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LinkedIn today announced it is revamping its developer program, moving away from an open API model to a partnership one. The company plans to limit its open APIs beginning on May 12, 2015.

After that date, many apps will break as LinkedIn will only support the following use cases:

  • Allowing members to represent their professional identity via their LinkedIn profile using the Profile API.
  • Enabling members to post certifications directly to their LinkedIn profile with the Add to Profile tools.
  • Enabling members to share professional content to their LinkedIn network from across the Web leveraging the Share API.
  • Enabling companies to share professional content to LinkedIn with the Company API.

To access any of LinkedIn’s other APIs, developers have to become members of one of its partnership programs, which require going through an application process. If you’re a developer, you can find more information on exactly what’s changing at the API level in the company’s transition guide and its updated API Terms of Use.

This is likely to enrage quite a few developers, and so LinkedIn is trying to save face by releasing a new Mobile SDK for Android. This SDK allows developers to build apps that let members log in with their LinkedIn credentials and deep-link to view member profiles within the LinkedIn app. That’s great, but it’s not likely to help much.

LinkedIn’s justification for the changes is that while it has seen “some exciting applications from our developer community” over the years, others have not delivered value to its community. In other words, apps of poor quality, or competitive to LinkedIn’s business, have caused the company to rethink its developer strategy.

LinkedIn claims that partnership integrations “provide the most value to our members, developers, and business.” While that’s likely true for the last one, it’s arguable for the first two.

Developers can often do a lot more with open APIs than if they are forced to join a specific program first. Members also get access to better apps when developers can spend time messing around with an API, instead of first having to jump through hoops figuring out what to build in order to apply to a partnership program.

Nevertheless, LinkedIn says it is seeing “great success” with this approach from partners such as Samsung, WeChat, and Evernote. That should surprise nobody, as companies looking to work with LinkedIn are still getting exactly what they need.

LinkedIn is well aware that it is risking a lot (alienating the whole developer community) with its move: “For many developers, we understand that today’s changes may be disappointing and disruptive, but we believe these changes will provide further clarity and focus on which types of integrations will be supported by LinkedIn.”

In other words, “We’re doing this whether it hurts your work or not. Deal with it.”

Update on May 12: LinkedIn says the changes have now begun to roll out.

We realize these changes are probably disruptive and disappointing for many of you, but we want to ensure you have the information you need about what has changed and provide some helpful troubleshooting tips to deal with any errors you are experiencing with your LinkedIn API integration. If you have not yet adjusted your code, you will begin to see errors when trying to authorize a new member or renew an access token. You may also not receive all the data you expect.

LinkedIn also thanked “all the developers who have built on and continue to build on our platform.” Those might end up being vastly different groups over the next few months.

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