LinkedIn, the business social network, hopped on the platform bandwagon this time last year by opening up its network to developers. It was a move I was excited to see Reid Hoffman’s crew make. LinkedIn, unlike some of the other professional networks that came before it, is actually very useful. It’s a great way to reach people within large companies, and an even better tool for recruiting and finding like-minded business people. Any extension of such a platform, therefore, was great news in my book. So how has it fared thus far?
Let me put it this way: The LinkedIn platform is no different than the Florida real estate market — neither have any building going on. And that is why it gets a solid D from me. D is for disappointing, by the way.
LinkedIn opened up its platform using Open Social and called the effort InApps. (It remains in beta.) It had half a dozen partners, among them SlideShare, Box.net, Tripit and SimplyHired.
How many new partners have launched apps on LinkedIn since then? How about none! And how many apps are there? I just counted again — there are eight approved apps on the web. Eight. And no, that doesn’t include the ones made by LinkedIn itself, including the recently launched SAP Community Connection. A new Twitter-focused app tentatively called TweetIn is likely to make its debut soon. The only other two major developments that I have seen are partnerships with BusinessWeek and The New York Times.
From what I hear, third-party developers have had a tough time working with LinkedIn; an inability to link to the company’s data set is a big issue, according to my sources. The moribund nature of the LinkedIn platform should be a warning to every single developer out there: For companies, sometimes opening up a platform is little more than an easy way to get cheap press.
LinkedIn is looking to make some changes. Last month, when it announced that it had 50 million professionals on its network, our friend Marshall Kirkpatrick quipped that it was still a roach motel. In response, Adam Nash, VP of search & platform products at LinkedIn, left a comment saying: “I think you’ll be quite happy with our plans for improvements to our APIs. Stay tuned.”
Apparently those plans include the recent poaching of Paul Lindner from Hi5, a social network that’s going through an identity crisis of its own. Lindner is a contributor to Apache Shindig, the OpenSocial back end used by everyone except MySpace.
To me, what’s most incredulous about LinkedIn’s open platform fail is that it’s all taken place under the leadership of CEO Jeff Weiner, who was one of the key proponents of social search when he was at Yahoo (back when Yahoo still had search). Even then, he was open to the notion of open platforms and social networks — in other words, he had the right ideas. With LinkedIn, he had the right platform. Too bad the company hasn’t been able to make it truly social.