U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Twitter to release its employee diversity information, which its Silicon Valley peers such as Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook have already done.
The Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Jackson, has also asked Twitter to signal its commitment to inclusion by hosting a public community forum to address the company’s plan to recruit and retain more African American talent.
The coalition and black empowerment group, ColorOfChange.org, plans to launch a Twitter-based campaign to challenge the company, the coalition said in a statement late last week.
On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, ColorofChange will lead a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists will push out the petition campaign over Twitter and other social media.
Tech companies have been under pressure to release employee diversity data since Jackson took up the campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies, starting with a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders.
“….Twitter has remained silent, resisting and refusing to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity/inclusion data,” according to the joint petition by the coalition and ColorOfChange.org.
The diversity reports are typically filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and companies are not required to make the information public.
Twitter has not commented on the matter.
Cybercriminals have stolen data on more than 600,000 Dominos Pizza Inc customers in Belgium and France, the pizza delivery company said, and an anonymous Twitter user threatened to make the data public unless the company pays a cash ransom.
Customer names, delivery addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and passwords were taken from a server used in an online ordering system that the company is in the process of replacing, Dominos spokesman Chris Brandon said.
He said he did not know if the stolen passwords had been encrypted.
A Tweet directed at Domino’s customers through an account of somebody listed as “Rex Mundi” said hackers would publish the customer data on the Internet unless the company pays 30,000 euros ($40,800), according to an article in The Telegraph.
The Rex Mundi account was later suspended.
Brandon said he was not familiar with the ransom demands, but that the company would not be making any such payment.
Domino’s Vice President of Communications Tim McIntyre said the hacking was “isolated” to independent franchise markets of Belgium and France, where the company’s online ordering system did not collect credit card orders, so no financial data had been taken.
“This does not affect any market outside of France and Belgium,” he said via email. “The site has been secured.”
Domino’s has some 11,000 stores worldwide, including 229 in France, 24 in Belgium and about 5,000 in the United States.
Twitter users are expected to increase by 24.4% this year to over 227 million with double-digit growth expected to continue through 2018 when the number of users will be nearly 400 million, according to a report.
The US will continue to be the country with the largest number of individual Twitter users through 2018, according to an eMarketer report . But its share of users, currently at 20%, will drop over the years and give Twitter the opportunity to grow its advertising revenue from outside the U.S.
The Asia-Pacific region increased its share of the number of Twitter users to 30.5% in 2013 in comparison to 26% for second-place North America. High growth countries in Asia-Pacific were Indonesia and India with 76.3% and 68.8% growth, respectively.
The research firm said its estimates are based on how many individual users log in or access Twitter each month within the calendar year. It said its figure differs from Twitter’s reported figure for users because it uses consumer survey data to remove business accounts, multiple accounts for individual users and other sources of potential double-counting.
Twitter reported average monthly active users (MAUs) were 241 million as of Dec. 31, which increased to 255 million at the end of the first quarter.
The figure for Asia-Pacific does not include China which blocks Twitter, although users still access the social networking site using virtual private networks.
By 2018, the share of the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to reach 40.1%, eMarketer said.
India and Indonesia are forecast to have the third and fourth-largest base of Twitter users in the world in 2014, with about 18 million and 15 million users, respectively.
The popularity of Twitter and other social media in India was reflected in the extensive use of these tools during the recently concluded federal elections in the country. The new prime minister Narendra Modi uses Twitter and Facebook frequently to communicate to literate users and has over 4.4 million followers on Twitter.
Total revenue for the period ended March 31 was roughly $250 million, Twitter stated, more than double the $114 million recorded for the same period in 2013. Twitter’s sales topped analysts’ consensus estimate of $241 million, as polled by Thomson Reuters.
“We had a very strong first quarter,” said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in the company’s announcement. “Revenue growth accelerated on a year over year basis fueled by increased engagement and user growth.”
However, Twitter hasn’t managed to turn a profit since it became a public company. The company reported a net loss of more than $132 million for the quarter, nearly quintupling the loss of roughly $27 million reported for the year-ago period.
