Social Bookmarking

From New Media Business Blog

Jump to: navigation, search

Social bookmarking is a tool that enables users to store their favorite links and personal bookmarks in a single online location[1] for future use. Rather than saving links on computer in the traditional way, users manage and share online contents by bookmarks saved online.[2] Social Bookmarking is not only allowing people to manage their own links, but also allowing them to look at what others have tagged and shared. In today’s world, social bookmarking is becoming one of the most powerful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools. It has gained a lot of relevance and popularity in Internet marking as well as online business.[3]

Social Bookmarking In Plain English


Features and Functions

Attract Traffic

One important function of social bookmarking is to increase the number of visitors of websites[1].It is widely utilized by individuals as well as businesses, such as bloggers and e-commerce websites. Because of the sharing and spreading of information among users, social bookmarking sites are always updated with most recent topics and indexed by search engine crawlers quickly.

Increase Page Rank

In addition to increasing website traffic or the number of visitors, using social bookmarking will also affect the pagerank of a link as a result of keywork search.[2] For example, by bookmarking the contents of a blog, the link of the blog will be easily found by search engines as they constantly index social bookmarking websites for any updates.


The history of social bookmarking can be traced back to April 1996, when a company called itList was launched. This website became popular because it provided a tool that enabled people to save their favourite links in folders on the Internet. Users had the option to make their folders public or private.

Major Social Bookmarking Providers

Within the next few years, several new bookmarking sites such as Backflip, Blink, Clip2, and HotLinks were launched, creating competition and making online bookmarking services a well-known application.[3] Rather than just collecting bookmarked sites in simple folders, they provided new features, such as folders for organizing favourite links or automatically sorting bookmarks into different folders. Backflip users could also share their bookmarks with their friends, colleagues, or family members via email.

This early generation of social bookmarking companies did not have a viable revenue model, and the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 caused many of them to go bankrupt, including Backflip and Clip2. However, despite this crisis, bookmarking sites came back into fashion, and the following years were considered to be a breaking point in the development of social bookmarking sites., which was launched in 2003 by Joshua Schacter, popularized the term “social bookmarking” and pioneered the use of tagging keywords. After that, similar bookmarking services, such as Digg, Simpy, Furi, Citeulike, and Connotea, came onto the market in 2004. Delicious has continued to maintain a strong presence in the social bookmarking industry. In a 2006 post on Techcrunch, Michael Arrington stated that there were about 1 million users and 53 million posts on Delicious.[4] By the end of 2008, Delicious claimed that there were over 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked URLs on their website.[5] These statistics implied a large jump in the growth of social bookmarking popularity.

In 2007, the BBC and IBM (with a social bookmarking tool called IBM Connection) encouraged users to share, store, and tag their links on social bookmarking sites, and more companies followed suit.[6]

In 2008, there were 125 social bookmarking sites; this number has grown to over 800 in 2012 , and more social bookmarking sites will be created in the future.[7] The highly competitive environment has motivated the bookmarking sites to differentiate or improve their services by introducing auto notifications, comments, import and export options, notes, ratings, reviews, RSS subscriptions, etc.

The Use of Social Bookmarking

Individual Uses

People who use social bookmarking can be divided into two groups: tag users and content creators. Tag users mainly use tags to perform web searches. Content creators create the content of tags, that is, they categorize, store, and share information through tagging. There are also comments along with the tags that describe information labeled, and the comments or descriptions are regarded as a form of metadata.

Social bookmarking services started to take off in 1996. Service providers, such as Delicious, Digg, 43 Things and others, built bookmarking managing platforms for users to organize, store and share information over the Internet.

Tags Created by Flickr Users

The emergence of social bookmarking service has turned traditional browser-based bookmark folder into a Web 2.0 feature. The social bookmarking managers provide personal or group accounts for individual or groups of users to access the service. The phenomenon of “Folksonomy” also enables crowd-sourcing of information over the service platforms by users with an account.

Web search using tags is another utilization of the services. Clusters of tags are created by content creators and tag users are able to perform web searching by clicking on each tag. Search results will include contents that contain the keyword in their titles or descriptions. It also enables users to view bookmarks associated with one or more related tags. This allows more efficient web searches.

Popular functions of social bookmarking websites also include voting mechanism, localized notification, and browser add-ons. Many service providers allow users to vote for stories submitted by others and stories accumulate the most votes appear on the front page. Notification services provide a communication channel to users, to whom messages, RSS feeds[8] and emails are sent to communicate new information. Browser add-ons are small tool bars or buttons installed on the browsers for users to conveniently utilize social bookmarking functions.

