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August 9 marked the 10th anniversary of Netscape’s IPO - an event seen as the starting point in the dotcom boom and prompting some reflection on the past decade, along with reckonings on what the next 10 years might bring.

The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking it was 1995 all over again with the amount of corporate activity in the online world this week. First Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp, said he was in advanced talks to buy an unnamed but “wonderful” search engine, and was prepared to spend as much as $2bn making News a “dominant player on the web”. News has already spent $650m on internet acquisitions, most of it going on the purchase of Intermix, which owns the blogging/music/social network website Myspace.com.

The tech news blog Techdirt said it “has the odd feeling of times past, when companies like Time Warner and Disney suddenly jumped into the internet space in a big way”. However Murdoch reassured investors, who are likely to be more interested in the “poison pill” provisions aimed at capping John Malone’s stake in News anyway, that the search engine would be a cheap buy.

Less than a day after the News Corp announcement, Yahoo confirmed it had agreed to buy 40 per cent of Alibaba.com, one of China’s most powerful web companies, in exchange $1bn and Yahoo’s own Chinese business. Or, as the Xinhua news agency described it, Alibaba acquired Yahoo China.

It’s the largest foreign foray into China’s 100 million-strong internet user market, says Search Engine Journal.

Just a week earlier Baidu.com, the leading Chinese internet search company, finished its first day of trading on the Nasdaq trading at 353 per cent of its offer price. But some analysts are questioning whether Baidu, whose 2004 revenues of $13.4m are about 0.1 per cent of Google’s, should be trading at such a premium.


Linuxworld

It’s that time of the year when the once-distant worlds of open source and technology corporations come together at San Francisco’s Moscone Centre to celebrate their newfound compatibility. There were fewer signs of geekiness and more suits than ever before, but as FT correspondent Richard Waters noted, this should be cause for celebration in the open source community, as it shows how successful the movement has been.

But it wouldn’t be an open source convention without a good dose of Microsoft-related angst.

Microsoft offered up its director of platform technology, Bill Hilf, who explained how the techies at MS Campus in Seattle tinker with Linux and other open source applications to “help drive product improvements”.

Microsoft sought to further temper its reputation as the nemisis of open source with the original tactic of offering pizza and free software.

But all this wasn’t enough to placate Red Hat, the leading Linux distributor, who demanded that Microsoft call a truce on open source by promising it would never take legal action against open source developers.

At the end of the day though it was all fun and games - the SF Examiner reported that that Google beat Microsoft in a trivia quiz to win the Golden Penguin Bowl.

Still on Microsoft, The Inquirer brought us the important news that the software behemoth has bought the rights to the “Vista” name from German company Vista Computer, along with the vista.de domain name. Phew!


Former WorldCom CFO gets five years

Scott Sullivan, former finance chief of WorldCom, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for his role in the $11bn accounting fraud scandal at the US telco.

Although Judge Barbara Jones said Sullivan had committed crimes “of the highest magnitude”, his co-operation with prosecutors meant he received a much lighter sentence than the 25 years handed down last month to Bernie Ebbers, the company’s former chief executive.

Sullivan choked back emotion as he read out a statement admitting his role in the fraud and apologising to his family, most of whom were in attendance.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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