Bookmarking more and enjoying it less? We all get there sooner or later: A few years’ worth of memorable websites crammed into a small maze of categories and subcategories so hard to keep track of that you finally pray in secret for a hard-drive crash to come wipe it all away and let you get back to bookmarking like it’s 1999. Since late 2003, however, Web cognoscenti have been hip to a better solution: the legendary del.icio.us—purchased last week by Yahoo!—where the concept of social bookmarking was pioneered and the tagging trend in Web design first got trendy.
For those of you just tuning in, tagging is a looser, more intuitive way of organizing digital stuff than the traditional hierarchy of folders within folders. Instead of squirreling whitehouse.gov away in the Executive Branch subfolder of your Government folder, for instance, del.icio.us lets you tag the site any which way you think will lead you there when you need it: Government, Executive, Whitehouse, Deathstar, Mysecretcrushoncondi. But more importantly, del.icio.us also lets you and thousands of other users share your tags with one another, giving you access to a vast, spontaneously organized catalog of sites at least one other person found linkable—a people-powered Google, in short.
Del.icio.us, of course, isn’t the only online project currently tapping the wisdom of crowds. From Friendster to Flickr to Wikipedia and beyond, the Web has been crawling with this sort of thing for some time now. But del.icio.us did it earlier and better than most, and though a rough-coded, crate-and-barrel interface long made for an inexplicably daunting user experience, the elegant new redesign leaves no excuse: It’s time to clean out those folders and put your bookmarks somewhere they can do some good.