Business social network LinkedIn has given itself a New Year's makeover a few weeks early: the site has announced a home page redesign and new features, and has simultaneously launched a developer program that it calls "InApps."
For LinkedIn, which says that it recently passed 17 million user accounts, this move comes at a time when some observers are saying that business social networks are about to take off in a big way. The redesigned home page has not gone fully live, but is now accessible to logged-in LinkedIn members on a beta page. Included among the improvements are modules to show what questions people in your network are asking through the LinkedIn Answers feature; a selection of "connections of your connections"; and a smattering of jobs and opportunities that your network might offer.
Along with the redesign comes LinkedIn News, a set of headlines aggregated from about 10,000 sites and blogs that are tailored to be directly relevant to a user's company, industry, and competitors. This feature is being rolled out to a limited number of LinkedIn users and will be more widely available in early 2008.
But of more interest to the geek crowd may be "InApps" (short for Intelligent Applications), LinkedIn's answer to the myriad developer platforms that have emerged in the wake of the Facebook Platform. But InApps won't bring food fights and zombies to LinkedIn, something that became clear early on when executives started hinting that the company would unveil a developer initiative. Rather, this will be a select group of productivity applications including internal widgets (a calendar of conferences, for example) and code for porting LinkedIn functions to external Web sites.
LinkedIn is also a partner in Google's somewhat stalled OpenSocial initiative, and the company has said that InApps' structure "(includes) the ability to develop applications that will run within LinkedIn using the OpenSocial development model."
"The goal of the Intelligent Applications Platform is to help make our users more effective by providing them with access to the intelligence of their professional network both on LinkedIn and on other sites they visit to get work done," LinkedIn CEO Dan Nye said in a statement. "Our focus is 100 percent professional, so we will be working with select business partners to build high value, high productivity applications."
One of LinkedIn's inaugural partners, BusinessWeek, has used InApps to create links on its Web site that lead to LinkedIn profiles and company information.