As reported by Techcrunch UK, business networking goliath LinkedIn has made the jump from the US and opened their first foreign office here in London, where they plan to continue their massive growth and I assume subsequently crush/assimilate Euro-rival Xing. LinkedIn is working hard to increase site usefulness and functionality, as evidenced by the rising popularity of their answers section and jobs boards, and while they currently have more users in Europe than Xing (4 million to their 3 million), I have to wonder how much farther their dominance will spread in Europe.
Despite the rapid worldwide expansion of Western sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, I think there is is always going to be some local pushback blocking global convergence to just one or two social networking sites. For example, Facebook has barely made a dent in Asia, where countries have their own networks that are more than holding their own because of their culturally unique features. Rather than using the wall-posting features on Bebo/Myspace/Facebook, Chinese users tend to prefer social networks with IM-based communication while Japanese site Mixi is more of a one-stop-shop with both personal and business funcationality.
That’s going to be the challenge for LinkedIn, as it has to contend with the fact that not only do people communicate differently across cultures, but they do business differently too. I’ll be interested to see if they taylor the site and interface to attract users who don’t prescribe to the American-led social networking model, or if they’ll continue with things as is and just hoover up the smaller networks. A third way is also possible, with LinkedIn offering a global network and with niche industry or national sites popping up to fill in the gaps. Whatever way it happens, the LinkedIn juggernaut is rolling and while its possible that global users will reject it if it gets too overbearing, things seem to be running smoothly for now.