Socializing Your Inbox Is Inevitable

Xobni, Xoopit and Yahoo are working on social inbox utilities. How soon before Microsoft and Google join the race?

The race for the socialized inbox is on.

Xoopit went into private beta March 31 with its with a new personal media browser application that combs through the files, photos and videos floating in users' Gmail cloud and lets users post content on other social networks and blogs.

But the San Francisco startup is hardly the only vendor with its eye on the evolving e-mail space.

For the last five months or so, San Francisco startup Xobni has been enticing thousands of users to use a private beta of its plug-in for Microsoft Outlook.

The tool creates a sidebar next to the community page inside Outlook, so that when a user clicks on a message, it automatically generates a profile about your interactions with that person, Xobni co-founder Matt Brezina told eWEEK April 2.

The profile includes a photo of the contact, when he checks his e-mail, the number of ingoing and outgoing messages, pulls his phone number from his signature and enables click-to-call capabilities via Skype.

Below the profile window is a social network of e-mail, where users can look at historical e-mail in threaded conversations (similar to Gmail) and see their contacts' contacts. There is a separate section that shows what files were exchanged.

Brezina noted that Xobni also has speedy e-mail search, solving one of the major pain points Outlook users experience when trying to search for an older e-mail with limited specific information.

"People are overwhelmed by their inbox," Brezina said. "Say I wanted to contact my lawyer's assistant to get minutes for a board meeting but I forget her name. With Xobni, I can click on my lawyer's profile, and find his assistant's name under his contact list. I can click on her name, which opens up her profile, and see anything she's sent."

Xobni is busy trying to integrate with other Web service providers and while Brezina declined to provide specifics, he said he could imagine integrations with popular services such as, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Indeed, what Xobni desires to be for Microsoft Outlook, the new Xoopit utility aims to be for Google's Gmail. Xoopit CEO and co-founder Bijan Marashi told eWEEK April 1 that he and his co-founder Jonathan Katzman realized early on that personal indexing would be a great way to solve the problem of the segmented, layered inbox in the cloud.

Now that Xoopit has provided such a service for Gmail, it hopes to do two things: get third-party application providers to build on top of Xoopit, and to get other Webmail providers to open up their APIs to let Xoopit into the fold.