LinkedIn in 2009 continues to upgrade their service with minor tweaks and additional functionality, but I am starting to find a gap between what features some people can see and some cannot. I have never heard of this on Facebook or Twitter, but this is definitely happening on LinkedIn, and it is troubling. And these are all people using the free service, not a free vs. paid account argument. Let me explain what I have experienced in three distinct examples.
Do we have all access to the same LinkedIn features?
First example: I was with a friend recently who showed off the new Connections Beta feature of being able to group your contacts together by tags, companies, industries, etc. This showed up on his screen when he pressed the “Contacts” or “Connections” link on the left-hand side of the LinkedIn page. However, when I pressed the same, even though the URL was the exact same, I was not getting access to this same feature. In order to satisfy my curiosity, I asked a LinkedIn Question here, and I surprisingly got a response straight from a Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn, with the explanation that “This is a beta feature that we’re testing with a subset of members. We hope to have it rolled out to everyone in the coming months.” I was ecstatic to get a response from the source, but unless the beta users are told they are beta users, it just causes confusion when different people start seeing different features from the same service. In fact, there are so many “beta” features on the Internet these days (even Gmail is still in beta!) that it really loses its meaning. Maybe LinkedIn should only do this with their paid members or ask its members if they want to be part of a beta group? Either way, this is one example of a feature that not everyone has access to at this moment.
Second example: Recently I realized that LinkedIn offers a Service Provider Directory. If you go to the Companies page there is an option to search for Service Providers in the top right-hand side. But every time I go to the Service Providers screen, although there is an ability to recommend a Service Provider, I get the same “We’re sorry, but the service provider directory is currently unavailable.” message. Once again I asked a LinkedIn Question here, because of the first example where it was a beta feature. Was this the same for the Service Providers feature? Apparently not, as everyone who answered the question said that they could see it. But then when I asked a different friend, he got the same error message I did. What gives?
Third example: The same friend who couldn’t see the Service Provider directory quickly went to his Home page on LinkedIn where I spotted something different. In the top right-hand corner there was a Recommendations text window that displayed people that were recommended for my friend to connect with…it looked very similar to what I see on Facebook. But I had never seen this before on my Home page! And my friend said that it was not a new feature, per se, but it had always been there! Why can’t I access this feature?
Social media is about the democratization of information. Why can some people access features and others cannot, as in the second and third example? Does LinkedIn single out people to access each feature? Or is it what I fear it is: the LinkedIn platform is just not scalable? After all LinkedIn is supposedly adding a user each second, so how can they keep up with the growth?
I am also a Facebook user, and even though they have 5 times the number of users that LinkedIn have (200 million vs. 40 million), their platform is robust and fast performing, and I have not noticed any scalability issues. On the other hand, LinkedIn is notoriously slow and apparently have feature accessibility issues.
Where am I leading? Apparently LinkedIn has gobs of cash. LinkedIn, I love you, but please use some of your cash to make a serious investment in making your platform more robust, scalable, and barrier free for all to have equal access. We would all appreciate it. And it would not surprise me, through increased efficiency for the millions of people using your service, that it may actually help increase the productivity of the American workforce by 0.1% alone and help us, even so slightly, out of this recession. Thank you for your consideration. And if I have misanalyzed the issue and there is an official explanation, please let me know and I will post it here.
[May 6 Update]
I did, in parallel to writing this blog post, send an incident report to Customer Service. Even after following the below instructions, I am still facing the same problem and am awaiting further word from them. If you have the same problem, please read the below and see if it helps you. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did!
1. Try logging out and back into your account to see if this corrects the issue.
2. Delete existing cookies from your current browser (found within the Internet Options).
3. Attempt to use a different browser. Some issues are browser specific. Trying a different browser could be a quick resolution to your issue and help isolate the issue down to that browser. Excluding beta versions, LinkedIn will work best with the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox. If you do not have the latest version of your browser we recommend going to the browser’s website for the latest update which may resolve the issue.
If this issue persists, would you mind sending us a screen shot? This could help us replicate the item.