Apparently suffering from a bit of application envy, LinkedIn announced Tuesday that it has implemented its own platform for running apps on its professional-networking site. In keeping with LinkedIn's strong business focus, the new service is called Intelligent Applications, or InApps.
"Our audience is a professional audience, it's not the typical social-network audience," says Jamie Templeton, LinkedIn's vice president of platform products. "They don't want noise."
Self-Promotion and Collaboration
The serious nature of LinkedIn can be seen both in the limited number of initial apps and their business purpose. According to Reid Hoffman, chairman and president, products, at LinkedIn, the goal is to enable the service's 30 million members to communicate, collaborate and share information more easily.
"This initial rollout features productivity applications that range from gathering information that professionals around you are generating to enhancing your abilities to collaborate and communicate more effectively," Hoffman said on the LinkedIn blog. "You'll be able to work much more closely with your contacts on LinkedIn with tools such as file sharing, project management, business trips, and many more."
The company is offering nine apps to start: Reading List from Amazon, WordPress, Box.net, Blog Link from Six Apart, Company Buzz by LinkedIn, SlideShare presentations, Google Presentation, My Travel, and Huddle Workspaces.
Some of these apps -- like the file sharing in Box.net, the collaborative work spaces in Huddle, or the slideshow resources -- may offer a productivity boost. Others -- like Amazon's dynamic reading list or LinkedIn's own Company Buzz, which provides a customized Twitter feed from coworkers -- may cause headaches for management and IT departments.
Nonetheless, LinkedIn has added apps to keep it from becoming too stodgy and because the incoming generation of workers have grown up in a social-networking environment.
A Controlled Beta Environment
Unlike the freewheeling app environments on Facebook or MySpace, LinkedIn has made it clear that it intends to keep a tight rein on InApps. LinkedIn will control the operation of the apps and limit advertisements to those generated by LinkedIn's own system. While that may limit the number of developers in the LinkedIn sandbox, it will also filter the app spam that plagues other networks.
When app developers sell a paid version, LinkedIn will get a cut and a percentage of the revenues generated by the activity of its members. For instance, with the Reading List from Amazon, LinkedIn gets a percentage on book sales.
Of course, that depends on apps operating in the first place. Although I was able to install the Blog Link in my profile and load my Web site's blog feed, both the Reading List from Amazon and the Company Buzz were experiencing "technical difficulties."