Facebook Working with HTC to Build its Own Smartphone

Rumors of a Facebook phone are bubbling up again. Facebook was supposedly working to launch its own phone around the beginning of 2012, but that didn’t materialize. Apparently, it is working with HTC now to build its own smartphone, and launch it in 2013.

It is developing a “modified operating system” for the device, possibly a heavily customized version of Android, and also continues to focus on its mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Facebook has more than 900 million monthly active users with a lot of them accessing the service via their mobile phones.

It still hasn’t been able to figure out a good way to monetize its growing mobile audience, because of which analysts and investors alike are concerned about its future revenue potential. Its stock price crashed right after it went public on concerns that it might never be able to figure out the mobile monetization puzzle, which, admittedly, is a tough nut to crack.

Facebook’s official statement says:

“Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”

Facebook has hired some Apple iPhone engineers to work on its phone hardware, and also made some talent acquisitions to work on improving its mobile apps and presumably its mobile OS.

If Facebook ties in its services deeply with its smartphone, and manages to sell a ton of devices, it might be able to generate a significant amount of revenue from mobile advertising, and also reduce its dependence on Apple’s and Google’s devices to generate mobile ad revenue.

via Bloomberg

Zynga Posts Dreary Earnings in Q2 2012; Stock Down 40%

Zynga posted its earnings for Q2 2012 today, and it has caused a major bloodbath for its share price, which is down nearly 40% since the earnings release.

Zynga reported revenue of $332 million, up 19% year-over-year, but bookings of $302 million, which have actually decreased sequentially from Q1 2012. It also lowered its earnings outlook for the next quarter, which spooked analysts even more. It posted a net loss of $22.8 million. Of its total revenue, it generated around $292 million from virtual transactions in games, and $41 million from advertising.

Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, said:

“The company achieved some significant milestones in the quarter including the launch of Bubble Safari, which is now the number one arcade game on Facebook, and the launch of The Ville, now the number two game behind Zynga Poker. Our advertising business continued to show strong growth with revenue up 170% year-over-year. Our games reached record audiences, achieving over 300 million monthly active users. We grew our mobile footprint five-fold in the year to 33 million daily active users making Zynga the largest mobile gaming network,” said Mark Pincus CEO and Founder, Zynga. “We also faced new short-term challenges which led to a sequential decline in bookings. Despite this, we’re optimistic about the long-term growth prospects on mobile where we have a window of opportunity to drive the same kind of social gaming revolution that we enabled on the web.”

Zynga managed to grow its user metrics significantly in Q2, though most of it was due to acquisitions, and not organic growth.

Zynga’s monthly active users increased 34% to 306 million, while its daily active users increased 23% to 72 million. It also managed to increase the number of paying users to 4.1 million in Q2, which is a good sign for its monetization potential. Average bookings per user declined 10% though, to $0.046, which means that Zynga is generating less revenue per user than it used to.

Q2 was a very eventful quarter for Zynga. It launched 6 new games, launched the Zynga with Friends network, and made progress with its online gambling initiatives. It will likely roll out its first online gambling game internationally in the first half of 2013.

It ended the quarter with roughly $1.6 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short term and long term marketable securities.

via Zynga – SEC

Foursquare Launches Promoted Updates; Focused on Monetization

Taking a cue from Facebook’s Sponsored Posts, and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, Foursquare has launched Promoted Updates, yet another shot by the leader in the hyperlocal-social space to monetize its user base and generate revenue.

Promoted Updates work similar to Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. They are displayed on the top of Foursquare’s Explore tab on its mobile app, and are probably pay-per-action ad units, which clearly demonstrate ROI for the advertiser.

Promoted Updates are currently available only to select advertisers as part of a pilot program. They are essentially a paid version of Local Updates, which enables merchants to reach out to users in the vicinity.

They will be targeted using the user’s location and their check-ins, tips, likes and lists. The targeting will be done using Foursquare’s Explore Engine, which will ensure that all promotions are relevant.

While Foursquare has much fewer users than Twitter or Facebook, it has the capability to directly drive sales in a much more efficient way, which makes its user base all the more monetizable.

Foursquare’s Product Manager, Noah Weiss, said:

“This is the first time ever that we’re allowing businesses to pay to promote their business in Foursquare. It’s obviously a very exciting milestone for us.

Dennis (Crowley, Foursquare’s CEO) has always said that we’ll do it when we’re ready, and we’ll do it in a way that we think makes for a better experience for users. The timing now feels right … the product is in a place where it makes a lot of sense for merchants who want to drive customers into their stores and for users who are looking for inspiration about something to try out.”

via VentureBeat

Facebook Unveils New Marketing Tools for Pages

Facebook has rolled out additional marketing tools for Pages on its platform. It has added features like scheduled page posts, unpublished page posts, limited page admin permissions for apps etc., through which it aims to make managing Facebook Pages easier for companies and brands who have a social presence on the social network.

