I recently interviewed del.icio.us founder Joshua Schachter, who is now with Yahoo after the popular social bookmarking service was acquired last December. Joshua was recently named as top innovator of the year by MIT Technology Review Magazine. Tagging is one example of an innovation that del.icio.us pioneered (at least in its current form). Joshua told me that "del.icio.us was the first app to showcase tagging" and that now "practically everyone uses tags in the [del.icio.us] system in some form."

But Joshua has bigger plans for del.icio.us - it will essentially turn into a social network, with more focus on people instead of data. I learned this when I asked Joshua what kind of new functionality we can expect to see from delicious over the coming 6-12 months? Joshua replied:

"One of the amazing things about our users is how smart and far-reaching their interests are. While delicious previously has been very much about just the data, in the future I hope to allow our users themselves to come forward within the system. Additionally, I want to help people connect with others within the system, either to people they already know or discovering new people and communities based on interest."
(emphasis mine)

This points to a social networking future for del.icio.us, perhaps more so than a content bookmarking one (which it currently is). delicious already has a 'Your network' feature, but that basically just connects users' bookmarks. I think what Joshua is talking about is expanding this into a more full-featured social networking system - with commenting, groups, etc. Perhaps similar to Imeem, which combines content browsing with social networking.

It's interesting to compare Joshua's thoughts here to our previous post on Read/WriteWeb - Social Networking: Time For A Silver Bullet. In that post Ebrahim Ezzy talked about how "numerous social networks will proliferate - each with unique form and function." So it's easy to see how a social network based on bookmarking, a la delicious, can thrive.

Comparing del.icio.us to StumbleUpon

Recently on Read/WriteWeb we did a post comparing the top social bookmarking services, which showed that del.icio.us was behind StumbleUpon in terms of users. del.icio.us announced a couple of weeks ago that they have 1,000,000 users, while StumbleUpon claims 1,271,345. I asked Joshua what he thought the differences were between del.icio.us and StumbleUpon. He replied:

"Delicious is about extending memory and saving things for yourselves and others. Stumbleupon is much more about surfing, like TV, or maybe Tivo."

I also asked about del.icio.us' growth and how they've managed the scaling process. Joshua told me that "because of the explosive growth, we're are always working on scaling", however they are "extremely happy with delicious' growth to this point".

The real interest though is in how delicious makes the transition from a content-focused site, to one where people are more to the fore. I look forward to seeing how Joshua and his team implement social networking features into del.icio.us.