Del.icio.us users concerned about Yahoo acquisition

Users of social bookmarking company Del.icio.us are concerned about its future now that Yahoo has bought it.

Many Del.icio.us users are fretting over the social bookmarking company's acquisition by Yahoo because they fear the Internet giant will alter their beloved service in ways that would make it unappealing to them.

At press time, users had posted almost 400 comments to the blog entry on which Del.icio.us founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Joshua Schachter announced the Yahoo acquisition last Friday. Reactions range from users who are absolutely elated to those who are irreparably distraught: http://blog.del.icio.us/blog/2005/12/yahoo.html.

However, most users fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, congratulating Schachter for the deal's financial benefits, but also expressing skepticism and concern about Del.icio.us' future as part of Yahoo. Common worries are that Yahoo will wallpaper Del.icio.us with banner ads, force users to obtain a Yahoo ID and change the user interface. Currently, Del.icio.us is free to use and free of ads.

"I'm very happy for the del.icio.us team for their successful exit, but as a user I'm a bit saddened by the fact that they aren't going to try to go it alone. I think there is a certain amount of opportunity cost when an acquisition like this happens," wrote Toby Padilla in an e-mail interview with IDG News Service. "I think their innovation will slow as they have to contend with the baggage of existing Yahoo services and general corporate bureaucracy."

Padilla has been using Del.icio.us since December 2003, after he started seeing referrals from it in the visit logs of Musicmobs.com, a social music network of which he is CEO. Like so many others, Padilla soon became a die-hard fan of Del.icio.us.

The service lets its over 200,000 registered users save links to their favorite Web pages on a personal page hosted by Del.icio.us, label the links with descriptive tags and share their lists with other users.

Today, Padilla uses it constantly. "I post 5-10 links a day, check my user page probably 10 times a day and subscribe to a multitude of [Del.icio.us] RSS feeds that are checked regularly every hour," he wrote. "It's the best way to find out about new things."

This feeling is shared by Alex Boden, who bookmarks about 20 items every day, mostly about subjects he's interested in, like mobile technology, electronic publishing and Web analytics. He currently has about 1,030 bookmarked items on his Del.icio.us page.

"Del.icio.us is my memory," he wrote in an e-mail interview. "If I want to find out about anything, Del.icio.us is my first port of call, even before Google, because I know I can trust the other members to point me in the right direction."

Likewise, he feels he gives back to the Del.icio.us community because others benefit from checking out his ever-growing list of links. "Del.icio.us makes me a one-man content-filter/distribution system, if you will," wrote Boden, a product manager at MPS Technologies in London.

Boden, who has a master's degree in electronic communication and publishing, began using Del.icio.us in March and likes it just the way it is today. Understandably, the appearance of Yahoo in the picture makes him uneasy.

"I have mixed feelings. It was inevitable that Del.icio.us would be bought up at some stage -- that was almost their business model! -- so I'm not too surprised. I know Yahoo will do good work to make the user interface more approachable for non-technical users. But my main concern is that the democratization of Del.icio.us will dilute the actual quality of the content," Boden wrote.

Specifically, Boden worries that if Yahoo dilutes the user pool with non-technical users, the original users, who tend to be technically-savvy, may depart. "However, it may just mean that there will be more tags used in general ... and that Del.icio.us may become a bigger, more inclusive, community," he wrote.

Other users, like Rob Finn, aren't as apprehensive. Finn, a venture capitalist based in Philadelphia with no business ties to Yahoo or Del.icio.us, noted that Yahoo has a good track record with companies it has acquired, such as the paid search network Overture, the Web mail provider Oddpost and the photo sharing site Flickr.

"I am positive," Finn wrote in an e-mail interview. "For Del.icio.us users this will equate to easier search, higher probability of finding similar users [and] relevant Web sites, and a boatload of features that are requested or only dreamed up in places like Yahoo Labs." He has been using Del.icio.us for six months.

In an interview Friday, Del.icio.us' Schachter said users will greatly benefit from the acquisition, because Yahoo fully grasps the concept of social bookmarking and will provide the resources to continue to develop and enhance the service. "It just made sense in terms of vision, direction, technology, you name it. It's a good fit in every dimension," Schachter said.

Del.icio.us, founded in September 2003, is considered part of a wave of Internet companies called Web 2.0. Born after the dot-com collapse, Web 2.0 companies are said to share some key traits. One is that they make their end users a central element to their services, giving them the liberty and the tools to create, share and manage content, often through the use of descriptive tags.

Flickr, which Yahoo bought earlier this year, is considered part of the Web 2.0 generation, as are blog search provider Technorati Inc., Odeo Inc., a startup that lets users create and share audio files known as podcasts, and Padilla's Musicmobs.

But Padilla, himself the CEO of a Web 2.0 startup, thinks Del.icio.us and other Web 2.0 companies may be jumping too soon at the chance of being acquired. "Del.icio.us was a great multipurpose application that wasn't even monetized yet. I've honestly found them more useful than Google for finding information. To me, that says there was a lot of potential there to be a stand-alone company," he wrote.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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