Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, December 1, 2006

Social Bookmarking Services And Tools: The Wisdom Of Crowds That Organizes The Web

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Social bookmarking has been one of Web 2.0's success stories, tapping into the social dimension of the evolving internet, the power of online collaboration and the wisdom of crowds.

Photo credit: Maarten Janssen

The web is vast. Far too vast for anyone to have a hope of negotiating by themselves. When you start to look for information online, very often the first place you turn to are the search engines to bring home web pages that will fit what you're looking for.

Search engines, however, are not always the best of even the most efficient way of finding great online content. Anyone that has ever waded through page after page of Google results hoping that they have hit on that elusive keyword can vouch for that.

Social bookmarking brings to the equation something that search engines can't compete with - the human touch. Just as the internet has millions of pages, so it also has millions of users, and if even a fraction of those users share the sites they've found interesting, useful or just plain bizarre with each other, there is suddenly a vast resource for anyone searching the web to tap into.

Photo credit: Servusqwertz

Social bookmarking services make this possible, giving users the opportunity to quickly and easily ''tag'' web pages, effectively bookmarking them as they would for themselves, but sharing them through centralized services, and leaving useful annotations and notes for other users to come across. As sites are tagged, over time vast collections of these user generated tags are gathered together, and can then be searched by anyone making use of the social bookmarking services.

As an example, should you wish to find some great content on the subject of ''online collaboration'' you could tap this term into a social bookmarking search, and would then be given all of the latest pages tagged under this term by hundreds of thousands of users across the web. You are tapping directly into the web browsing experience of other people, and people more than likely sharing interests with you, rather than relying on a machine to pick out keywords from online fields of text.

In this mini-guide to social bookmarking I take a look at what makes social bookmarking a unique and effective way to source information and find sites that are likely to be of interest to you, whether personally or as an independent publisher in your own right. I compare the key services currently out there making social bookmarking something that anyone can leverage in their navigation of the web.

Let's take a look.

The Wisdom of Crowds - Folksonomy vs Taxonomy

Photo credit: James Thew

Traditional publishing and mass media have always been based on a top-down, one-to-many transmission model that permeated the first wave of the web - identity, branding and the static homepage dominated, and community and social networks ticked along nicely behind the scenes.

The second major phase of the web has been almost exclusively focused on the social dimension of digital media - the importance of two-way communication, user generated content and an emphasis on sharing and online collaboration.

Social bookmarking continues to be one of the driving forces of this evolving web, and as we forge ahead towards the semantic web (otherwise dubbed Web 3.0) it will continue to play an important role and prove an invaluable resource for independent publishers, businesses and even casual web surfers.

Social bookmarking is all about labeling the web, making it easier to find the content that you're looking for by passing on what you've found. The labels applied to web sites are commonly known as tags, and over time a kind of taxonomy grows, whereby persistent tags help information to be aggregated and mined for information. Where a taxonomy was, however, the product of specialists carefully categorizing items within their area of specialism, social bookmarking produces instead what has been termed a folksonomy.

A taxonomy makes claims to objectivity - it is the work of an expert scientifically cataloging the world around him. Taxonomies grew out of the natural history tradition in the sciences, and as such are imposed from above, as a top-down means of categorization.

Folksonomy - the power behind social bookmarking on the other hand is user-generated, social, subjective and powered by the very people involved in the act of tagging. A simple but powerful form of online collaboration, folksonomies supply information from the bottom up. Real people share their real interests, and pass them along.

And while taxonomies have to go through rigorous and often long winded protocols before they see the light of day, folksonomies are produced on the fly, enabling them to adapt to the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of web culture. Think of the difference between the words that make it into the dictionary, after a five year wait, to the emergent words and phrases used every day on the street. Social bookmarking produces up-to-the-minute information sources loaded with personal investment and value.

Photo credit: Jpwain

So how can you tap into this rich wealth of hand-selected content? In this mini-guide to the social bookmarking landscape, I take you through the key services in the field and highlight how these rich source of online collaboration can make a difference to the way you use the web.

Social Bookmarking Services

Photo Credit: Nikolai Sorokin

There are no shortage of social bookmarking services available, and the landscape continues to expand to the point of being crowded. Your choice of social bookmarking site will to some extent come down to a matter of taste, but it's worth spending a bit of time weighing up the features of one service over another for your particular needs.

