I read with interest that open-source messaging vendor Open-Xchange is building a "meta-address book" service that brings together your contacts from various social networking sites into "one continuous stream of updating contacts." While promising, I don't think it goes far enough.
It's nice to have a centralized address book. It's even better to analyze the connections between contacts and deliver services based on that data, as I recently argued.
One area in which this information would be hugely valuable is in connecting enterprises through their respective employees. Think about it: most companies spend far more money on sales and marketing than they do on product development. Why? Because customers pay the bills, obviously, and customers are hard to come by.
7-Degrees has an interesting solution called PeopleMaps that that crawls the Web for employment data on the contacts you have in Salesforce.com, and then presents an optimal (visual) contact chain to help enterprises figure out how they're connected to prospective partners or customers.
This is a useful way to map and monetize the "social graphs" of one's employees, but this, too, falls short of the full potential of a true "Web 2.0 address book," to use Tim O'Reilly's idea.
Open-Xchange is usefully connecting contacts into a meta address book, but I long for the day that someone connects those contacts through a meta address book, one that not only knows how well I know a contact, but also what sorts of things we like to do together and makes suggestions based on past history ("You and XXXX are in Boston at the same time - would you like me to arrange a lunch at Henrietta's Table again through OpenTable?).
This is when the address book becomes interesting, and when it becomes hugely monetizable by the enterprise.
For now, however, the enterprise largely treats its employees as drones with no lives (and, hence, no contacts) outside its payroll system. But if enterprises will look for ways to employees to improve their job performance by opening up their address books...we'll have discovered the next big thing in sales and marketing.
And someone will have created a billion-dollar business for themselves. Why not you?
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