Facebook background Checks-In On Loopt

www_loopt_com

Facebook has been doing background checks, known as due diligence, on the location-based social network Loopt, a source with knowledge of the talks tells us. Generally speaking, due diligence of this kind is only performed when a company is in acquisition or fundraising talks.

Loopt won’t comment on this story, and a Facebook spokesperson says “As a practical matter, we don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

There is no indication that Facebook has made an actual offer to buy Loopt at this time, and in fact we don’t even have direct information that negotiations are taking place. But it’s clear that Facebook is at least considering acquiring Loopt, and/or others in this space.

It’s also not clear that Facebook is the only company taking a look at Loopt. Google is also highly interested in the mobile social and location space. Their recent launch of Buzz, which allows check-ins of locations via a mobile device, is just one indication of that.

But Facebook is clearly furthest behind. They have one of the most popular mobile applications but have to date ignored location features and the increasingly popular checking-in at locations via mobile devices. Part of their hesitation is likely due to privacy concerns around disclosing location information, even at the user’s request. But they’ve also clearly just sat on the sidelines as well as the space developed, and recently surged in activity.

It’s time for Facebook to make their move. Jupiter Research recently stated that location based services could generate nearly $13 billion in revenue by 2014. Facebook wants their share of that.

Loopt competitors like Foursquare and Gowalla have the biggest press footprint with mobile location applications, getting lots of attention from the early adopters in Silicon Valley. But Loopt has the most users by far. And they also have longstanding carrier relationships that bring in real revenue.

Loopt was one of the hot location-based networks early on, with founder Sam Altman even getting stage time during the initial App Store unveiling event. But Loopt, like Google’s Latitude, was intially built around the “always-on” idea of location. This is something that hurt it because the iPhone did not allow third-party applications to run in the background. Meanwhile, “check-in” based services like Foursquare and Gowalla grew in popularity. Loopt has since repositioned itself as more of a check-in based service, but despite its large user base, it’s not clear if its users will adapt to this change.

Potential advertisers pitching them about a new app completely built around the idea of check-in specials. Notably, this app was to be entirely built on top of Facebook’s social graph, utilizing Facebook Connect. This app is an offshoot of GeoGraffiti, a Y Combinator startup that Loopt itself acquired last year.

Watch top sites on Google Trends- downfall in many sites in 2010

Google Trends is a great tool to get an overview on terms people are searching for with the largest search engine in the world. It also shows interesting trends. And something is definitely going on with searches for a few large social networks using Google.

At some point in mid January, a group of sites including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare saw a huge drop in number of searches for their domains. Now, to be clear, these are only searches for the .com names, for example, “facebook.com” and “youtube.com” and not just the terms “facebook” and “youtube” themselves. Still, across the board, traffic had been rising for these .com domains and then at the same time all dropped off a cliff.

One might think this has to do with the China situation (Google warned it might have to pull out of China after saying it would remove previous restraints on searches). But drilling down into the data shows that while the searches from China did take a big fall, they did as well from other countries around the world too.

Other sites saw drops as well, but by far these large social sites saw the most pronounced drops that all seem to be aligned. Weirdly, google.com did not see any drop (though I’m not sure who uses Google to google google.com).

We’ve reached out to Google for some clarification or insight into this and will update when we hear back. The logical answer would seem to be that they switched something in mid-January that led to these huge drops in social site searches on Google, but who knows. Maybe we have a wild honey bee extinction situation going on here within Google.

Update: Google’s own Orkut.com also seeing a drop. As are several popular European social sites like Tuenti.com.

Social Layer in Zoho

Online productivity suite Zoho has been open to allowing users to use their Google, Google Apps and Yahoo accounts to log-in to Zoho Apps. Zoho says that most of its users are using their log-ins for other applications to use Zoho’s offerings. Today, the productivity suite is adding a social layer to its suite by integrating the ability to login with Facebook Connect.

Similar to its integration with Google apps, Zoho users can login to Zoho using their Facebook credentials. Users with existing Zoho accounts can now link the two accounts so that they can login with Facebook credentials alone. But the plus of using Facebook Connect now allows Zoho to transcend platforms. So you can now share documents with Facebook users who don’t have a Zoho Account. Of course this isn’t Zoho’s first foray into Facebook’s territory. Zoho’s Facebook app allows users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations from within Facebook and includes the ability to view and edit all existing documents, spreadsheets and presentations (both personal and shared) from Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show.

