LinkedIn’s New Platform Is All About Identity

Last week, LinkedIn unveiled an upgraded version of its platform to developers. The professional social network has tried since 2009 to establish itself as a platform with open APIs and services for third parties, not to simply copy Facebook, but to confirm itself as the source for professional profiles. With 100 million users and an upcoming IPO, what are the chances of LinkedIn sealing up this role?
The release is about helping other sites harness LinkedIn’s users and their information in the hopes that off-site activity will drive users back to LinkedIn for increased engagement. The new platform release is based on Javascript APIs, which should make its services faster and more developer-friendly. It supports OAuth 2.0 for better authentication integration with other sign-in services, whether they’re homegrown or from Twitter, Facebook or Google. It also offers a handful of plug-ins that support sign-in, link-sharing and recommendations, and ways to pull up snippets or full profiles of LinkedIn users and companies.
But LinkedIn’s best opportunity for gaining traction as a platform is to turn users’ professional profiles into “identities” — the equivalent of a user’s digital business card, but with trusted authentication behind it. So third-party sites will find LinkedIn’s authenticated sign-in plug-in the most appealing new feature.
To further lock in and expand its role as professional profile of choice, LinkedIn should:

  • Evangelize the professional identity angle, starting with sign-ins at sites for business content, travel and gadgets. With the user’s permission, share user data more liberally than Facebook or Apple.
  • Do the same with and enterprise collaboration companies.
  • Build relationships with site development agencies as an incentive for companies to beef up their LinkedIn pages; consider offering limited-time free ads or job listings/searches to sweeten the pot.

Sure, the new platform sounds a lot like Facebook Connect, but LinkedIn isn’t constructing a comments network. LinkedIn’s users aren’t “Liking” or sharing as they do on Facebook — yet — but LinkedIn profiles contain valuable professional information (job title, history, expertise), and its data about company connections are much richer than Facebook’s. For more on this, as well as LinkedIn’s overall strategy, see my latest weekly update at GigaOM Pro.