Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Social Bookmarking

Background and History

Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet with the help of metadata. [1] Social bookmarking is a relatively new concept, which evolved in 2004 in response to the explosive growth of the world-wide web. Its underlying idea is similar to the rest of the Web 2.0, namely that it relies on the collective opinion of the users to help navigate the web. The key feature of the social bookmarking is that Internet users are able to categorize any site using so called “tags”, which represent freely chosen categories. At the heart of this approach is a concept of “folksonomies” [2]. Although this word is not yet officially recognized by Merriam Webster Dictionary, its genesis is quite easy to understand: instead of traditional “taxonomy” or scientific classification, it relies on the popular, or “folks” classification.


Human tagged searches and tag ranking (as opposed to the automated search engine spider searches and number of external links) provide the high quality web content analysis and therefore can be more useful to the end user. Groups of users can share the same set of bookmarks. Some sites allow partial content bookmarking: a) specific images, text excerpts, videos; b) expedites access to the essence of the information. Libraries have found social bookmarking to be useful as an easy way to provide lists of informative links to patrons. [3] Apart from any other benefits, such service is undoubtedly valuable in and of itself, especially to those people who have multiple computers and would like to rely on a single set of bookmarks. These sites also help users by installing a “tagging” button on a web browser, to make the process of tagging easy and quick. Finally, the bookmarking sites then pull together the statistical information and offer users a broad range of options, such as site popularity ratings, site associations (for example, “people who liked this site, also liked the following sites") The advantages of the Social Bookmarking are fairly obvious from its description. While human opinions can’t compete in efficiency with the search crawlers, they are capably of carrying much more nuanced, and therefore useful picture. At a high level of bookmarks agglomeration, an entirely new level of capabilities opens up, allowing customers to more efficiently find the information, but also, in principle, allowing the vendors to more precisely market their products and also better understand the needs of various niche customer groups. This later aspect is a part of the “long tail” feature inherent to all Web 2.0 applications.


Like with the advantages, the limitations of this technology are also quite obvious. Without rigid structure and controlled vocabulary the system is prone to problems caused by simple spelling errors, etc. Also, the rigid taxonomy allows the developers to easily internationalize the contents, by simply translating the category names. One can think of that as the Classifieds in a newspaper – “help wanted” is a common and rigid category anywhere in the world, and so can easily be localized by using the correct local spelling. On the other hand, the folksonomies do not lend themselves easily to such an approach. Another understandable limitation of this technology is that it is prone to manipulation. For example, a business owner interested in boosting traffic to their website, may create many fake accounts and upload their bookmarks lauding that site. Having artificially boosted the ratings, dishonest users may also sell that popular web address. Finally, there are ways of manipulating the ratings by intentionally using incorrect but popular tags.

An outstanding step-by-step instruction for using “” bookmarking site by Plain English

Even though social bookmarking method has several serious limitations compared to the regular automated search engines, it opened a new venue for Internet users to search and share information based on their opinion about the content, rather then carefully computed search relevance index, as well as to communicate with other users connected by similar tag-based web links.

Works cited:
  3. Rethlefsen, Melissa L. (9 2007). "Tags Help Make Libraries". Library Journal.
  4. Tony Hammond, Timo Hannay, Ben Lund and Joanna Scott. - Social Bookmarking Tools (I): A General Review In: D-Lib Magazine 11, Nr. 4, 2005)
  5., on 09-09-2008

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