When Stupid meets Evil: Plaxo and Comcast come together

Despite my many frustrations, I have been and remain a long time, paying, Plaxo subscriber. Let me explain. I use Plaxo to keep my address book up to date and sometimes to manage syncing my address book to multiple services. When using it at my peak, I actually kept the following chain of devices in sync pretty well:

The Palm Device
was connected to the Home Laptop (Outlook)
was connected to the Plaxo (on the web)
was connected to the Work PC (Outlook)
was connected to the Blackberry

I've since given up keeping two copies of Outlook in sync, and I no longer carry a Palm. Plaxo added the capability to sync some data to both my Google and Yahoo calenders, and I tried that for a while, but eventually dropped the Yahoo sync, mostly because I didn't care about it as much, and then because it just stopped working. The Google sync, I'd really like to work, but it's partial and has had a number of Plaxo induced failures along the way. It works for a few weeks, something changes, and then it stops but never alerts me that my calendars are now a few days out of sync. Argh!

My frustrations with Plaxo continue. It has an engineer friendly, user hostile interface that makes it pretty easy to hit buttons that they want you to hit. They would rather you issue a spam invite to their networking service than get an address update from them. A recent release of the software even ignored your requests to hide the spammy buttons and Plaxo took weeks to some out with an update to fix the problem.

Plaxo's repeated thrusting of their agenda over that of their users has allowed them to build a community on top of a useful core service. Underneath all of the layers of cruft where they pretend they want to be LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, there is a useful tool that helps you manage a large set of contacts. The tool is so useful that even though the aggravating and inattentive Plaxo has been swallowed up by the much maligned Comcast, I still can't think of any way to get rid of them and still keep my contact database in order. So, I remain a customer. It reminds me of another company that was so much in the habit of abusing it's customers that the sale people regularly chanted the mantra "They might bitch, but they won't switch." I have yet to find my alternate solution. (Feel free to make suggestions, either to me or Plaxo.)

Missed the announcement about the Comcast purchase of Plaxo? Here is today's letter to subscribers:

A Letter from the CEO and Founders

Dear Plaxo member,

We are excited to announce some of the biggest news in the history of Plaxo. Plaxo has signed a definitive agreement** to be acquired by Comcast, the nation's leading provider of entertainment, information and communications products and services. We've got at least a few months to go before the acquisition is completed, but we wanted to send you this note to let you know what's coming up and how it affects you and your account.

Plaxo will remain an independent brand, organization and entity. We've been busy at work on our networked address book service and our next-generation social network, Pulse (if it's been a while, please come back and check out all the new features). And, through additional projects with Comcast, we'll be able to take these services to a lot more users and places than we could on our own... including the TV, phone and more.

If you'd like to read more about some of the great new things we're planning, please read our official announcement.

So, what does this mean for current Plaxo members like you? The services you know and enjoy from Plaxo will not only continue to exist, but will also continue to evolve and improve. We will continue to make our basic services free, and we will continue to serve customers in multiple languages across the world. But, we'll now be able to invest even more in our services, and we will enhance them with more users and more content available across a wider array of devices.

We will also continue to protect your privacy and give you control of your information. We will continue to protect your data with one of the strongest privacy policies, which will remain in effect even after the transition. And, we'll continue to be a strong advocate for the open social web.

We've put together a quick Q&A about your privacy, account and your data.

Last, we'd like to extend an enormous thank you. Whether you've been a Plaxo user for a long time or just recently joined Pulse, we'd like to thank you for making Plaxo a vibrant network. We are excited to open a new chapter today and look forward to helping you keep in touch with the people you care about.


Ben Golub, Chief Executive Officer
Cameron Ring, Founder and Chief Architect
Todd Masonis, Founder and Vice President of Products

**We are not releasing financial details of the transaction. The acquisition is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the near future.

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About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.