Posted by: Rob Hof on October 28, 2008
More than a year after Facebook electrified the Web community with a platform for running applications on top of the social network, LinkedIn is announcing its own platform. And it couldn’t be more different in many ways than Facebook’s, just as LinkedIn itself is more different from Facebook than casual observers assume. (Disclosure: McGraw-Hill, which owns BusinessWeek, is a recent investor in LinkedIn, and BusinessWeek has a business relationship with the company. You can find more on LinkedIn at the BW Business Exchange.)
LinkedIn’s Intelligent Applications, or InApps, platform, is aimed squarely at the professionals that the business networking service caters to. “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.”
Not that he’s calling Causes or even SuperPoke noise. But LinkedIn apps, which will be in beta at launch (meaning they may have glitches), are intended to lean more toward the utilitarian than the fun. They include a file collaboration app from Box.net, apps to sync WordPress or Six Apart blog posts to your LinkedIn profile, and a Reading List from Amazon.com, among others. (Full list after the jump.)
When you add the apps, they’ll appear on your profile, but other people can view the relevant material without adding the apps themselves, which isn’t always the case with Facebook apps. LinkedIn also is explicitly controlling all of them, and strongly asking the developers to provide free features even if they also offer paid versions. They’re also limited to running LinkedIn’s ad system, not other ad networks.
That means there will be dozens of apps in the short term—not thousands as with Facebook. I asked Patrick Crane, LinkedIn’s vice-president of marketing and advertising, if that will weigh against the viral spread that made Facebook’s apps platform such a hit with developers. He admits LinkedIn’s more controlled approach will naturally limit the number of apps, which could reduce developer enthusiasm for the platform. But that’s OK with LinkedIn, which believes its business audience doesn’t want bazillions of apps.
LinkedIn makes money a number of ways. If LinkedIn members do upgrade to paid versions of these apps, LinkedIn gets a cut. It also gets a cut of book sales generated through Amazon.com’s Reading List through Amazon’s Associates program. Developers and partners, of course, get access to a potentially lucrative business audience. “We see their user base as a very attractive potential customer base,” says Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.net. Chris Alden, CEO of Six Apart, says it’s possible the proliferation of apps platforms, which also now include Google-led Open Social, might get cumbersome for developers, but he says LinkedIn’s platform is worthwhile because there’s a lot of value in connecting blogs with professional networks. (Clarification: I missed the fact that LinkedIn’s platform is based on Open Social standards, making this somewhat less of an issue.)
Here's the full initial list of apps, available here:
* Reading List by Amazon
The Amazon Reading List is a fully integrated application that allows LinkedIn members to share the books they are reading with other LinkedIn members. Professionals can discover what they should be reading by following updates from their connections, people in their industry, or other LinkedIn members of professional interest to them.
* Box File Collaboration
The Box.net File Collaboration application helps LinkedIn members manage important files online. The application lets LinkedIn members share content on their profile, and collaborate, and exchange documents with connections on LinkedIn. In addition to providing free storage and collaboration features, key documents can also be featured directly on a member’s profile – a perfect way to showcase recent work, past deals, or a portfolio.
* My Travel by Tripit, sponsored by Courtyard at Marriott
My Travel shows LinkedIn members where their entire professional network is traveling to and when connections will be in the same city. The My Travel application allows members to easily meet up at the next industry event or re-connect with old friends. The Tripit application is being sponsored by Courtyard at Marriott.
* Google Presentations
Google presentations allows LinkedIn members to embed a presentation on their profile to showcase a recent talk or presentation, display a visual portfolio of professional accomplishments in an easy to use click thru format on a LinkedIn profile.
The WordPress application allows LinkedIn members to sync WordPress blog posts with their LinkedIn profile in order to share their posts with their connections.
Slideshare allows LinkedIn members to share presentations with colleagues and connections on LinkedIn, and find experts for certain industries and topics that also have presentations to share. Slideshare offers an opportunity for professional branding by allowing members to embed presentations into LinkedIn profiles to feature their portfolio and work.
* Blog Link by Six Apart
Blog Link automatically pulls in the latest blog posts from the connections in LinkedIn a member’s network so relevant up-to-date information will always be featured in the network updates.
* Huddle Workspaces
Huddle gives LinkedIn members private, secure online workspaces packed with simple yet powerful project, collaboration and sharing tools for working with connections.
* Company Buzz by LinkedIn
The Company Buzz application allows members to track what is said about their company on Twitter. The application is a filter for Twitter conversations based on search terms and can be customized by members, allowing them to see who is talking about their company and products. The application shows tweets, trends and top key words.