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Data Sheet—Closing the Book on Yahoo’s Wasted $1 Billion Tumblr Deal

November 28, 2017, 1:45 PM UTC

On a chilly Tuesday morning from Boston, Aaron in for Adam today.

Tech history won’t have many good things to say about the Tumblr acquisition. The site’s anything-goes ethos, with a heavy serving of porn, was always an odd fit with Yahoo’s more mature audience and advertising base. Though Karp stayed, he and his new Yahoo overseers never found a way to sell much advertising on the platform or keep it growing at a rapid pace. And they fumbled the transition to mobile. Before disappearing into Verizon and its new Oath media unit, Yahoo had written off the value of two-thirds of the purchase price.

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The story of Instagram at Facebook is almost the exact opposite. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t just keep CEO Kevin Systrom, but also allowed Systrom to direct the platform’s future. Instagram stayed focused on mobile users and turned into a perfect platform to host sponsored posts. In weighing the best acquisitions of all time, the investing-oriented web site Benzinga placed Instagram second behind only Google’s $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube in 2006.

Karp gave no hints about possible future projects on his way out. “I beg you to understand that my decision comes after months of reflection on my personal ambitions, and at no cost to my hopefulness for Tumblr’s future or the impact I know it can have,” Karp wrote in a letter to his employees that he also posted on his Tumblr blog. “The internet is at a crossroads of which this team can play a fundamental role in shaping.”

The more interesting story to follow won’t be what happens to Tumblr, though. It will be how Karp next tries to shape the the future.

(Full disclosure: I worked for a few years at Yahoo Finance, but had little or nothing to do with Tumblr.)

Aaron Pressman


Don't tread on me. Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, Twitter and many other Internet companies (don't forget Tumblr, too) asked the Federal Communications Commission not to kill the agency's 2015 net neutrality rules. “This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground,” the group wrote in a comment letter.

Terms and conditions. Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son is looking for a bargain before he invests in Uber. Son's SoftBank Group will lead an investment of $1 billion at Uber's most recent $69 billion valuation, but then wants to pick up $6 billion of stock from current shareholders at a 30% discount, Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, Uber execs are on a global tour to reassure regulators. “We have changed tacks in so many ways in dealing with regulators, dealing with governments,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s chief business officer for Asia Pacific, tells Reuters. And back in the United States, Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit asked a a judge to delay a case over trade secrets it filed against Uber, which is scheduled to start December 4.

Machine life saver. Facebook thinks it may have developed an algorithm that can save lives. The AI program seeks to detect signs a user may be suicidal and then warns friends or first responders, if needed. "We can help connect people who are in distress connect to friends and to organizations that can help them,” Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, tells TechCrunch.

Rocket man. Elon Musk's SpaceX raised another $100 million, extending a financing effort from this summer that had already raised $350 million, according to a regulatory filing. That fundraising values the company, which wants to send a manned mission to Mars in 2024, at $21.5 billion. And, in other Musk news, the billionaire entrepreneur says he definitely did not invent bitcoin.

If you build it. Amazon introduced a set of software tools on Monday called Amazon Sumerian to help programmers write virtual reality and augmented reality apps using 3D computer graphics. Apps made with Sumerian will be compatible with some VR headsets, like the Rift and HTC Vive, as well as on Apple products like the iPhone and iPad. Android compatibility is coming soon.

One more thing. Oh yeah, bitcoin just crossed $10,000.


A few dozen of the bids to host Amazon's HQ2 have been made public and Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat has been reading what's available so far.

Most are filled with the usual array of tax breaks and promised infrastructure improvements. But Fresno, Calif. is willing to go farther, giving a committee made up of half Amazon employees and half government appointees say over how taxes should be spent. A spokesman for the city said the plan would avoid taxes "disappearing into a civic black hole."

But as Westneat retorts: "It feels like a dicey moment for the 'civic black hole.' Also known as democracy."


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Why Wall Street Is Getting Worried About Apple's Stock Price By Aaron Pressman


If you live almost anywhere along the east coast, then you have probably driven on Interstate 95, though hopefully not often. The Wall Street Journal has a feature chock full of interactive graphics calling out some of the worst stretches for traffic jams, potholes, and deadly accidents.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.