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Archive for the ‘Applications’ Category

Wall street journal is reporting that Yahoo’s board plans to reject Microsoft’s bid. WSJ is still paid, so below is what Bloomberg has to say.

I can’t say whether its undervalued or not, but Yahoo’s brand would definitely get diluted with microsoft’s acquisition.

Yahoo! Inc., the world’s second most popular Internet search engine, plans to reject Microsoft Corp.’s $44.6 billion unsolicited takeover offer, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.

The board decided the price “massively undervalues” the Sunnyvale, California-based company, and Yahoo may face risks because regulators could oppose the combination, the newspaper said today. On Feb. 1, Microsoft offered $31 a share in cash and stock for Yahoo. The company wants at least $40, or more than $12 billion more than Microsoft offered, the Journal said.

Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang, who said this week that Yahoo is examining its options, may consider a partnership with bigger rival Google Inc. or ways to wrest a higher offer from Microsoft. Yahoo’s failure to crack Google’s dominance in search led to eight straight profit declines and cut the stock’s value in half in the two years before the offer.

“Yahoo still has one of the largest brands on the Internet,” Bill Tancer, general manager at researcher Hitwise Pty. in San Francisco, said in an interview before the report. “It confines Google to continue to grow their revenue from a single revenue stream, which is search.”

Yahoo directors, who met over the past week to weigh the offer, will send a letter to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft on Monday that outlines its position, the Journal said.

“The board is continuing to evaluate the proposal,” Yahoo spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said today after the report. “We’re not commenting beyond that.” Microsoft spokesmen Frank Shaw and Bill Cox didn’t immediately return calls.

Higher Bid

Yahoo is betting Microsoft won’t take hostile measures to win the bid, the Journal said, even though the software maker has indicated that is a possibility. A person familiar with the matter said this week that Microsoft may seek to oust Yahoo board members should they reject its offer.

“Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal,” Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer said in a letter to Yahoo’s board that was made public on Feb. 1.

Yahoo rose 16 cents to $29.20 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading and Microsoft added 44 cents to $28.56.

The offer is 62 percent more than Yahoo’s stock price before the bid. The shares have climbed above the value of the cash-and- stock bid, showing shareholders expect a higher price. Microsoft plans to let investors choose cash or stock, at a ratio that will end up being about 50-50.

$34 to $37

Microsoft shares have declined since the bid, lowering the value of the stock portion and pushing the total value of the deal to about $29.08 a share. Microsoft may have to bid $34 to $37, said UBS AG’s Heather Bellini, the top-ranked software analyst by Institutional Investor magazine.

Since the bid is half cash and half stock, Microsoft may fix the offer at $31 before pursuing an increase, so the value doesn’t decline with its shares, she said.

Yahoo is getting financial advice from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Moelis & Co., according to two people familiar with the matter. Spokespeople for Goldman and Lehman declined to comment and a Moelis representative didn’t immediately return a phone call.

Morgan Stanley and Blackstone Group LP are counseling Microsoft.

Google Possibility

Yang, 39, has resisted letting go of the company he co- founded in 1995 as a graduate student at Stanford University. Initially a way to help people find their favorite places on the Web, Yahoo became the most-visited U.S. Internet site by combining search, news, sports and finance in a single place.

He replaced Terry Semel as chief in June after Yahoo’s share of Web searches tumbled and the company lost sales of banner ads.

Yahoo might seek help from rivals, soliciting other bids or seeking partnerships with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. or Google to thwart Microsoft, according to analysts including Stanford Group Co.’s Clayton Moran.

The New York Times reported Feb. 4 that Google CEO Eric Schmidt contacted Yang to suggest a partnership between their companies. A partnership with Google may allow Yahoo to outsource its search service, shedding the costs of running its own search engine and sharing ad revenue with its larger rival.

Google spokesman Matt Furman didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail today seeking comment.

Regulatory Scrutiny

While a search and advertising partnership with Google is an option, it would face stiff regulatory scrutiny, Moran said. News Corp. isn’t interested in bidding for Yahoo, Murdoch said on a Feb. 4 conference call. That means Yang’s options probably won’t pan out, said Andrew Frank, a New York-based analyst at research firm Gartner Inc.

The U.S. Justice Department is “interested” in reviewing the antitrust implications of a Yahoo-Microsoft transaction, agency spokeswoman Gina Talamona said last week. Neelie Kroes, commissioner of competition for the European Commission, said her agency also would scrutinize a deal.

Google has grown faster than Microsoft in every quarter since Google’s 2004 initial public offering as its search engine won more users. Even after CEO Steve Ballmer’s efforts to build a new search engine from scratch, Google outsold Microsoft in Internet ads by 7-to-1 in Microsoft’s latest fiscal year.

Microsoft and Yahoo combined would still fail to seize the lead in Internet search. Google, based in Mountain View, California, got 56 percent of U.S. Web queries in December, which is almost double Yahoo and Microsoft’s shares together, according to New York-based Nielsen Online.

Well nothing great about this start up. Remember those days when all you really did on your computer was to download a few cool screen savers,wallpapers and just made sure you dont fall asleep while browsing through clicks after clicks of junk…..

Chirp just add’s the facebook and flicker feeds into your screensavers and hence gives you more than just a screen , a dynamic screen….

Hmmm…..i’m sure in this world of desktop web app’s one can think of a better way to source your social feeds than a screen saver ….. Any comments?

chirp-logo.pngToday, Chirp is launching in private beta. Chirp is a screen saver, previously covered here, that lets you bring social feeds from Flickr and Facebook onto your desktop. Other social Websites will be added in the future. “Our purpose is to enable you to stay up to date with your friends without the hassle of logging into multiple websites,” says CEO Eve Phillips.

Chirp will let you subscribe to a friend’s photo feed so that it can decorate your screen. Click on a photo and Chirp will take you to the corresponding Flickr page to find out more. This reminds me of the Slide Desktop application, except that it brings in photos and data from other Websites. It basically brings social widgets outside the browser, something we’ve also seen with desktop applications from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The Sidebar in Windows Vista, for instance, lets you bring all sorts of widgets to the desktop, including online photos albums.

