Friday, February 22, 2008

Why I Don't Use My Del.icio.us Account

Introducing the Need
I have a del.icio.us account. I've used it sparingly from time to time and I actually think the concept is very good. Depending on my mood and task at hand, I'll browse the web with Firefox, Camino, or Safari. I wouldn't use Firefox except for the Firebug plugin, so that's mainly for developing. The problem is that there's no predicting = what browser I'm going to be using when I stumble across a website that I want to bookmark. On the flip side, there are certain sites I want to have bookmarked in all my browsers. As a result, the browsers share certain bookmarks but each have their own unique finds and so when recalling a site I want to revisit, I can never remember which browser I was using at the time, and thus have to check all three to find the bookmark again.

That is why I wish del.icio.us did not suck so much. If not for the forthcoming problems, it would solve my bookmark woes.

Now to the Problems
First, I dislike the homepage. It assaults my eyes with so much web-safe blue that it all blends together and I feel like I'm looking at a lava-lamp with white liquid and blue lava. The addition of pictures smoothed it out a bit, but it's still a painful experience.

On it's own, that would not be enough to keep me away, which brings me to my second complaint.

Exhibit A:


#9999FF is not a good font-color on top of various shades of pink. Is it too much to ask for a little contrast? I agree, it is a very cool effect to calculate the color of some element based on collected data (I've even done it for a project). Nevertheless, there is always one overriding concern: Make sure that text in the variable color element is still readable.

Even so, the contrast issues wouldn't keep me away, especially since I don't particularly care how many other people have saved my bookmark. My third complaint is the real reason I don't use my del.icio.us account.

Fatal Flaw
The bookmarklet is useless for what I want to do with it.

Sure, I can just drop it in my bookmarks bar and click it when I'm on a page I want to add. But what does this do? It takes me to del.icio.us where I have to sign into my account to save the bookmark. This is a hassle. When I use the bookmarklet, it's because I don't want to go to del.icio.us!

I never visit del.icio.us, so I'm never signed in. Furthermore, I don't want to have to sign in just to save a bookmark. I don't want to use del.icio.us right then and there. I just want to throw something at them real quick, and then come back to it later.

One of the problems is that browser security constraints disallow sending an asynchronous HTTP request by clicking on a bookmarklet. This would be the ideal solution, since it would not even require opening a new window or moving away from the current page. However, as it is not plausible, I'll focus on the sign-in issue.

The fact of the matter is there exists a simple, safe, secure alternative. All the bookmarklet does is redirect the browser to del.icio.us's page for submitting links and passes along information about where you just were (specifically, the url and the window title). The base dilemma is that the bookmarklet is a generic script-- that is, each user has the exact same code in their bookmarklet. The solution is to make the bookmarklet specific to each user.

Del.icio.us could tack on two more parameters to the query string above that would contain (1) either your user ID or username (both public information, so no security issues yet), and (2) a hash that would be (a) unpredictable, and (b) unique to each user. Basically, it's like having a secret piece of information that only you and del.icio.us know and that is only valid for one user and for one-way communication to del.icio.us. For those familiar with public/private key security, this should sound similar. That way, when clicking the bookmarklet, del.icio.us already knows who you are and doesn't have to ask you to sign in first.

Potential Problems
Alright, so what about multi-user environments? First, del.icio.us bookmarklets are probably not going to be found on massively public computers such as libraries and schools. To accommodate the rare case, del.icio.us could keep the generic version available. Second, in the home, different user accounts should accompany different users, thus the operating system manages user settings. Third, what if somebody is on my computer and clicks my "post to del.icio.us" bookmarklet? Just add a "Not userA?" link on the post page that allows a user to login to a different account, problem solved.

Short Version
I like the idea of del.icio.us, but it's just as much of a hassle as synchronizing my local browser bookmarks until there is a solution that does not require me to go to del.icio.us to submit a bookmark.

2 comments:

Corey said...

I guess this doesn't bother me because I leave myself signed into del.icio.us - the bookmarklet just sends me to a page where I tag as appropriate, then sends me right back to what I was doing. I don't mind it.

I mostly use it for things that don't quite merit adding to my real bookmarks, but that I might someday want to find again; for that, it's really useful.

Ryan said...

Staying signed in seems to be the trend. I guess I just don't visit enough, or perhaps I clear my cookies too often...