I ran into Todd Sieling at Take5 Cafe today (our defacto Innovation Commons - sign up to put your money down now!). He's been working with a company down in the valley on something very timely -- a social bookmarking site called ma.gnolia. Todd actually briefed Roland and myself on this a couple of months back, and we were bitterly disappointed when we didn't get a live demo. Today, Todd clicked me through a couple of sample pages. What can I say? The design looks nice and polished, we quibbled a bit about what the semantics of "send a link" are and what icons should like, and so on. I'm looking forward to kicking the tires on it when it goes live some time in the new year, especially since its target is regular web users. Saying things like "get a del.icio.us account and subscribe to your private 'for:' feed in RSS" pretty much results in blank stares today...
So, can another (or any?) social bookmarking site succeed? Well, aside from arguing as Paul Kedrosky does that del.icio.us' installed base are "early-adopter geeks utterly unrepresentative of anything approximately a larger market than del.icio.us's current 300,000 supposed users". Of course, there are all sorts of interesting comments in that post going back and forth about whether buying del.icio.us was "worth it" for Yahoo, and I've actually changed my mind a couple of times because of the different viewpoints there.
And now for a little anecdotal story of what people think about social bookmarking.
Since we spend so much time at Take5, we've gotten to know the staff really well. I stopped to say bye on my way out the door, and mentioned that there was another technology company taking shape in the couches at the back. For a minute, I was going to say something like "it's a social bookmarking site, similar to del.icio.us", when I reallized that means approximately zero to the average person on the street. So I said, simply, "it's an online tool to help organize your bookmarks and share them with your friends". Know what? They got it immediately...AND thought it was a great application.
Does it matter that they've never used del.icio.us? Nope. I think potentially a handful of these sites will "win", all growing out through various viral (natural? word of mouth? offline marketing?) means. One only has to look at MySpace to see that better technology is definitely not the factor at play here.