The unexpected comeback of social bookmarking

The unexpected comeback of social bookmarking

Here’s some old news for you: Delicious is no more. The company that coined the term ‘social bookmarking’, back in 2003. Delicious – better known as – discontinued its services in the summer of 2018. Hailed as the promising new kid on the Web 2.0 block, this might come as a surprise.

Delicious once boasted millions of active users and the promise of being as successful as Facebook or Twitter (currently X). Venture capital acquired ownership. Yahoo came along and bought the company in 2005 but didn’t know what to make of its core business. They sold it in 2011 to the founders of YouTube, but three years later even they admitted defeat. Some two owners later it’s over for social bookmarking. Or is it?

Front page of the social bookmarking site Delicious

Delicious popularized Social Bookmarking

Fractured social bookmarking

When you closely look at the service Delicious has offered, you see that some of its key components have really taken off. Twitter and Facebook still thrive on links and comments about websites or articles your friends or followers find interesting. Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Instagram do the same, safely locking the user in their format with emphasis on images or news articles.

For the latest information, we mostly rely on Google. While searching – often for something we’ve found before – related sites might catch our eye. Google, with its limited understanding of what we are really looking for, introduces a bit of serendipity into our lives. Or distraction.

Google, Facebook, Twitter: all these sites are free, yet they come at a price. Google’s search engine might know more about us than our spouses or children. Facebook and Twitter got us addicted to information. And the information we get becomes increasingly biased.

We are social beings; we hunger for reliable information and new impulses. It’s just that Delicious, this one single social bookmarking website where we gather and share our information has fractured over so many devices, screens, and programs. The way information comes to us has become a lot more chaotic.

Social bookmarking and social media
Social bookmarking has become part of a lot of social platforms

Bookmarking: a home away from home

While some of us are fine with this situation, most still long for some order in the chaos. They want a place to gather, organize and browse the valuable information they’ve discovered. A place of peace and quiet in an ever-changing sea of information. But they also want to be able to quickly retrieve a link, a document, a recipe even to recommend it to a friend or colleague. Enter the second wave of social bookmarking sites.

With the advance of cheap Cloud Servers and new internet standards like HTML5, advanced CSS, and other server-side programming languages like Ruby on Rails, it no longer takes a small fortune to start your own company. APIs and plugins give the possibility to integrate many sources of information into one central hub. Today it mostly takes effort, some technical knowledge, and a lot of passion to build a new social bookmarking site. And there are a lot of them.

This second generation of social bookmarking sites no longer followed by the playbook of venture capitalists and big companies. They are user-centric and truly offer a home away from home: a start page you can freely change or organize to make it reflect your take on what’s important and relevant. And a place you like to bring others to, to share information, and to get inspired.

More than just a list of bookmarks

The heart of any bookmarking site remains the collection of links worth remembering. These bookmarks might be searchable, displayed with or without icons or favicons, simply listed or annotated with metadata, may be commented upon, or shared directly. However the second wave of social bookmarking services makes it more personal and adds productivity features.

Some bookmark managers provide an automated check of the viability of the link (e.g. a broken link checker). Such checks help to keep bookmark collections current and prevent the loss of valuable information. Others can suggest sites like the ones you’ve bookmarked. Or they might offer background information about your favorite links.

Productivity features such as broken link checkers entered the social bookmarking arena

Many bookmark managers also have the possibility to tag bookmarks to categorize links and find them quickly. Rating systems are a common feature too and perform a similar function, helping to filter extensive collections.

And finally, a bookmark manager will help you get started when you open your browser. It will help you focus and not get lost in the abyss of trivialities Google often proves to be. You know why you go to your bookmarking start page: it’s where you will quickly find what you need.

Bookmarking is personal, it is about you

Besides bookmarks, a modern-day bookmark manager commonly offers interesting extras and customization options. Integration of RSS feeds to import links from other blogs and news channels, for example. Or integrations with Facebook and Twitter, to get include social content in your collection.

Extras that help you spice up your bookmark collections typically include widgets. Widgets to display personal pictures or get the latest weather information. Or widgets to integrate various sources of information like graphs or spreadsheets to create dashboards. You might even embed websites, so you won’t have to click away to glance at them.

Customization is a primary characteristic of modern-day social bookmarking services. These options let you choose your style. You can change the background, and the theme and tweak various display settings. These are logical additions, as bookmarks are something deeply personal, and related to a person’s lifestyle and preferences.

These design-oriented features are not just gimmicks. They help to make bookmarking tools more effective. Structuring related links in attractive sections, pages or blocks doesn’t just look nice and tidy, it helps in quick retrieval. Humans are visual creatures, which is why the look and feel of social bookmarking tools are so important. Visual cues help us remember where to find the information we need.

Modern bookmarking tools offer extensive customization options

Bookmarking is still a valid business model

Since Delicious didn’t manage to move the masses, modern-day bookmark managers usually focus elsewhere. Their business model doesn’t just rely on advertising or affiliate income streams. They’ve discovered that people are willing to pay for a product if it delights the user. If it really makes life easier.

There appears to be a valued niche for a subscription model bookmark manager. Some even forgo the option to freely experiment with their solution, but most bookmark managers have chosen the freemium model, where both advertising and affiliate income can be disabled upon a monthly, yearly, or even a lifetime fee.

Freemium products are fully functional for free, but some extras will need to be paid

Social bookmarking for introverts

Delicious might be something of the past, but this doesn’t mean that social bookmarking ends there. Social bookmarking is very much alive. Technological advances offer new business opportunities and as a result there now are more bookmarking sites than ever. But these bookmarking sites take a much more personal direction. Social Bookmarking evolved into Personal Bookmarking. Or as Pinboard founder Maciej Cegłowski puts it: “Social bookmarking for introverts.”

What do you think?

There you have it, a brief overview of the history of Social bookmarking. Now, we’d like to ask your opinion about this subject. Where do you think bookmarking will go in the future? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

8 Replies to “The unexpected comeback of social bookmarking”

  1. You should also check out!!! It’s a smart bookmarking website which allows you to save bookmarks indefinitely. Also it is free of charge! all you have to do is make an account and start saving away.

  2. I have no will at all in sharing my bookmarks or seeing others, as I never did with RSS Reader. With exception of some celebrities, I don’t see anyone with such interest either. In a time with so much content available, I don’t see ppl lacking content and having to look at what others are seeing, much less bookmarking.

    What I need is a way to organize my bookmarks so that I can store and retrieve them quick. FireFox’s history on address bar was very good and replaced some space from bookmark, but now that I’m on Chrome its very very bad, I can’t delete mistyped URLs, and even so ofter it sends me to Search instead of opening the URL, so I’m in need of bookmarks again.

    But I can’t live with a small meny with folders, I need somthing quicker to retrieve and quicker to store, as I said. And Chrome’s bookmark manager is a total shame!

    I’m using for a few hours and it seems very promissing. Having start page as a bookmark screen seems to be the way to go. I open a new tab an alrdy have my bookmark, using all the available space, and go directly to where I want.’s search bar also replaced Google page!

    FireFox’s start page didn’t have much useness but most visited sites had some. Chrome’s empty search bar is useless. has the best of all.

    1. Great to hear this, Hikari! We love to make your online life just a bit easier. And yes, we understand that not everyone will be interested in sharing their links, but we know many do too. At any rate, keep us posted, ok? Cheers!

  3. I have used web based bookmarking since I started on the internet in 1996. Some as you said have come and gone. I’m a very happy premium member. Good work!

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