The company’s earnings per share loss was $0.23, a tad worse than a loss of $0.21 reported last year. On a pro forma basis, excluding share-based compensation and other adjustments, Twitter broke even, beating analysts’ expectations of a loss of $0.03 per share.
Twitter’s stock was down to $38.30 in after hours trading, down considerably from its $42.62 Tuesday close.
Twitter, like Google and Facebook, makes the bulk of its money from advertising — $226 million for the quarter, up 125 percent. The lion’s share of its advertising — 80 percent in the first quarter — comes from mobile.
To continue growing its ad revenue, Twitter needs to attract more users and increase the time they spend using the service. As a public company, Twitter is under pressure to make its service more accessible to a mainstream audience.
The company in recent months has tried to address this, partly through cosmetic changes like redesigning user profile pages and making photos more prominent in people’s streams.
Twitter is making progress in this area, but not very rapidly. Compared to the same period last year, Twitter grew its monthly active users by 25 percent, to 255 million. But compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, Twitter grew its monthly active users sequentially by less than 6 percent.
On mobile, Twitter now has 198 million monthly active users — a 31 percent increase, the company said.
In response to an all-time low in user growth figures during the recent quarter, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo informed worried Wall Street analysts that the company would make a number of changes to freshen up the service.
The redesign, while mostly cosmetic, hinted at what Costolo described in February as a willingness to experiment with new ways to organize content. Users can now “pin” a tweet to stay at the top of their feed, a rare instance of Twitter departing from the continuously rolling format that has defined the service.
Tweets that have received more re-tweets or replies will also appear slightly larger to spur more user engagement.
The new layout, which will be available to a small group of users initially, will be widely deployed to Twitter’s 241 million users in the coming weeks, the company said.
Twitter reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue on February 6, but investors focused on user growth of just 3.8 percent, the lowest rate of quarter-on-quarter growth since Twitter began disclosing user figures. The San Francisco-based company went public in November.
In recent weeks, Twitter has also reportedly been testing a number of new advertising units, such as ads that include download links for mobile apps.
As part of Tuesday’s refresh, Twitter said users will also be allowed to select a large banner picture to display across the top of their profile page, as well as a much larger profile picture, two features that resemble another social network familiar to most of the world’s Internet users: Facebook.
Google has targeted web browser settings hijacking in its latest update to Chrome for Windows.
On the Chromium blog, Google engineering director Erik Kay announced an extension settings API designed to ensure that users have notice and control over any settings changes made to their web browsers.
As a result, the only way extensions will be able to make changes to browser settings such as the default search engine and start page will be through this API.
Bargain hungry consumers are often unaware that freeware programs often bundle add-on programs for which developers receive payment but can create irritating, rather than malicious, changes to user settings.
Although there is usually consent sought at installation, quite often it is ignored or not understood, and the people who miss the warnings are generally the same ones who find it hard to change the settings back.
Kay said that the API is available in the Chromium developer channel, with a rollout to the stable channel set for May.
The Chromium stable channel has been updated to version 33.0.1750.149. The main change is an update to the embedded Flash Player for Windows, which is now version 184.108.40.206.
There are seven new security fixes, most of which were user submitted via the open source Fast Memory Detector Address Sanitizer.
Although the user community and Chrome team continue to proactively protect the Chromium project, third party extensions can still cause problems, with several already having been removed from the Chrome Store this year.
The Redmond firm’s researchers have developed Herehere, a complaint cataloguer, and launched it on the hardboiled streets of New York, New York. The firm reckoned that over time it will build up a view of the community.
Microsoft said that “hyperlocal engagement” would “encourage civic response”. We think that it might put people off certain areas and funnel others to other locations. Microsoft has provided an image to suggest how this manifests itself. We learn that somewhere has “no asbestos issues” somewhere else does not feel safe, and another location has bad traffic.
“Herehere NYC introduces daily neighbourhood engagement with a light touch,” said Kati London, head of the Herehere project.
“It takes neighborhood-specific public data, and it enables the neighbourhoods to communicate how they’re doing-expressed through text and cartoonlike icons.
