Last week LinkedIn launched their platform with several apps including SlideShare. Several bloggers wrote about the business oriented nature of the apps, and that you cannot throw sheep ! But there are reasons the platform is important going beyond the lack of sheep.
1) Its the first business oriented social network that is embracing a platform approach. This is the first time that business users have access to other types of apps that are relevant to them.
2) Its the biggest platform built on Open Social. Its an important endorsement for OpenSocial. I predict that we will see more platforms using it in the next few months.
3) It incorporates the lessons learned from other platforms including Facebook. The most noticeable thing about the LInkedIn platform is that they have worked hard to remain true to the core goal of LinkedIn (utility for professionals), and not let the apps take over the user experience of LinkedIn.
This is both reflected in the choice of business oriented apps (wordpress, movabletype, slideshare, huddle, google apps). And in the way that apps work on the site.
We experienced this again and again in the months of working together with LinkedIn for the SlideShare app. LinkedIn understands the rhythm and cadence of the LinkedIn site. They worked hard with the apps to make sure they added functionality, but did not fundamentally change that user experience.
I strongly agree with this approach. Looking back on the timeline for the Facebook platform, its clear that for a period of time, Facebook lost control of their end user experience. The apps were in your face (several were extremely spammy). When you have thousands of apps doing this, then pretty soon the social space itself changes. This is why Facebook had to do something as drastic as putting all the apps in a separate Boxes tab cutting traffic to the apps in half.
Social networks have a delicate balance, there is a rhythm to the social activity. There are channels for communication between users, and different channels are used in different ways, with different frequency. You cannot suddenly change this. Instead you have to understand what the rhythm of communication is, what users value about the experience on the site and make sure that does not completely change, even while apps are added to the site.
It will be interesting to see how the platform evolves in the months ahead. But I think LinkedIn gets this and am very bullish about the platform.