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Date: Friday, 15 Dec 2006 19:55

I’m sorry to say that Yves and me are slipping on our spacesuits and going back to our homeplanet. No, really, we put Techcrush to a rest. We started out with the idea of contributing something valuable to the blogosphere and have been writing Crushes for around 4 months now, gathering experiences along the way — mainly that Techcrush needs a large-scale workload to be kept running properly. Ongoing research for every to-be-featured start-up is a very time-consuming task. Time, which we can’t spare so easy, as we are both entrepreneurs, having to run a business as our main occupation.

Anyway, we had fun doing this during the past months and got in contact with interesting people. We will both continue blogging at our private playgrounds Technoskop and Not-Different-But-Better.

Cheers,
Yves and Lutz

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Notes, Lutz"
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Dec 2006 10:08

“Podcast” was the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2005, as being announced on December 5th: “Only a year ago, podcasting was an arcane activity, the domain of a few techies and self-admitted ‘geeks.’ Now you can hear everything from NASCAR coverage to NPR’s All Things Considered in downloadable audio files called ‘podcasts.’ Thousands of podcasts are available at the iTunes Music Store, and websites such as iPodder.com and Podcast.net track thousands more. That’s why the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected ‘podcast’ as the Word of the Year for 2005.” (New Oxford American Dictionary’s press release).

Did PEW Internet & American Life Project keep that on their mind when they released a statistic on podcasting usage for the year 2006 some days ago? Arguably, Pew’s findings are based on a very small (too small?) sample size, but lets take a look the figures anyway.


Around 12 percent of all internet users reportedly downloaded a podcast, compared to around 7 percent in February-April 2006. The highest distribution is among the group aged 18-29. Regular podcast-usage penetration drops to 1 percent.

This translates into a growth of 70 percent throught the past months. Typical podcast-directories jumped and diversified from a few hundred podcast to several tens of thousands, as the podcasting report has it:

“The array of individuals and mainstream media institutions that now provide podcasts has also expanded dramatically. For example, in November of 2004, Podcast Alley, a podcast directory website, listed fewer than 1,000 podcasts for download. Today Podcast Alley catalogs more than 26,000 different podcasts, totaling more than 1 million episodes.”

So, there is growth, but the overall penetration is still quite marginal. Admittedly, podcasting is still a young technology (apparently, as issues about its specifications frequently pop up during conversations on podcasting throughout the past days), still I have some mixed feelings about Pew’s findings.
Even though the demographics of podcasting may be attractive to marketers, RSS is not. Podcasting might suffer from the same teething troubles like regular blog feeds, not offering enough statistic-pingbacks. I suppose the big money will skip podcasting and turn itself directly to online-video, probably turning the podosphere into a niche-market.

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Refresh Circuit, Lutz, podcast"
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Date: Sunday, 03 Dec 2006 19:47

The next Crushvalues have been calculated out of your votings. LibraryThing achieved the highest rating with 3.3. Zillow got the most attention and votes plus having the strongest domain in the field. This time, SEOmoz PageStrength tool went into the calculations, instead of mere Alexa-reach and Google-PageRank. SEOmoz calculates “The Relative Importance/Visibility of a Webpage. The Potential Strength/Ability of a Page to Rank in the Search Engines. Data on Popularity, Links & Mentions of the Page Across the Web” of websites. Check out the charts after the jump.


User Rating

Rating

User Relevance

The number of votings compared with each other.

Relevance

PageStrength

by SEOmoz

PageStrength

Overall Results

Results

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Monthly Crush Values, Crush Values, Lutz"
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Date: Friday, 24 Nov 2006 17:49

DabbleDabble appeared on the Crush-Radar a week ago or so, when Erick Schonfeld at The Next Net (former Business2Day) did an interview with Dabble’s CEO Mary Hodder. Time for a six-month-review of Dabble’s development.
The Berkeley, CA based start-up surfaced at the start of the year and went live in July. They received a seed-funding of $350k (according to USA Today’s tech-section) for their product, which is a mixture of social video-bookmarking and video-search.

