Delicious: not so tasty now

December 17, 2010 | 2 comments

Logo of DeliciousHe’s dead, Dave. Everybody’s dead. Everybody is dead, Dave.

It’s the end of the road: Delicious, one of the darlings of the “Web 2.0” movement, is being shelved. The social bookmarking site was famous for its simple interface, which introduced tags and cloud services to the world, not to mention creative use of available domain names, bookmarklets and social networking for a purpose. Its creator, Joshua Schachter, is a smart guy whose opinions about software design are worth taking seriously.

As a result, it was widely used: I directly know people who have relied on it in academia, public arts bodies, private companies and in their personal lives. Delicious served a genuine user need. The trouble was, Yahoo! didn’t make any money running it, despite having paid between $15-20 million for the privilege.

Money: get away. Build a service that will pay, and you’re okay.

That’s not Joshua’s fault, nor an intrinsic fault with Delicious (although they could probably have tried harder to drive direct revenue and cement their sustainability). Yahoo has a track record of mismanaging its web properties, going back to the first dotcom bubble – leading to 600 job losses a few days ago.

More generally, it’s arguably a symptom of Web 2.0 fever around five years ago; lots of great services were being funded, despite not having any business models to speak of. It’s only a matter of time before many of the remaining services from the era go the same way. Be smart: look at how to save your data now.

Near; far; wherever you are, ensure that your data lives on.

What’s next for the site’s 5.5+ million members, and their 180 million bookmarks? Lifehacker has a guide to exporting your data from Delicious into your web browser, but that’s not going to be good enough for many users.

Other bookmarking services are available. There’s even a spreadsheet doing the rounds comparing Delicious alternatives. But I’d like to suggest that it’s only a matter of time before many of them, too, are shuttered.

We know that the cloud is useful and important – but it’s no longer enough to put something out there. Responsible developers should know how their product is going to continue to exist, for the sake of their users. Here are some questions to ask when picking a service to house your valuable data:

  1. Does it have a sustainable business model? Are you being directly charged, or is your data being sold somehow? (Advertising on its own is not a sustainable business model in most cases.)
  2. Do the owners have a track record?
  3. Is there a way to get your data out and move it somewhere else? If not, can you buy the software and host it yourself, on your own infrastructure?

I would suggest that if the answers to any of the above are “no”, you might want to move on and look at something new.

Delicious logo render by Bernard Goldbach, released under a Creative Commons license. Title apologies go to the Red Dwarf team, Pink Floyd and Celine Dion respectively. I’m so sorry.

Related entries

2 Comments

  1. Yeah – this is why I’m happy to pay for things that are useful to me. About the only thing I’m not paying for that I find useful is Dropbox, and that’s because I get enough space for free, and $120/year for far more storage than is not really affordable to me. If they wanted to charge me $30/year for 3GB I’d be very happy to take them up on it.

    I’d happily pay $10/year for Delicious. But I can’t see Yahoo deciding to charge for it.

    Andrew Ducker December 17, 2010 (6:01 pm)
  2. What’s more shocking is that it’s the same points 1 and 2 as with the Web 1.0 crash ten years ago, but with point 3 now making things even more complicated (who cared if your boo.com account died?). You’d have imagined many of the people leading the charge over the past few years would have been around back then…

    Niall Saville December 18, 2010 (11:38 am)

Leave a comment