DotSpots, a TechCrunch50 startup that demo’d its product last year, received a good amount of buzz and even a compliment from judge Marissa Mayer. Today, the startup is launching its annotation platform to the public, after thousands of people signed up to use the service over the past year.
DotSpots’ service is simple—it lets users annotate any part of a web page, from a single quote to the entire page, leave a comment and socialize it with friends (You can publish your comments with a link to Twitter and FriendFeed). The idea is to comment on a single paragraph from a story instead of on the entire post and then create a FriendFeed-like stream of conversation around your comment. These comments will then appear in other posts with similar passages across the web, enabling users to become citizen journalists. DotSpots searches through millions of online news articles, indexing paragraphs of text and using an algorithm to determine when certain passages appear multiple times across different sites.
And Dots are evolving; other users can add to Dots as long as the creator approves of the addition. The beauty of Dots is that the comments are presented in each post as unintrusive (but readily visible) “dots”, which expand to reveal the text or video that has been added by DotSpots users.
Dots are not designed to take people away from their reading, but only to add another layer to their experience. To use Dotspots, users can either use a browser plugin/extension for FireFox, or publishers can include DotSpots for all users by adding a line of code. DotSpots says that they will launch plug-ins for Internet Explorer and Chrome in the near future.
Founded by serial entrepreneur and Shopzilla founder, Farhad Mohit, Dot Spots currently doesn’t have a business model (it’s free for publishers to embed the code in their site). But Mohit is truly focused on DotSpots reaching ubiquity by using crowdsourcing to change the way people comment and interact with news on the web
DotSpots has potential to be a powerful commenting system and seems to capture the essence of the power of the crowd in reading and analyzing content, especially when it comes to news. And if more publishers implement the service on their site, it could change the way many consumers interact with online news.