Should Facebook Really Wait Till 2012 For An IPO?

Based on conversation with some insiders, BusinessWeek reports that Facebook will probably not do an initial public offering in 2011, something that has been speculated pretty often. The company would instead focus on growth for the next year or two and acquire more users before it eventually goes public.  While no one really knows, it is totally in the hands of 26 year old Mark Zuckerberg who controls the board.

However, should Facebook really wait till 2012 for cashing in on the massive success it has already received? Right now the company is valued at around $25 Billion, but that may change very quickly if the rumors about a competing social network from Google have any truth to them. Whatever Google launches will definitely not shut down Facebook but if it is a successful enough product like AdWords or Gmail, it will have a significant affect on Facebook’s value.

Secondly, with one privacy Fiasco after another, Facebook can get a massive class action lawsuit anytime and if a large financial penalty comes there way, it would directly affect Zuckerberg and the handful of investors. Plus, once Facebook goes public, the added scrutiny would insert pressure for greater transparency which can be a really good thing in terms of public image.

Last, but not the least, a lot of people who aren’t happy with Facebook are just waiting for a suitable alternative to switch, they are waiting for the next Facebook to launch so they can go to a more evolved social network. It doesn’t necessarily has to come from a giant like Google, Apple or Aol; it can be from anybody and as long as it addresses the privacy concerns that Facebook so often chooses to ignore, people will switch.

Any of these factors can hurt Facebook’s valuation significantly and may not prove waiting through 2012 to be the best of ideas.

Microsoft Hurries To Launch iPad Rival

A tablet based on Windows is no news. It has been rumored for more than a few months now but nothing concrete had come up so far. Well, after the successful launch of iPad, that has changed a bit. Microsoft is not too happy about iPad’s increasing sales and wants to launch a rival tablet before Apple eats up the whole market share.

Steve Ballmer, who made a mention of the project today, also said that “It is job one urgency. No one is sleeping at the switch.” This is a clear indication of how serious Microsoft really is about launching its own  version  of the tablet that will obviously run on a modified version of Windows 7. There are no details out yet but analysts speculate that the device will be in the market before the year ends, hopefully during the Holiday season so Microsoft can enjoy that extra bit of revenue.

There is also no information on who would manufacture the device and what the specifications would be, but it is clear that Microsoft would have to come up with something clever to give Apple a serious fight. If they make the same mistakes they made with their iPod rival “Zune”, they will be stamped with yet another failure.

Amazon Launches the New Kindle

Ever since Amazon froze all Kindle orders, the interwebs have been rife with speculation that it was planning to launch a new Kindle. All those rumors have turned out to be true, as Amazon has indeed unveiled the Kindle 3.

The new Amazon Kindle is now available in 2 versions; the Wi-Fi only Kindle is priced at $139 while the Wi-Fi + 3G Kindle will sell for $189, the old price.

It features a lot of new improvements: it has a new 6 inch high contrast E Ink screen. It also has a 21% smaller body and 17% lighter at just 8.5 oz. The battery life has also been improved and lasts for about a month without Wi-Fi usage. It also has an enhanced PDF reader and comes with a new improved Webkit based browser which allows you to browse the web over Wi-Fi.

With these changes, the Kindle has become a very attractive buy for anyone who reads a lot of books. It undercuts all the other eBook readers in terms of price, be it the Barnes and Noble Nook or the Kobo eReader. The Wi-Fi only version can work anywhere in the world, so I hope that they start shipping the Kindle to India and other developing countries soon.

Amazon Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G

Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi – $139
Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G – $189

Facebook Announces ‘Facebook Questions’

Have a question? Who better to ask than 500 Million Facebook users! Facebook just announced a beta version of Facebook Questions, something very similar to Yahoo! Answers albeit with a better reach and prospect of success. Facebook Questions has only been released to limited users yet so you might not see it for a few days.

The new feature allows you to ask a question and let the 500 Million people answer that for you. You can ask anything from the square root of 6456546 to what are some good bars in Beijing to visit? Chances are somebody within the massive Facebook community will know the answer. Beware though that any question you post on Facebook would be completely public and hence would also show up in search engine listings.

What’s neat about the feature though is the ability to attach a photo to your question, something which Yahoo! Answers currently doesn’t offer, or even create a quick poll. If you don’t want your question to go to everybody, you can tag it with a keyword so it is only visible to people who have expressed that keyword as an interest. For example if you are asking about how to operate a new Canon Digital rebel XT, you can tag your question with photography and Facebook will only show your question to people who have expressed interest in photography.

On the other hand, this will provide a good opportunity for many time-wasters to spend more time on Facebook and just keep on browsing the kind of questions people ask. Again, if you are one of those people who are asking why don’t I see Facebook Questions, remember that it has only been released to a limited number of users yet.

Wikileaks gets Pirate Party offer of Refuge, Servers and Hosting

The Pirate Party has declared an open war against the media industry. It has started providing bandwidth and hosting to the Pirate Bay and wants to bring more such names under its banner. Next on its list of godchildren is Wikileaks. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange became an online phenomenon after his interview by TED and his leakage of confidential video footages from the Iraq war.

Many term him as a conspiracy theorist and others call him an elite hacker. Whatever he is, USA is not ready to take it and the next best place he can be at is either Sweden or Ireland. Sweden and Ireland have lenient laws, which are inclined to support the EFF and denounce the DMCA laws. The Swedish Pirate Party has offered help and support to the Wikileaks website by offering free hosting and bandwidth.

