Facebook and MySpace perform important functions for their users. But when you get right down to it, they exist and are popular because they are amusements. Serious business is not discussed on a page with glitter fonts and Linkin Park music videos that auto-play. There is a social site that's all business --LinkedIn-- and it's received an infusion of $53 million dollars from Bain Capital, who've valued the company overall at a cool $1 billion. Not bad for a site with no videos and hardly any pictures on it.
LinkedIn gives professionals, even the most hopeless wallflower, a painless way to follow the advice of every career counselor: build a network. Users maintain online résumés, establish links with colleagues and business acquaintances and then expand their networks to the contacts of their contacts. The service also helps them search for experts who can help them solve daily business problems.
The four-year-old site is decidedly antisocial: only last fall, after what executives describe as a year of intense debate, did the company ask members to add photos to their profiles.
That business-only-please strategy appears to be paying off. The number of people using LinkedIn, based in Mountain View, Calif., tripled in May over the previous year, according to Nielsen Online. At 23 million members, LinkedIn remains far smaller than Facebook and MySpace, each with 115 million members, but it is growing considerably faster.
Sooner or later, most everyone wants to stop going to the amusement park and wants to join the country club. LinkedIn might become the biggest virtual country club ever. Remember, on the Internet, no one knows if you have whales on your pants.