Ever find yourself surfing the web and wishing you could update your Twitter or Facebook status, keep tabs on FriendFeed, chat with your buddies over any instant-messenger and spontaneously discover and share an endless stream of new videos, photos, and websites — all from a sidebar on your browser?
If the answer is yes and you’re not already using Flock, the “social web browser,” or a similar service called Digsby, perhaps you might consider Yoono, a FireFox extension that does all of the above and even more. The French company has just raised a $4 million extension of its first financing round and released a flashy new version of its sidebar to the public.
Like Digsby, Yoono’s new sidebar combines social networking, Twittering, FriendFeeding, and instant messaging on any of the major services but sets itself apart with a web-clipping tool and content recommendations that change every time you browse to a new page. The web clipping tool lets you drag and drop images, text and video, then save it and share it with your Yoono contacts. To recommend content, Yoono extracts the keywords and tags of the site you’re visiting and dishes out related videos, photos and websites. Each element has its own collapsible widget, and you can reposition, re-size, or remove any of them as you see fit. Hover over a photograph or click on a video and you can view it without leaving the page. You can also put them onto your desktop.
But put simply, Yoono is not simple enough. While I’d love to discover great content and have all of my social media tools at my fingertips at all times, the sidebar, despite its pretty colors, is so crowded that it’s ugly and annoying, even with only two widgets in it (it starts with four). All of the widgets require lots of scrolling around and even when dragged to the desktop and expanded, don’t cut it. The content recommendations are decent, but the well-liked links I get from FriendFeed are way better (hint, hint!). I also encountered a bug that forced me to disable many of my FireFox extensions to get Yoono to work.
According to Yoono’s chief executive and founder, Pascal Josselin, the product targets 18-25 year-olds and the goal is to get them even more enmeshed in the social web than they already are, helping to propel Twitter and FriendFeed into the mainstream. The company claims to have around 1.4 million users, 200,000 of which are active every day and 400,000 of which use Yoono monthly. 40 percent are in the U.S.
Josselin says Yoono will use the latest round of funding to create more widgets and start marketing aggressively. This marketing effort will include hosting Bar Camps and sponsoring Mashable events, and the end-game is to get enough traction to earn a round of funding from an American investor (its current investor is Assurances Générales de France).
Yoono’s business model involves pulling contextual ads and recommended products from affiliates into the sidebar, but the latter is a ways off. If it wants to get there, Yoono will have to revamp its interface, a serious, expensive job but an essential one. Usability is everything here, you know?