I’ve got some major writing deadlines coming up, but in case you haven’t heard, it appears that the social bookmarking site del.icio.us will soon be shut down. Yahoo has announced that it will layoff the entire team that runs the site, in part (I guess) because it wasn’t generating enough revenue for them. This will likely lead to a mass scrambling to export del.icio.us bookmarks to one of the many other social bookmarking sites out there on the web. If you need some assistance with that process (as I will), Lifehacker has a useful blog post explaining how to export your links to another service (right now, I’m leaning toward Diigo).
Although the Guardian blog post cited above is correct in suggesting that the del.icio.us interface wasn’t perfect, I have become pretty dependent upon the site for storing and organizing links for many of my research projects, including my book, a process I’ve continued to use in the preliminary stages of my second book. In fact, I probably should have tipped my cap to the site in the acknowledgements of my book. And I had become accustomed to sitting down with a cup of coffee (or two) and sifting through my RSS feed (Google Reader) to find blog posts and articles of interest that I would then bookmark on del.icio.us and then write about on my blog. The process helped me to think through the links, to see patterns, and (in most cases) to compile several responses to a news story before blogging about it myself. I could then go back to my del.icio.us later to find those carefully organized (unlike pretty much everything else in my office) links and turn that material into a more linear argument.
There are obviously some alternatives here. One can hope that Yahoo will either sell off del.icio.us or allow it to go open source, but those choices don’t seem likely, if the Guardian post is correct. And although Yahoo is implying that del.icio.us is not a “strength” of the company, it’s one of the few unique offerings that Yahoo seems to have. There are plenty of email services out there, many other search engines that are stronger, other ways of accessing information such as movie times, and there are plenty of other websites out there that have equally annoying advertisements. So I don’t really get this choice. But it is a reminder that one shouldn’t take even the best online services for granted.
But the closure of del.icio.us, if or when it happens, is a powerful reminder that these web tools that we use to organize our research or social communication are not necessarily permanent. Although the concept of social bookmarking will certainly continue, it’s important to be aware of how specific tools and services can change or even disappear.
Update: Several articles are now reporting that Yahoo plans to sell, rather than shut down, Delicious. But their recent actions have me at least mildly concerned about all of the bookmarks I have compiled, so I will still be backing things up with Diigo.