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Mendel Acquisition Squares : A Game of Futures

(With contributors Raq, Charlie, & Malka - see below)

With Verizon's purchase of Yahoo!, young developers' thoughts turn to Flickr -- one of the long-lived and popular core acquisitions -- and we think longingly of the early days, back when photo apps were fleet and well-supported. When everyone knew the value of good code. When we felt fairly confident that our stuff would stay our stuff.

Yeah. Okay. Done laughing?

We're so resigned to not truly owning the digital property we've paid for that iTunes' arrogance deleting personal music files is barely registering, except with musicians who are losing their personal work and a number of voices crying out on Twitter, especially during updates. We're used to tech companies redesigning interfaces in the middle of the night, taking away much-loved tools, and replacing them with advertising and easier ways to share more faster. The interface is where the profit is, and who cares about the content?

Worse, when looking at the Yahoo! buyout in particular, we worry that Verizonhoo! has no clue how Flickr works, much less how to support it. We loved the tech that Ludicorp built and sold to Yahoo in the early days. But you'll remember that Yahoo!, after "losing" both original leaders -- Caterina Fake and Stuart Butterfield -- also proceeded to lose its grip on how Flickr functioned, and what client needs it served. We fear for what remains of Flickr, once again, and are busy downloading years of images before saying the word "flickr" becomes a paid premium service.

In the bigger (ahem) picture, we're rapidly approaching that point in tech where historical knowledge of base code is long gone and corporate ability to pivot based on user needs is lost due to mergers, firings, and general MBA-nization of tech innovation. Yes, that's been going on since the 1980s and earlier with IBM and friends, but nearly every tech startup founded since then to take on the big corps has either been eaten or become a big corp in its own right. Tech doesn't want to be free (with apologies to Stuart Brand). It wants to be bought out.

With more mergers inevitable as the large corporations hunger for more and more user data, we worry that any suitably evolved tech will seem more like magic to its holding company -- and that will impact not only how we use that technology going forward but also how technology continues to evolve in its use of us. Our data is already a value point, our time already part of the business plan. What's next?

Our intrepid correspondents have amused themselves by ginning up predictions* for future mergers and their outcomes. Feel free to play along / roll your own.
*no actual predictions were harmed in this game.


  1. Facebook/Oracle : they pretty much already owned the mySQL dbase, actually Trading as: FACILE.

  2. Uber/CNN : Advertised as "Uber for News" and facing questions like "how is this different than Periscope?" This merger results in bystander reporting for micropayments, the end of the traditional tv studio, and on-call hair & makeup vans. Trading as: NEWSR

  3. Kaspersky/Tindr : Giving up on pretending to be anything but Russian cyberwar. Trading as: N/A privately held

  4. Amazon/BAe Systems : Amazon needs delivery drones; BAe Systems needs someone to buy their drones. Trading as: AMZN

  5. Pfizer/Blue Apron : For faster distribution of agribusiness output. Trading as: PFOD

  6. Monsanto/Plated : Competition is healthy; you may be less so. Trading as: MOPL

  7. Microsoft/Reddit : Sorry but you know it's true. Trading as: MSFT

  8. Google/Slack : And a hundred thousand voices cried out before their data became part of the hive. Trading as: GAAK

  9. T-Mobile/StubHub : T-Mobile Thursdays via bot army. Trading as: TUBHUB

  10. AOL/4chan : Trading as: your worst nightmare

  11. Flickr/iTunes : Which means Verizon/iTunes...but it's OK because while you have to pay to upload, pay to create playlists, and pay to tag music, the UI is much better. Trading as: iTUNSR

  12. Disney/WOTC : So yes, Nyssa Revane and Chandra Nalaar are now Disney Princesses. Trading as: WSNY

  13. Evernote/PayPal
  14. : Because monthly subscriptions are not enough. Trading as: EVERPAL
  15. Google/Monsanto : Verily. Trading as: MOOGLE

  16. Tesla/Spotify : The next stage in the rolling computer, app launcher, and vehicle. Trading as: TSTIFY

  17. IBM/BuzzFeed : They just bought it to feed to Watson. Trading as: LOLWTF

  18. Apple/SpaceX : Having conquered the terrestrial computer market Cupertino turns its vast, cool intellect towards the Red Planet. Or maybe they just want to download their backup of Steve Jobs into Elon Musk's brain and regain some visionary leadership. Trading as: SKYNT

  19. 7-11/Bitcoin : How many slushies can you mine today? International calling cards and remittance terminals. Trading as: HOTDOG

  20. Spotify/Youtube : video killed the radio star). Trading as: YOUSPOT

  21. Microsoft/Alibaba : mutually assured expansion). Trading as: ALOFT

  22. Contributor Bios:

    Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy and occasionally consults on tech. She used to program games, websites, and maintain youthfully naive buy-in for companies like Macromedia and Flickr before Adobe and Yahoo! ate those and many others. Her next book, Cloudbound, comes out 9/27/2016 from Tor.

