LinkedIn Developer HomePageLinkedIn is taking the next step in expanding its platform today by releasing plugins that connect the professional networking service to external websites and applications.

While developers can build applications that run on LinkedIn itself, perhaps the most promising part of the platform involves the ability to access LinkedIn data from beyond the LinkedIn site, on other sites and apps. Think of how Facebook has used Facebook Connect and its various social plugins to expand beyond Facebook.com, approaching its vision of becoming your social identity wherever you are on the Web. LinkedIn seems to be attempting something similar with your professional identity.

These new plugins should make that process easier. In a company blog post, LinkedIn’s Adam Nash describes the additions as “a featherweight way to light up your site and increase engagement, without any costly development overhead.” Plugins offer the ability to allow users to sign in with their LinkedIn account, view member profiles, view company profiles, recommend products, and more.

The plugins use the new JavaScript version of the platform that LinkedIn announced in October. Thousands of developers have built applications for the upgraded platform already, LinkedIn says, resulting in more than one billion pageviews. Now the company is opening the platform to all developers.