Marin Raises Another $11.2 Million For Search Engine Management Software

Marin Software, a startup that creates search engine management software for advertisers and agencies, has raised an additional $11.2 million in Series D financing. Marin’s venture capital investors include a href=”http://www.crunchbase.com/financial-organization/dag-ventures”>DAG Ventures, with Focus Ventures, Benchmark Capital, Amicus Capital and Triangle Peak Partners. This brings Marin’s total funding to $35 million.

Marin Software, which just raised $13 million last year, offers a browser application to help advertisers and agencies managing paid search advertising campaigns across Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search sites. Marin’s software is used by 180 companies including Razorfish, and FreeCreditReport.com. Marin’s customers spend at least $100,000 per month on paid search campaigns across the major search engines.


Mark Zuckerberg Talks (And Swerves Around) Facebook Privacy

Today during an interview at AllThingsD’s D8 conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got grilled by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher on Facebook’s recent privacy changes, the resulting backlash, and the company’s long-term vision.

By far the most tweeted about moment of the conversation came around a third of the way through, when Zuckerberg (who was sweating and appeared to be nervous, according to multiple tweets) took off his famous hoodie, revealing it to have Facebook’s mission statement stitched inside. Fortunately the conversation didn’t linger on Zuckerberg’s attire for long — the questions quickly turned toward some more pressing issues like Instant Personalization, and how Zuckerberg goes about making decisions.

When asked about the site’s privacy changes, Zuckerberg wasn’t exactly forthcoming. Many tweets, and the official live coverage of the event, noted that Zuckerberg dodged some questions about privacy, resorting to talk about encouraging serendipity through openness and well-worn anecdotes detailing why sharing is important. Zuckerberg also brought up Facebook’s oft-repeated stat that over 50% of users have adjusted their privacy settings, citing it as evidence that users know what they’re doing (this doesn’t convince me in the slightest — that means nearly 250 million people haven’t touched them).

With regard to Instant Personalization, Zuckerberg referred back to the News Feed backlash as evidence that innovative features can become immensely successful once the controversy dies down. He predicted that a few years from now, we’ll look back and question why all of these websites weren’t personalized.

Asked about leadership and his role at the company, Zuckerberg said that he would remain as CEO after an IPO, though he didn’t know when that would be. He also said that he regularly consults with a “core group” of Facebook employees that he has worked with for years, and that any of them would be capable of steering the company.

Toward the end of the conversation, Zuckerberg also noted just how much Facebook manages to accomplish with extremely small teams. Facebook Chat is run by one person. And Facebook search — which Zuckerberg said sees usage that’s on the same order of magnitude as Google search — is run by only twelve people.

Not to belittle what Facebook has accomplished with such small teams (really, it is quite incredible), but it’s worth pointing out that  the search comparison isn’t really fair. As MobileCrunch editor Greg Kumparak explains:

That.. doesn’t really make sense. Not the magnitude, but the comparison. It’s like saying “We are just as good at searching through our perfectly organized file cabinet as Google is at searching through someone else’s mansion.”


doubleTwist Launches A Slick Media Player For Android Devices

doubleTwist, the ‘iTunes for Android’ software that lets you sync your media files with dozens of devices, including Android phones, is one step closer to being a full-fledged solution for media sync on Android. The company has released a native Android application, available on Android Market for free, which offers users a polished media player capable of playing both audio and video.

Android is notorious for coming with a clunky default media player, and doubleTwist easily bests it, sporting a much cleaner interface, the ability to import iTunes playlists, and support for audio/video podcasts. That said, there are already plenty of third party solutions that also beat the stock Android player. So what makes doubleTwist different?

CEO Monique Farantzos says that the new doubleTwist Android player works directly with doubleTwist’s desktop software, in much the same way that the iPod and iTunes work together. Users can transfer ratings, playcounts, and other information back and forth between their phone and computer. Farantzos also says that online radio and support for wireless media sync (which would be big) are coming in the near future.

It’s worth pointing out that Android will soon allow users to stream their music from their PCs without having to physically connect their devices, but I suspect there will still be plenty of people looking to store and manage their media locally.


