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Pinboard Turns Seven (blog.pinboard.in)
308 points by mindprince on July 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

I switched to Pinboard few months ago when Delicious committed seppuku and made their site completely unusable. First, Delicious just shut down their site for something like a week, then they resurrected some ancient version of their site that looks & behaves like it's from 2007. Then they switched to an old domain (del.icio.us) and broke every bookmarklet and plugin that used their API. (I'm guessing they're planning on selling delicious.com domain name, which is worth a lot of money, so they made the switch.)

But the worst part is that you can't even save a link with all these changes they’ve made! I was getting errors 90% of the time (maybe even 98% but who's counting) so it was pointless to even try to save (I gave up after 4 days).

Whoever's managing Delicious is probably the most incompetent person in tech. Their communication with usersbase has been atrocious. They made only one or two blogposts and remained completely silent on social media (Twitter) during all these disastrous changes. People were unable to get their links and the company remained mum. Number of "F Delicious" posts on Twitter was very high few months back. Their site still doesn't work and you can't save links (just tried).

Anyway, I found Pinboard and have been happy since. RIP Delicious.

I talked at length with Tony Aly, who is the new Delicious owner. He is not incompetent and I believe he is making a good-faith effort to get the site back to life. But it's a difficult migration to make. The site was hemmorhaging money on AWS, which made it imperative to try to move it to dedicated hosting. The code base and data store has all kinds of issues stemming from the fact that it's been rewritten so many times, and designed to work at a much larger scale than it needs to right now.

I've told Tony several times I'm eager to discuss buying the site once it finally finishes crushing what remains of his spirit, so it can begin crushing the remains of mine.

With regard to the domain name, Science Inc. explicitly declined to sell delicious.com along with the site, so they could perform some kind of SEO asshattery with that domain in the future.

Thank you for this post! I find it bewildering that I got to know the truth from you and not from Delicious management. Why they couldn't keep everyone in the loop is beyond me. A single tweet along the lines "we're working on it, stay tuned" would have gone a long way. Instead we got radio silence. I lost a lot of my research time when I couldn't get to my links and notes. I'm sure others experienced the same anguish.

Thanks for posting the background info.

As a loyal user of Delicious, I hope Tony is able to turn it around. It's really depressing to see thousands of my bookmarks become unusable. The site doesn't even support https.

Respectfully, I hope you don't buy it though. I want me bookmarks provider to be free of politics.

I want me bookmarks provider to be free of politics

care to provide a reference? Missed this.

Pin board on Twitter is far from politically neutral.

Similar to the band Cake. Nobody cares what they have to say about politics; we just follow them for one purpose.

> so they could perform some kind of SEO asshattery with that domain in the future.

Sounds about right.

Pinboard has apparently been involved in at least semi-serious talks to buy Delicious, according to the @Pinboard twitter. I believe he'd do it, too.

Surely that would just take time and energy away from more important things like the burrito tunnel project.

> the burrito tunnel project

For anyone unfamiliar with one of the most important engineering/infrastructure projects ever built:


That doesn't make sense. I can't see anything Delicious could offer Pinboard, aside from the domain name.

I really hope that doesn't happen. Pinboard is perfect.

It's a bunch of users.

It's a bunch of bots.

i believe delicious is free so you'd still need to convince those users to switch to a paying model.

Nah, the transfer would generate a bunch of headlines, which in turn would translate into a bunch of new signups. I suspect Pinboard's signup spike graph is like a seismograph of Big Bookmarking's asshattery moments.

Pinboard buys Delicious, reverts to del.icio.us culture, hires @joshu

> I switched to Pinboard few months ago when Delicious committed seppuku and made their site completely unusable.

Funny to see people saying this in 2016.

I switched to Pinboard in early 2011, after rumors of Yahoo "sunsetting" Delicious. A few months later, Delicious was sold off, and it wasn't long before they made the site "completely unusable" for the first time. I didn't realize it was still around, TBH.

I agree. I'm on the same boat, and despite what idlewords is saying, I can't understand not making even the most basic changes, like when you click the title, it goes to the link, not to something else that never works (like the permalink on delicious), and adding bookmarks.

I think delicious really shined when their focus was on making adding bookmarks easy. It had a Firefox add-on in which you just had to CTRL+D to save that bookmark. Now, you need a bookmarklet (what is this, 2006?) since the extension has been removed a long time ago. I wished pinboard's focus was on it, it's not that hard. Currently I'm using an extension which has no keyboard shortcut, and after saving a bookmark, it's unclear whether you saved it or not, since it's showing a blank page.

