An Exciting Turn of Events (POD 1999, Tech/Pop Culture)

I would like to hear suggestions as to what I should cover next, as there are likely many aspects of history from this time I wouldn't think to include.

An Exciting Turn of Events

December 17, 1998

As he often did, Tom Jermoluk browsed tech news sections of many local newspapers and news websites. Today, however, he was in for a disappointment. The tech section of the San Francisco Chronicle had the following article in one of its sidebars:


George Bell, CEO of web portal company Excite, turned down offers from Netscape and has agreed to a merger with Yahoo!, according to sources familiar with the matter. This would be one of the biggest mergers in the dot-com industry, though given the intense speculation in the market a bigger one will likely come.

The new company will be under the Yahoo! banner, although WebCrawler and other Excite utilities will remain on Excite’s website for the time being. However, access to Excite’s data will be of great use to Yahoo's search function.

Neither Bell nor Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle have confirmed the matter, but employees from both companies have come to the Chronicle with news of the merger.

Jermoluk had hoped to purchase Excite, whose offices were just a few blocks away from his, so that his company @Home Network could expand its reach to Excite’s large user base, and perhaps even compete with AOL. However, Yahoo! had stolen his thunder by purchasing one of their biggest rivals. He had even scheduled a meeting with their CEO on the 19th. Dejected, he called in to Kleiner Perkins with the bad news.

Little did he know, one of the most disastrous mergers in tech history had been averted.

(In OTL, @Home purchased Excite)
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January 28, 1999


Following Yahoo!’s acquisition of Excite, many other dot-com companies are ripe for future acquisition. Chief among these is the service GeoCities (GCTY), one the most visited sites on the Web. GeoCities allows users with similar interests to share information and set up their own home pages. Before it acquired Excite, Yahoo was believed to be eyeing an acquisition of GeoCities, especially in the lead-up to its IPO last year. However, the net loss reported by GeoCities worries some investors, who believe that warrantless speculation could doom tech investments.

After its acquisition of Netscape in November, AOL is seen as one of the most likely buyers for GeoCities. The expansion into the web community market is a natural choice for AOL and for GeoCities, given AOL’s large consumer base. According to Media Metrix, 54.5% of all web users visited AOL last month, whereas a respectable but smaller third of all web users visited GeoCities. AOL’s rise seems unstoppable, as the Internet expands its reach to more and more users.

PC manufacturer Compaq is also seen as a likely buyer for GeoCities. The company has been struggling to make a profit with PC demand declining in recent months. However, Compaq is also the majority owner of AltaVista, a popular search engine. The acquisition of GeoCities could allow AltaVista to compete with rival web portal Lycos, which owns the similar services Tripod and AngelFire.
February 4, 1999

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, in Silicon Valley, they seem to have a saying of their own: “one man’s layoffs are another man’s hires.”

That certainly seems to be the case after Yahoo! laid off many of its employees in January following its acquisition of Excite in December. The companies both specialized in similar fields, so many employees were seen as redundant.

However, Yahoo and Excite are not the only players in the web portal market. AltaVista, who until recently provided Yahoo’s search results, is also making a bid for dominance funded in part by Compaq. Lycos is now Yahoo’s primary competitor, although Disney’s may change that if its planned advertising campaign is successful. Brian Pinkerton, founder of WebCrawler and one of the employees laid off, says that he has received offers from all three companies.

In spite of the fierce competition, the biggest winner from these layoffs may be a new company known as Google, another search engine. Google uses an innovative algorithm known as “PageRank” (after one of its founders, Larry Page) that rates web pages by how often they are linked to other web pages in order to determine the order of the search results. The company has received $100 million in investments following the merger between Excite and Yahoo!, and has received dozens of new job applications from former employees of the two companies. However, these employees will not be enough, so Google is conducting a nationwide hunt for experts in the field of web search. Page says the company will not invest in other features on its homepage, saying that it will remain focused on its search function for the time being.
June 13, 2015

On Monday, NYT Tech correspondent David Pogue sat down with Google Grüv creator Sean Parker. The following is an excerpt from what was discussed.

POGUE: You’ve been working at Google for 15 years now. What inspired you to create something new?

PARKER: I always felt like Google wasn’t doing a very good job of connecting listeners to musicians. Microsoft, Apple, and Sony have great products for listening to music, but they obviously wouldn’t compatible with Google devices. I also thought that there should be some way for up-and-coming artists to distribute their music, because it costs a lot to get onto the other companies’ platforms.

