A “Hole-Filler” Gets Funded: TweetPhoto Raises $2.6 Million

The new conventional wisdom is that photo-sharing systems built around Twitter are toast.

But don’t tell that to the TweetPhoto team. The San Diego-based photo service, which is indeed built around Twitter, has just raised $2.6 million, led by Canaan Partners, supported by Anthem Venture Partners and Qualcomm (QCOM).

The series A funding certainly seems a bit more fraught than it did about a week ago. Since then, Twitter appears to have decided on a build/buy strategy for some functions it previously allowed third-party developers to handle.

And if you believe that Twitter investor Fred Wilson’s “hole-filling” blog post is a road map, then Twitter is set to run its own photo service sooner than later.

If so, the money TweetPhoto just raised makes it unlikely that Twitter will buy the start-up because it’s now a much more expensive acquisition. And you can say the same thing about YFrog, the Sequoia-backed photo service whose parent company, ImageShack, has raised $11 million.

So if you follow that logic, Twitter will either buy TwitPic, which is the most popular Twitter-centric photo service (and one that hasn’t raised venture funding)–or build its own.

TweetPhoto CEO Sean Callahan says his service will survive whatever Twitter does because it can work well with other social networks, like Foursquare and Facebook. And Deepak Kamra, the Canaan partner leading the investment, says that his team knew Twitter would want to do more of this stuff on its own, and planned accordingly.

“I think there’s a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt for the next 6 months or so. Which also creates opportunity,” Kamra said.

But even if Twitter hadn’t roiled the waters last week, TweetPhoto–and all the other photo uploading services–wouldn’t have smooth sailing. All of the services boast big traffic, but it’s expensive to host all those photos, and it’s hard to sell ads against those pages.

Meanwhile, do you know which photo service you use to push pictures to Twitter? It turns I out I use TweetPhoto, because that’s the default photo service on both TweetDeck and SocialScope, my two primary Twitter platforms. But I had to look it up to find out.

Callahan says he can lure more developers and distribution because his API is more robust than his competitors. And he says his new funding will allow him to experiment with revenue models. One idea: Charge other publishers for the right to use his users’ images as stock photos.

I think that one poses a bunch of problems. For instance, what do you do with the weird images I’ve uploaded?

But Callahan says he now has time to figure it out. “We’re going to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks,” he says. “That was the purpose of doing the series A.”

4.13.2010 — San Diego, CA – TweetPhoto (http://tweetphoto.com), the real-time media sharing platform for the social web, today announced it has secured $2.6 million in a Series A financing led by Canaan Partners, with additional investment from Anthem Venture Partners and angel investors. The company plans to use the capital to accelerate the development of its core offering, a platform of open APIs and mobile SDKs for real-time media sharing across the social web. The round will also allow the company to expand its developer relations program and to introduce new products that further strengthen its position as the preferred way for leading application developers to incorporate real-time media sharing into their applications.

“We are extremely pleased that we have been able to assemble a great syndicate of investors to help us in the next phase of our growth,” said Sean Callahan, CEO of TweetPhoto. “This round of funding will allow us to further attract top engineering and sales talent while we continue to focus on delivering the best platform available to instantly share media anywhere from any device. In the next few months, we will significantly expand our offerings and make it easier for developers to create compelling applications that leverage the social web.”

TweetPhoto allows users to share, discover, and interact with media seamlessly across multiple social networks through its developer platform. TweetPhoto users can link their accounts and publish media instantly to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and other popular social networks, and the TweetPhoto APIs support features such as photo commenting, favoriting and voting, meta-data filters, geo-tagging, location-based search, friend feeds and customizable widgets. These features are exposed through a rich suite of easy-to-implement APIs and software libraries that let application developers easily incorporate these best-in-class media sharing capabilities into their mobile or web applications.

“Consumer demand for intuitive, effective and easy to use media sharing technology continues to increase,” said Deepak Kamra, General Partner at Canaan Partners. “The number of people connecting through social networking sites and the social web is still growing, and sharing rich, personalized content is a key part of the experience. We’re excited to leverage our investment history and experience in the social media industry to help TweetPhoto expand its offerings and achieve a new level of growth.”

“Sean and his team have built a solution that provides a simple and elegant way for developers to create more engaging, connected applications,” said Brian Mesic, General Partner at Anthem Venture Partners. “The company has great traction, and the platform has proven to be scalable and robust through a period of truly impressive growth.”

One year after launching the service, TweetPhoto has attracted a dedicated team of developer-friendly engineers and key sales executives serving nearly 15 million monthly unique visitors from various social networks, 40 million API requests a day and 250 million images each month.

