Yahoo Got Delicious, But…

Yahoo was the number one website, but about to be overtaken by… MySpace. It was 2006. The April 3 issue of Newsweek magazine had as cover story “The New Wisdom of the Web”, by Steven Levy and Brad Stone.

The article features a couple of firms acquired by Yahoo. One was Flickr, which had “a vibrant community built around photos”, and a photogenic couple of founders (they were on the cover of that issue). The other was del.icio.us, built around bookmarks.

Delicious, like the original Yahoo, was about favorite websites. Yahoo started as links to its founders’ favorite sites, then linked to more and more sites, using a hierarchy to organize the links.

Delicious was based on a bottom-up approach. You bookmarked your favorite sites. As you added a site, such as Newsweek.com, to your Delicious bookmarks, you could apply tags to it. For example, you might have applied the tags “magazine” and “deadtree” to Newsweek.

“The central idea is harnessing collective intelligence.” That’s Tim O’Reilly, quoted by Levy and Stone. Delicious certainly did that. Delicious bookmarks weren’t just individuals keeping track of sites for themselves. They were, actually or potentially, the basis for recommendations to other users, communities of users, accounts of interests, and means of targeting ads.

Joshua Schachter, founder of Delicious, left Yahoo in 2008, frustrated at the lack of progress on Delicous after he had sold it to Yahoo in 2005. del.icio.us still exists, having changed hands a few times.

Delicious seems like a particularly striking fumble for Yahoo. It looked like a social successor to the original Yahoo.

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