Sideways, Google's New Dictionary

SidewaysThe Jigsaw incubator at Google Alphabet has created a dictionary to explain technical terms to the rest of us. Browser hijacking, cache, proxy, spoofing, tor-all are defined using simple analogies. Tor, for example, "Is like an onion. Tor stands for The Onion Router because it uses layer upon layer of protection to maximize anonymity. And trying to hack into it makes you cry."

The site's About page explains, "It's like a dictionary, but using analogies instead of definitions. Use it as a tool for finding and sharing helpful analogies to explain technology. Because if everyone understands technology better, we can make technology work better for everyone."

The head of marketing for Jigsaw, Alfred Malmro, had the idea for Sideways when he was trying to explain the new division of Google: "I started comparing things. 'This tool is like an armored vehicle,' or ‘this one is like a seatbelt.' And suddenly they understand, well, I want to use the seatbelt but I'm not sure that I need an armored vehicle. It really needed real world comparison." Malmro also says, "It's about communicating safety as simply as possible to people."

Users can submit analogies. Moderators cull those that aren't accurate, but ultimately, users decide which are most useful to understanding.


  • Read a few of the definitions. How helpful do you find the analogies?
  • What are the potential dangers of this approach? Overall, do you like the idea?