Internet news/analysis in brief

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Includes: ANSW, CNVR, FSTC, GOOG, IAC, MSFT, NTRT, RATE, RCOM-OLD, SHOP-OLD, TFSM, TWX, YHOO
by: David Jackson

  • Google (ticker: GOOG) responded to Yahoo's (ticker: YHOO) recent increase in storage capacity of Yahoo! Mail accounts to 1GB by doubling the storage capacity of Gmail accounts to 2GB, lifting the cap on the size of individual emails, and suggesting that Gmail account capacity would rise in future as storage costs fall. The NY Times, quoting (free subscription required) data from Netratings (ticker: NTRT), says that February visitors to web email services were as follows: Yahoo 40.5 million, AOL 34.6 million, MSN 28.4 million. No number given for Gmail. Comment: Google's response to Yahoo! highlights the strategic importance of web email and the increasing competition between Google, Yahoo!, AOL (owned by Time Warner, ticker: TWX) and MSN (owned by Microsoft, ticker: MSFT).
  • IAC (ticker: IACI) completed its acquisition of Cornerstone Brands, Inc., a portfolio of print catalogs and online retailing sites that sell home products and leisure and casual apparel, in a cash transaction valued at $720 million net of expected tax benefits.
  • Rick Munarriz berates Register.com (ticker: RCOM) for failing again to file its financials, but is intrigued by the company's $4 per share in cash.
  • Bankrate.com (ticker: RATE) previewed its new web site, which it said offers easier navigation, enhanced rate search, new content channels covering college finance and debt management, and more tuturials. Comment: The new one looks as cluttered as the old one. As the comparison shopping engines move into the finance vertical, Bankrate.com should get real competition.
  • Piper Jaffray initiated coverage on 24/7 Media (ticker: TFSM) with an Outperform rating.
  • Fastclick (ticker: FSTC) priced its IPO of 5.6 million shares late Thursday at $12, the bottom of its anticipated range. Bambi Francisco suggests that Fastclick's roadshow pressured ValueClick stock (ticker: VLCK) because Fastclick CEO Kurt Johnson, who was previously ValueClick's CFO, "told investors at the luncheon that his product is better than his former employer's". Comment: Bambi Francisco, generally smart and well-informed, joins the line of financial journalists who failed to mention (notice?) that Fastclick gets a large chunk of its revenues from pop-under ads.
  • Google announced that Google searches are now faster on Firefox than competing browsers, because Google instructs Firefox to download your top search result in advance, so if you click on it, you'll get to that page faster. Question: Is Google pushing Firefox, or is Firefox the only browser Google can work with because it's open source? Why not Safari, which also has Google search built in? Perhaps Apple's market share is too small to attract Google's attention.
  • Shopping.com's (ticker: SHOP) new French comparison shopping site got a positive review from Organized Shopping's Sean O'Rourke. He says the French site "has the same attributes as the US site, plus some additional attributes specifically for the local audience. That might not seem like a big deal, until you look at the difference in functionality at sites like Yahoo Shopping and their unconnected counterparts in India and Japan and Australia and...". Full disclosure: at the time of writing I'm long SHOP.
  • Barron's Electronic Investor column (subscription required) reviewed GuruNet's (ticker: GRU) Answers.com from an investor's perspective. The conclusion: "Will we use it? Yes, definitely. It's a great solution for grabbing ancillary information quickly. But it can't replace Google entirely, and doesn't expect to - at least at this stage. We can't be as enthusiastic as some journalists have been, but this is a nice supplement to your usual search tools."