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LinkedIn preps Project Voyager to relaunch desktop, mobile strategies

LinkedIn's mobile channels drive at least half of the engagement on the platform on a weekly basis. But the professional social network wants to keep things simple.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Tapping further into its data treasure troves, LinkedIn is revamping its app portfolio from the inside out, spearheaded by a new product dubbed "Project Voyager."

Behind the scenes, the professional social network is honing a multi-app strategy in which LinkedIn is striving to build standalone yet complementary experiences across its mobile and desktop channels.

"Historically, we have this amazing data science team, so we focused on how, algorithmically, we can help you build the most relevant feed," said Joff Redfern, vice president of product at LinkedIn.

Speaking at the social media company's new offices in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday, Redfern explained LinkedIn will continue to update the desktop experience with more functionality but keeping things simple on mobile.

"Because the screen is so small, you can only fit one or two things at the same time," added Kiran Prasad, vice president of engineering at LinkedIn, describing the app design process as "a test in relevancy."

Redfern suggested that the "cognitive load has been reduced" as LinkedIn has teased out different features (i.e. suggested job listings) to other apps within the LinkedIn portfolio, such as search tool Lookup or digital newsreader app Pulse, rather than keeping them all in one program.

Hemendra Kumar, director of user experience design at LinkedIn, compared the mobile suite to the cast of Pixar's animated film "The Incredibles," arguing each app has a superpower, but when assembled together, they resemble a family.

Within this strategy, Redfern characterized Voyager as "the center of gravity" within the LinkedIn portfolio.

Voyager will be available for mobile web, iOS and Android - but not for Windows Phone or Blackberry. Redfern defended that the majority of its mobile users are accessing LinkedIn primarily through the former three mobile systems.

Although an official release date has not been announced yet, LinkedIn executives promised it will be pushed out within a few weeks.

LinkedIn continues to fill in economic graph

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LinkedIn has also made progress on other strategic initiatives, according to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, speaking to thousands of customers at the Silicon Valley company's annual Talent Connect summit in Anaheim on Wednesday morning.

Two of the initiatives Weiner highlighted were tripling membership in China to 13 million (up from four million in early 2014) and completing the $1.5 billion acquisition of learning development company Lynda.com, which Weiner said completed the puzzle to LinkedIn's Economic Graph ambitions.

Constructing the world's first "Economic Graph" has been at the forefront of LinkedIn's long-term agenda for a few years now. Weiner reiterated LinkedIn's plan is to digitally map the global economy by having a digital representation (and LinkedIn profile) for every employee, company and educational facility worldwide.

LinkedIn currently has over 380 million members across more than 200 countries on the platform, and Weiner noted the shorter-term goal of mapping 780 million people.

But the real ambition, he beamed, was to "create economic opportunity for all three billion people in the global workforce."

"We're in a position to dream even bigger," Weiner posited.

Like its social media brethren Twitter and Facebook, mobile is going to be a primary -- if not the ultimate -- channel in reaching those prospective users.

Recalling how LinkedIn started as more of a "desktop-first" application, Weiner cited that LinkedIn's mobile app already drives at least half of the engagement on the platform on a weekly basis.

With Voyager's launch, LinkedIn is upgrading its flagship mobile application. Contrary to the corporate nature of the product, LinkedIn is moving to make the mobile app's user interface more reflective of personal branding.

LinkedIn also appears to be bolstering its toolset with features that have popped up and seen success on some other social platforms, including Facebook and Slack. For example, the desktop LinkedIn experience is being upgraded with "conversation starters," such as anniversaries and birthdays while also being prepped for calendar integrations.

Furthermore, LinkedIn recently replaced its inbox with a chat-style messaging service.

Acknowledging it took a long time in the making, Weiner joked, "Welcome, LinkedIn, to the 21st century of communications."

However, Redfern clarified most of these updates affect the consumer-facing wing of the LinkedIn mobile app collection. LinkedIn is also updating its Recruiter and Referrals apps, both of which are also tapping into the company's data troves to surface more apt suggestions and connections.

The latest edition of Referrals will be ready on November 1. The next version of LinkedIn Recruiter is scheduled to roll out during the first quarter of 2016 as a free upgrade for current users.

Images via LinkedIn