Maybe I’m missing something, though, because there is some smart money in the seed round. Greylock Partners, Jeff Clavier’s SoftTech VC and angel investors Reid Hoffman (Chairman and founder of LinkedIn), Jay Adelson (CEO of Digg), and Dave Samuel (founder of Spinner.com and Grouper). CTO David Bill is formerly of Spinner. I guess Chirp’s focus on turning social feeds into a screen saver might give it more mass appeal than just a bunch of desktop widgets.

Phillips explains the difference between Chirpscreen and widgets in the following way:

We’re designed to take over your screen and turn your
computer into a display of the social content of your choosing,
automatically updated with content from your friends – your friend channel.

Taking a step back, if you separate out what we do into three areas:
content aggregation; filtering; and display, most of those desktop
widgets aggregate and then do a limited display. We’re focused on
having highly relevant filtering and a really engaging, interactive
display of that content, as opposed to a desktop widget which is
designed to be a companion to your desktop activities (browsing,
email, etc.).

What do readers think? Try the beta and tell me in comments.

chirp-screen-small.png

source:Techcrunch.com

Facebook is no stranger to the complaints of privacy activists. First, it was the site’s News Feed feature back in 2006. Most recently, the company’s Beacon service drew widespread criticism. This blog post will outline yet another major privacy issue, in which Facebook recklessly exposes user data.

Facebook launched its widely popular application developer program back in May 2007. As of press time, there were more than 14,000 applications. Some, including most of the popular apps, are made by companies, while a few of the popular apps, and a significant number of the long tail of the less popular applications are made by individual developers.

But a new study suggests there may be a bigger problem with the applications. Many are given access to far more personal data than they need to in order to run, including data on users who never even signed up for the application. Not only does Facebook enable this, but it does little to warn users that it is even happening, and of the risk that a rogue application developer can pose.

Privacy problems for the user

In order to install an application, a Facebook user must first agree to “allow this application to…know who I am and access my information.” Users not willing to permit the application access to all kinds of data from their profile cannot install it onto their Facebook page.

Screenshot of adding an application

(Credit: Facebook)

What kind of information does Facebook give the application developer access to? Practically everything. According to the Application Terms of Service,

“Facebook may…provide developers access to…your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location…your current location…your political view, your activities, your interests…your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your summer plans, your Facebook user network affiliations, your education history, your work history,…copies of photos in your Facebook Site photo albums…a list of user IDs mapped to your Facebook friends.”

The applications don’t actually run on Facebook’s servers, but on servers owned and operated by the application developers. Whenever a Facebook user’s profile is displayed, the application servers contact Facebook, request the user’s private data, process it, and send back whatever content will be displayed to the user. As part of its terms of service, Facebook makes the developers promise to throw away any data they received from Facebook after the application content has been sent back for display to the user.

Researchers blast Facebook

Some applications may make use of all this data, but as researchers from the University of Virginia have detailed in a recent report, Facebook provides applications with access to far more private user information than they need to function. Adrienne Felt, a student and lead researcher on the project, told me that of the top 150 applications they examined in October 2007, “8.7 percent didn’t need any information; 82 percent used public data (name, network, list of friends); and only 9.3 percent needed private information (e.g., birthday). Since all of the applications are given full access to private data, this means that 90.7 percent of applications are being given more privileges than they need.”

(Credit: Adrienne Felt, with permission.)

Felt condemned this practice, and said that it violated the the idea of least authority, an important security design principle that states that an actor should only be given the privileges needed to perform a job. In other words, she said, an application that doesn’t need private information shouldn’t be given any.

“Regardless of the click-through disclaimer that Facebook makes users accept, I don’t think people understand what’s happening to their data behind the scenes. If applications don’t appear to use private data–but then they all have this same standard click-through screen–how can users differentiate between applications that really need access to data and all the rest?”

More than your own data–selling out your friends

Facebook’s Web site and lengthy application terms of service curiously fail to mention something rather important. In addition to providing the application developer access to most of your private profile data, you also agree to allow the developer to see private data on all of your friends too.

Many Facebook users set their profiles to private, which stops anyone but their friends from seeing their profile details. This is a great privacy feature that can protect users from cyberstalkers and is completely gutted by the application system. To restate things–if you set your profile to private, and one of your friends adds an application, most of your profile information that is visible to your friend is also available to the application developer–even if you yourself have not installed the application.

The good news is that Facebook lets you configure the amount of your own private data that your friend’s applications can see. The bad news is that it’s hidden away, requiring several clicks through menus to find a page listing specific privacy settings (Privacy -> Applications -> Other Applications). Furthermore, the default values are extremely lax, such that a user who has yet to discover the preference page is essentially sharing her entire profile by default.

This friend data-sharing “feature,” and the ability to protect against it, isn’t mentioned anywhere else on Facebook’s site, nor are users informed about it when they install an application.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer. During our conversation, he dismissed claims that Facebook does nothing to inform users that applications have access to data on user’s friends, stating that “we have made things very clear to users, and they understand it very well.” However, by press time, he had yet to send me a link to anywhere on the site where this information was “clearly” explained.

I also spoke with George Washington University Law professor and privacy expert Daniel Solove to get his thoughts on the issue. Regarding Facebook’s claims that it makes its privacy policy clear to users, he said that “they seem to be going on the assumption that if someone uses Facebook, they really have no privacy concerns.” Furthermore, “a kind of vague notice in a privacy policy that no one reads suddenly permits Facebook to do whatever they want with minimal to no privacy protections.”

As for actually getting user permission before using their data in new and creepy ways, Solove said that the company “seem to have a very cavalier attitude to their users consent.”

Rogue developers

Ok. So in order to give your friends virtual naughty gifts, play scrabble online, or see your daily horoscope, a user has to hand over all their private profile data to some unknown company or developer. No need to worry though, because Facebook has safeguards in place, right?

“Before providing any information to any Developer through the Facebook Platform, Facebook requires each Developer to enter into an agreement…which…strictly limits their collection, use, and storage of Facebook Site Information.” (Facebook application terms of service)

Ah, good. Facebook requires that each developer protect the privacy of the user information and requires that they not store a local copy. I’m sure Facebook enforces this vigorously, audits developers, and throws the book at anyone who violates this rule, right?

