by Ryan Gerard
Many people know of Xobni as the Outlook search plugin. That’s not wrong – but it’s only a fraction of what we are today. While we still love our Outlook customers, we are no longer strictly a desktop software company. We’re a data-centric company, and our specialty is analyzing your data and transforming it into useful and relevant information. Our first product provided fast search and people-oriented views around your Outlook email data – and that was a great start that helped us see the beginning of what was possible with data in email.
We’ve been building on top of email data for a while now, and we’re now focusing on developing technologies to deliver a set of products powered by a much more interesting and useful data set: your implicit social graph.
The Problem with Today’s Social Graph
Social graphs today are incredibly manual and tedious to create. After you sign-up for a new social service, you are then asked to either invite or connect with friends one at a time, or in bulk by looking at some sort of established address book. These address books present you an alphabetical, outdated, and incomplete list of your friends and family, from which you can either invite everyone en masse, or look through the entire alphabetical list and select people one at a time.
When you invite someone to connect with you, that person has to explicitly accept the request. This person becomes a new node in a social graph that will inevitably become stale. I use the word “stale” because most people (including myself) do not take the time to prune their graphs (aka, remove people). As Brad Feld mentioned, we are too promiscuous with who we accept into our graph.
What does this all mean? Most of our social graphs are littered with people we don’t actually care about, and our feeds from these social networks start to lose value over time. While this graph still represents who I know, it’s no longer a real representation of who I care about. In addition, as you move locations, change jobs, or meet new friends, both who you know and who you care about change over time. Change is not something that today’s social graphs handle. Without the work to manually remove people, today’s graphs can only get bigger.
The Implicit Social Graph – and some Xobni Magic
Your social graph already exists in real life: your spouse, kids, co-workers, family, and friends. And we spend a lot of time and energy adding these important people to our social networks – manually. They have to explicitly ask to connect with you, and you have to manually accept that request. This is a behavior that we’ve come to accept, but we at Xobni believe there are smarter ways to build these graphs in a more dynamic way. Enter the implicit social graph.
The implicit social graph is one that is built using the data you are already creating day-in and day-out as part of your work and life: emails sent, calls made, texts sent, etc. You are already exposing who your social graph is through your communication data. By examining who you communicate with regularly, a social graph can be uncovered that requires no work from you to create. Indeed, you’re already creating it – we’re merely analyzing the data and exposing the graph underneath.
The beauty of the implicit social graph is that it discovers who is important to you and how important they are to you.
Stop and think about that for a moment, as it is vitally important. The implicit social graph is one that has strength associated with each edge. Not only is this a graph of people that has been automatically curated, but it’s a graph that knows who you communicate with regularly, and how you communicate with them. It’s a graph that automatically updates when you make new friends, change jobs, and stop talking to old friends.
This idea has wide applications. To give you a taste of what I mean, the next time you click on one of those “Invite Friends” buttons right after you create an account, imagine this: what if instead of seeing an alphabetical list of people, you saw a list of people that made sense to you? What if the list started with your spouse and close friends, followed by family members and co-workers?
How exactly does Xobni fit into this?
For the last two years, the Xobni engineering team has been building a system to create your implicit social graph from your communication data. We’re at the forefront of developing this idea. We have a huge running start, and are best positioned to offer solutions using the implicit social graph. We have built a few applications on top of it, including our Gmail product, our upcoming iPhone and Android products, and a huge array of hacks that experiment with the data. That being said, these products and hacks are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is possible with Xobni’s platform. We’ve been thinking and hacking on this concept for a while now, but we want more people to help us apply this big idea.
Bill Gates once stated that Xobni represents, “…the next generation of social networking”, PC Magazine said we are a “must have” and gave us the Editor’s Choice award, and TechCrunch says we “make the inbox smarter.” In addition to these Xobni kudos, Fred Wilson wrote the implicit social graph represents, “…the next frontier in social networking”. The next wave of social applications will be powered by our data and the opportunities are endless. Come build with us.
UPDATE: We’re looking for various functions in engineering. A couple are listed on our jobs page, but we’re looking for many more. Keep an eye out for this page to be updated. If you’re ready to bring it and don’t see the right job match on our jobs page, feel free to shoot us an email – jobs [at] xobni [dot] com.