Who is this article for?
Technologists, investors and business professionals that see opportunity in near field communication will find interest in this article. The primary purpose of this article is to discuss the possibility that some social media services could replace corporate LDAP servers with the expected widespread adoption of NFC.
LDAP – A primer
Quickly, if you’re tech savvy…skip this section. If you’re just looking for a base explanation of what LDAP is then go here.
If you want a deeper dive then go here.
In most corporations when we talk about LDAP we’re talking about the storage system that handles your user account, password, and credentials that allow you to access a myriad of applications you use every day. LDAP serves other functions for identification of network assets, but for our purposes, in this article, we’re primarily concerned with how it is used for authentication & identification.
LinkedIn as an LDAP Server
Take a look at your LinkedIn account for a moment. What is it? It’s a place to network. It’s a place to find a job. It’s also a place to promote yourself and a place for you to follow your professional interests.
But beneath all this is something more fundamental: your identity. Your professional identity to be sure…but for most of us that pretty much sums up about 80% of our life.
Uniquely, among the social media darlings, LinkedIn has a bias towards professionalism. It targets industry professionals in a way that Facebook and RenRen don’t. One way to see LinkedIn: a global corporate LDAP server.
Sound far fetched?
It shouldn’t. Check out the number of sights now allowing you to login with your LinkedIn account on the web. LinkedIn has groups with administrators who can assign access and grant permissions to members. LinkedIn has a ‘contact’s section….essentially an address book. It also has a way to send messages to those contacts, essentially mimicking email…which is usually one of the traditional applications that use an LDAP server. So what prevents LinkedIn from being a corporation’s LDAP server?
Another way of asking the question: what technologies would make it possible?
You go to your new job sometime in 2013 and and visit the Human Resources department to get all your paper work squared away. Good thing you brought your mobile device. Your LinkedIn app has all the key information the corporation needs to get you setup. You tap the NFC reader in front of you, type your pin code and the HR rep sees you added into the XYZ corporation’s domain on the LinkedIn website. She then gives you the necessary group permissions to access your applications, computer and building location.
When you get to your building you tap the NFC reader near the door and it verifies with LinkedIn that you’re in the right group to access this building.
When you get to your desk, you tap the NFC reader on your laptop to login. It uses your LinkedIn app and the unique key associated with you to check with LinkedIn to determine who you are, what permissions you have and whether you have access to this computer. You’re logged in and your data, and applications are ready to be used. Best of all Google Chrome uses your key and passes it to sites that are enabled with LinkedIn. It only passes safe data ( your first and last name ) unless you authorize and choose more sensitive data to pass.
This vision builds on a previous set of articles I wrote ( The Externet and NFC is about the eWallet Right? ) that show how pervasive the NFC revolution will be. It has the potential to shake up many traditional industries, and create opportunities that are not truly seen at the moment. If you’re Microsoft, IBM, Google, Apple, or Oracle…then the vision I mentioned above has deep implications and potential opportunities for your software and operating systems. Those who capitalize on this first, could, potentially, overtake the corporate enterprise market. Knock knock….Ballmer, are you listening?
In some respects Apple understands this vision. If you attended the last WWDC then you know what I mean. Steve made it clear that Twitter would play a bigger role in Apple’s software. But why? Was he just acknowledging the popularity of Twitter? Is he grooming Jack Dorsey to be his successor at Apple? Maybe. But Twitter could also be seen as a repository of users. A social LDAP server.
Facebook too sees this, but their database is…well, unprofessional, for the most part. It identifies people to be sure, but you can almost think of LinkedIn and Facebook as the two sides of our lives. Our professional life is represented by LinkedIn and our personal life is represented by Facebook. I wouldn’t want to go to a party and show my LinkedIn profile: that’s boring. At the same time I wouldn’t want to present my Facebook profile to a company I wanted to work at. So Facebook’s opportunity with authentication and identification is with the personal market.
Obviously for LinkedIn to be a global corporate LDAP server other software in the enterprise needs to use this. But that’s exactly where a company like Google would come in. By making Chrome the OS, utilizing Google Docs for all your key enterprise work applications, gmail for your messaging and LinkedIn as your LDAP instance….you now have an enterprise ecosystem that other software providers can build on.
If such a vision becomes real then a likely loser in this race is Microsoft. Their long unchallenged position in the corporate market could come to a screeching halt. This would come as no surprise to many of us in the industry. Microsoft has been languishing for almost a decade and seems utterly without vision. Their recent overpayment for Skype and their replication of Google’s search engine as ‘Bing’ was a clear sign that the imagineers are no longer running the company.
Despite most people’s opinion that Facebook is the strongest of the social media providers…I think, through this article, I’ve proven there is a latent, but very large, potential for LinkedIn that it’s current market capitalization may not adequately represent.
About the Author
Christopher R. Goldsbury is a software development professional who has played the roles of developer, architect, scrum master, development manager, project manager and quality assurance manager throughout his career. Chris writes on his experiences and ideas at his blog: http://www.anagilestory.com.