Linked-Out: Microsoft’s acquisition could open a box of trouble

A Pandora’s box (pardon the pun) will open when Microsoft closes on its recently announced acquisition of LinkedIn. Make no mistake; this is about a huge resource pool of both data and client prospects. It’s also many eggs in one basket.

LinkedIn is underdeveloped. It has not been mined, nor has it been very creative. Yes, there are many vanity things one can do: list accomplishments, rally the troops, promote business and prospect—actual B2B can start there. But there’s no mechanism for fulfillment at LinkedIn that doesn’t include LinkedIn in terms of promotion.

+ Also on Network World: Does Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn present data privacy risks? +

Worse, there is no art, no music, no fun. It’s all business. So far, many would applaud this is as a focus. Game-playing, music and video downloads, wicked art—none of those things produce revenue and so are outside of the picture. Sadly, these are often the same views of boardrooms in corporations and limited liability concerns across the planet. 

Why you should worry

So, what’s in the box, you might say? What’s to worry about?

Maybe the combined entity will be like Facebook:

  • Your colleague Boris Badenov just laid off 19 machinists!
  • Your college chum, Elaine Paine, just filed an EEOC complaint! See law firm?
  • Your Group, Java Without Cream, has 128 new members. View?
  • You have eleventyteen new messages. View?

Or perhaps it will be like Twitter:

  • Damon Knothead just endorsed you for: flatulence
  • Argyle Socked believes Sabena Air stock will revive:

Microsoft’s idea that LinkedIn will become the portal that Facebook never could be might be mistaken. Whether it’s Alibaba, or a hundred other B2B sites, there is much work to be done to remake or even organically grow LinkedIn, as in essence. LinkedIn could create as much noise (or more) than Facebook and Twitter combined.

LinkedIn’s user count is estimated to be just under a half-billion users. A very large number of those users are already Microsoft customers in one form or another. At some point, I predict you’ll need to use your Microsoft ID to login.

Suddenly, BI analytics will chart your endorsements and references into a Fast Fourier Transform. Your employees will be mapped to your competitors. The hills and valleys of your perceived competence will be reduced to graphs, perhaps with my vision of an Option C.

Microsoft, like others, can mine LinkedIn now. The difficulty, like all other analytics, is the noise and BS quotients present. I don’t believe LinkedIn users fudge their accomplishments, as they do on resumes and CVs—the devil of the details. Why? Too much possible scrutiny. In any case, the data users and organizations have entered and built within LinkedIn's current site construction will be used in ways they didn't envision when they posted it. Whichever, truth and fiction(s), will now be the crux of Microsoft's future plans.

Microsoft is issuing new debt to pay for the acquisition. Subject to usury discount, it’s creating a $26 billion business with half a billion business users to market services based on enormously accurate criteria. If business privacy matters, and if your employees are your greatest assets, there’s now a very tangible link between them and Microsoft.

Linked-In or Linked-Out. Your choice.

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