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Oh, Delicious — where did it all go so wrong?

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Lots of people were happy when Delicious was rescued by YouTube (s goog) founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, and whisked away from the neglect it had been suffering under Yahoo(s yhoo). It was a chance for a rebirth of a small but well-liked social bookmarking service, linking up with some proven entrepreneurs who were trying to show they had a second act. It looked like it could be a case of two great tastes that taste great together.

But when the site relaunched yesterday, I noticed there were a few problems — a few elements that didn’t seem to work for me, or felt strange — and my old account had been deleted because I hadn’t gone through the transfer process.

What I didn’t expect was a high volume of comments pointing out that this was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the response in this comment thread was unanimous: This relaunch appears to be broken.

Here’s one commenter, Suman, explaining what went wrong:

I had a fairly bad experience with the new Delicious today. Just last week I had spent a few hours curating my saved bookmarks and organizing tags. The new Delicious doesn’t seem to know anything about it. All my effort is lost. There is no longer a bulk-edit function to redo my changes. I can no longer manage my tags – could find no option for deleting old tags. Some of my tags with special characters are now broken, I get a 404 when I try to access them. I am done. Goodbye Delicious.

Meanwhile, many seemed to have the same problem as Mindctrl, who said the transfer of accounts from the old Delicious to the new Delicious was proving problematic: “My account is gone, despite me going through the transfer process. I’ve emailed them and am awaiting a reply.”

And lots of people were angry about the changes to tagging and tag bundles. Ellen said “I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into sorting out tag bundles with hundreds of tags… but now only a small fraction of my tags remain listed, and the bundles are gone!”, and you could hear the anguish when DSP pointed out “I had over 4 thousand tags, now I have just 40. Please tell me this is only temporary!” And that’s just the start. The full comment thread is packed with people complaining about broken features, missing pages, dead feeds.

It’s not just our commenters, either. Over at ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick said he wanted to like it but couldn’t. And Matt Lingard summed it up by showing the lengthy list of features that are “still in development” (many of which were entirely functional under the old design), stating simply, “if you’re this far from being ready, don’t launch.”

So what happened?

It strikes me that there were three possible reasons for this mess. Perhaps they were separate, perhaps they were linked together, perhaps there are others:

  • AVOS didn’t understand how people were using the website

The changes don’t appear to have a major impact on casual users, but how many casual, active users of Delicious were there? The visual chrome is a welcome addition for a site that’s trying to go more mainstream, but it comes at the expense of information: elements now obscured or made invisible include the tagging system (which has always been one of the site’s core strengths) and the network (the basic unit of social currency on the site). Without these, Delicious is of little use to many of the people who had stuck by it over the years.

  • AVOS didn’t get how people were using the API

Delicious had a lot of web developers and technologists as users. Many of them used the site’s APIs to pull data in and out, particularly to publish elsewhere — on blogs, news websites. Today, those things are pretty much broken — and, more to the point, there were no signals given beforehand. Nothing has been redirected or pushed elsewhere; no parallel systems seem to have been put in place to give anyone that was hooked up to the API the time — and warning — to change what they were doing. It just broke.

  • AVOS didn’t understand they were playing with a live product

This is probably the crucial element. In the web industry, we are all very used to developing sites in beta, testing things out, seeing the data that comes out. That’s the development process. Except Delicious wasn’t a new product; it was an existing one with a small but committed following. Those users who loved Delicious really loved it: they’d stuck around through years when the product was given minimal development or resources. They’ve been rewarded with deleted accounts and other problems, which has made them pretty angry.

Maybe the long-term future for Delicious lies away from that user base; but you can’t move them along simply by flipping the switch. Reworking an existing product is not the same as starting from scratch.

When you’re rebuilding or redesigning, you have a legacy to maintain. Yes, that can be a pain — but what else was AVOS buying if it wasn’t the brand and the user base of the site, and the data that they’ve put into it? It clearly wasn’t the technology, which was the first thing to get thrown out the door. When you rebuild a product, you have to remember that it needs to take into account all those people who rely on the service for all sorts of things. At the very least you give them options to fall back on, rather than simply telling them that all the stuff they’ve been using for years will be in the product again… just not yet.

