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)