is an interesting site. In
its simplest form, it provides a sort of centralized bookmark service.
Bookmarks are stored in a flat structure, with any of a number of "tags"
assigned to them. Since the bookmarks are stored on the server, they are
available anywhere on the net. The tags and bookmarks are absolutely
public, so anybody can see what everybody else is interested in. The site
as a whole forms a sort of spontaneous index of the web, sorted by
popularity. del.icio.us has attracted a great deal of interest as a
collaborative guide to the net as a whole.
It is not surprising that competitive sites would pop up. Still, many
del.icio.us users were surprised by the debut of de.lirio.us, which differs in these
- The name is different by at least five pixels - on a high-resolution
- The code is open source (though the license is unclear at the moment).
Users of del.icio.us are somewhat annoyed. The creation of an outright
clone strikes many of them as dishonest, and they would rather have seen
the effort go into creating a better "folksonomy" at the original site.
Most of them see little reason to put any effort into an imitation of
del.icio.us when they have the real thing.
The advent of de.lirio.us does raise some interesting questions, though.
Does the open-sourcing of the code justify the creation of a clone site?
Steve Mallett, the creator of de.lirio.us, seems to think so. (Steve is
also, incidentally, the OpenSource.org
webmaster and the editor of OSDir). The
Linux kernel was created for very similar reasons; it was a clone which
made an established interface available as free software. To the extent
that the del.icio.us interface was successful, it made sense to copy it
rather than invent something new, but less effective. The new site perhaps
could have tried for a slightly different look, however.
One del.icio.us user questioned
the wisdom of making this sort of software free in the first place:
The biggest issue with open sourcing social software is that I feel
it's counterproductive: the issue of fragmenting the userbase into
a thousand pieces is the main problem.... my thoughts are that,
paradoxically, more openness in the software would result in such a
fragmentation that it would have the effect of closing the
community up into discrete little parts. I think a more "Leviathan"
approach than "invisible hand" might be better here.
This is an interesting variant on the fragmentation argument: social
software must remain centrally controlled or its user community will split
asunder. Whether this is true - or undesirable - is irrelevant, however.
People have little interest in being forced into "communities" which do not
appeal to them, and, on the net at least, they will find alternatives.
Another event worth noting is that del.icio.us creator Joshua Schachter has
his intention to make a business out of the site. Depending on where
his plans take him, del.icio.us users could find themselves happier than
ever. If commercialization takes the site in the wrong direction, however,
many of those users who are currently upset about de.lirio.us may decide
that the existence of an open source alternative is not an entirely bad
thing after all.
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