Google, Facebook and YouTube racked up the most unique visitors among U.S. websites in 2011, according to new data from the research group Nielsen.
Not necessarily the most surprising news is it? What may be a bit more interesting is that, despite its rapid growth, Google+ was on average visited by fewer users than Myspace this year, according to Nielsen. Google+ was released in beta in July and opened to the public in September.
The Nielsen data also doesn't cover the entire year, only January to October.
According to Nielsen, the top 10 U.S. social networks and blogs, by page views, in 2011 were:
1. Facebook -- 137.6 million average page views per month
2. Blogger -- 45.5 million average page views per month
3. Twitter.com -- 23.6 million average page views per month
Well, it surely isn't very mobile, but it is on pre-order in 23 countries, including the U.S.
The 40-inch touchscreen device, as the name implies, runs Microsoft's Surface software, which is most often found in Surface tables inside Microsoft Stores. The New York Times has done some experimenting with an older version of Microsoft's Surface technology too.
Microsoft and Samsung also showed off the SUR40, which has a 4-inch-thick display, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and now you can buy one too -- if you've got the cash.
So, how much will it cost and when will it ship?
Samsung and Microsoft officials weren't available to answer those questions Thursday morning, but the SUR40 will sell for about $7,600 according to the website SlashGear, or about $8,400 according to TechCrunch. Mashable reports that the SUR40 could sell for between $10,000 and $15,000.
We'll let you know when we hear from Samsung or Microsoft to clarify the pricing details, but obviously the SUR40 isn't meant to compete with Apple's iPad on price or size.
[Updated 11:59 a.m.: Jason Redmond, a Samsung spokesman, clarified the pricing and shipping details for the Technology blog in an email, saying:
Pricing is $8,400 USD for just the display unit and $9,049 with the legs as shown in the photo. It is sold without the legs for customers who are building a tabletop or display furniture around the SUR40. We will start shipping to customers in early January, not long after CES.]
The target here is educational institutions and businesses such as retail, healthcare, hospitality and even the financial industry and "other commercial business environments to help deliver interactive digital content, drive sales, showcase brands, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty," said Somanna Palacanda, the director of Microsoft's Surface team, in a statement.
The SUR40, which can be laid horizontal and on legs (like a table) or mounted on walls and other upright surfaces, uses what the two tech giants call PixelSense, which "allows an LCD display to recognize fingers, hands, and objects placed on the screen, including more than 50 simultaneous touch points," according to a Microsoft statement. "With PixelSense, pixels in the display see what’s touching the screen and that information is immediately processed and interpreted."
And yes, the SUR40 does have an app for Microsoft's Bing search engine and a built-in Web browser.
Want to see the SUR40 in action? Take a look at the Microsoft-produced video below.
Mozilla has teamed with Microsoft to bring more Bing to Firefox.
On Wednesday the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit group that builds the Firefox Web browser, released Firefox with Bing, a customized version of the browser that makes Bing.com the default homepage and sets Bing as the default search engine.
Of course, any user of Firefox can go into the browser's settings and make those changes themselves if they want, and there is even a "Bing Search for Firefox" add-on that will do the same. But many users don't mess with their settings too much, which is why Google (the usual default for Firefox) is the most widely used search engine among Firefox users.
Google competes with Bing on the search side and Google's Chrome browser competes with Firefox. Microsoft, of course, makes a Firefox rival in Internet Explorer.
Mozilla, in a blog post, said that "nearly 20 customized versions of Firefox" are available from its partners, including Bing, Yahoo (which now uses Bing to power its search as well), Twitter and Yandex.
Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Phone operating system has been playing catch-up to Google's Android and Apple's iOS ever since it launched on smartphones about a year ago.
And with Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango, being the first major update to Microsoft's mobile OS since its launch, that still hasn't changed. What also hasn't changed is that Windows Phone is one of the easiest-to-use smartphone operating systems on the market and a great entry point for those looking to get their first smartphone.
Mango adds 500 new features to Windows Phone but the look and feel of the software is pretty much exactly the same. The "live tiles" and "Metro" user interface remain in place and for good reason -- the look is an attractive one that even at a year old still feels new.
Yet at this point, despite the Mango update, Windows Phone in my opinion doesn't feel like it will rival Android or iOS for market share anytime soon. Microsoft's rivals continue to add polish and pull further ahead with Apple's iOS 5 being my favorite of the pack currently and the promising Android Ice Cream Sandwich on the way.
But Windows Phone 7.5 is a big improvement over 7.0 and with RIM continuing to struggle with its own BlackBerry mobile platform, it seems Microsoft has an opportunity to snag the No. 3 spot in the smartphone wars -- especially with new Nokia, Samsung and HTC handsets planned.
Some of Mango's most outstanding new features follow in the footsteps of what's been available on other platforms for some time.
Multitasking on Mango is easy and fun.
Windows Phone handsets have three buttons sitting below their touchscreens -- a back button to the left (indicated by a back arrow), a home button (which is a Windows logo) in the center and a search button (a magnifying glass icon) to the right.
Hold down the back button and whatever window you're in shrinks to sit in a row of screenshots of other apps running in the background. You can scroll between the window panes to see what's running and tap on the pane you want to launch into that app.
Want to see what this looks like? Check out our video demonstration below.
The whole scheme is visually appealing and multitasking on Mango achieves the same goal as multitasking in Android or iOS, but the whole thing is pulled off in a unique style. It's refreshing to see Microsoft do this, and many other things, without feeling like it's a copy of its rivals.
Maps gain a feature called Local Scout which, whenever you let the Maps app know your current location, quickly serves up suggestions on what's nearby for eating and drinking, seeing and doing, shopping at and other highlights. Essentially, Local Scout adds a Yelp-like feature to Maps that works well and can aid in discovering new places and things in an unfamiliar location.
Local Scout also offers ratings and even suggests helpful apps that might be related to whatever the location is that you're checking out -- such as Foursquare, Foodspotting or transit-related apps.
The app suggestions, which Microsoft calls App Connect, also show up outside of Local Scout and in other spots such as the phone's built-in Bing search app. When you search in Bing, expected search results are returned, but a list of suggested Apps come up too. For example, if you're searching for something related to a breaking news story, a list of news apps might show up.
Bing search overall is improved as well.
Users can search by voice, text and images such as bar codes, QR codes, or the covers of CDs, DVDs and books. Local Scout is built into Bing and there's also a song-recognition feature too.
Altogether, Bing on Mango offers one of the most satisfying search apps on any smartphone I've tested.
Mango also does a great job of integrating social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn into the OS. This isn't a new idea either -- iOS integrates Twitter, and Android has long done the same for Facebook and Twitter and soon Google+. But again, the way Microsoft does this is impressive.
Inside of Mango's People app (Microsoft likes to call it the "People hub"), users can get an overview of what all of their friends across those social networks are up to in one place -- status updates, shared links, photos and other shared items.
And users can now also create groups inside of the People app, such as friends, family, co-workers, college buddies -- anything you can imagine. And you can call your groups whatever you want -- I called my friends' group "homies."
However, despite all of the fantastic improvements in Mango that will surely make existing Windows Phone users happy, I don't believe Microsoft has a "killer app" or one significant attraction that would pull droves of consumers toward a Mango phone over an Android or an iPhone.
When Windows Phone launched a year ago, Microsoft marketed the software on its ease of use and simple look that the live tiles offered with data being pushed to the tiles without even having to launch an app. And while that is a differentiating factor, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has admitted that the company hasn't seen the level of sales it was looking for.
What Microsoft has shown is that it now takes the mobile space seriously and Mango is a big step in becoming more competitive. But Windows Phone has a lot of ground to make up. So, here's an unsolicited thought: Go after mobile gaming with Windows Phone.
Ever since Windows Phone launched, gaming has been disappointing compared to what's available on Android and iOS. Sure, users can see their Xbox Live avatar on the Windows Phone and, yup, Angry Birds and other fun titles are there too. Still, many games aren't up to the impressive standard that the Xbox name brings along.
Here's a testament to Apple's leadership in smartphone gaming: Epic Games, which produces one of the top gaming franchises on Microsoft's Xbox 360 in the Gears of War trilogy, also produces one of iOS's top-selling game series in Infinity Blade. When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, was at the event and introduced a new Infinity Blade game.
We've seen the studies that say gaming is among the most popular category of apps being sold on smartphones. Nokia, Samsung and HTC are all promising to bring better hardware to Windows Phone and game developers are looking to make more mobile games in response to this growing market. All the pieces of the puzzle are there.
If Microsoft really wants to start selling a large number of smartphones, making Xbox Live gaming the "killer app" of Windows Phone might be the answer.
