Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yahoo, Google, MySpace form OpenSocial Foundation

Yahoo said on Tuesday that it is backing a program by rival Google to make software work fluidly across different social networks, and will create a joint foundation to promote the effort.

The normally fierce competitors are working together in the OpenSocial network, which Google formed in November to lure web software developers and other social network sites away from the emerging market leader in social networks, Facebook.

Many social networks — including News Corp's MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn — support OpenSocial, a set of technical specifications that lets software developers build applications such as games and photo shows that can run on any social network, expanding the audience for such software.

However, neither Facebook nor Microsoft, which gave Facebook $240m (£120m) in backing last year, has signed up to support OpenSocial. Microsoft, which has mounted a $42bn hostile takeover bid for Yahoo, also has an agreement to sell advertising on Facebook's site.

One industry analyst says OpenSocial is in catch-up mode.

"There is only one place developers go right now, and that is Facebook," Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li said.

"OpenSocial makes it easier for everybody else to get in the game," said Li.

The scope of OpenSocial is increasing and OpenSocial applications reach more than 200 million users, Joe Kraus, a Google director of product management, said in a conference call. Supporter MySpace alone counts 110 million active users.

"If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together," Kraus said of the OpenSocial effort, which is currently endorsed by more than 15 companies.

Kraus founded JotSpot, a maker of software for building small group websites, which Google acquired last year.

Yahoo, Google and MySpace also said on Tuesday that they will create the OpenSocial Foundation to maintain a neutral, community-governed forum for developing applications. It will be set up as a not-for-profit entity, with assets to be assigned to the new organisation by 1 July.

In a show of Yahoo's willingness to work with Google, a potential ally in its attempt to fend off Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid, Yahoo vice president of platforms Wade Chambers took the unprecedented step of posting the news on an official Google corporate blog aimed at developers.

"Openness is in the Internet's DNA and it's also a major aspect of our culture here at Yahoo," Chambers posted on the Google blog.

Chambers declined, on the joint conference call, to give specific examples of how Yahoo plans to use OpenSocial applications.

Yahoo executives have showcased new versions of their flagship email service, Yahoo Mail, and software for using the internet on mobile phones that have deeply integrated social-networking features. A key stated goal of Yahoo is to become a primary starting point for web users, not just to reach Yahoo's own media properties but also other social networks and sites.

Facebook, which has had the greatest momentum among social networks in attracting new users over the past year, has remained aloof from OpenSocial. It offers its own simple set of technical specifications for application developers.

Independent developers have built 19,000 applications that run inside Facebook, which now has 67 million active users.

Yahoo's Chambers said it would welcome Microsoft or any other company that wants to sign on.

"Any large player should be open to participate," Chambers said.

News Clip Courtesy : Reuters, 26 Mar, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tamil actor Raghuvaran passes away

CHENNAI: Veteran Tamil actor Raghuvaran, who carved a niche for himself in character roles, died on Wednesday after a brief illness.

Raghuvaran, 49, is survived by his wife Rohini, from whom he had separated, and a son. A heavy smoker, he was having health problems for quite sometime and was admitted to a private hospital about a week ago.

Raghuvaran, who had carved a niche for himself in roles that displayed sadism, had acted in more than 80 films in Tamil and Malayalam and had bagged many awards, including the Tamil Nadu government's 'Kalaimamani' (artiste of excellence) and best character artiste awards.

He had acted with top actors, including superstar Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan. He had also figured in Hindi films Shiva , the first Hindi directorial venture of Ram Gopal Varma, and in Lal Badshah .

His portrayal of the father of a mentally-challenged daughter in Anjali , which was also dubbed in Hindi, earned him critical acclaim.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Foreign journalists expelled from Tibet

China has expelled journalists from Lhasa in Tibet and suspended permits for foreigners to travel to the region.

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association has issued a statement saying reporters from at least six Hong Kong media groups were ordered to leave Lhasa by plane.

The association called the expulsion unacceptable and said it contravened new government regulations allowing greater access for foreign journalists prior to this year's Beijing Olympics.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said it had details of two dozen foreign reporters who were expelled from Lhasa and other Tibetan areas.

Some reporters were told they were barred due to police action, the club said.

Extended government censorship of the Internet and international television broadcasts since the protests began last week was also hampering journalists, it said.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau reported that staff from international non-governmental organizations were also ordered to leave Lhasa by Monday, raising fears that troops could toughen their crackdown on the protestors once a deadline for protestors to surrender passed at midnight Monday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spitzer call girl, an aspiring singer, says she’s no monster

NEW YORK, MARCH 13: She left a broken home on the Jersey Shore at 17 and came to New York City to work the nightclubs as a rhythm and blues singer. Now, at 22, she is the unwitting, and as yet unseen, star of the seamy drama that is the downfall of Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York.

Kristen, the prostitute described in a federal affidavit as having had a rendezvous with Spitzer on February 13 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, has spent the last few days in her ninth-floor apartment in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. On Monday, she made a brief appearance in federal court, where a lawyer was appointed to represent her. She is expected to be a witness in the case against four people charged with operating a prostitution ring called the Emperor’s Club VIP.

In a series of telephone interviews on Tuesday night, she said she had slept very little over the past week, with all the stress of the case.

“I just don’t want to be thought of as a monster,” the woman said as she told the tiniest tidbits of her story.

Born Ashley Youmans but now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, she spoke softly and with good humor as she added with significant understatement: “This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated.”

