Massive minutes-long Facebook outage that brought the world to its knees appears to be over

facebookdown

The alert from the Associated Press buzzed across mobile around the world, delivering the shattering news: “Facebook suffers outage affecting users worldwide.”

The social media apocalypse was here. Instagram was out, too, leaving teenagers confused and scared. Babies wept. Parents sought refuge in shelters they had built for a zombie outbreak or the eventual robot war.

And then, in the ultimate act of desperation, people turned to Twitter. In this moment of panic and despair, #facebookdown began to trend:

We learned some ugly truths.

Some sought to take advantage of the moment…

But then, a light in the darkness…

And humanity sighed in relief, dusted itself off, and carried on…


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Google is absolutely, positively not going to buy Twitter. Yet.

twitter learning moment

Let’s just start by saying that the idea that Google is going to buy Twitter any time soon is ludicrous.

Apparently, there were some rumors floating around yesterday that such a deal might be in the works and Twitter’s stock got a nice little bump out of it.

Here’s the reality. Twitter’s stock may be down to $39.07 from its 52-week high of $62.07. But the company is still valued at a steep $24.43 billion. Google’s largest acquisition to date was the $12.4 billion it paid for Motorola, which it promptly sold to Lenovo less than two years later.

To get its hands on Twitter, Google would likely have to offer at least $35 billion to start a serious conversation, and probably go above $40 billion to make any deal actually happen.

For Twitter? That would be nuts.

Yes, I know we live in a world where Facebook bought WhatsApp for $22 billion. In that case, Facebook paid $4.59 billion in cash plus 178 million shares of its stock and 46 million of grants in restricted stock units for WhatsApp employees. That was its own form of crazy.

And sure, Google could afford Twitter. It has $60 billion in cash, though keep in mind, $35 billion is overseas, so not available for a Twitter deal without paying big taxes on repatriating it. Google could issue some stock, or raise some debt.

But again, for Twitter?

WhatsApp has 700 million active users, and is still growing like crazy. Twitter has 284 million monthly active users, a number that is growing more slowly as time goes by, and a base that the company still is trying to figure out how to monetize.

If Google paid even just Twitter’s market value, it would surpass WhatsApp to become the second-largest tech acquisition in history. (After AOL-TimeWarner, of course.)

So, as much as Twitter is hurting at the moment, its stock is going to have to come way down before Google would make a serious run.

But…

The fact that such rumors are even floating is just another small sign of growing impatience among investors, particularly with Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo. After he overhauled much of the company’s top ranks last year, there aren’t many heads left to roll besides his own.

I have to believe Twitter’s board believes it’s worth letting at least one more seasoned CEO see if they can fix the company’s struggles to develop products that will drive user growth and engagement, and of course more revenue.

As a Twitter fan and user, I still find it remarkable that many of the most interesting product developments and use cases come from users. For instance, the use of so-called “tweetstorms” to express longer ideas. Or the growing use of images of words to extend the amount of text contained in a tweet.

Users have mixed feelings about these adaptations, but still, users are still inventing their own new Twitter products that seem to get as much, if not more traction, than things Twitter does itself.

Of course, these twists have a downside: They probably only complicate Twitter for new users. Twitter has long tried to simplify the on-boarding process for new users, with mixes results.

Still, if Twitter can’t figure this all out, Google will still be waiting. And if the price does come down enough, then there are plenty of reasons a deal could make sense. Twitter’s real-time search can only help Google. And without the pressure to profit directly from it, the social data Twitter accumulates would be a powerful asset for Google.

Just don’t expect this to happen in 2015. Twitter has much further to fall before it must look for the loving embrace of a protective suitor like Google.


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Twitter Adds Bing Translation Tool To Its Site And Mobile Apps

twitter-analyst After toying with the feature for a couple of years, Twitter has officially added Bing Translator to its site, mobile apps for iOS and Android, and TweetDeck. Once users activate the tool in their account setting, they will see a little globe icon next to tweets in different languages. A translation appears below the original tweet once the globe is clicked. Read More

Twitter Pleads With Power Users To Stop Using Instagram So Much

twitterpleasenomoreinstagram Twitter appears to be sending out a message to a group of very high-profile users suggesting that these users post photos directly to Twitter instead of sharing through Instagram. Mashable secured a screenshot of the prompt, which shows the aesthetic differences between sharing an Instagram link and posting a photo directly through Twitter. In 2012, Instagram shut off Twitter Cards… Read More

Twitter now shows you tweets you might have missed ‘while you were away’

Twitter iphone mdgovpics flickr

Worried you might have missed something during your lunch break? Don’t, because Twitter will now show you tweets you might not have seen in your timeline when you return, the company announced today.