“People can receive the information via a daily email digest, neighborhood-specific Twitter feeds, or status updates on an online map. We want to understand how it changes or impacts the way people relate to their community when they can interact with data in this way.
“Think of it as a meta-status update for the day – a simplification of issues in your neighbourhood compressed into a text that you might get from a friend,” added London.
There are 42 New York City locations covered, and the firm thinks that it will boil down the mood of the city into a digestible format with a friendly, occasionally ratlike, face. The data is culled from the 311 phone number in New York City, which is the state’s contact number for non-emergency communications.
“The idea is that we are inundated with all kinds of data in our lives, and it’s overwhelming. Characterisation helps bring immediacy and a human scale to information,” said London.
“When the Lower East Side says it’s totally cool with a few vermin complaints, we’re giving a human voice to the neighborhood which, hopefully, will stimulate conversations about issues.”
Over 90 million people play Candy Crush Saga every day. Say whatever you like about London- based social game developer King, but its headline game is an unquestionable success. Like many games (most games, perhaps) it iterates upon previously existing formulae rather than being a breakthrough, unseen innovation. Like many games, the real DNA of its success can only be analysed honestly if we first admit that one of the dominant genes involved was luck. Still; 90 million players. About 1.3 per cent of the entire population of the planet try to clear candies and jellies at least once a day. Whether you consider that to be a depressing reflection of the state of humanity or not is entirely subjective; whether you consider it to be a remarkable business success is not. King’s got a touch of magic in its sweet jar.
Now King wants to convert that magic into cold, hard cash, so it’s going to float on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s proposing an initial public offering valued at $500 million, but given that its net income last year was $568 million (on revenues of $1.9 billion), everyone involved will clearly be hoping to make a killing off an early spike in share value.
When any company announces an IPO, it’s reasonable to ask why it’s happening. There are two ways for an entrepreneur to “exit”, cashing in his or her chips on the company that’s been built. One is by being acquired by a bigger firm (like the recent purchase of a major stake in Supercell by Puzzle & Dragons publisher GungHo). The other is an IPO. In both cases, there are two clear reasons for cashing in – the first one, which everyone always claims to be pursuing, is to raise more money to facilitate further growth and make your company bigger and better. The second is shadier but not uncommon. You reckon you’ve taken the business as far as you can – organic growth is looking rocky from here, maybe you sense a change in the market or an oncoming headwind, and you want to grab as much cash as you can while the going is good, before your valuation starts to heavily decline.
“Take the money and run” isn’t an uncommon reason for a sale or an IPO, although none of the parties involved would ever be so gauche as to admit to such a thing. Still, the logic underwriting such a thing is cold and undeniable. If you can sense that your company is facing rocky ground and its valuation has likely peaked, you want to make sure you get as much of a return on your holdings as possible before they become devalued. Laws and rules force lots of disclosure of financial data, of course, so you can’t hide a decline that’s already started – but if your instinct says next year won’t be as good as last year, now’s the right time to sell, and “instinct” doesn’t appear on SEC-mandated documents.
Is King taking the money and running? Yes, I think they are. I think this IPO is actually a little late – it’s going to occur just as King is on a downslope – but it’s far better timed than the easiest comparison, Zynga. Zynga launched on the stock exchange far too late, after it had already become obvious that the company was completely hobbled by the rapid transition from Facebook to smartphones in social gaming. Its IPO was a flop from an investor’s perspective, although plenty of people still made a lot of money from it – it certainly made more money than it would have if they’d waited around until the depths of the company’s troubles became apparent. On its current timeline, King will be IPOing while it’s still within touching distance of Candy Crush Saga’s peak.
