Data Is the Next ‘Intel Inside’

Overview

The LinkedIn logo

The LinkedIn logo

“Data is the next Intel Inside”, so goes the famous saying of Tim O’Reilly. Indeed, in the era of Web 2.0, data plays a vital role in the success of widely-known web services such as Google Search, GMail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr, just to name a few of the most important ones. Who controls the data, controls the internet—hence the Intel analogy in one of the Web 2.0 movement’s most well-known slogans.

“We live in a world clothed in data, and as we interact with it, we create more” is the motto of the 2011 Web 2.0 Summit Map, of which the incredibly popular social networking site LinkedIn is a prime example. While LinkedIn is conceptually very similar to Facebook, it is squarely aimed at grown-up professionals in the 25 to 65 age range instead of teenagers and young adults. As of now February 2012, LinkedIn has 150 millions subscribers, half of which are from the United States, therefore it is rightfully called the “de facto tool for professional networking”.

Comparisons

Compared to other social networking sites, the aim of LinkedIn is to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom the user had some sort of professional relationship. The service is very popular among employers who are looking for potential candidates and job seekers who wish to seek out business opportunities recommended by someone in their contact network. The application is being continually enhanced with new useful features that sets it apart from its competition. For example, in October 2008 LinkedIn introduced the new “Application Platform” that allows members to embed data from other online services into their profiles. Members can display their latest blog entries using the WordPress application or display a list of books they are currently reading through a connection to their Amazon Reading List.

Implications

According to LinkedIn’s co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman, the future of the World Wide Web will be all about data and how we can utilise it. Apart from the so-called explicit data that users voluntarily give out about themselves in the form of blog posts, tweets and social network profiles, there is a second class of implicit data as well that can be harvested from the implicitly shared user information. A good example of this is LinkedIn Skills, where by pouring vast of amounts of user data through sophisticated mathematical algorithms, industry trends and insights are revealed, things like which skills are the most in demand and which are the fastest growing industries.

Potential legal and ethical issues

Although Hoffman publicly stated that “Good Internet companies do not ambush their users”, there is a growing concern about the way LinkedIn uses their members’ data for their own agenda. In March 2012, a class action lawsuit has been launched against several popular social networking sites, LinkedIn being among of them, accusing them for stealing information from users without their knowledge or prior consent. This is not the first occasion, as the company has been accused in the past of making profit from user data in the form of targeted advertising programs.

Future directions

While LinkedIn practically “owns” the professional networking space currently, there is certainly room for improvement in many areas of the service. For instance, currently there is no feature that would facilitate group communication between the increasing number of members, and after all, in its current form LinkedIn is just a bit more than a massive CV database with some social media add-ons as an afterthought. With new competitors such as BranchOut and BeKnown appearing on the horizon, who are building similar sites by leveraging existing user data provided by Facebook, LinkedIn is facing the serious challenge of renewing itself to stay relevant and on the top of the professional networking landscape where it is today.

References

The Web 2.0 Summit Map
Wikipedia – LinkedIn
How LinkedIn Broke Through
LinkedIn Launches New Application Platform To Help Members Get Down to Business
Well-known apps named in privacy lawsuit
LinkedIn Founder: Web 3.0 Will Be About Data
HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile’s New Skills Section
LinkedIn Sells Private Customer Data
LinkedIn Adds Social-Driven News, Skills, ‘Maps’ Pages
What is the Future of LinkedIn?

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14 thoughts on “Data Is the Next ‘Intel Inside’

  1. Linkedin is a great tool for job seekers, however I always wondered how secure my data is If my I don’t wany my current employers to see my CV. It will be interesting to see how successful Linkedin is compared to Seek in terms of recruitment.

    • Well, I guess your data is NOT safe at all in that case, at least unless you’re not restricting your profile page to be viewable by your connections only… But then a private profile makes job seeking a bit hard, doesn’t it? 🙂

  2. because there are huge number of Social network in the world, attracting people by unique data resource may be not as easy as several years age. “embed data from other online services” is really good idea to board data resource and it is also build effective data access and manage mechanism for user.
    And nowadays, individual privacy become much weaker. privacy is a challenge for every social network providers.

    • I agree, as privacy is getting to be more and more a concern for the general public, social network providers need to make their operations much more transparent to gain (or re-gain) the trust of their userbase.

  3. Great, well-balanced review of linked in, thanks Vivien. I find it incredible that something that has the potential to radically disrupt recruitment practices isn’t more widely used. Perhaps my own concerns about privacy and the limits that places on my engagement with the platform is a common constraint? As an employer I know I’ve gotten value out of linkedin during the recruitment process but as an employee I’m still on the fence.

  4. I remember reading an article a while ago about when LinkedIn updated its privacy policy and people were suspecting they were going to be introducing social advertising. A few weeks later this happened in the form of social ads. A discovery later on brought to light a flaw with the ads that meant they may feature your name and profile photo in third-party advertising by default. As you can imagine this definitely raised some big privacy concerns for people, but the big issue was the average user didn’t know how to disable this!

    • Yes, I think I read the same article as you. The disable checkbox was actually buried deep within the user preferences, which was a rather sneaky thing to do to the their users, if you ask me…

  5. This is extremely well thought out. I think that the most interesting aspect is the legal action currently being taken. According to that article, the companies, including Facebook, EA games and Twitter, were named for stealing user data. For starters, that’s a serious amount of legal firepower being brought to bear and I admire the balls the plaintiffs have for filing the claim, but more importantly, much of the terms and conditions of these large websites state that they essentially own the data users input. While I’m sure that even the best of them do some shady things with the data, how can one steal it…if the user gives it freely?

    • Well, one aspect of the problem is that the average user practically never peruses the “Terms and Conditions” page from beginning to end before signing up (well, I can attest that I have never read a single one myself in my entire life)… On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the corporations mentioned in the article (and virtually all other large ones) routinely violate their agreements with their users, just don’t happen to get caught too often.

  6. Great post, there are many great features that LinkedIn offers. Also, many people found jobs or improved their business via LinkedIn. However, don’t you think it could have issues with the user privacy? As users should provide their real name, education background and other critical information. Anyone can search Google anybody’s name and view his\her information!

    • You are right, there could some potential privacy implications if you don’t restrict your profile to be viewable only by registered users. But with that restriction in place Google won’t find you, so that’s a good trade-off I reckon.

  7. A very good take on the web application LinkedIn. The information is also well-organised and presented. I have a LinkedIn profile too and it does appear to be a professional networking site providing future employers with your online resume. I think some establishments like University of Queensland, which I ran across some time ago, accept LinkedIn profiles as application for a job.

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