Tencent Invests $300 Million In Facebook And Zynga Backer Digital Sky Technologies


Digital Sky Technologies, which has been busily investing hundreds of millions in American social media firms in recent months, now has a new backer of its own. Tencent, the big Chinese internet company, is investing $300 million in DST in exchange for a 10.26 percent stake; Tencent is also getting 0.51 percent of the voting power in DST.

The deal will link Digital Sky, which counts several major internet companies in Russia and Eastern Europe, including e-mail giant Mail.ru, among its holdings with Tencent, which also has a big presence in online communications with its ownership of QQ. The companies say the investment involves a “strategic partnership,” although they don’t provide details in their announcement.

In recent months, Digital Sky Technologies has been spending heavily in the U.S.—buying a 1.9 percent stake in Facebook for $200 million, and also leading a $180 million round in Zynga. Digital Sky Technologies says it itself had raised $1 billion in funding through 2009.

Both Tencent and Digital Sky Technologies are both reportedly bidding for AOL’s ICQ. Considering their new partnership, it will be interesting to watch whether one of the two will now pull out.


Twitter’s Developer Conference Starts Early, With a Group Therapy Session

Twitter was supposed to be assembling its far-flung network of developers in San Francisco this week for a pep rally and a peek at the company’s future.

Instead, it is trying to prevent a mass freak-out, brought on by Twitter’s apparent change in strategy last week: Rather than depending on outside developers to build out the service, it will compete with them, at least in some cases.

Twitter’s shift has worried enough of the messaging service’s top third-party developers that they’ve hastily scheduled their own summit for Tuesday. That’s a day before Twitter’s official “Chirp” conference kicks off.

The loosely organized gathering, assembled over the weekend via email, doesn’t have an official agenda. And Laura Fitton, the de facto ringleader, takes pains to describe it as something akin to a group therapy session (that’s my description, not hers).

“Nobody’s angry or irrational,” says Fitton, the founder of Twitter app directory oneforty. “People are just looking to gut-check each other, and see, if this worries you, what is it that worries you? And if it does worry you, what do you want to do about it?”

But other developers I’ve talked to who are planning to attend the pre-Chirp gathering are more explicit: They’re definitely worried.

“It’s a total mess. People just feel that the trust was broken,” says a developer who wants to remain anonymous.

“It’s very clear. The playing field is not going to be level,” says another, who also wants to keep his name out of print.

Twitter’s moves have even prompted some developers to sketch out a scenario in which they leverage their combined user bases to create a sort of alternative Twitter, based on an open platform. That one seems like an awfully long stretch, because it depends on convincing Twitter users–not just developers and their investors–that there’s a compelling reason to move.

A more likely scenario is that agitated Twitter developers take long looks at the advantages of  working with other “real-time” platforms–Facebook, Google’s (GOOG) Buzz, etc.–while continuing to work with Twitter. That won’t help them with their core problem–they’re always going to be dependent on someone’s platform. But, in a best-case scenario, it gives them more options.

In the meantime, Twitter doesn’t have to wait till Wednesday to soothe frayed nerves. Ryan Sarver, who oversees Twitter’s platform team, plans on visiting the pre-Chirp gathering. And Fitton says the group will be happy to hear from him–once they’re done venting in private.

Google at the Gallery: Turning Search Results Into Works of Art

Most people see Google’s image search as a quick way to find a picture. Ken Solomon sees art.


Solomon is a Brooklyn-based artist who has spent the past couple years working on stuff with a digital bent. One recent strain: Recreating the contents of a Web browser, such as Google results pages and Facebook profiles, using watercolor on paper.

This sounds odd but looks cool, at least to my eye. And I definitely enjoy the practical joke at work here: Solomon creates an image by appropriating Google’s (GOOG) appropriation of other people’s images.

Is that art? Well, Solomon has a show opening at a Chelsea gallery tonight, so some people think so. You can see some examples of his work at the bottom of this page, but they may make a bit more sense when you hear him explain what he’s up to in this video:

[ See post to watch video ]

“South Park” Takes on Facebook (And Jim Cramer)

How is it possible that it’s 2010 and “South Park,” which specializes in up-to-the-minute satire, just ran its first Facebook-themed episode?

Unlike the “30 Rock” stab at social networking, the “South Park” guys don’t mess around with pretend names like “YouFace”–Stan, Kyle and pals are most definitely on Facebook in this one. Though for whatever reason, they do replace CNBC’s Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” with Cartman in this clip.

How Technology Changed American Politics in the Internet Age

The 2008 U.S. presidential campaign drew the attention of the world. In the aftermath, the Obama campaign's use of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were widely credited with helping secure the historic victory of President Barack Obama.

But the Obama campaign wouldn't have been able to make its technological strides without the innovations first deployed by the Howard Dean campaign years before; and, in turn, the designers of the Dean campaign made sure to study the technology lessons of Jessie Ventura's successful gubernatorial run.

