Bookmark this, Yahoo!

I’ve been offline for much of the past 24 hours, so, except for a tweet or two, I haven’t weighed in on the news that Yahoo! is, well, I’m not quite sure, but whatever it is, owning the social bookmarking service Delicious.com won’t be a part of it.

Apparently, news leaked (news leaks when you lay-off hundreds of employees, I hear) yesterday that could be interpreted to mean any number of things about the future of Delicious. “Shuttering” was the most-often-used word in those early rumors. And, with no official response from Yahoo! when the story broke, anyone with a rumor or theory or sad essay could define the news. So, as the guiding light of the RexBlog, Osmo Wiio, says in #2 of his laws of communication, “If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage.” (Or in the original Finnish, “Jos sanoma voidaan tulkita eri tavoin, niin se tulkitaan tavalla, josta on eniten vahinkoa.”)

Late today, more than 24 hours later, the official Yahoo! response came with this Delicious.com blog post, that contains, quite clearly, everything they needed to say 24 hours ago, but didn’t — thus, it doesn’t matter.

Danny Sullivan provides all the X’s and O’s on how Yahoo! bungled the handling of this and how the morons left running Yahoo! are, amazingly, clueless about the new realities of the way the web works. Which is ironic. Because, Delicious.com was one of the early “first order” social media developments that created the “adjacent possible” of pretty much everything you see where a “Like” or “Share” button appears.* If it weren’t so sad and tragic, it might be humorous. But there’s nothing funny about it. The people who “run” Yahoo!, like those who run so many other large organizations or institutions, are obviously incapable of comprehending the hidden value of little stuff.

Here’s what I mean: Delicious (or, as it was called back then, Del.icio.us) was the first “social bookmarking” service that gained a big following among early bloggers. Early bloggers (and I believe setting up this blog in 1999 and blogging since 2000 places me in that group) discovered that providing hyperlinks with a sentence or two of commentary was a helpful gesture that took hardly any time and was greatly appreciated (e.g., generated traffic). While you can say, Delicious was a social bookmarking service, another way to view it was as a first-order micro-blogging platform. I loved, and still love, the purity of Delicious. It was one-click for doing one-thing. But it did so with great elegance. And here’s what it provided: The ability to collect and organize and comment-on hyperlinks and to then (this is the important part) generate multiple RSS feeds from that link you created.

Now, break that down and you can see similarities to just about everything that has come since then, ranging from WordPress to Twitter — just with variations.** And, if Yahoo hadn’t stumbled-away the future on search, we would be saying that Delicious provided the foundation on which they built their first-generation real-time social-search tool (which, just to make it clear, they didn’t).

Selling (you’ll be shocked how much they’ll receive if they chose that route***) or turning it into an open-source project (not likely), are ways Yahoo! can “shed” Delicious. Pulling the plug on it woud be stupid, even for those left running Yahoo! as part of Yahoo’s on-going success is 100% dependent on users storing all sorts of information on their corner of “the cloud.” The notion they would pull the plug on years of someone’s bookmarks is ludicrous, even for the yahoos running Yahoo, as the first thing it would do is make us start seriously considering the future of those photos we pay to store on Flickr.

*This WSJ.com essay by Steve Johnson, and his book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, use the work of theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman regarding molecular evolution as a metaphor to explain how advances in technology, industry and other arenas develop as the result of a preceding “first-order” idea.

**See Dave Winer’s post, “How Twitter and Del.icio.us are Alike.

***If, as some would argue, hyperlinks are the currency and soul of the web, it would, ipso facto, stand to reason a database collection of tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of tagged, categorized and ranked hyperlinks  would have great value.