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LinkedIn to Monster & BranchOut: Pay Up

by Jul 6, 2011, 7:44 pm ET

ERE.net has learned more details about LinkedIn’s July 1 decision to cut off Monster’s BeKnown and BranchOut’s API access. We’ve also obtained copies of the emails that LinkedIn sent to both companies.

If there was any doubt that commercial reasons were behind the move, it’s gone now. Both emails end by proposing that the companies join LinkedIn’s “Partner Program for enterprise products.” A representative for LinkedIn has confirmed that the companies would pay for this access.

While BranchOut and BeKnown got all the attention, LinkedIn also cut off access to at least four other companies. Startup mixtent and resume parsing company Daxtra are two more companies that serve recruiters that were affected. As of this morning, the import function that is the core of mixtent’s service appears to be completely broken.

Unlike mixtent, Monster seems unmoved. A spokesperson said that “LinkedIn is actually the smallest source of BeKnown network growth compared with other sources.” Similarly, a BranchOut spokesperson said that “changes to the LinkedIn API have little impact on the BranchOut experience, as it was only being used by a small fraction of our users.”

A LinkedIn representative said that they had been in contact with Monster and BranchOut since the emails, but representatives for both companies denied that they were engaged in any discussions with LinkedIn regarding restoring API access.

The full emails are below, but here’s the rest of what I found notable:

  • I wrote that LinkedIn had cut off access to the API because the companies were competitive, which is prohibited by LinkedIn’s API Terms of Use. Competition still underlies this decision, but the specific trespass that LinkedIn cites is that both BranchOut and Monster intend to charge “fees for access to LinkedIn’s Content,” which is also not kosher under the TOU.
  • The move appears to be preemptive, since BranchOut does not charge for access to user data at this point in time.
  • Unlike BranchOut, Monster is already very much in the business of charging for access to data. However, the LinkedIn move seems preemptive there as well, since the BeKnown database is currently separate from the main Monster database. The company has acknowledged plans to merge them in the future.
  • LinkedIn claims that Monster is also in violation of the TOU for sending emails via the API to promote BeKnown.

The emails were sent by Adam Trachtenberg, the director of LinkedIn’s Developer Network, to his counterparts at Monster and BranchOut.

This is the complete email from LinkedIn to Monster:

From: Adam Trachtenberg
Date: July 1, 2011 12:29:16 PM CDT
Subject: Important information about BeKnown’s LinkedIn Developer Program account

Dear Mark,

LinkedIn’s Developer Platform Program helps partner websites build the professional web with LinkedIn.  Specifically, LinkedIn’s People API allows our partners to add professional identity to their sites with LinkedIn member profile and connection data to create a richer professional web experience for our members.  LinkedIn’s Messaging API allows our partners to use LinkedIn’s Inbox to make their applications a social communications hub by letting their customers send invitations to connect on LinkedIn and messages to existing connections.

We have become aware of your recently launched BeKnown application on Facebook.  Your use of the LinkedIn APIs in connection with this product violates LinkedIn’s API Terms of Use and Platform Guidelines by, at a minimum, using the APIs to send messages to promote BeKnown.  Also, we have concerns that LinkedIn Content imported into BeKnown will be used in connection with your enterprise sourcing products, and, in effect, you will be charging fees for access to LinkedIn Content.  As a result, we have disabled the BeKnown application’s access to the LinkedIn’s APIs.

We have a Partner Program for enterprise products and, if your messaging violations are corrected, are open to discussing with you whether BeKnown offerings are a fit.  If you are interested, please contact Scott Roberts, our Senior Director, Business Development, at sroberts@linkedin.com.

Regards,

Adam Trachtenberg
Director of Developer Network

And this is the full email from LinkedIn to BranchOut:

From: Adam Trachtenberg
Date: July 1, 2011 12:29:07 PM CDT
Subject: Important information about BranchOut’s LinkedIn Developer Program account

Dear Nathan,

LinkedIn’s Developer Platform Program helps partner websites build the professional web with LinkedIn.  Specifically, LinkedIn’s People API allows our partners to add professional identity to their sites with LinkedIn member profile and connection data to create a richer professional web experience for our members.

We recently became aware of BranchOut’s imminent launch of a premium enterprise recruiting search tool.  BranchOut’s use of LinkedIn’s API to support this tool violates LinkedIn’s API Terms of Use by, at a minimum, by charging fees for access to LinkedIn’s Content.  As a result, we have disabled BranchOut’s access to the LinkedIn API.

We have a Partner Program for enterprise products and are open to discussing with you whether BranchOut’s offerings are a fit.  If you are interested, please contact Scott Roberts, our Senior Director, Business Development, at sroberts@linkedin.com.

Regards,

Adam Trachtenberg

Director of Developer Network

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://www.techtrak.com Maureen Sharib

    The War of the Words.

  • http://www.matchpointcareers.com Paul Basile

    Do any of the bickering children consider what is in the best interests of users? They will say yes and maybe we users do want to choose. Right?

    My main issue with all of this is that the information being traded (for a price or not) by all parties bears little relationship to the key factors that are proven to predict performance in a job – the important drivers of performance that demonstrate that the right person is in the right job. Without that, BeKnown and LinkedIn and the rest are simply giving more access to not very relevant information.

  • Keith Halperin

    LinkedIn, job boards, and “best interests of users:
    What do those things things have in common?
    Not much from where I sit….

    -kh

  • Brian Howard

    Let’s face it, information has value….often significant value. It costs money and often takes years to build quality databases of high caliber professionals. Can anyone really blame LinkedIn for trying to protect what it has worked so long and so hard to build?

  • http://karlaporter.com Karla Porter

    I revoked access to BranchOut and didn’t join BeKnown.. I’m not into these shenanigans and gaming employment. The rest of my thoughts are here http://karlaporter.com/social-media/lets-make-professional-networking-a-game-with-beknown.

  • http://www.ejobmate.com Nick Gronow

    LinkedIn is missing the point of allowing services like these to utilize their API. They are viewing BeKnown and BranchOut as competitors, but in reality those who use these services could actually be signing up with LinkedIn for additional information and exposure. I think LinkedIn is failing to see the bigger picture. Every application has its strengths, and allowing them to work together allows users to utilize several at once, which brings greater value. Its too bad these larger companies don’t see the positivity that can come from reciprocal sharing, and how much it would aid business networking and employment.

  • http://www.ere.net/ David Manaster

    @Nick Good point. It will be interesting to see if the decision to cut off these companies from the API will have a chilling effect on developers choosing to use LinkedIn as a platform in the future.

    John Sumser wrote an interesting post exploring this.