Should LinkedIn do battle with Facebook?
The word is that LinkedIn is ready to announce a new developer platform. What does this mean for their position in the social networking space?
Dan Farber, over at ZDNet, is reporting that LinkedIn's founder, Reid Hoffman, has made their plans clear to open up API's and create a developer platform. I am not exactly sure whether this means that developers will now be able to create applications, using LinkedIn's data to be displayed on their own site or if it will take the form of widgets on LinkedIn's own site like Facebook has done with their platform.
First off, let me make something clear. I do not think that LinkedIn can be the same type of social network that Facebook is, just like I do not think that Facebook can be the same type of network that LinkedIn is. The central focus of LinkedIn is connecting people for professional reasons, whether it be a job or something else. LinkedIn is great for making those professional contacts and getting your experience and resume posted online. It is perfect for meeting new business contacts that you would not have otherwise had the opportunity to. Facebook, on the other hand, doesn't have a focus on someone's professional life, other than a small module on "Education and Work." It's more about sharing photos and events, talking with your friends, and connecting with people on a more personal level rather than a professional level.
One potentially interesting move by LinkedIn could be to develop a Facebook application, so that if someone is interested in connecting with a person on Facebook on a professional level, then there is a link to their LinkedIn profile, with some information about their resume in a module. This scenario could potentially benefit both sites, LinkedIn especially. Depending on which way LinkedIn goes with their developer platform, Facebook might be able to make a similar module that goes on LinkedIn profiles.
If LinkedIn wants to be like Facebook is now, I think that is the biggest mistake that they could make. Nobody wants to be looking for new business contacts and see pictures of them at parties on the same page (although some employers check Facebook for offensive pictures before hiring.) Even though photos would not be the way to go, adding an Events feature to LinkedIn, similar to what Facebook has, could definitely be beneficial when planning meetings, interviews, etc.
The two services are geared towards completely different crowds, even if some people use both. A lot of young people in the business world will use both Facebook and LinkedIn, since, combined, they provide a place to meet people socially and a place to make business contacts. Then you get a lot of older people who would have a use for LinkedIn, to further their businesses, but have little to no motivation to be on a social networking service like Facebook. I really do not think that they are or should be in competition. Both of these services have their own place and can peacefully coexist.