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December 09, 2005

Yahoo! buys del.icio.us, puts tagging on the map

By Charlene Li

Yahoo! announced that it will purchase del.icio.us (posts by Yahoo! and del.icio.us give the details).

For those of you in the know, del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service that allows its users to “tag” Web pages with short notes and save them on a centralized service. I’ve been using del.icio.us off and on for the past few months and just this morning set up a linkblog for this blog. Little did I know…

The acquisition by Yahoo! is significant for much the same reason why it bought other social computing darlings, Flickr and Konfabulator – Yahoo! is laying the groundwork for its users to add, personalize, and contribute their content and votes to the Web.

A very significant point is that del.icio.us will be working closely with Yahoo! Search. This is important because tagging will key to creating better search. Today, search relevance is determined by the number of links between pages – the more links you have to a page, the more relevant you are. Tagging is another way of doing this – you can see it in action today on start-up tagging engines like Wink and Raw Sugar. Tags on Web pages provide an additional level of relevancy to that page, and Yahoo! will be in a prime position to leverage it.

But tagging in of itself isn’t enough – it’s also the reputation of the taggers that’s important. And here is where the rest of Yahoo! formidable assets come to play – with 191 million registered users, social networking in the form of Y! 360, and personalized Web experiments with MyWeb, Yahoo! has the suite to actually pull off a really cool social and personalized search service.

The key: making del.icio.us and tagging accessible to users. It took me a while to “get” del.icio.us, (and the URL still isn’t easy for me to type!) The key problem is this is not an interface that my mother – or for that matter, most of my techie friends – understands. (Dave Taylor put together a good primer on “What’s so cool about del.icio.us?” that’s a good intro – check out the last question where Dave asks Jeremy Zawodny if Yahoo! will buy del.icio.us).

For this reason, I’m thrilled that Yahoo! purchased del.icio.us and hopefully, will integrate it into its other services quickly. I’m also optimistic about the impact that social bookmarking and tagging will have on the search industry…look for Microsoft and Google to launch their own variations soon as well. But Yahoo!, with its millions of registered users AND an enthusiastic del.icio.us community (check on the comments on the announcement – they are universally ecstatic), Yahoo! will be setting the pace in this area.

I’m also including a few thoughts from my colleague, Chloe Stromberg, who is an active del.icio.us user and resident social computing guru:

Other media companies are still mulling over their position with social media, meanwhile Yahoo has quickly and assertively snapped up another key player in the social computing space.  This means that 1) the ingredient technologies that make up social media (RSS, tagging, search, etc) will work more seamlessly together; and 2) that social computing is being taken to the masses by a company that knows UI, marketing, and has a trusted relationship with valuable consumers.

For marketers, Yahoo’s decisive acquisitions in the social marketing space mean that social marketing is destined to move out of the experimental stage and become a more stable part of the marketing mix.

Another interesting point here is about timing -- the speed of technology adoption.  Social marketing technologies have their roots in the birth of the Internet (we’ve mentioned Firefly, PointCast, etc).  It may be that after *10 years*, consumers are actually catching on, and really getting some of the principles of what the Internet can do that other communication forms can’t.  This is like 3rd wave social computing, personalization, customization -- and Yahoo has been involved all along.  It’s just, finally, this time, it may be ready for prime time.

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Comments

Greg Linden

There seems to be some disagreement about whether "tagging will [be] key to creating better search."

For example, Danny Sullivan said, "All the interest (dare I say hype) is largely ignoring the fact that we've had tagging on the web for going on 10 years, and the experience on the search side is that it can't be trusted."

http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/050322-163753

John Dvorak said, "Nobody outside the groupthink community really cares about any of this" and that "the 'folksonomy' notion ... is doomed to failure" because it will succumb to "vandalism and spam."

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1819101,00.asp

And Stephen Green said, "[Tagging is] not really a new way of indexing documents, it's actually an old way that didn't work very well."

http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/searchguy/20050513#tags_keywords_and_inconsistency

E-Rock

This purchase is one of the reasons Yahoo! is more exciting to me than Google, right now. I was surprised, though, that you didn't mention Yahoo's own My Web 2.0, which, in many ways, is an improvement on del.icio.us. My Web 2.0 avoids Greg's dreaded spam by allowing you to restrict your MyWeb searches to trusted contacts. Also, MyWeb 2.0 allows you to archive the page you're bookmarking, which is a great feature. If nothing else, the del.icio.us acquisition brings a lot of people with a lot of experience in this area of "tagging" the web into the Yahoo! fold. Hopefully, Yahoo! will be able to use their expertise to improve their service, which is great but clunky.

dave

uh, yahoo did not put tagging on the map...i'd much rather give such credits to throngs of librarians and information management wonks from eons ago, long before the internet (think dead sea scrolls, think indexing and concept relationships in ancient texts yadda yadda yadda)...tagging is just more hype, and a lot more of the same...nothin' new going on here, just people finally bothering to label crap that they would have labeled if offline regardless - providing that they had a desire for any sense of order in their lives.

Susan

Well said! Really great article. I've read with pleasure. Maybe it's offtopic, but i just wanted to say, that it's really interesting to read everything this with comments... You discuss here a lot of interesting things on different useful themes. Thanks for that =)

Ashley

This was a smart buy for Yahoo I just wonder if they have plans on buying furl or which engine will.

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