Twitter Testing Users ‘You Both Follow’ Feature

According to a Tweet just posted by Twitter engineer Nick Kallen, the microblogging network has just enabled a new “You both follow” feature. The feature, which is only being tested for 10 percent of users, allows you to see any common people that you and another user both follow. Here’s a screenshot of what the feature looks like.

The “You both follow” feature is pretty much what it sounds like. When you click on a contact it will show you the common people you both follow on the right sidebar of the page, just above the “following” tab. It’s actually surprising the feature hasn’t been turned on sooner, considering how useful it is in showing your social connections between other Twitter users.

“You both follow” is similar in theory to Facebook’s friends in common feature, which has been around for some time now. The feature no doubt makes Twitter a little more of an interconnected social network and it should be interesting if the microblogging network takes it a step further. For example, Twitter could start recommending people to follow based on who your friends are following.

UPDATE: Twitter API engineer Marcel Molina says in a Tweet that he’s formed a new team with Kallen to “build rapid prototypes.” I think this means we should be expecting more feature updates in the neat future.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Behind The Scenes, Location Turf Wars Have Begun

Over the past several months I’ve moderated or been on a number of panels with many of the top players in the location space. A common theme keeps recurring. When someone brings up rivalries between any of the companies, it is always downplayed in favor of an “everyone wins” message. I’ve been skeptical of that since day one, but as the space has exploded, there have been signs that a lot of companies are winning (as evidenced by both usage and fundraising). But now, as the space matures and larger rivals enter, things are starting to get more testy.

The most obvious rivalry is between Foursquare and Gowalla. Even as the two battled for supremacy at the SXSW conference this year, both sides downplayed the rivalry. But the fact is, there is a rivalry (and they even play it up for next month’s UK edition of Wired magazine — see: pic above). Foursquare and Gowalla don’t talk to one another — in fact, their two leaders, Dennis Crowley and Josh Williams, had never met until a panel I moderated at Where 2.0 after SXSW this year. That’s not to say they hate one another, but they’re also not out there holding location potlucks to discuss how they can work together for the betterment of everyone.

On Monday, another competitor in the space, Loopt, released its latest location app, Loopt Star, which asks users to check-in places to engage with brands. Crowley wasn’t a big fan of this (to say the least), and let it be known on his blog. “Check out Loopt’s foursquare knock-off. Points for checkins and “boss” instead of “mayor,”” he wrote. He continued:

Not to be a hater, but if I was going to create a foursquare knockoff, I’d use game mechanics and create something *totally different* (e.g. the “Points 2.0” stuff we’re cooking up now @ foursquare HQ).

Why would you ever just clone someone else’s work? Learn from it and innovate on top! That’s how we all push this space forward!

Earlier today, Loopt CEO Sam Altman tweeted out that he thought Foursquare was blocking the IP address of his office. Crowley responded on Twitter that it wasn’t intentional as far as he knew. But the block is still in place.

Crowley’s criticism of Loopt Star is very similar to a post he did back in January in response to Yelp entering the check-in space. At the time, Crowley wrote:

Shameless. At least innovate on top of it!:

Most any foursquare user will tell you our leaderboard is flawed. It tracks the wrong metrics; it encourages fake checks & cheating; etc. We’ve been hustling these past few months to build the infrastruture that allow us to tweak the game mechanics on our end (think: Leaderboard 2.0)

Poor guys, you copied the wrong stuff! 🙂

Of course, nearly 6 months later, we have yet to see this Leaderboard 2.0 stuff that he keeps referring to (Foursquare has undoubtedly been distracted by scaling issues and Yahoo acquisition offers).

As the company generally seen as the frontrunner in this space right now, of course Foursquare is going to have others gunning for it. But they’re hardly the only ones getting testy with rivals. Behind the scenes, a number of these companies seem to have a growing dislike (or at least, distrust) for one another. They may say the right things when they’re on stage or on panels, but it’s a different story when the spotlight is off.

All of this is to be expected. As the location space continues to be validated, each company is out to prove that it’s the one that will be the next big thing — the one people will remember. And as more people are beginning to understand that they can’t use all of these services all the time, some are going to be forced out.

