clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Full transcript: Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode talk Verizon’s Yahoo acquisition on Too Embarrassed to Ask

“People care about Yahoo, even if they don’t use it.”

Tyler Pina for Recode

On a recent episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode discussed what happens to Yahoo now that it’s set to be scooped by by Verizon.

You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher.

Transcript by Celia Fogel.

Lauren Goode: All we've talked about so far, for the two days of this week because it is only Tuesday as we're taping this, is Yahoo.

Kara Swisher: Yes. Yahoo! Yahooo-oo.

The ‘90s! It's the ‘90s all over again!

No, it's not the ‘90s. It got sold, it's a big deal. The end of an era. Not the beginning of a new one, but it's the end an era, yes. One of the most famous, iconic internet companies, the first real breakout star, besides AOL, was Yahoo. And it got sold this week for a song, essentially.

We are going to spend this entire podcast talking about Yahoo. Because I feel that I cannot miss this unique opportunity to ask the woman who's been hiding in Yahoo's air vents for the past decade —

Decade? I've been covering Yahoo since it went public in the ‘90s.

So that was '99?

What were you, like 14?

Somewhere around there, yeah. [Editor’s note: Yahoo went public in 1996.]

And then I think it went public before Google. It was the hot company. Google was not existing. Yahoo was a big deal way before Google was founded.

We're going to talk all about this.

And in fact, I have a really good story about that. Yahoo helped Google become big and I have an excellent story about that.

Ok, we're going to get to that. And by the way, we are going to ask everyone's questions, because a bunch of you sent in some really great questions this week about Yahoo.

People love to talk about Yahoo, it's bizarre. No one uses it, but they love to talk about it.

We only got one question from a millennial who said, "what is Yahoo?" And I think he was very facetious. Eric Johnson. Tell me about how you first started covering Yahoo, I want to start with this.

Ok, I was covering America Online. I lived in Washington, DC. I worked for the Washington Post and I was writing about American Online. And America Online thought about buying Yahoo when it was a startup, and was going to purchase it, essentially. It was started as a directory. Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. That's what Yahoo stands for.

Yes, it's an acronym.

Yeah, and so it was a directory. It was not a search engine. People think of it as a search engine, but it was a directory, and they actually had people, largely white geeky men, sitting there and taking things off the beginnings of the internet and putting it in the directory by hand, classifying them hand into "this is a sport site," "this is a business site." They had these surfers, essentially, that did that.

Human people. Not bots.

Not bots.

Because this was before Google had come up with this idea of sending bots out to crawl the web and bring all the information back in search results.

Yeah, Yahoo did not have search. They later bought a company, Overture, and others that did search and search ads, but initially they were not a search company, they were a directory of the internet to make it easier. It was almost like a phone book of the internet, essentially. But it was hand-crafted.

How many people were using it at the time?

Everyone on the early internet was, because there wasn't much to do. To be able to organize the internet, I'm not saying search the internet, was really hard. So when it was first put up — and this seems like a long time ago, but it wasn't, it was the early and mid 1990s — you had the Mosaic browser, and you had a way to get around the World Wide Web. Which was what everybody called it, not the Web, the World Wide Web. And you had to have a director to help you do that. And there were several like it, but Yahoo was the one that really came through at the time.

And so you were covering AOL and covering Yahoo became sort of a natural segue.


Ok. And so then, I mean you're kind of fixated on Yahoo.

Well, it was really the first startup! Like, the first really fantastic startup. Everyone had been covering Microsoft and Chips and Intel and things like that, but no one was covering this very nascent internet atmosphere that was growing. There was Netscape, there was Yahoo, there was the beginnings of eBay, which was started by Pierre Omidyar. Amazon was very small. I remember meeting Jeff Bezos when he had just a dozen people up in a really crappy office in Seattle. There wasn't much, so you could know about it really quickly, and Yahoo, along with AOL, were the two power players, really.

What was it like when you had to pitch stories to an editor at the Washington Post about covering these services?

Well, they wanted me to cover AOL. It was called Digital Services or Online Services. Nobody cared about it. Nobody thought it was a big deal.

So did you have to twist some arms in order to say, like …

No, it was my job. Because a lot of the early internet had started there, because it was near something called MAE-East, which was one of the hubs of the internet before it was commercialized. It was a government thing, and then it was commercialized. And when it was commercialized, a lot of services that would let you link to the internet — here was one called PSINet, there were whole bunches of them, essentially they were ways to get onto the internet. And AOL was also located there because of it.

