Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Facebook Surpasses Google in US Hits

March 18, 2010: summarized from boston.com -- NEW YORK — Facebook Inc., the world’s largest social networking site, surpassed Google Inc.’s search engine in weekly hits to become the most visited website in the United States for the first time, according to research firm Hitwise.

Facebook.com accounted for 7.07 percent of visits in the week ended March 13, topping Google.com's 7.03 percent, New York-based Hitwise said in a March 15 blog post. Facebook almost tripled its visits from a year earlier, compared with 9 percent growth at Google, the most popular search engine.

Facebook, started in 2004, has lured users by adding games and making it easier to check messages, notifications, and friend requests. To compete, Google added a social networking feature called Buzz to its Gmail e-mail service last month, allowing users to share photos, comments, and clips from its YouTube video site. The company is considering building a version that works outside of Gmail.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/c4uyRD

How Privacy Vanishes Online

March 16, 2010: summarized from the New York Times -- If a stranger came up to you on the street, would you give him your name, Social Security number and e-mail address? Probably not. Yet people often dole out all kinds of personal information on the Internet that allows such identifying data to be deduced. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are oceans of personal minutiae — birthday greetings sent and received, school and work gossip, photos of family vacations, and movies watched.

Computer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number.

“Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy division. “You can find out who an individual is without it.”

In a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that received some attention last year, Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree analyzed more than 4,000 Facebook profiles of students, including links to friends who said they were gay. The pair was able to predict, with 78 percent accuracy, whether a profile belonged to a gay male.

So far, this type of powerful data mining, which relies on sophisticated statistical correlations, is mostly in the realm of university researchers, not identity thieves and marketers.

Read more at: http://nyti.ms/9m5YX2

Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem of Hell

October 31, 2009: summarized from TechCrunch -- Last weekend I wrote about how the big social gaming companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on Facebook and MySpace through games like Farmville and Mobsters. Major media can’t stop applauding the companies long enough to understand what’s really going on with these games. The real story isn’t the business success of these startups. It’s the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success.

In short, these games try to get people to pay cash for in game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience. Which is fine. But for users who won’t pay cash, a wide variety of “offers” are available where they can get in-game currency in exchange for lead gen-type offers. Most of these offers are bad for consumers because it confusingly gets them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash (there are notable exceptions, but the scammy stuff tends to crowd out the legitimate offers). And it’s also bad for legitimate advertisers.

The reason why I call this an ecosystem is that it’s a self-reinforcing downward cycle. Users are tricked into these lead gen scams. The games get paid, and they plow that money back into Facebook and MySpace in advertising, getting more users. Who are then monetized via lead gen scams. That money is then plowed back into Facebook and MySpace in advertising to get more users…

Here’s the really insidious part: game developers who monetize the best (and that’s Zynga) make the most money and can spend the most on advertising. Those that won’t touch this stuff (Slide and others) fall further and further behind. Other game developers have to either get in on the monetization or fall behind as well. Companies like Playdom and Playfish seem to be struggling with their conscience and are constantly shifting their policies on lead gen.

The games that scam the most, win.

And some users aren’t dumb, either. For every user who gets tricked into some fake mobile subscription, there’s another who can beat the system. That’s where the legitimate advertisers, like Netflix and Blockbuster, get hit. Users sign up for a free trial with a credit card, get their game currency, then cancel the membership and start over. Netflix has a policy of only paying for a user once. But game developers use a complex set of partner chains to launder these leads and try to get them through for payment. Netflix sees an overall lowering of quality and pays less for leads. Game developers, desperate to monetize, then search for ever more questionable offers to make up the difference. In the end, the decent advertisers are out, and only the worst of the worst remain.

Read more at: http://tcrn.ch/cGgwIi

Interview with Frank Fahrenkopf, CEO of the American Gaming Association

Fahrenkopf Discusses Online Gaming Issues

March 24, 2010: summarized from Card Player -- rank Fahrenkopf has more than his fair share of experience in both the political and gaming worlds. After serving as the chairman of the Republican National Committee for most of Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president, Fahrenkopf decided to accept a job as chief executive of the newly formed American Gaming Association in 1995.

He told the members of the AGA at that time that he would serve for one year, just to help “get it off the ground.” Fifteen years later, he remains president and CEO of the association, which has matured into a major lobbying force for the commercial casino industry.

Now, he speaks to Card Player to discuss the AGA’s new position on internet gaming, as well as some of the major issues facing the commercial casino industry today. In the interview, he speculates about the possibility that Barney Frank’s bill may be added to other must-pass legislation, just like the UIGEA was in 2006, as well as why he thinks the controversial UIGEA must remain law.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/bG6jZh