Innovation at LinkedIn: From Business Utility to Platform

(Video: Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s community evangelist interviews Adam Nash, Sr. Director of Product, via official blog)

LinkedIn recently briefed us for their announcement today, (I’m making a few updates as news releases) here’s my take:

Summary: What you need to know
Already a business networking utility with minor community features, LinkedIn launches improved homepage with aggregated news and customized features. In addition, LinkedIn’s launching an API (so third party developers can create applications) starting with BusinessWeek’s “social bookmarks” feature. Expect more business valued applications to surface, increasing the value of LinkedIn, I see this as a success as this becomes less of a part-time utility to more of a full-time business platform.

Features Launched
There are three major homepage feature improvements include

1. Company News: Five related articles will be displayed
2. Customizable modules: Three options to choose from People, Jobs, and Answers
3. Network Updates: A newsfeed that shares your contacts changes

API yields platform for 3rd party development

The most important story (for some reason the other press members aren’t focusing in on it as much is that combining this with LinkedIn’s API so select third party developers can build business apps for the LinkedIn network can yield a business destination that we can start using on a daily basis.

But there’s an opportunity for LinkedIn to become a perma-tab in our web experience, take for example the partnership with Businessweek, much like a nod to the social ads that Facebook has deployed (but this time opt-in only) users of LinkedIn that are visiting Businessweek can choose to share a story with their network on LinkedIn. A sort of ‘delicious for your network’. LinkedIn is discussing the API opportunities from their official blog (and video)

Utility to Platform
LinkedIn already boasts some community features, such as LinkedIn answers, network like sharing tools, all lead by the official LinkedIn blog. I expect to see calendar, event, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and profile matching type of widgets and applications on LinkedIn’s community platform.

Application that could be developed

  • Shared bookmarks with my business network (Delicious integration)
  • Additional business media ties (Reuters, BBC, NYT, Forbes, Nasdaq, NYSE)
  • Shared calender and event tracker with my business network ( integration)
  • Collaboration of office docs (Open Office, Google docs integration)
  • Presentation sharing (slideshare integration)
  • Map mashups: find people with similiar jobs in your area
  • Social recommendation engines for jobs (SimplyHired integration)
  • SecondLife profile and community sharing, esp for business events (take it to the next level, the sky is the limit!)
  • Challenges
    No platform or product is perfect, here’s a few challenges I see along the way

  • The API will take some time for developers to get used to.
  • The sub set of Businessweek readers and LinkedIn users that will share the bookmark is low, expect adoption for this feature to be low, but a good start for what’s to come.
  • With Google’s Open Social API underway (as well as Facebook) developers are going to have to build multiple APIs, in the long run this will cause confusion.
  • Many users get news information about their company and industry from other sources, I don’t expect the LinkedIn homepage to be a daily visit –expect the applications to be the lead in first for real utility.
  • Innovation not fully unleasged as only select partners are allowed to develop on LinkedIn’s platform, an ‘open market’ type of development process could bring many iterations of products, let the users decide which apps should be used.
  • Facebook: While business folks are connecting within Facebook, (such as within my web strategy group of 4000 professionals) there’s been no notable business apps that have been deployed. Expect developers for LinkedIn to also deploy on Facebook and other OpenSocial partners. Facebook is a “lifestyle” network, that includes both personal and work –much like our next generation of workers.
  • My Take
    A business platform for business people. More applications of actual utility (unlike the entertainment and media apps in Facebook and MySpace). Actual productivity from a connected workforce. Increase in attention (time on site) and viral spread of new users that will join. Anyone trying to reach business people should consider deploying in LinkedIn’s community and platform. If things go according to plan, this is a win for LinkedIn.

    (Similar to the video above, this one focuses on the APIs with Mario and Lucian Beebe Director of Product Management)

    • great to see these updates taking place, thanks for the video

    • Nice post, I like the idea of even more filtered relevant news. Like most people in business there is so much to read that you can easily get overwhelmed. I agree that having multiple platforms to integrate with will make things more difficult for developers in the short term but the obvious value of linkedin’s professional focus may propel them forward past face book at least in the business space.

