In a week marked by a dizzying barrage of news on the future of Yahoo and its suitors, industry watchers were left mostly scratching their heads...and waiting for more scraps of information to chew on.
On the heels of Microsoft threatening Yahoo with three weeks to accept its acquisition offer--or else face a proxy fight and lower price--some radical scenarios swept across the so-called Microhoo landscape this week.
The first big surprise was news that Yahoo is trying out search advertisements from Google, Yahoo's largest rival and, for that matter, Microsoft's, too--at least when it comes to online aspirations.
Later came two unconfirmed reports: Yahoo is considering absorbing AOL in exchange for a big investment from AOL parent Time Warner, and Microsoft might get some help from News Corp. to acquire Yahoo, a move that could provide acquisition funding and add News Corp.'s MySpace.com into the mix.
Through the flurry of activity, Google's competitive threat has remained constant, if not stronger and more stable.
If your head is spinning, you're not alone, which is why we've at least attempted to clear things up with to the saga, which is only likely to get more confusing. The Yahoo board, for its part, is expected to meet Friday to weigh the different scenarios.
Of course, every analyst in the world--even those with more journalistic bents here at CNET News.com--has been trying to make sense of the moves. Some took on the question of whether Microsoft's $31 per share price undervalues Yahoo. Others wondered if Yahoo's Jerry Yang can dance with the heavyweight champ from Redmond.
Making less noise, surprisingly, are Yahoo customers, although they did chime in in response to Jim Kerstetter's blog about the apparent lack of hand-wringing among the Yahoo faithful.
"I am outraged! " said one News.com reader. "I've been with Yahoo since 1995. I also use Microsoft products. I just can't stand the idea of MS owning everything."
Another reader opined, however, that customers don't care about a possible Microsoft acquisition because Yahoo has become irrelevant, because this will likely be the "one-two" punch to take out Microsoft, and the Internet business has become "just that, business."
"The passion for technology firms is fading away. The thrill is gone. The love has evaporated. The only emotions left are dislike and/or hatred," the reader wrote.
Perhaps a bit overshadowed by the merger news, the annual RSA security conference drew big crowds this week in San Francisco. While some felt the confab was a little slow in terms of breaking news, it featured some hot topics such as cybersecurity, cryptography, and warrantless wiretapping.
Symantec CEO John Thompson kicked things off with a few predictions: that malicious software will outnumber legitimate software, increasing the need for so-called white listing; that identity management will grow "beyond the enterprise" and start to include every customer in the world; and that digital rights management will be become a reality for all content, not just music and video.
Microsoft took advantage of the security crowd to release its new Stirling security suite in public beta. The Stirling security package, the next wave of its Forefront software, offers one management console, enabling administrators to push policies out across PCs, servers, and other computers that access the Internet.
CNET's Robert Vamosi offered his take on the echo-boom generation's social-media hacking game, including how security experts are using social networks and other Web 2.0 tools to shut the young kids down.
There was also talk of the persistent security problems plaguing electronic voting systems, and author Malcolm Gladwell's message for conference attendees was that too much information can impair your judgment. "The ability to show judgment, to exercise judgment is just about the most important thing any decision maker can possess," he said in his keynote addresses.
As the Web 2.0 world turns
Meanwhile, the Web 2.0 world was busy with new releases such as Google's Solutions Marketplace, an online shop for third-party Google Apps add-ons. Solutions Marketplace may make more people take Web widgets more seriously--even enterprise developers.
Also this week, Microsoft's Live Maps team launched a new version of its service that offers new features like exporting to GPS devices, improved 3D imagery, and Clearflow, an option that will alter driving directions based on traffic. CNET Webware's Rafe Needleman analyzed Clearflow, and found it of "only marginal usefulness on a PC."
And in a bid to broaden Flickr if not actually crush YouTube, Yahoo announced this week that it's adding videos to what has just been a photo-sharing site.
The change is a modest but significant extension of Flickr's features. The videos, limited to 90 seconds and 150MB, will be shown as thumbnails alongside users' photos, and will inherit all the features of photos stored on the site: users can add comments, captions, comments, geotags, and privacy restrictions so only friends or family may view the videos, the company said.
The move left some Flickr purists up in arms. The No Video on Flickr group amassed more than 4,000 members just a few hours after the new feature launched.
In the online music world, there was talk this week from Last.fm about how free streaming turns people on to new music and encourages them to buy. And in an industry that has been decimated by digital technology, EMI shows us how it's putting such technology to work through digital music promotions.
Also on the Web front, site operators have enjoyed a broad legal shield against lawsuits filed over material posted by their users. But that may be about to change, due to a pair of recent rulings by federal district judges.
Also of note The physics of baseball (blog and video)...Next year's H-1B visa limit met...FCC fines retailers over DTV violations...Nokia shows off an iPhone lookalike...HP jumps on mini-notebook bandwagon...IBM's racetrack memory seeks 100x boost in density...Blockbuster considering set-top box for movie downloads...and bridging the digital divide in Colombia and Brazil.