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Morning Xtra: Facebook Land Grab, Flickr Founder's New Search Engine

Tales From the Great Facebook Land Grab of '09
Come here, young whippersnappers, and set a spell. Let us tell you of a time when the powers that ruled one of the largest tracts of Internet land up and gave away millions of free Web domains -- domains that would go on to be some of the most valuable in the world. Yessir, we're talking about the Great Facebook Land Grab of 2009. Some frontiersman types took the opportunity to grab high-profile user names that didn't rightfully belong to them. The aftermath -- what with the Facebook law returning those purloined URLs to the good townsfolk -- is as entertaining as watching a blind cat climb a pigeon pole. Yeehaw! [From: Buzzfeed]

The Web Welcomes Hunch: Another New (And Fun) Search Engine
We're officially coining Spring 2009 the Spring of the Search Engine. Microsoft recently launched its Bing search site, and a handful of newcomers are launching more novel (and welcome) approaches. First was Wolfram|Alpha, with its advanced-mathematics-inspired "answer engine," and now we have Hunch. The brainchild of Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, Hunch asks you 42 questions in order to determine what you might like on the Internet. If you're still intrigued, you can create a profile that will allow the site to get smarter each time you use it. Give it a try yourself at [From: TechCrunch]

Microsoft Done Paying for Employee iPhones
This economy is driving some big companies to alarming extremes. Case in point, Microsoft has recently announced it will no longer pay for employees' iPhone data plans. In fact, the company will now only pay the plans of employees using Windows Mobile devices (The two employees using Windows Mobile are reported to have been relieved). With mobile operating system competition from the iPhone, Palm OS, and Android, we hope this forced loyalty inspires some improvements in Windows Mobile. [From: Business Insider]

Virgin Media and UMG Announce Dubious Unlimited Music Service
Virgin Media and Universal Music Group (UMG) have announced that a new subscription-based music plan, available later this year (only in the U.K.), will offer unlimited streaming and downloading from the entire UMG catalog. According to Musically, there's an air of excitement in the music biz surrounding this new arrangement, but we're a little suspicious of the fine-print clause that enables suspension of Internet access as punishment for illegal file-sharing. Indeed, it seems that the music industry seems to think it's all-powerful enough to both giveth and taketh away. [From: Musically]

Casual Online Gaming To Defeat Console Gaming?
According to a survey conducted by Internet games site Gamevance, 90-percent of gamers are cutting back their console gaming in favor of more Web-based, casual fare. In addition, most respondents thought that console gaming will disappear in the future. With its perfect mixture of marketability and easy access, they seemed to think that online gaming will almost certainly become a gazillion-dollar industry. We've seen this "survey" popping up in numerous places today, but it's so decidedly biased that we suggest taking it with a bowl of 90-percent salt. [From: Pitch Engine/Gamevance]

Wikipedia Torn Over Paid-Edit Scandal
There's an argument brewing in the neutral gray-spaces of Wikipedia over whether or not approved editors should be allowed to charge money for their unique access to the site. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says absolutely not (and promises to block anyone who edits the site for money), but many community members seem to be receptive to the idea. It should be interesting to see how this plays out: Wikipedia has made Wales into a celebrity who charges up to $75,000 for speaking engagements, while the site's cadre of committed (and often anonymous) editors are left with zilch. [From: The Register]

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