Dabble searches the Web for video, targeting more than 300 video hosting sites like YouTube, Revver, Metacafe, and Blip.TV, as well as video blogs and other sources. (Google Video, by contrast, does not actually search the Web for videos—it only searches videos that have been uploaded to Google Video). So far, Dabble has indexed close to 4.5 million videos.” (Next Net)


Dabble is right on time, as the online video market is going to get white-hot at any moment. Knowledge@Wharton describe in their article “Online Video: The Market Is Hot, but Business Models Are Fuzzy”:

“Add up the venture capital dollars funding online video startups, the technology advances, the willingness of established players like ABC, CBS and NBC to try new distribution models and the increasing web viewership, and it’s clear that the video market is at an inflection point, say experts at Wharton. Indeed, it’s hard to argue with the numbers from various research firms. Video streams viewed rose 50% in 2005 and are forecasted to rise 32% to more than 23 billion served in 2006, according to AccuStream. Comscore notes that the average consumer of online video watches 100 minutes per month, up from 85 minutes six months ago. YouTube says people watch more than 70 million videos a day on its site. IDC forecasts that online video services will generate $1.7 billion in revenue by 2010, up from $230 million in 2005.”

Dabble aggregates videos with a browser bookmarklet, which lets you add a site along with a thumbnail, a description and tags. Social features include pages for recent and popular media and sharing playlists with your friends.
Video-search is being done by searching “all the text that is available, but then rank the results based on how humans interact with a particular video. These “gestures,” as Dabble CEO Mary Hodder likes to call them, include whether anyone on Dabble (or sometimes the Web at large) has blogged about a video, tagged it, linked to it, bookmarked it, added it to a playlist, or searched for it … Hodder has a secret weapon. She is augmenting her search engine’s machine intelligence with the human intelligence of the Dabblers (my term) who use the site to collect and organize their own favorite videos from around the Web. Currently Dabble (which just launched in beta last summer) has only attracted about 7,000 registered users who do this, but this group is growing and they make the site smarter for everyone who uses it.” (Next Net)

With its emphasize on search, Dabble seems to have slightly repositioned itself lately. A clarification on the matter was being posted by Mary Hodder at Dabble’s official blog two weeks ago:

“While I absolutely love Flickr, Dabble is *not like* an image hosting site. Just to be absolutely clear, Flickr, Odeo and Podshow either *host* or *make* content. They do not search all images, or all audio, or across video or even the web. Sites that would be comparable to Flickr include YouTube, VSocial, Revver, Blip.tv, and the other 300 hosting sites for video that Dabble searches. There is a very big difference between a site that creates or hosts content, and search engines.
Dabble searches all video content across all hosters, as well as other sites on the web, and we continue adding more results to our search engine every day.”

I wonder why this wasn’t sweeped clean right after Dabble was pegged as a video-bookmarking-service by Techcrunch, GigaOm and Mashable–which already happened in Febuary. Maybe really a recent strategic nudge?

Anyway, I find this mixture of search plus social clever and compelling. It brought some steady growth to Dabble over the past months, according to Alexa. So there remains the business-model not being in place at the moment, which seems to be a common problem to the sphere of online-video. Says Hodder:

“We are looking at the kinds of contextual advertising that can be done around video. Many brands want to be associated with user-generated content … If you think about a channel in the same way that someone can add to a collection, basically we are building a set of super-collection pages that will allow brands and companies to be associated with users and videos they like, and where they can get that control.”

My two pence here are that Dabble will see more solid growth. But I wonder if the Google-machine is already sharpening its sword–undisputably being the kind of the search-hill AND owner of YouTube, Dabble’s biggest source of media: Dabble “is adding 80,000 to 100,000 videos to its search index every day (with about 65,000 of those coming from YouTube).”
But searching the juice of online-video should offer enough space for different approaches–how about a Riya of video-searches as an alternative approach for example… anybody?

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "6 months old startups, Dabble, Lutz"
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Date: Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006 16:17

SSE is a “’specification that extends RSS from unidirectional to bidirectional information flows.’ And, wow, is Microsoft starting to get with it. They’ve released it under Creative Commons license, the same license that covers the RSS 2.0 specification” (Crunchnotes)
Ray Ozzie’s concept sprung up last November and immediately got me hooked up shilling like Michael Arrington: “New companies will be built on the back of SSE.”

Now, what’s SSE’s recent progress?

Not much news so far. The last update to SSE at Microsoft was being done in January, bringing it to version 0.91. Outside Redmond there is but one project in the wild, playing with bidirectional feeds: Skinnyfarm.