“[each application] has not been approved, endorsed, or reviewed in any manner by Facebook…we are not responsible for…the privacy practices or other policies of the Developer. YOU USE SUCH DEVELOPER APPLICATIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK.” (Facebook application terms of service)

I asked Facebook’s Kelly what his company is doing to ensure that application developers do not violate the rules by saving a copy of user data that passes through their servers. He cited “extensive security mechanisms operating behind the scenes,” although, he refused to expand on this, due to “security reasons.” He wasn’t too happy when I accused him of practicing security though obscurity, a concept widely mocked in security circles. He dismissed my charge as a mischaracterization.

Kelly claimed that his company “has a variety of techniques to determine if [developers are saving user data.]” As a PhD student in Information Security, I can quite confidently say that from a technical perspective, this is impossible. Simply put, once the data leaves Facebook’s servers, the company has no way of knowing what happens to it. Thus, giving Mr. Kelly the benefit of the doubt, I can only assume that Facebook has a team of trained psychics on staff who use their mysterious powers to ferret out rogue developers.

Who are the application developers

Kelly said that users can determine a developer’s trustworthiness by looking at their profile page, and that somehow, users can combine to form some kind of intelligent hive mind. “One of the factors is what applications your friends are installing. Untrusted applications don’t get added very often as the collective mind is choosing what is trusted in real time.” He further added that it is “up to your friends to make that determination in real time. If an application is going to give them some utility, they’ll know that the applications have to obey the rules.”

Call me a cynic–but I fail to see how thousands of 18-year-olds can collectively assess the data protection practices of some random developer in a foreign land. Remember, these are the same 18-year-olds who post photos of themselves passed out drunk on their public profile pages.

Would I trust the hive mind of Indiana University students to tell me which bar in town has the cheapest beer? Sure. But to expect them to evaluate a company’s privacy practices? No way.

A public outcry

Unfortunately, as alarming as this issue is to privacy activists, there is a good chance that it may fail to gain the attention of the millions of Facebook users necessary to actually force the company to fix its policies. While both the newsfeeds and Beacon scandals were “in your face,” most users have no way of knowing what, if any, data is being transmitted to application developers by Facebook, and thus are unlikely to be motivated to complain.

Furthermore, even users who are aware of the privacy risks of Facebook applications may still end up installing them. To not do so is to isolate yourself, to cut off communication channels, and in some cases, to cause insult your friends.

In what can only be a great example of life imitating art (see below), I asked security researcher Adrienne Felt which, if any, applications she used. She told me that in spite of the fact that she had spent significant time investigating the privacy risks, she still ended up installing an application because her friends wanted to send her some virtual Christmas presents. Not wanting to offend them, she put aside her privacy concerns, and installed the app. As she told me, due to the peer pressure, “I had a hard time saying no.”

The Joy Of Tech on Facebook
(Credit: Nitrozac and Snaggy, used with permission.)
reported on webware.com

After being in private beta for the last three months, Playyoo is opening its doors for everyone this morning. The site is aimed at casual gamers who like playing games on their mobile phones. Like Kongregate, game developers can show off their wares and interact directly with the people playing them. Better yet, anyone without programming knowledge can use Playyoo’s WYSIWYG game creator tool to create one of six game presets of simple games like pairs, tic tac toe, snake, and ping-pong. While the amount of customizations on these gaming presets is fairly limited, the titles uploaded by real game developers tend to have a little more depth. Developers with existing projects can simply port them over with a Playyoo-supplied template for Flash 8 Pro or CS3.

In terms of cost, if users find a game they like, they can download it to their mobile phones free of charge. The entire service is run by advertising, which shows up both on the site and on the games when you start them up.

What I really like about Playyoo is that it supplies each user with a customized “game stream” that can be tweaked similar to Facebook’s newsfeed so that certain game genres show up more or less than others (get a peek at this after the jump). It makes it easy to discover new content as it comes in. Likewise, Playyoo users can send recommendations to one another if they come across something cool or worth playing.

Playyoo currently supports a pretty massive variety of phones. It’s also nice enough to let you know how many games out of the entire library your phone can handle, along with providing a bandwidth limiter you can set to automatically cut you off of after burning through a set limit of data. While the graphics of the titles may not blow your socks off (like the upcoming Vollee service) you can’t beat the price, and the potential for the game creator Web app is promising for folks like me with little to no coding skills.

More screens after the jump.

The game creator is WYSIWYG, and lets you pick out all sorts of color and texture combinations. If you want to make your game more difficult you can even ramp it up with a slider.(Credit: CNET Networks)
Playyoo has a ‘game stream’ that’s similar to Facebook’s newsfeed. Don’t like a genre? Just get rid of it, and it won’t show up in the list of games.(Credit: CNET Networks)
Try games out on the phone emulator before downloading them to your phone. The buttons are even mapped out to the keyboard so you don’t have to be an expert with your mouse.(Credit: CNET Networks)

source: webware.com

If you sell anything online, whether physical goods or services, you’re probably keenly aware of the 2-3% (plus $0.30) lost through transactional fees every time someone makes a purchase with their credit card. This fee rears its ugly head whether you use PayPal, Google Checkout, or Amazon Flexible Payment Service since those companies are largely just passing on the fees imposed on them by credit card companies.

Noca, a startup founded by ex-Visa employees, is attempting to virtually eliminate transaction feeds by bypassing the credit card companies altogether with its own online payment service. Since $5 billion goes towards online transaction fees every year in the United States alone, and since online vendors have particularly slim profit margins, the company thinks that the near elimination of transaction feeds would be a huge boon for online vendors. Concurrently, Noca seeks to provide consumers with a more rewarding and more secure purchasing experience, thereby making its service appealing to both actors involved in a transaction.

While Noca aims to eventually facilitate online payments for purchases of all sizes, it begins with a focus on micro-payments, and on micro-payments made through Facebook in particular. It has launched two Facebook applications to test its payments system out: OneClick Pay and HelpYourWorld.

The former provides a simple way to send money to friends. As you can see in the screenshot to the left, the idea is to send someone a digital check; you actually enter your routing and account numbers into the application instead of using a credit card. This poses a significant obstacle to adoption (who remembers these numbers or carries around a check in their pocket?). But the company insists that using checking information rather than credit card information increases security and reduces the chances of identity theft. Plus, Noca is working to provide functionality that would allow you to enter your online banking credentials in lieu of your checking information.

