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Hyperlinks in orange, 24/7 polling - the Web keeps going and ...

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In technology, change happens a lot, and lately I've seen two different cases where change has helped two companies better define what they do, and who they are, for the public.

The first time I tried a ThirdVoice product, I hated it. ThirdVoice originally offered a software program that, once downloaded, allowed you to "leave" a note on other people's Web sites that could be read by people who had also downloaded the software. But I, and more than a few others, thought this "trick" basically interfered with Web pages in a way that could create some real problems for people who operated controversial Web sites, and could eventually create legal problems for ThirdVoice.

But to their credit, the folks at ThirdVoice never took my publicly expressed reservations personally. So when they asked me to meet with Elaine Bolle, their new CEO, I was happy to comply.

I was even happier after I saw how they had taken their original idea and created a program that comes as close to being a "real" personal Web assistant as anything I have yet seen.

Once you download and install the new version (which is available at www.thirdvoice.com), key words on every Web page you visit are highlighted in orange. (The words aren't highlighted on the actual site. The ThirdVoice software has a "dictionary" of more than 2 million words or phrases that it searches for, and then turns into the distinctive orange links only visible when using ThirdVoice - which you can turn on or off in your browser's tool bar.)

After you select a word, phrase, name, etc., a window opens with links to Web sites relevant to the word(s), links to online stores that sell related goods or services, and a chance to create a community around the word (a riff on the old purpose of the software, but much less intrusive). You'll also find a dictionary and a thesaurus.

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