Friday, 11 July 2008

Which Social Bookmarking Tool?

I check the front page of Digg to find out what people are talking about on the web quite regularly, but I've never made use of the social bookmarking services offered by systems like del.icio.us. However, since I work on my blog on multiple computers and often in internet cafes, I figured its about time I jump on this particular bandwagon (only 4 years late!), if only so I can access my bookmarked pages from anywhere.

Del.icio.us could perhaps be said to be the original social bookmarking service, but is it still the best? ...Or should I sign up for something else? Wikipedia lists 20 social bookmarking sites. Some of these are, like Digg, more suitable for sharing news than for using as a remote bookmarking service, so I've narrowed it down to 5 competitors to del.icio.us. They are: Ma.gnolia, Simpy, Furl, Spurl, and Blinklist.

Because del.icio.us is more popular and longer-established than the other sites I list, the other 5 tend to be discussed in terms of how they compare to it, and many of them are promoted on the basis of their offering something different to del.icio.us. So...

Ma.gnolia has one immediate point in its favour when compared to del.icio.us - its appearance. While del.icio.us is sparse and functional, the designers of the ma.gnolia website have clearly put a considerable amount of effort into making their site attractive.
Ma.gnolia also offers a much more social 'social bookmarking' experience, offering users profiles and avatars, while del.icio.us keeps it simple: Clicking on a username leads you simply to a plain list of that user's bookmarks.
When ma.gnolia started out it was a little lacking in technical wizardry compared to del.icio.us and some of the other sites I'm going to talk about, however more recently an API like that of de.licio.us has been added to ma.gnolia, and a system called Ma.gnolia Roots that allows ma.gnolia community interaction to be integrated into a browser extension has been introduced. Reports on useability, however, are mixed. Ma.gnolia clearly has elements of superiority to del.icio.us, but the sum total leaves me a little underwhelmed.

Simpy is one of the least well-known of the social bookmarking sites, even though it is also one of the oldest, having been established in May 2004. Its stand-out features are its full-text search capability, and the ability to use Google AdSense to make (a small amount of) money from your bookmarking. However, it is a very basic interface with no advanced technical wizardry (a browser toolbar button is about as exciting as it gets). Improvements in del.icio.us since it was acquired by Yahoo! mean there is no reason to choose Simpy instead.

Furl's standout attribute is its ability to capture websites rather than just bookmark them, saving copies of web-pages to its own hosted archive. This is an attractive feature, particularly when saving political blog posts (which occasionally put on a disappearing act, e.g.) or pages from the BBC website! It allows bookmarks to be made private as well as public, and the Furl 'bookmarklet' can be integrated with Firefox for ease of bookmarking - the latest version is Firefox 3 compatible.
Furl is smaller than deli.cio.us, with fewer users and therefore a less comprehensive archive of bookmarked pages - but then I'll probably continue to use Digg for the purpose of finding interesting webpages. It has fewer community-oriented features than ma.gnolia also, but since I blog and use Twitter already I don't anticipate missing much in this regard. The archiving, privacy and simple browser add-ons of Furl mean that with 2 sites left to consider, it is clearly in the lead.

Spurl is one of the smaller social bookmarking services - it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page - and its most attractive features are the archiving of web-pages and the browser-integrated 'bookmarklet' for bookmarking pages. So far, so familiar; and its hard to escape the sense that Spurl is somehow little more than a mini-me Furl.
The fact that the Spurl front page announces as I write that Spurl is "currently forced to offer reduced functionality due to heavy spam attacks" does little to give me confidence that this is a well-run, reliable service built to last, unlike the LookSmart-backed Furl. I have no compunction in eliminating Spurl from consideration.

Blinklist is the most interesting of the set. Of all of the services I've discussed, I'd say Blinklist has the best-presented front page. It seems their marketing hasn't extended much beyond this, however. As with Spurl it has no Wikipedia page - not a good sign - and it's not exactly a well-known name.
That doesn't necessarily mean its not a worthwhile service, however. Blinklist's most attractive feature is its speed: A straightforward approach to bookmarking (the one-click 'Blink It' button). Beyond that, it has social features that are superior to del.icio.us but inferior to ma.gnolia - there's clearly elements that have been influenced by Digg. Its community is so much smaller than that using del.icio.us, though. Even popular sites like iGoogle homepage have less than 200 'blinks'! There is no archiving feature, unlike Furl. Blinklist is not the worst of the 5, but it certainly isn't the best.

For me, after having considered and put aside Ma.gnolia, Simpy, Spurl and Blinklist, it comes down to a choice between del.icio.us and Furl. These are the two largest sites of the 5, which I considered to be a significant plus point because a) they have bigger communities sharing bookmarks and b) I consider that larger sites are more likely to be reliable (unlike Spurl, currently suffering badly from spam). The immediate attraction of del.icio.us is its simplicity and its popularity. However, I do think that I will find the archiving Furl offers very useful - blog posts and even whole blogs sometimes vanish off the face of the web.

Primarily for that reason, but also considering the ease of bookmarking from Firefox and its searching and privacy functions, I have chosen to make Furl my social bookmarking service of choice.

6 comments:

Jim said...

In the BuzzMarker.com HOT 25 rankings for June for social bookmarking sites, here are the top 10 sites in terms of unique visitors...for just the category of "bookmarking". This excludes the "news" and "specialty" sites, like Digg and Kaboodle, respectively.
1. Reddit 2. Technorati 3. Stumbleupon 4. Sphere 5. Delicious 6. Plaxo 7. esnips 8. Mixx 9. Sphinn 10. Fark

The full BuzzMarker.com HOT 25 report will be posted soon at www.BuzzMarker.com. Hope that helps

Matt Wardman said...

It's useful to look at the "rating" side as well as bookmarking in a bit more detail:

Potential as a marketing tool.
The user demographic for each service.
The type of content that they "like".
The traffic they deliver.

For example, Digg likes catchy or strange posts and delivers a deluge of say 25k users in 12-24 hours if you hit the front page (a bit like Slashdot), while StumbleUpon likes comprehensive posts and delivers fewer visitors over several days.

And - for UK blogs - wikio is going to be important, not least because they will respond to you 1 on 1. Have a look at the work Ordovicius has been doing to get Welsh Political blogs into wikio.

All good fun.

Matt Wardman said...

>Furl's standout attribute is its ability to capture websites rather than just bookmark them, saving copies of web-pages to its own hosted archive

That's naughty if they don't respect robots.txt.

Great article.

QT said...

I tried to get my blog listed on Wikio weeks ago; I got an automated e-mail response to my submission but nothing beyond that, and it's still not on there.

Furl's archiving capability: Well, it means I don't have to save posts that I suspect might disappear to my hard drive!

QuestionThat said...

Your comment spamming is very uninformative and unhelpful. No thanks. Don't keep it up.

Your link doesn't even work.

www.reallycrapseo.net

QT said...

This post appears to be a spam magnet, so I have disabled comments.