AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

Summary: Link sharing site Delicious re-launched on Monday with unwanted changes, huge technical problems, and a lesson in how to kill a beloved product.


The re-launch of social link sharing site Delicious, now under the stewardship of YouTube founders Steven Chen and Chad Hurley under their AVOS startup banner, is nothing short of a complete, mind-boggling disaster.

How AVOS took a beloved social sharing site and ruined it from stem to stern, and up to this minute have a complete, angry user PR explosion on their hands, is as enlightening as it is hard to watch.

In April I highlighted concerns about Delicious' new Terms and Privacy Policy that users were being forced to opt-in to.

Why You Should Think Twice About Opting-In to the Delicious-AVOS Transfer explained that the new policies had the potential to seriously change the service. I underestimated what was coming.

When AVOS rolled out the new Delicious yesterday, I think we can begin to guess as to why AVOS would not respond to my request for comment on the issues.

Delicious basically rolled out on day one as a broken product.

Conveniently, AVOS removed the support forums so no one could ask questions or find answers.

But don't let that stop you from watching the tragicomic PR meltdown on Delicious' Twitter feed and Facebook page. Their Twitter is filled with dozens of public "Try resetting your password again, it should be fixed now" @ reply responses. The Facebook page is a jaw-dropping lesson in pissing off your users and watching them leave in droves.

The new Delicious is essentially doing away with one of the main things the site was great for: tagging and organizing by tags.

Delicious came up with the interesting but seriously misguided idea of forcing users to now categorize and share by using "stacks" - among many other forced changes.

Among the required changes is disallowing users to use the service with their previous handles, and making everyone use a "real name" policy.

EDIT/UPDATE: Delicious/AVOS changed its name policy from its initial incarnation: they listened to Delicious users! It's great news - Head of Communication at AVOS/Delicious, Mike Manning emailed saying, "We are not requiring real names to create new Delicious accounts or use the service. To sign up for Delicious, all people need to provide is an email address, username and password." /UPDATE

The "Real Name" issue also didn't settle well with Google Plus users. As an aside, don't give me that "but the Real Name thing doesn't matter because now Google+ is so successful because it's got millions of users" crap. Google is too big to fail, doesn't need to keep its users happy, doesn't need to make investors happy, and already had its target market's email addresses out the starting gate.

Postcards From The Bubble: How To Ruin A Great Site

They changed the site dramatically and gave users no warning to make a contingency plan, then launched the new version with a laundry list of broken tools and an astonishing scroll of things they're "working on."

Most people are reporting that the plugins are either broken or not compatible - including the most recent versions made by AVOS. The accrued bookmarks and tags are all still tucked away on Delicious' site, but can't be accessed by the plugin at all.

On launch day, the amount of people timing out while trying to log in was sadly impressive. As I write this, I get a 502 when checking the delicious.com link.

The RSS feeds were broken, the password reset was broken, browser extensions are still broken, tag bundles are gone (users put a lot of work into these), search by date is gone and search returns are not chronological, users are now unable to edit their tags...

The functionality of the site is gone. I have to wonder, did anyone at AVOS actually use Delicious?

I'm not the only one asking this question.

What's worse, in the new Delicious blog post The First 20 Hours users are told,

If you’re not seeing all your bookmarks right now, it’s because we made a late decision to limit the amount of data we initially transferred from Yahoo!. We’ll be restoring all the data into your profile in the coming weeks. We should have made this limitation clearer to everyone from the outset, and I want to apologize for any headaches it has caused or will cause.

...Which explains why people are posting angrily on Delicious' Facebook page today that their bookmarks and tags were returning as error messages.

I really didn't think it was possible to screw up a new version this much. I think it's an object lesson straight outta the bubble.

Delicious was a wildly popular social link sharing site, and its fan base was a study in long-tail loyalty.

When Delicious sold to Yahoo! it languished unattended, like many great startups - with the general consensus being that big-box corporate companies that acquire great little startups are essentially clueless about what made them great.

We are not surprised when monocultures like Yahoo! pull a herp-derp on things that make the internet fun; we just cross our fingers for luck (and our legs regarding the new Privacy Policies) and hope they don't screw it up or kill it.

We know - we know - they are not going to take the time to find the bits that made it sing and hum and make those parts better. We know that on a basic animal level that they don't get it.

And we hurl a curse in the direction of the chump that sold out something we liked and used and made our lives a wee bit happier, while understanding that we all have to pay rent.

We also know there's got to be a better way.

