Stay in Touch with a PlanetID

SAN FRANCISCO (05/23/2000) - Moving is an incredible hassle. Packing alone keeps you busy for weeks. And don't forget about passing your new address and phone number to friends, relatives, coworkers, and the credit card company.

PlanetID, a new Web-based service, offers to handle the hassle of keeping people up-to-date on your whereabouts--and more. In theory, the service is an information exchange where you enter your contact information and the people you want to share it. You give the company some basic demographic information and get a free PlanetID account in exchange. And you hope that lots of your friends and colleagues will get one, as well.

"We help you stay in touch with everyone who you want to stay in touch with," says Joyce Thom, the chief executive officer and cofounder of PlanetID. "You just go to one place and have that information flow to the places you want it to go."

PlanetID gives each user a "vault," where you can enter as much or as little information as you like, from your name and employer to your nickname and birth date. You decide which information to share and which to keep private, and you can control the sharing privileges on a person-by-person basis.

You also get space to enter information about your contacts, which you can provide either through their PlanetID names or manually. You can also group your contacts--by coworkers, friends, and family, for example.

If your contacts are PlanetID members, they become part of your contact network, which is updated whenever you change your information. And you're notified when those people change their information.

The point of PlanetID is that you get notice only of relevant information. For example, if a coworker changes his pager number, you're notified; but not if he updates his home telephone number. PlanetID makes these distinctions through InfoCards, which divide your information into groups.

You can have a Work InfoCard and a home InfoCard, and choose which contacts have access to each. You can even create custom InfoCards to share a mixture of information, and you are not limited to the work or personal designations.

Who Else Is on This Planet?

The limitations are in information-sharing. Your updated information is sent only to other PlanetID users, not to your contacts who lack PlanetID accounts.

The service clearly can save time, but only if you convince your friends to sign up for PlanetID.

Thom is convinced that once people understand how easy the service is to use, they'll be willing to sign on. Perhaps she's right; the service is very easy to use and is neatly arranged and organized.

But what are the chances that everyone you need to contact--your grandparents, your local cable company, banks, friends, and the giant credit card company--is willing and able to sign up for PlanetID? You may be able to convince your mom that PlanetID is great; is American Express going to listen to you?

In the long run, keeping track of who has a PlanetID and who doesn't could be more work than simply making all those phone calls.

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