‘Green palm oil’ claims land Cadbury’s in sticky mess


They are breaking open the chocolate bars at Auckland zoo in New Zealand this week. The keepers have been running a campaign to get Cadbury to remove palm oil from its chocolate. It’s been headline news down there, since Cadbury’s recently added the palm oil to make local Dairy Milk “softer”.

Zoo staff simply refused to consume or sell bars made with oil grown on former rainforest once occupied by endangered orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. On Monday, Cadbury gave in. They grovelled. “We got it wrong… we hope Kiwis will forgive us. I’m really sorry,” said local managing director Matthew Oldham. They were going back to cocoa butter, he said.

Of course, this about-face doesn’t affect the brand in countries such as Britain, where palm oil is a long-standing ingredient. So Cadbury still looks like a soft target for campaigners.

But there was something else buried in this PR own goal. A continuing greenwash that should have Cadbury hauled over the coals at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a corporate initiative to promote the sustainable production of the world’s most ubiquitous food ingredient, of which Cadbury is a founder member.

On Monday, Oldham told New Zealanders that despite the debacle “Cadbury is a responsible business and we purchase certified sustainable palm oil.” The company has “independent GreenPalm certification for the palm oil purchased for its Dairy Milk range”.

The implication was that the zookeepers were wrong to fuss about Cadbury’s palm oil because they bought the right stuff. So who is right?

Read the full story on the Guardian website.


Tr.im URL shortening service closes its doors


The popular URL shortening service Tr.im has announced it is shutting down. That means, just as critics of URL shortening services predicted, a whole lot of shortened links are about to disappear in a black hole.

Or maybe not. The developers of Tr.im say that the service will remain running through the end of the year, so your old links will “continue to redirect until at least December 31, 2009.” The post goes on to say, that Tr.im “will not be turning tr.im off for redirections” and the homepage claims that “your tweets with tr.im URLs in them will not be affected.”

The wording is bit vague, but the way we’re reading it is that while the Tr.im shortening service is dead as of now, the redirections will continue working until the end of the year. At midnight on December 31 all your Tr.im URLs will turn into pumpkins and vanish into the ether. Or perhaps the developers of Tr.im plan to leave the redirect engine going indefinitely, though that seems highly unlikely.

Either way, Tr.im’s saga is pretty much a textbook case of why URL shorteners are a bad idea all around. The most obvious problem is that shortened URLs could lead anywhere – a spam site, a phishing site, a porn site, a malware site, who knows?

Read the full story on the WebMonkey website.

Facebook acquires FriendFeed


The two best websites for connecting with your friends have suddenly connected with each other. Facebook has acquired the life-streaming website FriendFeed, the companies announced Monday. The sites will both continue to operate independently for the time being until the companies can decide the best way to integrate their products.

The integration will be delicate work. While the two sites have much in common, there are several hurdles relating to privacy, feature redundancy and the big question of what to do with all that FriendFeed data that need to be overcome.

“The exact plan for how the integration is going to be handled is something we’re still discussing,” FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit tells Webmonkey. “In the short term, nothing changes.”

Friendfeed and its API will both remain working normally until further notice, the company explained in a blog post Monday. Also, according to the official press release posted at Facebook, FriendFeed’s employees will join Facebook, and the site’s four founders will take on new roles within Facebook’s engineering and product teams.

At this point, details are slim. Both FriendFeed and Facebook folks have made it clear that the long-term plans for merging the products are still being ironed out.

Read the full story on the WebMonkey website.

Computer agents take to the web


Artificial intelligence technology could soon make the internet an even bigger haven for bargain-hunters. Software “agents” that automatically negotiate on behalf of shoppers and sellers are about to be set free on the web for the first time.

The “Negotiation Ninjas”, as they are known, will be trialled on a shopping website called Aroxo in the autumn. The intelligent traders are the culmination of 20 years’ work by scientists at Southampton University.