My colleague Mathew Ingram thinks that the only way Delicious can prove it’s really useful in the long term is if the owners can pull quality data out of the site. He may be right, but the trouble is that if the new owners alienate everybody who stuck by it during the bad times, they might not even be able to get that far.

83 Responses to “Oh, Delicious — where did it all go so wrong?”

  1. Agh, Delicious is a MESS! I use tags frequently to find wordpress themes & plugins I saved. Now I can only see a limited number of them *facepalm*. Just tried out though and all my tags are recovered — awesome!

    PS – Don’t try to import Delicious bookmarks into Google Bookmarks. I’ve tried it 3 times; still doesn’t work.

  2. Chris Doss

    I got my bookmarks back!!!!!!

    Hadrianus J-r posted this on

    -I added some instructions for people on OSX Lion in the comments.

    for everyone who wants to recover their bookmarks from the OLD site, you can STILL do so. I downloaded yesterday my bookmarks from the old site and then deleted the left-over account there because the old site is STILL ACTIVE and responding at the old ip addresses.

    BTW, i posted this message on an older thread yesterday but i don’t think it’s been seen by enough people. Avos/Delicious is MISLEADING you when they tell you that there’s nothing you can do to recover your bookmarks from the old site. It hasn’t BEEN SHUTDOWN by yahoo YET, so hurry and recover your stuff before they shut it down.

    Steps to do this:
    1) (optional) verify the old site ip addresses (hosted at yahoo) by using Netcraft’s site monitorng tool:

    2) add the following entries to the HOSTS file in your system:
    (they are those reported by netcraft above, before the transfer to avos)

    3) either reboot the pc or clear the local DNS cache (ipconfig /flushdns) then start a new browser and visit the old delicious site. If the new delicious site loads it means you have done something wrong, go back to step 2.

    if you have to login but have changed your password on the NEW delicious site then on the OLD SITE login using the OLD PASSWORD that you have used (the latest that is known by the old delicious site)

    4) backup your bookmarks from there

    5) when you’re done with the backup logout and then delete those 4 lines from the HOSTS system that you have added at step (2) or you won’t be able to access the NEW (your pc will keep trying to access the old site, which will be eventually dismantled)

    • Help! I still can’t get back into the old delicious site!!

      I’m the admin on my computer (running Vista Home Premium).
      I’ve put the info into the hosts file and saved it, I’ve cleared browser histories, restarted, flushed the dns in the command window etc, yet the new site still pops up and mocks me when I type in I’ve also triple checked the ip addresses via netcraft. I’ve tried in Chrome and in IE9.

      Oh and thanks a lot yahoo for never emailing me re the migration and also for not acknowledging my acceptance of the migration.

  3. steve chen

    > But when the site relaunched yesterday, I noticed there were a few > problems — a few elements that didn’t seem to work for me, or felt > strange — and my old account had been deleted because I hadn’t
    > gone through the transfer process.

    Yes, we understand people submit invalid emails when registering on site, or users lose access to email accounts, or users perhaps don’t read every email message (though there were four, the last one sent out last week — in case you want to search for it in your inbox), or users didn’t use the Delicious website so they missed the warning messages at the top of the site, or they don’t subscribe to the Delicious/AVOS blogs or they don’t read forum postings. That is why we are working on a solution for these users to still be able to migrate their content over.

    Read more here:

    If you have other issues, feel free to send a note to me at [email protected]om. I’ll help.

    • Are you really the Steve Chen?

      I searched my email for the term “avos” and the only message that came up was this one from Yahoo!:
      “Delicious has a new owner — what this means for you Wed, 4/27/11”

  4. Initial criticism
    • Looks unprofessional blog entries are undated
    • Cannot log in
    • Supprt forum removed
    • Cannot post comments on the blog (I am being moderated)
    • I cannot search my own bookmarks by my previous tags (and cannot log in to identify what the problem is
    • I cannot log in to see what happened to my bookmarks
    • My home url has disappeared – so no one can find me any more
    • Avos has given me a very unusual avatar – I wonder why
    • Looks like the nice clean design is gone to be replaced by a new social networking awfulness

  5. I’ve always used my google account to log into delicious, and never got a warning during login or on email about any transfer window. So now I’m stuck having to create a new account and manualy tansfering one a one link…(I can still see the aold account online). Are there any better online bookmark services/webinterfaced? This is happiely only true for my “secret” bookmarks. My 2000 regular bookmarks are safe on various backupsites, and Xmarks..

