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.