Written by Bilal Hameed from the Startup Meme blog
This week we've seen evidence of a new trend in the Web, which I've termed "The Sidebar Syndrome". Before I analyze the effects of this trend, let's first take a look at the services that may ultimately become flag bearers of the Sidebar era.
Google Talk "IM in the Sidebar"
Google Talk was originally launched as a desktop client, but it can now be integrated into your browser sidebar. This is certainly a great feature and will allow users to stay in touch with friends, without the need to periodically click on the taskbar.
Mozilla "Social Network in the Sidebar"
Mozilla recently announced Project Coop, which is a social network service for your browser sidebar. The product allows users to "subscribe" to friends in the browser. It also features avatars displayed in the sidebar. Adding friends will enable you to share a wide range of the Web's exciting content with friends, including Flickr photo feeds, del.icio.us tag feeds, MySpace profiles, Youtube Favorites and more. Sharing content is a breeze, all you need to do is drag it from the webpage and drop it on an avatar in the sidebar.
del.icio.us "Social Bookmarking in the Sidebar"
With the launch of its latest add-on, del.icio.us has joined the war to capture the user's sidebar. This new add-on allows users to see tags and bookmarks in the sidebar. Users can also search and modify bookmarks easily.
Future Implications of Sidebar Syndrome
These three services are just the tip of what is about to come. Other companies will roll out browser sidebar add-ons for their services in a rush. But there is an irony to it, which is that users can only have one sidebar! So either a person will put an IM client in their sidebar, or a social network. A user certainly cannot have both, because that will turn their browser into a startup page. This limitation will hinder the use of the sidebar as a tactic to acquire users and eyeballs.
Nevertheless sidebars will turn into a battlefield, because it is such a prime spot for online services to capture. The big players will likely enter into partnerships with browser vendors to have their sidebars ship with the browser itself, just like the tool bars of today. So stay tuned for the "Google Sidebar", which will have multiple Google services shipping with Firefox.
Indeed note that Google already has a partnership with Mozilla to have
its toolbar ship with the browser Firefox ship with Google's toolbar, in return for a share of ad revenue that Google generates from searches made from the toolbar. The annual revenues that Mozilla reaped from this partnership amounted to $28 million in 2005. So the sidebar is likely to be just as attractive to Google and others.
UPDATE: Mozilla's Asa Dotzler clarifies the Google/Firefox agreement: "The Google Toolbar doesn't ship in Mozilla's Firefox. Google ships a version of Firefox with the Google Toolbar. Mozilla Firefox doesn't ship with any third party toolbars."