Nipping at the heels of competitor LinkedIn, Visible Path is a new incarnation of business social networking. Visible Path entered the market with a different way of organizing and displaying your business contacts. Instead of showing all of your extended contacts to all the contacts in your network like LinkedIn, Visible Path focuses more on strength of relationship between contacts to determine who can add who to their contact list. This effort precludes "contact farmers" from adding you simply for the sake of adding someone. In a smaller circle of contacts, your relationships are more meaningful and cannot be as easily diluted. In order to create this more discriminatory contact circle Visible Path collects information about all your contacts through a 6mb Microsoft Outlook plugin which tracks who you've sent emails to or have meetings with.
The more often you are in contact with someone through Outlook, the stronger the relationship and vice versa. People outside of Outlook can also be added to Visible Path, but must be done so by searching for them specifically. Since contacts are generally all made through Outlook, the business relationships you make are very real. Because Visible Path users do not have the option of seeing your extended network, a much higher percentage of your business contacts will actually be people you have conversed with.
At its current state, Visible Path's Outlook plugin is prone to simply making all your office contacts your strongest. User's may email or have meetings with people in their office more consistently than they do with very important contacts who work for other companies or in different locations. In these cases Visible Path would incorrectly recognize the importance of your relationships. It's a fallacy that more contact with someone means you have a stronger relationship with them. Visible Path is currently looking into other methods to track relationship strength. Drawing data from phone calls and IM's is currently on their plate, but some way for the content of conversations needs to be analyzed for Visible Path to work without flaw. Business Networks are very helpful when all your contacts are meaningful. Unfortunately exposure to the web often causes networks to expand rather than become more useful.
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