LinkedIn, the social networking site for business users, has clamped down on a controversial group of networkers who add 'connections' even if they don't know them.
Bill Howell, senior vice president and CIO of Accellent (a medical components company), is a LION and has also seen the restriction leveled on to him. He says that with the down economy, the type of restriction seems especially draconian.
"This is very regrettable," he said. "Just last Sunday I did a presentation to unemployed workers on the benefits of using LinkedIn and I advised all of them to connect to me and I would help them get jobs. Now none of them can connect to me. Gee, now isn't that an interesting message."
The decision to punish LinkedIn open networkers won't be without consequence as the group and the service have a unique relationship.
Jason Alba, president of JibberJobber.com and author of the book I'm on LinkedIn - Now What?, said that while their network philosophy runs counter to that of LinkedIn, the LIONs have some upsides for the service as well.
"Many of the open networkers are actually helping LinkedIn grow, since they are such passionate evangelists."
However, LinkedIn has taken quiet steps to temper their influence on the service in the past. On the profile pages of LinkedIn, the service will only list a person's connection size as '500+' to discourage the practice of connection counting. They have levied a limit on how many invitations someone can send to connect (3,000).
The selling of premium accounts does represent a way in which LinkedIn has diversified its business away from merely advertising, which its competitors such as Facebook have relied heavily on to build a business.
These services include increased search results and the ability to send 'InMails', which allow you to contact not only your second and third degree contacts, but also people outside your network. LinkedIn's 'business plus plan' runs for $50 (£36) per month or $500 (£362) for the year, and its 'corporate solutions' plan lets companies buy multiple accounts with premium services and access to LinkedIn (prices aren't provided on LinkedIn's website).
"Although we don't take away Linkedin's business, we do, indirectly, do things for free what others would be more than willing and able to pay for to Linkedin Corporation," Burda said. "Thus Linkedin views us select few as a big, big, big threat to their bottom line now, and especially in the future. They would do anything to kick us off their site. If only they found a legal reason to do so."
See also: Five important LinkedIn etiquette tips