Plaxo is an addressbook synchronizing service that was great back in the day. And now, it’s nothing short of tragic. Read more about my experience with Plaxo and how you can avoid the same pain I went through while using their service (I use the term “service” loosely).
The Wonder Years
Back in 2005, Plaxo was a godsend. It was the only service back then that would allow you to keep your addressbook up to date, automatically. What that meant was that you could download and install a cool little tool for your Outlook and from there, you could perform magic!
The magic was by way of you initiating addressbook updates. You could configure a message that all your addressbook contacts would receive. It would let them know you’re trying to keep your addressbook up to date, and it would request them to change any incorrect information right then and there. They would be taken to a site that would allow them to correct any wrong info, and then those changes would be saved and synchronized back to your Outlook.
This was a huge time saver, especially if you used Outlook for business, or even had a lot of personal contacts. But wait, there’s more! Plaxo would also keep your calendars and tasks in sync, too!
What’s the big deal, you ask? Keeping Outlook in sync with a web site, so what, right? Ok, there are two additional very cool things about Plaxo, especially back in 2005. Ok, here’s the big deal:
1. From Outlook, or the website, you could make any changes to contacts, tasks, or calendar entries, and it would sync back and forth between Outlook and the website.
This was an awesome feature because if you weren’t somewhere where you had your own Outlook open, you could make changes on any Internet connected computer. If you wanted to add an email address to a contact, you could do that on the web. Say you were on the computer in the lobby of a hotel you were staying at, you could log in to Plaxo and add a task or a calendar entry. The next time you open Outlook, any and all changes you made would sync back to Outlook.
2. The other thing it did was it would keep your contacts, calendars, and tasks synchronized across multiple instances of Outlook, or even between Outlook and other email programs like Thunderbird.
This was huge because most professionals back then didn’t have laptops. Instead they had desktop computers at work, and another desktop computer at home. So, with Plaxo, you could keep all your contacts, calendars, and tasks in sync between the computers… automatically.
Let’s remember, back in 2005, the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android smart phones hadn’t made their way to the mass market yet. So, in terms of keeping your contacts in sync wherever you were, Plaxo was a major tool to have in your arsenal.
As smart phones made their way on to the scene, Plaxo made syncing between them and your Outlook a breeze! As well, Plaxo also synchronized between your Outlook and your online email services, too! AOL mail, Yahoo, and even later on, Gmail. So, thanks to Plaxo, your email and calendar world was one nice big happy synchronized family!
But then, the dark times came…
In 2007, Plaxo decided it wanted to enter the social media game. A game that was already getting crowded. Facebook had already emerged, MySpace was the king of social media at that time, and Twitter was making lots of buzz; and so Plaxo wanted a piece of the pie. However, like many companies do, they take the one thing they do absolutely great, and then they decide to focus on something else.
So, while Plaxo was a fantastic ahead-of-its-time addressbook service, it made absolutely no sense why they would want to devote any time and energy to trying to build their own social media network. It was called Pulse, and it allowed you to post updates just like any other social media service, but it also allowed you to interact and connect with other Plaxo Pulse users.
There was just one problem… no one really used it. So, in 2011, Plaxo finally ditched Pulse. However, by this time, Plaxo became a paid service. I’m not against paid services, I mean, how else will businesses keep their doors open? However, Plaxo has always had a free option of some kind. While the free option capabilities have varied over the years, it’s always been pretty useful.
One thing Plaxo has always done throughout the years is to notify you when you have a birthday coming up for any of your contacts. The reminder service, which is free, has always been a tremendous value. What’s more, Plaxo gives you the notification a week ahead of time. It also gives you the option to send a free e-card to your contact. This has always been a really nice, personal touch that enables you to remember all the birthdays of all the people you associate with.
However, the free service never really let you sync anything worthwhile, and de-duplicating your contacts was a paid feature. By this time, many other automatic addressbook and calendar syncing services that let you deduplicate your contacts have popped up. So, by comparison to other services, like Memotoo and Soocial, Plaxo was always the more expensive option.
So, while Plaxo had awesome abilities back in the day, today, it’s the more expensive option, and their biggest feature, automated requests to your contacts to update their details, had been retired for several years already. Which brings us to present day.
I’d only been using the Plaxo free service for several years now. I was using other services to sync my contacts, but not really a way to sync my Outlook calendar, which I use exclusively for work, with my Google Calendar that I use as part of my Google Apps suite for personal use. So, I use a third-party syncing tool to sync my two calendars, and for contacts, I used Soocial for a while. I tried Memotoo for a while, but it really added a lot of extra stuff to my contact entries that I didn’t really want. So, it made things pretty messy.
Lately, I decided to give the Plaxo paid service a try. While the automated requests for your contacts to update their details is still a thing of the past, I thought that by syncing my contacts and calendar between Outlook and Google, I could eliminate the third-party calendar sync tool I was using, and free up a bit of overhead on my laptop. Plus, if I sync things between Outlook and Google, any updates and changes synced to Google mean that my Android phone also gets the newest updates automatically as well. The plan was diabolical, it was perfect, and it was SIMPLE!
Now the Kick in the Head
So, as I signed up for Plaxo, I was reminded why I was right to abandon the service long ago. First off, the site constantly times out whenever I click a button or a link to do anything on the site. Timeouts like that usually mean they have an overloaded or inefficient DNS on their end. DNS translates website URLs to IP addresses on a server along with which location on the server your desired content resides.
There’s really no excuse for a professional service that takes people’s money to have DNS timeout issues of any kind. Next, I found out that Plaxo won’t sync to Google Calendar any more. Reading their support entry on the problem, they indicated that it was Google’s fault as Google changed the codebase needed to sync with their calendars. Plaxo explained it was WAY more involved than just changed the part of Plaxo’s code that connects to Google’s calendars. Bottom line, don’t hold your breath on syncing between Plaxo and Google.
I find that part to be quite interesting as services like Memotoo, for HALF the price of Plaxo, can sync all day long with Google.
So, when I did the math, I discovered the following:
- Plaxo is the most expensive of all syncing services.
- It leaves out one of the most important features it used to have: automatic requests to update contact information. Without this, it’s just like any other service, with nothing new to add.
- It won’t sync with Google Calendar, which I might add, is a pretty popular calendar with all the cool kids these days.
- The site times out constantly, making navigation to any settings, any contacts, any calendar entries, anything at all, really… a total chore. In fact, when canceling Plaxo altogether, it took over 4 tries to do as the site kept timing out.
- Heck, the supposed feature to update your contact photos by importing them from Facebook, doesn’t even work!
Honestly, I don’t see Plaxo lasting too much longer. Issues like these do more than just show bad service. When you take into account the fact that they took their eye off the ball altogether when they wanted to go “Social 2.0″, and killed some of the most amazing features it offered, Plaxo just has the look and feel of a company that just stopped caring a very long time ago.
How to Avoid My Mistake
I guess what I’m trying to say through all this is that I think you should avoid Plaxo altogether. Avoid the issues, avoid the frustration, and most of all avoid paying a very high premium for services you can get elsewhere for much, much cheaper.
May I recommend instead of Plaxo, that you try these alternatives instead:
While some of these services don’t do all that Plaxo once did back in it’s heyday, the point is, neither does Plaxo. Some of the services mentioned only focus on your contacts, while the service, Memotoo, does contacts, calendar, and tasks. Now, I think you can see why I’ve given up on Plaxo. I figured I’d give them a shot once again after all these years, and somehow, they just managed to get worse. So, now, this is the most beautiful sight to my very sore eyes:
Do you sync your contacts between your online mail service, your smartphone, and Outlook? If so, what do you use? Share your tool of choice in the comments below. Thanks for reading!