When Yahoo! got caught with its finger on the trigger to kill Delicious, an amazing cry came up from the internets to save it. Then AVOS rode in on a white unicorn to save it. Yay!

But, no. What we got was our worst fears about the bubble, confirmed.

Delicious is a bitter lesson for everyone. It's the difference between how people actually use a product versus how rich, out-of-touch knuckleheads think people should be using that product, all to further their own self-interests.

If you make a startup we like, such as Delicious: please don't sell it.

And if you do, and it ends up like this, mangled by carpetbaggers - screw you guys. Seriously.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    I'm sure the new Delicious will be delicious once we all get used to it and the bugs are ironed out (am only saying that cause it seems to be the way it goes with these things). And I really, really hope my links that appear to be lost are found again. (Please!) A bit off track but in hindsight, I wish there'd been a way I could have created a Delicious Pro account. Maybe a little cash revenue might have kept it the way users want it. I pay $24 per annum for Flickr, I'd probably pay for Delicious too if it were reliable and did what I wanted it to do.
    • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

      @leesawatego I don't know - this was one of the most careless things I've seen with a significant site in a long time. I'm really worried about the privacy issues now.

      But I think you hit the nail on the head with he idea of a premium service. I think most people will pay *something* to know they will get exactly what they want and to be able to have a trust of service with a company. Especially when users put so much time and investment into the site.
      Violet Blue
    • Like Lady Gaga bought the Library of Congress

      @leesawatego I honestly don't think so.

      If Lady Gaga just bought the Library of Congress and she is determined to bring it to "mainstream", what would you expect to see?

      I think the youtube founders are very capable but because they don't use delicious themselves. They *will* take delicious to the direction they are more familiar with, which may not be the one existing delicious users would be mostly happy with.

      I have written a blog post on this if you feel like reading more:

      Disclaimer: I'm the co-founder of trunk.ly, a competitor to delicious. But hey, I'm also a long time user of delicious too.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    I wonder which of the phony reasons for demanding to see some ID over at Google+ will turn up at Delicious. Or will we be treated to a new variety of "we're only trying to help" bovine excrement?
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    I'm not surprised that Yahoo couldn't figure out what to do with Delicious
    Yahoo! can't even work out how to make a decent web mail program.

    Every "improvement" to their web mail has made it more difficult to use.
    You can't even attach anything to an email, without inviting every cyber-criminal in the world into your PC (i.e. you must run multiple js routines and Flash).

    It sounds like AVOS isn't any better.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    For me the deletion of the support forums is the straw that broke the camel's back. It reeks of pre-emptive damage control--even BEFORE the release I bet they knew they had a stinker on their hands.<br><br>Amazing. The Founders of YouTube and yet they seemed to know nothing about proper QA testing, little about proper market research for their new venture, and the wrong damn things about P.R and promotion. Just this statement in their blog is frightening:<br><br>"Delicious is in back to beta mode"<br><br>Note this isn't referring to some test version of the product running side-by-side with the old service . This is referring to the released version--the ONLY version anyone can access. With no "opt out" choice to retain the old version while the new one is tested (only an "opt in" to get any version of Delicious at all, albeit a badly broken one).<br><br>What a bunch of bozos. Total amateur hour.
    Snark Shark
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    I never liked the look/feel of the old Delicious so never used it; read a report this morning reporting on the changes and thought it sounded great and headed back. Got a brief glimpse of the new look/feel, liked it, signed up, got a message to say there was a problem, and now it looks like the old Delicious again...!
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    The chump has said publicly, of the sale of Delicious to Yahoo:

    "I wish I had not sold it to them. The cash and freedom do not even come close; I would rather work on a big, popular product." -- Joshua Schachter


    I understand your anguish here, because you invest a lot of energy and time into the website and have no control over it. But, don't think that it's a matter of the site creator selling you out. He did what he thought would be best, not just for himself, but for everyone that used the site.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    Little harsh article. Launches for new websites often go nuts. You tube was a shitty site when it first launched. They went through growing pains where we saw "buffering" all the time but they fixed it. Now it kicks ass.

    Just give it a few months, let the kinks work out. Having a startup that launches with over 1MM users on the onset is unheard of.

    Want to criticize a website go after yahoo. After being on a high in 2006 and far ahead of their time, their properties are falling apart and bugs aplenty. Who even uses yahoo anymore?
    • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure


      I think the point is that Delicious was not a new site. There is an old saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Obviously not heeded this time.
      • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

        Because Delicious was doing so well, had more users than Facebook and bringing in sooo much money for Yahoo, that's why they kept it. Oh, wait. They didn't.