Voices like Sam Sethi from Techcrunch UK demanded a new specification for RSS in the recent months:

“Well in this age of ad-supported free web content and free applications, advertisers see it differently and may prefer to use another adage instead to describe RSS “if you can’t measure it, you can’t monetise it”. And as a publisher, if we are not to kill this golden goose, then it is vital to provide the right type of feedback information to advertisers but worryingly there are very few reporting tools out there right now that can help do so…
Of course there might be an alternative method to update publishers, and thus report to advertisers in turn as to how many feeds and post items have been read, using Microsoft’s bi-directional RSS extension called Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE)?” (Read his thoughtful posting on the matter here)

I fully agree that SSE should play a vital role to the world of feeds. But did I miss something, or is SSE still a sleeping beauty?

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Refresh Circuit, Lutz, sse"
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Date: Saturday, 18 Nov 2006 10:11

Ever felt the need to organize your books online? LibraryThing let’s you do this by using tags. Wound up by Timothy Spalding, LibraryThing debuted on Techcrunch a year ago.
As Pete Cashmore described it: “LibraryThing is almost certainly the leading independent social network for books, although a newcomer just created a rival product - Shelfari launched in October and aims to represent your book collection on a virtual bookshelf.”
Users can manage up to 200 books for free, or choose a premium account with no restrictions.

LibraryThingLibraryThing competes with several other services in its space, Shelfari, for one. Still, Tim Spalding’s book-tagging saw some strong and steady growth throughout 2006. As of November, Tim registered 100.000 users: “Our 100,000 members have entered 7.1 million books and added some 9.5 million tags,” as he stated at Mashable.

Some days ago, LibraryThing added two new book-suggestion features, BookSuggester and UnSuggester, which try to surpass Amazon’s recommendations (not too shaby in my opinion):

“BookSuggester, works in a familiar way … For recommendations, we run a series of algorithms against holding patterns and tags and come up with three detailed lists of recommended reading for every book….
Amazon is the king of book recommendations. They’re solid and surely reflective of what sells on the site. But ecommerce has limits. We think LibraryThing is creating the best recommendation system for when you want more than that…
UnSuggester, turns the “similars” algorithms on its head—it finds opposites. So, rather than showing books bought with or found together in the same library, it shows the books that aren’t.”

While competitor Shelfari seems to be more sticky at a quick glance (by offering a wider social dimension than LibraryThing) and offers a nicer interface (especially LibraryThing’s two new suggestion-services could use a little polish), they can’t keep up, trafficwise, as Alexa has it. Admittedly, Shelfari is too young to judge on further development.

Figures seem to indicate that LibraryThing’s upswing is likely to continue. This will be especially true if LibraryThing will be able to tap into the market of libraries and schools. But this also pinpoints a problem: to enter massive amounts of books into the system manually seems to be cumbersome (now, don’t call me lazy… I’m just too busy) ;)
Mac-users know a service called Delicious Library from Delicious Monster already for quite a while, which lets you scan a book’s barcode (or DVD, or whatever) with a webcam:

“People in the early days use spreadsheets to keep track of what titles they have, but doing so is really a hassle as you have to key in all the data yourself… Delicious Library is a Mac OS X application that catalogues your personal collection of books, DVDs, CDs, and games. It does so by scanning the barcode of the item and then access the Amazon.com web service to fetch the detail information of the item.” (Wei-Meng Lee’s Blog)

An online-solution of Delicious Library’s functionality tied into LibraryThing–now, THAT would be a killer-service, which would send LibraryThing skyrocketing.

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "1 year old startups, LibraryThing, Lutz,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 15 Nov 2006 17:42

On November 14, 2005, Stefanie Olsen of Cnet’s News.com asked if Friendster is for sale: “The San Francisco-based company has hired Montgomery & Co., a boutique investment banking firm in Santa Monica, Calif., to find a buyer, CNET News.com has learned… Earlier this year, Friendster was shopping for a buyer, and according to one source, it was looking for a sale price in the ballpark of $200 million. Now its price has been lowered to the range of $50 million to $100 million, the source said.”


Last month, Gary Rivlin from the NY-Times broke the long Friendster-story (very worth reading), where he states that Friendster even “failed to find a suitor willing to pay even $20 million for the company” one year ago. Which is quite amusing to me, as Jonathan Abrams, Founder of Friendster had turned down an initial Google-buyout for $30 million in 2003.

