October 15, 2009


How StackOverflow is a competition to LinkedIn

Last night, I posted a following message to my twitter stream.

"If LinkedIn is a threat to Monster/Naukri, StackOverflow is fast becoming a bigger threat to LinkedIn."

It received following responses.

"Not sure I understand the analogy. How are u equating the two?" - Arjun Ram

"Huh?! How is stackoverflow becoming a threat to linked-in?! Only techies on stackoverflow, right? Linked in is much-much more!" - Navin

"Really? How so? I'm becoming more and more of an online recluse now, so don't have much of my own exp to lean on." - Shyam

I realized, my original message was somewhat esoteric.

Let's start with basic. Job sites like Monster, Naukri connect the active job seekers with recruiters. The candidates upload their resume when they are looking for a change.

Then the Social Networking boom started where you created a personal profile with information about yourself and bunch on inane things. Social network connected you with your (mostly real) friends for easy communication. The professional counterpart of this idea, LinkedIn, helped you create network of people you are/have been associated with professionally. So, you put up your brief (or long) professional activities publicly. Though, LinkedIn wasn't meant to be a job site like Monster, given the amount of high-fidelity information and social proof, it quickly became an open repository of passive job seekers. LinkedIn realized the recruiting angle to professional networking and is aggressive in pushing recruitment solutions. If you see "Products" line on LinkedIn's home page, you will see links for "LinkedIn Jobs", "Recruiting Solutions", "Jobs Directory." Currently, LinkedIn has 50 million users and adding a million every 12 days or so.

LinkedIn didn't start as a career site, but as side effect of professional networking it has become a threat to Monster. Just like, you know, Facebook didn't start as a photo sharing site, but it quickly became a 5 times bigger than Flickr.

Cut to StackOverflow(referred as SO henceforth). This is a Q&A site for programmers. It is a great resource for every geek who codes for daily bread & butter and occasional beer. Growth of SO has been astounding. It is barely an year old, but it has decimated the long standing leader, experts-exchange. See the traffic graph from Google Trends.

SO also has a built-in incentive system, where it is beneficial for you to register before asking or answering the question. And your public profile contains all your questions, answers and reputation. (Check mine) If LinkedIn's recommendation is a good social proof, albeit with a small problem, your SO profile is even bigger endorsement coming from "random guys on internet."

Given the popularity of SO, they have recently launched Careers section. They already had a job listing, but they careers is more comprehensive solution. An active job seeker would upload the resume. And to filter out non-serious job seekers, it is a paid service for candidates. The recruiters will get an integrated view of a candidate's public profile and private resume. I suspect, if you go through a person's questions and answers, you will get a lot better idea about his/her competence than an hour long interview.

Yes, compared to 50 million users of LinkedIn, SO is still tiny. But, it's growth has been astounding. It does a million page views a day and I have read that almost one-third of world's programmers have visited this site at least once. It currently claims 120,000 active users. SO will soon compete with various product/technology specific mailing lists which are great for one-time solution, but extremely hard to use by subsequent programmers.

Combine it's usefulness, quality and growth, I wouldn't be surprised if grows by an order of magnitude or two in next couple of years. At that time, it will be a formidable force against LinkedIn & Monster as far as hiring techies is concerned.

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I still don't get it.

Job search is just one out of many uses of linked-in. It is much more of a business networking tool.

To add to that, "tech" is just one tiny sliver of everything that is there on linked-in. Everybody from doctors, and lawyers, and social activists are using linked in.

Maybe, for "tech job search", stackoverflow would be a partial threat to linked in. But I would put it at less than 10% of linked-in's utility.

By the way, linked-in has 6 different revenue streams, and only one of them is job-related.

For an user, StackOverflow & LinkedIn have different value propositions. And definitely, these are not (meant to be) destinations for job seekers. But they compete (or will be competing) with each other for the business from recruiters.

Granted, tech business is only a slice for LinkedIn, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is as significant as 20-25%. (Naukri's revenues from IT sector is roughly 30%, though the industry is a tiny fraction of overall economy.)

If you start a Jobs section on PuneTech, you are not a threat to Naukri, but it will be an important channel for recruiters to reach their audience. StackOverflow, being at a global scale, is big enough to affect LinkedIn/Monster.

Asides, LinkedIn has only two revenue streams (a) Recruitment solutions (b) Premium membership. And I think, former is significantly bigger.
stack Overflow has quickly become one of the most important tech channel for me. But I do not think it will compete with job sites since jobs are fundamentally "local" unlike free support sites those are "global" in nature.
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