Happy birthday to LinkedIn, the biggest social network no one uses

The 10-year-old network has more users and higher profits than ever -- thanks in large part to spammy marketing tactics

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Stalking feats
Also creepy: The "so and so looked at your profile" email I get once a week. Of course, half of the so-and-so's are blanked out with generic descriptions like "someone in the Marketing and Advertising industry from Greater New York City Area." At least I know I'm being cyber stalked by someone who wants to sell me something instead of wanting to murder me.

I know what LinkedIn is trying to do: It wants me to pay to find out who that was. It's the second oldest profession in high-tech form; LinkedIn was willing to flash me a little flesh, but if I wanted to see the whole show I'd have to pony up.

Endorse? Of course
Then we come to LinkedIn endorsements. If you used LinkedIn at any point in the last six months, you've been nagged to endorse four or more of your friends as to their various and sundry skills. And nagged again every time you logged in or someone else endorsed you.

From LinkedIn's perspective, these endorsements have been highly successful because they coaxed people into interacting with the network much more often than they would have otherwise (all while stroking their egos). For everyone else? Not so much, mostly because you can endorse anyone for virtually anything. My personal list of endorsements includes hatha yoga, gambling, and "wears many hats."

I asked a tech recruiter what he thought of these endorsements. "Totally worthless," was his response. "They are a joke."

You may have already won!
The spam did not stop there. There were those silly "you are in the top X percent most viewed profiles on LinkedIn" announcements last February, which succeeded in suckering a lot of people to boast about their elevated LinkedIn status on Twitter and Facebook. Gee, I'm only one of 20 million. I feel so special.

These days when I log into LinkedIn I am immediately shunted over to a page that really wants me to import my email contacts. No thank you, I've now said for the 27th time, just take me to my profile.

I haven't even gotten to the LinkedIn password breach from last July, in which the network spilled 6.5 million not-very-well-encrypted logins to a Russian hacking site. The site's privacy policy now includes this lovely little nugget:

Since the internet is not a 100% secure environment, we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to LinkedIn. There is no guarantee that information may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed by breach of any of our physical, technical, or managerial safeguards. It is your responsibility to protect the security of your login information.

Here's the ironic bit. As a company, LinkedIn is worth more than at any time in its 10-year history. But LinkedIn connections themselves? They're worth less and less.

So congratulations, LinkedIn, on your milestone. Hope it was worth all the sacrifices we had to make for you to get there.

How important is LinkedIn to you? Post your thoughts below or endorse -- er, email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Happy birthday to LinkedIn, the biggest social network no one uses," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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