Overview: Plaxo is a social networking platform that allows users to keep up with their contacts online and share information with other Plaxo users in a similar fashion to LinkedIn.com.

Defined: With over 20 million users, Plaxo has seen significant growth since it’s launch in May of 2003. The platform is not as widely used as it’s competitor LinkedIn which boasts over 30 million users, but has nevertheless remained a strong presence in the world of ‘grown up’ social networking applications. The premise of Plaxo is less about acquiring as many contacts as humanly possible and more about keeping up to date on what your existing contacts are doing. Plaxo is an efficient and easy way to manage the contact details of your address book online.

Like many similar platforms, users are given their own profile page where they can add as little or as much about themselves as they’d like. Users can also sync up other sites and services they use online to their profile, so that anytime they post a comment on twitter, write a blog post, complete a review on Yelp, or whatever else, your connections will be able to follow your updates in their own personal mini feed. Plaxo also has an import function so that you can automatically upload all of your email contacts into your own Plaxo address book. Once uploaded, Plaxo will send an invitation out to any contacts you’d like to invite to use the platform so that you can follow their updates and stay in touch. It’s important to mention at this point that users of Plaxo have complete authority to withhold as much information about themselves as they wish, including control over who can view certain information on their personal profile.

Here’s a screen shot of my own personal profile to give you an idea of what Plaxo looks like:

As you can probably make out, the profile is very similar to other platforms like facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Users can also see what their contacts are creating and sharing online from their personal Plaxo homepage, much like friendfeed:

Plaxo also has ‘fan pages’ where users can join groups about their favorite TV shows. This seems rather random in my humble opinion, but for anyone looking to connect with other fans or talk about the latest episode this would be the place to do it.

Business Applications: Plaxo is an efficient way of keeping track of and up to date with your business contacts, providing that they too use Plaxo to do the same. Having an online address book is especially convenient because users can access their account anywhere, and any changes made on the profiles of your contacts will automatically be made in your own account.  Plaxo also has groups like most other platforms, where users can contribute relevant information and connect with others who have a shared interest. This is an obvious opportunity for strategic networking and a good place to recieve expert feedback from other professionals on any number of issues.

Recommendation:  While Plaxo is a very clean looking platform that is especially easy to navigate and become familiar with, it fails to compare to the popularity and features of its rival LinkedIn. Plaxo is a worthwhile site to have at least a small prescence on, but besides the feed aggrigation from other sites to let you see what your contacts are doing online I don’t feel that Plaxo does anything better than LinkedIn. The most important detail to consider is that more people are using LinkedIn by far, which makes finding contacts and making connections much more productive. I won’t count Plaxo out as a useful online tool, but without some significant advances to its set of features to attract more users than its rival, Plaxo is destined to remain inferior.