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A Lesson in Cool

3:30 PM -- The Internet is all aflutter with the rumors of some kind of merger between Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO). Cool. I hope MS uses this theoretical new-found power to put up a free online version of Office. Google Documents is a nice thought and the collaborative feature is awesome, but it's pretty sluggish and doesn't lend itself to big spreadsheets.

But I digress. This is a good look for both companies. The aging hipsters at Yahoo! need muscle! to compete! and square-ass Microsoft needs to loosen up a bit to be relevant.

If I'm Microhoo! and I really want to announce my Internet presence, my first move would be to swallow up one of the billions of YouTube Inc. clones out there. I know you both have your own video sites, but they're boring and primitive. MSN may have the greatest show in the history of television, but with digital video being the single largest type of Internet traffic, that's no excuse to still be in beta.

Why acquire a whole new entity instead of just revamping one of the two sites? Because both sites have the same problem: They are so incredibly corporate. I know you each love cordoning off your own little slice of the Net, but that xenophobia is a real turn-off to the kind of audience you would want to attract to such a site. YouTube trades in a lot of content that is semi-legal, if not entirely illegal, at least technically. Users aren't that concerned about the legal ramifications of uploading their favorite music videos (or clips of their friends dancing to their favorite songs, or reenactments of scenes from their favorite movies, or hilarious recut trailers), but best believe the Big Brother logo plastered all over the screen will stifle creativity quite a bit. This also means a laissez faire approach to the content: no lawsuits (stop snitchin').

This advice can be expanded to the rest of the theoretical Microhoo! (God, I love typing that) content as well. The next generation of users is not scared by the vast expanse of the Internet, so you don't need a contiguous Web presence to reassure them. As a matter of fact, it will piss them off. Note the lack of big ominous Google banners on their recent acquisitions.

The Net is jam-packed with YouTube clones, many of them boasting thousands of users already. A purchase would give you guys a reasonably credible digital video platform, and raise your profile with a hundred articles calling that site "the next YouTube". Once you guys finish a-courtin' each other, do yourselves a favor: Get some darts, print out the Web Video Cheat Sheet, tape it to the wall and let 'er rip.

— A.L. Friedman, Editor at Large, Light Reading

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