Google developed Sidewiki in 2011 to allow users logged in with Google accounts to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Sidewiki appears at the browser’s sidebar as an extension, where users can read and write reviews or comments along the side of the page. Purposefully, it generates follow-up by subsequent users on the entries left by previous readers about a webpage or a blog post.
This feature although came so handy made it impossible for an author of an article to change the subject matter of a webpage once pushed out to the public. It subtly imposed on website owners the obligation to ensure that everything published for public consumption without proper diligence must be accounted for. Equally, every blogger or website owner can be vilified by their indiscretions on any subject matter. Thus, there might be negative reviews that could affect the reputation of corporate bodies or an author’s public portfolio without allowing the author to swallow his words.
Being that when a change is affected on a story headline and URL, users would be redirected to the new URL by google, but the Sidewiki will remain part of the website with the old headline and the URL probably indicating a change of headline, but the Sidewiki remains at the sidebar of the website. Therefore, the intended exercise of changing the headline and URL was always futile; users would be able to connect the dots and flow with the original headline.
The outrageous reception of the article of the daily mail columnist, Jan Moir can be used as a reference to this claim. His column on the tragic death of former pop-star Stephen Gately was largely condemned to have suggested prejudice against homosexuality. The uproar arising from the public reaction forced the Daily Mail to change the headline and the URL of its story and redirect the old URL to the new one. The old headline and URL read;
Why there was nothing natural about Stephen Gately’s death
The affected changes saw the headline and URL change as follows;
A strange, lonely and troubling death…
However, while the headline and URL were changed, the reviews and comments which carried with it weighed comments of people condemning the columnist for his homophobic assertions remained at the sidebar of the daily mail website courtesy of Sidewiki with the old headline accounting for the columnist’s “indiscretion”.
The innovation of Sidewiki with the social media vibe where the owners of the website are merely providers of the platform left to the dictate of the users who through their notation can approve or disapprove websites’ content did not last longer than it was anticipated or initially received. It was discontinued in 2011 by Google bringing to an end the web extension amidst opposition by numbers of website owners and online content providers to” focus instead on” on “broader social initiatives”.
Beyond the facades of the example of Jan Moir, the web browser extension can be summed up as sweet-bitterness with numerous benefits on one hand and disadvantages on the other hand which can be attributed to its early end.