In the following comparison of some of the key services out there, I look at the differences between the social bookmarking sites, what makes each unique, and how each holds up against the other. We begin with the best known, and perhaps most popular social bookmarking network before moving off into fresh pastures and less familiar territory.



Overview: del.ici.ous is perhaps the most well known and heavily subscribed social bookmarking service, and the sheer number of people contributing to its extensive folksonomy makes it a powerful tool for anyone looking to tap into social bookmarking.

Bookmarking system: uses tags which users apply to websites by clicking on a button that they install into their browser when they sign up. Every time a user wants to tag a site, they click on their button, and the site is added to their personal list and the library. By using common tags it is therefore possible to make tagged pages easily recoverable by other users. Recipes might be tagged by their ingredients, for example, or presentations by their content type.

What sets it apart:

  • has the kind of popularity that other social bookmarking sites dream of, which makes it a vast resource with an almost infinite amount of tagged pages to access

  • It's much imitated browser embedded button makes tagging sites a very quick and painless exercise. Tagging a page is as simple as clicking a button.

  • Being able to set up RSS feeds for any tag makes the aggregation of social bookmarks very easy

Sign Up to

Stumble Upon



Overview: Stumble Upon's enormous popularity might be credited to its innovative - yet entirely familiar - approach to social bookmarking. The principle behind Stumble Upon is giving its users the chance to ''channel surf the internet'', which is to say it brings a powerful element of the (seemingly) random to the experience of discovering new sites, serving up sites just as a TV viewer might flick through TV channels. Behind this seemingly, refreshingly random selection however is a powerful system that taps directly into your responses to previously served content. The more you use Stumble Upon, the smarter it becomes to your tastes.

Bookmarking system: When you sign up to Stumble Upon you will be asked which categories of websites you are interesting in being served. After this, you will have a style button added to your browser. When you click the button it will take you to a recommended site based on your preferences. Here you can either click on a thumbs up icon to tell it you like the site, and save it to your collection, or a thumbs down icon to suggest that this was a poor selection.

A number of other features in the same toolbar at the top of your browser add to this simple premise, so that it is possible to read reviews and comments on the page you are visiting by clicking a speech bubble icon, search by tags from within your toolbar, share your page with a friend, check out your friends latest recommendations and even access a small menu to further customize your Stumble Upon experience.

What sets it apart:

  • Stumble Upon brings an exciting element of the (seemingly) random to your browsing experience, but retains all of the features of a traditional style social bookmarking service

  • The Stumble Upon toolbar is really extensive, allowing you to find and rate bookmarks in a number of different ways without having to go to the Stumble Upon homepage

  • Stumble Upon learns and adapts to your tastes over time, bringing you fresh recommendations you are more likely to be interested in without having to search for yourself

Sign Up to Stumble Upon.

Blue Dot



Overview: Blue Dot adds full review of the service last month.

Bookmarking system: Much like, Blue Dot adds a simple button to your browser's tool bar that allows you to 'Dot This' website, which in turn opens up a dialogue box in your browser window. You can now choose any image from the page as a thumbnail and add any notes and tags before choosing to share your record with a selected group, or the whole world.

What sets it apart:

  • Blue Dot makes social bookmarking personal, making it a great tool for online collaboration, where a team might want to share private thoughts with one another about web content, rather than with the whole world

  • The ability to capture images from the site which serve as a thumbnail for your bookmark entry adds a visual dimension to the bookmarking experience

  • Bookmarks can be shared with single individuals, groups and sub-groups, or the whole world, which offers a granular dimension to networked sharing.

Sign Up to Blue Dot




Overview: Ma.gnolia focuses on online groups and the community aspect of social bookmarking, with groups focused on areas of interest sharing bookmarks with one another and the casual browser alike. Making use of a 5-star rating system, the possibility of storing private or public bookmarks and a nice feature that saves web pages so that they will always be accessible even if the site expires, Ma.gnolia has an impressive feature set and very nice design that will appeal to the visually orientated.

