​LinkedIn wants to make your business chats snappier

LinkedIn has beefed up its messaging feature with automated smart replies.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
(Image: File photo)

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network for professionals, hopes to boost engagement among its 500 million users with a new smart replies feature for LinkedIn Messaging.

The new feature relies on machine learning to offer quick replies that are relevant to the context of a conversation, such as "Yes I am," "Sure," and "What time?" The company says it will show up to three responses based on the message a user has received from a contact.

LinkedIn engineers are also working on a more personalized smart replies, such as "Thanks, Joe" versus just "Thanks."

The feature is rolling out worldwide, but only in English for now, and will be available on the LinkedIn mobile app and the website for desktops. Users can opt-out of the feature in settings. LinkedIn's help page notes the roll out is happening gradually, so it might not yet be available in all regions.

Unlike Microsoft's Skype, which uses Cortana for its smart replies, LinkedIn's engineers developed its system from scratch.

LinkedIn's engineering blog explains that they've added controls so that its system doesn't suggest swear words and doesn't generate suggestions when a user swears in a message.

To build the feature the company anonymized a massive set of real conversations to identify groups of potential synthesized replies while the machine learning message classification model was also trained on a "very large collection of conversations."

"Conversations are automatically scanned by our software (i.e. not by humans) to find replies corresponding to one of the previously synthesized candidate replies," Nimesh Chakravarthi, a software engineer from LinkedIn's product engineering team, said.

"From these are derived the training examples, consisting of the label (the candidate reply) as well as the context in which it was used (the conversation preceding this reply, and its participants)."

The smart replies feature relies on LinkedIn's instant messaging platform. According to LinkedIn, recipients of a message should see a suggested reply a few milliseconds after receiving the message.

Microsoft completed its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn last year and reported LinkedIn revenues were approximately $1.1 billion in its Q4 2017 period. Microsoft will update LinkedIn results at tomorrow's quarterly update. Microsoft doesn't report active monthly user numbers, but CEO Satya Nadella said that sessions among LinkedIn's 500 million users were up 20 percent for the third quarter in a row.

LinkedIn overhauled its design earlier this year to focus more on messaging and the newsfeed, which moved it closer to the look and feel of Facebook.

Microsoft has been integrating LinkedIn with its Dynamics 365 products for sales and CRM.

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