Google just yesterday announced their new facility, Sidewiki. It’s a plugin for Firefox and IE at the moment, Chrome is to follow (where it is anticipated to be in by default).
I’ve been using similar functions provided by Diigo (the bookmarking and annotation service) for some time now. Just part of what you can do with Diigo is comment on a whole page using a sidebar facility. And this is pretty much what Sidewiki does.
“Why does this change anything?”, you might ask. Well, even though Diigo is a fantastic service (which I’ve written about here and here, and talked about here), it just hasn’t got the penetration required (yet) to achieve its full potential. Whereas Google has the pulling power.
“So why is being able to leave or read other people’s comment significant?” Well, this makes every page on the web is collaborative. Every page has the potential for dialogue and discussions to take place, informing and adding to the original content; re-enforcing the premise or refuting it.
Every corporate page now had the potential to have consumer comments presented alongside. Every PR disaster can instantly be commented on, on your own website, by thousand or tens of thousands of disgruntled customers. And remember, customers trust each other and their opinions more than they trust the corporate stance; think of Customer Reviews on Amazon.
The renowned analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, has said that a Social Strategy needs to be developed, now. He highlights three point in his web strategy blog:
- Shift your thinking: recognize that you don’t own your corporate website –your customers do.
- Develop an internal strategy and ongoing program.
- Don’t just hesitate or be reactive to negative content –embrace social content now.
But consider the potential for education. You can now have asynchronous discussions on topics in-situ with renowned experts in the area, from universities and industry, researchers, students, school children, or anyone who is interested.
Or is it a bad thing?
The Web just got a little bit more interesting.