Of course, you can add a social layer to Google Apps, a competitor of sorts to Zoho, with Socialwok. But the plus of using Zoho’s applications is that suite ties into its other productivity applications seamlessly. And Zoho is affordable, with a free version of the suite. Last year, we wrote that Zoho has continued to implement an intelligent strategy to launch new products and add-ons to its existing offerings, partly to keep users from flocking to Google Apps and Microsoft’s Web-based version of Microsoft 2010. It looks like Zoho is continuing this strategy in 2010.

The adoption of Facebook Connect makes sense for a number of reasons. First, productivity apps in the enterprise are naturally becoming more social. Second, Facebook, with 400 million users, could bring more traffic to Zoho. Last year, startup unveiled a new version of Zoho Reports; launched a deeper integration with Google Docs; rolled out Zoho Discussions, a online forum tool for businesses; and debuted Zoho Recruit.

And over the past two years, Zoho has added support for Sharepoint, mobile, Google and Yahoo IDs and group sharing. According to out latest states, Zoho has definitely reached over 2 million users is even catching the attention of its competition.

Facebook Drives 44 Percent Of Social Sharing On The Web

If you are still wondering why Google is pushing so hard with its new product Buzz, it is because it wants in on social traffic. For many sites on the Web, social traffic coming through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace is beginning to rival, and in some cases overtake, search traffic as the single biggest source of traffic. This traffic comes from shared links, photos, and videos. By its own numbers, 5 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every week.

What isn’t easily appreciated is the extent to which such social sharing is tied to different identity and authentication platforms across the Web. If you can log into a site easily using your Facebook or Twitter account, it is easier to broadcast links from that site to your friends.

To get a sense of which services on the Web drive the most sharing, I asked Gigya for some stats. Gigya powers sharing widgets on more than 5,000 content sites, including ABC.com. NBA.com, PGA.com, Answers.com, and Reuters. Consumers can click a share button on these sites and send an article link, photo, or video via a menu of different services including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and AOL. Over the past 30 days, people have shared almost a million items over the Gigya network. Facebook and Twitter dominate with about three quarters of all shared items between them. Here is how the services break down (note that these are relative numbers) :

Distribution of shared items
Facebook: 44%
Twitter: 29%
Yahoo:18%
MySpace:9%

It makes sense, people prefer to broadcast links rather than share them one at a time via email. Although Yahoo makes a strong third-place showing. When it comes to authentication, simply using your existing username and password to log into another site, Facebook is still the most popular via Facebook Connect, but only just barely. Google via Gmail and Yahoo are almost equally popular, at least on certain types of sites where people are just reading for themselves like news sites. On entertainment sites where people are more likely to share content, Facebook Connect makes up the majority of logins.

Here are the stats:

Share of Authentication By Platform:

News sites:
Facebook: 31%
Google: 30%
Yahoo: 25%
Twitter: 11%
AOL: 3%

Entertainment sites:
Facebook: 52%
Google: 17%
Yahoo: 12%
Twitter: 11%
MySpace: 7%
AOL: 1%

Facebook Chat is also a strong option, making up more than half of all live event chats measured by Gigya.

Live Event Chat:
Facebook: 56%
Twitter: 28%
Yahoo: 9%
MySpace: 7%

Update: A broader view of sharing on the Web comes from Gigya competitor AddThis, which has its sharing buttons on more than 600,000 Websites. (Gigya tends to be on larger content sites). AddThis also shows Facebook on top when it comes to sharing on the Web, but with a smaller 33 percent share. Twitter is at 9 percent, but it gets beat by email and printing out content as options provided by AddThis. Even with these broader numbers, more than 40 percent of sharing is through Facebook and Twitter.

Top 10 Services, Overall

Facebook: 33%
Email: 13%
Print:9%
Twitter: 9%
Favorites: 8%
Google: 6%
MySpace: 6%
Digg: 3%
Live: 3%
Delicious: 3%

Facebook- Flips The Switch On Its Improved Photo Uploader

It’s no secret that Facebook Photos is massively popular, with the company boasting that it receives a whopping 2.5 billion photos uploaded every month. And as the site continues to grow — it just passed 400 million users — that number is only going to get more staggering. Unfortunately, the photo uploading experience hasn’t always been smooth; you’ve to wait for the photo uploads to finish, and the entire process was just sort of clunky. Today, the company announced that it’s rolling out an improved photo upload browser plugin.