So it started out as a directory, and it acquired search technology, became a search engine.

Yup. One of the first articles I did when I moved to the Wall Street Journal was [about] the surfers. I spent the day with surfers and wrote about how they decided where to put things. It was all hand done. It was really fascinating. It was run by a woman, actually, which was unusual for the time. But she managed all of them and they literally sat in a dark room.

At what point did Yahoo become this place where people went for email, hot jobs, classifieds, when it became the portal?

Jerry Yang and David Filo were the founders, but then it was run by a man named Tim Koogle and Jeff Mallett. They're executives there. And at some point when it started to grow, they brought in Terry Semel because they thought of themselves as a media company. And they started to add different things. They bought up a search product. I remember the party that they threw when they bought the search product.

Did they buy Alta Vista?

It wasn't Alta Vista. It was another one, I'm blanking. Anyway. The name had some sort climbing thing because they had a climbing wall in the San Jose hotel, and you had to call up the wall, and I still have a carabiner from that party.

They started adding things to it and then Terry Semel came in a little later and started focusing on media. They started doing the media properties and all kinds of things. At one point, Yahoo had a news TV show where everybody was dressed in Gap clothes. I mean, they tried everything. It was really fascinating.

But it was on the internet?

Yeah they had a TV news show they were trying.

Was their business model always ad-based?

Yes, it was always ad-based. But they tried to add other things. The mail: They're the first people who - My Yahoo [email] was the first [one that was] personalized. I can't even think of the way it worked I mean in terms of what came first. But they added in media, they added in mail, they added in personalization. They were the first company that did the personalized Yahoo page, if you remember. And it was the era of the portal. That's where you went through the portal. And there was Excite, actually. originally.

Okay, so then Google happens.

Yes, then Google happens.

And how does this change things?

Google became the original search product on Yahoo. Before Yahoo had a search engine, they had Google. What was really interesting is, there would be Yahoo, and then "search powered by Google" would be in the corner. Their little name, their little logo was there.

So much the same way AOL got its initial users from [the] Netscape browser, Google got its initial users from Yahoo. It was a big deal, and Yahoo owned a big piece of Google when it went public. People forget that. And sold it too quickly, actually. They sold it at a very low stock price. But they had a significant portion of Google when it went public.

They were the search engine on Yahoo because Yahoo didn't have that capability. And I remember meeting Larry Page, and Sergey, I guess, might have been there, and they had this paper, a white paper all around the edges of the room, showing the growth of Google search on Yahoo. But then you started to see Google search for Google getting bigger than the Yahoo search powered by Google. They started their business on Yahoo but the Google brand started to get bigger and bigger and bigger. And I followed it around the room and even though Yahoo search was growing, powered by Google, Google search was getting bigger than that. And so I kept looking, [and] you could visually see what was about to happen, which that Google was becoming a brand, built on Yahoo's traffic.

Did you have any inkling then that they would eclipse Yahoo in such a tremendous way?

Yes, because I looked at it. You could see what was happening: That Google was building a brand off of Yahoo's audience. So I turned to Larry Page, and I'm sure he doesn't remember this, and I said, "Do they know?" And he said, "no."

He knew what I was saying. Do they realize what they're doing? They're facilitating your success. And it had happened before. I'd seen it happen with AOL and NetScape, and others where they facilitated the success of other people's businesses and didn't realize the real business was AOL or Google.

And I called up Jerry Yang right afterwards and I said, "You need to get Google off of Yahoo right now or else buy it. I don't care." Just like, "you need to move it!"

And he's like, "oh Kara, you're so negative all the time." He's always thinks I'm so negative. And I said, "no, no, no. They're going to be enormous and they're gonna build. I've seen it happen!" Like I felt like John the Baptist kind of thing. And he was like, "Ah, that's ridiculous." And I'm like, "Okay, but they're going to be a big brand."

And you could see that. How much smarter they were and how search was really where it was at, where it was going.

At what point did Yahoo listen to that advice or take heed and say ...

Well, when they realized they threw Google off. Later.

So around what year was this all happening?

I was in Silicon Valley, so it was somewhere in the early 2000s. It was after the AOL-Time Warner merge. They bought a company that started to do search, and then they were the first ones that were doing search advertising. They bought Overture — there was a big lawsuit between Google and Yahoo about that. But Google surpassed them in technology talent. Yahoo was frittering around on the sides and Google was going right for search, which was the key part of where the internet was going.

How did Yahoo fare in the dotcom bust?

