LinkedIn’s Applications Further Moves the Intranet Away from the Firewall

Although I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I’m sure my kids won’t know what a firewall is when they reach the workplace.

Why? firewalls, the enterprise security that maintains security between employees and the public on your intranet are going to be irrelevant –and LinkedIn and other SaaS products are making this happen –one URL at a time. I’ve expanded upon this a bit more in a recent discussion with the WSJ indicating the opportunity for LinkedIn and others.

I’ve been in close contact with LinkedIn over the past year, and recently had lunch with their CEO to discuss their strategy, so I’ve been fully briefed on this platform announcement. Given the downturn in economy, this is a great market for LinkedIn to grow with users, and to offer services and features that reduce developer cost within the enterprise.

A bit of history, LinkedIn, which is reported to have 29million users, was one of the OpenSocial partners that agreed to join the coalition and put their name by it in fall 2007, finally, a year later they’ve finally launched an application platform with 10 application partners. You’ve heard of MySpace, Bebo, and many others being OpenSocial compliant, and you should be aware of Facebook’s F8 platform that kicked this off in mid year 2007.

These 10 application (sometimes called widgets) are now accessible by LinkedIn users and have collaborative and social features that allow you and your LinkedIn friends to share presentations, favorite books, event calendars, documents and other work related themes (no super poke here). You can collaborate with your colleagues at a company and even beyond with your business contacts, imagine that, getting work done with people that aren’t even your colleagues.

I used to be the enterprise intranet manager at HDS before I started the social media program, and I know that from experience, most intranets are a horrible cobbled together experience, most lacking true social features. We continue to see more SaaS products being offered like SocialText, Zoho, ConnectBeam, and of course SalesForce to allow employees to work and share together, without even having to rely on IT developers to build a new products.

LinkedIn isn’t done with it’s growth, to truly be a major competitor in the intranet market, they need to make their system extensible with other platform players, allow more business applications to be shared on their platform (they hand select developers) and consider some acquisitions in the community platform space or collaboration space. Since they snagged funding before the investment money dried up, they recently have generated $22 million in funding (beyond their existing raised capital, which will enable them to : 1) stand the test of time, 2) get ready to go shopping.

Expect LinkedIn to:

  • Offer more collaboration between colleagues and connections to happen outside of the firewall where IT doesn’t have control
  • Provide resources for some IT departments to lean on SaaS environments to further their mission
  • Launch more business applications request to be developers on LinkedIn’s business platform
  • Export the top business applications will be then be ported to community platform players
  • Raised significant capital, thrive in an downturned economy, and get ready to go shopping
  • 21 Replies to “LinkedIn’s Applications Further Moves the Intranet Away from the Firewall”

    1. LinkedIn needed to make some applications available to its users in order to remain competitive, but I agree this is only the beginning. While other sites may get into more complex applications, LinkedIn in may still be mostly populated by apps more asy to use bt those less experienced. It will be a good place for C-level execs to begin to do for themselves on the internet, and then we will see more and more of it in regular office settings. Good move for LinkedIn.

    2. Jeremiah – great post. There have been a ton of new companies launching online business communication/collaboration apps (many among the highlights of TC50 and DEMOFall08), and LinkedIn seems like the natural single point of aggregation. Extending this into the intranet market seems like a no-brainer for small businesses – the efficiencies are obvious, but I wonder what it would take for medium and large businesses to take the plunge. The larger the company the more awful the intranet – there is definitely market need… I just wonder if corporate IT departments will be willing to relinquish control…..

    3. Jeremiah,

      Thanks for the invitation to comment. Sharing can be good, as long as users follow policies!

      It is often difficult to maintain *compliance* within a “closed” structure. An open structure may vary widely, depending upon the markets.

      Now this is something we’ve been hearing about, expecting, and discussing among ourselves as security professionals. Firewalls exist for a reason. While I won’t delve into the pro’s and con’s here in explicit detail, one fact is this:

      Your comment about “What to Watch for — More collaboration between colleagues and connections to happen outside of the firewall where IT doesn™t have control” begs this simple question:

      If IT (IA) does not have control (over the information systems’ protective boundaries),
      then WHO is going to be in any position to protect the *organization* and its *users* with respect to potential unauthorized disclosures (of any type)? Expecting major legal ramifications, including issues involving users’ Personally Identifiable Information, or PII (can you say PRIVACY breach)? This is just one example. I expect an interesting discussion on this topic, along with SaaS in general. Ranks up there with ummm, “cloud computing.” My 2c. Dive in folks.