The new plugin includes a new photo navigator that should make it easy to choose the photos you want. And once you’ve started the upload process, you can browse to another page — the plugin will keep uploading the files in the background.

This plugin has actually been available for the last few months in Facebook’s Prototypes section, and has even been rolled out to a very small number of users before now. Starting today it’s getting released to everyone, though the rollout will take a few weeks. Before now Facebook has offered an upload plugin based on Active X and a Java applet, but the company says this one was built entirely in-house.  One important thing to note: because this was built by Facebook, the company could potentially add more functionality in the future, including things that aren’t related to photo uploads.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to upload photos to Facebook. The functionality has been integrated into iPhoto, you can download a Picasa Uploader, and there are plenty of unofficial apps available too

Facebook’s Project Titan: A Full Featured Webmail Product from FaceBook

Facebook is completely rewriting their messaging product and is preparing to launch a fully featured webmail product in its place, according to a source with knowledge of the product. Internally it’s known as Project Titan. Or, unofficially and perhaps over-enthusiastically, the Gmail killer.

Facebook messaging has been the bane of users’ existence for years. My first public gripe was in 2008, when I said that urgent changes were needed. The biggest problem is simply deleting old emails. It takes so long that I have thousands of unread and read but not deleted messages in my inbox.

But Facebook messaging is also only indirectly linked to the email, which is still the standard way that people exchange digital messages when not on Facebook.

Facebook has occasionally dabbled with improvements to messaging, like adding the ability to search messages. But for the most part it has remained static. And not very useful.

Even MySpace moved away from their aging messaging platform to a true webmail service in 2008 (albeit one that lacked POP or IMAP support).

But now Facebook is getting itself back in the game. And if the details we’ve heard are accurate, Project Titan, or whatever it’s called when it launches, may be the kind of product people flock to.

First, our understanding is that there will be full POP/IMAP support, meaning users can access the account other than through Facebook itself. Your email account name will be your vanity url – vanityurl@facebook.com.

Email is all about identity. And Facebook is ahead of everyone else in the identity game via Facebook Connect. Facebook says more than 60 million people log in to 80,000 third party websites each month via Facebook Connect.

Tacking a real webmail product on top of those vanity URLs and Facebook connect is something even Google may shudder at. Gmail killer? I don’t think so. But a strong product move nonetheless.

CrunchBase Information

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Information provided by CrunchBase

Facebook Platform News 11/17/09

We’re releasing some updates to stream story formatting, FQL, and finding fans this week. These changes are going live with the weekly code push, which takes place Tuesday evening, Pacific Time.

Switching from the video Attachment Type

We’re removing all reference to the video attachment type in stream stories. You should use the flash attachment type, since the flash type gives you more control over how your stories render.

While we’ll continue to publish stories that use the video type, we strongly encourage you to start using the flash attachment type instead.

Finding Fans without a Session

You can call pages.isFan without a session key now, so you can determine whether a user is a fan of a Facebook Page without the user needing to authorize your application.

Ensuring User Privacy with FQL

You can help ensure user privacy in your applications by checking whether a given user has blocked the logged-in user. Select the is_blocked field when you query the user FQL table.

Rendering Stream Stories

As another reminder regarding the stream roadmap, next week we’re changing the size of stream story images so that their maximum dimensions will be 90×90 pixels.

Also starting next week, if you include more than one image in your stream attachment, Facebook will render only the first image in the array initially. We’re also adding a “See More” link so the user can see the remaining images. You can still include up to 5 images in a stream story.

We’ll make another announcement on the Platform Live Status page next week confirming this launch.

We hope you start using these features and we welcome your feedback on the Developer Forum.

Pete, the technical writer on the Platform team, is rounding up the news.

Update on Simpler Policies and Enhanced Enforcement

When we announced the Developer Roadmap, we also simplified our policies by replacing the Facebook Platform Guidelines with the new Developer Principles and Policies, and posted Examples and Explanations for guidance on putting policy into practice. Our goal is to make it easy to understand our policies, so you can invest your time developing great applications instead of puzzling over rules.

