That’s its name. Not that I don’t think it is awesome–I actually kind of do–but I think it’s even funnier that they called it “The Awesome Highlighter“.
And it does just what you think, based on the name: you give it an URL, then you highlight parts of the page, and you get a link to your highlighted page that you can share with others. (Actually you don’t even need to “go” there to do it if you can use a bookmarklet, or if you’re using Firefox.)
Obviously this is a dream for academics who research on the web. I mean Google Notebook is great, but sometimes you want to mark lots of bits from a long document, and it’s nicer to put the URL to the highlighted page in your notebook than to make a new notebook per article/paper to store all the bits you’re interested in. And then there’s the whole question of sharing the document, of course–I know Notebook exports to Docs, and you can have shared notebooks, but there’s really a difference between passing someone a highlighted document to read and actively collaborating with them on something. The right tool for the job in question, you know?
There are other great social uses, too. Things like highlighting sections of documents for discussions, and arguments. Hell, even the internet meme thing could use something like this.
I popped these pages into the highlighter and marked which books I have in my library, which music I have in my collection, and which movies I’ve seen. You can click those links and marvel at how out of touch my musical tastes are, or be agog at how I’ve managed to avoid watching some movies that are pop cultural touchstones, or whatever.
(Interesting aside: why is my standard for books & music “in my collection”, but for movies it’s “have seen”? For people who aren’t crazy collectors, would the defaults be “has read” and “has heard”? Also, does that fact that I now think of my music collection first as a shared drive on a NAS box, and only much further down the line as a bunch of physical objects, mean that I’m not as old as I seem to think I am lately?)