Today, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong triumphantly announced that, starting this summer, the merged operations of AOL and the acquired Internet business of Yahoo would transform into a new Verizon-owned megalith company. It shall be named… Oath.
Perhaps the name comes from what Verizon executives swore after they heard about Yahoo’s multiple data breaches. Or maybe it came from what many Yahoo employees have been uttering over the last year, as the companies wound their way through the acquisition process and accompanying layoffs. Or perhaps “Oath” came to mind when those same employees heard about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s proposed severance package.
Apparently, Armstrong decided not to take our advice to name the unit “LOL OMG WTF” or “Event Verizon” (that second one may take a moment of thought to get).
It is unlikely that all of the services under the consolidated organization will be changed as well.
As Armstrong pointed out, the two organizations have more than 20 brands between them, beyond their flagship namesakes: AOL has the Huffington Post, Engadget, MovieFone, MapQuest (remember MapQuest?), TechCrunch, and a host of other media sites (plus AOL Instant Messenger); Yahoo has Tumblr, Flickr, and the video advertising business BrightRoll, and a host of media sites (plus Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Fantasy Sports). All in all, they have over a billion “consumers” worldwide.
Just how sticky those billion consumers will be after the merger is done and how many of those brands will survive the consolidation that follows, are open questions. Verizon’s primary interest in Yahoo was around its mobile advertising platform, though the company had also shifted many of its Internet and mobile customers to Yahoo Mail for e-mail service.
There’s already some question about how many active daily users Yahoo really retains, since its free e-mail service only deletes users after six (or possibly more) months of inactivity. The service has been notably popular for “burner” e-mail accounts (such as the account used by the alleged Russian information ops identity Guccifer 2.0 on yahoo.fr).
AOL has a similar problem with its AOL and AIM e-mail accounts—AOL’s terms of service state that accounts will be terminated if they’re inactive for over 90 days, but the AIM account I’ve had since 2011 was still active (though the mailbox had been purged).
New corporate identities are always a tightrope-walk, and they often go awry—the Tribune Company’s rebranding as Tronc, for example, or Yahoo’s corporate parent becoming Altaba. But Oath is a special sort of bad. An oath is something you either take (an oath of allegiance, an oath of office, an oath of enlistment) or a blasphemous interjection. In the case of Oath the company, it may be more of an oath of acquiescence as Verizon’s mobile and broadband customers sign their contracts.