Would you like an e-mail account that is aware of your social relationships? Xobni, a San Francisco-based startup, is betting you would.
On Monday, Xobni launched a public beta of its Microsoft Outlook add-on. The company, whose name is "inbox" spelled backward, said its add-on "helps users quickly find and understand what's in their inbox" through organization by relationships.
'Exposes Social Architecture'
Those relationships include how you've communicated with your contacts, how they've interacted with each other, and what files have been exchanged. Xobni said analyzing these relationships "exposes the social architecture buried in every inbox."
This social architecture is "incredibly valuable," said Xobni cofounder Matt Brezina, adding that e-mail software, designed 20 years ago, leaves the network of relationships unconnected.
"We connect the dots to draw a clearer picture of every aspect of your life that flows through e-mail," he said.
Although there has been an explosion of social-networking sites, the company noted that most social interaction on the Internet involves e-mail. Incoming e-mail can thus be sorted by the relationships between the inbox owner and the sender, for instance, instead of such parameters as chronology. The idea is that the messages from the people most important to you rise to the top.
Among other things, the product's features also include threaded conversations, "lightning fast" e-mail search, "people-centic" navigation, and an ability for a user to understand their contacts' e-mail habits. You can readily navigate your inbox by people or find attachments from past e-mails.
Xobni can also automatically extract phone numbers from the address book and previous e-mail conversations, with contact details popping to a sidebar. It also offers one-click scheduling, and e-mail analytics such as rankings, graphs and statistics about how you and your contacts use e-mail, and there is an integrated search of the Web from within Microsoft Outlook.
Stay in Touch
Xobni launched a beta last September. At the time, it said it was swamped within hours with downloads, and switched to a private, invitation-only beta.
Several enhancements for the add-on are already in the works. One, called Stay in Touch, analyzes e-mail patterns and lists people you haven't corresponded with lately.
Xobni was founded in 2006 by Adam Smith and Brezina, who dropped out of graduate school to start the company. The company is oriented toward shifting the focus of e-mail from one-by-one messages to a platform for understanding and using relationships.
While Xobni is focusing on the inbox-as-social-platform space, others are hot on the same trail. Yahoo, for instance, has previewed new Mail software that also includes social-networking functions.