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P2P Contact Info Service From Napster Co-Founder 117

scrm writes "Plaxo is an interesting new service from Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster. It's a P2P-based add-on to Outlook that confronts the old problem of keeping contact lists up-to-date. Mozilla mail support is on the cards, and yes, the company does 'take privacy very seriously'. Check the press here(1), here(2) and here(3). You can also access your contact list over the web."
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P2P Contact Info Service From Napster Co-Founder

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  • Trust factor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan Connor ( 719249 ) * on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:14PM (#7315502) Homepage Journal
    No way would I open up my MS Outlook to a P2P service, just would not happen...
    • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Would you let your desktop PC request data from a web service or web site? Do you post requested information to web forms?

      If the P2P element of this is written correctly, then all your doing is sending out a request for data and having validated data returned, just like a web service. You only receive data you request, and you only return data that you've approved the request for. Period.

      While I can see that you're worried about Outlook itself, most holes in it are the result of scripting vulnerabilities
      • Outlook runs my business..., and I have a zero trust factor for Napster...
        • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by wo1verin3 ( 473094 )
          >> Outlook runs my business..., and I have a
          >> zero trust factor for Napster...

          Do you not care about your business? Try Eudora [], because friends don't let friends use Outlook.

          As for zero trust for napster, thats great, this isn't Napster, nor is it Napster 2.0.
        • > Outlook runs my business..., and I have a zero trust factor for Napster...

          You run one of the most unstable and insecure pieces of software available, trusting that it won't infect your entire network with the "Outlook Worm of the Week" (tm), yet you won't trust a piece of software just to do address book searches? Wow, that's pretty stupid.
    • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @09:56PM (#7316242) Homepage
      Yeah, finally a company built on Outlook's insecurity. Check out this article in PC Magazine []:

      "Plaxo contains a hack that mines your Outlook profile password so that it can retrieve your contacts unhindered. Although Plaxo claims that it does nothing with your password once it retrieves your contacts, I don't like this, because it makes child's play out of accessing passwords;"

      So not only are they mining your personal data for later resale to the highest bidder, they're compromising your machine while they're at it!

      But, really, they respect you and your privacy. Really.
  • by domodude ( 613072 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:17PM (#7315516)
    Well, I guess I will have to get this now. What could be more seruce that a P2P service based in Outlook. Better yet, I could start using AOL and Windows 98 too! It will be good times.
  • Napster's creators finally up to some good.
    I think this is a first!
    Good ideas --
    Good for them and the everyone else.
    Everyone can use benefits of P2P and not even know it
    Really, I'm looking forward to this!
  • Pfft... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ( 450073 ) <xanadu@[ ] ['ino' in gap]> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:19PM (#7315538) Homepage Journal
    And how long do you think it'll take someone to make a contact list that is an all MP3's...

    • Good point... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Outlook allows you to customise information stored against contacts. There is a binary field in there that you can happily use for storing images, text files and yup... MP3's.

      Given that, there's no reason why you could write a simple application creating a directory of contact names for all your MP3's and attaching the relevant files. You could even add tag info using custom fields too.

      Now whether this P2P system allows you to transfer custom fields remains to be seen - I'd wager a big no on that one. But
      • But someday someone is gonna figure out that the best way to share files is with people you know, which means people in your address book. Build a P2P system on that and you're sorted.

        Want contact list based P2P file sharing? Try Madster [].

  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:24PM (#7315557) Homepage Journal
    Because being able to follow networks of business relations and friendships is something that would be very valuable to many organizations. Perhaps more valuable than a happy user of their software, if you catch my drift.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't that another term for "virus"?
  • to make a P2P app for trading music files but with the added protection that the App was made for legal uses and the few illegal uses that the users have found a way to use it for were not intended, hence the company is not liable.
    • Actually, it's not - it only shares contact details. I used the free version for a while and it's quite effective at keeping your address book up-to-date. I don't know how it got the label "new" though since it's been around for a while now.

