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:
- 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.)
- Do the owners have a track record?
- 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.