For over a decade, Delicious has been trying to prove that people want a social platform for sharing bookmarked webpages. It has been acquired three times since its founding: first by Yahoo in 2005, then by AVOS Systems in 2011, and now by Science, the “technology studio” behind Dollar Shave Club and DogVacay.
Now it’s up to Science to figure out what it can do with a stagnant company that hasn’t proven its worth despite being offered far more chances to do so than almost any other startup. That’s going to require a serious effort — and perhaps some willful ignorance of the disinterest users have had with social bookmarking or link-sharing services over the last few years.
Consider Potluck, the mobile app that started as a link-sharing service and eventually became a Tinder for news (ugh) that Facebook acquired alongside its parent company, Branch. The app was met with interest from people who appreciated the ability to keep their other social media accounts from being overrun with links, but the service eventually pivoted away from semi-social link-sharing and towards finding news and encouraging its users to talk about it.
Or consider Bolt, another social bookmarking service that launched in 2012. The company was shuttered not long after because it couldn’t sustain itself and investors feared that its service was too much like Pinterest. The technology behind the service has since been acquired by Houseplans — which is led by Bolt’s former chief executive — but the service itself is no more.
Or consider Zootool, another service that encouraged its users to bookmark sites and share them with others in a public stream of websites, images, and other miscellanies. The service was shut down on March 15 six years after its founding because it attracted just 150,000 users and “never worked out financially,” according to a blog post from one of its co-founders.
Perhaps the only bookmarking service that has thrived over the last few years instead of shutting down is Pinboard, a small service that charges its users up-front and prides itself on providing a private bookmark synchronization service instead of a link-focused social network. Pinboard is the black sheep of online bookmarking tools, but it’s also the only one that has avoided the slaughter and managed to stay in operation without being sold every few years.
Delicious has had four chances — first as a standalone company and then as part of three other companies. Other similar services have either pivoted (Potluck) or shut down (Bolt, Zootool) after trying to show that the problem lay with Delicious, not the concept of social bookmarking itself. Given all that, perhaps it’s time to admit that social bookmarking isn’t going to be whatever Science thinks it’s going to be and allow Delicious to die instead of keeping it on life support.