An open letter to Micro$oft, Yahoo$, The Google, et alia

Dear Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and all those bent out of shape,

First off, let me declare myself: I’m a Yahoo user in a number of ways. I’m a premium Yahoo mail user—I would say I’m a premium male user, as I mistyped at first, but there is a formidable list of women who would probably debate that point, on the off chance they read this. And to the handful who would nod their assent, I bid a fond and embarrassed thank you (yo B, it was good to talk with you again recently).

But I digress. I pay $19.95 (I think) a year to get premium mail service. Basically I’m paying not to look at ads, as well as have multiple accounts, account forwarding, etc. I also pay $11 or $12 bucks a month to host this site—because a fool and his money are soon parted, but I’m a fool who doesn’t have to deal with banner ads, etc., or any other crap of that nature, and Yahoo does a pretty good job of tying in their e-mail with their Web hosting and whatnot. I also use Yahoo to search the news wires, as that is a key part of my current work gig, and Yahoo does a better job of sorting out the crap from the relevant hits on its news search than Google.

I’m also a Micro$oft user in that I use Windows XP machines. Principally because it’s a de facto standard–no worries about finding the software I need–and unlike previous incarnations, is pretty stable and configurable, at least to the point that I’m satisfied.

As for The Google, I tend to use it for Internet searches, although I’m getting away from using it because it seems to have a penchant for showing me pages that DO NOT contain my search terms, though they may sometimes be relevant. Why this is so, I don’t know, but I suspect it has a lot to do with their business model and how they sell advertising, as much as their search technology. Anymore, I just find myself Googling out of habit, but as soon as I start looking for terms cached within my search results and can’t find them, I get annoyed and use a different search engine.

Will Micro$oft at least buy me dinner first?

Now that this exposition is out of the way, I’m pleading with [tag]Yahoo[/tag] and its shareholders not to cave into [tag]Microsoft[/tag] or [tag]Google[/tag]. I realize I’m just the smallest of greasy wheels in a mechanical Colossus bloated with money, but still, I will add my voice to the throng—but not for the throng’s reasons.

Why? Mostly because, I don’t like change. Well, that’s not entirely true. Being one who is bored easily, I like change. I like things that are unexpected, as long as they don’t entail grievous bodily or financial harm to myself, innocent bystanders, surrounding wildlife, etc. I’m even fond of saying “change is good.”

But I like change on my terms; I readily admit I’m selfish that way. I’m easily bored, yet a creature of habit—such is the nature of Gemini. I don’t like having change thrust upon me; I’d rather be the one doing the thrusting, as it were. And I promise, that is the last remotely sexual euphemism/metaphor I will employ in this post. So I don’t want M$ to buy Yahoo. It’s fine the way it is; it doesn’t need Balmer and Co.’s help. Of course, if they do buy Yahoo—and given their offer, I’d be surprised if Yahoo’s shareholders voted it down, shocked even, despite Yahoo claiming it undervalues the company (lolz)—I’ll keep things with regard to my mail and Web hosting where they are, as long as M$ doesn’t screw it up. In other words, if they leave it alone. On behalf of my fellow Yahoo users, I plead with M$ to not screw us by screwing up Yahoo. But I won’t hold my breath. Large corporate mergers are frequently buggered, more often than not.

Having said that, I have to laugh at all of the people up in arms over that evil Micro$oft trying to buy poor lil’ Yahoo and DOOM THE INTERNET, OH NOES! The most laughable is Google’s hypocritical statement about the announcement (which I wouldn’t be aware of were it not for getting caught up on my Boing Boing reading this afternoon):

“The openness of the Internet is what made Google — and Yahoo! — possible. A good idea that users find useful spreads quickly. Businesses can be created around the idea. Users benefit from constant innovation. It’s what makes the Internet such an exciting place.

“So Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.

“Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

“Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft — despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses — to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions — and consumers deserve satisfying answers.”

This reeks, absolutely reeks of, is absolutely dripping with and smacks of hypocrisy.

If I’m The Man, then you’re The Man and Google’s The Man as well

It’s all good—until that second paragraph. Then one has to put on some serious waders to escape the rising tide of bullshit. Come on Google! Aside from the inherent hypocrisy, do you really expect us to believe this? Are you really trying to frame this in terms of David and Goliath? The free and independent Davids vs. the corporate, wealth-bloated corporate Goliaths? That all the company cares about is a free and open Internet?

