Writing the Search Biz column is challenging because of the diverse group of stories that get collected every day. Today there’s an unusually large number; however, there are basically three broad themes: Google and the company’s legal challenges, Yahoo’s Jekyll and Hyde positions on China and human rights, and the revolving personnel door at both companies.
Since it’s Friday I’ll start with the least serious items first: personnel changes at Google and Yahoo. Google has lost another important employee (per ValleyWag) to Facebook. This time it’s executive chef Josef Desimone, who reportedly is joining Facebook because of his loyalty to former Google VP Sheryl Sandberg, who is the new COO of Facebook. The move gives employee “poaching” a new meaning (I stole the joke).
Google has also apparently lost Ash ElDifrawi, who had responsibility for brand advertising at Google and YouTube. ElDifrawi joins NetShops Inc. as CMO. However, the company has gained Javier Zapatero, former vice president of sales for Yahoo! Europe. Zapatero will become Google’s country manager for Spain.
Yahoo’s former news Editor in Chief Neil Budde, after a brief stint with the LA Times, joins the news aggregation site DailyMe as president and chief product officer.
Yahoo has made plenty of negative news for itself with some unsavory assists to the repressive Chinese government in its efforts to crack down on dissent. However, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang posts about some of the good Yahoo is doing around the world in seeking to promote human rights. That post followed a speech given by Yang at Georgetown University in Washington DC, in which Yang spoke about the complexities and “gray areas” of dealing with China, among other issues.
Meanwhile in China itself, search engine Baidu said that it had signed deals with 15 local radio stations to stream their content online to users and that it expects to expand the program with additional services and partners in the future.
Now back to Google . . . The company is facing a lawsuit from a Pittsburgh couple who says that photos of the exterior of their home on Google Maps’ StreetView invade and violate their privacy because the house is clearly on a private road. Without looking at the privacy statutes it’s pretty clear that this claim would be dead on arrival but for the “private road” aspect of the case. That may not be enough to get beyond a motion to dismiss, however. Home and building exteriors are clearly in the public domain as a general matter.
In other Google legal news, a US Federal Appeals court struggled in oral arguments with another of the various AdWords trademark cases. The underlying case, brought by Rescuecom Corp., was originally dismissed in 2006 on the grounds that using a trademarked term as a keyword that didn’t appear in ad copy didn’t violate US trademark law. The case (as well as similar cases) illustrate the challenge that the legal system has in dealing with new technology developments.
In a bit of positive news, Google provides a kind of “post mortem” on the 700MHz wireless spectrum auction and recounts its strategy to ensure the coveted “C Block” would meet minimum bid requirements triggering the consumer openness provisions.
Finally today, Jon Fine at BusinessWeek explores the tensions between tech companies and media companies. Recounting a long-running debate about whether Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL are tech companies, media companies, or both, the piece presents a range of opinions and frames the debate as content vs. search.