Time For Digital Anonymity?
$ 44.6 billion in cash. Wow! At a 62% premium over what Yahoo stocks are currently worth. Say wow again. Much ink, mostly digital these days, has been spilt (even Google has a point of view on the issue and they are not keeping quiet over Friday’s announcement. Many believe the audacity of the bid will ensure that Yahoo will soon be a Microsoft company, despite the note that Yahoo has put out. Micros Yahoo? Or Yahoo Soft? It’s only a matter of time.
So how does the world change for all of us? Not significantly, not at least in the short term. Bringing together two companies with vastly different cultures has rarely ever worked. This one’s going to be no different.
While the debate is on about the deal, the outcomes, and just about everything else, are we forgetting the reason that makes good online companies so special? Us, the people who populate their virtual corridors? It is ordinary net users like us who have made Yahoo a Yahoo and an attractive business. As Shar Van Boskirk wrote on the Forrester blog, the deal will give Microsoft access to deeper customer data. Sure Microsoft will be able to use this data for business gains in the future, but what does it give all of us?
The real question is when these kinds of deals happen to virtual companies, what happens to the rich customer data that are logged into the servers of these companies? While this is not the first time someone is raising this issue, but it maybe a good time to rethink our online habits. About registering for all kinds of new services that keep cropping up all the time. While on the face of it these services are free, it’s the value of customers and their information the reason why companies are willing to fork out such large sums of money to acquire companies.
Some of us may have used the online form filling service Gator in the early days of the Internet and experienced what could possibly happen when these seemingly good services fall in the wrong hands. This kind of a fate may never happen to our Yahoo accounts, (some Flickr users don’t seem to think so) but it maybe worth thinking twice about registering to just about every cool sounding new service that props up on the net.
In a recent review of online data back up services, free or low cost services that automatically back up all the files you have on your hard drive, NYT’s David Pogue had a cautionary ending. While many of the services looked good, the real issue he thought was one of corporate longevity. Since the Internet itself is very young, no Web-based outfit has a particularly long track record. Any of these services could be discontinued or sold at any time.
While the regulators will be looking at every aspect of the Microsoft, Yahoo deal, maybe the time is right to start looking at services like OpenID, Wesabe (for financial data) and others. Services that will give us, the users; the ability to secure our identities and information in one single place and manage it all from there.