Once upon a time, there was a little company on the web. Everyone loved the little company because they were new and did things that "just made sense". They even had a simple layout that everybody copied and said "No one can ever beat this! It's truly wonderful!" The little company grew, and soon it became rich by running ads. The little company grew and grew.
Soon the little company felt it knew how to do things. They went to the people selling ads and said "We are very smart about this and you are not. Give us your money and let us tell you how to run your ads." The people buying ads didn't like that and called the no longer little company "arrogant" and "bullies". Some people within the company knew that this was bad and cried out that this was A Bad Idea, but those people were ignored.
Then the bad times came and the company struggled to stay alive. They did lots of things that people outside of the company said were naughty and stupid. They lost money. Then they had several rounds of layoffs, making them a littler company. Then, they got smart.
You see, that little company realized that "being nice" isn't just an option, it's a neccessity. "Being nice" means being humble and letting your product and customers talk for you. It's building trust.
And yeah, in case you're wondering, that company was Yahoo!
So when i found out about crap like this, i blew a fuse. This is NOT what the folks i work with are about and sends the absolutely wrong message. Yes, we recognize competitors (we don't live in a hole). Yes, we constantly look for ways to improve what we do (and we certainly hope our competitors are as well). Yes, we have a different approach to things, which is fine, it means that folks have choices that fit their needs.
Ultimately, the rule that i follow is "Be humble. Let your products and customers talk for you." It's the same drum i beat constantly on internal mail lists.
Crappy stunts like that are as amature and purile to me as they are to anyone else.
Oh, and for what it's worth, this probably didn't come from corporate. Each group has an internal promotional budget and a fair amount of leeway with what they can do. Sometimes it's clever, sometimes it's not, sometimes someone needs to get a dope slap.