  6. Tarique Naseem

    It’s obvious that the new owners don’t actually realise what their users want out of the service. Moreover, why release it in it’s half baked broken state!?

    Having been a loyal user since it started, I finally gave up and jumped to Pinboard ( So far, I’m happy with their offering and actually don’t mind the small joining fee. Reminds me of what Delicious used to be like – SIMPLE!

    • Happily, back when there was the ‘delicious will disappear’ scare I set up a account which was mirroring my delicious account. As it is, I’m pretty much giving up on delicious and going with pinboard from this point.

  7. Owen Densmore

    One solution I’ve been using is Pinboard. It can backup your Delicious bookmarks as well. If your Delicious account seems OK, I’d definitely also export Delicious to local files.

  8. It’s bad. I’m a web application developer myself, and I can’t fathom pushing stuff live to millions of users with as little testing as they seem to have done. For example, when I restrict to bookmarks having a certain tag, I see just the first ten (even when there are dozens more), and there’s no pagination apparatus at the bottom of the page to get the next ten. Really, AVOS? That’s a pretty basic mistake not to catch. More generally, I don’t understand why they didn’t take a much more incremental approach to making whatever changes they wanted to make. “Big bang” revisions are hard to pull off well. What was the hurry?

    I’ll give them a month or so to sort things out, because, frankly, moving to another service will be a pain. But I’m guessing I’ll have to.

  9. Connie Crosby

    This article hits the nail on the head for me. RSS feeds that I had populating content on other sites broke yesterday, although I see they are running today. My biggest complaint is that there was no notice. I did see the notice asking me to approve AVOS’ terms of service when I was on the new site, but I saw no email messages explaining things would be changing. There are other things broken. It’s also unfortunate they have not created a discussion forum so we can see what issues they are already tracking; instead the discussion is all over the web, out of their control.

  10. Chris Doss

    Well my account of 4 years and 2000+ bookmarks got deleted. This is crap. I never saw the opt-in for migration. I exported my bookmarks about 5 months ago when I found out Yahoo! was abandoning the project but it’s going to be missing all of my latest bookmarks which i need for work. I am livid. I started using a few weeks ago and will continue to use them instead of Delicious. Apparently they say my account/bookmarks are still on Yahoo’s server. Read the email response I got. They should have at least made a way for us to access our old accounts.

    This is only an automated reply, but we wanted to confirm that
    Delicious Support has received your feedback. Our small, dedicated
    team is available during pacific time office hours, Monday to Friday
    but we are working extra hours to dial everything in after our
    re-launch. We’ve been getting a ton of mail and can’t respond to
    everyone, but are posting the latest about the migration our blog

    In terms of login issues, the following might be helpful:

    1. There was a password reset bug hitting some users trying to reset
    their password. We just rolled out a fix that should resolve this
    issue for most users. If you were trying to reset your password, and
    were hitting a page without a valid reset link, go ahead a try again.

    2. For previous Delicious users who logged in through their Yahoo!
    account, you were asked to choose a new Delicious username when you
    opted in to the AVOS terms of service. If you’ve forgotten the new
    username you chose, use the password reset link on the sign-in page to
    have a reminder sent to your Yahoo! mail account.

    3. If you missed the opt-in and can’t access your old Delicious
    bookmarks, unfortunately that data remains with Yahoo! since they
    never got your permission to move your account. We’re investigating
    methods for those users to recover those bookmarks from Yahoo!, but we
    don’t have anything definitive to report at this time.

