Are We Finally Ready To Annotate The Entire Internet?

Elizabeth Segran | Fast Company | March 4, 2016

Comments sections are increasingly useless and nasty. thinks it has a better way to make the Internet more democratic.

Larry Hanley, an English professor at San Francisco State University, is the kind of man who aggressively annotates his books. He believes a particularly beautiful verse of poetry deserves to be underlined; a thought-provoking line of prose requires an equally intelligent comment scribbled next to it. In his classroom, he gently nudges his students to engage with books by writing notes in the margins.

"Annotation makes the reading process visible," Hanley says. "I encourage my students to annotate their texts to show them that the relationship between the reader and a text is a two-way conversation. It forces them to wrestle with the words on the page."

Over the last decade, however, as more of his reading has taken place on the Internet, Hanley has struggled to find an elegant way to take notes online. At a recent teaching conference at Georgetown University, he came across a free platform called that allows you to write comments on any web page. By installing a plugin onto your web browser, you can create a layer of text on top of whatever it is you are reading or watching—a YouTube video, a news article, a recipe, or your friend's blog...