Its one thing to put your contact information in a social networking service. Its another thing to make connections explicit. But its an entirely different thing to make contact information literally tradeable.
The latest YASNS aims to just that, which launches today with venture backing:
platform is basically a cross between the online marketplace of eBay and the social networking site of Friendster.com. Jigsaw users are able to buy, sell and trade business contact information. The service costs $25 per month, which gives users access to 25 contacts per month (plus an extra 20 as a sign-up bonus). A salesperson generates access to additional contacts by adding new listings to the system. For each contact added, a user receives two in return. Those who supply at least 25 contacts per month can bypass the monthly fee.
Fowler says the reason for this interactivity is two-fold. First, it keeps Jigsaw as a cash-upfront business, which lowers overhead and reduces the amount of outside capital required. Second, it helps keep the information dynamic, since users also are encouraged to update their contacts’ information for shared use.
Now, I have said the network is the market, but this may be going to far. There is some merit in the notion of a virtual currency for contacts, especially as the target market is sales guys, But contact information, and people for that matter, are not fungible. There would be strong incentives to game the market by trading bad contacts for good.
Jigsaw explicitly says they support contact information, not relationships, and perhaps avoid Plaxo pitfalls.
But consider this exceprt from Michael Schrage’s classic essay on The Relationship Revolution, courtesy of Jerry Michalski:
Consider a small thought-experiment: Whenever you see the word “information” — as in the strategic importance of managing information, or the importance of timely information in solving problems, or the need to make substantial investments in information technology in order to compete in the cutthroat world of global competition — substitute the word “relationship.”
Then consider the value of the information being traded compared to the underpinning relationships.