"Over the past several years, we've seen some exciting applications from our developer community. While many delivered value back to our members and LinkedIn, not all have," wrote Adam Trachtenberg, director of the LinkedIn developer network, explaining in a blog post the change in the company's API policy.
LinkedIn's change in policy is "effectively a pricing and monetization play," according to IDC software analyst Al Hilwa. "It is typical for players in the new age tech economy to start with permissive and free access to gain share and users and then progressively curtail it to monetize the audience they have gained."
Starting May 12, LinkedIn will only offer a handful of its APIs for general use, namely those that allow users and companies to post information about themselves on the service. After then, only companies that have enrolled in LinkedIn's partner program will have API access. Samsung, WeChat, and Evernote have already struck such partnerships.
Currently, the social networking service offers a wide range of APIs, which allow third-party programs to draw content from, and place content into, LinkedIn.
APIs have been seen as an additional channel for businesses to interact with their users and partners. A few companies, however, have recently scaled back access to APIs, which provide the programmatic ability to access a company's services and data.
Netflix shut its public API channel in November, preferring to channel its user information through a small number of partners. ESPN also disabled public access to its APIs in December.
LinkedIn's move is evidence of how the business use of APIs are evolving, said John Musser, founder and CEO at API Science, which offers an API performance testing service.
"Companies are finding what works best for them over time," Musser said. Some companies, such as Twitter, find greater benefit in offering a wide range of their APIs, whereas other companies, such as Netflix, see little advantage in maintaining the open APIs.
LinkedIn provides professional social networking services to over 300 million users worldwide.