Yahoo! releases beta of rebranded Yahoo! Toolbar

Internet behemoth Yahoo! released a beta of an updated and rebranded Yahoo! Toolbar. The toolbar was most recently called Yahoo! Companion Toolbar, and before that, just Yahoo! Companion. The new software adds powerful and authoritative spyware and adware removal technology called Anti-Spy. It’s provided by industry-leading PestPatrol, Inc., and is believed to be the best, most-effective technology. This in addition to the Pop-Up Blocker it already has, powerful search tools, personal bookmarks, and other synergies with your Yahoo! account.

I have not yet downloaded it, but I may break with tradition, and try it out. If it works exceptionally well, I’ll probably replace the Google Toolbar with it (at least until Google comes out with its own spyware/adware removal technology or licenses existing technology from a proven company).

Monster Worldwide buys Tickle

According to this press release, online global career matching company Monster Worldwide has acquired privately held Tickle for approximately $95 million in cash and stock. Particulars of the deal say Monster paid $29.5 million in cash, a $40 million deferred performance-based payment payable over three years in cash, and one million shares of Monster Worldwide common stock to Tickle shareholders. Based on Monster’s closing price of $24.38, that equates to roughly $25 million in stock.

For those who don’t know what Tickle does, it provides career and relationship assessment tests, tools for self-discovery, and a social networking service. Unlike other social networking companies such as Friendster or Tribe Networks, Tickle has been profitable since early 2002 and, most recently, booked $25 million in trailing 12 month revenue.

Quite frankly, the deal makes sense, for both companies. I figured Tickle would make a good fit for any larger company. In fact, last week, I thought it might make a good fit for Google to bolster its own social networking service technology and greatly increase its user base. However, it makes even more sense for Monster Worldwide.

Page and Brin stakes in Google revealed

Google Co-Founders Hold 16 Pct. Stakes: “SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin each own nearly 16 percent of the Internet search engine leader that they launched nearly six years ago – stakes expected be worth at least $3 billion apiece after the company’s initial public offering of stock.”

Well, it’s finally been revealed, according to AP business writer Michael Liedtke. The exact amounts of their ownership break down as follows, with Google President, Products, Larry Page holding a 15.7% stake and Google President, Technology, Sergey Brin holding a 15.6% stake.

As far as the overall Google IPO goes, I will say that I won’t be buying any shares. The public flotation of shares is already massively over-hyped and, most likely, is already causing many average investors to plan on bidding up shares in the Dutch style auction without doing any research or using their heads. We’ve seen it before. When a hot technology company IPO is heavily promoted and too many people buy in without thinking, everyone gets burned.

Moreover, the plan for a dual class of stock, with ordinary investors owning Class A stock that has one vote per common share and management holding non-publicly traded Class B stock weighted with 10 votes per share creates serious corporate governance concerns. It also raises the prospect of entrenched management and the potential for “fuzzy math accounting,” as George W. Bush frequently accused then-Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore of using during speeches on the stump and in debates during the 2000 campaign. I do sympathize with Google’s managerial desire to maintain control over decisions to go ahead with new products that may not be profitable and keep their warm, fun loving employee atmosphere with lots of perks and an in-house physician, I don’t feel dual class ownership is the right way to go about maintaining control. Amending the company by-laws to create provisions for managerial solidarity over the corporation is one (better) avenue Google could take, in my opinion.

From Prime Minister to Professional Legal Counsel …

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien left the Office of Prime Minister on December 12th, 2003, after serving in power since November 1993 (more than 10 years). He was essentially forced to quit after rival and his former Minister of Finance Paul Martin won the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada — effectively making him a lame duck Prime Minister.

Shortly after leaving office and resigning as Member of Parliament for St. Maurice–Laflèche, Mr. Chrétien join the Montréal based law firm of Heenan Blaikie LLP as professional legal counsel. However, his employee page was not immediately added to the Web site. Now it has and he’s gone from the top job in the Canadian government to legal counsel. The page also lists his e-mail address, but I’m not sure if he will respond.

Yahoo! Fires Back at Google

Yahoo! Fires Back at Google: “Yahoo! raised cash-flow guidance at the close of its analyst day Thursday, a day when the company announced an email initiative to compete with that of search rival Google.”

A slew of both Yahoo! and Google product announcements yesterday created a lot of media buzz. I’ve read all the articles (namely, the ones by CNET News.com, industry newsletter Search Engine Watch, and TheStreet.com), and there were a lot of them, so here is a quick recap of the developments.

