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LinkedIn API To Bring 'Some' Partners Into Social Net Fold

Social networking giant opens up -- a bit.

LinkedIn, the business-centric social networking site, this week talked more about opening up its "platform" to select partners.

Right now the specific deliverables are an API available to partners that meet LinkedIn criteria. That API has been available to these partners for some time, but was announced Monday.

The API will not, however, be downloadable to the masses. Interested parties must email the company to discuss potential uses, said Lucian Beebe, director of product management told Redmond Developer News. This is a REST-based API, relying on standard, generic XML transfers and so should be broadly applicable, he added.

Beebe used inaugural partner Business Week to show how the API can integrate the social network into other applications. In Business Week online, "when you look at the articles, you will see how many people you know at the company in the article as you flip through. It'll say you know 12 people at this company you're reading about. The interesting thing is that we all know who we know. But we don't all know who our close friends know,"

What happens here is that Business Week online is cross-referenced with the reader's LinkedIn social network. The company will announce other partners using the API soon, Beebe said.

The API is one phase of LinkedIn's outreach. The other is the ability to build professional applications to run inside LinkedIn itself. Toward that end LinkedIn has joined the Open Social effort spearheaded by Google.

LinkedIn again will be picky about who gets to play. "We want to keep the applications focused on business value. We don't want other stuff crowding out the useful stuff," Beebe said.

For developers building and supporting business applications, a LinkedIn tie-in could be valuable, he said. "If you're a corporate or independent developer, one way to make your app successful is to advertise market and spend money. Another, more modern way is to get it into networks where people are already communicating. That's the idea of Open Social and the idea of LinkedIn. If you have a business productivity application, we have 17 million people in our network and they are business people looking for productivity. It's a huge distribution opportunity."

Pundits agree that developers need to watch for the convergence of consumer-oriented social networking sites and their bread-and-butter corporate applications. The fact that Microsoft has invested millions in FaceBook shows that vendors see opportunity in a melding of these worlds.

While LinkedIn is considerably smaller than FaceBook and MySpace, it's roots are firmly in business networking -- although to be fair many business people have flocked to the other two sites as well . Nielsen Online numbers show however that LinkedIn is growing faster than the other two. Its growth rate is 189 percent from October 2006 to October 2007 to 125 percent growth for Facebook and 19 percent for MySpace.

Of course, LinkedIn is growing from a much smaller base. In October it had 4.9 million unique visitors compared to 19.5 million for Facebook and 58.8 million for MySpace.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.

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