Did LinkedIn Gut Recommendations In Response To Social Ad Outrage?

Somewhere in the last week or so, LinkedIn stopped displaying the name of those who recommend you.

What’s up with that? I hear you asking already – surely this must be some sort of error…

Read on and I’ll lay it all out for you.

The recommendation

This feature has been in since the early days.

When you’re connecting to people you know and trust, it’s a logical extension to get them to say good things about you – because they’re in the best position to know about you.

Readers can consult the “Recommendations” archive to find the more than dozen articles I’ve written on the subject, including its part in my “Favorite Linked Things“, and one of my very early articles on making “Memorable Endorsements“. (And yes, they were at one time called “endorsements” instead of “recommendations”)

A key component

I’ve talked about how to use them in “The LinkedIn Personal Trainer“, and consider recommendations essential in any job search strategy.

What’s more attractive to an organization filling a position, candidate one with a great profile, relevant experience, and a dozen solid recommendations, or candidate two with just as good a profile, just as relevant experience, but no recommendations…

Especially when you can check into the background of those doing the recommending!

Except you can’t

So here’s the change, and it appears to have happened about 4-6 days ago.

I can see the names of the people who have recommended my direct connections, whether they share their connection list or not.

I’ve got some mixed results for those further away – and these can be explained as details that aren’t quite obvious, or a not-fully-implemented transition.

For those in my network at levels 2 or 3, I can see some, and cannot see others.

After much searching, I found someone in a group that was not also a 2nd or 3rd level connection – and could not see the names there.

For those outside my network, profile viewing has already been limited, and recommendations are not visible. (and after I “Outfoxed LinkedIn’s Profile Visibility Restrictions“, I was able to see that this individual’s recommendations are not visible on the web either) ((actually – digging further – it isn’t possible to list recommendations on web profiles))

And I’ve scoured the settings and recommendations areas – I do not see any new areas to manage the visibility on your profile, or of your own recommendations.

What this means

So if you’ve been keeping tab – if you know people (and connect to them directly), you can see who has recommended them.

If you don’t know people – and don’t connect to them, you can’t see who recommends them – or check on their background!

This is just plain wrong!

It is essential that you can check into who is doing the recommending. Anybody want to guess how many fake accounts are created in the next month to artificially inflate the appeal of people that already lack ethics?

Users used to be able to backtrack and pick out a fraud, and that ability is just plain gone. The transparency of the system kept it honest.

The connection to Social Ads

And you might not have noticed, but LinkedIn addressed the “Social Ad Outrage” just 11 days ago on their blog

Most importantly, what we’ve learned now, is that, even though our members are happy to have their actions, such as recommendations, be viewable by their network as a public action, some of those same members may not be comfortable with the use of their names and photos associated with those actions used in ads served to their network.

So, we will be changing how these types of social ads look…

But then just a few days later this change in recommendations rolls out.

Curious, ‘eh?

So let’s consider we’re inside the LinkedIn war-room…

“This uproar about the social ads is a mess.”

“Ok, so let’s take users’ names out of advertisements.”

“Well what about recommendations?”

“What about them – if users don’t want to attach their names to products we’d like to advertise, then they shouldn’t be attached to their recommendations either.”

Ok – clearly I’ve made that all up – but it’s close enough to plausible that I’m thinking that the two are related. Clearly those making a change of either sort would know that the other change is happening at the same time.

All we can do is hope…

The history of LinkedIn responding to users is pretty bad – the company has always done what it wants, when it wants to – except for this recent social ad issue.

I do want to thank Jason Alba for bringing this to my attention on his blog. We  both published our books in 2007, and while I enjoy breaking LinkedIn news some of the time, he sniffed this out before me;-) He’s thinking this is another rung in the “pay for the service” ladder, and it could be. My thought is that it’s a reaction to getting their hands slapped about the social ads…

Where this is headed – I’m not sure. I hold out a glimmer of hope that this could be an experiment gone wrong, but it’s still a sad day for me.

To your continued success,


Steven Tylock