Connect with Bill Gates on the New LinkedIn

LinkedIn spotlights Microsoft as a premier advertiser and launches a new home page.

Things are heating up at LinkedIn.

Four days after launching a mobile version of its professional networking service, LinkedIn Feb. 28 launched a home page with a new "status" feature that relays activities to users' networks.

In the Internet version of a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Microsoft is taking over the LinkedIn home page as the premier advertiser. In a separate but related move, outgoing Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates has added a LinkedIn profile.

The status feature will let users in a network know when the user is looking for advice, planning a business trip or attending a conference. The status information will be presented as a network update to the member's connections and will appear as a new element on the member's profile page, according to a company statement provided to eWEEK.

LinkedIn members will be able to control whether their status is visible to their first-degree connections, second- and third-degree connections, or the whole LinkedIn network. LinkedIn members will also be able to choose whether they want to see statuses in their network updates feed.

The new home page will also include the beta of LinkedIn News, which delivers news about a member's company, products, industry and competitors, from more than 10,000 publishers and blogs.

Similar to the preferential approach of Digg and Yahoo Buzz, LinkedIn News employs the wisdom of each user's colleagues to determine the handful of articles that are the most important to their business.

Microsoft's Gates is joining the redesigned LinkedIn and is asking users to respond to this question: "How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?"

The question, which was originally going to be about philanthropy, is sure to draw no shortage of answers.

Another question is whether or not Gates will ultimately draw more LinkedIn connections than former Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, who boasts more than 5,000 friends on Facebook.

Microsoft's advertising takeover and Gates' newly added profile are signs that LinkedIn's star is on the rise as it seeks to expand its 19 million-plus user base.