Popular LinkedIn Mashup Hits Limits: "Can We Pay?"

"It's been pretty riotous," Tony Wright said. His LinkedIn mashup that lets people rate their co-workers has been more popular than he expected. Called CubeDuel, it's been out for less than two days and already it has hit the LinkedIn API limits. Twice. Wright is confident his site will see further increased limits, but it's Friday night and he's had to close the site to new users. It's both an API success story and a cautionary tale about relying too much on one Platform. But it's also a lot of fun.

Wright created the site with Urban Spoon founder Adam Doppelt. The idea started about six weeks ago and the project was just supposed to be a way to judge how well they work together. Now it may be a business, as tens of thousands of click-happy users have rated their co-workers. Half of those have stuck around long enough to rate 50 "duels," the central HotOrNot-esque feature of the site that has been so popular. And 20% of the users stick around for 100 duels, according to Wright.

The site is certainly sticky, but it's been a victim of its own popularity. Written up on popular tech sites, CubeDuel quickly went over LinkedIn's standard API limits. The professional social network upped the app's limits, but again it surpassed them. Wright and Doppelt had to close the site to further users until midnight Saturday, when the limits would reset. They're hoping to limp through the weekend, which is typically has lower traffic, and reach the right person at LinkedIn on Monday morning.

It's certainly in LinkedIn's interest to work with CubeDuel. The company's Director of Communications Hani Durzy seems willing in a statement made to TechCrunch:

We did not shut Cubeduel down. The application was using our open LinkedIn Developer Platform, which has a daily access limit that is publicly documented. Our developer platform limits are designed to protect our members, and have been in place since the platform program was introduced a year ago. We are in communication with the people behind Cubedeal to discuss how they can move forward. We are always interested in seeing our platform used in creative, innovative new ways by developers.

"I don't think they've had a big win on their platform," Wright said of LinkedIn. At least for now, CubeDuel looks like one. The service has received positive feedback from LinkedIn employees, so Wright is confident that CubeDuel will get the further raised API limits it needs to continue its operations. "Unless we do something non-compliant, they'll make it work," he said.

CubeDuel does show there is a ceiling to creating a business that relies too heavily upon what is still a fairly new developer platform. Unfortunately, the ceiling is popularity. "There is no obvious way to play above the toy level," Wright said. The LinkedIn API does not have a path to greater use, such as service license agreements for businesses that want to count on greater usage levels. Wright isn't just looking for a handout, either. "We may ask LinkedIn: 'Can we pay?'"

Developers who don't pay are at the whims of the platform. The flip-side is that for an API to be successful it needs to treat its developers well. That is especially true when something as popular as CubeDuel falls into your lap. Expect LinkedIn to make sure CubeDuel stays up, giving it all the fuel it needs to keep people rating their colleagues. "The power of the LinkedIn API is it's real business connections," Wright said. Real connections to the tune of the 240,000 co-workers who have been in at least three duels, the number required to have a rating on CubeDuel.

And, for the record, almost 200 of those are from LinkedIn.