Google recently announced the launched a new product called SideWiki, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a sidebar that can be expanded/collapsed next to any existing website, containing user-generated information and commenting similar to Wikipedia.
This feature comes with the Google Toolbar
(a plug-in that you have to install in your web browser). Currently it is only available for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers and not Google's own product, Chrome.
What does this all mean? Users can now leave comments on any static website - including yours. The caveat is that all the participants (commenters and readers) would need to have the Google Toolbar installed, something which is far away from mainstream adoption.
"The impacts are far reaching, now every web page on the internet is social and can have consumer opinion – both positive and negative."
While I think businesses should absolutely pay attention to SideWiki content as part of their listening and online reputation management strategy, I'm doubtful that large numbers of users will embrace this right away. Remember that only 1% of Wikipedia's users actually author content there. Also, we're currently seeing (with our own clients) that social media users are engaging more and more with blog content posted via the Facebook Pages platform, instead of the actual blog itself. Translation: Don't be surprised when Facebook unleashes something similar.
"Can anyone explain to me how Google Sidewiki could be anything but a trough for trolls?"
To address this issue, supposedly Google SideWiki will have an algorithm that can rank the "value" of individual comments, bubbling the most valuable ones up to the top and burying "internet trolls" (vulgar, hateful people who live to cause trouble online). It remains to be seen how well this algorithm works.
So what are your thoughts? Is Google SideWiki going to be a major player, revolutionizing how we think about static web pages, or is this just another Google "beta" project that will fade into obscurity over a few months?