Plaxo’s Trojan Horse

By | May 17, 2004

Was Plaxo just a Trojan Horse into Outlook?

Plaxo, the controversial contact management service, never really came clean on how it was going to make money, a fact which has contributed to user suspicion about its motives and its commitment to keeping secure and private all the contact data it handles and stores on behalf of unpaying customers. But now everything may be clear, after it quietly announced last week that it had partnered with Yahoo to build search into Plaxo’s toolbar in Outlook. Plaxo 2.0 will include the function, to be released this month.

As Nino Marchetti of the Unofficial Yahoo Weblog points out: “The take home from this is that Yahoo, through this partnership, has opened a door which could take traffic away from Google and other search engines by keeping people from leaving Outlook and going into their browsers until after they have already hit the Yahoo search button.” In other words: Outlook users won’t need to go to Google, or its desktop toolbar, to do a search.

Indeed, Plaxo’s efforts suddenly make more sense. The most expensive and desirable desktop real estate may not be in the browser — via some toolbar, or homepage, or whatever — but in Outlook, when a lot of people spend increasingly large parts of their day. While most Outlook add-ins take up only a button or two, Plaxo’s has taken up quite a bit of space, and is perfectly positioned to add the search feature. The result: Searches that bypass Google entirely.

As Plaxo’s press release puts it:  ”Yahoo! is continually seeking new ways to bring ubiquitous search access to Internet users,” said Tim Cadogan, vice president of Search at Yahoo, Inc. “By embedding Yahoo! Search in Plaxo 2.0, Yahoo! will facilitate seamless Internet searches for Plaxo’s fast-growing user base from within Outlook.”

Expect to see a lot more products that offer ‘valuable services’ via a toolbar in Outlook, but in fact are aimed at drawing traffic to certain sites. Browser toolbars are out; Outlook toolbars are in.

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