It must hurt the Friendster-team to read Barron’s Online article about MySpace yesterday:

“Speaking with investors at a meeting in Sydney, Australia, yesterday, News Corp.’s (NWS) Rupert Murdoch reportedly said that the company’s MySpace unit could now be sold for $6 billion, or about 10x the $580 million News Corp. originally paid for the business. The $6 billion was reported in research notes this morning from UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff and Credit Suisse analysts Jolanta Masojada and William Drewry.

According to the reports, Murdoch said MySpace now has 130 million users, growing 8 million users a month; he expects 200 million users by mid-2007. Bourkoff says revenue from its advertising relationship with Google (GOOG) should bring MySpace $50 million in fiscal 2007, $250 million in fiscal 2008 and $300 million in both 2009 and 2010.”

While the echochamber is full of comments about Friendster’s demise, I beg to differ. Sure, Friendster missed the opportunity to cash in on a field they helped to pioneer. Even to a point, where “Friendster was nearly out of cash by the end of last year. It had halved its payroll, to 25 employees, and advertising was hard to come by on a site that, three years after its debut, still did not work right.” (NY Times).

Still, having to bite the bullet of only having 30 million or so users, is a problem that I’d like to have. According to Alexa, Friendster beat Facebook nearly throughout the whole year, trafficwise (but Comscore thinks different). Plus they acquired a very strong patent on social networking some months ago, along with a recapitalization of $10 million. Agreed, software patents are evil, and this one looks especially ludicrous. Still, it’s an asset.

PR, that’s where the rub is in my opinion. How could Friendster let it happen to be shown up like this by the echochamber and their financial service providers?

Outside the US, Friendster is still doing good, much better than, let’s say, Facebook (more here and here)–especially in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Last Sunday, Manila’s Sunday Times reported that

““Friendster is a strong brand here. Most Filipinos have Friendster accounts unlike in other countries . . . they don’t even know Friendster. People here love it so it’s easier to get the best people [for the development team.]” he [Joseph Ross Lee, Friendster’s Philippine team chief] said.
Southeastasia has one of Friendster’s strongest following worldwide with the Philippines leading the whole lot. However, because of confidentiality issues Lee could not divulge figures.”

I still see Friendster around for a longer time, if they finally wangle to monetize on their userbase (not on their patents).

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Refresh Circuit, Friendster, Lutz"
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Otavo   New window
Date: Thursday, 09 Nov 2006 12:14

Ontario based start-up Otavo appeared in April on Techcrunch, taking a swing at social search, by building micro-communities around Q&A’s. Otavo is a project of serial entrepreneur Amanuel Tewolde.

As press release of Otavo’s blog explains it:

“Otavo’s Intention Engine is poised to redefine searching on the web by allowing its users to simply state what they are looking for instead of typing keywords and sifting through irrelevant results … The search results are generated from information found and shared by people that have had similar intentions. “It is like taking pages and pages of Google results and selecting the best ones and putting them all in one place” said Matt, one of the beta testers. “We call each intention a quest. People join these quests for information and knowledge and are truly enriched by sharing what they find together” said Amanuel founder, and social ambassador of Otavo.” (piling it on a bit, are they?)


To contribute to a quest, users can use a bookmarklet. Otavo then accumulates all generated answers/bookmarks, making them available on their quest-pages and through RSS-feeds. Otavo also includes the whole array of social network goodness, like profile pages, blogs, awards/rankings through a point-system and what-have-you (check out Center Networks for an in-depth round-up) — they spend a lot of time in the past months to hone the user-experience and make Otavo as intuitive as possible.

Otavos business-modell consist of three approaches:

“1. Quest sponsorship. We would feature a client’s information by, adding a text ad, and/or highlighting the URL(s) added to the quest. Requirement is there must be a direct relation of the client to the Quest… meaning it must be useful.

As part of quest sponsorship, we would monitor and notify sponsors of new quests that are related to their products.

2. White Label. Otavo can be customized to be used in a private setting such as a library or for a classroom.

3. Premium Membership. (coming later in ‘07) Uploading and attachment of rich media to quests and ability to archive and attach pages to quests. Ability to create private quests accessible only by invited guests.” (/Message)

According to an interview with Amanuel Tewolde at Marketingmonger, Otavo started out with a high viral spread: 60-70 percent of all private beta-users consumed their allowance of invitations to point their peer-group to Otavo, “the bulk of the users inviting 2 o3 friends”. Nonetheless, Otavo didn’t quite see a comparably exponential growth in traffic throughout the past 6 months, albeit a massive hockey-stick at the end of July, after launching their public beta (according to Alexa).