I exchanged tweets with Maciej about this; the main issue is that extensions are a constant moving target -- which is sadly true, it takes a lot of work to keep an extension working these days, especially on Firefox.

For bookmarking? Srsly? It must be like 2 days per year and browser max :rollseyes (yes, I've built several browser extensions) ...

So that's like a week of my year gone! No thanks.

A week your paying users (myself included) would greatly appreciate.

Heh, I only ever used del.icio.us to access the site... I think it may have redirected to delicious.com for a while which is how I ever noticed that became a thing.

It's crazy how many different incarnations the site has had.

I'm in the same boat. Used delicious for years but switched when it went down for a week without any explanation or assurance that it was coming back

I have been using Pinboard for some years now. Great, rock solid service. I currently keep ~2K bookmarks on Pinboard (http://pinboard.in/u:koevet) but I wonder if my usage pattern makes actual sense for me to keep on using it.

I mainly use Pinboard as a kitchen sink for articles and completely random stuff I stumble across. You can actually tell from my totally schizophrenic tag cloud. At some point I was using a custom made script that bookmarks Hacker News story I'd +. So now I have hundreds of "hackernews" tagged bookmarks which I NEVER access.

I rarely go to Pinboard to retrieve a bookmark, maybe 10 times a year. It's faster to Google and for the stuff I really need to go back to I have local bookmarks.

I'm also a heavy RSS consumer: for sites for which I like to be updated of new content, I use my self-hosted RSS reader, no need to use bookmarks.

I guess I will keep on storing away links, the service is cheap anyway.

Well if they're getting in your way, you can delete all of them and go to https://news.ycombinator.com/upvoted?id=koevet instead.

Indeed I wish there was a way for Pinboard to actually nudge me into looking at old links. Maybe a daily reminder like "hey, you pinned this some time ago and never looked at it since! Maybe you should give it a chance!".

I've written something like this. It's not a general service (since it would have to constantly pull stuff from pinboard), but you can run it on your own server https://github.com/gbirke/pin-this-day/

A quick reminder for those of you who read a lot of papers: if you have an archival account, Pinboard will index PDFs. This is way more useful than it sounds: as you bookmark papers, Pinboard gradually transforms into a mini search engine for the research you care about.

Someone asked me yesterday how it was I read so many crypto papers, after citing Bos and Costello in crypto dork Slack. I forgot to tell them my trick: I don't! I just follow citations and bookmark the hell out of things.

I just wish there were some way for it to deal with paywalls -- since most of the pdfs I need are behind JSTOR or Muse. I realize this would be a technical and/or legal hassle (things from behind a paywall would have to be private by default, I guess) so I'm not holding my breath. But for use in the humanities and social sciences, it would make it a lot more useful.

I keep meaning to write some script that downloads jstor PDFS that I want to pin, uploads them to my server, and bookmarks them as private there. But trying to figure out whether I'd need to add a robots.txt and the like has kept me from making it happen.

Pinboard is a great service. I like the paid, ad-free model with a nice open API. I haven't had my Pinboard for long, but already think I'm going to keep it going for a long time. It's one of the few cloud services I don't fear being locked into as I can just pull all my data whenever.

Self-hosted alternatives usually require some kind of interactive website front-end being set up or have some jenky browser extension support. Pinboard has pretty solid browser support so I can add to it wherever I am.

I use hugo to generate a links page from pinboard's RSS on my website. Every time I build the site, it pulls the RSS feed and formats it all pretty like. It's not extremely interesting or anything, but here it is in case you're curious[0]. Pinboard user pages aren't all that pretty, but it's really just a container for your data.

[0] https://www.alami.io/links/

There are apparently some issues with the data export that require help from the owner: "When I quit Pinboard, he had to make a special dump to actually give me all my hosted data. If you still use pinboard, verify your exports."

From https://mobile.twitter.com/xach/status/751518747941363712

I believe the issue was exporting the full content of notes and tweets. I'll make a special dump for anyone.

Self hosting alternatives:



Especially Bookie looks good and would be a preferred candidate to transition to if you are still using the very old 'Sitebar', 'Scuttle' or the interesting 'Semantic Scuttle'.

