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2011-05-07 12:25
Did you hear that both Google and Facebook are looking to either partner with Skype or simply buy it? Funny, because back in the day when Skype was in play (before it was acquired by eBay), Google had a chance to buy it, but Larry Page and Sergey Brin nixed the idea.

People laughed at me when I suggested back on September 29, 2010 that Facebook should buy Skype. Here’s what I wrote then, and I still think that is the real reason for a Skype-Facebook deal:

Sure, this would be a big, hairy merger, but look at it this way: In one swoop, Facebook would dominate what I’ve maintained is both the new age and classic social networking. They have people’s credit cards; they have their real-world phone information; and in the end, they have a better, more useful, social graph than Facebook itself.

The Skype-Facebook client on the desktop would mean both Facebook and Skype will be jointly in people’s faces, and take time away from other web services, such as Google. A simple search box inside the Skype client, and the two companies are starting to take attention away from arch-nemesis, Google.

Since then, Skype is much bigger, has more revenues and has a lousy new desktop client. Facebook has taken huge strides towards owning “communications” and online “interactions.” When Facebook launched its Social Inbox, I pointed out:

For the first three years of its life, the company was merely a social network, but then it transformed itself in quick succession into a social web platform and then a social aggregator of the web. Today, the company launched its “social inbox,” a new kind of messaging system that is the first public manifestation of the new new Facebook. Facebook’s newest core competency is communications — a way to become even more indispensable in our daily web lives.

There are many other reasons why this deal makes sense, the biggest being Marc Andreessen, the web wunderkind turned über-VC who sits on the board of Facebook and has investments in both companies. It would be Christmas in summer for his fund if this deal goes through.

Tags: facebook, Google
2011-05-07 11:13
Google and Facebook are warning legislators of dire consequences if California passes a "do not track" bill. The proposed law would require companies doing online business in the Golden State to offer an "opt-out" privacy mechanism for consumers.

Senate Bill 761 "would create an unnecessary, unenforceable and unconstitutional regulatory burden on Internet commerce," says the letter in opposition to the measure. "The measure would negatively affect consumers who have come to expect rich content and free services through the Internet, and would make them more vulnerable to security threats."

Signed: Google, Facebook, Time Warner Cable, CTIA - The Wireless Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, and about thirty other associations and companies.

A method for consumers

The legislation in question comes from the office of state senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). Lowenthal's bill would require the state's Attorney General to deploy regulations by July 1, 2012 forcing any business that uses, collects, or stores online data to offer California consumers "a method to opt out of that collection, use, and storage of such information."

According to its summary, the bill would specify:

that such information, includes, but is not limited to, the online activity of an individual and other personal information. The bill would subject these regulations to certain requirements, including, but not limited to, a requirement that a covered entity disclose to a consumer certain information relating to its collection, use, and storage information practices. The bill would, to the extent consistent with federal law, prohibit a covered entity from selling, sharing, or transferring a consumer's covered information. The bill would make a covered entity that willfully fails to comply with the adopted regulations liable to a consumer in a civil action for damages, as specified, and would require such an action to be brought within a certain time period.

What would this "covered information" include? The "date and hour of online access," the location from which the information was accessed, the "means" (presumably the broadband device and its operating system) by which the data was obtained and stored, the user's IP address, "personal information" that would include but not be limited to postal and e-mail addresses, and government identification numbers such as drivers' licenses, passport numbers, and tax IDs. Credit card numbers and security codes are also part of the definition.

Entities that do not collect "sensitive information" would be exempt from the law, however. These are defined as services that do not obtain and store information that relates directly to a consumer's medical history, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or financial status.

2011-05-07 10:53
Category: Entertainment
Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of location and local services, answered questions on-stage today at the Social-Loco conference in San Francisco, where interviewer John Battelle asked her directly: So what is Google’s social strategy?

“Our social strategy is to help users connect with each other,” said Mayer (who’s pictured above at a different event).

Okay, that’s not exactly revelatory. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Mayer’s response was her statement that Google is still “just getting started,” even though it has already rolled out social products like Google +1, which allows users to recommend search results to their friends. So we can probably expect a number of new social products in the near future.

Battelle also wondered whether Google might start using social data from Facebook. Mayer responded that the results of that kind of partnership would be “very interesting.” However, she said that she feels “skepticism” about whether it will ever happen, because Google’s relationship with Facebook hit a bump last year. The problem was that Google allowed users to import their Gmail contact information into Facebook, but Facebook didn’t allow a similar swap — so Google decided to block contact sharing in the other direction too.

“We said, ‘We still would like to be open,’” Mayer said. “Let’s be open if there’s reciprocity. And there was no reciprocity.”

And Google doesn’t seem to be letting this go. The company tried to increase the pressure on Facebook earlier this year by preventing Nexus S owners from seeing Facebook Contacts in their Android address book.

Before taking on her new role last fall, Mayer led Google’s search efforts, so Battelle also asked her about the recent news that Google’s new chief executive Larry Page has renamed the search group the knowledge group. Mayer said the name change was another way to communicate the bigger vision that Google has for search. Many users still think of search as typing a query into a box and getting a list of links, but Mayer said Google wants to “reimagine search as something that’s much more expansive” while staying true to the core idea of “how can you find and explore information?”

And Mayer touched on how Page is performing as the new CEO — there haven’t been any big changes.

“Larry’s very focused on technology and on products,” Mayer said. “I think this really brings that to the forefront.”

In addition to her interview, Mayer announced a new product called Google Business Photos and demonstrated Google Earth for Android tablets.

Tags: facebook
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