Fine. It was fine. Everybody liked Yahoo. It was very friendly. It went much more for consumers and media where Google went for technology and search, and obviously Google minted money once they got the search advertising going and really became a real flywheel. And Yahoo bought all kinds of companies. They got worried about video, and they bought video and made Mark Cuban a billionaire, but nobody else. They bought another one, I'm blanking on the name of it. They kept buying and trying to add to it. And really I think it was the heart of their problem — they never knew what they were. They were everything. Sort of a catchall.

It was unfocused. It was a portal, but it had all these different …

Yeah, and then they added different things. When Mark Cuban become richer than Jerry Yang, it was fascinating to watch.

What do you think to this day was the most successful area of Yahoo's products and services?

Their media. I think they really did understand their sports, their finance, their things like that.

You consider fantasy sports a part of their media, financial news, all that.

Yes, absolutely. It's media, where it was going. I think they never stuck to anything very clearly. Like, they had a communications service, but they were Whatsapp. They could have been Snapchat. They had Flickr, the best photo service on the internet, but they didn't become Instagram. They were very early to a lot of things, that they never took advantage of and it was always a question of execution and managerial talent in a lot of ways. And a lack of focus.

So take us quickly through the CEOs that we've seen.

So many. There was the original ones: Jeffrey Mallett and Tim Koogle. Then, there was Terry Semel who, during his regime, did manage to buy the Alibaba stake, which saved Yahoo in its later years. As it turns out, his was a very successful reign even though he was moved, as everyone who runs Yahoo is. And then Jerry Yang came in and had not-a-great tenure. I like Jerry personally.

How long was he there after he came back?

HHe was CEO for several years, I think. Not a successful CEO. And then came Carol Bartz.

Right, Carol, that's right.

Carool. Ehhhh.

And then after her was Scott Thompson.

Scott, who left because he lied about his resume.

That was brief because of the resume. Resumegate. And then was it Ross before Marissa?

There was a temporary one in there somewhere, Tim, who was the CFO I think. And then when Scott was thrown out, Ross was temporary and everyone thought Ross would become the CEO, [he] had a very big media bid.

I remember Ross Levinson was all about media, turning Yahoo into a media company, and got the ball rolling on hiring some marquee names in media and saying, "This is how we're going to build Yahoo into this brand."

Yeah. And then he didn't do the ones that Marissa did. Marissa did Katie Couric and David Pogue and stuff. That wasn't Ross.

And Paula Froelich.

Yeah, that was all Marissa. And then Marissa.

And then Marissa.

The last CEO of Yahoo. It's like the last monarch of England. Or Denmark, really.

It was quite historical. Who would you say was the best CEO in all of your years of covering Yahoo?

Mmmm, probably Terry Semel. Probably in terms of making the deal that at least kept it going for a while by doing that Alibaba deal. He had some really smart executives: Dan Rosensweig, Sue Decker and others. And even though they didn't always do great in everything, that Alibaba purchase was critical and Jerry was critical to that too. Very close with Jack Ma, and believed in him. Yahoo had tried to go into China, like a lot of people (eBay), and wasn't successful, and smartly just bought a piece of the most promising startup there, which turned out to be the one that was a good bet.

Do you think that Marissa Mayer could have saved Yahoo?

Not her herself, but it was in a state where ...

It was savable.

It was savable, yes absolutely.

How so? What could have been done?

It could have probably gotten sold for a higher amount of money, I suppose, rather than the money it got sold for. I think she had a lot of good will, first of all. If you remember, when she came in, it was like parades and cymbals and fireworks. I think they had all that money from Alibaba and as it grew and grew and grew they had a real opportunity. There were several properties that they could have bought. At some point, there was a possibility they could have bought Netflix. There was a period when Netflix was super weak. There was all kinds of directions it could have gone and gotten smaller and leaner and smarter, and she sort of blew it out. She decided to swing for the fences, I guess, by doing all kinds of things. First, she went into media with all those hires of Katie Couric, who actually does some great work on Yahoo, it just gets lost in the sauce there. They didn't execute well on that.

They tried magazines, then they went into search — it was a product they called Project Index, they still haven't delivered yet. Even though they had gotten out of search, she wanted to get back into search. There was an idea around Mavens, which is mobile video. She definitely was trying to switch it from a desktop-only service to a more mobile focus.

But you know, Facebook did that quietly and deftly, and she went on and on loudly about it and wasn't successful.

So did Yelp.

They just did it.

There have been a lot of companies over the past five to seven years where people have said, "they don't have a mobile strategy!" And then they just execute at some point.

