Social bookmarking has been around for a while now but has been coming of age recently. For those who don’t know, social bookmarking services are websites that allow users to create and share lists of their favourite websites. The links are generally organised using ‘tags’ and are often rated. Originally seen as simply a place to store your bookmarks online so that they were accessible from any computer, they are now being seen as a possible alternative to search engines.
You can of course still keep your bookmarks private if you wish, but sharing them is the norm and it is this sharing that allows social bookmarking sites to compete with search engines.
There are a number of advantages:
- Human editors vs Robots
- Sites are categorised through the use of tags which are applied by real human editors who have read and hopefully understood the websites content. This should lead to a more accurate listing than the traditional search engine method of using algorithms based on the keywords from within the web-pages content.
- Human ranking vs algorithms
- The websites within a social bookmarking site are ranked by real human users. This can be both in the form of giving the site a ranking and also by the number of members who have actually bookmarked the site. This is in contrast to many search engine based ranking systems which really heavily on link popularity to determine a websites ranking within their search results. Search engine results will therefore rank those sites that have lots of other sites linking to them regardless of the real usefulness of the website. Social Bookmarking ranks are based on websites that people actually bookmark.
Certain disadvantages also exist due to the fact that their is no real control over the tagging process, so for example a website tagged for windsurfing and surfing may not be listed under a search for coastal sports despite the fact that it is clearly relevant for such a search. Many social bookmarking systems such as Ma.gnolia.com get around this to a certain extent by allowing members to create groups of bookmarks based around certain topics. Members can join such groups and add their favourite related bookmarks to it.
It will be a long time before social bookmarking becomes widely used and by then the systems will no doubt become abused by people trying to get their sites listed above others, but they can be useful both for finding the information you are seeking and also for sharing your favourite sites with the other members of the social bookmarking community.
Some widely used social bookmarking services:
Ma.gnolia is my favourite due to its clean, fresh design and layout and its ease of use.