LinkedIn Shuts Down Headhunting App: How Open is Open?

The business social network LinkedIn is shutting off access to its LinkedIn API for one company over what LinkedIn calls a terms of service violation. Headhunting app Pealk released a notice that it "will be no more" by next week. It raises the importance of reading the legal details, as well as the different definitions of open.

The team of at least four at Paris-based Pealk emailed a press release, as well as posted a major notice on the company website. The message claims LinkedIn is not being open enough:

It is true that we are extremely surprised by LinkedIn's decision, since such conclusion contradicts LinkedIn's statement to open their Platform to outside innovation through their API. Given Pealk's recent success, we believe that this decision also goes against the interests of number of LinkedIn members lacking a productivity tool to search, sort and engage professionals on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn's statement makes clear the service is being shut off for violations:

We have an ecosystem of 60,000 developers who access the LinkedIn platform everyday as part of our open developer program. We regularly monitor the developers of this program to ensure they are following our terms of use. In this case, this developer is in clear violation of LinkedIn's terms of use and is abusing the guidelines we've put in place to protect our members' data. They were notified in advance of this shut off.

There is no further information about exactly what terms the Pealk is violating. "I won't be going into the details," LinkedIn's Julie Inouye said. "The important point is that they were and continue to abuse the guidelines we have in place to protect member data."

Based on previous discussions with LinkedIn and the nature of Pealk's service, I'd guess the application may harvest more data than is allowed, perhaps caching responses, another no-no. There does seem to be a disconnect between many developers and API providers on exactly what open means. Most terms make it clear that downloading the whole database is not the purpose of an API. However, where a company sits along that continuum is one that has more to do with business model and infrastructure Scaling than the ideal of a completely open web.

When I spoke with LinkedIn's Adam Trachtenberg about LinkedIn's big year he said the company takes a member-centric approach to its Rate Limiting and other terms of service. "Our goal is to enable the most successful integrations possible while making sure that all members are having a fantastic experience," Trachtenberg said.

It's unlikely that this recent issue is about rate limits, as LinkedIn gave at least a week's notice to the developer.

When the LinkedIn platform launched we wrote it was "opening wide." Yet, last year several apps were shut down for violations. Earlier in 2011, the developers of CubeDuel ran into LinkedIn usage limits, though the company extended those limits twice.

LinkedIn is one of 735 social APIs in our directory, which also lists 47 LinkedIn mashups.

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