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Yahoo! Shouldn't! Sell! To! Microsoft?

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Yahoo! is chasing advertisers hard for sure, and is keen to build a wall between itself - the media internet - and Google - the technology internet. Drury said: "We're beginning to think about things in the way that grown up media thinks about things. Disney doesn't produce Lost because it's a cool show; Disney produces Lost because it attracts an audience of people that advertiser want to pitch to. We're thinking exactly along the same lines on the audience side."

Famously of course, Google's policy - at least in public - is to make jazzy products first, then worry about plastering them with ads later. It's an approach that excites its many fanboys and Microsoft doomsayers, but must gift Yahoo! some advantages if it picks the right products for its audience.

We wonder if maybe those clever analysts are wrong, and Microsoft and Yahoo! stand a better chance against the Google juggernaut apart. Could fighting a war on two fronts: against an improved Yahoo! advertising platform on one side, and a Microsoft refocused on improving its software on the other, be the thing to make the wheels wobble a little?

We're just asking is all.

Following an old media battle plan has at least meant Yahoo! has so far avoided the $1bn lawsuit seas being navigated by Google and its video clip dump YouTube, which are accused to profiting from their freewheeling approach to copyright. Drury jumped to The Internet's defence on this one, insisting, "It's not free. There's an enormous amount of expense in developing the right tools that make people want to use it. Our hosting costs for video are absolutely enormous. It is incumbent on us to make sure we monetize those places."

"People think these things are free and that Myspace and Bebo are operating their sites for altruistic reasons to allow me and my mates to chat. In fact, it's an enormous cost, and if you think about net neutrality, which they're talking about coming to the UK." Who are the mysterious they in this "debate"? Our recent report from Westminster Hall suggested the goblin would be stillborn in the UK, but Yahoo! is apparently still exercised by it. Drury said: "Maybe the ship has sailed, but it's what the government is thinking about, so maybe it hasn't."

Sub-Lawnmower Man philosophical meanderings aside, Yahoo! has had a more damaging controversy to ride in the last year, since its Chinese arm bowed to government demands for user data which landed dissidents in jail. Since it conjured a company line on the controversy, Yahoo! has maintained the same public stance as Google: the choice is not whether to comply with the Chinese government, but whether to operate in the country. It's an implicit "don't worry, we want to make money out of China too", aimed at investors.

Here's a new one on us, however. Drury said: "These dissidents, the reason they're dissidents is because they want to make news. If they hadn't been caught doing something on Yahoo!, they would have been caught handing out leaflets, or something else. In some ways, being connected with the Yahoo! name gets them more press around the world than anything else they would have done. I think it's a bit disingenuous of the people who are saying that it's all Yahoo!'s fault and that we're complicit with those governments: it's absolutely not where we're going."

We were about to ask whether Wang Xianoning would have got 10 years if his audience had been limited to leafleting , when we were cut off by Yahoo!'s PR minders. Hey, at least it's not a multibillion dollar multinational pretending to do no evil. ®

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