      @CheriSigmon (Twitter)

      p.s. Also, if you’ll carefully READ the agreement you agree to by accepting an “account” on social media networks such as LinkedIn, FB, the others; you’ll discover that you reserve NO rights to the content. This is why I also have other accounts.

    4. Cheri

      You’re raising the right issues, these are all realistic issues. Not only privacy, but there are legal issues that haven’t been fully thought out

      LinkedIn’s agreement is really to protect them, but we can expect some rogue employee to share information that gets leaked, the employer to then seek damages towards LinkedIn, they better have their lawyers ready for this new amorphous world.

    5. Krista, agreed, this is really about a point of aggregation, but beyond that: access to 29 million business users. For some applications that are selected, this is a launching pad, and a sign that it’s “LinkedIn approved”. For some of these 10 startups, this is really anointment.

      You wouldn’t believe how many times a week I hear (I want to reach B2B decision makers) well here’s a potential opportunity.

    6. Jeremiah,
      Concur with Cheri and I’ll go one further. In the U.S., the rules of legal discovery were altered a bit as of December 2006.

      The AP story said, in part: “U.S. companies will need to keep track of all the e-mails, instant messages and other electronic documents generated by their employees thanks to new federal rules that go into effect Friday, legal experts say.

      The rules, approved by the Supreme Court in April, require companies and other entities involved in federal litigation to produce
      ‘electronically stored information’ as part of the discovery process, when evidence is shared by both sides before a trial.”

      How can I tell my firm to allow employees to move the ‘conversation’ to cloud computers when it is my firm who will be on the hook to produce these artifacts if we are party to a lawsuit or government inquiry?

      — jb
      @jbordeaux on twitter

    7. This IS great news; I saw the announcement of the WordPress app for LinkedIn last night in my blog dashboard, but when I tried it, it didn’t work.

      I think it’s a Safari issue, that it tries to load but doesn’t give an opportunity to enter your blog’s URL. So I switched over to Windows mode this morning, and it worked. It also works in Firefox on the Mac.

      I don’t know whether this is a problem with LinkedIn apps on Safari, or is particular to the WordPress app, but it will be interesting to see whether those two organizations are listening the way I discovered Yammer is.

    8. I liked your more strategic take on this, Jeremaiah. Possibly the bit I’m missing – not currently an employee of a major corporation embracing this sort of thing – is some of the closed network applications and value being developed on external platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

      I see it as a good time for cynics to re-evaluate LinkedIn as a professional tool, which of all the options is probably the safest first step.

    9. John Bordeaux

      Is this a matter of legal regulations? As far as I can tell, we’ve not been able to stop many employees from using Ning, Google Docs, SocialText, and other off-the-reservation websites for a few years now.

    10. Jeremiah:

      I think the pattern here will be a lot like the one experienced by Salesforce, which is worth studying in the context of all of these cloud computing initiatives (including Microsoft). At first the adopters will be smaller companies who can’t afford to install their own systems and who more acutely feel the need to collaborate across company boundaries. Then, over time, departmental users will bring this in through the “back door” and only after some time will big company IT departments acknowledge the value. You should refer your readers to Nick Carr’s terrific book on the subject, “The Big Switch”

      Another topic for a blog post: what should the vendors of internal social networks software be thinking and doing in response to this announcement? Jive? Mzinga? Awareness? Compete, plug-in, ??

    11. Now that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all have some implementation of OpenId, will that become a part of OpenSocial compliance? And how when will we get an OpenId Wallet?

    12. John & Cheri –
      In terms of actual liability, the probability of being sued may actually be very small. The reality is that the business obtained by running a more open information architecture probably outweighs the liabilities contained by running a secured information paradigm. Then add on top of that the cost of trying to secure such environments (licensing, professionals, diverted time from core value creation) and it’s clear that sticking with the old paradigm doesn’t make economic sense in a lot of cases. (There are always exceptions to the rule – e.g. healthcare.)

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