Yahoo — boat-misser extraordinaire

facebook_cake.jpgEric Savitz at Barron’s Online has an item about Yahoo and Facebook, in which he quotes Needham analyst Mark May as saying that Yahoo may have missed yet another boat by not acquiring the social-networking site — in much the same way it had the chance to acquire Google for $3-billion back in 2002 and passed. According to the Needham analyst, Facebook recently passed 21 million registered users, and ComScore says that 93 per cent of registered users log on at least once a month and 60 per centuse the site at least once a day.

“He notes that the site is the 36th most visited location on the Web, and the number one site for photos, with over 6 million uploaded daily. May notes that, according to eMarketer, Facebook was the most visited site on the web for both males and females aged 17-25.”

That adds fuel to the argument I made in an earlier post, about how Facebook’s growth is putting it close to MySpace, if not actually ahead — and MySpace is making $30-million a month, a figure that is expected to double by next year. Larry Dignan argues that News Corp. hasn’t figured out how to monetize MySpace, but that sounds like a pretty good start on monetization to me.

Doug Macintyre at 24/7 Wall Street also questions whether Facebook is worth much more than $1-billion, but I think he is being too conservative in his estimates — not just of what Facebook could make, but of what a company like Yahoo (or even Microsoft) would be willing to pay for a site that is growing at those kinds of rates, especially among the 17-25 age group.

This Skype call brought to you by Intel

Earlier this month, Skype announced that it had signed a deal with Intel Corp. which gives users of the company’s new dual-core chips added features when they make VOIP calls with Skype. Specifically, it allows them to engage in conference calls with as many as 10 people, compared with only five for the non-Intel version, and promises additional features such as video calling in the future.

This deal struck some observers as a little odd at the time, since Skype software works with virtually any kind of PC hardware, and voice-over-Internet services aren’t the type of thing that uses huge amounts of computing power. As it turns out, one of the observers who found the partnership more than a little odd was Advanced Micro Devices, Intel’s main competitor. AMD just happens to be suing Intel for anti-trust violations resulting from its dominant market share, and it has now asked Skype for documents relating to its deal with Intel.

Skype has denied that it arranged to limit its features on any non-Intel platform. According to the company, the 10-way calling feature requires a lot of processor strength, which only the Intel dual-core can provide. Not surprisingly, AMD disagrees. And some tech industry observers say the argument that a voice-over-Internet service requires extra horsepower stretches the limits of believability — what most VOIP services rely on is bandwidth or Internet connection speed. Others wonder whether Skype, which was bought by eBay in a controversial deal worth up to $4-billion, is getting nervous about growth and looking for some help in that department.

Update:

There is apparently a “patch” that will allow 10-way conference calls on any processor.

Jason McCabe Calacanis = Bubble 2.0

Does the fact that Jason Calacanis — of Weblogs Inc. — is successful again mean that we’re in another Web bubble? For many people in Silicon Valley in the late 1980s, Jason was a dot-com poster boy, as a profile in Wired points out. He built a photocopied and hand-delivered gossip sheet into an industry-leading magazine, and also had a reputation for throwing lavish parties. (Wikipedia has the abbreviated version of his bio).

Now, Jason works for AOL, which paid an estimated $25-million for his network of about 80 blogs. While that seems like a large enterprise, only a dozen or so of those blogs — such as Engadget.com and Joystiq.com — appear to get much traffic, and according to the Wired article the company had about $1-million in advertising revenue when AOL bought it. As the piece notes, “it’s not clear that $25 million is a sane amount for 10 disconnected employees and a network of bloggers who could jump ship at any moment.” That’s putting it mildly.

In typical Calacanis fashion, he isn’t content to bask in the glory of a bubble-style takeover of his company — he’s convinced that he could become chief executive of AOL if he wanted to (an idea that, sadly, might not be as much of a stretch as it should be). Paul Kedrosky gives Jason props for bouncing back from his first popped bubble, but others will likely see his return as evidence that the bubble mentality is back with a vengeance.

Image-based ads on Google? The horror…

According to a report in the New York Times, Google has decided — in part because of pressure from America Online — to experiment with graphical, image-based advertising on some of its pages. Although the early reports were that this would be restricted to ads for AOL content as part of the $1-billion deal between the two companies, the NYT says the ads will be open not just to AOL but to any advertiser.

John Battelle’s comment on this is a simple “My, my, my.” John also warned Google recently not to “jump the shark,” because of rumours that the company was going to give AOL content preferential treatment on its search pages — something Stuart MacDonald and I discussed a bit on the comments on this recent post.

As someone commented on John’s blog, this is going to be a “tricky balancing act” for Google to pull off. On the one hand, while it may irritate the purists who like the plain look of the company’s websites, as Danny Sullivan notes, graphical ads are a reality that we all put up with just about everywhere else, including our own blogs (unless you’re too puny to get advertising, like me).

At the same time, however, the more Google becomes like everyone else the more risk there is, since that uniqueness is arguably a big part of what makes people pay the astronomical sums they do for its stock. How will it handle the changes that its deal with AOL involves? And will it be worth it?

Tom Raftery says he hopes it’s just a trial balloon that will get shot down, and Cynthia over at IPDemocracy figures it’s only a matter of time before video starts showing up too. And then what — pop-ups? Henry Blodget at Internet Outsider thinks it’s inevitable, and so does Stuart MacDonald in the comments on this item.

Update:

Marissa Mayer has a note up at the official Google blog about the AOL deal and what it means. ‘Business partnerships will never compromise the integrity or objectivity of our search results,’ she says, and ‘there will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.’ So apparently the motto ‘do no evil’ extends to evil advertising. But Danny says there is still some wiggle room for the company.

Column: Call it YahooVo?

Here’s a column I posted at globeandmail.com about rumours that Yahoo might acquire TiVo:

“In what was no doubt a welcome ray of sunshine for shareholders of TiVo, the maker of personal video recorders announced a deal with Internet portal and search engine company Yahoo, which will allow TiVo owners to click a TV listing on Yahoo’s pages and automatically record shows on their PVR. This gave a small boost to TiVo’s somewhat beleaguered shares, but unfortunately the warm glow of the deal didn’t last for very long — the shares lost ground on Tuesday, the day after the announcement, and are still down by more than 50 per cent from their peak early last year.

Not surprisingly, the deal with Yahoo renewed the speculation that TiVo might be an acquisition target — if not for Yahoo then for Google, or Microsoft, or AOL, or maybe your Aunt Phyllis (that last one is just a joke). It might be stretching things a little to say that behind every TiVo takeover rumour there stands a disgruntled shareholder, but at this point an acquisition of the company seems to be about the only thing that might breathe some life into the share price. Although it more or less invented the PVR market, TiVo hasn’t been able to capitalize on that “first-mover” advantage, and so has been forced to watch the world pass it by.

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