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facebook-logo-new.jpgRumor: Facebook is working on its own instant messaging service — I’ve been hearing for some time that Facebook is working on its own IM protocol, letting users IM each other within its site instead of using third-party services like AOL’s AIM or Google’s Gtalk. Techcrunch has published the rumor here, although many details are still vague. If the rumor is true, IM could radically change how Facebook users interact with each other. For example, would people still use the “poke” feature? Poking somebody is an important form of lightweight communication between friends, as Jeremy Liew has pointed out, because it lets friends know they’re thinking about each other without either person having to write a more elaborate message. That said, IM could be a smart way for Facebook to keep its users on its site for longer.

Also, if Facebook does implement its own IM, it may in some form be in competition with IM aggregators like Social.im (our coverage) and Imo.im (our coverage). Both of those startups are in their own ways letting users IM each other using their Facebook identities.

Trouble in the auction-rate market hits Silicon Valley — The slowdown in auction-rate securities is hurting some Silicon Valley start-ups, because investments they’re suddenly stuck with investments that were supposed to have high liquidity. A few days ago, we broke news about problems at start-ups banking with Comerica, and now the Wall Street Journal follows with a good overview. Ken Lawler of Battery Ventures says 12 of the 65 start-ups that Battery has invested in have money in the auction-rate market, although only a few of them are facing immediate problems.

Some YouTube videos now available in high-definition — More on the company’s official blog.

Mochi Media didn’t raise a new round — On Wednesday, PEHub reported that gaming-ad company MochiMedia had raised a $4 million round from Accel Partners, citing a regulatory filing. A number of other tech publications published this as if it was news. I was surprised, because we’d written a story last July about the San Francisco company raising an undisclosed round from Accel. Figuring the recent filing was for that old round — and not a new round — I double-checked with the company co-founder, Jameson Hsu. Sure enough, there was no new round.Data: Google cashing in on the web — Google.com advertising revenue in 2007 grew by $2 billion, compared to 2006. That’s twice the $1 billion increase of the offline properties of 13 traditional major media companies combined, according to an analysis by Silicon Alley Insider. The report looked at 17 major media companies.

ratemycop031508.pngQuis custodiet ipsos custodes: RateMyCop.com back online — Los Angeles-based RateMyCop lets you leave feedback about interactions with police officers, and rank the officer’s service based on three criteria: professionalism, fairness and satisfaction. Your feedback is anonymous, to protect you. The company is facing backlash from police departments concerned their safety will be jeopardized by citizens retaliating based on unfair reviews. Cop pressure convinced RateMyCop’s first web host, GoDaddy.com, to take the site offline, then web host RackSpace refused to host the site, as detailed by Wired. Now the site is back online, with an unknown host.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Roman poet Juvenal asked “who guards the guards?” I think this site has as good an answer as any. I agree with libertarian magazine Reason’s opinion on this one:

Police officers are public servants. Not only that, they’re public servants with the power to arrest, detain, and use lethal force. If certain officers are the subject of repeated complaints and aren’t being properly investigated internally, the public ought to be informed of that. This culture of secrecy—and of intimidating anyone who dares question it—isn’t healthy.

Quaero, a French government-backed search engine destined for free-market destruction — Thomson and twenty-two other companies will receive $152 million from the EU to develop a state-sponsored multimedia search engine, named Quaero. The project is the French half of an attempted French-German search engine first dreamed up in 2005. The German part of the project, called Theseus, received $165 million from the German government last July. Some details here. Even more bizarre: The European Commission approved the funding in part because it wants to help the two countries combat the presence of Google — and American culture.

The free market hasn’t been kind to Google competitors. Search expert Danny Sullivan notes Thomson has previously struggled in this area: “The EU needs to back that, because it’s not like private companies like Thomson could do it themselves. Oops. Actually, Thomson did it already, bought the Singingfish multimedia search engine from its US owner then sold it back to a US owner — AOL — in 2004.”

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