Yahoogle Redux? Why “Project Porcupine” Means Someone Is Definitely Going to Lose an Eye This Time.
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.
You gotta hand it to those geniuses over at the Googleplex, thinking up adorkable names for all their various plots and schemes.
And for its latest look-see of the Yahoo situation, it has revived an old one: “Project Porcupine,” presumably from the old joke about how you hug a porcupine.
Or maybe you don’t hug it at all, which is why all the rumors about the search giant hooking up with some unnamed private equity firms have been so unclear and, well, hard to grab ahold of.
According to sources, there are three clear aspects of what is actually going on:
1. Interest in using Google’s vast cash hoard as part of an investment it would make in a deal — meaning the company was approached, which it is, often.
2. Desire of Google’s crafty Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora to perhaps find a clever way to get ahold of Yahoo’s display inventory to add to Google’s own fast-growing DoubleClick display advertising subsidiary — meaning Arora has been making the rounds at Yahoo to gauge interest.
3. Pure enjoyment in messing with Microsoft execs — who are now allied with Yahoo via its Bing search technology — as well as getting up any price the software giant would have to fork over to be part of any consortium that will be cobbled together in what is sure to be a hopelessly complex deal.
Whether incoming or outgoing or just an early version of Mischief Night, any one of these options — while interesting to contemplate — is certainly fraught for Google.
Remember the trouble three years ago when Google tried to do a simple search-advertising partnership with Yahoo, in order to pull it out of the clutches of Microsoft?
That effort ended with a resounding oh-no-you-don’t by the Justice Department, which promised an antitrust lawsuit was awaiting such a move to bring together the No. 1 and No. 2 search services.
And if it was a no-no then, any formal relationship or even arm’s-length investment in Yahoo by Google would inevitably be more closely scrutinized this time around.
In fact, what I wrote in 2008 applies a dozen times more emphatically today:
“It is bad for advertisers, it is bad for consumers, it is bad for innovation, no matter how well-intentioned Google is.”
Fast forward to today, after Google has already played a worrisome game of chicken with regulators over a number of acquisition deals — which makes trying to bring back Yahoogle akin to reaching for the third rail.
But that’s not what it’s going to do, in truth, because — even though Yahoo is still a tempting target — there is usually only one outcome to hugging a porcupine.