Plaxo Revisited

It recently became more important for me to sync my address book across several computers on various platforms. Solutions like LDAP seemed like a pain and had bad support in Thunderbird. I don’t want to go to a hosted app like Joyent or Zimbra, and I need to be able to work offline. Anyway in my searches I came across Plaxo. In the past I grew to hate the Plaxo contact update spam I used to get every day, so I had pretty much permanently written it off.

However this time when I saw they had support for Thunderbird, Mac OS X address book, and Yahoo and I got pretty excited. I tried it out, and I am now syncing a Mac Mini, a Powerbook, a Macbook, my Windows desktop, and a Vaio laptop to a single address book. It cleaned up dupes pretty well, and the online interface is surprisingly usable as well. This is also the best way I know of to get Thunderbird to use the OS X address book, so you get integration with all the other apps like Adium which feed off that.

What could be improved? Sync is really hard, and few do it well. My experience with Plaxo has been pretty good thus far—I think I’ve avoided spamming anyone for contact updates—and I’d love to connect other bits and pieces into the Plaxo cloud. They should open up their API so developers can start to integrate the system into other products and services, and it can become a de facto standard.

Update: They do have an API, I had just missed it. Cool!

21 thoughts on “Plaxo Revisited

  1. Were you aware that Plaxo is now integrated into the new AOL Instant Messenger client? I’ve pretty written Plaxo off up until this point, because I’ve seen it as pretty intrusive… but your feedback is promising. I may look into utilizing them. I wish it would sync with gMail too… That would seal the deal for me.

  2. I just wish cell phone, pda manufacturers would reach a standard on how to sync devices, so email clients etc. could all sync up with them. IMHO that’s the biggest killer for the general public.

    iSync would be great if it were standardized, but so far it only supports the Mac, and certain cell phones. So it’s not really practical for many of us.

  3. Hey Matt,

    Glad you gave it a try and are liking the service 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions or have any trouble – and feel free to send me feedback on our API as well!

    Thanks!
    Mark

  4. I heard about Plaxo long time ago but only tried it recently to update my Thunderbird address book. In my opinion, it is a good service. However, the website loading speed is rather slow.

  5. So that’s where I’ve heard of this Plaxo before, I forgot that it was a forced bundle when you tried out AIM Triton Beta…

    I guess I could give Plaxo another shot, even if I do detest to the fact that it was bundled.
    Then again, I hate the client it was bundled with (AIM).

  6. I would love a solution for this as well, but I use Eudora for email and no one writes apps that work with Eudora. Thunderbird comes close to matching the flexibility of Eudora, but not quite. I have a larger number of email addresses and a very large number of folders that all mail IN and OUT get sorted into seamlessly. Thunderbird can’t match it. Any ideas for the Eudora user?

  7. We use Plaxo at work, but I’m not a huge fan of it. I just sync everything across my PDA and then use wireless services to sync them to other applications.

  8. Hey Robert: Phones and addressbook standards do exist. Most modern phones support sync over the net via SyncML. Your phone will use GPRS or similar to talk over the Internet to your server, login, and exchange SyncML with your address-book server. Pumatech who do intellisync have SyncML support. There’s an open-source Java server available if you want to build your own.

  9. I wonder how good a idea it is to store private information like people’s addresses, birthdays, mail addresses etc. on a server you have no control over. The same goes to other things like Google calendar etc.

    Just my two cents.
    D.

  10. I agree with Dhougal, Web-based takes control over your data, and there are a lot of ways for your data to get compromised, like a simple request from some Bushesque national securer, or hack or a payoff for some giant database to become a spam directory. Aer we the only two who see a very big difference between info on our local drive and info out there on some govorgcorpinstitutional drive?

    Kayster, who is finding it increasingly hard to be a private pirate

  11. I’ve been using Plaxo for about 5 months. I like some of it’s features, but it lacks some common sense.
    For example, if someone with a Plaxo account updates their info but does not make public some info you already had, it gets erased. The duplicates tool has become essential to me (see below), but could have a bit more logic in it. For example, if it finds duplicates that have the same phone numbers in different fields it will sometimes overwrite another phone number and put the same one in both fields. (Of cource, if you pay attention during the process you can manually correct it.)

    My biggest problem is that when records are deleted, using the duplicates tool or otherwise, I run the risk of the Thunderbird toolbar hanging during it’s next sync. I have been able to reproduce the problem on multiple machines and under both Linux and Windows. When you finally hit cancel, it causes the client to revert to a “full” sync next time, which will create a LOT of duplicates. I emailed support 4 months ago with log entries and they have yet to fix it. There have been no new releases of the toolbar since. (V 1.64) I just emailed them again.

    One feature I would find very useful would be the ability to share PART of my address book with another user. Specifically, I would like to be able to share certain categories of contacts with my wife so that we can keep our family & friends syncronized.

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