MicroHoo, Facebook and you

Cringley has no problem with scurrilous rumors, but the latest wild speculation is over the top even for him

Don't look now, but there's a secret cabal at work conspiring to lock you out of the public Internet. That, at least, is the hyperventilated opinion of Robert Scoble, who not so long ago was just another Microsoft employee with a blog and now is a Web 2.0 maven.

His theory? After lopping off the tastiest bits of Yahoo Search and tossing the scraps to the dogs in Mountain View, Microsoft will then drop US$15 to $20 billion to swallow Facebook solely for the purpose of keeping it and its 70 million sheep-tossing users locked in a permanent digital dungeon, far from the clutches of Google.

Scoble told Cocky Locky, who twittered Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny, and Foxy Woxy. Yes, the sky appears to be in free fall.

His main clues: Facebook's spurning Google's attempts at data portability via Friend Connect, and reports that Microsoft was making goo-goo eyes at Facebook while trying to score with Yahoo.

Would Microsoft want Facebook? Sure. Redmond desperately needs somebody who knows what they're doing on the Internet, and it already has one gnarled talon wedged in Facebook's door with its US$240 million investment last year. But the notion that Microsoft would gladly spend $20 billion just to snub Google seems totally koo koo for cocoa puffs.

There are a few things wrong with this theory.

-- Why in Gates' name would Zuckerberg sell? He's already a billionaire on paper. In two years when he takes Facebook public he'll be a billionaire for real. Yes, he might get richer faster if Redmond cuts him a check, but then what's he going to do -- start a softball league for 25-year-old billionaires? It makes no sense for Facebook to sell now while it's still in a massive growth phase with lots of worlds to conquer. The only way that would happen is if the company's VCs got antsy and forced Z's dainty hands. I don't see it.

-- If Microsoft did somehow coerce the Z-man to cash out, and then decided to step on Google's spiders, so what? Some FBers would immediately flee anything with the taint of Microsoft on it. Some would leave after Microsoft made "improvements" to the service, drowning any innovative or interesting features in the bathtub and driving away the smart employees. And the rest of the Facebook throng wouldn't notice. After all, Rupert Murdoch managed to buy MySpace without destroying it (though you might argue MySpace was already trashed, and that's how its users like it.)

-- Assuming all this comes to pass, is having a small section of the Net closed off to Google such a horrible thing? Isn't the point of a social network to share your inane thoughts, photos, videos, and barnyard animals with your friends -- and only your friends? That's how Facebook is today. Fact is, Facebook will probably end up working out an agreement with Google over Friend Connect. As long as I get to choose what information is and isn't available to the Net at large, I'm fine with that. How about you?

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