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Industry watchers and punters in the blogosphere were both excited and alarmed at the news that Google was likely to buy a stake in AOL and extend the companies’ relationship.

John Battelle, author of a book on Google, was concerned at reports that the deal could mean giving AOL’s content an unprecedented special status in Google’s search results, although in a post titled “Don’t jump the shark, Google” he also wondered if the sparse details emerging were just “a trial balloon”.

Gary Price at the Search Engine Watch blog said AOL had come up with some impressive video search tools during the year, and wondered what role this might play in the deal. “Also, would future deals that both companies make for video content be made so the material would be accessible on both services?” Price also hypothesised about the two companies making their instant messaging networks interoperable, as Yahoo and Microsoft did earlier this year.

Former Goldman Sachs partner Michael Parekh warned Microsoft should not be written off, with a twist in the drama possible before the Time Warner board meeting this week. He also highlighted the ongoing dilemma for Time Warner in keeping the "Carl Icahn wolf" from the door: "besides a chunk of change to pay down debt, the deal merely buys more time."

“The possible ramifications of this stretch so far into the ether, everyone in the tech world is going to feel it,” wrote Steve at Kinrith.blogspot.com.

The possibility that Time Warner will capitalise on the implied value for AOL of $20bn by issuing a tracking stock was raised by Parekh and other sector watchers.

Early suggestions that AOL would receive favourable treatment in Google’s search results had many seizing on Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto. “It's official. Google had has finally turned evil", claimed Phil Sim on Squash. “(W)hat Google has really given up in this deal is its independence. With a billion dollar investment in AOL you’d now have to say the company is officially in the content game,” he added.

Others were more sanguine. "This isn't about good or evil really. These are businesses that exist to survive and thrive."

ZDnet’s Dan Farber spared a thought for Microsoft: “Ballmer likely threw more than chairs when he heard the news this morning.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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