NewsStephen Fry Announces Pushnote

Stephen Fry Announces Pushnote


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Earlier this evening, Stephen Fry announced a new social networking application called Pushnote, which was released today in Beta.  Mr Fry’s tweet simply said “You might like to try my new baby hope you like it. Makes the web one big democratic comment platform.” I do love the way he uses good punctuation despite being on Twitter – good man!

What is Pushnote, then? The idea reminds me a little of “augmented reality” that was a buzz term last year.  Augmented reality apps overlay digital media on top of the real world.  For instance, I saw one where you could hold up your iPhone 3GS, and the compass and GPS would work out where you were and show you digital graffiti painted on the real buildings around you; an intriguing idea which to my amazement hasn’t really taken off.  Pushnote is, in a way, augmented reality for the web.  It gives you a hidden layer of social media right on top of the web pages we use every day.  It’s only text, but that’s all it’s intended to be – a simple discussion medium allowing the web to be critiqued and debated.  I’m sure it will go slightly downmarket once users beyond Stephen’s fan base get hold of it, but so far it’s full of very nice people indeed.

The concept is simplicity itself.  You install a plugin for your browser, and away you go.  The currently supported browsers are Firefox, IE and Chrome, but Safari will soon be supported too.  What you get is a button in the top of the browser window.  The button allows you to comment on the page at the URL currently in your address bar.  Any other Pushnote user can then see your comment when they visit the same URL.  If comments have been made on a page you visit, the button goes green to tell you there is something to read.

There doesn’t seem to be a character limit, so you can rave on about the page as much as you like.  It has a YouTube-style pair of ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ buttons, and shows you the total thumbs up and down as an average score (+2 etc).  You can also reply to comments, which starts a threaded discussion.  Excellent.

There are one or two issues I’ve encountered, but it is a Beta test, so that’s to be expected.  You should be able to carbon copy your comments onto your Facebook and Twitter streams, but I can’t get that to work so far.  The accounts authenticate after you’ve allowed Pushnote access to your accounts, but the comments don’t seem to turn up.  This may be related to another issue; there is no running character count, so you can’t tell if you comment is short enough for a single tweet.  Perhaps my comments have all been too long – I shall do more testing.

Those that know me know I have a security background, and I can hear you looking at my screenshot and thinking “if I go to that URL, will I see Dan’s Gmail inbox?”  The answer is no, it’s fine.  If you followed that URL from a comment of mine which had been CCd to Twitter (when it works), you’d end up in either your inbox or the sign-in page for Gmail.  However, Pushnote shows you the comments made on a URL, and everyone gets the same URL for their inbox, so you WILL see comments people have made while looking at their own inbox;  everyone can discuss the Gmail inbox setup without seeing each other’s emails – brilliant.  The logic doesn’t seem to support hashtags at first glance, but that’s unconfirmed – I’m sure it will soon if it doesn’t now.  I’m concerned if you comment on an insecure URL (perhaps one which contains PUT information you’ve just submitted via an HTML form), that it will be visible to everyone via your tweets/Facebook, but I haven’t tried yet.  Stick to “”, and it will be fine!

I have to say, I think this could really become very, very popular.  It really is very similar to YouTube’s commenting system, except it spans the entire Internetz.  So get it, try it, bear in mind it’s still in Beta, and tell your friends.  Congratulations on your “new baby”, Mr Fry – I hope it is the huge success it deserves to be.

Happy webbing, all.

Dan James
Dan James
Dan is a Web Developer, Web Designer, and Photographer. He builds custom and templated web sites using Wordpress and is a Woo Themes affiliated Woo Worker.


  1. I can now confirm that Pushnote doesn't yet seem to recognise URLs using hashes (# – that's 'pound signs' for our Stateside friends). If I go to my google inbox, I see comments for the inbox, but if I go to the Labs page, which uses hashes and AJAX to load, I still just see the inbox comments. Pushnote effectively ignores everything after the hash sign. Could be a problem for pushnote on heavily-AJAXed sites which avoid page refreshes and use hash-extended URLs. Users won't be able to comment specifically on that content. Hopefully it's something they'll address before the final release.

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