Read/Write Web points to something I find both sad and a little perplexing: del.icio.us, the granddaddy of social bookmarking sites, isn’t catching on. They don’t really dig into why it isn’t catching on. Still, it’s a bit disappointing. I ran an Alexa chart and the results were even more disappointing:
Note: I always take in Alexa charts with the proverbial grain of salt.
So what gives? Why is a service that is as cool and useful as del.icio.us not able to catch on? Some theories:
- Nobody really needs a way to centrally store their bookmarks. The browser is just fine. Ouch. This one hurts. As much as we’d like to think that the sea level of technology is rising and lifting us all towards enlightened levels of productivity and social interactions, reality is quite different. Most people keep a few bookmarks – their bank, some news page (CNN and such), a handful of special interests…and that’s it. Most people also don’t need their bookmarks centrally stored. They use one computer and their bookmarks are on it.
- Most people don’t understand what del.icio.us does. Another big factor. Read/Write sort of alludes to this by pointing out that 8 of the top 10 delicious tags are technology related. Ask your uncle what del.icio.us is and he’ll probably just tilt his head and lose interest almost immediately. Also, del.icio.us’ web presence isn’t exactly inviting. I’ve always loved its minimalist style, but for the uneducated, it doesn’t help a whole lot. Compound that with the 15-minute tutorial that "tagging" deserves and you’re left with a real challenge.
- People don’t feel compelled to share del.icio.us with others. Unlike viral sites like Facebook and Youtube, you don’t need to go back to del.icio.us to reap its rewards. If I find a worthwhile link on del.icio.us, I’m just going to share that link with others, not its representation in del.icio.us.
I personally love del.icio.us. I think it’s a great service and I don’t mind taking the time to evangelize it. However, I think there is a lesson learned here: sympathize with your audience; appreciate what they don’t understand (or don’t care to understand); and finally…figure out what you’re really going after.
It could well be argued that del.icio.us targets a niche need (bullet #1 above) and not much else. I’m skeptical of that excuse though. The needs and wants can get pretty blurry if the value is there. It’s more a matter of making that value accessible. And good, thoughtful, empathetic design is the only way to get there.
After all, nobody really needs an iPod. Or do they?