Site Review – Plaxo
At first glance, Plaxo looks like a strange clone of Facebook and LinkedIn. The second glance looks much like the first. It identifies people you may now, allows you to make micro-bloggish updates and tries to organize your contacts for you. All in all, a useful site, but nothing particularly special when compared to the many other sites that do that.
If you dig deeper though, you discover that it’s really more of a hybrid than you thought. Plaxo takes the idea of “mash-up” to a whole new level. When you setup your profile, you can link to numerous other social media sites. It can tie into Flickr, Delicious, Live Journal, MySpace, Google, Facebook and more. You can use it to keep track of your friends’ updates all in one place.
Of course, to do this, it also allows your friends to keep track of your updates. Which sounds nice until you realize that you are basically also giving an unknown company complete access to your data on multiple sites… effectively making isolating a data leak impossible.
There are some security features in Plaxo that should help minimize this. However, like most things, it all comes down to how much you trust the company.
On the negative side, Plaxo only functions well if all your other friends are also using Plaxo, so it tends to be a bit spammy. It also requires ongoing maintenance for managing security settings. It’s all well and good to post an update tagged as “friends-only”, but having to manage which people are in which friends groups on different sites is troublesome enough. When you have an aggregator that has it’s own permissions model and doesn’t stay in sync with the groupings on other sites, the security concerns get far more complex.
So, unsurprisingly, it’s another one of those tools that has some risk, but the benefit may outweigh the risk… but only for a small percentage of the people out there. If you decide to use Plaxo, go for it… but be careful.