POGUE: That’s some pretty stiff competition. Other than what you mentioned, what do you think you offer over your competitors?

PARKER: Grüv allows for music to be a more “social” experience than allowed by iMusic or the other services. Besides, you don’t have to have a Google device to use it, and we’ve developed one of the best recommendation algorithms out there.

POGUE: Many of Google’s previous attempts to branch out into other markets have failed. Why do you think this will be different?

PARKER: I sure hope it’ll be different. If we don’t take off at first, we have plenty of ideas that didn’t make it into the initial product, so I think we can evolve.

POGUE: Let’s get into your personal history for a moment. What got you into developing a music platform in the first place?

PARKER: I’ve wanted to do something like this ever since I got to Google. Ever since MP3s first came out, in fact.

POGUE: So what were you doing when MP3s first came out?

PARKER: Me and my friend Shawn Fanning- he works for Netchat now- we wanted to make software to allow people to search for other people’s MP3s. I learned a lot about writing search algorithms in the process, so when I heard that Google was looking for specialists in that field, I moved on to that. When Google Groups was one of the few services we offered, I was on there all the time to discuss music.

POGUE: Are you surprised by the speed at which the record labels have adapted to the dawn of MP3s?

PARKER: Yeah- I remember that Shawn told me about the stern warning he got when he worked on file-sharing down at Scour. It really nipped any free music service in the bud. Then Sony came along with the Playman, and they all opened up to it once they realized they could make a lot of money off of it.
March 12, 1999
In a surprising move, Disney has emerged as the buyer of the web community site GeoCities. Disney, which had previously acquired Infoseek and developed the web portal, appears to be betting on success in the booming Internet sector. The deal is estimated to cost about $2.5 billion. Disney investors hope that this deal will provide the company with a steady stream of revenue in the months leading up to the release of Disney's next big film, Tarzan. is a web portal in the vein of web superstars like Yahoo! and Lycos which links to various Disney sites, such as ABC and ESPN. Yahoo's January merger with Excite has (no pun intended) excited investors about similar websites, and in February Disney launched an advertising campaign for starring Home Improvement star Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Disney's CEO Michael Eisner hopes that and now Geocities will become the main destination for millions of Internet users in years to come.
"The Internet is clearly where the future of media is headed, and we want to get on it as soon as possible. The acquisition of Geocities will connect many new Internet users to Disney like never before," Eisner said.
Some analysts are skeptical that GeoCities, a place where Web users can post their own personal homepages, will be able to help Disney promote its brand, and questions the advantages of over Yahoo, AltaVista, and Lycos. Eisner, however, is confident in his new strategy.
"Unless Y2K actually happens, I don't think people will stop using the Internet any time soon," he said.
This post on the homepage of former GeoCities user "Tree Boy" on his new Tripod homepage was one of many that summed up what the website's users complained about after Disney's acquisition of the firm.
May 1999 (exact publication date unknown)
Why GeoCities Sucks Now (A Rant)
When I heard that GeoCities was being bought by Disney, I didn't know what to think. I've never been on, their other website, so I didn't know if I had anything to fear. However, given what they did to GeoCities, I'm not going to use anytime soon.
For one, they took away all the templates for web design and replaced them all with bland one-color backgrounds and Disney-related patterns. Sure, the Mickey ears pattern looks nice, but unless you're talking about Disney, I don't see why you'd want to use that.
The other thing they got rid of was the editor. There's no more drag-and-drop. All the new websites will look like Microsoft Word documents, unless you know how to code, which I don't think the new customer base they are looking for will.
But the biggest change is that they made the chat room center stage on the website! I don't want to have to search the home page just to find where the neighborhoods are!
So long, GeoCities. Hopefully something will change, but for now I'm jumping ship to Tripod.
May 10, 1999

Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan: a timeline.

April 13: Pervez Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff, announces his intention to attack the Northern Alliance, an organization in Afghanistan which opposes the fundamentalist Islamic government of the Taliban. Pakistan is one of only three countries to formally recognize the Taliban.

April 14: Aircraft from Pakistan’s Peshawar Air Force Base bomb places believed to house Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor.

April 14: Musharraf declares that Pakistan will fight until Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan is secure.

April 16: Pakistani air forces strike the village of Parun.

April 19: Pakistan troops cross into Afghan territory near the city of Asadabad.

