I tried del.icio.us a few months back, and simply did not see the appeal of it. It’s a service that allows you to save bookmarks online. OK, so what? It wasn’t until this past week where I re-visited the site and finally “got it”.
del.icio.us lets you store bookmarks with metadata - that whole “tags” thing that you see popping up in a bunch of different websites. For example, I could bookmark “CollegeFootballNews.com” and I might assign tags like “football” and “college” to it. Then, other sites that I bookmark might get tagged with “football” too. So when I browse by the “football” tag, I see all the websites I’ve tagged as “football”.
Now, if that was it, then it wouldn’t be very interesting. But there are a couple of important features on top of that. First, this is a social bookmarking service. Which means, you can see what other people have bookmarked, how many people have bookmarked any given page, and search for bookmarks. Not only can you dig through random aggregate bookmarks, but you can see bookmarks of individual people, including “subscribing” to bookmark feeds of your friends or people that you find bookmark interesting things. It’s a very neat way to discover new websites, as well as search for sites and sometimes get different/better results than you might with a Google search. Also, you can set certain bookmarks to “private”, so that your porn bookmarks aren’t on display to the world. You naughty readers.
Secondly, every page on del.icio.us contains an RSS feed of the bookmarks on it. If you combine that with Firefox’s “Live Bookmarks” feature, you can have sets of bookmarks inside your browser that you can update from any of your computers, and have those updates show up in Firefox on every other computer you use Firefox on. But even without that, it’s nice to be able to pull up the del.icio.us website and have your bookmarks anywhere.
What I’ve discovered is that the tagging system allows me to store a much larger amount of bookmarks than I am comfortable with in a traditional, in-browser system, and gives me an easy way to find things later. Bookmarks can have many tags, and so instead of just seeing all football sites when browsing the “football” tag, I can narrow it down to college football by looking at the “football” and “college” tags together (“football+college”), and maybe even narrow it down further to sites about draft prospects (“football+college+draft”), etc.
There are a bunch of applications for this that I’ve thought of or already began doing:
Sometimes I find a website and I want to read it later. I have a tag called “scraps” which I use to tag just those sorts of pages. Oftentimes I would just open a new Firefox tab and leave the old tab on the site to go back to… which would work OK until I’ve done it a few times and then notice Firefox is eating all of my RAM.
I’ve bugged Stacey for a long time to maintain a wish list, so that people can know what to buy her for gift-giving occasions. I’ve though about writing a PHP-based “wish list” script but I have too many other projects that I need to spend my time on. She has been copying and pasting links into a Word document, which works OK except I have to have her email it to me anytime I want to see the latest version. Instead, I could have her bookmark those sites and tag them with “wishlist”, which would allow me or anyone else to see her wish list at any time.
Subscribing to an RSS feed of the most recent popular bookmarks - giving me a finger on the pulse of the Internet (or, at very least, a steady stream of interesting things to read - this is where a lot of my “scraps” bookmarks come from)
I want to get a lot of friends & net-friends using del.icio.us, if only so that I can “subscribe” to them and check out their bookmarks. Right now, some of the site’s functionality is down, as they are restoring things from a power failure & database corruption. But the basic bookmarking & tagging works, so sign up and get your bookmarks online & tagged. Pretty soon, you’ll find a lot of other new, neat stuff to bookmark.