The New York Times’ Nick Bilton and Evelyn Rusli are tonight reporting that Apple is considering an investment in Twitter to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Whilst the companies are not currently in negotiations and there is no guarantee that the two would come to an agreement, earlier talks do suggest “they may form a stronger partnership”.
As the New York Times report explains, the deal would be one of Tim Cook’s “most important strategic decisions as chief executive” because of intensifying competition from Google and Facebook and the fact that Apple has struggled in the past with social. It would be a unique move for Apple, which typically buys a small start-up and absorbs it into the company rather than investing in a company.
The turf wars have fortified alliances and pushed companies to choose sides. Apple’s dealings with Twitter, for instance, began after its relationship with Facebook soured. In 2010, the company was eager to integrate its Ping service with Facebook, but discussions broke down. Mr. Jobs, the Apple chief executive who died last year, told the technology news site AllThingsD that Facebook had demanded “onerous terms that we could not agree to.”
Apple, which had spent months preparing to hook Facebook into iOS, its mobile operating system, swiftly reworked it for Twitter. One former Twitter employee, who described Twitter as the “lucky mistress” in this chain of events, said the partnership was essentially “handed to Twitter on a silver platter.” Ping, in the end, never caught on with users.
One big question to be resolved is whether Twitter would want a large investment from Apple. Earlier this year, chief executive Dick Costolo said Twitter had “truckloads of money in the bank”. At the same time though, Costolo also recently said in an interview that “[Apple] is a great partner, we think of them as a company that our company looks up to”.
The relationship with Apple is so prized at Twitter that the company assigned a vice president, Kevin Thau, to work with Apple full time, according to an Apple employee who asked not to be named.
Yesterday, personal social network/smart journal Path was hit by a wave of controversy as a user found out the iPhone app uploaded a device’s entire Address Book (your contacts’ names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses) to the company’s servers without any kind of user consent or notice. Whilst some people claimed this is actually common practice for several iOS apps as Apple doesn’t provide native Address Book access dialogs as they do for location, the fact that Path did it was unequivocally wrong, and in spite of the Path’s CEO quickly responding to comments, the company was still called out to make the right thing, apologize, and remove all user data.
And unlike many web companies nowadays, that’s exactly what Path did. With a blog post published earlier today, Path explains that what they did was simply functional to the service’s contact matching feature, but wrong nonetheless. Path is apologizing for the mistake, and has released a new version of the app that makes the functionality opt-in for all users; they have also removed all data from their servers as many asked today.
We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information. We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path.
You may like Path or think it’s useless (I, for one, use it and enjoy it quite a bit), but you have to admit we don’t see companies be that honest and transparent to their users that often. In a world where we’re used to see companies hiding particular aspects of their services to their users (sometimes even paying users), it’s refreshing to see Path be an example of clarity and simplicity in communication.
What Path did was wrong, and they have paid (and will continue paying) the consequences for their mistake in bad PR. On the other hand though, Path has shown that there’s nothing wrong about admitting your errors, saying you’re sorry, and trying to turn a bad decision into a precious lesson for future endeavors.
We first covered News.me, a “social news reader” developed by Betaworks, when it first came out in April, aiming to take on other “social magazines” for the iPad like Flipboard and Zite. Unlike its competitors, News.me was based on an interesting business model: the app would let you “see” what your friends were reading, at a price. Built with Apple’s subscriptions for iOS apps, News.me allowed users to subscribe to access the app’s social-reading functionalities. From our review:
Like I said it’s difficult now to say whether News.me’s smart filtering system really works or not, but I’ve noticed a couple of interesting factors that might increase the quality of the social aggregator. For instance, you can swipe right on a story in your timeline to “mute” it and tell the app to hide it forever, or check out a “people who read this story also read” section at the bottom of popular articles. This section aggregates stories from the same source that are linked to the one you’re reading, and should provide a meaningful way to discover news that might interest you. Another feature I love is the importance News.me gave to attribution: you can tap on a writer’s name to open a popover menu that allows you see his bio and follow him on Twitter. Unlike Flipboard, News.me got attribution absolutely right.
With an update posted today, the News.me team has announced the iPad app is now completely free (no subscriptions), and the company will be run separately under Betaworks.
