Thursday, October 25, 2007

Extending Microsoft Money - The Web Needs an Alternative to Paypal

last100 has an interesting post on Microsoft Points,
a kind of virtual currency for the Xbox Live Marketplace and the Zune
Marketplace. In a lot of ways, Microsoft Points act just like real
money and functions in a similar way to Paypal.
Mack D. Male wrote that "if you see a movie you want to buy on Xbox
Live, you just need to make sure you have enough points available in
your account. The main difference, of course, is that you don’t
“purchase” money, but you do purchase Microsoft Points."

Mack says that "Microsoft Points can be purchased online using a
credit card, or from a participating retail location in the form of a
Microsoft Points Card. As with airtime minutes on your mobile phone,
you purchase allotments of points at once, ranging from 400 to 5000
points. The price varies all around the world, but in the United States
80 Microsoft Points is equal to $1. If you live in a country with
government sales tax, you’ll pay that on top of the price of the

big question is can Microsoft Points be extended and used across
Windows Live in the near future, as an equivalent to the likes of
eBay's Paypal or Google Checkout? Microsoft blogger Robert McLaws wrote about this idea back in January, and speculated that it might be called Windows Live Payments. This was based on a Bill Gates comment in February, in which Gates hinted that that online micropayments is an area Microsoft will pursue.

As last100 noted, almost all of the major forces in the digital living room have a payments system of some sort. Sony has the PlayStation Network Card, Nintendo has Wii Points, Google has Checkout, and Amazon recently launched FPS.
Sony and Nintendo’s systems are virtual currencies, whereas Google and
Amazon’s are payment services. Microsoft could be the first company to
offer both by opening up Microsoft Points to the world.

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when considering such a
system across Windows Live is: look what happened to Passport.
Microsoft's 90's identity system was a failure, with consumers
ultimately not trusting Microsoft to manage their online identities. So
if users don't trust Microsoft with their ID, what chance they will
trust Microsoft with their money?

We want a Paypal competitor

But I think the micropayments infrastructure is due for a shake-up.
Paypal has gotten almost arrogant of late, with their ridiculously high
fees and honey-catching account structure (tip: don't sign up for a
"premium" account, you end up paying much more in fees than a simple
"personal" account). Google Checkout so far has little to offer
ordinary consumers, so right now Paypal enjoys a virtual monopoly. So I
for one would welcome a Windows Live Payments system. OK, this goes
beyond a virtual currency - which Microsoft Points is right now - but
the opportunity is there to extend into micropayments.

What do you think, will Microsoft Points be used in Windows Live services to enable a micropayments system? Would you use it?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CircleLending Becomes Virgin Money USA; Gets Makeover and Millions in Funding

Peer-to-peer lending service CircleLending has been taken under the wings of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire and rebranded as Virgin Money USA

Virgin’s US investment firm recently bought a majority stake in the
Waltham, Massachusetts company, which acts as an online middleman for
friends and family who want to loan each other money. The exact amount
of money invested by Virgin has not been disclosed.

Virgin Money USA differs from other online lending services, because
it focuses on loans between people who are familiar with one another. Prosper, Lending Club, Kiva, and Zopa, on the other hand, facilitate loans between relative strangers.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MySpace Platform To Launch Next Week

is gearing up to launch MySpace Platform, according to a number of
third party developers who’ve been contacted for input on the product.
While this has been rumored since June,
this is the first indication that the service is preparing to actually
launch. And we also have information that suggests that it will be
announced next week at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

The new developer platform, like Facebook Platform
which was announced in May, will essentially be a set of APIs and a new
markup language that will allow third party developers to create
applications that run within MySpace. Developers will be able to
include Flash applets, iFrame elements and Javascript snippets in their
applications, and access most of the core MySpace resources (profile
information, friend list, activity history, etc.). Applications will
need to be hosted on MySpace servers.

And in a big change in strategy for MySpace, developers will be able
to serve their own advertising within their applications, and keep 100%
of the revenue (Facebook also allows this).

Suddenly Facebook, with nearly 5,500 third party applications, has
significant competition around their platform - Within a month both
MySpace and Google (see our post here)
will probably have launched their own services. Platform competition is
great for developers, but it also means they need to create and
maintain separate code for each platform they choose to play on.
Someone is hopefully working on a startup that will streamline that
process for people. Whoever does it first, and best, can have a winner
on their hands.

Article Link

Monday, October 8, 2007

I'm majoring in Facebook, how about you?

