Today 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.