The "Del.icio.us Lesson" is very simple. So much so that it is far too often forgotten by Web 2.0 technologists. The lesson was defined by Josha Porter who states that "personal value precedes network value: that selfish use comes before shared use."
Even though we’re definitely benefiting from the value of networked software, we’re still not doing so unless the software is valuable to us on a personal level first.
In a later post, Porter continues:
What this means is that if we are to build networks of value, then each person on the network needs to find value for themselves before they can contribute value to the network. In the case of Del.icio.us, people find value saving their personal bookmarks first and foremost. All other usage is secondary.
As people use Del.icio.us more, and in order to gain more personal value, they use tags to be able to find their bookmarks later. Tagging isn’t even the primary function of Del.icio.us. Most of the tagging done on Del.icio.us is done secondarily, and for personal use.
The social value of tags on Del.icio.us is only a happy side-effect. Even though most of the ink spilled about Del.icio.us is about the social value, it’s really not the reason why people use it.
For all of the folks designing Del.icio.us-killers or Del.icio.us-clones (or perhaps Killer Clones?) it is extremely important for them to remember this lesson before they blog endlessly in their founder's blogs in the "about us" sections of their closed beta web sites about the social aspects of their software or the incredible network effect that's going to change their users' worlds.
Porter continues further explaining how tags are different than meta keywords. Tags provide personal benefit, keywords provide only social benefit. Unfortunately people don't really enjoy tagging for the sake of tagging. Sure bloggers would add keywords to their posts because they're hoping it will help drive traffic (in fact bloggers would pretty much do anything to drive traffic). However, for the rank and file user the social benefit of tags pales in comparison to the immediate personal benefit of easily finding sites and information that user had selected for follow-up. As Porter points out, the social benefits and the network effect is just a nice bonus. A bonus of course which has garnered most of the attention from a Web 2.0-hungry world.
Here is a link to a graphic of Del.icio.us stats. As you can imagine it goes to the right and up and up and up.