“Computer agents don’t get bored, they have a lot of time, and they don’t get embarrassed,” Professor Nick Jennings, one of the researchers behind the work, told BBC News. “I have always thought that in an internet environment, negotiation is the way to go.”

The agents use a series of simple rules – known as heuristics – to find the optimal price for both buyer and seller based on information provided by both parties. Heuristics are commonly used in computer science to find an optimal solution to a problem when there is not a single “right answer”.

To use one of the intelligent agents, sellers must answer a series of questions about how much of a discount they are prepared to offer and whether they are prepared to go lower after a certain number of sales, or at a certain time of day.

At the other end, the buyer types in the item they wish to purchase and the price they are willing to pay for it. The agents then act as an intermediary, scouring the lists of sellers who are programmed to accept a price in the region of the one offered.

Read the full story on the BBC News website.

ITV sells Friends Reunited for £25m


ITV has announced the sale of its Friends Reunited business as it reported a £105 million half-year loss. The broadcaster said it had agreed to sell the social networking site to DC Thomson, publisher of the Beano and the Dundee-based Courier, for £25 million.

ITV, which bought Friends Reunited for £120 million in 2005, said the deal was subject to approval by the competition authorities. DC Thomson said the acquisition of Friends Reunited would create Britain’s leading genealogy business by bringing together the Genes Reunited site and findmypast.com.

Friends Reunited, which has 20.6 million members, was launched in 2000. Genes Reunited was launched in 2003 and has 9 million members worldwide and over 500 million names listed. Friends Reunited has suffered in recent years as rival social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace emerged on the scene.

ITV revealed that television advertising across the market suffered its worst year-on-year decline on record during the six months to June 30. The firm said its net television advertising revenue (NAR) fell by 15%, or £108 million, but said this was better than the overall market decline of 17%.

Read the full story on the Yahoo! News website.

Murdoch papers to charge for websites


The days of being able to read newspapers for free on the internet are coming to a close, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch signaled, as he promised The Times and The Sun would begin charging for access to their websites within months.

In a sweeping rethink of how the beleaguered newspaper industry operates, the News Corporation founder declared that quality journalism must come at a price.

“We will be platform neutral, but never free,” Mr Murdoch told investors, moments after revealing that plunging revenues from his newspapers had helped push the company into the red. With newspaper advertising collapsing, “the drumbeat for change” is only growing louder, he said. “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good journalism.”

The plan to charge for online news is being hatched by a team of Mr Murdoch’s senior lieutenants, including his son James, and Rebekah Wade, the editor of The Sun who is moving up to become head of News International, the newspaper division that controls the company’s four British titles.

And it could also mean the start of charges to access Sky News on the internet, Rupert Murdoch signaled last night. The same online strategy will be adopted at News Corp’s US businesses, which include the Fox News cable channel and The New York Post newspaper.

Read the full story on the Independent website.

Vodafone signals interest in iPhone for UK


Vodafone has added to speculation that O2’s exclusive deal to supply the iPhone in the UK may soon be up for grabs by suggesting that it would like to offer Apple’s smartphone to more of its own customers.

Andy Halford, chief financial officer of the world’s largest mobile phone operator, told reporters this morning that Vodafone was keen to supply the iPhone across more of its empire. It currently sells the device in 11 countries but not in the key European markets of Germany, where it is stocked exclusively by T-Mobile, or the UK.

“It’s a good product and we would love to have it in the portfolio in more countries,” said Halford, speaking after Vodafone published first-quarter results that showed the continuing impact of the recession and intense competition in its core European markets.

There has been intense speculation in recent weeks that T-Mobile, Orange and Vodafone are trying to muscle in on O2’s exclusive deal with Apple in the UK. T-Mobile is going so far as to buy the device in other markets where it is freely available without being tied to one operator and shipping it back to the UK in order to sell it to customers who are considering defecting to O2.

Read the full story on the Guardian website.