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We Dare trailer too bold for US market?

26/02 (1834 hrs IST): The world of virtual gaming just went bizarre. Ubisoft's 1st simulator game, We Dare,  also to be available on PlayStation 3 & Nintendo Wii, will be released on March 11. But that's not the reason for this story. The game & its makers are hitting the headlines for the last 24 hours or so for all the wrong (or should we say, right?) reasons because of the “saucy” trailer released for the game.

But 1st, a little explanation on what We Dare is all about. This game follows common Wii remote motion-controlled mini games & upto 4 players can participate in it, using avataars. We Dare has 40 mini games which include "kissing" the controller &......hold your breath, spanking.

Ubisoft released a new trailer (1:27 min) for We Dare a few hours ago which immediately  raised online  eyebrows. For the video clip shows 2 couples indulging in spanking & well... you gotta see it for yourself. Now, according to some online reports including this one by www.aussie-ninetendo.com, the trailer has been yanked off & viewing restricted to specific regions- which means Europe. Europe is where the game is gonna be released & not the US market, anyway, so we wonder what the hullabaalo is all about in the 1st place?

Google decides to reward high-quality sites


26/02 (1021 hrs IST): Search engine Google has overhauled its Search formula in the United States (US) to become more discerning while recommending websites in its Search results.

The move was announced late Thursday. According to Google's Principal Engineer Matt Cutts, & Google Fellow Amit Singhal who posted this piece of news in their blogpost, many of the changes that Google makes are "so subtle" that very few people notice them. "But, in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking."

Because of this tweaking, just about 12% of Search queries, will be affected dropping low-quality websites in Search results, while elevating high-quality websites.

Google said that it had worked on the issue for over a year & engineers spent several months making the algorithm change, which, after the US, will be rolled out everywhere else too.

Digital Chocolate gets fresh funds

24/02 (0615 hrs IST): Okay guys, yet another Social Gaming Developer seems to have hit pay dirt. Digital Chocolate, makers of games like MMA Pro Fighter, Rollercoaster Rush & Tower Bloxx, has announced that it has secured US $12 million in a Series D round of funding led by Intel Capital, with help from existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures & Bridgescale Partners. This round brings Digital Chocolate's total raised to nearly US $56 million since it first launched in 2003.  Digital Chocolate  is a leading software company in App Store downloads in 2009.
In 2010, the company became one of the top five global games publishers on Facebook. Recently,  Digital Chocolate also saw over 100 million mobile downloads. The company has created more than 100 games across different platforms. It now reportedly wants to use the fresh capital for expansion across nations.

China's latest Search offering

22/02 (2058 hrs IST): China's govt run news agency Xinhua has launched an Internet Search site called Panguso. 
The Search Engine is being run in partnership with state-owned China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone carrier by subscribers. Xinhua & China Mobile had announced the venture in August  last when Google Inc. had closed its China-based Search Engine.

This exhibition is every gamers' delight

21/02 (1835 hrs IST): It got great billing even before it took off. And the pre-event publicity has proved to be right, not just hype, judging by the presence of massive crowds at the 5-day 2011 Taipei Game Show that kicked off on Friday. According to reports coming in from the venue, tens of thousands of gaming fans & experts  have already checked out the the latest video & online games & game consoles. Catch up with the action.

2 mln downloads of IE 9 even before beta testing:Microsoft

20/02 (1420 hrs IST): We had reported on Feb 11 that Software giant Microsoft had released the Release Candidate (RC) of its forthcoming Browser, Internet Explorer 9. RC means the final lap before the official release of a Browser. Now, we've leant that Microsoft has announced that as many as 2 mln people had already downloaded its RC, showing just how popular the Browser is even before its official launch.Microsoft, in an official statement said it was "humbled by the enthusiasm".  The company will start notifying Beta testers to upgrade, soon.

