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Discount E-commerce Giant Overstock Is Dabbling In A New Market: Social Media Apps

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Overstock.com is a giant in the discount e-commerce space, pulling in $1.05 billion in revenue in 2011 from its online storefront. So it’s a little surprising that the company is venturing into social media via a set of new apps in the social media and news filtering space. You can download the social media app here.

These initiatives are part of the newly formed “O Labs,” which was formed by CEO Patrick Byrne to develop apps and programs for the e-commerce company to keep things forward-looking.

I sat down with the group’s partner, Judd Bagley, to demo O Labs’ first application, the myCurrent Desktop app. The app basically creates a ticker-like strip of updates from your Twitter and Facebook accounts on your screen. Unlike most third-party social media apps, where you have to go to another window or another desktop app to get updates on your social media feeds, myCurrent’s ticker just shows updates along the bottom of your screen, similar to a stock or news ticker. If you want to hide the ticker, you simply click the arrow button to collapse the feed.

Bagley says that he wanted myCurrent partly from a personal pain point of continually having to switch between windows, and interrupt workflow, to watch his Twitter feeds. “People don’t want to constantly be changing windows to follow social media feeds as they are working,” he explains.

So O Labs decided to create a lightweight application (myCurrent runs on Adobe Air) that would allow people to not only see a ticker of tweets and Facebook updates, but also send tweets, post an update and favorite from the ticker itself.

Bagley adds that there will also be a small amount of advertising on the app. The information Overstock accesses is only being used to notify users of upcoming birthdays. The app will feature birthday reminders with links to Overstock merchandise, creating a list of gift ideas based on their Facebook “Interests.” Overstock says that in the future, myCurrent will add additional notifications and gift ideas that are relevant to users and their social graph.

The news app, called myCurrent News, has not yet been released, but we have a few details on what it will look like. The app, which is powered by NewsCred, allows you to create and post personalized news feeds and content, but also has recommendation technology help users discover new content and feeds.

According to Bagley, these will be the first of a number of new initiatives from O Labs to be released. He says that Byrne created the venture to create a more startup-like feel and to foster entrepreneurial spirit in the company.

Overstock has been trying out new models in the e-commerce market, launching a flash sales site and getting into travel. But last year Overstock cleaned house a bit with its new product categories.

As we’ve been reading over the past few months, Twitter isn’t that interested in supporting services that compete with its own client apps — and myCurrent would probably fall into this bucket. And there’s still the question of whether we really need another social media tracking app.