Taking a page from the Facebook playbook, social-networking site LinkedIn announced Monday that it will provide a platform for third-party developers. With Intelligent Applications, or InApps, developers can create plug-ins for LinkedIn.
While Facebook is oriented more to younger users, LinkedIn has been focused on professional and business types, and the new apps are expected to act appropriately. Dan Nye, LinkedIn Chief Executive, told news media that the new platform will enable the site's professional users to be more effective in communicating with each other. "It's not a place," he said, "where you waste two hours of your time trying to find a date."
In October, Nye similarly emphasized the site's focus on professionalism. "We're not going to have people sending electronic hamburgers to each other," he told the New York Times.
Several LinkedIn Changes
Being so choosy, LinkedIn has publicly discussed only one application. It will allow site users to hover over company names on BusinessWeek to see a list of people on LinkedIn who have some connection to that company.
By contrast, less-choosy Facebook reportedly has over 10,000 applications for its user platform, even though it was only released in May.
As part of its makeover, LinkedIn is testing a beta version of a new home page that is designed to make it easier for users to choose their contact path -- either school-based or company-based.
There are also a variety of new features being rolled out to the site's 17 million members, including ways to check the questions people in one's network are asking, and LinkedIn News, an aggregated summary of headlines that is oriented toward a given user's company and interests.
Trend Toward Being Open
LinkedIn is not the only social-networking site to follow Facebook's path toward supporting outside developers, as other sites rush to create a similar kind of ecosystem. The trend likely will gain momentum with the adoption of such intersite standards as OpenSocial, which was recently released as part of a Google-led effort to make third-party applications work on a variety of social-networking sites.
LinkedIn's InApps will support OpenSocial, as will MySpace, Hi5, Plaxo, Ning, Friendster, and others.
Oliver Young, an analyst with Forrester, said this trend of opening up social networks "is the way of the future." But, he added, the success of efforts such as OpenSocial in promoting an ecosystem across sites is "unclear" because it's not yet evident how deep into each site OpenSocial will go. Different sites, he noted, have different sets of data that they are willing to share.
Young pointed out that, because most of the social networks now have enough users to sustain a platform, their attention will be focused on "winning the hearts and minds of developers."