And Yahoo talked about it a lot, but didn't execute quite as much as they talked about it.

How much of Yahoo's problems over the past few years do you think have been due to perception rather than — I mean, I know for a while when Marissa was acquiring a bunch of companies, she was in a sense acquiring talent and trying to get people excited, engineers excited, talent excited to work there again.

I think that's a canard. I thought that was ridiculous.

So you don't think that was really effective.

Build great products, that's how you succeed. If you build a great product or you buy a great product, people think you're …. Look at Facebook, right? It could be grandma's old Facebook if it wanted. It could have easily gone that way, and it still could. But it kept itself fresh, it bought Instagram, it bought Whatsapp, it bought Oculus. You know what I mean? And then they also created some stuff, and look, they had a lot of dud products. We could name all of the dud products of Facebook but at the same time —

Yeah and Google goes spring cleaning every spring and shutters a whole bunch of stuff they've been working on.

But they also come up with some good products. You know what I mean?

Right, exactly.

Even Microsoft has had some really innovative stuff going on in lots of ways. So I think the issue is, when you have that many years of no great products, redoing the weather app to make it prettier is not a great product, it’s fine. And to me, I always call it table stakes. It's like when she added free iPhones and free food, I'm like, okay, table stakes.


Lunch! Everyone already gets lunch. You know what I mean? So like, I think what's really hard — it is hard to do. There's now a meme going around saying it was impossible to fix. I don't think that was the case at all. And by the way, these people, all of them, not just Marissa Mayer but all of them, are paid enormous amounts of money. And then they throw up their hands and say it was too hard. I'm like, well, why did you take the money? Why did you say you could do it? You know what I mean? Ultimately, I don't buy that.

Right. What is the phrase that you say when someone has reached a point in their career …

Yeah, everyone rises to the level of their incompetence.

You know, and I think one of the things was they thought they would bring in this Google-cy, and just ‘cause they worked at Google they immediately can make things right. Well, Google was an abnormally interesting place of talent all together at once. It doesn't mean if you pulled individual parts out that they could succeed. Although it's ironic that Tim Armstrong was also a Google Executive at the same time Marissa was at Google. He's the head of AOL. And you could argue he made a mess of AOL when he first got there and he did all that — what's the neighborhood thing he did? I can't even remember.


Patch. You know, he did a lot of crazy stuff. Then he bought the Huffington Post, interesting idea. He did a lot of good and bad things and he got attacked by a shareholder activist, Starboard Value, the same one that attacked Yahoo. And he was smart. He sold off the patents, he cleaned it up, he brought the stock back up, he got rid of Patch, and then he sold it. It was really smart, what he did. He tried some things, it didn't work, and he was smart enough to know when to get out. Same thing with LinkedIn. I think Jeff was really smart. Also a former Yahoo executive, under Terry Semel, smart enough to know when the jig was up, that it was time to go. And so I think, you know you have to admire Marissa Mayer for her ambition, but you have to not admire her for her ambition — it was misplaced.

Right. So what was your favorite Yahoo product?

Oh, I thought My Yahoo was brilliant, at the time. No one was thinking personalization. Yahoo really did introduce personalization to the internet.

Was that like an page for Yahoo?

No, that was Tim Armstrong, that was later. It was My Yahoo. You just could change the blocks on the page. It was super simple at the time.

Oh, so it was customization of your web portal.

Yes, it was customization of your experience. I think that was a brilliant, brilliant idea. I thought it was very smart. It was very sticky, it kept people on Yahoo, you could make your page just the way you wanted. It's not a paradigm we use now, but at the time it was really smart. Very clever, very innovative.

Now, when you say something like, "it's personalized!" people think, "It's all about me!" It's like my Twitter handle, or my Snapchat avatar.

But it was! You could put your weather, you could put your news, it was a pick-and-choose lego-block-like thing. At the time it was like, whoa. That's cool.

Yeah, I can move this web page around on this super cool compact computer I've got here.

It was cool. It's like the first time you got a phone. Now you laugh at it because it looks like a brick. Remember the original apps. Believe me, looking at apps in ten years, you'll be like, "What the hell were we thinking?"

I had a Yahoo email account.

Did you? Lots of people did. A lot of people still do.

I did, and do you want to hear something funny? When we were in our last year of undergrad in college, one of my housemates, she was one of the first people I knew who would openly admit to online dating. Like, it was still very taboo at the time, people didn't want to say that they were dating online.

Yahoo had dating at some point.

She was using Yahoo personals. And I was like, "Yahoo has a personals section?"

