I am writing to you to discuss the development path of Open Contacts (OC).
When OC is distributed as freeware, we have developed a few commercial extensions. We provide this piece of software sitting between conventional address book programs and CRM programs. After all, we do not intend to lock you, as we do provide a few ways of exporting data which can export almost everything you have inputted to external files which can be imported to other programs. In the future when you want to move to a more comprehensive platform of software application, data will be easily transfered.
As you might agree, contact management is not a single feature, and should rather work along side with other functions, such as a CRM system, an email client or a calendar program.
Up the now the version of Open Contacts has reached to v3.9.5, and we believe that Open Contacts provides richest features in the market of address book programs. Most planned key features were implemented, thus the paces of upgrading will be slowing down. We would like to take some time to review our development, and think about the paths and the focus.
We are thinking of the following options of new features and extensions, and would like your opinions about them. Essentially, it is not about new features, but what you need and what you will need:
1 Evolve to PIM
We were devoted to the best of address book programs running on PC desktop, while almost existing similar products at most just cloned the Windows Address Book (from Outlook Express and MS Outlook) and could never exceed the features of the WAB. However, we thought that many of existing schedule programs like MS Outlook, Mozilla Sunbird and Google Calendar are very adequate, as the requirements for scheduling are very common and stable. We would just try to provide convenient shortcuts and interactions between Open Contacts and these calendar programs. In short, it is unlikely that we will create another PIM program under current circumstance.
2 Provide better and better connections to other calendar programs
Yes. This have been what we always intent to do. The candidates are: MS Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla Sundbird, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar. Of course, the development of such interactions will very much depend on many factors: the willingness of the vendors of these programs and websites. In addition, the evolving of Web 2.0 may play a part.
3 Provide pseudo remote access to address book database
For users who need to access the same set of contact info at home and at work, there existing a few ways: 1. Use OC in a portable device. 2. Use a remote PC program to access OC remotely. We are thinking the third way: Let a user to download the database from a remote host (likely managed by the user), after editing, then upload back to the remote host. The following protocols will be supported: FTP, IMAP, HTTP and others.
4 Support schemes of distributed social networking
This subject is the key issue we would like to discuss with you.
About Social Networking
Have you heard of or used the following web sites of social networking? Linkedln, MySpace, orkut and Bebo etc. There are many many, as you can see from this list of social networking.
Are we going to provide you yet another website of social networking? The simple answer is No, as we hated providing you yet another address book program. Otherwise, you might have picked yet another address book program rather than Open Contacts. However, we do believe that Open Contacts is reaching to an edge of providing an alternative solution of social networking, taking care of some of your concerns about social networking websites:
3. Troubles of subscribing to multiple web sites
We have done some preliminary researches on these issues, and would like to share some findings with you. If you can raise your opinions after reading these materials, we will appreciate.
We would like to provide you a list of blogs we had visited. We did read these blogs and theirs follow-up comments carefully. And we would like you to make your own comments to us, and to these blogs as well.
http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/node/238 and comments by Konstantin Guericke
Hopefully you will find some useful info or inspiration about what is happening in the Web.
We have a replicated copy of this letter at blogger, please feel free to raise comments following the blog, or just drop us an Email.