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Guide to Social Bookmarking

What Is Social Bookmarking And How Do Social Bookmarks Work?


Social media and bookmarking
Getty Images/Petar Chernaev

Social bookmarking is the practice of sharing bookmarks publicly online. It usually involves users assigning keyword descriptors to "tag" each bookmark or link they want to share, and then saving them to a public website.

Sites that offer social bookmarking services usually require you to register and then give you the option of saving your bookmarks for private use only or sharing them by making them available for public viewing. Many offer a simple took for "bookmarking" a site by clicking a button on your Web browser.

How Social Bookmarking Sites Work

Behind the scenes, these sites analyze the link saving patterns of their users to determine which bookmarks are most popular and which bookmarks should be displayed to other users, based on the inferred interests of those users. Your interests are determined by what you save and share.

Social bookmarking sites typically slice and dice the shared links or social bookmarks into what amount to public resource collections.

How Tags Influence Bookmarking

At the heart of social bookmarking are tags, which are subject-based keywords that people assign to their bookmarks to help categorize them. Goals include making it easier for people to locate useful resources on a given subject and to see which resources are most popular.

The collective result of these informal tagging systems is sometimes called a "folksonomy," referring to the fact that it's a taxonomy of knowledge created by regular folks, not trained experts. The ad-hoc nature of these tagging system can lead to mistakes,though. For that reason, some people see social bookmarking systems as unreliable and imprecise.

Popular Social Bookmarking Sites

Among the popular social bookmarking sites are StumbleUpon, Friendfeed, Digg, Reddit, Diigo--and even Twitter, though that is primarily a social messaging system that has built-in link-sharing capabilities.

Twitter is really a group instant messaging network, but because people share many links on it, Twitter is sometimes considered a social bookmarking service. A ton of third-party Twitter add-ons and services also provide social bookmarking or link-sharing features that rely on Twitter data to work.

StumbleUpon is one of the fastest growing free social bookmarking sites. Its popularity rests partly on how quickly it manages to surface interesting websites to people that they had never heard of before. It has become a major Web discovery tool that people use to expkore new sites more than to save or bookmark them.

Diigo is another bookmarking system that offers a limited free version and sells two premium subscription services.It offers a variety of downloadable web browser plug ins and mobile device apps.

Specialty Social Bookmarking

There are also a ton of niche or specialty bookmarking sites that focus on particular topics. For example:

  • Digg and Reddit are popular bookmarking sites for social news.
  • Kaboodle is a popular social site for sharing shopping bookmarks.
  • Stylehive is a social bookmarking site devoted to fashion.
  • Connotea.org is a link-sharing site catering to academics and scientists.


Rise of Visual Bookmarking

The latest wave of social bookmarking and sharing takes a visual approach to organizing and sharing Web content. Sites like Pinterest allow epople to bookmark images and organize them into virtual photo galleries which they share with friends. This visual bookmarks list highlights the top social image sharing networks, while this guide offers a comprehensive Pinterest definition that explains how the leader in visual sharing works,

Older Social Bookmarking Sites

Social bookmarking has been one of the more competitive categories of content-sharing services on the Web. For that reason, many social bookmarking sites that have risen to prominence have since faltered, closed or been bought by other companies and folded into their products and become obscure.

Delicious, for example, was one of the pioneers of tagging content online when it launched in 2003. It was the most popular social bookmarking service for years.

But after Yahoo bought it in 2005, Delicious (originally known as del.icio.us) lost popularity as technical innovation slowed at the delicious website, allowing competitors to vault ahead. Yahoo put Delicious up for sale and found few takers. Delicious was finally sold to AVOS Systems, a company started by the founders of YouTube, and it is being reworked.

Other popular social bookmarking services that faltered or died included Ma.gnolia, Backflip and RawSugar. Mixx was another very popular social bookmark service that went offline in 2011 after UberMedia bought it. UberMedia has said it will bring Mixx back in a new form.

These developments highlight the risk you take if you invest a lot of time in building an online collection of bookmarks--the site could go offline or out of business and all of your work might be wiped out.

Back It Up

Many services, however, do offer backup services. You'd be advised to back up your online bookmarks if you spend a lot of time saving and sharing web resources at any of the online bookmarking sites.


Other Uses of Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites also are popular in marketing; many website owners use them to promote their sites. Google and other search engines give more weight in search results to website that have a lot of inbound links, so getting links in social bookmarking sites can help market a Web page or website.

Overall, social bookmarking is a valuable online practice that is still in its infancy. Already, it has done much to contribute to the organization of knowledge online. Rest assured that many more algorithms and software programs will be developed as social bookmarks continue to evolve along with the rest of Internet content management and sharing systems.

Get Started: Visit These Social Bookmarking Sites

Here are five of the Web's top social bookmarking sites:


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