AOL To Integrate Plaxo -- Get Ready For Plaxo Spam Influx

from the oh-great dept

Uh oh. For those who remember, the September that never ended was when AOL users were suddenly let loose on Usenet, and what was once useful, was filled with a ton of somewhat clueless posters who made it difficult to filter through the muck. Today, AOL announced plans to integrate Plaxo's tools into AIM. Considering the amount of Plaxo spam that already is out there, do we really need to make it even easier to bug people every few months about their contact info? Almost all of the Plaxo spam I receive is from people I do not know. I don't know why I'm in their address book -- and I don't know why they've told Plaxo they know me. So, do we really need millions of AOL users who don't quite realize that they're about to spam everyone they ever spoke to, and handing them a tool to do so? Update: A Plaxo representative has given an in-depth rebuttal in the comments that's worth reading. I still find the claim that you only get spammed if you're a "non-Plaxo member" to be a bit disingenuous. It's telling me if I only signed up, I'd avoid these messages. However, the other points made are certainly valid, and clearly Plaxo is making a big effort to deal with some of the early complaints about the service. The note also points out that (thankfully!) part of the AOL agreement is that the initial process of spamming everyone you know has been removed from the startup wizard -- so hopefully the results won't be quite so annoying for those of us who prefer not to use their service.

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  1. identicon
    Stacy Martin, 6 Jul 2005 @ 7:46pm

    Getting the facts correct about Plaxo and AOL

    Mike - I realize you've never been a fan of Plaxo but I believe your facts are incorrect. By Plaxo spam, I'm assuming you are referring to the Plaxo update request messages Plaxo members may be sending you. It appears that you are under the misperception that these messages are automated pings sent out by Plaxo.
    This is incorrect. The fact is Plaxo does not send out any automated messages. All Plaxo update request messages are initiated and approved by the sending Plaxo member who has complete control over to whom, when, and the personalized message content of any Update Request message processed through our service.
    Plaxo members have chosen to a send message to a selected contact within their own address book in an effort to stay in touch with the contact. The message provides the recipient the Plaxo member's updated contact information and optionally asks the recipient to update the member as well. Plaxo processes these update requests and any responses the member may receive similar to a user sending email through Yahoo! or AOL. We have no tolerance for spam, and Plaxo members are prohibiting from using the service to send advertisements or commercial solicitations. Plaxo members are expected to respect the privacy of their contacts and follow proper Plaxo etiquette. Any violation of our terms of service or privacy practices will result in the member's removal from Plaxo.
    The fact is also that Update Request emails are only utilized when communicating with non-Plaxo members. Member to member communications are handled internally within Plaxo, allowing members to be automatically updated and stay in touch. No e-mail is required or utilized.
    This is what should interest you most about the Plaxo/AOL announcement. Currently, a new Plaxo member will find that typically 20 percent of their address book is already Plaxo-connected and thus their updated contact information may be provided by default. With the expected influx of 40M new AOL members into Plaxo, new (and existing) Plaxo members will find a much larger percentage of their contacts are already Plaxo members.
    As a result, we have removed the Update Contacts wizard from the initial user flow for AOL members and AIM users who adopt the new Plaxo contact management solution. While the Update Request feature has been popular with Plaxo members enabling the member to easily send a message to non-members within their address book, we feel this is less important given the larger percentage of their contacts who will already be Plaxo members. We will focus on ensuring that they can easily consolidate, merge, and populate their existing address book entries.
    But regardless, if you are not a Plaxo member, we do allow contacts to instruct us to block any messages sent through our service to their e-mail address. While we can not stop a person from attempting to communicate with someone they have the contact information for outside of our service, for each message we process, we include a link that allows the recipient to instruct Plaxo to block further messages sent through our service. In addition, on the recipient's behalf, we can also request the member to remove the contact from the member's address book.
    I do find it ironic that you reference the David Coursey article about spamming his address book. David was like yourself who at first had reservations about Plaxo. But he took the time to look closer into Plaxo and reconsider. Today, David Coursey is an active Plaxo member.
    Finally, you stated as far back as 2003 that Plaxo was simply a feature of an e-mail system. We also disagree on this point. The fact is Plaxo is about creating interoperability between otherwise closed platforms and keeping your information available and synchronized with these other systems. That's no "feature" that any one e-mail client would be able build and as AOL stated themselves, Plaxo had what they were looking for in building a Universal Address Book and it was best to simply integrate Plaxo into their client.
    If you were to truly look at what we provide, you'd see that we provide integration and synchronization directly into a user's Outlook and Outlook Express address book helping to keep information up to date and accessible. Address book information is automatically backed up and can be quickly restored, should the person ever lose their laptop or suffer a system crash. And this synchronization has been extended to include a members's Yahoo! account, and soon to AOL and AIM users. Our Plaxo API can extend Plaxo to other applications, clients and services which we hope to soon announce. Clients for Thunderbird, Mac OS X, ACT!, Incredimail, Lotus Notes, and Groupwise are often requested.
    Providing the foundation for a universal address book allows people to easily access their address book, calendar, notes, and task information directly from Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo!, Internet Explorer, AOL, AIM, any web browser, or WAP enabled device. This is all done while keeping the members information secure, private, and under their own control.
    I would say we both agree that there is value in staying in touch with people you know, though we may disagree on the approach. Managing contact information and keeping it updated is only one part of the challenge and Plaxo certainly extends beyond just simple contact management.
    For example:
    - The new software will enable AOL members, AIM users and Plaxo members to detect AIM presence information from within Outlook and Outlook Express. The familiar AOL Running Man icon will appear in contact lists and e-mail headers to let users know when AIM buddies are online and available to chat.
    - Plaxo members can be receive reminders of upcoming special events such as Birthdays of their contacts and easily send an e-Card or other gift to personalize the relationship.
    There are many other examples of how Plaxo helps people to stay in touch and connected. I invite you to take a closer look. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.
    Stacy Martin
    Plaxo Privacy Officer
    privacy @t

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