Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.
Rbutr has been working away for a number of years already, serving as a ‘peer review’ system for the Internet, letting users follow rebuttals for information contained within certain Web pages.
In a nutshell, Rbutr lets you follow inter-website disagreements. Found great evidence or counter-arguments to an online article? Rbutr helps you connects the dots.
Though Rbutr in its original guise was available for Chrome only, it has since been added to Firefox too. And now, Rbutr is making it easier to for anyone to access the service with a platform-independent toolbar, which is accessed simply by adding rbutr.com/ to the start of any URL. No plugins needed.
When you do this, it essentially reloads the whole page within a separate Frame which displays the rebutting pages and any disputes. Though it can be a little fiddly manually adding this to the start of any URL, it’s certainly a step forward for the technology in terms of making it accessible to those who prefer not to use Chrome or Firefox.
So now if you see any spurious claims made in online publications, you can prefix the URL with a few characters and see whether anyone has taken umbrage.
But it’s not just about sifting through spurious journalistic claims. It can be used for anything really – for example, a subject-specific book on Amazon can be appended with counter-claims from across the Web too, which in turn can be voted up and down. And these rebuttals can be rebutted too.
So Rbutr moves beyond the confines of a website’s comments section (if indeed it has one), and takes it cross-site and cross-platform. It also means it can’t be edited by a site’s owners.
Also, with the new URL in tow – e.g. http://rbutr.com/http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Abundance-Revolution-Nanotechnology-Civilization/dp/1610391136 – this can be shared across the social sphere, email, and elsewhere, with everyone clicking on that link landing on the Rbutr-ized version instead.
A secondary (but important) advantage here is that it also helps you share nonsense content (e.g. articles that make very dubious claims) without contributing to its online kudos. Google and social channels use buzz around an article to rank it, so you could be helping promote an article’s claims – even if your intention was the exact opposite. By sharing the Rbutr link instead, you sidestep this altogether.
There have been many such tools in the past that do this, such as the now-defunct Istyosty, a proxy Daily Mail browsing service. And, of course, DoNotLink offers such functionality more broadly across the Web’s content.
Rbutr is an interesting proposition for sure, it’s just a shame it’s only as powerful as the number of people using it – a tonne of spurious online content remains unchallenged. But by opening things up to every browser, it has gone some way towards spreading the good word.
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