By Kash Reid-Bashir
My wife and two daughters were not in London this weekend so late Sunday afternoon, after a short bout of running through some French language learning, I decided to fix my personal contact list as I had been neglecting this for some time.
Little did I know but this would turn out to be more involved than I had anticipated. After an initial review, I realised that I had to rationalise, remove duplicates and combine various lists across social media and email platforms. So I took to the web in my quest for assistance quickly discovering various applications. For example, Brewster, Smartr Contacts, Cobook, Contacts + and Fullcontact.
After a rather disappointing experience with Brewster, which is more functionally capable than any competitors according to online reviews, I eventually settled on Fullcontact. This application provides a single view of contact information for all my connections and affiliations across most online platforms with the ability to click through for social updates. I ran through the various steps successfully to create a reasonably refined set of contacts.
The pursuit of a seamlessly integrated address book
There was still one missing platform – Linkedin.
Although other platforms including Google, Twitter and Instagram allow seamless integration of information, Linkedin still lags behind in this respect. On Sunday, Linkedin insisted on a request for user data which had a 72 hour response time. Thankfully, by Monday, senior management at the organisation had taken the decision to allow an ‘immediate’ download of user data held on the platform. However, this still requires human intervention so seamless two way integration with any of the address book applications is still not possible. Fullcontact does provide the following helpful message:
‘Linkedin allows you to enrich your existing contacts with publicly available information. It won’t import your Linkedin connections!’
As mentioned above, the ’immediate’ response time involves making a direct user request for information from Linkedin. Linkedin will not return this information to third party applications on an automated basis. As a result, Linkedin still acts as a barrier to the integration offered by applications such as Fullcontact. Presumably, Linkedin are attempting to either protect their business model by limiting access to contacts on their platform or provide an additional layer of security for users.
Anyway, after I have the information from Linkedin, my contact list will be reasonably complete. Great news and if you have not done so I would recommend using one of these address book applications.
This experience led me to the conclusion that introducing a more capable contacts platform would be a quick win for either Microsoft or Google. The address book on core email platforms is in desperate need of a refresh. Social contact integration seems to have completely bypassed the main email applications. It would be no surprise if this functionality comes on stream in subsequent releases of the larger email platforms, through organic innovation or acquisition. From a user perspective, clicking through one of your contact entries to uncover blog entries, Twitter and Instagram account postings is really useful. From a business perspective, I will be sure to call on the various technology firms to seek any work around a possible transaction in the near to medium term.
Technology organisations and the elixir of youth
Finally, I started to consider the point at which a technology organisation and its web property become unassailable in their subsector, creating the same effect as taking an elixir of youth. Was there an optimum number of unique visitors by individual territory or country that technology organisations could point to in order to suggest that they would survive for a significant number of years? Please see below for graphics detailing unique visitor numbers by web property in the US and UK.
Although these provide a snapshot of only two countries, one could extrapolate the data and create a tentative conclusion suggesting that a baseline of around 20% of the potential web based audience in any country in terms of unique visitors per month is likely to provide a sustained period of longevity. The above graphics certainly seem to confirm this is the case.
Even if an organisation reaches this threshold in terms of number of users it is always important to consider the exceptions. Myspace and Yahoo certainly provide pause for thought. Myspace reached 100m subscribers at its peak but still managed to fall out of favour. With Google, two young PHD students wrote a search algorithm and created an organisation which would eventually go on to displace an industry in which Yahoo was the market leader. Linkedin may well be attempting to mitigate this risk to ensure it does not come up against similar issues but the approach probably requires a little more fine tuning.
Converge Advisors and Associates was founded by Kash Reid-Bashir an independent, corporate financier with extensive strategy and finance experience within the media, technology and telecoms sectors. Kash has previously been part of Booz Allen Hamilton, Thomson Reuters and FTSE (a Pearson / London Stock Exchange joint venture). Kash graduated with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management.