The latter Facebook application, HelpYourWorld, provides a good use case for Noca’s micro-payment system. Since the application solicits $1-at-a-time donations for a series of causes, it benefits greatly from Noca’s lack of transaction fees (especially the standard fixed one of $0.30). Noca hopes that many other Facebook applications with similar micro-payment needs will use its APIs to implement its payment service.

As for the benefits to the consumer, Noca promises to provide strong and flexible incentives through cash back schemes, frequent flier miles, and the ability to designate a part of your payment to a charity of choice. The company also insists that its service will be substantially easier to use than others like PayPal, and that consumers will gain access to a much more comprehensive transaction history than they would get elsewhere.

In the longer term, Noca will become much more like a credit card company itself, providing credit to users through direct partnerships with banks. In doing so, it will be able to provide users with the same benefits of buying things on credit without charging vendors standard transaction fees, which it considers mostly oligopolistic fat. To make money, Noca will also attempt to leverage its user data to target them with tailored advertising and product deals.

from Techcrunch 

as reported on news.com 

“I’ll go on a hunger strike!”

So said one adamant Facebook user in the wake of the news that game manufacturers Hasbro and Mattel were trying to do something about the wildly popular, unquestionably addictive online game known as Scrabulous.

The game, which rose to fame when its creators turned it into an embeddable Facebook application, is a word game that’s a whole lot like the classic board game Scrabble. It uses a playing board with “bonus” spots just like Scrabble. In fact, the rules are identical to Scrabble‘s.

The companies in charge of the “real” Scrabble, for obvious reasons, aren’t happy.

Game companies Hasbro, which distributes Scrabble in North America, and Mattel, which is responsible for its overseas trademarks, have reportedly asked Facebook to remove the game from its application directory. And you can tell it’s a serious legal matter because nobody’s talking.

Facebook declined to confirm the report, and it said that it has not yet issued any kind of statement about Scrabulous; representatives from Hasbro did not respond to calls for comment.

The similarities between Scrabble and Scrabulous are crystal-clear, and it’s a no-brainer to see why Hasbro and Mattel are miffed. To add to that, Scrabulous serves up advertisements, which means that its creators are making money off the concept. But what the game companies really ought to do is take a step back and realize that they can use Scrabulous to their advantage–without removing the viral game from Facebook.

Fans of Scrabulous, for one, aren’t happy about the takedown news. On Facebook, an unofficial group called “Save Scrabulous” is growing fast, with more than 7,000 users at last count (and 5,000 hours before.) Its members, including the aforementioned “hunger striker,” are livid.

“Leave Scrabulous alone!” one of them posted in the group’s message board, a thinly veiled allusion to the “Leave Britney Alone” viral video.

Others were more visceral: “I’ve burnt my Scrabble board in protest!” one exclaimed.

A game of Scrabulous on Facebook.

(Credit: Scrabulous)

Scrabulous is the creation of two brothers in India, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, who founded Scrabulous.com in 2006. When Facebook launched its developer platform in May, the Agarwallas soon transformed their Scrabble spin-off into an application designed for the social network, and it caught on like wildfire. More than 2 million Facebook members are active Scrabulous users, and several hundred thousand of them play the game each day.

It was a catch-22 for the Agarwallas. The “Scrabulous guys” became Facebook celebrities, but the exposure meant that they were much more visible–and so were the obvious similarities between Scrabble and Scrabulous.

“It wouldn’t be an issue if Scrabulous weren’t so popular, right?” observed Darren Herman, director of digital media for marketing firm The Media Kitchen. It’s the sheer mass of Facebook Scrabulous users that have made it a high-profile case as well as an inevitably ugly situation, if the game is indeed taken down. “We’re seeing the power of social media in its early days. Since we’re still trying to figure out the rules of the game, no pun intended, these types of issues are bound to arise.”

In other words, according to Herman, the debate over Scrabulous is indicative of the fact that the world–or at least certain mainstays of the game industry–still hasn’t quite figured out that a traditional course of action just doesn’t always work on the Web.

“I don’t think they are crazy to think this way,” Darren Herman said when asked if Hasbro and Mattel are totally off base. “Scrabble came out in a time when everyone guarded their (intellectual property) tightly.”

In the old order, a takedown notice may have been the only route. But this is the Web, and plenty of people have pointed out that Hasbro and Mattel are sitting on a marketing gold mine with Scrabulous. They have a gleefully addicted fan base, a machine for viral buzz (Facebook’s platform), and the deep pockets to offer to buy Scrabulous outright–or at least strike an innovative advertising deal.

There’s also no direct competitor. Neither Hasbro nor Mattel operates a Web-based, ad-supported version of Scrabble; video game manufacturer Electronic Arts owns the rights to electronic versions of the game, and it currently sells a PC game of Scrabble for about $20. (EA was not available for comment on the Scrabulous issue.) With Scrabulous, all three companies may be sitting on a marketing treasure trove.

Hasbro and Mattel might not get it. But the members of Save Scrabulous think that they do.

“Do these greedy fools not realize that they should be paying the creators of Scrabulous for all the damn fans of the game they created?” one angry Scrabulous fan from the United Kingdom asked on the group’s “wall.” He brought up a further point–that this is getting people excited about the musty old board game in a way they haven’t in years. “It’s like the music vids put on YouTube. It makes me buy tracks I never would have done, and frankly, before this game emerged, Scrabble was just something for rainy days in my childhood.”

Another member of the group put it more concisely. “Scrabulous brought Scrabble back in style. They should be thankful.”