A simpler alternative, for technical users, might be to store your bookmarks as a plaintext file under revision control.

You can then present them via javascript to allow filtering, searching, and tags.


Well, a note-taking solution (be it a plaintext file or a simple database) can perfectly handle the task of keeping URLs, but I think the point of bookmarking service are social aspects and/or content archival and indexing. Otherwise there's no reason to just not stick to what browsers have built-in for ages.

Sadly, Bookie seems to be somewhat dated and not actively maintained. I've thought of trying it out, and now have hard time packaging it.

By default, it won't even start on modern distributions because of incompatibility with Python >=2.7.11 ("cannot import name _uuid_generate_random"). The requirements.txt file require a few version bumps. I haven't tested whenever the project actually works correctly with those yet, but it seems to at least start with kombu==3.0.35, celery==3.1.23, billiard==, amqp==2.0.2, redis==2.10.5.

(I'm lazily toying with it remotely, setting it up on a small ARMv7 host, wrapping it with Docker+honcho+gunicorn, and rebuilding the image when I update requirements takes long time...)

I am a very happy user of Pinboard. And thanks for posting stats! One things which looks worrying is the stagnation of the number of users. By a common social media wisdom, it's a very bad sign... but some time ago I did analyze MathOverflow community (a research-level mathematics Stack Overflow) and they saturated in the first months (sic!) http://meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/2182/is-mathoverflow-..., yet it is a vibrant community.

Also, idlewords, as you are here: any plan to make search listing more items (50? 100?). It's a function I use a lot and sometimes this pagination makes it slower to find an old link.

I feel like search should follow the other per-page options (which go up to 160, I think?). So someday I'll fix that.

The number of daily signups and so on has been steady for years, I'm glad someone else is worried about it, so I don't have to be.

Ad 1. It's only 20 (as in: https://pinboard.in/search/u:pmigdal?query=nlp).

Ad 2. Glad I can help!

Social media also relies on social graphs to provide value. But a bookmarking service like Pinboard, while having social components, derives most of its value simply from the service it provides to the user on its own without any social connections. Someone who uses Pinboard without knowing anyone else on the service still gets 99% of the functionality that someone who has friends on the service gets. So it makes sense that a site like Pinboard can eventually plateau on the number of users and still remain successful (assuming users are paying a subscription).

I suspect built in browser based bookmark sync is removing a lot of motivation to use it, at least for the pay once tier which didn't do any archiving.

I subscribed to Pinboard recently, when I lost any unreasonable hope I still had for delicious.

I knew 100% this was a low maintainance business, but I admit reading "the first wave of subscription renewals came due" and "I did almost nothing on the site this year except keep it running" almost in the same phrase hit me like a punch in the stomach; envy for his business acumen/talent I suppose :)

I think idlewords saying he did nothing is a little tongue-in-cheek disingenuous... shooting his mouth off on Twitter is super effective marketing, and absolutely vital the first year of subscription renewals.

If it works, keep it running and do not break it!

Pinboard user since 2012 here, after importing about 12k bookmarks from Delicious (17k now). It's the best kind of low tech service: It's all about bookmarking, not ads or gimmicks. The UI loading time seems O(1) rather than Delicious' O(n).

The only problem now is that there doesn't seem to be a working add-on for Firefox on Android. Does anyone know of one?

I'm using firefox on android too but I use PinDroid to create new bookmarks and access existing ones. It's well integrated in firefox and can be used with any other application through the android "share" function.

Wow neat, thanks for this. I was just looking for extensions for some reason. It's on F-droid as well if that's preferred. Pretty slick.

Source: https://github.com/maxpower47/PinDroid

How do you use pinboard? I use bookmarklet and it seems to take 2-3 seconds to load with predicted tags.

For Firefox keyboard junkies I simplified the bookmarklet so that I can type 'pi tag1 tag2 ...' from the address bar and it will save a 'to read' bookmark i.e. private bookmark with the title of page and the tags.

Obviously you could use anything for the 'pi' keyword - that is just the keyword for the bookmark.

This is the 'location' that I use:


I haven't hosted/run a site like this before. So I'm curious whether 17K a year to run a product like this is normal. If the author is willing to divulge the details, would love to know what takes the major chunk of that 17K.

He is certainly willing to divulge the details. He's posted his expenses yearly. Here are 2015's: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15RdDg3XyOGzW1T0Wjw9M...

