First look at Pownce

Kevin Rose, of Digg and Revision 3 fame, just launched an invite-only alpha of his latest project, Pownce. Pownce lets you share files, links, and other info with your friends. It's not an original concept. Yet Pownce makes an extremely good first impression. (Earlier, we had invites to give out--but we're sorry, they're all gone now.)

Pownce strongly reminds me of Tubes (review) and Izimi (review), and little less so of AllPeers (stories) and Pando (quick hit). It's also reminiscent of the file-transfer feature of various instant-messaging clients.

There's also a heavy dose of Twitter (stories) in Pownce. Every time you send a file or note, it's added to your running feed of activities that anyone can view; likewise, it's easy to see the public feeds of other users and the private items posted by your friends.

You can send items to individuals on your list, to everyone, or to groups you set up (for example, you can have a family group, a group for a project at work, and so on).

At the moment, Pownce lets you send plain text notes, URLs, files, and event invitations (and it tracks RSVPs). I would not be surprised to see audio or video recording functions built into the product, which would make Pownce an interesting alternative to Twittergram.

Pownce works through a Web page, and there's also a slick Adobe AIR (formerly Apollo) desktop app.

It's easy to discount Pownce as a me-too concept. In fact, it's several. But it's extremely well put-together--capable yet easy to get into and use. And useful. And fun. Try it if you can.

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Yahoo Messenger-less

For a while on Wednesday morning, I was Yahoo Messenger-less. Actually, me and most of my colleagues were, and it was no fun.

I was out of the office and needed to ping my editor about something quick and I couldn't. I sent him an e-mail instead and noticed a lot of messages in my in-box from coworkers with similar stories of woe.

We've come to rely heavily on the ability to communicate with each other over IM, shooting quick messages back and forth like digital taps on the shoulder. I know that if my editor is staring … Read more

Avatars: Engineer the perfect digital you

In the cyberworld, Web customization is king--just as the millions of user-centric YouTube videos and MySpace Web pages attest. It's little wonder, then, that avatars, digital representations of you, are growing in function and form.

This collection of downloadable and Web-based avatar generators ranges from the more cartoon-like engines to three-dimensional architectures where users give life to their pint-size replicates. Be sure to tune into the video and photo gallery on my adventures with avatars, with CNET's Neha Tiwari, for a personal take on the highlights and lowlights of some popular avatar builders.… Read more

Yahoo releases critical security patch for IM

Yahoo has issued a critical security patch for Messenger to address zero-day exploits that take advantage of vulnerabilities in its Webcam ActiveX controls.

The exploits to instant messaging surfaced Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the vulnerabilities were first reported to Yahoo by eEye Digital Security.

People could find their systems at risk if they visit malicious Web sites or view other malicious HTML code. The attackers could then exploit security flaws in the Yahoo Webcam ActiveX control, a software package that is downloaded with Messenger.… Read more

AOL Mail offering unlimited storage, integrated chatting

Updates to AOL Mail are set to make the service nimbler and more innovative, with unlimited storage and built-in chatting set for the coming weeks. I like what I've seen so far. A chatting pane will appear within the screen to display contacts from Mail and AIM, which remains the world's most popular instant messaging service.

Embedded RSS feeds, attachment search capabilities, as well as POP and IMAP compatibility are also in the works. By the end of the year, AOL plans to add integration with mapping, videos, and its xDrive online storage service.

AOL Mail maintains some … Read more

One IM to rule them all--wherever you are

Editor's note: This is Part Two of a two-part series on multinetwork IM clients. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about all-in-one desktop chatting.

All-in-one IM clients have much to offer the instant messaging butterfly. They organize your contacts from multiple networks while enabling customizations, plug-in support, and familiar emoticons. However, desktop chatting isn't always the best solution for the jet-set crowd.

Users who work off multiple computers and tire of downloading déjà vu could opt for browser-based chat, while the handheld-dependent might prefer a sturdy third-party IM client to replace a weak, nonnative browser or the single-network IM most compatible with their device (for instance, Pocket MSN for Windows Mobile users,).… Read more

Trillian Astra gets desktop widgets

This nearly slipped by our radar last week, but in the latest build of the upcoming chat client Trillian Astra, Cerulean Studios has snuck in desktop versions of its widgets. Users can now place widgets in their Trillian buddy list or right on their desktop, similar to what you'd get with the Yahoo Widget engine, or other desktop widget tools. Users are also able to send them between the buddy list and desktop via right clicking, or they can simply drag and drop.

For now there are just five sample widgets, but assuming Cerulean Studios opens things up a bit, or goes with universal widget coding, Trillian users could get what is typically two applications in one, along with a wide array of desktop widgets.

Customizing the widgets is a little harder than it should be, as you can't just configure each one once it's on your desktop. Everything is handled through a preferences menu, although I'm assuming this will be changed as the application gets closer to release. Some sample widgets do look neat; the weather widget in particular is easy to read and fully animated. And the world-time widget shows when the sun is hitting your current location, which is totally nerd eye-candy.

Similar to other widget tools, Astra has a hot key that let users pull up all the running widgets at the same time. Pressing the Windows key and space bar accomplishes this easily, although it doesn't have nearly the same effect you get with OS X's Dashboard widget.

I wouldn't recommend you ditch your current widget engine just yet, since this is a brand-new feature on an application that's still in private alpha. I am, however, excited to see if this feature will be integrated into the forthcoming browser-free version of the app.

For more shots of the new widget runtime environment, keep reading.… Read more

Yahoo 360's gone phishin'

A new phishing scam is circulating through Yahoo IM lists, sending emoticon-laden links to contacts on an infected account. Indeed, CNET's own Yahoo Messenger users have not been immune.

The link reads as a URL, but spoofs a Web page advertising Yahoo 360, a social-networking service.

Phishing schemes simulate legitimate Web sites to trap users into giving up their account information. With that information harvested, security fraudsters can sell your passcodes or exploit them directly by breaking into your bank or personal account. From there, the possibilities for fraud are varied.

While many phishing schemes are poor approximations of the real deal, with sketchy graphics and spelling and grammar errors, this Yahoo 360 spoof is more believable.… Read more

Pantech launches dual-LCD slider phone

Pantech just announced the IM-R200, a slider phone that comes with two LCDs--one is the primary display, and the other is an OLED touch-sensitive screen that acts as the phone's keypad. In order to provide tactile feedback, the touch pad has microvibrations to let you know when a key has been pressed. The reasoning behind the virtual keypad is that the phone has separate virtual interfaces for different functions, such as for the camera or the music player. For example, when you activate the music player, the interface of the touch pad changes to a list of songs and … Read more