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Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting your head out of the cloud.

“We’re proud to announce that has joined the Yahoo! family. Together we’ll continue to improve how people discover, remember and share on the Internet, with a big emphasis on the power of community. We’re excited to be working with the Yahoo! Search team – they definitely get social systems and their potential to change the web. (We’re also excited to be joining our fraternal twin Flickr!) [...] I look forward to continuing my vision of social and community memory, and taking it to the next level with the community and Yahoo!”

Heart the cloud bitches, for it’s all we’ll have one day.

Who doesn’t love it though. Windows ads say you should. Techvangelists want you to. A paperless future and increased productivity – who doesn’t want that? Except, with the apparent suiciding of some its *underperforming* properties like bookmarking site Delicious, Yahoo highlights the inherent problem with depending on *the* cloud.

It also raises other issues including a dependency on free sites. Relax, according to its owners, Delicious isn’t going away, just moving out of the Yahoo Family of Fine Products. Maybe you are a regular user of it or not, but it’s the most useful tool I’ve found to help manage the blog content process here. Some like it for search puproses but for data/link management and tagging, it’s perfect. 

Soon as the news hit though, waters were chummed as wantrapreneurs flooded tech blogs with their easy-to-use alternative. I’m sure at one time the original Delicious team (see quote from five years ago above, and initially spelled as, were just as eager for people to try their product too. Hard to blame someone for promoting.

But in the moments after the announcement, it immediately forced me to come up with a workaround as I knew there were no other bookmarking sites or plugins that were as effective. (That’s the other problem with start-ups: too focused on creating a proprietary user experience at the expense of incorporating widely-adopted feature sets.)

This is the problem not just with the cloud and having all your data live there, but with free anything that you become dependent on: You’re at the mercy of the development team behind it all. (Paid isn’t without its issues either.)

Hard to complain about something that you don’t pay for though. Except, the people pushing their free services with expensive ad campaigns have some responsibility to support the drugs they’re handing out, no? (Blogger is a free blogging platform, but it's recent upgrade is buggy, causing this post to be wiped out twice after hitting the wrong key combo.) But it’s free, and for what I need, it does the job.

Want to charge for it?

Then charge. But don’t expect people to like it or not be affected when you cut off the supply you got them hooked on. The move by Yahoo also seemed odd because, alternatives side, Delicious was well-liked by its users. Given the lack of good news surrounding them lately, they seem to be abandoning some of the good buzz they might have left with a product that was at least stable.

What’s that worth? Apparently not enough. When does it no longer become worth it to spend hundreds of millions on mainstream media while ignoring a more specific community that loves your product? The idea of the cloud is that it benefits everyone’s online future, at work or home.

What good is it though if you make it unreliable to be there.


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