AOL Gets a B, Verizon Cozies Up to P2P, and Something You've Just Got To See

It's been a busy weekend, folks, and we're a little behind in what we want to make sure you know, so pardon us for skipping the pleasantries and just diving right in. Geronimo!

First up, as usual, is the continuing saga of Yahosoft. Google's Eric Schmidt is making the rounds again, warning of the evil that is to come to the internet if Microsoft gets their hands — hooves? — on Yahoo. Our favorite line? "We would hope that anything they did would be consistent with the openness of the internet, but I doubt it would." Not quite as illustrative as "they kick puppies, sacrifice babies in Satanic rituals, and suck the very soul out of your body," but probably a better choice for the venue. Back in the US, Big Evil was meeting with Yahoo to "discuss" the "merger," though sources indicated that Microsoft did most of the discussing while Yahoo did most of the listening.

Meanwhile, AOL — possibly Yahoo's last hope for avoiding assimilation — was snaring itself a social network, closing a deal to acquire Bebo for $850 million, a move which some have suggested means it's uninterested in moving in with the search company. Yahoo was busy on other fronts, however, as they announced a plan Friday to begin utilizing semantic web standards in their search engine, a move they say would benefit searchers as well as the web as a whole. The semantic web has made significant inroads in technology, but has lingered somewhat without a large-scale implementation — Yahoo's adoption may well begin a rush to adopt the standards by site developers as well as search engines.

And, of course, Microsoft is always busy with something, and an alert reader was quick to bring their latest to our attention — something we encourage, if you've got a tip. The Big Bopper of Ballyhoo was on Capitol Hill last week to "encourage" Congress to increase the flow of H-1B visas — immigration clearances for highly-skilled workers, utilized by Microsoft and others to recruit engineers from outside the US. Being journalists, we keep our comments to ourselves, but Rep. Dana Rohrabacher certainly didn't, giving Gates a royal ruffling during the Q&A. When Chairman Bart Gordon cut him off, Rohrabacher vowed to continue the "discussion" later at a social event, prompting Gordon to remark "I'm sure he's excited to know you'll be there." Gates' testimony apparently convinced someone, however, as two lawmakers rushed to introduce H-1B expansion bills just a few days later.

While all this was going on, the House of Representatives was busy with other business, specifically the incredibly controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was finally approved Friday without the immunity deal demanded by President Bush. It's now up to him to determine where to go, as he has threatened to veto any bill without immunity, but is also operating without any FISA at all, as the old law expired February 16th. On the other side of the pond, there was good news for software freedom, as the European Commission announced that it will now prefer Open Source software over proprietary options for new developments. The EC has long been a supporter of Open Source software, and the announcement serves as a public statement of its commitment to software freedom.

Verizon is committing to freedom itself, with a new policy aimed at eliminating some of the problems associated with peer-to-peer file-sharing. In a 180-degree turn from the policies of other ISPs, Verizon has decided to support (legal) P2P, and has been working with researchers to develop a P2P system that improves speed for file-sharing. Verizon is planning to unveil the technology at a New York conference, and reportedly could have the system in place as early as next month.

Finally, a little something to make you laugh. Our good friends over at Pingdom have dug up some interesting "Then and Now" shots of some of software's biggest names. We don't want to spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say there are some that are not to be missed.

And that, dear friends, is that.

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