Yahoo Is Out To Burn Down The Web

Yahoo Is Out To Burn Down The Web

You may just think of Yahoo as a crumbling facade vomiting money, talent and resources, ruining all of its most prestigious assets. (See: Flickr, Delicious, etc.) But, worse, it’s now trying to murder-suicide the web.

Yahoo slapped Facebook with a patent lawsuit yesterday, likely designed to get money or options out of The Blue before it goes public. And, worse, it could use that same patent portfolio to try to go after, well, just about any and every company on the web.

Yahoo is claiming that Facebook violates 10 of its patents. And as Mark Cuban points out, it may have a case that Facebook’s ability to create a personalised news feed is derivative of Yahoo’s My.Yahoo.Com. He only makes this case, however, to point out how ludicrous software patents are. Yahoo is essentially saying that Facebook — from advertising, to the personalised pages, to privacy — is built on the back of 10 software patents.

It’s a preposterous notion. Facebook is built on its own unique codebase, just like any other site that caters to you as an individual has been. Which is, at this point, pretty much all of them. The idea that Zuck and Co have stolen something from Yahoo would mean that Yahoo owns personalisation outright, the end.

Maybe the most damning take on this of all that I’ve seen is this Wired post by Andy Baio that positively eviscerates Yahoo’s motives. (Disclosure: Andy is a very old friend and former co-worker).

Baio was a Yahoo employee, who went to work at the company after it purchased his startup calendaring company, Upcoming. And while there, against his better judgement, he helped the company build its patent portfolio. As he notes:

But Yahoo assured us that their patent portfolio was a precautionary measure, to defend against patent trolls and others who might try to attack Yahoo with their own holdings. It was a cold war, stockpiling patents instead of nuclear arms, and every company in the valley had a bunker full of them.

But that’s not how it turned out, obviously. And although Baio’s patents aren’t being used in the suit, he’s penned a thoughtful, incriminatory indictment of Yahoo’s actions and software patents in general that’s well worth a read. [WIRED]