Web 2.0 Startup Socializes Webmail

E-mail, relatively static for 35 years, gets a media makeover from Xoopit, which launched this week on Gmail.

Yahoo opened a lot of eyes with Inbox 2.0, a socialized version of Yahoo Mail that integrates multiple social networks into the Web mail application used by more than 250 million people.

San Francisco's Xoopit is looking to take the social inbox schema up a notch with a new personal media browser application that lets users aggregate social networks and media content in Gmail.

Launched in private beta March 31, the Xoopit technology is an indexing platform that combs through the glut of files, photos and videos floating in users' Gmail cloud and lets users post the content on other social networks and blogs to share with their friends.

The software imports media from photo- and video-sharing networks such as YouTube, Flickr, Kodak, Shutterfly and Picasa.

Xoopit CEO and co-founder Bijan Marashi, formerly the lead product manager for the Inktomi Search & Directory Engine products that powered Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, told eWEEK that his service is designed to unify users' media assets from e-mail across the Web.

So, if somebody mails you links to photos on Picasa or Flickr, you'll see the media through one gallery view in your Web mail, which Om Malik notes here. After Xoopit surfaces that information, it lets users share it for friends to comment on.

Mail as a 'Hangout'

To see what Xoopit does, check out this video in addition to the slides in Malik's post.

The Xoopit beta is available as a Gmail plug-in for Firefox, a plug-in for iGoogle and on the Xoopit.com. It is built on the IMAP protocol so it can talk to multiple e-mail systems.

Marashi said Xoopit will eventually work with Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, AOL and the social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace. Also eventually, Xoopit will build apps that work in the Web mail applications and social networks.

"If companies can go into the mail environment and create applications the way we've seen inside Facebook, then the mail application is going to be a great place to hangout," Marashi said.

Xoopit is free. Marashi expects the company will be able to leverage much of the 1 billion or so e-mail users worldwide to place paid ads on the service, the idea being that users spend so much time in their e-mail networks that they will also be clicking on ads, padding Xoopit's coffers.

"It's a well-known fact to the executives at Yahoo, for example, that mail is a cash cow," Marashi said.

Xoopit has made believers out of Accel Partners, Foundation Capital and a slew of strategic angels, which have combined to put $5 million into the company in the latest funding round.