Saturday, June 24, 2006

Social Bookmarking Catching up in India

Ever felt the need to be able to access your bookmarks while surfing the Internet from a PC other than your regular home or office PC/laptop? Necessity led to the advent of online book marking sites which allow you to bookmark a website or a specific page online instead of your browser. So whenever you travel, you just need to remember the name of the online bookmarking site and all your bookmarks accompany you.

However the story does not end there. When I can store my bookmarks online, why not share them with friends? If so with friends, why not with common interest groups. Social Bookmarking was born. Web sites started offering netizens not only online storage for their bookmarks but also an opportunity to share and view other people's favorite bookmarks. Among the most popular ones today on the Internet are Del.icio.us (read it as delicious), Digg, Reddit, NewsVine, Blink, Furl, Spurl, Sphere, etc.

The few common services that all these websites allow are

  1. Bookmark your favorite web sites or URLs.
  2. Have your bookmarks thrown open to the public and get them to vote for your bookmark in case they like it.
  3. You can add friends and constantly keep track of new bookmarks that they add.
  4. More the votes on your bookmark, the more likely it is to appear on the homepages of these web sites. That will mean more and more people will view the bookmark and hence more votes.
  5. Tag your bookmarks with key words that enable users searching on those key terms to locate your bookmark.
  6. Tag Clouds that give an idea of what keywords are currently the most popular among users.
  7. Plugins for Firefox, Google Desktop, Opera, etc allow you to access your bookmarks and earmark new ones to these sites directly, without having to actually browse to these web sites.
The Indian Scene

Of recent I have been witnessing a slew of Indian social bookmarking sites that have sprung up. Indiagram, HumDigg, IndianPad, ForumsofIndia are four that I have come across. While this post does not intend to review each of them in detail and point out their shortcomings, it definitely is an attempt to point out the uniqueness of each of these sites and leave it to the Indian IT Pulse reader to choose his/her favorite. The idea is to highlight the social bookmarking trend that is catching the fancy of netizens in India and the scenario in the Indian webscape. So here goes:
Indiagram: One of the first Indian social bookmarking sites I came across. The most refreshing feature in Indiagram is the User Cloud on the home page. Based on a rating system that takes into account the number of bookmarks added, the rating obtained for one's bookmarks based on voting by other users, etc the most popular user is indicated on a higher sized font in the cloud of names. Less popular users are assigned lower font sizes. Though other sites too rank users, a user cloud acts as a quick reference to home in on the most popular bookmarker.

HumDigg
: A clone of Digg, this has provided me some very interesting material to read. Guess, the initial adopters of HumDigg have turned out to be quite Internet savvy people. URLs are also browsable category wise which is one cool feature here. Categories range from technology, movies to sports and science.

IndianPad: A flurry of interesting innovations make this website a must visit, even if you are not a registered user. In addition to the usual links, the site also allows users to add music bookmarks and rate music. The tag cloud too is user tweakable to view popular tags in the last 48 hours, 7 days, 30 days , 1 year or for all time. Some things though failed to impress me. There is a section called Livecast that gives a live preview of URLs being posted real time, though I must say, I could not fathom why it would interest anybody. URLs too have been divided into 3 sections. General Stories, Audio and Adult. Seems rather bizarre and I could only gather that it must have been done with a commercial intent rather than provide for any meaningful browsing.
Forums of India: A new kid on the block, with run-of-the-mill features. Though I did not find anything out of the ordinary, I plan to keep a watch to see if this site has some ace up its sleeve, something fresh and innovative. I must add though that when I came across this site, it gave me the impetus to get this post from draft to publish status. :-)

One major grouse I have of all Indian bookmarking sites is that all of them promise to give you India specific content, but fall short by miles. Indiagram says "Stay current and informed with India", IndianPad shouts, "My Country, My views , My vote!" . Quite understandable that users cannot be restricted to submit only URLs restricted to Indian web sites and doing so would make the sites less popular. However, I would love to at least see a section that displays only the India specific URLs filtered from the rest of the URLs. This might be done say via an automatic filtering by filterbot followed by a review from an editorial board.

At the time of writing this post, I am sure none of the web sites have reached a critical mass of users. To get more users registering at these sites, the site promoters need to convince users the need to start bookmarking. To start bookmarking, users need lots of good content to read. With blogging rapidly catching the fancy of the Indians, lot of desi content is sure to drive traffic to these sites. Meanwhile, until that happens, these sites would have to rely, first, on their current users recycling bookmarks stumbled upon on the international bookmarking sites and second, their ability to innovate. Innovation would be crucial to survive the bloodbath that is gonna happen sooner or later to drive traffic and maintain sustainable revenue streams flowing.



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

9 comments:

Prakash said...

Vijay,

Thanks for the review. I am one of the developers from http://www.indiagram.com/

The intent is not to have india specific content but content that indians are interested in. We are targeting users of India and Indian origin.

