Plaxo has eliminated the annoying spam-like email feature from its synchronization service, and this week introduced the beta of version 3.0, which now offers multi-way sync of contacts and calendar between various services from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, AOL, Mac, Thunderbird, and mobile phones.
"Plaxo has not always had the best public perception, with the number of emails members sent out, so we dialed it down and spent the last year rebuilding the entire system," said Plaxo CEO Ben Golub. The company has amassed 15 million members and 2 billion email addresses (with half a billion uniques), and maintains more than 125 million social connections (connections between different Plaxo users), he told me.
Plaxo is developing social networking features, but it doesn't have the breadth of MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn or Xing. Regarding integration with services such as Facebook, Todd Masonis, Plaxo co-founder and vice president of products, said, "We are looking into that. It's something in the future, and not in the initial release. It's fun to play in the middle. We are not competing with Facebook."
It's an opportunity for Plaxo to become a kind data synching hub of contact and calendar data between all the services a person uses. "We found that about 30 percent of our members have one or more business networks, so finding a way to use Plaxo in conjunction with this is of value," Golub said. Plaxo also recently inked a deal with Comcast, along with HP and Zimbra, to supply its services to the cable company's 12 million customer base.
The address book has the now standard Web 2.0 flavoring, and mashes up with maps from Yahoo and with Jajah's click-to-call service. Plaxo 3.0's new calendar, developed from its HipCal acquisition last year, includes calendar sharing, task lists and weather and photo mashups in addition to synching.
Plaxo 3.0 is also becoming more social with Plaxo Pulse, which integrates with various feeds, starting with Flickr photos, blogs, Amazon.com Wish Lists, and Plaxo contact info changes. "We are starting with those and we will add more," Golub said. "It's a bit more social around who you know and what you are doing on other sites on the Internet. We want to make it easy to use lots of different tools for communication, and in the more social web, using whatever permissions set up on outside sites."
Plaxo 3.o also adds support for six languages--Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese--as well as an Ajaxy user interface and dashboard for more easily managing synching with different services.
The basic version, which includes the WAP 2.0 support, is free. The $49.95 per year premium version includes synchronization with LinkedIn, deduplication of contacts, 24/7 VIP phone and email support, unlimited eCards and storage for more than 1,000 contacts.