Yesterday my eWEEK colleagues and I got into a debate about what will happen to Yahoo with Jerry Yang stepping down from the CEO perch.
Microsoft Watch's Joe Wilcox thinks Yahoo's goose is cooked (before Thanksgiving, no less) unless it goes back to the poker table for another round with Microsoft.
I can definitely see this happening, as can many analysts following the space. Yahoo's synergies with Microsoft are pretty clear. Microsoft would gain mucho search share, the industry's best display advertising (no offense to DoubleClick), and lots of Web properties that would take time to build up and scale out on its own, such as Flickr, del.icio.us, etc.
There are also millions of Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Instant Messenger users it might integrate, as well as several content properties that might be cozy in MSN.
What I'm not willing to definitively say is that Yahoo will be chopped up, with bits and pieces going to Microsoft, Google, AOL, etc., in what would be the industry's first major Internet property fire sale. I can't adequately identify my sentiment; it just seems like blaspheme to me.
Then I let logic overrule emotion and got to thinking: If Yahoo was split up and sold by the piece, what would Google want to buy? Joe already wisely noted the Justice Department wouldn't let Google buy Yahoo outright. If the DOJ wouldn't let a search ad deal between the two pass muster, it certainly wouldn't bless a Googlehoo union.
So what would Google want to buy? Not the search by any means. Google's search experience is unparalleled, at least according to comScore and HitWise metrics, and Yahoo has opened its search platform, which would be anathema to Google.
Not the content portals, such as Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, My Yahoo. Google aggregates its own news just fine. Certainly not new Yahoo tools such as Fire Eagle, an alternative to Google's location apps, or BrowserPlus, which provides comparable functionality to Google Gears.
For the same reason that Google wouldn't want Yahoo search, it likely wouldn't want Yahoo Mail or Messenger, right? There are too many moving pieces going on within Yahoo Open Strategy 1.0, the company's bid to unify the disparate Mail, Messenger and other networks within Yahoo and allow outside programmers to develop applications that augment the user experience.
This would seem like a nightmare for Google to rationalize with Gmail, which already has voice and video chat and has become a unified communications platform, albeit lightweight, not in the same league as Microsoft SharePoint or Lotus Sametime.
Not so fast... look at that Yahoo Mail and Messenger user base. It's something on the order of three-quarters of a billion users! How could any Internet company not seriously consider that? If I'm Google, I don't want Microsoft landing that.
Everyone knows the mail is the central communications hub. With Yahoo Mail and Messenger, Google would have the premier social network. Indeed, if you consider Google's comments from a year ago about socializing the inbox and look at the momentum of OpenSocial effort one year into its life, maybe Google should be interested in Yahoo's approach.
YOS, after all, includes a control panel where users can access and customize apps; a portable address book, allowing users to move their contacts to other Web sites; and the ability to find new friends and share updates. That shares a lot in common with the OpenSocial goals.
I could also see Google loving Flickr -- it's so much more popular than Picasa -- and del.icio.us, a social bookmarking consolation for failing to buy Digg earlier this year. And Yahoo has all that display advertising, which would have to be factored into DoubleClick somehow, as well as the e-commerce platform, an area Google has yet to excel.
Perhaps, then, the question isn't what would Google want to buy from Yahoo, but what wouldn't it want to buy. Moreover, how much would Google be able to buy without forcing the DOJ to act? You know Google is on the DOJ's hit list, so Google would have to take care not to trespass on shaky ground.
What logs should Google buy in a Yahoo fire sale?