Its ok to bookmark a website related to Ice Hockey if thats your interest, but you will not find many people voting or recommending that bookmark.

We are aiming to capture the current interests of India. I think we are all trying to it :-).

The power of social bookmarking is in the community of users that are willing to share the knowledge among themselves. Hence the reason for so many bookmarking sites.

Prakash.

Vijay said...

Thanks Prakash for providing a new perspective in which to view things. Creating user communities who supplement and satiate one another's likes by contributing content is definitely a way of looking at it.

However, isn't the idea of pooling together just India's interest a bit vague when you do not restrict users just from India? Suppose your site gains popularity tomorrow and you have a hoard of international users rushing in to register at your site, coz of some unique innovation that say , Digg lacks....in case of such an eventuality, how do you intend to safeguard your original intention of capturing India-specific interests? You wouldn't have control over what the international users are bookmarking. Just being curious. It is in this light that I suggested we need to have a category that caters to everything Indian. Do put in your thoughts.

IndianPad said...

Vijay, great article and thanks for mentioning us!

We usually refrain from posting our opinion but it may be worthwhile to clarify some points.

As you mentioned, the category cloud on the front page is configurable by users. We also have a story cloud that allows you to drill into the category and other variables you are interested in to find relevant stories.

LiveCast – LiveCast contains 3 sub-features within it – Live Telecast, Live Search and Live News.
1 – Live Telecast – This is useful for news junkies who want to see all site activity in one place as it allows them to pinpoint areas of interest across the site where other users are voting or commenting.
2 - Live Search – For the curious amongst us who want to know what others are searching for.
3 - Live News – This gathers news from across the web through approx 200 feeds and displays news relevant to India.

URLs have been divided into 3 sections : Stories, Audio and Adult - This is done as many users indicated that adult material on the site was becoming a distraction. We don’t edit any material posted here so the best course was to move adult material to another section. Music was added as another section but we keep debating whether to merge it with the main section (any suggestions!).

As of now there is NO commercial intent as all the ad income from the site goes back to the users. A user can add their AdSense ID to their profile and all ad income from their stories goes to them!

One area that doesn’t get much attention by non-users is the Yahoo Maps Mashup that allows users to locate other users around them in a flash. Its pretty popular with our users so you may wish to check it out.

India specific content is one area where we fall short but we trust our users to vote up the interesting Indian news and vote down other irrelevant news. We have a strict policy NOT TO EDIT any post content. We even allow stories without a link so that our users without a blog can post rumors or news items.

We have tried to evolve our features and interface based on user requests. Many of our popular features would have been impossible without user feedback and other not so popular features are our feeble attempts at immortality! ;)

We can go on with other features such as customizable sidebars, personal music playlists, etc but we wont torture you any further. Our apologies for the long comment... :)

Vijay said...

Thanks for the comment.

Prakash said...

I first like to thank you again for the article. It provided me a chance to hear from indianpad. Sometimes I look upto them for ideas and they have done a very nice job.

We at IndiaGram actually get some international users because we are based on opensource social bookmarking tool Scuttle.

Everybody on our team are open-source advocates and we have distributed the code for the features that we have added back to the community. TeacherShare and Article Tag are some examples.

So we encourage international users to setup their own social bookmarking site, if they like a feature of IndiaGram.

Prakash.

ashwin said...

Excellent post. It opened up a world of opportunities for me!

Quick question, before i signup for these services, does anyone of them offer group tagging. I run a startup (http://www.vaatsalya.com) and come across so many interesting links that i would like to tag and share only with my other team mates. I would like a service that would alert them, that a new page has been bookmarked, by email/sms alert)

Thanks again,
Ashwin
ashwinnaik.com
smondo.com

Jasmine said...

There are a lot of these social bookmarking sites which have suddenly mushroomed over the past six months... I wonder how many of these would last in the long term.

A new one to add to list is http://www.rambhai.com It is based on the digg format but the content seems to be of good quality.

Another one which ran but seems to have run out of steam now is http://www.slashindia.org/

Then there is putvote.com which is dedicated towards rating blog writers... and already has quite a few blogger traffic.

Intereting space, and the general idea definitely seems to be great, lets see how it works out!

Gyach SB said...

That is really nice review however only few like Indianpad and Humsurfer and now bestofindya are able to leave impression.

We have just another Gyach.com SB: Indian Social Bookmarking website

Added here to let people know about it too!

yuppmarks said...

We are pleased to announce the launch of 'YuppMarks'. Yuppmarks.com is a Social bookmarking website which opens the door to new ways of bookmarking, managing and mingles your categorized resources.
A Social Bookmark Website. Anyone can participate and free traffic to your website or blog.
Start your Social bookmarking information and Share it with the world through Yuppmarks.com
To start just logon to http://www.yuppmarks.com/

Popular Posts - Do not miss these...