Culture

Yahoo-Google: Bloviation in spades

Pardon my sarong but this latest bout of one-upmanship between Yahoo and Google reminds me oh so much of the cornball antics that defined the late 1990s browser wars between Microsoft and Netscape.

Back then hardly a week passed without either Netscape or Microsoft issuing a singularly content-free press release touting a useless statistic. The idea was to mold public opinion with as much information (and disinformation) as possible while their respective sales teams slugged it out in the trenches.

The lessons from the recent past haven't escaped the folks over at Yahoo and Google. Both companies claim the better search engine and are prepared with "statistics" to prove the point. Last week Yahoo put its search engine document index at 19.2 billion. Google says that's a lot of malarkey. (Unfortunately I can only report Google's response second-hand because the company has us on double, not-so-secret probation until next July.)

Insiders take this "my algorithm is better than your algorithm" stuff very seriously, though I'm sure 99.99% of Internet users couldn't care less. But you're going to hear a lot of claims and counter-claims during the course of the second half of this year--and into 2006.

Google refuses to acknowledge its ambitions but moves like the beta release of its personalized home page speak volumes about what its management wants to do. And Terry Semel of Yahoo is too smart and battle-savvy to sit back and give Eric Schmidt's team carte-blanche.

Let the bloviation games begin.