Google to Trolls: please flame EVERY web site


Google has unveiled their latest web app. It’s called Google Sidewiki and makes it easy to “Contribute helpful information to any webpage”. We’re not quite so sure. If you have the Google Toolbar installed on your browser, Sidewiki allows you to open a side-panel, add your comments about the page, and read the comments of others.

In a Utopian Internet (Utopernet?) the world’s most predominant experts on all subjects would be browsing websites dropping off clairvoyant nuggets of wisdom like Greek oracles. In reality, letting anyone add to any web page does not equate to instant insight. We’re all familiar with long comment threads and forum posts that contain very low percentages of useful information.

Google considered this “white noise” as a possible problem and implemented a ranking system for which comments are displayed first. This raises another flag, will this become a type of advertising? At some point in the future will comments linking to other pages be ranked based not only on popularity, but on a kickback to the Big G in return for increased exposure?

There is also the consideration that web pages might not like what comments are being left in Sidewiki. We’ve noticed that emails referencing the Labor Movement often have link advertisements in Gmail about how to prevent Unionization. What would the Sidewiki for pages covering controversial topics such as religion, sexual persuasion, and abortion look like?

We will admit this is a well intentioned idea with a lot of potential. But everything depends on how well it is executed.


  1. troll says:

    yay! :)

  2. Entropia says:

    I here by coin another term relating to Utopernet: DYSTOPERNET! A dystopian internet. The one we’re in right now. :P

  3. Steve says:

    I think that Glue ( is better than Sidewiki. It’s object based so it actually works better. They keep it simple which works out well. I think sidewiki is going to turn into chaos.

  4. anonymous says:

    Sounds about as useful as twitter. Just another place for passive-aggressive bullshit to flood the internet… but I bet 4chan could have some fun with this.

  5. OrderZero says:

    Was just thinking I bet the *chans will have a field day with this

  6. pascal says:

    well the problem with glue or sidewiki is, that they attempt to fuse the widely distributed web with their centralized systems. So google for example has to proxy all sidewiki’ed sites, which kinda destroys the good idea of decentralism.

    but the idea is great. if they stored the stuff in a P2P-network.

  7. troll says:

    Bah. If only I could be bothered installing Google Toolbar and contribute to this website.

  8. charlie says:

    i remember a plugin/site a few years ago that used to let you leave ‘post it’ notes over a website as you browsed, recall it didn’t go down well at all.

  9. Matt says:

    this whole idea was done already back around 2000 with third voice. old is new i guess.

    here’s a link to a short wired article about when third voice finally closed shop:

  10. Oren Beck says:

    Tools tend to be neutral with the exceptions of “Intentional weapons” and/or inherently *STUPIDS*

    Tools with Hacking potential or exploit openings are in that category outside category. “WE” can guide the ethics of uses,or misuses when we lead by example. I have a shortlist of Very Bad Things one could do with the existing versions of these systems. And blocking the exploits will be non-trivial if utility is to be retained. For the love of whatever motivates one- please be wise in hacking these lest a grade of havoc previously unthought of result. Avoiding that hopefully unintended by anyone sane result is why I am posting this. I just hope I am wrong this time.

    I’m not sure we have had enough time nor event logging to flag these “tools” as Saintly or Satanic-yet. Though when one adds power tools to the armory of those studying to be intent upon havoc? Sigh, much of the ‘net seems to be festering with Eristic wannabees who would not know Eris from Eros.

    Hence we get some stunningly dumb stunts that seem good ideas at first til they kill folks. Examples left as a thought exercise. Call the exercise -training to think over the wisdom of exploiting whatever just because you can. As it’s often an understatement to say “Just because you can does not mean you should” Sadly, I envision a torrent of crap being unleashed with these sort of tools. I just hope no one gets hurt. As there are parts of the world where information leaks can be deadly.

  11. Seth says:

    I think there should be a plugin so every page on the internet is a wiki.

    LOL. Can you imagine the New York Times if everyone could change whatever they want?

