Google launched its new Sidewiki feature. Sidewiki opens an
annotation sidebar on every Web page. Sidewiki is a Google Toolbar feature. You
can leave notes (annotations) on every Web page and see notes of other people.
The annotations appear is a sidebar. This is not the browser sidebar, but an
extension driven page element. The feature looks quite advanced. It has rating
system integrated, crowd driven spam identification, you can choose to see only
annotations in your language. While posting an annotation you can send the same
text also to your blogs. Of course, it is integrated with your Google profile so
that people reading your contributions can learn more about you.
The toolbar sends every Web page URL to Google's annotations server. This is a
technical requirement. Google informs you about it before you activate Sidewiki.
Still, sending all URLs to one company is a severe privacy issue. Maybe not so
much in the case of Google, because Google tracks our movement anyway through
Analytics and the History feature. Anyone who runs the Toolbar with Siterank
display already sends the URL stream to Google.
The protocol is a simple unencrypted HTTP Query/POST combination.
Sidewiki is NOT real virtual presence, as you do not see the people who are on
the page at the same time. Sidewiki is also not a new concept. Annotations have
been here before, as early as 1999. But Sidewiki it is important for virtual
presence, because it shows, that a major player is moving closer. A big
advantage of annotations compared to virtual presence is the fact, that
contributions persist. Chats on a Web page are transient. They are gone after
you leave. Annotations stay for some time. You can leave your mark in the world.
Important for virtual presence is, that Google invests in the notion, that Web
pages are places. They are not just an anchor for places, like in
Lively. The plain Web page identified by it's URL is a place. Can't wait for
the next step.