Just a little update on our report from last week about LinkedIn and what appeared to be new test pages for its website: the company today has confirmed the changes and says that it will be rolling them out to all its 160 million-plus users in the next couple of weeks.
The key, as we said last week, will be simplicity: a stronger link to the site’s newsfeed, LinkedIn Today, as well as an interface that will make it easier to add new people, and check on what others you already know are doing — essentially an attempt to make the site significantly more social, and with that social activity focused on what staying at LinkedIn rather than going elsewhere to continue your browsing.
Is this a move away from what LinkedIn has become for most people — a place you go when you’re looking for a new job or to hire someone for a new job? Possibly, but not too far from that. “This simpler and cleaner design makes it easier to navigate the page and quickly find the updates you’re looking for – whether that’s a news article your boss has recently shared or it’s to see who has just started a new job,” writes Caroline Gaffney, LinkedIn’s product manager in charge of the homepage, writes in a blog post on the changes.
As we noted last week, it’s ironic that these changes are coming at a time when LinkedIn has lost one of its key partners in the social media infosphere: Twitter has cut off its API, which means no more Twitter stories into LinkedIn. This has upset some users (example: one reader who wrote to me “Just bring back the Twitter stream. LinkedIn is…fighting to remain relevant.”
We heard from a source that this Twitter development wasn’t the reason for the changes, which have been in play for months now. But it’s still a strong case for why social media sites worth anything, LinkedIn included, need to focus on their own platforms and their own network creation as a route to growth.
A little rundown of some of the new features:
– More modern design. It may seem trivial to some, but as Steve Jobs said once very famously, design is not just about how something looks but how it works (quoted coincidentally just the other day in a story in the NY Times). And this seems to be the case here: LinkedIn’s redesigned the look to be more modern and is trying to use it to get people to use the site more.
– Relevant updates. A lot of the changes seem cosmetic but there seems to be some changes under the hood, too. Gaffney notes that “the most important” network updates and articles are now appearing at the top fo the feed.
– Cleaned-up update stream. Again, more ability to scan and view updates to your feed, with some automated refreshing now in there. And taking another page from Facebook and Twitter you can now see what people in your network are talking about more easily.
Gaffney notes that this is just the first step, and indeed LinkedIn seems to be gearing up to make itself a more natural landing page — dashboard, if you will — for the professional who likes to engage in a bit of social networking. That would be in contrast to how I bet many typcial users enters the site — via Google searches on specific people and companies. Also, that makes it a nice complement to Facebook (less worky; more friendly) and Twitter (not really so much of a homepage as a straight feed).