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

83 Comments

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 Comments

Vision

This explains why Yahoo is such a mess today.
– What a third rated Company Yahoo became with this bizarre/Cheap transfer of Delicious AVOS company.
– when company/product is sold to another , yahoo has to ensure the new company is respectable one.
– I missed the NOV 1 deadline so I lost all my account completely. How come this can happen in this DAY and AGE of Cloud computing.
– my second rate Image of Yahoo now became third rate. What is loser company yahoo is …

Billy

I am quitting delicios… At first, all of my imported bookmarks were marked private. Next, I discovered that ALL of my tags were nuked. SO frustrated. I have been using since 2006 to post all of my favorite links and would use Delicious regularly to “remember” links.

Model 2 Interocitor

It’s all about discovering the right triangulator. It will take some time for the NiduScope to prevail. All about idiosyncratic vocabularies and speed.

aa243

I just logged in today and my bookmarks appear to be there, but every single tag is missing. I spent a significant amount of time in August organizing all my tags. I emailed tech support and this is what I got back from a Mike Miller: Hi anitaagarwal,

I am sorry to hear about this issue, but am here to get to the bottom of it for you. If you could please send an email to feedback@avos.com titled “ATTN: Matt Miller – MISSING TAGS” with your username and password I will look into this issue for you immediately.

Thanks,
Matt

Really?!?! I have never been asked for my password from tech support and fact have been warned about giving out passwords upon request, which is typically indicative of a scam. They seem to have a bunch of techies controlling the whole transition with little thought given to project management, customer service or even some basic things like “go/no go” decisions for go live.

Benj Merritt

So how do I get back my old account ? Mbenj doesn’t exist anymore… how is that possible ? for a service that provides to save information and find it easily, it’s a joke !

Oth

My Save button is still frozen – could not save my bookmark on Delicious. At least here at gigaom I can save a bookmark with every comment I leave behind (hint: click on my name).

Passaro Intl' Trading Company

Hi rubo77,

Thanks for the tip.
Worked perfectly for me.
I was able to login to the old delicious page and got all my bookmarks back!!!!

Oth

After not being able to access my bookmarks on Delicious for a couple of weeks I finally regained access, well, sort of.

Yesterday I saved ONE new link, but today after wasting precious time logging in twice (I was disconnected the first time but did not realize because everything looks different), I finally locatedthe save link button but the Save button was not functional (even though the Cancel button reacted immediately).

Why do I feel like a guinea pig?

Rafal Wieczorek

Everything is f* deleted! I’m resigning from my account, anybody knows some alternatives?

MyEcommerce

Did you see that when you add a hyperlink to Delicious and save it in a stack, this doesn’t keep the order that you have added the links. Sad shit!!!!

Monica T. Rodriguez

Your article just made me more mad, now that I have a clearer idea of all AVOS did NOT do! I’m as devastated as many people here and also looking for a new home for my bookmarks. I didn’t lose my account, but at first I didn’t have all my tags, now I can only see them all if I click to another page. And while the front page SAYS they’re in chronological order, the dates on the side clearer show that’s wrong. So there’s no rhyme or reason to the bookmarks.

But bundles! Bundles were part of why I never stayed at diigo (I migrated my bookmarks but would have had to manually recreate my bundles). They’re still not back. It’s clear AVOS had no clue how users were using the site, and furthermore did not care. Just saw old code and tossed it, never thinking of the user.

In some forum post, an employee actually wrote “we consider this in beta.” Without warning, they put an 8-or-so-year-old site in beta. Who are these guys? Keep them away from the stove before they burn themselves. I wish I could keep them away from my delicious, but it looks like they’ve ruined that already.

P A

Looks like I am one of the many whose account just disappeared – despite going through migration. Got an automated mail suggesting that I use the “reset password link” with my yahoo email address and that doesn’t work at all. I get an error “user not found”. Completely botched migration for sure.

Thor

My account is also gone. It’s no big deal for me, as I have backups that I can open directly in my browser, but I don’t understand what Delicious is trying to gain by firing users en masse.

This is a great wake-up call for anyone who has saved important content on Gmail or any other free, best-effort service: you can lose all your stuff in a heartbeat and you probably have no recourse.

Steve

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.

tfhackett

I’m reading with envy the comments of those who saw this coming and moved their bookmarks to another service. I’m screwed. Thanks for nothing, Avos.

Philippe

RWW put it best – it was hard enough getting people to tag their bookmarks – let alone creating “stacks”

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