Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Google Sidewiki – a comment engine for the whole web

A new feature on the Google toolbar—which is installed on millions of computers around the world—lets users comment about the content of any web page they visit; the comments are then visible to other toolbar owners when they visit that site (see screenshot to the right). Group product manager Caesar Sengupta tells us the company wants to “help foster and create communities around different web pages” and provide a functionality that is currently missing from most websites.

The feature called Sidewiki appears as a sidebar and allows users to discuss the content of the page currently open in the browser. Users can vote comments up and down, theoretically meaning the "best" comments rise to the top.
The sidebar, which is also to be built into future versions of Google’s Chrome browser, has already angered some content producers. The fear is that if Google adds advertising to Sidewiki it will be making money from content without the original content producers seeing any of it.
Blogging veteran Robert Scoble today described Sidewiki as the "…latest attempt by (a) big company to make money off of my content on my blog."

Talking to PaidContent, Google’s Aseem Sood denied that it planned to monetise the service. "Right now, our goal honestly is to increase the engagement of users on the web". Note the "Right now"; that suggests that if the sidebar is a success it may still see Adsense units being added.

Google is walking a fine line in its efforts to innovate in some areas that have long been the domain of traditional publishers, while not alienating them. Just last week, it introduced Google Fast Flip, a new user interface for online content that lets readers browse through web pages faster. It was widely seen as an effort to collaborate with publishers in order to upgrade the experience of reading news online.

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