What is social bookmarking?
‘Bookmarking’ allows you to save a list of your favourite websites. This makes it simpler to return to websites at a later date and allows you to organise websites into common groups. Traditionally this is done in your web browser (eg Internet Explorer) where you can save links to websites under ‘Favourites’ or ‘Bookmarks’ using folders to categorise the bookmarks. The difference with social bookmarking is that your list of websites is saved online at a social bookmarking website/service. Instead of organising your bookmarks using folders, you can use ‘tags’ (or keywords) to categorise websites.
All modern web browsing software has the ability to create bookmarks of websites. A bookmark is simply a copy of a website address or URL. Some URLs can be long, convoluted and difficult to remember.
A bookmark allows you to store a URL with a simple identifying name. For example, a website address such as http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/flx/go/home/projects/2007 could be forgotten but when bookmarked it appears as ‘Australian Flexible Learning Framework - 2007 Projects’. This default name could also be replaced with any name that helps you to identify or remember the content of the website.
Social bookmarking takes the concepts of bookmarks and transfers that system online to an internet-based service. Typically the service is offered through a website that you can browse or join in order to set up your own bookmarks. To make it easier to move your bookmarks online many social bookmarking services allow you to import your web browser bookmarks. It is also common for social bookmarking sites to include special links or a toolbar for your web browser designed to make saving bookmarks online simpler and provide a shortcut to your online bookmarks.
Web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Safari are only capable of recording a bookmark’s address (URL) and a simple name. Firefox is the exception with the ability to also store a brief description and keywords associated with the bookmark. All of this extra information about the bookmark adds extra capabilities. For example, in the Firefox web browser you can search your bookmarks by keyword. These keywords are commonly referred to as ‘tags’ in social bookmarking services. Usually the bookmark contains the URL, a short name, a description and tags. Tagging is a popular approach used in many other social networking sites as well as for social bookmarking.
As you add more bookmarks you will add more tags. If, for example, you bookmarked multiple social bookmarking sites it would be likely that you would repeatedly add the tag ‘social bookmarking’ or similar. Over time you will build up a list of tags that can be prioritised based on frequency. A visual means of showing this is a ‘tag cloud’. The most popular tags are shown one after the other in a block (see image below), with the most frequently used tags being in a larger/bolder font.
Social bookmarking is not just the passive action of saving links to websites you have visited. Many social bookmarking services and some specialised websites have tools to assist you to add your social bookmarking links to your website, blog or wiki etc. and vice versa. For example, tools allow you to add quick links so visitors can bookmark your site to their social bookmarking service, visit your bookmark list and add you to their bookmarking network of ‘friends’.
The concept of social bookmarking has also been leveraged by several other social web services. Perhaps the most common is popularity-based information sites. Users are able to bookmark a web page within preset categories such as news, blogs, video, technology etc and then peers ‘vote’ on the worthiness of the bookmarked site. The most popular bookmarks appear at the top of the category-based listing or search.
It is also common for social bookmarking sites to be designed for only bookmarking specific content such as books you have read, child appropriate content, a library catalogue, specific media types etc.
Here is a summary of some useful bookmarking tools and features.
Web browser bookmarks—eg Internet Explorer ‘Favourites’, Firefox ‘Bookmarks’ and Safari ‘Bookmarks’
Social bookmarking services—eg del.icio.us or digg
Social bookmarking toolbars or ‘bookmarklets’—these add buttons and links to your web browser toolbar to make it easier to bookmark websites at your social bookmarking site while you are browsing the internet.
Tagging tools—these features are often embedded into social bookmarking sites.
Tag clouds—a common way to display a list of social bookmark tags.
Social bookmarking site link generators—these tools help to create code that can be embedded in web pages, such as blogs and wikis, to allow users to add that page to their social bookmark site, to link to a user’s online bookmarks or list a user’s bookmarks.
Hybrid services—such as dig.com and reddit.com use social bookmarking capabilities to allow users to submit websites for classification/voting by other users.