Yahoo supports Google social network applications

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Yahoo Inc said on Tuesday that it supports a program by archrival Google Inc to develop applications for social networks and will help create a joint foundation to keep it alive.

Google launched its OpenSocial network in November to lure developers already creating popular Web applications on social networks like Facebook.

Yahoo, Google and News Corp-owned MySpace said on Tuesday they will create the OpenSocial Foundation to maintain a neutral, community-governed forum for developing applications. It will be set up as a non-profit entity, with assets to be assigned to the new organization by July 1.

Sony BMG Developing Online Music Service

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment says that the company is developing an online music subscription service that would give users unlimited access to its music and be compatible with a host of digital music players.

Sony BMG’s artist roster includes newcomers like Leona Lewis, along with stalwarts like Alicia Keys and Celine Dion, as well as country singer Carrie Underwood among others.

In an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Monday, chief executive Rolf Schmidt-Holtz did not offer a timeline for unveiling the service.

As for costs to subscribers, the newspaper quoted him as saying that the “simplest option would be a flat rate” fee per month of around 6 to 8 euros ($9 to $12) for unlimited access to Sony BMG’s entire music catalog and that the downloads would be compatible with all players, including Apple’s ubiquitous iPod.

He said that it was “even possible that clients could keep some songs indefinitely, that they would own them even after the subscription expired.”

Indonesia passes bill to block porn sites

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Indonesia plans to restrict access to pornographic and violent sites on the Internet after the country’s parliament passed a new information bill, officials said on Tuesday.

The Southeast Asian country has had a vigorous debate over pornography in recent years, exposing deep divisions in the Muslim-majority nation.

“I think we all agree there’s no way we can save this nation by spreading pornography, violence and ethnic hostility,” Information Minister Mohammad Nuh told reporters.

Nuh said that members of the public had asked the government to block sites with violent and pornographic content, concerned about their negative impact as more Indonesians gain access to the Internet.

The new legislation, the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, will allow courts to accept electronic material as evidence in cases involving Internet abuse, officials said.

Under the law, anyone found guilty of transmitting pornographic material, false news or racial and religious hate messages on the Internet could face up to six years in prison or a fine of 1 billion rupiah ($109,000).

Edmon Makarim, an adviser for the information ministry, said the government hoped to start implementing restrictions on sites containing banned material next month using special software.

Software for blocking sites would be made available for downloading on the ministry’s Web site (www.depkominfo.go.id), he said, adding that it was also looking at the possibility of direct blocking.

Microsoft Offers Free Support for Vista SP1

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

There have been enough problems with the Service Pack 1 update for Windows Vista that Microsoft is offering free tech support to anyone having problems, company representatives said on the official Vista blog.

A new SP1-specific support site says the free, unlimited support is available until March 18, 2009. The site offers e-mail, chat and phone support. As of this writing, the site was reporting one-day delays for e-mail responses and an 18-minute delay for chat responses.

The hours for chat are 5 a.m. to midnight Pacific time weekdays and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Phone support, at (866) 234-6020 is 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.

Google’s Stake in Search Engine Optimization

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Companies that provide services for improving Web sites’ search-engine rankings and running effective search-engine ad campaigns have a new competitor: Google.

Bundled in the DoubleClick acquisition came Performics, which provides search-engine marketing (SEM) and search-engine optimization (SEO) services.

This has created concern for SEM and SEO service providers, which now face Google, a key partner, also as a rival.

“It puts us in the awkward position of competing with Google’s own [SEM/SEO] agency for client accounts,” said Lance Loveday, CEO of Closed Loop Marketing, an SEO and SEM firm.

Over the past seven years, as Google’s popularity with advertisers and end users has boomed, so has the SEM and SEO business. Marketers began spending significant amounts to advertise on search engines, primarily Google, and they realized that they needed help from SEM firms to design, fine-tune and track the effectiveness of those campaigns. At the same time, those marketers recognized that they also had to make sure that their companies’ Web sites ranked well on search engines when users entered keywords relevant to their businesses, which is what SEO service providers specialize in.

Before the DoubleClick acquisition, SEM and SEO firms saw themselves as providers of complementary services to Google, but now that Performics is part of Google, things have changed.

For starters, there is a concern that Performics will get special access to inside information about Google’s search-engine algorithms, allowing Performics to provide SEO services that are more effective that its competitors’.

Then there is the worry that Google will push its in-house Performics SEM services at highly discounted prices, or maybe even free, in direct competition with SEM service providers.

Due to these and other clash points, SEM and SEO providers say their relationship with Google will inevitably get strained. This will likely be bad for Google, considering that SEM providers have a lot of influence over how their clients allocate their search advertising budget.

U.S. satellite radio merger gets antitrust OK

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Sirius Satellite Radio’s $4.59 billion purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio was given antitrust clearance on Monday as the Justice Department concluded consumers have many alternatives, including mobile phones and personal audio players.

Investors sent shares of both companies sharply higher even though the Federal Communications Commission must still approve the combination of the only two U.S. providers of satellite radio, a deal first announced in February 2007.

In a victory for Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin, who lobbied hard for the deal, the Justice Department agreed the satellite radio companies face stiff competition from traditional AM/FM radio, high-definition radio, MP3 players and programming delivered by mobile phones.

Breakdown Knocks Out Netflix Site

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Online DVD rental leader Netflix Inc. is suffering a technology breakdown that’s knocked out its Web site, inconveniencing its 7.5 million subscribers.

The outage could mean some customers will have to wait longer than usual for their next rentals.

Company spokesman Steve Swasey says the trouble blocked access to Netflix’s Web site about 7 a.m. PDT Monday. The site was still down in the afternoon.

Swasey says DVDs that normally would have been mailed Monday may not go out until Tuesday because the problem also has hobbled some Netflix distribution centers.

Security Lapse Exposes Personal Facebook Pictures

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A security lapse made it possible for unwelcome strangers to peruse personal photos posted on Facebook Inc.’s popular online hangout, circumventing a recent upgrade to the Web site’s privacy controls.

The Associated Press verified the loophole Monday after receiving a tip from a Byron Ng, a Vancouver, Canada computer technician. Ng began looking for security weaknesses last week after Facebook unveiled more ways for 67 million members to restrict access to their personal profiles.

But the added protections weren’t enough to prevent Ng from pulling up the most recent pictures posted by Facebook members and their friends, even if the privacy settings were set to restrict the audience to a select few.

After being alerted Monday afternoon, Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker said the Palo Alto-based company fixed the bug within an hour.

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