Tell It Like It Is

Imagine you’re reading an article at and think the reporter’s analysis is a crock. Instead of exiting the page and entering a chat room (who’s got time for that?), why not leave a comment right there on the page for all to see?

Collaboration software from Third Voice is allowing surfers to easily and instantly speak their minds at any Web site, on any public page. Just select the text in question and click your right mouse button; a window then pops up in which you can type your comment and let other readers feel your pain. To read a discussion thread, users click on the Third Voice icon on their browser toolbar, which brings them to a notes viewer. Want to play? Go to and download the software for free.

Third Voice is not just the latest consumer toy. Some businesses are setting up private discussion groups at the company’s Web site, which restricts message access to designated individuals. A dental equipment manufacturer, for example, is using Third Voice to post analyses at competitors’ Web sites for employees to review.

Eng-Siong Tan, CEO and cofounder of Redwood City, Calif.-based Third Voice, isn’t making a dime off the tool yet, but his latest release, Third Voice 2000, facilitates links in text to other related content and e-tailers, and Third Voice will get a cut of those transaction revenues.

As you would expect, a few large Internet companies have griped that the software is unlawfully altering their content. Tan says his company has been free from legal hassles so far — and he doesn’t believe there’s a case, since users download the software themselves and can turn the Third Voice function on or off as they choose. “We really see ourselves as a service to empower users,” he says.