SAN FRANCISCO (Fortune) -- Last Thursday afternoon before the most
hyped class at Stanford University was about to start, instructor B.J.
Fogg and his four teaching assistants attempted to solve this
engineering problem. How do you cram 100 students into a classroom that
only seats 56? Arrange chairs at long tables near the fire exits.

students, though, didn't seem to care if they had to sit on the floor
to take the most popular computer science course this fall quarter: how
to create engaging applications for Facebook.

out steep tuition fees to take a class on the social network of the
moment may seem like a good payoff in the long-term, but few developers
have yet to turn significant profits from writing Facebook
applications. More than 5,000 applications have been created since
Facebook announced in May that third-party developers could build on
its platform, and only four boast more than 1 million users.

who has a background in Web development and experimental psychology,
polled his students on why Facebook is the most important social
network. "Facebook is the most convenient and respectable way to feel
connected to friends, get updated on existing friends, find new people,
build relationships and express identities," he says. "For me, the
interesting part of the class is to do research with a bunch of

Students, however, seem
more interested in cashing out. "I want to build a really cool app and
then sell it for some amount of money," says Jennifer Gee, a
21-year-old computer science graduate student. Classmates nearby nod in

Others question whether a Facebook-specific
curriculum will be useful to future developers. Social networks like
News Corp's MySpace, Google's Orkut and Bebo are all expected to open
their platforms to third-party developers soon. "From an engineering
perspective, learning to build for the social web on just one platform
seems like a short-sighted educational strategy," says Alex Payne, a
developer for San Francisco-based Twitter, a service that lets users
send short text updates that can be posted to a personal webpage
through IM, SMS or blogging tools.

The ten-week course meets
once a week for three hours and requires students to build two Facebook
applications in three-person teams. They will present their creations
to potential investors at the end of the quarter. Thursday's class
begins with an easy trivia quiz. What month and year did the Facebook
platform launch? According to news articles, which company intends to
invest in Facebook? What are the three basic roles that computers play?

"Hopefully it's our last quiz in the class," Fogg says, "but it
depends on performance." At that pace, it's unlikely that students will
learn any secrets that developers don't already know. However, they
will be treated to special guest speakers. About an hour into the
session, Facebook sent a representative from its nearby Palo Alto
offices. "I'm so excited that you're excited," says Ami Vora, a
Facebook platform product marketing rep. "We can't build the entire
user experience ourselves." Vora gave a 30-minute presentation on the
Facebook platform and highlighted the new FB Fund, a $10 million grant
program that provides up to $250,000 to developers building promising

The Stanford students had
just hit the jackpot, and they were definitely interested. An
instructor asked for the main contact for the new FB Fund. Vora said
she was, but declined to give her email address. "Your best bet is to
go through your professors," she says. If a winning application doesn't
pan out, there are still other networking opportunities. Jia Shen, a
co-founder of RockYou, which owns 15 Facebook applications at last
count, teaches a supplementary lab session. Shen says he's keeping his
eye to recruit talented students for potential openings at his company.
"It's definitely going to be a breeding ground," he says.

hours later, the students spill out of Cordura Hall with their first
class assignment -- to create a Facebook application in two weeks.
Computer science major Dave Koslow, 22, won't reveal what he's
planning. However he's optimistic that a Facebook class will make him
more marketable when he graduates. "I'd never take a class on MySpace,"
he says

Friday, October 5, 2007

PayPal: Phishing, Fundraising, And In The Lab

you sick and tired of phishing attacks, those fraudulent emails
designed to look like trusted corporations but aimed at stealing your
personal account information? Today Yahoo (YHOO), together with eBay
(EBAY) and its PayPal unit, started to roll out an authentication technology
called DomainKeys that supposedly blocks malicious, fake eBay and
PayPal messages from being delivered into the inboxes of Yahoo Mail
users by allowing Internet Service Providers to automatically decide if
messages should be delivered.

Speaking of PayPal, the company has teamed up with News Corp.’s (NWS) MySpace
to “virally fundraise” for nonprofits and politicians on
the social networking site. PayPal has developed “fundraising
badges,” which are basically widgets that are a bit fancier than
the typical PayPal “donate” button that could be copied
onto any site to inspire philantrophy via the Internet.

The widget, which can be found on over 20 charity and politician
profiles on MySpace, makes it easy for site visitors to donate money to
their chosen cause. Once users donate funds, their name is added to a
scrolling list that includes the names of other supporters of the
particular campaign. Since each of these widgets can be copied and
pasted into any user profile, web site or blog, the idea is that the
badges will spread virally and subsequently increase the amount of
funds raised. To encourage the viral effect to take place, the widget
also displays a “supporter tree” that tracks the users who
have added the tools to their profiles, and how much each person has

The fundraising widget was created in “PayPal Labs,”
a new division of the company designed to look for innovative and
creative ways to leverage the online payment service. Launched today,
the PayPal Labs site (which can be found at also describes a Facebook app that can be used to send and get money from friends.