What do you do with two tottering Web 1.0 empires that are suffering a crisis of management? Throw them into the hadron collider, slam them together at light speed, and see if the God particle emerges.
Which is why rumors are swirling yet again that Yahoo! and AOL. are feeling the urge to merge. Reports late last week indicate that the Yahoos and the AOLers are once again thinking about bumping uglies in a big way -- especially now that Carol #$%@!! Bartz is out of the picture.
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Leaving one extremely important question to resolve: What completely pointless end punctuation will they agree on? I'm voting for an interrobang (!?).
Some folks, like Business Insider's Henry Blodgett, think this is a capital idea. Others think it's batshot crazy. Sources inside Yahoo are already pooh-poohing it (not that this means anything -- even Yahoo doesn't know what Yahoo will do next).
But I'm not so sure this is quite as insane as it may appear. In fact, I have an even crazier idea. Let's toss Microsoft into the mix. First, Microsoft would have to finally see the light and split into three separate entities: enterprise, mobile, and Internet. The Internet arm then merges with the combined YahAol to form a Web monster that would cause even mighty Google to wet itself.
Traffic-wise, it's a slam dunk. All together, the combined monthly traffic for Yahoo (No. 2), Microsoft (No. 3), and AOL (No. 5) would be in excess of 357 million, according to the latest figures from ComScore -- or 166 percent bigger than the entire U.S. Internet population.
Let's assume there's a wee bit of overlap in those numbers, and that some of that traffic would be siphoned off by Microsoft's enterprise and mobile sites. Still, MicroYahAol would achieve total market saturation -- and instantly make Google No. 2 overall.
In online video, the combined MicroYahAol would have 138 million monthly viewers -- within spitting distance of YouTube (158 million) and far ahead of any other competitors.
In search, MicroYahAol would suddenly own 32 percent of the market; in other words, still lapped by Google (65 percent) but at least it would be less embarrassing.
The question that remains, however, is whether a working business model for the Internet is to produce content yourself (what Yahoo and AOL have been trying to do for the last decade) or to simply make it easy for other people to produce it for you for free, and hoover up all the ad dollars from that content (the Google model). That's the real battle for the InterWebs, beyond the intercompany squabbles, and it encompasses every site that produces content, including this one. That's the real battle for the soul of the Net.
In any case, I'm voting for a MicroYahAol mega merger. At the very least, it would be awfully fun to watch.
(A tip of the Cringe fedora to Google+ user Jake Apperson, from whom I stole part of that headline.)
Would a combined Yahoo-AOL be too big to not fail? Post your thoughts below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Yahoo + AOL? You've got fail!," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.