Today, I add Del.icio.us to the 50 Content Companies that Matter.
Tagging is a concept not often thought of outside of the content industry. Traditional publishers and aggregators tag their content to make it more easily retrievable, either manually (as Chemical Abstracts Service might do to patent filings) or automatically, generally using Bayesian classification or similar. On the client side, some sophisticated corporate users have begun tagging efforts inside the enterprise, typically as part of a Knowledge Management initiative. These have tended to be labor-intensive processes with questionable ROI’s.
In the blogosphere, these centralized approaches don’t work. The blog world does have a similar challenge in terms of the model (publisher or client) – with Technorati allowing “publishers” (bloggers) to tag their content, while Del.icio.us pushes the tagging to the reader. In this market, I am betting that the latter solution will be the winner.
Del.icio.us has brought tagging to the masses, providing a platform for community-based tagging. This approach lets users gain the benefits of the tags of all the other users out there, sort of a “Wisdom of Crowds” approach.
Perhaps more importantly, Del.icio.us has done this without anyone really knowing that they are tagging content. Rather than tagging content, Del.icio.us has branded this as “social bookmarking”. Where tagging is performing work for the benefits of others, social bookmarking has direct benefits for those who use it. And for those who see “social bookmarking” as too technical, the new term “folksonomy” has emerged, combining the taxonomy concept of classification with the community-based aspect of Del.icio.us.
Rather than a simple folder-based approach to storing and sorting websites of interest, Del.icio.us lets you assign tags (or categories) to pages to make it easier to group, sort or retrieve them. For example, the Content Matters blog might be assigned tags of Content, Technology, Blog and Tools. The Del.icio.us toolbar, either as a pop up stand-alone toolbar, or embedded within your browser toolbar, lets you assign tags as quickly as you might add them to your favorites list. But the benefits are much greater. I’d point them out here, but there are already some great posts on the topic, including those by Fred Wilson and Tom Evslin among others. Also, Jeff Jarvis provides a nice summary of the Tagging session at yesterday's Web 2.0 conference. My suggestion is to configure Del.icio.us, invest 20 minutes tagging the pages on your Favorites list, then start seeing the benefits yourself.
During my years at ClearForest, we had a vision of every document in the world being tagged (by ClearForest) at least once. Del.icio.us is providing a framework where every document or page on the web may get tagged by everyone who reads it. And for that, they are clearly one of the 50 Content Companies that Matter.