Just got a demo of Shadows, a new community-search product from the folks at Pluck (featured in our November 2004 issue). The dream behind Shadows: let humans index the Web, allowing smarter, quicker searches and creating impromptu forums and on-the-fly blogs. You see something, you like it, you tag it. By leaving tags with keywords and opinions, not only are sites easier for you to find later, but they boost the relevance of the site for all users, creating a community memory (of sorts).
Perhaps the most important feature is something called the “shadow page.” Just as it sounds, this is a page-behind-the-page that reveals any comments people have left about a site. Essentially, it brings the functionality of user reviews (a la Citysearch with restaurants, or Amazon with books) to any site on the Web. Love the new Porsche SUV? Make a note on the page. Didn’t buy one because of a crappy salesman? Say so.
Shadows isn’t the only product swimming in the murky waters of community search…
…del.icio.us and MyWeb 2.0, a Yahoo offering, are both making headway, too. While all have compelling features, what I liked about Shadows was that you can view the same information in a multitude of ways. For instance, if you want to see what people think of a site, you can pull up the shadow page to see if others thought it was useful before you waste any time on it. If you’re interested in a particular like-minded user, you can click through from the shadow page and view their profile, which displays personal info, most-tagged topics and recently made comments. Curious about a specific topic? Shadows will pull user comments together and display them in a blog-like list.
Look out brands! Branding expert Nick Wreden (FusionBrand, ProfitBrand) recently told me that sites like Shadows and MyWeb 2.0 represent a huge threat to corporations that try to control how their brands are perceived. After all, if you can leave a comment about crappy service or shoddy products on a company’s shadow page – out of the company’s reach but right there for all to see — the power of information vs. perception shifts firmly in the consumer’s direction. Wreden compared the effect this will have on brands to a nuclear bomb. If this sounds familiar, we have seen something like this before; Third Voice, a product that allowed users to leave post-it like notes right on top of any page, foundered a few years ago after it became mired in controversy.
For those of you who are new to community search, check it out. It’s intuitive and it puts a wealth of information at your fingertips. For those who aren’t new, tell me what else is out there. What am I missing?