What Social Bookmarking Entrepreneurs Are Doing Wrong

Social bookmarking, the act of bookmarking links on the web and sharing those links with others, has never really taken off, at least not to the extent that other social networking services have. Delicious, the most well-known of these sites, has been sold three times since its founding in 2003. YouTube founders, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who had bought the site from Yahoo in 2011, just sold it to Science Inc. in May 2014.

Social bookmarking still remains a niche market. Delicious currently only has about 2 million active users after 10 years. Pinboard, a successful, paid bookmarking service has about 20,000 active users according to its founder, Maciej Ceglowski.

Many other sites have come and gone. Zootool, a more visual bookmarking site recently shut down after 6 years. It had, I believe, about 150,000 users. It seems many know how to start a bookmarking site, but few understand what it takes to turn it into an actual business.

So why did I decide to get into what appears to be such a risky space? Because I don’t intend to make the mistakes that others have made.

Facebook has kind of ruined it for a lot of want-to-be entrepreneurs. Everyone is trying to come up with the next big social network that can potentially attract a billion users. But having a lot of users isn’t always a good thing unless those users are actually paying customers, and you don’t get to a billion users by charging for your service, so entrepreneurs who wanna make it big, follow Zuckerberg’s footsteps and offer their service for free.

Free only works when you can quickly attract enough users to make money from them via advertising, before your money runs out. As Delicious‘ 2 million active users have proven, it is very difficult to be successful in the longterm, by running a free bookmarking site.

Pinboard founder, Maciej Ceglowski, seems more than content with his 20,000 active users, as they generate for him, a $200,000 annual salary. And his site isn’t even that ‘social.’ He calls it the “Social Bookmarking Site for Introverts.” And this, I believe, is part of the reason for his success. ‘Social’ is secondary, as I believe it should always be when it comes to bookmarking.

Because the whole purpose of Social Bookmarking is sharing links, this attracts an enormous number of spammers. These are users who sign up not to bookmark for their own personal use, but to bookmark their own shitty sites in the hopes that other users, who are in search of high-quality links, will see the links they bookmarked and end up visiting their website. Do a search for “bookmarking sites” and you’ll find mostly information about which sites you can sign up with to promote your new crappy website. It’s stupid. It defeats the whole purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish.

This is the reason why I decided not to offer LinqBox for free, and it is also the reason why Pinboard currently charges over $10. It helps to discourage spammers. Unlike Pinboard, I do currently have a Trial option that allows users to check out the service for free until they reach 20 bookmarks, but whatever those Trial users bookmark will never show up in any social part of the site, once the social features are finished. Only links from users that have truly shown an interest in the service for its intended purpose will be displayed to others as they explore public bookmarks.

An online bookmark manager needs to be useful enough even if only one user exists on the site. It should be great at private bookmarking before trying to be good at social bookmarking. This is why I decided to delay the implementing of the social features of LinqBox.

Bookmarking just isn’t the same as other social networking services. If no one else were on Facebook you wouldn’t be on it either. The truth is the social stuff gets old eventually. People grow tired of it. Any bookmarking service that focuses on ‘social’ first will eventually fail.

Social Bookmarking

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