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LinkedIn to Offer New Free Services - InternetNews.
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LinkedIn to Offer New Free Services

Business networking service LinkedIn is making it easier for users to connect with everyone they ever knew -- or ever wanted to know.

LinkedIn is a civilized spot in the world of online networking services. Users of LinkedIn connect only with people they know and trust, expanding their professional networking circle via discreet introductions to each other's contacts.

LinkedIn announced Tuesday that it expects to reach profitability this month, thanks to a set of new premium services. To celebrate that success LinkedIn will be offering new free services to its members.

Recently LinkedIn launched a feature that helps members reconnect with coworkers from previous jobs. The company now will provide automatic updates about these colleagues placed directly on members' LinkedIn homepages. The information includes new e-mail addresses, who was promoted and who is hiring.

"People believe that relationships in business matter, but they're often not so good at following through on that," said Konstantin Guericke, LinkedIn co-founder and vice president of marketing. "So we help people reconnect."

"On other Web sites you pay for this service. We're giving it away for free because we have a business model layered on top of it," added Guericke.

That business model is the premium services that are purchased primarily on a yearly subscription basis and cost between $60 and $300 a year. Premium services include expanded access to job postings and enhanced people-search capabilities. Users can also purchase premium services on a per-transaction basis.

Guericke said that recruiting and investment firms tend to subscribe to the higher-end services, while other small businesses tend to use the services in the $60 range for background information and business development.

Brian Haven, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that what sets LinkedIn apart from other social-networking sites is that it takes the nature of its service, which is social, and applies it to professional needs.

"It demonstrates that social connections powered by your audience can be valuable. The vertical search category is going to take off," added Haven. "And LinkedIn is in a good spot, because it's one of the only professional services in that space."

LinkedIn members are typically invited to join the service by an existing user, and then have access to their "sponsor's" contacts. In turn, they invite their own contacts to join, and so on.

The typical network of a LinkedIn user contains about 30,000 people, according to Guericke, who added that the response rate from e-mails sent from one LinkedIn member to another is 97 percent.

The network currently has 5 million users, and LinkedIn hopes to hit the 10 million-user mark in the next nine months.

The company is also developing matching technology to identify relevant contacts for members among the people their connections know.

The matching service, according to Guericke, takes into account both the individual career history of members, as well as their likely future career progression based on aggregated data culled from members' profiles.

LinkedIn is also integrating its service more tightly with Microsoft Outlook.

Later this month LinkedIn will release an Outlook toolbar that users can install on their desktops. The toolbar will bring some of LinkedIn's contact management tools into Outlook and will allow users to query their LinkedIn contacts to see if they've changed jobs, e-mail addresses or phone numbers. The toolbar will then update Outlook's address book as needed.