Some applications have great general usage patterns, while other applications are very specific in nature. Bookmarking is one of those general usage applications, but lately people have mentioned that they don’t use it anymore. The discussion of bookmarking started a few weeks ago when XMarks announced they would be shutting down, and a few days later stating there may be some life in the service. When news like this appears, people start talking about it. In particular, two people mentioned that they do not use bookmarks, but they are people more involved with the real-time web. One of the posts, from Mahendra Palsule, contains a good overview of the types of bookmarking applications exist and why you might use them. However, Mahendra, an editor for Techmeme, gives his reason for not using bookmarks:
I do not use any service that lets me save a link that I can read later. Because, by the time ‘later’ comes, there is already plenty of new stuff for me to check out.
Living real-time means it is always now or never.
I have nothing but respect for Mahendra and Mark Evans, the author of the Sysomos post, but the question is whether people fully immersed in the real-time web should be looking at the future of bookmarking. Bookmarks are long-term storage for content you want to review later. As a software engineer, I still use Delicious for bookmarking various posts that are tutorials, tips or introductions to new technologies.
Mahendra argues that Google search may be a better source of information because content changes all of the time. The problem with search is that it may find some good information but it may not find the article or blog post that you were looking for. Even if you do find something you were looking for, is it always a one-time search, or is it something you need to go back to in the future?
The real problem is not whether bookmarking has a future, but whether long-term bookmarking services like Delicious, Diigo and PearlTrees have a future when they are fighting against the newer bookmark synchronization functionality appearing in browsers. This becomes a bigger problem with the addition of devices like mobile phones and tablets. These devices promote the idea of quick review of content, but possibly not a thorough reading of content. For this type of short-term bookmarking, services like Instapaper and ReadItLater really shine. Both applications also have excellent mobile applications that make the services even better.
If you look at the traffic on Compete for Delicious, Diigo and XMarks, each service has declined over the past year. It could be that the general focus and usage of bookmarking has changed. With browser bookmark synchronization, and the rise of short-term bookmarking services, long term bookmark services could be in danger and the issues with XMarks may just be the beginning.