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Here’s the latest action:

Skype trying to buy back customer love — Skype is sending out notes to users saying they’ll get a week’s worth of free service. The San Jose Internet phone company says it has 196 million users and reported earlier this year that it was profitable for the first time. As Jeff Nolan points out, its users now number 3 percent of the world’s population, and only just now profitable?

calacanis-two.bmpJason Calacanis, the scrappy entrepreneur — Fast Company has an entertaining profile of Calacanis, the entrepreneur who is trying again with Mahalo, a search engine with results made by humans. The piece provides Calacanis’ point of view on the Mahalo, but there are tougher questions asked in a blog post by Rich Skrenta. Skrenta suggests Mahalo really only wants to game search engines with so-called Search Engine Optimization, and argues it won’t work. Calacanis responds in comments that he isn’t focused on SEO, and a good discussion ensues. Fast Company also has more facts on Mahalo’s backing. We ran the account by Calacanis, and he confirmed the speed of the fund-raising, but isn’t commenting on the $20 million figure for total raised:

It took Calacanis all of 10 days to close his first round of financing with Sequoia, Musk, Cuban, Ted Leonsis of AOL, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, and Matt Coffin, who founded LowerMyBills .com. “…By May, Calacanis closed a second round of financing, adding News Corp.; CBS; David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic Monthly ; and Burda Media, a German publisher. The total: $20 million, good for about five years of operations given his current expenses. Calacanis then laid out $11,000 for the domain name Mahalo.com, which, at one point, had been a nude-celebrity site.

Acoona, the third-rate search engine, sees underwriter pull IPO offering — We wrote about the shoddy-looking search engine here. The New York Times says the underwriter has now pulled the IPO. It looks at the strange relationship between the company and investor Marc Armand Rousso.

Zoho, the online Office suite, launches offline capability — You can now read documents in Zoho Writer offline, and in about a month or so, you’ll be able to edit them offline too. Other Zoho applications, for example spreadsheets and presentations, will carry similar technology shortly thereafter. Ironically, Zoho’s latest offering is built on Google’s open source project Google Gears, and beats even Google in offering this online-offline feature that everyone wants. Thinkfree has a similar offering. Joyent is moving in this direction, too. There’s a brief window for first-movers to scoop up users before Google arrives, but we’re not sure it will be enough. (Announcement here.) Zoho is based in Pleasanton, Calif.

BluBet lets you bet on anything — Except you can’t use money. On BluBet, players will be able to place bets on anything from Brittany’s sex life, to Facebook outgrowing MySpace. See Techcrunch review. The San Francisco company is backed with $225,000 from Jawed Karim (Co-Founder of YouTube), Kevin Hartz (Co-Founder of Xoom), Joe Greenstein (Co-Founder and CEO of Flixster) and Keith Rabois (Former PayPal & LinkedIn Executive and Current Slide Executive).

Microsoft’s experimental engine, Tafiti, to show off Starlight technology — The engine helps people share their search sessions.

WikiScanner, a new Web site, traces the source of changes to Wikipedia — Now you can see more easily where changes to the Wikipedia entries originate. Wikiscanner tracks the Internet protocol address of an editor’s network, and it has suddenly revealed some interesting edits by the CIA and self-interested editing by Anheuser-Busch (erasing negative comments), among others. Story in NYT.

U.S. intelligence agencies prepare to launch “A-Space” — The Director of National Intelligence will open the site to the U.S. intelligence community in December. It will feature an internal communications tool modeled on the popular social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, according to the FT.

EBay releases its eBay Marketplace on Facebook — Now you can show your goods to your Facebook friends.

Brad Fitzpatrick wants to set your information free: New Google employee and open-source poster boy Brad Fitzpatrick blogged last Friday about his work to create an open “social graph.” He wants to help users more easily extract their own information from one site — say, Facebook — and add that information into another site as they wish. To do this, he and others are working on open-source software and standards to let developers build sites that help users port their data as easily as possible, leaving developers to focus on whatever core value they are trying to create on their own sites.

The uses are many. One example he gives is a “trust/reputation” application programming interface (or API) to help bloggers using Movable Type or WordPress see which comments are coming from legitimate readers, and which are coming from spammers.

He points out developers’ concerns over Facebook’s tight-fisted control over much of its users’ data, but also says that early discussions with the company about this project are promising. After all, Facebook’s API launched last year to try to provide “social context” on other sites. Few interesting applications were built for it, because it didn’t let developers completely remove most user data. Its more recent platform for developing applications within Facebook has been a hit with developers so far, though.

Myspace, meanwhile, has only started talking about its own developer platform, although it has let third-party widgets in since its inception.

Fitzpatrick’s vision, as he notes, sounds similar to what other companies, such as Plaxo, have also been working on — and he got an overwhelmingly favorable response from other bloggers. The project has a site here for interested persons.

We wish him the best of luck, even if the goal is a touch utopian. We have to wonder how far the people who control much of this user data now — Facebook, Myspace, etc. — will go along (most users are lazy and so won’t pressure networks for this feature). We also wonder how this effort will tie into Google’s other social networking initiatives.

Google increasing market share -– Hitwise , a traffic measuring service, said Google accounts for 64.35 percent of all US searches in the four weeks ending July 28, up from 60 percent last year. Yahoo Search, MSN Search and Ask.com each received 22.131, 8.79 and 3.21 percent respectively.

Percentage of US Searches Among Leading Search Engine Providers

Domain

Jul-07

Jun-07

Jul-06

www.google.com

64.35%

63.92%

60.23%

search.yahoo.com

22.13%

21.31%

22.54%

search.msn.com

8.79%*

9.85%*

11.77%

www.ask.com

3.21%

3.42%

3.29%

Note: Data is based on four week rolling periods (ending 6/30/07; 7/28/07; 7/29/2006) from the Hitwise sample of 10 million US Internet users.

* – includes executed searches on Live.com and MSN Search. Please note that the search volume share reported for www.live.com in the Search Engine Analysis Report for the four week rolling period starting the week ending June 9, 2007 includes searches automatically generated from a promotion on club.live.com. Search volume data from July 9, 2007 onwards does not include automatically generated searches from this promotion.

Source: Hitwise

 

Google responds to criticism on video shut-down — It is now allowing users to watch videos for another six months, and get credit for purchases via a credit card.

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