Mine looks much the same, I pay GBP 6,900 per year to run 300 forums serving 200k users per month and over 8m page views per month.

Also in my costs are email (transactional via Mailgun, marketing via MailJet), DMARCian, AWS S3 for avatars and attachments, SSL (still paying for a wildcard, perhaps let's encrypt next time round), Google Apps for email to run the business.

It's realistic to spend around USD 10k per year running a moderately successful medium sized web business.

Thanks for sharing that!

If you're looking to lower your S3 costs, there are some S3 compatible services now that are far cheaper.

Found this list: http://www.s3-client.com/s3-storage-providers.html

That's the tiniest cost I have.

S3 is all about controlling transfer costs, so I placed an Nginx file cache in front of my attachments and avatars and it obliterated my transfer costs.

It's a rock-solid service, with no nonsense or wonky stuff. Integral part of my everyday work/life.

OT, but as an iOS user, I found my Pinboard usage went way up after buying the 4.99 Pinner app...I've always had a bit of trouble with bookmarklets...being able to add things via iOS actions ended up being a huge convenience for me but YMMV. http://pinnerapp.net/

Main complaint is that it's not from Maciej but the author seems committed to keeping it stable with improvements.

Another excellent iOS client is Pushpin (Lionheart Software) : https://appsto.re/us/U5PQG.i

I have Pinner too, but I prefer Pushpin's UX, just feels smoother and more responsive.

I signed up back in the $9 days, and currently have ~7k bookmarks on onboard (flawless import of my delicious data, too).

It's one of my everyday tools, and would pay a monthly fee if it ever gets to that.

A perfect example of "do one thing, and do it well".

Perhaps more relevant to me than the product itself, is the business model, the concept of running your own show, optimizing processes to maximize income and minimizing time spent working.

I switched to pinboard back when it was a one-time sign-up fee of 9$. I believe the fee increased for each new sign-up by 1 cent or so.

Del.icio.us was very good, but at some point it went to shit. Maybe it was when it was acquired by Yahoo? I remember trying to contact support about the broken Firefox plugin. They didn't fix it for over 6months.

Heh, I just checked and it looks like I paid $2.91 when I signed up. It costs more now to buy a pinboard client for iOS than it did for me to sign up for the service!

As a member since July 14, 2009, I have nothing but praise for Pinboard. It does exactly what I'd like it to do and gets out of my way doing it. I've received tremendous value for money for my tiny fee.

Is there an opensource pinboard alternative? I am kind of surprised with all this love on HN give it's love for opensource... (maybe because he is a popular and funny commenter).

You're welcome to my DB schema. https://static.pinboard.in/schema.htm

There seem to be a gazillion open source bookmarking projects out there. It's hard to go wrong if you're the only user and willing to host it for yourself.

I saw "(snapshots are directories created by wget)" and felt compelled to suggest using the WARC format. Recent wget supports it and there are great projects like https://webrecorder.io/ , https://github.com/ikreymer/pywb , warcprox etc

congrats on year 7!

I signed up years ago when delicious decided to completely redesign their service for no apparent reason and broke backwards compatibility with all plugins and made the main site less usable.

I am very happy that none of that asshattery is happening at pinboard and the site remains the boring plain ugly link collector that it is.

I do find myself using pocket more and more however and would be curious if Maciej has any thoughts on that service. seems like so far the've done everything right. Although they are aggressive with new features which to me is a little worrisome because sooner or later some executive will try to be brave and fuck it up with useless redesign.

I haven't looked at Pocket for a long time, so I don't have a meaningful opinion to share. The scenario you lay out is exactly the kind of thing I wait for. It takes superhuman effort (or laziness) not to make gratuitous changes.

that's one competitor i'd keep my eyes on. so far their implementation is pretty flawless.. let's hope they get lazy

Lazy is what I'm afraid of. Let's hope they get active!

I use both Pocket and Pinboard. For me, Pocket serves as a "I'll read this later" service. If I find the article noteworthy, I'll bookmark it in Pinboard (using the email gateway).

Pocket has released a number of premium features that put it more in Pinboard's area of strength, but at this time I'm happy to continue using Pinboard.

As a long term Pinboard customer I dislike this "I am doing nothing and I am proud of it" mentality and I will unsubscribe.

Pinboard has been the same for years and I feel little attachment to the product.

I am unsure what to switch to, but Pinterest looks like an interesing and innovative solution.