The field of social search and human filtered, meaningful search-results are an important issue, thus lending players like Otavo more and more weight. Still, I’m afraid that Otavo could easily be overtaken by Yahoo or Amazon — Amazon’s Questville is already on its way and seems to offer a very similar approach, as spare informations seem to predict at the moment (any opinions or informations on Questville, anybody?).

As Stowe Boyd commented on Otavo:

“I am of two minds about Otavo. I am all for collective action and people rallying to help others accomplish their goals, but at the same time I have the sense that some necessary element for Otavo to take off is missing. Absent a simple focus — like Meet-up meetings or 43Places lists — the inherent complexities of rallying folks to help anyone do anything seems a barrier to Otavo success.”

My two pence here would be that Otavo’s relevance and success is heavily depending on either high quality of results or the sheer mass of collective wisdom. Since the mass of the mainstream will usually stay at the center of the web (Yahoo and Amazon, let’s say), Otavo’s niche could be located around special-interest-groups. I’m thinking about the educational and scientific sphere, to which research is a collective, ongoing process. Profiles and ratings (which are being revamped at the moment) could be more specifically designed around those occupations, at the meantime lending more sense to Otavo’s point-system, and nudging it gently towards a real reputation-system (what’s the expertise of people taking part in my quests anyway, as some might ask, or am I just being “quest-spammed” by somebody exploiting Otavo’s system).

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "6 months old startups, Lutz, otavo, ques..."
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Date: Thursday, 02 Nov 2006 14:15

Zillow is a Seattle based real estates service, providing free estimates of home values. On Zillow’s website, users navigate through a Google-like map to find neighbourhood pricing indices and current and predicted future values of specific homes. Their underlying data comes from public records, like from tax assessors.
Zillow debuted at the end of 2005, launched by former Expedia-crowds, namely Expedia founder and former CEO Rich Barton and former Expedia Senior Vice President Lloyd Frink.
Since then, Zillow raised an impressive $57 million in venture and grew to more than 100 employees (last time I read about it, it was 110 or so).

ZillowFollowed by some competitors like Real Estate ABC, Zillow continously added new features and partnerships. A bird’s eye 3d-viewing port was implemented in April, a mobile interface to receive Zillow’s “Zestimates” via email/SMS in July. In August, Yahoo’s new Real Estate site was launched with a deep integration with Zillow.
In under a year, Zillow made it to the top of its field, now being among the number one and two real-estates-site in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego (as Lloyd Frink cited Comscore-data at a California Association of Realtors conference).

Their latest feature enables home-owners to edit home facts and refine property estimates (part of their competitor’s Real Estate ABC’s feature-set, too). This was foreclosing a lot of badmouthing Zillow received recently, sullying the accuracy of their data:

“For instance, in the San Francisco area, 76 percent of estimates are within 10 percent of the selling price, but in the New York City area, accuracy falls to 52 percent.”
(The Next Net, citing a NYT-report)

“And as any Realtor, or Ex Realtor like myself knows, the data from the public record sucks …
Like myself, most of these writers and bloggers have plugged in their own address into Zillow and got the wrong information. Either too many bedrooms, too little or too much square feet because of remodels. Some commentators are reporting values up to a third too shallow.”

(Real Estate Marketing Blog)

“Community activist groups are complaining to the FTC that real-estate site Zillow undervalues the homes of poor blacks and Latinos (and thus could be used to support discriminatory lending practices). The problem is that those are not the only home values Zillow is getting wrong. The site is just too spotty when it comes to its Zestimates.”
(The Next Net)

Lloyd Frink entered the lion’s den, when he took part in a California Association of Realtors conference some days ago; He found himself in the middle of a mudfight with Realtor.com’s CEO Allan Dalton (find videos on YouTube here), who took the same line: “…nobody is finding out what their home is worth on the internet.” — admittedly, one has to give Frink credit for even showing up there.