Scheduled Page Posts

Using this feature, users can now schedule posts on their brand pages. This could previously be done only with third party Facebook clients. Once a post has been scheduled, it can also be deleted or rescheduled.

Unpublished Page Posts

This is another useful feature which can be used to create posts which aren’t posted on the page timeline. It can be used to create posts which are targeted only at a segment of the audience, without exposing it to the entire fan base of the brand. This could be ideal to create sponsored page posts targeted at only certain segments of the brand’s fans on Facebook.

Page Admin Permissions

This is a very useful tool which can be used to assign limited permissions to third party tools which are used for content creation, moderation, engagement, analytics or advertising by brand pages on Facebook.

This could be very useful to brand pages which use multiple tools to manage their social presence and are concerned about security.

Facebook has also updated its Pages Graph API to include support for developers to build services and apps which can use these new features.

via Facebook Developers

July 26: Facebook’s Day of Reckoning

Facebook has seen its share price drop precariously since it went public in May. It stands near its all time low at around $28, depressed mostly by concerns that its advertising business may not be as lucrative as it was initially projected to be, and that its socially targeted ads may not be as effective as Google’s search based ones.

On July 26, it will report its earnings for Q2 2012, its first since its IPO. That should give us some indication as to where it’s headed in the coming years.

While Google delivers ads based on what users search for (explicit intent), Facebook targets ads using the tons of social data it has on each user — preferences, likes, shares, etc.

In the last year, Facebook has focused exclusively on its ad business — demonstrating ROI for advertisers, rolling out more effective advertising units, and finding ways to monetize its massive mobile audience.

It is apparently planning to launch a real-time ad bidding exchange for users, and may also enable advertisers to publish ads on its partner websites, outside its walled garden.

It also plans to focus on its Payments offering, which could see it generate a significant amount of revenue going forward, if it manages to displace the top players in the online payments and transactions space by leveraging its 900 million strong active user base.

While Facebook is expected to reach more than a billion users by the end of the year, most of the growth will come from developing countries, which hardly generate much revenue for Facebook. Monetizing them should pose another set of challenges for the social networking giant.

via NYT

Facebook Acquires Acrylic, Maker of iOS and Mac Apps

There have been so many acquisitions this week, that it’s getting hard to keep count. Oracle acquired Involver and Skire, Google acquired Sparrow, and now Facebook has acquired Acrylic Software, a Mac and iOS app development studio. Acrylic makes apps like Pulp, a news reader, and Wallet, a security app.

Facebook has acquired Acrylic primarily for its team, not for its products, which makes this a talent acquisition. Pulp and Wallet will remain available for download, but the team will stop further development on them.

Dustin MacDonald of the Acrylic team says:

“Facebook is an invaluable service that we all use daily, and a company I believe is one of the most innovative and important around today. After visiting late last year, I discovered that we shared many of the same core product design goals and principles, and it soon became obvious that it was a natural fit. Simply put, there’s an opportunity at Facebook to have a big impact in many people’s lives. More importantly, Facebook is full of extremely talented people who will be able to help realize its full potential in the years to come.”

Facebook has made a number of acquisitions in the last couple of months, most of them related in one way or another to its mobile ambitions. Notable among them are Instagram, Spool, Lightbox, Face.com etc.

Not being able to properly monetize its rapidly growing active mobile user base has been one of Facebook’s greatest shortcomings in the last couple of quarters. With these acquisitons, it might be able to finally crack that puzzle and reach that much hyped $100 billion valuation.

via Acrylic

Reinvention of the Digital Strategy: Facebook Acquires Spool Team

Spool – Mobile Social Bookmarking Tool

Successful companies have a history of making acquisitions. The act of acquiring companies by big players in the industry has its reasons associated. It is either to dilute the competition posed by a certain player or to gain access to the wonderful product/service a company (one that is acquired) possesses. Successful strategy is an investment that can either be catastrophic or may take a lifetime to reached the initial projected ROI. As doing business holds equal chances of meeting success or approaching failure, companies which have been acquiring players similar to them also have a history to be successful. However, it has costed them tons and loads of money.

Nowadays. we live in an age where digital media has revolutionized business and a simple nobody has been granted rights to come up with a breathtaking service and compete directly with a giant. There is substantial evidence to support this claim. Take the example of Google. Launching in 1997, it took a very short time to become the widely known search engine worldwide, debunking Yahoo as the market leader in search arena. The outburst of media has made companies more vigilant which keep their eyeballs open to assess competition in order to stay on top. They also exercise diverse strategies to retain a competitive advantage which is so dear to them.

Acquisition of entire companies can be a hectic process. It involves plenty of resource investment. Now, to combat the challenge of competition, Facebook has exercised a strategy that is successful, cost effective and productive in the long term. Instead of acquiring companies, Facebook has started to acquire product teams behind a successful product. Over the weekend, allthingsd.com reported that Facebook picked up the Spool team, the same team which set standards within mobile social bookmarking. Spool stated that it will be shutting down its service and will follow its vision “to make content easy to consume on a mobile device”. It is a move by Facebook to get access to the expertise of the mobile software development at Spool and cash it in its own backyard.

