announcing a deal tonight that will allow LinkedIn users to publish status updates to their Twitter profiles and pull in some or all Twitter updates to their LinkedIn accounts.Twitter and LinkedIn are
Wait a minute...the two social media companies with some of the most valuable, interesting data on the web made a deal and what do we get? Spammy Twitter streams clouding up our LinkedIn feeds and an occasional uptight Tweet on Twitter that was born inside LinkedIn? We're still waiting for the meaty announcements everyone says are coming someday soon - that Twitter and LinkedIn are open for business.
I don't mean to be too grouchy, but this looks like just one more sweetheart Silicon Valley deal that has limited imagination and represents a lost opportunity for the kind of innovation everyone expects these kinds of companies to drive.
In the announcement video recorded by LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and Twitter's Biz Stone, both talked about how Twitter is great for business. What did they mean, though? They meant it's a marketing platform, a way to get your message out further, etc. If you have something you want to say to everyone on LinkedIn, why not say it on Twitter too?
But is business just about broadcasting your marketing message? What about the listening part of doing business, thoughtful analysis, responding to actionable information and market conditions? Conversations with your customers and business partners?
Twitter is arguably better for listening than it is for broadcast and conversion of marketing messages. This kind of cross-posting deal falls short of the huge potential latent in the data both of these companies control and instead appeals to the craven broadcast-model of marketing. Challenging that broadcast-model is where many people believe social media derives its meaning.
What could this look like? It could look like an option to view the employer and job title of anyone you see on Twitter or through a 3rd party Twitter interface. It could look like Twitter opening up its fire hose for unfettered 3rd party analysis and development - then you'd see social graph and content analysis done that gave a big boost to the User Experience on LinkedIn. ("This LinkedIn user has been conversing with friends on Twitter who were talking about 'mobile,' 'Wisconsin' and 'gaming' over the last 2 weeks.")
Whatever the case may be, both occupational data (LinkedIn) and social messaging data (Twitter) are rich green fields for mashups and analysis - but these two companies are holding back the tide of innovation by refusing to offer a clear path to their data by outside partners.
LinkedIn partners with next to no one. Only large, established organizations like Business Week, the New York Times and now Twitter get access to LinkedIn data. Other services all around the web will tell you stories about reaching out to LinkedIn for API access and getting the cold shoulder.
We wrote about this concern three weeks ago ("LinkedIn Hits 50 Million Users; Still a Roach Motel") and the company told us then and today that big changes are coming to its API soon. That's great. That's something to look forward to, if cautiously. We're years into the LinkedIn Platform today and there's only a select few partners doing anything there so far.
Likewise, Twitter is fabulously open with its data in some ways (on a per-item basis) - but it's leaving a substantial number of outside developers frustrated because they can't get their hands on the full feed of Twitter data (the fire hose) to analyze. Startup companies that do appear to have relationships with Twitter tell us things like "We won't describe our relationship with Twitter to you and neither will anyone else who has one." That's charming. It's unclear whether anyone but Google and Bing have access to all the Twitter data.
Twitter investor and real-time web guru John Borthwick told us in another conversation today that he believes Twitter is just in its early days as a company, that there's nothing mysterious going on. "I'm hoping there will be a click-thru EULA [End User Licensing Agreement] to the firehose [someday]," he wrote. (Emphasis added.)
That sounds good.
So everybody's working on the wide-open web that so many of us want to see? Standards and APIs and open platforms to facilitate a new era of innovation are right around the corner?
Sounds great. For now though what we get is a little cross-network message broadcasting. Hopefully it's just the beginning.