Today I was investigating the LinkedIn API. Most developers who want to create a social app have tended to use the Facebook API but I was looking at an idea that was business focused so LinkedIn would be a better fit. While the API is fairly full featured, there are some big differences compared to what Facebook offers. Most of those differences focus on how you discovery the app and how you use it.
On Facebook, apps are tightly integrated into the Facebook UI. Apps appear right in Facebook pages, you can discover new apps in the global directory and apps can add make updates to the news stream. All these means that if you have a good app, you can get away with a fraction of the marketing that you normally have to do. This opportunity has driven a lot of developers to create a Facebook app. Today there are over 500K apps that have being created (500K by Facebook’s own stats).
With LinkedIn, your app does not live inside the LinkedIn site. In fact, the LinkedIn API is more like Facebook Connect, which is geared for companies that already have their own website. It allows your site to not require users to have to create a new account on your site and allows you to access the user’s Facebook data. But as mentioned, all this happens on your own site. It is up to you to find ways to drive new traffic to your app. While there is an app directory on LinkedIn, it only has 13 apps on it. In terms of the actual API, it’s fairly robust. You are able to get at all of a user’s profile information. Also, you can get their connections and do updates to a user’s status.
So as long as you already have an installed base or feel comfortable building your vistor/customer base in the traditional way, the LinkedIn API does allow you to add social type features.