The Official Google Blog has just announced “Google SideWiki” and it looks mighty interesting. Basically this sidebar for your browser (which comes with a new version of the Google Toolbar and is compatible wit IE6+ and Firefox 2+) allows you to see user submitted information about any web page you are visiting.
“Today, we’re launching Google Sidewiki, which allows you to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page.”
“In developing Sidewiki, we wanted to make sure that you’ll see the most relevant entries first. We worked hard from the beginning to figure out which ones should appear on top and how to best order them. So instead of displaying the most recent entries first, we rank Sidewiki entries using an algorithm that promotes the most useful, high-quality entries. It takes into account feedback from you and other users, previous entries made by the same author and many other signals we developed.”
“Under the hood, we have even more technology that will take your entry about the current page and show it next to webpages that contain the same snippet of text. For example, an entry on a speech by President Obama will appear on all webpages that include the same quote. We also bring in relevant posts from blogs and other sources that talk about the current page so that you can discover their insights more easily, right next to the page they refer to.”
Sounds like a fantastic way to drive traffic to your own site from related pages. It remains to be seen how Google will cope with business competitors wiki-ing on each others pages and so on. It could be a reputation management nightmare waiting to happen or the best thing since sliced bread. For information and academic sites it seems like a wonderful addition.