Online Address Frustration

I’m surprised at the poor state of online contact management, given how mature the online e-mail market is. I’ve just spent a frustrating and mostly wasted morning with Plaxo, trying to see if it could fulfil my relatively simple needs (online contact management, syncing with something desktop-based, ideally Thunderbird, and syncing with my mobile phone as a nice to have). After struggling with the over-engineered Plaxo interface, a wobbly Thunderbird sync extension that loses critical bits of data, and a de-duper that misses obvious duplicates, I gave up. The latter service requires signing up to a free trial, which I’ve now cancelled.

At some point I’ll give Yahoo Address Book a go - initial investigations look good, it does away with the unnecessary social networking guff (I’m already signed up to Facebook and LinkedIn, thanks, Plaxo - try focusing a little harder on your core business), and is much speedier. Unfortunately, the Yahoo effort seems to be a bit basic - mainly a lack of sync points - but at least that does remove some of the potential for damage.

Does anyone know of any other solutions? I was willing to pay for Plaxo, and I can’t be the only one. I think there’s an unmet need here.


[...] this and is my online service of choice, although it is far from perfect (see Andrew’s recent blog post and subsequent comments), and is not helped by Google and Facebook not opening up your [...]
Chris, thanks for your thoughts :) I have to admit I probably gave it a tough job yesterday - I did import all my contact details from my Palm, via vcf (no mean feat itself as Plaxo hide away the instructions), as well as set up several conduits, so it had a number of dups to deal with straight away. But the Thunderbird extension definitely has a bug or two - at the very least it doesn't map fields in the way I expect - it misses some email addresses even when you kick it into slow sync. I know it's not supported, but I think it should be. That's the kind of bug I just can't live with. The de-duper also clearly has some bugs - as I say, it misses things that are obvious dupes by fairly simple heuristics. One thing is for sure - I don't think the paid-for features are worth it - I can do a better job de-duping myself, and LinkedIn syncing isn't that important to me. As for Pulse - well, I admit that's a bit more subjective. But personally, it seems of limited value to me - everyone I know on there I already know on Facebook or LinkedIn. It seems to be duplicating something that's already been done. As I say, I'd prefer they focused on ironing out some of the bugs in their core service. As I say, I'll probably give Yahoo Address Book a try. Seems more basic, but I figure there's less chance of it going wrong that way :)
As the person who probably convinced you to try Plaxo, sounds like I have some explaining to do! I agree with some of your comments - Plaxo is far from perfect in some areas. User interface - I agree in places this seems a bit heavyweight and has some inconsistencies (although some are definitely getting better). They are no Google though - if only Google thought contact management was something they should spend some time on! Syncing - I used to use the Thunderbird plugin and never noticed any data loss, although it is obvious this gets less attention than the Outlook one which is much more feature rich and less buggy. My other pet hates re-syncing are the fact the LinkedIn sync is in the premium package and the lack of Facebook or GMail syncing - although both of these are not down to Plaxo. With regards to syncing with a phone, I sync my Blackberry with Outlook, rather than Plaxo directly, although I agree direct syncing would definitely be preferable. De-duper - I used this on a free trial and found it fine for what I was doing. "Social networking guff" - I tend to use Plaxo Pulse (the social networking guff as you put it) rather than Facebook now for keeping in touch with what business contacts and close friends are doing as I find it to be less polluted than Facebook is. The downside is that not only does someone have to accept a connection request (similar to a friend request in Facebook) but they also have to decide which feeds they want to share with their network. This is particularly annoying for public feeds - for instance, I could subscribe to your Flickr photo stream publically but if you don't share it with me via Plaxo I don't see it in your Plaxo Pulse (although I suppose that is no different to Facebook). I agree that Plaxo still has some way to go and that they should definitely spend some more time working on their contact syncing but its one of the best solutions I've found to this problem so far, particularly syncing with Outlook and the Blackberry. There are others but they seem to be pretty limited in features in comparison to Plaxo. If you find a better solution though - let me know!