    As Delicious goes back to beta and features are rebuilt and retooled,
    your suggestions and observations are incredibly important for our
    development team. We love knowing that there are dedicated Delicious
    users, like you, who care enough to write in with their thoughts. So,

    Team Delicious

    Delicious – *Feedback Support Squad*

    • The following is a flat out @@@@@:
      “2. For previous Delicious users who logged in through their Yahoo!
      account, you were asked to choose a new Delicious username when you
      opted in to the AVOS terms of service. If you’ve forgotten the new
      username you chose, use the password reset link on the sign-in page to
      have a reminder sent to your Yahoo! mail account.”

      Just a few days ago I was on the Delicious Support Forum and I was assured that logging in with my Yahoo Account was NOT a problem (I cannot log in). Now the support forum has been removed, so I cannot even prove that what I am saying is true…

    • Elaine Blakeman

      I was able to use Delicious until this morning. Now when I try to search my tags I get error: 502 Bad Gateway. I sometimes get this error when I try to log in too. Can you help? Are you working on fixing this?

  11. To those interested in accessing your old data, there’s a trick. You can edit your hosts file and add the following entries to it:

    Flush your cache or reboot, and then login to the old delicious site with your old credentials. You can then export your data if needed.

    For kicks, I tried to do the “migration” thing again to see if it would kickstart a migration of my missing account, but it told me that my account was already migrated. As mentioned and linked in the article, my account was not migrated.

    At any rate, if you’re panicking over missing all your data, do the above to get it out while you still can. The bad part is it’s missing tags and such, but at least the bookmarks are there. On another note, I haven’t tried that Delicious XML export service to see if it will connect to the old service. I might try that to see if I can get to the old tag data. I’m probably going to build my own private version based on WordPress.

  12. I’m starting to think they simply bought the domain name with hopes of doing a totally different product, with hopes that a small portion of the users will stick around to get it started off the ground. As Bobbie says in the article, if it’s not the brand, users, or data, there’s not much left but domain name. It’s a good name. Food-related curation? Shrug. Weird. I’m at a loss.

  13. Mike McNamara

    What a mess, have been a user since 06 and I have amassed 11K+ bookmarks or Links as they are now called. I carried out the ‘move’ as requested some weeks ago. It does seem that all the links are there, but what happened to the UI. No proper search results, can’t locate some of my tagged bookmarks, no bulk editing. Not good!!!!

    Also not able to use the Browser (Firefox) plug in to save any urls!! Only discovered that when after bookmarking two sites and visited the Delicious site to find no bookmarks (sorry links) had been saved!!!

    Seems to me that product management need to get their act together and get a better beta version released asap.

    • steve chen

      The Firefox plugin problem you’ve seen should be fixed.

      We are working on the remaining issues. Please bear with us! It’s been a long 2 days (or rather, 5 months and 2 days), but we are certainly committed to the site and are working around the clock to address issues raised.

  14. Oscar Antonio Moralí Torres

    When You have a successful product…why to do something like this?. I mean, just improve it but don’t touch the features. Where are all the tags gone?; where is my network?, We want our tags back, we don’t need the stacks!. And what about the or the functions?. Just improve it or the number of Delicious users will fall very fast…

    • Same here. I cannot log in even though I followed everything they asked for. Also I was getting some strange messages on my account a few days ago, so went over to the Delicious Support Forum and reported it, and a little later there was a response from a Delicious techie who told me, and others who also had the same problem that we should simply ignore the messages. Now Delicious has removed my ability to check messages on the forum which was available to the public at large before this latest development…

  15. Mark Ghuneim

    Been using delicious since its inception – have an embarrassing 15k bookmarks

    Missing links aside. Nothing works as it should. The old bookmarklets are now not functional – the new ones save your link with out any tags or titles, they force you to a stack. all my tags and bundles are gone years of work and value to them if they knew how to leverage them. I am stunned. Why would they launch if they did not even have the basics right.

    Also gone my the feed of those I followed and so so much more – I could go one – but why bother – they are dead to me – what a waste

    The win was clear

    – maintain and improve basic functionality
    – leverage the largest human curated semantic data for new aggregate value and offerings

    Should have been a no brainer –


  16. Well said, indeed. Two days ago, it worked – it was sometimes a chore to use, but Delicious was there and we’d all grown used to it. Today? Today I’m missing about a thousand bookmarks, my network (which I relied upon heavily to find content) is completely gone, and I’m looking for a place to start over and coming up short. Why does this fix look much more like breaking something that was working? It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t living up to its potential, but it was working.

