Currently, I use Rapportive because I like the dashboard it adds to my Gmail inbox which provides context for my e-mail contacts. Chrome extension Vibe provides a similar service, but isn't constrained to Gmail. It lets you hover over an e-mail address you encounter online, and receive a drop-down panel of information about the person behind the e-mail.
When you install Vibe, it adds a button to the right of Chrome's URL bar. Before you begin using the service, you'll need to use that button to get directed to Vibe's Web site to create an account using an e-mail address. Once your account is set up, you may need to refresh any existing pages for the extension to recognize e-mail addresses.
Although Vibe works on e-mail addresses outside of Gmail, I found that it let me hover over either an e-mail address or a contact name in Gmail to do its thing, saving the step of having to open an e-mail message to find the sender's full e-mail address. The extension didn't recognize an active e-mail I typed out a Google Doc, but it recognize the address when I clicked on the e-mail address to call up Google Doc's window with the "mailto:" link, and Change and Remove buttons. Lastly, Vibe was most useful on a contacts page of a company, presenting additional information about each e-mail address listed.
Vibe launched only two weeks ago, so the extension is in its infancy. I found that it failed to pull up any information on the majority of e-mail addresses I tried. And on my profile for my main Gmail account, it returned a mixed bag of information. Good was the fact that it listed CNET and PC Magazine, two of my previous employers, and it found my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Blogger accounts which are linked to that e-mail.
While I'm not sure where it got my succinct, two-word biography, it is accurate. Less accurate are the topics listed on the right. I'm a fan of the comedic stylings of both Steve Martin and Stephen Colbert, but I can't explain why either is listed. And I have no opinion of Chelsea Handler and searching my inbox revealed but two e-mails from iBooks about her book which I didn't purchase or read.
Vibe could become a useful service should it find a way to raise its batting average, returning more hits than misses, as it matures. And it appears the developers are hard at work on just that. On Vibe's blog, co-founder Arjun Pillai states, "We are aware that Vibe needs to improve on backend data. We have resources solely focusing on this aspect. As we move on, you will experience the improvement." I look forward to checking back with Vibe in the coming week and months.