Here’s a chat I had with Joshua Schachter, creator of del.icio.us:
JW: ok good. shouldn’t take long. i just wanted to find out a bit about you, your motivation for setting up delicious, and the evolution of the tagging thing…
Joshua: yes, it’s totally exploding recently
Joshua: The short version: I started a website in 1998 or so; that kind of thing would later get named a “blog”
Joshua: Anyway, in the running of this site, I collected a lot of links so I could hopefully organize and post them.
Joshua: So I started keeping them in a file, which grew and grew. To be able to quickly find things, I started leaving one-word notes at the end.
Joshua: I later built a system, around 2002, that was a web-based database for storing my bookmarks.
Joshua: It also had tags, but was not multiuser.
Joshua: I’m not sure if it was 2002 or 2001, anyway. It first shows up in archive.org at 2002 though.
Joshua: Then later, I rewrote it multiuser, as del.icio.us.
Joshua: That was 2003 or so.
JW: (any reason you chose the name and the punctuation?)
Joshua: So the motivation was mostly because I was solving a problem I had, and then I solved it for everyone.
Joshua: I chose the domain before I had the idea.
JW: ah right…
Joshua: When .us became available, I just registered a few funny items
Joshua: the previous system was called muxway. In retrospect, I should have kept that name.
JW: really? why do you prefer that?
Joshua: Easier to figure out where the dots go
JW: true! the dots can be a problem 🙂
Joshua: up through about http://web.archive.org/web/20031212140024/http://www.muxway.org/
JW: how did delicious get to be so popular? was that a surprise?
Joshua: Not really. The concept is very attractive both to use, as it solves your problem, and it lets you discover lots of interesting things from other people.
JW: how many users do you have now? and how many tags?
Joshua: fifty thousand or so users. Lots and lots of tags
JW: what’s the growth like?
JW: any figures?
Joshua: Oh, I haven’t looked at the numbers a lot. Not a good thing to focus on.
Joshua: Last I looked it was growing by 20-30% a month, but I haven’t looked in a bit.
Joshua: I assume it has tapered off a bit, just because of the growth pains.
Joshua: Call it 15% growth a month?
JW: is it a lot of work for you?
Joshua: 15% looks low, just back of the envelope
Joshua: It’s as much work as I let it be
Joshua: There’s always stuff to do, new features and ideas and so on.
Joshua: I’ve really only gotten started.
JW: is it a fulltime job for you? if not, what is your job?
JW: and age?
Joshua: I’m 30
Joshua: Definitely not a fulltime job
Joshua: I’m not too sure what to say about my day job. I work in an unrelated field
JW: do you intend to make some money out of it at some point? or are you already?
Joshua: I haven’t worried about it yet.
Joshua: I did it for fun and because it’s interesting.
JW: i see… what’s your view of the technorati move on delicious and flickr tags? is this an important step?
Joshua: flickr is much more like delicious. It’s a way to organize your data in a way that is very useful to the user.
Joshua: when i built delicious, i designed it so that it would be useful to me, even if not a single other person joined in.
Joshua: Flickr is similar.
Joshua: If nobody else was using it, I’d still find the site useful
Joshua: The challenge here is to understand how they are different from search, what motivates people to use them.
Joshua: Well, they’re sort of in opposite directions of each other. Mirrors
JW: could you elaborate?
Joshua: Hard to explain; I’m really still thinking about the problem.
Joshua: Basically, the way I think of the what I’m doing
Joshua: is taking the process of memory, and building prosthetics.
Joshua: I want to split storing and recalling into two separate actions with the help of the computer, so that when you tag things you store, you can recall them more easily
Joshua: In doing so, I have also made it easier for you to recall things that other people have stored.
Joshua: Tags facilitate and amplify this.
Joshua: Search is more associated with the recall, whereas tagging is more associated with the storage.
Joshua: Does that make sense?
JW: yes it does. v well put.