The dawn of the Internet era and introduction of technologies such as email lists and social media have had a remarkable impact on American politics. Below are some highlights, game-changing moments, and other uses of technology that stand as significant moments in political history.

The Internet Era

An early moment in any timeline about modern tech development in politics is the February 1997 creation of the GOP Internet forum FreeRepublic. To put it in perspective, 1998 was the year Google was founded. It was also the year that MoveOn was created for progressives as a political community formed in response to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Another early note: I would be remiss not to include the now famous 1999 Al Gore interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition," when the the vice president declared, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth." Though technically not claiming credit for the Internet, Gore's comments would become famous.


Following Sen. John McCain's 2000 primary win in New Hampshire, the New York Times ran a story with this headline: His Success in New Hampshire Brings McCain an Overnight Infusion of Cybercash. The story cited figures released by the McCain campaign that suggested he raised more than $500,000 over the Internet in less than 24 hours after the polls closed. This was a significant moment for online fundraising.

The 2000 election year saw the Bush campaign make innovative use of phone bank technology for get-out-the-vote initiatives. It also used email lists to drive voters to action.

That campaign year was notable for the use of online ads. A study from AdRelevance, Nielsen Online's service that tracks advertising activity, was reported in USA Today on October 30, 2000. It suggested that "Republicans used a more 'targeted' approach, while Democrats relied on a 'broad reach' effort. The Republicans, for example, ran more than 20 unique banners on 35 sites...the Democrats achieved all their exposure with a single banner ad on Yahoo."

The AdRelevance study also reported that Republicans used online marketing tools to build a database of 700,000 names.


2001 saw the emergence of popular political websites such as the Libertarian-leaning Instapundit and liberal community website MyDD. The latter was established by Jerome Armstrong, who would go on to work on Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Armstrong's writing on MyDD also featured one of the first references to the online-based political activism term "netroots."


2002 saw the rise of one of the web's most popular bloggers, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. Two years later, Moulitsas would be among the first bloggers given press credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston.


February 2003 saw a tectonic shift in how political campaigns are run, thanks to the rise of Howard Dean and his campaign's use of Meetup to empower supporters to self-organize. The Dean campaign also created a YouTube-like online video site call Dean TV, experimented with SMS, used an online event tool called Get Local, and created a pre-Facebook-style site called Deanlink, among other pioneering innovations.

"We fell into this by accident," Dean told Wired magazine. "I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to figure this out. But the community taught us. They seized the initiative through Meetup. They built our organization for us before we had an organization."

According to the Wired piece, in February 2003 there were 11 Dean meetings around the country organized through Meetup. By late fall, there were more than 800 monthly meetings on the calendar.

Zephyr-Teachout.gifZephyr Teachout, director of Internet organizing for Dean For America, told me that of all the online tools experimented with and deployed during the campaign, the meeting tool was the most exciting.

"The meeting tool was completely opposed internally when we started designing it in May 2003," she said. "If you ask people what [they] do for a candidate, now I think most people know that they can go to events and get other people to support them whereas 10 years ago it wouldn't even be possible. It's really changed people's sense of possibility in terms of their potential interaction with a campaign."

Another significant technical innovation in 2003 came when Arizona became the first state to implement online voter registration.


2004 saw the launch of the successful Democratic online fundraising outfit ActBlue. The summer of 2004 was also marked by the Rock the Vote campaign that registered an estimated 1.2 million new voters. The campaign included a partnership with Motorola that launched a large-scale mobile political project which enabled people to sign up to receive information on their mobile devices.

That same year, the Washington Times had reported in August that Daily Kos received about 200,000 visitors a day during the Democratic National Convention.

And on September 9, bloggers for the right-leaning site Power Line published a post suggesting Dan Rather's "60 Minutes II" report on George W. Bush's National Guard service included some fraudulent memos. The post and the more than 500 other sites that linked to it are credited with exposing the report and later causing CBS News to apologize, leading to Dan Rather's resignation. Time Magazine named Power Line Blog of the Year.


In early 2005, three former PayPal employees, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim created YouTube. The popular video sharing site has significantly changed political campaigns, by allowing citizens to post their own video from campaign events, including politicians making faux pas.

By May of 2005 a new site called The Huffington Post was launched by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti that would add a new dynamic to online political coverage.

Today, politicians with blogs are very common, but in 2005 Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston established the first Congressional blog with the help of rising GOP Internet guru David All.

In 2005, another GOP Internet tech star, Patrick Ruffini, the webmaster for the 2000 Bush campaign, launched the highly successful "eCampaign" operation while at the Republican National Committee.


By 2006, political campaigns online were widespread and in full force. In June, one of the first to test out the use of YouTube for their campaign was Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston. He posted a video of what his campaign called Mailtube, an attempt to reach out to constituents through the use of online video.

YouTube started to take hold of the political imagination when, on August 15, 2006, then Sen. George Allen (R-VA) called opposition campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth "macaca." The video went viral and is seen as a major turning point that led to Allen's electoral defeat.

2006 was also the year that the Rightroots coalition was created to support GOP candidates online. The site raised over $300,000 for different candidates.


Zephyr Teachout said the initial use of most technologies is not where it ends up having an impact. She cites the Dean campaign's use of Meetup and email as examples. Echoing this point, 2007 saw some of the most notable uses of technology in political campaigns. One example is how Barack Obama's team took the social networking suite developed by the Dean campaign to a new level with Blue State Digital's creation of My.BarackObama.com.

Facebook gave rise to an enormous constituency of political activity in 2008, and upstart Twitter dipped its toes in the campaign waters. One of the biggest tech innovations of the year came on July 23, when CNN held the first YouTube Debate for the Democrats in Charleston, S.C. The Dems were followed by the GOP's November 28 YouTube Debate in St. Petersburg, Fla.

2007 also saw an innovative use of distributed online video by Mike Huckabee's campaign for the GOP nomination. Ron Paul, building on Howard Dean's pioneering fundraising efforts, created the money bomb which raised $4.3 million in 24 hours on November 5 largely through online donations. Paul did it again on Dec. 16 when his campaign brought in $6 million in 24 hours, which Fox News called the biggest one-day take ever.

In other 2007 notes, Slatecard was created by David All and Sendhil Panchadsaram as a website that funneled contributions to conservative candidates. All also started the group blog TechRepublican, focusing on the intersection of Republican politics and technology. (In April 2009, TechRepublican was awarded the Golden Dot Award for the Best Blog in National Politics).

Another tech innovation launched in 2007 was the Ustream.tv platform for live online interactive video broadcasts. The technology was been widely used by politicians, including by Barack Obama when he appeared with Oprah during a South Carolina rally which included 74,000 participants.


Supported by online campaigning, the Democrats had a good election year in 2008, taking large majorities in both houses of Congress and celebrating the election of Barack Obama.

Tech innovations played a big role in the election successes of the Dems. One notable highlight was the August 28 text from the Obama campaign:

"Breaking news: the text message is out and it's official... Barack Obama has selected Joe Biden to be his running mate!"

In October 2008, the Obama campaign released its free Obama08 app, which organized a person's iPhone contacts to enable supporters to call friends located in important electoral districts among other features.

While much of the attention in 2008 was on the Democrats, in the spring of 2008 The Next Right was formed as a GOP imitation of the huge left-wing community Daily Kos and MyDD.

In other significant tech innovations, Facebook Connect was launched in July. Connect is a set of APIs from Facebook that enables Facebook members to log onto third-party websites. The release of the API paved the way for the David All Group development of the award winning Act.ivi.st, which integrates with a campaign and sends out messages to the online communities including Facebook and Twitter.

David-All.gif"The idea of web surfing is so dead," All told me. "Once you get people to a website, it's rare they are going to go back too often. But, every single day they are going to be logging into Facebook and they are going to be engaging with that community. So if your news can be liked or commented on and engaged with it is really powerful."


After one of the biggest election years in modern history, in March 2009 New York's 20th congressional district held a special election. Democrat Scott Murphy's successful run was supported by a new tech innovation from Google, the Google Blast Advertising Campaign, which blanketed sites running Google AdSense with Murphy ads targeted to people in his district.


With elections fast approaching, we're bound to see new kinds of tech innovation that will turn heads this year. I recently wrote here on MediaShift about how the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was aided by a smartphone app created for GOP candidates called Walking Edge. It offered Brown's canvassers a database of where undecided voters and supporters live. The app used geo-location tools and Google Maps so that after canvassers made contact with a person, they could update the database in real time.

The Walking Edge falls squarely in what Zephyr Teachout describes as the "data oligarch" model, which is designed to create massive databases. But Teachout said there is also the potneital for the Internet to allow for more civic organizing.

"[The Internet is] one of the greatest collective action problem-solving tools in world history," Teachout said. "These are constantly in tension with each other."

What do you think of the milestones in our list? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.

Steven Davy is a freelance journalist, and freelance radio reporter/producer. He regularly covers the defense industry and security related issues for UPI. Additionally, he hosts a current affairs newsmagazine radio show called the Nonchalant Café Hour which broadcasts live in Kalamazoo, Mich. Steven recently created Exploring Conversations as a multimedia website examining the language of music for his graduate thesis project at Michigan State University.

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