[iDC] Will you delete your Feedburner account?

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Tue Jun 12 02:33:46 EDT 2007

It's easy to generalize about "users" or "prosumers"-- the participants
in the sociable web. What follows is a close-up look at the "user"
perspective of the acquisition of the social bookmarking site
Del.icio.us. I'm not focusing on the rights or wrongs of the acquisition
itself; the goal is to look at some reasons behind people's rejection or
acceptance of it. 

On December 09, 2005 Joshua Schachter, a Morgan Stanley analyst who
created Del.icio.us in 2003, announced on his blog that his company has
been acquired by Yahoo. It was sold for somewhere between $15 and $30


244 out of the 505 comments to this announcement of the acquisition were
congratulatory and 261 people rejected it or were doubtful. Within the
group of negative voices I also counted a few spam messages. This
suggests a slightly higher number of skeptical del.icio.us users. More
interesting than these numbers, however are the stated reasons for being
in favor or opposition to this acquisition.


The supportive voices celebrated the fact that Joshua Schachter, the
Del.icio.us founder made millions of dollars and on December 13, 2005 
one blog commenter with the screen name "Naomi" summed up the sentiment
of many who commented on the blog, reveling in Joshua Schachter's
ability to strike it rich by writing: "congrats! seems American dream
live and well!"

The practical impact that the acquisition will have on them as "users"
was secondary to their appreciation of somebody who "made it," which
they took as an indication that such financial  success is also in reach
for them. 

Many studies have shown, however, that such dreams of economic and class
mobility in the United States are not based on fact at all. In 2005, The
New York Times ran a series called Class Matters that confronted the
myths of the American Dream with the realities on the ground. The report
showed that income is heavily based on the economic background of one's
parents and education. Schachter, for example, has a B.S. in Electrical
and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He hardly rose
from waiting tables to the ranks of a multi-millionaire. In 2007, The
Wall Street Journal reported that American men in their 30s today are
worse off than their fathers' generation. (American) Dream over.



On Schachter’s blog there were also other comments that pointed more to
the possibility of a big corporation like Yahoo to support large-scale
sociality. "Chris" wrote on December 9, 2005 Joshua: "Pay no attention
to all the whining naysayers, and welcome aboard! ... No doubt your
voice will be a powerful force, and you'll have the unique opportunity
to shape the experiences of millions of people worldwide on a much
higher level than you've already achieved. Things are about to get
really interesting!! I'm so excited for you!"
“Chris” proposes that Yahoo will be able to cope with large numbers of
users in opposition to a small or non-profit organization that can’t. On
the other hand, the reasons for negative responses to the merger
included Yahoo's support of China's human rights violations.

"Considering Yahoo's complicity in the arrest of pro-democracy activists
in China, I can't say I'm pleased, commented "sad_delicious_user" on
December 10, 2005. Others suggested moving to competing social
bookmarking sites." "Gabe"  wrote on December 9, 2005:
"So.... where should we go now? www.shadows.com www.wink.com
www.furl.com www.blinklist.com I'm bummed, but looking forward to trying
some new stuff out."

In addition, there were also demands for payment for the bookmarking
labor. Juna Duncan wrote on December 12, 2005:

"So where's the payback for all of us storing stuff on del.icio.us, who
are now not only 'social bookmarking' but building a big database of
'the most important' websites for Yahoo! ... There is no kidding
ourselves that this is social bookmarking for society anymore. It is
social bookmarking for Yahoo!s profits."
There are open source social bookmarking clones such as sa.bros.us,
Simpy, BlinkList and Furl but none of them has a sizable community of
Del.icio.us, which makes the site a useful research tool among many
other possible uses. The users on Del.icio.us can download their own
data freely through the API in an XML or JSON format, and the data can
also be exported to a standard Netscape bookmarks format. It is a true
sharing site that supports individualistic collectivism. The rules of
the game are transparent. Users are aware that Yahoo owns the site and
the walled garden effect that is obvious with MySpace and Facebook does
not apply, as exit costs are extremely low.

The favorable comments about the Del.icio.us acquisition on the
company's blog are in part based on the hope of users that one day they
follow in the food steps of the Del.icio.us founder and become wealthy.
These dreams of class and economic mobility have been shown to be
delusional by the cited NYT and Wall Street Journal reports.


Trebor Scholz

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