Then I want whatever drug(s) Google’s marketing department puts into the corporate water coolers. Google, you are Goliath. You are The Man. The minute you went public—the minute any company does—your number one responsibility, your number one goal, became to make money for your shareholders. That original good idea, that innovation, may still be there but ultimately it becomes sublimated to making money. Everything else becomes subservient to this new priority. This isn’t me being cynical. This is just the truth of the matter. I know what of I speak; I used to live in Sillycon Valley; I was at ground zero for the dotcom bubble burst. I had to cover the financial woes of the tech industry in its wake for several years; I’ve seen the machine in action first hand. I even went behind the scenes for 11 long months.

Don’t believe that Google is [tag]The Man[/tag]? In Q3 of 2007, the company’s net income was more than $1 billion. For those of you that don’t follow this stuff, in three months time, for July through September, after all the costs of operating the company, it netted $1.069 billion in profit. If more than a $1 billion in net income in one quarter isn’t The Man, then there is no Man. By comparison, the Evil M$ Empire made about $4.3 billion that quarter, while the red-headed stepchild (relatively) that is Yahoo, made a paltry $151.3 million in net income.

Beginning to see what this is really about?

I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with this, or making money and capitalism in general. The only thing wrong with capitalism is that, like every other system we as humans seem to conjure up—communism, socialism, despotism, etc., it fails to take into account the baser aspects of human nature (just ask any former member of the Enron rank and file). But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, Google, you are a public company, and the only reason you care about M$ gobbling up Yahoo is that it would mean M$ would finally become a serious threat to your turf, and it could hurt your opportunities to make money.

And to those of you individuals that are upset about all this, that also want to frame it in some sort of “evil M$ is at it again; they must be stopped” sort of argument, I would say the same to you. Maybe you’re not The Man, but you’re a sell out; you’re his pawn just as surely as I am and pretty much everyone is, at least in any reasonably well-developed country that has any sort of market-based economy. Unless you live totally off the grid, don’t pay taxes, and are reading this at a public Internet terminal or at a friend’s house who took pity on you for the winter, you’re a willing participant in The System; you’ve acquiesced to The Man and agreed to play your part, unwittingly or otherwise.

Again, I don’t think there is anything inherently evil or wrong in this. Hypocrisy is just one of my pet peeves. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a strict vegetarian anymore; unless you grow all of your vegetables yourself or buy them directly from a farmer, you’re supporting factory farms, and all the problems they bring. Another metaphor for you: it’s like putting a biofuel in your car and smugly proclaiming your Green ways to the world. Once you factor in the fossil fuel used to refine the biofuel and the subsequent pollution, not to mention what the demand for biofuel-related crops has done to agricultural markets in the Third World, well, it’s suddenly not such a great solution, and you’re not so green.

You can either fight The System or fix it. But you can’t fight The System and stick it to The Man if you’re part of The System and drinking his soda and eating his chips and paying for his cable TV. And don’t kid yourself that the M$/Yahoo/Google three-way tug of war is about anything but money. I have no doubt that each company was originally fueled by their respective founder’s visions to put technology in the hands of people and whatnot. But regardless of whether that was the case once upon a time, or each company was founded just to make a buck, the fact of the matter is that nowadays, they exist to make money, and that’s all that M$ takeover bid for Yahoo is about. Not the sanctity of the Internet’s freedom, not the The Man trying to stick it to the Little Guy, etc. And if you see it any other terms, you’re just fooling yourself, which is just what The Man wants.


A very tiny yet very squeaky Yahoo cog

P.S. Have to get in a dig at Apple and Apple fanboys and girls. This is the thing that bugs me the most about some—but not all—Apple fans, the whole “you’re just The Man’s pawn because you have a Windows box but I’m an independent creative soul who is free of taint and charting a course for freedom because I use an Apple.” Apple is The Man. Steve Jobs is The Man as much as Bill Gates or Steve Balmer or anyone else. Apple is a publicly-traded company; according to Apple’s 10-Q for calendar Q4 2007, its net income was nearly $1.6 billion. Granted, that reflects holiday-season buying; in Q2 of last year it only made $818 million.

And don’t get me started on Jobs, Apple and Digital Rights Management. Grrr. …

Aenima coverP.P.S. This all reminds me of the song by the band Tool, “Hooker with a Penis,” which, despite what the name of the song implies has nothing to do with transgendered sex workers. Rather it is a song addressed to a fan who accuses the band of selling out after signing with a major record label. It’s a rather apt and amusing rebuttal, and one of my favorite songs by the band; you can read the lyrics there at the Tool Web site; just follow the preceding link, click the lyrics link and select the album Ænima and scroll down to the song. I should warn you it is a flash-based site, which is why I can’t link to the lyrics directly, but it is relatively annoyance-free, in spite of the flash.

Heh, once the search engine spiders get ahold of that link, this page ought to pull in a few viewers who were looking for something else entirely. …