Concerned voices have raised questions and made statements on this matter saying,

Now is the decisive moment for our Swedish politicians. Will they have enough backbone to stand up on Wikileaks and democracy, or will they give way to the U.S. and go after PRQ and Wikileaks?

The United States will  ask  for an  explanation  from the Swedish Government for this refuge and they had better have a good answer to continue doing whatever this is that they are doing.


Disney Buys Social Gaming Startup Playdom For Over $700 Million

Playdom, is the fourth largest game developer on Facebook with 38 Million active users, but the social gaming startup is the largest one when it comes to MySpace. To  strengthen  its digital portfolio, Disney has bought Playdom for up to $763 Million, including $563 Million in up front payment and $200 million contingent on performance. Playdom CEO John Pleasants, who had joined the startup last year after leaving Electronic Arts, will still manage Playdom but as a Disney employee.

With less than $75 Million in total funding, this transaction  represents  a huge premium for Playdom’s investors and indicates how hot the social gaming market is. A few months, another social gaming startup Playfish was acquired by Electronic Arts for close to $375 million.  Disney will now use the platform to integrate its  proprietary  characters and stories into social games and leverage the interactive features to provide better opportunities for users to connect to the characters they have come to love. Using Playdom’s games, Disney would jump right into the Facebook and MySpace market for its well known characters and brands.

The transaction still has to pass through the anti-trust laws and is expected to close by the end of Disney’s current fiscal year.

PayPal Suspending Direct Deposits/Electronic Withdrawals in India

After suspending personal payments in India, making PAN Cards compulsory and putting a lot of Indian website owners and others at hassle, PayPal is now going to stop Electronic Withdrawals or Direct Deposits in India.

PayPal Logo

PayPal India has just sent out a notice to all their users stating that Electronic or Direct Deposits to banks in India will no longer be available after July 29, 2010 for an indefinite period. Once again this is because of problems it is having with the Central banking authority in India also known as Reserve Bank of India.

The official note from PayPal to Indian users says this:

In accordance with regulatory instructions, we would like to notify you about a change in our withdrawal functionality in India starting on August 1, 2010. At present you can request for either an electronic or cheque withdrawal of funds from your PayPal account if you are an India user.

From July 29, 2010 onwards, you will only be able to request for a cheque withdrawal of funds from your PayPal account.

While we are working hard to restore the electronic withdrawal service, in the meantime, we are bringing this matter to your attention so that you can plan your future withdrawal activities accordingly.

Though there is no note on why the Direct Deposits are being stopped or when they will resume, it is more likely that the Indian Government is cracking on the free flow of money to India through PayPal. However, what beats me is the they can easily track the transactions even if they are direct deposits, so why put everyone through an hassle with a cheque?

The one silver lining in this entire news is that PayPal will refund the $5 fee which users have had to be paid if they were using a cheque withdrawal.

Is Google Killing the new Image Search, now that people hate it?

A few days ago, Google tried to make a vague attempt at beautifying its Image Search and complicated things in the process. Image searches became more taxing on the browser. Google Image search loaded all the pages in a single view and needed us to scroll down to see results. This was good for those with fast internet connections. However, on slow connections, it simply did not load any further pages apart from the first or, in some cases; it did not load the thumbnails after the first few pages. To add to that, the thumbnail preview on hover was a user-interface disaster and made it extremely hard to use Google Image Search anymore.


Put simply, people hate the new Google Image Search and switched to other alternatives quickly. Today, while making a quick search, I found that the old image search is back for me. I have not used the  URL trick or the switch to basic view either. That can mean only one thing. Google is reverting to the old Image Search.

Google could clearly see how this change was scaring away users. This is quite a fast response from Google. Lately, many changes made by Google are falling far below standards and are not really adding to the usability. However, I am happy to have the good old Image Search back.

Google Apps for Government, with Improved Security and Enterprise Features

Google has released new and improved Google apps for use by the government. It has a better security features and is built on the enterprise flavor of Google apps. Google has recently received the FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification, which lets it store sensitive government data.

FISMA as  described by Wikipedia:

The act recognized the importance of  information security to the economic and national security interests of the United States.[1] The act requires each  federal agency to develop, document, and implement an agency-wide program to provide  information security for the information and  information systems that support the operations and assets of the agency, including those provided or managed by another agency,  contractor, or other source.[1]

The servers used to store this data are separate from the servers used to store other data and are geographically located inside the United States. Google has been a strong contender for FISMA and only has Microsoft as a potential competitor. Google aims to provide cost effective and safe solutions to putting data in the cloud with this latest offering.

The government has been  skeptic  about having a third party control sensitive data. However, it is showing more acceptances for this now. FISMA goes a long way in developing this level of trust and will opened a new war-zone for enterprise solutions to provide services to the Government.

(Via: ZDNet)

Queen Elizabeth Joins Flickr!

Queen Elizabeth, along with other members of the British royal family now have officially published photos on Flickr, the popular photo sharing website. An account created and maintained by Buckingham Palace staff would post photos belonging to the British monarchy going as far back as 1854.

Most of the images show past and present public  appearances  of members of the British family. More than 600 photos have instantly become available when the photo stream launched just a couple of days ago including an 1854 picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert holding hands. Soon, images would also be organized by themes and each member of the royal family will get there own gallery.

However, joining Flickr would not be royal family’s first step towards embracing social media as they already have a YouTube presence and a Twitter account with 50,000 followers. Interestingly, the photos shared on Flickr will not be open to comments from the public but users will be able to share and embed those images on other websites.