LinkedIn Launches OpenSocial Apps

October 30th, 2008 7 Comments

Did you notice that LinkedIn debuted their applications platform and some very serious business apps yesterday?

LinkedIn continues to chug along as the business social network, and their launch on OpenSocial is of interest to us because of our own work to do this on Connect and their business focus.

So, I did a pretty thorough test drive and decided to share it with you guys. No need to thank me.

No sheep throwing or vampires on LinkedIn; it’s all business, all the time. Aside from the focus on serious apps, I like their launch of a limited (they say ten, but I only count nine) number of apps. This allows for promotion of each app (and partner), as you can see from the TechCrunch post, where they’ve helpfully embedded the video tutorial for each app.

Based on my experience with apps on Facebook, iGoogle, my iPhone and other app “platforms”, I generally find value in a few apps, even though I may test-drive a lot of apps. So, I like the focus on useful apps, rather than a scatter-shot of as many apps as possible to fill up the app directory.

LinkedIn will have an approval process for developer-submitted apps. I’m not sure they’re even accepting submissions yet, since I can’t find the developer section, not that I looked much. They’re also limiting the number of apps a user can install to 15.

I installed the SlideShare and WordPress apps as a test-drive. The WP app can be placed on your profile, allowing you to extend your blog to your network of connections. Pretty nice, but still a bit buggy. It wouldn’t work for this blog at all yesterday, but I was able to add other people’s blogs. Today, it’s working fine.

The SlideShare app is smart for LinkedIn, allowing you to add another distribution mechanism for your slides. It’s way more targeted than simply using SlideShare by itself. Imagine if each presenter at OpenWorld pointed you to their LinkedIn profile. You could view the slides (and other slide decks) and continue the discussion around the presentation topic. I think this is super valuable and hope people use it.

LinkedIn has undergone a lot of UI changes over the last year, and I’m a bit surprised they didn’t take the new Facebook approach to apps, i.e. putting them on a separate page. After launching their F8 platform, Facebook learned quickly how cluttered profiles become when you add apps to them.

When you add apps to your profile in LinkedIn they appear above your experience, which seems counterintuitive. And they can’t be moved. So people now have to scroll way below the fold to see your experience details. Not a huge deal, unless you want to share content like slides or your blog.

LinkedIn also allows you to install apps on your personal home page, which won’t mess up your profile. The flipside is the apps are only visible to you then. The apps on the home page can be moved, but they appear in the smaller, right-hand column (versus the bigger, middle column on the profile page), making the display view smaller.

Oh and some apps function differently depending on where you install them, e.g. the SlideShare app shows my slide feed on the profile and presentations from my connections on the home page. This is witty and makes some sense, but it’s a bit jarring.

One lacking feature I need is the ability to see what apps I have installed, e.g. a My Applications section. Sure, there aren’t many now, but I still want to see what I have installed.

Overall, I’m favorably impressed. None of the apps I tried was a must-have, but they were should-haves. Based on the previous UI work, I expect that the addition of apps will drive UI changes. I’m also wondering what developer apps will end up there. The existing apps are built by companies, rather than individual developers, and I wonder if these OpenSocial apps will turn up on other sites.

LinkedIn still attracts people who won’t use Facebook because of its serious attitude. I’m curious to see how apps are uptaken because the demographic is different enough to yield interesting trends.

Another OpenSocial development of note this week was the release of the OpenSocial Dev App, which lets you prototype and build directly against live container environments.

This OpenSocial application provides the ability to write and save JavaScript code samples to execute against OpenSocial containers. This helps rapidly test sample OpenSocial code.

Code samples can be saved and loaded. You can give other developers links to code samples for instructional or debugging purposes.

Sweet.

So, a big week for OpenSocial, which has been quietly gaining momentum.

Your thoughts belong in the comments.


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7 Responses to “LinkedIn Launches OpenSocial Apps”

  1. mcannonbrookes Says:

    Jake – good review, pretty much paralleled my experience.

    The one thing I couldn't find out (which I'm guessing both you and I have an interest in!) is whether these applications are available _outside_ LinkedIn? Where is the URL to Slideshare's OpenSocial app? Shouldn't it work on Connect?

    m

  2. Jake Says:

    Yeah, I was wondering about that. Maybe they're holding off on exposing that until the app directory launches. Theoretically, they should work on other containers, but I'm told by Anthony and Rich that this isn't as smooth as it sounds.

    Aside from that, I would wonder about terms, etc. I'm guessing this will come in time; doubtful that Google would participate in a OS container that's closed, with non-reusable apps.

    Never know though. Someone should ask Chris.

  3. Chris Schalk Says:

    Hey Jake,
    Nice write up!
    Yes, regarding apps being installed on multiple containers, this is largely the responsibility of the developer to get his/her app into other containers, and yes there are some differences between containers. These differences, or extra-spec extensions can arise when individual containers provide their own value-add features, often specific to their own userbase, or theme.
    The idea of improving cross container development to handle these issues is gaining traction though. So for example the new OpenSocial Wiki (wiki.opensocial.org) has a nice starting document describing cross container dev issues. See: http://wiki.opensocial.org/index.php?title=Cros
    We're hoping to get all the major containers to have content. We also need to add a LinkedIn entry now that they're live. :-)
    -Chris

  4. Jake Says:

    I saw your Wiki announcement right after I published this, definitely a busy week.

    Thanks for clarifying the details on cross-container apps. Knowing those will be critical as containers launch.

    What about the availability of the LinkedIn apps, e.g. SlideShare, outside of LinkedIn? I suppose it's up to the developer, but inquiring minds want to know.

  5. topperge Says:

    LinkedIn doesn't have a developer community site (at least its not public). The only way to get access to their APIs / container is to email them at developers@linkedin.com and wait for them to get back to you. I asked to be part of their beta a while ago and haven't heard a thing. I even emailed the guys in charge of the program directly. I know they're trying to make sure they aren't facebook slinging sheep, but you'd think an @oracle.com email address would warrant a reply. Heres to hoping!

  6. Jake Says:

    Maybe Chris can get you in the door. He's all things to all people on this post ;)

  7. business directory Says:

    One lacking feature I need is the ability to see what apps I have installed, e.g. a My Applications section. Sure, there aren’t many now, but I still want to see what I have installed.

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