Is LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) CEO Jeff Weiner smarter than Mark Zuckerberg? It's an unfair question, I know, but I'm honestly starting to wonder. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is losing partners and annoying techies even as LinkedIn is taking user engagement to new levels.
It's latest ploy: LinkedIn Contacts, a new service that aggregates your various email accounts and address books into a cohesive whole that organizes by name, tag, company, title, and even location. Here's a worldwide look at my network of 1,000-plus contacts:
Impressive? Pathetic? I suppose that depends on your point of view.
Either way, LinkedIn is hardly the first to dabble with building a better address book. salesforce.com came to be largely as a result of needing a globally accessible contact database whereby salespeople in different territories would get access to the notes and details of every prospect and account.
Google also has a customizable address book attached to Gmail, while Microsoft has Outlook. But these are self-contained apps that are only as good as the data you feed into them, and maintaining a large database of contacts gets exhausting fast.
Aggregating existing data seemed like the best approach for me, and in years past I tried 37signals' Highrise (great, but too expensive for a solopreneur) and Cobook (also good, but too slow).
LinkedIn Contacts comes just short of the richness of Highrise but adds private messaging between LinkedIn members, a built-in social network for sharing information, groups, and a curated news platform:
Far as I can tell, LinkedIn isn't yet including Contacts among the premium add-ons it asks subscribers to pay for. Yet I suspect it could: Revenue from premium subscriptions soared 79% in the fourth quarter.
Therein lies the difference between LinkedIn and its peers, I think. Whereas Facebook and Twitter are working on ways to create value for advertisers, LinkedIn is working on ways to create value for its members. Contacts is the latest try, and it's a good one.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think of LinkedIn's premium services and whether you'd buy, sell, or short LinkedIn stock right now.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google and Salesforce.com at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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