There’s a change at the top at Facebook….in Japan, where the company has hired former McDonalds and Boston Consulting Group marketing exec Atsushi Iwashita as its new Managing Director.
The news is reported in Markezine — via Asiajin – although Iwashita, who was most recently CEO at brand consultancy firm Interbrand Japan, is still to update his LinkedIn profile to reflect his new role. The move comes at an interesting time for social networks in the country, as the top sites are refocusing their management to capture young audiences and double-down on mobile.
Local rival Mixi replaced its founder with a new (and notably very young) CEO on Monday. Now 30-year-old Yusuke Asakura will lead the company, becoming only the second CEO in Mixi’s 9-year history.
That change to inject more youth and appeal comes in response to Mixi’s continued decline and Facebook’s growth in Japan. Last September, Facebook overtook Mixi as it hit 15 million monthly active users in the country. That was a significant moment since Japan had been one of the few remaining markets where Facebook was not the dominant network.
Asiajin speculates that the two are near neck-and-neck right now, so there’s still all to play for in the lucrative market, where Twitter is actually the most popular social service (thanks to its simple and efficient mobile experience).
Locally developed messaging app Line has shown the kinds of revenues that social services can make in the country. A whopping 80 percent of the $58 million revenue it made in Q1 2013 came via Japan, and Mixi and Facebook will be aiming to grow their user base and presence on mobile in pursuit of a piece of that pie.
You can also add private social network Path to that list too.
The company launched its Asia-inspired Path 3.0 service, featuring stickers and virtual content popular in the continent, in March having appointed a general manager for Japan/Asia last year. Path has long said that Asia is its fastest growing region, with Japan and Korea two of its key markets.
Headline image via laughingsquid / Flickr
HTC’s Facebook Home-laden First smartphone may only have debuted on AT&T last month, but it appears that the device may be a dud as far as consumers are concerned. According to a report from BGR’s Zach Epstein, sales of the HTC First smartphone have been so disappointing that AT&T will soon be dropping the device from its lineup completely and shipping all unsold inventory back to HTC.
If this report holds true (representatives from AT&T, HTC, and Facebook have not responded to our questions at time of writing), AT&T will continue to sell the First until it fulfills its contractual obligations to display the thing in its myriad retail stores.
And just how bad was the First doing? Epstein expounds a bit on Twitter, noting that the infinitely lamer HTC Status sold more during its first month on the market than the First did. That may not be the most fair comparison to make considering that the Status was HTC’s first foray into baking Facebook directly into an Android device (and in a time when the Facebook Android app was markedly worse than it is now), but there you have it. What’s also unclear is what such a move would mean for the First in other markets — HTC CEO Peter Chou noted at the Facebook Home launch event that the device would be carried by France’s Orange and the UK’s EE later this summer.
To be quite honest, it’s not exactly a shock to hear that the First hasn’t managed to whip the smartphone-hungry masses into a frenzy. Less than a week ago, AT&T slashed the on-contract price of the First from $99 to a scant $0.99 — it seemed like a curious move at the time given just how new the First was, but many took it as a signal that the sales situation was dire. The real question here is what managed to turn off consumers more: the First’s relatively modest spec sheet, or its reliance on Facebook Home. If I were a betting man, my money would be on the latter considering the thorough drubbing that Facebook’s replacement launcher has received from reporters and users alike and the fact that interest in Home as a whole seems to be waning.
We’re working to verify this rumor one way or the other, but for now it’s best to take this whole thing with a grain of salt. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time a Facebook phone was erroneously thought to be taking a dip in the deadpool.
Read the original: Rumor: AT&T To Discontinue The HTC First Facebook Phone
Q: Why does a to do list application need $3.5 million in funding? A: Because it’s becoming more than a simple to do app. Today, Any.DO one of the more popular to do list applications for web and mobile, announced a seed round of funding led by existing investor Genesis Partners, with participation from both current and new investors Innovation Endeavors (Eric Schmidt’s fund), Joe Lonsdale, Blumberg Capital, Joe Greenstein and others.
The company had previously announced $1 million in angel funding in late 2011 from Innovation Endeavors, Blumberg Capital, Genesis Partners, Palantir (Joe Lonsdale), Felicis Ventures (Aydin Senkut) and Brian Koo.
For those unfamiliar, Any.DO got its start on the Android platform after the success of the team’s first app, Taskos, which proved the market was ripe for such a concept. That app had grown to 1.3 million users by the time Any.DO arrived in November 2011, and today has more than doubled its install base.
Any.DO, however, has since surpassed it. The company says its flagship application now has more than 5 million users across iOS, Android and web. Referencing data from Onavo Insights, Any.DO claims to be the market leader in the to do list app space. (Its nearest competitor, Wunderlist, announced earlier this month having more than 4 million users.)
Unlike many apps, Any.DO has more Android users than iOS, having initially taken advantage of that platform’s popularity, its need for well-built apps, and the potential built-in install base coming from Taskos, who were encouraged to switch over to Any.DO when it first debuted.
Any.DO is beautifully designed, which has the side effect of making the app appear deceptively simple. But in reality, there’s some heavy lifting going on under the hood.
“We believe the tools you have on your homescreen are going to be smarter and smarter over time,” explains Any.DO founder and CEO Omer Perchik. “In terms of the to do list…it will help you accomplish the things you have on your list, and we’ve developed a semantic engine that extracts intents and tries to find the relevant action,” he says. “And on the other hand, it’s basically predicting what you’ll be interested in doing.”