And there’s a larger concern for many of these companies: it’s still far from proven that each can survive as their own businesses. Some are starting to make revenues, but those can quickly dry up if larger networks like Facebook or Google start to copy features and entice brands to sign up with them instead. And plenty of the larger companies out there still view the location startups as features rather than stand-alone products. If that thought starts panning out, many of these locations startups will be fighting to position themselves for quick exits.

Indications right now are that Facebook won’t enter the space in a major way (but will have simple check-ins), and instead will federate other location services’ data. But that will cause tensions too as each location service tries to become the preferred method that Facebook’s nearly 500 million users choose.

The next time you’re at an event and your hear one of these guys say that in the location space “everybody wins,” don’t believe them, because they don’t believe it either. That may have been the case in the early days, but we’re beyond that now. And all of these companies know it and are starting to act like it.

[photo: flickr/dpstyles]


Google Mobile Search Integrates Results For iPhone App Store, Android Market

Google has just launched a new feature for mobile devices — namely the iPhone and Android — that lets you use Google Search to quickly find native applications from the App Store and Android Market. You don’t have to do anything to activate the feature: just run a Google query like “shazam app” or “download yelp” from your phone, and Google will place a special result at the top that links directly to the application in the App Store or Android Market, depending which platform you’re browsing from. The result also shows the app’s star rating and a link to other applications relevant to your query.

It’s certainly a handy feature, but it’s a little inconsistent — a query for “shazam app” worked as expected, displaying a link to the application as well as its star rating and price. But a query for “yelp app” didn’t activate the feature (though “download yelp” did work).

At this point it’s not entirely clear how Google is determining which application to display. I found that the somewhat generic query “basketball app” yielded “Pro Basketball Scores”, a popular free application for Android with over 1000 reviews. Oddly, this is not the top result when you type “basketball” or “basketball app” into Android Market directly, which probably means that Google search is using a different algorithm.

It will be interesting to see if Google tries to do more with this, especially given how weak the search feature built into the App Store is. Apple controls the content on the App Store (descriptions, photos, etc.) so Google probably can’t do anything with that, but perhaps it could use its own data (for example, the number of times people have run queries for a given app title) to serve up more relevant results.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Twitter Annotations Testing Starts Next Week Through The Streaming API

Twitter Annotations are the next big feature a lot of people are excited about. With them, both users and clients will be able to add more context to tweets, which should make for a richer experience (and more useful data). A new post today in the Twitter API Announcement Google Group indicates that testing of Annotations will beging as early as next week.

To be clear, this is just a test of the feature through the API, and it will not yet be available to users. On June 7 through June 11, Twitter plans to flip the switch on some sample Annotation-enabled tweets in the Streaming API. Clients using this API should start to see tweets with these payloads appear. Some will be populated with sample Annotation data, some won’t be, Twitter’s John Kalucki writes.

Assuming general stability, on our end and yours, we’ll eventually leave annotation delivery turned permanently on,” Kalucki notes.

Twitter recently updated that Annotations Overview wiki page with some more information about what you can expect from the feature. Of note, Twitter has listed 11 “recommended” types of Annotations so that people can get started using them. Those are:

  • webpage
  • review
  • song
  • movie
  • tvshow
  • book
  • product
  • stock
  • offer
  • topic
  • event

Also worth noting is that Annotations will be limited to 512 bytes initially (though Twitter hopes to increase that limit over time).

This past weekend, Twitter held a Annotations Hackfest at their headquarters. Here’s one account of the event.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Yext Signs Up Superpages To Distribute Its Dashboard To 300,000 Local Businesses

Fresh on the heels of the launch of Yext Rep last week at TechCrunch Disrupt, Yext just signed up its first major distribution partner. Superpages will make an online, co-branded Dashboard which includes Yext Rep available to its 300,000 local business advertisers across the country. The Superpages Dashboard will roll out in the coming weeks.

Yext Rep is a way for local merchants to manage their reputations online. In one central place, it shows them how to claim their business on sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, Twitter, or Facebook, and what consumers are saying about them on the Web. All of this gets shown in a feed, along with local advertising data from Yext’s main pay-per-call advertising product, Yext Listings. With the new Dashboard, Yext Rep and Yext Listings are treated as enterprise apps for small businesses, and Superpages now also has an app in the Dashboard for managing Superpages ads, which can also be added to the main feed.

