Plaxo Could Be the Open Facebook

Plaxo recently launched a new 3.0 version that was more than just an AJAX face lift. Plaxo, once a notorious spammer, has grown beyond their core service of being the web’s address book. The new version not only synchronizes contact information, but also your information feeds, like Flickr, calendars, and adding new feeds every day through Plaxo Pulse. Today Plaxo is joining a host of other sites supporting the OpenID platform as their larger vision takes form, and it is becoming a hub instead of a directory.

Facebook has talked repeatedly about their “social graph” (computer science jargon for the data structure behind a social network). It’s the core of their platform, providing the context that makes their applications relevant to users. The only problem is that it’s still relatively closed off. Applications can exist within Facebook or outside through their API. Either way, Facebook still owns the users.

socialgraph.pngPlaxo is not a “social network” like Facebook, but cuts to the core of what makes a “social graph.” Plaxo has access to the contact information their 15 million users. This not only includes phone numbers and emails, but the connections between users that make up the links on the social graph.

Plaxo is not making this “social graph” a walled garden. They’re becoming the Switzerland of contact information and have been focusing on inter-operating with new services (Yahoo, MSN, AOL). The addition of OpenID lowers the friction of getting on the graph.

While not as exciting as Facebook, Plaxo is edging in their direction. Plaxo Pulse ties together disparate services from across the web unlike the news feed, which ties together only Facebook’s content. While Plaxo hasn’t launched a platform to a crowded hall of over-eager developers, they have quietly focused on linking to existing applications on the web. Currently the provide a single interface for syncing with the social feeds, email, contact, and calendaring applications business people care about. It’s no long stretch to see this developing into even deeper integration with more web applications.