“Is King taking the money and running? Yes, I think they are”
I foresee two problems, both of which ought to ring huge alarm bells for investors interested in the company. The first is that Candy Crush Saga’s peak is just that – a monolithic, dramatic peak climbing up out of a landscape of foothills and gentle valleys. There are no other peaks in sight. King’s other games do “okay”, but nearly 80% of its revenue comes from Candy Crush Saga, whose 90 million daily users figure is six times greater than the daily users figure for the firm’s second-place game, Pet Rescue Saga. There is nothing on the horizon which might replace Candy Crush Saga; once you start descending from that peak, the danger is that you end up back in the foothills with no more peaks to ascend. There’s simply no evidence, let alone proof, that King is capable of recreating the lightning-strike success of Candy Crush Saga. Bluntly, I don’t think King believes it can manage that either – because if the firm and its investors genuinely believed that they could repeat the success of Candy Crush, they would IPO after doing so, knowing that a company with a proven ability to turn out enormous hits is vastly, vastly more valuable than a company with one lucky strike and a string of also-rans to its name.
The second problem is Zynga itself. The stock market has already had one market-leading social game company perform absolutely dismally after flotation. Investors now know that this sector, while it’s exciting and interesting and extremely profitable, is also insanely volatile, completely hit- driven and largely subject to the rapidly changing whims of technology. On the surface, the F2P model is far more investor-friendly than the old-fashioned boxed game model, since you actually get a steady revenue stream from your products rather than a single burst of revenue after a couple of years of expensive development. In practice, though, you still need to keep turning out hit titles in order to ensure revenue growth (which is all the stock market gives a damn about). Few studios have shown any capacity for doing that – there are laudable exceptions like Supercell and Nimblebit, but most mobile gaming studios are still dining out on single successes. King has Candy Crush Saga; Rovio has Angry Birds; GungHo has Puzzle & Dragons. None of these companies have managed to create another game as popular as the one that made them famous – lacking a track record, each of them can fairly be considered a one-hit wonder until proven otherwise.
What about recent controversies around King? The company’s aggressive approach to trademarks, its reputed cloning of games and so on have done nothing to endear it to the gaming world and cultivated an atmosphere of negativity around the company. I would caution against reading too much into the likely impact of such stories on an IPO, though. Investors, bluntly, don’t really care if a company stands accused of not being terribly innovative, as long as the results are good. They certainly couldn’t care less about trademark spats with independent developers, I fear. Such issues are important and relevant to those directly involved, but of no consequence to the IPO prospects of a company like King.
What they do, however, is set mood music around the firm. Being seen as a bit ruthless is no bad thing, but I suspect that investors burned by Zynga will be quick to note the parallels between the sort of behaviour of which King stands accused, and the sort of behaviour in which Zynga engaged. The two companies are, in my mind, very similar both in culture and in approach. Neither was founded out of any attachment to games as a medium, a culture or an artform; both are simply entrepreneurial vehicles to exploit a potential market, and as such, it’s to be expected that both would struggle to adapt and succeed at points where they encounter obstacles that can only be surmounted by creativity rather than by management bullet points or business model refinement.
That’s not entirely a criticism, by the way; in a capitalist economy, there’s no sin to creating a business just to exploit a gap in the market. If the market in question happens to be a creative medium, one has to expect significant blowback to this approach. Moreover, there’s a limited lifespan to such a strategy – a company in a creative sector which is not founded on creative principles cannot expect to significantly outlive the market conditions it was originally designed to exploit.
In summary, I find it hard to view King’s IPO as anything more than Zynga 2.0. It is better-timed, certainly, but the companies involved are similar enterprises facing similar challenges – and thus far, demonstrating a similar lack of capacity to overcome them. Zynga is much, much further down the slope from its peak than King, so of course there remains a reasonable possibility that King can surprise us all with a second title on the scale of Candy Crush – and by doing so, establish itself as a genuine leading light of this new market. For all the negativity poured upon the company of late, I honestly hope King can make lightning strike twice for itself. I don’t like Candy Crush Saga personally, but that’s a subjective view – objectively, I cannot find a trace of the supposed immorality, grasping and nastiness of which the game regularly stands accused, and can’t help but recall all the awful stuff of which Flappy Bird also stood wrongly accused when it dared to be a break-out mobile gaming success. King faces problems down the line and I question whether it represents a good investment opportunity for anyone – but should it overcome those issues and prove itself capable of the creativity required to replicate its Candy Crush success, it would be churlish to call that anything other than a fresh triumph for UK game development. Fingers crossed that it happens.
