The word “bookmark,” referring to a saved Web link, is starting to sound old. “Bookmark” has this connotation of turn-of-the-century Web browsers, when there weren’t Web-based services for saving things. Your local bookmarks folder was where you kept links you wanted to go back to. These days, we’re browsing on multiple devices, and links aren’t necessarily “sites,” “pages” or “articles” anymore.
Links can point to all kinds of things. Most of the time, we’ll probably never need to visit a link again. But there are plenty of links we want to keep, even if it’s just to remember them. How do we keep track of saved links? Where do we put them? I talked to Jori Lallo, developer of Grove.io and a link-saving side project called Kippt, to learn about the future of the bookmark.
ReadWriteWeb: How did you decide on the features of Kippt, and how do you distinguish it from other bookmarking services?
Jori Lallo: “We didn’t actually plan to build a bookmarking service. We made our first prototype service about one and a half years ago over one or two days. It was a quick hack project for an app contest.
“We both bought iPads right when they came out, both me and [Kippt designer] Karri [Saarinen]. We were constantly emailing links to ourselves. So, we just wanted to build a really simple list of links where we could save stuff from the Web and from the iPad’s browser.
“It got pretty okay traction for a hack project. After that, we were thinking about how to evolve the service beyond that and how we use these kinds of services.”
Beyond the Chore of Tagging
“We both had been opposed to the traditional tagging. I find it to be pretty hard for a user in the sense that you have to create your own topology or map of the tags you use. Tagging is really good for hardcore users, but if you don’t [take] the time for tags… I think many Delicious users have been in the situation where you have more tags than you have links. So, we wanted to do things simpler.
“I’ve found that just plain folders actually work pretty well. That’s why we chose lists for the service. When we were building the new iteration of the service, we wanted to approach the problem from the workflow perspective.
“People are using Instapaper and Pinboard and other bookmarking services together, actually. So they first save stuff to Instapaper to read later, and then they save stuff from there to more permanent storage. And after they have saved, after they have read the stuff, they share the links to other people, just by emailing or IM, or whatever service they want to use. They have the links all over the place, pretty much.
“I think many Delicious users have been in the situation where you have more tags than you have links.”
“We wanted to build a medium between Instapaper and more heavy bookmarking services, and that’s why Kippt is pretty simple at the moment. We’re planning to add social sharing features later on, when we have more time. But right now, we’re just trying to get the base product right.”
What’s Wrong With Bookmarking
RWW: When you say “medium,” do you mean something between a temporary, time-shifting app like Instapaper and a big link taxonomy like the bookmarking services?
JL: “With ‘bookmarking,’ it’s kind of a disliked term. People have a habit of saving stuff that they don’t necessarily go back to anymore. I used to use Delicious quite a lot, but I rarely went back for my links. I guess that’s partly because of their tagging system. Also, their search wasn’t too good, at least some years ago. I don’t know what the situation is nowadays.
“But now, with Kippt, I have lists for projects, like Web development, design inspiration and so on, and I actually go to those lists way more often. I find it a little bit more accessible.”
RWW: Is Kippt’s ‘inbox’ meant to be a more temporary workspace, then?
“Inbox, for me, is where I save stuff I need to do later, or I need to process. I don’t want to think about the categorization now.
“My girlfriend actually uses Kippt in this way. At the start, she just saved everything in her inbox and just started thinking about the categorization after that, once she had more stuff there.”
Link Saving Vs. “Read Later”
RWW: What about the ‘Read Later’ section?
“We don’t want to build a full-featured reading experience within the app, but we still added the ‘Read Later’ list as a default, because it’s a nice place to just put in articles that you can read and from there drag and drop to more permanent lists later on. I find that works pretty well for my personal use cases.”
RWW: It seems like bookmarking services still have a niche appeal, while dedicated read-later services are catching on. Why do you think that is?
JL: “I think there has been a trend moving away from bookmarking stuff, probably because Google is pretty good nowadays for finding the things you need. When I’ve been talking about the app with people, it seems that some people are really into bookmarking, and some people just don’t get it at all anymore after the read-later services.
“It’s not for everyone, but some people, at least, love bookmarking services a lot.”
RWW: What is it about those people?
JL: “I think it’s about attention span. Some people, who are really fast, especially entrepreneurs, seem to like the Instapaper kind of approach. This is just my personal stuff I have noticed. I still feel there’s a need for more permanent storage.
“Links are more than they used to be in the early 2000s. You have more information about them. And now we have this whole new generation of [richer Web] services.”
RWW: It’s not just static HTML documents anymore.
Keeping Links Forever
RWW: Do you think that keeping Web links forever is something everyone should do? Does the Web work like a bookshelf in your house, where keeping things around, even just for nostalgic purposes, is something people are going to do?
JL: “I think they’re already doing it quite a lot. When we first launched Kippt, we didn’t have any kind of importing mechanism, and that was by far the most requested feature.”
RWW: And people freaked out about losing their bookmarks when Delicious was in trouble.
“I think that people have the tendency of wanting to keep their stuff. I guess that’s the nature of human beings.”
JL: “Yeah. I think that people have the tendency of wanting to keep their stuff, even though they wouldn’t use it, but they still like to keep it. That’s the same thing we’ve seen with [Lallo’s other project, hosted IRC chat service] Grove.io. People are saving their IRC logs for years and years. I guess that’s the nature of human beings.
“We welcome people to use our service to save links forever, especially if other services don’t have good search, and we’re improving the search in Kippt. That’s one of my top priorities at the moment.
And we’re probably going to add some kind of tagging layer on top of the lists because people are asking for it. I think tagging might work pretty well in hashtag form, some kind of way that’s more modern. Especially on top of the lists and search, it wouldn’t be the main way of categorizing stuff.”
RWW: So lists are where the links live, but tags are just a way to quickly find them?
The Browser Vs. “Apps”
RWW: Do you think that the browser is a better place to work with links than separate, native apps like Instapaper or Evernote?
JL: “I actually agree on that, just by experience. We wanted to push Kippt out really quickly. That’s why it’s so simple. After the launch, we got tons of feedback and feature requests. They mapped out with our plans really well. But one thing I noticed was that no one was asking for the mobile [app] stuff. This kind of service is more important when it’s in your browser.
Play around with Kippt for a few minutes, and you’ll see. Bookmarking as a chore is only for hardcore Web librarians, but anyone who uses the Web wants to keep links around for one reason or another. Instapaper and the like are great dedicated reading services, but they’re designed around that use, not for storing and retrieving your favorite links.
Kippt just sits as a layer in your Web browser. It’s like a bookshelf for keeping and organizing the Web sites and apps you come across. Its two modes are the most useful part; you can save to the inbox for “I’ll get to that later,” or if you already know what shelf a link belongs on, you can save it straight there. Not everything is an “article” on the Web anymore. Websites are increasingly “stuff.” Don’t we all need a place to keep our stuff?