Online ads, shopping spree fads, and family pads helped spark the week that was.

There's no point crashing the search party
In only its second quarter as a public company, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) cemented its bellwether status by trouncing Wall Street's targets. Again. The company closed out the year with revenues more than doubling on a beefy $658 million in free cash flow.

Paid search has been the key for the company, especially its AdSense service that allows other sites -- big and small -- to run contextual ads in exchange for a share of the loot. In fact, nearly half of the company's reported revenue is now coming from its AdSense offering. That's why, in a changing of the guard that looked more like passing ships, Google lapped a sluggish eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) to command the Internet's largest market cap. While investors may be concerned about insiders selling their shares later this month after the lockup period ends, if Google keeps blowing the cover off the ball every quarter, it will be hard to be bearish despite its lofty valuation.

And then there was a rumble in the jungle
Things didn't work out quite as well for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). The leading e-tailer took a hit after it reported earnings over the holiday quarter that ultimately fell short of the market's expectations when you back out a one-time tax benefit.

An even bigger concern in the investing community is the company's rather lukewarm outlook for 2005. It is now looking for sales to grow by as little as 16%, and operating profits will be lucky to grow that much.

The one wild card here is Amazon's new membership program, Amazon Prime. For $79 a year, members will receive free two-day shipping on all orders. Why is this a wild card? Well, on the surface it will obviously entice members to spend more at Amazon's virtual storefront -- just as one is likely to eat more at a buffet than by simply ordering off the menu. Yet will that buffet situation make the Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation sick to its stomach? Expedited shipping doesn't come cheap, and if those who sign up load up on small orders, Amazon may have to take a loss after subsidizing delivery costs, which would clearly hurt margins. Yet it's an intriguing premise that bears watching. Amazon may be hooking online shoppers to spend -- and spend often -- and that will only further the e-tail cause.

Reach out and buy someone
It's a lot like life. The parent provides for the child, and then, a generation or so later, the child returns to provide for the parent. It's been just more than 20 years since AT&T (NYSE:T) was forced to spin off its seven regional Baby Bells. Now, like a prodigal son, SBC (NYSE:SBC) has come back to take its parent under its wing in a deal valued at $16 billion.

That's certainly a heavy price to pay for a company with AT&T's slate of problems. Yet it also makes for a cheaper family portrait as what was once a family of eight will be whittled down to just four once the deal is completed -- and there may very well be even more sector consolidation waiting to happen.

The phone industry has changed. Deregulation has provided a series of challenges for its providers in terms of competition, yet it has also opened up the potential of expanding into other products and services. So let's give AT&T and SBC a chance to make it work. They just might.

Want to read more about the stories that rocked the week that was?

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz would have no problem bringing in his parents to live with his family -- but he will have to check with his wife first. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.