It's not a big surprise that LinkedIn (LNKD) is relinquishing its independence.
Over the past year, LinkedIn delivered stellar results, but its stock price got hammered for not meeting expectations. How do you keep the best and brightest motivated with that kind of treatment? The 50% premium on share price, not to mention a reset of compensation in the trough of Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report suddenly sounded good. Microsoft will pay $26 billion for LinkedIn, assuming regulators sign off on the deal.
While many investors have questioned the $196 per share deal price, that is far off the $269 where the stock traded on Feb. 13, 2015. It's unlikely that LinkedIn would have approached that peak again -- at least any time soon.
More importantly, we are also witnessing the first social media graph mega-merger. The motivation for the deal may be Facebook's (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report recent efforts to increase its status in the business world. Facebook's business network, Facebook at Work is starting to get some traction in enterprises. Although it is far behind LinkedIn, Facebook has enough resources and has the in-depth knowledge of its users to build the service quickly.
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If Facebook at Work proves useful, it could overtake LinkedIn, and perhaps hurt Microsoft.
Think about what's in the LinkedIn deal for Microsoft. The company has tried hard to leverage the cloud to reinvent itself so it could reinvent enterprise.
It is taking another crack at social enterprise. The company is merging the Microsoft Graph -- a group of disparate applications that exist in the Cloud -- with the LinkedIn Graph -- a cohesive, user-focused tool that helps job seekers connect to job postings.
What will the result of this merger of graphs, a potential "corporate enterprise graph," be? It's difficult to say.
But the potential is vast. Imagine all the people connected to each other, leveraging their contacts for sales and pooling their knowledge to solve problems and innovate. This deal is not about software and apps. It's about data.
LinkedIn's real power is in its economic graph. It is the largest repository of professional skills, a beehive of economic activity.
Microsoft will add its information about interactions between companies, pulled from its email, CRM and document management tools to the data LinkedIn has collected on its 433 million users. Once Microsoft integrates LinkedIn data, it will have the world's biggest enterprise graph.
But there is a major concern.
When it comes to data, LinkedIn is not your friend. Even as the company proclaims that it is open about giving users access to this data and enabling them to share it, it is a walled garden.
LinkedIn jealously protects its data and cuts off access to any application that smacks of competing with it. A recent users' revolt on the web forced the company to reconsider its policies on data access.
By contrast, Facebook, which has the biggest consumer graph, is relatively easy about providing access to its data. Hopefully, Microsoft's approach will be similar to Facebook's in this regard.
To allow the existence of data-hogging mega-graphs is not in the interest of businesses -- or consumers. These walled gardens must be opened and users, and enterprises must be allowed to leverage their data, including their personal graphs, across the applications of their choice.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.