        I think the point is that Delicious was a steaming pile of fail before the YouBillionaires rescued it from the waste bin, hadn't been updated since Bush was president, and was not a whole lot of use to anyone. Which lends credence to the "overreaction much" point of view.
    • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

      @foobardude I lost four years of work without being notified. What happened to my tag bundles? I used delicious as a knowledge bank. Most tags had a description at the top of the page ??? gone. I could ???cross-index??? content and reuse it in a variety of ways with tag descriptions. What a trivial piece of junk. Anybody know how to retrieve my original 13000 tags in their former state? Help.
  • Nice job!

    From the www.avos.com blog, posted Sept 13: "Weve been quiet for so long that many of you were probably wondering if that 'YouTube Guys Purchase Delicious' news was real. Rest assured that it is, our team has just been heads down for the past few months re-writing the site, simplifying the experience and adding some new features to discover and collect the web. The focus is on speed, scalability and ensuring systems are in place for a smooth transition from Yahoo!."<br><br>I wish the transition had been smooth. The day before Yahoo's "sunsetting" leak, I didn't realize I was using Delicious in its glory days.
  • 3000 of my links I can no longer search for

    Some regarding medicine, clinical trials that might help my relatives. Are you kidding me?
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    You really blow your whole article out of the water when you invoke the angst against the ???real name??? policies of these kinds of services. It's a free service, they can set policy and, surprise, many people prefer to be dealing with other people who aren't afraid to use their real names instead of hiding behind a handle. When you want to be all cloak and dagger, there are plenty of places on the web. Start your own if you like. It sounds like this service has done some things to piss of former users, but since you are fundamentally hung up on the ???real name??? thing, I can't see how you are being objective about any of the other changes. And BTW, I love Google+ and use my real name there along with a LOT of other people.
  • Gone to http://pinboard.in/

    Boy am I glad I mirror my bookmarks at pinboard. Their service is way cooler anyway so glad I have a reason to completely switch to them. Can't believe Delicious removed tag completion while creating and editing BMs.

    Reminds me of Netflix quirky meltdown recently. They'll recover at least.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    Boy am I glad I mirror my Delicious bookmarks at pinboard (http://pinboard.in/).

    Their service is way cooler anyway so glad I have a reason to completely switch to them.

    Can't believe Delicious removed tag completion while creating and editing BMs.

    Reminds me of Netflix quirky meltdown recently. They'll recover at least.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    Herp-derp. FTW.
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    I got my bookmarks back. Hadrianus J-r posted this on https://www.facebook.com/delicious

    -I added some instructions for people on OSX Lion in the comments.

    for everyone who wants to recover their bookmarks from the OLD delicious.com site, you can STILL do so. I downloaded yesterday my bookmarks from the old site and then deleted the left-over account there because the old site is STILL ACTIVE and responding at the old ip addresses.

    BTW, i posted this message on an older thread yesterday but i don't think it's been seen by enough people. Avos/Delicious is MISLEADING you when they tell you that there's nothing you can do to recover your bookmarks from the old site. It hasn't BEEN SHUTDOWN by yahoo YET, so hurry and recover your stuff before they shut it down.

    Steps to do this:
    1) (optional) verify the old site ip addresses (hosted at yahoo) by using Netcraft's site monitorng tool:


    2) add the following entries to the HOSTS file in your system:
    (they are those reported by netcraft above, before the transfer to avos) www.delicious.com delicious.com secure.delicious.com static.delicious.com

    3) either reboot the pc or clear the local DNS cache (ipconfig /flushdns) then start a new browser and visit the old delicious site. If the new delicious site loads it means you have done something wrong, go back to step 2.

    if you have to login but have changed your password on the NEW delicious site then on the OLD SITE login using the OLD PASSWORD that you have used (the latest that is known by the old delicious site)

    4) backup your bookmarks from there

    5) when you're done with the backup logout and then delete those 4 lines from the HOSTS system that you have added at step (2) or you won't be able to access the NEW delicious.com (your pc will keep trying to access the old site, which will be eventually dismantled)
  • RE: AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

    As a school-teacher and librarian using computers with an entire school, I have used Delicious for at least 5 years, and rely on it to provide links to vetted websites with educational games, interactive math activities, etc. Imagine my horror when class after class of children tried to search using my tried and true tags this week! I wouldn't have minded if Delicious had saved the tags, and allowed me to create my own stacks from them, but this mangled mess they've made is beyond belief!