Tighter API Rules at LinkedIn Spur Closure of Popular App

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Developer Roger Lee announced today that he would shut down Job Change Notifier, a LinkedIn app that sent an email every time a member of the user’s network changed his or her title on the site.

The death of the app, which had 100,000 users, is evidence that users sometimes suffer when later-stage companies begin to restrict access to their APIs, or application programming interfaces, to drive their monetization strategies.

Among new API rules LinkedIn will finalize on July 15 is one that limits the time a third-party app can access a user’s profile to 60 days, with no option for the user him or herself to choose to extend the access.

In a statement, LinkedIn said the changes would “ensure a consistent authentication experience for our members across the many applications using the LinkedIn platform” and “provide members with more control and visibility into the data being accessed by the developer’s application.”

Lee said the changes didn’t make sense for a “set it and forget it” app like his.

“Of course services like ours could remind or nudge or budge the user to login again, but that’s not a good experience for users,” Lee said.

Lee launched Job Change Notifier two years ago, before LinkedIn started sending emails to users when their connections changed jobs. He thought the popularity of the app likely influenced LinkedIn’s subsequent move to send out such emails.

Lee was more flattered than put out to see his service emulated. The problem is that LinkedIn still doesn’t do as good a job as his app, Lee said.

“Its emails are sporadic — they’re certainly not a comprehensive overview of all the job changes in your network. And the thing is LinkedIn sends you a ton of other emails that you probably don’t care about,” he said.

When Job Change Notifier emailed its users to tell them it was going under, the team received many emails saying, “‘Hey, this is the only email I ever read; I never read LinkedIn’s own emails,’” Lee said.

Like other social networks who must compete on the basis not just of registered users but user time and activity on their sites, LinkedIn emails its users to encourage them to visit the site that day.

A service that members find useful, like learning when “an obstacle decision-maker quits,” as Job Change Notifier suggested, can only take up a certain percentage of the emails LinkedIn has deemed productive to send.

“LinkedIn has their own business goals they need to accomplish,” said Lee, “even if they’re not always in the best interest of developers or users.”

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