3. Bookmarks and Folksonomies


“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” – A. A. Mine

In recent times we do search across the web for any information either it may be a recipe or about rocket science. Do we need to save that information for our future reference? How hard is to find out the same resource that was once useful to us? So we are in need of storing the contents and also organizing them. So we need to categorize the contents and organize them. Categorizing huge number of web pages by a limited number of professionals is practically impossible. One popular method is Folksonomy which we are going to see in detail.

Folksonomy is a word combination of Folk and Taxonomy coined by Information Architect Thomas Vander Wal. Folksonomies are a part of new generation of tools for the retrieval, deployment, representation and production of information commonly termed ‘Web 2.0’. Web 2.0 technologies invite the active involvement of public in terms of content creation rather than letting them as mere viewers.

It is no longer Web designers, companies, authors put or share their content but now every common user can do the same such as photo, video sharing etc. This increases the need to have an appropriate method of storing and retrieving content and also bookmarking those said content. Thus the user developed customized tags for the self – produced content or found online Ex. Blogs, Photos, Videos etc.

Described in Wikipedia as “Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren't shared, merely bookmarks that reference them. Descriptions may be added to these bookmarks in the form of metadata, so that other users may understand the content of the resource without first needing to download it for themselves. Such descriptions may be free text comments, votes in favor of or against its quality, or tags that collectively or collaboratively become a folksonomy.

Folksonomy is also called social tagging, "the process by which many users add metadata in the form of keywords to shared content".


Folksonomy is one of the components of Web 2.0 which is famous for Semantic Web. Social Bookmark is a web service using Folksonomy. When you bookmark a page, aside from providing the URL and a brief description, you assign tags or keywords. Assigning these keywords is much like categorizing your bookmarks, so that you can remember what they are about. So logically, the keywords that you should use to label your bookmarked page should be relevant to the content of the page.

"Folksonomy is tagging that works.
This is still a strong belief the three tenets of a folksonomy:

  1. tag
  2. object being tagged; and
  3. identity, are core to disambiguation of tag terms and provide for a rich understanding of the object being tagged."

- (Thomas Vander Wal, 2007)


These are basically pieces of HTML code which reside inside a tag. They are not directly visible . They are used by search engines to rank the resources by evaluating the number of tags to a particular website. Meta Tags are created and controlled by the web-site authors and users have no control over them.


As we all know computer has become a great revolution with an unique fundamental technology called internet. It starts its spark with the HTML Language And now glowing with the developed technology called “SEMANTIC WEB” or third generation of web.In layman Language ,it is the concept of interoperability of the content of the web. This avoids the recreation of data logically. This is by linking to the existing data without have to actually create them. Based on Ontology a formally created bookmark or tag relates with the data. Semantic Web encourages the Web community to share the existing data in a semantically enriched and machine friendly format.

“Collaborative tagging is the most useful when there is nobody in the librarian role or there is simply too much content for a single authority to classify; both of the traits are true of the web, where collaborative tagging has grown popular”
—Golder and Huberman, 2004

It highlights a paradigm of information sharing among web users by tagging their content freely. This is the main reason for the development of Social networking community.

3.5 ‘TAG’ging

Today the web gets the color with words called ‘tags. These tags aid a different approach to users for exploration and search for information in Web attributing simplicity to folksonomies, and hence the success for it. Today this tagging is the most popular phenomenon in most of the web services. We would like to tag the content found on any application. So across these applications there must be some kind of relationship among tagging data. Instead of repeating the search for particular information in search engines we can look into tags people have created already.

User generated tags are sometimes amazing and original but at times uneven and clumsy.

“The power of Folksonomy is connected to the act of aggregating not simply creating the tags. Without a social distributed environment that suggests aggregation tags are just flat keywords only meaningful for the user that has chosen them the power is people here the term-significance relationship emerges by means of an implicit contract b/w the users”— (Quintarelli 2005).

3.6 Who Tags?

About 0.85% of people on the Web tag (& growing
Why do People Tag (Reasons)?

