what is plaxo?

March 8, 2005

a lot of people have been wondering what plaxo does. by now, most people have, at some time or another, gotten a request to update their contact information from a friend through plaxo. oftentimes, as plaxo spreads through a social group, those who join plaxo last end up getting sent a large number of these contact info update requests. these people naturally – and unfortunately – mistake plaxo for a spam company 😦

what plaxo actually does is harness the power of social networking to keep your contacts up to date. if you and all of your friends are signed up for plaxo, when someone moves, they only need to update their info in plaxo. plaxo then automatically sends the updated info to everyone in the group – to make it even smoother, the people in the group don’t need to do anything; their address books are just always up to date. for me, the only contact info i have left for most of my college friends is an e-mail address. fortunately, with just an e-mail address, i can quickly reconnect with all of my friends and keep in touch effortlessly.

the best part is, if you use outlook or outlook express, plaxo has a client plug-in. this plug-in will automatically keep your outlook contacts up to date too. there are also cool features that help you keep your calendar, tasks and notes synced up. if you have multiple computers, you can install plaxo on all of them and your information can be synced automatically.

they also have a really cool web interface and an IE toolbar in the works – it’s got integrated yahoo search too, so you don’t need a search toolbar anymore (don’t worry, they haven’t put in an autolink feature… yet ;P).

what about privacy concerns? well, plaxo, unlike other social networks, is very concerned about privacy. first of all, you choose what information other people can see and get updated from you. also, no one ever knows who is in your address book unless you tell them they are. plaxo isn’t a spamhouse so they aren’t interested in selling your information; plus, even though you only get e-mailed by plaxo when one of your friends requests it, you can still opt-out and you won’t receive any more e-mails from plaxo.

hope that answers most questions. if you want to keep in touch with me, just add my e-mail to your plaxo account (it’s 99zeros at gmail).

for the doubters out there, don’t worry, i haven’t drunk too much corporate kool-aid; check out the product and i think you’ll see why i am so excited to be working here 🙂

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24 Responses to “what is plaxo?”

  1. LL Says:

    I’ve had the Plaxo plug-in for Outlook for a couple of years now, and I just love it. However, I’m concerned about how long Plaxo will be around since it’s not obvious to me how the company makes any money. Now, Mark, I really don’t want you to get in trouble again by revealing any financial info, but I wanted to voice my concern. 🙂

  2. LL Says:

    I’ve had the Plaxo plug-in for Outlook for a couple of years now, and I just love it. However, I’m concerned about how long Plaxo will be around since it’s not obvious to me how the company makes any money. Now, Mark, I really don’t want you to get in trouble again by revealing any financial info, but I wanted to voice my concern. 🙂

  3. Ori Says:

    With all the respect to the honest explanation and loyalty to your new company. There are many companies that provide the same service, and the result is….SPAM! Why? Because I never asked to get into this service, and since I get those annoying emails every day from such companies. I know about a couple of dozens of hundreds of people and I don’t feel like updating their addressbook every morning spending 15 minutes. Even if plaxo sends me only 1 email its already spam, and I don’t buy this op-out thing, every spammer ‘ofers’ you that.
    Moreover what would happen in a couple of years if/when palxo gets into financial troubles? Can you promise me that they won’t sell their database like all other failed startups did?
    In today’s world knowing a person’s email is more than enough to make contact. Believe me, if I get an email from an old friend asking to give him a call or send my phone number, I would be much more likely to do so, than if I get an annoying spam from a 3rd party service provider such as plaxo, asking me basically the same thing. More argument against? What if you want to disappear? or loose contact with some people, or just become anonymous for a couple of years? The outlook plug-in will track you down, and tell the world: Here is Ori, you can call his mobile any time any where, it does not matter how he feels about it.

  4. Barlas Says:

    Congratulations Mark 🙂 Hope you get what you are looking for.

    And thanks for telling about plaxo, seems great, checking it right now.

  5. Joe Says:

    Well done, glad to hear some people are on the ball, and noticed that you’re talent. Your passion for programming and innovation is going to make a company big- that’s what every company needs. You’re a good guy- and congrats on your new employment. My email is jburlas@braxas.com or DoubleZer08@comcast.net – add me if you like :o). Much love from the far side of the earth. Joe.

  6. markjen Says:

    Ori – Rest assured, Plaxo is not a spammer. If you sign up on our opt-out list, we will not send you any more e-mails. Additionally, we never sell any of our information to others. We treat user information as sacred and take great lengths to make sure it is secured. Even if Plaxo gets into financial trouble, we will not sell your information; our privacy policy prohibits that so it would be illegal and it would be against our company values.