Now, is this a guerilla-marketing-kickback from the realtor-crowds or Zillow’s ultimate Achilles’ heel? Zillow’s blog addressed the issue with this posting:

“Zillow is about empowering consumers with information and tools which they have not had access to before. Our Zestimates are designed as a starting point. We say in many places on the site (and next to the Zestimate on every home details page) that Zillow is not an appraisal, but a free research tool for consumers …
We feel these accuracy numbers are pretty good, but we are working hard to make them better. Since our beta launch in February we’ve had a tool called “My Estimator” that lets anyone work up their own estimate of any home’s value by inputting information that only someone who’d been inside the house would know. Recently, we opened up our database to let owners input their own home facts and publish their own estimates alongside ours. This is some progress; there will be more.”

I’d say, Zillow has enough funding under its belts to hammer out new ideas or forge some strategic partnerships (namely with realtor.org).

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "1 year old startups, Lutz, Real Estate A..."
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Date: Monday, 30 Oct 2006 17:03

The results are in for last month’s postings: this time, the winner is Indeed.com, with runner-ups being AllofMp3 and AllPeers. Hit the jump to see the charts.

User Rating

Ratung
User Relevance

The number of votings compared with each other.

Relevance
Authority/Pagerank

Pagerank
Alexa-Reach

Comparing the general magnitude of traffic

Alexa-Reach
Overall Results

Results

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "Monthly Crush Values, Crush Values, Lutz..."
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Indeed   New window
Date: Friday, 27 Oct 2006 16:10

A competitor in the crowded job-search and -board space, Indeed debuted on Techcrunch some 12 months ago. Indeed is a vertical search-engine for job-posting, established in spring 2005 in Stamford CT by Paul Forster and Rony Kahan. The two founders started Indeed after their previous project, employment- and finances-related website, jobsinthemoney.com was acquired by Financial News in September 2003.

IndeedIndeed crawls jobpostings from over 1000 unique sources, adding over 110,000 new jobs per day (Siliconbeat).Some two or three months ago, the site saw roughly 1 million unique visitors, submitting 25 million searchqueries. Indeed.com has been launching a variety of new features, such as RSS feeds, IM-support and so-called Jobrolls throughout this year.
They quickly raised a funding round of $5 million in August last year from the New York Times, Union Square Ventres and Allen & Company. Given the importance of classified ads to the newspaper-business, a perfect match.

“In terms of monetization, Indeed.com has a sophisticated advertising network. That is, companies bid for placement on the top and bottom of the natural search results’ pages. Like Google, the advertisers pay only on clicks. It’s also fairly easy – since the advertiser does not have to select keywords or write copy. So far, there are over 150 advertising clients.” (Taulli.com)

Indeed’s closest competitor, Simply Hired, even received a funding round of $17.7 million from Foundation Capital and Rupert Murodch’s online empire, among others, thus having won the funding-race so far.

Both competitors’ functions are actually quite similar to each other, especially after Indeed added their salary-search lately. While Indeed offers a simpler, Google-like approach, Simply Hired tries to be a little bit more visually pleasing and offers some tools a bit more prominent and quickly than Indeed (for example the above-mentioned salary-function).

Besides offering the same solutions, Indeed rolled out more technical features: they offer integration of so-called jobrolls for blogs and added IM-support for their product, as Techcrunch reported:

“Check this out: add “IndeedJobs” as a friend on Google Talk and say “hello”. You’ll get a nice (and fast) interface to the Indeed job search engine. Nice tool.”

Meanwhile, Simply Hired tried to find more unique niches with special interest target groups (see Techcrunch, Simply Hired, Now for Senior Gay Mothers Who Love Dogs & the Environment). Fox integrated them with Myspace to form Myspace Careers. Simply Hired’s CEO Godhwani expressed “that for now, Simply Hired, is focusing mainly on the U.S. job market but he did not rule out working more closely with News Corp. down the road in order to expand internationally.” (Money.CNN)

Still, Indeed sees up to three times more visitors than SH, according to Hitwise. At their core-business, search-results, Indeed cuts a fine figure, probably better than their competitors. Duplicate postings are being grouped or deleted (a huge problem for big job-boards like Monster). Offerings are filtered out after 30 days. Thus, Indeed offers fewer job-listings, but seems to have more relevance.
However, both competitors are steadily growing, as the whole market still has lots of room for growth. According to a study by The Riley Guide, only about 3 to 5% of job seekers find employment from online job sites; most people still find their next job through friends, family or colleagues.

