LinkedIn-Owned Email Widget Rapportive Is About To Get Less Useful

All good things must come to an end. Rapportive, the fantastically helpful email widget that jazzed up your Gmail sidebar with rich contact information pulled from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more, is getting its first big revamp following its acquisition by LinkedIn in 2012. And frankly, it's not all good news. If you're unfamiliar with Rapportive, you don't email enough. For those who use this contact management service by way of Gmail plugin, it's become so ingrained in our email workflows that we don't even remember sometimes that it's not a default Gmail feature. It's this perfect, little "CRM-for-everyone" widget that let you instantly see things like a person's job title, recent social updates and accounts from around the web, as well as let you click a button to connect with them on the sites it supports. But now, it's changing. LinkedIn has been telling users that "Raplets" and "Notes" were being discontinued, but that's not the extent of it, as it turns out. In Rapportive lingo, "Raplets" are the opt-in widgets that let you add a number of other data sources to Rapportive's default configuration, including things like CrunchBase information, CRM data from a number of sources, GitHub, Lanyrd, Klout, Kred and more. Notes, meanwhile, are the personal scribblings you may have added to provide context to those you interacted with on Gmail. It burns to see those features disappear, but they likely weren't the most heavily used, so that makes sense. However, LinkedIn is also making some significant changes to how Facebook and Twitter functionality will work going forward, as well. Now, those networks won't even be displayed in the sidebar unless the contact in question has those sites listed on their LinkedIn profile. For a number of obvious reasons, that's not going to be the case when it comes to Facebook. But to spell it out: the place where you post your personal and family photos and play Candy Crush is not something you necessarily want to advertise to your business colleagues. So don't be surprised if you don't see many Facebook links in Rapportive's sidebar going forward. Meanwhile, Twitter is better integrated with LinkedIn, mainly because of this Twitter sync feature which lets you tweet your LinkedIn updates on Twitter's service. But it's not necessarily going to be attached to everyone's profile, which means it too will somewhat disappear after the update. In addition, even though Facebook and Twitter are present on a contact's Rapportive profile, they'll no longer work the way they did before. You won't see the user's recent tweets or Facebook status updates, for example. And you won't be able to just click a button to follow them on Twitter or add them as a friend on Facebook. Instead, you'll have to click through to view their profile on those competing networks and friend or follow them from there. The whole point of Rapportive to begin with -- and what made it so great -- was the fact that it aggregated access to many networks in one spot and gave you simple tools to connect with contacts from a single widget. But LinkedIn isn't interested in what made Rapportive so great for users; it's interested in how Rapportive can be so great for LinkedIn. Of course, that's how things go when a big company snatches up a cool startup, and from LinkedIn's perspective, it makes sense to focus on building out the LinkedIn functionality. But for heavy Rapportive users  (I know a few around here), these are the kinds of changes that can leave a bad taste in your mouth. (I mean, it's like when LinkedIn bought CardMunch all over again. Well, maybe not that bad.) But not all the forthcoming changes will take away current functionality, LinkedIn points out. The service at least is still being actively developed, which we should be grateful for, and the company is making improvements to its speed and reliability. It's also going to tighten up the integrations with LinkedIn to do things like display the shared connections you have with your contacts, for example. And since Rapportive's user base is very much about using LinkedIn (that's why LinkedIn bought them, after all), this will be a handy addition. The changes will be implemented on July 31, says the company, so enjoy ye olde Rapportive while it lasts. Correction: Oops! LinkedIn did not provide metrics on which features were popular in the post. We've updated the text to reflect this. 
Sarah Perez

Sarah Perez is a Writer at Gigabuzz, focused on covering early-stage startups, especially those with a technology focus and great perks.

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