Microsoft, Facebook and Twispers

Posted by on May 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm.

Do you remember playing Whispers, Operator, Telephone or Chinese Whispers (UK) — where one person whispers a phrase to another person, who whispers it another person…until the last person hears something significantly distorted from the original phrase?

I’ve seen it play out many times in the blogosphere, with the added incentive that bloggers gain traffic/celebrity by twisting things to give their post an “angle” and fuel controversy. The speed of distortion only increases with Twitter. It usually just makes me chuckle, but with the influence/agendas of some bloggers it can border on business tampering. If this weekend’s Microsoft/Facebook story continues to morph as it already has in 2 days, there could be billions of shareholder dollars at stake.

Over the weekend Microsoft released the following statement:

““In light of developments since the withdrawal of the Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo! Inc., Microsoft announced that it is continuing to explore and pursue its alternatives to improve and expand its online services and advertising business. Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo! an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo! but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo! Microsoft is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo! at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative depending on future developments and discussions that may take place with Yahoo! or discussions with shareholders of Yahoo! or Microsoft or with other third parties.

“There of course can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these discussions.””

Pretty straightforward, no mention of Facebook, no mention of locking anything down.

John Furrier combined that statement with some rumors he was hearing:

“Why would such a complicated transaction (just Yahoo search with all the headaches and all) be in the cards for Microsoft? After the failed bid for $40 plus billion for all of Yahoo, Microsoft’s intentions are clear. Buy the search business from Yahoo and take that team and go spend at least 20 billion for Facebook. Integrating the search team at Yahoo with Facebook puts a formidable army to take on Google.”

Distortion #1: “Microsoft’s intentions are clear…go spend at least 20 billion for Facebook.” Clear?!? I saw no mention of Facebook in Microsoft’s statement. At least John didn’t claim anything would be locked down, just a formidable integration.

Robert Scoble then expands on John’s post to claim:

“Google is locked out of the Web that soon will be owned by Microsoft. We will never get an open Web back if these two deals happen….It’s Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web.”

Distortion #2: “It’s Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web” Robert doesn’t state any plans by Microsoft to lock anything down, but he does play the tried-and-true “open vs. close” card.

Then, Umair Haque takes Robert’s bait (or maybe John’s) and adds a litany of open vs. closed buzzwords for Harvard Business Publishing:

“According to an interesting rumour making the rounds: Microsoft is to acquire Yahoo’s search business as well as Facebook, and lock both down, to better take on Google….Microsoft is trying to shift from open to closed….That’s what evil really means: coercing others into accepting value destruction….Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer’s hare-brained scheme for world domination…Microsoft’s move is a textbook example of how not to think strategically at the edge….”

Distortion #3: where do I start? Somehow we got from a Microsoft statement about Yahoo to “Microsoft is trying to shift from open to closed” with a couple good vs. evil references for spice.

Not only does this game of Whispers continue with republished out-of-context quotes, but it even comes full circle with John’s follow-up Twitter promotion of Umair:
Furrier: @kellyrfeller you should sub to this blog by Umair http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/haque/ he’s strong on strategy”

There have been many names for this whisper game over the years. I wouldn’t be surprised one day to find my kids calling it the Blog Whispers game…or maybe even Twispers 😉

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