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Diigo: A Feature-Rich Service That Puts The Social Back In Social Bookmarking

·1548 words·8 mins
Articles diigo reviews social bookmarking tech web2

A few weeks ago I was having drinks with my good friend Greg, and the topic of social bookmarking came up. I was discussing some of my ideal features in a service, before we got back to the more serious business of catching up. A few days later, Greg sent me a link to Diigo, as it seemed to match a lot of what we were discussing at the time. I took a look at Diigo and was pretty impressed with what I saw, and I decided to give it a go. I’ve been using it full-time for about a week now, and feel comfortable giving you all a review of what I have found.

Diigo Dashboard
Diigo has a very attractive and subdued appearance
, that is packed with features without being overwhelming.

To begin with, Diigo is an extremely powerful social bookmarking site. Obviously, Diigo does all the things you would expect of this type of service: you can save bookmarks, assign tags to them, and search the site for bookmarks that are also tagged with those terms or find people who have saved the same bookmark. Diigo also allows you to construct “Lists” of links. Lists are another way of structuring your data that you can use in conjunction with tags. Each List can be made up of any group of links that you can sort in whatever order you desire via a drag and drop interface. This is really nice to see a service that still understands that tags are not the end-all be-all of organizing content.

Diigo also allows you to import bookmarks from variety of sources, including Delicious, Magnolia, Simpy, Blinklist, Furl, Connotea, RawSugar and of course, your own browser. The import function worked well for me importing from Magnolia, although Diigo replaced the spaces in my multi-word tags with underscores. Diigo does allow multi-word tags if you encase them in quotation marks, so this was a quick fix, if a little annoying. When will people see the light and do away with space-seperated tags? Just let me use a comma-separated list. ;-) Diigo also exports all your bookmarks quite effectively in a variety of formats including RSS, CSV, Delicious format, as well as in formats for both Internet Explorer and Netscape bookmarks.

However, Diigo doesn’t just want to be a bookmarking service, they aim to be a flexible research tool, and allow you to highlight and annotate web pages to provide more directed commentary on what you are bookmarking. These notes can be private for your reference only, or publicly visible to any user. This immediately brings up comparisons to Clipmarks, except that this is very different. Whereas Clipmarks just takes your highlighted content and loads it into their service, Diigo also leaves those annotations in place in the form of highlights and sticky notes that are visible only to Diigo users. This allows you to not only share those annotations on Diigo itself, but also to visit the originating site and see those comments in context of the surrounding content.

Diigo Annotate
An example showing a highlighted annotation with a private sticky note attached.

This annotation feature is particularly powerful when used in conjunction with Diigo’s social features. Diigo allows you to create groups which can be public, private or semi-private, allowing you to collaborate on research through the use of links and annotation. Diigo also allows you to attach notes and comments that are visible only to the group, which is an extremely useful feature when sharing the link both publicly, as well as in a group context.

In addition to collaboration, Diigo’s social side is excellent for content discovery. The service can provide recommended bookmarks from other members based off of the links you have saved in the past, as well as recommending other users whose bookmarking habits seem to match yours. Diigo takes the “social” in social bookmarking very seriously, and provides very effective tools for finding friends on the service, as well as finding new people who have interests similar to your own. Friending another user doesn’t mean just making them a contact, it enables you to generate buddy lists, allowing you to organize sharing of bookmarks with friends, as well as providing a messaging system. Whereas in many other bookmarking services the sharing and social features seem to occur more as a byproduct of the sharing process, Diigo puts those social networking features front and center. However, Diigo’s interface is very content focused as well, making it clear that this isn’t a social network as much as it is a social tool.

Saving content to Diigo is done primarily one of two ways: you can either install the toolbar application, which is available for Firefox, Flock and Internet Explorer, or you can use Diigolet, which is a bookmarklet they provide that should work with almost every major browser.

Diigo Toolbar BookmarkingDiigo Bookmarklet

Examples of bookmarking. The first with the Diigo toolbar in Firefox, and the second using Diigolet in Opera.

The Diigolet is a surprisingly powerful bookmarklet, revealing sticky notes and annotations, as well as providing all the basic functionality a user needs. However, even with my hatred of adding additional rows to my browser window, the Diigo toolbar has won me over and become my tool of choice to interact with the service. Both tools will provide tag suggestions and assist with group functions, as well as the ability to send the link via email, however the toolbar goes even further. When using the toolbar, you also have the option of cross-posting your links to other bookmarking services, or even Twitter if you require. You can save simultaneously to Diigo, Delicious, Magnolia and Simpy, as well as to your own browser’s local bookmarks. Bookmarking to other services seems to work well, and saving to local bookmarks is a particularly awesome experience when using one of the latest betas of Firefox, which will attempt to auto-complete based on both history and bookmarks. It even correctly applies tags in the Firefox Places storage system, which is great but makes me wonder why the toolbar bothers to also build a hierarchal folder system inside Firefox as well, as the tags do that job already.

Another powerful feature that the toolbar adds is the Diigo sidebar:

Diigo Sidebar
The Diigo sidebar displaying my recent bookmarks.

As you can see in the above image, the Diigo sidebar allows me to search and browse both my bookmarks and the bookmarks my friends have posted. In addition it allows me to get current information about the page I am viewing via the “This URL” tab. I can access public bookmarks and annotations, and lists of Diigo users who like the site. Diigo also can provide quick metrics about a site that I am visiting via the main toolbar. Using the “About This URL” menu option will provide a overall popularity score for the site, including a breakdown of the number of links to the site from Diigo, as well as from Google, Delicious, Yahoo myweb, Bloglines, Technorati, and Digg. Diigo also provides a calculation of the site’s Google PageRank, which is a really awesome bonus feature that I just discovered today.

Diigo supports OpenID logins, which makes me smile. :-D It would be nice if Diigo allowed you to sign up using just your OpenID, however you need to create a standard account and then associate an OpenID with it. This isn’t a big deal, but it would be a nice enhancement to see in the future.

My only real complaint about Diigo is the lack of an API for developers. I did send them an email regarding this, and was pleasantly surprised to receive email directly from the founders. They indicated that an API is in the works, and were receptive to some of my suggestions in that regard. As I have browsed through the user forums, this seems to be a common practice for the people behind Diigo to actively engage with their users for ideas, and respond constructively to critiques. Diigo does provide RSS for bookmarks, as well as blog widgets, but those weren’t sufficient for my needs. I’ve been able to work around the lack of API by using the toolbar for cross-posting to Magnolia and continuing to use that service for loading bookmarks into my site. However, I am eager for Diigo’s API because this workaround doesn’t allow me to take full advantage of the annotation features when loading the bookmarks into my link blog.

However, when it comes down to it I feel Diigo is really head and shoulders above the majority of competing social bookmarking services in terms of features, and the site itself is certainly more responsive than my beloved Magnolia, which is a wonderful service in itself, but runs slow as molasses. Based on this glowing review, it may come to surprise you I approached Diigo skeptically, even prepared to be antagonistic, but the service managed to win me over. I was unprepared for the seamless integration of Diigo’s social features, as well as the flexibility of the service, which strikes out like a fist of features into the collective nuts of their competition. If the forthcoming API meets the rest of the site’s high standards, you can expect me to be a happy Diigo user for quite some time to come.