As the Google + integration continues, yet more of Google’s ‘experimental apps’ are being closed down. This morning it is Sidewiki, which was a great application that allowed a visitor to make comments directly onto a website that would be visible to other Sidewiki users.
Perhaps Google feel this has been overwhelmed by comments, Twitter etc, but actually the loss of Sidewiki (and many similar post-it note type direct commenting apps) is a real loss for those who want direct feedback about their websites, and for those who wish to leave it.
For instance, for a corporate site, this app allowed a visitor to comment directly at the point where the feedback or opinion was most relevant, rather than just at the bottom of the page, through an email link or to a social media account belonging to the company. It was not a lost in time comment, or one which was only available to an exclusive group, but a comment visible to all other Sidewiki users visiting that site.
Feedback from users at the moment where the process has maximum relevance is always going to be of higher value than minutes, hours or days later when an email is finished, a phone call answered, a tweet finally written, or a comment composed. Simple methods to gather feedback from your users should feature highly in website design and Sidewiki was one of Google’s niceties, although a fairly well-kept secret.
Which may, after all, have proved its downfall. Too few people know about the very many applications available to all of us from companies such as Google through their Labs. And without mass uptake, these apps frequently fail to gain the adoption necessary to make them worth supporting by the companies who have developed them.
Google is culling apps left, right and centre at present as Google+ is more deeply integrated into its product set and we should all be a little nervous about what this means for the apps we are using. After all, Sidewiki is by no means the first good app that has gone by the board.
Google Buzz and Wave, whilst not necessarily of interest to everyone, were touted as the next big thing and then canned. Meanwhile, people had put many hours into experimenting, trialling, incorporating into work and marketing processes.
There has to be a lesson here. If there is software, an application, or a process that you build into your company, and it belongs to a third party, think very carefully about how you will manage if it suddenly becomes obsolete. And it can happen, especially with global corporates such as Google, in a matter of days or weeks. Sometimes even hours. The provider of that incredible solution you have found that works perfectly for you may be bought out purely to remove them from the competition, leaving you stranded and having to fork out again for an alternative.