Google released Sidewiki today. And, like many of Google's side gigs, it's a bit daunting.
In essence, the toolbar — which ironically doesn't work with Google's own browser Chrome — allows you to annotate the Web. So, say, if you wanted to comment on a certain sentence, you highlight it, click on the Sidewiki button and add your comment. Others with the plug-in are able to see your comments.
Jeff Jarvis, over at Buzz Machine, makes the case against it, saying Google is trying "take interactivity away from the source and centralize it."
I think Jarvis has a point, but I'll say this: The toolbar is slick, much slicker than most commenting software out there, and it gives commenting capabilities to the whole web. So that tiny Web site that points to an obscure remedy for black spot on roses now has the immediate benefit of the communal intellect. Or for that matter, a long 2,000 page report from the EPA could be annotated by hundreds of people quickly without much development work.
The way I see it, it's yet one more back channel to the Internet — like watching a movie with the director's commentary running over it. I bet some may argue, though, that this just adds more noise to an already crowded Web. And that's true too.