Over the past year, News.me has been incubated within bitly. Today, we’re pleased to announce that News.me has officially spun out of bitly into an independent company under betaworks. As I wrote earlier this year, with News.me we are seeking to rethink and reinvent the way that people discover news; I’m very excited that News.me is now set up and running as a standalone company with the resources it needs to fully pursue that vision.
The new version of News.me for iPad (1.2) doesn’t seem to introduce any new feature aside from free access without subscriptions. There’s no doubt this new model will help the app gain more readers, so we’ll make sure to check back in a few weeks to see how user adoption can contribute to News.me’s social graph. You can get the app for free on the App Store.
Ever since the official Google+ app for iPhone came out in July, we’ve followed the development as Google’s new social experiment added more features, and seemingly dropped in traffic as the novelty effect wore off for many. I was pretty satisfied with the 1.0 release, albeit the custom UI and lack of functionalities turned an highly anticipated launch into a discussion as to whether Google should be focusing on making its iOS apps more native to iOS and less Android-ish. An update in August brought support for iPod touch and iPad in compatibility mode — two options that were mysteriously absent in the first release.
A new version of Google+, as noted by The Next Web, was pushed to the App Store a few minutes ago, adding support for “reshares”, as well as bug fixes and performances improvements. From my first tests, I’m happy to see the app doesn’t crash on iOS 5 beta 7 and everything seems to be quite snappy and responsive while navigating between sections, the stream, and comments. As for resharing others’ posts, it works just like on the Google+ website — once you’ve selected a post, you can hit the “arrow button” at the bottom to bring up a menu to reshare, mute, or report a post. Reshare will open a new window populated with the original post and author, and a text field to add your own thoughts, set location and circles. Reshared posts will be nicely formatted both for the web and iOS app.
Back in July we covered the release of Photovine for iPhone, an image sharing app developed by Google’s internal Slide team that, among other things, is also responsible for Disco, a group messaging app, and Pool Party. Powered by a slick design and attention to detail, the Photovine app that was released last month didn’t allow everyone to sign up and start sharing photos as the system was invite-only without an open sign-up. With an update pushed last night on the App Store, Photovine has revamped Facebook and Twitter integration from within the app and finally opened registrations without the need of a beta invite.
Unlike the popular photo sharing app and iPhone-based social network Instagram, Photovine doesn’t revolve around the simple concept of photos uploaded to a user stream and shared with followers. Rather, Photovine is based on “vines” — photos connected by a caption and contributed by you, your friends, and other people using Photovine. So, for example, say you’d like to share a photo about your newly acquired MacBook Air, you can start a vine called “My new MacBook” and your friends will be able to let the vine “grow” with new photos related to the caption, and the photo you originally posted. This is best explained by Photovine’s promo video, which we’ve embedded after the break.
Photos in a vine can obviously be liked and commented on, each user has its own dedicated page with a profile picture and followers/following/likes counts, and an Inbox tab in the bottom toolbar allows you to check on messages you’ve received from other users, or notifications such as new followers, comments, and likes. This is not too dissimilar from Instagram’s implementation of “activity”. Users can add new photos to an existing vine (or even “watch” a vine if they’re interested in it) or create a new one from scratch — Photovine comes with a beautiful custom camera interface that lets you snap your own photo, or pick one from the Camera roll. Indeed the whole app sports a gorgeous and clean design that makes it easy to jump through vines, user profiles, and comment on photos shared by others.
Photovine for iPhone is an interesting concept with a good-looking interface and additional social functionalities to forward photos to Twitter and Facebook, and find friends on those social networks as well. You can download Photovine for free on the App Store. (more…)
Google has just released the official Google+ app for iPhone on the App Store. The app is free and available here, and at the moment of writing this Google hasn’t updated its Mobile webpage to showcase the new app yet.
