I have mentioned Delicious here on numerous occasions, but it has made news–albeit on a minor level–often enough to keep me following the story. The thing is, I feel like I keep getting the same bits of information and then lamenting the same issues over and over again. A little forward momentum, even in a direction I don’t appreciate, would be such a welcome change here.
First Delicious was acquired by Yahoo, but no redesign of the interface occurred in the five years they held the service; this was disappointing since the archaic design quality interferes with user perceptions of how current the content could possibly be–problematic for an inherently useful, but underused tool. Then Yahoo announced that it would close the service (“sunset,” to be exact). An outcry arose from organizations, especially libraries and educational technology groups that had invested heavily in leveraging the social bookmarking resource. Yahoo “clarified” that “sunsetting” meant selling–a very convenient response to the unanticipated negative publicity the closure announcement generated. Still, I felt good that the public outcry helped to save the service. However, there was still no redesign and apparently no new attention to the potential of the service from Yahoo, despite the hundreds of articles I read detailing great suggestions.
Then, in April, it was sold to Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, co-founders of YouTube. And still we wait. No new design, no relaunch, no real word on the progress. And this brings me to the heart of this blog post, which is that no matter how much I support the idea of Delicious, even my patience is wearing thin. How many others have written off the service long ago, and is it reasonable to expect them to come back at this point? An article released this weekend by the New York Times covers some of the new features that will be unrolled, but in a very cursory manner–too sketchy, I think, to be of much value. Marshall Kirkpatrick added a fantastic blog post to this discussion, and proceeded to (yet again) outline a visionary list of features that would make the Delicious website into an unbeatable service. Seriously awesome stuff, but then several of the reader comments proceeded to hit on the lingering doubts that people still have, which primarily hinge on timeframes. This redesign may legitimately take time, but really, time is beyond up on this process. More teaser articles and interviews, in my opinion, can only hurt this endeavor. Roll out a pretty, shiny new Delicious already, before we all actually lose our last shred of interest!
First I have to admit that I don’t really utilize Delicious to its full potential, so I guess I am part of the problem here. I have two really great thematic lists set up–both of which accompanied library class projects–that I like to point people to from time to time. Beyond that, I have to say that I don’t often think to go to Delicious for my own information gathering needs. But I should.
I was reading an article recently that suggested some ingenious ways to use Delicious, by, say, tracking which users are tagging current and significant content. By identifying a handful of these super-users it is easy to subscribe to the lists that are most likely to remain current and useful. It also offers a window into who is likely to have a fantastic blog. Finding tech resources (in particular) can be a challenge and Delicious really does offer a way to find the best stuff out there. There are also fantastic thematic lists that teachers can use to weed through all the information out there to find lesson resources. It is a fantastic time saver for a group of professionals with very little extra time to comb the web.
Beyond individual users, there are many institutiions that really rely on their Delicious links to share information–schools and libraries are among the most diligent users. So this begs an important question: Is the profitability of a service the only thing that matters? Sure, you can argue that Yahoo is expending valuable time and resources on maintaining Delicious, and that the profit potential is not there. Is it costing them money? Definitely. But who cares? Chalk it up to a social service and move on.
Museums and libraries offer free services all the time, often working on severely limited budgets. The point is to increase benefits of some kind to the community, which is a worthwhile endeavor. Yahoo, on the other hand, has tons of money, and is in the business of making more. Good for them. But is it really so hard for a for-profit company to see the benefits of maintaining a service just because it helps other organizations to better do their jobs? It isn’t costing Yahoo much to maintain Delicious in the grand scheme of things.
What Yahoo needs to do is shift their attitude towards Delicious. Stop trying to make it into a cash cow–we have enough of that on the web already. Instead, why not publicize what a great public service it is (Target promotes their community giving campaigns all the time). It would be the best type of free advertising–the kind where a Goliath of a corporation does something for the little guys, just because they can. You can’t buy that type of public endearment, and I know I would like Yahoo a lot better if I thought they cared at all about something besides profitability.