LinkedIn Clamps Down On Super-Connected Users

LinkedIn has imposed new restrictions on the number of connections any one person can have, say members of the LinkedIn open networkers, a controversial group that accepts almost all LinkedIn connection requests. The group appears to be walking an increasingly fine line with the social network.

By C.G. Lynch
Tue, January 20, 2009

CIOLinkedIn has quietly clamped down on a controversial association known as the LinkedIn open networkers (LIONs), a group of LinkedIn members who liberally add contacts — known on LinkedIn as "connections" — even if they don't know each of the people personally. The group's strategy runs counter to LinkedIn's official policy, which states that LinkedIn members should only connect with people they know .

In the recent development, some LIONs have received messages saying that they have exceeded a newly imposed connection limit of 30,000.LION members say they have pending "invitations to connect" that they cannot accept as a result of the restriction. An unofficial site known as the TopLinked.com tracks the connection counts of many LIONs.

The decision to place more restrictions on the LIONs comes several weeks after CIO.com profiled LinkedIn open networks and the group's history. In the article, LIONs were described, at their best, as helping disparate strangers connect on the service, ideally leading to new jobs or business opportunities. At their worst, they are described by critics as name collectors looking to leverage their connection lists to spam unwitting members.

One of the members profiled in that story was Steven Burda, a financial planner who says he has approximately 40,000 connections now. As mentioned in the earlier story, he has been known to help strangers connect over the service and, as evidenced by recommendations on his profile from people all over the country, has helped some foster new business as a result.

At the time, Burda expressed worries that his pay-it-forward mentality might be seen as cannibalizing one of LinkedIn's revenue opportunities: selling premium accounts to individuals, recruiters and companies looking to get access to search and cull through a wider portion of the network.

Now, he thinks that fear has come to pass.

"I don't think that, I know that," he says. "LinkedIn will go public at some point. The way they make money is to say, 'hey, I'm not connected to Steven Burda, so pay LinkedIn twenty bucks or whatever to connect you with him."

Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, said the company wouldn't comment on any LION or super-connected user specifically, but said any changes to LinkedIn's service, including its search capabilities, will not affect normal users.

LIONs like Burda have also seen their reach of the LinkedIn network shrink.

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