Two recent events have put starkly into the spotlight the need to control your own space on the internet. When you use the space of another, you are just one of a huge number of a mass of irrelevant renters, and the landlord is able, indeed likely, to screw you at some point, as you have absolutely no power in the relationship.
First, Hewlett Packard. In September last year a change to the chips in some printers delivered via the net stopped those printers using anything other than the high priced HP ink working. In other words buy our printer, and we will control which ink you use, and we will actively prevent you making the choice for an alternative, and forget to tell you. This post by Cory Doctorow, one of the most creative thinkers about things digital on the Boing Boing site gives the details. A disgusting use of the power that H-P has taken by stealth, that would have the founders turning in their graves.
Second, LinkedIn last weekend. LinkedIn has developed as a remarkable tool offering the opportunity to connect widely, in exchange for just your personal details and commercial history, which they used to flog advertising. While we accepted the exchange, most dislike the ads that chase us around, latching onto the cookies sites we visit sneak onto our drives. Then Microsoft paid $US26 Billion for them and we knew, if we thought about it, that it would just get worse. Late last year LinkedIn told us they were going to ‘retire’ a couple of the really useful tools on the free version at the end of February. Disappointing, but not unexpected. The changes came in last weekend, a bit before the anointed date, and to call them wholesale is an understatement.
Having spent a bit of time last week poking around in the bits of LinkedIn left open to those on the free version, the changes have not just been a few tools removed, and a new look, it has been a wholesale gutting of the functionality. Unless you pay the piper, and the piper is being pretty greedy, the functionality we have become used to LinkedIn delivering, which is what made it so successful, has largely gone.
This will leave many with the choice of pay up or don’t bother any more.
It also highlights again the absolute necessity of building your on line presence on a platform you own.
Like many, I have made coaching my clients on the functionality of LinkedIn a part of my offering. In my case it is a small but important part of the value I have delivered to my SME clients. Many others by contrast have built a business around flogging strategically superficial advice about how to leverage LinkedIn to generate leads and sales. I guess the side benefit is that those superficial methods are now into the digital waste-bin, and we will need to get back to the nitty gritty of developing strategies and tactics that rely on our own capabilities and domain knowledge to work, rather than renting influence from digital landlords.