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Brendan Cooper is Editor-in-Chief at byyd, the leading mobile Demand-side Platform.

New Delicious – sweet eye candy but a bitter aftertaste

As if by magic, Delicious has relaunched. I had that sinking feeling when I powered up my laptop this morning and noticed that the Delicious add-on that I use to navigate the web wasn’t loading properly.

It didn’t take long to figure out that there are some fairly radical changes going on. Superficially it looks like a more user-friendly site, but I think there are deep changes afoot that mean they’ve switched off some of the most useful features. Here’s my take on the changes.

They’ve made Delicious much more of a front-end. I said this a while back, on this very blog: that Delicious kind of had a similar problem to Twitter, in that a lot of it worked in the background without any screen estate to hand over to advertising or social networking. So Twitter is finding ways to fix this, including acquiring Tweetdeck. It might seem strange that Twitter buys a client-side application (ie not a cloud-based app such as Hootsuite) but I’m thinking this could be a smart move designed to keep the strain off its servers. Delicious probably doesn’t have the massive bandwidth demands of Twitter, so it’s opted for its own web-based front end (note: this is just my theory). It looks nice, and you can see a good summary of these Delicious changes over at GigaOM which, at the time of writing, seems to be one of the first posts about new Delicious.

They’ve switched off some of the back-end features and broken others. This probably doesn’t bother most people, and I do appreciate that they need to address the fat end of the long tail and concentrate on core features, but I just spent all morning doing the following:

  • Rebuilding my local bookmarks because the add-on no longer works. I used the add-on Bundles view to access my work-related pages, resource pages, and so on. It was great because if I changed something on one machine or browser, I could just work on any of my others and see those changes reflected. Now, I have to store them all manually, per-browser, per-machine. What a pain.
  • Figuring out that RSS no longer works. This was, for me, the single most useful feature of Delicious after bookmarking. You could pull an RSS feed off a tag, or off a tag search. Today, you cannot. So this means I can’t pump this RSS feed out to, say, Google Reader for aggregating, or Netvibes for aggregating and displaying, or Feedburner for daily email delivery of feeds. In other words, I’ve suddenly lost a lot of flexibility and power. So could it be that Delicious is joining the effort to kill RSS because it’s so useful but earns them no money? Seems that way right now.
  • Logging in several times. The bookmarklet still works – praise be – but I, and several of my clients, have had to log in several times to get this to work.
  • Noticing strange anomalies with tags. If I look at my Delicious home page, I see that the counts are missing next to tags, so I don’t know which are the most popular. Whenever I bookmark something now, the tag does not auto-complete so I’m going to start getting inconsistent with them. Sometimes I know I’ve only saved a bookmark once, but it says ’2 saves’ next to it, which gives me no confidence. And I’m pretty much certain that when I list some tags, all I’m seeing is the first page of them without any ‘next’ or ‘previous’ pagination, so now I can’t actually get to see the vast majority of my bookmarks any more. Unless, of course, they’ve been deleted?
  • Noticing other random stuff. No more bundles, now we have stacks. Why change the name? And bundles were really useful, so why remove them? If they’re going to change the name, why not just change the name but keep the functionality instead of replacing it with something that seems virtually identical but doesn’t use the same mechanism? Also, we need to call these things ‘Links’ now, rather than bookmarks. And we follow people now, rather than have them in our community. Links and follows – sounds very like Likes and, well, followers, right?
  • Advising clients on the changes. I have clients who love Delicious too, and I’ve had to flag this to them. Facebook is annoying enough when it changes on the spur of the moment, and Delicious has done the same.

It does seem to me that whenever something becomes massively useful, it disappears. Yahoo Pipes is a similar case in point, supposedly recently fixed but within minutes it broke again in its old inimitable way, so I just forgot all about it once more.

Could it be that Avos, the new proprietors of Delicious, are joining in the effort to kill the freedom of information that Tim Berners-Lee held so dear?

I said, years ago, that the social web would change radically when big money moved in. If it’s freedom out, money in, then that would account for a lot of these changes.

Of course, it could also be that Avos plan to reintroduce these features as they roll out a wonderful new solution that everyone loves. Problem is, we already loved it.

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9 Comments on “New Delicious – sweet eye candy but a bitter aftertaste”

  1. Jason Carter September 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    ugh…I got up this morning wondering why the items I bookmarked on Delicious were not going out in my MailChimp, RSS based email newsletter. And why they were not getting posted via the RSS Auto-posting feature on my Blogtronix based community site. I figured it was a temporary problem, not a deliberate strategy.

    I’ve been raving to friends and colleagues about Delicious for years, hoping it would never go away. So it’s still here, but without some of its most useful and powerful features. Why?

