Microsoft + Yahoo = ?


Appalled and horrified. Worried. Scared.

Did I say appalled?

Unless you’ve been under a particularly tightly-sealed rock, you heard that this morning Microsoft offered over $44 billion to purchase Yahoo. That’s a considerable premium under recent closing prices. And Microsoft made the offer public, taking it straight to the shareholders.

That’s about the least auspicious beginning I can think of. Microsoft has talked to Yahoo before and got nowhere, so it tried again by appealing directly to the shareholders with a truck load — ten truckloads — a STADIUMLOAD — of money. There’s a lot of muh-muh-muh in the discussion about common goals and Google and putting resources together, but Microsoft is getting this done by hitting the greed button.

Which feels disrespectful to me. To the board, to Jerry Yang, to the whole company.

Microsoft is quoted several places as saying, “Together, Microsoft and Yahoo can offer competitive choice…” No. Microsoft could have offered competitive choice. Yahoo could have offered competitive choice. They didn’t because of the choices that they made and the things they decided to emphasize. Is tying them together going to make things better? No. In fact, it might make them worse if some truly great things that Yahoo is doing (Flickr’s Commons project, Yahoo Pipes, all the API work) and throws them out in favor of ramming LiveYahoo or YaSearch (or whatever it ends up being called) down our snorkels.

As a searcher, I have used but am not fond of Live Search. I got really disgusted with it last March after Microsoft turned off some special syntax functionality due to scrapers. Isn’t there some other option? Create an API with key? CAPTCHA? Something??? I sympathize if the syntax is being misused, but is the answer really to TURN IT OFF for the rest of us?

I use Yahoo too, and its search is okay — Yahoo News is lovely. Unfortunately what started as the core of Yahoo — the Yahoo Directory — is beyond bad. It’s out of date. With the Open Directory Project as moribund as it is, that means there’s no useful searchable subject index out there. And Yahoo has! They have jillions of people adding bookmarks to that thing constantly! Can’t that be at least a way to keep the directory updated?

I feel awful about this tieup. I’m going to have to go think about it some more. I’ll probably still hate it but at least I’ll be able to articulate it better.

Categories: News