Facebook has been facing a hard time in the mobile sphere and is yet to come up with a strategy which allows it to excel in terms of advertising and content sharing. It is critical to Facebook as content consumption across mobile is increasing and Facebook is severely challenged to monetize this channel.

With the help of the Spool software development team, it remains to be seen if Facebook will thrive in mobile. However, what has to be acknowledged is Facebook’s strategic vision. It has devised a way to attract top-tier professionals to its premises. This is not only cost-effective with respect to acquiring entire companies but it also allows it to get the expertise of successful professionals within the field in which it operates.

Facebook Starts Rolling Out Timeline for Pages on Mobile Devices

Nearly four months after the launch of Facebook Timeline for desktop, the social networking company has now started to roll out the Timeline layout for pages to its mobile version starting this week. Timeline for user profiles was rolled out on mobile at the same when it was launched on desktop, however, Timeline for pages took a little while to arrive.

By navigating to a Facebook page from your mobile phone, you will see the big cover photo, along with the page’s profile picture, some information from the About section, and a relatively long “like” button covering the entire width of the screen. Under it are tabs with which you can view photos, people you have liked the page, Events, and so on.

The previous layout for the mobile version was quite simple in which the profile picture of the page along with the number of likes, the category to which the page belonged to, and the basic information was listed out. Also, the three buttons — Wall, Info, Photos — were placed right above the profile picture.

Here’s how the new and the old profile layouts look:

New Facebook Timeline Layout vs. Old Layout

No doubt the new Timeline layout looks elegantly neat with all the sections organized in a proper way. If you click on the Facebook Timeline Stats“likes” stats button, you will see two big numbers placed aside each other, one being the “People Talking About This” and the other, “Total Likes.”

Below that, Facebook shows some statistics about the page,  which includes the “Most Popular Week” — the week when the most/maximum people were talking about that page, “Most Popular City” — the city where most people are talking about the page, and “Most Popular Age” — the largest age group of the people talking about the page.

When Facebook started to roll out the new layout for all users, not many liked it, as they found the Timeline to be confusing and cluttered. Many tried their luck to disable the Timeline feature, however, Facebook has left no option to roll back to the old profile layout.


Photos on Facebook Replaced with Blank Boxes; Temporary Solution

UPDATE: Facebook states that, “Sometimes when we do maintenance on the site, certain photos or albums temporarily disappear. If you’re missing photos, please wait for a few hours to see if they reappear.” However, if you continue to see the blank boxes, you can report it to Facebook using this link.

There seems to be some sort of bug on Facebook where users are complaining that some of their photos in their albums have gone missing. Users are stating that the photos are replaced with blank boxes, although there is no error displayed.

The exact cause of this issue is not known, but we think that it is a bug, or there could be some technical problems with Facebook servers. However, if you’re one among many who are facing this issue, there’s a temporary solution for this. You simply need to turn off the “Secure Browsing” feature, and your photos should be back again. This is a temporary solution, and many users have confirmed that it is working and their photos are visible now.

Facebook Photos Missing

To disable Secure Browsing, navigate to your Account Settings and select the Security Tab on the left sidebar. From the first option, disable Secure Browsing. Try reloading your album page and see if the solution is working or not.

Disable Secure Browsing - Facebook

If the above solution isn’t working, then you will have to wait until the issue is fixed. Facebook is aware of this issue and is probably looking into it.

Facebook For Android Updated; Twitter For Nokia S40 Launched

Facebook has recently released a new update for its official Android app. The latest update allows you to take photos using the front-facing camera and share it with your Facebook friends. Apart from that, it comes with the new messaging features which lets you switch between conversations, share bigger photos and see friends who are online. This update is available only for devices running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and up. It bumps the Facebook for Android to version 1.9.7. Check out the complete changelog below.

What’s in this version:

  • Facebook for Android 1.9.7 requires Android 2.2 and up
  • A front-facing camera makes it easier to take photos
  • New messaging features let you switch between conversations, include friends of friends, share bigger photos, and see who’s available
  • Various bug fixes
  • Made a security improvement
  • Faster app login and navigation

[ Download Facebook for Android ]

Twitter for Nokia S40:

The official Twitter app is already available for Nokia smartphones running on Symbian and Windows Phone 7.5 OS. However, the owners of Nokia feature phone running on Symbian Series 40 had to visit the Twitter mobile site to update their status and access their timeline. Now, Twitter has finally launched the official app for Series 40 feature phones.

The new Twitter for Nokia S40 app brings most of the features that are currently available on Twitter’s smartphone app. It allows you to post your own tweets and follow others tweets. Apart from that, there are @Connect and #Discover features which lets you see your mentions and browse the most interesting Tweets from around the world.

[ Download Twitter for Nokia S40 ]