Blog Post

Plaxo reboots, gets in sync

A few years ago, Philippe Kahn, who headed up Borland and started a couple of other companies including LightSurf and Starfish Software said, “Synchronization between various devices needs to happen quite automatically, without complication and has to be transparent.” With the new Plaxo 3.0, Kahn’s wishes are almost coming true.

plaxologo.gifNow you can sync your Google Calendar and Address Book with your corporate calendar and address book Exchange/Outlook, Apple Apps, LinkedIn, and any other web service or software you prefer to use. (I say almost because there are still some platforms that are not supported, and the beta release isn’t quite bug free.) The Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up has just executed a reboot as a web-based service, and is now focusing on syncing. The company is also making all the information available via its mobile page:

The Wall Street Journal reports that this overhaul is designed to make the still-unprofitable company more appetizing for potential acquirers. The new Plaxo 3.0 has taken about a year of development, according to Todd Masonis, Founder and VP of Products, whom we met with last week.

With this new release, Plaxo is trying to overcome it user-unfriendly image, including over-aggressive update features that resulted in a backlash. It is also trying to take some of the more popular elements of social networks and adding them to its service, with a focus on Sync.


The company has added a new feature called the Pulse, which allows you to automatically pull Flickr photos and latest blog posts on a special wall, is your contacts have their website, blog or Flickr information embedded in their address.

It is a feature that 30Boxes first rolled out, and has since become very popular including on Facebook. This feature and other calendar enhancements have come via the HipCal crew, a tiny start-up Plaxo had acquired last year.

So how does Plaxo 3.0 work? The new web-based interface is clean, and pretty simple to understand. An easy to follow start-up screen hand holds your way through the set-up process. There are some serious bugs with this beta release, and we had some problems syncing with Google and Yahoo, but the older Outlook & Apple Address Book synced without much problems.

One of the features I like a lot in this new release is the ability to add someone’s email address and instantly find their information on Plaxo, and then just being able to add them to my list of contacts. No scanning the cards, or typing someone’s information. Given the large number of people I meet on a daily basis, don’t blame me for liking this shortcut. Plaxo says they have 2 billion email addresses, so finding someone are pretty high. The integration of Yahoo Maps and automatic directions are another reason you will like this version of Plaxo.

But its not all peaches and cream: The service wasn’t quite responsive in Apple browsers, though it seemed zippy enough on Windows XP – both Firefox and IE. We are assuming that these are first day jitters, and company will be able to overcome performance issues, in time. Robert Scoble has had some other issues.

Whatever the reasons, the new Plaxo 3.0, while still in beta is good enough for folks to give the company, and their new service at least a second look.

7 Responses to “Plaxo reboots, gets in sync”

  1. SyncML is definitely the way forward… I think you should all check

    Synkia is an easy to use information management service that lets users backup and restore data like contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, notes and SMS from their mobile phones.

    Backup is performed by a push of a button using applications that are already embedded in the phone. The information is transferred over-the-air; there is no need for cables or additional software.

    Product features:

    • Backup all content on a mobile phone.

    • Manage the information on web and send back to the phone.

    • Archive and search the information.

    • Transfer information from one phone to another.

    • Keep the same content up to date on several phones.

    • Centrally manage shared information in a multi user environment.

    The solution is 100% secure and works globally with mainstream phones from leading manufacturers.

    Synkia AS, Henrik Ibsensgate 100, N-0230 Oslo, Norway

    (disclosure: I currently work for Synkia AS based between London & New York)

  2. Amanda Madri

    That’s right synchonization should be totally transparent. If I recall that’s what Kahn did with Starfish, now owned by Nokia and the core of syncML implemented on Nokia phones. Rumor has it that Kahn’s next venture, Fullpower goes the distance. Anyone plugged-in?

  3. Martin, has been updated and works much better than the WAP interface did before. They may still offer the “Mobile Plus” proprietary application, but they seem to be playing that down now in favor of the more easily accessible mobile browser version.

  4. It’s not about sync. It is ultimately about usability. Facebook has a done a tremendous job with their regular app and mobile app around just this topic — contact management.

    Om, are you ready to predict a new standard in web design (320×480) — compatible with iPhone?

  5. Martin Lawrence

    One of the most critical Sync-targets is the mobile phone. All companies that sync to mobiles use SyncML, which is a feature of 75% of the mobiles currently shipped. Last time I checked, Plaxo worked with a propietary application that had to be installed to the phone. Would be nice if they changed their propietary approach – installing software on mobiles is an option only for early adopters.