Twitter’s group product manager Paul Rosania writes in a blog post:

Recaps, marked with a “While you were away” heading, will begin to appear for all Twitter for iOS users today and on our Android app and twitter.com soon.

For users who only check their feeds every now and then, they’ll see the recaps more often. For those who spend a lot of time on the service, they’ll appear less frequently, Twitter said.

Twitter teased the arrival of the new feature back in November when vice president of product Kevin Weil said the company was experimenting with creating snapshots of important tweets and make surfing the service feel less like a chore.


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Twitter for Windows Phone now lets you use Cortana to launch a new tweet

Twitter buttons

Good news for Windows Phone users today — Twitter has given its app a little update that introduces a couple of neat new features to the mix.

Now you’ll be able to use Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like intelligent personal assistant, to launch and write a new tweet in the Twitter app.

aSo, for example, you could say something like “Cortana, Twitter new Tweet, where’s the best place for tacos in New York,” and you’re then good to go. This will only work for those on Windows Phone 8.1, however, given Cortana doesn’t work on earlier versions of the mobile operating system.

Elsewhere, the Twitter Windows Phone app also now plays nice with Internet Explorer, letting you share websites from the browser directly to Twitter.

While a number of big-name developers continue to snub Windows Phone, Twitter has been around on Windows Phone for a while. That said, the Windows Phone incarnation has often found itself behind on updates that arrive on iOS and Android first.

However, Cortana is still in its infancy and is still finding its feet as it prepares to feature in more Microsoft products in the future, including Windows Phone, Xbox One, and Windows 10 which is officially unveiled tomorrow. Twitter can perhaps be forgiven for only introducing Cortana support now.


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Thousands of celebs like Facebook Mentions, but is it more than a bit player?

Facebook's Mentions app lets stars interact directly with fans.

Six months after launch, thousands of celebrities and public figures, including a group of bona fide A-listers, are using Facebook’s exclusive Mentions app. But some social media professionals who work with stars think the app is a bit player.

Facebook launched Mentions last July, hoping to make it the go-to app for actors, musicians, and athletes who want to more closely control their interactions with fans. The obvious agenda: to undercut Twitter as the tool celebs use for rich interactions with fans.

Is it working? To big names like Tom Brady, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Ellen Degeneres, and others who use it regularly, definitely.

Others aren’t so sure. To several social media managers who oversee celebrities’ social activities that spoke to VentureBeat, the last thing already busy stars need is another tool. Indeed, some say Mentions hasn’t made even the slightest ripple with their clients.

Oprah Mentions

Above: When a celebrity posts something from the Mentions app, the update reflects that.

Creative Labs app, similar to other Facebook stand-alone mobile tools, like Rooms, Paper, and others, Mentions is available only to verified users who also have a public-facing Facebook Page. In other words, public figures.

Mentions provides celebrities, who collectively get a billion fan interactions a week on Facebook, a set of dedicated tools for managing their social media interactions. That includes things like seeing and diving into popular fan posts that mention them, inviting fans into Q&As, and seeing filtered posts about them from other influencers. This is, in theory, a powerful set of real-time interaction features that exceeds even what Twitter offers. Facebook designed it as a back-pocket app for celebrities who want an active hand in their public-facing social media activity.

If successful, that would be big win for Facebook, as it would undermine Twitter’s reputation as the best way for stars to communicate directly with fans.

Huge stakes

The stakes are huge as celebrities look for the best way to increase their reach, but also to filter out the noise amidst the overwhelming number of interactions they generate with their social media posts.

And indeed, by some measures, Facebook is already a far more potent platform for stars than Twitter is.

According to Socialbakers, a firm that measures activity on leading social networks, over the last month, the top ten most popular celebrities on Facebook get a staggering number of interactions: nearly 446,000 likes, comments, and shares per post. By comparison, the top ten celebs on Twitter got an average of just under 30,000 favorites, replies, and retweets per tweet. Those numbers illustrate the scope of the flood of interactions celebs generate with their posts, and how essential it is for those who want to control their message to have a way to both filter the noise, and communicate directly with fans.

Giving celebrities a rationale for choosing Facebook over Twitter when they want to jump into conversations with fans can only help with that, due to their broad influence with everyday users.

“I’m sure they want to capture everybody,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau, “and use [Facebook] exclusively, because in reality, that’s going to drive Facebook users back to the site.”