She has not been charged. The lawyer appointed to represent her, Don D Buchwald, told a magistrate judge in court on Monday that she had been subpoenaed to testify in a grand jury investigation. Asked to swear that she had accurately filled out and signed a financial affidavit, she responded affirmatively.

A person with knowledge of the Emperor’s Club operation confirmed that the woman interviewed by The New York Times was the woman identified as Kristen in the affidavit. Buchwald confirmed various details of Dupré’s background but would not discuss the contents of the affidavit.

Dupré said by telephone Tuesday night that she was worried about how she would pay her rent since the man she was living with “walked out on me” after she discovered he had fathered two children. She said she was considering working at a friend’s restaurant or, once her apartment lease expires, moving back with her family in New Jersey “to relax.”

She did not say when she had started working for the Emperor’s Club, or how often she had liaisons arranged through the ring. Asked when she met Governor Spitzer and how many times they had seen each other, Dupré said she had no comment.

Music is her first love, and on the MySpace page, Ms. Dupré mentions Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, Christina Aguilera and Lauryn Hill among a long list of influences, including her brother, Kyle. (She also lists Whitney Houston, Madonna, Mary J. Blige and Amy Winehouse as her top MySpace friends.) In the interview, she said she saw the Rolling Stones perform at Radio City Music Hall on their last tour after a friend gave her two tickets. “They were amazing,” she said.

On MySpace, her page says: “I am all about my music and my music is all about me. It flows from what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and how I feel.”

She left “a broken family” at age 17, having been abused, according to the MySpace page, and has used drugs and “been broke and homeless.”

“Learned what it was like to have everything and lose it, again and again,” she writes. “Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone.

“But I made it,” she continues. “I’m still here and I love who I am. If I never went through the hard times, I would not be able to appreciate the good ones. Cliché, yes, but I know it’s true.”

Dupré’s mother, Carolyn Capalbo, 46, said that after her daughter finished sophomore year in high school, Dupré moved to North Carolina. “She was a young kid with typical teenage rebellion issues, but we are extremely close now,” Capalbo said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fibre goes green at fashion week

News Clip, NEW DELHI:

The so-called 'shallow' fashion fraternity is becoming environment conscious - as many as nine designers will showcase eco-friendly collections during the India Fashion Week.

The 11th edition of the fashion extravaganza is scheduled for March 12-16 at Pragati Maidan.

Intending to contribute their bit in protecting the planet, designers Charu Parashar, Shubhra, Khushali Kumar, Amit GT, Rahul Reddy, Abhijeet Khanna, Ekta and Ruchira, Alpana & Neeraj of the label 'Azara' and Ashish, Viral and Vikrant of 'Virtues' will display outfits made up of Birla Cellulose, an environment-friendly fibre.

"We have always innovated fibres which are in harmony with nature. Designers using heavy metal free fibres for their collections would promote eco-fashion," said Vijay Kaul, chief marketing officer, Fibre Business, Aditya Birla Group.

"It would encourage more designers to embrace green fashion across the country and help conserve the environment," Kaul said. Their fibre is biodegradable.

Though eco-fashion will burn a deeper hole in the pockets of customers, style gurus say the fibre will be a huge hit.

"For such a vital cause - saving mother earth - money becomes secondary. When one doesn't mind splurging on other luxury items, why not for a cause of the highest order?" asked Parashar.

"Moreover the fabric is just magical, it falls beautifully and is very comfortable. Apart from silhouettes I have also done a lot of furnishings. There is an array of choices for customers and I am sure they will fall in love with it," she added.

Said Kumar: "It is interesting to experiment with fabrics."

The creative experts said that the 'magic fibre' promises good business.

"Natural fabrics are a huge hit abroad. Contrary to synthetic ones they find them more exotic. I am sure it would attract lots of international buyers," said Alpana.

"Because of threats like global warming, people are reverting to their roots and sporting eco-fashion. In our country also it is catching up. Also, there is a great demand for cruise wear and resort wear. So I am expecting good business," she added.

Last year as well, designers Siddartha Tytler, Deepika Govind and Anita Dongre displayed eco-friendly collections to convey the message that the environment needs to be protected.

And in the exhibition area, Anita Ahuja's stall stood tall, offering eco-friendly, colourful and trendy accessories and bags made out of recycled plastic.

Commenting on the steps taken by the fashion fraternity to protect the environment, Rathi Vinay Jha, director general of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), said: "It is wonderful to see that Indian designers are increasingly getting involved in working on issues of social and environmental concern.

"This is in line with the FDCI's objective of generating environment-friendly products and increasing the use of recycled material."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

172 Magazines Granted Permission To Launch In India

Expect rush of foreign publications in India, particularly in the print media space.

Over the past year, we've seen the plans to publish Fortune magazine, the Economist, Rolling Stone, among others. Now the I&B minister PR Dasmunsi has told the Rajya Sabha that as many as 172 foreign magazines in the speciality/scientif ic/technical sector have been given permission to launch Indian editions.

Apart from this, permission has also been granted for publication of 107 magazines by Indian co's having Foreign Direct Investment - some of them 100 percent FDI. As of now, only news and current affairs publications are subject to an FDI limit of 26 percent. While I'm not foretelling the death of print media yet, it's likely that some of these publications will also have their own websites for Indian readers.

Of the ones mentioned above, Rolling Stone India is already preparing its site.