The above diagram quite sums it up… what makes LinkedIn different from other social networking sites is that you don’t get to see beyond a small degree of your network. You need real humans you know to refer you around to other professionals, just like in the real world. There are many reasons for this referral system, some say it reduces spam, while others see the Power Law effect taking place within certain in-groups. As for me, after uploading my Gmail contact list, I saw 23 of my contacts on it. Off the bat, I have no network, barely any friends in there and frankly speaking, I now feel depressed using it (but for good reason).
Ross Mayfield put together a neat table comparing the various social network sites, so you can see where LinkedIn lies. He went deeper to explain how LinkedIn provides a perfect example of why Private Networks are based on a greater level of trust between participants:
– You can only browse and search members of your network, a few degrees away
– The only way to connect to another member of the network is through a real person providing a referral
-The referral structure prevents spam
– Besides connections made by referral, the only way a connection can be made is by inviting someone by knowing their email address
– The only connections are confirmed ties (both participants agree)
– Therefore: Connections have real meaning + Information flow is governed by participants who risk their reputation
Clay Shirky also differentiated LinkedIn back in 2003 by explaining that:
“Social credit is not made explicit through an eBay-style reputation system. Instead, it relies on conversations and connections for restraint. The challenge for all markets, however, is liquidity — how the market scales. Unlike a Private Network like LinkedIn, where information flow is squarely constrained by risking social capital at every node in an information flow, Tribe.net relies upon explicitness. Relationships are declared, so if someone defaults on a transaction and there is enough communication to reveal the default, the defaulting party may risk their relationships”
So perhaps after all these explanations, the fact that I have little network to start with in LinkedIn is only natural (just as how realistically depressing the real-world is!). Amazingly, LinkedIn launched on May 7th, 2003 and now has more than five million users. There’s a bit of history behind it, including how in January 2005, there was a mass-registration of PeopleSoft employees on LinkedIn as word got around of massive layoffs. They probably used Monster.com a lot too then.
I’ve always been intrigued how social networking sites just keep rising, one after another. Under peer pressure, you’ll find me under Friendster, Orkut, Ryze (Business Networking), and of course FaceBook, though that doesn’t mean I spend time updating every single one. Am I the only person on earth tired of seeing new social networking sites over and over again?
Perhaps I’ve just seen little practicality from either of these social networking services. It would seem that my blog still has the greatest real-world impact for me, since it’s literally connected me to more interesting people out there. I love the public nature of blogs versus closed systems as seen in most social networking services.
In any case, I invite you to connect with me on my LinkedIn public profile (work in progress!). Perhaps you can change my impression of social networking sites by giving me a high paying job as well. 😛