W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-annotation@w3.org > July to December 1998

Re: barriers to deployment of web annotation?

From: Jakob Hummes <hummes@eurecom.fr>
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 14:48:06 +0100
Message-ID: <366FD116.5175EBBB@eurecom.fr>
To: www-annotation@w3.org
Beth and all others,

to clarify my position:
I'm just curious about annotations systems, since I've done some time
ago research on them.  I'm no longer in that research, exactly for the
reason we have collected on the list:
1) huge technical challenge for third-party annotations;
2) unclear advantages.

Said that, some remarks to your mail:

Elizabeth Frank wrote:
> At 12/9/98 , you wrote:
> >> For related topics there are forums, hypernews-like systems, related link
> >> pages and web rings.
> >
> >Yes, but you're only aware about them, if
> >a) you're member in one of these foren, or
> >b) the visisted Web page actually supports them (has a link to them).
> You have the same problem with the third party annotation systems.
> You need to know where they are located in order to find the annotations.

Not if they are closely tied to the URL I'm just visiting.
Example: If I'm visiting a Web page and my third-party annotation system
is triggered by this (e.g. through a NN plug-in, as Alexa does), I have
all annotations for this page in my annotation systme, which can then be
tailored to show me only those annotations, I'm really interested in.

[Alexa... and others]

> Yes and no.  I can see a potential here, but the problem is still the value
> of the information being provided.  If you use straight statistics, you have no
> idea how useful the information is. 

I agree.  I've the same problem with all the hits, which are returned by
search engines right now.  There's no way to see how useful the
information is, without visiting the Web page.  Nevertheless, search
engines are great and used a lot.

>  The web rings and link pages
> provide a lot of the functionality without the overhead.  I trust Prof. Jill's opinion who
> references Jack PhD and so I follow a link to Jack PhD's site to collect his opinions.

Yes.  But that assumes that everybody updates their Web pages and the
links.  This is unfortunately not true for most people.  For example, my
Web page about groupware systems was last updated two years ago, because
I just haven't the time to maintain it...
> While one host probably won't contain links to competitors, you can often find
> reviewers and interest groups that list all the related sites.  Many of the "for fun"
> type pages and groups include comments on their link pages that say things like
> "good pics", "slow connection", and  "don't bother".

I agree.  The main problem here is that they are not integrated within
the Web page I'm visiting right now.  If I find such recommandation
sites by "back-links" from the page I'm visiting, it would be
woderful... ( and we would have such a beast of annotation system :-)

> >Third party annotation may be very powerful:
> >- Users that visit a Web page share a common interest.  You could look
> >on annotations of an URL as a newsgroup with the URL as topic.  As well
> >as you need a powerful filtering system for reading highly frequented
> >newsgroups (kill file, recommandation system, others), you'll need it
> >for annotations of frequently visited and annotated Web pages.
> But what valued added is provided beyond someone's favorite URL list?

Having truly shared bookmarks would be such a value-add that you could
create a start-up for it.  Trust me: If you come up with a valid
architecture (and some integrated filtering), you'll get funding by
venture capitalists.  And that means: There is a demand.

> The web ring provides a set of sites of similar interest for the average hobbyist.
> Researchers on common projects already have a connection with each other
> and provide forums or email lists like this one to collaborate.

Unfortunately not.  This means: Yes, we collaborate by emails and have
our newsgroups/mailing lists, but no: I'm always suprised how many good
publications I find by accident or by searching the Web with an author's
name, if she/he has a publication in a conference proceeding.

> The original question was what has stalled software development in this area?
> I think the answer is there is no pressing need for it.  People have found
> other ways of doing more or less the same thing.  Like it or not, a lot of the
> software development seems to be driven by good enough.  If you've got a
> way to do something, corporations and funding groups don't seem to be all
> that interested in investing in something niftier.

I disagree.  If you can offer a service better than others, then you
most probably will get the funding.  The value is generated just by the
number of persons, who will use your system.

> >- Annotations do not need necessarely be persistent (forever).  They
> >could expire as postings in newsgroups.
> This would help with the space problem, but I don't see the relevance to getting
> people to use an annotation system.

See it that way: An annotation, which wasn't accessed since a long time,
is probably irrelevant.  It's a very trivial solution for the space
problem and a kind of filtering system.
> >- Annotations may be synchron.  Then you would be aware about who is
> >visiting the Web page at the same time as you.  You could combine it
> >with a chat tool.  Something like ICQ, but with URLs as the common
> >denominator.
> There has been talk about collaborative systems that do things like this.  I don't
> see this as an annotation feature, but more a collaboration feature.

Yes.  But it's basically the same technology.  So you can integrate
> >- Competitors will love them.  Now Netscape can advertise their
> >advantages over IE on the Microsoft pages :-)
> Competitors already do this with "50 reasons we're better than they are" type
> pages.  You still haven't brought me to your annotation server.  I'm most likely
> to hit a series of related competitors from a search engine or a reviewer's page.

That's exactly my point:
You have to use another service (serach) to first find the potential
competitors, then you have to evaluate the hits.  Very time-consuming. 
If it was integrated, you just click on the annotation...
> None of these reasons (or the ones below) describe situations that aren't being
> dealt with in other ways already on the web through search engines, links, rings,
> newsgroups and forums.

Yes, it makes life just easier.
1) There is no need for IP telephony, since it doesn't offer you a
better service than normal phone companies.  Nevertheless, more than 30
start-ups are competing in this sector.
2) There was no need for ICQ.  IRC and other chat tools already offered
chat.  The idea was the combination with a very basic awareness system
(which, btw, was also included within IRC).
> I'm not saying that you couldn't put in a service and potentially get lots of people
> to use it,  IF you convinced knowledgeable people to provide the annotations and
> IF you can get your annotation sufficiently widely published to so people know to
> hit it.

I agree with the second IF, but not with the first one.
If you want to have contributions only by selected people, then you're
building a totally different system than I have in mind.  The Web is so
wonderful, because it does not discriminate people.  A third
party-annotation system must be designed the same way.  If you want
filtering (and this is needed), you must do it on the receiver side.

- Jakob
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Received on Thursday, 10 December 1998 08:53:09 UTC

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