Just Where is Yahoo Going? New and Old Acquisitions

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Just what in the world is Yahoo’s vision of their growth and future?

That’s the thought that popped into my mind a couple of days ago after seeing some newly published patent applications from Yahoo seemingly developed, at least in part, by folks who worked at a company that Yahoo! acquired previously.

The company was one of two providing game technology that Yahoo purchased and integrated into their collective assortment of web properties within the last couple of years -Stadion (2005) and The All Seeing Eye (2004). Looking at what seems to have become of those companies, and how they’ve been integrated into Yahoo made me wonder what the search giant/portal is doing.

I didn’t expect someone from Yahoo to be asking the same question, in public.

There’s been some great drama going on at Yahoo! over the past few days, including a controversial memo from Senior Vice President of Communications, Communities, and Front Doors at Yahoo!, Brad Garlinghouse; the acquisition of a couple of companies; and the near purchase of a third.

The Internal Yahoo Memo

Paul Kedrosky has republished the memo from Garlinghouse, and it’s critical of the company, but encouraging in that it calls for focus and renewed vigor amongst the folks who make Yahoo! run – see Yahoo’s “Peanut Butter” Memo Calls for Big Headcount Cuts. John Battelle notes, in an update to his coverage of the memo that Mr. Garlinghouse has been asked to head a team to look more fully into the issues he raised in the memo.

Loren Baker provides a short but thoughtful analysis of the memo, about how some Yahoo acquired companies compete against each other while others languish instead of being developed more fully.

The New Acquisitions

Yahoo announced on Friday (as reported in the New York Times) that they had acquired the contest and karaoke site Bix.com (no longer available) and news leaked of an earlier acquisition of the mobile phone social network site Kenet Works (no longer available). Rumors also swirled about Yahoo purchasing MyBlogLog, but SFGate notes that it hasn’t happened. (though it is a possibility that it may.)

So how exactly do these new companies fit into what Yahoo is doing? I’m not sure. All of them point towards integrating more social network aspects into what Yahoo presently provides. I searched around the US Patent and Trademark Office databases to see if they had any published patent filings, so that we might have a glimpse at some of the intellectual property that they might be bringing to Yahoo, but didn’t run across any (there may be some pending publication.)

Stadion and The All Seeing Eye

In a similar way, social networking is an aspect of what Stadion and The All Seeing Eye (ASE) brought to Yahoo, but within the online games community.

I recognized some names on the new patent applications, published last Thursday. Lee Crawford and John Cahill were in charge of Stadion when it was acquired by Yahoo, and I recalled Clay Ver Valen’s as the production manager for Yahoo Video Games, and he appeared to be in charge of communications at the old forum for ASE. ASE is still available on the Yahoo site, and parts of it look like they still function, but members of the official forums were talking about its demise (link no longer available).

Some of the methods and processes behind these patent applications look like they could be applied to much more than just games. Yet after reading the memo above, and seeing the decaying remains of The All Seeing Eye, I wonder.

Redirection and Invitation for Accessing an Online Service
Invented by Lee Crawford and Albert So
Assigned to Yahoo
US Patent Application 20060259632
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A system and method are directed towards enabling a user to access an online service such as an online multiplayer game. The online service notifies a message service, such as a portal service, that a first client is interacting with the online service.

The message may include a network address to which the first client is connected, or the network address may be obtained separately. The message may also identify a second client, which the first client wishes to invite to participate in the online service. The second client can also be identified by the message service with a contact list.

The message service may determine a current presence of the second client to determine a device and format currently being used by the second client. The message service provides the second client with a link to the network address and/or a redirection link to the online service.

Proxy for Enabling Communication Between Mobile Device and Game Service
Invented by Lee Crawford and John Cahill
US Patent Application 20060259623
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A system and method are directed towards managing communication with an online service on behalf of a device that may have intermittent communication.

A proxy server provides a reliable communication session with the online service, such as a game service, and relays information between the online service and an intermittent communication device, such as a mobile terminal. The proxy server stores messages and/or other information from the online service while the intermittent communication device is not communicating with the proxy server.

The proxy server may manage the communication upon request from the intermittent communication device, the online service, or from another source such as a portal with which the intermittent communication device communicates.

The proxy server uses a table of unique identifiers to map messages between multiple intermittent communication devices and one or more online services. Proxy communication may terminate after a command or an elapsed time of interrupted communication.

Detecting Interaction with an Online Service
Invented by Denis Bekman, Lee Crawford, and Jesse Macnish
US Patent Application 20060258461
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A system and method are directed towards detecting that a client is participating in an online service such as an online multiplayer game. A client probe module monitors an operating system process list to detect an executable file name, indicating that a client program is executing.

The client probe evaluates client program communication to determine whether the communication is consistently directed to the same online service and meets a predefined communication rate threshold. The executable file name and communication rate threshold are provided before the client probe begins monitoring the process list. Meeting the threshold may cause the client program to instruct a client messaging module to send a message to contacts associated with the client through an independent portal service.

The contacts may not be registered members of the online service, but the message may include information that enables the contacts to communicate with the same online service.

Enabling Rent/Buy Redirection in Invitation to an Online Service
Invented by Lee Crawford and Clay Ver Valen
US Patent Application 20060258460
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A system and method are directed towards enabling a user to access a client service such as a client game program that interacts with an online service such as a multiplayer game.

A client probe detects execution of the client service on a first client device, and sends an instant message with address information to a second client device. A messaging service on the second client device, displays a presence of the first client and provides a selectable button to initiate the client service.

If not already installed, the messaging service requests the client service from a remote online service such as a portal that may be independent from the online game service.

The remote online service may provide options to freely try, rent, or buy the client service. The second client device downloads the client service and uses the address to connect to the same online multiplayer game.

Mapping Online Service User ID to Portal User ID
Invented by Lee Crawford and John Cahill
US Patent Application 20060258417
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A system and method are directed towards mapping a first user ID, such as an alias game ID, which may be used by multiple users, to a second user ID, such as a portal messenger ID.

A user registers with an intermediary service, such as a game data aggregation service, and provides both the first user ID and the second user ID. The aggregation service detects when the first user ID is being used by one or more users in a first service, such as an online game service.

The aggregation service also detects when a client probe reports to a second service, such as a portal messenger service, that the second user ID is participating in the same service. The aggregation service determines whether one instance of the first user ID from the first service corresponds to the second user ID from the second service.

Analyzer for Data Relating to Networked Games
Invented by Lee Crawford
US Patent Application 20060258416
Published November 16, 2006
Filed: May 12, 2006


A data warehouse is employed for collecting, multidimensionally analyzing, and publishing statistics and other information relating to a plurality of independent networked games and participants in such games.

Data to be added to the data warehouse may be obtained periodically by way of a games monitor. Analyzed data may be used in generating profiles of users and groups of users.

Information on game users and groups of users may be employed to provide intelligent matchmaking based on user ability measurements.


I’m pretty pleased with Yahoo mostly using a hands off approach to Flickr and Del.icio.us. But there does seem to be a lack of focus and purpose in parts of what Yahoo offers, and the memo from Brad Garlinghouse describes that very well. It will be interesting to see where the company goes next, in light of the team headed by Mr. Garlinghouse.

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