In response to yesterday’s announcement of integration of the Disqus smart commenting system with the Plaxo Pulse social network, influential blogger Louis Gray wrote a piece on his thoughts overall on Pulse. He likes much of what Plaxo offers, but wonders whether a service known primarily as a business tool can convince people to project their lifestreams into it. He writes:
“This isn’t to say Plaxo hasn’t considered the problem of making such a dramatic shift in the public eye without losing its existing customer base. No doubt with the issues I brought up in mind, Plaxo has enabled categories of contacts, from “Business” to “Friends” and “Family”, making it possible that I could show my personal streaming data only to Friends and not Business contacts, for instance. That’s a smart move, one I expect other lifestreaming services to borrow. But not even this granularity solves the basic problem of what the site is known for and what they’re now trying to be. Putting wings on a car doesn’t make it an airplane.”
Is Plaxo really trying to put wings on a car? [Disclosure/reminder: I head up marketing at Plaxo.] Louis is correct from a marketing/brand perspective. For many people, Plaxo is a little piece of software in their Microsoft Outlook, providing a way keep their business contacts up-to-date. But Plaxo has always had bigger aspirations; the vision has been a “people layer” for the Internet, with each person having a unified and self-updating address book, leveraging the network effect. That unified address book would sync with Outlook, the Mac, AOL, Google, Yahoo!, the mobile phone, and more. And it would be accepted at just about every website. And inside that address book? Not just your business contacts, but everyone you know and care about, including, of course, your friends and family. In a few words, a major “who-you-know” play.
When we were contemplating Pulse, which brings your address book to life, enriching your connection to the people you know and care about, we had to answer a key question:
Would many of the 20 million current Plaxo members find the new functionality interesting and useful, and would people be willing to categorize the relationships they are declaring in Pulse as family, friends, and business?
After all, the first generation of social networks had trained people to “friend” just about anybody. We were convinced that there was a BIG market opportunity to take the concepts of social networking and recast them for a more mainstream, post-college demographic. The idea? Give people control over what they share with whom. We were and are convinced that the real Social Web will be like an iceberg. The blogs and tweets and other fully public content is the shiny white ice visible above the surface of the water, but running deep and wide is the mass below the waterline: the private and semi-private conversations between family and friends.
The greatest delight I get from Pulse is the simple pleasures of sharing photos and commenting on them between members of my family. That includes three generations of family members, distributed across the country.
Anyway, enough for now. Here are two charts answering the question of whether putting wings on the car can allow it to fly:
Explanation of these two charts available in my original post on the topic.