April 20: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee condemns Pakistan’s actions, calling them “supporters of terrorism”. However, he promises to uphold the peace in the disputed region of the Kashmir.

April 22: Pakistan’s ground forces announce that they have captured Parun from the Northern Alliance.

April 25: Fighter from the Northern Alliance are killed attempting to invade Pakistan from the north.

April 27: Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, vows to cooperate with the Northern Alliance.

May 1: Air strikes on Northern Alliance fighters north of Kabul commence.

May 1: Tajikistan begins delivering weapons to the Northern Alliance via shipments across the Panj River.

May 3: The Northern Alliance begins an attack on the Taliban-controlled city of Kunduz.

May 4: The first Pakistani ground troops pour into the Wakhan Corridor.

May 6: Northern Alliance forces flee the city of Charikar.

May 9: With control of the border established, Musharraf declares his operation a success. However, Northern Alliance forces remain in combat with the Taliban in the outskirts of Kunduz and Baghlan.


MAP OF AREAS CONTROLLED (light green: Taliban, red: Northern Alliance, dark green: Pakistani military, dashed lines: Northern Alliance guerrilla activity)
June 10, 1999

Yesterday, an anonymous former Yahoo! employee spoke with ABC News about the company’s financial dealings around the time that acquired fellow web portal Excite. According to the employee’s statements, the company misreported its Q4 earnings to investors around the time of its acquisition of Excite.

If these allegations are true, Yahoo! CEO Tim Koogle or other executives may be indicted for securities fraud. This would be one of the biggest cases of accounting fraud to strike Silicon Valley, although not the first, as in the past few years the companies Informix and Sybase have experienced similar problems.

Yahoo’s stock fell by 40% today in the wake of these revelations, and are expected to continue falling until the scandal is resolved. The Yahoo! employees contacted have not responded to our requests for comments on this report.

June 15, 1999


Microsoft President Steve Ballmer announced today that following the release of Windows 2000, its next operating system, Internet Explorer will no longer be shipped with the Windows operating system.

However, the browser will still be downloadable through the “Windows Software Store”, a new application which will connect to the Internet and allow customers to download various Windows-compatible programs published by various companies.

Also, Internet Explorer will no longer be developed by Microsoft. Instead, fellow Washington-based software company RealNetworks, which primarily produces software for the streaming and downloading of media, will take the lead when Internet Explorer for the Windows 2000 is produced.

This decision is likely motivated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust suit against Microsoft, which accuses the company of quashing competition by shipping Microsoft software, including Internet Explorer, with Windows computers. Although this development will likely help Microsoft’s case that it is no longer a monopoly, the company could still be punished for its monopoly in the market of Intel-based operating systems, another allegation made in the antitrust case.

Microsoft is not the only big tech company with current legal troubles, as Yahoo! is being investigated after a former employee reported accounting irregularities. Given the prominence of both cases in the news, it is possible that Microsoft may have wished to avoid association with Yahoo’s supposed misdeeds.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s CEO and founder, has refused our requests for comment on the new developments.
July 1, 1999

In a press conference, Yahoo! CEO Tim Koogle has called accusations by an anonymous source that the company lied to investors and regulators at the time of its merger with Excite last December “completely false.”

“We were completely honest when we reported our numbers,” Koogle said.

As to who the identity of the whistleblower, Koogle says he is not certain. However, he is confident that the whistleblower has financial motivations behind the accusations.

“Most of the people we laid off after our merger moved on to work at our competitors. They would certainly have a lot to gain by damaging the reputations of one of their current rivals.”

Indeed, some of the details of the allegations against Yahoo! have elicited suspicion. The whistleblower did not file a lawsuit against the company, despite the accusation being of a federal crime. Yahoo!’s supporters believe this is a means for the whistleblower to avoid a lengthy legal process and, if the whistleblower’s claims are found to be false, charges of malicious prosecution.

However, Yahoo! can still charge the whistleblower for defamation of character, and may demand a large payment in compensation, given that the losses to Yahoo!’s stock prices amount to billions of dollars.

Even if Yahoo! files suit, they will likely face a federal investigation into their accounting practices. If the allegations are indeed false, they should have no reason to block this investigation.
July 10, 1999


One of the biggest winners from the dot-com boom has been the telecommunications industry. As data loads transmitted over wire and air have increased, many telecom companies have expanded their infrastructure, in part by acquiring other telecom companies. Last year, GTE and Bell Atlantic, two of the largest telephone providers on the East Coast, agreed to a $53 billion merger. Ameritech also began the process of merging with Southwestern Bell in a $63 billion dollar deal. Both of these deals could create some of the industry’s biggest companies in the future.

