The Delicious Debacle And My Dependence On The Cloud

About 6 months ago, when I announced that after 4 years I was leaving
Yahoo! to join Nokia
I wrote …

So whilst I’m going to Nokia, I’ll continue to use my core set of Yahoo! products, tools and APIs … YQL, Placemaker, GeoPlanet, WOEIDs, YUI, Flickr and Delicious. Not because I used to work for Yahoo! but because they’re superb products.

That’s still true but the recent news of the closure, or shutting down, or selling off of Delicious has been one of those significant events that makes you sit up and take notice. In this case, it’s made me take notice of just how much I rely on the vague and nebulous technology we call the Cloud.


So before going any further, it’s probably worth stating my own, totally subjective, view of what the Cloud is. It turns out that it’s actually a fairly simplistic definition. The Cloud is any form of remotely access storage where we put content, with the addition that there’s frequently a service and/or an API built on top of that storage. More importantly, it’s all of this content we produce and store in the Cloud that the fate of Delicious has shone a spotlight on. A quick, off the top of my head, list of Cloud based content looks something like this …

  • Emails at, hosted on my ISPs IMAP server … Cloud based
  • Blog posts at, which hosts this post that you’re reading right now … Cloud based
  • Photos, hosted on Flickr … Cloud based
  • Shared files, hosted on Dropbox … Cloud based
  • Tweets and status updates, hosted on Twitter and Facebook … Cloud based
  • Slide decks, hosted on Slideshare … Cloud based
  • Professional profile, hosted on LinkedIn … Cloud based
  • Short URLs, hosted on … Cloud based
  • Bookmarks, hosted on Delicious … Cloud based

The future of Delicious has made me think long and hard and ask three questions. How much of this content is easily exported or stored elsewhere? How irreplaceable is this content? How at risk is the service hosting the content?

  • My email? Not at high risk. I mirror all of my IMAP folders on my laptop which is regularly backed up.
  • My blog? Not at high risk. I own the domain and I tend to maintain a mirror copy of my blog on my laptop and even if my ISP shuts down all my posts are easily exported and capable of being migrated elsewhere.
  • My photos? Not at high risk, at least not yet. Although Flickr stores a lot of my photos, the master set is in iPhoto on a backed up removable drive.
  • My shared files? Not at high risk. Dropbox automagically maintains a local mirror on each machine I use, which is backed up.
  • My tweets and status updates? Medium risk here. Whilst there’s no sign of Twitter or Facebook shutting down, archiving and preserving my content here is challenging.
  • My slide decks? Not at high risk. The master source of the decks is my laptop, which is regularly backed up.
  • My LinkedIn profile? Medium risk. While LinkedIn allows me to export my contacts as far as I can tell there’s no way to export my profile and recommendations.
  • My short URLs? Low risk. I own the domain and the short URLs it generates are controlled entirely by me.
  • My bookmarks? High risk. Even if Delicious is farmed out to another owner, confidence in the service has been severely dented but at least I can easily export all of my data.

A quick look at the list above gives me ample cause for concern. There’s a lot of content I rely upon that is hosted on Cloud services over which I have little or no control and which often offer no means of exporting that data easily, if at all. But it gets worse …


There’s a massive amount of reliance and interdependence on each of these services. My blog relies on other Cloud services, for example almost every one of my blog posts is illustrated either with an embedded slide deck from Slideshare, with an embedded photo from Flickr or both. This post is a classic example of that. My other web site, at, is dynamic and is almost entirely reliant on my Delicious bookmarks for providing links to my content hosted in other Cloud services.

The delicious irony here (pun fully intended) is that while the internet and the web are massively decentralised, they’ve been used to create a whole set of centralised and silo’d Cloud services, a large number of which my web presences rely upon. In the case of Delicious, I’ll stick with the service for now, until its future becomes less murky but as with my short URLs, hosting my own set of bookmarks will probably be on the agenda for early in 2011, along with the resulting disruption and work this will cause in integrating this new service into my web sites. But at least I’ll be owning and controlling my own Cloud services.

Photo Credits: Shaneblog on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Written by Gary

A self-professed map addict, Gary has worked in the mapping and location space for over 20 years through a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. Gary is co-founder of Malstow Geospatial, which provides handmade, professional geospatial consulting. A Fellow of the RGS, he tweets about maps, writes about them...
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Chris Fleming

One thing that I discovered recently, is the ability to do an export from facebook.

Go to account settings -> Download your information and wait for facebook to generate a zip file containing a whole pile of stuff, including all your status updates and photos. In HTML format…

I host my own blog and website; but the idea of my own URL shortener is definitly a good idea.


Quite frankly, using Delicious (or any other important to you cloud service regardless if it is offered by Yahoo or anybody else) and not having a cronjob to regularly backup the data to a local drive which is subject to a suitable backup policy is dangerous.

Until we get proper reliable cloud services — i.e. ones with an SLA with guarantees that match the value of the data (the value to *you*) and with that guarantee backed by a reputable insurance company — not backing up any data you cannot afford to lose is just reckless.
I have serious doubts that such reliable cloud services can be financed by ads, i.e. somebody will have to venture into proper paid services for the masses and wean the Internet users off their free-lunch attitude.


Nice graphics!

If possible, I avoid clouds. As I posted on Twitter, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now….etc…etc…I really don’t know clouds…at all..”(-J.Mitchell)

The point being that the reason I have the domain that I do is because very early on I learned that private companies have no obligation to the commons. Meaning, if they want to change or shut down a service, they can. With little notice. So, it seemed to me to be a bad idea to trust their “longevity.” Even now, things are tiered–they get us to join and add content–investing in building up whatever it is they ate making, then when they feel like they have groundswell, the rules change, or they charge money for access.

With Delicious, maybe Yahoo isn’t evil. Maybe they didn’t mine the data and patterns of what people were marking and saving…even if they weren’t, they were/are owning your access.

The cloud scares me. It’s bad enough that the hardware is sealed and that opening it and/or modifying it voids any warranty or support–but you’ve been reasonably able to get at your data privately. With cloud usage-we’re back to terminals and our access to our own data will be controlled, and likely cost us to access it both financially and via a privacy sacrifice.

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