There’s a global phonebook on its way.
It’s already 433 million entries strong, and it adds a new contact twice every second. It cost $26.2 billion to create.
Microsoft’s June acquisition of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social network, gives the technology giant an instant social media presence and a wealth of new users to introduce to its legion of products.
One such product, Skype, brings with it the possibility of turning LinkedIn’s warehouse of contacts into a video conferencing directory the like of which has never been seen.
A Worldwide Video Calling Web
While there is much debate about what Microsoft plans to do with its 196th acquisition, and both companies made the merger in part to arrest recent downturns, the potential for the video conferencing industry is undeniable.
Imagine 400 million LinkedIn users adding a direct, single-click Skype link to their contact details–and Skype itself already has around 78,000 active members. This link allows you to instantly connect with potential collaborators around the world–although a quick Skype text message might be needed to smooth the introductions.
It’s the kind of sortable, searchable universal directory the video conferencing world has always lacked, and one which the wider world has lost with the overwhelming move from landline to mobile phones as the main point of contact for professionals.
A Public Video Conferencing Forum
This ability to directly link to contacts offers the chance for some very spontaneous and diverse collaborations.
Suppose you’re interested in engaging in a little free-form thinking on the future of small business marketing online. You could send out invitations to anyone whose profile indicates they might be interested or knowledgeable in the field and create an open forum for debate. As Skype can accommodate multiple chat windows and dozens of participants, you could gather minds from around the world to share their views.
You can also create conferences where people merely listen in as audience members to expert presentations you’ve sourced through the new hybrid directory. If participants are not willing to step up to the virtual podium themselves, they can mute their own microphones, blackout their own cameras, and enjoy the proceedings.
The concept could be further refined by offering people the chance to break off into smaller chat rooms at the conclusion of a presentation to discuss the matter along their own specific terms.
Like musicians catching each other’s acts while performing within the same circuit of clubs, professionals from any field could be brought together through regular seminars cast open to whoever fits the basic demographic.
An Open Call to Video Chat
This format could also open up roles within collaborative projects. With WebRTC offering up a common design language and universal access to browser-based applications, a canny software engineer could send out an open invitation to like-minds to join them on their latest project.
They could call for experts in a dozen different, and very specific, coding challenges and have each join them one-on-one to work through their particular corner of the project.
It’s exactly the kind of democratic use of the internet that WebRTC was designed to facilitate, and with recent college graduates making up the fastest growing segment of the LinkedIn cohort, it’s a great way for young developers to get their first experience on a project.
In short, the Microsoft-LinkedIn merger opens the possibility of connecting LinkedIn and Skype, two previously unrelated services.
Or, the whole merger could go bust and we’ll have to wait on the sale of Facebook and its 1.4 billion members to another tech giant–looking your way, Google–before we get another crack at creating the Planet Earth phonebook.