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Web annotation

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Title: Web annotation  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: ShiftSpace, Third Voice, WebNotes, Paradata (learning resource analytics), Web annotation
Collection: Social Software, Web Annotation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Web annotation

A web annotation is an online annotation associated with a web resource, typically a web page. With a Web annotation system, a user can add, modify or remove information from a Web resource without modifying the resource itself. The annotations can be thought of as a layer on top of the existing resource, and this annotation layer is usually visible to other users who share the same annotation system. In such cases, the web annotation tool is a type of social software tool. For Web-based text annotation systems, see Text annotation.

Web annotation can be used for the following purposes:

  • to rate a Web resource, such as by its usefulness, user-friendliness, suitability for viewing by minors.
  • to improve or adapt its contents by adding/removing material, something like a wiki.
  • as a collaborative tool, e.g. to discuss the contents of a certain resource.
  • as a medium of artistic or social criticism, by allowing Web users to reinterpret, enrich or protest against institution or ideas that appear on the Web.
  • to quantify transient relationships between information fragments.


  • Comparison of web annotation systems 1
    • Features 1.1
    • Technical details 1.2
  • Former web annotation systems 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Comparison of web annotation systems

Many of these systems require software to be installed to enable some or all of the features below. This fact is only noted in footnotes if the software that is required is additional software provided by a third party.


Annotation system Private notes Private group notes Public notes Notification Highlighting Formatted text Notes
A.nnotate Yes Yes No Yes[1] Yes No Can annotate PDF, ODF, .doc, .docx, images, as well as web pages (but only a limited number in the free version)
Chatterati No No Yes No No Yes Currently available as a Google Chrome extension. Allows its users to have a discussion, and vote on each other's comments.
Genius No No Yes No Yes No Genius has a Chrome Extension, an iPhone App, and a subdomain ( which you can prepend to any domain to annotate. This is in addition to their website,, where users can annotate lyrics, literature, news, and other categories. Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes In February 2015, different features are announced,[2] such as private group annotation, semantic tagging, moderation, etc.
Org-mode (with extensions) Yes No No[3] Yes[4] No Yes Emacs-based; requires technical knowledge to set up; not as user-friendly as some other solutions; non-Latin characters allowed in notes but not in tags
Reframe It
Snowbound Software
Axiom[5] Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Axiom provides a better workflow to manage digital documents. It is a cloud-based collaboration platform that allows users to organize and annotate (mark-up) documents, web-pages and even videos. These digital assets and annotations can be shared to facilitate real-time collaboration. It empowers users to arrange their documents intuitively and it uses bookshelves to organize the documents, as opposed to the traditional file-folder system. Users can annotate using the pen, highlighter or sticky notes. These annotations can be labelled such that the tags can be used to cross-reference across all types of documents (including videos), which allows the user to manage their knowledge effectively. Axiom is also a social platform, and permits sharing of annotations and documents with others, making it easier to collect feedback on documents, web-pages or videos.
Marky Yes No No No Yes Yes Marky is a Web-based multi-purpose document annotation application (Social Admin-annotators application). You only need a server with php technology and one database to annotate documents with a browser. The annotation component handles both plain text and HTML documents. Web technologies, such as HTML5, CSS3, Ajax and JQuery, to offer an intuitive What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get editor. Admnins can enter documents to be annotated by annotators and get annotations for relevant terms.Marky also offers the possibility of obtaining substantial data about the annotations, as the annotation agreement between users, rounds, F-score and more. this is a tool that allows annotate multiple annotation classes, each with a different color. Developed in 2013. License GPL.

Technical details

Annotation system Cloud-based Technology Open source Bulk export
Firefox (built-in) No Bookmarks Yes Yes
A.nnotate Yes Snapshots No Yes[6]
Diigo Yes Toolbar No Yes[7]
Genius Yes Extension, Mobile App, Subdomain No No[8] Yes Bookmarks, based on Annotator.js Yes No
Keeppy Yes Toolbar No Yes[9]
Org-mode (with extensions) No[10] Text editor Yes Yes
Reframe It
Snowbound Software
Axiom[11] Yes Online web-based HTML-5 No No
Marky Yes Online web-based HTML-5 Yes No

Former web annotation systems

  • The earliest web annotation system was probably CritLink, developed in 1997-98 by Ka-Ping Yee of the University of California.[12] CritLink worked as an HTML "mediator", hence not requiring additional software or browser extensions but having limited support for modern JavaScript-driven websites.
  • Annotea - a W3C project that tried to establish a standard for web annotation.
  • ThirdVoice - a system launched in 1999 that shut down due to lack of success in April 2001.[13]
  • Fleck* - launched in 2005 with much publicity as a stick-it notes application for the web. A patent, funding and marketing didn't stop it from failing. Discontinued in 2010.[14]
  • Google Sidewiki was part of Google Toolbar, and allowed users to write comments alongside any web page. It was discontinued in December 2011.
  • Dispute Finder was built by Rob Ennals while working for Intel. It attempted to automatically identify disputed claims on websites, highlight them, and link to comments and pages which corrected the dispute.
  • SharedCopy was an AJAX based web annotation tool that allowed users to mark-up, highlight, draw, annotate, cache, sticky-note and finally share any website.

See also


  1. ^ See A.nnotate notifications
  2. ^ roadmap
  3. ^ Yes via the "publish to HTML" feature, but no notifications or discovery of public annotations written by others
  4. ^ With fireforg, which requires Firefox
  5. ^
  6. ^ via API
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ However, because .org files are plain text files, they can be backed up to the cloud at any time, using standard backup techniques/software. Emacs (in which org-mode runs) also supports saving to remote servers.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Yee, Ka-Ping (2002). "CritLink: Advanced Hyperlinks Enable Public Annotation on the Web".  
  13. ^ Third Voice Trails Off, Wired News, April 4, 2001
  14. ^ Farewell, "The Next Web", May 10, 2010

Further reading

  • Sanderson, Robert;  
  • Signer, Beat: "An Architecture for Open Cross-Media Annotation Services", Proceedings of WISE 2009, 10th International Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering, Poznan, Poland, October 2009
  • On Web Annotations: Promises and Pitfalls of Current Web Infrastructure. Venu Vasudevan and Mark Palmer, Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 1999
  • A Survey of Web Annotation Systems. Rachel M. Heck, Sarah M. Luebke, Chad H. Obermark. 1999.
  • New ways of using Web annotations. Laurent Denoue, Laurence Vignollet.
  • Ricardo Kawase, George Papadakis, Eelco Herder, Wolfgang Nejdl: The impact of bookmarks and annotations on refinding information. ACM Hypertext Conference 2010: 29-34
  • Ricardo Kawase, Eelco Herder, George Papadakis, Wolfgang Nejdl: In-Context Annotations for Refinding and Sharing. WEBIST (Selected Papers) 2010: 85-100

External links

  • c2:WebAnnotation
  • "Five Ways to Mark Up the Web", Techcrunch April 10, 2007
  • "Top Web Annotation Tools: Annotate+Bookmark+Collaborate", MakeUseOf May 13, 2007
  • "Protonotes: Annotating Website Prototypes", GigaOM June 2, 2008
  • "Comparison of web (text) annotation editors", KNOT@FIT, 16 Jun 2015
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