free html hit counter SideWiki and Google's Community Dilemma - John Battelle's Search Blog

SideWiki and Google's Community Dilemma

By - September 23, 2009

sidewiki.pngToday comes news that Google is offering a universal commenting feature that allows anyone using Google’s toolbar to leave a comment on any page they visit. Called Sidewiki, the service is intended to “increase engagement on the page” for publishers. But as much as I love the idea of SideWiki, I’m skeptical of it for one simple reason: Google isn’t in the community business, and SideWiki, if it’s going to work, needs to either A/be driven by communities or B/Needs to be embraced as a standard by publishers, who are the proxy for communities.  

Now, Google is an advertising services business, and one could argue that it’s in the business of publishing as well (YouTube, Blogger, Knol). However, the company is not that great at leading community. I’ve covered this before (Google Maps and Wikipedia, the lack of Google News comments, the failure of Google Video vs. YouTube (and hence, YT takes off, gets bought by Google…), so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, I think SideWiki will suffer from the same fate as Google’s previous efforts requiring community input: Google is not seen as a explicit community platform.

I sort of wish Yahoo would do stuff like this. This is the kind of product Yahoo could really win with.

SEL coverage here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

10 thoughts on “SideWiki and Google's Community Dilemma

  1. John,

    1) Sidewiki is a browser application so it might be useful to link it Google Chrome.

    2) Communities are just hype and need a closer look. What works today is networked individualism, not community collectivism. Social Bookmarking is successful because it articulates individualism and collectivism via positive externalities.

    3) 1+2 calls for a peer-to-peer interaction model, not a central interaction model as web 2.0 offers (and that organisations still don’t understand while it actually the most acceptable for them ;-))

  2. Chris says:

    Does anyone remember Third Voice, from around 1999? This Sidewiki sounds similar to what they tried to do.

  3. Steve Tran says:

    Did you notice the browser in the demo video was FF? lol

  4. If Google isn’t in the community business, then how do you account for Google Groups, Google Wave, YouTube, Knol, and other Google community?

  5. I think the reason these other projects Google keeps trying to start end up with a “FAIL” rating is that people are not comfortable with Google spyware.

    🙂 nmw

  6. sikiş says:

    What works today is networked individualism, not community collectivism.

  7. jenkins says:

    Why not just tell the truth, John? This is a hokey, weird product that will never ever get used.

  8. Two things strike me about this:

    1). There have been a dozen companies that have done this over the last 10 years and all of them were totally uninteresting. Why? Because the publisher of the site does not benefit and is not involved in facilitating the community. It is done independent of them and therefore is irrelevant. It always degenerates into people writing ABC Sucks!

    2). It strengthens my belief in the value of a “moderated wiki” capability MindTouch has been delivering to media and for product documentation. Publishers like the Washington Post ( are able to safely crowd source contributions from their readers while maintaining editorial control. They are able to facilitate their community and nurture it meaningfully. The same is true for customers like Autodesk, which is using this capability for product documentation.

    Oliver @ZdNEt wrote on this topic here:

    For information about how MindTouch does this and the benefits you can find more info here: (be sure to watch the short video and check out the screenshots to the right of that page).

  9. sam says:

    Sidewiki is a waste of time, it allows anyone with a dinosaurs brain to put any comment on anything. So if you went to MOMA and thought that the picasso sucked, you could comment “Picasso paintings are a waste of time and MOMA sucks” now eveyrone who goes to the site would see the idiots comments. Not everyone’s review is useful, most reviews are worthless. This is my opinion.

  10. Gregory Kohs says:

    Readers may be interested in this discussion where Google admits they’ve deployed a “secret sauce” to suppress certain varieties of Sidewiki speech: