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Summary:

The creation of Address Book 2.0 – the evolution of contacts applications into something more distributed, social and elegant – is a prize being hotly contested by many startups. Just recently, Web Worker Daily has examined Soocial, ContactHero and some of the privacy pitfalls of web-based […]

The creation of Address Book 2.0 – the evolution of contacts applications into something more distributed, social and elegant – is a prize being hotly contested by many startups. Just recently, Web Worker Daily has examined Soocial, ContactHero and some of the privacy pitfalls of web-based contact books.

cellityThe latest to join the fray is Cellity‘s Address Book 2.0, launched earlier this month, at the LeWeb’08 conference in Paris. The service promises to centralize and synchronize a user’s communication points from sources as diverse as Outlook, Twitter, cellphones and social networks.

The service provides a single view of all your contact information, from their various origins,  then presents the user with various communication tasks that can be invoked for each contact – sending email, SMS, conference calls, status messages and other activities. Interestingly, even if the link to the origin service is severed, Cellity maintains its own copy of contacts from that source.

Like many similar contact aggregation services, services like Twitter and Facebook are plumbed into Cellity’s by entering your account details for those services – something I’m becoming very uncomfortable with as startups building on those networks begin to proliferate. Not only are you handing off your credentials to others, but contact points for hundreds, if not thousands, of your valued relationships – an issue explored more fully by Pamela just over a month ago.

I’m beginning to think the current approach of aggregating contact from various services and then making them viewable on multiple platforms is not enough…no service can support every device, every social network and every contact source. Even the mighty Google sees Contacts as no more than an adjunct feature of email, rather than a valuable stand-alone service that can service many other applications.

Perhaps we need a WordPress-like approach to this problem space…

  • A freely available open-source service along the lines of WordPress.org or laconi.ca that users and organisations can deploy on their own servers to host their own contact information -  based on open-standards like FOAF, SyncML and vCard/hCard – this could be as simple as a web page embedded with microformatted contact information and suitable permissions.
  • A freemium hosted equivalent (such as identi.ca or WordPress.com) for less-sophisticated users to host their contact information on public servers.
  • Address books are simply the connections, relationships and permissions between those contact hosts.
  • Encourage developer communities to provide plugins and support for analytics, phones, social networks, desktop address books etc.

We’ve seen how open source blogging platforms have evolved quickly to support almost every niche – perhaps harnessing the same structures can help bring about the mythical Address Book 2.0.

  1. I never give my account details to a different service. I don’t understand why more don’t use OAuth. I was particalarly surprised when a big service like Twitter recently asked for my Google/Hotmail/Yahoo login details.

    It’s just setting people up to get Phished.

    I’m waiting for a decentralised Address Book based on microformats and OAuth. An Open Source one would be even nicer.

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  2. Thanks Imran for the great review of cellity addressbook 2.0.

    Just one thing: cellity will always respect the privacy of the users, period.

    For more info: http://www.cellity.com/legal/privacy-policy.html

    @Richard It took us almost a year to develop cellity address book 2.0. We completely believe it to be a phantastic service that really solves the great pain point of multiple contacts with different data on multiple platforms.

    So we will not mess with it. People from our team have helped building successes like Xing.com before and I can assure you they know exactly how important it is to respect the privacy of the user.

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