LinkedIn is relaunching it’s contact section as standalone App and as smart contact management system that lets users integrate connections on LinkedIn with those form Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Apps along with Iphone and more, and then serve as personal assistant to help manage your interactions with them.
Along with this, LinkedIn is launching a Contacts app for the iPhone — its third standalone app in addition to LinkedIn itself and business card scanner CardMunch, and the first time that LinkedIn has broken out one feature of its platform in its own app. Sachin Rekhi, the creator of Contacts, says that access to the new Contacts will come in stages: first to a limited number of users in the U.S., then to the rest of the country, and then to the rest of LinkedIn’s user base worldwide.
The iPhone app, meanwhile, will be free to download and use with no specific plans for monetizing at the moment. As a point of comparison, the company’s new iPhone and Android apps, introduced last week, are now running a limited number of mobile ads.
Contacts is the first big product to come out of LinkedIn’s October 2011 acquisition of Connected, the smart contacts management platform it bought to “revolutionize contact management” on LinkedIn. Rekhi, the product lead for Contacts, was one of the co-founders of Connected.
The main idea behind it is to help LinkedIn become more of a platform for managing and interacting with people you know through work. In turn, this will (LinkedIn hopes) increase the amount of time that users spend on LinkedIn as a whole. While some of LinkedIn’s recent updates — for example, the new Recruiter pages — may be aimed more at “power users” (and paying users) of the platform, Contacts has a more universal feel to it. We all face the same problems: we connect with people in different ways online, and this is an offering to manage that in a better and smarter way.
This comes through a number of feature updates:
Whereas in the old version of Contacts, LinkedIn allowed for one-off imports from services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook and others, what users can do now is integrate those contacts as live links, so when something changes on any of those third party accounts, the info gets updated in LinkedIn.
The full list of services that can be integrated include Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar; Google Apps Mail, Contacts, Calendar; Yahoo! Mail, Contacts, Calendar; Outlook Mail, Contacts, Calendar; iPhone Address Book (via the LinkedIn Contacts app); LinkedIn’s CardMunch service; Evernote and TripIt. Outlook Contacts CSV, Mac Address Book vCard and Yahoo! Contacts CSV are all supported as one-off contact imports.
When you link up any of the above, LinkedIn automatically finds and adds the new contact details to any pre-existing names in your contact list. The different sources then appear as icons next to each name:
That list, in turn, can now be organised in different ways, using a tab in the upper right corner, with different views including by recent conversations (and its communications opposite, by those with whom we’ve lost touch). You can also view by those you’ve most recently added, alphabetical, company, and location. The last of these is about organizing users around what cities they are based in, but you can see how this might potentially get used in LinkedIn’s mobile app also to include a location-based feature and sort by people who are nearby — something that could be useful particularly at business events, for example.
Within each contact, you also now have an expanded relationship view that integrates all of the interactions you’ve had with a particular person over the different networks that have been integrated, along with any reminders that you have set yourself to connect in the future. This is a pretty nifty feature in that it doesn’t require manual updates for past events; instead it automatically aggregates whatever has happened already into a timeline of events:
Drawing back out into the wider Contacts interface, LinkedIn is making the interface more visually appealing, similar to the rest of its product refreshes. Here, this comes in the form of a photo carousel of your contacts, which runs across the top of the Contacts page and includes reminders for different tasks. Those reminders, in turn, automatically direct you to other tasks: for example, in the meeting reminder below, the “plan a meeting” button automatically goes to a screen where the user can send an email using whatever network the contact exists on (eg Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, etc.)