Lucian Beebe may go down in history as one of the people responsible for a major shift in the way people do business. Who is he, you ask? Well, he is in charge of product management at LinkedIn, the business social network. And how does that make him so important?

Well he quietly announced on his blog that LinkedIn was “opening up” its system to developers who would be able to add applications to LinkedIn, or use LinkedIn output in other web sites. The whole notion of “closed” social networks, such as LinkedIn, is only temporary and bound to fail since people want to extend contacts widely. Closed social networks would be like having a brand of pizza restaurant that refused to serve you unless you were a member – and then you couldn’t see your friends there because they are members of another chain. It just wouldn’t happen; the same is true online.

Hence for general social networks, like LinkedIn, the only way forward is to open up. But why is LinkedIn’s announcement so pivotal? Well, they are way ahead in the business arena. They are by far the biggest business social network around, dwarfing seemingly popular sites like Ecademy. And, already the magazine Business Week has signed up to use aspects of this new technology. The result is that social networking tools for serious business people will become focused on LinkedIn’s attributes and capabilities.

If you are not already part of LinkedIn, you will need to be for future business. Remember, businesses do business with people. They have always bought and sold from people they know. Now, they can get to know you more quickly if you use social networking features of things like LinkedIn. But the new “openness” will mean your information will be spread much further and wider than merely within LinkedIn.

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