    That would be…amusing.

  12. bobob says:

    ….and hackaday’s transformation into engadget/gizmondo/a large steaming pile of feces is almost complete.

  13. uncivlengr says:

    Oren Beck: seriously? Comments on websites are going to hurt and kill people? What “information leaks” would someone post on the “sidebar” of a website that they couldn’t as easily post on their Blogger account that would get someone killed?

  14. Gilliam says:

    @ uncivlengr: in communist china… sticks and stones may brake your bones, but information leaks can get you decapitated.

  15. Gilgad says:

    How are they going to avoid the reddit effect? As in, to get a high ranking comment on reddit you just have to bash something most redditer’s hate (as opposed to provide a reasonable argument on some issue)?

  16. vic says:

    I predict a whole lot of juridical problems for Google when websites owners start receiving comments they don’t like. I don’t see how website owners would agree to be associated with content they have no control over.

  17. Steve says:

    Speaking of needless comments can we please implement ranking on Hackaday? This shit has gotten out of control.

  18. luke says:

    Where’s the Arduino?

  19. tjhooker says:

    I’m sure the 4chan and myspace types will be grateful.

  20. Man On Fire says:

    not a new idea by any means. most people stopped developing it when they read youtube or newspaper article comments.

  21. amk says:


    Also, “We’re all familiar with long comment threads and forum posts that contain very low percentages of useful information.” Huh?

  22. fluid says:

    wonder how many kids are running around tagging things with “FIRST!”

  23. therian says:

    @Steve “Speaking of needless comments can we please implement ranking on Hackaday? This shit has gotten out of control.”

    what control ? Steve are you so pussy that some text can hurt you brain ?

  24. ZenRevolt says:

    Once again Google takes old tech and repackages it as the new fad app. I’ve been doing this with Kutano since FF3.0 and it works well (which for anyone who doesn’t know appears to be the exact same implementation of SideWiki but without a needless rating scheme to attract our ever-more-senseless youth).

  25. mr. crab says:

    At least, like twitter and Youtube, it’s easy to ignore by not signing up.

  26. Venture Temporalist says:

    First thing that came to my mind is that now a Wave exists for each site. Sounds like step #1 to me.

  27. fucter says:

    I read ther title as “please frame every web site”, and I was Nooooo don’t bring frames back!

  28. Wwhat says:

    If you are a type who used a toolbar you don’t care about such details as the thing being full of useless non-info surely.

  29. mykeyFinn says:

    This will not actually do anything to pages exisiting code, Just show other users of the sidewiki what other sidewiki users have to say about said subject. Think of it as a floating link review site. What you will actually be accessing is data sent in the form of comments by others to sidwiki with a tag that matched the URL of the viewed site.

  30. Bruce says:

    I’ve been doing this with my web site for over five years now and Google’s Sidewiki is almost an exact copy. Also, you don’t have to install anything with Link It Here, if you don’t want. The idea is that you can add comments (and links that join related sites together instead of leveraging a search engine).

  31. Steve III says:

    Not going to work, at least for German websites. Here the person running a message boad/comments section is liable for comments. This means that if a person X makes an untrue damaging comment to a company/ person or spreads racial hate the owner of the website that published this can be held responsible. Google will be in deep trouble if people start to tag with “steaming pile of Sith buy here at instead” etc. or christian fundamentalists comment on abortion and evolution. Or the members of the Ku Klux klan start their sidewiki crusade.

  32. Dizzle says:

    4chan really? You guys think prepubescent virgins fapin to kiddie porn will find this useful?

  33. Kids Search says:

    Nice post. We were looking for this!

  34. Hugo Wagner says:

    Seth, people can already make comments on the New York Times website by using user names and passwords from As for being able to change what you want, that would be a bad idea. A news site has a duty to report the news accurately. So can you imagine what chaos might ensue if the headline “George Bush fired” became “George Bush on fire”?

  35. Isn’t that just what blogging, tweeting and facebook are for?

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