Or, we mused, maybe it was Google's attempt to steal some viral buzz away from Alanis Morissettte, whose snaking hips were racking up more than 1 million YouTube views that day with her hysterical "My Humps" parody. Perhaps the snake would later appear with Samuel L. Jackson in a "Snakes On a Plane/Fergalicious" mash-up so sensational it would have a dedicated MySpace page with 500,000 friends by Friday.
Then we wondered if "python" was actually just a code name for the long-rumored "Google TV" project that was circulating in mock beta form back in February. (Note to NBC/News Corp.: The name's still up for grabs in case Foxy Peacock or MotherZucker get shot down at the next board meeting.)
But once we were able to discern that the news was not a belated prank, an all-too-easy metaphor had emerged from the national media attention and Gawker giggles. The seemingly harmless (read: non-poisonous) reptile that took Google for a scare was a fitting representation of its stealth attack on its terrestrial media competitors.
Like a silent serpent hiding in the media jungle, Google has quietly watched its prey develop solid business models before wrapping them up in its coils and adopting the best tactics for its own. In other words, Google swallowed YouTube whole when it bought the company last fall. But it was a clean gulp -- the YouTube model remained intact and clearly visible from Google's scaly infrastructure, able to be spat back out into the market should the constant threats of lawsuits and copyright become too much.
The same is essentially true of the EchoStar deal Google's TV advertising department launched this week for remnant inventory. Advertisers will be able to feed the mongoose that is Echostar's set-top box system, but Google's hungry cobra of an ad-auction system reserves the right to step in and offer your inventory to the highest bidder. Watercooler hates to invoke Rudyard Kipling at such watershed moments in ad sales, but it beats the "Jungle Book" metaphor we had lined up for this season of "American Idol."