MC Hammer, the Oakland rapper/dancer/preacher/spokesman, is looking to take on Google and Bing in one of the most competitive segments of the tech industry -- online search -- with a new start-up called WireDoo.
Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Kirk Burrell, announced WireDoo at O'Reilly Media's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. He described the project as a search engine that offers a level of "deep search" and related topics that Microsoft's Bing and Google don't offer.
So how does WireDoo, which is still in a closed pre-beta stage and nowhere near ready for the public, plan to offer deep search and challenge some of the world's largest tech firms?
Hammer explained to O'Reilly writer Alex Howard at Web 2.0 (in an interview that can be viewed in the YouTube clip below) that WireDoo would offer different results and thus a different product than current search engines.
"The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query and then package it consistently in one environment," Hammer said. "Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it's a car ... it's not just about the word 'car,' but it's about insurance, it's about the specs, it's about mileage, it's about style, it's about all these things. So that's the way it works."
Hammer told Howard that WireDoo would pull such related data from across the Web and public records, so if someone enters a search query for a ZIP Code, they'll find results that include information on the schools in that ZIP Code, education levels of the residents of that area and other results tied to public information that can give a user a better understanding of what's going on in that community.
Those interested in trying out WireDoo can submit their name and email address. Hammer's team will eventually open up the site to a select number of beta testers.
Skeptical? Well, you'd have the right to be.
Bing, which is widely considered Google's biggest threat in the search engine market, has grown, but so far it has failed to really rival Google's dominance in the space.
Google's biggest threat at this time might actually be Facebook, which is increasingly becoming a place where people consume media, play games, share photos, search for information on companies, celebrities and bands and even read, watch and listen the news.
How big a threat is Facebook to Google's business? Just look at Google+.
WireDoo clearly has some steep mountains to climb before seeing success.
Another thing you might wonder: Why is Hammer trying to get into the tech business? Well, this isn't his first attempt to crack the online world.
Facebook hit 1-trillion page views in June, according to Google.
But that staggering number on Facebook's traffic is just what's served up by Google's DoubleClick Ad Planner rankings, which compile data on Web traffic "from a variety of sources including anonymized, aggregated Google Toolbar data" and data from Google's DoubleClick ad management service.
There is, of course, Web traffic that takes place without the eyes of Google peering in and so one could guess that Facebook is past the Google DoubleClick monthly estimate. Mind boggling.
Also massive: Facebook had a 46.9% reach among all the Web surfers tracked by DoubleClick.
According to the Google data, Facebook had about 870 million unique visitors in June. Facebook has said it has more than 750 million users. The website Techland guessed that the disparity between the two numbers is likely due to visitors to Facebook who don't have, or weren't logged into, Facebook user accounts -- sounds like a good guess.
Google doesn't include Google.com or Gmail and other Google services in its monthly DoubleClick Ad Planner rankings. But YouTube, a Google-owned website, does get included and came in second in June with 790 million visitors, 100 billion page views and about a 42.6% reach of those online.
Yahoo, a Google rival, took third place with 590 million visitors in June, 78 billion page views and a reach of 31.8%, the rankings said. But a win for Yahoo is also a win for Microsoft's search engine Bing, which powers Yahoo's search.
Bing, on its own and without Yahoo, ranked 11th on the list with 230 million unique visitors, 9.6 billion page views and a reach of 12.4%, according to the DoubleClick data.
Photo: Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto in July. Behind him is a map of the location of Facebook's users worldwide. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that the world's most popular social network will announce "something awesome" next week.
On Friday, press invites and a Facebook event page for the July 6 announcement went out and the website TechCrunch reported that "something awesome" might end up being a new video chat feature built in partnership with Skype, the popular video chatting and Internet calling service that Microsoft bought for $8.5 billion in May.
If that's the case, the move would come at an interesting time for Facebook. Google launched Google+ this week in a bid to counter Facebook's social networking dominance.
And while Google+ doesn't offer too much that Facebook doesn't match, it does have a feature called Hangouts where Google+ users can initiate group chat sessions and friends on the service can drop by spontaneously.
Currently, people looking to video chat with their Friends have to leave Facebook to do so -- heading to Skype, Apple's FaceTime software, Google Talk and now Google+ Hangouts.
We won't know until next week whether TechCrunch's report, which cites unnamed people with knowledge of such an agreement between Facebook and Skype, is true or whether Facebook+Skype will go head to head with Google+ Hangouts.