* Yahoo! senior vice president of communications and consumer services Jim Brock announced that Yahoo! Mail would increase the storage limit for its free e-mail subscribers to 100 MB. Premium subscribers and those that use SBC Yahoo! DSL and SBC Yahoo! Dial access packages would have “virtually unlimited storage,” in addition to the ad free Web based interface and other premium “perks”.

* Google launched a beta version of Google Groups 2, aimed squarely at Yahoo! Groups. In addition to allowing users to search the entire Usenet archive and post messages to Usenet, Google Groups 2 goes a step further and allows people to create their own mailing lists.

The move is not all that surprising. I had been predicting, or maybe it was hoping, that Google would launch such a service.

* Yahoo! search technology now powers the search results of CNN.com and its affiliated network of sites. CNN.com previously used Google since last year, after replacing LookSmart with it. Several weeks ago, it turfed Google sponsored search listings and contextually-targeted advertisements in favour of those from Yahoo! subsidiary Overture Services.

So, it appears Google is feeling what it’s like to get the shaft by a major distribution partner now.

* And finally, Google announced it will begin selling image, or banner, advertisements on partner Web sites that participate in its AdSense distribution program for AdWords advertisers that want to take part. Eventually, it may introduce banner ads on its own network of Web sites.

John Kerry’s wife releases personal income and tax information

FOXNews.com – You Decide 2004 – Heinz Kerry Releases Personal Tax Info: “LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Teresa Heinz Kerry may be the richest potential first lady ever to hit the campaign trail, having earned more than $5 million in taxable and non-taxable income last year.”

So, John Kerry’s wife, Teresa, finally bowed to pressure and released her personal income and tax information. By the numbers, she earned $5,115,000 in gross income last year and paid $750,000 towards her 2003 federal, state, and local income taxes at the time of an extension filing.

An obligatory quotation from Mrs. Heinz-Kerry, who is estimated to have a net worth of close to $500 million and is heiress to the H.J. Heinz family fortune, “While I am not a candidate for any public office, a great deal of my financial information has been disclosed for many years on my husband’s Senate Ethics Disclosure, and now that he is a presidential candidate, with the Office of Government Ethics. John and I believe this strikes a balance between my family’s privacy and the media’s requests for more financial information.”

While I support John Kerry’s bid to be President of the United States, I definitely think her extraordinary wealth coupled with his aristocratic upbringing and pompous lifestyle is a serious turn-off. That may not go over well with many working poor Americans who are struggling to make end’s meat or those who have lost jobs due to outsourcing — a practice employed by many companies to send work offshore to countries with low wages and low costs of living. On the other hand, those same people may be able to look past his wife’s financial fortune and his own 2003 adjusted gross income of $395,338 with the collective hope of serving Mr. Bush his pink slip and sending him packing back to Crawford, Texas. I’m optimistic they can and will in November.

RightNow lines up among other tech companies for IPO

RightNow joins IPO conga line | CNET News.com: “Subscription software company RightNow Technologies has started the ball rolling on an initial public offering of its stock, joining a number of Internet companies queuing up to sell shares to the public. ”

So, this seems to be more welcome news both for Wall Street because it is (marginally) profitable and for Silicon Valley as a sign of recovery in the software as a service market. By the numbers, RightNow reported 1,000 customers, some of which include domain name registrars Go Daddy Software and Dotster as well as software seller Corel. It had a narrow quarterly profit of $162,000 on revenue of $12.9 million, for the period ended March 31st. Its fiscal 2003 revenues were $35.9 million and it had a net loss of $4.1 million, with nearly $45 million in accumulated debt since it was founded seven years ago.

It joins a resurgent tech IPO market, where Shopping.com, Salesforce.com, gay Web portal operator PlanetOut, book e-tailer Alibris, Lindows, Brightmail, online jewelry store Blue Nile, Advertising.com, and Google have all filed shelf registration statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for initial public offerings (IPOs) of common stock.

Further, RightNow said it intends to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “RNOW,” with Morgan Stanley as sole book runner and lead banker for the offering.

As far as my thoughts on the matter go, I prefer to see only profitable companies with increasing revenues and low to no debt go public, as a way of ensuring investor confidence and avoiding the dismal dot-com crash in early 2001. While $162,000 is a low profit, it has showed it can constrain costs and manage its finances by eeking out a profit. As well, from what I can tell and judging by the revenue numbers, RightNow is on track to grow its 2004 revenues by 50% to about $48 million. It should also manage a 2004 full year profit of between $800,000 and $1 million. Pretty impressive. Examples of companies that are not yet profitable, but still want to capitalize on the IPO market picking up steam, are PlanetOut, Lindows, and Alibris. I wouldn’t recommend investing in either of those three.