Remember how vCards were going to make it simple and easy to keep contact information current? Companies such as Plaxo are still trying to make it happen.
The problem with vCards is that people (including me) rarely send them with their e-mail. Even when people do send a vCard, when information changes, most contact managers have no easy way to reconcile changes.
Plaxo Contacts 1.3 tries to remedy this by automating the exchange of contact information through Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. I like the concept, but the initial hurdles—getting users to download and install the software, as well as make the initial efforts to exchange information—will be too high for many people.
Plaxo Contacts is free, a considerably more compelling price than competitors such as Corex Technologies $49.95-per-year AccuCard service. Once installed, Plaxo Contacts prompts the user to send e-mail to all contacts in his or her address book to exchange contact information. This is the biggest obstacle to Plaxos use: I wouldnt want to routinely receive e-mail from everyone who wants my information. However, those using the software can exchange contact information automatically—a much more convenient solution.
E-mail drives much of the communication among systems running Plaxo, so the ability to manage alerts helps keep information overload to a minimum. I could configure a number of other settings, such as follow-up messages for information requests that go unfulfilled. On the service side, Plaxo hosts contact information on a Web site, so even without Outlook, I could access contact information.
However, the applications performance can be slow; I have a relatively small address book, and searches took longer than I would have liked.
Plaxo is available for download at www.plaxo.com.