Missing the boat edition: Delicious, Tr.im

After the latest fracas on the tech blogs about Joshua Schahter's indignation about the Twitter-integration at Delicious, I was left wondering about how did the product get to where it is these days. In its early days, the product was widely used, it was the de-facto standard for social bookmarking and it had a growing user base. The future is not all that rosy for the product. It is one of those platforms that has languished since its acquisition by Yahoo!. What is rather interesting is that the site features almost zero Yahoo! branding. Could it be one of the next big jewels that Bartz is about to sell off in the quest to recast Yahoo! as a different company, compared to Google or Microsoft?

There are a couple of reasons why Yahoo! could want to get rid of the property. The first is that there is a definite progression among some of the significant players to move towards synchronized bookmarks, that will soon be stored and shared through the cloud. Google is already known to be working on something in that direction and the same is the case with Mozilla. Even a smaller player like Opera already does this with Opera Link. It is fairly trivial for any of these services to offer the 'social' feature as an add on at a later stage.

The second problem for Delicious is that it has seen little by means of product innovation. Ever since Twitter kicked off the micro content revolution in its full glory, URL shorteners, which was niche market, has taken off. As shown by the untimely demise of Tr.im, the URL shortener by the Nambu Network, these products have little possibility of prospering as a standalones. But, a URL shortener is something that makes absolutely great sense for Delicious, as a companion activity. It could have added massive bidirectional value to both Delicious and the users if they had rolled it out, but they have not.

There are lessons to be learnt in the story of Delicious and Tr.im for everyone. The first is that you have to stay agile, even if you are the market leader. The second is that the value built around the Twitter ecosystem is very flimsy and non-unique, built mostly around optimism than actuals. It won't be soon before we will start seeing the same fate befall some of the Twitter clients too. These have no model to create revenue (other than the mobile clients, which have unique value propositions that are not easily replaced) and will only keep going for as long as the hype can be sustained.

Never mind.