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The Net Takeaway: Yahoo buys, tags win?


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Yahoo buys, tags win? · 12/23/2005 06:56 PM, MetaBlog

I got some funny mails from folks crowing that with Yahoo buying, tags must be the future of search. I don’t know if that’s quite the right analysis.

First off, if you don’t know how I feel about tagging, feel free to check out the previous entries where I point out all the myriad flaws with tagging. Go on, I’ll wait.

(Side Note: others are seeing lots of problems with tagging as well; lots of complaints about how to edit tags, how to not lose content in the “tag soup”, etc. For example, check out this post on the “You’re It” blog, which is one of the better tag cheerleader sites. So, let’s all just get off our high horse and recognize that tags are interesting, but they are also highly flawed).

Ok, so I don’t like tags, not on their own, but because people have put them on a pedestal. Now, let’s consider what Yahoo wanted.

I have actually found a use for tags. While they suck for research, they are great for serendipity and the stream of discovery. I use as a continuous stream of what’s new about iPods. (Again, it is USELESS for research; trying to answer questions about iPods with tags is like talking to a bird about quantum physics: it probably knows the answer, but isn’t sharing.)

Now, if I’m Yahoo, and my model is now to be a media site, I can create media 3 ways:
1) Link to others
2) Hire writers
3) Let users create

All of these are now present in the modern Yahoo. They will continue to have a search and aggregation engine. They now have a stable of writers in Finance and News. And with Flickr,, My Web 2.0, Yahoo360 and other social services, they are letting users drive new content. (Actually, they have had Geocities for eons, but everyone forgets that).

So, they recognized that the most active contributors to the “stream of novelty” use, and so in a Microsoftian “embrace and extend”, they now have these folks providing a constant stream of new content for users to review… from Yahoo.

I think its a good idea. Again, the tags aren’t replacing the search engine, and while they may be allowed to influence it, I doubt it will be a requirement. As long as one recognizes that tags are a way of putting a small rudder into a stream and diverting a chunk to pan for gold, then tags make sense.

But if you believe they will replace a search engine, you are not as smart as the folks at Yahoo.

Rumour has it that tags will start to permeate the site, but not to the exclusion of other access methods. So, expect that folders will stay in the new Yahoo Mail (which I LOVE), but tags may be added at some point just like the annoying Gmail.

(Another Side Note: Ari Paparo, founder of Blink/BlinkPro, wrote a soulseeking post about why his company didn’t get acquired. I pointed out in the comments that and BlinkPro solve different problems. His problem was that he solved the research problem, but he really wanted to solve the sharing/discovery problem. He made a great tool for the former, and, as he points out, not a great one for the latter. It’s well worth a read, even if he beats himself up too much. If you are curious about other bookmark sites, I review most of the useful ones here.)

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