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Plaxo: OpenSocial's been the gift that keeps on giving

The contact management site, which recently branched out into social networking, says the launch of Google's OpenSocial has caused its "connections" to multiply tenfold.

Plaxo's internal numbers showing a growth in 'connections' since OpenSocial launched.

Plaxo, the contact management site that branched into social networking with the launch of its Pulse site in August, is already singing the praises of Google's barely launched developer platform, OpenSocial.

According to John McCrea, vice president of marketing for Plaxo, Pulse has seen its "connections" multiply tenfold. The company has released an internal graph that shows the connections skyrocketing from 100,000 to over a million.

Plaxo's traffic is still dwarfed by that of larger social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn (see graph). "We barely show up on ComScore or Alexa," McCrea said in reference to the popular traffic-tabulating sites. But when OpenSocial was unveiled, he said, growth sped up at a completely unexpected speed. "I've never seen a growth chart with such a sharply pronounced inflection point," he explained. "Within hours of the Google OpenSocial social network service unfolding, it was surge conditions here. Our service almost buckled."

Plaxo Pulse allows you to divide your contacts list into business, friends, and family, so I asked McCrea where most of the new connections are coming from. He said this is not being formally tracked yet. "My strong intuition would be that it would be majority business connections at this stage, and some of that's just the laws of numbers," he said. "Peoples' business networks by definition are larger than their families."

Plaxo got its start as a contact management system that incurred quite a bit of scrutiny several years ago for attempting to grow virally by sending invitations to all the contacts in members' address books. In its new incarnation as a social-networking brand, Plaxo has attempted to classify itself as open and customizable in opposition to closed-off sites like Facebook and was one of the first companies to implement OpenSocial widgets. Pulse, McCrea told me, is still a small beta test.

But he expects to see even more growth when Pulse is opened up to Plaxo's existing user base of nearly 20 million people. "Those roughly 20 million members represent a social graph, a somewhat dormant social graph, that reaches out to half a billion folks in their address books," he said. "So as soon as Pulse is ready for real primetime, we plan to market it reasonably smartly into that user base."