Pinboard provides a simple service with well defined boundaries that you're aware of when signing up. Iterating indefinitely isn't always the solution, especially when your intention is to keep your problem space small, your project easily maintainable and the tools you provide relatively sharp. Every feature you add you have to either maintain or kill off to the detriment of your users. I'm not saying Pinboard couldn't use a little polish, but I like the principled keep it stupid simple stance: Links aren't hard, don't overdo it.

If Pinterest looks interesting, then yeah you probably really hate Pinboard. I think it's a feature that I don't hit those annoying nag walls, get inundated with ads and tracking, load hundreds of images on a page, and require cookies and lots of JS to just browse feeds. Different strokes for different folks.

I feel like I am missing something. You were fine with service and value that it provided until you found out that Maciej is not busy enough running it?

Why would you care if you get more value than you pay. Or alternatively, why would you pay for it if it didn't?

Are you switching only because of the above reason or is there something missing that you'd like to find elsewhere?

I am, too, a long term Pinboard customer. I don't care if Maciej does no work whatsoever in an average year as long as Pinboard works or is fixed quickly when it doesn't. I may be biased, because my wife and I both enjoy his writing and talks a lot so it "feels" like we are to an extent sponsoring that too.

If you pay for a product on a recurring basis you expect improvements and not only support of the status quo.

I keep paying my electricity bill every month, but those a-holes at the utility company never make my electricity any better either!

Why do you expect things to change? You're not paying for a static product. You're paying for a service, and services have ongoing costs. So your subscription is paying for the ongoing maintenance and running of the service.

To put it another way, do you pay for email? And if you do, do you expect your email provider to be constantly "innovating" with their service, or do you expect them to simply provide a rock-solid dependable email service?

I suspect that not many people share your view.

I don't pay for things expecting that they will get continually better. I pay for things so I can keep using them as they are.

Change is just as likely to make something worse as it is to make it better.

I'm not proud of it! But good luck out there.

I am a long term Pinboard user (but one who paid only once).

I find it tremendously encouraging that it is possible to manufacture such a business and keep it running as well as it does for so long.

I suspect that user idlewords does more than he lets on in his marketing.

Pinterest is a significantly different model, with an emphasis on saving visual items (and selling a user's selection choices to advertisers). It's not particularly suited for bookmarking of text/code heavy articles.

I have the opposite feeling. Pinboard does what I want. It seems like it will CONTINUE to do what I want, perhaps for a long time to come! If it could run a little faster, I wouldn't mind that (but maybe that's because I have about 14,000 bookmarks all with detailed comments and extensive tagging), but I happily pay for a subscription JUST so I can be confident that it won't suddenly disappear.

I've been waiting for a while now for the ability to change the URL of a pin. It seems the primary key for a pin is the URL and changing it currently means doing a delete+create. Was told over a year ago that a fix would be coming "soon" but doesn't look like any work has been done in that time.

I'm confused because it's been possible to edit a URL for years, in the web interface. Maybe you're referring to an API call?

Sorry, yes, I meant via API.

Thanks, Pinboard.

Pathetic. Only 46% YoY revenue growth. No wireless. In theory as much space as a bunch of Nomads in the cloud. Lame.

I'm glad there are people who don't care anything you mentioned while offering something users enjoy using.

It's a joke. https://slashdot.org/story/01/10/23/1816257/apple-releases-i...

I'm glad there are people who tell jokes, honestly.

This site is a place for serious discussion!

Sometimes people hack contests.

I mean, it's called "Hacker News," right?



I must admit, it was totally non-obvious to me that this was a joke.

I got the joke directly but it really relies on the shared culture of oldies who still remember hanging out on slashdot :-)

The part about "no wireless" and "Nomads" didn't clue you in? Not even a raised eyebrow?

People say utterly ridiculous things with utmost sincerity on Hacker News all the time.

Hey gang, I think I found the new HN motto!

It seems nobody mentioned it yet, but what happened to the Apply HN "winners"? Did anything come out of it?



Not sure if the other 2 winners have posted anything new or not.

I code same kind of php for myself and my brother to use in 2007 but never got to publish it for anybody else to use. Still use it, but not so frequent anymore. These days it's not so useful anymore, you can privately share and store links with so many alternatives like trello.com with mobile also.

But you should really make a video how it works and what are the benefits, that would make it easier to really understand.

Wrong topic, maybe?

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