OAuth - Breaking down barriers

OauthThe “final draft” version 1.0 of OAuth was released yesterday. OAuth is an Open Authentication spec that is attempting to become the standard for cross-platform information exchange.
- The Problem -

Let’s say you have accounts on a wide number of websites: Facebook, Netflix, Flickr, Amazon, Twitter, etc. Combined you have a network of sites that perform unique functions as well as store your personal information. Currently, however, information about you that is available to one site is inaccessible to the next. For instance, Netflix has no idea what you’ve purchased on Amazon and vice-versa, information that would allow both sites to offer better, more personalized recommendations that would help you find more movies you want to watch while increasing sales at the same time.

Cross-functionality isn’t an option either; there’s currently not a way to automate a Twitter post letting your friends know that you have just posted a new photo album titled “____” on your Flickr account. In order for this to work, each account would need your personal login and password credentials of the other, giving both sites full access to sensitive information as well as the ability to modify it. While the sharing of unique personal data and the utilization of cross-functionality would be useful, the difficulty of safely transferring info from one site to another has not been surmounted, leaving each account existing in a vacuum.

- The Solution -

OAuth is a protocol that enables the secure transfer of login credentials across platforms, making the examples above easy tasks. With OAuth, people can enjoy cross-functionality among different accounts without ever exposing their passwords. In addition, people are able to select the level of access granted to other sites for each of their accounts. For example, a person could give Match.com access to their Facebook interests, but not to their wall posts or friends lists.

Programmers developed OAuth by combining what they saw as the best features from other protocols (such as Google AuthSub, AOL OpenAuth, Yahoo BBAuth etc.), and they hope to solidify it as the open authorization standard. One feature that really sets OAuth apart from the rest is that its built with support for not only websites, but desktop apps and mobile devices as well.

Move Networks raises $34 million

MoveIf you’re watching video online, chances are it’s Flash driven. Although watchable, the quality of Flash video is generally not very high due to the bandwidth constraints HQ video places on viewers.

Move Networks has found a way to change that. Move has developed a video player that allows video to be stored in small bit-by-bit pieces, resulting in much quicker download speeds that allow for fast, high quality streaming video. The company recently closed a $34 million investment round, bringing their total funding to $45 million.

Move Networks’ video looks remarkably better than normal video you’ll find around the web on sites like YouTube. A cool feature of Move’s platform is that it scales depending on your connection speed. For a demo, check out the ABC Move player.

A caveat for Move is that it requires the viewer to download their plugin before they can view anything. However, Move has been signing contracts with major broadcasters whose unique content will definitely help expand its plugin reach: ESPN, Fox Network, the CW, ABC, and Discovery have each made agreements to use Move Network’s software.

While these media companies won’t have much of a problem persuading viewers to take a few seconds to install a plugin in order to view their content, smaller video sites probably won’t be making the jump to Move’s platform soon.

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Shopatron raises $5 million

Hdr ShoplogoShopatron, a company that connects manufacturers, retailers and consumers through its e-commerce platform, announced today that they have raised $6 million in a series B round. The round was led by Kern Whelan Capital and Rivenrock Capital.

Shopatron, based out of San Luis Obispo, Calif., provides manufacturers with a way to sell their products “directly” online while utilizing retail distributors at the same time. Here’s how it works: Shopatron hosts a branded e-commerce store for a manufacturer, such as popular sunglass maker Spy Optic. When a visitor to the online shop places an order, it is immediately placed in a waiting-to-fill database that is viewed by all participating retailers Spy has chosen to allow in the system. Every day, retailers log in and view a breakdown of every order along with the price the consumer has agreed to pay. If the retailer has the item in stock and is willing to sell at that price, they click yes to “bid” on the item. Shopatron’s system then assigns every order to the closest retailer that bid on it, relative to the consumer’s location. From there, the retail outlet will box and ship the item, or the consumer can opt for in-store pickup. All customer service questions and returns are then fielded by the retailer. If an order receives zero bids, it is then filled directly by the manufacturer for a higher margin.

The platform provides value for all parties involved. It gives consumers the convenience of shopping online along with the personal customer service attention provided by a local retailer. Retailers are able to view a daily list of what customers are looking for, giving them a much clearer idea of sales trends and what items to keep in stock, in addition to the increased business sent to their store from web shoppers. Finally, manufacturers are alleviated of many customer service responsibilities while providing consumers more convenient access to their products.

Shopatron, which manages over 400 manufacturers and 6,000 retailers, plans to use the $5 million to further expand into more markets and perform hirings to flesh out their team.

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Online video site Joost launches

Joost-1Joost, the streaming video site that has been getting a lot of buzz lately, officially launched today. The date came later than expected (earlier we reported the site would launch in June), but the previously invite-only Joost beta 1.0 is now open to the public.

Prior to today’s release into the wild, the site already had a sizable user base (over one million private sign ups), making it less likely to see a quick hockey stick movement in registered user numbers — although, in Web 2.0, we know anything can happen.

From presentation to functionality to content, Joost simulates a real television viewing experience. Unlike YouTube’s small viewing windows and search engine-esque layout, Joost defaults to a full screen viewing mode from within which users can access video controls and browse video “channels.” The company has made a few high-profile content deals: Joost secured a contract with Viacom in February to give the site access to shows from MTV, BET and Comedy Central. Other networks the company has licensing deals with are CBS, CNN, Major League Baseball and the NHL. However, while the quality of Joost’s content is above average, the quantity leaves something to be desired. After all, all of these licensing deals combined would only be the equivalent of having a TV with just 7 channels on it. While shows from these networks don’t make up all of the content found on Joost, the site doesn’t come close to having a library nearly as deep as YouTube’s. Joost needs to leverage their current momentum to solidify more broadcast agreements.

Joost’s founders are Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, previous creators of Kazaa and Skype, who received a portion of the $2.6 billion eBay-Skype acquisition that they used to fund development of the internet TV site. Joost runs on peer-to-peer technology (P2PTV) provided by the same company that developed Skypes’.

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