    Raq Winchester is a futurist and startup mentor who has been employed by one or more of the organizations mentioned in this article. She is using those experiences to fuel her first book, on being an innovator in a bureaucracy, how a government job is like a LARP, and unicorns.

    Charles Stross escaped from a dot com, wrote for computer magazines for a bit, then dived full-time into writing SF novels for a living -- honest work, unlike the other aforementioned jobs. His next book, Empire Games, comes out 17/1/2017 from Tor.

    Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and PhD candidate studying the sociology of disasters. Her science fiction political thriller Infomocracy is out now, and the sequel Null States will be published in 2017.

51 Comments

1:

CTHULHU / WEB 2.0 APOCALYPSE, 2016:

CTHULPSE


AND NO, NOT EVEN JOKING.


SHIT IS GOING DOWN IN OCTOBER / NOVEMBER.


2:

Surely it would be Google/NSA : We know EVERYTHING. Trading as BIGBRO

Their missions are pretty much the same, and the google expertise in making sense of that bigdata would aid the NSA.

Oh, and Apple/Ikea : Design first, no user serviceable parts. Trading as BOXSHF

3:

The Uber/CNN merger was already predicted by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash.

4:

Re: AOL/4chan: remember, AOL is already a property of Verizon.

It has occurred to me that Verizon is buying part of Yahoo because that part of Yahoo is providing e-mail/webmail/portal service to AT&T's ISP business, and here Verizon have their own e-mail/webmail/portal service in AOL. It's a delightful opportunity to maximize the synergies or something involving lots of corporate infighting and may yield an opportunity to mess with the kinda-sorta-competition's customers.

5:

GE - Tesla Motors (ticker symbol: ACDC)

6:

Google buys Microsoft, spins off all digital, advertising, and skunkworks divisions at fire sale prices while holding onto international real estate assets in freehold. Remaining entity is renamed Digital Dark Ages (ticker symbol: GRIMDARK)

7:

Starbucks/Monsanto/Valve. Because we need a zombie apocalypse.

8:

Verizon are already seriously messed-up by virtue of the place's being run as a set of barely coöperating fiefdoms, which model was set in place by earlier, badly-handled mergers. The place is a palace of whispers, conflicting regulations, and nominally forbidden work-arounds to allow anything to be done at all.

Honestly, if you think dealing with the phone company from the outside is bad.... I was let go after being temporary for four years and permanent for one, leaving me with little seniority against the layoffs but a lot of accumulated mental damage—it's no place for an aspie, and I can only shudder at what it will be like for the coders and architects of Yahoo.

9:

My proposed merger?: cheezburger and xhamster, because porn needs snarky captioning.

10:

I'm still laughing at the idea from Wired that the best way to protect your photos from the changes at Flickr is to give them to Google. Y'know, those people who think that anything they touch is public domain. Least Yahoo only plundered the photos with CC rights.

11:

WikiLeaks/FSA/Orthodox Church
Trading as misogyny

12:

I did LOL. FYI: it's "Stewart" Brand.

13:

A certain person who I shall not name has had a website for the past 20 years, and for the past 16 or so has not been billed by the hosting company. The reason being, after several takeovers they lost all the billing info. Tech support never talks to billing, or vice versa.

15:

So, I laughed at 'GAAK' and video killed the radio star, but I'm much more interested in being someone being an innovator in a bureaucracy and how a government job is like a LARP.
[currently suffering through another restructuring]

16:

Intel buying Altera was amusing, it will be interesting to see whether the next grossly overpowered supercomputer on a die has built-in programmable logic. Doubt it.

Anyway Lockheed / Tesla. That blue light approaching in the rear-view is a fusion-powered truck with an appalling payload-to-shielding fraction, glowing gently as it cruises past at 100mph...