    • Adam September 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Yes, the fact that my RSS feed is now broken makes this essentially useless to me. Please tell me there is a way around this….or alternatively does anyone know of somewhere else I can do something similar to what delicious did before? I was at first wondering if there was just a new RSS feed address…….

  2. Brendan September 27, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Hi Adam and Jason,

    Sounds like you both have similar issues to mine. The ability for an individual – or indeed an entire team – to bookmark items and then pull the RSS feed off that is (or was) incredibly useful.

    I’ve spent pretty much all day figuring out workarounds, and I think I have something. It’s based on Google Bookmarks. Now, Google Bookmarks are good becaue a) Google seems fairly stable (assuming they don’t do anything with bookmarks during the Google+ development) and b) clients will have confidence in it. Google also has a nice bookmarklet which is very similar to the Delicious one – it even looks the same when you click it – so that’s another plus (pardon the pun). The tricky bit comes in pulling RSS off that because Google Bookmarks are private. You can have Lists of bookmarks which are public but – get this – you can’t have RSS off Lists!

    But there is a way, and I think I’ve found it. I’ve also (I think) cracked the issue of turning that feed into an email, as well as enabling Google bookmarks as a navigation device across your computers. I need to make sure everything is tickety-boo and if so, I’ll post again with the solution, in the best traditions of geekdom. Watch this space.

  3. Paul Gailey (@paulgailey) September 27, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    i just can’t believe that this is a deliberate effort to break some of the best pipes of the internet because of a pursuit of the image happy generation of sharers. Is it the tip of the freemium iceberg whereby rss feeds per account are going to be throttled, is it a plain cockup at launch that obliterated RSS inadvertently or heaven forbid a deft but successful attempt to get all the diehards out in the open amplyfying the message of the new service, to only have to eat humble pie once RSS is reinstated thus giving Avos a double bite of the attention cherry?

  4. Erica September 28, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    For the love of god … I use to search for articles across Delicious through tags, e.g. “comics”, which would then provide a handy list — by date — of the most recent bookmarks saved with that tag, including a description of what you’re getting and how many other people have saved that particular article. That ability seems to have disappeared. Does anyone know how you’re supposed to search tags now? Nothing I do seems to work.

  5. Brendan September 28, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    @Paul – I don’t think it’s an attention-grabbing tactic. They could have grabbed plenty of attention by doing it right, without the negativity. It’s also probably not a cock-up – you wouldn’t just accidentally lose key features. I think they’ve decided to go for a phased launch in which they’re presenting the key features that emphasize the (money-making) interface. I mean, we simply do not know how many people took advantage of bundles, or RSS, or tag clouds etc etc. It really could be that we’re in a tiny, tiny minority and Delicious are doing exactly the right thing by jettisoning these extraneous features. It’s just annoying for us.

    @Erica – I don’t know how to do that now either. It was a very useful feature because you got an idea of *engagement* for a brand, ie how many people had actually taken action as a result of reading something. Given that none of Delicious’s competitors offer the unique combination of free, RSS-enabled, database-wide searching, I can only assume that there’s a reason for this, and that Delicious have aligned themselves with the competition. Again, I think it’s because Delicious doesn’t want to be merely a bookmark engine in the background, it wants to be a social service on your screen.

  6. Andrew Jung February 2, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Stacks are completely useless.
    The fact that tags are now “optional” means that delicious will slowly lose its search-ability and find-ability. Do I really want to look through hundreds of stacks rather than just one scrolling page of links based on my search of a tag?

    I don’t think so…

    And the fact that they dropped the forums for open feedback just underscores the fact that they really don’t care to have criticism about their direction.

    Don’t get me started about the lost of my tag bundles either or the ability to be able to copy a set of tags from one saved link to another similar one.

    Until just recently I used http://delicious.com/post to save my links which still used the old page saving method, but that is now gone and replaced by the retarded stack focused one.

    Argh!

  7. Brendan February 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    Yes, you’re right – the changes weren’t entirely well received!

    However, I do think we were a bit hasty to criticise. On the whole they’ve managed to get a lot of the missing stuff back.

    One trick they really are missing is to list the total saves at the top of a search, rather than the total number of results. ‘Results’ is just the number of pages that have been bookmarked. ‘Saves’ is the number of times those pages have been bookmarked, which is the real measure of how engaged your audiences are.

    So, some of my pages (http://delicious.com/search?p=brendancooper) have been bookmarked 20+ times. So that’s over 20 saves for one page. And I’m sure there are examples out there that have been saved hundreds of times.

    So the total number of results is only part of the story. The total number of saves is really, really important – and Delicious don’t list it. I asked about this on their Facebook page and got one response asking me to clarify what I meant, so I did, and that was the end of it.

    I’m wondering whether it’s just a tough task for their servers. Results is just a straight count of the number of hits, whereas Saves would require accumulating the saves, page by page, across all pages.

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