Celebrities, of course, have plenty of tools available to them already, some from Facebook or Twitter and some from other companies, that can push their social activity to the maximum number of fans. And that’s key for them: To be active across each of the biggest social networks, be it Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), or YouTube.

Among the tools available are Bumebox, which lets personalities conduct Reddit-style Q&As and push them onto Twitter and Facebook. There’s also WhoSay, which makes an app used by celebs like Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner, George Lopez, and others to broadcast photos and personal updates to many social networks — including Twitter and Facebook.

“For any kind of public person these days,” Blau said, “having access to your fans or your followers is extremely important…. The reality is, when you’re a big star, you have to have a multi-pronged approach when it comes to technology.”

‘Exceeded our initial expectations’

Asked by VentureBeat to characterize Mentions’ performance so far, Facebook product manager Allison Swope said it has “exceeded our initial expectations” for sign-ups and retention, and its usage rate has grown steadily.

Yet it’s difficult to see exactly how celebrities are using Mentions, so its success is hard to judge. It’s possible to see when someone uses Mentions to post something, but not any other kind of activity. There’s no questioning the value to Facebook of stars like Brady, Winfrey, Lopez, and others, but it’s also hard to ignore perspectives on the app like that of Laura Roeder, a social media expert and the founder of MeetEdgar, a social media scheduling tool.

JLo and Mentions

“I had forgotten all about” Mentions, said Roeder, “and it seems that celebrities feel the same way…. I couldn’t find one who had even heard of the app, much less used it.”

Roeder’s not the only one who’s skeptical. So is Steve Ellis, the CEO of WhoSay. “We’ve not seen [our clients] flocking to Mentions in any meaningful way,” Ellis told VentureBeat, “or heard a great deal of chatter related to the app.”

Then there’s this comment, from a manager at an agency that oversees influencers’ social media activities: Mentions “fell flat because celebs are really busy and are already using Twitter, and to a certain extent Snapchat and Instagram, to communicate with their fans.” The agency manager spoke on the condition of anonymity because his superiors wouldn’t authorize him to be named publicly.

To Facebook’s Swope, it’s no surprise that social media managers dismiss Mentions’ value. After all, she argued, many of those professionals use Facebook’s Pages Manager app, or Facebook on the web, to promote their clients’ social activities.

“We actually built Mentions specifically for the talent,” Swope said, “to make it really easy for public figures to connect with their fans and each other.”

In other words, Mentions is for the stars themselves, not for their social media managers.

Still, the professionals think that Mentions doesn’t actually do all that much to help stars.

“It’s really just a simplified version of the Facebook app,” said the manager at the social media agency. “The amount of times celebrities are mentioned is huge, so the app does little to help sort any of the noise surrounding any particular client.”

Continuing to develop

Today, none of the top 10 most popular personalities on Facebook — stars like Katy Perry, Shakira, Eminem, and Lionel Messi — have used Mentions, at least not to post anything, save for a smattering of Justin Bieber updates last fall. Facebook is justifiably proud that celebrities like Oprah and J-Lo are using Mentions, but the company would no doubt like to see even more adoption.

Now, Swope’s team is continuing to take feedback and plans ongoing marketing, support, and development of the app. “In the coming months,” Swope said, “we plan to roll out new features and to continue to drive adoption with public figures.”

That makes sense to WhoSay’s Ellis, who said that despite little evidence of Mentions’ impact, he expects Facebook’s “great, crack team [that] caters to the needs of celebrities” to evolve Mentions to be more useful.

But it has a long way to go, argues Roeder, who believes the ubiquity of hashtags and @-handles on TV and in advertising reflects Twitter’s dominance over Facebook in mainstream media integration.

“I think Facebook launched Mentions as a way to try and keep up [with Twitter] and keep celebrities closely tied to Facebook,” she said. “But they made the mistake of looking at how fans would like celebrities to engage with them — but not how celebrities would like to engage with fans.”


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mNectar raises $1M and integrates with other marketing platforms to reach more app publishers

mNectar's new partners

mNectar has raised an additional $1 million in funding and built alliances with four more companies to promote its new ad platform dubbed Playable, which lets gamers try out a mobile game before they decide to download or buy it. The “playable ads” are a new form of advertising for games that allows potential purchasers to have a better shopping experience as they browse for new games, according to founder and chief executive Wally Nguyen.

San Francisco-based mNectar hopes to start an advertising shake-up by transforming the mobile ad from the staid banner to something much more enticing, and getting players to actually enjoy looking at ads. And that could help solve the problem of getting apps discovered amid a sea of millions of rivals in the app stores.