Organization Uses

Social bookmarking software provides the same type of services to enterprises. Companies implement such software to allow employees to perform similar activities within their intranets as with the service providers in public domain. This type of software also adds on with social link managers to additional functions. Bookmarking script, as an example, allows users to customize lists of social bookmarking sites. Other typical functions provided by such software include content spinning, RSS crawler and rewriter.

Some educational institutions have started to adopt social bookmarking for different uses[9]. Firstly, social bookmarking can help build a community within an educational field. By collaboratively creating and sharing tags related to a common topic, people of the same profession gather around to discuss and explore topics they are interested in. Second, a database of academic essays and research reports can be built using tagging.

Libraries used to depend on experts with profound knowledge to label and manage vast amount of data generated daily. The idea of social bookmarking has attracted the attention of libraries. Databases built on social bookmarking models were designed focusing on helping libraries manage and re-use individual records, as well as provide RSS feeds on new articles and books.

Statistic analysis of tags [10]created by many end users can reveal trends in customer demands. So querying of links and tags makes sense in terms of collecting customer data and discovering unmet demands.

Internet marketing is closed associated with the SEO features of social bookmarking [11]. Also, many websites offer sponsored links for businesses to advertise and protmote their products and services.

Reputation Management

SEO Company:

As a SEO tool, social bookmarking has become a major channel for businesses to manage their reputations over the Internet. Online reputation management has been on the rise in recent years. Through social bookmarking, companies are able to quickly update new product information, interact with users, and optimize the search engine ranking of their websites. However, the manipulation of social presence using online tools has caused ethical issues and discussions surrounding the topic.

SEO companies emerged responding to the phenomenon. They provide Internet marketing services that utilize Web 2.0 tools, which include managing reputation, online promotion and other customer-attracting services. Featured SEO companies [12] include, Customer Magnetism, SEOP and so on. However, search engine companies, such as Google, have started to develop new algorithms to screen advertisements posted by these types of companies, which again leads to a discussion of ethics.

Mini-cases: Signature Companies


Digg Old Logo
Digg Social Reader


As one of the most popular social news bookmarking websites, Digg provides its users a virtual platform to share recent news and discuss topics they are interested in. With a Facebook, Twitter, or Digg account, users can sort and comment on the topics in different categories on the homepage of the Digg community, and they also have the option to submit external news links or blog posts to the website. Users are able to vote up (“Digg”) and down (“Bury”) a particular post in the community and the most digged posts will be shown in the Top News section.

In 2010, the team developed a Digg iOS app called the Digg Social Reader, which is a Facebook-linked app that allows users to share news and stories they have read and dug over their social networking sites [13]. Later the team launched an Android app. In 2011, Digg added two new sections. One is called Newswire, from where the users can view other Diggers’ activities as well as sort the most up-to-dated stories. The other is called News Room, which is used to display the most popular news from Newswire in different topics.

Development was established by Kevin Rose, Owen Byrne, Ron Gorodetsky and Jay Adelson with a $6,000 investment from Kevin. Sooner the website became a huge success as it raised $2.8 million in venture capital within one year and grew to having more than 800,000 daily visitors within 18 months. In May 2009, Digg integrated Facebook Connect, and later it launched Digg ads that led to a 30% increase in the company’s annual revenue. In 2010, Digg launched Digg 4.0 and added the two new sections, Newsroom and Newswire, in the next year.[14]

Kevin Rose in Business Week Cover

In 2008, Digg was in acquisition rumors with Google, Microsoft and other two media companies, which feared a large number of Digg users. It was said that the deal was likely to be done in the range of $200 million to $225 million. Nonetheless, Digg finally walked away from the deal partly due to Diggers’comments and partly because that Kevin Rose was confident with Digg’s business model at that time and he was not fond of working with large companies.[15]

However, the website valued 9 figures a few years ago now is sold for only 6 figures. Some of the website redesign features (Digg 4.0, DiggBar [16]) weren’t well-received by its users, which drifted half of its users away. Meanwhile, the popularity of Facebook and Twitter also hurt the company. In May 2012, the Washington Post ended up paying $12 million for the Digg Engineering team. Around the same time, career social network LinkedIn paid between $3.75 million and $4 million for around 15 different Digg patents including the patent on “click a button to vote up a story”. The New York technology development firm Betaworks acquired the rest of the website this July for a deeply discounted price of about $500,000. Now Digg is merged to, a service that sends people top news via email from Facebook and Twitter as well as an iPad and iPhone app that does the same.[17]

After the acquisition with Betaworks recently, Digg was redesigned and relaunched by Betaworks team with a quite clean presence (white background and black logo) and picture-oriented interface that looks like Pinterest, which is another social bookmarking site. In the new Digg v1, users can only login with their Facebook account and cannot comment on stories any more, and currently it is difficult for old users to find their previous data in the new version. Betaworks turned Digg back to start-up and decided to cancel ads and sponsorship on site at the moment. It is less likely that old Digg users will be back to the new site, but Betaworks is trying to build a whole new group of audience with the rebuilding of Digg.[18]

