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July 13, 2004

Social link management

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Posted by Clay Shirky

I’m fascinated with the way that a bunch of old ideas floating around from the dot com era are back, and now succeeding. Many of these apps are explicitly social, and are benefitting from the larger user population and increased comfort — it took quite a while for to catch on, and sixdegrees had much of the Friendster model down by 1996 and flamed out anyway.

One really interesting category of these v 2.0 apps is shared bookmarking, a la the service Backflip from Back in the Day. So, with a minimum of editorializing, here is a list of places doing some form of shared link management, which are providing some of Tom Coates’ “user-friendly throw-aroundable clumps of groupness.”

  • (Subscribe to users or to user-created tags)
  • Bookmarkmanager -”>Bookmarkmanager (Host your own)
  • Dude, Check this out (BEST. URL. EVAR.)
  • Spurl (Sitewide hot list; saves page contents as well as links)
  • Feed Me Links! (Pretty UI, but several features broken)
  • Furl ( knock-off; caches pages)
  • Gibeo (shared remote site annotation; more like 3rd Voice)
  • Linkfilter (Moderated)
  • Simpy (Find people like you through their links)
  • Stumble Upon (Cross-platform toolbar; explicit user rating [added 7/23])

    Add more in the comments if you know of any, and I’ll amend the list here.

    My personal recommendation is If I had to sum up the Web’s effects on the world, I’d say “surprised by simplicity.” Unlike most other technologies, we’re witnessing a shift to simpler apps over time, as with the way million dollar CMS systems and collaboration via Lotus Notes shifts to weblogs and wikis. hits that same pattern — not a single wasted feature, it just works the way the Web does.

    And my anti-recomendation is Amplify. Using it, I had a horrible flashback to the bad old days of Backflip, where the idea was the the user would store their links on Backflip, who would then make it almost impossible for the user to get at those links in aggregate, to store a copy locally, or to get to their links should Backflip be down.

    Amplify is that same terrible idea — your links are stored as “Amps,” and everything you click is an uninformative Amp redirect, so even if you get to a page with a link on it, you can’t copy the URL without also visiting the link, and then, when you do visit an “Amp” (always mistrust people who try to re-brand key parts of the Web) it’s in a frame, so that you can’t easily share it without also sending the recipient through Amplify.

    And, as the glistening maraschino cherry on the towering sundae of badness, the categories are pre-fab rather than user created, and there are even 14 of them, the Yahoo-official number of top level categories.

    I suppose the flipside of the “everything old is new again” pattern is that the old bad ideas get a re-play as well as the old but good ones. I can’t imagine why anyone would hand their links over to Amplify — the info-to-eye-candy ratio on the pages is at PowerPoint levels, and the “we’ll capture the users eyeballs and hold them hostage” link model, already broken in the mid-90s, has now been superseded by things like and Bookmarkmanager. Grrrr.

  • Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


    1. Ari Paparo on July 13, 2004 2:24 PM writes... is probably the most powerful and professionally run of all the bookmark services. We've been in operation for almost 5 years (formerly as and have thousands of paying users. The cost is $36 per year for new users.

    Permalink to Comment

    2. John Sands on July 13, 2004 4:13 PM writes...

    Damn! I recently started pouring stuff into Furl, but your post makes me concerned that many of these services have to go out of business, unless the market for them expands enormously. If only one of them had a guaranteed exit strategy: "If we go out out business, we'll give you a way to get your content out first." (Imagine a company admitting that they might go out of business!)

    Permalink to Comment

    3. Alex Halavais on July 13, 2004 6:38 PM writes...

    While furl may be a knock off (I haven't played with enough to have a feel for this), furl does have the advantage of archiving target pages so that when they 404 you still have a copy.

    Of course, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the IP lawyers flatten furl.

    Permalink to Comment

    4. reed on July 13, 2004 8:40 PM writes...

    The problem is that once the central sharing site goes down for good the whole ecosystem vanishes. And they could never scale web-wide. (Except when GoogleBookmarks comes out of course :)

    I'd rather something on the FOAF and RSS models: I post my bookmarks on my site in a standard format, and we use whatever app/browser plugin/webservice (with the expectation that a nice selection of such software gets created) we each choose to work with it.

    Bookmarkmanager (your link to that is broken BTW) looks like it might work a bit like that; any others to check out?

    For the LAN, OmniWeb lets you publish and browse bookmarks using Rendezvous.

    Permalink to Comment

    5. Randy Charles Morin on July 13, 2004 10:04 PM writes...

    Thanks Dude!

    Permalink to Comment

    6. Zbigniew Lukasiak on July 14, 2004 5:13 AM writes...

    "I’d rather something on the FOAF and RSS models: I post my bookmarks on my site in a standard format, and we use whatever app/browser plugin/webservice (with the expectation that a nice selection of such software gets created) we each choose to work with it."

    But you can do it allready. It's called HTML - you put the links on your HTML page on the server and voila, the whole world can view them.

    Permalink to Comment

    7. Reed on July 14, 2004 9:31 AM writes...

    Zbigniew: Quite!

    We can simply extend HTML markup in a few small ways: We want to (1) explicitly link to the bookmarks page from some other page (e.g. your home page or blog); (2) we want to explicitly identify the bookmarks page as a bookmarks page; and (3) we want to add some attributes to each link such as keywords, time we last looked at it, maybe a rating of some kind, etc.

