LinkedIn Is Killing Intro, Its Useful, Controversial iPhone Service — Yes, Already

A sudden "retirement" after just three months.

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LinkedIn Intro

I just got an e-mail from LinkedIn with the subject line “We’re retiring LinkedIn Intro.” Intro is the service the company unveiled last October that cleverly inserted contact information into the iPhone’s Mail app — a piece of software with no mechanism for plug-ins.

At least I thought it was clever. Much of the insta-response to the service was stingingly negative: It performed its trick by serving as a middleman between you and your e-mail service, then injecting the contact info into the message as HTML. Some observers saw that as a privacy violation or even a sort of attack.

“Retirement” is a funny word to use in explaining the service’s demise, given that Intro introduced itself to the world just over three months ago. In the real world, if someone steps down from a job that quickly, it ain’t a retirement — it’s a firing.

The e-mail’s explanation of why the service is going away is willfully vague:

We strive to deliver product experiences that delight our members and add value to their professional lives. This sometimes means shutting down certain products or features to focus on the most relevant offerings for our members.

A blog post on the news doesn’t make things any clearer.

I don’t know whether the negative press hurt Intro, or whether Apple was unhappy with the service elbowing its way into Mail. Or maybe it just turned out that LinkedIn users didn’t care much about it. Although it seems to me that helping people quickly learn about other people who send them e-mail is exactly the sort of thing that LinkedIn should do, whether or not this particular implementation made sense.

Intro was based on technology from Rapportive, a startup acquired by LinkedIn. The original Rapportive plug-in for Gmail is still around and will continue to be supported, but it’s not clear whether the death of Intro represents the end of LinkedIn’s plans to meld its network with Rapportive, or just the beginning of a reboot.

Folks who have been using Intro have a month until the service gets shut down. And — here’s a serious technical strike against the whole idea, and reason to be non-plussed over LinkedIn giving up so quickly — those who installed the service on iPhones will need to go through several steps to get rid of it or their iPhone e-mail will stop working once March 7 rolls around.