In the early days of social media, social bookmarking was up there with social networking and social news as a primary way of sharing the world with others. Delicious was at the top of the bookmarking world, wildly popular amongst academics and geeks and poised to expand to the rest of the world.
In 2005, Yahoo! bought the site. Under the Yahoo! umbrella, Delicious did exactly nothing to expand and soon fell from grace and relevance. By the end of 2010, most were ready to accept that Delicious would go the way of Propeller and Mixx and fade into legend, a once-mighty site that drew attention from the tech world in its glory days but failed to adapt to the changing needs of a Web 2.0 society.
On April 27th, 2011, fans of the site were met with fairly good news. AVOS, a company led by the co-founders of YouTube Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, had
freed acquired Delicious from the clutches hands of Yahoo! and were planning on doing something Yahoo! failed to do. They were going to change the largest social bookmarking site in the world rather than follow the path of inaction that Yahoo! had adopted for Delicious.
There was hope.
While details are limited about exactly what they have planned for the site, September 23rd marks the last chance that anyone has to transfer their Delicious account to their, well, Delicious account. In essence, all bookmarks that have been made on Delicious in the past can become part of the new Delicious as long as people agree to the AVOS terms of service. In reading through it, nothing sticks out as major. It’s just a legal necessity.
Listening to them discuss the future offers hints as to what Delicious will become in the near future.
“Twitter sees something like 200 million tweets a day, but I bet I can’t even read 1,000 a day,” Chen said. “There’s a waterfall of content that you’re missing out on. There are a lot of services trying to solve the information discovery problem, and no one has got it right yet.”
As he notes, there is no shortage of data. Organizing it is the problem, and one that only Google has demonstrated skill in solving. Facebook search is awful. Twitter only goes back so far and is challenging to drill down without setting exact parameters. Bing is doing better (some say better than Google) but they haven’t put it all together properly yet. Can soon-to-be-Delicious solve some of these problems?
By redesigning the site, making the UI more robust and intuitive, and enhancing the software to organize links better, they might just be able to pull it off. They also plan on including personalization measures that will help prioritize links based upon actions and recommendations.
“We want to simplify things visually, mainstream the product and make it easier for people to understand what they’re doing,” Mr. Hurley said.
It will take mainstream adoption similar to what they achieved at YouTube for the site to take off. The roots that Delicious once held strong are rotten – old users have moved on. Diehards want more but will stick around as long as the service is still available. It is in gaining a much larger userbase that Chen and Hurley will be able to make the site successful.
By staying lean, maintaining an office of fewer than 20 people (who are mostly developers and programmers) they should be able to self-fund and maintain mobility. Their biggest challenge will be in reaching the tipping point to where their data is valuable to the general public.
They will need to take Delicious viral. They’ll need people using it to get more people to use it to get more people to use it. It’s a different challenge than what they had at YouTube in the 18 months it took for them to build it up and sell it off to Google. YouTube could generate traffic without them becoming users. For Delicious, users will be the most important aspect.
In the next few months, we will see what they have up their sleeves. On a personal note, I’ve always been fond of the site and wanted it to succeed. I’m skeptical – Yahoo! really did everything they could to kill the site off completely – but hopefully Chen and Hurley will make lightning strike twice for themselves and bring social bookmarking to its next level, whatever that may look like.
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