Yahoo! might be going to shut down del.icio.us, the link-sharing and bookmarking website it bought back in 2005 or thereabouts. (They might sell it, too.) This is awful – it’s one of the most useful things on the Web and it’s a key link in the production chain for everything I’ve written in the last six years for this blog, Fistful of Euros, Stable & Principled, Telco 2.0, and God knows what else. As well as providing a bookmarks file you can use anywhere, it also provided a huge quick-reference handbook of stuff other people found useful. During 2004, not only did I start using it, but this blog started to provide a list of RSS items from my account and several other blogs in the sidebar.
Yahoo! never did much with del.icio.us – they managed to retire the original domain name and redirect it to delicious.com, just as link-shorteners became fashionable, they made the web site more ugly, and they tried to impose some sort of horrible terms of service amendment by asking users to sign in with Yahoo! user IDs. I had nothing against this, but when I saw the lengthy new ToS document, I didn’t bother reading it – it could only be evil, and therefore I refused. Bizarrely, they never even tried putting adverts on the home page, despite being the world leader in display-style Internet advertising, and neither did they ever try to get me or anyone else to subscribe, although they got me and hordes of others to pay for Flickr accounts.
You’ll note that this doesn’t include any new features or anything interesting at all. Also, they never did anything about spam accounts, so a lot of the social functionality became useless as “links for you” were always spam. However, they couldn’t kill a basically useful product. If they sell it, though, it might survive or it might die – look what happened with Technorati.
A common theme about Yahoo! is that although the company drifts strategically, and every now and then gives the Chinese secret police confidential data about dissidents, the engineers are pretty good. True – they released lots of cool and useful stuff. Pipes, YQL, Term Extractor, YUI hackdays. Similarly, the Firefox extension for del.icio.us is very good indeed. It provides a full-text search over your tags, something the web site itself doesn’t, and it can provide offline access to your bookmarks if you need that.
So here’s a tip. The FF extension lets you work with your bookmarks offline and without signing in – so it must store them on your local machine. In fact, it uses quite a lot of Firefox’s bookmarking functionality. And when you sign out, it asks if you want to keep your bookmarks in Firefox. You can add more bookmarks before you sign in again. Therefore, there’s a way to slurp your data out of Yahoo! before it all gets deleted. Obviously they’ll stop maintaining the plugin at some point. But once your data is stored as browser bookmarks, it can’t be too far from being exported to an OPML file, at which point it could be imported anywhere else. Is dis.gustin.ng available?