As someone who has started to use del.icio.us a lot more often recently, Mitch’s post has been rambling around inside my head the past few days. Here’s a suggestion: For all the talk about the next new search engine/Google-killer (Powerset, true knowledge, Mahalo, etc.), del.icio.us could be a very attractive alternative to Google if it’s managed, nurtured and marketed properly.
del.icio.us’s potential is grounded by the fact its database is being created by people as opposed to an algorithm or natural language technology. Web sites that people find interesting are tagged and categorized within del.icio.us, which offers a searchable database. In many respects, it’s not unlike the early days of Yahoo when Jerry Yang and David Filo – and later a team of researchers -manually categorized the Web sites they discovered.
Today, this manual mandate would be impossible given how the Web has grown. But what if you had a really popular service that encouraged people to tag and categorize lots and lots of Web sites?
Well, it already exists: del.icio.us. It’s certainly not perfect but del.icio.us could become a very interesting alternative to Google with a little tinkering and a major marketing push.
The problem, however, is del.icio.us doesn’t seem to be getting any love from Yahoo, which acquired del.icio.us two years ago. Sure, the number of users has grown by 10-fold to more than three million but del.icio.us is arguably the exact same bookmarking service that Yahoo purchased.
The fact that del.icio.us is still a bookmarking service is a strategic issue that must be resolved or del.icio.us has no chance of emerging as a search engine player. Rather than keep on doing nothing with del.icio.us, Yahoo needs to give del.icio.us a makeover and present it in a much different light. A solid start would be a more user-friendly interface; better/easier social networking tools, and, most important, an aggressive campaign to market del.icio.us as a search tool.
With the right strategic push, there’s no reason why del.icio.us shouldn’t have 10 million, 30 million or 50 million users as opposed to a measly three million – especially given Yahoo’s brand and the fact it has more than 200 million registered users.
Sadly, it’s unlikely Yahoo is going to do much with del.icio.us – just like it’s done little with Flickr or MyBlogLog post-acquisition. Rather than continue to push the envelope, Yahoo seems content to maintain the status quo after its makes an acquisition. The biggest thing Yahoo has done with Flickr and MyBlogLog is force people to use Yahoo usernames and passwords – blech!
Maybe now that Jerry Yang is CEO, he will have a better appreciation of del.icio.us’ potential, which has been squandered over the past two years.
More: For tips on how to become a del.icio.us power user, check out Web Worker Daily. Here’s a recent Q&A that Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan did with del.icio.us founder Joshua Schacter and StumbleUpon founder Garettt Camp.
Update: VentureBeat suggests Facebook could be preparing itself for a battle against Google as it expand its search options. Dembot calls Mahalo as “fundamentally flawed” because the focus is on advertising as opposed to providing solid information. Look for Jason Calacanis’ comments – make for an interesting discussion.