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Rory Cellan-Jones

Yahoo - what's their game?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 25 Mar 08, 18:52 GMT

“I wonder what he meant by that?” is what the German statesman Metternich is supposed to have said on hearing of the death of the wily French diplomat Talleyrand.

That was much my reaction when I heard today’s news that the not quite so comatose Yahoo had joined the OpenSocial platform. Both Yahoo and Google seemed to want to make an awful lot of noise about this not particularly stunning event.

After all, Yahoo had stood aside last October when Google launched a platform designed to help developers create applications that would work on any social networking site. But now it’s plunging in, and also collaborating with Google and MySpace to form what they call “The OpenSocial Foundation,” a kind of United Nations to guide the new platform.

In the joint press conference the three partners have just held there was heady talk of collaboration, of “going far by going together”, and of making OpenSocial “forever free and open”.

But guess who wasn’t mentioned? That’s right – Facebook and Microsoft. They have both kept well clear of the OpenSocial initiative, while insisting that they are both committed to various forms of openness.

So what Yahoo really means by this initiative is “Hey, we’re not like those guys in Redmond who want to swallow us up - we are really, really sincere about collaboration.” Or, in the words of one of Google’s spinners, “openness is closer to some hearts than others.”

It’s another round in the phoney war between Yahoo and Microsoft, while we wait to see if Bill Gates will increase his bid. Yahoo and Google are saying they, not Microsoft, embody the future of the internet. The trouble is, while Google makes ever friendlier noises about the ailing search firm, it s not offering Yahoo shareholders a tangible alternative to Microsoft’s cash.

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