    Re: your concerns about people being able to find you – Plaxo takes your personal information very seriously and you are able to control what information is public and what is private. Additionally, you can choose exactly who gets what information. Don’t worry, no one you are trying to hide from will be able to get your info 🙂


  7. I have been using Plaxo for about 3 years now, and have found it to be an overall useful tool. Managing my contacts is one of the most difficult things for me. The problem that Plaxo needs to solve is helping people to ELIMINATE DUPLICATE CONTACTS. Think about it. I have contact info in a lot of places:

    1. My Treo (650) 🙂
    2. Outlook (at work)
    3. My old phone (#’s that didn’t fit on the sim card)
    4. Plaxo online database
    5. My emails (info which is not in my contact list)
    6. Bloggers (the emails of all the blogs that I read)
    7. Other websites (I.E. When I have to call Comcast to pay my bill, I don’t keep them in my contact list)
    8. Outlook (at home)

    Since I have been dealing with this in the last month, it is very fresh and painful. I would LOVE Plaxo if it took a holistic approach to contact management, instead of just taking my outlook contacts. Also, they have no tool that helps me manage DUPLICATE CONTACTS, which are the most annoying thing in my life so far this year. I would pay for the VIP pass if they did this! (I don’t think I’m alone either). Overall, I love Plaxo and am happy with their tool. However, with Marks help, I’m sure that they will become even better! 😉

  8. markjen Says:

    darren – don’t worry you’re not alone. we’ve heard our users suggestions; stay tuned, you’re not waiting in vain 🙂

  9. Petsim Says:

    Mark congratulations on your new job and yes I concur with Darren that a lot needs to be done in syncing the several address books. I am on and off on Plaxo simply because there is no connection to Lotus Notes, our corporate email. And as long as that’s not there what value will it bring to automatically update the webversion? I still need to update my Notes address book (that does sync with my phone) manually. Time for Plaxo to open to the world and step out of the Microsoft area. The real big jump is out there waiting!

  10. Elizabeth Says:

    I think you’ve drunk at least a little bit of the Kool-Aid. I signed up for Plaxo a few months ago and was dismayed to discover there’s no way to use it on your own machine if you don’t use Outlook. Plenty of us out here prefer other mail programs (I use Thunderbird), and the only way for us to use Plaxo is to use the online version. And this is nearly impossible – whenever I try to log in online, it doesn’t accept my login information and I can’t find any way to get to my contact list. The only way I’ve been able to use it at all is to bookmark a link to my contacts that was contained in an “update your list” memo that Plaxo sent me several weeks after I signed up. Obviously, the Plaxo folks are in the business of trying to convert people to Microsoft products. If they were really just trying to build the best contacts manager around, they’d make it friendly to all mail users, not just those who use Outlook.

  11. chirayu Says:

    well… ive been able to log in to plaxo…more than a couple of times…and it all went smoothly.
    i dont know why u r having trouble.

    and i also think that they should support thunderbird.

  12. markjen Says:

    elizabeth – I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience with Plaxo’s web access. We’ve made various updates and improvements since a few months ago; if you try it again, it may be working a lot better now. Additionally, if you need help, you can always e-mail me directly.

    As far as thunderbird support goes, we definitely hear users’ feedback. We are looking into many different growth opportunities; hopefully, we’ll be able to take care of your requests soon!

  13. spliff Says:

    hey… good to hear ur rocking in a new place. trying to leverage ur blog for as long as u can, i see… cool!! make sure its worth it.

  14. jdragon Says:

    plaxo is just another fancy outlook plug-in. shakey business model to rely on microsoft outlook as your channel. frankly, i didn’t find it useful at all. Try gmailm it is better. 🙂

  15. Philip Says:

    Plaxo is just a tool for the early-adopter community. The selling point is too confusing and cumbersome for the average user. Plaxo is a light-weight social network. What’s the incentive to the user besides just being in an arbitrary social network, like Friendster without the features?

    For plaxo to work, it needs to be the dominant online social network somewhere.

    And you can’t take trust lightly. People still use the rolodex even if they own a Palm. Just because they still want to “wait and see” with regard to technology.

    5.6 million members is not a success story at all, given the goals of Plaxo. 5.6M, to me, indicates that only 1% of my friends will have Plaxo.

    I won’t make a grand prediction about Plaxo, but many things need to change. Hopefully you can bring in those changes.

  16. Peter Says:

    Mark,

    I’ve used Plaxo for quite some time now and really like it. My primary use of it is to sync my work and home machines so that I have the same Outlook info on both, and subsequently the PDAs I have attached to each. I’ve had a few problems but Plaxo has (usually) been very responsive.