BlackBerry Ltd Chief Executive John Chen directed pointed words at T-Mobile US Inc earlier this week, calling ill-conceived a promotion run by the company that encourages customers using BlackBerry smartphones to upgrade to iPhones.
T-Mobile US, which is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, sent out emails to some of its customers last week, pitching free iPhone 5s and touting the promotion as a, “great offer for BlackBerry customers.”
That sparked a brouhaha in social media forums after some of the telecommunications company’s loyal BlackBerry customers reacted angrily to the offer, which they perceived as a slight.
The backlash prompted T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere to respond publicly. In a Twitter posting on Sunday, Legere said T-Mobile would continue to support BlackBerry smartphones and he assured BlackBerry users they do not have to give up their devices or “loyalty.”
In a blog post on Tuesday, BlackBerry CEO Chen slammed the T-Mobile US offer as a, “clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion,” and he thanked BlackBerry users for their loyalty to the company.
“Your partnership with our brand is appreciated by all of us at BlackBerry, and draws a sharp contrast with the behavior of our longtime business partner,” Chen said in the posting, noting that T-Mobile had not discussed its promotion with BlackBerry.
T-Mobile US later said it is happy to work with BlackBerry and will by Friday offer speedy and free shipping of BlackBerry devices to T-Mobile customers who order them.
BlackBerry, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, has been struggling to claw back market share lost to Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices, and other smartphones powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s new line of BlackBerry 10 devices has so far failed to win back market share, and Chen is attempting to reshape the company and focus less on the handset segment, and more on the company’s services business.
Chen has stressed, however, that the handset business remains a core component for BlackBerry as the company attempts to engineer a turnaround.
Chen called on T-Mobile US to “find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again.”
Now shipping estimates for new orders stretched into April in several foreign markets, including China, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., as first reported by MacGeneration, which is based in France. Soon after, Apple’s U.S. and Canadian online stores followed suit, showing April as the estimated ship date.
Although the Mac Pro — a distinctive-looking black cylinder that’s 10 inches tall and about 7 inches in diameter — went on sale Dec. 19, it almost immediately slipped into back order. The February estimate was later pushed into March before today’s change to April.
The pricey computer starts at $2,999 for the low-end stock configuration and can be tricked out to a top price of $9,599.
At least one analyst predicted that the Mac Pro, while catering to the line’s traditional power users, creative professionals and engineers, would also become a status symbol of sorts for those with the wherewithal to buy one.
The shipping delays continue to hint at low production volumes at the new Apple factory in Austin, Texas, where the computer is assembled. Apple has touted the Mac Pro’s built-in-the-U.S.A. trait, including a rare tweet by CEO Tim Cook at the machine’s launch.
Shortages of the Mac Pro will not materially affect Apple’s bottom line, as the Mac division accounted for just 11% of the company’s revenue for the December quarter. The Mac Pro, while expensive, will make up only a fraction of the unit sales of the line overall, which last quarter reached 4.8 million, the majority of those notebooks from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro families.
But the extended shortages mean that the revenue the Mac Pro produces is being pushed from the current quarter into the calendar’s second. They also are reminiscent of the fiasco Apple created in late 2012 and early 2013, when it announced a redesigned iMac without an inventory even as it pulled the older models from its stores.
The shortages also spurred profit takers to list their new Mac Pro systems on eBay at prices significantly higher than list.
Mac Pro prices on the auction and sales website today were as high as $6,250 for a configuration that Apple sells for $3,999, a 56% markup. Another of the several listings asked $4,499 for a system that runs $2,999 from Apple, a 50% profit for the seller.
At least two Chrome extensions recently sold by their original developers were updated to inject ads and affiliate links into legitimate websites opened in users’ browsers.
The issue first came to light last week when the developer of the “Add to Feedly” extension, a technology blogger named Amit Agarwal, reported that after selling his extension late last year to a third-party, it got transformed into adware. The extension had over 30,000 users when it was sold.
