whats known and unknown

Amazon Updates Route 53 DNS Service To Make Hosting High-Availability Sites On EC2 Easier


Thanks to an update to its Route 53 DNS web service, Amazon now makes it a bit easier to host sites that need high availability in multiple AWS regions. Route 53 has been offering DNS Failover since February, but that wasn’t really an option if your application was also running behind Amazon’s Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) service. ELB allows you to automatically distribute traffic across EC2 instances. Route 53’s failover service needs to be able to check a specific IP address for availability, but that didn’t work with apps behind ELB because they don’t have a fixed IP address in Amazon’s architecture.

route_53_elb_config_1Now, however, Amazon has added a new feature to Route 53 that allows it to check up on the health of an application on EC2 that runs behind ELB. Route 53 can now, in Amazon’s words, evaluate “the health of the load balancer itself and the health…

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Twitter Just Made It Easier To Obsessively Tweak Your Profile


I don’t know anyone who thought the process of editing their Twitter profile was just too complex — talk about first world problems — but they’re surely out there somewhere and working themselves into a tizzy over a recent announcement made by Twitter profile engineer Patrick Ewing. In a triumphant tweet, Ewing made it known that Twitter users can now edit their profiles in-line without having to pop into a separate account settings tab.

Frankly, it’s a wonder we made it made this far as a society without the ability to more easily tweak our Twitter profile blurbs. The changes aren’t perhaps as sweeping as one would hope though — while you can edit any of your personal info as well as swap your header or profile images at the drop of a hat, you’ll still have to venture into your profile settings page in order to revamp your…

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Despite Criticism, FWD.us Adds YouTube Co-Founder Steve Chen And Web Mogul Barry Diller As Funders


Amidst widespread criticism, Mark Zuckerberg’s political advocacy group FWD.us gained some momentum today as it announced Steven Chen and Barry Diller have signed on as financial backers. Chen was a co-founder of YouTube, and Diller is the chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp which owns About, Match, Newsweek and Vimeo. Diller and Chen, an immigrant himself, will fund campaigns for immigration reform.

FWD.us has been quietly enduring an onslaught of negative publicity for funding ads promoting oil drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge and the Keystone XL oil pipeline run in exchange for support from political candidates it hopes will vote for immigration and education reform initiatives the group campaigns for. These projects clash with the liberal viewpoints of many of FWD.us’s backers. The scandal led eco-champion Elon Musk and Yammer founder David Sacks to withdraw support from FWD.us.

The fact that Chen and Diller joined the group is remarkable because some would…

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LinkedIn Launches SMS-Based Two-Step Authentication To Prevent Account Hacking


LinkedIn today announced that it has added optional two-step authentication to its sign-in process. With this move, LinkedIn joins Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and numerous other services that have recently enabled two-factor authentication to make it harder for hackers to compromise their users’ accounts.

Unlike some of these other services, LinkedIn’s system doesn’t offer a smartphone app. Instead, it can only send codes via SMS.

Two-step verification ensures that just having a password (“something you know”) isn’t good enough to compromise an account. Instead, users also need a second factor (“something you have”) to log in to their accounts. Given the recent proliferation of hacked accounts on Twitter and other services, two-factor authentication is quickly becoming the new standard for thwarting unauthorized sign-ins. While it’s a bit of a hassle, it is miles ahead of the standard password-only approach.


LinkedIn will prompt users for this second factor…

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Two Years After TweetDeck Acquisition, Founder Iain Dodsworth Leaves Twitter


TweetDeck founder Iain Dodsworth announced today that he’s leaving Twitter. In his tweet, Dodsworth said that it’s been two years since Twitter acquired TweetDeck, and “now feels like a perfect time to start something new.”

Dodsworth’s departure comes as Twitter’s vision for TweetDeck does seem to be shifting. A few months ago, it shut down the iPhone, Android, and AIR versions. There are still native Windows and Mac apps, but the company has suggested that the web version will be its focus going forward.

