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LinkedIn is about to get more restrictive for development

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LinkedIn API access will soon be restricted, leaving developers worldwide scrambling in anticipation of broken integrations.

On February 12, 2015, Adam Trachtenberg, Director of Developer Network at LinkedIn, announced in a blog post that LinkedIn would be restricting access to their API. This is bad news for many developers (and by extension, their clients) who have integrated LinkedIn with websites and services. On May 12, 2015, when the API endpoint restriction goes into effect, the only features remaining in open access will be:

  • Allowing members to represent their professional identity via their LinkedIn profile using LinkedIn’s Profile API.
  • Enabling members to post certifications directly to their LinkedIn profile with LinkedIn’s Add to Profile tools.
  • Enabling members to share professional content to their LinkedIn network from across the Web leveraging the LinkedIn Share API.
  • Enabling companies to share professional content to LinkedIn with the LinkedIn Company API.

Sadly, this also affects some integrations that have been implemented by 4Site. For example, we integrated a list of group discussions on the website of one of our clients for their logged-in members who are also members of that LinkedIn group. This functionality will definitely not survive the API restriction coming on May 12 (it relies on the group endpoint).

Another integration 4Site implemented, calendar integration, is in a grey area (see my Calendars with LinkedIn Integration blog post). This integration whitelists users signing-in to a site with LinkedIn who are a part of a particular LinkedIn group. A literal reading of the transition documentation on LinkedIn lets us off the hook with this integration, as we only use the profile endpoint (which will continue to be unrestricted). What makes the future of this integration uncertain is that the group membership listing for a LinkedIn user is a part of the profile endpoint, but requires the “rw_group permission.” The transition documentation made no mention of permissions restriction, only of endpoint restriction. Experience with framework changes, however, has taught us to be cautious before making assumptions about the validity of developer documentation prior to a rollout. So, we are awaiting the API restriction coming May 12 with fingers crossed.

Possible Solution?

There is a way to keep the endpoints open for particular integrations: apply for partner status with LinkedIn, explaining what your integration is and how it works. If it meets the criteria of "we feel that they’re providing value to members, developers and LinkedIn," then some or all of the restricted endpoints will remain open for that app, and ONLY that app.

We submitted an application for partner status on behalf of our client, but LinkedIn denied it. Our client’s site provides a way for members of a particular LinkedIn group to access, create and RSVP to events pertaining to their professional specialty. We were honestly surprised that our application was denied. We felt that it provided functionality that LinkedIn does not currently provide, and by locking it down to ONLY members of a LinkedIn group (and therefore, members of LinkedIn), it does no harm to LinkedIn’s goals and objectives. Admittedly, their goals and objectives for their developer program are not clear at this time. We've requested their reasons for denial, but have received no reply. (Though we have no doubt they are fielding thousands of partner applications and other communications regarding displeasure with the upcoming restriction.)

All told, this is bad news for most LinkedIn integrations. Even though considerable time and effort were poured into integrations such as ours, LinkedIn is pulling the rug out from under them. Creative solutions will need to be found by developers looking to meet the need of clients.

Stay tuned for next steps after the May 12, 2015 API restrictions.