They had everything! They had cars!

They had Hot Jobs! I remember putting my resume on Hot Jobs.

Too much, not enough focus.

There was a lot going on.

Lack of focus.

And, of course, we didn't even talk about Tumblr.

Oh well. That didn't work out.

Flickr. I mean, Flickr really was a great thing.

They bought it for a very small amount of money. $25 million. Whose founder later when on to found Slack.

Oh that's right. Stuart. Of course.

So, every week, we ask our readers and listeners to send in their questions, comments and complaints about tech topics. You can do that by tweeting us at #tooembarrassed. This week, we asked our listeners for their questions about Yahoo and Verizon. We got a lot of — people care about Yahoo even if they don't use it. It's a really fascinating conundrum.

They really do. And I'm just gonna say one thing really quickly. That a lot of these questions, in fact I think almost every single one, was from a dude. So ladies, we love you, send in your questions as well, we want to answer them for you.

Well, how do you know? Jacob could be a woman's name. But go ahead, move along.

That's true, I'm making some assumptions here, but I'm gonna go ahead and do that.

I think you're probably right.

Ok, the first one is from Jacob Catalano on Twitter, he's @JGCatalano. Are you related to Jordan Catalano? Because we need to talk.

All right, move along.

All right. "Why did Yahoo sell for $4.8 billion when their market cap is $36 billion?"

Aw, that's an easy one. Because they're stupid. No, actually, a lot of their market cap is made up of assets of Alibaba in China and Yahoo Japan, they own a large stake in that. And their worth makes up most of the market cap. They also have patents and real estate. Some of the real estate went with AOL and Verizon, and some of it stayed in this other company, they're calling it newco or invesco, and they have things like shares in Snapchat, she made some investments in Snapchat and some other companies. There's a company. Yahoo had $7.7 billion in cash, also, which also adds to the market cap, and it all goes in a separate company that's going to be a separate company not called Yahoo, and then they'll eventually sell off, distribute the cash and do different things. So most of that $36 billion is in those assets.

So Verizon did not actually acquire all of that. They only acquired the $4.8 billion, which is the core business at Yahoo.

The advertising business, some patents that have related to the business, and some real estate where Yahoo is headquartered in Silicon Valley. Sunnyvale.

There you go! The next question is from Paul S. I'm pretty sure Paul's a guy, Kara?

Yes, I agree.

"Is Yahoo even relevant in today's tech world? Why is it such big news?"

I don't know. It is such big news.

Really! I actually thought you were going to have a thoughtful explanation for this. Like it is relevant because it was the first internet —

Because I have made it interesting by making it into the greatest soap opera of all time!

I actually do think that had been the case. I think it's because it's an iconic brand. It is literally one of the fist major brands of the internet. It is still incredibly well-known, it is widely used, it has a big audience. It still does. It doesn't have the hot, techy, cool audience. It's not the Snapchat audience, it's not the young audience, but it's still used by a lot of people. So it is relevant to many people. Yahoo Mail, a lot of the Yahoo properties. And it's big news because when something like that goes, it's a really big deal.

It ushered in a new era. If you just think about 20 years ago, we were not using these tools, we didn't have smartphones, we weren't using all these apps and internet services and things like that. When you think about the transformation that has happened in our society over the past 20 years, this is representative of what —

AOL and Yahoo were the two companies that really did consumerize the internet. I still have a foam finger from original AOL that Bob Pittman came up with — who now runs iHeartRadio, he was president of AOL at one point, and he had "It’s so easy to use, no wonder it’s No. 1." I know.

Did you include that anecdote in your book about AOL?

Yes I did. Mm-hmm. Yes.

Kara also, for those of you who don't know, wrote a book about AOL.

Yes, I know everything about AOL, sadly.

You never got the chance to write the Yahoo book.

Yes, I'm not going to. I turned it down.

Well there you go. You'll just have to go to AllThingsD and Recode.

I've written enough. I'm going to write the Lauren Goode biography.

Oh it's a juicy one, let me tell you. Yeah, if you want to fall asleep at night. Arianna will tell you, "read the Lauren good book, you'll go right to sleep."

[as Arianna] Speaking of which, Arianna works for AOL [note: not anymore], hello. I called her out of nowhere, are you going to take the Yahoo? No, I'm going to have the Huffington Post, darling. [drops accent] That was good, huh?

That was so good.

[as Arianna] Hello, baby. [drops accent] That's what she says whenever I answer the phone.

I hope Arianna listens to this.