Google adds new features to Social Search 

18/02 (1854 hrs IST): Google will soon roll out several new features to its Social Search feature launched in 2009. If you may have not noticed it so far, these Social Search results appear in a special section at the bottom of the Search results page. But not any more. One of the major changes being introduced by Google is all Social Search results will now be mixed in the main list on the Search results page, based on their relevance to the query. Only, they will be labeled in a way that makes it clear they come from someone's social circle.

Mike Cassidy, Product Management Director, and Matthew Kulick, Product Manager, in their post on  Google blog said the enhancements mean users will start seeing more from co-workers & friends, with annotations below the results they have shared or created.

Social Search requires that users be logged into their Google accounts and link to them whatever social networking accounts they want Google to consider when resolving Search queries.

Eg: Those Google users who have logged in & have also linked their Twitter, Flickr & YouTube accounts to Social Search will see links to relevant postings made by their contacts.

The new Social Search features will be available only in English for now and will be rolled out from next week.

The all-in-one Bing Bar

18/02 (0724 hrs IST): Software leader Microsoft has launched a free Browser toolbar called the Bing Bar. The Bar works with Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. Among its many features are Facebook & e-mail integration, publishing Breaking News, embedded features of the Redmond Search Engine , & so on. Facebook fans can get status updates simply by clicking the Facebook icon on the Bar. A dropdown window appears, showing a quick snapshot of what your Facebook friends are up to.
You can download it here.

Besides in-built features, the Bing Bar keeps track of your every movement & then asks you for action. Meaning - suppose you have opened up your e-mail, the Bar, sooner or later, will ask you if you want to add that e-mail account to your Bing Bar. You can even read your e-mail messages in a drop-down window or write an e-mail message, right there & then.

On the Breaking News side, you will get a message the minute something breaks. Or you can click the News icon to read the latest headlines from Bing's news page. The toolbar provides weather and traffic updates for your city, too.

Now, Facebook in your "not-so-smart" SIM card

16/02 (0604 hrs IST): A development that took place at the recently held 'Mobile World Congress' in Barcelona, Spain, could add muscle to Social Networking Site, Facebook. European digital security company Gemalto has gone & embedded the Facebook software on a mobilephone SIM Card. Called Facebook for SIM, this development shall now provide non-smartphone users a way to become a part of the Facebook world.
Essentially, what it means, to explain in layman's terms, is that because of this move by Gemalto, anyone shall be able to use Facebook on their handset. So, what does it mean for Facebook? Their present 500 million user base could immediately move into the billion space.
“Increasingly, people want to be able to stay connected & communicate with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business, Facebook. “Gemalto has developed a creative solution in Facebook for SIM that enables people without mobile data plans to stay connected to their friends on Facebook in an affordable way.” 
Users can sign up for this service & log in directly from the SIM application. Facebook for SIM, claims Gemalto, is extremely easy to use. No data contract or application download is needed, because the software is embedded in the SIM and it uses SMS technology. As a result, it works for prepaid as well as for pay-monthly customers.
“Facebook for SIM enables operators to leverage two of their main assets: the SMS to communicate with the web application and the SIM for application distribution to the masses,” added Philippe Vallée, Executive Vice President, Gemalto. “Over 200 million people already use Facebook on handsets & those are twice as active as non-mobile users ."
Well, readers can do the Math & understand the implications of this development.

Out, out damn spot

15/02 (0650 hrs IST): Google Inc has decided to take the war to the spammers. It has now given users of its Chrome Web Browser the ability to block Search results from low-quality Content Farms.

According to Google's principal engineer Matt Cutts, Chrome users can now install an extension for the Browser that blocks such sites. Once blocked, the user will never see results from that domain again in his Google Search results, said Cutts in his blogpost.

Cutts said the Chrome extension was available in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish & Turkish, besides English.

It was only last month that Google had announced moves to make it harder for spam-packed websites to rank high in search results.

One more incubator fund


11/02 (1624 hrs IST): Angel Funder 500Startups has launched yet another incubator fund called 500Startups Accelerator program. Under this, it will give each participating company some seed funding & access to a roster of mentors, in exchange for some equity. But there is a slight catch here. Click here to find out what that is.

