This might sound like “old” news, but I am more interested in the context. Just before Christmas, Yahoo announced…or rather the information was leaked that Yahoo intended to shut down its famous social bookmarking site Delicious, along with a list of other Yahoo products. Even though the information was refuted almost immediately on the Delicious blog (“No, we are not shutting down Delicious”; “We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious” etc.), the damage had been done and users started looking for alternatives. On December 17th 2010, countless blogs started publishing alternative lists, how-to tutorials to migrate one’s bookmarks to other equivalent sites and Alec Couros started a very successful crowd sourcing exercise to assess potential alternatives to Delicious. On December 18th 2010, Pinboard reported in their blog a surge of 7 million bookmarks into their servers all importing from Delicious while Diigo tweeted on December 21st 2010 it was completing the process of importing 30 million bookmarks.
While I have been a big fan of Delicious’ ad-free, uncluttered and minimalist design for a while now, I don’t think the December 16th announcement should have come as a surprise at all. One of the distinguishing characteristics of any social web application is their state of Perpetual Beta. We are accustomed to the fact that all the Firefox/Google/Facebook of this world are constantly releasing new versions, revisions or updates of their products based on user feedback for the most part. This clearly was no longer happening for Delicious as it had been more or less stagnant for more than a year. Last month, Simply Zesty (the Dublin based Online PR & Social Media blog) published interesting statistics concerning “the continuing decline of Web 2.0 sites” (namely Delicious as well as Digg, Flickr, MySpace and Bebo):
|Count of unique visitors to delicious.com over the last year|
While increased competition or lack of finances can explain some of the decline, the perceived stagnation and lack of new features becomes a critical factor from a user’s point of view. Just look at two of the direct competitors of Delicious quoted above: Pinboard have issued a very clear roadmap of the current live features and of the features they intend to implement while Diigo have visualized their Perpetual Beta as follows:
|Perpetual Beta according to Diigo.com|
Commentators often quote Moore’s law to explain the constant evolution of hardware technology. Moore’s law is essentially concerned with the doubling of transistor counts on microchips every two years thus leading to an exponential growth in processing speed and memory capacity of countless electronic devices. While in theory Moore’s law has nothing to do with Web 2.0 and social media applications, one must recognize that it still creates a particular technological environment prone to constant change and evolution. All the programming languages underpinning software tools are also undergoing constant updates while these tools and applications are in Perpetual Beta themselves.
From a learning perspective, the equivalent of Perpetual Beta is continuous and lifelong learning. I can’t put it better than Harold Jarche (whose blog tag line incidentally reads: “Life in Perpetual Beta”):
Perpetual beta is my attitude toward learning – I’ll never get to the final release and my learning will never stabilise.
When social bookmarking tools are of critical importance to support continuous learning, it is ironic to think that Delicious might eventually fade for abandoning the Perpetual Beta cycle.