“Our vision is to ultimately be the UI for all local businesses,” says Yext CEO Howard Lerman. In fact, one of the tabs on the Dashboard is a Store where businesses can add different apps. Yext Rep is free, but Yext Listings, Superpages, and email marketing tool iContact are available for a monthly subscription. Yext wants to create a platform for simple business apps targeted at local merchants. It is pursuing very much a Salesforce model, where business owners can pick and choose whichever apps they want to use, and then the resulting data gets published as events to their feed, much in the way Salesforce Chatter is attempting to mix CRM and other enterprise data along with Twitter streams for mid-tier and larger businesses. Salesforce Chatter has its own Chatter Exchange for third-party apps, but Yext is going after smaller, local businesses which a much simpler product. Lerman is modeling his store more after iTunes: a central place where local business can find and buy all of their online business apps.

Yext is working on other apps as well, such as a Yext Sites, all targeted at local businesses. Yext Rep is the free anchor app which Lerman hopes will entice small businesses to sign up and expose them to all the other apps in the Dashboard. “We woud allow a competitive reputation management product into the platform,” he says. Yext collects a commission on every paid app sold, and distribution partners such as Superpages also get a cut of the revenues for apps purchased by their customers through the co-branded sites.

Below is a video of the Yext Rep launch demo at Disrupt

Watch live streaming video from disrupt at livestream.com


The FriendFeedization Of Facebook Continues: Bret Taylor Promoted To CTO

Facebook has a new chief technology officer, Bret Taylor. The FriendFeed co-founder and initial product manager of Google Maps came to Facebook with the $50 million acquisition of FriendFeed last year. He took on the role of director of platform at Facebook, and led the recent rollout of Facebook’s Open Graph and Open Graph API, which attempts to make social connections on the Web as important as hyperlinks. He played a key role in making the Facebook platform much simpler to build on.

Increasingly, Facebook is looking more and more like FriendFeed, with like buttons sprouting everywhere and a stronger emphasis on the central stream. Taylor brought a lot of the engineering and design sensibilities from FriendFeed and started to instill them in Facebook. Now he is being promoted to the vacant CTO role, where he will oversee other projects beyond the Facebook platform including search and the News Feed/homepage. The CTO position at Facebook has remained unfilled since Adam D’Angelo left in 2008 to start social Q&A service Quora.

Below is the email Mark Zuckerberg sent out to all Facebook employees moments ago announcing Taylor’s promotion, which Facebook provided to TechCrunch:

=======================
Internal Email from Mark Zuckerberg
=======================

Hey everyone,

I have some good news to share with all of you. I’ve created a new role and have asked Bret Taylor to become our CTO.

Bret joined us almost a year ago as our director of platform products. Since then, he has played a key role in building many parts of our new platform, including social plugins, our new graph API and the Open Graph. Since f8, already more than 100,000 sites use social plugins and our new API has received lots of praise for its elegance and simplicity. In addition, Bret has helped shape my thinking on products, engineering and strategy in many ways.

Today, Bret has just a couple of direct reports and gets things done by being a helpful source of advice and positively influencing decisions on a number of products. I’ve been talking with him recently about how he could play a similar role working with a few other areas to help shape our direction as well. Since Bret engages both in technical and product issues, I decided that creating a new CTO position outside of both engineering and product was the best way to formalize this new role.

In this role, Bret will report to me and will not manage anyone else. The CTO role is not a management role. The roles of building and running the product, engineering and operations organizations aren’t changing at all here. If you would have gone to Schrep, Chris Cox or Heiliger for something in the past, you should still go to them now. (Although, to be honest, Schrep, Cox, Bret and I all sit in the same pod so you can pretty much grab any of us at the same time.)

Bret will stay focused on Platform, but this new role sets him up to help out more in other areas as well. The platform product management work Bret has been doing will continue to report to Cox and the product organization as he does this. One of the reasons we can make this change is because of the great work Mike Vernal has been doing to lead the engineering team. I’m highly confident in him to continue building out this organization.

