World Map of top professional networks: Linkedin, Xing and Viadeo


We are ranking brands and people on French professional social network Viadeo since last week, even though one year ago Linkedin surpassed Viadeo’s audience in its home country. This means that there is only one market not yet owned by Linkedin in the Western World: Germany, where Xing keeps the first place among professional networks. Will this little kingdom last for ever?

I have many doubts. Globalisation is specially important in the business world. People get hired by big multinationals and they search for jobs in different countries. A local network has everything against it. Sooner of later users will fall into the arms of the world’s leader.

Almost all European countries had a local professional network 5 years ago. Some of them were bought by Xing (named OpenBC until 2006) and some of them have become realy small, with their business not making any more sense. Xing has been unable to build a strong brand outside of Germany. Not even in Spain and Turkey, where it bought three networks (Neurona, eConozco and Cember.net) back in 2008.

Meanwhile, Linkedin has kept growing. Recently it reached 280 million members (41% of them mobile), with two new ones every second. It reported total revenue of $1.53 billion last year, 61% of them coming from the US, though it grew more than expected in Southern Europe and India.

Xing, a public company, gets most of its traffic in Germany, which explains why it’s stopping support for other languages. 76% of its pageviews come from Germany and 90% from German-speaking countries (D-A-CH: Switzerland, Austria and Germany). According to Faber Novel, Xing had 5.3 million members in this region back in 2011 (now it has more than 6 million), while Linkedin had just 2 million.

But Xing has not resisted so well in the rest of the world, where it has another 8 million members, and is losing positions everywhere. Once upon a time, it supported 19 languages, while Linkedin only had English. In 2011 Xing closed offices in China, Spain and Turkey. In terms of premium members, 97% of them (786,000) are in the D-A-CH region.

When comparing Xing to Linkedin, there is a 1 to 8 ratio in terms of users, while it was 1 to 4.5 back in 2007, when Xing was even considering to break into the American market. So, what happened? In my opinion, Xing’s product and marketing have been too Germanic. Its site is too rigid and it looks more like a SAP-like cloud software company than as an internet startup.

While not being too open (its API is still much limited), Linkedin has adopted a more flexible strategy in which users can do more things without seeing a “Pay or leave” message. It’s also using strong open source data platforms as Hadoop and Lucene/Solr, following Facebook’s path.

On the opposite, there is almost no innovation in Xing’s headquarters. The German site is not more than a contacts repository, while Linkedin really looks like a social network. When it bought companies it was just interested in the users they had, not adding any functionality to its core.

Linkedin and Xing’s stock

This explains why their business models are slightly different. Xing’s main source of revenues are premium members, to the point that it has more subscribers than Linkedin and bought Amiando to bring revenues from events. Advertising is a much smaller business for Xing, even though it has bought company reviewing site Kununu.

As it has more free users and bought social network Pulse to bring personalized business news, Linkedin is betting on advertising as its main business, while 54% of its revenues are generated off-line. It’s true though that paid subscriptions are much more expensive on Linkedin (starting at 20$/month) than on Xing (5$/month).
Pay to free ratio is extremely different on both networks: 19% on Xing (specially in Germany) and 1% on Linkedin. Besides having more members, Linkedin’s valuation is much higher. It scores $81 per member, versus $52 for Facebook and €27 for Xing.

So which are the top countries for Xing? Germany, Austria and Switzerland are the only ones in which it is among the 50 top sites, according to Alexa. In Belgium, Sweden, Turkey and Spain it is among the top 1,000, though constantly losing positions.

The third network, Viadeo, is very well positioned in French-speaking countries. In Madagascar, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, France, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco, it is among the Top 100 sites. In Algeria, Belgium and Switzerland it is among the top 500.

We could also add China’s Tianji, which belongs to Viadeo, but it doesn’t have so many users and is not even among the top 100 sites in China. According to Faber Novel, Tianji has 14 million members in China, while Linkedin has 3 million.

Japan is another relevant market in which none of the three big professional networks has broken in. While Linkedin only has 0,9 million members in Japan, there is a local social network which has some professional attributes, Mixi, with around 27 million members.

As of our map, we analyzed 127 countries with Alexa’s data in order to obtain the top professional network in each one of them. Linkedin is leading in 91 countries. Xing is the main one in Germany and ties up with Linkedin in Austria. Viadeo is the top one in Cameroon, Madagascar, China (through Tianji) and Canada (through Unyk). Poland’s top professional network is GoldenLine.

Linkedin’s kingdoms are painted with blue (darker as it is closer to the top 10 sites). Viadeo’s ones are colored with orange, while green was reserved for Xing’s (Germany) and yellow for GoldenLine’s (Poland). We did not include Mixi as it’s not exactly a professional network.

Are Xing and Viadeo the only real competitors? So far, yes. But things will probably change in the future, as Twitter and Facebook are also trying to get a piece of the growing online recruitment business. Besides, News Corporation, owner of The Wall Street Journal, is launching its own social network and instant messaging service for financial clients.

There is also ASmallWorld, an exclusive network for the rich and famous which converted into a VIP travel club. Once upon a time it was actually competing with Linkedin but it was so closed that it did not grow as fast.

(Update on 2004.06.01) Viadeo has published some data about its business:
– 95% of its revenues come from France
– In 2013 it had revenues of €30.9 million, of which only 0.84 comes from China and 0.27 from Russia
– It has 59 million members, 27 of which are located outside of France (20 of them in China)
– 51% of its revenues come from premium fees
– 40% of its traffic comes from mobile
– The boughts of Tianji (China), ApnaCircle (India), and Unyk (Canada) were made with shares of the company. This explains why China Biznetwork Corp holds a 12.08% stake, ApnaCircle 2.17% and Unyk 2.98%

Jose A. del Moral

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