Back when Rockmelt killed off its social-centric desktop browser to focus on mobile, they promised that an Android version was on the way. Today, it arrives.
While the Rockmelt app for Android shares the same “core experience” as its iOS counterpart by focusing very, very heavily on a personalized homescreen that brings in content from your social networks and Rockmelt’s curated stuff, they’ve overhauled the UI pretty drastically.
Why? “Because Android screens are so much bigger”, Rockmelt co-founder and CTO Tim Howes tells me. On the iPhone, most users don’t have too much trouble reaching their thumb across the entire screen. On any of the many jumbo screen Android phones (like the Galaxy Note or the HTC One), however, reaching the top of the screen means using a second hand, unless you’ve got big ol’ sausage thumbs.
With that in mind, Rockmelt’s Android build moves most of its UI elements down to the bottom of the screen. They float around in free space, and fade away as you scroll down the page. Scroll up, however, and the swoop back into place. In landscape mode or on tablets, this UI elements are moved to the lower right corner, so as to be within reach of your thumb. You can see the iOS app and the Android app side-by-side here.
Also new to their Android build is a feature that Rockmelt calls “elevator buttons”. As you scroll through your personalized content feed, a button will appear whenever new content has popped up at the top (or whenever you swipe up a few pixels). Tap the button, and you’re taken back up to the top — but you’ll also see a new down arrow button fade into place. Tap that, and you’ll drop back down to exactly where you were before. This feature only seems to work on Rockmelt’s built-in personalized content feed, not elsewhere on the web — which is too bad, really.
Rockmelt first launched in 2010 as an attempt to bake all sorts of social media functionality (like sharing, chat, and popular content feeds) into the desktop browser. By December of 2012, they’d started to realize that they just couldn’t compete with the likes of Chrome and Firefox on the desktop; by April of this year, they’d cut their losses on the desktop and shifted their focus to mobile.
Rockmelt says around 1.1 million people have tried the service since they relaunched their iOS app a few months ago. Alas, only 1/2 of those people come back the next day.
The company has high hopes for Android, though.
“In 3 weeks, we had as many iPhone users as we had in 3 months on the iPad,” says Howes. “In 3 days, we had as many on our web-based version as we had on iPhone. We can’t wait to see how the nearly one billion people on Android like it.”
I’ve tried both the iOS and Android apps… and, to be honest, I’m not sure I get it. While it definitely has some neat tricks (like a one-swipe ‘Read It Later’ saving feature), I mostly just found myself confused. Then I started getting notifications that strangers had liked the same content that I’d “emoted” (content that I didn’t actually intend to emote with to begin with), and, er, yeah, I was done with Rockmelt.
You can find Rockmelt for Android [free] in the Google Play store here.
The Internet isn’t lacking for sites and services where people can post their comments and thoughts, but Andrew Sider, co-founder and CEO of a startup called Bunch, argues that there’s still something missing: “How do we connect with people, not around friends, not around social networks, but around a topic that they care about deeply?”
After all, Sider said that many of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers probably aren’t passionate about the same things that you are. He acknowledged that online forums have filled this role in the past, but he said those forums are now intimidating to casual users and also kind of uncool. (Other attempts at reinventing the forum include a new startup called Discourse.)
“The new reality is, I don’t believe in 20 years our generation will use forums,” Sider said.
So Bunch tries to have to combine the accessibility of a social network with a commitment to depth and topic-based groups. When you first sign up, you have to sign in with your Facebook account, so your comments are tied to your real identity. Then you can join the communities that interest you — but you can only join three. After joining, you can view and participate in a stream of conversations around a given topic.
Sider said these features should encourage people to only join the communities that they really care about and to post substantive, civil comments there. He added that Bunch is experimenting with other features that encourage depth, such as a bigger comment box and a minimum number of characters in each comment.
I liked what I saw in the brief demo that Sider gave me, but I pointed out that it could be a big challenge to recruit a user base that comes from a number of disparate online communities. Sider said his initial strategy is integrating with other social networks — for example, users can cross-post their content between Tumblr and Bunch. (Apparently some of the early beta testers like the quality of conversation on Bunch enough that they’ve started to treat it as their default blogging platform.) Plus, users get a journal page showing their activity across different communities, and it’s visible to non-Bunch members, so you can promote it on other social networks. After all, Sider said that if you’ve got a good conversation going, you want to get other people involved, too.
