Google continues making moves toward establishing a monopoly on the web, with today’s announcement of SideWiki.
SiteWiki is basically a Google Toolbar addon which lets anyone with a Google account comment about your site or add content, to the SideWiki, which can appear on the side of your site. This gives Google expanded presence on ALL websites its toolbar users visit and will open up all kinds of online reputation management issues for businesses.
Let’s just review what they’ve done prior to this:
- Acquiring huge amounts of data on people,*
- Moving towards being the world’s biggest [thin] affiliate/dropshipper (which I called 7 months beforehand)
- Trying unsuccessfully to replace Wikipedia with Google Knol and popularize SearchWiki
- Successfully turning Youtube into the de facto internet video king via massive SERP distribution
- Creating Google Profiles to gather personal information on users
Now, Google is telling site owners that they can either participate in SideWiki or else see competitors’ nasty comments dominate the discussion about their site(s). Worst of all, you can’t block Google’s SideWiki from appearing alongside your website so as to opt-out. It’s also unclear whether webmasters will even know when their site is being displayed with SideWiki.
What Google Is Trying To Force Webmasters Into Doing And The Side Effects
1. To participate in SideWiki, you need a Google profile. This helps Google compete with Facebook and Twitter by getting people into its own social network-like system.
2. Not merely content with getting people signed up, SideWiki coerces webmasters into participation in its system.
- First, if you want to control at least the first SideWiki listing for your site, Google in its infinite generosity will allow you to do that. Provided you sign up for your Google Profile, and Google Webmaster Tools, you can own the first listing.
- For reputation management reasons, you need to have all the above-the-fold listings. Those are based on Google’s ranking system, which prioritizes SideWiki entries from quality participants. The more comments you make around the web, and the more ‘this was helpful’ clicks they get, the greater your Google Profile’s strength.
- Similarly, on pages where your company or brand is being discussed, you’ll want to own the SideWiki comments. Participate more.
3. There are also other incentives for participation.
- You can drop nofollow links for traffic
- Having your name appear alongside prominent sites can be good branding if you’re in the same industry. See eg Danny Sullivan on Google.com
- Strengthening your network, since this obviously will turn into a Digg-esque vote trading game amongst reputation management pros.
I’d love to hear how you guys feel about this in the comments and what you plan to do. Personally, I’m trying to raise hell on this since Google already has way too much power over webmasters, and over the web in general. It would be great if you raised similar concerns on your own blogs and on Twitter.
*I’m aware of the argument that there are decreasing marginal returns on having more data, but I think that assumes that the data is all of a like nature. While I’m no statistician, I’d argue that having more data, when it’s different in nature from what you already have, isn’t subject to that rule. It’s the difference between learning the multiplication table for 33, when you already know the multiplication table(s) for 1-10, vs learning about logarithms or calculus.