    (1) and (2) can be achieved using the <link> and <meta> HTML tags. (3) can be achieved by importing existing XML namespaces (e.g. Dublin Core keywords, author, timestamps) and creating a new one for things like ratings and other "social-bookmark" specific stuff.

    Then the last piece is to create software (browser plugins, standalone, or web service) which understands such bookmark pages to be special and give you special tools to work with them. (And to import/export public, shared bookmarks to your personal (normal) bookmarks).

    Permalink to Comment

    8. Mike Giles on July 14, 2004 2:51 PM writes...

    Always nice to see more writing on this topic. A few comments/responses regarding Furl.

    John Sands raises a valid concern (i.e. what if these business go under). Although we don't believe that will be an issue at Furl, we do address it in our FAQ and also allow users to export their entire archive in an open format (both meta data and saved pages).

    As for the copyright concerns raised by Alex (also addressed in the FAQ), Furl does save copies of the web pages you archive (including password protected content), but it doesn’t let you share that copy with others. Thus it falls within the realm of personal use.

    In response to Furl being a knock-off of (which it isn't), in my mind they are still meeting a different need. I personally can't think of a link that I like enough to share, but don't also want to save the full text of (in case it goes into archives or rots). Nor do I want to find my important/interesting documents later by browsing or simply searching titles and comments (Furl provides full text search across the articles/pages that you save (like your own Google)). Further, I want to share with people who don't know what RSS is (through daily email messages), I want recommendations based on what I save, and I want it to be non-technical enough that my family members can use it. That is why Furl was created.

    Permalink to Comment

    9. Lion Kimbro on July 14, 2004 7:57 PM writes...

    I'm working on a system called "Local Names."

    The goal is something like this:

    You write "Community != Content," and you give it a Local Name, perhaps "CommunityIsntContent." Then people who subscribe to your names can type "CommunityIsntContent" instead of in their blog entries, wiki pages, instant messages, and e-mails.

    This is sort of like "wiki for blogs," ...where it's super-easy to refer to what other people have already said!

    Read our web page for more information:

    We need help! If you can help popularize the idea, integrating it into more systems, create collections of links, or whatever, we'd really like to talk with you!

    Permalink to Comment

    10. nick on July 15, 2004 5:06 AM writes...

    What's compelling, I think, about (the one link management site I use these days) isn't necessarily the social/shared element, but that it discreetly adds a timestamp, and that temporality makes for better recall.

    From a personal perspective, browser-based bookmarks became a write-only tool a good few years ago, in part because of 404s -- I should look at furl -- but in part because I couldn't work out just why I added the links in the first place. Having temporal context is useful in that regard.

    (I'd like to suggest other people's keywords, though. Mapping different taxonomies would be fun.)

    Permalink to Comment

    11. Zbigniew Lukasiak on July 15, 2004 5:17 AM writes...

    To Mr. Reed

    I don't think we need (2) - all the links from my wiki should qualify as my bookmarks with just one exclusion - links to pages that I present as examples of something wrong (like spam etc). But eventually methods for marking can be the same as you propose. Then, I think the software that we really need are specialized and idividualized web crawlers.

    By the way I have a project on maintaining bookmarks, you can find it on my wiki under ActiveBookmarks. But it is still centralized software. I had some problems with HTML screen scraping and I did not move ahead with that project for some time.

    Permalink to Comment

    12. dreww on July 15, 2004 11:51 AM writes...

    furl/delicious might not be an orkut/club nexus level rip-off, but looks awful familiar. is all i'm saying.

    between the simpy guy's registering multiple del accounts to post links to his new site, and several other social bookmark wankers touting their commercial activites on delicious' open mailing list, it certainly is at the top of the 'catches the most shit' metric.

    Permalink to Comment

    13. Liudvikas Bukys on July 16, 2004 4:20 PM writes...

    You could add the BlogLines ClipBlog feature to the list of bookmark managers.

    Permalink to Comment

    14. dave on July 18, 2004 10:58 PM writes...

    uh, furl is not a rip-off of - in fact, the two are not really that similar, nor were they started in similar timeframes (take a look at the archives, the internet archives that is (

    i like furl a lot, and i've interviewed mike giles (creator) for - it's a bit more than what you've jotted down. the interview with him is now up at passingnotes and my corp site if you'd like to read it, also on somewhere as well - might help you to see how it is not as clumsy as

    my wooden nickel ;)

    Permalink to Comment

    15. dreww on July 19, 2004 10:29 AM writes...

    yes, i love this idea that is now the ultimate arbiter of truth. because it spiders EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET AS SOON AS IT APPEARS.

    and yeah, furl is clearly so great because it enabled you to post a relevant link to an interview YOU DID with the CREATOR. oh wait, no, it didn't. here is a link to all the delicious users that have chosen to archive your idiocy.

    Permalink to Comment

    16. dreww on July 19, 2004 10:31 AM writes...

    rather, here is the link:

    also, let's have a webforum in which commenters aren't allowed to link to things. that truly demonstrates a keen understanding of how the web operates. HERE ARE MY ADVERTISING DOLLARS, CORANTE.

    Permalink to Comment


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