Social networking site LinkedIn is the latest online service to take a more mobile-friendly stance, as wireless devices continue to become more Web-enabled and attract applications typically used by desktop and notebook computer users.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company today announced m.linkedin.com, a special Web site where mobile device users can access their LinkedIn accounts.
[cob:Related_Articles]Currently in beta, m.linkedin.com is available to users of Apple’s iPhone, as well as the RIM BlackBerry and other popular smartphones. The company plans to release a final version in spring.
“Anyone with a LinkedIn account can use it,” Brandon Duncan, director of engineering at LinkedIn, told InternetNews.com. “The main reason this is launching as a beta is that we’ve provided a minimal feature set for mobile devices. There are a lot of additional features we want to add, but first we want to get feedback from mobile users of what they like and what they want.”
The mobile site provides the usual features available to PC-based users: connecting to contacts; searching profiles, photos and biographical information; inviting others to join; and receiving notice about contacts’ updated information.
LinkedIn said its mobile push came about as a response to the thousands of iPhone users who it said are already using the service — even though the site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, making it slower for them to access.
To better support those users, LinkedIn designed its new mobile site with a look and feel reminiscent of a standard iPhone application.
“We recognized iPhone users are heavy Web users and early-adopter types willing to give a new application a try,” Duncan said.
He added that when Apple releases its software development kit for the iPhone later this month, he expects LinkedIn will offer deeper integration to the device’s address book and other enhancements.
For users of other smartphones, m.linked.com offers a WAP
“We fully expect to offer a Blackberry-optimized version,” Duncan said.
The new mobile beta site also will be available in multiple languages, including French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. That move acknowledges the site’s heavy focus on growing an international user base: Of LinkedIn’s reported 19 million members, slightly more than half of them are based outside the U.S.
Duncan said he thinks services like a mobile version of LinkedIn could help promote wireless applications to U.S. users, who typically prefer PC-based services.
European and Asian users, on the other hand, are far more willing to rely on their mobile devices for banking and transactional applications, he said.
LinkedIn’s move follows that of other social networking players, who have long placed a priority on attracting mobile users. MySpace and Facebook, for instance, offer special features or editions of their sites in partnership with wireless carriers.
Yahoo, likewise, also has ambitious mobile plans that include social networking.
Additionally, even enterprise software players have gotten into the act, launching mobile interfaces or product versions designed to appeal to an increasingly wireless corporate America.
Despite consumers’ burgeoning interest in wireless apps and their already-rabid enthusiasm for social networking, Duncan said LinkedIn’s latest moves don’t signal a change in direction.
Instead, it plans to remain “focused squarely on professionals,” he said.
“We expect there to be places where you have your social and professional connections, and you don’t necessarily mingle those,” he said.