Successful Factors

Here are some interesting facts that make Digg successful in a short 5 years:

Digg-look Ad

  • Nice and clear interface design. It is one of the reasons that Digg experience is better than Reddit’s, which is also a social news site that has similar features with Digg.
  • A variety of sources site. Digg’s stories come from a variety of sites compared with that of Redidt, including New York Times and Newsweek.
Digg Dialogg with Marissa Mayers
  • Digg-look ads. Digg ads look like regular Digg posts so that users can vote up and down those ads, so it forces marketers to design simple but eye-catching ads to get high votes. Digg ads also generates large profits for the company[19].
  • Burying Algorithm. Stories that get buried enough will disappear from the site’s main feed and the algorithm of burying a story is kept as a secret all along. Kevin Rose claimed that the algorithm takes several factors into consideration.
  • Digg meet-ups. The first meet-ups for Digg’s fellows and crew was held by its founders in San Francisco, and then followed in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.
  • Diggnation and Digg Dialogg. Diggnation is a weekly video podcast recorded by Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht. It was firstly posted to their website as a platform to talk about some of top news in Digg. The podcast was awarded for several prizes in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and the show is also available in iTunes and Tivo. Digg Dialogg is an interview show with celebrities and notable leaders also produced by Diggers can submit their questions to interviewers in Digg community and the most popular ones will be posted in the interview[20]



Delicious Logo

Stack in Delicious

The Delicious community is a social bookmarking website that enables users to bookmark anything they like on the Delicious platform, including videos, articles and pictures. It is ranked as the best social bookmarking site in 2012, in terms of its ease of use, versatility, popularity and huge traffic.[1] It is quite different from, as it focuses on sharing bookmarks and tags, instead of sharing news. The Delicious users are free to save links and organize them with personal tags by using the Delicious bookmark tool and choose to share it with the public or not.[2]

Delicious was founded by Joshua Schachter in 2003 and registered as a unique domain name: It was acquired by Yahoo! in December 2005. The site was then re-sold to AVOS Systems, a company created by Youtube founders, in April, 2011, and the domain name was changed to After the selling, Delicious had made significant interface redesign and launched a new feature called "Stack".[3]

New Feature: Stack

The stack feature of the website enables users to build a collection of links with the same theme and comment on those collections. In addition, users can follow the stacks and links they like and find a series of popular stacks built by other members on the homepage. Furthermore, users can view the most popular bookmarks being saved across many areas of interest on homepage. The users are also allowed to comment on a stack and create a stack as a response to the original stack. It is easy to find tasty new bookmarks from people share the common interests with each other and it’s a good strategy against its competitors such as Pinterst which does not offer private boards.[2]



StumbleUpon's Old and New Logo

StumbleUpon is a discovery engine that can automatically pop up and sort interesting contents across the web based on a user’s interests. It is different from the two other bookmarking websites listed above, since StumbleUpon uses its algorithm to recommend websites randomly to users based on their interests. The design of the website is clean and quite straightforward; users can find all the buttons they need displaying in the StumbleBar on the top of the webpage.

Users can first pick several topics of interest from the main page, such as photography, design, or painting, and then StumbleUpon will provide different websites relevant to those topics. Users can “like” the page and share it through Facebook or Twitter as well as make comments. Like other social bookmarking managers, users are allowed to discover other Stumblers’ interests as well. The “Crafts” button on StumbleBar helps to stumbling a specific interest, the “Channel” button allows users to follow a brand or celebrity, and the explore box is used to browse pages that Stumblers are interested without adding them to profiles.[4]

StumbleUpon's History


The domain was registered in 2001 and caught the attention of Angel Investors later and then landed $1.5 million in seed funding. In 2007, StumbleUpon was bought by eBay for $75 million, which seemed a bad move, since the traffic of the website dropped by about 70% in 2008. In 2009, the original founders bought back the website and later introduced a new StumbleUpon that users don’t have to sign up. From then on the website started to growth and become popular again, and reached to its 10,000,000th member in June 2010. In 2011, StumbleUpon made several noteworthy changes and focus their efforts on the recommendation engine instead of expanding to include blogging platforms.[5]

Algorithm of Recommendations

The site’s discovery engine is based on three sources of information:

  • A Stumbler’s settings
  • A Stumbler’s history
  • A stumbler’s friends and peers

The site is designed to collect information about behavior and historical records of its users as well as their friends and peers to ensure the quality of its recommendations. The process is defined as “collabrative filtering”, meaning that the more a Stumbler uses the website, the more useful and precise the recommendations he can get.[6]


Controlled Vocabulary

The“tag-based” system is lack of a standard set for keywords, controlled terms and vocabulary. As the phenomenon of folksonomy suggests that the system relies on people collaboratively creating tags based on their own interests, it increases the level of difficulty on searching data with unclear tags or personalized tags created by some users[7]. That is to say, the lack of control of vocabulary creates a problem with social bookmarking platform regarding semantic meanings of tags. Therefore, social bookmarking lacks of a flawless management system to organize its different bookmarks.


