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Originally published February 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 5, 2008 at 9:35 AM

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Some upset Yahoo users berate Microsoft bid

While Yahoo's executives ponder Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid, the deal is already generating some backlash from Yahoo users. Members of Yahoo Groups...

Seattle Times business reporter

While Yahoo's executives ponder Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid, the deal is already generating some backlash from Yahoo users.

Members of Yahoo Groups and the Flickr photo-sharing site said they are concerned the deal would change the nature of Yahoo's Internet services. Some users said they would stop using the features if they are absorbed into Microsoft's corporate fold, or simply defect to Google.

"Microsoft: Keep your evil grubby hands off our Flickr," an online petition circulated by 1,000 Flickr members declared. Similar protests also sprang up three years ago when Yahoo bought Flickr, then a Vancouver, B.C., startup.

The intense reaction to Microsoft, while still only from small pockets of Yahoo users, shows that Redmond's software giant may have to manage the Yahoo deal differently than other acquisitions if it hopes to retain the unique culture that inspired loyalty and fueled Yahoo's early success, analysts say. Microsoft should also make its intentions clear before Yahoo users decide to head elsewhere.

"That's a big question with the Yahoo community — are they going to stay loyal?" said Ben Bajarin, consumer analyst with Creative Strategies, a technology consulting firm in Campbell, Calif.

Many users are anxious to know what Microsoft plans to do with Yahoo's successful Web properties, including e-mail, photo sharing and online communities.

"MS will take apart the company so fast that they'll leave everyone's head spinning," wrote one member of a Yahoo mail users group. "I can't recall any company they bought and was left alone after the transaction."

Paul Hayes, an opponent of the deal who identified himself as a San Francisco artist, wrote: "If this deal happens I'm saying goodbye to Flickr."

Microsoft's acquisition of Yahoo's many Internet properties is intended to give it a bigger inventory of advertising space to compete with Google. But if fewer people visit those properties under Microsoft's control, the number of potential viewers for the ads will shrink.

"I think what Microsoft should do quickly is decide and define what their integration plan is going to be," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "To me it would make sense if they allowed a lot of Yahoo properties to keep going the same way they have. It would be helpful to say we're not planning to shut them down or make any drastic changes."

While the two companies overlap in many areas of online content, getting rid of duplicate sites would decrease the total number of people available to online advertisers, Rosoff said.

Microsoft's record of preserving the identity of companies it acquires doesn't inspire confidence, said Bajarin. But in the case of Bungie, giving the new company some independence allowed the developer of the "Halo" video game series to thrive.

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Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, touted the success of Yahoo's brand in an interview with The Seattle Times right after the announcement Friday.

"The Yahoo brand is a great brand and as part of this integration process, we're going to get leaders from Microsoft and Yahoo that are going to make thoughtful decisions, not only around the technology integration, but the user experiences and the brands," he said.

There's a vocal "ABM crowd" online, and they'll use anything but Microsoft, Rosoff said. But whether e-mail and other services become the property of Microsoft might not matter to the majority of Yahoo's 250 million registered users, he added.

"The average consumer doesn't think like that," Bajarin said. "You talk to soccer moms — they don't have the same view the industry does. They just want it to work."

Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or kheim@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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