At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.

But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

A gaggle of Google alternatives
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). It's a name and a noun. A verb and a vivacious growth story. But is buying shares of Google the best way to play the Internet growth story? Personally, I think it is -- and I own the stock. But every once in a while, I think it's worth taking some time to reexamine your buy thesis -- and this week, I'm going to give a nod to unrated analyst Evercore Partners for prompting me to do just that.

Yesterday, you see, Evercore initiated coverage on a trio of Internet stocks, rating Google an "underweight" (read: sell), while suggesting Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is a better alternative (equal weight), and AOL (NYSE: AOL) perhaps the best bargain in search stocks, bar none. Assigning a $30 price target to AOL, $17 to Yahoo!, and $580 to Google, Evercore sees plenty of profit potential in each stock -- but the best value among them is AOL.

And crazy as it may sound, I'm inclined to agree -- at least in part.

Begin with the best ...
Consider: There's little doubt at this point that Google is the king of Internet search, but at a current market capitalization of $168 billion, a price-to-free-cash-flow ratio of 18.7, and long-term growth predicted to average just 16.4% per year, it's easy to see why Evercore would call this stock the least undervalued of the three named above.

... but don't forget the rest
Yahoo! is a trickier proposition. At first glance, it's hard to see why Evercore would even gift this longtime loser with an "equal weight" rating. Selling for $19.4 billion, with $625 million in annual free cash flow and an anemic 11% growth rate, Yahoo seems anything but a bargain at today's price.

And yet ... if Yahoo succeeds in cutting $500 million from its annual operating costs through its search alliance with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) -- as it's promised to do -- the massive infusion in free cash flow will do wonders for the stock's valuation. Toss in the potential for as much as $11 billion in new money if Yahoo! succeeds in cashing out its Alibaba stake, and -- yes indeed, Virginia, I do believe Santa Claus could deliver some value for investors at today's prices.

Meanwhile, at AOL, we find a near mirror image of Yahoo! -- an apparent steal of a deal, with hidden risks aplenty. Ever since its inglorious divorce from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) late last year, investors have given the company a level of respect that would make Rodney Dangerfield cringe. Most analysts view Time Warner's spurned spouse as damaged goods -- and dead money -- predicting that instead of growing over time, the company will actually shrink its profits 11% a year, every year, for the foreseeable future.

And yet, with a market cap of just $2.6 billion, the stock sells for barely six times free cash flow. AOL also possesses a cash war chest of $320 million net-of-debt. Yesterday, AOL began deploying that cash in an effort to recharge its growth prospects -- purchasing fast-growing techie blog site TechCrunch and online video syndicator 5min in a whirlwind of micro-deal-making.

The more I look, the more I like
But why stop there? The more you look beyond Google in the tech space, it seems, the more values you find. Arch-Google-rival Microsoft, for example, carries a market cap less than 10 times as large as its massive annual free cash flows -- and it pays a dividend, which Google does not.

And speaking of dividends and Internet stocks, do you remember NetZero and Juno? No? Well, don' feel bad -- most people don't. And perhaps that's the reason that tiny United Online (Nasdaq: UNTD), owner of both e-services, can currently be had for the low, low price of less than nine times earnings (and less than four times free cash flow.)

Meanwhile, the more people forget about it, and the lower its stock price falls in consequence, the bigger United Online's dividend yield swells. At last report, each share of the stock was paying out a monster 7.3% dividend yield. To top it all off, in contrast to AOL, United Online is actually expected to grow 6% a year over the next five years.

Foolish final thought
Before I wind up today's column, I want to toss out one final thought for Fools fed up with Google, and looking for the next new thing: social networking. For months, my Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz has been musing about the potential for Twitter, Facebook, and other social networkers to replace Google as King of all Internets.

For the time being, we're still tapping toes as we await the IPOs. But for anyone interested in jumping ahead of the game, there is one social networker out there, primed for the buying: News Corp. (NYSE: NWSA). As owner of the now-dated MySpace, News Corp.'s new toy isn't the shiniest in the Internet playroom. Still, the stock sells for barely 12.2 times free cash flow and is expected to grow at north of 13.5% over the next five years -- and News Corp. pays a dividend.

As for myself, I'm sticking with Google in hopes that the king will not die. But for those no longer enamored of it, it's worth remembering: There's a gaggle of alternatives to Google.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Google. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 550 out of more than 170,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google, and Microsoft.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.