      Only problem is that on Outlooks that are connected to MS Exchange servers like mine, it slows it down to a crawl. I've no idea what it's doing with so much bandwidth - I think it checks my entire address book against the 300 addresses I have in Plaxo every time I o

  • seems like they forgot to add the extension to some of the screenshots. for example, the very nice bliss wallpaper is actually a jpg, but mozilla doesn't understand that. save it to your harddisk instead.
    • <div style="pedantic: 100%; offtopic: yes;">

      The file name extension isn't relevant, the Content-Type HTTP header is. (Or, in case of Internet Explorer, the file contents, which is Wrong and Comdemnable!) My browser can read dynamic web pages just fine even when it sees odd file extensions like .pl or .php or .cgi or .aspx, or, as I prefer my own mod_perl apps, no file name extension at all.


  • Not new (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's been out for over a year and no one seems to use it/care...
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigbango ( 525358 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:26PM (#7315569) Homepage
    If they really take privacy seriously, why do they act as "man-in-the-middle" of all transactions between their users? Who knows how many valid e-mail addresses they have collected. Their system has nothing to do with p2p-systems, it is in fact no more p2p-like than e-mail.

    Worst of all, Plaxo users upload their contact lists containing personal information about others. That is without their acknowledgement.
    • More importantly, what is the exit strategy with the data that the collection. When they go bankrupt (they will... no valid business model yet), who owns the data?
  • Isn't this basically the same as adding a phonebook database to your PIM? Only with this you don't have the right to tell the phone company you don't want to be listed because it's listed in someone's PIM. I'm skeptical.
  • by Justen ( 517232 ) * on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:29PM (#7315580) Homepage Journal
    Seems like an interesting use of technology, but it isn't new. (Exchange has had this, of course, for intra-Exchange users, for ages. America Online recently started testing a similar service for their members.)

    It is unique in that it has the possibility of accomodating users across mail services, platforms, and other traditional barriers.

    However, being the paranoid schizo that I am, I can't imagine I would ever subscribe to or accomodate such a service. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but such a centralized system has an incredible ability to be abused by sources internal and external.

    Nice idea. But so is RFID for every human. :)

    • Given that your most powerful asset for finding a better job is your contact network, here's why you would want to use this:

      Say you meet someone you think can help your career and you exchange business cards (say, oh, i don't know, the CEO of Media Lab Europe). When you get back to the office, maybe you enter his data into your PIM, maybe you don't. In either case the contact loop ends there (more or less).

      Now lets say you have Plaxo. Now you have a mechansim that not only keeps you up to date on his cont
    • this sort of reminds me of friendster..

      by the way, friendster is not a good place to pick up chicks

      geek gear []
  • Sweetness (Score:5, Funny)

    by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:29PM (#7315581)
    It's always such a hassle to keep one's spam lists updated.

    Thanks Plaxo!

  • Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeffrey Baker ( 6191 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:30PM (#7315589)
    Sounds horrible. I can already drag contacts out of my address book and into iChat, and drag a contact out of iChat into my address book. Furthermore I can mail vCards to and from whomever I wish. Lastly, I can sync addressbooks via SyncML with whomever, and for large organizations, there are directory services. So it seems this Plaxo widget adds basically nothing to my existing abilities.
  • worms.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:31PM (#7315591) Homepage Journal

    Wait for the next MS worm that can use this software to spread faster than ever. Woo!
  • by rf0 ( 159958 ) <> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:32PM (#7315594) Homepage
    Well going by outlooks security record all you have to do is get a copy of the latest virus and it will email all your contacts anyway making it all nice and public

  • I don't have Kazaa handy...but can someone post the results of a *.pst search? Come on now. Someone's bound to have C:\ as their Shared Folder.
  • Cardscan Accucard (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:33PM (#7315600)

    Cardscan's Accucard [] already does this- and has for quite some time. When you scan a card, you get the option to add it to Accucard, and the owner of the card(provided they have an email address) gets an email asking if the info is correct and if they'd like to keep their info up to date in the future. Any future copies of their card that get scanned automatically get the new info, I believe.

    This is important, because Corex(makers of Cardscan) already have one big thing the P2P companies don't- they have their foot in the door already with their Cardscan units, which are owned by people who need this service the most- sales people and the like. It's like trying to sell gas to car owners, the two just go together. While some sales people may have P2P software on their systems, it's unlikely given the crackdown on p2p apps by many companies....and they're not about to put client information into some two-bit p2p program.

  • This isn't P2P (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Saeger ( 456549 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (jllerraf)> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:38PM (#7315622) Homepage
    Just like how Napster wasn't P2P, neither is this - it's Person <-> Central-Server <-> Person.