The Google+ iOS app provides a native interface to access much of the functionalities of the website, such as the Huddle group messaging feature — which was exclusive to Android devices prior to the app’s approval. The dashboard of the Google+ app presents a grid of icons to access the Stream, Huddle, Photos, your Profile and Circles, as well as a Notifications tab at the bottom that will open a vertical list of all your incoming notifications. Whilst much of the navigation seems to rely on web views optimized for the iPhone and fetched by the device, the animations when switching between sections are quite snappy and fast on iOS 4. Just like on the desktop, the Stream provides recent updates from the people you follow and your Circles, allowing you to check for new posts with the popular “pull to refresh gesture” and comment or +1 others’s posts. You can’t +1 from the home page — you have to open a single post and hit the + button in the upper right corner, while a text field at the bottom will let you leave a comment. You can also “mute” or “report” a post. The app is capable of sending push notifications for new comments, shares, and so forth. (more…)
Photovine, an image sharing service with a strong social component that is trademarked and registered by Google, has released its first official iPhone app in the App Store, which is available now for free. Described as a “fun way to learn more about your friends, meet new people, and share your world”, Photovine is backed by a beautiful user interface design to share your moments and photos with your friends, and watch other photo replies coming into your social stream. Photovine is developed by Google’s subsidiary Slide, which has also created other apps for Google like Disco and Pool Party. Photovine revolves around the concept of adding a tag (or caption) to a photo, and explore other photos with that specific tag in the “photovine”.
Details are scarce for now, but the iTunes description reports:
It all starts with what we call a photovine: a group of photos around a single, shared caption. Start a new vine with a photo and caption of your own or add your photo/take on someone else’s vine.
Photovine is invite-only for now, and upon first launch the app will ask you to enter an email address to use the service — this has to be the same email address you received an invite to. You can request an invite at Photovine.com, and we’ll update this story with more details once we get the chance to try the app. In the meantime, you can check out the teaser video after the break. [via iClarified] (more…)
Play by AOL, the latest contendant in the social music discovery and sharing space, aims at providing a streamlined solution to what could be considered a common problem among iPhone and Android users: there is no unified system to share what you’re listening to and discover new music through the songs and albums your friends are liking. Ping by Apple failed at offering a solution truly meant for mobile with quick, instant access by being nothing but a mere social layer on top of the iTunes Store; on the other hand, apps like NowPlayer could be regarded as social attempts to get the music out of your device and onto the Internet (e.g. where your friends are), yet there’s always the issue with people finding tweets about #nowplaying annoying and, most of the times, out of context. Imagine if I tweeted all day about the music I’m listening to. That wouldn’t work. So that’s why in the past months we’ve seen the rise of SoundTracking (our review), a clever utility and social network by itself that lets you quickly share what’s playing on your device and send it off to an Instagram-like stream made by people you decided to follow within the app itself. Soundtracking can send items to Twitter and Facebook, but you don’t have to, as the app can live as a network on its own. Furthermore, sharing is made simple by a button that integrates with the iOS Music app to grab what’s playing in seconds, artist’s info and album artwork included. (more…)
Back in May I reviewed the first version of Carousel, a beautiful Instagram client for Mac that, thanks to the Chameleon framework built by The Iconfactory, brought Instagram’s photo streams and profiles to the desktop with a gorgeous iOS-like user interface. Whilst in the past month, with Lion nearing its final release and the WWDC, we’ve seen several examples of iOS apps making the big leap to the Mac, Carousel was one of the first apps to try the iPhone-inspired approach with a vertical layout, tabs, and popover menus. Together with Twitterrific, Carousel is a fine example of iOS interface schemes coexisting with more standard Mac applications.
Carousel 1.1, released today, adds a number of new features and refinements to make the Instagram experience on OS X even more beautiful and easy to use. First off, search: you can now search for specific @users or #keywords on Instagram, pin your searches as you would in Twitter for Mac, or click on tags and usernames in photo comments, which now are better styled to indicate the original author’s caption. Saved searches sit below the search bar, but to perform a search you’ll have to choose an element from a popover menu. The app has gained a new “likes” tab to see all the photos you’ve liked and a fetch separator to start where you left off in the stream, but more importantly gestures are now supported to easily open a photo in Quick Look (pinch and zoom) or check out a profile (swipe on the photo). It feels very natural and smooth using a Magic Trackpad.
Among the little fixes and refinements, the developers have updated the iOS-like toolbar to make sure the selector is draggable (try it, neat animation in there) and the comment form remains visible even if you click outside of Carousel’s main window.
Carousel 1.1 is a solid update for the most beautiful and intuitive Instagram client currently available on the Mac. You can buy Carousel at $4.99 on the Mac App Store.