Interest in personalizing the e-mail in-box is piquing, as Gist Nov. 19 began allowing users to claim vanity URLs and curate their own public profiles for the Web.
Gist is a free Web application that lets users more smoothly manage their personal and professional contacts in Microsoft Outlook, Google Gmail and Salesforce.com. Gist pulls profile information on people and companies from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, blogs and news sites, curbing the information overload and consolidating in one easy view.
The company calls it a "personal relationship manager," but until last week, Gist user profiles were private, accessible only to other Gist users within the context of the service. Gist Public Profiles is a new service that lets users publish their contact details, including name, company name and profile picture, personalized news and social network data on a public Web page.
Those who choose to create a Gist Public Profile can customize their Gist Web address URL and control what information is displayed on the page. For example, a user who chooses "John Smith" as his vanity URL will see it rendered as https://beta.gist.com/johnsmith, and may add a news and social network data viewer on his Public Profile, configuring what keywords Gist uses to find and display news about him.
This profile will be made visible to anyone on the Web who visits that address, or who stumbles across it through Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Bing and other search engines. The idea is that Smith and other Gist users can curate their view to others, similar to the way they can on a Google Profile, which is public. Gist CEO T.A. McCann told eWEEK:
""If I'm mentioned in a news article, and I have a Gist Public Profile, that's going to show up on the Web and be associated with my name, company and profile. It also allows me to tie in a Twitter feed, a blog or other URLs that I think are unique or interesting to me. So, yes you could tie your Twitter account or blog to Facebook, but a lot of times that stuff doesn't get republished and pushed out to the Web unless you've configured that to happen, which most people have not.""
Users can also add, or remove phrases in Public Profiles that make their profile more relevant to the Gist user, helping to disambiguate them from other people with the same name. To see what this looks like, McCann posted his public profile here.
McCann said he has talked with Google and Bing to do a unique presentation of a Gist Public Profile in search results on those search engines. So if a user of those search engines typed in the name of a Gist Public Profile user in the search box, they would see a link to that person's profile and a snippet of info from the profile, including a picture, blog address, tweets and other info.
Ideally, this service-and certainly any inclusion deals with Google, Bing or both-will help Gist grow its user base. While Gist is a fledgling offering yearning for traction among any users who will try it out, e-mail in-box management and socialization tools are gaining traction in businesses.
Xobni, which Gist considers a competitor, Nov. 2 launched Xobni Enterprise, a secure version of its e-mail search plug-in to let employees sift through their Microsoft Outlook in-boxes. Xobni launched just two years ago, but its free tool has seen 3 million downloads. Many people use Xobni in the workplace, paving the way for the release of Xobni Enterprise.
While Gist is the new up and comer, Xobni also faces some competition from Microsoft, which tried to acquire Xobni in 2008. Microsoft Nov. 18 teamed with LinkedIn on the Outlook Social Connector.
This feature in Microsoft Office 2010 surfaces e-mail senders' meetings, communication history and activity feeds. The Outlooks Social Connector shows the latest activity from any LinkedIn connection that sends a user an e-mail, allowing LinkedIn users to get the latest information from their LinkedIn network without leaving Outlook.