How NOT to build a developer community
After having organized the second Facebook Developer Garage in Miami this past weekend, it got me thinking about the other developer platforms out there, and why some are successful and some not. One of the key examples that came to mind was that of LinkedIn. You would think that LinkedIn would have a thriving developer community because LinkedIn has millions of users, all validated to some degree, a strong social graph, and its oriented around making $.
Well to date (after almost a year of having a developer platform) there are only 10 applications in their directory. TEN APPLICATIONS. So why are there only 10 apps serving a community of some 30 Million+ users? Basically LinkedIN didn’t take their community seriously. They seem to have rushed their platform announcement out and pushed it to a handful of elite/select developers whom they knew, and then never bothered to get around to the rest. They saw everyone else jumping on the OpenSocial/platform craze and I’m sure their investors told them they better be on that train as well.
So why do I think LinkedIN has been dragging their feet on their platform while everyone else is welcoming developers in with open arms? I think its about money. They see the facebook economy surpassing $500 Million a year and don’t want to have that go on in their site and miss out on taking a large cut. The other thing they fear is that they charge for services on their site and they could all easily be replicated through apps and again they would lose out on the revenue from those functions. Why would you pay for job postings if I could build a free jobs app and get you just as much exposure, or email contacts or crm, etc.
So what has LinkedIN done so far? Just link to the OpenSocial documentation and suggest you email them if you have an app you want included. No sandbox to test, no documentation on which LinkedIn specific calls you can make, what data you have available to you, nothing. Way to build a garden, then throw up a gate around it and not let anyone in.
What should they be doing though, is build or partner for their own transaction engine, require that app developers who charge use their engine (its only fair), then open the flood gates. That $50M they made last year from their own small set of services would explode to making $200-$300M from shares of other transactions throughout the system. Just build out their own set of tools in partnership with sites like Monster.com or others to supplement their own existing toolset, and let the community fill in the thousands of holes that will surely arise. Its not like your own internal team can build all those tools and monetizing apps on its own. So focus on building the platform + payments and you’ll have a killer role.