With an unabashed business focus, LinkedIn is perhaps the nearest successor to the original SixDegrees site. The focus is on connecting business contacts through your network. Lacking automatic integration to your email system and other communications tools, the site requires manual maintenance but somehow it does work: this is the site from whose users I get the most consistent feedback. LinkedIn works.
LinkedIn is one of a growing class of software that allows you to manage your social network online and to use this network to make new contacts. Different implementations of this idea have different focus on “why” you would want to make new contacts, and we will review some of them over the next days and weeks.
In the case of LinkedIn, the answer to this “why” is a business answer: the focus is on finding jobs, finding people for jobs, discovering industry experts or general deal-making.
The founder, Reid Hoffman, is pretty clear about what he is targeting:
Professional networking services are difficult because they are usually designed for people who want something and have little to offer. LinkedIn is specifically designed for the haves, rather than the have-nots. So LinkedIn’s model is not necessarily to get five million users; but to have a very large percentage of people with resources: hiring managers, venture capitalists, etc…
LinkedIn uses an explicit model for managing your data, as opposed to a tacit one. In the explicit model you have to manually add and maintain the data about your social network ties. This is obviously more effort on your side, but for the moment it does seem to work.
I am starting to find LinkedIn to be useful. I actually made a contact through it that I would not have made otherwise, is a typical comment from the people I interviewed. LinkedIn, more than any of the other sites I have reviewed, does actually seem to be useful to many of the members.
LinkedIn is doubling its membership base every six weeks. It is still free for the basic service, though there are plans to charge the users.