Plaxo Etiquette: Moral High Ground Or Cheap Stunt?

Plaxo, the online contacts exchange that got some good, and bad, press two years back, is trying to brush up its members’ manners with some Plaxo Etiquette:

Each and every new technology has a learning curve as we figure out how to use it, and use it well. Remember when you’d frequently see people talking on their cell phone in a restaurant, or in the movie theater? And how many of those forwarded blonde or lawyer jokes were really funny?

Plaxo is committed to helping you become a better member of the digital world. Below you’ll find a few tips and suggestions on how to make the best use of Plaxo.

Not bad stuff, although some cynics might say it’s a few years too late. After all, one of the problems that its critics cited was the ease with which users could spam everyone in their Outlook address book, not considered a particularly polite thing to do in any community.

I’m not going to be cheap. It’s good that Plaxo is doing this, late or not. I did, however, feel the PR pitch that accompanied the announcement was a bit overly precious:

Plaxo, provider of an Internet service for updating and accessing contact information, is committed to helping its users be better members of the digital world. The company recently introduced Plaxo Etiquette (http://www.plaxo.com/privacy/manners) to guide members in the proper way to use the technology from the get-go. We challenge other providers of prevalent technologies to do the same.

Cynics, once again, might say that Plaxo was part of the address book spamming lapse in etiquette to start with two years ago, so suggesting it’s suddenly ‘committed to helping its users be better members of the digital world’ and that it feels it occupies such moral high ground it can ‘challenge other providers of prevalent technologies to do the same’ might be considered somewhat rich. I wouldn’t say that, of course; nor would I suggest this is a self-serving piece of publicity to raise the profile of a service that hasn’t been heard of — at least in a positive light — very much in recent months. (A keyword search for Plaxo of Google News throws up three references to the dangers associated with Plaxo and phishing, one to Plaxo and privacy and nine neutral references in passing.)

News: Beware QHosts

 All you need to do to be infected by this virus is visit the homepage of Web hosting provider FortuneCity.com. CNET reports that a malicious program, dubbed QHosts, infects PCs using a recent flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to take control of how computers look up Internet addresses. The program takes advantage of a critical flaw in Internet Explorer , which Microsoft has made an integral part of its Windows operating system. The Trojan horse used a banner ad that the attacker somehow placed there to install the Trojan horse on the user’s PC.
 
The QHosts program then changes the Internet addresses of the computers the infected PC will go to to resolve unknown Web sites and domain names. Known as the domain name service (DNS) servers, such computers are generally operated by a trusted organization, such as an Internet service provider. However, QHosts will send the requests to other servers, which Schmugar believes are likely to be owned by the originator of the Trojan horse.
 
This raises a few troubling questions, such as: How did the banner ad get there? And what is the purpose of the trojan? Is it just malicious or is it commercially related? We should be told.