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AVOS’ Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure (zdnet.com)
122 points by snappergrass on Sept 29, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

Good time to be Pinboard!

I'm sympathetic to the "real names only" terms that some services run under, but for a bookmark sharing service that policy provides no end-user value. This is a service I think you should pay money for, instead of allowing yourself to be the product the company is selling to others.

Does anyone really doubt that Pinboard is the true heir of del.icio.us? I think payment is really a core part of the DNA of their service, because it allows Maciej to make it reliable-- exactly what is needed in a bookmarking/tagging utility on the web.

Seems like a good alternative. Only thing that keeps me away is that the design is so darn painful. I have nothing minimalist design, as long as it is not a excuse to get away with bad design. White space is so messed up, menus collide with each other, tag clouds float out into the margins. To me the site is an UX catastrophe. But as with most things, I guess I can get used to it.

It's not like the new Delicious feels more tempting. I will also give Diigo a try this weekend.

I am (was) a very heavy delicious user. Luckily, I backed up my delicious bookmarks a few weeks ago. The export function on the new site doesn't seem to work and if it does, I doubt all my bookmarks will be there.

I started typing out a long laundry list of issues, but it doesn't matter. Suffice it to say the new site is nearly unusable. There is nothing new that is useful for users or that would attract new users, nor is there any revenue model in sight.

I would be surprised if more than 10% of past delicious users stay with the site.

I can offer a data point: I was able to export my data from the new delicious on tuesday (after noticing the changes) and then import it into a new pinboard account with no issues or anything missing (998 bookmarks and 2748 tags). maybe I was lucky!

I guess you were lucky, or I might be very unlucky. I think the problem might be I have close to 20.000 bookmarks, most of them neatly organized and tagged. The export chokes after a minute or so and just shows a blank page. Grabbing via the API (using curl or WGET) gives me a very incomplete dump.

Last export I did was earlier this summer. I never imagined they'd screw up so bad. Now they don't even reply to my e-mails.

Another data point. I have had no problem with my existing links (1697 of them that all seem to be present), exporting said links and have had no problems logging in or using my existing id and password.

I was an early Delicious user and have 7000ish bookmarks in there which I tend to frequently. I hadn't seen or experienced any significant reasons to leave yet. I can still tag stuff, still look up links by tags.. that's pretty much all I used it for anyway.

However, if export is broken/not going to work, that changes things a bit. While I do backup every few months, having no guarantee I can save future links almost invalidates the whole idea.

Same experience for me, the site is almost entirely broken including the export feature. How they managed to get it all so wrong is beyond me.

I think this needs a little more thought. Think about this: Delicious doesn't really have a successful business model (if any). Yahoo! was about to kill it.

Now AVOS picks it up. Why would a startup pick it up? There is no way they can make a successful business out of the current state of the site.

But Delicious does have one thing: a big set of users and their bookmarks. Information.

It is obvious that AVOS was going to have to change the system enough to build a business model to experiment with. These changes are doing exactly that. They very well could be experimenting with the features, to see if their business model (hopefully there is one) works.

Now I agree with experimenting, I am EXTREMELY disappointed with the execution of it.

There are things that you just have to do right. Experimenting with features is fine, and since I get Delicious from free, I am willing to experiment. But if the site FAILS most of the time. That is unacceptable. I don't care if Eric Ries says "EXPERIMENT", use the "SCIENTIFIC METHOD". This is no excuse for doing a poor job with your tools and your subject of experimentation.

Unfortunately for them, and I do feel for them, I don't think the site will recover from this. The trust is gone. At least with me.

Why did Yahoo! buy Delicious in the first place? I assumed Yahoo! would use Delicious' links and tags to cleverly augment their search engine ranking. I realize now that I was giving Yahoo! too much credit.

The original idea was just that. But Yahoo! doesn't have direction. Even if they had a CEO, the company was just not focused enough on anything. First they said they wanted to be a search engine, then they moved to content and search...

Now they don't even have a search engine now, they use bing. They say they are a content and media company, but I don't really use any of their services other than delicious and sometimes the email, and I don't know anybody who does.

I think when they bought Delicious, it was a great idea because the company had direction and Delicious made sense. Over the years they lost focus, and have been just wandering around. They don't make sense.

that was the idea!

Here's a risk-free and inexpensive business model: just put Google ads on the website.

True, with the traffic they have it could have been easy. I don't think that is what they have in mind though. But at this point I have no idea what they are trying to accomplish.

"Among the required changes is disallowing users to use the service with their previous handles, and making everyone use a “real name” policy."

Where in the new Delicious does it actually ask for this? I moved my account over and haven't seen anywhere in the settings to even enter anything other than a username. Just curious, because I agree Delicious has changed for the worse, but don't like the vitriol and froth in this post, especially if it's wrong.

"We know - we know - they are not going to take the time to find the bits that made it sing and hum and make those parts better. We know that on a basic animal level that they don’t get it."

"Delicious is a bitter lesson for everyone. It’s the difference between how people actually use a product versus how rich, out-of-touch knuckleheads think people should be using that product, all to further their own self-interests."

Well said.

