Annotate the Web with the Hypothesis Tool Extension

One of the most powerful differences between printed text and digital text, as we’ve already covered, is the ability to annotate in the margins as you would a physical book.

We’ve talked about tools that allow you to annotate screenshots, and tools that allow you to curate, then annotate, webpages and articles–now, I want to cover a tool, and point anyone interested toward the philosophy that underpins its existence, that allows you to annotate the web directly.

Annotate the web

The tool is called Hypothesis, and it is the product of a team that goes by the same name. Hypothesis lives in your browser and allows you to annotate text when you highlight a section of text with your cursor.

The annotation’s relationship to the page’s content is stored online, and is viewable by other users of Hypothesis as well as, of course, always there for you when you return to view the page.

The annotations can be hidden or shown, and each annotation supports the ability to hold conversations about the highlighted text in the Hypothesis sidebar.

First, highlight the text with the extension activated.

Hypothesis Pop-Up

Then select either the pen to simply leave it highlighted, or the text-entry icon if you have immediate thoughts.

Hypothesis Highlight

Then notice in the Hypothesis sidebar that all the highlighted/annotated text on the page your browser now shows is organized. Conversations can be had here with other Hypothesis users, or if you yourself are the teacher and have highlighted a section then shared your annotations with your students, between students.

hypothesis comment


The goal of the Hypothesis tool is to give users the ability to build a collaborative meta-layer overtop the web and all its content and properties, encouraging more deliberative growth and awareness of the online world as it continues to grow and evolve. 

For our purposes as educators, Hypothesis is an easy-to-use tool for collaboratively studying web resources.

If Hypothesis continues to grow and develop as planned, then I think it will continue to be more useful to online educators and their students who want to be able to have contextual conversations about resources that are as web-persistent and nav-relevant as the resources themselves.

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2 responses to “Annotate the Web with the Hypothesis Tool Extension”

  1. Radney says:

    Thanks very much for making us aware of this new tool. Could you do a comparison of Hypothesis and Diigo (out for several years)? I don’t see the difference, from what I see here.

    • Heya Radney!

      Sure. The big difference is in Hypothesis’s mission, which (as I understand it) is to create a persistent meta layer across the internet. Comments have no permissions, so anyone and everyone can join in on the conversation. It’s easy to hide all comments and highlights while the extension is running, so switching between the “annotated web” and the un-annotated web is super simple. Therefore its use is specific: to provide a space for perpetual, contextual, open conversation about the content of a webpage. For students this is interesting on multiple levels: One, they may find themselves engaging with others outside of their class; Two, successive cohorts can push the conversation further and further; Three, the conversation can evolve with the content of the webpage itself without losing all of the history of what that page was.

      Secondarily (the second big difference) is that Diigo is, primarily, a bookmarking tool, and Hypothesis is not.

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