LinkedIn opens its network, adds development tools

Also announces beta versions of new home page, prefiltered news feed

LinkedIn Corp., whose social network is aimed at business professionals, today announced plans to open its platform and provide tools to developers so that they can add data from LinkedIn profiles to their business applications.

LinkedIn also announced the beta test versions of a home page that showcases new business applications and a beta version of a new news feed that will provide users with prefiltered content.

The new LinkedIn Intelligent Application tool set will allow developers to use LinkedIn application programming interfaces and widgets to integrate LinkedIn data into their applications by accessing information from a user's network, the company said. The tools will also let users build applications to run inside the LinkedIn network, it said.

"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," noted Lucian Beebe, LinkedIn's director of product management, in a blog post.

For example, he said that a developer -- with a user's permission -- could add information from a LinkedIn user's profile, his network or other profiles to various applications. Officials said that one partner, BusinessWeek magazine, has been signed up to use the tool set. BusinessWeek will add LinkedIn information to augment its own Web content, the company noted.

The new home page adds a professional dashboard where users can access modules with content about people, jobs and answers to questions, LinkedIn noted. This portal can also be used to access business applications developed using LinkedIn's new developer platform.

Adam Nash, LinkedIn senior director of products, said the news feed will filter content. "What better lens on your professional content than to look at it through what company you work for and what your colleagues are reading?" Nash said.

Anne Zelenka, a blogger at GigaOm, noted that the new home page looks like " an attempt to create a professional version of Facebook's one-stop-shop social networking site."

However, she added that Facebook Inc. has found success in bringing people and applications to its site because it offers a rich social experience. "LinkedIn, on the other hand, has always been about recording and browsing professional networks, not building those networks," she said. "Building the relationships that LinkedIn displays happens elsewhere. LinkedIn is currently more data store than social platform. That data store has real value, but because it's locked up on one site, it's far less valuable than it could be. If LinkedIn made itself the default way to keep track of and activate professional relationships, their service would be hard to beat."

On the other hand, Mashable blogger Stan Schroeder noted that LinkedIn's focus on business and productivity applications is a good move.

"Facebook is becoming a mess similar to MySpace; it may have a cleaner design, but the information you commonly find on profiles is far from useful," Schroeder wrote in a blog post. So, he said, the "less is more" approach may actually prove to be an advantage for LinkedIn in this case.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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