Promotional art for Google Sidewiki

Some ideas sound great in theory, but when they’re executed they’re somewhat less than spectacular. Some services don’t even sound great in theory.

Yes, in a decision they rarely has to take (that throat clearing noise was entirely unintentional), Google have announced the termination of their Sidewiki service. From the web developers and owners of sites to the general internet using public, I don’t think anybody will be sad to see it go.

Much like their Knol effort, Sidewiki seemed more like a play by Google to take control of something. Unlike Microsoft of the 1990s however, their plans are usually far more subtle. By steering conversations away from a site and into a Google silo, they could own them and define their structure, rather than trying to parse bits returned by their spiders. I assume this would have helped inform their search algorithms, or let them stuff ads between comments.

The whole thing didn’t make sense for a company that bills itself as “open”. Surely the open web approach—where people include comment streams on their own pages—is vastly superior than one service run by one company?

Fortunately, for the site owners who didn’t want intrusive, unmoderated comments attached to their pages, there’s little evidence Sidewiki was really used. A quick polling of my relatively IT savvy family here showed none of them even knew what it was.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time Google tries something like this.