Bookmarking system: Ma.gnolia makes use of both browser based buttons (also known as bookmarklets) in the same style as, and different ways to bookmark from within the Ma.gnolia community. As Ma.gnolia is very community based, a lot of the bookmarking activity goes on via their website, in the personal exchange of bookmarks between group members. From the site it is possible to add bookmarks via a bookmarking widget, a simple menu option, or the browser based bookmarklets, which can also be used off-site.

What sets it apart:

  • Ma.gnolia is perhaps the most attractively designed of the social bookmarking services

  • It's emphasis on group formation and community based on interests will make it an appealing bookmarking option for those seeking to personalize the experience of bookmark trading, where many other services work on an anonymous basis

  • The ability to add quick, off-the-cuff star ratings of websites is a nice way of quickly categorizing content in a universally understandable way

Sign Up to Ma.gnolia




Overview: Digg is up there with in terms of popularity. Centered very much on its community of contributors and its web site, Digg brings a democratic element to social bookmarking. When a user "Diggs", or bookmarks, a web page or news story it is submitted to the Digg service, where users can choose to "Digg it", effectively casting a vote in its favour. The more "Diggs" a site receives, the more coverage a story or web page get, with the cream of the crop brought to the site's front page.

Bookmarking system: When a user wishes to "digg" web content, they simply enter the URL of their chosen site from their Digg user page, along with any notes, and await response from the Digg community. It is also possible to Digg sites that have added a "Digg this" widget, which is very popular with bloggers.

What sets it apart:

  • Digg's focus on voting for submitted bookmarks brings a democratic process to the filtering of information

  • It's emphasis on up-to-the-minute stories makes it a great place to submit and access news items and information 'hot off the press'

  • Like the sheer size of Digg's user base makes it a valuable source of information

Sign Up to Digg




Overview: Simpy brings the power of the search engine to social bookmarking, with the ability to fully search within the text of bookmark notes and pages content. It also makes it easy to both upload your existing browser-based bookmarks, and even sync with the service for the best of both worlds, along with the ability to publish your bookmarks to your blog using RSS.

Bookmarking system: Simpy offers a range of browser-based bookmarklets that make it very easy to add bookmarks with a simple click, add a Simpy search bar, a note making tool, a button that shows the history of a visited page and a note search tool. This extensive range of tools make it easy not only to bookmark, but to search within bookmarked pages and the notes that have been attached to them.

What sets it apart:

  • Simpy's emphasis on being able to search within bookmarked pages text (rather than just metadata) make it a great tool for those engaged in research, whether professional or personal

  • It's browser based tool set is extensive and offers a lot more options than some of the other services, especially in terms of being able to run searches on the fly

  • Simpy offers a range of great web widgets aimed directly at bloggers, giving them the chance to place an attractive search box for their Simpy bookmarks (or for all Simpy bookmarks) along with other useful tools for social bookmarking bloggers.

Sign Up to Simpy




Overview: Blogmarks puts its focus on easily integrating your bookmarks with your blog, via their ''BlogSync'' interface. This feature aside, it offers the ability to make selected bookmarks private, and for bookmarks to be organized by tag, in addition to being able to import and export bookmarks to

Bookmarking system: Blogmarks allows users to use either a pop-up bookmarklet, where they can submit tags and details of the page visited there and then, or a simple button bookmarklet that transports them to their Blogmarks user page with the vast majority of fields pre-filled in.

What sets it apart:

  • The BlogSync interface makes integration with blogs easy

  • It is possible to export and back up your bookmarks and sync with
  • BlogSync otherwise offers a fairly standard set of features that do it little favours in a crowded and competitive marketplace

Sign Up to Blogmarks




Overview: Reddit is a news sharing focused site, not entirely dissimilar to it's more popular sibling Digg. Like Digg, users submit their bookmarked content via the site rather than using a bookmarklet, and it is then voted for or against by users, moving it up or down the ratings. Like Stumble Upon, Reddit also makes efforts to learn your tastes the more you use it, making personal recommendations of linked bookmarks based on your previous responses to content served up to you.

Bookmarking system: Reddit can either be submitted to via their web site, or using one of the Reddit widgets featured on some blogs and web sites. Bookmarks are then voted for or against by users, and Reddit notes their tastes for future recommendations.

