There is a lot of talk about the Microsoft takeover attempt of Yahoo this weekend. TechMeme is flooded with blog posts about the subject. I’m not so interested in the “breaking news” factor, but I am more interested in the effects this might have on the web and its users. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have great assets, which combined might even make Google become a bit nervous.
I doubt it will be in advertisement. Google is the absolute number one in that game and it will be nearly impossible to beat them at their own game. Microsoft has large aspirations in the advertisement world, and Yahoo has performed rather poorly there given all the traffic they receive.
If Microsoft wants to create more value by acquiring Yahoo I would suggest that they start combining and innovating over one of the biggest assets they jointly would have, e-mail. There are more e-mail users worldwide than any other web service. E-mail is, although outdated, still the most frequently used communication tool. It is more popular and has more users than all social networks like MySPace and Facebook together. Consider the possibilities if e-mail was to be updated and improved to become the ultimate social network. No need to acquire new users, simply offer the hundreds of million users worldwide the possibility to interact in a network.
I said this before in a post entitled: “Dear Yahoo, Microsoft, Google e-mail: Forget Facebook, start innovating!”. E-mail could very well be the heart of a new type of social network. Tim O’Reilly makes a similar observation in his excellent post here. It would need a major redesign though to make it fit for what users really want. In my earlier post I mentioned 9 possible improvements to make e-mail the ultimate social networking environment. If Microsoft/Yahoo would join efforts in making e-mail a social networking tool then Google would have something to worry about. And that isn’t bad at all.
Google really needs competition to keep them sharp. Should they be really worried? Well, yes, a bit. But Google also has assets that could easily be combined into great social networking tools. Let’s not forget they have GMail and chat, Orkut, Google Maps, Android, OpenSocial, RSS and Jaiku. When these assets are combined the right way Google could easily facilitate the ultimate social network, with Gmail at its heart.
It will be interesting to see what will happen the next months. Will Microsoft and Yahoo create the biggest social network ever? Will Google pick up the challenge and roll out their version of a social network? Facebook and Myspace, you better watch out!