“Now developers can integrate us right away without any delays,” Nguyen said in an interview with GamesBeat.

Wally Nguyen of mNectar

Above: Wally Nguyen of mNectar

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

mNectar is now fully integrated with the popular mobile integration platforms: Twitter’s MoPub, Opera Mediaworks’ AdMarvel, Sprint’s Pinsight Media+, and Fuse Powered’s AdRally. The collaboration with partners helps mNectar reach more than 7,000 additional mobile app publishers. Those publishers can now use mNectar’s Playable app streaming service to serve Playable ads. About 30 developers are using mNectar now, and another 150 will start shortly,Nguyen said.

Nguyen said that the company is pioneering the use of cloud delivery and mobile app virtualization in mobile ads. It allows a customer to sample a working version of a game or app before downloading it. That, in turn, drives higher ad revenue for app developers and creates a more fun experience for mobile users. These interactive ads are so compelling that they are multiple times as effective as other mobile ads, Nguyen said.

The company takes technology pioneered by companies like OnLive and Gaikai and then applies it to making an ad into a playable demo.

Currently, most consumers rely on app reviews, friend recommendations, and app-ranking lists to figure out what they want to play. Ads such as banners, videos, and pop-ups are often either static or don’t show the true gameplay.

According to Nguyen, the user retention rates are four times as effective as other kinds of mobile advertisements such as interstitials, and the retention rates are twice as good as mobile video ads. He said those results have been verified by independent ad measurement companies.

Users can be disappointed if they blindly download a game, and it isn’t what they expected. That, in turn, leads to horrible retention rates and lousy yields for advertisers. The current state of mobile advertising, Nguyen said, is like a billboard. Users drive right by without engaging. Advertisers can vet users before paying to acquire them, and publishers benefit from attractive ads with high performance numbers.

With Playable, the user gets to play the real product for a short time. They can decide on the spot whether the game lives up to its billing or not. And they can proceed to download it immediately. mNectar effectively turns actual app use and gameplay into marketing. There are fewer retention problems because the users know exactly what they are getting when they download the game, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said that the added interactivity of mNectar’s platform has lots of benefits for developers. In the past, they might pay a lot of money to acquire new users, enticing them to download an app with various rewards. But once those users try it, they may never return. That might cause the developer to wrongly assume that the first stage of the game is messed up and should be redesigned. In fact, it may very well be that they have the wrong user, and that this user never wanted to play this type of game in the first place.

When you sample a real app instantly to a user, you can get rid of this problem of mistakenly downloading something you really didn’t want to play. Once the user downloads the actual game after playing the Playable ad, then you know that the user is more committed. Retention rates are better and so is the lifetime value of the user.

The technology is based on cloud gaming. The playable game snippet is actually hosted in the cloud or web-connected data centers. When a user taps on a Playable ad, the data center serves a virtualized version of the game to the user. Since the interaction between the server and the mobile device is fast, the users don’t really know or care that the app isn’t yet downloaded onto their devices.

Rivals include Agawi’s AppGlimpse playable ads as well as Voxel’s “try before you buy” service. mNectar distinguishes itself by offering a product that works with both iOS and Android. Developers do not have to integrate a software development kit to use the mNectar service.

Since mNectar isn’t trying to stream an entire game to a user, the demands on the network and server technology aren’t as big as other cloud gaming providers such as OnLive. Nguyen said the latency, or delays in interaction, are minimal. mNectar built its own proprietary distribution network, so the server times are short. Nothing is installed on the user’s device. The quality of the real-time game experience is where mNectar’s ad platform will live or die.

“AdRally provides app publishers control of the user experience with fully customizable audience segmentation that delivers the right ad to the right user at the right time,” said Fuse Powered CEO Jon Walsh, in a statement. “Integrating with mNectar, players benefit by getting a Playable ad they enjoy interacting with and that lets them discover more content they’ll like.”

mNectar’s customers include Audible, Beats Music, CBS, Gameloft, Gree, Hotels.com, King Digital, Kabam, MobileDeluxe, OpenTable, Spotify, Wal-Mart, Wooga and ZeptoLab. The company has 24 employees.

“We are excited to include mNectar as one of the ad networks available to our publishers,” said Pinsight Media+ director of product, Brian Smith, in a statement. “Our goal is to help developers create a monetization strategy that saves time and generates more revenue. We consistently achieve our publishers’ advertising objectives by leveraging our skilled ad operations team and collaborations with quality ad networks.”

The company has raised $8 million to date from New Enterprise Associates, Fenox Venture Capital, Social Starts, Correlation Ventures, and XG Ventures.

 


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