That article needs to come with a huge "YMMV" disclaimer.

I can still save my bookmarks via the bookmarklet. I can still view my bookmarks at http://delicious.com/sciurus. The transition hasn't impacted me at all.

Do you see all tags you saved there? Did you browsed by tag after the transition? For example your programming tag collection have small set of links. I am sure there was hundreds of them before the transition. I haven't faced password reset problem though. I exported my bookmarks after hearing about transition. Lucky me :).

Nothing has jumped out as missing. I may just be lucky in this regard. Being of the sysadmin persuasion, I have many more bookmarks tagged "software" than I do "programming".

currently, i use the bookmarklet, and it eats the tags. there is a brief "you should use commas, convert?" that doesn't actually let me click before it disappears.

Can you use a browser plugin with it (like I have been doing for many years now)? Because I can't.

Yeah, but you have to clear your browser and reload. The instructions are here: http://deliciousengineering.blogspot.com/ under "Firefox Extension Fixed." They claim that the IE extension is fixed as well, but there seem to be no special instructions.

Did you migrate your Delicious account to AVOS previous to the move?

I opted in a while before the move. I didn't do anything else.

So you've seen the mess they've made of the basic bookmarklet?

It's absolutely a complete joke. Do you want to separate your tags by comma??? WTF???

The Chrome extension's view hasn't changed, from what I can tell.

I'm not referring to the new Delicious changes but the actual release itself, users still cannot login or retrieve passwords (including myself).

I've been over at the beta blog trying to get answers and judging by the amount of major issues, this does not look like a well planned release: http://deliciousengineering.blogspot.com/

And they're still blaming losing god-only-knows how many accounts entirely on the users. "Missed the opt-in emails" my arse.

Argh, very frustrating indeed. Yet another good reason to backup your online account data. Just because it's hosted externally by a "trustworthy" company doesn't mean your data will always be there.

This debacle is what made me finally switch to Pinboard. Well, that and I like the Pinboard guy's developer blog. http://blog.pinboard.in/

There are only a couple of services/products I would used based on the people running them. Pinboard falls into this category. The developer is active with the service, very open and honest, and gives great customer service.

If another similar service offered significantly more features or an otherwise better product I might be convinced to switch, but it would take a lot of convincing.

The other two products that come to mind as fitting in this category are Sublime Text and Balsamiq mockups. Both are great products, but are backed by even better companies / people.

In the offline world, I feel the same way about my (State Farm) insurance agent. His office has bent over backward when necessary to ensure things are taken care of.

Great customer service, honesty, and listening to the customer goes a long ways toward building a successful business. This is why Pinboard will thrive and profit while Delicious continues to sputter.

The problem with Pinboard is a different one(I am speaking as a Delicious user who likes Pinboard and has considered switching a few times).

Not to be morbid, but using Pinboard is about as precarious a practice as using Magnolia was.

That rant about hosting already was a sign of trouble.

Pinboard rests on the shoulders of one developer, then the "hit by the bus" question becomes "hit by a tricycle" question.

How do you ensure longevity for a service like this?

Me too. Logging in a seeing just a partial listing of all the tags I've created since 2005 was disheartening.

Also didn't like running Net::Delicious and watching it fail.

Or watching my Firefox Delicious plugin completely fail after years of solid everyday use.

Unfortunately, my import into Pinboard left me with incomplete link history, but I assume the dev will help me figure out why it didn't like my entire feed.

They just killed the network feature of del.icio.us. I was using it regularly and that was my incentive to put regularly my bookmarks with meaningful tags or/and description.

So I decided to moved to https://pinboard.in/u:adulau

Writing has been on the wall for some time. Surprised anyone that uses Delicious seriously did not switch to Pinboard or equivalent. No sure Avos is to blame so much as delicious users not being proactive about the inevitable.

The reaction of Delicious users is a product of poor communication on behalf of AVOS. They wanted it to sound like they were simply taking the reigns when, in fact, they were building a new product. Nothing from this email indicates that the old delicious is going away:

"Dear Delicious User, This is our final notice to let you know that Delicious is transitioning to a new owner, AVOS. To continue using Delicious, you must agree to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks and Delicious account information to AVOS by September 23, 2011. After your bookmarks and account information have been transferred, you will be subject to the AVOS terms of service and privacy policy."

That read so much like an ultimatum (and was honestly the first email from them that I actually saw about the transition) that I had little desire to migrate since I had already moved to Pinboard. Kind of like if Facebook sent something similar...meh, just dump me already, my life exists outside your free service.

I don't want to be the "Let's make an open source version; it'd only take a weekend" guy, but why doesn't someone else do a good social bookmark site? What's stopping someone from providing the features that are missing in new delicious?

Also, "stem to stem" should be "stem to stern" - I don't know why stuff like that bothers me so much, but it does.

