But the semantically-tagged fat lady has yet to sing for the bookmarking service. Right now, we know Yahoo doesn’t want Delicious any more. It’s team have effectively been laid off (says AllThingsD) as part of a wider shutdown of Yahoo Products. A blog post from Delicious says (emphasis mine):
We are not shutting down Delicious. While we have determined that there is not a strategic fit at Yahoo!, we believe there is a ideal home for Delicious outside of the company where it can be resourced to the level where it can be competitive.
We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious and we believe there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users. We’re in the process of exploring a variety of options and talking to companies right now. And we’ll share our plans with you as soon as we can.
So, that’s a “come and get us” plea to another internet company to take on the business and make it work. What’s sad about this situation is that Delicious feels it needs to find a buyer. The outpouring of grief from digital media folk following news of its troubles, plus the amount of people (like me) who have paid for similar services elsewhere, proves there is some kind of business model in there somewhere trying to get out.
But when you scale up with the help of a multi-billion dollar plc, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to scale down again.
‘Wait, do we own that?’
I went to interview Yahoo’s top European brass at a press event in London last year for paidContent:UK (read/watch it here). The meeting revolved around YHOO’s new homepages (big yawns), renewed attempts at creating personalised content experiences for all their users, which is one thing Yahoo does well with things like sports and finance, and a possible deal with Microsoft.
“What about Delicious?” asked one blogger towards the end of the meeting*. “How does that fit it?” A good question but clearly one Yahoo wasn’t expecting. Europe senior vice president Rich Riley glanced somewhat uneasily at colleagues in the room for a moment before offering: “Yahoo is a useful service and we think it’s important.”
But was there any integration with Delicious and Yahoo’s new products? No. Was this social bookmarking tool – a genuinely personalised service – part of this strategy? Nope. The question that remains unanswered is: WHY?
We’re excited to be working with the Yahoo! Search team – they definitely get social systems and their potential to change the web. (We’re also excited to be joining our fraternal twin Flickr!)
And this is Jeremy Zawodny on the Yahoo Search Blog confirming the deal:
…And just like we’ve done with Flickr, we plan to give Delicious the resources, support, and room it needs to continue growing the service and community. Finally, don’t be surprised if you see My Web and Delicious borrow a few ideas from each other in the future.
And what happened? You will struggle to find a mention of Delicious in Yahoo’s annual reports from 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009 or in any of the 10-K SEC filings I looked through (happy to be corrected on this if anyone can spot a mention). So I’d think it safe to assume that Delicious (for whatever reason) has never played a meaningful and significant role in its parent company, having to battle for attention with a host of other acquired start-ups.
The great shame is that Delicious should have fitted in perfectly with Yahoo’s plan to be an ad-funded content and communications player on a global scale. I feel users would have even paid (and still may be asked to) to save the service – but that doesn’t fit in with Yahoo’s free-to-air model at all.
Whatever next? Pinboard.in and other imitators
I couldn’t do much journalism without the 5,400 tagged and indexed articles I’ve built up over the years. It is a fundamental part of my working processes.
So I paid $25 to join Pinboard.in, a “me-too” bookmarking tool to which you can very easily export your Delicious bookmarks.
It works fine (if not quite as smoothly as Delicious) and also imports Twitter favourites and RSS if you want to do linkblogging and so on. I paid for the top-level membership because it automatically archives everything so it can be downloaded if the service goes belly-up. As Martin Stabe has presciently warned for years (and did so recently), if you don’t keep a copy of all this stuff – no one else will.
Some minor grumbles about Pinboard, or rather, a wishlist:
– A bookmarklet that lets you add a bookmark with Apple+D or CTRL+D
– Predictive tagging: it sounds trite but Delicious predicting that I meant to tag something with “behaviouraleconomics” so I don’t have to write it out in full, is a big time-saver.
– See my bookmarks in a left-hand sidebar at a glance by pressing CTRL+B.
I’ll report back soon with more on life without Delicious – I’m assuming I’ll have to use something else, though I’ll be pleasantly surprised if Delicious does pop up somewhere else with new owners.
*This is not a verbatim account of what was said and only from my recollection.