There are competitors I fear. Some I loathe. Others I ignore.
And then there are those like Linkedin that I don’t even realize play in my market until one day out of the blue they’ve come in and eaten some of my lunch.
Getting lunch-eatened isn’t fun although one advantage is it leaves you hungrier than you would otherwise have been, and in the software business that means you’re out looking really hard at what that competitor does that’s special.
So what is it that Linkedin is doing so well that it threatens not just the staffing software business but the recruitment market as a whole including staffing companies, job boards, and other online profile services?
Certainly it’s not the inbox flooding service. Nor the moronic groups feature that has given junior sales people a company-sanctioned way to avoid making calls to clients and prospects. Nope, not those.
I postulate that what Linkedin has done so well is make people look good, and by good I mean professional, organized and attractive. Click on someone’s Linkedin profile and even if they’re the paunchy, unshaven worse-than-a-hung-over-Russell-Crowe slob that got fired for absenteeism a year ago, they still look good on Linkedin.
As a software guy, I look at that profile, and by the way the profile looks great everywhere from the desktop to the iPad to the Android, and ask myself how’d they do it? And how do they make that profile pop up so quickly as well?
The secret to Linkedin’s success lies in an almost unparalleled devotion to design, the latest iteration of which has everything to do with HTML5 and in particular an often overlooked aspect of HTML5 called client-side scripting.
Client-side scripting is the web’s way of making browsers super-fast by rendering the display right on the device you’re using. This contrasts with older, slower server-side scripting that required a round trip to the site’s server every time you wanted to see something different.
In fact if you dig into it as I tend to on almost a full time basis, you see subcultures of competition as tenacious if not vicious as anything you’ll see on Super Bowl commercials this weekend.
Linkedin has definitely been at the forefront of this, having adopted what was a discarded open source client-side templating project called Dustjs and forked it for their own use.
One key aspect of Dustjs is i18n, a feature that allows the client-side scripts to work regardless of the international context (Chinese, right-to-left writing, etc). By the way, can you guess how i18n got its name given its ability to deal with i-n-t-e-r-n-a-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-z-a-t-i-o-n?
Despite Linkedin’s success with Dustj I’m not convinced it was the best decision for the long haul. As of now Linkedin is left to develop it on its own, meanwhile a powerful, wide-ranging set of forces are aligning behind open source client-side scripting platforms like Ember and Knockout while others are pursuing proprietary, well-supported products i.e. KendoUI and Sencha.
Guessing who will win out in this bataille royale is like guessing in 1903 who would become the largest automobile manufacturer.
My personal favorite is Knockout, in part because they’ve made it exceptionally easy to learn. And often it’s not the product with the most features but the one that is easiest that wins out.
If you’ve got a 15-year-old kid as I do and you want them a guaranteed job in a few years, ditch the idea of paying for a $250k university degree and having them beg for a barista job somewhere.
Just have them learn Knockout. They’ll be a hot commodity. And, as Alfred and the Drunkards sang in My Fair Lady, With a little bit o’luck, With a little bit o’ luck, They‘ll go out and start supportin’ you!