    P2P usually implies a bit more distributed networking. Either completely distributed (and unworkable) like the original Gnutella, or mostly distributed with SuperNodes like Kazaa, eDonkey, and the new Gnutella. Napster was always a client->server metainfo server.


  • by cyberformer ( 257332 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @07:48PM (#7315657)
    From the many identical emails I've been getting, Plaxo seems to be a program that goes though your contact list and then spams everyone you know with what appear to be personal messages from you but are really just ads asking you to download and run the program (and enter your personal information for the company to harvest).

    If some kid had written this in his spare time, it would be called a virus. Because Plaxo is a company, it's called an innovative application. There are several other startups all doing the same thing (search on Google), and when they go bankrupt their privacy polices will mean nothing.
    • Filter them out to your detriment. The only issue I have with Plaxo at the moment is that it does not support enough platforms.

      I feel complaint about privacy that are cited above reflect a lack of time and attention spent to reading how Plaxo works. I am not affiliated with them, but I was developing a similar tool when I saw that they were far ahead and had ALL the right ideas either in-place or on their futures list.

      My embrace of Plaxo is provisional at the moment.
      Plaxo is not fully "there yet", but I
  • by SWroclawski ( 95770 ) <serge@wr o c l a w> on Sunday October 26, 2003 @08:01PM (#7315710) Homepage
    Though it's not "P2P", the idea of FoaF at [] takes care of a lot of address book issues and more.

    Furthermore, using PGP, trust values could be assigned to the information.

    - Serge Wroclawski

    • That's sort of what I was hoping this would be. Using FOAF, you control your own information, which is a node on a directed graph. Your FOAF file points to other FOAF files, forming a web. The only problem is that these FOAF files are just as spiderable as anything else on the WWW, so people don't generally put their email addresses in them. If you could come up with some sort of access control scheme, you'd be part-way to getting FOAF web to be a sort of distributed address book. You'd (well, not you
  • Uhm yes, that should be safe,,, yep!
    No chance of virus or worms here. I guess it will be installed by the same people who wonders if dropping a lighter into your cars gas tank could cause any problems.
  • I'm wondering if Sean's ideas will help fight spam. If you used a reverse key that only the sender has that it could verify itself across the network as from them instantly.

    Of course this also could lock in email where if you dont use the product then you cant send to any of your friends or new people becuase they're trashing everything else. It would be better if this was a Open Source project where it would be more of a guarrentee that it's available to all operating systems.

  • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @08:25PM (#7315794) Journal
    P2P in calendaring very often means that the central server is not active, ie. does not do schedule conflict resolution, etc.

    For instance Exchange, until a few versions ago was considered P2P, because all it did was store the outlook calendar info. I have never managed exchange but I believe people who have for a while may remember a time when you use to be able to use calendar on outlook without exchange. This has changed recently ( I've been investigating calendar apps and that was what I was told )

    At any rate; If you create an application that uses IMAP to store the calendar info in a special calendar folder, and you have the clients themselves check and resolve conflicts, then your calendar app is P2P.

    I'm guessing they're applying the same definition to addressing as well.

    • At any rate; If you create an application that uses IMAP to store the calendar info in a special calendar folder, and you have the clients themselves check and resolve conflicts, then your calendar app is P2P.

      If you ever find such a thing, please let us know! IMAP calendars would be a magical thing!

  • Online address books? What will they think of next?
  • Has anyone gotten emails from people that use this service?

    About a month ago, a note showed up in my inbox saying:

    > Hi [my name], [plaxo user's name] wants to
    > make sure that he has the correct address
    > information for you. Please take a moment to
    > fill out the following form.

    It really pissed me off that a friend of mine would send me an automated message rather than a quick note.

    To those who don't see the annoyance, imagine that someone you knew had their secretary call to ask you for the s
    • Yeah, but you're forgetting if that person has 500 contacts, which would you rather he did: Write One automated message and have the program do everything for him, or have him write 500 "quick notes"? It's all about taking the hard work away from him and saving him time. Not to sound like a salesman or anything, i don't have plaxo and don't know much about it, just pointing out some obvious logic.
  • Check the press here(1), here(2) and here(3).
    $ man 3 here
    No manual entry for here in section 3
  • But I'd rather hold on to my eternal soul for now, thanks.

