Social Bookmarking is not something new anymore; in fact, some people say they've seen too much of it already (imagine that!). One of the worst things - or best, depending on your point of view - of the whole Web 2.0 hype is that everything evolves at least ten times faster than it did in good ol' Web 1.0 (if you let me use the term): there are many, many more web pages created everyday by literally anyone, from web developers to total newcomers to the Web, to amateurs who just want to share their content because it's 'cool'.
However, this is not a rant. Web 2.0 is inevitably going to become more and more user friendly, and you can't do anything about it. Why? Because it pays. Who's most likely to click on the flashy banner on page X featuring product Y not knowing that by doing so company Z will get a penny: your grandmother who is just now learning how to use the Internet or your brother who's majoring in computer science?
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I strongly believe that the Internet becomes a much more user-friendly place everyday, and, to put it bluntly, the web developers and companies who understand this will become popular and make money.
I remember when I first read about social bookmarking: people were screaming here and there that you had to share your bookmarks on the Net, and this 'delicious' thing was getting more and more popular. Then it became 'delirious', and it was better, because it also meant free...then the shadows came...
I was never a big fan of the whole concept, I admit, but an old friend of mine from a community turned up and asked me to try a new website he coded in Rails: a new social bookmarking service, simple to use and free: ma.gnolia.
I immediately felt the impulse to reply (as this happened on IRC)"i.dont.give.a.sh.**". I really didn't want to try yet another social bookmarking thing, as I had had enough of it even before I started to grasp the whole concept properly. Hoever, since the guy is a friend of mine whom I respect a lot, especially for his skills and knowledge, I decided to give ma.gnolia a try, and here's what happened.
A website which smells good
One of the things any Web 2.0 business cannot afford to overlook is the design and user interface of their product. It does matter! If you want to please your customers, make something that looks good. This is not a new idea at all, and it has been shown to work in many situations.
The first impression I had about the ma.gnolia website was similar to the one I had when visiting CSSZenGarden for the first time: code is poetry. I particularly like the latest trend in web design, which preaches simplicity, functionality, clean-looking pages, xHMTL+CSS instead of other assorted bloat, pastel colors, rounded corners, and so on, and there are no rounded corners in ma.gnolia.
People might disagree, of course, and it's certainly not the answer for all tastes: there are some people who really can't stand 'plain' websites, and they think that the whole philosophy is pointless: De gustibus non est disputandum (There is no accounting for taste). We had the same concerns two thousand years ago and the Romans got it right. Even the Romans would have agreed that ma.gnolia is easy to use, too plain or not.
Quick features overview
The obvious first step before starting to use ma.gnolia is signing up for a (free) account. Right? Wrong. For non-committers, or casual, let's-try-it-and-see-what-happens users there's a (free) trial account. You can start using fully functional ma.gnolia right away, but unless you register, nothing you do will be permanent. This seems to be a new Web 2.0 trend as well; before, you needed to make everything free to get people's attention, now it must be free and not require registration. Makes perfect sense.
Trial or not, you can start adding bookmarks right away through the form on the front page, which is simple enough. As long as you didn't discover bookmarks (or favorites for the browser-impaired) the day before yesterday, you probably already have your little collection of bookmarks meticulously catalogued in many different folders. Well, you can import them into ma.gnolia in a few very easy steps, and that, believe me, will save time. Some people may think I'm wasting my time stating the obvious here, but when I tried del.icio.us the import feature wasn't available, and this was enough to make me walk away.
'Casual user', 'non-web-savvy', 'non-geeks': ma.gnolia obviously targets these types of people. Everything on the site is well-documented and easy to use. Ma.gnolia's project manager said in a recent interview:
This makes sense to me: Web 2.0 seems to be more user friendly, simply because a lot of non-geeks are browsing the web everyday and clicking on adverts.
Once you import all your bookmarks, you'll have an almost exact copy of your bookmarks collection, now available online! If you don't want to share them, because you believe in anti-social bookmarking or you just want to have a backup, you can import all your bookmarks as "private", and you can toggle the status by clicking or , whenever you like: the magic of Ajax will do the rest.
You can also rate your bookmarks from one to five stars, but only yours: ma.gnolia is not a pointless competition to be the one who links the most and best websites.
What if I want to delete a bookmark? Quick hint:
Yes, you can tag as much as you like
No, there are no folders. Forget it. For me it started with Gmail and it was shocking enough: there are no folders, but you can tag your messages. This can be disorienting for some, but once you have overcome the initial trauma, you will realize that tags can be better than folders in some cases. At any rate, Web 2.0 uses tags everywhere, so you'd better get used to it. A tag is basically a virtual label you can put on something - here, a bookmark - to make it belong to a defined group. Tags normally don't have a hierarchy like folders, and each item can have more than one tag. Simple.
Unfortunately, you can't directly tag (or rate) bookmarks that you add from the main page, but since you'll normally be using some sort of bookmarklet for Ma.gnolia, it doesn't really matter. Also, at the moment, once you create a tag you can't rename it, but this feature will be added soon.
If you tried some other social bookmarking services before and you really enjoy the philosophy behind it, you'll be pleased to know that Ma.gnolia is even more social than others. When you register an account you can optionally disclose your real name, age, and gender, add an avatar, a webpage and so on, and you can create your own profile, just like anywhere else on the Internet.
