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Social Skills For Address Books

Most of the time, I review just-released products. Today, I'm writing about a product that doesn't exist yet, and may never: an address-book program that would update its records when your friends update their own entries on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn.

The components that would be necessary to build such a thing exist already. The major social networks are rolling out initiatives and frameworks that will let other Web sites and programs connect to them and share data -- see, for instance, LinkedIn's API (Application Programming Interface) and Facebook Connect.

And a couple of weeks ago, a free plug-in for Microsoft's Outlook, Xobni, began using LinkedIn's API to tie into that network -- install this add-on and anytime the sender of an e-mail has a public profile on LinkedIn, you'll see his or her title, employer and (if available) photo in the Xobni sidebar.

That got me thinking. People have been wrestling with the task of keeping address books current for years, using add-on services like Comcast's Plaxo or simply copying and pasting information from e-mails and Web sites into their contacts lists. And yet the most up-to-date sources of contact information for most of the people I talk to are their pages on these social networks. Why can't an address book subscribe to their updates, in the same way that a calendar program can subscribe to an iCalendar feed? Why, instead, are we limited to downloading somebody's vCard file from LinkedIn or using difficult and unreliable hacks like this fellow's desperate attempt to copy friends' phone numbers and e-mail addresses from Facebook?

Such a thing is possible but not necessarily probable. For one thing, Microsoft's Outlook, with its dominant share of the business, sluggish pace of updates and lack of effective competition, has become a boat anchor for the entire category of address-book software in the Windows market. So all I could do in today's column is endorse the idea, then warn of one way in which it might be implemented badly.

My own track record at persuading the tech industry to do things is not all that great, but perhaps it would help if you all chimed in. Would you like to see this kind of address-book feature? What else do you want your next contacts manager to do?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 10, 2008; 9:36 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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I'm even more interested in a way to sync up the address lists kept by my wife and me. Do I need to set up my own WebDAV server, or is there something short of that I could try?

Posted by: Brad | July 10, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

People use Plaxo? I thought it was a yet another spam generating tool.

Maybe I'm just not popular enough, but I don't have any trouble keeping track of my contacts, and I have no need to co-mingle them all anyway.

Honestly any time I get one of those "John Doe wants you to join him on StupidWebsiteName" it gets marked as spam.

Posted by: LarryMac | July 10, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Rob -- Give me an Internet-based PIM with no software to download and basic features and capabilities and I'll be happy because, like Internet email, I can get to it anytime and from anywhere. ...Fred

Posted by: Fred T | July 10, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I have been happily using Cardfile.exe from Windows 3.1. It's free-form, so I am not constrained by little boxes. And it's easy to transfer from one computer to another. It works fine on XP SP3 and Vista.

Posted by: polyman | July 10, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

A clean, well organized, up to date address book is like a well organized iPod: Neither happens with out work.

Posted by: JkR | July 10, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

gmail Thunderbird sync. now that's a step in the right direction if it gets finished.

Posted by: Jason S | July 11, 2008 12:33 AM | Report abuse

I highly recommend ScheduleWorld ( for your Address Book sync and Calendar sync needs. Syncs to every major (and many minor) email platforms, with minimal intervention. The UI is a little lacking, but the functionality is top-notch.

Posted by: Jonathan | July 14, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Fred T
please try, an Internet-based PIM with no software to download and advanced features
please comment to

Posted by: Jose | July 15, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse


I recommend you use UNYK, seems it would be exactly what you need. It works really well. It is a "smart" address book, completely private, Web-based, with nothing to download.

You can group all your contacts in just a few clicks, and then you don't need to update them, that happens automatically when one of your contacts, who uses the system, does it himself on his own profile.

It also synchronises to Outlook.

Enjoy =)

Posted by: Ally | July 16, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh and the address is

Posted by: Ally | July 16, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

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