LinkedIn has unveiled a significant new redesign as the platform looks to take advantage of a sharp increase in usage in the wake of COVID-19 and become much more than just a job search service.

The redesign is the professional social media company’s first in five years, and sees a new look, improved search functions, integration with major video conferencing platforms and the expansion of the Stories feature around the world.

According to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, the new visual identity for LinkedIn – which resembles other social media platforms like Facebook – is “warmer and more inclusive”.

“Redesigning LinkedIn to make your LinkedIn experience easy, inclusive, enjoyable and most importantly to put the community front and centre,” Roslansky said in a blog post.

“This new LinkedIn experience is warmed and embodies our diverse, inclusive and trusted community. It is also simpler, more modern and more intuitive, allowing for easier navigation and discovery.”

The tech company has also updated its search function, allowing users to “more seamlessly” find what they’re looking for, pitching it as “Google search for professionals”.

The new search function will now produce results not just from people and companies, but also jobs, courses, events and other content on the platform, “making it easier for members to find what they need and also explore other aspects of LinkedIn they may not have known existed”.

“A new, streamlined search experience will make it much easier to surface the people, events, groups and content you want, while helping you reach beyond your immediate network – when there is value in doing so,” Roslansky said.

There’s also been an update to LinkedIn’s messaging service, with the incorporation of video conferencing platforms Zoom and Bluejeans, along with Microsoft’s Teams – with Microsoft now owning LinkedIn.

Users will also be able to delete or edit their messages and send emojis, while incendiary or harassing content will be flagged.

LinkedIn’s Stories function, very similar to that on Instagram and before that SnapChat, which allows videos to add a short, temporary video to their profile, has also been expanded across the world. Australia was one of the first countries in the world to have access to this feature, which LinkedIn is spinning as the new “water cooler” interaction in the COVID world.

There initially won’t be any ads on the Stories feature, but the longer-term plan is to incorporate paid content.

The redesign and new features are part of the company’s play to become much more of a social networking platform, rather than just a place people visit when looking for work.

“LinkedIn is no longer just a place to just find people,” Roslansky said. “It’s a place of personal and professional growth, a place of business growth, a place of economic growth, and a place that makes a difference in professional lives. It’s a community where you can be inspired, build relationships and discover unexpected opportunities.

“Whether we’re navigating a COVID downturn or post-COVID recovery, addressing an existing skills gap or a coming skills revolution, breaking systemic barriers to equal opportunity, or tackling whatever else defines work in the future, we’re fully committed to continuing to provide the tools and experiences that will let every professional connect to the right opportunities for them.

“Our vision of creating an engaging, supportive, diverse and respectful community is coming to life and thriving. And our site redesign comes at a crucial tipping point, as we see record numbers of members turning to the platform to share their stories, get support and help others.”