RealTime IT News

LinkedIn Gets Web 2.0 Makeover

The professional networking site LinkedIn on Monday announced a sweeping redesign of its Web site and a new developer platform that allows partners to build companion applications on their sites.

In reaching out to external sites, LinkedIn is hoping to expand the reach of its members' professional networks, and, in the process, further entrench its position as the top online community destination for working professionals. LinkedIn is one of the fastest-growing social networks today, boasting a 189 percent jump in membership this October compared last October, and attracting about 1.1 million new members a month.

LinkedIn will launch the new platform with BusinessWeek as its inaugural partner. Future partnerships are not being announced but, Allen Blue, LinkedIn's co-founder and vice president of product strategy, said his company will be very selective.

"LinkedIn is focused on enhancing the productivity of the professional world," Blue told InternetNews.com. "With that in mind, we will only work with select business partners who have already built high value, high productivity applications."

The developer program, called the Intelligent Applications Platform, will have two components.

The first is a set of APIs and widgets that LinkedIn will make available to its partners to integrate into their own sites. The second enables those partners to establish a branded presence in the LinkedIn community through Google's OpenSocial development model.

Starting today, LinkedIn members reading an article on BusinessWeek's site will be able to mouse over an interactive link to a business mentioned in the story where a balloon will appear telling them how many people in their immediate and extended networks, and their area, are connected with the company. Clicking on one of the links will direct the reader to a page on LinkedIn where those people's profiles appear, making it possible for the networking to begin.

The OpenSocial utility, which is still in development, will allow partner sites to build into the LinkedIn network by posting interactive bulletins on the site. For example, a calendar of events sponsored by a partner that would tell LinkedIn members who from their network will be attending. The idea of giving a preview of the attendance list is intended to help LinkedIn members make an informed decision of the business and networking value of the event.

In the launch of its "network-wise" homepage, appearing in beta Monday, LinkedIn is adding several features in an effort to improve the business value of the information presented to its members.

The redesign will give users access to several new modules, allowing them to create customized searches for jobs and people, as well as an Answers feature that enables them to track and participate in the conversations that their colleagues are having about the topics of the greatest relevance to their professional life.

LinkedIn is also revamping its network updates feature, which will provide a target, better-organized, now archived news feed on the actions that the people in their circle taking.

The final addition is LinkedIn's souped-up news section, which enables members to build a feed around what matters most to them, like their own company or its direct competitors. The articles are served up by Moreover Technologies, a VeriSign company that specializes in delivering customized real-time news.

The twist is that LinkedIn will pack the articles with metadata to help its members gauge the value of an article at a glance. The articles most widely read by a member's network will appear at the top of the feed. By pairing news articles with an aggregate (and anonymous) number of in-network clicks, LinkedIn is aiming to virally spread relevant news articles without its members having to pass along a link to everyone in their network.

LinkedIn reports that it has more than 16 million members, including executives from each of the Fortune 500 companies. Members have an average age of 41 years, and an average household income of $106,000.