So for example, if you tell the app today that you want to plan a trip or workout at the gym more often, it will recommend other applications that will help you complete those tasks, including things like Kayak, TripAdvisor, MyFitnessPal, and many others. Also, if you tell the app you need to do something like “pay taxes,” it’s smart enough to start reminding you about that task in advance of tax day, even though you never provided an exact date or time.
In some cases, Any.DO has affiliate relationships with the dozens of apps it points users to, but in other cases it does not. Perchik says that conversion rates are high – more than three times above the market average of 1 to 5 percent, in general.
Asked whether or not the company had the intention of using the funding to further develop Any.DO or to expand its lineup by launching more apps in the personal productivity space, Perchik says “possibly both.” However, the company isn’t heading into other spaces like email or calendaring just yet, he adds.
That being said, Perchik did cite the recent trend in startups developing alternatives to the core applications on users’ homescreens – things like email (Mailbox, Triage, e.g.), calendaring (Sunrise, Tempo, e.g.), and messaging, etc. “There’s a lot of things in the day-to-day personal productivity space that are relevant [to us], but we’re less working towards building something like Google Docs or Office for mobile – we’re focusing more on the individual,” he says, defining Any.DO’s interests.
The company will have some announcements around what its future plans may be in about a month’s time, Perchik also notes.
In the meantime, the 12-person startup is using the funding to staff its new San Francisco-based office where Perchik now works. The R&D and product team remains in Israel, but the new office will hire those on the marketing and business development side of things.
In addition, an update to the Android version of Any.DO is rolling out now which will allow Astrid app users (one of Yahoo’s many recent acquisitions) to import their data in advance of the app’s shutdown.
Bing‘s social sidebar, which shows relevant entries from your Facebook friends, Twitter, Klout, Quora and other services, just got a lot more interactive. You can now like Facebook posts in the social sidebar and add their own comments. In addition you can now also see all of the existing comments on a post right in the sidebar, too.
This, Microsoft believes, will make the social search experience on Bing even more interactive, engaging and helpful than before.
It also means users don’t have to leave Bing to engage with these posts. Chances are, after all, that they will get distracted by all of the other goodies Facebook has to offer once they leave Bing and won’t return anytime soon.
Personally, I’ve never found these social search results all that useful. Microsoft, however, clearly believes that this, in combination with what they are doing around semantic search, will allow it to continue to compete with Google, which seems to have de-emphasized social search over the last few months.
With its Scroogled campaign and “Bing It On” challenge, Microsoft has obviously been taking a far more aggressive stance against Google in recent months and it’s slowly adding new users. Currently, Google has a market share of about 67 percent in the U.S., and Bing is close to reaching 17 percent.
There have been some recent rumors, however, that Yahoo is looking to drop Bing as its search provider (Yahoo currently commands just under 12 percent of the U.S. search market with its Bing-powered search), but given the long-term deal between the two companies, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
Read the original post: Bing Now Allows Users To Like And Comment On Facebook Entries Right From Its Social Sidebar
Version 4.3.0 of the app introduces ‘Snap Your Stay’, which lets users photograph and share images from their hotel. This is in addition to HotelTonight’s existing photos, which are supplied by hotels themselves.
Just to recap, HotelTonight is a mobile-only service aimed at the last-minute market, letting users book same-day hotel rooms starting at 12pm on the day for up to 70% less in dozens of cities across North America and Europe. The company curates the hotels itself before including them on the platform, so this isn’t like another TripAdvisor.
We first covered HotelTonight way back in early 2011, when it launched initially for iPhones. It then hit Android shortly after, before being rolled out for iPads early last year, which geared it up nicely for its first tentative steps outside of the US market, first in Toronto and then London in June 2012. Oh, and it also recently secured a $23 million Series C investment, led by US Venture Partners with continued participation from Accel Partners, Battery Ventures and First Round Capital – this took its total funding to more than $35m.
After a booking is made, guests simply tap ‘Snap Your Stay’ to take photos, with the app prompting guests to complete a series of images of the hotel bed, bathroom, view, lobby and exterior, plus another ‘find’ of their choice.
The app also features some pretty basic editing tools and a light filter.
Guests can then share these photos to Facebook and Twitter, and they’ll also appear on the Info tab of a hotel’s profile tab.
The app update also features a new Photos tab with a curated feed of some of the best HotelTonight user-generated snaps.
HotelTonight is clearly hoping to that photos snapped by the public will give a more accurate reflection of what the hotel looks like, while simultaneously engaging its user-base. And the social-element obviously encourages virality too, with users spreading the good word off their own back.
Also announced today, HotelTonight is rolling out what it’s calling the “HT Price Guarantee,” where it, well, guarantees its rates against competitors’ prices. So, if the HotelTonight rate is beaten by, say, Booking.com, it will offer the user credits equivalent to the difference in price.
“Travel reviews are near and dear to me, coming from my experience at TravelPost where we built at it’s peak, one of the largest hotel review sites, and we’ve spent a lot of time at HotelTonight thinking about how to reimagine reviews for the mobile age,” says Sam Shank, Co-Founder and CEO, HotelTonight. “With today’s release, we’ve successfully done that, making reviews visual, easy to submit and something you do during your stay, in the moment – and most importantly, we’ve made them fun.”
The new feature will only be available on the iPhone/iPod touch at launch, but it will be rolling out to the iPad and Android incarnation shortly.
Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock
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