Google just introduced Sidewiki, which enables anyone to comment on a page using Google’s toolbar. They are projecting it as a “universal commenting system”. Basically, it allows users to comment and read other people’s comments on any page on the internet.


Sidewiki installs alongside the Google Toolbar, so it works with both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Google also says that they’re “working on making it available in Google Chrome and elsewhere too.” This sounds like they are planning to make it an ‘in-built’ feature in Chrome and will force the users to use it. I hope I am wrong and wish they make it a Chrome extension.

Google Sidewiki – Why I am already hating it?

Two reasons :
One – I hate to install toolbars.
Two – Google is trying to become *THE* discussion hub.

Jeff Jarvis feels that “Google is trying to take interactivity away from the source and centralize it”. I would have to agree with him. Say, if you, as a reader decides to leave a comment on the Sidewiki page of TechPP and few others leave their comments right here on the blog, it bifurcates the discussion and tries to centralize it away from the source.

The counter-argument would be that it helps to beat down the ‘spammy’, ‘scammy’ websites which don’t let valid comments and criticism on their sites. This is not all good. As a site moderator, I get hundreds of spam comments every week which I am sure won’t help my viewers a single bit. In case Sidewiki catches on, I just lose the control over these spam comments and would need to beg and run behind Google to get the comments marked as spam.

One of the comments on Jeff’s blog goes like this –

People don’t want to have to install Yet Another Thing in order to access something else that might not even be worth the effort. There is too much friction here.

So damn true.

Google has said that, they have made public the API for Sidewiki which would enable the publishers to download all the SideWiki comments on to their sites. A wordpress plugin for SideWiki is also on its way. So, what is the difference between SideWiki and services like Disqus? Does this mean an end to yet another promising start-up, courtesy Google? Mind you, I have always been a BIG fan of Google. But I get a feel that Google is trying to grow too big for its own good.

Matt Cutts, argues that it is useful to pin down the scammy sites

For example, there’s been a recent spate of “work from home for Google/Twitter and make thousands of dollars” scam sites, and if people can comment on a web page that normally doesn’t provide comments, that can be helpful.

But Matt, what about people like me? This is my site and my life, anyone can come here and lie about me or my site and alas! I don’t even have a control over it. Marking a comment as abuse doesn’t really help. Someone else can do that against me. As an author, publisher or an owner, do I get any special privilege over the discussion on my content? I guess not.

Also, how about the other way? A genuine site being targeted by fraudsters and scammers? Isn’t that a bigger danger? How effective is SideWiki’s APIs to catch the fraudsters who might troll and mislead innocent readers of a genuine site?

A lot needs to be answered.

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Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. Mail Raju PP. Follow rajupp