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02.01.08

Microsoft, Yahoo and Control of Information

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Wikipedia at 5:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yahoo and Microsoft: friends or rivals?

Yahoo’s relationship with Microsoft is similar to that of Novell and Microsoft. Reminder yourself of our long criticism of Yahoo for political censorship and also censorship against BSD, open source and Linux. The context in which this was mentioned might seem odd. We pretty much praised a Yahoo Vice President for his description of the patent troll epidemic. The fact remains that Yahoo inappropriately handles information.

Yahoo has remained quiet about this issue for several months. Nonetheless, since deafening silence can be more damaging than acknowledgment of an issue, Yahoo finally issued a response to rising criticism of its censorship (I am partly responsible for this by the way). Here is it from The Inquirer:

FOLLOWING OUR STORY, entitled Yahoo caught censoring Open Sauce, some time ago, Yahoo!’s spin machine got in touch to clarify the situation.

[...]

“The Answers incident whereby the user’s response was removed is un-related to our thoughts on open source. The removal was due to human error, and we have since reinstated the answer.”

This happens to have made the headlines several months after I had put it at the front page of Digg.com, most probably because I lifted it again from the grave, Matt Asay then blogged it (he reads my comments) and the Inquirer quickly picked it up the following day. Here is Matt Asay’s entry:

Slated is suggesting that Yahoo! is censoring out open source on its Answers service. Apparently some suggestions that people try Ubuntu, among other things, have been marked as a “violation of…Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.”

Slated is a friend of mine and apparently, Wikipedia’s article on “Yahoo” now contains the relevant reference too (according to an E-mail I received just hours ago).

Some might say that Yahoo is a scapegoat here. Could mischievous moderators be the reason for those erased posts that speak about Free software? The rumours about a Yahoo-Microsoft takeover returned to light recently. Examples from the news:

Yahoo’s woes also may create pressure on its board to mull a possible sale to a deep-pocketed suitor like Microsoft Corp., which hopes to make more money from the online advertising boom.

Microsoft and Yahoo reportedly held informal discussions about a partnership last year before Yang — one of Yahoo’s biggest shareholders — became CEO.

Also this: Yahoo’s troubles spur new talk of a buyout

Will the company sell its soul and assets to Microsoft, with which it is already quite the partner? It is a worrisome thought, but I have been steering clear off Yahoo for almost a year when rumours first emerged about concrete negotiations between the two companies. At the time, Terry Semel was at the head of the company. And lookie here! Just yesterday Terry Semel completely disengaged from the company. Complete coincidence or complete collapse?

Terry Semel stepped down as Yahoo Inc.’s chairman Thursday, severing his ties with the slumping Internet icon 7 1/2 months after he resigned as chief executive under shareholder pressure.

What news was soon to follow? Watch this very new blog post:

Microsoft Calls Out To Yahoo Employee(s)

[...]

A member of Microsoft’s marketing staffing team has apparently sought out at least one Yahoo worker with a “we’d like to chat” message.

Wonderful! As we saw some days ago, those “chat” are a prelude to trouble [1, 2] (the same goes for Novell as we showed last week). Microsoft could truly use some staff in its Web-related division where it has been suffering a major financial blow and a major staff exodus.

But here comes the more worrying bit. A week ago we mentioned possible censorship at Google. If you are too lazy (or hurried) to read the whole overview of this issue, be aware that Google has been hiring many former Microsoft employees. These people can now game various algorithms (including search) and hand-pick information/results which are delivered via Google News. There is quite clearly some manual exclusion/selection of feeds. Filtering that is driven by humans is most likely involved to refine SEPRs that reach a large readership (e.g. “linux”, “novell”, “opendocument”, “2008 election”).

Last but not least, be aware that Yahoo seems to be breaking apart (1,000 jobs to be axed) and there is no clear strategic/recovery plan.

The hammer has fallen. Yahoo will finally make the job cuts Wall Street has craved for a long time, before a backdrop of lower profits caused by higher expenses.

Where will all these people end up? And if Microsoft inherited Yahoo’s position in search engines, what information would people receive (Microsoft is already said to be tweaking results to advance its business goal? Oh, Lordy.

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5 Comments

  1. SubSónica said,

    February 1, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Gravatar

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120186587368234937.html?mod=hpp_us_whats_news

    I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with MSFT gaining so much a hold of the internet given its historical track record of dirty tricks… moreover, the DOJ has issued a further 2 years monopoly supervision period over MSFT: How can you reconcile that with at the same time allowing for MSFT extending its monopoly further into other markets… if this goes on I will have to cancel all my accounts at any yahoo services: mail, flickr, geocities etc… I know the very moment MSFT touches these services, they will become crap, full of ads and spam… I’m sure many more people agrees…

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 1, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Gravatar

    It’s the age of oligarchy. I’m sure there will be some so-called analysts that will name these moves “consolidation”, but all it amounts to is less competition, less opportunity and the death of the middle class. But anyway, that’s just politics. Let’s concentrate on the technical aspects of this situation and pray that Novell and SUSE won’t be rebranded also (if you know what I mean).

  3. SubSónica said,

    February 1, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Gravatar

    I want to be wrong. But it is reported as a sure thing. And the resignment yesterday of one of the yahoo chiefs might be a good indication:
    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/130801.asp
    Moreover, the price per share is quite high… this is not a takeover, this is the frickin’ disembarkment of Normandy!
    Have a look at the number of services that are going to be controlled/ruined by Microsoft:
    http://docs.yahoo.com/docs/family/more/

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 1, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Gravatar

    I saw that coming. The investors from Connecticut will sing “money money money” while the rest of the world worries about the direction industry has taken. Not to worry. We do what we can to inform.

  5. twitter said,

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Who knows about political censorship? You do.

    M$, AOL and Yahoo have already acted in a coordinated way to censor political mail. They all acted at the same time to block the Truthout newsletter as spam. AOL backed down and allowed their users to receive email they requested but not M$ or Yahoo. The M$ response was to insult both Truthout and their users by saying the designation was correct. Yahoo insulted both with silent contempt.

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