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Google’s Sidewiki is a bad idea – very bad

With the launch of their Sidewiki toolbar addition Google’s “do no evil” mantra gets yet another slap upside the head. Even though it was only announced mid-morning the news of Google’s attempt to take over the conversations that are an integral; and important, part of our blogs Sidewiki is getting a lot of press from that self-same blogosphere.

The majority of the posts I have read have been centered mainly around the announcement itself and many are making note that this isn’t really anything new

The base idea of Sidewiki is old and has been tried before in different forms – like a decade ago by the name of Third Voice – but I’m curious if Google will give it a new push. – Google Blogoscoped

Over the years, numerous companies have offered services that allowed users to annotate web pages. Now, with a new project called SideWiki, Google is going to join the fray as well. – ReadWriteWeb

This is indeed an old idea that wasn’t a good one when it was first tried and still isn’t regardless of the fact – or especially because of the fact that it carries the Google brand name. On the surface the first thing to be concerned about this idea is how bad it will end up being yet another spam garden because trust me it will. The other problem comes in the basic acceptance of the service which as Philipp Lenssen suggests is more of a social one.

One of the bigger issues facing this type of app may not be technological, but social (and perhaps even legal): What happens if people loudly rant about examplestore.com, and the examplestore.com owner doesn’t feel like it’s fair that this is all written “on top of their homepage”? And what if some of the ranting people happen to be competitors of examplestore.com?

As with most Google products though the response has been mostly one of what this new service will bring to the web. The only one with any balls at the moment to come right out and say that this is a bad idea comes, surprisingly, from Jeff Jarvis.

Google just introduced Sidewiki, which enables anyone to comment on a page using Google’s toolbar.

I see danger.

Google is trying to take interactivity away from the source and centralize it. This isn’t like Disqus, which enables me to add comment functionality on my blog. It takes comments away from my blog and puts them on Google. That sets up Google in channel conflict vs me. It robs my site of much of its value (if the real conversation about WWGD? had occurred on Google instead of at Buzzmachine, how does that help me?). On a practical level, only people who use the Google Toolbar will see the comments left using it and so it bifurcates the conversation and puts some of it behind a hedge. Ethically, this is like other services that tried to frame a source’s content or that tried to add advertising to a site via a browser

I agree whole-heartily with Jeff one this one. Sidewiki is nothing short of an attempt by Google to take control of the conversations that happen on blogs. Additionally they are forcing bloggers to either install their toolbar or move to the Chrome browser that will have Sidewiki support built into it.

Sorry but using products is a choice and no company has the right to force me to use their products just so I can keep in contact with what my readers are saying. In effect Google is inserting themselves between the reader and the blogger. In the process, as noted by Martin Bryant at The Next Web, they are giving themselves yet another potential advertising revenue stream. Sure they are saying that there is no plan to monetize the service “right now” but that isn’t the same thing as saying emphatically that they won’t be.

In an interview with Joseph Tartakoff at paidContent Caesar Sengupta and Aseem Sood, Google product managers, said a couple of things that I disagree with. The first is this little gem

Sengupta tells us [paidContent that Sidewiki is “complimentary” since it provides additional features

This is bullshit plain and simple. Sidewiki might have some interesting features but the service doesn’t add anything to blogs that benefit the blogger. In fact it takes away one of the most important parts of a blog – the conversation – and locks it on the Google servers. As problematic as blog commenting systems might be, even with 3rd party options like Disqus, JS-Kit, and Intense Debate, the conversation content remains where it is suppose to – on our blogs.

The second point I have a big problem with is from Aseem Sood where he says:

“Right now, our goal honestly is to increase the engagement of users on the web,”

Sure as long as that engagement benefits Google because Sidewiki does nothing to benefit bloggers except add more overhead to their blogs and time.

Sorry but this idea stinks to high heaven and like Jeff Jarvis says: “This is wrong for the internet and, I’ll predict, bad PR for Google“.

hat tip to Frederic Lardinois at ReadWriteWeb for the YouTube link

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