Market intelligence company InsideView is using LinkedIn's sweeping changes to its developer program to court developers who will be cut off by LinkedIn in the coming months.
InsideView offers a suite of REST APIs capable of serving applications needing data similar to the data provided by APIs that LinkedIn will no longer offer publicly, or that will become highly restricted, beginning in May. For example, InsideView offers a Data API that allows developers to search for and retrieve information about companies and a Target API that gives developers the ability to build targeted contact lists for sales prospecting purposes.
"We believe that developers need open access to data in order to be the most agile and creative," Jenny Cheng, InsideView's chief product officer, said in a press release. "That's why we developed our Open API product line. We want to help developers build solutions that inform the entire enterprise, drive marketing effectiveness, and deliver sales results. We are committed to our open platform and welcome all developers to work with InsideView."
A Tale of Two Business Models
According to InsideView founder and CEO Umberto Milletti, LinkedIn's changes are a reminder that "there is no free lunch." He explained:
Companies are in the business of generating revenue and profit, not in the business of giving free access to their data.
Platforms like LinkedIn and Jigsaw/Data.com have an additional burden to face: the data in their system is generated by, and arguably belongs to, their users. The fact that they are user-contributed models means the companies have to be extremely careful around privacy, and go the extra mile in protecting their users. Who doesn’t hate to be invited to 'connect' to sales people you’ve never met before?
InsideView, however, doesn't share LinkedIn's business model or have its data ownership dilemma. "At InsideView, we decided to charge for API access from day one, to avoid having to backtrack down the road," Milletti wrote. "We also decided from the beginning to base our platform on the aggregation of public data, and only include proprietary information to augment the core set of information." Because Milletti says that InsideView "understood LinkedIn’s API strategy as early as 2011," his company and its customers are unaffected by LinkedIn's changes.
But just how much business can InsideView expect to gain from the ranks of developers LinkedIn is leaving behind? That remains to be seen. There are almost certainly developers with commercial applications that used the LinkedIn API who will have reason to look for a replacement, but it also seems likely that there exists a larger number of developers who were simply interested in LinkedIn's free lunch.
Now that the free lunch is over, it's possible that a reasonably large part of the greater LinkedIn developer ecosystem will simply disappear along with it. Ironically, if that comes to pass, LinkedIn's decision, however unpopular, will find some validation.