Yahoo! launches digital newstand for mobile devices

11/02 (1044 hrs IST): Content re-invented. Internet portal Yahoo! has launched Livestand, a publishing platform that aims to give readers personalized Content  on their mobile devices. Online reports suggest that the digital newsstand will offer a continuous stream of Content based on  the initial inputs given by a user.
Things are not too clear on this front, as of now. When an average user logs on to Livestand, he/she gets to see 2 sections - for Advertisers & for Publishers. There is an e-mail address to be contacted for more info. That's it. A company press release, however, claimed Yahoo! plans to push the platform across multiple formats, including tablets, smartphones & Web Browsers.

Initially, Livestand will draw from Yahoo’s Content library consisting of Yahoo News & Flickr, but from all indications, eventually, it will be available to third-party publishers, some thing maybe like a Google News but only for mobile phones.

IE9 hits final phase of testing before final launch

11/02 (0547 hrs IST): The Seattle Times has reported that the latest offering by software developer Microsoft, it's Web Browser - Internet Explorer 9 - has hit the release candidate milestone. For those not so technically inclined, the release candidate is the last testing phase before a Browser is officially released. Microsoft, said the report, on Thursday announced that the new version would be available in 40 languages.

Many developers have been waiting for the IE 9 because it supports HTML5, which makes it possible to design richer websites. Many say the Browser is gonna be a "game changer", in the online world.  There is talk that the Browser will be officially released some time later this month.To catch up on our past reports on IE 9, click here

Skype's new iPhone App

10/02 (0620 hrs IST): Voice over Internet provider Skype has launched its version 3.0.1 iPhone App, which gives its users video calling capabilities on a TV set.

Which essentially means users can Skype their friends on a large screen TV. A small glitch though, but nothing that can't be rectified. You need a Skype compatible TV. So go check out the list of TVs announced by Skype that are compatible with the new iPhone App.

comScore releases digital media trends in the US in 2010

08/02 (2300 hrs IST): comScore, Inc., a company that measures the digital world, today released The comScore 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review. This annual report recaps key trends in the U.S. digital media landscape, including e-commerce, social networking, online video, search, online advertising and mobile, with an emphasis on how digital marketers can capitalize on these trends in 2011. Full report.

You have got priority Gmail
08/02 (1701 hrs IST): Gmail's mobile App has added a Priority Inbox function that helps users identify important e-mail messages. 

According to online reports, a mobile user needs to set up the Priority Inbox in the desktop version of his/her Gmail account. They will then be able to see the Priority Inbox sections when they open their  Gmail accounts from their phones.

A user can customize the Priority Inbox, using special markers for special/important e-mails. The new feature is available for most mobile browsers that support HTML5.

To retain talent in the world of Blogging

08/02 (0637 hrs IST): This particular outfit was launched on January 26, 2011 to, as it describes itself, "help people to understand the value of self-employment." CalledQuanik, this firm may be a mix of the 'Real World' & the online one but it still has made itself onto these pages because of its 1st project called Talent Blogger (TB).
TB is for those bloggers who cannot afford a domain & web hosting.  In order to ensure that good bloggers are not lost thus, the guys at Quanik have decided to launch TB. Under it, the shortlisted bloggers will be given free domain and a unlimited bandwidth web hosting account. The underlying part is that Quanik claims not to be making any money out of this nor any affliliate income. "The Talent Bloggers program is to only help those who really need a platform to establish their career," says a statement on the Quanik website.

Based upon the enteries, 10 users will be selected to provide the free unlimited hosting and domain for a year. The other requirements for one tobe qualified for this program is that he/she should be a resident of India & not own any web hosting or top level domain.