There are several alternatives, with Pinboard being the front-runner (and my personal favorite). However, none of them had an established brand, and Delicious users didn't have a compelling reason to move. Looks like this has just changed.

a rocky week for sure, but I don't see major grounds for hate. Heavy user/dependent on Delicious for my bookmarks etc. By day 2 I was relatively running smoothly again. It was all expected and they listed the features that are still in progress and I've already seen some of the things (like FF plugin) start to work again. So..... I don't see where the ZDnet hate and user account stuff is coming from. What, all the users that didn't really use the service and then saw tech news about the relaunch and decided to visit the site again only to find their accounts gone/not migrated? The warnings for migration were borderline intense/annoying the past month or so....and that was months after the emails and notifications when AVOS jumped in.

I haven't been following this as closely as others (primarily because I was never a heavy delicious user), but was there a lot of pressure on AVOS to push out the new version as quickly as possible? I find it hard to believe that a company would try to relaunch a product without transferring a good amount of the historical data that makes it so useful.

They should have taken their time and gotten it right. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

<speculation>Maybe the contract they signed with Yahoo had a clause that bound them to transfer all data from Yahoo datacenters by a given date? Maybe the code became so coupled with the Yahoo infrastructure that it would have been extremely difficult to deploy it somewhere else? Maybe – like most programmers – they underestimated the time needed to do the rewrite?</speculation>

What a pathetic rant. I was totally not surprised that day #1 of a total codebase rewrite would not have all the features of the old version. AVOS hinted enough at this too. At least they are innovating and responding to users. Having said that, I do hope 'networks' returns since that's the feature I miss, so far.

I could have lived with the changes (by ignoring them), but now tags are basically useless. All my tags since the change have been a mess between tutorial/tutorials, book/books, etc.

Any recommendations for alternatives? (I've already checked Pinboard but it has a sign-up fee)

Diigo is a great alternative, and it has a free plan too. The feature set they offer is so impressive that I moved on to the 'Premium' plan the same day I signed up.

While Pinboard has a (affordable, hey, it's just about ten bucks) signup fee, but I'd say it totally costs the money. The only thing I still miss from old Delicious is my network (people, not feature).

You can try Diigo or Zootool, though. They both seem pretty decent tools.

I'm glad I moved all my bookmarks to diigo months ago. But it's still sad to see a great service killed like this.

I would love to hear Maciej's take on all of this (not to mention his server stats for the past few days!)

Here's how to export all your links to an xml file:


This worked just fine, as of Friday 02:43 CDT. Just substitute in your own username and password.

Sort of. Except I think if you salvage a property out of demise you've got some lee-way.

I can understand why hardcore lovers of the old Delicious are upset at the "changes". Change can be really tough if you've stuck with a site through that many years. But in the end, the old Delicious isn't changing - it's dead. What now exists is an entirely new site under the delicious coat of arms. What users dont understand is that there is no "going back". It's upsetting that your beloved site is dead, but mourn and move along - any attempt to revive it is folly.

AVOS is ultimately at fault here. They didn't want to hurt the feelings of the Delicious old guard, so they made it sound like everything was ok. But everything -wasn't- ok with the product those users fell in love with, it was being obliterated. The best thing AVOS can do now is help users come to terms with the present reality.

Ultimately, the re-launch was the right move - the delicious of 2004 cant survive in today's web. But AVOS's communication around the transition just wasnt frank enough. They should have just held a funeral.

I use delicious on a daily basis, and I feel that the problem it solves is very much alive. Maybe I am a bit of a power user, as I search and tag (and love the automatic tag suggestions) all my delicious links from a FF plugin.

But I believe it is still a solution for a very persistent problem, and as long as it solves it, it will be able to survive very well in today's web.

I agree. I use delicious on a daily basis. The problem it solves is there.

The main problem is the fact that they are doing a crappy job at releasing. I don't think they planned this very well.

Agreed. I had my fair share of problems with Delicious these days. The linked article is very relevant. But I wish it was better, not gone.

Evernote has replaced the need for Delicious for me

> the delicious of 2004 cant survive in today's web

The old delicious had all the features I ever wanted it for. When the "sunset" leak happened, I immediately set up accounts at pinboard and trunkly but continued to bookmark on delicious and let the others pull in from my delicious RSS feed.

Now that the RSS feed is gone, I will start bookmarking on pinboard directly. Pinboard was built to emulate the classic Delicious anyway, and has tag suggestions.

The missing feature is the equivalent of delicious.com/tag/whatever, where you would see a ranked-by-popularity list of URLs that were tagged "whatever". That was always an excellent fallback/discovery tool when I didn't get good search results on Google or a vertical search engine.

EDIT: delicious RSS is back, actually. I guess enough people emailed about it.

> delicious of 2004 cant survive in today's web

For those that haven't got around to using Delicious, can you summarize why?

changes are one thing. arbitrarily changing the tag separator from spaces to commas is entirely another.

Amen, brother. I'd really like to hear your take on the psychology of a mind that thinks changes like that that completely break APIs (Net::Delicious) is a good idea.

AVOS' new TOS specifically forbids any usage of the service by anything that falls outside of common web browser list and is not AVOS-provided software.

I was quite shocked about this condition when I read it.

Agreed that these changes shouldn't be made arbitrarily, but spaces as tag separators has always been my biggest frustration with delicious and is one of the biggest reasons I (to my eventual regret) ended up using Ma.gnolia back in the day.

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