Yahoo’s axing of Delicious leaves a sour taste

So Delicious is off to the land of defunct social networks. This annoys me as it’s the best pure bookmarking site on the web; frankly I find Stumble Upon too gimmicky – and curiously hard to use – while the likes of Reddit and Digg are just popularity contests these days.

On every computer I work from, there’s a Delicious applet that automatically populates my Delicious account with the meta data from whatever page I’m bookmarking. I add a couple of tags and I’m off again, safe in the knowledge that I can easily find the page again when I need it.

For reasons best known to itself – at a guess something like Delicious is pretty hard to monetise – parent company Yahoo! is set to wave off the bookmarking site into the sunset, according to a leaked screenshot detailing strategies for the company’s sprawling, fragmented, declining empire.

Yahoo! has form with simply trashing stuff it fails to make anything of, with its complete binning of Geocities, and I fear a similar fate for Delicious, rather than let it continue under someone else or release it to open source.

Frankly, I just don’t know what Yahoo! is for any more. Ten years ago, in the era of homepages and mail and search engines, when people like MSN and AOL built up massive online footprints – cars, celebrities, news services, videos – and started acquiring start-ups like Delicious and Flickr, Yahoo! at least made sense within that landscape.

But five years ago everyone realised that, no matter how many news channels you opened, people just weren’t using the web in the same way any more. Google put paid to the other search engines, then slowly took over email, and people began to realise that you might as well get your news from a newspaper than a portal.

Facebook has started its cannibalisation of the web and is well on its way to becoming a true portal – the only page anyone needs to visit on the interweb. Another death knell for the horrifyingly busy, crowded, redundant Yahoo! and MSN homepages.

In this context, satellite services like Flickr and Delicious seem to make even more sense to me. Data is valuable; everyone takes photos; professionals and geeks like to share information; niche services become important in their own right.

Most of the freshest bookmarks on Delicious are users discussing the site's impending demise

The real value of Delicious, to me, was in a massive peer-reviewed repository of the valuable stuff on the web. In amongst all the self-serving newsletters, Twitter feeds and artificially-inflated search-engne rankings – Delicious offered the best of the web filtered by people who worked within the same industries that you did and could be trusted to share the really good stuff. Those delicious web bites that can get lost on the cess pool that is the modern internet.

Whenever I need to research something in journalism, social media, marketing, PR or anything else in the technical realm I turn to Delicious. I dare say coders, techies and a variety of other professionals do too. In this way Delicious was almost an uber search engine; no-one tried to game it like they do Google, Digg or Reddit so only the really good stuff was in there.

I doubt many people used Delicious in the grand scheme of things, but that made it all the more valuable (and I can’t understand how it could possibly cost much to run); and Yahoo! should have been able to make something of that, particularly when they own so much other ancillary real estate.

I never saw, for example, a way to integrate Delicious with my Yahoo! email account. Sure, there’s probably a way to do it, but it was never offered to me. Similarly, why not cross-reference Flickr and Delicious? Or introduce a nominal annual fee and stick some bells and whistles on it?

That Yahoo! doesn’t see the value in retaining Delicious just says, to me, that the company doesn’t really understand what it’s there for any more, that it’s lost sight of how to leverage what it has and make sense of those who continue to use their services.

There’s an online campaign pinging around the other social networks at the moment to save delicious, which indicates the depth of feeling among users. Will it work? I hope so, because Delicious may just be one of the more valuable online repositories of peer-reviewed knowledge in existence. If no-one sees the value of that I despair.