Changes To LinkedIn Developer Program Are No Surprise

LinkedIn recently announced some changes to their developer program, which involves further tightening down the screws on who has access to the API, limiting public access to only a handful of very superficial APIs. If you want greater access to the business social network API, you will need to be an officially approved partner.

As a result of LinkedIn’s announcement, you will hear more discussion about the demise of public APIs, as this is narrative many API providers would like to employ, to support their own command and control positions around their client, or very own API driven resources. There is nothing wrong with having private APIs with supporting partner programs, but this has no bearing on the viability of publicly available APIs.

In reality, LinkedIn’s API never really was open. Sure it is a public API, but the API has never been developer friendly, often times taking a very adversarial stance with its community, as opposed to embracing, nurturing, and investing in its developer ecosystem. Honestly, this is ok. Not every company has the DNA, or business model to make public APIs work—this latest move by LinkedIn reflects their ability, and not the potential of public APIs.

We can’t expect all companies to be able to make public APIs work, it isn't easy. When it comes to making money around valuable content and data online, a closed ecosystem is seen as being better. Tighter control over your users data exhaust, allows you to decide who can do what, limiting to just the partners who have business relationships with you. You just can't monetize user generated to the extent LInkedIn would like, without taking away users control and access to this data.

Even with LinkedIn stance, there are a number of lessons to be learned by studying their approach. Like Twitter and Facebook, there are plenty of positive moves to analyze, as well as numerous other negative elements, that you can learn from when crafting the tone for your API. As an API provider do not dismiss what you can take away from LinkedIn’s platform, and as a consumer LinkedIn is a valuable lesson in what you should look for in an API platform.

Ultimately, the move by LInkedIn is no surprise to me, and the platform is purely a distribution channel for me, and has been for some time.. Meaning I only syndicate content there, and you will never find me actually engaging very deep on the platform, building relationships there, because along with other platforms like Quora I do not have any ownership over any of the exhaust I generate. As a professional this is unacceptable to me, as I have a valuable brand that I carefully maintain. As other professionals realize this, they too will mostly abandon the business social network, leaving it to be a spammy corner of the Internet where HR professional prey upon the semi-professional, aspiring employee types.