When we check out Gmail, most of us have learnt to ignore the right-hand panel with advertisements. What if those messages were replaced with something more useful, like an online profile of the person who sent the email? Especially if the sender is just an acquaintance, or a stranger.
Rapportive’s widget displays basic information (location, organisation, position) about the sender culled from publicly-available LinkedIn data, including a photograph if available, plus recent posts from Twitter and links to pages in Facebook and other social networking sites. It’s a helpful aid to memory when you get mail from people you know only slightly, and when it’s someone you don’t know at all, Rapportive adds immediate context, saving you from having to do it yourself.
The widget is easy to install and works on IE, Firefox and Chrome. (You have to install it in your browser. So if you switch between multiple browsers and PCs, you’ll have a lot of installing to do.) Search is fast — it just takes a couple of seconds — but not always successful. Sometimes, to be fair, it’s because the sender might not be on any social networking site, but frequently it’s because Rapportive’s search is just not good enough. And it’s sometimes inaccurate. For example, it picks up information from the right LinkedIn profile, but has the wrong Flickr link. There is no option for a user to help Rapportive improve accuracy or search. In spite of these shortcomings, it’s a useful thing to have on your Gmail.