After a closed beta test of about 20,000 users (who have created more than 50 communities), Bunch is opening to the public today. It’s also releasing its iPhone app and announcing that it has raised $1 million in funding from Real Ventures, 500 Startups, BDC Venture Capital, Round 13 Capital, and undisclosed angel investors.
Travel portal TripAdvisor continues to push ahead with its mobile and social acquisitions: today the company announced that it has acquired GateGuru, a mobile app that provides real-time information on airports, weather, and flights. Much of that is picked up from crowdsourcing, not unlike Waze — acquired by Google last week — does with road travel. Terms of the deal between GateGuru and TripAdvisor have not been disclosed but we are trying to find out.
This is not an acqui-hire but a direct expansion of TripAdvisor’s services to its users. As more people take to mobile and social networks, the company is looking to extend what it already offers online — a huge database of user-generated content giving reviews of destinations, hotels and other things travel-related, which currently brings in some 200 million monthly active users. In the case of TripAdvisor, it’s almost certainly easier to acquire and tap into services that have already been built rather than create them from scratch themselves.
?”Flying is often an essential part of a trip and we have continually developed our suite of flights products, from the pricing and availability search on TripAdvisor, to our award-winning SeatGuru.com, with seat maps and more” said Steve Kaufer, co-founder and CEO TripAdvisor, Inc., in a statement. ”GateGuru nicely complements our existing flights products and we look forward to working with the GateGuru team as they continue to manage the GateGuru app and add great functionality to the TripAdvisor mobile experience.” It helps, too, that GateGuru is positioned to be in a good place for ubiquity, with apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone in place already.
On one hand, this is a sign of the times about what is big with users in the market today. Travel and mobile naturally go hand-in-hand, as does real-time information once a user is actually on the move. The sorts of data that get fed into GateGuru include weather forecasts, security wait times and real-time flight status information. But, as you can see from the screen shots below, you can also use the app to compare prices on car rentals and then subsequently rent a vehicle through the app. You can see how kind of one-stop app portal could be expanded to include many other functions.
On the other, this is also a sign of some ongoing consolidation in the travel start-up sector: with many services built for scale on thin margins on sales or large ad buys, if you’re a big property you will be looking to get bigger; and if you’re a smaller player you will struggle. (This could have been some of the problem, for example, behind a recent round of layoffs at travel site Ostrovok in Russia.)
It helps, too, that TripAdvisor in December got a big injection of cash from Liberty Media, which took a $300 million stake in the company; it could be some of that fuelling this series of acquisitions.
The news today follows TripAdvisor buying another mobile/social startup, TinyPost, in March of this year, followed swiftly by JetSetter from Gilt weeks later, and then CruiseWise in May. Other socially-focused acquisitions have included Wanderfly in October 2012. Like JetSetter, GateGuru is based out of New York, where it will remain. The team behind the app, the company says, will report to Bryan Saltzburg, GM of New Initiatives and leader of the TripAdvisor Flights product and its SeatGuru brand.
GateGuru, founded in 2011, had raised at least $800,000 with backing from a pretty illustrious set of investors. They include Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook exec who is now running the Social + Capital Partnership VC fund; Allen Morgan, the former MD of the Mayfield Fund; and Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters, among several others.
GateGuru has even deeper links to the investment world: its founder and head, Dan Gellert, used to be a VC himself, working for Time Warner Investments and JP Morgan.
[updating this post as we get more information]
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5 Tips Every Mobile Professional Needs To Keep Their Smartphone Secure
Mobile security is one of those things that many business owners don’t really want to talk about because they don’t see it as a major problem. This is exactly the kind of attitude that’s going to breed new types of threats added to the ones we already have. The importance of mobile security is difficult to fathom specifically because phones really didn’t have any danger of being hacked until recently.
The truth is that the tiny device you hold in your hand is in as much danger of being breached as your PC. Some would argue that mobile devices actually present an even bigger danger because of their physical portability. Since they’re small, you are able to take them with you wherever you go, making you easily capable of losing them. You can’t imagine that same thing happening to your desktop PC that sits neatly in your office.
Businesses are often quick to underestimate the impact that a data breach could have on a phone or a tablet. Your phone most likely stores your login sessions, passwords, digital wallets, and daily use applications. It’s a tiny storage place for all your personal information. If you leave a phone like that without any security, you’re putting something in your pocket every morning that leaves you openly exposed. Even if no one steals your phone, you’re probably also using the Wi-Fi network in your local coffee shop to log in to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which can be sniffed by someone who’s also connected to the same network via another wireless device.