Naturally, today’s news has prompted more speculation and handwringing about TweetDeck’s future. For example, Reuters social media editor/incoming Circa editor-in-chief Anthony De Rosa tweeted that the news made him “fear even more for @TweetDeck.” But Erica Anderson, Twitter’s manager of news, responded that TweetDeck has a new product manager, Sharath Bulusu from the Guardian (whose hiring was announced a couple of weeks ago).

“We do…

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HTC Reportedly Pulls The Plug On A 12-Inch Windows RT Tablet, But A Smaller Tab Lives On


HTC is currently sailing through a patch of rough seas, and it seems as though the company is starting to rethink its tablet strategy. According to a recent report from Bloomberg, HTC was planning to put together a 12-inch Windows RT tablet for release later this year before scrapping it due to cost and anemic overall demand for Windows RT.

That’s not to say that the beleaguered Taiwanese OEM is ditching Windows RT completely — there’s reportedly still a 7-inch RT tablet in the works, as well as another Android tablet. Bloomberg’s unnamed source goes on to note that demand for RT-powered tablets in general has been lackluster, so it made sense for HTC to pick its battles more carefully. After all, recent (albeit unconfirmed) Surface RT sales figures from back in March purport that Microsoft had only sold about a million units at the time — for a…

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Apple Saw Over One-Third Of Mobile Ad Requests In Q1, Adfonic Says, But Samsung Surges In Engagement


Apple continues to rule the roost when it comes to mobile ad share, according to UK-based ad firm Adfonic, but Samsung is winning a small victory in terms of seeing higher engagement for ads displayed on its smartphones, with better click-through-rates (CTR) and higher earned cost-per-mille (eCPM). There’s also a general trend that sees tablets overall increasing their share, suggesting we haven’t seen slates at anywhere near peak market saturation just yet.

The iPhone and iPod touch together account for over a third of all ad requests served by Adfonic, which sees hundreds of billions of impressions on a monthly basis. Both of those devices saw share slip for the quarter vs. the fourth quarter of 2012,by two points and six points respectively, but Samsung remained flat even though it has six devices in the Adfonic top ten now. Combined, Samsung has only around 12 percent of the overall…

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Apple’s New Product Strategy


Apple appears to be on a kick of delivering product refreshes to punctuate its major release cycle, with changes to devices and tweaked versions that go beyond what it has done in terms of spec refreshes in the past. It looks like we could see a new era of light changes in direction to cater to market trends and optimize product viability under Tim Cook, which in many ways makes sense for a man known as a supply chain maestro.

“New” iPads, iMacs, MacBooks And iPods

If you review all the mid-cycle changes Apple has made this year, you come up with a pretty long list. There’s the Retina MacBook Pro and Air improvements it made in February for instance, which included new processors, is not really all that out of character; the company has been boosting internal specs on its Mac line for years. But the 128GB fourth generation…

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Tumblr Brings More Ads To Users’ Dashboards, Rearranges Buttons & Teens Freak Out


A month after Tumblr introduced sponsored posts into its native mobile applications, the company is today bringing those same brand advertisements to its web dashboard. Launch partners for these new “Sponsored Web Posts,” as they’re called, include Viacom, Ford Motor Company, Universal Pictures, Capital One, AT&T, Denny’s and Purina.

Tumblr users will be able to reblog, like, follow and share these ads and the brands themselves directly from their web dashboard, which of course, is what we know all the Tumblr-lovin’ teens are just dying to do. Like Tumblr’s sidebar “Radar” ads, the new sponsored posts will be marked with an animated dollar sign icon to indicate that they are paid placements.

Also like Tumblr’s mobile advertising, users will only see up to four sponsored posts per day. The company notes in a brief announcement on the new ads that sponsored posts have already seen over 10 million likes and reblogs…

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Google’s Sundar Pichai Says Google Play Music All Access Is Coming To iOS In A Few Weeks


Google has made a number of its apps and services available on multiple devices. Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP of Android, Chrome, and Apps, announced at the D11 Conference that there’s another service that’ll soon be available on iOS: the Google Play Music service. Google’s answer to iTunes and Spotify was previously only available on the web and Android. According to Pichai, it will launch on Apple’s operating system in “a few weeks.”

At its I/O conference this month, Google announced a pretty major revamp of Play Music, which now includes a Spotify-like subscription service.

