Weekend news round-up – Snapping at Snapchat, inside the Twitter business machine

11 Feb 2013

In our round-up of the weekend’s top tech stories, we look at coverage of the mystique behind Snapchat, Microsoft’s confusing Surface Pro launch, the momentum of the Y Combinator start-up machine, and the future shape of Twitter as it lines up its ducks for an IPO.

Investors snapping at heels of Snapchat

While TechCrunch revealed that the fast-growing messaging app Snapchat raised US$13.5m in a Series A funding round led by Benchmark, The New York Times wrote an interesting profile on the founders of the enigmatic new start-up, Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel. The profile was on the money when it came to why Snapchat is so damn addictive for a rising cohort of next-generation web users.

“More than 60m photos or messages are sent each day through an app called Snapchat and then, after they are viewed for a few seconds, the missives vanish. That disappearing act – and a volume that is over a tenth of the well-established Facebook’s – has made the tiny start-up a technology hit, amassing millions of users and the backing of some of the most respected names in Silicon Valley, even though it doesn’t make any money.

“Because images sent through the application self-destruct seconds after they are opened, Snapchat is being embraced as an antidote to a world where nearly every feeling, celebration and life moment is captured to be shared, logged, liked, commented on, stored, searched and sold. For people who don’t want to worry about unflattering pictures or embarrassing status updates coming back to haunt them, the app’s appeal seems obvious.”

Y Combinator companies raise €1.5bn so far

TechCrunch reported that alumni companies that graduated from the bootcamp-style Y Combinator programme in Silicon Valley have raised a combined total of €1.5bn in venture capital.

Since it began, more than 380 companies have graduated from the programme.

“Y Combinator selects two classes of start-ups per year into their three-month programme, during which the expanding team of mentors connects their teams with investors and invests in the companies. Initially, Yuri Milner and Ron Conway’s Start Fund invested $150k in each start-up. However, in November, the accelerator created a new fund called YC VC and decreased its investment to $80k per start-up in an effort to ‘become more start-up friendly’,” TechCrunch reported.

Twitter hikes its promoted trend prices

Want to know how much it costs to be a promoted trend on Twitter? US$200,000! Yep, that’s two hundred thousand big ones a day, according to All Things Digital.

This represents a 33pc increase over the US$150,000 it previously cost.

Twitter started selling promoted trends after it launched its “Promoted Tweet” ads, which CEO Dick Costolo describes as the company’s “atomic unit” of its ad strategy.

But while advertisers are still trying to get their heads around paid Twitter messages — they’re not really banner ads, and they’re not really Google-like search ads —  promoted trends have been a hit from the get-go. That’s because it’s the closest thing the company has to a conventional display ad: If you buy one, you’ve got a very good chance that everyone who uses Twitter that day will see it.

So at the very least, the price hike should encourage Twitter and its investors, which are gearing up the company for an eventual IPO.

The shape of Twitter to come

While the Twitter business machine ramps up, BuzzFeed presented a vision of what the next phase of Twitter might look like.

According to the report, the real hint lies in its Discover tab and it appears the microblogging service is just itching to take on Facebook with a more consistent view of exchanges between users.

“The message from Twitter, consistently, is that Twitter is going to be richer and more media-centric. And so it looks more and more like Facebook in some ways than Twitter, which was simply zigzag slashes 140 characters long or so, neatly contained in a single lane of traffic.

“The Discover tab has been a harbinger of the next Twitter for some time; with the Discover updates launched on Wednesday, it seems like an ideal time to consider what that Twitter will look like. Well, quite possibly something like this.”

Microsoft’s confusing launch of Surface Pro

Microsoft used to be a kind of predictable tech giant and often revealed its hand in advance so that the market tuned into what it was doing, unlike Apple which likes to make a show out of proceedings.

Unfortunately, while it seems that with the launch of Windows 8 Microsoft appeared to be trying to mimic its California rival (Apple) with a little show of mystique, other parts of the organisation don’t seem to be following the script.

ZDNet pointed to the software giant’s decision to confusingly disclose storage figures around its new Surface Pro, which went on sale in the US at the weekend.

“Some commentators were horrified when Microsoft mistakenly confirmed that the smaller Surface Pro would only have 23GB of free disk space and the larger 128GB model would be limited to 83GB of storage.

“As it turns out, those numbers are way off the mark. The actual figures, when expressed in the decimal system used to calculate the 64 and 128GB total storage, are 32GB and 96GB, respectively. If you use the built-in tool to relocate the Recovery partition, the amount of free space available climbs to 40GB for the Surface Pro 64 and 104GB for the Surface Pro 128,” ZDNet reported.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years