Web pages are predominantly a one-way medium: although users can go to
chat rooms, it is practically impossible for them to comment on an
article or a company's claims alongside the content. With a Third Voice
client, a user can highlight text on a Web page and footnote the excerpt
with a message. When another surfer with Third Voice's client visits the
page, he or she can click on the footnote and read the previous person's
comments. Authors can decide who can view their notes.
At first glance, Third Voice's innovation seems "noisy" -- corporations
could find their Web sites festooned with graffiti. But the application
could make possible a new form of "metacontent." For instance, a visitor
to TheStreet.com site who disagreed with an article could provide a link
to a Wall Street Journal Interactive piece that reaches a completely
different conclusion. Or a CEO could send an article or Web page to a
few executives with specific action items attached to highlighted text
that only they could read.
Third Voice could have an even bigger impact on online advertising. With
the company's technology, banner advertising might become a thing of the
past: companies that want to post an ad on a Web site could simply
attach a Third Voice note to the site. If Third Voice groups
proliferated, this guerrilla advertising would allow ever-more-focused
user targeting. Say you want to buy a VCR. Although you might think that
"LowestVCRprices.com" has the cheapest prices, "RockbottomVCR.com" could
place a Third Voice note about a better deal directly on Lowest's site.
When the Internet and television finally converge, Third Voice's
technology could enable advertisers to post notes on top of TV shows.
Because of legal issues, the company is downplaying this side of its
business, but it is doubtful that the courts will tell the world simply
to ignore this technology.