    I don't care how much time this saves how many people, it's a fundamentally bad idea that will only at to the overall dehumanization of the internet.

    In the last few years, email has quite reasonably overtaken traditional mail as the dominant form of written communication. The consequences have been numerous, but tolerable up until this point. Programs of this nature are one thing in the business world, but when companies start to market this "s
  • Contact syncronisation is good, but I personally liked the MS Outlook Add-on that let me syncronise my Half-Life 2 source with Valve's.
  • There's been some talk of adding a feature like this to FastMail [] (i.e. accessing one's FastMail address book via LDAP).

    The problem is that most mail clients have a pretty crummy LDAP implementation: they don't support user logins (so you could only offer one global directory - bad idea), LDAP+SSL or writing changes to the directory.

    *sigh* Still so far from my dream PIM setup.
  • NO NO NO!!! Bad!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyHair ( 589485 ) on Sunday October 26, 2003 @11:06PM (#7316517) Journal
    I already hate this software. I'm a network admin, and 3 users have installed Plaxo, two of them after I advised them not to.

    One person in another part of the company installed it, and it emailed everyone in his contact list without asking, apparently. Two people under me showed me the email and asked about it; I did some research and decided that it sounded not only like a virus, but definitely against company policy as departmental contact info is sent outside the company.

    Here is a rather critical article about Plaxo, followed by an update after speaking with the Plaxo people:

    PCMag Article by Bill Machrone []
    Follow-up article that backs off a bit []

    I don't trust it, and it sounds like it would violate every large company information policy in existence.

    The irony is that my company has an LDAP directory that each of these people use everyday, so WTF are they doing with a contact manager?
  • I don't see how P2P technology would help in this case. It neither requires heavy traffic (BitTorrent), nor discreet file transfers of dubious legality (WinMX). Here's my cross-platform, easy-to-maintain-and-use solution for using my contacts:

    1. an online account for storage.
    2. a plain text editor.
    3. the clipboard is my friend.

    Other than those three things, I need no floppy disk, no LDAP, no Outlook, no Mozilla, no proprietary format, no software incompatibilities, nothing like that.

    I n
  • The .mac service from apple sync's your address book, and allows you to access it from the internet.
  • Why not? You could easily turn this idea in a different direction and have an easy way to share blacklists with lots of people. But then there's the matter of figuring out what is a spam address and what is the address of someone being spited and having all their contact to the outer world blocked...
  • If you're a Mozilla user, try Edit->Fill In Form -> View Stored Form Data. How much info about you has Mozilla accumulated? You didn't tell it that stuff; it captured it as you filled in XML-enabled forms.

    Has it found your driver's license number yet? Your social security number? Your credit card numbers? Your birthdate? Your mother's maiden name? Click on "Personal" and see what it knows about you. Mozilla silently collects that info.

    All that juicy info, just waiting there for an exploit that

  • My employer scanned every computer and had the IT people remove it. Then they blocked Plaxo at the firewall and gave Plaxo a list of every known employee who had an account with them and requested that the accounts be terminated immediately.

    They muttered something about customer contact info being confidential information...go figure.
  • it belongs to someone else, and also has already been patented.
  • I've had Plaxo running for a while, and it didn't always update my records correctly,and I had problems in syncing my outlook with my phone afterwards. But those are just technical limitations, probably also due to my lack of knowledge in working with Plaxo (though I did see I wasn't the only one, many of my friends/colleagues forgot to enter either a '+' of '00' sign infront of their phone number-> the phonebook in my phone (which I sync automatically via bluetooth) got messed up.

    A much greater risk is
  • it would be interesting to take everyone's contacts and find matches. you can have a special where you can search for 'popular' people.
  • Plaxo contains a hack that mines your Outlook profile password so that it can retrieve your contacts unhindered.

    So? I can access the contacts in Pine by just reading a plain text file. No hack required.

    Having said all that, I like the idea of having my contacts kept updated. I thought about writing something that did a mass email to my contacts with their details asking them to correct anything that is wrong.

    An electronic solution would be substantially more elegant but I'm wary of using Plaxo. Any su

  • I like the idea of an active address book like this. But PlanetAll, the first Web site I know of that tried it, folded years ago, and now OneName just filed for bankruptcy. What makes these guys think they can make the idea stick this time around?

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan