Weekend news roundup

26 Jul 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Fraudster has celebs’ knickers in a twist

The Sunday Tribune reported on a Facebook impersonator who created several hoax accounts for well-known Irish people has claimed he is running the pages in order to “skewer” and embarrass the individuals.

The impersonator, who contacted the Sunday Tribune last week under the pseudonym of Brendan O’Connor, is currently running the fake Facebook pages of author John Banville, Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy, historian Diarmaid Ferriter, celebrity chef Rachel Allen, journalist Fintan O’Toole and Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan amongst others.

A spokesman for Banville said the author found the page “quite creepy. He is a writer and doesn’t care too much about Facebook, but we are going to look into this and try to get it taken down. It can’t be that easy to set up a page like that and make it genuine either, so it is strange.”

According to the imitator, he is styling himself on ‘V’ from box-office hit film V for Vendetta, and is currently “in the writing game”.

Zynga: the Google of Games

The New York Times carried an interesting article all about Zynga, the company behind social gaming hits like FarmVille, FrontierVille, Mafia Wars and Cafe World. Mark Pincus, Zynga’s 44-year-old founder, in a pep talk this month, told his company’s newcomers that he had set out to build an enduring internet icon, one that was synonymous with fun.

“I thought, it’s 2007, and this can’t be all that the internet is meant to be,” he said. There has to be more than “a garage sale, a bookstore, a search engine and a portal,” he added in a good-natured putdown of the web giants eBay, Amazon, Google and Yahoo.

And lest there be any doubt which of those giants Zynga aims to match, Pincus said the opportunity to build an online entertainment empire was “like search before Google came along.”

So far, he seems on track. The Zynga Game Network, as the company is officially called, is the hottest start-up to emerge from Silicon Valley since Twitter and, before that, Facebook. Unlike Twitter, which has meager revenue, Zynga is on a path to pocket as much as $500m in revenue this year, according to the Inside Network, which tracks Facebook apps.

Foursquare stalker

The Guardian at the weekend carried an interesting article entitled ‘How I became a Foursquare stalker.’ It’s the coolest social networking tool in the world. But is the geo-location app Foursquare a stalker’s dream? Just how easy it is to uncover the intimate details of a complete stranger’s life?

Writer Leo Hickman wrote how he was drawn to the movements of a certain ‘Louise’ and new everywhere she went by just glancing at his handset. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo have all come before it, but Foursquare promises something new, Hickman said. After a decade of false dawns for the industry, it leads the way in a wave of new “geolocative” social networking tools.

Unofficially, at least, 2010 has been labelled by many within the technology world as the “year of location”. In addition to offering the communal connectivity of Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare also uses your smartphone’s global positioning system (GPS) to broadcast your precise location to your “friends” and, should you so wish, to the wider world. Users are encouraged to “check in” on their phone whenever they arrive at a point of interest – a shop, a cafe, a museum, a nightclub, an office – so that fellow users know where they are. A great way supposedly to see if any of your friends are around and about.

Maloney backs e-voting

The Sunday Independent wrote how Barry Maloney’s Balderton Capital thinks e-voting has a profitable future.

The Barry Maloney-led private equity group has put together $9.2m (€7.2m) in investment funding for Spanish firm Scytl. Scytl makes internet-based voting technology, which is used in more than a dozen countries that are trialling or using public e-voting, including Britain, the US, France, Norway and Australia.

Florida county used the technology in 2008 and it has been used in two local authority elections in Britain. Balderton partner Bernard Liautaud has joined Scytl’s board. Other Balderton investments include gambling business Betfair and luxury fashion retailer Mywardrobe.

Mobile infrastructure revival yet to spark

The Financial Times reported that surging use of wireless internet services has yet to spark revival in the mobile infrastructure market, the chief executive of Ericsson warned on Friday.

Hans Vestberg said demand for third-generation mobile equipment was growing steadily but it was still not fully offsetting the decline in second-generation networks.

His comments came as the Swedish company announced a drop in sales and weaker-than-expected profits for the second quarter. Nokia Siemens Networks, the Finnish-German joint venture, said on Thursday that it too had experienced a fall in sales during the period.

Vestberg said he remained confident that increased use of wireless networks by bandwidth-hungry smartphones and mobile computers would eventually drive resurgence in the industry. But there were few signs of improvement in the second quarter as Ericsson’s sales fell 8pc to SKr48bn ($6.5bn), with all regions except North America experiencing decline.

Vodafone disposes of minority divisions

The same paper reported how Vodafone’s chief executive on Friday sought to quell a potential rebellion at its annual meeting next week by talking up the prospect of selling some of the group’s minority stakes in overseas mobile phone operators.

Vittorio Colao used Vodafone’s first-quarter update to declare that its minority investments were not “core” assets.

“We are not here to manage minorities,” he said.

Vodafone regards a disposal of its 3.2pc stake in China Mobile worth £4.2bn as the most straightforward transaction.

But Vodafone is willing to consider selling its 44pc of SFR, France’s second-largest mobile operator, and its 45pc of Verizon Wireless, the leading US wireless phone group.

Colao said proceeds from disposals could be returned to shareholders or used for new investments.

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the activist investor that has a 0.42pc stake in Vodafone, is calling for board changes at the group that would lead to a restructuring.