Pichai noted that it’s part of Google’s DNA to bring all of its services to as many platforms as possible. “In Google’s fundamental DNA, we want [our services] to be universally accessible… For us, users on iOS who want to use Google services, we want them to be Google users.” Indeed, he argues that Google’s approach…

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Google Makes Its First Renewable Energy Investment In Africa, Puts $12M Toward South African Solar Plant


Google today announced that it is investing $12 million in a 96 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in South Africa. This marks Google’s first renewable energy investment in Africa and its 12th overall renewable energy investment. Once it’s completed, Google says, the Jasper Power Project, which is situated in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, will generate enough power for 30,000 South African homes. In total, Google has now committed more than $1 billion to green energy projects.

In South Africa, Google is joining SolarReserve, Intikon Energy and the Kensani Group as the main funders for this project, which is also backed by Rand Merchant Bank, the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa and the PEACE Humansrus Trust. The project will be one of the largest in South Africa and cover about 450 acres with more than 325,000 solar modules.

In today’s announcement, Google’s director for energy…

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Twitter’s Mobile Crash Reporting Tool Crashlytics Arrives On Android


As promised at the time of its acquisition by Twitter, mobile crash reporting tool Crashlytics has not stopped development. In February, it opened up its enterprise features to all for free, and today the company released the long-awaited solution for Android devices with the launch of the Android SDK.

Twitter’s Android engineers have been beta testing the new product, which offers a similar feature set to the iOS version, and includes things like fully automated deobfuscation, logged exceptions, condensed crash reporting, IDE integration with Eclipse, IntelliJ and Android Studio (beta) on Mac, Windows and Linux platforms – the details of which are all available here on the Crashlytics company blog announcing the SDK’s arrival.

(For non-developers, what the above means is that the tool set is really good at spotting bugs and making sense of them, and has been designed to easily integrate into a developer’s current workflow).


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The Double Robotics iPad-Equipped Teleconferencing Robot Is Shipping


It’s impossible to be in two places at once. But Double Robotics, a wheel-equipped robot with an iPad for a face, has finally made that possible.

The company has begun shipping units of the Double to customers who pre-ordered and coughed up the $2,000 to get one. In fact, the first hundred are already safely in the homes and lives of their new owners.

By September, the company will have shipped another 1,000 units, showing that even with a high price tag, hardware startups can still rake in the cash and run a sustainable business. But of course, this has to do with the fact that the Double has all kinds of valuable use-case scenarios that span across various industries.

For example, we used the Double at CES to usher in a new kind of remote reporting. And we aren’t the only ones.

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Edukart Raises $500K To Bring Better Online Education To India And The Developing World


Launched in late 2011 by Stanford grad and ex-Facebooker Ishan Gupta and Indian Institute of Management grad Mayank Gupta, Delhi-based EduKart is on a mission to bring online education to India and the developing world. Today, the startup announced that it has raised $500K in seed capital from a handful of institutional and angel investors. Participants include Kima Ventures, AKM Systems, Vibhor Mehra and Stanford alumni. The investment adds to the $500K the startup had previously raised from One97 Communications founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Providence Capital Director Manish Kheterpal.

With broadband penetration and smartphone adoption exploding around the world, particularly in India, Gupta sees a big opportunity for education. Over the last few years, he tells us, “we’ve seen enormous growth in the number of people in India making transactions online, the number of debit cards and, overall, a huge uptick in broadband penetration.” The convergence of these three…

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Debuting Its Second Batch Of 18 Companies, 500 Startups Looks To Become The Most Active Seed Fund In Mexico


500 Startups appears to be on a mission to take over the world. With about 20 percent of its capital going to international companies, the seed fund and accelerator has expanded its scope to include India, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Brazil and last year it snatched up LatAm startup accelerator, Mexican.VC, to aid with its efforts south of the border.

Looking to plant roots in the region, Dave McClure and company brought on Mexican.VC partners Cesar Salazar and Santiago Zavala, hiring them as its new Mexican venture partners. In February, 500 Startups Mexico City showed off its first batch of companies, and, now that it’s begun to hit its stride in Mexico, the accelerator is expanding its scope.

