Following in the footsteps of Facebook and MySpace, professional network LinkedIn announced on Monday a platform that gives third-party developers access to its application programming interfaces (APIs).
The set of APIs and widgets in LinkedIn’s Intelligent Application Platform — dubbed “InApps,” for short — allows partners to build LinkedIn features into their applications, as well as develop applications that will run within LinkedIn using the OpenSocial development model, the company said.
“The goal of the Intelligent Applications Platform is to help make our users more effective by providing them with access to the intelligence of their professional network both on LinkedIn and on other sites they visit to get work done,” said Dan Nye, CEO of LinkedIn. “Our focus is 100 percent professional, so we will be working with select business partners to build high-value, high-productivity applications.”
LinkedIn also announced that it has revamped its home page to showcase new business applications as well as offering a news feed with prefiltered content. The site will be phasing in the new development platform “over the coming months,” Lucian Beebe, LinkedIn’s director of product management, said in his blog post on the topic. Developers interested in the program can get more information via email@example.com.
“It’s become clear that there is a very strong need to let LinkedIn users take their network with them as they use the Web to be more productive,” Beebe explained. “Most every task we do on the Web could be augmented by including the help, filter, or aggregate knowledge or our professional network.”
An application incorporating LinkedIn could, for example, tap into users’ profiles, networks, network update feeds and other aspects of their LinkedIn accounts — with their permission, Beebe said.
LinkedIn’s first publishing partner, BusinessWeek, is developing an application that will reside on the BusinessWeek.com Web site. The application will enable readers of BusinessWeek.com to access their professional networks to look up profiles of people and find connections at companies featured in articles on the site.
“We believe our LinkedIn application will strengthen our connection to professionals by enabling them to easily tap into their professional networks while reading BusinessWeek content,” said Roger Neal, senior vice president of BusinessWeek Digital. “The ability to have this information will make BusinessWeek’s high-quality content more useful and actionable for our users.”
The Intelligent Application Platform will also allow developers to create applications for use on the LinkedIn site. A sample application, featured in Google’s OpenSocial announcement in early November, was a conference calendar application that gives users a view of upcoming events and people in their LinkedIn network who are attending upcoming conferences.
Dates are color-coded to indicate how popular each conference is within a user’s professional network, and users can see suggestions of people they may want to meet at the conference based on common network connections.
MySpace said in October that it plans to open up to developers, echoing a move made by Facebook in May when it announced the Facebook Platform. LinkedIn currently boasts more than 17 million users.
‘The Right Thing to Do’
“I think this is the right thing to do,” Karsten Weide, program director for digital media and entertainment with IDC, told TechNewsWorld. “It remains to be seen what kind of business applications will result, but potentially this could be extremely useful.”
The announcement also “really shows that there are people who are serious about taking up the challenge of building real business applications on the OpenSocial platform, which is good news for Google,” added Andrew Frank, a research vice president with Gartner.
“I think it also shows that there’s still plenty of play in the social networking world,” Frank told TechNewsWorld.
‘One of a Kind’
With its targeting of business professionals, LinkedIn has set itself apart from MySpace and Facebook, Frank added.
“The objectives are clearly different in LinkedIn — they’re going after a different audience and a different set of experiences,” he explained.
“There may be people who use multiple services, but it’s pretty clear that by maintaining its laser focus on business professional network applications, LinkedIn has carved out a pretty significant niche for itself,” Frank said. “LinkedIn is distinct enough that it seems to be a one of a kind for what it offers.”