The planet-conquering ambitions of Google's laid-back, do-no-evil dudes Larry Page and Sergey Brin are currently triggering a pandemic of nervous tics in the boardrooms of cyber America.
It seems that the Stanford duo's Excellent Adventure, increasingly driven by the voracious appetites of Wall Street since its IPO in August 2004, seeks growth via forays into neighbors' backyards - notably that of Google's former business partner Ebay.
One such example of recent aggression is Google's classified-advertising service which competes head-on with eBay's online auctions and other listings.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the e-grapevine is rife with rumor that Ebay is in anti-Google alliance talks with other online and computing giants who feel similarly threatened, notably Microsoft and Yahoo.
According to insiders, three-way talks between the trio began last fall. They are said to have discussed a joint assault by advertising, in which eBay would increase ad spending with its chosen partners and provide them with access to its wealth of customer data.
The trio might also seek tighter integration of technical aspects of their systems to better cross-promote their businesses.
EBay, however, is coy about the reported talks with spokesman Chris Donlay declining comment. He also played down the company's rivalry with Google. "Given how fast the internet changes, it's no surprise that the line between competition and cooperation is sometimes blurry," he says.
Spokespeople for Yahoo, Google and Microsoft were similarly zip-lipped.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff