David Gelles

Will.i.am, the futuristic frontman of The Black Eyed Peas, established his Silicon Valley bona fides long ago.

The “technology obsessed” rapper made a viral video for Barack Obama in 2008, sent his music back from Mars via the Curiosity rover, and is Intel’s “director of creative innovation.” He drives an all-electric Tesla, is partnering with Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, and markets a $300 high-tech iPhone case.

But in a song on his poorly-reviewed new album #willpower, will.i.am takes his infatuation with startup culture to another level.

Called “Geekin’”, the track begins with a thudding chorus in which he repeats: “Get my geek on, get my, get my geek on.” Read more

David Gelles

Social television startup GetGlue — which lets users “check-in” to TV shows — has raised another round of funding from existing investors, including Time Warner, and a new lead investor, RHO Ventures. Read more

David Gelles

When the National Football League yesterday struck a trio of eye-popping deals with big TV networks, the focus was rightly on just how valuable live sports have become to broadcasters today.

But buried in the press releases heralding the agreements (which will bring the NFL $24bn over nine years) was some rather revolutionary news: the TV networks also secured the digital rights to the most popular sport on television.  Read more

David Gelles

President Barack Obama famously used Twitter to energise his followers during the 2008 campaign. Now Mitt Romney, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, is seeking to conjure up the same magic. Read more

David Gelles

Advertisers can be pretty shameless about weaseling their way into editorial content. Whether unethically buying coverage, quietly working with celebrities for endorsements, or good old-fashioned product placement, companies big and small regularly employ such tactics as part of their marketing arsenal.

But today Gawker.com uncovered what looks to be a new wrinkle in the shady world of buying online influence. According to Gawker, a small marketing firm called 43a offered to pay writers for inserting links to its clients’ websites. The fee: $130 – $175 per link. Read more

David Gelles

Hearst, publisher of magazines including Cosmopolitan and Esquire, took at shot at rival publishers Condé Nast and Time Inc on Monday, as it unveiled its new centre for developing and showcasing digital editions of its titles. Read more

David Gelles

Apple is returning to its favourite venue for product launches on March 2, hosting an event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts where it is expected to unveil the iPad 2, according to people familiar with the plans.

The company has reserved the main stage at the multifunction venue for next Wednesday, marking a return to the site where it last year launched the original iPad and the iPhone 4Read more

David Gelles

When Facebook Deals launched on Wednesday, an impressive raft of launch partners were already signed up. The Palms in Las Vegas was giving away a third night free, Chipotle was giving away a second entree on the house, and Gap said it would be giving away 10,000 pairs of jeans on a date to be determined.

When I arrived at work this morning, it was clear that the Gap promotion was happening today. More than a dozen people were lined up outside the Gap across the street from our office.

After dropping my bag, I grabbed a notepad and my iPhone, and darted over to see if I could be one of the lucky ones to claim the Deal. Read more

David Gelles

Results from Facebook pages will soon begin appearing in Yandex, the leading search engine in Russia. Yandex.ru will also get a Facebook widget on its homepage.

It’s another example of search engines gaining access to the growing trove of information on Facebook’s social graph, and making search a bit more social. Just two weeks ago, Facebook deepened its ties with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

But the partnership also puts a wrinkle in Facebook’s relationship with investor Mail.ru (formerly known as Digital Sky Technologies). Mail.ru and Yandex are rivals, competing aggressively for eyeballs in Russia’s booming internet market. Read more

David Gelles

Square, the much-hyped mobile credit card processing system created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has a big problem: it doesn’t work with the iPhone4.

In a blog post buried deep in the support section of Square’s website, the company acknowledges that the Square card reader interferes with the already problematic iPhone4 antenna.

“This renders our card readers inactive for your iPhone4,” the company wrote on October 9. “We are working on redesigning our card readers and will be contacting our iPhone4 users as soon as they are ready for shipment.”

Update: Square has clearly been scrambling for a fix for awhile now. The day after this post was published,  they emailed to say that, “As of today, we have shipped new card readers to to active users who are accessing Square via an iPhone 4.” Read more

David Gelles

Though Google still makes the lion’s share of its revenues through search advertising, that may begin to change as Android, YouTube and display advertising mature, writes the FT’s Lex column.

Google is not the font of all knowledge, rather the rummage bag in which it resides. However, it has made bold predictions this week as it tries to grab the advertising industry’s attention. By 2015, the Googlers think mobile phones will be the most popular screen for web browsing, and the display advertising market will grow to $50bn.

