Google Sidewiki - Now Anyone Can Comment About Any Site

Google Sidewiki is a brand new feature that has just been added to the Google Toolbar, enabling anyone to leave comments about any pages they find of interest as they surf the web.  Gone are the days of being restrained to only commenting on blogs!

To use Sidewiki you need the latest version of the Google Toolbar for either IE or Firefox and you will need to enable the enhanced version of the Toolbar.  Be warned though, this means allowing the toolbar to report back to Google about all the pages you view.  If you're using the Google PageRank feature on the Google Toolbar you're already doing this.  Simply put, if Google doesn’t know the page you’re visiting, it can’t send back any Sidewiki information that’s available.

So How Does Sidewiki Work?

OK, so you've installed the latest version of the Goolge Toolbar and enabled the enhanced functionality.  Now, see the note bubble that the arrow is pointing at?  This lets you know that Sidewiki information is available.

If you click the note bubble or the >> tab, the Sidewiki panel opens up and looks like this:

The browser simply opens up a different window alongside the original page, displaying related Sidewiki information and comments.

What Comments are Shown and How are They Ordered?

According to Google:

"Using multiple signals based on the quality of the entry, what we know about the author, and user-contributed signals such as voting and flagging, we work hard to ensure that only the highest quality, most relevant entries appear in the sidebar. Most of the engineering work for Sidewiki was dedicated to this ranking algorithm."

Google has apparently spent a lot of time working on how to rank the comments that are shown. Be warned not all comments make the cut. Additionally, some pages might not show a Sidewiki tab, even if there’s Sidewiki material, until the quality threshold is reached. Comments deemed to be of lower quality get flagged.

Making Comments

So how do you actually post a comment using Sidewiki?  Simple.  When you come to a page you want to comment on, click on the Sidewiki button, which will launch the comment entry window.  Write and save your entry, and that’s it.  You can also add nofollow links and embed YouTube videos.  Comments can also be voted on for quality.


According to Google, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had always strived for creating a community of experts offering high quality comments on web page content.  Indeed, they wanted this more than a system for ranking web pages. They really wanted a system to annotate pages across the web.

Of course, existing commenting systems already exist on many sites and blogs.  However, site owners that are tired of continuous moderation and spam deletion may feel that Google might provide a better, more sophisticated solution.

Certainly, Google’s goal is to be something more than another commenting system.

“I think we would have failed if people were using it to say ‘Obama sucks’,” said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google.