In June, Comcast agreed to acquire MediaOne, a cable TV company spun off from telephone company US West, which itself will be acquired by Worldcom. This move serves to counter AT&T’s similar acquisition of TCI last year.

Telecom companies have also been expanding into other markets through acquisitions. In May, was acquired by the Silicon Valley-based Internet provider @Home Communications for $4 billion., as the name implies, is a service that allows users to listen to radio over the Internet.
September 1, 1999

Arthur Levitt, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, confirmed to reporters that its investigators have made most of the key findings in its pending report on Yahoo!’s business practices.

“All we need to do is get the details on paper,” he said in a press conference.

Yahoo! has repeatedly denied the accusations of accounting fraud made by an anonymous whistleblower in June. In July, the company willingly turned over its records to the SEC in order to prove its innocence. However, analysts who believe that Yahoo! is guilty say the move was merely an attempt to prevent the company’s stock prices from bottoming out.

Levitt also told reporters the whistleblower has been identified by the SEC and has subsequently been questioned.

The report is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

September 11, 1999


Following Russia’s decision to send an army into Chechnya to fight the Islamic insurgents in the region last month, the US government has investigated the backgrounds of many of these jihadists. Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to Russia James F. Collins announced that U.S. intelligence has found evidence that the Islamic Djamaat of Dagestan, the organization responsible for the insurgency, is working with members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, the organization responsible for the U.S. embassy bombings in various African countries on August 7, 1998.

The al-Qaeda fighters moved from Afghanistan to Chechnya in June, a month after Afghanistan was invaded by Pakistan’s armies. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which is recognized by Pakistan, has sheltered al-Qaeda since 1996.

The leader of the approximately 50 al-Qaeda jihadists in Chechnya is believed to be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mohammed, a senior member of al-Qaeda, is wanted by the United States for his involvement in planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and a failed plot to blow up commercial airliners in 1996. He is believed to have entered Russia using a fake Pakistani passport.

Collins said that the Russian government plans to extradite Mohammed to the United States if he is captured.
October 1, 1999


The eagerly anticipated SEC report on Yahoo!’s accounting history was released earlier today. According to the document, “no irregularities” were discovered by the SEC auditors in their review of Yahoo!’s internal records from 1998.

The report also includes information from an SEC interview with the alleged whistleblower, which explains the motivation for the whistleblower’s false allegations. The whistleblower did once work for Yahoo!, but was among the employees laid off following the companies’ merger with Excite. At the time of the allegations in June, the whistleblower worked for Disney Consumer Products and Internet Media, the owner of, one of Yahoo!’s largest competitors. However, and GeoCities, which Disney acquired in March, did not make nearly as much money as Disney had hoped.

.Afraid of being out of a job for the second time in a year, the "whistleblower" lied to superiors that Yahoo would fail soon because their numbers were fabricated. This information was passed up the chain of command until it reached ABC News, which sent reporters to interview the whistleblower, who repeated the same claims.

Yahoo! CEO Tony Koogle is understandably relieved by the report’s publication. “This vindicates what we’ve been saying for months now. We’re totally clean,” he said in an interview with CNN reporters.

He also wishes to file suit against Disney, citing the drop in Yahoo!’s stock prices as damage done by the company. “What Disney did was just as bad as what we were accused of. They should face the same penalty.” Indeed, Disney’s stock price has plummeted dramatically following the report’s publication.

Many Disney employees have called for the dismissal of Michael Eisner as CEO of the company. “We need to change course as a company,” said Joe Roth, chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Although Eisner is not directly connected to the scandal, he has been blamed for encouraging such underhanded tactics and for tarnishing the company's public image with his aggressive policies.

[Edit/retcon 2-17-2020: Changed "press charges" to the more applicable "file suit." Also, I changed the motivation behind the whistleblowing slightly to make it more logical in my opinion. This was the old reasoning given: "This prompted Disney employees to think of ways to smear Yahoo! in an attempt to draw in customers and investors, according to the testimony of the whistleblower and other Disney employees. The whistleblower went to ABC News, which is owned by Disney, in order to avoid scrutiny."
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