Due to the advantages of bookmarking one’s sites and blogs on popular social bookmarking websites, it is attempting to abuse the use of functions such as flooding the sites with personal website links for advertising purposes[7]. Also because of overwhelming spams that users receive on a daily basis, some of the social bookmarking sites have banned the“following”function among users.

See also: Reputation Management


Reputation management, by its name, is managing a company’s reputation. There are three types of reputation management[8]:

  • Building: it is for businesses that just get started and need to build a reliable reputation.
  • Maintenance: it helps established companies to maintain their good reputation.
  • Recovery: Online reputation management services help companies with an undesirable reputation hide all their negative information.

Associated Ethical Issues

Today’s business has realized that reputation is a company's intelligence property that needs to be managed properly. Without good reputation, there will be little chance for a business to achieve its long-term goals. However, with the growth of reputation management services and tools, debates surrounding the ethical issues of reputation management are also rising.

Some people believe online reputation management is not an ethical way to build reputation. Reputation management hides negative information and makes a business looks better. It highlights the good things of one’s company and controls what Google and other search engines rank on the top pages about that company [9]. According to an online reputation management provider, 95% of customers who use search engines only view first 30 results [10]; therefore, having a higher page rank means more probability to reach customers. Moreover, by pushing down negative results, only the best information is available for customers to access. Therefore, companies would like to pay anything to optimize search results, which will likely to cause incomplete information received by customers.

However, some other people who support online reputation management services believe they are some of the most ethical forms to promote online businesses and improve their brands. Companies employing online reputation management aim to push down their negative search results to build their own good images among marketplace, rather than conducting unethical behaviors to competitors to weaken their brands.

The debate over search engine optimization lasts a long time, but there is still no accepted standard, although several attempts have been made to establish ethical standards or processes. According to The SEO Theorist , the objective of search reputation should not be deleting all negative information, but ensuring that accurate, honest information is more easily to access for searchers[11].

Future Outlook

Marketing Tool for Business

Social bookmarking has become a popular search engine optimization tool that improves visibility of a website, so social bookmarking will continue to be a marketing tool for business. If one publishes a link on a bookmarking service, it will become more visible on search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and MSN, so there is a higher chance that people will visit the backlinked website. Moreover, with millions of social bookmarking site visits every day, it provides a great place to look for potential website visitors. It is efficient advertising for businesses with an affordable (and sometimes free) price. Therefore, online businesses favour social bookmarking because it can help promote their products and services by providing more exposure to their websites on the Internet.

Reputation Management Tool for Companies

Social bookmarking can also be used as an online tool for reputation management. A good reputation online is one of the most valuable assets any company can have, but it can be easily damaged by press or rumours, whatever it is positive or negative. When a company notices that there are negative or inappropriate articles on the first few pages of search engine returns, they can use a social bookmarking tool to manage company’s reputation. It is because it can increase the visibility of the website on search engines by posting the links on social bookmarking sites. Company can promote neutral or positive content this way and, by doing this, push the negative articles down to lower positions on search engine returns.[12] The company’s desired content will be more likely to fill the first few pages of search engine results.

Social Bookmarking Services Incorporated into Social Networking Sites

Generally speaking, the purposes of social bookmarking and social networking are the same: to interact and share with Internet users. Social networking sites allow users to post messages, share their photos, videos, website links, and get feedback from friends and followers. In future, many abilities of social bookmarking services could be incorporated into social networking sites. For example, social networking users could organize their shared links into different categories, and tag their shared links with keywords. Followers and friends would be able to filter content to meet their specific needs, so helping friends and followers to better comprehend and consume the contents of shared links. These features are currently not available in most social networking sites.


  1. Top 25 Best Social Bookmarking Sites
  2. 2.0 2.1 Delicious Help
  3. Wikipedia: History of Delicious
  4. StumbleUpon FAQ
  5. History of StumbleUpon: From Startup to Influential Social Media Site
  6. What Is StumbleUpon? The History and Timeline
  7. 7.0 7.1 Social Bookmarking: Advantages & Disadvantages
  8. Three Types of Reputation Management Services
  9. Is Reputation Management Ethical?
  10. Online Reputation Management Is Hot -- But Is It Ethical?
  11. The Ethics Of Search Reputation Management
  12. Web Reputation Management
Personal tools