February 25, 2010, 12:00 AM

Want people scribbling all over your web content? There are apps for that

For e-commerce sites looking to promote the sharing of their web content via social networks, a Skysa application lets consumers share portions of the contents of a web page with online friends, and then allows them all to comment on the content.

Many web sites have added features that let visitors send to their Facebook, Twitter or other social network pages links to site content they like. But Skysa has introduced a more nuanced version: a consumer can share specific content of a web page, and both she and her friends can add comments on that content.

For example, a Kentucky basketball fan could share a link to a page on KentuckySportsNetwork.com with a photo of freshman phenom John Wall dunking over an opponent; social network friends who click go to a web page where that photo is highlighted with a comment bubble containing their friend’s personal note about the jaw-dropping move. Friends can add their own comments to that bubble, creating a string of comments that all participants can view and contribute to.

There are many potential applications in e-commerce. A shoe fanatic could start a conversation going about the latest Kenneth Cole wedges on a retailer’s site, or a Lady Gaga devotee could alert friends to a web site selling tickets for her upcoming tour.

“People enjoy telling others what they think, but in the case of our interactive sharing, the conversation takes place within the shared content of the page, rather than off-site,” says Jay Roberts, co-founder of Skysa. “A single page can have thousands of comment threads all within their own shared channels, and people can also re-share these threads. This equals more shares, in turn more traffic is generated than with standard sharing.”

This is different from many forms of standard sharing that only bring users to the whole web page, and that don’t highlight specific content, Skysa says. Standard sharing may also require users to copy and paste shared content into an e-mail in order to focus on specific content, removing participants from the web site altogether.

To implement the feature, a web site operator embeds software code for the on-demand Skysa application. That creates a perpetual toolbar that appears at the foot of each web page and enables site visitors to share web content through online social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Digg and LinkedIn. A toolbar user can instantly send a link to the current web page she’s on by clicking the “Share Content” button on the Skysa toolbar and choosing an image from the same page and inserting personal comments to send to a social network. Skysa posts a shortened URL to the shared content.

Reaction to the new Skysa software is mixed.

Jake Athey, online marketing manager at Widen Enterprises, a company that specializes in digital asset management, says the Skysa application could be a nice tool for web users to select and share portions of a web page with others. “The value is convenience and specificity in sharing content. It`s very much a distributed user tool with no concept of centralized control,” he says. “So if content is traditionally meant to be used for a controlled purpose, Skysa looks like it makes it easy to break that control.”

But Derek Ball, CEO of Tynt, an I.T. consulting firm specializing in digital content technology, says Skysa’s technology is similar to other content-sharing toolbars on the market. “It appears to be very similar to sharing bars offered by Meebo, Wibiya and others that are already much more widely distributed,” he says. “Sharing-bar technology can help encourage users to share content properly, with attribution back to the original source, but I doubt that it actually increases sharing.”

Article written by Jim Romeo, a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA.

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