:: Monday, February 28, 2005 ::

NEW.WRITING: The Balance Bar
BY: Eduardo Navas

Mark Daggett recently released a beta version of The Balance Bar,a browser extension with which the web-surfer can comment on webpages. The project description reads:

"'The Balance Bar' is a simple browser extension programmed to allow any user to editorialize any web page anywhere on the Internet. 'The Balance Bar' will literally insert your comments/article/rant directly onto whatever web page you would like to expound on. 'The Balance Bar' was developed because of the increasing need to 'balance' the one-sided and isolated worldview that much of our media sources produce."

This project revisits some of the early driving interests behind web development, where the idea was that anyone participating on the network could not only access files, but also alter them as they desired. Xanadu by Ted Nelson is one of the earliest manifestations of this interest, which to this day is yet to be accomplished. A particular feature of Xanadu is that the changes would be permanent. Tim Berners-Lee, the big catalyst (credited as author) of the web, originally wanted an interface that would enable users not only to view material, but also to alter it and store it as a new version. Wikis, Wikipedia (the most well-known) took on this idea but allows for the original and previous versions of the material to be accessible.

Daggett's Balance Bar does echo these interests but its commentary capability appears to be superficially imposed; further, it does not aim to change the actual content as it only allows the user to add writing, thus functioning as a sort of meta-notation interface, a specialized notepad for the user's favorite or not so favorite webpages. It is not clear how the actual process functions across the web, however, when other people access the page. In the end this is a beta-version that is worth downloading to play with. At the moment it is offered for Internet explorer.