When I look around product and engineering, there are so many unique things we’re building with very leveraged small teams right now. Platform is the foundation for an entire industry, and our team has about 30 engineers. News Feed is the home page for more than 250 million people every day, and our team has fewer than 15 engineers. Our search type ahead serves the same order of magnitude of queries as Google, and our team has fewer than 15 engineers. These are examples of transformative products that we’re going to build out over the next few years and I’m focused on making sure we build them out the right way.

If you have a moment, please join me in congratulating Bret on his new role. If you have questions about this or anything else, feel free to shoot me a note or come ask it at our next Open Q&A.

Mark


Its Mobile Usage Poised To Explode With iPhone 4.0 OS, Pandora Raises More Money

Remember when Pandora was on its deathbed? Yeah, those days are long gone. The service has just raised yet another round of funding, we’ve confirmed. The round was led GGV Capital and participated in by Allen & Company, They’re not disclosing the amount raised, but you can bet it’s fairly substantial considering that they’re last round in July of last year was $35 million. Up until now, Pandora has raised just about $57 million in total.

The new money will be used to further fuel growth and invest in new resources, the company says. Back in April, the company passed the 50 million user mark (up from 40 million the previous December) just as they launched their new iPad app. Mobile growth has been a key for the company, and it’s likely to explode even further with the launch of the iPhone 4.0 OS which will allow Pandora to run in the background for the first time. Despite the restraint, Pandora has been one of the top downloaded apps of all time in the App Store.

But the new iPhone ability may bring with it some issues as well. Since it’s undoubtedly going to be used a lot more, Pandora is going to be streaming a lot more music for free (currently, music is served for free until you hit 40 hours in a month, then you’re asked to pay $1 to get unlimited access). The more music Pandora streams, the more it has to pay to the labels and artists. Of course, more music also means the more ads it can serve up (most of Pandora’s money comes from advertising).

Pandora has also been signing deals left and right with other device makers, and even car companies to extend the service’s reach.

Pandora’s last round of funding came right after it was officially saved following a comprise reached between webcasters, artists, and record labels on Internet streaming music rates. Thanks to that deal, its new freemium model, and the improving ad market, Pandora was able to go from a near-death experience to profitability in the course of  just a few months.

Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Pandora had hired Steve Cakebread to be its new CFO. Cakebread was the CFO at Salesforce.com when it went public, so that was seen as a possibility the company was looking at. But with this new money, that seems to be off the table, for now at least.

Information provided by CrunchBase


comScore: Browsers And Apps Neck & Neck On Smartphones; Social Networking Reigns

We all know that with the rise of smartphone platforms like the iPhone and Android, mobile browsing and app usage is skyrocketing. But what are people actually doing when they whip out their phones (other than playing Doodle Jump)? Internet analytics firm comScore has just released a new report detailing just that. The conclusions aren’t terribly surprising: on both smartphones and featurephones, social networking dominates. Other popular categories include news and online banking, but these trends diverge a bit depending on whether you’re looking at native applications or browser-based websites.

According to the study, native application and browser usage have seen strong growth on smartphones in the last year (with increases of 111% and 112%, respectively). In April, 80% of smartphone users fired up native applications, while 78% used their phone’s browser. These figures are important — during a presentation announcing iAds, Steve Jobs stated that people weren’t using search on their smartphones, but were trending more toward applications (note that not everyone who used their browser was using it to search).

In the same time span, a mere 19% of users on feature-phones used their browser, and only 17% used applications. But despite those relatively meager proportions, the ubiquity of feature-phones means that they still account for almost half of all mobile browser and app usage.

As for what activities users are engaging in from their phones, social networking is king, especially on native apps. Usage of native social networking applications grew 240% in the last year, with 90% growth in browser-based social networking. The other leading categories for native applications are news apps, sports, and banking. For browser-based sites and webapps, the most popular use-cases after social networking are banking, general reference, sports, and search.

One other thing to note: comScore is apparently omitting games from its analysis, which is almost certainly the most popular category for native applications.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Google Now Lets You Add Bing-Like Backgrounds To Search

Google is known for its spare, clean search homepage. A single search box, two buttons, and 28 words or less. Contrast that to Bing, which features a beautiful new background photo every day. Well, now you can add your own background wallpaper image to Google search.

