LinkedIn's platform opens for business

LinkedIn, the professional networking web site, has publicly launched its platform to third-party developers, with an emphasis on supporting business and “productivity” applications that have failed to gain traction on other social networks.

Called InApps, it looks pretty promising.

LinkedIn officially launched its application platform last December. But it stayed in private beta until today’s more advanced version.

The Mountain View, Calif. company has only let established companies on board. One app, built by Amazon, shows you what your coworkers and connections are reading. Another app, built by presentation-sharing site SlideShare, lets you share presentation on LinkedIn.

Productivity apps haven’t generally gained much traction on other social networks, maybe because those sites were too, well, social. Because LinkedIn is about business, this is perhaps the most obvious place for such apps to succeed. There are eight partner companies that are offering applications at this point, carefully selected for their business relevance; LinkedIn is looking for more developer partners, but it clearly is very picky.

Among the others, an app by Tripit lets you share your travel plans and see who else is close by. Apps built by blog platforms SixApart and WordPress let you import feeds into LinkedIn so your network can see your posts. Box.net has built a file-storing app. Huddle has built an online collaboration app. Google Presentation, the company’s rival to Powerpoint, also made it in. LinkedIn itself built two: one that shows you the Twitter activity of your colleagues, and one that’s a sort of polling widget.

The question, of course, is whether LinkedIn’s 30 million total users want to use productivity apps on LinkedIn — as opposed other productivity apps on their desktops or on the web, like Powerpoint. To spur usage, LinkedIn has designed apps so that you can choose to add them to your profile page. Actions your friends take in apps will also show up in the LinkedIn news feed feature, called “Network Updates.”

Because apps are tied in to your professional LinkedIn network, the apps could prove more relevant here than elsewhere.

The company also has an external application programming interface — a way for other web sites to access LinkedIn information and vice-versa. That functionality isn’t live on the platform yet, but eventually, you’ll likely be able to do things like post a presentation to the SlideShare web site and have that information show up in LinkedIn.

Due to its serious business clientele, the company says it is cautious about the “signal to noise” ratio. If a friend asks you to use an application, you can do so without having to install it, unlike some other social networks. In other words, you’ll only end up adding applications that you find useful.

Application developers can charge subscription fees for use of advanced features of their apps, which Huddle and Box.net do. LinkedIn doesn’t allow third-party ad networks in, but it does offer to help place ads from its business-focused advertisers with the applications. LinkedIn has said in the past that it’s making more than $100 million, partly because it can deliver targeted ads to its well-heeled user base. So these ads may be worth something extra to apps, too. Tripit is already using this service to run ads for the Marriott hotel chain.

The platform itself uses the 0.7 specification of the OpenSocial platform standard — an industry standard that LinkedIn and many other social networks based their platforms on.

For more info, go check out your LinkedIn account and add the apps for yourself. Or watch this video overview:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnqBKfhknF0&hl=en&fs=1%5D

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