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Plaxo opening up its contact at a time

Plaxo is opening up its source code. Is it too little, too late?

Caroline is reporting that Plaxo, the online contacts manager, is opening up part of its source code. As she writes:

The company has released the code for its new "Online Identity Consolidator," which can automatically discover a user's social-networking accounts across the Web and embed their related RSS feeds on a Plaxo Pulse profile.

It's only a small piece of Plaxo's overall architecture, but considering the service's vocal mission of openness and customizability, we'll likely see more announcements akin to this one--at least we probably ought to.

It's a good move by Plaxo in its efforts to become more than just a place to update one's address book online, especially as LinkedIn, Facebook, and others take centerstage in the social -networking scene.

Plaxo dearly needs to move beyond its roots. Given that it has shown a reluctance to be more widely relevant, building a community that can do this is smart. I've written about the potential importance of the networked address book (here and here, for example), and so it has been extraordinarily frustrating to watch the company in the pole position - Plaxo - do nothing to capitalize on its assets (lots of contacts).

This is one of those times that open source so clearly points to a better way that it's almost criminal to not open up the code. When a company becomes a hugely wasteful gatekeeper on a product, let the community in. It will either improve the product or put it out of its misery.

Either is welcome.

Let's hope Plaxo becomes relevant again through this open source move.