I’ve talked with several friends about LinkedIn since the Business 2.0
puff piece profile hit the Web — calling the service “MySpace for Grownups” — and the reaction to the company ranges from puzzled indifference to outright revulsion. Like me, many people seem to have signed up because it seemed like a good thing to do at the time, but have gotten very little out of it except contact requests from people we would much rather not hear from.
Is that just a few anti-social people, or a sign of a flawed business model? I would argue it’s the latter. Yes, it’s true that LinkedIn is making money, primarily by charging people to send emails to contacts they don’t know (in other words, to send something that might be considered spam). But the Business 2.0 headline inadvertently points out what I think is the main problem: it isn’t really MySpace at all. In other words, it’s a so-called “social network” that isn’t very social, and I would argue that’s a fatal flaw.
Seamus McCauley puts his finger on it in a recent post at Virtual Economics:
Here’s the problem with LinkedIn – it doesn’t do anything. You sign up, you find some colleagues, you link to them and then…nothing.
Umair Haque of Bubblegeneration says that what LinkedIn is doing is “buying marginal profitability at the expense of scale” (thanks to Seamus for the link). As he points out, the service restricts what you can do — even within your own profile — to such a degree that it makes it virtually impossible to connect with people in any other way but the one or two authorized methods.
MySpace and Facebook and Flickr are popular because they make it easy to connect, share photos, send emails or messages, tag things, search, etc. (yes, you need approval to add someone as a friend on MySpace or Facebook, but you don’t have to pay). LinkedIn does none of those things. In fact, the only thing it does is make it easy for people to spam you with contact requests. Unless it finds a way to expand into a real social network, it is doomed.
Jerry Bowles has some thoughts on his Enterprise Web 2.0 blog, and says that the Business 2.0 article reads like “a wedding announcement written by the brideâ€™s mother.” Good one, Jerry. And Seamus has posted an update to his previous post with some more thoughts about LinkedIn and how it needs to “let go.” And Chuqui is one of those who finds great value in what the network does.