Not too many weeks ago I started getting invitations to connect at Plaxo. I didn't even know Plaxo offered connections. I thought it was just a way to keep my contact list updated. Little did I know they had completely rewritten the entire platform, and I find myself liking it.
Robert Scoble wrote about the new release, dubbed Plaxo 3.0, back in June, but I wasn't paying attention at that time. It's one of the better critiques I've read, so let me encourage you to review it as well if you've not done so already. (I mean, like you only had six months to do so.) Plus, there's a 17 minute video tutorial by Plaxo's vp of marketing outlining the finer points included in the post.
Synch and Share
Two key components mentioned in the video to note are synch and share (sort of reminds me of Sonny and Cher). Those aren't official terms as I understand it, but more descriptive.
The synch part is that Plaxo acts as a "smart address book" that, well, synchs up with other email clients such as Outlook, Google, AOL, Thunderbird, and mobile phones. It ties together all the disparate address books across just about every place you have one and brings them together.
In my view, that's classic Web 3.0 thinking -- bringing the various digital archipelagos together into a Pangaea. (Yea, I had to go look that up the first time I heard it too. No worries. I'll wait until you get back from browsing Dictionary.com.)
Plaxo got its start as a contact management system. Version 3.0 builds on that and continues to keep it as the centerpiece.
The part I really like and that comprises the social network component of the platform, is Plaxo Pulse, which launched in August. It mimics Facebook functionality somewhat by including a news feed, groups (a recent addition) and the ability to share messages, links and video. Like I said, very Facebook-like.
What's really cool is that I can pull in feeds from other apps (Digg, Twitter, Jaiku, my blog, flickr, etc) and it shows up in the news feed. So, again, another piece of the Web 3.0 Utopia brought to us by Plaxo. Oh, yea, there's a widget that can be incorporated into a blog where all that information is streamed. (Kinda, sorta like a Twitter widget)
Mr. Clean user interface
The thing that I really, REALLY like is that the UI is very clean. And when I say clean, I mean scrub behind your ears clean. What with all the new apps being developed for FB things can get very congested. I've got stuff running down the page for days. Plaxo offers a "baptized in the river" version that appeals to my Monkish nature.
Plaxo is also now offered in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model. Nothing to download other than an ActiveX component for when you synch with Outlook or Outlook Express. Very nice as well.
Though many of Plaxo's functions are free to use, some are not. You have to pay to get things like LinkedIn or Window's Mobile integration (yes, it does that too), or a tool that dedups your address book taking out duplicate entries. I've used that and it's pretty sweet. But, alas, to get those things costs a whopping $49.95 a year. (There is a 30-day free trial.)
I don't know that Plaxo will replace Facebook as my social network of choice, but I wouldn't count that out. I did leave MySpace in favor of FB and whose to say the same thing wouldn't happen again. I am just a wee bit fickle when it comes to these things.
Some say Facebook wants to be the new operating system for the web. Whether Plaxo has similar aspirations I don't know. I can say that, at its heart, the platform seeks to be an avenue by which we travel to get to the Web 3.0. For now though, I'm just trying to figure out how I can be in both places at once.
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