But the move would make sense for Facebook both in fending off Google and strengthening its ties with Microsoft -- another Google rival -- which includes integration between Facebook and Microsoft's Bing search engine.
Location-based services could become a $10-billion-per-year business by 2016, despite recent concerns over privacy and what companies do with location data once they've gotten it, according to a new research firm report.
"The recent kerfuffle over Apple iPhone tracking and other privacy concerns will barely be a speed bump in the evolution of location-based services (LBS) because there is simply too much money at stake," said the research firm Strategy Analytics in their new study called "The $10 Billion Rule: Location, Location, Location."
"Consumers are increasingly demanding services such as search, maps or navigation, for which location information is either fundamental to or provides greater context, utility and therefore appeal," the firm said. "For advertisers, location data provides opportunities for ad targeting and optimization."
In Strategy Analytics estimations, location-based search advertising could account for "just over 50%" of the predicted range of $10 billion in 2016.
Location providers will have to become more transparent with users about how location data is captured, managed and stored, but that won't stop the growth of location-based services for mobile phone and tablet users, the firm said.
"For advertisers, location data provides opportunities for targeting and optimizing ads," said Nitesh Patel, a senior analyst at the company. "Strategy Analytics sees strong evidence of consumer demand for LBS in line with rising smartphone and data plan penetration."
An example Patel noted -- Google recently disclosed that 40% of all Google Map use takes place on mobile phones.
And it will likely be Google and Microsoft, the current leaders in Web search, that end up dominating the market for advertising associated with location-based services, despite challenges from smaller players such as AT&T's Yellow Pages, Telmap, TeleNav and Aloqa, the firm said.
Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a new version of its underdog Windows Phone operating system, available to manufacturers this fall -- and many of the phone's new features ring a bell.
Phones running the new system, called Mango, will let users search for restaurants and businesses in their immediate area, perform voice-based Web searches, identify music playing in their surroundings, and switch back and forth between applications.
Those features are, by and large, innovations that well-known companies developed months or years ago. The Yelp app -- on Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and RIM's BlackBerry operating systems -- has led the way in helping users find nearby businesses. Android phones have had voice search for close to a year. The Shazam app has been the go-to service for song identification. And most smartphones already allow users to run multiple apps simultaneously.
Microsoft's strategy, it appears, is to create its own version of these popular features and build them directly into its smartphone's browser.
"Web browsing now also has an added layer that allows users to take advantage of functionality such as location awareness, the phone's camera and its microphone," the company said in a release.
Microsoft noted a number of other features intended to make messaging easier and faster, as well as improved graphics and speed for its Web browser. But Microsoft's announcement lacked some of the dramatic flair that regularly accompanies new products from rival Apple Inc.
One feature that appeared unique to the new phones was what Microsoft called App Connect -- a trick that would enable the phone to guess which apps users might want to bring up next. If someone did a Web search for movie showtimes, say, the phone would then offer to open the Fandango app so they could purchase tickets.
In February, Microsoft did a $1-billion deal with Nokia in which the Finnish company will adopt the Windows phone system for many of its upcoming handsets. In April, Microsoft phones accounted for only about 8% of the U.S. smartphone market, according to ComScore Inc. That was well behind leaders Google (33%), RIM (29%) and Apple (25%).
Google led search-engine traffic in April, with 65.4% of Web searches taking place on Google-owned search sites, according to the research firm ComScore.
The Mountain View, Calif.,-based company's search traffic, while dominating, was down slightly from March when Google-owned sites took up a 65.7% share of the market, ComScore reported.
Coming in second place last month was Yahoo, which accounted for 15.9% share of online searches, up 0.2% from March, the research firm said.
In third came Microsoft search sites, which were also up 0.2%, taking up a 14.1% slice of the market, ComScore said.
In a distant fourth place slot was the Ask Network, which nabbed a 3.0% share of online search queries, followed by AOL which had a 1.5% take in April, ComScore reported. Ask and AOL's April numbers were each down 0.1%, the report said.
Yahoo and Microsoft's search sites are powered by the Microsoft Bing search engine. When Yahoo and Microsoft's search sites are combined, Bing powered a 30% share of the online search market.
Like Microsoft, Goolge too powers searches for sites it doesn't own, one of them being AOL.
When AOL and Google's performance is counted together, Google's numbers rise slightly, accounting for 67.3% of searches in March and 66.9% in April.