LinkedIn Opening Platform

Last night I received a tip: LinkedIn is considering opening their platform to developers. If true, this would be huge news. While a bit skeptical, there are a few reasons that this could actually be taking place. Since Facebook opened their platform almost a month ago, I have been receiving the majority of my professional contact requests through Facebook and not LinkedIn. I have read others around the blogosphere that are experiencing the same phenomenon. As this occurs, LinkedIn is going to have to take some sort of action that keeps them in the game. This may be it. Enabling developers to build applications for their network would be huge, but they would also have to be cautious when launching a developer platform. LinkedIn is known for its absence of distractions within profiles. If they opened their platform, individuals’ profiles could rapidly become cluttered with excess features. As a result LinkedIn would need an effective application filtering process that only allows value-added applications to their platform. While this is currently an unverified source, it makes a lot of sense.

Additionally, I’ve been thinking more about how Facebook could really put the nail in LinkedIn’s coffin. Facebook currently offers the ability to control how much of your profile individual friends can view. Some friends can only view my limited profile, while others can view everything about me. While I have yet to take advantage of this feature, taking it one step further could be the end of LinkedIn. If Facebook allowed users to differentiate between their professional and social relationships and control what parts of their profile are visible based on relationship type, it would be the end of most social networks. There would no longer be the need for spreading your relationships across multiple social networks since you can control all of them from one place. Additionally, using the existing platform someone could already develop an application that provides alternative profiles for users. While this won’t be as effective as Facebook developing it them self, it would be a step in the right direction.

LinkedIn is still growing like gang busters (adding over 180,000 users per day on top of an existing user base of 11 million) and they are going to have to take immediate action to secure them self as the leader in business networking. Weeks ago, LinkedIn CEO Dan Nye claimed that they will “own business networking.” Such confidence could prove disastrous if Facebook heeds my advice to allow users to differentiate between professional and social relationships. Perhaps Nye’s confidence was based on the fact that he knows LinkedIn has something up their sleeve. That something may just be opening up their platform. According to CNN LinkedIn may even choose to become integrated with Facebook.

Wouldn’t it at least be smart, then, for LinkedIn to deploy itself as an application on Facebook, given Facebook’s new open API strategy? Quite possibly, said Nye who pointed out that Hoffman was an early investor in Facebook, and that Facebook backer Peter Thiel also has money in LinkedIn. “We know each other well,” said Nye. “We like each other.”

The bottom line is that a battle has been started between the two networks (both Valleywag and Scoble have commented on this) and the opening of LinkedIn’s platform may only be retaliatory attack to Facebook’s decision to open up. This will surely be a good fight.

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