SiliconFilter

Twitter Acquires Posterous

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Twitter just announced that it has acquired Posterous, the popular minimalist blogging service. Posterous' services will remain up and running for the time being and the company's blog promises to "give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service." The Posterous team will join Twitter and will, according to today's announcement, work on "on several key initiatives that will make Twitter even better."

Neither Twitter nor Posterous disclosed any financial details of this transaction. Since its launch, Posterous raised about $10 million. The company received its seed funding from Y Combinator in 2008.

Why Would Twitter Buy a Blogging Platform?

This is a relatively unusual acquisition for Twitter. Until now, the company has mainly acquired companies that were already producing products closely related to Twitter itself (including TweetDeck, for example). Posterous, on the other hand, is quite a departure from this. The service, which first made a name for itself by providing very minimalist blogging tools, isn't a clear fit for Twitter, so chances are the goal of this acquisition was more to hire the Posterous team than to integrate the blogging platform into Twitter. 

Even though Posterous was one of the first players in this field of minimalist/short form blogging tools, Tumblr quickly became the more popular platform. While Posterous tried to reinvent itself over the last few months, the service was never quite able to match its competitor's traction, though judging from most of the publicly available traffic data, the service was still growing slowly but steadily.

What Will Happen to Posterous?

Twitter says that the Posterous service will "remain up and running without disruption." At the same time, though, the company also notes that it will give users "ample notice" if it makes any changes to the service and that it will provide users with instructions for backing up their data and moving to another service. Chances are then, that Twitter isn't planning on keeping Posterous up and developing its features for too long. 



12:50 pm


Posterous Reinvents Itself Around Public/Private Sharing

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Posterous, the minimalist blogging/sharing platform that competes directly with Tumblr and similar services, announced a massive revamp of its service today. With Posterous Spaces, the company is now focussing more on sharing content privately – something both Google+ and Facebook are also trying to do. You can, of course, continue to post everything publicly as well, but Posterous clearly believes that the future of content sharing is likely to be private and not always out in the open.

As part of this change, Posterous is also launching a new iPhone app that includes this private sharing ability.

Posterous Spaces reader

New Features

Besides this new focus on private sharing, the team has also made quite a few other changes to the product. The new reading experience, for example, now makes it easier to see all the new posts from people you follow in one place. The redesigned profile pages now look very slick and make it easier for your followers on the service to see all your activity around the site. Thanks to some work on the backend, the site now also loads considerably faster.

Posterous spaces

Overall, then, this is a welcome update for Posterous, which has been struggling to grow in light of the competition it’s been facing from Tumblr. While existing users can continue to use the service without changing their current habits, the new focus on private sharing give it a much-needed differentiator.

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4:57 pm


Microsoft Wants to Make Emails More Interactive: Partners with LivingSocial, Netflix, Posterous and Others

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Microsoft wants to make emails more interactive and turn them into something akin to small web apps. Today’s emails mostly consist of static text or HTML and, for the most part, this has not changed much since the advent of the modern Internet. Theoretically, you could run interactive elements inside an HTML email with the help of JavaScript and other web technologies, but for security reasons, virtually every online and offline email client does not allow this. Because of this, when you open your daily LivingSocial email, the message can’t include an interactive widget that tells you how much time you have left to buy or if a deal is already sold out.

Microsoft wants to change this, however, and is partnering with LivingSocial, Netflix, LinkedIn, Orbitz, Monster and Posterous to bring interactive elements to their emails when they appear in Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail service.

Dharmesh Mehta, the director for Windows Live product management, will officially unveil this new functionality at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco today.

Microsoft first piloted this project with Monster, starting in December 2010. LinkedIn is currently also piloting these enhanced emails, while Posterous and LivingSocial are in the process of finalizing their implementations. Netflix’s support is still a bit further out.

Making Email More Productive

I talked to Dan Lewis, a senior product manager on the Hotmail team, earlier last week, and he explained that Microsoft’s reasoning behind this project is to make email more productive. Active Views in Hotmail were among the first steps in this direction (active views allow you to see videos, Flickr galleries and package tracking information right inside of Hotmail’s web interface).

Today, 90% of emails that arrive in Hotmail inboxes include links (though some are surely just links to privacy notices and similar content in the footer of a message and aren’t likely clicked upon by the service’s users). Hotmail’s Active Views feature addresses some of these, but to interact with most of the content in today’s email messages, users still have to go to another website.

netflix_before

hotmail_active_after

“The message is the application”

As Lewis told me, “it’s time for a new kind of email that allows you to do more from the message itself.” The idea here is to turn emails into something akin to web apps themselves (“the message is the application,” as Lewis put it when I talked to him).

In practice, this means that when you open up an enhanced email from Posterous about a comment on your blog, for example, the message can display all the current comments (including those that arrived after the email was sent!) and provide you with a dialog that allows you to reply to the comment.

For Netflix, this system would allow you to see the most recent recommendations for your Instant Queue, for example, no matter how old the email is – and add movies to your queue right from the message without ever leaving Hotmail.

Security

In the long run, Microsoft hopes to open this system up for any email sender, but for the time being, it’s working with the small number of partners to pilot this system. A little piece of information that these partners add to the message header tells Hotmail that a special version of the email is available for display in Hotmail.

As I mentioned above, the main reason for banning these features from virtually all modern email systems today is security. To ensure that the emails that arrive in Hotmail are safe, Microsoft actually sandboxes the code and isolates it, so that it can’t harm a user’s machine. In addition, it checks who the sender is and will only display these messages when they come directly from the source. Because of this, these interactive elements won’t show up if you forward a message to a friend, for example. Hotmail’s servers also inspect the message to ensure that there is no malicious code in there and users will have to enter their security credentials for the respective service the first time they open one of these messages.

Standards?

For the time being, this is obviously a Hotmail-only feature. There is currently no standard for displaying this kind of information within emails yet. While Lewis acknowledged that “there is definitely an interest to turn this into a standard,” he also admitted that different services will likely take different approaches to add these kinds of features to their clients.



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