Facebook has changed the way we interact with friends and family, and LinkedIn has done the same for business relationships. LinkedIn is the only major social media network solely dedicated to the professional world, and it is how more people are finding employees, finding jobs, and making connections with colleagues, clients, and coworkers. Very few professionals don’t have a LinkedIn profile today, and the same can be said for businesses—which is impressive, considering the site was only launched 14 years ago. How did LinkedIn gain the huge user base that it has now? Let’s take a look back at the history of this social media site, which is likely to continue to grow in the future.

LinkedIn’s First 10 Years

LinkedIn was founded in 2002, but the site didn’t launch until 2003. Reid Hoffman partnered with a team made up of people from two of his former projects, Socialnet.com and PayPal, to create the site. Initially, growth was slow and limited, but growth became explosive as the features of the site grew. Below, you’ll see a timeline of LinkedIn’s first 10 years.

  • 2003 – LinkedIn Launches –LinkedIn was officially launched in May, 2003, but it was not an immediate hit. At the end of 2003, LinkedIn had a mere 245 members, many of whom were professional connections of the founding team.
  • 2004 – LinkedIn Grows a Base of Small Business Owners –Through its second year, LinkedIn saw accelerated growth as features designed to appeal to small business owners, like address book uploads, Groups, and partnership with American Express, were rolled out. Membership moved from the hundreds to hundreds of thousands through 2004.
  • 2005 – LinkedIn Starts Generating Revenue –By 2005, membership exceeded 1 million, and the site launched two business lines that started generating revenue: Jobs and Subscriptions. As membership grew, the company did too, opening a fourth office.
  • 2006 – LinkedIn Launches Public Profiles –2006 was a turning point for LinkedIn, because the site started the feature that it’s most known for today. Public profiles gave people a chance to connect with other professionals, and features like People You May Know and Recommendations were launched. This would also mark the first year of profitability for LinkedIn.
  • 2007 – LinkedIn Gets New Leadership –Reid Hoffman stepped down from the role of CEO in 2007, passing the reigns to Dan Nye. With membership approaching 10 million, a Customer Service Center opens in Omaha.
  • 2008 – LinkedIn Goes Global –After spending several years growing within the United States, LinkedIn took its first steps toward becoming a global social network. The first international office opened in London in 2008, and Spanish and French versions of the site were rolled out.
  • 2009 – Jeff Weiner Takes the Lead –The current CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, took leadership of the company in 2009. This transition created a clearer path to growth both domestically and internationally, which would include the first acquisitions of the company.
  • 2010 – LinkedIn Gets Huge –Growth hit a huge milestone in 2010, a year which rounded out with 90 million members and 1,000 users. They also opened an International Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland and acquired mSpoke, a startup specializing in promoting relevant content through recommendation technology.
  • 2011 – LinkedIn Becomes Publicly Traded –After substantial growth and a good deal of private investment, LinkedIn moved to the stock market as a publicly traded company in 2011. The company also hosted a town hall event with President Obama while the site underwent a major infrastructure overhaul.
  • 2012 – A New Vision Emerges –2012 was a year of transition for LinkedIn, which would now focus on three concepts: simplify, grow, everyday. The site launched Influencers, platforms in eight new languages, and an iPad app.

Over the next several years, LinkedIn continued to innovate and create a more seamless user experience to allow people to forge valuable connections in this professional space. By taking over Lynda.com, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Learning, which offers courses in a variety of subject areas for professionals seeking continuing educational opportunities. As of April, 2017, LinkedIn had more than 500 million members around the world.

What Does the Future Hold for LinkedIn?

One of the most significant changes in recent history for LinkedIn was a growth in features available to premium users. Though basic, free accounts still offer the ability to create a profile, apply for jobs, and network, the site is aiming for a more immersive experience with premium users. It is likely that LinkedIn will continue to design upgrades as premium perks, and the site is likely to launch more paid features for employers and companies, as well. LinkedIn ProFinder is set to continue growing as a platform to recruit remote workers. The site will also be following trends seen in other social media networks to increase its emphasis on video content as well as video chat functionality.

It’s no secret that social networks have changed almost everything about the way we live, and that includes the way businesses advertise. If you need help finding your footing when it comes to marketing in a digital world, connect with Pennington Creative to see how we can help your social strategy. You can reach us online to schedule a discovery call or read more about our services.

About the Author

Marissa - Digital Marketing Manager, Account Services
Marissa Storrs

Digital Marketing Manager, Client Engagement