Sure, there are rumors that LinkedIn may go public soon--perhaps to get out ahead of that other social network. But that's not what cofounder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman wants to discuss. "We're taking the aggregate data set [of our 90 million members] and turning it into new products that are useful for everyone," says Hoffman. That means users can now search new Company Pages to find connections to a given company (as well as recent hirings and firings), while college students can use a new app called Career Explorer to follow the employment footsteps of real people. "Where do people normally go when they graduate with my major? Which universities does this company hire from? There's a massive lack of information," says Hoffman. "When everyone can see the patterns, it's useful to everyone."
Hoffman's own quite useful network of 2,400 contacts is depicted here. Working clockwise, from the bottom left of the image above, the clusters represent his current colleagues at LinkedIn (green), contacts from a former stint at PayPal (blue), classmates from Oxford (yellow), colleagues from Apple's 1990s online service eWorld (light green), and his universe of tech contacts from his legendary angel and VC investments in Facebook, Zynga, Flickr, Digg, Six Apart, and more (blue, orange, mauve). Top center, you'll see "The Weekend Group on LinkedIn." The Weekend is an off-the-record, invite-only New Year's gathering. LinkedIn's Groups is a message-board-like feature with threaded conversations that lets members connect over shared interests, a feature Hoffman finds especially fruitful for discovering "network intelligence" on tech trends or new investments. "The network helps you distinguish signal from noise," he says.