LinkedIn's 10 biggest flaws - what needs fixing on the troubled business network

LinkedIn’s shareholders have had a bad year. Once as high as $250 a share the firm is now within sight of $100, losing 44 percent on a single day in February alone. Much of this is down to fickle financials. LinkedIn’s revenues were up during 2015 but it still made a loss of $166 million. Since going public in 2011, LinkedIn’s cumulative profits have been tiny compared to many of its rivals despite large jumps in the size of its user base.

But other bigger issues have strated to loom. Privately, the commentariat worry that LinkedIn’s design has problems that limit if not its user growth then its user satisfaction. Indeed, more users might be making things worse. Every service has its detractors right now, including Facebook and Twitter, the two services LinkedIn is often lumped with. Likewise, Google+ struggled so badly with its attempt to make its services more connected and social that it eventually had to shunt the whole thing into the sidings to escape the relentless mockery.

LinkedIn has always been balanced uneasily between the appearance of a social network for professionals and a marketing device for a small subset of companies and users who actually pay to use the service. Servicing these divergent needs has proved incredibly difficult. User engagement appears modest and a feeling has grown among some users that they are now stuck inside a service that serves them little beyond marketing and spam.

It’s a hard-to-resolve paradox; the users that generate most of the revenues for LinkedIn are probably not the ones most of its members actually want to meet. Even for enthusiasts, expectation now runs well ahead of possible delivery. LinkedIn used to be seen as a great way to find a new job or a sales lead but what happens when everyone else has the same idea?

So what issues does the firm have to address? They're not all of its making but it needs to look closely at the following issues before it will answer the critics.

LinkedIn's 10 biggest flaws - Contacts are strangers you’ve heard of

One of LinkedIn’s problems is that it doesn’t easily distinguish between close connections and someone a member chatted to at a conference for five minutes. Some see the ability of strangers to connect to one another as one of the service’s bonuses while others view it as a way of warehousing acquaintances for no purpose whatsoever beyond being part of a pointless numbers game.

There’s far too much spam

A common complaint is the ‘noisiness’ of LinkedIn both in terms of unsolicited emails and connection requests and unhelpful reminders to follow up on these from the service itself. Do users really want to compliment every one of their 1,000 contacts every time they change job? Almost certainly not but LinkedIn thinks that sending you an email about that event is as good idea.

Worse still, LinkedIn itself can be spammy, resending direct mails and reminders until users eventually give up and either mute the user or reply in desperation to stop the pestering.

It’s a social engineer’s paradise

It’s not LinkedIn’s fault that cybercriminals have taken to abusing LinkedIn but there are times when its communications design feels old-fashioned for an era of endemic cybercrime. There are a number of scams from connection requests from bogus accounts to scam confirmation emails that mask phishing attacks. Criminals believe that LinkedIn users are susceptible to these social engineering attacks because the service is based on requests from strangers, emails, confirmations, and constant communication.

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