  • Their OWN use/value first
  • Add Perspective/Context
  • Missing Metadata
  • Emergent Vocabulary
  • Personal descriptors
  • Sate Interest
  • Sociality


Folksonomy based web services have been developed since 2003 and the number of users keeps increasing. When we post something on our blog or in our profile in a social networking site we actually tag the content. This online activity means so much in social bookmarking that promotes a product.

In these social bookmarking websites we need to set up an account. Once the account is created we need to build tags for information of our interest and important results that we may need in the future. Our tags should be simple & concise so that once we share them with our friends and familiars it will be useful for them.

Below are some of the remarkable websites implementing Folksonomy concepts. All these sites features two basic capabilities, it lets the user name a tag for reference to content and a link for navigating to that content page.

Some Web pages absolutely depend upon user contributions — without them, there'd be no Web site. The most popular Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia is a good example for this. In wiki the users are able to write article about anything and can tag them. Any one searching for information using that tag will be given the article.

Web service Delicious formerly known as del.icio.us is one of the most popular site that uses non-hierarchical classification system and makes it possible to view bookmarks added by all users.

Following is the snapshot of ‘Delicious’ having non-hierarchical user classified contents under tag (metadata).


Figure 1: Tag Cloud

If someone is interested to know about photography they can just click the tag named ‘photography’ and they will be directed to contents that users have already referred. This reduces searching huge amount of articles about photography.

Another popular web service that added facility for folks or common users to store their content and employed Folksonomy as their categorizing method is Flickr which is an online photo sharing service where users can upload their pictures and can add relevant tags to it like ‘vacation’, ‘Switzerland’. Later when they want to view the pictures they can simply click on those tags from the page consisting of all the tags that they have used.

When we post something on our blog or in our profile in a social networking site we actually tag the content. This online activity means so much in social bookmarking that promotes a product.

We can also add tags in our blogs in certain blogging websites. Below is a screenshot from Blogspot where there is a blog on ‘The Top 10 Best Small Laptops’ and the user had bookmarked certain resources under the tags namely computer, Operating System and Quality. When one clicks on Operating System he will be taken to the information what had been tagged by the user here it is www.microsoft.com/fpe Thus a product can also be marketed using this tagging.


Figure 2: Tagging in Blogs

Let’s see this Social Networking website where tagging is used in different context. Facebook has this great feature of allowing users to tag a selected portion of a picture uploaded by others like you can tag the face portion in a picture with the name of the person. And when you click on that tag you will be lead to the profile of that user. It’s quite an amazing idea of using the idea of Folksonomy in this way.

Also CiteULike, a popular site is the first tool for Web-based social bookmarking. It is a tool to organize academic publications intended for users like scientists and other scholars.

“A Folksonomy represents simultaneously some of the best and worst in the organization of information” —- Robin Good

3.8 Structures:

Four Structures are there in Social Bookmarking:

  • Hierarichal classification DDC, LCC, Google Directory
  • Faceted Categorization eBay shopping categories
  • Dynamic clusters Clusty, Grokker, Carrot
  • Folksonomy del.icio.us, Flickr, CiteUlike

Fig 3: Comparision of Structures


The popularity of Folksonomy and web-services adapting this technology has risen as a fun of tagging among the people. Not only just fun sometimes it is highly contributing in valuable knowledge transfer.

Folksonomy is simple – that does not mean little, naïve, and a new approach for browsing. Commonly noted advantages are its Flexibility, adaptability, serendipity and free for all.

We can add a particular link for our future reference in our Web browser but it is local to that machine which cannot be accessed from anywhere else. But once if you tag a content, the tags are mobile and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Thus mobility is provided.

Folksonomies lend themselves to exploration as well as being self-moderating and inclusive. They are less expensive to maintain than a traditional taxonomy and everyone can contribute to its development.

Knowledge sharing – we can share any type of information, data, news, images, concepts to people with whom we are familiar with.

Scalability of Folksonomy is much higher than any other manual classification schemes. Data is widespread across web, and they are also widely varied like articles, images, videos. Limited numbers of professionals are unable to deal with the classification of such huge data and also employing high professionals of that field will be costly. This is taken care by Folksonomy.

