Tech investors Polaris Ventures built and released today a really handy new Chrome browser extension they call Polaris Insights. Click it and you'll be shown Crunchbase (tech financial), LinkedIn (employment) and Quora (general Q&A) information about the company behind whatever website you're visiting. It will be of particular interest to journalists, investors and others who take a deep interest in the websites of various businesses but it's a great example of bigger things, of course. Specifically, of the kind of value add that can be built by using distributed social media data to provide context to a given document. It's pretty hot.
I wish that the extension showed Google News and Google Blogsearch results where available, but maybe that's the extension someone else will build. Tweets about the company with 5 or more retweets? The list of possibilities is long when you're talking about automatically collated, web-based, ambient information. I wish the extension queried Hoovers when no Crunchbase data is available. I wish I had a feature like this in an Augmented Reality brain implant I could invoke wherever I go offline. (Just kidding.)
Imagine a time when the only ways we could learn about a company was through its own advertisements or from centralized sources like Consumer Reports. The web is so different. A plug-in like this makes it as easy as snapping your fingers to see information about a company assembled by wiki (in the case of Crunchbase), by co-worker validation (LinkedIn) or by vote-driven Q&A (Quora). It's a wild world we live in.
For more enthusiasm about this software and for info about its creation, check out TechCrunch. That's where I found out about it.