Furthermore, Ma.gnolia allows groups: you can create, join, and leave a group of bookmarkers who share the same interests as you. Why would you want to do this? The answer to that question is simple and self-evident: because what is enjoyed by one person will likely be enjoyed by other people who share the same interests. Once you are part of a group you can send a bookmark to that particular group (), or at least that's that ideal; if you just want to send a particular address to only one person you can do so (), provided that that person is already in your contact list, and to do so there's a specific button (not icon this time) in everyone's profile.
You'll notice a Messages link in the main navigation panel, and that's exactly where the bookmark (and only the bookmark) will go once you send it to your friend. At the moment you cannot send a traditional message to someone, unless you send it along with a bookmark. This might change in the future, depending on user feedback, as well as the addition of some place to actually have some sort of discussion and comments - or so I've been told.
I'd be happy to see more community-specific functionalities being implemented, but there are some inevitable risks if Ma.gnolia decides to take this road. I'll let them decide, but for now, Ma.gnolia is more social than other services, but less social than, say, a discussion board.
Pages, stats and search
Perhaps one of the coolest features Ma.gnolia offers is the possibility of saving pages online. When you bookmark a web page, Ma.gnolia attempts to save an exact copy of that page on its server, so that you can access that resource even if it is deleted at the source, like an improved personal version of the WayBack Machine!
Two things need to be said - and yes, they might be obvious for some people:
1) Pages which require some sort of authentication cannot be saved; and
2) Saved copies cannot be viewed by people other than yourself.
Another feature is the ability to access basic statistics regarding bookmarks and people: most viewed or most recent bookmarks, hot groups, hot tags, as well as featured linkers, i.e., people who Ma.gnolia chooses to be displayed in some pages. They are generally well-known members or institutions that use the service.
However, the search function disappointed me a little bit. There is a very entertaining story on their About page on how Social Bookmarking is supposed to help people to find things on the Web, and the last part in particular is pretty informative:
It seemed logical, so I tried it myself. I searched for "ajax framework", and nine of the ten results on the first page led to this document:
ASP.NET AJAX framework comparison 
This is undoubtedly an interesting document, but not what I was looking for, and I certainly didn't expect almost the entire first page to consist of the same document. I asked for an explanation of this apparently odd behaviour, and it appears that the developer is aware of this, and explained me why this must happen: if someone saved www.zzine.org as "zZine Magazine" and another person saved it as "Microsoft", someone searching for Microsoft - provided that we don't show duplicate links anymore, will find a link to zZine Magazine as one of the first results, and it would not be relevant. This is due to the fact that the system searches tags, titles, and descriptions even if the URL is the same, or known. Still, I'd try to limit the number of identical results, at least by grouping together entries which have the same URL and title, or something along these lines.
Tools to play with
There's a whole section of the site devoted to Support and Tools, to make the whole thing even more user friendly. Regarding the support part, even the greenest of visitors to a social bookmarking site will have no problems, as everything is explained in very simple terms, and full of examples and tutorials. This can be an annoying read if you already know how social bookmarking works and if you're used to similar services, so my advice is: geeks stay out of this section - it will save pointless rants.
The upside of this is that if I send someone who has never used something like this before, he'll like it and definitely start using it; if you try this with del.icio.us, you'll have one less non-geek friend.
Regarding the tools subsection, I already mentioned the excellent bookmark importer (which worked perfectly, but should probably warn in case a page cannot be imported due to a 404 error). Ma.gnolia also offers:
- a del.icio.us importer
- del.icio.us to ma.gnolia GreaseMonkey script - to keep your del.icio.us and ma.gnolia synchronized
- a link roll generator, to share your bookmarks on your blog or page
- a universal bookmark exporter
Additionally, and most importantly, various bookmarklets which allow you to instantly add a bookmark to your ma.gnolia collection with a single click, just like adding an ordinary bookmark. Not new, but useful and essential.
Ma.gnolia is definitely the best social bookmarking solution currently available for non-web savvy users. If you don't like having to spend more than five minutes figuring out how social bookmarking works, Ma.gnolia will become your new home, and you'll get addicted to it. I don't consider myself a total geek, and I honestly started using Ma.gnolia because it's simple and does the job...
...or perhaps the website is just so easy to use and nice to navigate that makes it harder to browse away!
Social Bookmarking, Wkipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking
Web 2.0, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
del.icio.us Social bookmarking: http://del.icio.us
de.lirio.us Social bookmarking: http://de.lirio.us
Shadows Social Bookmarking: http://www.shadows.com
CyberArmy Community: http://www.cyberarmy.net
Ruby on Rails framework: http://www.rubyonrails.org
Ma.gnolia Social Bookmarking: http://ma.gnolia.com
Internet Relay Chat, wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Relay_Chat
Windows XP Official Page: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/default.mspx
Darren Barefoot's Blog, Sugar Ma.gnolia, Blossoms Blooming:
Ajax, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_%28programming%29
Google Mail: http://mail.google.com/
Ma.gnolia - About: http://ma.gnolia.com/about
 Daniel Zeiss, "ASP.NET AJAX framework comparison":
Ma.gnolia - Bookmarkles directory: http://ma.gnolia.com/support/bookmarklets