Understanding Social Bookmarking

By: Ric Raftis

This article will be in two parts because Social Bookmarking affects two totally separate and distinct groups of people. They are of course internet users or surfers on one hand and then on the other there are webmasters and blog owners. In Part One, we will focus on the users and surfers.

For all intents and purposes, Social Bookmarking sites are not that much different to Search Engines, but they offer users so much more than the traditional Search Engine site.

To demonstrate the differences, let's talk about Google for example as a search engine and how it works compared to Social Bookmarking site such as Furl or Delicious. I don't have any intention of getting into all of the technicalities here, but more of an overview to demonstrate the benefits of Social Bookmarking to users.

With Google, a web site owner purchases a domain, writes a site (let's say it's about dog training for the purpose of this example), buys some hosting and puts the site live online. They may or may not choose to submit the site name to Google, but one way or another Google will eventually find the site sitting on the web. Google will then analyse the coding of the site, the keywords used (dog training) and their density in the text and headings, the titles and descriptions for the site and through the awesome power of their secret algorithm place the page somewhere in their index. And guess what? This is all done by a computer that has no regard for the aesthetics of the site, the richness of design or the quality of the graphics used. Quite simply, to some extent it could well be another machine generated site out to make a quick buck with Adsense ads.

Social Bookmarking sites on the other hand provide a refreshing change for user oriented search. If you haven't seen a Social Bookmarking site, go to one of the most popular sites Delicious. (You can't put links in articles, so search it on Google.) To detail all of the available features at these sites is well beyond the scope of this article. It would require a small ebook. The most important thing to note however is that if you search sites by popularity, this means that they are ranked by the number of users that have them bookmarked and not by some machine. This is people power in action. Real human beings have viewed these sites and considered them good enough to add to their own personal bookmarks.

Another very popular site is Furl and for blogs, well you just can't beat Technorati.

You can perform searches on these sites in the same way you would perform a search on Google, but you can have sites ranked by most recent, popularity and tags.

The tags are the most interesting feature of these sites. When you go to the tag area, the site will show a "tag cloud". Your screen will show a range of tags which are in different colors, size and intensity. The larger the tag and the brighter the intensity the more popular the tag is.

In order to use a Social Bookmarking site, you need to register, which is free and set up your own account. Then when you bookmark a site in your own account, you allocate it tags, similar to how you set up categories in your browser. But tags provide a much better system because unlike a browser, you can use more than one tag. For example, if you have a category on your browser for clothing and you come across a site, you might well bookmark it and place it in that category. If you're anything like me and have heaps of categories, it can be easy to forget where that site was bookmarked. But with social bookmarking you can tag the site with "clothing", "fashion" and "footwear" for example and when you select any of these tags in your own bookmarking area the site will be listed.

One of the other great features about these sites is that your bookmarks are with you wherever you go and not just on your own computer. You just have to log on to your account and there they are.

To sum up then, social bookmarking is the future of search. It is powered by humans, assessed by humans and voted on by humans. These sites provide a great means of sharing quality content sites so start bookmarking today.

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