Goodbye Delicious, hello… what?

So the news is out. Yahoo have screwed up. They’re closing Delicious. I don’t even need to include a link here – just go out and look for mentions of it right now and you’ll see the news.

This is A Big Thing. It throws up all sorts of substantial issues, not least among which is, if the social web is such a big thing, then how come the biggest bookmarking service is about to go belly up? If a major company like Yahoo is experiencing difficulties monetising Delicious, then what does this mean for other cloud-based services? And, from that, how confident can we be when we store things in the cloud? At what point do we need to back things up locally, or – shock horror – actually have to start paying for this kind of service?

These are all important topics for debate that I’m sure will be covered over the next few weeks. But right here, right now, this is bad news for me, because I rely on Delicious for several important activities.

  • Distributed information gathering. Ever wanted to harness the collective effort of a team to gather knowledge as they go about their daily activities, quickly bookmarking something and slowly building up an incredibly useful, dedicated database? I have. In fact, I did, before I got into Delicious. I set up a team with Google Reader, where every member subscribed to every other member’s shared items, so that we could all see what each other had shared. It was a very useful way for us all to be clued up – maximum returns, minimal effort required. But the Delicious solution was much more elegant, in that you could install the toolbar to bookmark pages quickly and easily, add notes explaining why you’d bookmarked them, and so on.
  • News feed creation. From that same Google Reader-based project, in turn, the shared items could generate a branded page and an RSS feed, so we could pump information out to clients. They could then see what we were sharing with them, as a feed that we created based on our judgement of what was important, rather than search engines.
  • Monitoring. You can (in the near future, change that to ‘could’) search Delicious without needing to sign in. You can (could) create an RSS feed off that search. This is (was) a wonderful facility, meaning you can (could) see not just what people are (were) saying about a brand, but what they consider (considered) important enough to bookmark. Its human-based nature complements (complemented) machine-based searches extremely well.
  • Measurement. If bookmarking is a form of engagement – that is, actually taking action rather than passively reading – then you could use Delicious as a form of engagement metric. If more people are bookmarking you, then they’re engaged with what they’re reading about you.
  • Auto-publishing. Delicious has (had – ok, I’ll stop this now) a great feature whereby you could get it to post automatically to your blog at the end of each day with the bookmarks you’d created that day. You get two quality outputs for one input. Fabulous.

That’s just five reasons I have had big plans for Delicious. I have one client that I was imminently going to: install the Delicious toolbar on each member’s machine; create a set of core tags for them to use on web pages; create RSS feeds from searches for those tags; bring those searches into a dashboard for monitoring; share them with clients as a news feed; and occasionally measure the number of hits across Delicious to gauge engagement.

Now, suddenly, I have to think of a viable alternative.

There are some out there, and it seems to me the frontrunners are Diigo and StumbleUpon (which I have heard of before and used briefly before realising Delicious was far superior), and Xmarks, which I haven’t heard of before and need to look into. There is also, I guess, Google Bookmarks, but I don’t know how that’s faring nowadays given Google discontinued support for Notes some time ago.

But as far as I can tell, none of them offer the ability to create an RSS feed off a search without having to sign in. So I can still conceivably create shared knowledge systems and use metrics to a degree, but I cannot monitor or create filtered news feeds for clients. Bum.

Meanwhile I also have the major headache of figuring out where else to store the 1,107 bookmarks I have on Delicious, which I use for my own research and even for navigation using the toolbar. Double bum.

There’s a huge amount of hue and cry about this online right now, so I’m probably going to get lost in the noise here with this post. But, if anyone can point me in the right direction to get this sort of feature, please let me know. Otherwise I may need to go back to basics – Google Reader, which some people find fiddly and is not as elegant, as open, as ubiquitous, as plain old useful and great, dammit – as Delicious. Bum bum bum bum bum.

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6 thoughts on “Goodbye Delicious, hello… what?

  1. Your post was actually the first I’d heard of this (It was the latest article at the top of Google Reader), and it’s pretty abysmal news. The only Yahoo-owned services I regularly use are Delicious and Flickr…

    The only slight bit of comfort for me is that I’ve actually been using Diigo for quite a while and it’s a reasonable alternative – a lot closer than Stumbleupon or Reader. I’d actually been bookmarking directly into Diigo, and then using their automatic feed to Delicious to bookmark everything into 2 locations, in case something happened to one of them (I’d presumed Diigo was the riskier proposition as the newer company!).

    So at least I won’t lose anything from the past couple of years of bookmarking. But as you say, Delicious had useful tools way beyond simply storing the data, and it’s odd that Yahoo couldn’t find good ways to monetise these in an era when marketing and journalism are both heading towards more data management.

  2. Hi Dan,

    You’re quite right to be paranoid about losing stuff. I regularly back up my *really* important Google Docs – my business planner, invoices etc – locally, but hadn’t even considered doing this with Delicious until, well, just now! And the only reason I’ve done this is so that I can see which other services enable me to import them back in.

    As far as I can see none of the other services support persistent searches across their entire database with RSS. If you can search across the database, you cannot get RSS. If you can get RSS, it’s only with your own stuff, or with personal contacts.

    Maybe this is telling us something? I always thought the only thing Delicious was really missing was a real social implementation, that is, being able to say more about yourself and more readily find other people to share with. It seems to me the other services are more ‘social’, while conversely being less ‘open’ (ie you can have a social presence and share with contacts, but not interrogate the database without signing in, or search across the entire content, or get RSS out of that search). So maybe Delicious, guided by the wonderful marketing acumen of Yahoo, somehow managed to hit the cold spot when there were so many hot spots that it missed. You could say it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

  3. Oh, this is definitely a bummer. I just started using Delicious about a month or two ago, and I’ve really fallen in love with it. I was actually planning to share it with a couple interns I’m working with so we could easily see what each other was using for our writing projects. I guess I’m glad I didn’t discover it until very recently, else I’d have a lot more bookmarks to save… but still.

    My definitely quite inelegant solution besides Delicious is to just copy and paste a link into a Google Doc, with a brief note, and categorized. Then I can share that Doc with whoever is on my team. It works, but Delicious was SO much easier and more pleasing.

    All right then, I’ll try Diigo.

  4. There are lots of alternatives out there but none of them do exactly what Delicious does – that is, allows you to search the entire database, without needing to have an account, and to pull an RSS feed off that persistent search, for free. Which is probably why Delicious is in trouble.

    I’ll look into the othes but I seriously doubt any of them will do this. Without that essential feature set, they’re not even worth me considering. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Delicious will remain online.

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