Review: Xobni for Gmail in Private Beta

Posted by Art Williams on May 18, 2011

A few years ago I used Xobni on Outlook, but after making the change to Gmail/Google Apps for all of my email accounts I had to say goodbye to Xobni. Now there is hope again for me and other Gmail users, as it was just announced that Xobni is in private beta with a new gadget for Gmail. I received my invitation about a week ago and have been testing it.

What is Xobni?

For those who are wondering, Xobni— or “Inbox” backwards—aggregates data about your contacts and displays the contact profiles to you in a user-friendly format that makes it easy to see how you communicate, and how your contacts connect to each other. According to Xobni, the profiles it generates contain “relationship statistics, contact information, threaded conversations, shared attachments, and information on that contact pulled from social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.”

Xobni’s Microsoft Outlook add-on that I used years ago was truly revolutionary at the time. I grew to depend on the information it provided me about my contacts, and after moving to Gmail I felt lost without it. Granted, Gmail has threaded conversations and some other features baked in, but it is still missing the in-depth analysis of social connectedness that Xobni provides.

Xobni for Gmail Impressions

Fast forward to today, and I’ve been using the Xobni for Gmail for about a week. My first impressions have been underwhelming. I am not as blown away by Xobni for Gmail as much as I was with Xobni for Outlook.

I don’t think it’s really Xobni’s fault, though. Gmail’s finesse at handling mail out of the box means that the difference between using Xobni and not is not quite as dramatic. Plus we are used to mash-up services now, whereas a few years ago Xobni was revolutionary.

Despite Xobni for Gmail not knocking me over, I’m going to keep it. As I wrote a few weeks ago, metrics are critically important for digital marketers, and Xobni gives me quick access to metrics that I would otherwise have go to digging for in Gmail — if I could find them at all.

Favorite Features

  • xobni-relationship-history-graph.pngRelationship History Graph - This graph shows a snapshot of all the email communications between you and a particular contact. I use this to make sure that my communication with key prospects and customers remains consistent.
  • ‘Social Updates’ tab - Each contact has a tab that shows vital information (like company info from LinkedIn, personal info from Facebook, and their Twitter feed) from their social media profiles. You also get a link to view each social media profile.
  • ‘Recent Emails’ tab - This can be done easily enough in Gmail by searching the name of the contact, but Xobni eliminates that step by displaying the list of emails in descending date order automatically in the sidebar.
  • ‘Frequently Emailed With’ tab - Xobni will show a list of every contact that has been included on an email between you and the person you are viewing. For instance, if I view the profile for one of my clients and I know that he expects me to CC his marketing director on every email but I can’t remember her name, then this tab will quickly show me everyone he or I have CC’d on our previous emails together.

I anticipate that Xobni will be adding features to this beta down the road to make it even more powerful. Maybe they will even come up with something to “wow” us with again. Xobni for iPhone and Xobni for Android are also on their way. In its current form it is a robust and proven tool that any marketer, sales person, social media advocate should not be without.

Get Your Own Invite

There is a waiting list to get into the private beta, but I can help you get an invite. Here’s how:

  • Make a comment on any blog post on Digett’s Blog.
  • Make it count. I will pick the 5 comments that I feel are the most valuable contributions and send you a link.
  • Selections will be made by Friday, May 20, 2011 at 4pm central.
  • Be sure to include your email address.


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Submitted by Jeff Bonforte on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 11:29pm

Lots of new features and improvements are coming. A features that may not be obvious:

1) Xobni compiles profiles on all the people in your inbox from all you Outlook and all Gmail accounts and brings them together. This is much bigger that your addressbook...for me over 27k contacts. They are all ranked and merged intelligently even if you emailed them from three different accounts and with different emails. These contacts also are available and aware of your smart phone (BB, and iPhone and Android shortly).

2) we have introduced a new autosuggest (enable in the menu if you aren't seeing it) that is much much smarter than anything you have seen before. Recommendations update in realtime as you add people to the email...and considers which account you are sending from in the ranked results.

3) the new "slidebox" pulls social updates from the contacts in your inbox even if you aren't connected in the network. This feature will get much smarter soon.

Submitted by Art Williams on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 9:46am

Thanks for chiming in, Jeff.

I like #3. I assumed that was happening but as you said it's not that obvious.

As for #2: In my situation I turned off the Xobni autosuggest. It was interfering with the Gmail autocomplete and the results I was expecting weren't being displayed.

#1: I'm only using Xobni on my business email, twitter, & linkedin accounts for now.

Submitted by Michael Rabey on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 7:16pm

I've been using Xobni for Outlook for some time now and we recently moved from an exchange-based email system to Google Apps... I'm using both Outlook and the web Gmail interface because the web on its own doesn't give me the social connections (linked in, facebook etc) and doesn't extend far enough...

I know they also have an iPhone Alpha out there, but I'm more interested in the Gmail Beta as I'm hoping it will allow me to say goodbye to outlook and its ridiculous machinations forever...

Actually I've been surprised that no one has taken Xobni over - I thought for sure Microsoft would given it has in the past been Outlook-centric.

Submitted by Art Williams on Fri, 05/20/2011 - 9:13am

Thanks Michael. The link is on it's way to you.