The just-launched Google Sidewiki is informative and pretty fun to play with even as it tends to disintermediate website publishers and fragments comments about their content.
Last week I wrote a Tnooz post about Sidewiki, a new Google product which enables its users to open a window alongside any website and gives them almost free reign to opine about anything on the associated pages.
In a TechCrunch post on SideWiki on September 23, Michael Arrington traces the history, dating to Third Voice in 2001, of Sidewiki-like applications and notes: “Website owners just didn’t like the idea of people ‘defacing’ their websites with comments they couldn’t control.”
Later in the post, Arrington writes: “Will this work? It’s unlikely that websites will have the same visceral reaction today that they did to Third Voice a decade ago.”
Arrington is correct that the proliferation of review websites and blogs has made website owners much more open to free-flowing, few-holds barred commentary.
So, yes, the gamut of publishers may not have the same visceral reaction that they had earlier in this decade.
However, I think Arrington seriously underestimates the push-back and tempest which I believe Sidewiki will generate.
Sidewiki just launched a few days ago and is on the radar of almost no one -- except us geeks.
So, I surfed over to the Associated Press and American Airlines websites and apparently published the first Sidewiki entries alongside each domain. Using Sidewiki, I could have easily published my comments to Facebook or Twitter, too, but I held off on that for now.
The Associated Press, of course, is on the warpath against bloggers and anyone else who links to AP content without authorization.
And, American Airlines has sued screen-scrapers like FareChase [shuttered this year by Yahoo] and has probably mailed enough cease-and-desist letters to travel search engines, which were commandeering the airline’s fare data and content without permission, to fill a few loose-leaf binders.
Thus, it would appear to be an understatement to note that the Associated Press and American Airlines, to name just two companies, are a tad sensitive about other entities utilizing their intellectual property.
How are they going to feel about Google perhaps selling ads eventually in Sidewiki alongside their Web content? What will be their stance about other companies and consumers making nasty or nice comments about AA and AP Web pages when the airline and news organization have virtually no control over the dialogue?
I will bet the farm that Google Sidewiki, once publishers realize it exists and consumers and competitors start using it, will trigger a tempest and lawsuits.
And, let’s also take a quick look at some of the other complications and disruption that Sidewiki poses for website publishers.
For example, my Tnooz story last week about Sidewiki, as of this moment, has elicited 20 comments on tnooz.com.
However, unless you downloaded the Google Toolbar and added the Sidewiki button, you would have no idea that there was a whole side - shall I say Sidewiki? - conversation under way ALONGSIDE tnooz.com about the post and other Tnooz stories on the home page.
Here is one of the comments:
Canada en Español - Sep 25, 2009
Google Sidewiki could be a sideshow for review sites
Just trying out the Sidewiki now. You must have a Google account to use it, so not absolutely everyone will. However, it indeed may be useful while surfing the web and definitely may have an impact on eTourism. We'll see.
And one from me:
Dennis Schaal - Sep 26, 2009
Journalist, Independent Contractor, Freelance Writer
Yes, we'll have to see the impact of Google Sidewiki, which has just been released. You know, we might need some kind of comment aggregation tool (I'm sure there are some out there already.) So, should I look for comments about the article in the comments under the article, or here, or Twitter, or Facebook? Almost a fulltime job... And so on.
And one from Darren Cronian of Travel Rants:
Darren Cronian - Sep 25, 2009
Travel Blogger, Travel Rants
Mmm - Anyone can signup for a Google account though, it takes of two seconds, so that would not put people off from leaving negative comments about a website. Can website owners moderate it though?
So, with the beta launch of Google Sidewiki, if you are interested in gauging the full range of commentary about the contents of a website page, you’d not only have to read the comments beneath an article, but you’d have to open Sidewiki to see some additional ones.
So, as previously noted, Sidewiki tends to disintermediate Tnooz and other website publishers, whether they are news sites or steel-makers, from their own website content.
And, this ensures that website visitors will have to use a variety of tools to aggregate all the comments about a particular Web page.
Perhaps someone will build an app to feed Sidewiki comments to website publishers so they can append them to other comments about their posts.
Meanwhile, Sidewiki has the potential to become a real sideshow.