A company with a reputation for cutthroat behavior and squashing the little guy tries to buy a pioneer of the Internet, once one of the most beloved companies in Silicon Valley.
And the customers of that pioneer yawn.
Those of us covering the Microsoft-Yahoo saga have been amazed at the apparent lack of hand-wringing among Yahoo customers. It's baffling. Even the comments on stories we've written about the Microsoft takeover attempt have been mostly along the lines of, "Let's get this deal done already."
Sure, there have been a few horrified readers. But the majority have either been nonplussed or even pro-Microsoft.
It's easy to understand why advertisers aren't squawking about Microsoft acquiring Yahoo: they're a lot more concerned about Yahoo hooking up with Google--or Google just getting more powerful, which could drive up ad rates.
But the Internet public? Where's the Yahoo love?
To figure out what's going on, I applied the scientific method: I went to Facebook. So far, I've only come up with two "save Yahoo" groups: one with 20 members and the other with 41. There's also a "Save Yahoo too (sic) Hell with Google" group with seven members.
In fairness, the generic Yahoo group on Facebook has 1,597 fans. (If you have a "save Yahoo" group I haven't discovered, please send it to me, and I'll add it to our list.)
By comparison, the "I read Business 2.0, and I want to keep reading!" group had 2,082 members before Time Warner shut down the magazine.
I have to think that Yahoo has just a few more customers than Business 2.0 had readers. So what gives? I suspect a few things: As Yahoo has attempted to become more of a media company, it's become less of a fascination for the tech set.
I also have to wonder how much mostly free services like e-mail and instant messaging win customer loyalty. I use Yahoo for both, and I'll be annoyed if another company messes with it. But am I panicked about it the way I would be if someone messed with my iTunes? Heck no. I'll deal.
Ultimately, Google, which looks every bit as tough as the Redmond gang these days, is the biggest factor. Microsoft can't seem to find a way to compete with Google in new markets (or with Apple in old ones). Buying Yahoo? That's an acknowledgment that Microsoft needs help, not an aggressive act by a corporate predator trying to snuff out the competition.
Google has also become the Internet darling of the general public. Ask your parents to name an Internet company, and they'd probably say "Google," not "Yahoo." I'd like to think that my parents would say "CNET Networks," but they'd probably say "Google" too.