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Profile surfing and anonymity: Linkedin feature change

One of the reasons I ended up visiting LinkedIn often (recent comment from an engineer looking at "My most visited " list - "LinkedIn shows up twice..really?") is their "Who's viewed My Profile" box.
Clicking through on the link a few weeks ago, gave you a snippet of people that had viewed your profile. The information was deliberately vague ("Someone at Google", "Someone in the IT industry" etc. ), but interesting in the voyeuristic ways these things tend to be.

So I was intrigued when LinkedIn changed this feature a couple of weeks ago. Now, the only way you get to see this information is if you opt to make your own information completely public (i.e. clicking on the profile above would show the person's actual name; link to their profile etc.)

This change simultaneously makes the the feature more interesting, and less likely to be used. I'd love to see the internal stats on how users have reacted to this change.

This approach is somewhere right in the middle. The extremes are the way Orkut used to be and no longer is (you could always see the full information on who'd viewed your profile) and the Facebook approach (that information was never available to you.)

On balance the results suggest Facebook got it right. The externality (i.e. evidence that people know you saw their profile) prevents people from spending more time on the site and actually surfing profiles. Perhaps the fact that LinkedIn surfing tends to be more professional and the fact that they have a user base used to this behavior will allow them to make this successful.

If anyone picks this data up or has other ideas about this, do let me know. :)


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