LinkedIn has finally switched on its own OpenSocial-powered apps platform, which, on the surface at least, borrows quite a bit from Facebook. Unlike Facebook, however, apps are being heavily vetted by LinkedIn to ensure that they remain focused on helping members enhance their professional profile, as well as collaborate on work projects and become productive.
As co-founder Reid Hoffman explains: "This initial roll out features productivity applications that range from gathering information that professionals around you are generating to enhancing your abilities to collaborate and communicate more effectively. You’ll be able to work much more closely with your contacts on LinkedIn with tools such as file sharing, project management, business trips and many more."
Initial launch partners include Amazon, Box.net, Google, Huddle, Six Apart, SlideShare, Tripit, and WordPress.
Users install apps onto their home page for easy access, and any application activity can be optionally shared on their profile too, as part of the news feed. The latter providing the viral effect needed to encourage developers to write apps for the platform.
The apps currently available full into two camps: those that help to enhance a user's profile - resume 2.0 - and those that provide functionality for better collaboration with members of your network.
In the first camp, for example, there's the 'Reading List' app from Amazon ("Extend your professional profile by sharing the books you’re reading with other LinkedIn members.") or the Presentation apps from both Google and SlideShare, which enable you to embed a powerpoint-style presentation onto your profile. Similarly, apps from Wordpress and SixApart let you display your own blog feed.
On the productivity side, there's 'My Travel' from TripIt ("See where your LinkedIn network is traveling and when you will be in the same city as your colleagues.") or the more obvious file sharing applications from Box.net and Huddle ("... private, secure online workspaces packed with simple yet powerful project, collaboration and sharing tools for working with your connections.")
See also: The best Facebook apps for business and career enhancementMy bet is that most users will opt to use the 'pimp my profile' type of apps first, as they require much less work to implement and fall very much within the site's original utility of helping to attract recruiters. In comparison, the productivity apps require a slight shift in how users conceptualize LinkedIn, where the site moves from being a glorified rolodex to become a kind of productivity portal or start page that conveniently ties web-based apps to your existing social graph.
In terms of monetization, TechCrunch reports that "Apps won’t be allowed to use third party ad networks - instead, they’ll have to work with LinkedIn’s ad system." Apps will, however, be able to charge a subscription fee for their services.