As time goes on, Genius – formerly Rap Genius – is becoming less of a ‘music’ startup as its ambitions to annotate the world start to bear fruit. Capital New York has a good roundup of the latest developments for the company, including its tests of a new feature that lets people annotate any website they like.
“Currently in beta testing, the new functionality lets users add genius.com/ to the beginning of any URL to access a version of the page on Genius. The page is fully annotatable, so users can highlight and annotate any text on the page and view others’ annotations,” it explains, while warning that only a small group of people currently have access to the feature.
Remember Rap Genius’ difficult period when publishers criticised it for reprinting lyrics without licensing deals? The company did get those deals in the end, but annotating websites by hosting their content on Genius.com could be even more controversial: Capital sensibly points to news sites like the New York Times as potentially having their noses put of joint by the copyright implications.
Still, this is where Genius has been working towards ever since it took $15m of funding from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz in October 2012. That company’s partner Marc Andreessen said then that annotating websites was part of the original plans for web browser Mosaic (later Netscape) in 1993 – but that they were shelved due to the technology not being up to the task at the time.
“It seemed obvious to us that users would want to annotate all text on the web – our idea was that each web page would be a launchpad for insight and debate about its own contents,” wrote Andreessen.
“I often wonder how the Internet would have turned out differently if users had been able to annotate everything – to add new layers of knowledge to all knowledge, on and on, ad infinitum.” Steering Genius beyond rap is a second bite at that cherry.