LinkedIn culture jabs users

Jason Alba writes a nice piece detailing LinkedIn’s latest user jab in LinkedIn Free Level Losing Steam as LinkedIn Jumps The Shark. Some users no longer see the full names of 3rd degree connections and out of network LinkedIn members. It’s another in a long line of LinkedIn tactics that limit or restrict their users.

LinkedIn has been implementing this new limitation in stages or according to some magic algorithm.  I had this reported to me a few weeks ago.  But I still see full names in my own free account.

I agree with Jason that this change is important, akin to jumping the shark.  LinkedIn’s robust freemium strategy has been a key ingredient in their success, leading to a dominant market share and 75 million users.  The ability to search and view user names is an industry common feature.  Removing it places LinkedIn at a competitive disadvantage.

It will open the door wider for other networks or services that target the LinkedIn user base.  However LinkedIn’s commanding industry presence puts it in a monopoly position.  This is one area where they don’t have to worry about Facebook.  Users have no place to go.  They are not going to suddenly flee to much smaller business networks like Ecademy, Xing, or Viadeo. Lastly, there has been surprisingly little innovation in this space.

The limitation is expressly designed to motivate more users to pay for the service.  Speculation has been that squeezing users is a strategic move to dress up the income statement in preparation for an IPO.

This is likely accurate. Why else would LinkedIn intentionally downgrade their service?  However it’s certainly not necessary.  The company has claimed that’s it’s been quite profitable for the last few years.   Plus LinkedIn has been rumored to in acquisition/IPO play for at least three years now.

In the end it comes down to corporate culture.  LinkedIn is not a tech-driven company like Google.  It does not delight in new and innovative products and features.  LinkedIn has been and continues to be run by and for venture capitalists.  After several years they’re itchy (yet again) for that multi-billion dollar home run exit.  The only surprise is that they rode the free side of the wave for as long as they did.

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