LinkedIn Opens APIs, Clearing Way for New Apps

LinkedIn today opened a set of APIs to software developers who want to build apps to interact with the social networking service. With this move, LinkedIn jumps into a growing battle between Google, Facebook and others that want to be the center of your everyday social media experience.

LinkedIn announced today the release of its APIs and the launch of its "LinkedIn Platform," which will enable developers to integrate LinkedIn into their business applications and websites.

The announcement comes on the heels of partnerships with Microsoft, IBM and RIM's BlackBerry, via which LinkedIn will integrate with Outlook and Lotus Notes. A LinkedIn mobile application will soon be available for the BlackBerry.

With this move, LinkedIn joins the list of social media platforms, such as Google Wave, Facebook (which released its APIs in April) and Salesforce.com's just-announced Chatter Collaboration tool, all vying to be at the center of your everyday social media experience.

LinkedIn has tradionally been cast as the conservative choice among social networking apps, so it may develop a different kind of application ecosystem than Facebook's quizzes and games, for example.

LinkedIn has also announced that an interface redesign is pending, though mum's the word on timing.

Beginning today, developers can register at developer.linkedin.com to receive a unique key that allows access to discussion boards, sample code, provisioning code and more, says Adam Nash, VP of search and platform at LinkedIn.

Several developers helped test the platform, including developers from the poplular Twitter utility TweetDeck, which is announcing full support for the LinkedIn platform in its next version, according to Nash. These developers helped to provide feedback, which allowed the LinkedIn Platform to become "so easy to maneuver that developers will be able to get going in minutes," Nash says. Iain Dodsworth, founder and CIO of TweetDeck, says that his team was able to "request a key and actually write functioning code in less than 15 minutes."

Thousands of developer requests prompted LinkedIn to consider releasing its APIs, Nash says. Originally, requests to use LinkedIn APIs were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, where priority was given to "integrations that provide the most value to the greatest number of LinkedIn users," according to its former policy. The LinkedIn Platform now allows that access to everyone.

"I think what end users will be excited about is the idea that they'll be able to use LinkedIn everywhere," Nash says. "There will be that awareness, trust and value that is placed on LinkedIn when it's leveraged on all the apps people value."

Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

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