Here’s a great post from Lee (Altura ventures, adonomics.com) who runs the Altura fund, the facebook (F8) applications focussed fund. Altura took over appaholic.com(App’s) a facebook analytics website and renamed it to adonomics.com (Ad’s + Apps)

Introduction

  1. The Altura Ventures’ Genesis Story — I was not present on May 24th at the launch of the F8 Platform and I only knew a little about Facebook from my sons (one of whom graduated from college two years ago and the other who is a Junior this year). I did not have a Facebook account and had only checked out MySpace briefly after its acquisition by Rupert Murdoch. I was not impressed and tried to delete my account the same day I created it (without much success since they make this virtually impossible). In any case, after leaving SHOP.COM where I worked for 9 years to grow the site from 0 to 500,000 users and while working on a new software startup, I read the iLike story of how they launched their facebook app and added 600,000 in 8 hours!!! Clearly, there was something new under the sun in software. After studying Facebook from mid June on, I decided to reposition Altura Ventures as the first facebook-only VC.From that point on, I began to use Facebook itself as a way of building my own personal brand as a thought leader in the Facebook space. I created the “Official Altura Ventures and AppFactory Facebook Investment Fund” group and made officers in the group of about 100 of the top 300 Facebook App developers, key Facebook employees and key Microsoft employees. My strategy was based on the fact that since I couldn’t own any of Facebook’s Social Operating System, the next best thing would be to own a portion of Facebook’s Application Space. I also acquired Adonomics.com and began to use it as a site to convince developers that their Facebook apps were going to be worth a lot in the future and to not sell them too soon for too little money (e.g., like Favorite Peeps did when they sold an app with 1.5 million users to Slide for only $60,000).I also began to write about the comparison between Facebook’s Social Operating System and Microsoft’s Graphical Operating System. This comparison along with Facebook’s exponential growth in users and applications led me to conclude that they were worth $100 billion and I started to blog about this and attend Facebook conferences where I would explain why I thought this way.
  2. $100 Billion!!! Are You Drunk? — At Dave McClure’s Graphing Social Patterns conference, I mentioned my belief about Facebook being worth $100 billion and this led to a series of reactions from the panel that followed mine in which I was accused of being drunk, an idiot and/or crazy enough to be escorted out of the building. While not true, these accusations were made by the likes of Jason Calcanis, Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington and indicated that calculating a valuation for a privately held company that is growing as fast as Facebook is something that is not well understood. It is my goal in this talk to explain how I arrive at the $100 billion figure, convince you that this number is right, show that Facebook has multiple paths to arriving at this number and failing all of that, demonstrate that I not drunk, on crack or crazy.
  3. WATER FIGHT! and Birthday Calendar and Stanford Facebook Class — Before beginning, I should also mention that Facebook continues to be the fastest and cheapest way for any company to create an app that can gain 1 to 2 million users in an extremely short period of time. Altura Ventures demonstrated this with two apps WATER FIGHT! and Birthday Calendar that reached 1 million users in only 60 and 15 days, respectively. In addition, 5 of 25 apps from BJ Fogg and Dave McClure’s Stanford Facebook Class reached 1 million users in less than 30 days. This unbelievable growth was accomplished AFTER Facebook had eliminated the Ultra-Viral, Unlimited Invite System that was in place at the time of iLike.


Overview

  1. Why Facebook Can’t Be Worth $100 Billion
  2. Facebook’s Growth and Current Business
  3. Graphical Operating System vs. Social Operating System
  4. Value of a Registered Web User vs. a Facebook App User
  5. Warren Buffett’s Views On Valuation
  6. How Should We Determine Facebook’s Worth?
  7. Valuation Time Machine
  8. Getting To $100 Billion in 3 Easy Steps
  9. $2.4 Billion Per Year from $1 Per User Per Month from 200 million Users
  10. $2.4 Billion Per Year from 10+ Partners Paying $20 Million Per Month
  11. $2.4 Billion Per Year from 100+ Major Merchandise Categories Paying $2 million Per Month
  12. Conclusion
  13. Commercial


1. Why Facebook Can’t Be Worth $100 billion?

In addition to explaining at http://blog.adonomics.com why Facebook is worth $100 billion, let me also mention the reasons from A to Z why I’ve been told Facebook can’t possibly be worth $100 billion and briefly refute each of them.

a. It only has $100 million in 2007 Revenues — Google only had $86 million in 2001 revenues before co-opting Overture’s Bid-Based, Cost Per Click advertising system as the perfect monetization vehicle for a search engine site whose goal is to get you to leave the site. Now, Google has a market valuation of $218 billion. The same thing will happen for Facebook when it co-opts a Cost Per Customer Acquired transaction system as its perfect monetization vehicle which is for a site whose goal is to get you to stay on the site.

b. It only has $30 million in 2007 profits — Google only had $6 million in 2001 earnings before learning how to monetize search. Google has 2007 earnings of $4+ billion. Facebook’s cost structure is already paid for with its current, ill-fitting, link-off advertising model and so all almost all future revenue will drop straight to the bottom line.

c. It is yet another flash-in-the-pan social network that will fade like Friendster and Orkut — Yahoo thought the same thing about Google (i.e., search is a commodity feature and not a business and will be replaced by something else). They were wrong and Google has surpassed Yahoo’s value because it became difficult to buy or build a faster, better, easier or cheaper than Google and the Google brand “stuck” in consumer’s minds. Facebook will be the social operating system brand that sticks in consumers’ minds and it will be very difficult to build a faster, better, easier or cheaper social networking experience than Facebook.

d. MySpace is still bigger — yes but about half of their users are either identity/advertising bots or fantasy identities. However, these millions of fake, exhibitionistic avatars are not, in the long run, that interesting to maintain nor fun to interact with when compared to Facebook’s users who are real people with real friends with their real names, faces, birthdates, likes and dislikes showing.

e. Google will crush it — Google’s brand power has only extended into GMail (which is still far behind Yahoo Mail and Microsoft HotMail) and they have failed miserably in video (so they bought YouTube), in VOIP (so they bid for Skype but lost out to eBay), and in hundreds of other Google Lab apps that haven’t broken out to mass market audiences.

f. Open Social will crush it — herding 18 to 50 cats to build a social operating system will inevitably lead to a lowest common denominator set of features, a committee-designed UI and variably extended API that will not be compelling for end users. Imagine if the MP3 player industry tried to standardize on their own version of iTunes and an iPod — it would never be as clean as Apple’s. In addition, the advent of Facebook licensing their Social Networking API to Bebo and others means that every wanna-be social network can now get the secret formula to “the Real Thing” vs. Google’s imitation brand.

