July 28th, 2008
Versionista: Track changes for any Web page, wiki-highlight style
Sometimes, I get scooped. I admit it. I’m not always on the “breaking news” ball. This is one of those occasions.
A few weeks back, I saw news on Versionista, a tool that allows you to track the changes that occur on publicly accessible Web pages. It seems that the McCain camp had used the product to track changes on the Obama site:
The McCain campaign web site recently published a link to a Versionista comparison that shows changes to Obama’s web page about the Iraq war. The link, which is captioned “Obama Refines His Iraq Page”, is posted alongside other links which point to off-site articles written by various political commentators who are critical of Obama. The aim is obviously to generate the perception that Obama’s position on the war is inconsistent.
While the technology was exceptionally cool—much like change trackers I used to use back in the dotcom days—there was one thing that piqued my interest even more than the technology. Versionista is from Portland, Oregon.
Versionista was inspired by the highlighting that occurs when wiki pages are edited:
A side-by-side comparison and multiple other views let you see “before and after” versions of every monitored page. We highlight what text has been added, deleted, or moved. Versionista will keep up to 25 versions per page. You can “rollback” in time to see older versions.
The Versionista service allows you to test drive the system with two URLs. Or you can subscribe to begin tracking multiple URLs.
The pricing is aggressive for hobbyists—the lowest-level subscription runs about $200 a year for 30 URLs—but for professionals who desperately need this type of “what changed when” functionality on a limited basis, the pricing shouldn’t be too terribly oppressive. Power users can track up to 2,500 URLs for $6,000 a year.
So what about exploiting the service? I knew you’d think about that, because you’re a smart cookie.
Versionista is pretty clear about what you can and can’t do in their EULA (which, incidentally, is the second URL I’m currently tracking, in addition to the Silicon Florist URL):
YOU MAY NOT USE SOFTWARE PRODUCT TO STEAL OTHERS’ COPYRIGHTS OR TRADEMARKS…. YOU MAY NOT USE SOFTWARE PRODUCT TO SPIDER OR CRAWL GOOGLE ADWORDS, OVERTURE LISTINGS, OR OTHER PAY-PER-CLICK OR SIMILAR SERVICES FOR THE PURPOSE OF DEFRAUDING THEIR SYSTEM.
I know a number of breaking-news bloggers who have been begging for a service like this. You may be in the same boat. Given that you’re allowed to track two URLs for free, I’d suggest you try it out. And when you do, I’d love to hear how it works for you.