 Read more

David Gelles

Back in February we reported on a truly unsavoury story of compromised privacy in the digital age. School administrators outside Philadelphia had issued new laptops to 1,800 students, then used the webcams to remotely spy on the students.

A student sued and weeks later, when a separate criminal investigation was announced, we said that “The Lower Merion School District is not going to get off with just a slap on the wrist.”

Turns out Federal prosecutors had a different opinion. This morning they announced that no charges will be brought against the school district or its employees, according to the Associated PressRead more

David Gelles

Facebook has just invited us to an event on Wednesday afternoon at which the company “will provide an update on the service’s features and products.”

Sounds like a product launch, and Facebook is likely to unveil some features that will help it defend its turf from Google’s imminent social networking push.

At the top of the list of features Facebook watchers are anticipating: Places. Read more

David Gelles

In Silicon Valley, success breeds imitation. Witness the glut of doomed e-commerce sites during the Dot Com bubble or, more recently, the plethora of mafia-themed social games on Facebook.

The latest hot trend is group buying. By offering daily deals for restaurants and local businesses, a handful of companies have become profitable middlemen between deal-hungry consumers and businesses looking for new patrons.

Groupon has the early lead, with operations in 80 markets and $135m in fresh funding. It also has plenty of clones — from LivingSocial Deals to Woot to BuyWithMe. Now add another one to the list — Zagat. Read more

David Gelles

Big companies’ Facebook pages are getting more sophisticated all the time.

At first they were simple placeholders to remind Facebook users that a brand was hip to social networking. Then, as social media caught on, they became interactive collaborations between companies and consumers. Soon, the first fully functional storefronts appeared, allowing users to buy flowers and shoes with real, not virtual currency.

Now Delta has upped the ante. Starting today, you can buy airplane tickets on Facebook. Read more

David Gelles

Groupon is already the leader of the pack when it comes to local deals .

By offering deep discounts to restaurants, shops and services in more than 80 markets, the two-year-old company is minting cash (it has been profitable for more than a year). Its success has inspired a raft of imitators, and helped the company draw in a $135m investment from Digital Sky Technologies earlier this year.

When businesses are featured on Groupon, they are slammed with an influx of new customers. It’s a happy problem to have, especially in tough economic times. But demand has overwhelmed Groupon of late, with as many as 700 local businesses a day wanting to offer Groupons. Now, chief executive Andrew Mason thinks he has found the solution — personalised deals. Read more

David Gelles

Amazon has just updated the Kindle, giving the world’s most popular e-reader a much-needed facelift just in time for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

The new device is sleeker, stronger and faster than the previous Kindle. Its body is 21 per cent smaller and 15 per cent lighter at 8.7 ounces. It has double the battery life at one month, plus double the storage capacity — enough for 3,500 books.

At $139 for a wifi only version and $189 for 3G, the new Kindle puts e-readers firmly within reach of mainstream consumers. For those looking for a cheap way in to digital reading, the Kindle is a compelling package. Read more

David Gelles

How do you say “Farmville” in Japanese?

Zynga, maker of the popular social game, wants to find out.

To do so, the San Francisco company is entering into a joint venture with Softbank to develop and distribute games in Japan. As part of the deal, Softbank is investing $150m in Zynga, and will help launch the new business unit, Zynga Japan, in Tokyo.

Details of the partnership are scarce, but it will be interesting to see how Zynga’s games go over in Japan, a difficult market for foreign companies to crack. The deal also brings social gaming, which originated in Asian markets, full circle.  Read more

David Gelles

Bebo founder Michael Birch thinks that becoming a multimillionaire nearly killed him. Shortly after selling his social networking site to AOL for $850m in 2008, a long-term benign defect became dangerous

But just weeks after AOL unloaded the social networking site for pittance, Mr Birch is feeling rejuvenated. In a profile in Wednesday’s FT, technology correspondent Maija Palmer talks with Mr Birch about his health, his investments in new tech companies, and his new company incubator in San Francisco. Read more

David Gelles

Foursquare, the social networking company that lets users “check in” to locations using mobile phones, has taken its first significant round of funding after acquisition talks sputtered.

The $20m series B investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm founded by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. Other investors include Union Square Ventures and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. The deal values Foursquare at $95m. Read more