Google is starting to roll out a new feature today which allows users to upload images from their computers or a Picasa Web album to personalize the search homepage. Call it Bing-envy, or just a case of Google loosening up its design strictures. But Google is going from spare minimalism to anything-goes design. Actually, opening up the design palette to users is more MySpace than Bing. But it is not the first time Google introduced user-controlled design option to one of its products. Gmail, iGoogle, and Chrome both have their own selection of themes, for instance.

People live in these products, and cosmetic features like this one perhaps make some users feel more at home. So go ahead and put up a crazy frog photo or a picture of your favorite beach at sunset. Ooh, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies already!

Information provided by CrunchBase


Stock Analysis Startup Trefis Raises $1.6 Million

Stock analysis startup Trefis has raised $1.6 million on funding from Village Ventures. The startup had previously raised $550K in angel funding in 2008 led by Timothy Weller, CFO of Enernoc and former CFO of Akamai, Bob Johnson of the MIT corporation, and Semyon Dukach, former president of the MIT Blackjack team.

Launched last fall, Trefis breaks down a stock price by the contribution of a company’s major products and businesses. The site lets you tweak your stock predictions by adjusting variables in a company’s business model, depending on how you think different segments of the company will perform. These predictions are plotted out on attractive interactive charts, which can also be embedded as widgets and shared.

The company is also launching a pro version of Trefis, which includes access to in-depth financial content for about 25 companies in the consumer sector (Example: Walmart, Coca Cola, P&G, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Ford etc.). Trefis Pro includes daily insights across both consumer and technology sector companies, as-well-as advanced privacy features for price estimates (i.e. you can hide your estimates from the community, which you were not able to do previusly). Subscribers to Trefis Pro, which will cost $50 per month, will also get free access to additional consumer sector companies as Trefis rolls them out. Trefis is also planning to launch pro planning content for other sectors like financial services, and healthcare.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Diaspora’s Final Tally: $200,000 From Nearly 6,500 Backers

When Diaspora set out to raise money to build an open Facebook alternative site, they had a pretty modest goal: $10,000. Of course, they were raising the funds through a less than traditional means — using Kickstarter, an online fundraising site. Still, they shot past that goal in 12 days. And within 20 days, they had raised over $100,000. Yesterday, the fundraising closed, the final tally: just over $200,000.

Obviously, the Facebook privacy fiasco played a huge role in the fundraising success. Diaspora pulled in money from a number of prominent people on the web — and, humorously, apparently even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. All told, nearly 6,500 people contributed money to the project — making it the largest Kickstarter project ever.

Now for the hard part.

While Diaspora has plenty of money, they have yet to make the actual Facebook alternative site. The four NYU students will now begin that process over the course of the Summer. As they wrote yesterday, “You may not hear too much from us in the coming months and we will try our best to provide regular updates, but our silence means we are hard at work.”

By September 2010, the team says it will release the first iteration of the project, fully open-sourced under the AGPL. Here’s the feature they say we’ll see:

  • Full-fledged communications between Seeds (Diaspora instances)
  • End to end GPG
  • External Service Scraping of most major services (reclaim your data)
  • Version 1 of Diaspora’s API with documentation
  • Public GitHub repository of all Diaspora code

After that, the project will move back to New York City where they will begin work on building out their secondary ideas for the service.

When Diaspora started getting a lot of press, many critics were quick to point out that this group of kids didn’t actually have one line of code written yet and were trying to take on a site with nearly 500 million users. And the truth is that many of these open alternative sites fail against their bigger rivals. Still, it will be interesting to see what these guys come up with with the $200,000 now in their pockets. If nothing else, they have a great sense of timing.


The 5 Best Features Of The HTC EVO 4G

The EVO 4G is a great phone with the notable drawback of its short battery life. But apparently a lot of you don’t care judging by the comments on my full review. Fine by me. Even though it doesn’t have the battery strength to make it through a day of moderate to heavy usage, there are still some serious advantages to this phone over others. Enough so that some buyers are probably going to camp out their Sprint Store this Friday. Here’s my top five favorite features so far, including a few I didn’t touch on at all in my review.