Less than a year ago news leaked that Yahoo was planning to “sunset” the social bookmarking service Delicious. Then the company backtracked, saying it didn’t plan to shut Delicious down; a sale was its preferred option.
After a wobbly few months, the site was bought by AVOS, a new company formed by YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, who promised “to take on the challenge of building the best information-discovery service on the web.”
Now we get to see exactly what they mean. The new-look Delicious launched overnight.
So what do you get? Let’s take a look.
First up, signing up is easy. Although I was a long-time Delicious user, first joining back in 2005, I stopped using the service last year and defected to Pinboard.in, a great clone aimed at power users. In fact, when AVOS moved to the new Delicious, they actually deleted my original account. So I was able to use the service as if for the first time.
Once inside, there are some obvious visual changes. Everything has a slightly warmer, softer tone; gone are the sharp edges and minimalist presentations that made Delicious look like the work of an engineer.
Popular links are presented in a straightforward list, while groups of links (known as “stacks”) are pushed to users in a glossy format supported by photographs. It’s nice eye candy, but takes up a lot of screen space.
In terms of functionality? Well, it’s tempting to say that the new Delicious is a bit like Pepsi of old: “new look, same great taste”. But it’s probably more accurate to simply point out that the revamp is less than radical.
Most of the obvious changes are essentially updating the slightly dated lexicon of Delicious and bringing it in line with a more modern, social web context. For example, users can now add avatars — something that seems almost idiotically simple, but had never emerged with its previous, spartan approach.
Elsewhere, users now “follow” somebody instead of adding them to their network. And collections of links — which were previously known as bundles — have become “stacks”. These are described as playlists for the web, a signpost that AVOS wants to make Delicious more appealing to mainstream audiences.
In truth, however, none of this is a major departure from what Delicious already did, and it’s certainly not much of a departure from other link collecting or list-making tools such as Bitly.
In a blog post announcing the launch, AVOS admits that most of the work was behind the scenes, rather than in adding new elements to the site.
We realized that in order to keep innovating over the long term, the eight-year-old site needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. The result is a new homepage, interface and back-end architecture designed to make Delicious easier to use.
We’re proud of what we built, but the process has also brought the site “back to beta” as a work in progress.
But in doing so, it’s also managed to break some things that old-time users were used to. A string of my Twitter followers pointed out broken features. For example, existing users complain that their old bundles seem to have disappeared completely; there are lots of reports of problems with browser plug-ins, RSS feeds appear to have stopped working and some of the old pages aren’t working.
Still, these are early days. The product is essentially starting over again, and if users are prepared to accept that this is a beta then there is time — and trust — to rebuild.
Can new users be enticed? Will old users stick around? Even though the new Delicious looks juicier, it’s not clear whether the flavor it had has disappeared or been improved upon. Either way, it looks like the hard work is only just beginning.