Google (s GOOG) today is launching Google Sidewiki, which despite its name is actually a universal commenting system. The new service will be available via Google Toolbar. As the company said in an email explaining the feature:
Sidewiki enables users who have installed Google Toolbar to contribute information alongside any page on the web, inside of a simple sidebar UI. This information, which can include text entries, links, and embedded videos, will be ranked by quality and community ratings. For instance, on a site about a specific beach town, a user could add a relevant YouTube video showing local attractions. Once users opt in to the feature, they’ll be able to view annotations contributed by other users within a browser sidebar, and can choose to hide the sidebar at any time. Google Sidewiki also won’t change the appearance of any webpage – all Sidewiki entries will be displayed only in the sidebar.
Google group product manager, Caesar Sengupta, tells paidContent that the company is looking to “help foster and create communities around different web pages” especially on sites that lack community features. Which on the surface doesn’t mean much. After all, it is yet another Google feature, whose success is as debatable as the mental nourishment provided by late-night talk shows. Furthermore, many startups have tried to develop such services before and failed because consumers haven’t really cared for them.
But if you think about it, this is part of a larger trend. When it comes to information on the web, we all are facing a problem of plenty. As I have noted in the past, our current paradigm of looking for information via Google will be challenged. So the best way forward is to get some human intervention, something that was championed by Yahoo (s YHOO) a few years ago. Some are doing it by mining Twitter. Google wants to do it via Sidewiki.