AOL Inc grabs The Huffington Post for US $315 million

07/02 (1839 hrs IST): This has come as a surprise to the online community. AOL Inc (formerly known as America Online) has bought online news hub, The Huffington Post for US $315 million. A press release  issued jointly by AOL & The Huff Post said approx US $300 million shall be paid in cash. The H-Post has 25 million unique monthly visitors & is considered to be an 'influential & rapidly growing news, analysis, & lifestyle website founded in 2005.
The new group will have a combined base of 117 million unique visitors a month in the United States and 270 million around the world, the release added. As part of the transaction, Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, will be named President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all Huffington Post and AOL content, including Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, Black Voices, PopEater, AOL Music, AOL Latino, AutoBlog, Patch, StyleList, & more said the release.

"The acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community, and social experiences for consumers," said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL. "Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers."

"This is truly a merger of visions and a perfect fit for us," said Huffington. "The Huffington Post will continue on the same path we have been on for the last six years - though now at light speed - by combining with AOL. Our readers will still be able to come to The Huffington Post at the same URL, & find all the same content they've grown to love, plus a lot more - more local, more tech, more entertainment, more finance, and lots more video".

Social Gaming scene in India hotting up, says news report

07/02 (1142 hrs IST): A report in India's leading financial paper, The Economic Times, on the state of Social Gaming in India, says the sector is witnessing growth because of access to mobile and Internet facilities.

Quoting Social Gaming experts, the report said the growth of social networks sites, the time spent by users on them, among other factors, was fuelling the growth. 

Deepak Abbot, Vice President-Product of gaming portal Zapak, was quoted in the report as saying worldwide, over 500 million played Social Games while In India, over 10 million (around 50 %) of Facebook users play social games.

Gaming in India though dominated by men, has a sizeable women gaming population as well, the report went on to say. The age profile of social gamers was usually 18-34, said Abbot, the Indian social gamer was a bit younger than the average international gamer.

One more Search Engine joins war against Spam

06/02 (1842 hrs IST): The movement is picking up momentum, surely but surely. One Search Engine after another is banning what are called as "Content Farms" from their Search Results. Content farms, as you may have guessed it, are nothing but Spam generating websites whose singular aim is to generate the "right type of Content' in order to rank high in Search Results.
Today, WebProNews has reported that Search Engine DuckDuckGo has started displaying results from wikiHow as the 1st result on its results pages for "how-to" queries. Meaning - all how-to searches will throw up results from wikiHow on top of the page.

Earlier this week, another Search Engine Blekko had announced it had banned sites  which it considered to be Spam. These included Demand Media properties like AnswerBag. Blekko is also responsible for having started a Spam Clock.

In fact, DuckDuckGo was among the very first in the list of Search Engines to have banned Content farms.

10 Startups in finals of Vator Splash, California-based LaborVoices wins 

05:02 (0753 hrs IST):   Here's an update: California-based Startup LaborVoices, which centres around labor issues at the workplace was chosen the ultimate winner out of the 10 finalists at the Splash 2011 competition. Click here to catch up with the story. 
04/02 (1116 hrs IST): The Vator Splash (contest) is underway at Café du Nord  in San Francisco, USA, where 10 Startup finalists are making a pitch to the VC panel. The latter consists of David Thacker from Greylock, Dara Bazzano of KPMG, Saad Khan of CMEA, Jed Katz of Javelin, Jay Jamison from Blue Run, Tim Chang of Norwest, and Raj Kapoor of Mayfield (also the lead singer of Coverflow).

In case some of you missed on this contest, Splash has been organized by Vator.tv, an entrepreneur networking website. Around 190 Startups had entered this contest initially (including this website) & they were put into full public gaze online. Depending on the public votes they could garner, some of them progressed to Round 2. Even fewer (10) made it to the final round, which is on today.
One of them, we are happy to note, is iPhone Apps maker, iBuildApp. We had written about this Startup just in December.
Click here for the list of the finalists.

Do you have it in you to hack it?

04/02 (6:45 a.m.IST): This bit of development has started making waves in the online community, especially among the "good" hackers. Google has decided to put its money where its mouth is. It will sponsor the prize money at an annual competition that allows participants to "break" into systems by offering US $ 20,000 to the researcher who can beat itsChrome browser.

The prize will be given away at the annual 'Pwn2Own' competition starting on March 9 in Vancouver. This is the 5th annual content by the HP Tipping Point's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) team. Many other browsers & mobile Apps are up for "hacking", & the total prizes add up to US $1,25,000.
Last year, the contest had seen 3 of the 4 browsers including the Internet Explorer 8 successfully compromised as well as the Apple iPhone.
So, if any one of you wanna take a shot, get yourself registered & take part in the competition. Registrations end on Feb 15.

Going all the way up: Allvoices

02/02: Allvoices.com, a leading 'open news site', today  claimed to have become one of the Web's top 25 news destinations. A press release issued by PR Newswire said over 11.6 million unique visitors in January 2011 had viewed 61 million pages, or a little more than five page views per visitor on this website.

Allvoices' community of news makers, curators, & raters publish & vet news, opinion & feature stories that have validated Allvoices new model for news, the release said.  In a little more than two years, Allvoices has become one of the top 600 most-visited U.S. Web sites by Quantcast, & a member of the top 25 online news resources worldwide measured by traffic.

"It is quite a milestone for a startup like Allvoices to be one of the Web's fastest growing social new media news sites in such a short period of time," said Amra Tareen, Allvoices' founder and CEO.  "Our powerful combination of global contributors, open platform and technology has us in the right place at the right time while the rest of the media industry is struggling to get noticed by readers.  We're constantly tailoring the model to fill the gaps being left by the contraction of traditional news organizations, and have proven our ability to capture their audience."

With its proprietary technology, Allvoices claims to provide a 360 degree view of news by enabling citizen reporting from its community and international news bureaus.

Google accuses Bing of being a "copycat"

02/02: Search Engine Google has accused its rival, Microsoft's Bing, of copying it. The proof? Google's own little sting operation, says Google. Read about this virtual slugfest by clicking here. 

Enterprise Messaging Service ValueFirst gets more funds

02/02: ValueFirst, the Virtual Mobile Operator from India with core comptency in messaging services, has got US $14.5 million in a fresh round of funding.

According to a report by Silicon India, the funding has been obtained from  wholly owned subsidiary of the Headland Asian Ventures Fund 3, advised by Headland Capital Partners (formerly known as HSBC Private Equity) with participation of existing investor New Enterprise Associate (NEA). The total funds with the company after this goes up to $208 million, said the report.

ValueFirst is a positioned as an “Enterprise Value Added Services" company providing seamless, end-to-end business communication solutions to its clients across the globe on various platforms like SMS, Voice, USSD and WAP. It is headquartered in Gurgaon, near the capital city of New Delhi, & has branches across India. ValueFirst has a global footprint with market presence in Barbados, Bhutan, India, Lebanon, Middle East, Nigeria and Pakistan.


Digg undergoes a transformation

01/02: Content discovery site Digg has undergone a change. Online media commentators say it could be to counter its decline ever since the last time it transformed itself.
There are 3 major changes:
A redesign of the site based on user feedback, placing key Digg topics like Gaming, Technology, Science, etc., at the top of the page rather than on the side.
The second change is a focus on profile pages & the return of profile statistics.
The 3rd is the addition of opt-in notifications for when your stories hit “Top News.”
For more on the changes, you can click here.

Android is hot, becomes 'Most Wanted' platform for smartphones

01/02: Online media site Silicon Republic has said Google’s Android Operating System (OS) has just become the dominant platform for smartphones, having shipped 33m devices. This, said the report, represented 1/3rd of the 101 million shipped in Q4.

The report revealed that shipments of Android-based smartphones reached 32.9 million, while devices running Nokia’s Symbian platform trailed slightly at 31.0 million worldwide. Nokia, though, continues to retain its position as the leading global smartphone vendor, with a share of 28 %.

Android was also the largest smartphone platform in the United States market in 2010 Q4.