Just a few years ago, a massive scandal rocked the FM radio world when internal memos from Sony Music showed that the major record labels routinely bought "spins" for their artists. Earbits, a new YCombinator-funded music startup, is now bringing a more sophisticated version of this system to the web. Over 1,300 bands have already signed up for the service that will ask bands to pay to get their music to the ears of Earbits' users.
FarmVille's star is slowly fading. Zygna's former flagship game is now only the third-most popular app on Facebook. Even as more and more crops wither due to their owners' neglect, over 20 Million Internet users added to Zynga's bottom line yesterday by getting into the virtual construction business with the current #1 on FaceBook: CityVille.
Google just put another nail in the coffin of dedicated GPS units and paid mobile apps. Google Maps Navigation now offers users the ability to route them around traffic jams. Until today, Navigation would simply calculate the most efficient route and send you on your merry way without checking traffic conditions. The new version, however, will look at both current and historical traffic data to calculate the best route to take. According to Google, Navigation users now use the app to drive more than 35 million miles per day.
When Twitter launched the latest version of its iPhone app a few days ago, most users were more than happy to get auto-completion for names and hashtags, among many other improvements. The fact that Twitter now prominently featured the top trending topics in its app - including the promoted trends that Twitter gets paid for - was, according to many users, a major negative of this version and was seen as a sneaky way to push ads to users without delivering any additional value. Some, including the intrepid Apple-watcher John Gruber, even went as far as reverting back to an older backup of their iPhone to get the old version back.
Twitter today launched an update to its iOS apps that brings lots of welcome new features (automatic shortening of links, autocomplete for usernames and easier photo uploads) but also puts far too much emphasis on trending topics in the iPhone app. Every time you scroll to the top of your stream on the iPhone, Twitter will now show you a trending topic at the top.
It’s hard to estimate just exactly how successful (or not) Google Hotpot, the company’s recently launched Yelp competitor, really is. Thanks to its integration with Google Maps and Google Places, it’s likely more popular than Google Buzz, though, and judging from the increase in ratings from Google users we’ve seen on Google Places lately, it’s probably working out well for Google. The company wants more publicity for Hotpot, however. Starting today, Google also lets you syndicate your ratings for local businesses from the Google Maps Android app to Twitter, marking this one of the first times that Google has enlisted Twitter in its tools to not just pull in information but also to syndicate it out.
Google didn’t just give free a Chrome OS netbook and either a Motorala Xoom tablet or Nexus S phone to every developer at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this week, but also just launched a new hub for game developers who want to use Google’s own tools.
If you search for “air jordans under $100” on Google today, you will get a nice list of ten blue links. If you search on Google’s shopping site, you will get quite a few results with prices around $250. On Bing, however, you also get 10 blue links, but more importantly, you also get a link to Bing Shopping where you will find a list of shoes for under $100 – just like you wanted.
Starting today, Bing Shopping will be able understand natural language queries like the one used in the example above. This works on Bing Mobile, as well as through voice search.
Last year, Amazon started a pilot project in one Seattle neighborhood that allowed its customers to order products online and have them delivered to their homes (in a reusable Amazon bag) twice a week. As TechFlash’s John Cook noted at the time, this service “conjured images of Webvan.” Indeed, just like Webvan, a poster child of all that was wrong with the first Web bubble, Amazon is now shutting this service down and is redirecting its customers to AmazonFresh instead. AmazonFresh, too, is only available in the company’s hometown of Seattle. Fresh offers users free delivery – either pre-dawn before 6am or later in the day.
One of the apps that is getting a major update in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is Apple's Mail email client. The app is now heavily inspired by the iOS email client on the iPad. A consoidated inbox with two-line email previews takes over the left side of the app and mails are displayed on the right side. You can expand the sidebar to show a more traditional Mailboxes view as well that closely resembles the current version of Mail.
I'm a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft's HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.