When I put my cursor into the URL box either at home on my Chrome machine or at work on Firefox, the first thing in the drop-down menu, whether or not I type a letter is http://delicious.com/network/pru
, and it has been since at least 2003/2004, when svmadelyn
pointed out this funky little online bookmarking service and I thought, "Hey, cool," and got an account.
Delicious is my recipe book, my Huffington Post, it's the clothespin that keeps a note saying "HEY, DUMBASS" attached to my virtual jacket. More than that, Delicious was a sieve for the internet: you want a good latke recipe? Do a delicious search, it's already pre-filtered by users, who have also probably commented, the most-tagged links are probably the best, there was an intrinsic value system built in. The devotees of the site are true devotees, too: I held off on Chrome adoption until someone came up with a non-ass delicious extension. That site dictated the way I interacted with the internet. A month or two ago, I was looking for possibly the most obscure fandom ever, Jonathan Creek, and after ff.net failed to turn up anything, after Google turned up an endless sprawl of indiscriminate shit, I went to delicious and it puked up the only two good stories on the internet, lickety split. If we lose Delicious, we won't have it anymore.
It's clear that Yahoo!, after purchasing Delicious with little fanfair but probably a lot of money, utterly ignored it, failed to curate it, never saw it for its potential. But at least we were left alone and moderately happy in our obscurity. The fact that news Yahoo is closing Delicious
was leaked out is the beginning of the end: it's unlikely Yahoo's going to reverse its position based on an a smallish -- compared to the size of Yahoo and size of other social networking sites (not that Delicious is social networking, exactly) -- but deeply distressed userbase. They already fired the staff. (Right before Christmas, too. Nice, assholes.) It's more or less over. They could sell it, in theory, but wouldn't they have tried that already? And sunset doesn't mean "sell," sunset means "discontinue service."
What made Delicious so amazing? And how did it seem to get better despite zero attention from Yahoo? It was just the userbase and nothing more. The more people used it, the more we fed the machine with tags and built up our collections, curated our digital archives the more useful it was. It was totally source agnostic: Delicious didn't care what you were tagging and where, it bowed to no closed systems, and it was so light and so intuitive and so fucking easy.
Hey, you wanna find a recipe? Search for things people have tagged recipe. Within that, maybe you'll think you want chicken, and you can narrow it down further, until you have a stack of the best and most well-liked chicken tagine recipes collected over almost a decade by users who've tried them out, or wondered about the same thing. In the context of fandom, this was even truer: you want everything about McKay/Sheppard? Delicious can do that for you. You want to find McKay/Sheppard hurt/comfort? Try both those tags, and you'll also find hc, h/c, and maybe you'll fan out to schmoop, or AU, or hell, robots. It was a roadmap for everyone from the wanderers, the type of people who go into bookstores with zero purpose and wide-open curiosity or sit in the nonfiction section and just pore over all the book, to the highly goal-oriented, because everybody loves a little specificity.
If someone else buys it in its current format and doesn't change a thing -- then fantastic. Amazing. But it won't change the fact Yahoo has probably and irrevocably fucked up one of the earliest depositories of web 2.0 user defined culture and metadata, because whoever would be buying the site could hardly be doing it out of charity (unless it's Google? dear Google, you love data, please buy ours, it's already 90 percent public! PLEASE), and maybe they'll charge money for the service, or limit it or set up tiers or what have you, the way the alternatives to Delicious have done.
And that leads to the truly fucking terrible thing about this: Delicious was amazing because of its locus of users. You had a huge body of people who were actively building your archives and assigning metadata tags. You do anything to change that userbase, you're losing value -- so this diaspora to Diig, to Xmarks, to Google Bookmarks, to Pinboard, to whichever website you were DDOS'sing in panic last night, that's breaking my God damn heart, because it's another set of bookmarks far flung -- it's fragmentation. Even in trying to save ourselves we're losing, intrinsically, what made the service unparalleled. You're going to lose people if you charge money. You're going to lose bookmark collections if you move. There's no way around it. There's nothing to be done.
Among the gnashing of teeth, rending of clothes, and tearing of hair heard across the nerdcore of the internet was the saddest thing of all associated with the rumored (more or less confirmed) demise of Delicious: the fact that last night, after the news broke, terrified users more or less broke Diigo and Pinboard in their rush to transfer their bookmarks, all their metadata, their years of collected information. We took down Pinboard like champions, and Diig, which has a free service, also has pay services with more options -- all that really means is that in our mass efforts to back-up our online scrapbooks, our internet lives, we more or less proved what Yahoo never bothered to consider: Delicious could have been monetized. You could have made money off of the service. Probably it never would have been a blockbuster -- but who knows? Maybe it could have been? We'll just add it to the list of amazing internet properties that Yahoo squandered like so much talent over the years.
In my post-triple-shot-latte-and-no-sleep-
last-night fervor, I sat at my desk doing some back-of-the-envelope math today at work.
As of November 2008
, delicious had 5.3 million users. Let's assume that of that number, half are defunct or abandoned accounts. Of that number, let's assume only half are active enough users to be hurt by the loss of service. That still leaves about 1.3 million users of delicious who may have -- if you'd bothered to fucking ask us -- been willing to pay you some quantity of money to access your product.
According to the Flickr upgrade page
, a one-year pro account costs about $25, with a two-year account costing about $48, and that's for a service that uses up masses more bandwidth, server space, and probably employee time than Delicious -- with its acres of text -- ever could.
But let's be generous, let's say that Yahoo had charged equivalent rates for Delicious service, $25 a year, $48 for two. If everyone of that 1.3 million users went for a year-by-year payment plan, they'd make $32.5 million a year from the service on the top line; if they went halvies, with half choosing year-by-year, and half going for the $2 discount for two, they'd have made $63.7 million over two years, or $31.9 million per year.
I don't know how much money it took to run Delicious. I won't believe it if they say it's more than $15 million on an operating basis per year. And obviously all of this is just me and a calculator and crazy speculation, but keep in mind that's a pure subscriber model on a body of users for a service that was never advertised, never developed, never cared for at all I'm talking about here. I haven't taken into account potential ad models based on search results. They could have been Twitter or a more concentrated and interactive Google -- but they weren't. They could have made money off of it; they could have made something even more wonderful out of an already-wonderful product.
Instead, they're shipping it off into the sunset.
Fuck you, Yahoo. Die in a fire.