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Memos from Web 2.0 World

Dispatches from two new kids on the Web 2.0 block, and three more established Internet companies.
March 29, 2006

Ever since the disappearance of Third Voice back in 1999, I’ve been waiting for a decent system for creating Web sticky notes. Third Voice made a piece of desktop software that allowed users to annotate any Web page with sticky-note-like boxes that would also appear to other users of Third Voice. It was great – but the company couldn’t generate enough advertising to support the free service, burned through its funding, and couldn’t overcome opposition to its products from Web authors and hosting companies, who saw the notes as graffiti defacing their sites. In the meantime, I’ve been forced to use social bookmarking tools such as Furl and’s Diary function, which are cool, but less elegant.

Now a startup called Diigo is reviving the sticky-note idea and combining it with social bookmarking a la Once you’ve downloaded the Diigo browser toolbar, you can highlight noteworthy text you come across on the Web and write notes that will re-appear, hovering over the page, the next time you visit. That part is just like Third Voice. What’s new about Diigo is that every page you mark up appears in your Diigo bookmark list, along with your comments, which anyone can view. If you make your highlights public, then others can append their own comments to your sticky notes, creating an in-line conversation. 

I use bookmarking systems mainly to keep track of Web research on stories I’m writing for TR, so I usually want my bookmarks and highlights to be private. But being able to see these highlights in context may enough of an advantage to entice me to try out Diigo for a while. And for bloggers and others who really want the world to see their commentaries on Web content, it could be ideal.

The only thing keeping Diigo from being really useful right now, of course, is the old chicken-and-egg dilemma. Diigo doesn’t appear to have enough users to make the “social” part compelling. But without compelling bookmarks and commentary, it won’t gather enough users.

The name Diigo is one of those groan-eliciting acronyms like Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle (Yahoo) – it stands for Digest of Internet Groups, Information, and Other stuff. But I won’t hold that against the company.

* * *

Seattle-based Wetpaint, which is taking the concept behind user-editable wikis and making it more user-friendly, unveiled its beta website on March 6. Whereas other popular wiki platforms, such as SocialText, give the sense that they were designed by gearheads for gearheads, Wetpaint’s wikis have simple navigation and tagging systems and cute little graphical toolbars for creating and editing pages. For its beta launch, the company created and seeded seven community wikis, on subjects both uplifting (dogs and the Xbox 360) and depressing (cancer, bird flu, and the Democratic Party). Users can’t create their own Wetpaint wikis yet – that will come after the company has gathered data on how people are using the launch wikis. Check out the Wetpaint “wikiFido” page I created for my dog Rhody:

* * *

LinkedIn, the leading social-networking site for professionals, reports that it expects to reach profitability this month. That, in all probability, is a first for the social networking sector, which has stirred up a lot of interest over the past two years but isn’t a natural moneymaker. LinkedIn says its success is largely due to corporate interest in “premium services” such as the ability to reach LinkedIn members directly, without waiting for a referral.

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Yahoo and Mapquest both announced at O’Reilly Media’s Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego that they’ve released new “open APIs” – application programming interfaces, or specifications that allow outside software developers to write programs that build on their products. Such “mashups” are the hallmarks of the Web 2.0 movement. Yahoo’s interface will give programmers entré into Yahoo’s photos, calendar, shopping, and customized search sections. Mapquest says its API could be used, for example, to “create a mashup geared toward wine enthusiasts that displays all the vineyards in Napa Valley on a single map, and that provides driving directions to specific vineyards according to their wine preferences.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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