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LinkedIn removes the email address requirement for new connections - will we all now be spammed by connection invites?

UPDATE 4 May 07:It turns out there is now a setting in your LinkedIn account where you can return to requiring an email address.

So will we all now be spammed (more than before) by LinkedIn connection requests? 

I've been a LinkedIn user since about 2004 or so and have found it quite useful, primarily to stay in touch with friends and former colleagues as we all change and evolve over time.  But one of the things that I personally liked about LinkedIn was the fact that in order to add someone as a connection, you had to know that person's email address.  A simple thing, yet one way to increasing the level of trust within the LinkedIn network and preventing a degree of spam.  You couldn't just add anyone - you had to at least know their email address.

Now there were problems, naturally.  Those of us who publicly post an email address on blogs, websites, etc., have always been subject to people we don't know who would send LinkedIn connection invitations.  Also a certain class of LinkedIn users who really focused on estabilishing the most connections simply put their email address in their publicly visibile LinkedIn profile name, thus allowing anyone to defeat the email address requirement and request a connection.    And certainly I found myself frustrated by finding ex-colleagues in LinkedIn, but having no current email address to easily use to connect with them.

The more "pure" LinkedIn approach to the latter issue would simply be to send a connection request to the ex-colleague by way of one of your connections.  I actually did this in several cases and it generally worked fine.  But this really only worked if the person you were using as the relay was a frequent LinkedIn user and would pass along the request with some degree of speed. Otherwise, it might take some time - or never get there (as two of mine never did). 

LinkedIn also attempted to make this easier with their "Introductions" feature, where you could send an "Introduction" directly to someone without knowing their address or using someone as a relay.  As a (free) basic user you got 5 of these "Introductions" that you could use at any one time - or you could upgrade (as shown on right) to get more Introductions.  I also did use this service as a way to connect to an ex-colleague and it worked fine.

However, while LinkedIn had this requirement to establish a connection, competitor Xing (formerly OpenBC) did not... and then of course Facebook and MySpace do not, either.   With a zillion new social networking services seeming to be announced each week, I suppose it was inevitable that this email address requirement would come to be seen as a barrier and was perhaps impacting LinkedIn's take-up rate.

In any event, the email address requirement seems to be completely gone today.

Maybe it's a glitch, but just this morning I accepted a LinkedIn invitation and, as I often do, browsed the person's connections to see if I knew anyone.  I did, and so I viewed the profiles and clicked on the "add this person as a connection" link that appeared on screen after the text "Do you know this person?"  I did this three times.

It was only then that I realized that I had never provided any email addresses.  My invitations just went off.  Thinking it was an error, I looked up two ex-colleagues whose email addresses I no longer have and sent them invitations.  Same thing.  No email address required.

On the one hand, I don't mind the change since it does make it easier to connect with people - and all the other services don't impose that requirement.  But the other part of me says... uh, oh... now anyone inside of LinkedIn can send me a connection invite without doing any work to find my address - will I now be spammed by more people that I don't know?

We'll see... if you are a LinkedIn user, odds are that if this is true you'll probably be seeing more connection invitations!

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