Google announced GMail late yesterday, and the media, Wired News and CNet and the New York Times, bought it. So did The Register, which said that the company is using April Fools to launch the service for real. The Times’ John Markoff – no slouch he – wrote up the story totally straight citing unnamed sources “familiar with the service.” AP and Reuters moved wire stories….
But one can seriously debate whether this is a joke, folks (this is, of course, as is this Google job posting). Sure, there may be seeds of truth, like the patent application the company filed to serve email ads, or the fact that such a service makes a lot of sense for Google, and has been widely rumored. Or even the one gigabyte storage approach – never have to delete an email again – (sounds like Mirror Worlds…).Slashdotters are having a field day debating this one…turning up the fact that Gmail.com is registered to Google, for example…(this has been known for a while…)
But this has got to be an April Fool’s Joke. A very believable one, one that in the long run may come true, but a joke. Note an employee’s posting on his blog, under the subject “haha” and noting “I love this time of year.” And the release itself is simply too sophomoric to be anything but a joke. If indeed this is an elaborate ruse (including fake quotes and interviews from Wayne Rosing) I imagine the press will be most unhappy with the folks at the Googleplex. Journalists these days tend to have no sense of humor when it comes to their own gullibility. Unless, of course, they were all in on it…which has its own set of issues. Fun, no matter how you slice it…
UDPATE: OK, maybe this *is* for real, because Danny Sullivan of SEW is playing it straight. If it *is*, then…what’s with all the hat tips toward April Fools? Ahhhh, who knows.
– Big News: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and VCs Sequoia and KPCB together own 95% of the company. The remaining 5% is split between early angels and a lava lamp wholesaler who “management admits got a pretty good barter deal back in 1998.”
– The employee stock option plan, long believed to be the impetus to a public filing, has been dumped in favor of a private shadow equity plan modeled after the Economist magazine. “It’s the only magazine we read that hasn’t put us on the cover,” Page explained. “We kind of hoped this hat tip might change that.”
– Google will be taken public by Morgan Stanley (no surprise there) but with a twist: To win the Google business (and estimated fees of $300 million), Morgan has agreed to purchase Dutch auction innovator WR Hambrecht for an undisclosed sum (wags estimate it at nearly $150 million), to be paid in pre-IPO shares (apparently the ability to “sell on the pop” was a deal clincher). Morgan and WR Hambrect, in a joint release, have promised to “incorporate WRH’s innovative approach to fair market valuation” in the secondary market at some point in the “near future.”
– Eric Schmidt, while participating in the Economist-style plan, also has options to buy up to 20% of the company directly from the founders at a strike price 20% above the opening trade “should certain conditions occur.” A close reading of these conditions include: 1. Upon a tender offer for the company by Microsoft which values Google at no less than $100 billion (such a transaction would net Schmidt $15 billion, conservatively) 2. Upon a “reasonable” tender offer for the company by AOL (literally, AOL, the offer is void if tendered by Time Warner) 3. Whenever a quorum of Google VPs stipulate under oath that Larry and Sergey have become distracted and are no longer interested in the business 4. The day Google accepts paid inclusion or 5. The moment Sales has input into Product Management. One can only imagine that a sixth condition may as well be: Should hell freeze over, an option to exercise his shares forty five days thereafter, assuming that, in fact, hell remains frozen on the forty-sixth day. One senses this portion of Eric’s compensation is some kind of elaborate joke between the three famously tight-knit leaders.
– The S-1 lists an extraordinary cavalcade of “material pending legal matters.” Of note: An ongoing dispute with Stanfurd University, holder of the PageRank patent, on the exact definition of “in perpetuity” and a slow burning lawsuit brought by Overture Inc., the gist of which seems to be “Material and Adverse Damages Related to Generally Getting Credit For Our Idea, Goddammit.”
More as the press wakes up to this extraordinary news…
Light posting today, as I am out in meetings…Happy April Fools!