    • Jeremiah, I will be interested in seeing how far Linkedin can take the “sharing of information among business colleagues” feature. Just as some companies block Facebook or forbid employees to comment on blogs, I can imagine that some will scrutinize participation in even business oriented systems such as Linkedin for communications that might reveal corporate marketing or strategy interests.

      Dennis McDonald
      Alexandria, Virginia

    • Dennis

      It’s the same as Google Docs and other collaboration tools (that sometimes IT doesn’t) offer.

    • nmw

      I think both and have a very “old boys club” feel — whereas is oriented towards social networks built around academic institutions, is oriented towards social networks built around companies.

      IMHO, the really revolutionary thing about the Internet is when such “boundaries” become transparent — allowing people to transcend and network across the multiple roles they fulfill in various institutional settings.

      Hmmm… — what’s a good example? Tough question. They are still pretty few and far between — I keep getting back to (and the similar approaches that CNet has been taking with many of it’s other sites). Maybe and/or ? ? ? (I don’t know this space too well — but I can easily see that each of these platforms cater to a similar audiences (and incorporate slightly different nuanced approaches, requiring slightly different data-sets). It might be interesting to compare the efficacy of the plural-term domains vs. singular-term domain (e.g. also “offers” a database of houses, but provides links to information about what is related to the concept “home”….

      Such “social” networks (and/or “marketplaces for interaction”) will will continue to sprout across the landscape like mushrooms — and I expect they will also continue to break up any “institutional asphalt” that is spread out and/or paved on top of the online space in an attempt to squelch the wisdom of the language.

      🙂 nmw

    • Linkedin would be far, far better off focusing on the awful user experience, complete lack of a data strategy and it’s weak customer service than to chase the latest fad.

      The multiple profiles that they make hard for people clean up are downright disrespectful to other users.

      There are many features that still don’t work in IE7 and there are broken endorsements in my profile which a dozen customer service emails haven’t fixed.

    • Agreed the issues are similar between Linkedin platform and Google Docs — I’ve had clients refuse to use Google Docs for collaboration on the grounds it was “less secure” than the corporate intranet coupled with email send/receipt of attachments.

    • I’ve been a member of LinkeIn for the past four years and their customer service leaves something to aggravate their already lacking customer satisfaction situation.

    • In spite of LinkedIn’s flaws, I hold out great hope that it will develop into a useful platform for business and professional networking.

      It was my hope that we’d see some useful business-oriented utilities be developed for the Facebook platform. Even though I read there are 10K of the things now, how many of them fit that model? Few I suspect.

      I think LI can take the hill so far as business users are concerned. Sounds like their moving in the right direction at least.

    • Jeremiah, it’ll be interesting to see just how far LinkedIn can take this and, to follow Dennis’ thoughts, how long it will be before it’s blocked at some corporate firewalls through fear of information leakage. From my (very unscientific) observations, it’s one of the few social apps that has any real penetration in conservative audiences.

      I’d like to see them really run hard on this and offer a heap of tools that really facilitate strong business interactions. Obviously, they need to be extremely careful about protecting P2P transactions (and perhaps LinkedIn shouldn’t be the brokerage for that transaction), but they should certainly work hard on allowing and mediating the conversations they already manage in a much richer way. It also needs some configurability – the News For You I’m getting now is based on a client I have listed rather than the company I own and the subjects I am interested in.

      I already find LinkedIn a very important tool. It could be a lot better though as the only real value at the moment is in Answers. And, recalling a meme from yesterday, a “sexy” enterprise tool –

    • The homepage module changes are purely cosmetic UI changes. The real utility is the ability of building apps to the API. If Havard business Journal had a widget for Linkedin with summary of articles, i would subscribe. I only hope there is no development of frivolous apps. if i wanted to poke someone I will go to Facebook 🙂

    • I’d love to see LinkedIn succeed because I was one of their early fans. I’m a little skeptical that they can pull it off but I’m eager to see how the next phase of their experiment pans out.

      Thanks for your detailed and well-written update.

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    • I expressed some views on Linked in as well @ I do worry that Linked in will become as annoying as the other network and social sites out there.

      I hope they move forward as suggested in your content.

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