Read Delicious

Posted on 4 March 2009 at 11:09 pm in Musings.

Looks tasty, does it not? Delicious, perhaps? (and its newer,  friendlier to the eye url, has become one of the poster children for “Web 2.0″ applications. Why is it so popular? What advantages does it offer? What makes it so tasty?

I would posit the single biggest reason for its popularity is its portability. Few heavy internet users — the omnivores of the ether — spend their whole time using one computer. Many have a computer at work, and a computer at home. Perhaps both a desktop and a laptop, or a Mac and a PC. For users with more than one computer, Delicious offers one simple, elegant solution to retaining bookmarks; instead of lodging them all in a browser or browser toolbar, contained to one machine, their bookmarks are automatically transferred to an online database and retrievable from any machine. It’s one of the key principles of “cloud computing“, and Delicious does it simply and intuitivly.

While I believe that is Delicious’ single most appealing aspect, it certainly isn’t the end of its usefulness. In fact, the system is designed to be much more: a human-powered search algorithm, encouraging its educated user-base to tag their favorite pages across the wide expanse of the internet frontier. By applying folksonomic tags to every page, the users provide the means to search terms for sites already approved of by discerning readers. It’s an end-around to Google’s computer driven matrix and can help bypass commercial junk in favor of genuine, interesting pages.

So naturally I searched for my own page to see what would come up. Specifically, the word pinakes. Now, I certainly own no copyright to the word; it is ancient in origin and naturally appealing to librarians, archivists and catalogers so I was not surprised by the range of pages returned in a Delicious search. Amongst its 46 appearances, it brought me to search portals, a model database for scientific artifacts (that one seemed particularly cool: I might tag it myself), a Spanish-language online education periodical, an art blog in a Cyrillic alphabet (which language I could not say, nor its relation to the pinakes), a wiki-manual for an Italian information database, and even two bookmarks pointing to this humble blog — and I’m only responsible for one of them. I have a reader! The user in question, who I do not know, thought to tag this website under “web”, “2.0″, and “library” — not bad.

The ability to funnel users, networks or tags into RSS feeds only gives Delicious even greater versatility. As it continues to expand its user base, it will be interesting to see to what degree social bookmarking replaces the shotgun approach of traditional search engines.

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