links for 2009-09-22

  • As an inventor and a long-time engineer for Boeing, George Huggins has spent the better part of six decades conceptualizing and building things. But for all his experience and ingenuity, Huggins has yet to figure out how to get Uncle Sam to speed up the often-ponderous patent process.
    Since retiring from Boeing, the 81-year-old Huggins, who also raises cattle and pecans on his farm in Blanchard, Okla., has had several of his ideas patented by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including the Tailgate-N-Tote-Um-Table, an integrated folding table and umbrella for sporting event tailgaters.
    (tags: patent iphone)
  • Web start-up companies at this year’s Tech Crunch conference face a financial climate that has dried up venture capital, forcing them to turn to friends, family and foundations.
    Dan Olsen, a Stanford Business School grad, was one of the many entrepreneurs presenting his newly developed software at the tech conference held in a converted wooden warehouse on Monday and Tuesday.
    Olsen said he could not secure any venture capital and had instead turned to his friends — and their willingness to work for food — to develop his “real time discovery engine” that scans Twitter, Facebook and many other places in a specialized search called Yourversion.
    “My friends come over and code all day on Saturday and, at the end, we have a barbeque and beers,” he said. “I give food equity.”

  • Venture capital funding is at a historic low, yet at least eight software startups announced VC funding in the past two weeks for a total of more than $60 million. Their products are all very different, but they have one thing in common: they’re delivered in a software-as-a-service model.
    This is significant, because it shows that when VCs are thinking about what software companies to fund, they recognize value in the SaaS model. Some apps are just easier to sell and deploy as a SaaS, and are likely to gain better traction in a tough economy.
    And $60+ million in two weeks is impressive, considering the National Venture Capital Association reports that VC investments in the second quarter of this year dropped to levels not seen since 1996.
    Here are eight SaaS companies that have publicly announced VC funding so far this month; certainly there are others:
    (tags: vc)
  • An Iranian living in the U.S. called a friend of mine who lives here in New York and said, “I see on my caller ID that you tried to call me. What’s it about?” As you’ve no doubt guessed from the title of this post, my friend had done no such thing. A few weeks later, the same thing happened with another Iranian living in the U.S.
  • Facebook is closing an uncomfortable chapter in its five-year history.
    The social network says it will shut down Beacon, a program that tracks users’ activities on other Web sites. When it launched in 2007, Beacon was immediately attacked by users as a privacy violation.
    It tracked purchases Facebook users made on other sites and sent alerts about them to their Facebook friends. Facebook later let users turn Beacon off, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized for it.
    Beacon never really caught on, and Facebook agreed to end it as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement.
    The Palo Alto, California-based Facebook company will also pay $9.5 million to create a foundation to promote online privacy, safety and security.
    The proposed settlement must still be approved by a judge.
  • U.S. phone companies may be forced to open their wireless networks to rival Internet services like Skype and Google Voice under a proposal brought out by the top telecom regulator to safeguard so-called Internet neutrality.
    The proposal, if adopted, would be a victory for consumer advocates and big Internet companies like Google Inc at the expense of telecom operators like AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel Corp.
    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said operators should not be able to discriminate against any Internet applications or content and would have to make management practices for Web traffic transparent.
  • Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is making the new, Web-based version of its Office productivity suite available to a limited number of users under a trial program.
    The limited Technical Preview, as Microsoft is calling the program, is accessible through the company’s Windows Live SkyDrive storage portal, Microsoft said.
  • The population of US Twitter users will grow 200% in 2009, according to eMarketer estimates, with growth slowing to a still-impressive 44.4% in 2010. But breaking in as a power user may be difficult. Research from Rapleaf shows a virtuous cycle may exist, making popular users ever more popular.
    Will steep adoption rates and new appeal to younger demographics break the cycle and democratize follower metrics—or will new users simply form the next batch of disciples for today’s biggest microbloggers?
    (tags: Twitter)
  • In grand historical terms, this whole mobile app thing is only now climbing out of the primordial ooze.
    Which, believe me, is what you want to hear. It would be pretty depressing if the evolution of mobile apps was destined to stop at Ask Happy Buddha. Or iFart.
    I know, you’re thinking that apps for the iPhone, especially, have already reshaped the connected world. Why, you can use GPS to find the nearest Waffle House! You can identify a cool song playing over the health-club loudspeakers by using that miracle called Shazam!
    (tags: Mobile apps)

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