Yahoo's gone cuckoo over Facebook patents

Yahoo! Invented! Everything!
Yahoo! Invented! Everything!

Sometimes I wish I had the power of invisibility, and teleportation. No, not for that. Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean so I could see what goes on inside big tech firms' boardrooms, like Yahoo's. I imagine one of their recent conversations went something like this:

EXEC 1: First Google, now Facebook! We're getting stomped out there!

EXEC 2: Nobody knows who we are any more! My wife asked me who the hell I was last night!

EXEC 3: We're doomed! DOOOOOOOMED!

EXEC 1: Unless...

EXEC 2: Unless?

EXEC 1: Unless we kill Zuckerberg.

EXEC 3: Kill Zuckerberg?

EXEC 1: Yeah. We kill Zuckerberg, put his head on a spike, send Google a photo, message on the bottom: YOU'RE NEXT YOU GOOGLEY BAST--

EXEC 2 [interrupting]: -- Isn't that a bit, well, extreme?

EXEC 1: Is it?

EXEC 3: It is, a bit. I know! Let's tell everyone we invented Facebook and sue them! They'll have to give us cash or we'll shut 'em down!

EXECS 1 & 2: Shut 'em down! Brilliant! Have a bonus!

The result? Yahoo's suing Facebook because it reckons it invented social networking, and internets, and toast.

Yahoo's Facebook boo-hoo

Facebook isn't slow to adopt other people's bright ideas, but Yahoo's gone off on a mad one here. In an excellent analysis by PaidContent, it turns out that Yahoo reckons it invented personalised music stations, the ability to share items only with selected people, the customised home page, the ability to send messages to your friends, targeted advertising, mountain climbing, opera, the medium of dance and the hamster.

Only some of those are made up.

It's yet another outbreak of patent trolling, a plague on the tech industry, and it's nonsense: Facebook can't steal Yahoo's bright ideas because Yahoo doesn't appear to have any.

My email inbox contains a great example: it's my annual Flickr Pro renewal, and I'm seriously wondering whether to bother because I suspect Yahoo's going to bin the service sooner or later, irrespective of its promises.

Flickr was, and should have remained, absolutely massive. Yahoo, as it often does, let it wither. Google killed it in search, Facebook in social, and the only idea it appears to have left is to get the lawyers in.

The worst case scenario for Yahoo? It doesn't get any cash from Facebook and continues to slide into irrelevance.

The best case? It gets some cash from Facebook and continues to slide into irrelevance. As shiny-faced punch-magnet David Cameron once said of Tony Blair, "you were the future, once".

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.