What sets it apart:

  • Reddit's combination of Digg's democratic, vote-based system and Stumble Upon's personalized, taste-based system makes for a refreshing hybrid

  • Reddit features a NSFW (not safe for work) adult section of its service, which will appeal to some as another filter on the nature of the content they are searching for

  • Reddit operates a karma system that places emphasis on community involvement, so will appeal to those drawn to the social dimension of social bookmarking

Sign Up to Reddit




Overview: Furl is a free service that saves a personal copy of any page you find on the Web, and lets you find it again instantly by searching your archive of pages. In addition to letting you find other people's saved websites, Furl recommends new web pages that might interest you.

Bookmarking system: Furl allows you to add your bookmarked page either from their website, or using their browser tool bar or bookmarklet options. Pages are saved in your personal archive, and based on your activity on the Furl site, recommendations on sites that may be of interest are served up. It is possible to search for and within other users Furl archives

What sets it apart:

  • Furl's archiving of web pages, along with searchable notes makes for an interesting and well thought through approach that makes going back to that elusive page you visited earlier that day quick and easy

  • Furl features an extensive range of import and export features for your bookmarks, so that browser based bookmarks can be brought in and out, as can, and academic citations can be exported, as well as XML and even zip files of bookmark collections

  • Furl allows you to take clippings of a page when you save it, which can be used as a summary of the page for quick recognition of what the bookmark is at a later date

Sign Up to Furl




Overview: Blinklist is another social bookmarking site working very much on the model of sharing. It's website suggests a number of ways that it might be useful to teachers, offering the ability to make lists of resources called BlinkLists, and setting up shared spaces that can be used for entire classes to access and share bookmarks. As such it would seem a wise choice of social bookmarking tool for those working in the education sector, but isn't limited to this userbase.

Bookmarking system: Like many of the other social bookmarking services, Blinklist adds a bookmarklet button to your web browser, which can be used to bookmark web pages with a single click, bringing up a contextual menu that allows note taking, tagging and privacy options. Bookmarks can be added to group spaces, made into lists and shared with the wider Blinklist community.

What sets it apart:

  • Blinklist's targeting of teachers and educators makes it an obvious choice for this group

  • The ability to make useful Blinklists could prove useful in this sector, and for anyone else that wants to systematically group web pages according to a particular scheme

  • The ability to set up BlinkSpaces for classroom use will make it an appealing prospect for those working in large groups or with classes of students

Sign Up to Blinklists.




Overview: Spurl offers a similar feature set to its competitors in the social bookmarking field, with the added bonus of supporting a much wider range of browsers, including Safari on the mac platform, which several services exclude. Spurl will archive pages visited, export lists of bookmarks for blog syndication, and allow you extensive search options within bookmarks and bookmarked pages. It's heavily featured 'Spurl Bar' (see below) makes Spurl a good option for advanced social bookmarking users.

Bookmarking system: Spurl's bookmarking system makes use of the 'Spurl Bar', which sits on the left hand side of your browser much like Firefox's browsing history panel. This offers an extensive feature set with five tabs that give you access to recommendations, personal bookmarks, recent and popular bookmarks and your most used bookmarks (rather like the most played tunes on iTunes).

What sets it apart:

  • Spurl's advanced 'spurl bar' browser plug-in will run on almost any browser

  • The Spurl Bar offers an extensive feature set suited to advanced social bookmarkers

  • Spurl archives your bookmarked pages for later viewing

Sign Up to Spurl




Overview:' resemblance to is more than just one of name, and its feature set is a familiar one offering tagging, storage and sharing of social bookmarks. What makes interesting is the fact that it is based on an open-source project licensed under the GNU General Public License. This means you can host it on your own web server for free, whether it is on the Internet, a private network or just your own computer. Social bookmarking for geeks, then.

While this won't appeal to the majority of casual social bookmarkers, it does offer an interesting prospect for those hoping to incorporate social bookmarking into an intranet or local network for instance.

Bookmarking system: Bookmarks can be imported from your browser or, and the familiar bookmarklet adds your bookmarks directly from the browser.' interface is a very simple, minimalist one. Bookmarks can also be entered manually from within your account on the homepage, and can then be shared with other users.

