WhitePages unveils Hiya to help eliminate email contact clutter

Keeping an online address book up-to-date can be a serious chore. After all, with the frequency that people change locations or jobs, duplicate contacts often arise. WhitePages is looking to conquer that problem with Hiya, a free service which helps people keep online contacts current across phones, Web mail services and desktop computers. It also cleans up duplicate contacts and works in conjunction with the WhitePages directory to fill in missing data like contacts’ birthdays or phone numbers.

I was pretty excited to give Hiya’s iPhone app a try tonight, in part because my contacts are in disarray.  I was thinking it would be nice to have one clean, master list of contacts, and have them current across my phone and mail systems.

But when I tried to import my contacts from Google, I was told that I had “too many contacts.” The app only supports a maximum of 2,000 contacts, so I was prompted to import a smaller contact list. That didn’t appeal to me, so I moved on. (Guess they didn’t have journalist contact lists in mind when they created the app).

Nonetheless, if those caps are raised, this could help solve a real world problem. And it is a problem that is not unique to me. WhitePages commissioned a study which found that 63 percent of Americans said their online email contact lists are in need of serious help.

WhitePages CEO Alex Algard said their goal is not to replace existing address books, but to simply make them work better.

“…Right now, our core focus is to make data stored in Google Contacts more up-to-date and cleaner, because for most people, their contacts are a mess or are incomplete,” Algard tells GeekWire.

At this point, Hiya only works when contacts are housed in Google Contacts or via an iPhone. But over time the company plans to support MSN Live, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and CSV files.

Here’s how the company describes how Hiya works:

After users import their Google Contacts into Hiya, they are immediately notified of duplicate contacts that have been identified using more than 15 different match categories, including nicknames, misspellings, and email usernames. Suggested duplicates can then be easily merged and removed. From here, users can choose which of their contacts they would like to import into Hiya.

And here’s a video demo of the mobile product at work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIn6msVr9Q8&feature=player_embedded

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire, a technology news site based in Seattle. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews.