Snaptu gets snapped up by Facebook

Last Sunday, London based mobile developer Snaptu confirmed that it had been acquired by Facebook in a $60-$70m deal. Looking into this, I learned that this move is all about Facebook wanting to expand its presence and usage across a number of mobile platforms.

Snaptu specialises in online solutions for mobile phones (particularly for “feature” phones, i.e. non smartphones). On it’s blog Snaptu explains that:

“Earlier this year, we announced the launch of a new Facebook mobile application to give people a great mobile experience on a broad range of feature phones. The Facebook for Feature Phones app currently works on more than 2,500 devices.

We soon decided that working as part of the Facebook team offered the best opportunity to keep accelerating the pace of our product development. And joining Facebook means we can make an even bigger impact on the world.”

I learned the following from this particular deal:

  1. Facebook is really concentrating on mobile – Recent acquisitions of Rela8tion (mobile advertising), Beluga (group messaging service) and now Snaptu clearly indicate that mobile holds (an important part of) the future for Facebook.
  2. It’s not all about smartphones! – Even though the focus predominantly tends be on smartphones, companies like Snaptu are leading the way in developing interactive, online services for feature phones. In addition to working with Facebook, Snaptu is going to create a mobile platform for professional social networking service LinkedIn.

Main learning point: in its ongoing quest to be successful on all platforms, Facebook seems to have made another important move. Mobile devices and location-based services/marketing is where the future is and Facebook is striding forcefully into that direction, making sure not to miss out on things to come.

Related links for further learning:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/20/facebook-reportedly-acquires-snaptu-for-an-estimated-60-70-million/

http://emoney.allthingsd.com/20110125/facebook-acquires-mobile-advertising-company-out-of-stealth-mode/

Rdio creates API and launches affiliate program

It all seems to be happening in the world of online music services; in January I blogged about the linkup between music stream service Spotify and mobile music discovery service Shazam and last week I learned about on-demand social music service Rdio opening its API to developers and starting an affiliate program.

Rdio is the brainchild of Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom. The service allows its users to build and share online music collections from a catalogue of over 8 million songs. Rdio offers a web-only, paid for music streaming service and a premium version that adds mobile access.

Rdio has now created an API that gives developers the ability to create web apps that can search, access and play all of the artists, songs, albums, playlists, and charts in Rdio’s music catalogue.  The API will allow developers to access community-only features such as the ability to see what’s in heavy rotation in your network, follow people whose music tastes you like, check out other people’s music collections and modify a personal collection or playlist.

I guess the main difference with other APIs is that the Rdio API is tied into a subscription service and therefore only fully accessible to Rdio subscribers and trial users. Users who are not subscribers or trial users and who encounter the Rdio API on third-party sites will be able to hear 30-second song excerpts. These users will also be given the option of enlisting in a free 7-day trial (no credit card required) to hear the full song.

Rdio also launched a new affiliate program which enables developers to monetise their applications. It will pay commissions for referring new subscribers and song downloads. Affiliates can earn two to three percent gross revenue per month for the lifetime of a new subscriber and seven percent gross revenue per song download referred.

From a business and strategic point of view, I learned the following about Rdio’s API release and new affiliate program:

  1. Engaging with third party developers early and often is a good way to spread the word and usage of Rdio’s services.
  2. Opening up an API helps to create an ecosystem centered around Rdio and its core functionality.
  3. Similarly, the affiliate program – like the one Rdio launched – tends to be a good way to extend the reach and audience of a product (and create an extra revenue stream in the process).

Main learning point: Rdio managed to get into the US market before its biggest competitor Spotify. From that perspective, it makes a lot of sense for Rdio to open up an API and launch an affiliate program, not only to generate more interest for its services but also to get the developer community on board to come up with interesting and commercially viable applications. It will be interesting to see what kinds of applications will come out of this affiliate programme and whether Rdio can offer some serious competition to Spotify.

Related links for further learning:

http://blog.rdio.com/post/3786039074/now-available-the-rdio-api

http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/11/social-music-startup-rdio-pushes-play-button-for-api-affiliate-program/

http://mashable.com/2011/03/11/rdio-api/

Setting the record straight through ICorrect

“Setting the record straight” is what ICorrect.com promises to do. This site was officially launched earlier this week to give people and organisations a chance to correct any information about themselves that they believe to be untrue. Sir David Tang, the founder of ICorrect, believes that 99% of what’s written on the Internet is based on hearsay and now offers celebrities and organizations a platform to correct or refute any information they regard as lies, misinterpretation or misinformation.

For example, people like Cherie Blair, Kate Moss, Stephen Fry and Naomi Campbell but also organisations such as Chelsea FC and IMG have already used ICorrect to make some online corrections.

These are the the main things I learned from ICorrect:

  1. Cherie Blair did NOT attend a shooting party with Gadaffi’s son.
  2. Kate Moss is NOT going to start a new career as an actress, at least not at the Old Vic, according to Kevin Spacey.
  3. NO WAY the players of Chelsea FC spent £120,000 on drinks at the birthday party of their teammate Salomon Kalou!
  4. Kate Moss does NOT use Facebook or Twitter, so don’t believe any impostors on there pretending to be her.

However, trying to correct your reputation online does NOT come cheap: it costs $1,000 (£600) a year for individuals and $5,000 (£3,000) for businesses to be registered as “Correctors” with ICorrect, but I guess that’s peanuts if you’re Naomi Campbell and you desperately want to assure the public that you do NOT have a preference for where the 2018 World Cup is being held.

Main learning point: reading some of the entries on ICorrect made me laugh. After a day in which many Japanese people lost their lives and homes by a tsunami, reading a statement by Jemima Khan claiming that her suggested Muslim name “sounds like you’re clearing your throat of phlegm” does probably provide some welcome entertainment for some. However, unless ICorrect starts attracting a mass following and establishes credibility with the mainstream public, this new site does NOT constitute a long-term viable business model in my opinion.