Souping up the site: The brains behind LinkedIn's tech upgrade

By Jessi Hempel, writer

(Fortune) -- Nothing can spoil a website's success faster than its own growing pains.

A new management team at LinkedIn, charged with jump-starting growth at the company, arrived in December 2008 to find the service slow, cluttered, and running on technology that shuddered under the weight of its users.

Their first mission was to rebuild the technology to scale up quickly without crashing. "When you launch a rocket, if you're off by inches in your trajectory, you'll be off by miles in space," says CEO Jeff Weiner.

For a brief period, the company stopped developing anything new and focused on updating its servers and fixing the algorithms to deliver better performance. Now the site goes down less often, pages load 60% faster, and recommendations to users are more relevant.

The next phase is developing the technology to turn LinkedIn's vast trove of profile information into useful tools.

Example: Click on a company name -- say, MTV Networks -- and you'll arrive at a landing page that lists the current and former employees to whom you are most closely connected. You'll see statistics like the rankings of the largest feeder schools and stepping-stone companies.

This business intelligence could show LinkedIn's users the best career path to follow. "Imagine you want to be a comptroller and you're trying to decide whether to return to school," VP of products Dipchand Nishar explains.

LinkedIn has the single biggest public database of résumés belonging to comptrollers. With a well-tuned algorithm, the site could eventually tell you the best way to land the job based on what everyone else did to get there.

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