Google will soon roll out a "people widget" in the right-hand side of its Gmail messages that surfaces content from friends and other contacts.
Specifically, next to every email message users will be able to see recent emails from users in a conversation, as well as Google Buzz posts, shared documents and calendar events. Check out to the right of this post.
More importantly, users will then be able to start a group chat or schedule a meeting with groups of people within those conversations.
Usually, a widget is something that users install. My iGoogle palette, for example, is full of widgets I chose to install. It's not clear whether this is the same for the people widget.
At first blush, the tool might recall Google Wave with its profiles and contextual information.
However, those tools have search and other core functionality. I used Xobni for a year, and it is the best Outook inbox search tool in the world, made super intuitive thanks to Xobni Rank.
Those tools also aggregate content from other sources, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Google only pulls content from within its own services. The truth is, people have contacts all over, which makes people widget-limited. But perhaps that's the point.
Xobni CEO Jeff Bonforte welcomed the people widget, telling eWEEK via email:
We now have over 7 million people using Xobni to help them make sense of their inbox and manage their relationships. So, this announcement is of no surprise to us - it is good news because it raises the bar across the entire email space. To have the email giants actively competing and innovating is important for Xobni as a startup, and we welcome the attention and news from Google.