Archives for 9/1/2004

LinkedIn crosses million-member mark

In a press release Tuesday, LinkedIn announced that they are the first online business network to cross the one million users mark.

The recent growth has been spurred on by the recent addition of LinkedIn for Groups, “a networking tool that enables alumni associations, industry conferences and professional organizations to create official member-only groups within the overall LinkedIn network.”

Some interesting stats:
– A new user joins LinkedIn every 6 seconds during business hours.
– LinkedIn users have performed over 10 million searches to date, and LinkedIn has facilitated over 200,000 business introductions.
– Over 200,000 registered users in Europe and over 150,000 in Asia.
– 97 percent of LinkedIn users joined because of an invitation email from an existing business contact.

In light of some of the recent backlash around privacy issues and social networking tools, LinkedIn is very careful to distance themselves from those issues:

However, unlike other professional networks, LinkedIn is 100 percent opt-in, and only registered users are shown in search results. Uploaded contacts always remain private unless the person whose personally identifiable information was uploaded provides explicit consent to being shown in search results.

They go on to include testimonials from a couple of LinkedIn for Groups customers regarding privacy:

With an alumni database of 180,000, which includes distinguished Silicon Valley executives such as Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, Google senior vice president Omid Kordestani and Adobe senior vice president Theresa Townsley, respect for user privacy is a key concern for the San Jose State University alumni association.

Fred Najjar, associate vice president for alumni affairs and executive director of the alumni association at the university said, “The privacy of our alumni is our top concern, so we were looking for a solution that provides alumni with powerful networking tools without exposing their contact information or filling their inboxes with unwanted requests. Since LinkedIn met these requirements and was already being used by over 600 of our alumni, it was an easy choice to go with LinkedIn for Groups.”

Similar views were echoed by Bradley Inman, CEO of Inman News, who chose LinkedIn for Groups to enhance the company’s annual Real Estate Connect conference. “We stopped printing attendee directories a few years ago because of privacy concerns by our executive-level attendees. LinkedIn for Groups is easy to use and proved to be invaluable to our attendees because they were able to set up meetings before the start of the conference without exposing their contact information to other attendees.”

I have to agree that LinkedIn has an excellent track record when it comes to privacy. And the concerns about privacy from consumers are not entirely unfounded. A couple of social networking sites have committed pretty significant gaffes regarding privacy recently, and several have privacy policies that leave much to be desired.

On the other hand, I think the criticism of other sites is just a bit too sweeping… “unlike other professional networks” makes it sound like every other business network is making people’s private information available just for the asking, and that’s simply not the case. LinkedIn’s privacy practices are consistently the most tightly controlled I’ve seen, but let’s not indict the entire industry, either.

Congrats to LinkedIn on the achievement. This is the exactly the kind of momentum they’ll need when they decide to flip the switch and start charging for the service.

A video interview with LinkedIn founder Konstantin Guericke is available at CBS Marketwatch.

If anything has proven that trust, rapport, and even love can be initiated from a long-distance connection, it is online matchmaking. Online dating has become a popular and often preferred way to meet a romantic partner, because of its efficiency, confidentiality, and convenience. Online business networking will grow for the same reasons.
Online dating is one of the largest segments of U.S. internet commerce (more than business/investment or entertainment/lifestyles sites), with estimated spending of $449.5 million in 2003. About 38 million Americans visited online dating sites in October 2003 . The leading U.S. site,, claims more than 89,000 of its members reported they found the person they were seeking in 2003. The firm has more than 766,600 paying subscribers and 8 million individual listings, equivalent to nearly 5% of the U.S. adult population.
Both a “push” and a “pull” are driving the dramatic growth of online dating. The “push” is the frustration with traditional methods of meeting people; the “pull” is the unique power of online dating.

The “push”: Why traditional methods of finding people are inefficient
Most people partner and marry people who are similar: by age, ethnicity, religion, build, cultural background, and so on. Traditional methods for finding partners include meeting randomly through the workplace, through third parties like your parents, through common friends, and complete and total chance.
Given that people want to partner with compatible folks, traditional methods of finding people to meet are grossly inefficient. This is true regardless of whether you are meeting for business or romantic purposes.

• Your choices are extremely limited geographically. You are restricted to meeting people in the places you live or visit. That is a very small pool of people, particularly for people who are members of minority groups. For example, a widowed Korean-American grandmother has a very small pool of people of her age and cultural framework whom she is likely to find compatible.
• You are typically locked into meeting people from your immediate social network. If your interest is marriage, then that is probably a positive aspect of traditional dating methods. Someone you meet through your social network is likely to have been pre-approved by your mutual friends; you have many ties that help bind you together. However, let us say that your goal is a short-term transaction, whether that is buying a used car or a one-night stand. The internet facilitates that, because you can meet someone who is compatible with your interests but totally disconnected from you socially. You are compatible enough to accomplish your transaction, but either of you can terminate the relationship very easily and not worry about seeing the other person again.
• Certain superficial factors (mainly appearance) are disproportionately influential. The best-looking woman at the bar gets a disproportionate amount of attention, even though that woman may be a very inappropriate potential partner. By relying heavily on her physical beauty to attract attention, that beautiful woman may have underdeveloped social and empathic skills. Similarly, more attractive and more fit people consistently get offered higher salaries than their less attractive and athletic brethren.
Your photo on an online community is clearly a very strong driver of the interest you attract. However, on the web you have a chance to learn about someone’s interests and background; you can absorb all that data in addition to evaluating their physical appearance

The “pull” of online dating

Meeting people online offers certain functionality which simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else. In particular :
• You can meet people you would never otherwise meet. You will meet only those people who are most compatible with you, because you can screen out the people who do not fit your target profile.
• Online dating is private and confidential. If you want to terminate a relationship, you can do so more easily because you are unlikely to see your ex again.
• Online dating is far more convenient and efficient than traditional ways of meeting people. You do not waste time with inappropriate matches. It is hard to say to someone you just met in a bar, “So, are you interested in marrying me, a short Norwegian orthodontist, and having lots of babies?” On the web, you can ask exactly that, and the other person has a clear incentive to provide an honest answer. Whether the answer is yes or no, it is in both of your interest to determine whether you should continue talking with the other person, or move on.
• Lastly, “it is quite possible that online dating is safer than conventional dating.” Many people have a perception that online dating is risky because you are meeting people without a historical social context. However, the study Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada found that people had as many or more “uncomfortable” or frightening experiences with traditional dating as with online dating. The first reason is that online dating gives you time to get to know a person and double-check his story, before committing to an in-person meeting. Second, online dating makes it much easier to reveal information gradually. You can just trade emails for a while from a temporary email address before giving away your home number. This makes it much harder for someone to harass or stalk you.

Online dating reduces search costs and transaction costs, and as a result the transaction volume has increased. In other words, online dating has made it much easier to meet people. Similarly, comparable software for business makes it much easier to do business with more people more efficiently.