We’ve all seen applications build long-term businesses by staying focused on providing a good user experience, creating user trust and engagement. These apps help all developers succeed by attracting more users to engage with great applications, creating a virtuous cycle that benefits the whole ecosystem. To continue to support this focus on user experience, we’re investing in personnel and technology to help us better uncover and rapidly respond to policy violations. You’ll continue to be able to launch an application without prior approval — that’s an important part of our open Platform philosophy — but you should expect it to be proactively reviewed at any time.

Our Approach to Enforcement

Our aim is for the Developer Policies and Examples and Explanations to reflect the specifics you need to easily make decisions and manage your applications. While our policies will guide our approach, no document can itemize every way to generate a bad user experience, so we’ll be enforcing our broader principles as well. Those who try to circumvent the spirit of the policies or principles, or exploit a “loophole,” will be subject to enforcement.

When we find a violation, the action we take will depend on the developer’s compliance history, and the nature and severity of the violation. In many cases we temporarily suspend some or all application functionality, or permanently disable.

Timing for the New Policies

Most of the revised policies are simplified versions of what we already required, and are therefore fully in effect. But as we said last month, we’ve also incorporated additional requirements, some of which were previously expected only of applications within the Verification program (which is being retired since all apps must now meet those standards).

We realize that for most of you adapting takes time, so we won’t be universally enforcing the increased requirements on all developers until noon PST 16 December 2009. But we expect the largest developers to set a positive example by proactively complying ahead of time, and anyone may hear from us in advance of the deadline asking for particular fixes. You should carefully read the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and the Developer Principles and Policies to ensure you understand what’s required. To help, we’ve provided highlights of changes and clarifications in the Latest Policy News section of the Examples and Explanations.

As we progress through the Developer Roadmap and the product evolves, we’ll continue simplifying the policies and posting examples and explanations. Typically we’ll announce substantial policy changes in the Developer Blog, with a lead time before they go into effect. However, in cases where we see exploits that require quick action to protect the ecosystem, where applicable we will post an update to our Examples and Explanations document and post an alert on the Platform Live Status (subscribe by email here) announcing our intention to enforce right away.

Feedback

We hope you’ll share your questions and feedback with us and the community in the Developer Forum. And if you see violations please let us know using the “Report” link at the bottom of canvas pages and application profile pages.

We appreciate the great apps you build, and look forward to working with you in protecting the Facebook Platform ecosystem and keeping it a welcoming place for users.

Paul and the rest of the Platform Policy Team stay healthy by riding the virtuous cycle.

Join Us at Le Web!

The Facebook team will say bonjour to Paris at the annual technology conference, Le Web on December 9th and 10th, where we’ll discuss the latest in the real time Web.

If you plan on attending, we hope you can join us for a discussion with Ethan Beard, Director of the Facebook Developer Network, who is delivering a keynote on Wednesday. We’re also co-hosting Facebook Developer Garage Paris – Le Web edition with Netvibes, which is open and free to all developers. Please see our Facebook event for more information.

You can find the latest updates from conference organizers on the Le Web Facebook page. We’ll also post our own updates during the conference to the Facebook Platform Page.

We hope to see you in Paris or connecting with us online!

Julia, who manages developer events worldwide, is looking forward to crepes under the Eiffel Tower.

Choosing the Right Ad Networks

Applications on Facebook Platform are businesses, and we want those businesses to succeed. That’s why there is a variety of ways to monetize your applications, including using third-party providers offering services to help you along the way.

In an effort to keep you informed on the best ways to adhere to our policies and principles, while continuing to grow your business on Facebook Platform, we’ve created a list of monetization providers that are no longer permitted to operate on Facebook Platform or Facebook.com. These providers have violated our policies and/or principles. We’ll keep this list current, so if you have any questions as to whether your provider has been prohibited from operating on Facebook Platform, you can refer back to the list at any time. If we find an application utilizing a banned provider on Facebook Platform, that application risks enforcement action.

We have also updated the list of other known third party providers that are available to help you monetize your application.These providers are not affiliated with Facebook and, therefore, it is your responsibility as the developer to ensure compliance with all Facebook policies and advertising guidelines when using their services on our platform. We are committed to providing the best possible user experience and hope you will join us in doing the same throughout all areas of your application.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please direct any questions you may have to the Developer Forum. If you are a monetization provider and wish to contact us please direct inquiries to our Web form.

Nick is a member of the Platform team.