Recently a discussion on who owns the rights to a person’s contacts & their contact details, and what sort of tools does a service that stores these contacts for a person provide if a user chooses to take their contacts off the site, has been making the rounds of technology focussed news sites & blogs. This made it to the top of the news stories because of a move that Google made to alert users when they imported their contacts into Facebook using the latter’s contact import tool. Google warned their users that once they imported them into Facebook they’d have no ability to export them out of Facebook.
The war over an invaluable data set viz. the user’s address book has taken center stage. There are 2 main points to this topic:
1. That a user should be able to move & manage his contacts the way he chooses, and
2. That a contact has the full & final right to their contact data in someone else’s possession.
Just about every popular service that we use as a communiation & networking tool has developed an address book – email service like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail & Outlook, social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn & MySpace, mobile content management sites like iTunes & MobileMe, event creation sites like Evite, file delivery sites like YouSendIt etc. The extent to which you can communicate from within each of these sites varies but is mostly limited to the use of their specific services offered by them – you can email using Gmail using your Google Contacts, but not Outlook (atleast not directly), you can message your Facebook friends using their platform, not Gmail. More so, access to a user’s contact list has been unclear when it comes to 3rd parties who enter into agreements with these sites.
While the titans were figuring out their strategies to battle out the control of the contact data sets they store, we worked within the existing limitations & integrated to both Google Contacts & Facebook Connections. Google’s very open API provided us the ability to support importing your existing contacts into AddyMate & establish a 2-way sync so that you can communicate with your AddyMate contacts from Google or AddyMate & keep your address books in complete synchronization. We worked with Facebook’s limited APIs that provided us the ability to access only your connection’s IDs by automatically linking you with your Facebook connections when they signed up for AddyMate.
We at AddyMate believe in the principles of providing users convenient ways to access their contact lists & communicate with their contacts the way they choose to – may it be via Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or simply a desktop or mobile email client. We’ve enabled this via configurable email composer settings that will launch the appropriate email program when a user clicks on the email address of a contact.
More so, we’ve put the AddyMate user back in control of their contact information so that they can pick & choose who has access to which email, phone number, IM ID, mailing address or just about any other contact detail they choose to share via their AddyMate profile. An AddyMate user can broadcast an email address to the world, share their home phone numbers only with family members, their work mailing address with their business associates or hide everything from the unknown public.
We are also working on providing a way to export all your contacts to a popular .CSV file format so that you have a handy copy that you can use as you choose fit. Yet, we do this with full consideration to what the user has entered for the contact & don’t export the details that an AddyMate connection has shared with the user.
We believe this approach of letting users access & use their contacts the way they want to while enabling them to control what contact detail they share with others is the winning way for any consumer oriented service.