John is right, in spades.
That said, I don’t think LinkedIn is vulnerable to any new business network starting up, whether incubated at a newspaper on in-the-wild. LinkedIn is one of what I think of as one of the “three horsemen of the Social Web,” networks that are fundamentally about real identity and real relationships, specifically Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo (where I am employed, as many of you know).
It’s amusing to read about something rumored to be coming that is labeled as a “such and such killer”. The problem with anything of this ilk is that it only serves to validate the leadership that the targeted service has achieved and fails to recognize that just mimicking or being incrementally better than something which has emerged as a standard is not the way to beat it.
You see this play out in search all the time… a new search engine is measured against Google, which is why none of them succeed against Google. You can’t beat your competitor by just being as good as they are or marginally better… just ask Detroit car companies how that strategy has worked out for them. It’s also why Microsoft has an impossibly tall task with Bing, which by all accounts is a pretty damn good offering. Even though they go to great pains to call it a “decision engine” the fact remains that every analysis and review compares it to Google. Good luck with that.
LinkedIn succeeds not because they have a great user experience, which they don’t, a huge array of partners integrating with them, which they don’t, or any other feature, they succeed because everyone is using them and the social assets they possess cannot be replicated easily by a competitor.
I hope the WSJ succeeds with their rumored project but calling it a LinkedIn killer is really just theatre.
PS- LinkedIn should take these threats seriously and use the heat to change a culture that moves at a speed best described as glacial. If you have ever tried to do business with LinkedIn you can attest to the fact that this is one of the most difficult companies to work with, has enough NIH to cover Silicon Valley an inch thick, and despite protestations to the contrary has not delivered a rich set of tools that companies can use build on top of LinkedIn.