[as Arianna] Hello, baby.

Arianna listens to this to go to sleep at night. Okay, the next question is from Sahil Bala. It's @IAmSahilBala at Twitter. "What's the one reason Yahoo refused Microsoft in 2008, and was Yahoo relevant back then?"

It was. Obviously Microsoft wanted to buy it, it wanted to double down in search and compete against —

For a pretty big fee.

For a big fee. It was $45 billion?


But it also included the Alibaba stake, which was kind of interesting. The thing is, Alibaba wasn't worth that much then, so that was mostly for the core business.

Alibaba was worth $10 billion then? Or some smaller amount of money than it's worth today, overall, the entire company.

People who didn't sell it have told me, since then — they have a lot of excuses. Probably most people think they were stupid not to sell. And I like the people who didn't sell, but many people think it was a dumb move that they didn't sell. They felt there wasn't a breakup fee, there were worries whether it would go through or not, whether Steve Ballmer was very serious, but I think he was.

It was a really ugly fight for a long long time. It was a proxy fight. There was all kinds of stuff that went on. And I think it's one of the things that led to their demise. That fight.

They didn't want to sell. One of the founders, David Filo, was not into selling, and it wasn't quite enough money. There are a lot of deals like that. Sometimes they turn out well: Facebook didn't sell to Yahoo, to Terry Semel, because he dropped the price. And it made Mark Zuckerberg mad. Well that was a really good price drop for Mark Zuckerberg, because then he could refuse it, and went on to be …. There's a million stories like that, and there's a million stories where they don't sell it and it turns out badly.

Was Yahoo relevant back then, in 2008?

Yes, yes, absolutely. 100 percent.

The next question's from @WillRobertson. "Will Verizon look to sell off parts of Yahoo post acquisition? Examples: Flickr, Weather, Tumblr." And then there was a follow-up question from David Mobile, who also asks — Well, first he said enthusiastically, "Lauren, I have like 500 questions!" David, we love you, thank you for sending them in. "What will Verizon do with Tumblr and Flickr?"

That's a good question. I don't know. I think they'll probably keep it. As Tim Armstrong described it to me, it's a multi-brand strategy on a common platform.

So multi-brand makes you think multiple brands.

Huffington Post, Flickr, anything that can sell advertising or sell in some advertising sense, why wouldn't they hold onto popular things? Flickr's been through the ringer quite a bit.

Big picture here, which no one has actually asked yet, but like what this really comes down to is this is an ad play. This is just like it was Verizon buying AOL, they're buying Yahoo.

Not just ad, ad tech.

And they have some very good, you know, I think their concept is: look, Google and Facebook are dominating all of ad technology and digital ads. Is there another way? Can we do it through media? And neither Facebook nor Google really has media per se, like media properties, and these are media properties. And they're also going to be a friend to publishers. People don't trust Google and Facebook so much because they're going to be killed by Google and Facebook. So there's AOL and there's Twitter, which will probably be sold next.

Casey Wagner asked, "What job cuts do you see happening in the consolidation? What happens to the long-rumored mobile search projects?"

Yes, Project Index. Tim, again, I asked him this, and he doesn't see that synergies were the key driver here, but — They're going to make cuts, obviously, across the advertising stuff and the technology. And he's very clear about making cuts when he does. So Marissa tried to make cuts quietly. I think that's why she lost a lot of credibility within the company ‘cause she was laying people off secretly, essentially.

Well she created this new quarter, this review process that was onerous.

People just thought it was a way to lay people off in a sneaky way. She would disagree, but I think a lot of people felt that. I think that the mobile search project index, they put a lot of money behind it, a lot of people, run by a very smart engineer named Enrique Torres. I don't think AOL will commit itself or Verizon to search. Why would you do that in this era? First of all, search is changing so drastically. This is a mobile search product, but it's still —

Yeah, you're really behind the curve at this point. Everyone's focused on AI at this point and how search data is going to power artificial intelligence.

I see that finish, I think that's not something that's going to happen.

All right, there you, go Casey Wagner.

They'll just eat it. Verizon can afford it.

Should it be worrisome at all that Verizon is buying up all these web properties? Hi, this is a question from @LaurenGoode.

Well, it's the same thing with Comcast. They have all this data on you. All these companies, all these distribution companies have data on you and so, you know, they don't have a choice, these Verizons, Comcasts, AT&Ts, they don't have a choice, they need to own content. And they’re up against the Googles and the Facebooks of the world, and the Amazons, so they have to get differentiated. I don't see that there's a choice.