For its second batch, 500 Startups Mexico City will see 18 new companies join its portfolio (compared to 10 in the last batch), with each receiving $35K in…

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Telly Releases Android Tablet App As It Approaches 70K Likes Per Week On Google’s Mobile OS


Video discovery service Telly is launching its social video app on Android tablets today, a key step for the company as Google’s mobile OS becomes more important to its overall strategy and audience. Android engagement is growing quickly, the company has told TechCrunch exclusively, with Likes per week growing at a rapid pace, jumping from below 50,000 the week of May 17, to over 70,000 during the week of May 24. Telly also had 4.8 million views across all mobile platforms last week, which was up from 3 million the week prior.

imageThe decision to optimize for Android tablets was driven partly by user feedback, according to Telly CEO and co-founder Mo Al Adham. It was a frequent user request, he says, as users seem to be getting more and more interested in Android-powered tablet devices. Android slates have been relatively slow to catch on, compared to devices like the…

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Weotta Releases A Social-Centric Update To Its Activity-Planning App, Raises Google Ventures-Led Round


Weotta is releasing a big update to its iOS app today, one that should make the app even more useful for planning cool things to do — particularly with friends.

The company, which first launched at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in 2011, is also announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of new funding, which came entirely from new investors. The round was led by Google Ventures, with participation from Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures and Gil Elbaz and David Waxman’s TenOneTen Capital.

CEO and co-founder Grant Wernick demonstrated the new app for me earlier this week, and in some ways the core idea hasn’t changed too much from recent versions. Weotta still presents users with a stack of potential locations and activities — if it sounds interesting, swipe down to save it, if it doesn’t, swipe across to toss it out. As you swipe, Weotta gets an implicit…

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Re-commerce Gets A Revamp With Threadflip’s New iPhone App Built For An Exploding Mobile Audience


Threadflip, the online and mobile marketplace that helps users clean out their closets, or buy from those who are doing just that, is today introducing a completely revamped mobile experience for its iOS application following a surge of growth from its mobile user base. It’s a welcome change, and one that should help the company better compete with similar services from Poshmark or thredUP, for example.

The update comes at a time when everyone is shifting their shopping behavior to mobile, forcing companies to quickly ramp up their mobile experiences to meet that demand. For example, Fab reported last month that a third of its sales were placed via mobile, ModCloth says a quarter of its traffic came from mobile devices (even before it had released its iPhone app!), and JackThreads just a couple of weeks ago said that nearly half its orders were coming in through mobile

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Mobile Ad Exchange MoPub Says It Reached A $100M Revenue Run Rate In May


MoPub, a startup that helps mobile app publishers run advertising from multiple sources (such as ad networks, direct sales and cross-promotion), says that it reached a $100 million revenue run rate this month.

MoPub is now conducting 2 billion ad auctions each day and reaching more than 550 million unique devices each month, the company says. The MoPub exchange launched 18 months ago, and CEO Jim Payne said that the company hit an “inflection point” in the past four to six months, with “astonishing” growth since the end of last year — revenue is up 3x compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, he said.

Payne added that having that kind of reach is crucial, because that’s when MoPub “becomes interesting enough” for ad networks and other large partners to integrate with.

In terms of ads served, Payne said it’s “almost 50-50” between iOS and Android, but that more…

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Google Adds Nutrition Info For Over 1,000 Fruits, Vegetables, Meats And Meals To Its Search Results


Google keeps adding new information to its Knowledge Graph, and today it is bringing nutrition info to its search results pages. Want to know how many calories there are in an avocado or how much protein there is in your chow mein? Google will now happily provide you with an answer. All of this information is, of course, also available through voice search and this new feature works on the web and mobile.

As Google notes, “this new nutritional information builds on our work on the Knowledge Graph, which brings together all kinds of information from across the web that wasn’t easily accessible.” Thanks to this, Google’s nutrition search, for example, knows that if you want to know about “summer squash,” zucchini should be an option in its drop-down menu because it’s apparently a type of summer squash.

Here are some other examples Google suggests you try (I should add…

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