LinkedIn opens site to developers, jazzes up design

LinkedIn will let developers build applications for its professional networking site, part of a raft of changes to the professional networking site.

LinkedIn will let developers build applications for its professional networking site, an approach recently undertaken by social networking competitor Facebook, to make its site more interactive, the company said Monday.

The move is one of several LinkedIn is making, including launching a beta version of a redesigned home page, to keep its less flashy but more business-minded contacts network site vibrant alongside rivals MySpace and Facebook. LinkedIn said it wants to be a hub for business information.

"When we look forward to 2008, we see people and professionals more and more going beyond the connections and actually using LinkedIn to make themselves more productive on a daily basis," said Adam Nash, senior product director, in a video on LinkedIn's blog.

LinkedIn has made a deal with BusinessWeek magazine to provide content to the site. A feed has been added that will show news stories on LinkedIn users' profiles that are related to their companies, as well as highlight other stories their colleagues are reading, Nash said.

LinkedIn said its Intelligent Application Platform will let developers build applications that appear on LinkedIn as well as applications for their own Web sites that use information from consenting LinkedIn users, the company said on its blog.

LinkedIn said that developers can use its APIs (application programming interfaces) to build widgets, or small applications. The widgets can, for example, be integrated with a job-hosting Web site and let users see how many connections they have within that company.

LinkedIn said it will support the APIs for Google's OpenSocial development platform, which is designed to make it easier to create applications that are compatible with multiple social networking sites.

LinkedIn, which counts 17 million registered users, is purely focused on establishing professional connections, and its site appears more static that other social networking Web sites. It lets users "connect," and then see each others' contacts, as well as information such as job histories.

LinkedIn is also trying to round out its site with other features to give it more pizazz. The site only just a few months ago allowed people to upload their own photos, and the site is devoid of catchy features, such as the ability to post songs and share photo albums, seen on Facebook and MySpace.

But the redesigned home page now has a "network update" feature that lists what changes other users have made to their profiles. LinkedIn also added e-mail capabilities, as well a feature to import contacts from Web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo, AOL and Google.

Users can now also add modules to a so-called "professional dashboard" on their profile. The modules enable searches for other users or jobs, or participation in a community question-and-answer forum.

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