A second developer, Roman Skabichevsky, confirmed on Monday that his Chrome extension called “Tweet This Page” suffered a similar fate after he sold it at the end of November.
Skabichevsky accepted an offer to sell the simple extension for $500 because he didn’t have time to improve it anymore.
“A woman named Amanda who contacted me said they wanted the extension ‘for further development’,” Skabichevsky said via email. It was weird because the extension’s code is open sourced so anyone can work on it, “but I sold it anyway, thinking it would be better for the world. I was so wrong!”
Agarwal’s story is similar. He sold his extension for a four-figure sum after being contacted by a woman.
“A month later, the new owners of the Feedly extension pushed an update to the Chrome store,” he said Thursday in a blog post. “No, the update didn’t bring any new features to the table nor contained any bug fixes. Instead, they incorporated advertising into the extension.”
“These aren’t regular banner ads that you see on web pages, these are invisible ads that work the background and replace links on every website that you visit into affiliate links,” Agarwal said. “In simple English, if the extension is activated in Chrome, it will inject adware into all web pages.”
Converting a trusted and popular extension into an aggressive advertising tool is more efficient for adware pushers than creating an extension from scratch and building a large user base they can later target, because it brings a quicker and most likely bigger return on investment.
The “Add to Feedly” and “Tweet This Page” extensions have been removed from the Chrome Web Store this weekend, supposedly by Google. However, the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It’s not clear if any other extensions from the Chrome Web Store were resold and exhibit the same behavior.
“You may have noticed our social media properties were targeted today,” Skype said in a Twitter post late Wednesday. “No user info was compromised. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
Skype’s Twitter account, blog and Facebook page appeared to have been attacked by the SEA, a group that supports the Syrian government, according to reports. The Skype blog was still inaccessible late Wednesday and redirected users to the Skype home page.
The SEA reproduced in a Twitter message a copy of what appeared to be its message using the Skype account on Twitter. The message read: “Don’t use Microsoft emails(hotmail,outlook),They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments.More details soon #SEA”. It did not figure by late Wednesday on Skype’s Twitter feed.
SEA later posted on Twitter contact information purportedly of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, stating: You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your accounts/emails using this details.
The attack on Skype’s social media accounts appears to be linked to disclosures through newspapers by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that Internet companies allegedly provide the agency real-time access to content on their servers for surveillance purposes.
The SEA has targeted previously many high-profile websites and Twitter accounts. In August, an attack purportedly by SEA on Melbourne IT, an Australian domain registrar, affected the websites of The New York Times, Twitter and other top companies.
Social networks are used by 73 percent of online adults in the U.S., according to a study released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The study was based on 1,445 adult Internet users interviewed from August 7 to Sept. 16 this year.
The full survey sample totaled 1,801 adults over age 18. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.9.
Facebook was the dominant social networking site, boasting an audience of 71 percent of online U.S. adults, growing from 67 percent late last year.
While Facebook was a universal favorite, some 42 percent of online adults used multiple social networking sites, the study said. Pinterest attracted women, Twitter and Instagram were heavily used by young adults, African Americans and city dwellers, and LinkedIn was favored by college graduates, older users and high-income households.
Usage of all Facebook alternatives grew, according to the survey. LinkedIn was used by 22 percent of U.S. adults online, Pinterest by 21 percent, Twitter by 18 percent and Instagram by 17 percent.
The engagement levels varied, with 63 percent of Facebook users visiting the website at least once a day, and 40 percent visiting multiple times. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, had 57 percent of users visiting once a day and 35 percent logging in multiple times. Around 46 percent of Twitter users visited at least once, and 29 percent multiple times.
Once viewed as a social networking platform for college students, Facebook is now attracting a larger number of Internet users aged 65 or more, according to the survey. Facebook is used by around 45 percent of U.S. Internet users aged 65 or more, growing from 35 percent late last year.
Twitter and Instagram are becoming more popular among African Americans and users aged 18 to 29. Around 34 percent of African American Internet users in the U.S. adopted Instagram, growing from 23 percent last year. The site was used by 37 percent of users aged between 18 and 29, growing from 28 percent in the comparable period last year.
