HUA HIN, Thailand - Facebook has had a facelift this week as the social
networking website rolled out a redesign featuring a cleaner interface and
better integration. Company officials claimed the update will give users more
control and ownership of their profiles. It integrates feed technology, which
further helps users to tailor their profile, with the site forum and they will
be able to preview third party applications before adding them to their
The website's new face looks a lot more like FriendFeed, a similar site
launched this year. The latest upgrade of the social platform is one of many
efforts to fine tune the site, integrate more functionality for users and
attract new members.
Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced new
features to run outside of the website's current reach at the Facebook annual
developers conference this week. "Facebook Connect is our version of Facebook
for the rest of the Web," he told an audience of 1,000 industry executives,
software makers, and media. Playing nice with other websites is the name of the
game here as this huge social portal makes every effort to extend its reach and
expand its membership - which already exceeds 90 million.
Microsoft, which last year bought a US$240 million, 1.6% stake in Facebook,
beating rivals Google to the investment, plans to work more closely with its
partner by providing web search and advertising solutions.
Facebook, meanwhile, is fighting German social site StudiVZ, claiming in a
legal action that it copies the look, feel, features and services of the
US-based site. "As with any counterfeit product, StudiVZ's uncontrolled quality
standards for service, features and privacy negatively impact the genuine
article," claimed Facebook in its legal complaint, which seeks compensation.
StudiVZ, which operates the largest network for students in German-speaking
countries, StudiVZ.net, is countersuing Facebook in Stuttgart, Germany, seeking
a judgment that it doesn't violate Facebook's rights.
Marcus Riecke, chief executive of StudiVZ, claims it is being sued because
Facebook has yet to transfer its success to other countries and its strategy
seems to be, "If you can't beat them, sue them."
has added to its services this week with the launch of "Knol", which allows
people to write about their area of expertise under their own bylines. It
appears to be in direct competition with Wikipedia, the difference there being
the anonymity of the older site's articles. The product manager for the Google
project said that identifying the author would increase the likelihood that
users would trust the article. Authors will have one blog-type page for their
article, which will not be chronologically updated - Google will then rank them
Knol focuses on individual or groups of authors as opposed to Wikipedia's
subject-related approach, and authors will give permissions to readers for
updates to their articles. An early view of the site, which can be found at
knol.google.com, shows primarily medical commentaries. This is likely to expand
to cover a wide range of topics.
Not a week goes by when we don't have another twist in the Microsoft-Yahoo
relationship saga. Yahoo investor Carl Icahn this week called a truce in his
efforts to persuade its board to accept a deal with suitor Microsoft. Icahn has
appointed two allies to the board, giving him control of three of the 11 board
seats. He may nevertheless still try to persuade the remaining eight board
members, whose positions are shortly up for re-election, to sell the business
to Microsoft. The software giant has recently stated that it is interested only
in Yahoo's search division.
The pressure is off Yahoo for now and the latest events prolong the wait to
beyond the August 1 shareholder meeting. Yahoo's shares fell 3% on Monday, with
further declines on the next two days, as investors considered the agreement
with Icahn as a sign that a sale of Yahoo to Microsoft was less likely.
six largest Internet service providers have agreed to send warning letters to
customers they suspect of downloading copyrighted music files. Many are likely
to be received by unknowing parents whose children are using their computers to
download music from peer-to-peer (P2P) websites. Opponents to the agreement say
that it will achieve nothing and will almost border on censorship if the ISPs
decide to cut the service of those that ignore the warnings. Government
legislation may be required to add a bite to the bark.
The music industry is claiming heavy losses to online piracy and illegal file
sharing, with Britain's University of Hertfordshire research showing that more
than 60% of people download music from P2P systems. With government backing,
the entertainment industry hopes that the warnings could stop up to 70% of
illegal file sharers.
It seems that the iPhone is still running hot. Users have not only been
impressed with faster connectivity and GPS technology from the 3G unit, the new
"App Store" seems to have made an impression too. App Store is an online portal
for downloading additional applications, or apps, and third-party programs for
the iPhone and the iPod Touch. According to Apple, more than 900 apps have been
introduced to the store since its launch this month.
The weekend after the iPhone's launch, more than 10 million applications were
downloaded through the store, some free. All run through Apple's often
intrusive iTunes program, which tracks everything. There is plenty to choose
from, ranging from games to news-feeders to office tools to music and radio
apps - all powered by Apple affiliates of course and not a hint of a Window in
Technical details on flaws in the Internet domain name addressing system were
accidentally posted on a popular security blog this week. We reported on the
fault discovered by security researcher Dan Kaminsky this month. The details of
the DNS bug have now made their way into the public arena, opening the flood
gates for hackers seeking an easy exploit. (See
Viacom wins victory over privacy July 12.)
The flaw can be exploited to launch DNS cache poisoning attacks, which
essentially cause Internet servers and ISPs to accept false information. If a
server becomes compromised, an attacker could redirect web traffic from a
legitimate website such as atimes.com to a malicious one. It would then be easy
to steal user information. This could potentially affect every site on the web.
Kaminsky planned to release the technical details to system administrators at a
conference on August 6. Monday's leak has thwarted his plan. Wednesday saw the
release of attack code to exploit the flaw so his only advice at the moment is
for Internet server administrators to patch their systems, immediately.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.