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Associated Press Featured Article

December 07, 2011

TechBits package


Netflix sharing on Facebook (News - Alert) may be coming to US


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It may not be much longer before there's an easier way for Netflix's U.S. subscribers to share their tastes in movies on Facebook.

Netflix Inc. has developed a feature that would automatically connect what's being watched on its Internet video service with Facebook's social network. Subscribers would still be given control over whether they wanted their online social circles to see their viewing habits.

The sharing tool became available in September to Netflix's international subscribers, but the company has withheld it from its nearly 24 million U.S. subscribers for fear of breaking the law.

The reason: the Video Protection Privacy Act, which forbids the disclosure of video rental records. The law was passed in 1988, after a newspaper published a list of movies that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork rented from a video store. The U.S. Senate wound up rejecting Bork's nomination.

Netflix says it's time to rewrite a law drawn up in an age of VHS tapes.

That thinking is gaining support in Congress. This week, the House passed legislation that would allow a merchant to share viewing records with a customer's consent. Most importantly to Netflix, the authorization can be made online.

The House approved the bill 303–116. It still needs the backing of the U.S. Senate to become law.

Empowering Netflix's U.S. subscribers to share their movie picks on Facebook could help make the service more useful and lure new customers. That's the kind of lift that Netflix needs after its subscribers revolted against price increases of as much as 60 percent. The service lost 800,000 U.S. subscribers during the summer months, and management has said the attrition extended into the autumn.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer

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StumbleUpon (News - Alert) overhaul opens more avenues to explore

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — StumbleUpon is adding more avenues to meander through its online content recommendation service.

The renovations, unveiled late Monday as part of a major overhaul, allow StumbleUpon's 20 million users to be more specific about their interests so they won't have to wait as long for the service's technology to figure it out.

For example, users can now tell StumbleUpon to feed them information about specific brands, such as Audi, instead of a general topic such as cars or ask to be steered to the best material from a particular website, such as FunnyorDie.com.

More than 250 brands, actors and sports figures have set up channels under StumbleUpon's new format. Besides Audi and FunnyorDie.com, StumbleUpon's initial channel line–up includes AOL Inc., Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN (News - Alert), Tom Hanks and Magic Johnson.

StumbleUpon also has added an "explore" option designed to make it easier to find content with a quick search.

The organizational tools bring a greater sense of direction to StumbleUpon, whose appeal has been tied to its random qualities. The free service, which makes it money from selling ads, got its name from its penchant for leading users down online corridors that they didn't even know existed.

"People are still going to experience serendipity and surprise on StumbleUpon, but they now they are going to have more control," said StumbleUpon CEO and co–founder Garrett Camp.

To herald the shift, StumbleUpon redesigned its logo. The most glaring change is the logo's color, now reddish–orange instead of blue and green.

The paint job comes nearly a decade after Camp and some friends started StumbleUpon in Canada before eventually moving to Silicon Valley in 2006. That led to StumbleUpon's sale in 2007 to eBay (News - Alert) Inc. for $75 million. Camp regretted the decision and teamed up with several venture capitalists to buy back StumbleUpon from eBay for an undisclosed amount in 2009.

Since then, StumbleUpon's audience has tripled, helping the service emerge as one of the Web's largest catalysts for driving traffic to other sites. StumbleUpon says its recommends more than 1.2 billion pieces of content per month, doubling its volume from a year ago.

Next up: an international expansion for what so far has been an English–only service. The redesign includes technological tweaks that will make it easier to translate StumbleUpon into different languages. StumbleUpon, which is based in San Francisco, expects to expand into France and several other European countries early next year.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer

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Online:

http://StumbleUpon.com






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