LinkedIn, the social networking site for business users, has clamped down on a controversial group of networkers who add 'connections' even if they don't know them.

linkedin_logo The LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs) group is counter to LinkedIn's official policy, which states that LinkedIn members should connect only with people they know. Some LIONs have reported receiving messages saying that they have exceeded a newly imposed connection limit of 30,000. Some members revealed they have pending 'invitations to connect' that they cannot accept as a result of the restriction.

Steven Burda, a financial planner, is a LION who says he has approximately 40,000 connections now. Burda has been known to help strangers connect over the service and, as evidenced by recommendations on his profile from people all over the country, has helped some foster new business as a result.

Burda previously expressed worries that his pay-it-forward mentality might be seen as cannibalising one of LinkedIn's revenue opportunities: selling premium accounts to individuals, recruiters and companies looking to get access to search and cull through a wider portion of the network.

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Now, he thinks that fear has come to pass.

"I don't think that, I know that," he says. "LinkedIn will go public at some point. The way they make money is to say, 'hey, I'm not connected to Steven Burda, so pay LinkedIn twenty bucks or whatever to connect you with him."

Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, said the company wouldn't comment on any LION or super-connected user specifically, but said any changes to LinkedIn's service, including its search capabilities, will not affect normal users. LIONs like Burda have also seen their reach of the LinkedIn network shrink.

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Regular users of LinkedIn who use the free version of the service can search and access a portion of social network's 34 million members based on their connection count. There are their immediate connections, second degree contacts (friends of friends), and third degree contacts, people whom you can get introduced (and connect with) by the aid of being introduced by a mutual connection. These three categories in total will determine how much of the LinkedIn network the users can search for (without paying LinkedIn for wide access).

Burda says previously that number was 27 million for him but since he has added connections in recent weeks, he says his network size shrunk to 12 million.

NEXT PAGE: The previous steps LinkedIn has taken to prevent blind connections