Once in a while someone comes up with an idea that is so blindingly obvious that I find myself wondering why I did not think of it first. Plaxo is such an idea.

At some time in the past, most of us have changed address, phone number, employer or e-mail address… and instantly all of that information being held by everyone becomes instantly stale. Having to inform them of the changes is a pain… imagine if you could do one change and it automagically updates in everyone else’s address books…

Plaxo does that.

Plaxo is the first attempt that I am aware of to set up an universal contact tracking system. In practical terms, it brings your Outlook or Outlook Express address book to life.

At its lowest level, Plaxo allows you to show others what info you have about them and allow them to update the info on-line. This can be done without sharing any information or joining or signing up for anything.

However, it is when you join Plaxo that things start getting interesting. Now you get…

An online address book that you can access from any web connected computer (ever had your PDA quit?)
An auto-update/sync feature that keeps you up to date with any contacts are Plaxo member.

The ability to synchronize your outlook contact or outlook express address books. This means that when a friend changes their shared information in Plaxo your information will be automatically updated.

My biggest fear about storing personal information online is that it could be misused or sold to junkmailers/spammers. However, I have had a look at Plaxo’s Privacy Policy which has a plain-English section (hurrah!) that states:

  • Your Information is your own and you decide who will have access to it.
  • You maintain ownership rights to your Information, even if there is a business transition or policy change.
  • You may add, delete, or modify Your Information at any time.
  • Plaxo will not update or modify Your Information without your permission.
  • Plaxo will not sell, exchange, or otherwise share Your Information with third parties, unless required by law or in accordance with your instructions.

Plaxo does not send spam, maintain spam mailing lists, or support the activities of spammers.

It does not get any more clear than that. I congratulate them for making the right decision in an age when everyone else seems to be trying to “own” your information.

You can also control who gets to see your information – home, business or both.

Plaxo works well. I use it at home and at work. Once in a while it will create a duplicate, but that is easy to deal with, and corrections propagate through the system quickly.

Oh, and Plaxo is free, though VIP membership costs $20/year.

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