g. Users will hate it when they understand the privacy issues — in reality, Facebook users understand that what they put on Facebook can be seen by their 300 to 500 friends and this doesn’t particularly bother them. This “transparent lifestyle” works because it brings benefits to those who practice it that outweigh any real or perceived negatives. In addition, for those who want more privacy than Facebook’s defaults, all of the necessary privacy settings are there to achieve any level of control as to who sees what about you and your profile. Those who don’t trust these controls can simply not join. However, this represents a tiny minority of the people in the countries where Facebook has been launched.

h. E-mail / Search / Groups / etc. Suck on Facebook — although the Facebook apps mentioned have limits in comparison to their Web 1.0 counterparts, in most cases they also have HUGE benefits. For example, e-mail is limited by the lack of Forwarding, Sorting, Searching and CC’ing, however it benefits from being completely free of SPAM due to Facebook’s role as sherrif enforcing Terms of Service that punish those who would abuse their right to e-mail others. This is an also an example of how having simple, single function apps where every feature is used almost every day is better than having complex, kitchen sink apps that need to find an antidote for their feature bloat.

i. Facebook Apps are Toys for Toddlers — although some people of a certain age and relationship status (e.g., a certain all things digital columnist) don’t need or understand many of the flirtation and courtship apps that are popular on Facebook, they do serve a purpose for millions of Facebook users. In addition, apps like Birthday Calendar and Top Friends have real utility in managing your personal and business relationships with a level of connectedness that was typically reserved for very ambitious sales people and CEO’s who took it upon themselves to learn their customers and competitors’ spouses’ names, childrens’ names, pets’ names and birthdays.

j. People won’t click on ads — the low click-thru on Facebook CPC ads that take the user off of the site is really a testament to the stickiness of Facebook itself. If and when Facebook offers web search (in addition to people, event, group and app search), then click-thru rates will probably approach Google’s for that aspect of the site. In additon, when clicks stay within the site or are made to look like the Facebook newsfeed feature, they enjoy higher click-thru rates than Google’s sponsored links.

k. It’s all college students who won’t buy anything — in every country but the US the demographics of the users matches those of the online population. It is only in the US, where thanks to its 80% to 90% penetration of colleges that the demographics of the users skews to the 18 to 24 year old group. Even this is changing quickly and will continue to grow as the parents, aunts and uncles of high school and college age students begin to understand how useful Facebook is.

l. Business users will stay on LinkedIn — the instant that Facebook finishes their feature for grouping friends by their various types (e.g., school, social, church, business, family, etc.), sites such as LinkedIn will begin to see a mass exodus to Facebook. This may even be accelerated by LinkedIn’s support of OpenSocial which will allow “Exodus Apps” to be written that copy out a user’s profile and connections and migrates them over to Facebook. The reason for this is that Facebook is a site that is visited daily for news and updates whereas LinkedIn is only checked periodically when seeking a new job or business connection.

m. Older people won’t go on Facebook — those older people who loved AOL (and may still be on it) because it is a way of using the web that is shielded from some of its more offensive areas will also love Facebook when they are exposed to it. In addition, older people have children and grandchildren on Facebook that they wish to connect to and Facebook makes this easier than any other system available to them.

n. It hasn’t been localized — this is being fixed but even with its english-only user interface some of the fastest growing countries are places like Turkey and Egypt. This shows the power of Facebook is not the technology or interface but the people that are on the site and once a country tips toward a social network like Facebook, it will be almost as hard to get them to switch as getting the country to change their native language.

o. It has embarrassing photos from my college days — these are easily removed and will soon be easily segregated into areas that will be hard for business collegues and prospective bosses to find. In addition, many in the coming generation are more willing to have who they are be seen by not only their peers but also those who are older (e.g., witness the prevalence of tatoos and piercings in such business settings as high end restaurants, expensive stores and even banks).

p. The Social Graph is a silly term — every revolution needs its buzz word and this one does a fairly good job of describing the fact every person on the planet is connected to one another by a social fabric of friendships and relationships that can be mapped (or graphed) as a series of nodes and lines. Facebook’s goal is to have the most accurate online picture of this social graph and to leverage it by watching the actions of its users and alerting these users’ friends of what they are doing.

q. The management team is full of amateurs — although young, Facebook’s key managers have been parts of major companies before such as AOL, Amazon, etc. and their board includes the founder of PayPal (i.e., Peter Theil who beat an incumbent giant as they tried to launch a competitive payment system, executed an IPO for an initial liquidity event and then grew so threatening they forced eBay to purchase them at a post IPO premium). To date, the Facebook team has grown the company from 3 users to 60 million and from a $10 million valuation to $15+ billion valuation. All in all, not bad for a “bunch of amateurs.” Matt Cohler, Dustin Moskovitz, Adam D’Angelo, Chamath Palihapitiya,Owen Van Atta, Gideon Yu, Dave Morin, Ami Vora, Dave Fetterman have the right stuff and it shows as their their rocket ship has not only achieved escape velocity but is also more than half way to infinity and beyond.

r. Mark Zuckerberg is too young/arrogant/stupid/nervous on stage/insensitive — the same thing was said in just about every first press article about Bill Gates — the other Harvard drop-out that started an OS company with his former roommate. Mark has actually retained a level of humility that is admirable for someone so young with so much early success. I credit this to his parents and to him having his sister in the company to remind him and others about exactly how he was as an awkward youngster.

s. Facebook doesn’t care about their users — it is clear that Facebook is willing to push the envelope WRT features such as the newsfeed and beacon that its users either don’t initially understand or fully appreciate. However, Facebook is also fanatical about creating a safe platform where people are who they say they are (unlike MySpace) and which is family-friendly and where SPAM and phishing scams and data scraping efforts are essentially impossible.

t. The web should be open — As Dave McClure says, “open is not better, better is better.” The advantage of a walled garden with a strictly enforced Terms of Service is that those who would abuse the trust built into the system can be kicked out. This makes it better for those who choose to participate in an environment that works well for them. Most of those crying for Facebook to open up their bag of crown jewels are competitors who would never think of doing the same thing with their most highly prized assets.

