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5/15/2008
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Comcast Goes Social With Plaxo Acquisition

The social network has been developing a universal address book for Comcast's SmartZone communications center, which should launch later this year.

Social content and address book service Plaxo on Wednesday said that it had signed an agreement to be acquired by cable giant Comcast, a deal that reflects the inexorable merger of socially-oriented Internet services and traditional content providers.

"Joining forces with Comcast is a real win for our customers, our investors, and our employees," said CEO Ben Golub, and co-founders Cameron Ring and Todd Masonis in a blog post. "Comcast has an exciting vision to bring the social media experience to mainstream consumers. Together, we will be able to help users connect with all the people they care about, across all of the devices they use, with all the media they love to consume, create, and share. This is also great news for the Internet industry at large, where Plaxo has been -- and will continue to be -- a strong advocate for opening up the Social Web."

Plaxo has been working with Comcast for the past year. It has been developing a universal address book for Comcast's SmartZone communications center, which should launch later this year. It is also now hosting the address books of Comcast Web mail users.

Golub, Ring, and Masonis expect that services like Plaxo Pulse, a form of RSS feed that notifies subscribers about friends' content creation activities, will be integrated with Comcast's Internet and cable content offerings. Comcast subscribers might thus be able to post pictures online and make them viewable among their Plaxo contacts on TVs, mobile devices, and computers.

For Comcast, the deal provides an opportunity to make use of data about the 50 million people now under its umbrella. This may prove useful not only for marketing, but also for promoting content creation and communication. With a few more Internet-oriented acquisitions or partnerships, the cable service provider could develop a loyal Internet community, making it more competitive in the social arena with the likes of Facebook, Fox Interactive, Google, and Yahoo.

But the company has some work to do if it really wants to win the trust of the Internet community. Most of the posts on the Plaxo blog lament the deal, characterizing Comcast as a clumsy corporate behemoth that doesn't care about its customers and doesn't get social computing.

"You'll have to excuse me if I sound a bit skeptical of Plaxo's ongoing commitment to current Plaxo users," wrote someone posting under the name 'scottk.' "I don't doubt the Plaxo employees desire to continue serving both Comcast and non-Comcast customers, but someone in Comcast corporate will have the bright idea of making Plaxo's service an 'in-network' exclusive for their customers. At that time they'll probably kill off Pulse and use the best parts of it (photo sharing, etc.) to enhance their own Comcast-branded online offerings. The Plaxo name will also die at that time. It will all be victim of some Comcast executive who wants to do cost-cutting."

Financial details were not disclosed. Reuters news service reported that Comcast may be shelling out as much as $175 million, if certain performance targets are met in a couple of years.

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