Here’s the latest action:
News Corp makes $5 billion takeover bid for Dow Jones — If the bid is accepted, the owner of Fox News would own the old, gray business media icon, the Wall Street Journal. What next?
PropertyShark takes property snooping a step further — If you thought Zillow, the housing site that slapped a value on your house, was controversial, take a look at PropertyShark. The four-year old New York company outdoes Zillow on the snoopy factor, displaying owners’ names as well as things like title history, building permits and code violations pertaining to any property (See Mercury News story). It has launched in California, New York and 14 other states.
Google chooses to fight Viacom — Here’s the story about Google’s response to Viacom’s lawsuit for copyright infringement. The Google lawyer says the companies are not engaged in settlement talks, so looks like this is going all the way.
Google’s chief culture officer — See interview with Google’s culture czar and how she looks for “Google-y” people, or those who don’t worry about their titles but focus on getting stuff done.
Companies to use plankton to help global warming — At least two ventures are seeking to grow floating fields of plankton to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and carry it to the depths of the ocean. The New York Times has the story. Foster City, Calif.’s Planktos is already working on a project in the Galápagos and the South Pacific. Planktos says corporations seeking to offset their carbon emissions under new treaties and regulations make need its services. It thinks it can make a profit if it gets $5 a ton for capturing carbon dioxide. There’s also San Francisco’s Climos, which we contacted several weeks ago, but which has remained secretive. Dan Whaley, founder of GetThere, is involved, as is a group of respected scientists on its advisory board.
Supreme Court issues ruling that reforms patents — Most experts say this was much needed. It rules that lower-court rulings have given patent holders more power than the patent law intended. Some patent awards are for innovations that are too obvious, and may stifle innovation.
Meanwhile, Myspace China encourages tattlers: Members of MySpace’s new Chinese version are being told to report any “misconduct” by other users, including actions such as “endangering national security, leaking state secrets, subverting the government, undermining national unity, spreading rumors or disturbing the social order.”
EBuddy launches mobile application — Ebuddy, like Meebo, is a company that aggregates IM accounts, so that you can use any of them — AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, etc — from any Web site. Now it has taken its service mobile. Meanwhile, Meebo has decided not to do it, the company’s chief executive Seth Sternberg told us last week. GigaOm has a piece on Ebuddy’s latest momentum. We’re wondering where these stand-alone IM companies will head, now that IM aggregation is becoming easier to do and that we’re hearing of several other companies about to unveil products in this area. We’ll get back to this story shortly.
Phenomenal growth of Zwinky and Gaia, virtual worlds for kids — Zwinky, part of the Fun Webs group at conglomerate IAC, is the latest virtual world to explode in popularity. It has 4.7 million worldwide unique visitors in March. Techcrunch has the latest on Zwinktopia – where users can use their avatars to roam around the world, chat and earn Zbucks, a virtual currency.
4Info creates SMS ad marketplace — Speaking of new advertising models, Palo Alto company, 4Info, has launched a test program for an SMS marketplace. Chief exec Zaw Thet tells us his is the only company offering a market place. Because of 4Info’s bulk SMS activities, it doesn’t have to pay carriers for the service, meaning it is free for a company like Evite to send out SMS alerts to users, containing ads. 4Info splits the revenue 50-50 with the publisher. Question is, are SMS ads going to be pretty enough?
The Army’s plasma shield — The Army hopes soon to deploy a machine that generates a protective screen of dazzling mid-air explosions – to stun and disorient an enemy. It uses a laser pulse that creates a ball of plasma, and a second pulse that generates a shockwave. It is being build by a company called Stellar Photonics, about which we know very little. Its apparently also working on a portable laser rifle weighing fifteen kilograms with a range of more than an mile. Anyone know more about this company? Send email or leave comment, please.
Jobs disses subscription/rental music model — “Never say never, but customers don’t seem to be interested in it,” Jobs told Reuters in an interview, with new authority in the wake of Apple’s stellar earnings report. “The subscription model has failed so far.” People want to own their music, he said.
Jason Calacanis’ real project, a search engine — Calacanis, a media entrepreneur who sold a group of weblogs to AOL for $25m, has a new search engine project, backed by Sequoia Capital. It’s a cross between Wikipedia and Google, says Valleywag, which carries the speculative piece. Sounds a lot like Wikia’s search project, which has gotten a lot of attention. So it would make sense, though VentureBeat hasn’t confirmed any of this.
Microsoft releases more info on Silverlight — Nik Cubrilovic has a good review of the announcement, explaining how Silverlight includes a mini-CLR (Common Language Runtime) for the .NET platform that can be accessed from within the browser. As with the usual .NET runtime, it can support a number of programming languages, including Python and Ruby. Says Cubrilovic: The most remarkable part of the CLR are its speed and its size. First of all, the full Silverlight download with CLR and everything else will weigh in at around 4MB – which with current broadband penetration is effortless….
Jeff Nolan leaves Teqlo, a mashup company –The Silicon Valley start-up Teqlo just wasn’t ready to go to market, and chief executive Jeff Nolan explains his departure today. In remarks to us, the former SAP executive noted that companies delivering APIs as part of their offering find it difficult to make money. How will they share revenue? Moreover, for any of these businesses to achieve scale, as a platform, a significant amount of capital, “upwards of $60 million,” will have to be invested. Moreover, what happens when Microsoft, Google and Yahoo enter the area (indeed, Yahoo already has Pipes, and Google has entered with My Maps)? Not to mention SAP, Oracle and IBM, all of which are heading there too.
Mohr Davidow Ventures hires software entrepreneur Bryan Stolle as partner — This is the latest in several hires recently by the Silicon Valley venture firm. Stolle is co-founder of Agile Software, a company backed by MDV.
See our latest news stories in VentureBeat’s News Wire — including the latest on mobile wireless network company Sonopia, and all the clean-tech deals lately, such as Vinod Khosla’s latest investment.
Venture capital performance turns positive — At least, according to the latest day released by Thomson Financial, for the period ending December last year. Overall, venture capitalists investing over the past five year years saw a 1 percent annual return each year — not very good, but positive for the first time since 2003. The only people losing money, according to the survey, are early/seed-stage investors who have been investing for the last five years. Everyone else is making dough. However, these numbers should be taken with skepticism. The data has long been criticized for being too rosy, i.e, not factoring in the results of firms doing so terribly that they’ve shut their doors. See table below for the performance of VCs over different time horizons.