Rapportive Adds Social Contact Data to Gmail
What we like: The right-hand sidebar in Gmail is largely a waste of space. It's primarily empty, occasionally populated with links allowing you to add items to a calendar or track packages. Otherwise, it's used to display print and new window buttons. Rapportive removes the text from those buttons, and shifts the icons next to the subject and label information, making for a cleaner, more efficient layout. With the sidebar now completely empty, Rapportive adds publicly available social data about the person who sent you the e-mail, including links to profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and updates from their Twitter feed. Rapportive will also scrape these sources for a picture, a location and employment information.
Rapportive even allows for some, albeit very limited, customization. You're free to add notes to any contact for your own personal reference, and other sources of information can be added with Raplets.
As with any service connected to social networks there are concerns about privacy. Rapportive has a very clear and comforting policy that makes obvious distinctions between public and private data and how Rapportive uses this information. While it's slightly discomforting to know that the service is looking at the names of people who send you e-mail and scraping the Web for publicly available information about them, the Rapportive team states that they do not track who you e-mail. The service also gives you strong control over what others see about you, at least once you've installed the extension.
What we don't: For now, at least, the number of Raplets and their usefulness are extremely limited. One of those, Crunchbase, seems to only be useful if you're in the habit of trading e-mails with CEOs and entrepreneurs. Just as frustrating is locating and adding Raplets. We'd also like to see a link allowing you to add more fields in the sidebar -- instead of hiding it in a drop-down menu at the top of the page. For now, there's no way to correct or fix information displayed about a person, other than yourself. But the Rapportive team has stated it is adding that functionality in future versions.
Bottom line: Rapportive can add valuable information about your contacts to your e-mail communications. It brings social content to your Gmail inbox without the irritation associated with Buzz. If nothing else, it makes use of what is otherwise wasted space on the right side of Gmail when viewing messages. Download Rapportive here.