LinkedIn announced a new platform Wednesday for the business social networking site, offering websites and developers easy tools to embed “recommend” buttons, company-profile boxes and contact widgets on third-party websites, as well as a way to log in to other sites using LinkedIn. Just like Facebook.

Calling it “a new platform for building the professional web,” LinkedIn is seeking to challenge Facebook’s growing control over online identity. Once just a site for sharing photos and updates with friends, Facebook has woven itself into the fabric of the net via its Open Graph platform, that lets other websites embed Facebook widgets, install “Like” buttons, plug-in a commenting system, and let users log in using their Facebook credentials.

Though LinkedIn’s new platform doesn’t mention Facebook by name, the term “Professional Web” clearly shows the company trying to position itself as a more mature and respectable alternative to Facebook. The new tools rely on JavaScript APIs and the OAuth 2.0 system for logins (the same as used by Yahoo, Google and Twitter, among others).

Among the offerings: a share button that posts a link to a page or news story to the user’s feed on LinkedIn; a Recommend button to give a vote to a product you like; and member profile widgets that show the LinkedIn profile of a company executive or website owner.

LinkedIn’s Share button joins a growing number of plugins that try to get users to spread the news about a site or news story, a pantheon that includes Facebook’s like, Twitter’s tweet button, and social voting and submission widgets from Digg and Reddit.

For those who run their own blogs or websites, LinkedIn is making it simple to show off a snippet of your LinkedIn profile and for visitors logged into LinkedIn, they’ll see thumbnails of connections they have in common.

Companies can also embed widgets that shows off employee profiles or profiles of companies featured on their site or in a news story, showing off the ones that are “in” your network. The box can also be configured to show off key information about the company, and a link to its official LinkedIn page, instead of employee profiles.

It’s a powerful challenge. LinkedIn has a solid and growing user base, one that’s shown it’s willing to pay for extra features. The company is preparing for an IPO, and extending the power of LinkedIn’s focus on business, not pleasure outside of its online walls could help the company grow into a powerful competitor to Facebook — the “real world” site that people graduate to from the college fun of Facebook.

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