LinkedIn unveiled moves to compete more aggressively with Facebook earlier this week, as the biggest name in social networking appeared to stumble on the balance between advertising and privacy.
LinkedIn was an early social network focused on professional networking but was eclipsed when Facebook launched a third-party development platform. Almost overnight, Facebook became the dominant name in social networking, even eclipsing News Corp.'s MySpace.
Announcing LinkedIn's Intelligent Application platform, Lucian Beebe, LinkedIn's director of product management, said the new platform allows developers to bring LinkedIn data into their applications and to deploy applications inside of LinkedIn's site.
Support for OpenSocial
"There is a very strong need to let LinkedIn users take their network with them as they use the Web to be more productive. Most every task we do on the Web could be augmented by including the help, filter, or aggregate knowledge or our professional network," he wrote on the LinkedIn blog.
LinkedIn supports Google's OpenSocial platform, Beebe said, which will allow developers to create applications with their user interface and back end, but use LinkedIn's application programming interfaces. "These applications will display within the LinkedIn.com Web site and will be aware of the current LinkedIn user and his/her network. You'll be able to create applications that run on users' home and profile pages," he wrote.
In addition, LinkedIn unveiled a new Web site design, including news feeds, customizable modules, and network updates. LinkedIn also inked a deal with BusinessWeek to provide news feeds on the companies in users' networks.
In the announcements, LinkedIn hammered hard on the point that it is not a mass consumer social site but is laser-focused on business and professionals. "LinkedIn is a business network of nearly 17 million professionals, growing faster than one million new members per month," Beebe wrote.
Is that focus enough for success under the ubiquity of Facebook? Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, said LinkedIn's prospects still look a bit dicey. "If Facebook decides to really court business users, it would still have a major advantage over LinkedIn due to its size and already strong branded image," Bajarin wrote in an e-mail.
"And if they get the security and privacy issue right," Bajarin went on to day, "they could emerge as a key player with business users since their own applications development platform could entice more business-type applications."
LinkedIn's platform is really a catch-up move, Bajarin said. "LinkedIn had to create their own applications platform since many business users have also started Facebook pages and this represents a real threat to LinkedIn's ability to keep and draw new business users."
In the end, Bajarin concluded, the platform could help LinkedIn bolster its position in the business community and help LinkedIn deliver "a strong competitive environment to take on Facebook in this important social business sector."