HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
When social media sites began to gain traction on the Internet around 2006, it was unclear which ones would emerge as the leaders of the pack and which would be consigned to support roles in Internet culture.
By now, the winners have emerged. Facebook and Twitter have become virtually synonymous with social networking. The losers, however, have been much harder to pinpoint, since many social media sites have carved out their own niches on the Internet and continue to draw large numbers of users.
Last week, however, we witnessed one of the first major casualties. Social media pioneer Delicious, which allowed people to “bookmark” their favorite websites and find others who liked the same bookmarks, will be shut down by Internet giant Yahoo, which acquired the site in 2005.
The demise of Delicious (originally spelled del.icio.us) essentially slams the door on the first age of social media. The first sites in the Web 2.0 era, which empowered users to create content on websites they did not own, essentially sought to crowdsource the massive number of Internet users to organize the web so that the best content could gain an audience.
Sites such as Digg and Reddit allowed people to post their favorite online content and let users vote on it. The content that received the most “diggs” was placed on the sites’ front pages – and exposure to their massive readership. Stumbleupon let people “stumble” through content others had tagged by subject.
Delicious took a different approach, allowing people to bookmark sites as they would on their own computers, except the Delicious bookmarks would be visible to the public. The site would also show who else bookmarked the same articles, and what else those users found of interest. The result was a novel way to share content and build communities around common interests.
While Digg and Delicious both gained millions of users, they pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions who use Facebook, which also allows people to share their favorite content as well as to connect with people in many other ways. As social media emerged from the margins of society to the mainstream, niche sites failed to keep pace. Although many content sharing sites maintain large and vibrant communities, they have little impact on the evolving Internet culture.
And now, with Delicious closing its doors, it is time to recognize that an era has ended. As Facebook and Twitter set the pace of social media, some of the groundbreakers are feeling the heat. Delicious may be one of the first to fall. Who will be next?
Previously in Alex's series: Has Social Media Become Part of the Media Establishment?