What sets it apart:

  • Primarily the main appeal of is the fact that is open source and available for installation on private servers or networks

  • It's very simple interface and feature set may appeal to those uninterested in the latest gimmicks

  • It's almost complete lack of attention to interface design may appeal to those who... don't like good interface design

Sign Up to




Overview: Linkroll allows you the usual means to bookmark, comment on and categorize your social bookmarks, with the added features of being able to blog your bookmarks, and access all bookmarks via RSS (for your aggregator) or JavaScript (for syndication to your website). Linkroll has recently added a new feature that allows you to create personal podcast channels so that you can add links to media files in your Linkroll posts.

Bookmarking system: Linkrolls uses the standard bookmarklet system of tagging pages. In addition, users can subscribe to bookmark categories, which will be constantly updated and can be accessed via RSS aggregation.

What sets it apart:

  • The ability to set up media links within bookmarks is a nice feature

  • JavaScript syndication makes it very easy to get your bookmarks onto your website with a minimum of fuss

  • Linkroll's basis in blogging will appeal to some

Sign Up to Linkroll




Overview: In addition to the usual features of bookmarklet based social bookmarking, an online community, group formation and tagging Shadows adds an interesting dimension - the shadow page. Shadow pages can be accessed by anyone using the Shadows toolbar with the click of a button, and serve as a kind of back channel for a web page, so that shadows users can see all of the notes and metadata left behind by other users for the page in its shadow form. This is an inventive idea that sets Shadows apart from the pack.

Bookmarking system: The Shadows toolbar allows users to quickly add bookmarks to their collection using the bookmarklet format, and also to access the previously mentioned 'shadow page' of any website.

What sets it apart:

  • Without a doubt Shadows most interesting feature is that of the shadow page - a collection of metadata and users thoughts on comments on any given page on the web

  • Shadows is otherwise well presented and has all of the features you would expect from a top-drawer social bookmarking site

  • Shadow communities quickly form around web sites of niche content, via the shadow pages, bringing a strong element of online collaboration and group discussion to the service

Sign Up to Shadows

Yahoo MyWeb



Overview: Recently relaunched, Yahoo's effort at social bookmarking offers the usual functionality embedded in a good looking interface, integration with Yahoo's other services, and an emphasis on the social dimension of social bookmarking, making it easy to find friends with similar interests, so that every tag is closely connected to the user profile of the person that made it.

Bookmarking system: Bookmarking takes place via the Yahoo Toolbar, which integrates several of Yahoo's other services. Bookmarks can also be imported from your browser and Yahoo! bookmarks.

What sets it apart:

  • Yahoo MyWeb will appeal to those who already subscribe to other Yahoo services, as they can login using their existing Yahoo account

  • As such, the service is well integrated with Yahoo's other services, such as their Toolbar and avatars.

  • MyWeb also makes it very easy to find and connect with people through their choice of tags, foregrounding the social networking element of social bookmarking

Sign Up for a Yahoo ID. Users with an existing Yahoo ID can sign in from the MyWeb front-page.

In conclusion

The social bookmarking site or sites of most interest to you will depend largely on how you plan to use them, and your personal tastes in their presentation and bookmarking styles.

As Web 2.0 evolves into the semantic web, social bookmarking leads the way in bringing us closer to a meaningful and personal search experience, wrought through unobtrusive online collaboration and the simple sharing of opinions and information that has been with us since the dawn of civilization.

The wisdom of crowds is proving its worth on a daily basis as information pooling and online collaboration replace the old order of information being handed down from above. As the web is transformed by its millions of users, each drop in the ocean of social bookmarking adds to the ease with which others can navigate their path through the wider ocean of content.

Make your mark, and add to the ease with which everyday people access information.

Photo credit: Duard van der Westhuizen

Additional Resources

If you're keen to find out even more about social bookmarking, and the wider field in which it exists, read on at these other websites:

Michael Pick -
Readers' Comments    
2009-01-15 02:28:39

search lyrics

To Razvan: Very useful information Thx!

2008-06-28 15:47:28

Social Bookmarking Services

Awesom..... I have learned lot of thing by this article and will be mark my all websites in these social bookmark list.

