The LinkedIn developers were busy this year! Since LinkedIn rarely actually announces new features officially, it’s a little difficult to build a comprehensive list, so I don’t claim for this to be. These are just the ones I’ve found most valuable:
- January – LinkedIn Answers
LinkedIn’s first foray into public interaction started off on shaky ground, but it has become one of the most useful resources on the web. People have used it for market research, solution selling, political outreach and even settle a bet with your kids. On the flip side, this is one of the easiest and best places to build your professional reputation online right now.
- March – Omaha Service Center
While I suppose some might not consider this a “feature” of LinkedIn, this probably has had as much impact on LinkedIn’s usability as anything else. I think they’re still probably understaffed for the volume of requests they have, but it’s like night and day compared to before. Not only do they have processes in place which usually resolve the issue, you can actually get hold of a real person (via email) who can help.
- April – Connecting Without Email Addresses
For the first couple of years of its existence, LinkedIn required you to have the email address of the person you wanted to connect with. That helped reduce unwanted connection requests from strangers, but it also made it difficult to connect with former colleagues and classmates you’ve lost touch with. Now by specifying how you know them, you can connect without knowing their email address. Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s solution to reducing unwanted connection invitations (the “I don’t know…” button), has some unintended negative consequences. Still, it beats reverting back to requiring email addresses for invitations.
- May – LinkedIn for Good
This is just a simple way to show your support and increase exposure for the causes you believe in. I don’t have any idea how successful it’s been for those organizations, but it’s a good concept.
- July – Save to PDF
I’m not sure when LinkedIn actually introduced this, as it was never announced, but we’ll call it July, since I discovered it in early August I can’t find any earlier references. This is great for working offline or sending profiles to other people who may not be able to see the profile directly in LinkedIn. Invaluable for recruiters.
- August – Improved Group Creation and Management
Creating a LinkedIn Group used to be a rather time-consuming and unpredictable process. In August they streamlined and partially automated the process, as well as adding new group management features.
- September – Photos
As we quoted Esther Dyson in Chapter 15 of The Virtual Handshake, “Photos are what make those sites feel like real communities, and they are an endlessly compelling medium, even when they depict people you don’t know and will never meet face to face.” Seeing faces helps you remember that these are real people and not just database entries.
- October – OpenSocial API
LinkedIn joined Google, Ning, Plaxo and others in announcing an open API for embedded applications within social networking applications. While not fully implemented yet, it holds the promise of making LinkedIn a far more comprehensive and capable platform.
- November – Private Messaging
Even though you already have a connection’s email address, it’s still far more convenient to send messages directly within LinkedIn, particularly about LinkedIn-related activities, e.g., asking about an introduction before sending the request, carrying on a conversation about a question, etc. An added benefit is that it facilitates mutual introductions.
- December – LinkedIn News
In theory, LinkedIn draws from over 10,000 content sources and uses the “wisdom of the crowd” to filter what you see based on what your colleagues are reading. In practice, it works great if your company has a highly distinctive name, e.g., “LinkedIn” — not so well if it’s a 3-letter abbreviation you share with a dozen other companies, or if you’re self-employed. Definitely has potential though.
As I said, this isn’t a complete list. For more on these and other new features, check out the Features category on LinkedIn’s blog.