“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”.
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.
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.
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.
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?