LinkedIn, the web network for professional reputations, has launched a new question-and-answer service for its registered business folk.

Following the successful Yahoo! Answers model, LinkedIn Answers allows users to post a question using their member identity and to share it with the whole community or just their closest contacts.

Launched in December 2005, Yahoo!’s offering was among the first to test the popularity of a social media service, allowing individuals to leverage the wisdom of crowds in pursuit of knowledge and recommendation.

It garnered 65m answers to 7m questions in its first 11 months of operation, while Google shut down its equivalent service at the end of last year after it proved much less popular.

LinkedIn author Scott Allen said: “The questions are only shown to your network out to the third degree and therefore only answered by people in your network.

“Assuming trusted connections, every question is being answered by a friend of a friend of a friend, or better, and presumably real people rather than pseudonymous random strangers.

“It’s a way to enhance your reputation as an expert on particular topics in a tangible way. Question askers can select the best answer, which gives some additional kudos to the author of the answer. People can also see the questions you’ve asked and answers you’ve given directly from your LinkedIn profile.”

LinkedIn founder Reed Hoffman told last month’s Le Web 3 conference in Paris that the site would begin to apply more social networking features around its user profiles and resumes.