One new resource that has caused a stir in the last few days is Google’s Sidewiki.
Once Sidewiki is downloaded by a user, it lets them comment on any webpage, with the comments available for anyone to view. Here’s what was published on Google’s Official blog about Sidewiki:
As you browse the web, it’s easy to forget how many people visit the same pages and look for the same information. Whether you’re researching advice on heart disease prevention or looking for museums to visit in New York City, many others have done the same and could have added their knowledge along the way.
What if everyone, from a local expert to a renowned doctor, had an easy way of sharing their insights with you about any page on the web? What if you could add your own insights for others who are passing through?
Now you can. Today, we’re launching Google Sidewiki, which allows you to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page.
Google’s brief video explains more:
Jeff Jarvis, author of Buzzmachine, isn’t convinced. He says of Sidewiki:
Google is trying to take interactivity away from the source and centralize it. This isn’t like Disqus, which enables me to add comment functionality on my blog. It takes comments away from my blog and puts them on Google. That sets up Google in channel conflict vs me. It robs my site of much of its value (if the real conversation about WWGD? had occurred on Google instead of at Buzzmachine, how does that help me?). On a practical level, only people who use the Google Toolbar will see the comments left using it and so it bifurcates the conversation and puts some of it behind a hedge. Ethically, this is like other services that tried to frame a source’s content or that tried to add advertising to a site via a browser (see the evil Gator, which lost its fight vs publishers).
So this goes contrary to Google’s other services – search, advertising, embeddable content and functionality – that help advantage the edge. This is Google trying to be the center.
Jarvis goes on to report Twitter comments about Sidewiki and his further thoughts:
On Twitter, Google’s Matt Cutts says: “@jeffjarvis points taken, but if it gets larger group of people to write comments on web, that can be good. Plus API allows data to come out” And: “@jeffjarvis and I do see one very nice use case where people can add their comments about scammy sites, e.g. work-at-home scams.”
Points taken as well. It would enable sites without commenting functionality to get comments, including negative comments. In the case of a spam site, OK, that could be useful. But that could also include attacks that one now must monitor (watch out, Google: every story about Israel and race and Obama and health care will attract venom that affects my site but is not under my control).
I don’t think this was done maliciously at all. I think Google didn’t think through the implications.
Have a look at Sidewiki and decide for yourself. Perhaps only time will tell how people will use this new application.