For better or for worse, I’ve been thinking about bookmarking lately. Specifically about what it was, is and could be for me.
Like a lot of people, the first cloud-based bookmarking service I ever used was a site with a funky URL called Del.icio.us. I remember having a light bulb moment when I first created an account. The idea totally made sense. Instead of keeping multiple copies of bookmarks in my browser at work and at home, I could keep them all on one website. My bookmarks would be available to me wherever I was and with whatever browser I was using. I could then share and send my bookmarks to other users. But what I really liked was the ability to see what other users were bookmarking. You have to understand this existed at a time when Twitter wasn’t around so it was great to see what other people were finding interesting enough to bookmark.
The interface was clean and uncluttered so it was always a joy to use. I wasn’t looking for another bookmarking service but when Del.icio.us was acquired by Yahoo my fear was that this service would be shelved and eventually wither away. When the founder Joshua Schachter left, I lost hope and quietly started looking for something else.
I first found out about Ma.gnolia through Happy Cog. Because I admired and respected Jeffrey Zeldman I was naturally curious to see what this new agency client was all about. I started getting excited when I quickly saw that they were taking a stronger approach to design and putting a stronger focus on the social aspect of bookmarking. I kept my Del.icio.us account but exported all my bookmarks and uploaded them to a new account (I remember this process took a really long time) with Ma.gnolia.
The performance was a pretty serious issue at first but I knew the site was built on top of Ruby on Rails, a new framework at the time, which was catching a lot of flack for scalability and performance issues. I stuck around to see if it could improve but when all my bookmarks were lost in 2009 I started looking for alternatives.
So for the past 5 years, I’ve been using Pinboard. It’s a bit ugly, but it’s fast and puts a strong focus on data security and safety so I trust the service. Pinboard charges a small one time fee to new users which gives me the sense that this product is serious about sustainability and isn’t going to fold from lack of money. The user interface is clutter-free and minimal (almost too minimal). Overall I’ve been pretty happy with it but lately every time I log into my account I’ve found myself wishing it had just a few extra features.
I know the argument here will be “just use Pinterest”. Yeah, I could use a more visual based bookmarking service like Pinterest but I’d love to not have to create another account with yet another service. Why not charge me an extra monthly or yearly fee to let me bookmark and keep images directly on my Pinboard account? This would let me eliminate the need for other applications and services I use, every so often, like Pinterest, Ember, Pixa, and Dropmark.
I really like Pinboard’s minimal interface but why not invest some resources in improving readability and polishing up the overall experience? A strong case could be made for having a great bookmarking service that is both minimal and great to use. There’s something about when you use an application that looks and feels great. Ask anyone why they choose an Apple product over other options and they’ll tell you the same.
Pinboard gives you a feature called “network” where you can subscribe to other user’s feeds. I would love to see this feature expanded to include things like sending links directly to other users and emailing links to people outside of Pinboard. A Network activity stream directly on my home screen would be great as it would give me an immediate view of what other people were bookmarking. I feel like there is a lot more you could build with social sharing inside Pinboard.
I know the items on this wish list aren’t Pinboard’s focus. It does a few things and does them well. Maybe I’m used to the steady stream of updates that other services provide and have just come to expect that from every service or app I use.
I’ll keep looking for the perfect combination of design, performance, and stability in bookmarking though. The available options are growing but it seems like nobody has quite gotten it right just yet.