Exposing yourself is quite easy. On the other hand, shielding yourself from such exposure takes a little know-how:
- Get an app that can remotely wipe and locate your phone or tablet. Do this also for your employees. In case you or your employees ever lose your devices, the only thing standing between someone else’s hands and all the personal data in them is just thin air, literally. The best defense against this is the ability to wipe all the data from the phone as soon as you notice it’s missing.
- Password-protect devices. It may be a little annoying to type a password every time you activate your phone’s screen, but this method will give you plenty of time to do something about your lost phone before a perpetrator has any chance of getting access to what’s inside it.
- Do not modify your smartphones security settings. Also, discourage employees from doing this to the devices they bring to work. Jailbreaking, rooting, or tampering with the security settings undermines built in security features, which make the device more vulnerable to malware.
- Install an antivirus product and keep it up to date. Having the most updated antivirus software on your smartphone keeps it one step ahead of any malware that can creep in even from the most trusted sources.
- Make sure that your phone is in a pocket or bag that’s secure and close to your body at all times. Don’t let the device leave your sight!
Let’s not forget that one of the top reasons for data compromise in smartphones is the user’s behavior and gullibility. Keep an eye out for signs of things that can’t be trusted. For example, an Android app that doesn’t come from Google Play should be looked at with scrutiny. If a site directs you somewhere else, consider it a red flag. Don’t forget to pass this information along to any employees. When you open your eyes and read between the lines of everything your mobile device does, keeping it secure becomes more simple!
The post 5 Tips Every Mobile Professional Needs To Keep Their Smartphone Secure appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Stealing a page right out of a startup called Aggregift’s playbook, Amazon today launched a new feature called “Amazon Birthday Gift,” which allows a group of Facebook friends to go in on an Amazon.com Gift Card together. That gift isn’t posted to the recipients’ Facebook Timeline until their big day arrives.
To get started with the service, a user buys an Amazon.com gift card, then invites other mutual friends to donate using the Birthday Gift website here. When the birthday arrives, the recipient is tagged in a Facebook Timeline wall post, receiving the digital card and everyone’s birthday greetings.
The new addition is a further expansion of Amazon’s deepening integration with Facebook, as the company last December launched a “Friends and Family Gifting” feature just ahead of the holidays to generate Facebook-enabled gift suggestions, send out reminders, and enable gift list sharing via both email and social networks. Online competitor Walmart, too, had previously launched a similar Facebook-based gift recommendation service in 2011, which was added to the Walmart.com site ahead of the 2012 holiday season.
Social gifting is still very much in the experimental phase, despite the support from e-commerce giants like Walmart, Amazon and others. For instance, Facebook has also dabbled in this area with the fall 2012 debut of Facebook Gifts (built on top of former social gifting startup Karma). The service is meant to tie into one of Facebook’s most regular draws — its birthday reminders. The idea is that users could visit the site, and in addition to wishing their friend “happy birthday,” they could also add a gift to accompany that message. The social network offers gifts like iTunes digital Gift Cards and physical goods, and it even launched its own self-branded “Facebook Card” earlier this year.
However, even with Facebook’s broad reach, its Gifts service has been struggling to generate serious revenue, and certainly falling short of earlier projections and estimations regarding its potential. Meanwhile, some startups like Sincerely (with Sesame) and recently funded Wrapp, carry on in this space, while others head off in new directions. Giftly, for instance, exited to GiftCards.com this March, while Boomerang has turned its focus to the B2B market instead in recent months.
That being said, Amazon still has a shot at winning the social gifting space with its new Amazon Birthday Gift feature, since it can be argued that users don’t associate Facebook’s brand with spending or shopping the way they do with Amazon. (See also: various f-commerce struggles). Plus, Amazon’s cards are the go-to for the “generic” gift option, which people buy when they don’t know what to get, or when they need something last minute.
However, the new service is still limited today to smaller gift amounts ($1, $5, $10 and $25), which can be a challenge for those attempting to raise funds for a larger present like an electronics purchase. Plus, being tied only to birthdays eliminates the big holiday, graduation or wedding presents users may want to go in on together. Often these larger presents are led by a close family member or friend who puts in a big chunk of change, to which others pile on. Not supporting these other types of gifting narrows the already potentially narrow market for digital, social gifting even further.
Amazon Birthday Gift is live now here for interested users.