Users have invented new terms which have interested the information architects like the tag ‘Camera phone’ in Flickr. This is one of the most interesting term under which people organize their photos taken using the product camera phone. This term is now popular that professionals can use it in appropriate places in the website so the users are able to easily recall what those terms refer to.

Since Folksonomy welcomes a democratic route of naming or categorizing contents based on users knowledge, language it avoids the usage of controlled vocabularies. Also inventing new categories when some items do not fit comfortably into any category, as it can happen more when new items or concepts are introduced would again require a frustrating manual tagging.

“The democratic approach of Folksonomy avoids many of the ethical and political concerns of top-down, centrally-imposed systems. It allows the users of the system to establish their own sense of balance within the system, to use their own vernacular for indexing and retrieval, and prevents exclusion by creating new categories as needed” (Sturtz. 2004)

Best of all linguistic problems are taken care by Folksonomy. There is no need for translation as it is required in classification based on traditional taxonomical method. Consider if the information is classified and named by professionals it can be specific only in a particular language. It needs a translation of nomenclatures in other languages. This overhead of translation to different languages is very well handled by Folksonomy as here the users or folks as it is called are from different parts of the world belonging to different languages. In this way broad linguistic range problem is tackled by Folksonomy.

Also the tagging is done by ordinary people with their everyday language. Thus the tags are understood not only by professionals. The classification or naming the resources by Folksonomy has multiple viewpoints due to the different users varying perspective. Tagging allows you to include associated concepts without worrying if we have categorized them right.

We do not require reclassifying the contents when the vocabulary changes, as the people tag with the latest names.

Folksonomy has become a more powerful tool for searching that at times even delivers better results than Search engines like MSN, Google etc.


Though Folksonomies supports serendipitous form of browsing that are very useful, they don’t support searching and other types of browsing nearly as well as tags from controlled vocabularies applied by professionals. They aren’t organically arriving at preferred terms for concepts or even evolve synonym clusters.


Easy, but wrong. The main weakness is it’s imprecision of terms. Since the names are given by different users it would often result in ambiguity and incorrect. The tags people use are mostly uncontrolled, misspelled because of the non-standard usage of vocabularies. Other users might not be able to understand the tags at such cases. Not only vocabularies the structure is also not standardized. Some Folksonomy sites like del.ici.ous allows only single tag to a content which leads to the creation of tags combining many words by using special characters like _ etc which may become more complex at times.


At times its reliability is questioned. This is mainly because the tags are created by people who do it according to their own accord, creating confusion with the other users who rely on the tags to find what they are looking for in these social bookmarking websites.


Some use this social bookmarking system to get higher visibility of their Web-services by optimizing their search engine results. The content is considered to be popular and will be resulted during a search by considering its number of tags. Spammers can thus create multiple accounts and bookmark their website multiple times thereby increasing the chance of getting their website when searched. Thus it can lead to commit a crime.

Since people can easily create accounts in such social websites, there is a high chance of deceiving people by false accounts and also it is not easy to trace out such deceptive actions.

The limitations have let the researchers to look for solutions. They mainly are looking forward to solve the issue is mainly by enhancing the semantics of social tagging.


The Web is big. The number of websites has been increasing at a high rate. Folksonomy has been contributing in categorizing these contents and marketing valuable products. It has become the most interesting technology in today’s web world. The growth of user created tags is tremendous leading to the increase in Folksonomy based websites. Experts in several organizations are in research to minimize the issues related to Folksonomy and to implement the same in their websites. So many new models are being proposed on the basis of Folksonomy, for minimizing its defect and for better standardization.

Popular web services using folksonomy as their working concept are taken as examples to understand the various different usages of folksonomy. Relevant images of these web services give a practical approach in understanding the role of folksonomy in those web services. Extensive use of Folksonomy is explained with examples under the topic Advantages in this paper. The disadvantages, challenges faced and misuse of this concept are discussed which enables aspirants to research for solution by inventing new concepts. Thus this document proves to be the base for setting up the knowledge of social bookmarking and folksonomy and also for further improvement of the technology.

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