Microsoft's bid to takeover Yahoo is being treated like a spectator sport. Despite Bill Gates saying there is no intention to raise the bid, will Microsoft dig deeper when the time comes to up the bid? Will the slumbering Yahoo board finally wake up and try for a better deal? Will layoffs and rapid employee exits leave Yahoo a hollow company regardless whether the $40 billion bid proceeds or not? All good questions, but there is a lot more at stake than consumers realize.
Yahoo has been around a long time and lots of web users have Yahoo accounts, personal histories and email archives stored at Yahoo. What happens to all that information? Here are five questions Microsoft should address to consumers.
1. What about my privacy? Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL have become vast storehouses of user information and yet operate in a largely unsupervised world. Microsoft needs to answer some very basic privacy issues. How long will a Yahoo users profile be retained? Who will retain it? How will that profile be managed?
2. The Yahoo mail archives. Again, will this be ported over to Microsoft? Will the underlying, largely open source systems, be transferred to a Windows architecture?
3. Identity. Yahoo has an ID service. Microsoft has an ID service. Which will win?
4. Financial information. In 2007, Yahoo made an agreement with PayPal (owned by eBay) for electronic payment. Microsoft has been rumored to be building its own payment system related to the Xbox gaming system. Will Yahoo under Microsoft stay with PayPal (mighty unlikely in my opinion) or will they try to entice PayPal users to a new system?
5. Music, Movies and other downloads. Who owns your preferences?