Content is king.

No. It's sort of a minor royal figure.

Data is king.

Data is king.

Data, they get from you using content. Content is king!

Content is a duchess.

Mendar Lemay asks, "I use Yahoo mail for all of my accounts. Should I be worried?" Well, Mendar, I don't know if this is like a privacy implication .…

Yahoo mail has had a lot of issues last year. I wrote about it a lot. About Yahoo mail technology issues. But no, it'll continue. Mail will continue. It will be just fine. I mean, you may want to consider upgrading just because it's maybe time to usher in a new era of email, maybe. I think they know how to do mail at AOL and also Verizon. I think it's not going to be a big deal.

The next is from Edie Jones. Oh! This might be a female. Yay! Thank you for sending in a question, Edie. @EVJ on Twitter. "Where do you see Mayer landing after being shown the inevitable door? Is it a break for ‘family time?’"

Well, she's very wealthy. She's very wealthy from Google and from investments she's made and from this. She's made a lot of money from working at Yahoo. You know, Silicon Valley's very forgiving. There's a meme that she tried her best. That's going to be the new meme. And then all will be forgiven and then she'll be able to do something else. I think failure is very easy to forgive in Silicon Valley, and I think she's very adept at press, so I think she'll probably be just fine. Do not worry for Marissa Mayer or any executive in Silicon Valley that gets fired or doesn't succeed. She didn't get fired.

If you had to pick a company or a couple companies right now where you could actually see her being a good fit, what would you ...?

I think she'll probably be a VC. She’s thought about it. Before, she almost went to be a VC, from what I understand, from what people told me. I don't know. I think she'll probably remain — She's an active investor. I doubt she'll take a CEO job any time soon. But you know, she's a very competitive person, so maybe she'll show us. I don't know. She doesn't speak to me.

We shall see. I know, you haven't gotten invites to her parties over the years, huh?

I used to. They were nice parties. I'm sorry I didn't get invited to the new ones. I wanted to go to her skating rink one.

I can't possibly imagine why you would be off the list.

I was on the list and then I was off the list. This is the negative part of being a reporter. But I don't care, actually.

Well ,that's the thing. You can't really care. If you care about getting invited to the parties and people liking you, you don't become a reporter. That's what it comes down to.

Although I do get invited to more parties than I should be invited to.

You're like a techlebrity.

Techlebrity? Is that what I am?

I used that word earlier today and I was told never to use it.

That sounds weird. It sounds like a weird disease. "Oh, I have techlebrity."

A lot of people here have techlebrity.

It's like being famous in Pittsburg. And I like Pittsburg. Anyway.

This is a great question, it's from Baran Erkel. I hope I'm saying that correctly. "Kara, what will you do with all the newfound free time?" And then as a follow up, "Pokemon?"

Pokemon, never. Pokemon. Get the fuck away. You know that's my policy on Pokemon. I have not cracked open that thing, and I'm not going to wander around staring at my phone searching for fake things.

But will you do with all your newfound free time besides join me on my podcast?

Oh, besides the podcast? You know, there's other companies! Twitter. I'm going to turn my attention to Twitter, Apple. I think they're going to be going through some hard times. I think Apple is a really great company to start. And they're secretive, and I like that, and I can get into the vents there. And I have a feeling they're a little more leaky than they used to be.

The vents or the company.

Literally, it was like the prison you couldn't break into. Now I think you can. I think I can get in there.

Things have changed in a post Steve era.

Hey, Tim Cook, get ready! And Twitter, I'm going to look at Twitter. Because I really love Twitter, as you know. I love to use Twitter, and I love it as a product, but it's really got some issues as a company. At the same time, [there are] some really cool things they're doing around live sports, I think that's pretty neat. And I enjoy a- they're not much of a challenge, they're the leakiest sieve. Twitter is literally the leakiest sieve on earth. Sorry, Natalie Kerris, but that's the case. She used to work at Apple, she's like, "ahh!!"

Kara is referring to their new top PR person who just —

She's not used to it. She's used to —

Things being locked down.

Nothing gets locked down.

Yeah, if you crawled into those air vents at Apple you were never coming back out.

No, never coming back out. At Twitter, you can walk in and out, just like that. In fact, let's go have lunch over there. I don't think they'll stop us.

They do have that fancy market right downstairs.

But I bet we could get upstairs. I used to do that. I used to stop at companies and have lunch sometimes. But now that I'm a techlebrity … Before people stopped me. I actually go outside with people here in San Francisco people always stop me on the streets.

