Reframe It says Google's Sidewiki service is too close to its own Web annotation service for comfort. Reframe It CEO Bobby Fishkin argues that Sidewiki's features mimic Reframe It's right down to the icon buttons. Google denies any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, an intellectual property attorney says Reframe It could make a patent or copyright infringement complaint against Google, depending on its IP. eWEEK has published side-by-side comparisons of the two Web apps on Google Watch.
What do you do when you're a small startup that releases a Web application,
only to have something strikingly similar come along from a large, established
That's the position Reframe It found itself in when Google launched its Sidewiki Web annotation service
Sept. 23. Sidewiki
is a browser sidebar that can be installed and
launched from the Google Toolbar, allowing users to open a notepad on the left
side of a Web page and make comments on that page.
Web browser extension that opens a notepad on the right side of a Web page and
lets users make comments on that page. The extension works with the Microsoft
Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Google Chrome browsers.
Will Google Sidewiki steal traffic from bloggers? Click here to read more.
Sidewiki and Reframe It are two separate products, but they generally do the
same thing: let users add notes to one side of a Web page. There are certainly
noticeable differences. Reframe It has group functionality that Sidewiki lacks.
However, Reframe It co-founder and CEO
Bobby Fishkin, who started Reframe It in 2006, told eWEEK Sidewiki appears to
have emulated Reframe It's features right down to positioning of the buttons.
There are striking similarities between the applications, which are compared side by side on Google Watch here.
As said above, both
applications appear as notepads in the margins of Web pages, allowing users to
write comments and annotate the Web pages. Both Reframe It and Sidewiki comments
are anchored and in line adjacent to the comments' reference text on the page.
Both applications let users share their comments via Facebook and Twitter.
Reframe It and Sidewiki also use icons to represent comments. Both sets of
icons are mapped within the margin to represent their positions on the page.
When clicked on, icons for Reframe It and Sidewiki move the page to the
corresponding text, scrolling to the exact highlighted location of the comment.
"The interface, the layout, the look and feel, look extremely
similar," Fishkin said. Even Web visionary and Reframe It adviser Esther Dyson
sent this tweet when Sidewiki launched,
noting that Sidewiki looks like Reframe
It did as of February.
That's the concrete comparison. Fishkin pointed out some more occurrences
that hit a little too close to home for him, but would appear to be
coincidental or circumstantial to outsiders. For example, he said more than a
year ago Reframe It advisory board member Terry Winograd attended a meeting at
in July 2008, and suggested that a top Google executive look at Reframe
It. This executive said it looked interesting and that he or she would pass it
along to the team.
A few months later, Fishkin said at least six Google employees registered to
use Reframe It, "allowing them plenty of time to explore every nook and
cranny of our functionality." Moreover, two days before Google launched
Sidewiki in September, Google tried to hire Reframe It co-founder and Lead Engineer
Did Google plan to copy Reframe It's technology and lure Taitelbaum to
cripple Reframe It? That's what Fishkin and his team at Reframe It suggest.