Which rivalries are real?

Ever caught yourself saying you Googled something, then realizing you were talking to a Yahoo developer? Or wondered whether it's okay to talk about iTunes to a friend from Microsoft? Obviously, not everyone gets worked up over corporate rivalries. (Most, but not all, of my Yahoo friends don't give a damn about whether I like using Google.) Here's a guide to which feuds are real and which are trumped up, by rating each rivalry on the 5-point tension scale.

Yahoo vs. Google
Tension: 2

The two search giants are obviously direct competitors in most of their businesses: search, mobile, mapping, and online ads. But the competition only trickles down so far down the ranks. Most of the dozen or so Yahoo employees I know (from several departments) have good friends at Google (and — duh — vice versa).

Employees do bristle when anyone would: a friend in Yahoo Mobile hates seeing me pull up Google Maps; and everyone likes to point out their company's advantages or the other's flaws. (Both Yahoos and Googlers prefer to talk about Google.) But with such huge companies, most cross-company friends know that they have more in common than in contrast. (Valleywag publisher Nick Denton even thinks Google VP Susan Wojcicki was married to a GM of Yahoo Music.)


Microsoft vs. Apple
Tension: 2

The rivalry between these two has obviously had longer to fester than the feud of a couple of dot-coms. It's more personal, too: No one thinks of Larry and Sergey from Google tag-teaming Yahoo's founders (wossname and the other guy), but Bill and Steve have their own cartoon deathmatch. The two companies' employees, skewing older than the young socialites at dot-coms, are less likely to bump elbows.

While Google and Yahoo have similar cultures that compete in nearly every division of their business, Microsoft and Apple have quite divergent cultures based on different approaches to computing. The Apple designers and developers I know have well-though-out criticisms of Microsoft products; the Microsoft employees point to their dominance. It's actually a bit like the Mac vs. PC ads, except PC is as smug as Mac and he doesn't wear a jacket.


Journalists vs. bloggers
Tension: 3

For the most part, this rivalry is overblown. Bloggers know they need journalists or they'll have nothing to link to. Journalists need bloggers to get traffic online and cover the stories too small for professionals. Of course, there are those utter cocks like anti-blogging blogger Andrew Keen and Old-Media-hating videoblogger Andrew Baron. But they're easily taken down a peg — by bloggers, of course.

Also overblown is "Journalists vs. Craigslist," as the news business has far more to worry about than the loss of classified-ad revenue (which, let's admit it, was doomed once the Internet reached the average home). Journalists mostly see Craigslist as a fun company to write about (over and over again).


Sun Microsystems vs. Hewlett-Packard
Tension: 5
Crazy hatred. Sun got rankled that competitor HP managed to sponsor Sun's conference, but they got back by buying statues of HP's founders.


Flickr vs. Zooomr vs. Photobucket vs. Smugmug vs....
Tension: 4

Hell yeah, there's tension! The founders of these photo sharing services like to make a big deal about their willingness to appear at a party together. In this photo by Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk, Photobucket marketer MJ Kim, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, and Zooomr founder Kris Tate demonstrate their love:

Which rivalries are real?

And how much do they love each other? I can't repeat all the gossip these three have told me about the others, but Stewart and his Flickr cohorts are engaged in an extended game of teasing with Kris and his one employee at Zooomr. When Kris spent a week upgrading Zooomr, Flickr sent him pizzas; at a Flickr photo auction, Kris bought one of the photos for his wall; and of course there's Zooomr's CEO drunkenly defending his company on Flickr's message boards.

Photobucket has apparently stayed out of this, preferring to squabble with MySpace, who occasionally blocked Photobucket from its site before finally buying the company. SmugMug fights not the other photo sharing sites but the press and bloggers who ignore it.


Gawker Media vs. Weblogs, Inc.
Tension: 3

Okay, these two blog networks (Valleywag is part of Gawker Media, and in fact Gawker's founder and owner Nick Denton edits the site) do have personal rivalries. After all, early Gawker employee Peter Rojas left the company's blog Gizmodo to found one of Weblogs's original sites, Engadget. The latter has long since been the more popular of the two gadget sites. Since then, Weblogs and Gawker have sparred over a half-dozen of their competitive properties, even after AOL bought Weblogs.

Personal rivalries (come on, you're still reading this one? Go reread the Google vs. Yahoo section) include:

  • Nick Denton vs. Jason Calacanis: The two founders (Calacanis is now out of Weblogs) are "frenemies" who go out for lunch, then malign one another's business and personal decisions. Denton thinks Calacanis is cheesy but smart; Calacanis thinks Denton is too stand-offish (he is) but cunning. Calacanis sometimes jabs at Denton on his personal blog, while Denton takes it to the mattresses.
  • Engadget staff vs. Gizmodo staff: Engadget wasn't too happy when new Gizmodo editor Brian Lam stole their photos. Both teams take digs at each other in their blogs; Denton's not above dropping a wry observation himself.
  • Gawker staff vs. Jason Calacanis: He's just so fun to tease!
  • Me vs. Jason Calacanis: We fight too.
  • Gawker employees vs. Nick Denton: More hatred. In fact, Denton will comment on this post remarking how embarrassingly self-gratifying it is to include a section on Gawker, but while he will sincerely mean this, he will also secretly enjoy getting to write it.


Compuserve vs. Prodigy
Tension: 5

Just seeing if you were paying attention.