Xobni has seen more than 2 million downloads since it was made available a year ago, and now the executives behind the Microsoft Outlook search plug-in feel the tool is ready to go commercial.
Xobni, which users have installed for free to help manage the contacts and various e-mail threads in their Outlook inbox accounts, is now available in a paid version, Xobni Plus. For a one-time fee of $29.95, users will receive advanced search tools to help users more easily track down more e-mails in their in-box haystack.
These new tools were based on customer requests and could make the Xobni plug-in, which users can download and install in less than a minute, much more attractive to business users.
Specifically, Xobni Plus includes an advanced search query builder, the ability to search within calendar appointments, conversations and networks, support for phrases and Boolean queries, automatic suggestions powered by the company's Xobni analytics, advanced conversation, and network filtering.
Xobni co-founder Matt Brezina showed off these features to eWEEK in a demo. When a user types in contact names and search terms, Xobni quickly searches through the in-box to find references to companies, such as Google and Facebook.
Query results appear before the user completes typing in a contact name in the Outlook "To" header, a testament to the auto-suggestion capabilities in the software. Unlike a search engine, users don't need to hit the Enter key to find search results; they appear with each keystroke. The new advanced search tab allows users to search "To" and "From" headers.
Brezina stressed that Xobni isn't forcing users to upgrade to Plus. Existing users who opt to stick with the company's free service will not lose any of the current functionality, which includes people and attachment search; automatic contact profiles; a threaded view of e-mail conversations; analytics; and integration with Yahoo Mail, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype.
People using the free version of Xobni can upgrade instantly to Xobni Plus from within the software with no new download or installation. The upgrade option appears as a button in the bottom Xobni toolbar within Outlook. Xobni also tries to point users to Xobni Plus; if a Xobni user clicks on the appointments feature above the bottom toolbar, they will receive an invite to subscribe to Xobni Plus.
The tool could be a valuable weapon against information overload, which tends to burden most business workers who use Outlook as part of their daily messaging and collaboration tools.
According to research firm Basex, a typical worker will receive 93 e-mails on a daily basis by 2010. This messaging glut, compounded by activity from social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, makes it hard for people to manage information in an efficient way.
"Tools such as Xobni Plus have the potential to increase an individual's efficiency and effectiveness by organizing information in a more natural manner," Basex CEO Jonathan Spira said, noting that the information overload problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered productivity and stifled innovation.
Basex is also leading the charge for Information Overload Awareness Day, an effort to call attention to the information overload issue and how it impacts both individuals and organizations. The online event is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Aug. 12, 2009, and will include Spira, Xobni's Brezina, and executives from such companies as Dow Jones and Morgan Stanley as speakers.