17:

Given that World President Trump has promised to repeal business regulation and avoid future ones, that payload-to-shielding fraction is appallingly high, so that Čherenkov blue is dead-on.

18:

Hmmm, I wonder if, after the wave of mergers and acquisitions in the 3-D printing and smart homes sectors reaches its conclusion, we'll end up with American Consolidated Modular Engineering (ticker symbol: ACME)

19:

Of course, I have to add the old office one: the merger of FedEx and UPS, to be known as FedUPS.

mark

20:

Apple merges with three major OEMs of Android phones, trading as ZMBA

And as someone pointed out elsewhere, the Zombie Apocalypse has already occurred, without blood and destruction. See? http://www.dispatch.com/content/graphics/2016/07/11/0711-pokemon-2.jpg

mark "I am not a zombie, I am a free radical*"

* Not trading as anything.

21:

Airbus/Johnson&Johnson CHEMTRAIL

22:

Our work summer BBQ happened in a small pub on the edge of Leith Docks, in the pouring rain. Yay for Scottish weather, but the bonus was that the pub's (definitely ironically named) "beer garden" was a Pokemon school. Cue the gamers amongst us getting all excited...

...enforced fitness regimes of "intense activity" due to "feeling the need to run like f*** from a dodgy part of town" may have health benefits, as noted by Questionable Content...

So. Given that I'm sat by the pool, on the last day of our holiday, alternating bright sun and rainy season, how about "Google buys an airline"? Cunning tweaks mean that you are pushed gently towards flight deals that know your tastes and budget suspiciously well...

Or even "Google buys the Cosa Nostra" - we know where you, and all your family, live... Trading as GOOMBAH. (With a nod to Snow Crash, obviously) And equally obviously, the Rule of Guest Posters means that I now have to buy Infomocracy...

23:

Elsevier bought Mendeley.

There is MS Elsevier (for Microsoft that I saw in a talk called "A History of Bioinformatics (in the Year 2039)".

24:

Twitter/AT&T, merging social media and voice communications by bringing back the party line, with calls limited to a 30-second soundbite.

Trading as TWAT.

25:

Where did my "avatar" go?
Or has everyone lost them?
[ Admittedly signing-in from new computer, with different password, now .... ]

26:

The way we discover that we've been pwned by aliens:

General Motors, General Foods, and General Atomics merge to form General Products. Fortunately, blackmail becomes legal shortly thereafter.

27:

That's a (short) story. Everything is produced by General $item_name and walking up stairs is considered antisocial because "where would General Elevators be if everyone started walking up stairs?" But I can't remember title, author, or title of the anthology I read it in - anyone here know?

28:

how about "Google buys an airline"? Cunning tweaks mean that you are pushed gently towards flight deals that know your tastes and budget suspiciously well..

Personally, I'd be completely okay with that. Hell, I'd *pay* for that as a service!

29:

Well, I'll grant that it was a reference to a certain famous SF universe, but that's not the one...

30:

All existing companies purchase each other in a five-dimensional reverse bond rotation. The resulting entity, All Companies Merge Explosively, is known solely by its acronym.

On the other hand, they'll sell you anything you can imagine.

31:

I'm surprised that no one is thought about Trump Holdings buying controlling interests in Diebold, WinVote, Appel, ES&S and Sequoia, and somehow Don the Con wins the election in a landslide.

32:

While he'd almost certainly be willing to do it, Trump's history doesn't suggest he could pull it off. (He might borrow a few billion from the Germans or Russians to buy voting machine companies but that's a different complaint.) Of the two, only Clinton shows the organization and competence for that.

Trump would be delighted to have everyone in the US using TRUMP voting machines. He's in favor of anything named TRUMP.

33:

True, but wasn't the point to come up with silly ways to scare ourselves?

I've been wondering whether the Orange's strategy in running for office was lifted more out of The Producers than Art of the Deal (apparently I'm not alone), especially given that the class action lawsuit against Trump University is set to be heard right after the election. Interesting times.

34:

I've been wondering whether the Orange's strategy in running for office was lifted more out of The Producers than Art of the Deal...

You are not alone! You are so very much not alone that I had an excuse to turn out this terrible thing months ago...

