Social bookmarking has been around for a while now and is an area where I am a bit of a latecomer. The first real social bookmarking site (as far as I can recall so please feel free to correct me if I have it wrong) was del.icio.us which was also one of the pioneers of one of the key features of the Web 2.0 movement, namely tags (linked text that integrate into a service and enable you to locate content that has been similarly described using those tags). The way del.icio.us works is that, as you browse the Web and see content that appeals to you, you post the web addresses that content is on to your del.icio.us page and, in the process, bookmark it. Part of the bookmarking process involves allocating tags to the bookmarks which help describe and classify your bookmarks. Here is what some bookmarks look like:
As you can see, the bookmarks have titles, tags and even give you an indication how popular that web page is. This is where the social component of a service like del.icio.us comes in. A big aspect of these services is the ability to (with apologies to Jeremy Zawodny) share your bookmarks with others and even form networks around those bookmarks. In fact, bookmarks have evolved quite a bit since the 1990s and Niall Kennedy has a great review of the evolution of bookmarks and their various manifestations and uses.
Anyway, back to where I was going with this post. A number of similar services have sprung up. Some of these services are more aimed at sharing specific forms of content, for example news items (Digg is a particularly popular service) whereas others seek to improve on del.icio.us itself. Two examples of this latter type of service are BlueDot and the new Yahoo! Bookmarks.
Blue Dot is similar to del.icio.us in that it enables you to flag sites and pages you come across on the Web. You can also tag your bookmarks and perhaps leave a comment of your own but where BlueDot differs from del.icio.us (aside from the more attractive interface) is that BlueDot introduces a greater degree of collaboration to bookmarking. In a way, it allows for conversations to take place over specific links or bookmarks. If you are interested in a more comprehensive discussion, you can download and view this interview that Robert Scoble conducted with the guys at BlueDot in a recent episode of ScobleShow. Below is a video of the presentation at Gnomedex a couple months ago to introduce BlueDot:
The new Yahoo! Bookmarks represents a shift from Yahoo!’s old bookmarking site (basically a web page version of the html file you get when you export your bookmarks from your browser although interestingly enough it was used by around 20 million users according to Michael Arrington) to something between del.icio.us and BlueDot. The similarities to del.icio.us are not accidental. Yahoo! bought del.icio.us late 2005 (see more at TechCrunch and Yahoo! Search blog) and this has prompted at least one person, Rick Broida over at Lifehacker, to speculate whether this service marks the beginning of a move away from del.icio.us by Yahoo!?
As you can see from this example taken from my Yahoo! Bookmarks page, users of this service add their bookmarks to Yahoo! Bookmarks which then captures a thumbnail image of the bookmark and lists the tags you apply when you capture the bookmark. As with del.icio.us and a number of similar services, you can add bookmarks on the fly using a bookmarklet (or specialised link) on your browser toolbar (typically these can be dragged into the toolbar). According to the blurb about this service, Yahoo! Bookmarks will also grab some of the text of the page concerned and retain it as part of the bookmark. According to Marketing Pilgrim:
Yahoo hopes to use the new bookmarking tools to introduce users to the hip new world of "tagging". The company has 20 million toolbar users who are not as comfortable sharing their bookmarks and certainly don’t know much about tagging.
If you are already a del.icio.us user and would like to try the new Yahoo! Bookmarks out, then you’d be interested in the instructions on Yahoo! Bookmarks to export your del.icio.us bookmarks into a file which you can then import into Yahoo! Bookmarks.
These few services are really just a sample of the many similar services available, each of which has its own quirks and differences. What is clear is that there are many ways to make your browsing experience more of a group effort. Once again, this trend is an extension of the desire to collaborate and see what other people think and are doing.
For more information on the services in this story and perhaps a couple other thoughts, take a look at my del.icio.us bookmarks.