April 8, 2007
Lyro: What's the Worth of an Online Business Card?

It's simple enough. It provides a concise way to trade contact information. And it's searchable. Will Lyro catch on to the world at large?

A week ago or so, Lyro sent out a press release about the service's launch, calling itself "business card 2.0." While LinkedIn provides a high degree of social networking power to its users, as well as a free public site, Lyro keeps its functionality simple--just an online business card that can be accessed through Web searches, with little in the way of frills.

The company's press release, only sent to a select group of bloggers like me (I feel so special.), claims that, "while a large amount of searchable data on people already exists on the internet, this information is not always well organized, easily locatable, user friendly, or under individual control in terms of what's displayed and how." On the other hand, Lyro is best because it remains simple.

The company calls its service "the first open, fully searchable online business card." Their card directory is designed to be simple and easily searchable, but it's still in beta form at this point, so it's hard to know how helpful of a directory it can be.

What's most interesting, though, is that Lyro is having to test, as is every social networking site of this ilk, the theory of, "If you build it, they will come." (Speaking of such, look back at this post from July 2006.) Their Web site is quite right that, "Today the web is a tangled mess. People can't find you." But the only way Lyro can become another avenue to solve that problem of inaccessibility is if people deem it worth their time and if they can build up a repository of online business cards.

What sets this site apart? Obviously, this site provides quite a bit less than an online profile or LinkedIn does. On the other hand, that simplicity may be its greatest advantage, in that the service may be best kept as simple as possible. The more services that are added, the less Lyro will have ease-of-use. As Gautam Ghosh says, the site is proof that "Web 2.0 folks are training their guns on something more basic." I think keeping Lyro basic will be key if this service is to survive.

Of course, others feel differently. Bill Sledzik calls the service "way too much liked LinkedIn, only more boring."

By the way, Chris Hanscom's suggestion is that the service should make the business card accessible to imbed in other sites, which I think is a great idea. He complains that Lyro just doesn't provide enough features to make it a boon to one's online presence. I agree that it's not going to be a site that revolutionizes business contacts, but I think it's simplicity is one of its best features, if it really does rank well among search engines. I've often found bloggers and professionals who have sites but obscured contact information, or else colleagues I've met at conferences who I want to get in touch with, only to not find their contact information easily accessible anywhere. A centralized place to find that information could be valuable, cleared from all the rest of the clutter.

Setting up a business card takes less than a minute, and the card displays your name, job title, place of employment, address, and phone number. It can also include your cell, fax number, and URL for a Web site. What I find particularly confusing, though, is there is no way to make one's e-mail public, which seems somewhat contradictory in a Web 2.0 world. Apparently, it's a safety feature for privacy reasons, but I would much rather people contact me by e-mail than by phone. I searched throughout the site for how to make my e-mail address appear on the card, but no luck--just a note that "email will not be displayed on the card."

The site includes a meter that tells you how many times your card has been viewed as well. With graduation coming up in June, such information could always be of interest, but it might also serve to be a particular ego buster, if the number keeps saying "0" day after day.

You can always humor me, though, by visiting my online business card here.

See my post on connectivity in a Web 2.0 world from last October.