But you know what's funny too is like sometimes you have real life friends, like legitimate friends, not sources or Poke friends and things like that, that will invite you to lunch at their company and you're like, it's just going to create such a headache for you. I don't, I'm not going to do that to you, thank you for the invite.

Many people come up to me. They like Recode, they don't just like me. They like Recode, they think Recode's good. They like Lauren Goode, they ask me about all the characters here at Recode.

All the characters.

"How's that Lauren Goode?"

And what do you say?

"She's a horrible demon person."

Horrible human being. Terrible.

Anyway, I have tons of things to do. This podcast, we're doing video things, there's always an interesting story. Elon Musk alone, I could devote my entire life to him and do very well.

Elon Musk is just like the escapist fantasy we all need right now in these terribly trying times.

You know, I covered Elon Musk when he was a nobody. When he was at

Oh, was what became PayPal, essentially.

Well they merged it. They used to be rivals, but I meant him when he was a young nothing.

That's right it didn't become PayPal. They were rivals and then they bought them. But weren't they keeping the two brands distinct for a while? And then became PayPal.

Yeah and then they all fought with each other and warred and became wealthy. Peter Thiel was there.

Was that the company that he was ousted from while he was flying to his honeymoon or something?

Could be, I don't remember. Didn't seem to hurt him did it. Didn't seem to slow him down. You know, he was interesting. Now, he's sort of legendary. He's sort of occupying the Steve Jobs visionary territory that Silicon Valley likes to have, and probably justifiably so. But at the time, he just was making a product to pay for shoes.

I like that he thinks big picture.

He didn't then! But now he does.

He didn't then, you're saying?


It seemed as though he had some interesting thoughts about the way that payments were going to work on the internet and banking.

It was just a way to pay for things at the end of the day.

I actually saved a quote from his master plan on my desktop. And I'm not really, you know, a fangirl, nor do I really cover Tesla or SpaceX, but I follow it as someone who's very interested in technology. And I loved this quote from his master plan.

His new one?

Yeah, the most recent one that was released last week. He said, "the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture so they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That's what sustainable means. It's not some silly hippy thing, it matters for everyone." And I really liked that. I thought, "when's the last time you imagined far into the future and you could picture life as still being good?"

He is a very interesting thinker. We had a great interview with him at Code, I thought that was fascinating, until he ended the whole thing by saying we're all in a video game.

Yeah, we're all living in a simulation. Yeah, this is a simulation right now.

He was just fucking with us, wasn't he?

Oh at some point you see this wry little smile …

No, I think he believes it.


Oh, trust me. I have been approached by many Silicon Valley people, big-n

ame, who have been telling me were in a simulation for years now.

Who's controlling the simulation?

Future technologists?


I know.

This is so meta right now.

Yeah, but I don't believe it. Because I would be taller if it was a simulation.

Why would you be taller? Just because it's a binary thing and there would be, like, a set of code that would make you taller?

This is real life and we have this horrible election happening.

Well, that's what I mean. I mean, Elon Musk is just, even if he constantly misses his deadlines and you're like, "he still hasn't introduced this battery-changing-robot thing," and half of the stuff he's talking about may not ever come to fruition, you have to — I think people are really embracing someone who's dreaming big right now, in a time when the future seems so bleak.

I always say, Silicon Valley has big minds chasing small ideas. I say that a lot, and I think he's a big mind chasing a big idea. I do enjoy that. A lot of people are too. A lot of food stuff, a lot of energy stuff. I think we're getting into a frivolous and serious era at the same time. Our politics become more frivolous and ridiculous.

And by the time this podcast publishes, both conventions will be over.

Yes, thank God.

I hope we will have recovered.

I don't think so.

And by the way, this podcast, we are taping this on a Tuesday, and it's airing on a Friday, so there may be more news about Yahoo and Verizon and things may come out that we haven't learned yet.


Kara's like, "I know them all."


But thank you for answering all the questions.

No problem.

So basically Yahoo, Tim Cook, Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk, watch out.

Not watch out.

Check your air vents.

I am going to cover Yahoo. I'm now allowed to talk to Yahoo people again. I wasn't, in the Marissa Mayer era, but Tim wrote me a note, he said, "I can't believe they didn't talk to you, they get so much more pain for doing that. And part of it's pleasurable even though it's painful." And I said, "get ready for some pleasurable pain." Then it got into a weird situation about that.

But I think, you know, he's really, he's a good person to cover because he can take it, you know criticism and stuff like that. It'll be fun. And Arianna is there too. [note: or not]

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.