I find Indeed’s business flawless and see more healthy growth for them in the next one or two years — especially since Indeed’s usage is still being dwarfed by the 800 pound gorillas of employment sites: CareerBuilder had a market-share of 14.63% in April, Monster.com ranked second with 13.93%, being followed by Yahoo’s Hotjobs with 5.53% (Hitwise). Indeed only had 0.76% market-share on this scale.

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "1 year old startups, indeed, Lutz, simpl..."
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Date: Wednesday, 25 Oct 2006 12:27

Is it neccessary to introduce AllofMp3? In short, AllofMp3 is a quasi-illegal Russian service, selling nice-price (so far) DRM-free music over the internet. The service is being run by Media Services Inc. and their server-partner Rosnet, both infamous for being unavailable for comments or even for finding their real business-address (supposingly next to Moscow’s city-center at metrostation Aeroport).

AlloffMp3AllofMp3 claims to offer hundreds of thousands albums, adding around 1000 per month.
When comparing the total turnover of digitally sold music, AllofMp3 scores second place with a reach of 14%, right after iTunes. Napster, by the way, got around 8%, MSN 6%. They have a healthy userbase of roughly 5 million users, growing at 5000 users per day.
Customers can choose various audio codecs for their downloads, including lossless formats. However, AllofMp3’s online encoding has been critized for producing compression artifacts when re-encoding their already compressed source-files. Music can be downloaded at AllofMp3’s website, or through a desktop-application called “allTunes”, which was introduced in March this year.

AllofMp3 supposed record-piracy played a decisive role from keeping Russia out of the WTO this summer, if taking U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab at face value. She “has warned that continued operation of the site signals a lack of respect for intellectual property law that could jeopardize Russia’s long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization.” (International Herald Tribune).

The legitimacy of AllofMp3 is maybe quite complicated and doubtfully, or maybe it’s not. Techcrunch among other blogs states that “The service, which would clearly be illegal in the U.S. and many other countries, continues to operate apparently legally under Russian law.”
I wouldn’t fully agree, as AllofMp3 just uses loopholes in Russian copyright legislature, which I don’t equate with being legally (I mean, really). Alex Moskalyuk’s blog annotates:

“On March 4th prosecutor’s office of Moscow’s Southwestern region refused to charge AllofMP3.com in a criminal lawsuit. What’s interesting is that AllofMP3.com did not win the case due to the compulsory licensing legislated in Russia. The prosecutor’s office affirmed that the Russian music site was distributing copyrighted music from its site, and in many cases did not have a proper license to distribute them. Russian criminal law severely punishes attempts to distribute copyrighted music without proper licensing procured first. However, Russian law is quite specific about distribution of material goods, as the law usually applies to CD and DVD pirating.
Moscow prosecutor’s office noted that Russian music site does not distribute material goods, and since is not subject to prosecution under the criminal law. AllofMP3.com distributed digital goods via Internet, of which Russian criminal law says nothing.”

This loophole, by the way, was being closed by the Russian government at the start of September. AllofMp3 reacted with a press release, but kept its business intact so far.

AllofMp3 pays royalties (15 percent of their revenues) to the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS), the Russian equivalent of the RIAA. Now, “Russian law states that organizations such as ROMS need the permission of the rights holders to manage their rights, though ROMS maintains that this is not the case.” (Wikipedia)

According to a rare interview with AllofMp3’s CEO Vadim Mamotin some days ago, ROMS tried to contribute payments to UK record labels, but without success.

“A few questions on this vein indicate that the record companies don’t recognise ROM? Maybe a wider realisation that accepting payment from ROM would somewhat legitimise the unlicensed Mp3 service. And would weaken the case against Allofmp3.com and similar sites.”

Next, Visa and Mastercard stopped accepting credit card transactions for music downloading at AllofMp3’s site — read more here. Besides european customers still being able to place prepaid payments at AllofMp3 via Xrost/Ukash (not being supported in the US), Mediaservices conjured up a new, DRM-based business-modell for its userbase:

“AllofMP3 said Tuesday that as of Wednesday, its business model would move toward an ad-supported distribution of free content. The company, which previously charged about $1 an album, plans to offer consumers a new software program that allows them to download any song from the site for free”

“Users of the new service will only be able to listen to songs by using the AllofMP3 software, and the songs will be usable on just one computer at a time. The interface, called Music for the Masses, will initially be available for Microsoft Windows, with an Apple version arriving in several weeks, Mamotin said.”

