Microsoft and Yahoo are back at the bargaining table, this time with a purportedly whole new direction for takeover talks that collapsed May 3. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, accepting that he doesn’t have many other options in the Internet market without Yahoo, and Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, under heavy fire from “activist” shareholder Carl Icahn, are said to be discussing an alternative advertising agreement that might help them compete with industry goliath Google. The whole thing reeks of an attempt to reenter takeover proceedings while saving face for both parties. For its part, Microsoft says it’s not looking to take Yahoo over fully, but that it reserves the right to try again later if it so desires. A statement from Yahoo sounds similar in that it acknowledges the purpose for the new discussions, but also that, should it come to it, the company is open to whatever fair pitch Microsoft has—takeover or otherwise. This is what passes for corporate foreplay these days? Forget that bit about saving face: this whole thing’s just too embarrassing.