u. Facebook is just AOL warmed-over — AOL was well-liked (even loved) by many users for what it offered with 10’s of millions paying a monthly fee just for the right to use it (even after the web became free) and unlike AOL which tried to keep their users from discovering the real web, Facebook’s users know all about the real web and are choosing to spend more and more time inside of Facebook because this is where their friends are. Just like that bar in Boston, Facebook is the place “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”

v. Everyone in Brazil uses Orkut and everyone in the Phillipines uses Friendster — this just shows the stickiness of even a less than fully capable social network when an entire country standardizes on it. This loyalty and tipping-point style of dominance is what Facebook is enjoying in almost all of the countries where there are large economies. As I’ve said, getting a country to change its dominant social network is like convincing it to change its native language — it just won’t happen because everyone has to change on the same day to make it work.

w. Google / Yahoo can simply turn their e-mail systems into social networks — no they can’t because they don’t have their users’ permission to do so. In Facebook, if I add a friend I know that my whole network of friends will see this. However, if I add a GMail address, this can’t be shared with the rest of my address book and it is not even clear how one member in my address book, known only via an e-mail, would be recognized by someone else (e.g., “DM2007@aol.com just became friends with NiceGirl05@gmail.com” is much less useful than “Danna Lorenzen just married Kevin Holmes”).

x. Google owns web search forever — while the term Google currently equals Search in most users’ minds, the Facebook Search box is a wedge in this tight coupling the desire to search for something and going to the Google.com home page. The thin end of Facebook’s search wedge comes from the People/Event/Group Searches that are now performed more efficiently at Facebook. When users fully adopt Facebook as their gateway to the web, and Facebook offers web search (powered by Microsoft), then many users will opt for the most convenient Search box which will be inside of Facebook.

y. Microsoft’s investment doesn’t matter — given all of the software wars that Microsoft has won (e.g., Character OS, Graphical OS, Development Environment, Word Processing, SpreadSheet, Presentation, Database, Browser, Server, etc.), it is a mistake to dismiss them when they pick an ally in the Social Operating Systems war. Steve Ballmer likes to win and he has a 30 year track record as a winner — don’t underestimate the 3D chess match he and Bill are playing to beat Google using Facebook.

z. It can’t be worth $100 billion because it is actually worth more than $100 billion

2. Facebook’s Growth and Current Business

2004 Feb – 3 users – Mark, Dustin and Chris
2004 Dec – 1 million users (college only members via .edu e-mail verification)

2005 Dec – 5.5 million users (adds high school members)

2006 Dec – 12 million users (opens up to any member)

2007 Apr – 20 million users

2007 May 24 – Platform Launched

2007 Dec – 60 million users

450 employees è -$45 million (headcount)
50 million users
è
-$25 million (infrastructure)
Page Views
è
2.1 billion page views per day
Microsoft Ad Deal
è
$100 million (approx. $0.13 CPM rate)
Profit
è $30 million

2008

900 employees è -$90 million (headcount)
200 million users
è
-$100 million (infrastructure)
Page Views
è
8.4 billion page views per day
Microsoft Ad Deal
è
$400 million (approx. $0.13 CPM rate)
Profit
è $210 million


3. Graphical OS vs. Social OS

 

Graphical Operating System

Social Operating System

OS Name

Windows

Facebook

Founder(s)

Harvard drop-out and his former roommate

Harvard drop-out and his former roommate

Initial Launch

1984

2004

Critical Mass Achieved

1995

2007

Competitors

Digital Research’s GEM, IBM’s OS/2 Presentation Manager, VisiCorp’s VisiON, Sun xWindows, Apple’s Mac

MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, Friendster, OpenSocial

Focus

Windows SDK à Developers / Developers / Developers!!!

80,000 employees

4+ million 3rd party developers

F8 Platform à Developers / Developers / Developers!!!

450 employees

180,000 3rd party developers

Lock-in

OEM PC companies bundled Windows; Developers’ apps and API knowledge; Consumer investment in apps, file system and user interface

Consumer investment in Profile Data, Notes, Photos, e-Mail history, Groups, Apps, and Friend Network; developers’ apps and API knowledge

Killer Apps

Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Outlook, Browser

Photos, Events, Friends, Newsfeed, Inbox, Groups, Profile Page

Calendar, Dining, Travel, Gifting, Shopping, Turn-based Games, Super Groups


4. The Value of a Web User vs. a Facebook App User

 

Web site Registration

Facebook App Install

User Actions Required to Accomplish Registration

Select Registration Button, Enter E-mail, Enter & Re-Enter Password, Enter other app related profile data

Select Add Application, Select Continue

Source of New Users

Cost Per Click Advertising (typically $0.25 to $1.00 to get a visitor), Cost Per Impression Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, PR, Offline Advertising, Blogs,

Friend Invites, Friend Newsfeeds

Cost of Registered Users

Assuming 2% conversion rate, $12.50 to $50.00

$0.00 via viral flow, $0.50 for Cost Per Install

Site Reminders

Bookmarking (<1%)

Profile page

Post Registration Marketing Methods

e-mail

e-mail, newsfeed, profile page, friends’ interactions

Opt-Out Rate

50% to 75%

< 1%

Hurdles to Re-using Site/App

Remember e-mail/password

Find app/icon on Profile Page and Click

a. Facebook is “Addictive”

b. Facebook is “So, Distracting, Companies Must Ban It”

c. Facebook is “God’s Gift to Developers”

d. Facebook is “Nirvana for Direct Marketers”

e. Facebook is the first “Word of Mouse” Engine

f. Facebook is “Bloomberg Terminal for Your Life”

g. Facebook is the ”Lowest Cost Customer Acquisition Vehicle on the Planet”


5. Warren Buffett’s Views on Valuation

Warren Buffett’s Definition of Value

The value of any business today is determined by the cash inflows and outflows – discounted at an appropriate interest rate – that can be expected to occur during the remaining life of the asset.”

Owner’s Earnings is the amount all future cash that the investor could take out of the business without hurting the business’s long term competitive position.

Stock Market’s Definition of Value:

Valuation is any amount that a willing seller and buyer agree to

For public stocks, Mr. Market values every business each and every day

And, Warren’s fortune is based on buying stocks whose future earnings
are being undervalued by the marketplace

Valuation is not based on past or current earnings but on future earnings


6. How Should We Determine Facebook’s Worth?

Facebook’s Investment History

June 2004 à 5% sold, implied valuation à$10 million
May 2005
à 12.5% sold, implied valuation à
$100 million
Apr 2006
à 5% sold, implied valuation à
$500 million
Oct 2007
à 1.6% sold, implied valuation à $15 billion

Facebook’s Valuation Should NOT BE BASED ON:

Yesterday’s Small % Investors

Yesterday’s Earnings

Today’s Monetization Methods

Today’s Strategic Partners

My Estimate of Facebook’s Valuation Is BASED ON:

Today’s Growth Rate

Today’s Developer Platform

Today’s User Experience

Tomorrow’s Monetization Methods

Tomorrow’s Strategic Partners

Sum Total of All Future Earnings

So, what is Facebook worth today?

Lee’s Answer à $100 billion


  1. The Valuation Time Machine

What was Alaska worth in 1867?

1867 – Seward’s Folly:
586,000 square miles for $7.2 million (1.9 cents per acre)
$182 million in today’s dollars

1867 – 1958 à $40 billion in Fur, Gold, Copper, Salmon
1959 – 2006
à $375 billion in Oil, especially after the pipeline

2007 – Today’s valuation = ???

What was Microsoft worth in 1984?

1986 – Post IPO valuation à $750 million

1986 – 2006 à $126 billion in Net Income from OS Licenses, Office Suite Apps

2007 – Today’s Stock Market Valuation = $310 billion

What was Google worth in Dec. 2001?

2001 – AdWords CPM = 2001è $86 million revenue

2002 – AdWords CPM & CPC = 2002 à $347 million revenue

2003 – AdWords CPC only + AdSense = 2003 à $961 million revenue

2004 – Post IPO valuation à $31 billion

2001 – 2006 à $20 billion in Net Income from CPC Search

2007 – Today’s Stock Market Valuation = $218 billion

What was Facebook worth in May 2004?

2004 – $10 million???

Growth of non-college, non-US members
Signing Microsoft advertising deal
Opening of the platform for developers
Accepting Microsoft investment

2007 – Today’s Private Investor Valuation = $15 billion


8. Getting to $100 Billion in 3 Easy Steps

a. What will Facebook’s P/E Ratio Be?

14 – Disney ($62 billion)

17 – GE ($371 billion)

17 – American Express ($67 billion)

22 – Microsoft ($319 billion)

33 – MasterCard ($26 billion)

50 – Yahoo ($34 billion)

54 – Google ($218 billion)

103 – Amazon ($38 billion)

280 – eBay ($45 billion)

b. Earnings Required to Get to $100 Billion Post-IPO Valuation

25 P/E è $4 billion in earnings
42 P/E
è
$2.4 billion in earnings
50 P/E
è $2 billion in earnings

c. Users Required to Get to $100 billion Post-IPO Valuation

2007 à 65 million
2008
à
200 million
2009
à
300 million
2010
à 400 million

d. $100 Billion Post-IPO Valuation è $1 per month per user

P/E ratio = 42
Late 2008 earnings run rate = $2.4 billion
$100 Billion = 42 P/E * $2.4 billion

200 million users$2.4 billion = $200 million per month * 12 months
$200 million per month = $1 per month * 200 million users


9. $2.4 Billion Per Year from $1 Per User Per Month

Add Web Search to Facebook:

28 web searches per user per month

1 in 7 lead to Cost Per Click Sponsored Link click

4 clicks = $1.20 per month per user

(Facebook’s rate: $0.04 per web search)
(Google’s rate: $0.26 per web search)

Create Web-Wide, Open AdSense that is Enhanced with User Data:

Google makes $4.7 billion per year in AdSense Revenue

Facebook could make it 50% better its User Knowledge

Works out to $2.4 billion per year in Facebook’s Share of AdSense Revenue

Offer a Facebook Mall with 35% New Customer Acquisition Fee (otherwise 5% fee)

Average Transaction Size = $30

35% New User Merchant Commission = $10.50

5% Existing User Merchant Commission = $1.50

Purchases Per Year Per User = 2

50% of Purchases are with New Merchants

Commission Fees = $12 on Total of $60 Per User

$12 billion in Mall Sales per year

Works out to $2.4 billion in Customer Acquisition and Commission Fees

Offer a Facebook Wallet (i.e, Web-Wide Auto-Login / One-Click Buy Service)

Prior Wallet’s have failed due to lack of Adoption

Facebook already has massive adoption and complete user data

Facebook already has 6 million credit cards on file

At 1%, this is $2.4 billion for assisting $240 billion in annual purchases


10. $2.4 Billion Per Year from 10+ Partners Paying $20 Million Per Month

License eBay to Power Person to Person Sales

License Amazon to Power Book/Music/Video Sales

License Visa to Power All Credit Card Sales

License Craig’s List to Power Classifieds

License AT&T to Power Yellow Pages

License Expedia to Power Travel

License YouTube to Power Video

License Skype to Power VOIP

License Apple to Power Music Downloads

License eTrade to Power Finance

11. $2.4 Billion Per Year from 100+ Merchandise Categories Paying $2 million Per Month

Gifting – Red Envelope, Gifts.com, Harry & David

Computers – Dell, HP

Gadgets — Sharper Image, Hammacher Schlemmer

Men’s Fashion – Lands End, Big & Tall, Gap

Women’s Fashion – Lane Bryant, Talbots, Gap

Children’s Fashion – Hanna Anderson,

Home Furnishing – IKEA

Discount Selling – Overstock, SmartBargains

Shoes – Zappos, Amazon

Lingerie – Victoria’s Secret

Books – Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Music – Amazon, Virgin

Video – Amazon, NetFlix

etc.


12. Conclusion

a. Facebook is “Addictive”

b. Facebook is “So, Distracting, Companies Must Ban It”

c. Facebook is “God’s Gift to Developers”

d. Facebook is “Nirvana for Direct Marketers”

e. Facebook is the first “Word of Mouse” Engine

f. Facebook is “Bloomberg Terminal for Your Life”

g. Facebook is the ”Lowest Cost Customer Acquisition Vehicle on the Planet”

13. Commercial

The GEM System for the Viral Design and Tuning of Apps

Growth – 1 to 2 million users in less than 1 year

Engagement – 5% to 10% active users PER DAY

Monetization — $30K to $60K in Ad Revenue per Million Installs Per Month