AIM Bets on Social Networks as Startups Reveal a New Spin on Metrics

aim lifestreamAOL (s twx) said at the TechCrunch50 conference this morning that it plans to release a host of AIM Lifestream products, including Mac and Windows desktop apps and mobile clients, on Sept. 22. AIM Lifestream marries the classic instant messenger system with support for social networks, such as Twitter, Flickr, Digg and Facebook, so users can check their friends’ updates on those sites directly on AIM. This is yet another example of a company revamping its product by tapping into the power of social networks. The paid AIM Lifestream iPhone app is already available for download, and the beta versions of the upcoming products can be found here.

8234_170059751728_20531316728_3570828_1857582_nMeanwhile, Facebook, in addition to announcing that it’s cash-flow positive, released a section for experimental features and applications on its site today that’s similar to Google Labs, called Facebook Prototypes. Instead of waiting for a feature or app to be fully baked before releasing it to the social network’s 300 million users, Facebook engineers can post their ideas for future features to Prototypes. Since the ideas in Prototypes aren’t officially incorporated into the Facebook platform, some may have bugs and not work properly.

trollimAlso at the event this morning, two startups showed off technology that turn standard metrics on their head.  Affective Interfaces uses its motion-sensing technology and a web camera to analyze people’s facial expressions and measure their emotions. The software-as-a-service solution yields data that can be used for market research to determine how people feel about products, web sites or commercials. During the demo, Affective Interfaces’ technology measured the happiness of Digg’s Kevin Rose, a judge on the panel, on a graph by analyzing a pre-recorded video of Rose smiling and frowning backstage at the conference.  Trollim’s platform, on the other hand, takes a more specific approach, measuring and comparing programmers’ coding skills, which can be used by companies to screen prospective hires or see how two employees’ coding skills stack up to one another. People can engage other programmers in a battle where their programming skills will be tested by fixing bugs in code. Trollim also provides global rankings of programmers for each of the six programming languages it supports, such as Java and Ruby, and people can publish their rankings on web sites and blogs.

city sourcedBut when it came to impressing the judge panel, which included Tim O’Reilly and Google’s (s goog) Bradley Horowitz, CitySourced took the crown. The startup makes mobile applications that let people report problems in their community, such as graffiti or potholes, to local government. For example, people walking through their neighborhood can take a picture of graffiti on a fence on their mobile device and email it to their city government. The city of San Jose, Calif., recently signed a deal with CitySourced to use its technology. CitySourced has an iPhone (s appl) application — echoing startups’ favor of the Apple mobile platform yesterday — set to launch next month and will release apps for the Web OS (s palm), BlackBerry (s rim) and Android platforms by the end of the year.