Music: Springtime for Hitler
Donald Trump was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new plan to gather
Up some money.
Where, oh where would he
Find so much money?
He looked around and then he found
He'd take the whole country!
And now it's...
SPRINGTIME for Donald and bigotry!
Rednecks are angry at gays!
We're marching with the GOP
Look out, here comes the KKK!
Springtime for Donald and bigotry
Red states are hopeful once more
Springtime for Donald and bigotry
Winter for Muslims and you...
Come on, morons, go into your dance!

36:

On the other hand, they'll sell you anything you can imagine.

"Beep beep!"

37:

Is anyone listening to Benjamin Walker's podcast Theory of Everything? He runs a loose series of Borgesian dialogues with "special correspondent Chris", the latest of which concerns Trump's secret plans for ISIS (hint: they involve The Apprentice). There's an older entry in the series, though, which reminds me of this thread: it imagines a merger between Snapchat and the CIA (the "burn after reading" app). Highly recommended listening, from 14:30 onward.

38:

If the Google/Monsanto combo trades as MOOGLE, I think they wind up having to pay a license fee to Square Enix. Whether this is necessarily a Bad Thing is in the eye of the beholder (as a Final Fantasy fangirl, I just have this picture of a small bear-like thing with a red deely-bopper bouncing along on the stock tickers...)

Now I want to know who CHOCOBO, CACTUAR and MOOMBA would be...

39:

Reminds me of the old Fairchild and Honeywell merger...

40:

I'll give CHOCOBO a try:

Nestle/DOD (department of defence) Smarter food to help you think 'the american way' CHOCOBO *

I'll fix my own post,

Airbus/Johnson&Johnson Health from above. CHEMTRAIL


* DOD ordered the COBOL programming language in the late 50's.

42:

More on the missed opportunity front for company names after mergers: Penguin/Random House really should have become Random Penguin, much as the Burroughs/Univac merger should have been Bunnivac rather than Unisys.

Bah.

43:

Penguin/Random House is a tour-de-force in merger naming, in the same way that someone who guesses wrong every time is a useful indicator. Every other combination of the words 'random,' 'penguin,' and 'house' is better than "Penguin Random House."

44:

I think there is actually a "correct result", in "Random Penguin House" (which also allows an imprint for Under-16s called "Random Puffin House").

45:

Every other combination of the words 'random,' 'penguin,' and 'house' is better than "Penguin Random House."

Let's run the combinations:

Random Penguin House
Random House Penguin
Penguin Random House
Penguin House Random
House Penguin Random
House Random Penguin

Okay, I think we can all agree that they had some better choices. I'm partial to either Penguin House or Random Penguin myself, but if you want all three words we can still pull out some interesting names. Within my social circle House Random Penguin sounds like a fun loving SCA group. Since influential people in the corporation probably view "Random House" as an unbreakable compound word they only had two choices, but still could have chosen the delightful Random House Penguin.

I'm sure Evangelion watchers remember how much fun people can have with a random house penguin.

46:

...the Burroughs/Univac merger should have been Bunnivac rather than Unisys.

Would they specialize in hardware or customer service? There was an old schematic diagram of a mechanical rabbit as a computer which is, apparently, not on the internet where I can find it right now.

47:

Im still waiting for Pokémon Bitcoin. The Algorithm creates pokemos with algoritmic behaviours. Cathing them gives you PokéCoins to store in your Pocket.

Instead of using up electricity, people get excercise.

48:

I will note that everyone who works there except folks in PR and executives who happen to be standing in front of a microphone at the time call it "Random Penguin".

49:

As implied in #44, this also allows a U-16 imprint of "Random Puffin"; tell me that's anything other than a Good Thing!

50:

I'm not hip enough to understand most of these jokes, but I
thought "2" was funny, imagining flashmobs of citizen stringers
with cellphones descending on any hotspot thought to be ripe for
news.

As for 1, Mysql isn't that easy to own-- there are already
paranoia-forks like MariaDB which are no doubt restraining
Oracle's heavy-hand. Also, the cool kids are moving on to
PostgreSQL which is better-engineered, has more snob-appeal, and
has been racking up convenience features in recent years, like
clever indexing of JSON blobs...

51:

Historic companies but a nice name. Merger of Fairchild and Honeywell - Fair well honey-child.

Specials

Merchandise

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This page contains a single entry by Fran Wilde published on August 11, 2016 11:38 PM.

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