  17. Sasha Boersma

    That is unfortunate about the affected users. Then I checked into all my bookmarks and the functionality of APIs – I don’t seem to have any of the problems the article suggests (I transferred my account about 3 months ago). Maybe it was only clumps of users on specific servers facing these problems? Or high-end users specifically?

    • Bobbie Johnson

      I certainly didn’t have the problems that have been reported, but then I am not a heavy user… I essentially migrated away about a year ago to

      How about you? What APIs were you calling? How many bookmarks/tags did you have?

    • MacDara Conroy

      I also switched months ago and had no issues with missing links or tags (only have a few, though). Could the data of those who opted in later been specifically corrupted or removed somehow?

      • I opted in months ago, too but I’ve still got a mess. I used delicious with its firefox plugin to override my browser’s native bookmarks. All of my links are still there but if I edit any of them, they lose all of their data. I can’t see my full list of tags on the home site, my browser bookmarks are painfully out of sync, waht bundles I had are gone (admittedly I didn’t use that feature much), none of the fields for saving a link are labeled so it’s nearly impossible to tell where tags and page titles go without pulling up and older bookmark; it’s a disaster.

        I spent the better part of yesterday getting all of my bookmarks loaded into google bookmarks (with the gmarks plugin I can still load individual tags on my bookmarks toolbar) and diigo (which imports perfectly from delicious, keeping tags, notes, privacy, etc.). Neither perfectly matches the functionality I had come to expect from delicious. For instance I have to manually go to Diigo to delete a link. For Gmarks I have to find the appropriate link in my toolbar and right click to delete. With delicious’s plugin, I was able to CTRL-D on a page I already had bookmarked and delete a link on the resulting popup (I use this feature A LOT for work). I also can’t control the order each tag on the toolbar sorts in gmarks (diigo doesn’t have tag on toolbar functionality at all). With delicious I was able to make my list of media articles for work sort in chronological order while my gaming links I preferred in alphabetical order.

        THese may seem like little things, and if everything weren’t so broken perhaps they would be. But amidst such a pile of broken, I miss them greatly. My use of bookmarks depended on them, but I guess I’ll adjust.

        But what I really want to know is who relaunches their site and doesn’t fix their own browser plugin at the same time? It’s absolutely criminal that they didn’t update the plugin to go with the new api.

  18. Stuart Taylor

    I couldn’t agree more. The new delicious is an absolute mess! I can’t see all my tags, and the ones that are there are jumbled with no way to either make a cloud or alphabetically sort them. It’s quite unbelievable that anyone could get this SO wrong!

  19. My account is still there, but all my saved bookmarks are gone. :(

    And the login page is buggy. Sometimes, I don’t get logged in, no error message pops up, and I get take to the home page after submitting the form.

    • If Lady Gaga just bought the Library of Congress and she is determined to bring it to “mainstream”, what would you expect to see?

      I think the youtube founders are very capable but because they don’t use delicious themselves. They *will* take delicious to the direction they are more familiar with, which may not be the one existing delicious users would be mostly happy with.

      I have written a blog post on this if you feel like reading more:

      Disclaimer: I’m the co-founder of, a competitor to delicious.

      • I lost four years of work without being notified. What happened to my tag bundles? I used delicious as a knowledge bank. Most tags had a description at the top of the page — gone. I could “cross-index” content and reuse it in a variety of ways with tag descriptions. What a trivial piece of junk. Anybody know how to retrieve my original 13000 tags in their former state? Help.

      • Natalie

        I’m in the same boat as Steve. I’ve used Delicious as a database for recipes, blogs, tutorials, education, etc. for years. It was a highly organized resource and cookbook, which your glossy simplification has laid to waste.

        I am at a complete loss to what possible motivation could exist for removing the organization of users’ tags and disabling all maintenance/organizational features. What does this gain?

        I am not at all a fan of being greeted with this irritating “featured stack” page when I press the, now, not-so-aptly named “My Delicious” toolbar button. I could, however, stomach it more if I could simply press another button to get back to my organized, bundled tags.