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Web Profilers Put Business Contacts Just a Click Away

So far, Ziggs has 2.1 million profiles and is growing by 5,000 to 10,000 new ones a day, DeMello said.

A more complicated service is available from Jigsaw, aimed at sales representatives and recruiters. When I first saw it last week, I thought maybe its inventor was a nutty software programmer who had decided to see what would happen if he merged his Rolodex with Napster and eBay.

_____Photo Essay_____
The Post's Leslie Walker sent back a photo essay from the DEMO conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. Check out views of Motorola's new iRadio, the Intellifit body measuring device and more.
_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: DEMO executive producer Chris Shipley joined Leslie Walker for a one-hour discussion of the top trends and innovations on display at this year's conference.
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Imagine selling contact information about your friends and colleagues to strangers at a Web site, only instead of getting money in return, you get points allowing you to buy information about other people you are trying to reach. Users are encouraged to rate the quality of information others provide, creating a public reputation system vaguely similar to eBay's.

Bizarre as it sounds, that is how Jigsaw's business-contact marketplace works. Upload a person's name and contact info, and if no one successfully challenges it, you can download two profiles in return. Members must pay $25 a month or upload 25 valid new contacts each month.

Jim Fowler, chief executive of the San Mateo, Calif., start-up, contends his approach will help the company grow big fast because users do the heavy lifting of adding and verifying contacts -- information that grows stale as people change jobs. "The beauty of Jigsaw is it is self-cleansing," he said.

Eliyon Technologies takes a deeper, more automated approach, sending software spiders out to crawl the Web, and using mathematical and linguistic formulas to analyze how words are used in the text it finds. Russell Glass, director of consumer products, said Eliyon has compiled 25 million complete profiles and half a billion incomplete ones, missing, say, a phone number.

The privately held Cambridge, Mass., firm says it has been profitable for more than two years. Large corporations pay it to let their sales and marketing people search the database and make sure their employees can be found online.

Eliyon's specialty is structuring data in ways that let people search by certain traits -- a plastic surgeon in Bethesda, say, who attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Like rivals, Eliyon tries to give people control over how they appear.

I was able to modify my public profile on Eliyon, though it cost me $1, and I couldn't figure out how to delete material, only add it.

Other profilers take pains to verify or limit the type of information they present. Jigsaw, for example, allows only corporate e-mail addresses and forbids cell phone numbers. Ziggs doesn't collect personal addresses, only business contacts.

This will still feel creepy to many thoughtful people. While I have no intention of selling out my friends and business associates on Jigsaw, plenty of folks already are. And that's just a tiny glimpse into our increasingly transparent society.

Leslie Walker's e-mail address is walkerl@washpost.com.

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