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Private Facebook Offering Closed To Americans

Often enough, products, services, and contests that originate in the U.S. are just available and/or open to American citizens.  Now, in an unusual reversal of that custom, Goldman Sachs has announced that only clients who aren’t based in the U.S. will be allowed to buy shares of Facebook’s private stock through the firm.

BankSimple Makes Mysterious “Key Hire”
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BankSimple, the startup that’s supposed to disrupt the banking industry, has apparently made an important hire that may or may not have a direct impact on whether that actually happens. 

Online Retail Websites Performed Above Average During Holidays
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Williams-Sonoma was named as the best online retailer during the 2010 holiday season, with an availability of 99.98 percent and an average response time of 11.58 seconds, according to a new report from web performance monitoring company AlertSite.

 Sam’s Club and QVC tied for second place, with 99.95 percent availability and a 13.46 second average response time.

 

AlertSite

 

Skype Hits 28 Million Users Online Just a Week After Hitting 27 Million
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Skype announced a new record today, and one that is even more interesting, considering the timing. 

"Almost exactly a week after we broke the 27 million barrier, we’ve done it again," says Skype’s Peter Parkes. "At approximately 1800 GMT today, there were over 28 million people online on Skype at the same time – a new record."

Microsoft Launches Cloud-Based CRM Service

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the worldwide availability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online today at an event in Redmond.  This is the cloud-based version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, which will go head to head with other cloud-based CRM products from companies like Salesforce.com and Oracle. 

Travelocity Making Its Website More Accessible To Blind Users

The National Federation of the Blind, an advocate for Internet access for blind Americans, announced an agreement with Travelocity to make its website more accessible to the blind.

Under the agreement, Travelocity Under today’s agreement, Travelocity will make accessible by July 1, 2011, its home page and each initial Web page used for searching flights, hotels,  and vacation packages .

Groupon Talks Managing Capacity, Following Japan Apology

As previously reported, Groupon has apologized for a recent deal gone bad in Tokyo. In the apology, CEO Andrew Mason mentioned that Groupon has "capacity planning formulas" to help merchants figure out the number of customers they can handle from a Groupon deal. As you may know, a common complaint about Groupon is that it can send too many people to a business, which does not have the means to meet customer demand.

Italy Concludes Google Antitrust Probe

An antitrust probe that began way back in August of 2008 has at last concluded, and the outcome tends to favor Google.  Italian authorities have decided not fine the company or subject it to any additional regulation.

Twitterers Launch Hashtag Wishing Steve Jobs Well
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As reported earlier, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence from the company. In an email to Apple employees, he said:

"At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company."

Princess Cruises Launches Facebook Contest

Princess Cruises has launched a Facebook contest inviting people to share their favorite travel experience for a chance to “check another place off their travel bucket list.”

The contest winner will be selected by popular vote, and will be able to choose from one of eight cruise destinations including Europe, Asia, Tahiti, Australia/New Zealand, the Holy Land, Panama Canal, Alaska or South America.

The cruise vacation choices range from 10 to 16 days in length in a balcony stateroom, and include round trip airfare for two people.

The Social Network Wins 4 Golden Globes
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The Golden Globes were last night, and The Social Network (the movie about the founding of Facebook), did pretty well, as expected. The film was nominated for six awards, and won four. 

Director David Fincher (whose work also includes Seven and Fight Club) won Best Director. Aaron Sorkin (of A Few Good Men and West Wing fame) won Best Screenplay. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who scored the film, won Best Score, and the movie itself won Best Picture, Drama. 

Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave Of Absence
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Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave of absence.  Apple confirmed the move this morning with an official statement, which we’ve reprinted in full below.

 

Facebook Developers Get Access to User Phone Numbers and Addresses

Update: Facebook has decided to rethink its strategy on this, and has temporarily stopped granting access to phone number/address info. More here.

Groupon Apologizes for Deal Gone Bad in Tokyo
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Groupon CEO Andrew Mason apologized to users in Tokyo for a deal that went bad a few days before the New Year’s holiday. The deal involved the delivery of food, and became too popular for the business providing the deal to handle.

They sold 500 "Groupons", and the business was unable to process the orders, leading to late deliveries, and deliveries of product in "terrible condition", as Mason describes it. 

European Flight Search Site Skyscanner Buys Travel Startup Zoombu

European flight search provider Skyscanner has acquired UK travel startup Zoombu, which only launched its own travel search site last year (the company started in 2008).

Zoombu was founded by Rachel Armitage and Dr. Alistair Hann, who have moved into key roles at Skyscanner. With Zoombu, their goal was to provide multiple transport options in a single search. 

Golden Globes Info Can Be Found with Bing and MSN Features

Bing announced some special features for the Golden Globes, for those who are unable to watch the ceremony this evening. One feature is called Golden Globe Instant Answer, and is essentially what its name implies. 

You can search Bing for "Golden Globes" and get an instant answer at the top of the results, showing relevant content. Here you can see nominees, past winners, etc. 

Google Marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Community Service

Google said today that many of its employees will be marking the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 25th by participating in service projects.

The Google Blog offers more details. “We’re also joining the Corporation for National & Community Service, a Google Grants recipient, to spread the word about volunteering opportunities around the country.”

Latest Firefox Beta Available for Testing

Mozilla announced today that the next major version of Firefox is ready for testing. That would be Firefox 4 beta, and Mozilla says it includes faster start-up time and bookmarking, and that it caters to smoother complex animations. 

Rumor: Chrome Chief To Stick With Google Despite Twitter Bid
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As news stories go, there have been more interesting ones than an employee not switching companies.  However, rumors indicated that Twitter was courting Google’s Sundar Pichai, and in order to keep him – which Google has – Google likely had to lay out a significant sum of money.

To set the scene: Sundar Pichai has been with Google for almost seven years.  Currently, he serves as a vice president of product management, and he’s also in charge of Chrome and Chrome OS.  So Pichai’s very much an important person at the company.

Google Drops Support of Popular Video Codec from Chrome [Update]
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Update: Google has a new post up talking about the move more, and answering some frequently asked questions. 

Google Commits to 99.99% Uptime for Google Apps
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Google has announced that it has made some changes to its service level agreement (SLA) for Google Apps, to reduce the possibility that users will experience any downtime. The company says it has eliminated maintenance windows from the SLA, so Google will never plan for users to be down when they’re upgrading services or maintaining their systems. 

Google Introduces More 45

Between them, overhead satellite images and Street View photos tend to provide Google Maps users with a pretty complete picture of an area.  But – following in Bing’s footsteps – Google began to offer 45° imagery last year, and today, Google introduced images of ten new areas.

Google Introduces More 45

Between them, overhead satellite images and Street View photos tend to provide Google Maps users with a pretty complete picture of an area.  But – following in Bing’s footsteps – Google began to offer 45° imagery last year, and today, Google introduced images of ten new areas.

Google Introduces More 45
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Between them, overhead satellite images and Street View photos tend to provide Google Maps users with a pretty complete picture of an area.  But – following in Bing’s footsteps – Google began to offer 45° imagery last year, and today, Google introduced images of ten new areas.