Peter Thiel, the libertarian Silicon Valley billionaire who has waged a secret, decade-long, multi-front legal battle against Gawker Media, has somewhat counterintuitively positioned himself as a guardian of free speech principles. But in response to Gawker’s critical coverage of the technology sector—coverage that Thiel has described as “terrible for the Valley”—he decided the company and the people who write for it deserved to be punished, with a campaign he has called “specific deterrence.”
You may know Keith Rabois as one of the first employees of PayPal, a good friend of venture capitalist and tech god Peter Thiel, and a member of the "PayPal Mafia," a group of former PayPal higher-ups who went on to fundamentally shape the way Silicon Valley does business. Rabois is now the COO of the multibillion-dollar startup Square, or, at least he was until yesterday, when he resigned before publishing a grand open letter partially confessing to misdeeds related to an imprudent sex scandal.
If you're the application developer and they're the platform owner, you have to know death can come at any moment: Create a popular, simple application, and the platform owner might just rip you off in their next release. It's happened to Max Levchin's Slide, maker of the popular Facebook widget Top Friends. With its latest profile redesign, Facebook now allows users to specify which friends they'd like to display to profile visitors. (See how Facebook's version works in the image above and you'll note that with the friends I've selected, my goal is to intimidate profile visitors with my powerful connections.) Before you feel too sorry for Slide, note that this is a feature MySpace has long offered. Slide, seeing that Facebook lacked it, promptly cooked up Top Friends, which filled the void. Top Friends is Slide's second most popular application with nearly 1.5 million daily active users. On the strength of those user numbers, Slide has raised $50 million in a recent financing round, and is opening an ad-sales office in New York. We asked for Slide's reaction. They were surprisingly chipper!
Traffic to RockYou's popular Facebook widget Super Wall declined from 2.1 million to 600,000 daily users over the last few days, as Facebook blocked the widget from sending users notifications and messages, claiming RockYou had violated Facebook's privacy policies. RockYou CTO Jia Shen told Inside Facebook the allegations and their punitive response are "slightly debatable":
Facebook's third-most popular widget, Slide's Top Friends, is back after Facebook suspended it on June 26. (The offense: displaying Top Friends' users birthdays and other private information that wouldn't normally be visible on Facebook.) What took so long? Following the suspension, Slide wanted to call its apps the most secure on Facebook. To feel comfortable doing so, it contracted a third-party audit firm to review its applications and source code, Slide exec Keith Rabois told us. "The issue with Top Friends was fixed immediately," Rabois told us, "But as you might imagine an independent audit takes time to perform." Elsewhere on Facebook, Slide's privacy troubles seem to be spreading.
Slide VP Keith Rabois says the widgetmaker is done making widgets — at least for Facebook. Rabois told SIlicon Alley Insider that Slide wants to focus on improving its existing apps, like SuperPoke and Top Friends. The company also knows it needs to start figuring out how to make enough money to justify its $550 million valuation. Last week, Slide hired AOL's former director of national sales, Jason Bitensky, to head up a new New York office. Money aside, Slide's announcement may be little more than politicking.
Little-known MySpace "cofounder" Kyle Brinkman announced new rules for application developers on the social network's platform today. They're meant to prevent the spam bubble Facebook went through after it launched its platform last year. In response, Facebook tightened up its rules, and offended developers in the process. MySpace's new rules:
Kevin Rose takes up 62 out of 294 pages in Sarah Lacy's Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, her new book about Web 2.0. That's less than I expected, since Rose was the coverboy for the BusinessWeek story, co-written by Lacy, which launched her book. From the look of the index, not much time is spent on the women Rose is said to have "plowed through", as his friend Alex Albrecht once put it:
This decade's greatest Internet hits — Google and PayPal — make so much money because they help money change hands more efficiently. The next great wave of moneymakers on the Web won't be nearly so utilitarian, Keith Rabois, VP at widgetmaker Slide, argues in a guest post to AllThingsD. Rabois says the Web's next mint will be made on fun — a very underrated commodity, he says. To demonstrate his point, he harkens back to the week of April 21 and the electoral contest that captured all of America's attention. Not the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, Rabois writes. "I'm talking about American Idol." Then he lays down some convincing numbers:
Mashable's Pete Cashmore may be a looker, but is he the best Silicon Valley can do? Seems so. Take a look at the Google toppers, for example: Larry? Taken. Sergey? Taken. Eric Schmidt? Taken. Taken. Taken. But don't worry, the Nob Hill Gazette has you covered with its latest "annual roundup of the Most Desirable, Most Adorable, Brainy and Brassy" bachelors. It's a long list, but of course there are only four tech representatives. Vote for your favorite in our Valleywag poll.
LinkedIn is off the block, cofounder Reid Hoffman told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We have had (buyout) conversations with all the usual suspects, but I think an IPO is by far and away the most likely outcome," Hoffman said. He suggested, however, that such a public offering might not happen for at least another year or two. One ex-LinkedIn exec said that's much too long a wait.
Yelp, the local-reviews site, is as infamous in San Francisco as it is nonfamous anywhere else in the country. Its parties, always hedonistic rampages of drunken conversations, burlesque troops, and makeout sessions in the photobooth, helped establish its local reputation and cement the loyalty of hardcore users. (Even the founders get in on the action!) Last night, Yelp held its holiday party at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Upon entering, I was greeted by a mass of San Francisco Yelptards, each louder than the next, all laughing, cajoling, flirting, and hugging each other. Self-congratulations were clearly in order.
Slide executive Keith Rabois, one of the many new converts to Facebook in Silicon Valley, asks how much a Facebook app user is worth. The increasingly popular social network lets other Web companies plant applications, like Slide's photo-sharing service, on its site. But it's not clear how much loyalty users of such add-ons have to any site besides Facebook. So Rabois's question is apt, if a bit tardy: One wonders why Rabois didn't ponder such matters before Slide CEO Max Levchin got up on stage with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to swear fealty to Facebook's platform.
Once you've had fun with the marquee moneymakers selling off their Youtube-bought Google stock, it's a diverting pastime to poke around in the guts of the SEC filing to see who else plans to make book. For example, Keith "Hope You Die of AIDS" Rabois could toddle off with $4.2 million. Rabois was the first person to see Youtube, as
founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen co-founder Jawed Karim approached him first via their mutual Paypal connection. Rabois liked the idea and passed it to Roelof Botha at Sequoia. Something of a puzzler, as why didn't Rabois instead send them to his patron Peter Thiel, who has a somewhat tense relationship with Sequoia's Mike Moritz? Anyway, for your sifting pleasure, find a complete list of the stock-sellin' folk, after the jump. If you can parse anything amusing out of the names and amounts, then tell us all about it.
UPDATE: OK, never mind, just review the list on the SEC site. Too much table-text to run here, apparently.