LinkedIn has removed the option to export your contacts. Instead, the company is asking users to request an archive of their data, but that process can take up to 72 hours to complete.

Update: LinkedIn has brought back the tool after users complained.

Before it disappeared today, LinkedIn’s export contacts feature allowed you to easily export your own contacts as a downloadable CSV or VCF file. That included contacts you made while using the service, as well as any you manually imported into LinkedIn. Now that feature is gone, without even a simple warning.

The change was first spotted by Twitter user Onica. We confirmed the problem by visiting the export settings page ourselves:

linkedin_export_fail

In very small font, the defunct export page now points you to “Accessing Your Account Data” on LinkedIn’s Help Center. To request a download of your data, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Move your cursor over your profile photo at the top right of your homepage and select Privacy & Settings. You may be prompted to sign in.
  2. Click the Account tab near the bottom of the page.
  3. Click Request an archive of your data under the Helpful Links section.

According to the LinkedIn Help account on Twitter, this archive still includes your contacts:

The help page seems to confirm this; your data archive should contain the following (emphasis ours):

  • Registration information
  • Login history including IP records
  • Email address history and statuses
  • Account history including account closures and reopens
  • Name information including the current name on your account and any previous name changes
  • A list of your 1st degree connections
  • Photos that have been uploaded to your account
  • Endorsements you’ve received
  • List of skills on your profile
  • Recommendations given and received
  • Group contributions
  • Your search history
  • Content you’ve posted, shared, liked, or commented on
  • Mobile apps you’ve installed
  • Ads you’ve clicked on
  • The targeting criteria LinkedIn uses to show you ads

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to immediately verify whether the contacts are indeed in the archive, or what format they are in, because of the wait time.

72 hours is not the end of the world to put together an archive of all your data on a social network and make it available for you to download. Facebook does the same thing: You can’t download your data right away, though the company usually gets your archive ready in less than three days.

Indeed, my Facebook archive was made available in under 10 minutes while I wrote this article. I’m still waiting for my LinkedIn archive.

We have contacted LinkedIn for more information and will update you if we hear back.

Update: LinkedIn got in touch and emphasized that only the process has changed (we’ve changed the headline to say “tool” instead of “option” to be crystal clear). “Our members can continue to easily request and export all of the data LinkedIn has stored on their account, by visiting our help center,” a LinkedIn spokesperson told VentureBeat.

We asked what format the contacts are made available in as part of the data archive, and the spokesperson confirmed that they are put into a CSV file. In short, what’s really changing here is that you can no longer export your contacts immediately. Now you have to get them as part of a data archive request, which can take up to three days.

Update 2: In response to all the backlash, LinkedIn has published a blog post. The crux is below.

We’ve historically had two ways for members to export portions of their data on LinkedIn. To simplify this experience we’ve combined them into one single process, and we include more of your activity in the export. This change is also part of a larger and ongoing effort by LinkedIn to make the scraping of member data by third parties more difficult. Scraping is against our Terms Of Service and potentially detrimental to the members whose data is being scraped.

Scraping is the automated process of extracting information from websites by having software manually visit pages like a user would, but at a much bigger scale. LinkedIn doesn’t explain how this has anything to do with scraping. Given that you’re exporting contacts by downloading a file (not visiting every one of your contacts on LinkedIn) and that only you can export your own contacts, we’re not sure how this change has anything to do with scraping.

Update 3: LinkedIn has brought back the tool after users complained.