Social Bookmarks Hurricane

I was explaining the concept of blogs to someone today, and before I had asked enough questions, I found myself diving into the area of social bookmarks.

Those of us who use them all the time or are heavy internet users from way back don’t really stop to think of things like this from the point of view of one of the new kids on the ‘net.

First, we will need to define a few things. It should come together easily after some background information:

Bookmarks in your internet browser are just an indexed collection of places you have been online that you have at some point told it to remember, so that you can find that one site or page again. Internet users at one point would pride themselves on a well-organized bookmarks scheme that put everything at their fingertips easily. (yes, the internet existed before “google” became a verb). If you have never poked as much as a toe from “the Microsoft Way”, you would likely refer to these as “favorites”.

Browser features were a hot topic back at the early risings of the browser wars, which led to the highly similar look and feel that most browsers have. Most internet browsers as of the “Verson 4” era, and some even before that, had nifty and highly underused export functions for bookmarks and other info. These were originally put there by developers to make it easier for you to make backups or to move to another computer. During the aforementioned wars, the browsers started writing these backup files for bookmarks in HTML (and then XML) format. This was a huge development because Bob had a really awesome link collection that was easy to navigate and had all the good sites for researching the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All he had to do was hit “export bookmarks” and “viola!,” It created a file that he could give to me on 5.25″ floppy, or by cc:Mail. When I got the file, I had the option of importing it the old way, or even just opening it with one of my browsers. If I chose the latter, I got a nicely indented, formatted page of clickable links, including the helpful notes he had made about each link.

Fast forward a hundred years. Or, in non-infotech terms, six or seven years. Today’s users have bandwidth to burn, the power of Google in their right holster, and the twitchiest mouse fingers this side of the Pecos. Sharing links is simple, because it’s a built-in feature of everything.

People find it easy to shoot a link over to their friends by email or by IM. During the dawn of web 2.0 (which you don’t really hear that much anymore, oddly), some sites hit the public by storm whose primary function was to keep a live page of links (bookmarks) relevant to the people who visit the site. Shortly after, they added message board functionality to the site. This allowed you as a member of TheBobSite to see the latest link, as well as an ongoing discussion between the other people visiting the site, and also to post your reactions and feelings regarding the link.

The killer part was when the live voting came into play. Next to the links now, there is a vote counter, allowing you as a user to vote “yay or nay” on the relevancy or value of the link at hand. The more people like a link, the closer to the top it goes. As new links become more popular, they churn their way to the top.

I hope this didn’t meander too much. Here are a few “favorites” to click if you are still confused. Sometimes seeing it makes it all come together.

These aren’t in any particular order and are far, far, far from being an exhaustive list.

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