The Rumor Mill Targets Google

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With Google’s prestige often comes a lot of criticism — and conjecture. Everyone wants to know what the company’s next move is and what the latest move means. But without confirmation, how much validity is there to reports that YouTube is acquiring Twitch, or that Google is dismantling the Google+ integration?

VentureBeat recently confirmed a $ 1 billion YouTube acquisition of Twitch. However, the only information VentureBeat was able to provide was that “sources familiar with the matter” could confirm the deal. While we have no doubt VentureBeat has sources close to both companies, this rumor has been floating around since May.

The latest rumor is that G+ is going to spin off its photo service into a standalone product, which is part of a plan to dismantle the flagship social service. It’s not a bad idea, really. Enabling people to use the Google photo app without the requirement of a G+ account could result in reaching a wider audience. But this is yet another story where the sources were cited as “people with knowledge of the matter.”

Google did, however, confirm that certain business users will now be able to use Hangouts for video conferencing without the need for a G+ profile. So it’s not unreasonable for reporters to assume that this is all part of some grand Google plan.

While the initial reports since Vic Gundotra’s departure were that Google would use G+ as a platform, the more dominant narrative has been how the company is pulling apart its social network. This may or may not be the case, but the move to make Hangouts available to business customers sans the G+ requirement looks like Google is interested in making it easier for businesses to use the service for collaboration.

The Twitch acquisition would make sense, as it would allow Twitch to serve better ads, and it could allow Google to monetize a huge bank of content it otherwise wouldn’t have access to. A representative told Bloomberg, “Over here in our darkroom, we’re always developing new ways for people to snap, share and say cheese.”

That hardly seems like confirmation to me.

Google may be floating these ideas through leaks to see how the public — or perhaps the stock prices — react. It’s also conceivable that Google+ has become a stumbling block for the release of new features. But so far these rumors remain unsubstantiated, and unless it’s advantageous, Google won’t confirm anything before it’s ready to.

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Yahoo director Max Levchin defends Marissa Mayer’s “buy everything” strategy, denies BuzzFeed purchase rumor

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max-levchin-4This morning we posted the full video of our PandoMonthly with PayPal/Glow/Affirm co-founder Max Levchin. It was a staff favorite– and for a series that has included Elon Musk, John Doerr, Reid Hoffman and many others– that is saying something.

In case you haven’t yet found two hours to watch it, there was a bit of gold at the end we haven’t highlighted yet. I asked Levchin– who is also a Yahoo board member– to defend a claim he made to Charlie Rose earlier this year that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has focused the company.

As I wrote at the time:

This morning Yahoo board member Max Levchin was on “CBS This Morning,” and when asked about Mayer and her job at Yahoo he said, “Marissa loves simplicity.” Really? Then she must be in hell right now, because her approach to saving Yahoo seems to have more in common with the kitchen sink than a Zen Garden.

Tumblr.

Katie Couric.

A new logo!

A million other acqui-hires we’ve never heard of.

None of this ties into a strategy, unless that strategy is everything. Are you doubling down on user generated content or expensive premium content? Video or mobile? Deep or broad? Youth or an older demographic? If Mayer was hoping to figure out a way to make Yahoo relevant again for the younger, mobile-first generation — as analysts hoped with the pricey Tumblr deal — Katie Couric doesn’t make much sense.

When asked how Mayer’s “daily habit” articulation is any different than a portal, Levchin had a strikingly honest answer: “Portal has become a dirty word not because it’s a bad idea, (but because companies who called themselves portals) went out of business.”

Further, he said defending the claim of Mayer’s focus, but saying we don’t see all the Yahoo divisions and products she is quietly closing. “For every this or that or anything you see Yahoo do, there are probably two dozen things… that get put to pasture,” he said.

Finally, he admitted it was “focus” on the relative scale of Yahoo– a company that’s in dozens and dozens of businesses. “From my brief time on the board the number of things I’ve seen de-powered and the resources in terms of energy, human or otherwise that have been placed behind something core has been noticeable,” he says.

He also throws cold water on a rumor making the rounds that Yahoo may — or should — snap up BuzzFeed for a few billion.

Here’s the whole clip:

[photo credit: Brad Jonas for Pando]

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