A new site called ChatRoulette has been getting a lot of attention lately because it features live video chatting with random strangers, with predictable results. But among those interested in the site is venture investor Fred Wilson, who has invited the founder to New York.
Just four days after launching Buzz, and two days after making some substantial changes to the service as a result of privacy concerns from users, Google has made another series of changes, including making the choice to follow someone opt-in rather than opt-out.
Google has been struggling to make sense of the social web and integrate it into some of its products, but the reaction to Google Buzz is another indication of how the company continues to focus on features rather than real human experience.
After a number of Google Buzz users complained that the service was exposing their email and GTalk contacts to the outside world without making it clear it would do that, the company has made changes to make privacy and other settings more obvious.
Things seem to be humming along in the Facebook game market: Zynga, the leading Facebook game company, with popular apps such as Mafia Wars and Farmville (whose users recently sent half a billion valentines to each other in 48 hours), has agreed to acquire fellow game maker Serious Business, whose apps include Friends For Sale. And Bloomberg reports that Microsoft (s msft) is in talks to acquire Crowdstar, another leading maker of Facebook games, whose apps include Happy Aquarium. The report notes, however, that a deal is not final, and that informed sources said Crowdstar may “choose to stay independent with investment from a private equity firm.”
The value of the Zynga deal hasn’t been disclosed, but Serious Business has about 6 million total registered users of its Facebook games — including Friends For Sale, Happy Hour and Rock Legends — according to analytics provider AppData. That puts it at No. 36 on the Facebook developer leaderboard. The company was founded by several former employees of search engine technology company Powerset, and got $4 million in financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2008.
Zynga, which got an investment of $180 million from Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies in December, has a total of about 232 million registered users for its games and apps, including Texas Hold ‘Em, Farmville and Mafia Wars. According to the Bloomberg report, a deal between Crowdstar and Microsoft could be worth as much as $200 million. If the software maker does wind up buying Crowdstar, it will be interesting to see how (or if) that changes Microsoft’s relationship with Facebook, since it owns a stake in the social network (Digital Sky also owns a stake).
AppData says that Crowdstar has about 50 million registered users for its 11 Facebook apps and games, which include Happy Aquarium, Happy Pets and Know-It-All Trivia — although Happy Aquarium is by far the largest with more than half of the total. AppData has Crowdstar at No. 4 on the Facebook developer leaderboard, just below Facebook itself. Second place is held by RockYou, which has 90 million registered users of games and apps such as its Horoscopes service. RockYou raised a $50 million funding round in November from SoftBank.
The Facebook and “social gaming” market got a huge boost last fall, when Electronic Arts (s erts) — whose PC and console game business has reportedly been suffering from lower sales that have hit the game maker hard — bought Facebook game company Playfish in November for $400 million. Playfish has about 60 million registered users for its games, including Pet Society.
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According to Zynga, the creator of Farmville and other popular Flash-based interactive games on Facebook, over the past two days alone, players with Farmville accounts have sent close to half a billion virtual Valentine’s Day gifts to each other.
TweepML, which launched a Twitter-based service offering list management just a couple of months before Twitter launched something almost identical, is now up for sale. The demise of the service is a graphic reminder of the risks of building a startup on someone else’s platform.
Peter Warden analyzed the user profile data and friend settings from more than 200 million Facebook profiles, and found that they naturally segmented themselves into seven regional groups, based on the number of connections between users and those from other states.
Forrester Research touched off a bit of a brush fire this past weekend when it said it would limit its analysts to blogging about research-related topics on Forrester.com and decreed that any personal blogs maintained on other domains must be strictly about personal matters.
Wikileaks, the non-profit web site devoted to exposing government and corporate secrets, says that it has raised enough money to continue operating, but not enough to pay its staff. The site suspended operations recently to try and raise enough funds to continue publishing.