Home LinkedIn Hits 50 Million Users; Still a Roach Motel (Updated)

LinkedIn Hits 50 Million Users; Still a Roach Motel (Updated)

Updated at 11:30 PST with comment from LinkedIn. One million new people signed up for LinkedIn accounts already this month, taking the professional social network past the 50 million user mark. LinkedIn has some of the most valuable user data in all of social networking, not just because its members are disproportionately wealthy, but because the site is one of the only places you can find a person’s occupational information and history.

“What do you do for a living” is one of the most potent questions a person can be asked and online that means LinkedIn. Unfortunately, in this era of data portability and connected social networks, LinkedIn isn’t playing very nicely.

Every time I see a new social application online I think “it sure would be nice if a person’s job title and employer were displayed along side their profile on this service.” Where is that information? LinkedIn! Who won’t let startups access that info? LinkedIn!

Programmatic access to LinkedIn data is reserved for a very select few high-profile API partners. The company appears to operate under the assumption that only heavyweight partners could move the needle for its bottom line, not a thriving ecosystem of independent innovators. Hardly surprising for a company that spends so much of its time in public talking about how wealthy its users are.

FriendFeed used to include updates to your LinkedIn profile in the activity streams it displayed. That was great, but there was nothing official going on – FriendFeed was scraping LinkedIn. When LinkedIn added a layer of obfuscation over its HTML, FriendFeed took the hint and stopped, the now Facebook-owned company says.

Why not make LinkedIn all the more valuable by making it the currency that social sites all around the web make us of? Would that not drive all the more people to LinkedIn itself, to fill out their profiles there? It’s possible that LinkedIn has done a serious analysis of the benefits of a developer ecosystem vs. very limited partnerships and come to the conclusion that it has – but it still seems like a real shame.

Imagine the innovation that could be made possible by developer access to LinkedIn!

Congratulations to LinkedIn for hitting 50 million users. Now please open up the data! Otherwise we’ll have to cheer for a more open competitor to challenge your dominance in this market.

Update: Adam Nash, Vice President, Search & Platform Products at LinkedIn, says things are set to improve in the future. Below in comments he writes: “Marshall, I think you’ll be quite happy with our plans for improvements to our APIs. Stay tuned.” Fantastic! Let’s see what you’ve got, Adam.

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