    However, there’s one request that I’ve made over and over to no avail, and I think it’s something that you might be able to implement.

    I want a simple “What’s New” page that is updated every time a new version of the Plaxo plug-in is posted for download. That’s it, plain and simple.

    Thoughts?

    Peter

  17. markjen Says:

    philip – your points are well taken. the incentive for users today is that plaxo is a tool that can help you get your address book in order, even if your friends aren’t on plaxo yet. additionally, if you use multiple computers, you can use plaxo to sync your contacts between clients. there’s also a neat web interface so you can use plaxo without using outlook.

    as plaxo’s network grows the value to each user increases as well. we’re always looking to refine the product, hopefully fueling further growth.

    peter – we’re working on getting more effective communication of our features out to our users. to keep up on the latest, please check out our forums and our blog.

  18. Wolf Harper Says:

    My trouble with Plaxo is no one I know has ever sent me a request. I get them from people I don’t remember, distant ex-coworkers who obviously just dumped their entire Outlook address book into Plaxo, and it tried to register everyone who’s ever sent them an email. Kinda seems like spam, ya gotta admit.

    Anyway, Plaxo is in a tough business. Like online auctions, there will be precisely one player, around whom critical mass is achieved. Til that happens, every wanna-be is gonna flood me with invites. I just got one from linkedin.com via a coworker I’ve never heard of.

    As for the high-minded notion that these companies will treat my information with utmost care… I’m sure they will, but consider bankruptcy liquidation. That information is an asset the company is no longer in control of. The court is obliged to act in the interest of creditors, not former site users. When spammers start outbidding each other for that valuable DB — seems to me the creditors won’t stand by and let the court not sell it.

  19. Wolf Harper Says:

    By the way, my money’s on Plaxo as far as who the one player ends up being. Barring some _deus ex machina_ from a big player like Microsoft.

    I also think within 18 months, Plaxo will get bought by somebody. There are some obvious players there — you might not be done eating free lunches in Mountain View 🙂

  20. markjen Says:

    wolf – thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

    about your concerns regarding what happens in the event of bankruptcy, plaxo’s privacy policy actually covers that possibility.

    “Following a Business Transition, Plaxo or its successors will continue to use Your Information in accordance with the Privacy Policy under which the information was collected. If, however, we plan to use Your Information in a manner different from that stated at the time of collection we will notify you via e-mail and/or through a notice on our Web site and any other appropriate methods. You will have a choice as to whether or not we use Your Information in this different manner. Whether or not you wish to have Your Information used in this different manner, you will retain ownership rights to Your Information and the ability to delete Your Information at any time.”

    sorry, that was kind of long, but it’s good to know 🙂


  21. Plaxo sends huge quantities of unwanted email to people who never asked for it. To call it a spammer is not a “mistake”, it’s just a description. Maybe I can opt out, maybe I can’t, but giving people the chance to opt out after you start sending them spam doesn’t make you not a spammer. I could probably opt out of some of the thousands of Viagra spams I get, too.

    I understand why you are spamming me, it’s because your model doesn’t work if you can’t get people to sign up for it, but that’s not a sufficient excuse.

  22. markjen Says:

    Hi David –

    IMO, the main difference is that Plaxo sends messages only when a user requests it. Conceptually, there is no difference between Plaxo sending the message and a user sending it from their normal e-mail client.

    Remember, we only send messages for people who already have your contact information and have specifically asked us to send it to you. We don’t harvest e-mail addresses from the web and then mindlessly spam people.

    The assumption is that people such as your friends, family, business associates and others want to keep in touch with you and you want to keep in touch with them. These people already have your contact information. They are merely asking Plaxo to act as a mechanism for keeping that information up to date.

    Hope this makes sense,
    Mark

  23. 3yjz6s2owt Says:

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  24. richard Says:

    well, thank you all – reading the responses has made me realize that :
    1. I’m not so lazy as to need a program to handle my contacts…i’d rather do it myself.
    2. a “Whats new” page looks like a dead idea…even though it is a reasonable (and simple) request.
    3. the inclusion of “and/or” in the legal disclaimer in markjen’s answer (#20) really just shows that Plaxo, or whoever eats them, can do “either/or” not AND. sneaky slight of language.

    I’m headed back to my Comcast main page to disable plaxo until I find it actually necessary. -OR, barring that…in the news as the next Michael Jackson appearance.

    Good luck plaxo…not a bad idea, just not good enough…yet…


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