Though it's been around since 2002, contact management and social networking site Plaxo was seemingly lost in the shuffle as competitors like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn have risen to prominence in recent history.
Not content to sit on the sidelines, Plaxo hopes that, by embracing OpenID for identity management and microformats for information exchange, they can catch up to peers currently dominating the social networking landscape.In previous coverage of OpenID, we discussed the quandary where many site providers are hesitant to support OpenID until more of a user community develops. Meanwhile, other users are holding off on creating an OpenID until more sites support the standard.
Plaxo exhibits no such predilections. It not only supports the OpenID standard for authentication; it's also published an implementation guide to assist existing users in becoming OpenID consumers.
Furthermore, there are plans in the works for Plaxo to become an OpenID provider. This means that once a user has created an OpenID with Plaxo, that OpenID can be used at any site that supports the OpenID standard.
When you remember that Plaxo's functionality revolves around personal information and contact management, support of OpenID makes perfect sense. For those that already use Plaxo for personal information management, it only makes sense to use it for online identity management as well.
Along with support for OpenID, Plaxo is also adding support for both the "hCard" and "hCal" microformat standards. According to Wikipedia: the hCard microformat is used to publish the contact details of people, companies, organizations, and places in XHTML, Atom, RSS, or arbitrary XML.
This is accomplished by using a 1-to-1 representation of the ubiquitous vCard standard. The hCal microformat is similar however it is used for calendaring and events and is based on the iCalendar standard.
The ability to publish personal information and event information in hCard and hCal formats, respectively, makes it easier for other users to consume pieces of information using one of the growing number of tools that support the hCard and hCal microformats.
As more and more site providers follow the lead of Plaxo, as well as other companies who have already embraced open standards, the days of proprietary data formats and user lock-in may soon come to an end.
It's encouraging to see Plaxo take actual steps toward its goal of helping build an "Open Social Web." For more information or to sign up for an account, visit Plaxo.com.
Are you a dedicated Plaxo user? What about OpenID? Please feel free to share your experiences, both good and bad, in our comments section below.