocabulary that systems like Ford’s Microsoft-powered SYNC offers or the tools that Siri developed before the company was acquired by Apple. Apple’s own Voice Control service offers some similar features, though with a more limited focus (music playback and voice dialing). Overall, though, this looks like a good start, and according to Google, the voice search has a strong semantic underpinning, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw regular updates with additional commands in the near future.



10:41 am


Time to Wave Goodbye: Google Ceases Development of Google Wave

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Google just announced that it has stopped development of its real-time collaboration and communication platform Google Wave. Wave, according to Google’s Urs Holzle, “has not seen the user adoption [Google] would have liked.” The parts of the code that Google already offered as open source code will remain available, but Wave as a standalone product will cease to exist by the end of the year when Google plans to shut the Wave website down.

So Long, and Thanks for all The Real-Time Goodness

google-wave

It’s a shame to see Google Wave go. I had high hopes for it when it was first announced (I was actually one of the first journalists to get my hands on it). Clearly, though, it failed to gain enough users to make continued development worthwhile for Google. What is odd, though, is to see how quickly Google killed Wave. After a long beta period, the company only officially launched Wave a little more than two months ago. Ironically, the last post on the Google Wave blog from just about a week ago is called: “STOP! Waving time…

For a lot of users, seeing others type in real time just wasn’t a good enough reason to abandon email or more traditional collaboration tools. The promised “draft” feature – which turned off the real-time typing mode – never materialized. Over the next few days, we will surely see a lot of analysis about what exactly went wrong. If anything, though, I have to give Google credit for giving Wave a shot.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Australia-based team behind Wave (which also developed the earliest versions of Google Maps) will do next.

The Announcement

Here is the central part of Google’s announcement:

We were equally jazzed about Google Wave internally, even though we weren’t quite sure how users would respond to this radically different kind of communication. The use cases we’ve seen show the power of this technology: sharing images and other media in real time; improving spell-checking by understanding not just an individual word, but also the context of each word; and enabling third-party developers to build new tools like consumer gadgets for travel, or robots to check code.

But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.



2:09 pm


Chrome Gets a “Canary Build” – Because Weekly Updates are Just too Slow

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Since its launch 2 years ago, Google Chrome always offered three different builds of its increasingly popular browser: stable, beta and developer. While regular users could always stay with the stable build, early adopters could opt for the beta and developer channel. The developer channel features weekly updates, while beta channel users only see and update or two per month. Starting today, however, Google will also offer more frequent updates through the Google Chrome Canary Build channel.

It’s worth noting that this channel will run separately from your regular Chrome install (and you can install and use both in parallel). As Google notes, these new builds are “highly unstable browser that will often break entirely.”[ref]these updates should come close to daily[/ref]

A few more interesting things to note:

  • for the time being, the Canary Build is available for Windows only
  • the Canary Build can’t be set as the default browser
  • upon installing, the installer will ask you if you want to set Google, Bing or Yahoo as your default search engine

Overall, this looks like a smart extension of Google’s “launch early and often” strategy. It gives those who want to live on the cutting edge a chance to try out features before they become available to other users and gives Google’s engineers a way to gather even more feedback.

chrome canary build



11:16 am


Facebook Questions Goes Live: Will it Kill Quora, Yahoo Answers, Ask and Co.?

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Facebook just launched its long-awaited question and answer product dubbed Facebook Answers. You can now ask your social network any question you feel like and get answers from your extended network. This – by the way – includes friends of friends as well, so your questions will actually reach an exponentially larger audience than just your closest friends. At the same time, you can also go to the new “Questions” section in Facebook and see questions that your friends and friends of friends asked. You can also ask questions about your friends directly from their profiles – which looks just like a regular wall posting.

Thanks to its tagging feature, you can ensure that the right people will see your questions.

facebook_questions_2

Social vs. SEO

With Ask.com, Quora, Google’s recent acquisition Aardvark and a few other startups, the Q&A market is getting very crowded now. Facebook, with its 500 million users is likely to crush all of these services, though more SEO oriented Q&A platforms like Yahoo Answers may not suffer the same effects as the more socially oriented products like Aardvark (assuming Google does anything with it) or Quora.

Chances are, though, that if users will find Facebook Answers to be a satisfactory solution (to a problem most probably never considered in the first place), they won’t go out to explore these other products.

facebook_questions



1:55 pm