2008-06-24 06:24:24


Also check out Faviki -
Faviki is a social bookmarking tool which allows you to tag webpages you want to remember with Wikipedia terms. This means that everybody uses the same names for tags from the world's largest collection of knowledge.
Thanks to DBpedia, which extracts structured information from Wikipedia and represents it in a flexible data model, these tags are reference to objects which are categorized automatically, keeping your and your friend's bookmarks and interests well organized.

2008-01-27 22:53:59


Very useful information.I will use with my web site
Thank you very much.

2008-01-19 18:20:49

Tom Enger

Thanks for a good and thorough survey of popular bookmarking services. I would like to recommend this one it uses a very interesting semantic technology named Topic Maps to create more Semantic Web ready tags.

2008-01-16 02:44:31


With you can easily bookmark any site to 130+ social bookmarking services. It also have buttons and blog plugins.

2007-11-06 08:42:14


Thanks for this informative article. I could suggest, it's a new social bookmarking service

2007-08-24 16:24:40


thought you might like to know that requires an invitation. They are also very slow to respond to invitation requests via email.

2007-06-21 15:37:36


Most of these networks are for friendship and love. There is a new social and business network: - almost useful for anything we need in business and career development. These are the networks we need

2007-05-16 21:26:40


Lately I am using that include social bookmarking, video saving, online clips storage as annotation

2007-05-15 11:50:04

Greg White

Here's a new site that offers a button that has 1 click access to 200+ social bookmarking services, all ready to submit your post.

Take a look at this post...

Click on the 'Bookmark 200+' button at the bottom of the post to see the list...

Go to to get your own button and learn a little more about how it works...

You can use this site to add just (1) button and give your visitors 1 Button/1 Click access to 200+ Social Bookmarking Services.

You can also use the site to bookmark your own posts.

To see how it works, you can bookmark the post at one of your favorite sites using one of the bookmarklets...

This site is currently in 'Public Beta' and right now there are no adsense ads, and no popups and no signup form to keep you updated when new features are added... I'll be adding all those in the near future.

You're welcome to let your friends know, or share with your list...


2007-02-14 17:15:32

Sue Cifelli

Thanks so much for this informative article. I tripped over a newcomer and it outstanding, in my view: diigo

When you get the chance, please take them for a test drive.

I tried a few others and this one simply works WELL.

2007-01-30 15:46:17

Robert Berkman

There's interesting action happening in the social bookmarking arena for the enterprise too--the two leaders appear to be ConnectBeam and Cogenz (in Beta). (I'll be comparing these vendors' features to what's available on the public ones in the March Information Advisor)

2006-12-31 14:56:11


Another one specializing in product reviews:

2006-12-05 03:14:36

Michael Pick

John - many thanks for the feedback. I'll be to sure to check these out and add your suggestions to the next update of the guide!

A few of the items made previous Sharewood Picks, and we have recently reviewed Trailblazer (which I was impressed with) and Clipmarks (over at the Kolabora site). I was reticent to add Trailblazer, as there is possibly a whole new guide waiting to be written on website annotations/tours, but in retrospect, it is a great tool with very close ties to social bookmarking so should probably have made it through.

Thanks again for your extensive links and suggestions, they're much appreciated.

Michael - thanks for the link, I'll make sure it gets added in our next update too.

2006-12-04 19:42:27

John Tropea

Great post, although you missed some beauties:

Clipmarks - not just link marking, but clipping, and each item has a permalink so it's a true link blog, and not a link log. Plus they are heavy into comment streams.

Raw Sugar - automated tag relations, search for your blog, etc...

Netvouz - folders and tags, I really wish enabled folders or channels..actually clipmarks also has folders

Diigo - clipping and annotating

Trailblazer - hyperlinked annotated links

Wink - meta bookmark full text search, lists

Connotea and CiteULike - auto discover metadata, focused on journals and research

Jots - calendar, groups
See my post from ages ago:

More here:

I didn't know blinklist had lists, I'll check that out, here is my posts on lists:

I know there are lots of web2.0 lists out there, but the 3spots blog post on social bookmarks is awesome:

2006-12-04 11:31:28


Check out for a user generated directory of all web 2.0 apps categorizing over 2000+ applications.

posted by Michael Pick on Friday, December 1 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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