AVOS' Delicious Disaster: Lessons from a Complete Failure

Link sharing site Delicious re-launched on Monday with unwanted changes, huge technical problems, and a lesson in how to kill a beloved product.
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

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.

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