At the end of last week, TheDigitalMusicWeblog already saw AllofMp3 “sinking like the Titanic”. While this is far from being true to me (considering ongoing traffic), I cannot help but wonder if the new DRM-wrapper hits AllofMP3’s customers at a very sore spot. Admittedly, AllofMp3 has very loyal users, who would gladly accept even higher prices for AllofMp3’s comfortable service. However, DRM-free music always seemed to be an important USP here.

Still, I rather see Allof Mp3 finding new ways of monetizing their business and/or leaving Russia for even more legally remote countries instead of disappearing in such an emerging market. Although downloading music is still in its infancy, it will accelerate rapidly over the next 3 or 4 years. One can only guess that it will account for more than one third of all consumer spending on recorded music by 2010. Who knows how DRM is going to evolve at the same time. At least Apple’s iTunes is running afoul several european laws at the moment, too: Their closed, non-interoperable approach is being considered illegal in certain nordic markets and non-compliant with new laws in France.

In the meantime it will be interesting to see if RIAA and IFPI will try to take a swing at AllofMP3’s customers or internet service providers, if they can’t hurt AllofMp3.

Vadim Mamotin:

“Recording industry should consider our users’ opinion - most of them confess, that they started spending more paying for music once they found out about the site. They love to pay if they don’t feel ripped off … we will be an excellent source of additional income. And, we believe they believe we can be an effective deterrent against piracy - real piracy.”

Update:

Was I waiting for IFPI/RIAA to gang-up on ISPs? Well it didn’t take long: yesterday a lawsuit was filed in Denmark to block access to AllofMP3. More at the Register.

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "1 year old startups, AllofMp3, Lutz"
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Sponit   New window
Date: Monday, 16 Oct 2006 07:12

Sponit, developed by three U.C Berkeley students, incorporated as a subsidiary of California-based Dalex Inc., debuted on Techcrunch in December 2005, then launching a private beta. In the meantime, Sponit is public and launched some new features like tagging and a mobile version.

“Sponit comes from the word spontaneous or ‘random’. At sponit, you’ll be able to post pictures and stories into what we like to call “spons”; spons are like snapshots of life.
“Well isn’t that blogging?” We designed the site to be like blogging but without alot of the annoyances associated with blogging. At places like xanga and livejournal, the committment of having to constantly post is a pain. At sponit, you can make one post, and be the most popular poster on the network. For blogging, this isn’t the case.
Anyone can see your post. People can add your post, or spon, to their favorite spons, view your other spons, or view the next random spon…”

…is SponitCorp’s own definition of their service. Basically, Sponit is a collaborative blogging-platform with a random navigation.
Sponit will display a link to other “spons” only if authors cared to tag their articles. Otherwise users can only jump to the next random posting or read more from the same author. “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature,” some might say now. Well, I think it’s debatable if surfers on the Internet are looking for complete randomness or specific information.

So far, Sponit didn’t gained much traction (with an Alexa traffic-rank of 862,986), maybe at least this should be a broad hint for a slight repositioning.

As Darian Shirazi mentioned in an interview, the point in Sponit so far is to…

“post a story, gain maximum visitation and feedback. Currently, blogging has many problems attached to it: (a) how to drive traffic (b) daily updates to keep traffic (c) consistency of quality (d) an amount of web experience. sponit solves all four of these problems for web gurus and for amateurs.”

But Sponit’s randomness could turn out as a major road-bump: the more contributors post on Sponit, the lesser articles will get some exposure, as most readers will not read through dozens of spons. This seems to be quite a let-down to SponitCorp’s ideas. Really, Sponit needs a gentle nudge away from its original concept: content on a given tag or from a given author should be more interconnected, so readers don’t need to gamble on what they are going to read. Categories would be helpful, at least there should be a search-field.

I could imagine Sponit turning into a broader, content-richer Squidoo this way. They could even try the same route of sharing advertisement-revenues as a reward. Another incentive would be to push synergies between Sponit’s members contributing to the same tags. This could turn Sponit into Web2.0’s version of a web-ring.

Author: "Lutz W." Tags: "1 year old startups, Lutz, Sponit"
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