The Pew survey does not include information related to usage of sites such as Google+, Tumblr, Reddit and Vine.
Social news hub Reddit enjoyed a major get when it interviewed Barack Obama last year. The big get for 2013 was reaching 90 million unique visitors a month, according to the company, on par with the likes of eBay. This season, even Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates joined its Secret Santa gift exchange.
Now, the self-dubbed “Front Page of the Internet” is going for a milestone it has been trying to reach since its founding in 2005: profitability.
After years of experimenting with paid subscriptions and display advertising, Reddit, with just 28 employees, has begun pouring resources into building an electronic bazaar.
Company executives say they increasingly believe such a venue is the answer to their long search for reliable revenue, complicated in part by their fans’ mistrust of advertising.
If Reddit Gifts, as the burgeoning bazaar is known, brings sustainable profitability, it would mark a turning point for an outfit that has exerted an outsized and sometimes controversial influence on Internet culture yet languished financially.
Reddit estimates over 250,000 items have been purchased over the holiday, mostly as part of the 50 or so mostly geek-oriented Secret Santa gift exchanges – where zombie- or fantasy-themed presents, say, change hands – that users have created.
Although Reddit won’t disclose details about how much money it has made from Reddit Gifts or its overall financial performance, it takes a 15 to 20 percent cut of every purchase.
Usually priced between $10 and $25, the goods reflect Reddit’s young and geeky user base, from collages of cats in steampunk apparel to coffee mugs branded by Imgur.com, a repository of funny Web pictures, to an entire category dedicated to bacon-related products. More than 250 merchants supply gifts curated and “up-voted” by the community, much as articles and links are elevated on the Reddit site itself.
The gift exchange made headlines this month after Gates signed up and surprised a Reddit user by sending her a travel book and a stuffed cow, symbol of the charity he donated to in her name.
The company, which is hoping to position itself as a bona fide shopping destination year-round, estimates that only 14 percent of its marketplace revenue comes from the Christmas-season gift exchange programs.
Yet those sales alone could put Reddit firmly in the black, said Dan McComas, the head of Reddit Gifts. He added that the company may choose to reinvest funds in e-commerce customer service and infrastructure.
Chief Executive Yishan Wong, a former Facebook executive, said Reddit was “kind of” breaking even and denied that pressure was mounting on his team to turn a profit.
More than a million people from around the world flock to the famous area in midtown Manhattan which hosts one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve celebrations. Another billion across the globe tune in on their televisions.
“It’s one moment where 100 million Americans are all doing the same thing at the same time. They’re all counting down to the same time thing,” said Jeff Straus, president of New York City-based Countdown Entertainment, which organizes the annual event.
With the Times Square Ball app for iPhone and Android, people not near a television can tune in to the festivities from their smartphones. The app features a live six-hour webcast that will be available on New Year’s Eve, with behind-the-scenes interviews, musical performances, countdowns and the fall of the Times Square Ball.
“We created the app because there’s a whole other audience that can’t be near their televisions or are overseas, but still want to be part of it and count down those final seconds with us,” said Straus.
The app will include tweets from the Times Square Ball, which will be tweeting news and photos of the event from its perch high above the crowds.
“The ball’s history goes back to 1907 when we had the first ball drop. It was basically a 5-foot (1.5-meter) ball of iron and wood with 100 125-watt light bulbs in it, which was the latest in lighting technology,” said Straus.
It has been re-designed seven times since then. Over the years, computer controls and other features like strobe lights have been added.
The ball, which has been dropped every year since 1907 except for 1942 and 1943, is now over 12 feet in diameter, weighs nearly 6 tons and is adorned with over 32,000 LED lights in varied colors, according to the Times Square Alliance, white works to improve and promote the area.
The free app also has a countdown that can be configured to different time zones and is available worldwide.
People who want to join in on the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in the London can download the free London New Year’s Eve fireworks app for iPhone and Android created by the UK-based company Vodafone.
The app overlays the fireworks on display on the banks of the River Thames onto the smartphone camera. Its app will be released on December 30 at midnight.