microyahoooHave you heard the latest rumor? Fill-in-the-blank company is buying fill-in-the-blank company – except that they’re not. Or are they?

Welcome to the tech news on the Internet the past few weeks. Let’s do a roundup of what we’ve learned – or not – so far — culminating in the latest rumor of the day: That News Corp. wants to join a private equity firm to invest cash into Yahoo, and even give it MySpace, in return for a stake of more than 20 percent.

  • Microsoft/Yahoo…and Google

This all got kicked off, of course, when Microsoft announced their proposal to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion dollars. Within hours we knew that not only did Yahoo not want to sell, but that Google didn’t want them to sell either (our coverage). Immediately rumors began swirling about what moves could be made to prevent such a deal from going down.

  • Yahoo/Google

The initial speculation was that Yahoo and Google might work out some kind of deal together. Certainly it seemed both companies would be up for this idea as opposed to the alternative (Microsoft), but the problem was that the FTC would probably not have been too keen on the idea of the #1 and #2 search and online advertising companies having any kind of partnership – especially as a means of blocking out the #3 competitor.

  • Yahoo/InterActiveCorp/Alibaba/Apple/Time Warner/News Corp.

So talk turned to speculation about what other companies could get involved to save Yahoo. InterActiveCorp, Alibaba.com, Apple, and then of course Time Warner and News Corp all are names that came up initially.

  • Yahoo/Microsoft

We went into the end of last week hearing first that Yahoo would make a decision on the how to respond to the Microsoft offer at their board meeting on Friday. Then word was that they would not decide until the following week what to do. By Saturday this had once again switched back to Yahoo having made a firm decision and would reject Microsoft’s offer formally on Monday (our coverage).

  • Yahoo/Time Warner (AOL)

This gave way to Time Warner’s AOL property over the weekend being a hot new contender in a Yahoo merger. The two sides had talked before, in 2006, about a merger, but the deal fell apart over pricing. While this new round of talks made sense to some bloggers, it made no sense to others – and we haven’t heard anything more about it since then.

  • Yahoo/News Corp.

News Corp. could have perhaps been dubbed the ‘front-runner’ (aside from Google) to save Yahoo simply based on Rupert Murdoch’s reputation for buying things. However, early on it was reported that the company was said to be not interested in pursuing such a deal. Then a week passed and guess what? Earlier Wednesday they are said to be talking about a deal.

  • Google or News Corp./Bebo

Meanwhile several of the main players in this high-stakes drama are hardly sitting still while this all shakes out. TechCrunch heard a rumor last week that basically amounted to ‘some big company buying some social company for over a billion dollars. From this they deduced that either Google or News Corp. (specifically MySpace) was about to buy Bebo – then were 50%, and later 51% “sure” of about this deal.

  • Bebo/CBS/Viacom/Comcast/Microsoft – or no deal at all – or just not Google

To this Kara Swisher responded with a post “Bebo for a Billion? A 100% Chance of Wrongness!“. TechCrunch fired back yesterday with “Bebo: $1 billion Acquistion “Definitely Happening” Say Source“, while also adding CBS, Viacom, Comcast and none other than Microsoft to the list of potential buyers. The final line of the post reads, “this is about as strong a rumor as they come.” Swisher responded again today with “Bebo=Not Being Bought by Google.” Am I the only one getting dizzy?

  • Microsoft/Ustream, Google/Plaxo, Comcast/Plaxo and Yahoo/Maven

Microsoft also found itself in another acquisition rumor – this time for the video-streaming site Ustream. Google was than pegged to be buying Plaxo, though some found that “unlikely“- perhaps because now Comcast is said to be buying Plaxo. Meanwhile, Yahoo was hardly sitting back, as they bought Maven Networks (our coverage) – perhaps the only one of these rumors that has turned out to be 100% true so far.

  • News Corp/Yahoo rumor redux — more details

And now, the latest word is that News Corp. wants to join a private equity firm to buy a 20 percent or larger stake of Yahoo, and possibly even give Yahoo ownership of MySpace, according to the WSJ.

Of course if you believe Sarah Lacy, this deal is just a smokescreen.

  • Reality

Back in the real world, Yahoo laid off 1,100 employees yesterday as had been expected before the Microsoft talk began. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to shuffle around its executives tomorrow.

Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang sent a new letter to Yahoo shareholders today explaining why he believes Microsoft’s bid vastly undervalued Yahoo. This comes just as some shareholders are coming together to sue Yahoo for not accepting the deal.

[photo: flickr/labanex]

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