December 22, 2005

The Year in Tags

This was a big year for tags. You could even say that tags went mainstream in 2005 (if tags were a band, they’d be The Killers). So, given we’re at the end of 2005, I thought I would take a look back at the major announcements and events in the world of ad hoc, user-created metadata.

These are the events I thought were important (feel free to add your own in the comments):

Technorati introduces tags (January). Technorati’s tags was the first implementation of distributed tagging (i.e. T’rati doesn’t own the tags the way Flickr does–it picks them up from blog posts while it’s crawling). It’s been criticized, but it’s widely used.

Folksonomies at the IA Summit (March). Tagging was one of the hot topics at the Information Architecture Summit in Montreal, and we kicked off the discussion with a pretty good panel (full disclosure: I moderated the panel).

Ontology is Overrated (March). Clay Shirky’s provocative talk at Etech predicted that the rise of tagging meant the death of hierarchy. Or something like that. A bit too dogmatic for me, but it was received like a papal bull and produced some interesting critiques and counter-critiques. (To give credit where it’s due, this blog wouldn’t exist but for Clay’s presentation.)

Yahoo buys Flickr (March). The first big acquisition of what some people call the “Web 2.0 era” (I call it “Ned”).

Yahoo launches My Web 2.0 (June). Yahoo integrated search, social networks and tags in its My Web 2.0 product. Some people noted the product’s lacklustre growth, which perhaps set the stage for another socsoft/web 2.0 acquisition by Yahoo at the end year.

Flickr adds interestingness and clustering (August). This was a big one for me–it proved that with some algorithmic mojo tags could act more like categories, separating like things from unlike things, wholes from parts and so on. It can even tell dog noses from cat noses.

Hurricane Katrina (September). Tags not only helped keep people connected during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they tethered together many disparate pieces of content so we could make sense of complex, evolving, intertwingled events. (Or try to make sense of them, anyway.)

Google adds tagging. Kind of. (October) As part of its search history feature, Google allows tagging of pages. The tags are private, and the feature seems peripheral. To paraphrase Elvis Mitchell, this one would have to work a lot harder to earn the appellation uninspired.

Amazon launches tags (November). Amazon now lets you tag books. I wasn’t all that impressed with their implementation–their product pages seem cluttered–but Amazon has always been smart about social IA and user-created content. It’ll be interesting to see how they leverage their tag data. (SIPs are cool, too.)

Everyone must have tags! (November) Anil Dash points out that tags–like Ajax and Ruby on Rails–are becoming web 2.0 cliches.

Google Base launches with tagging. Kind of. (November) Google uses the term labels, but we know them as tags. Search Engine Watch didn’t think much of Google Base’s tagging, but it’s just one of several kinds of classification used on that product. Key takeaway: Tagging is a means, not an end.

Tag formats: Can’t we all just get along? (December) Matt from 37 signals points out the multiple variations of tagging UIs. The big question: “Will all these different formats still be around a year from now or will a standard emerge?”

Yahoo buys (December). The rumoured price was around $30 million, which has Yahoo spending about $100 for each of the 300,000 or so users. The interesting question is how does tagging behaviour figure into the price? I think (and this is purely speculation) Yahoo paid for millions of tagged URLs plus a community of active taggers, both of which promise to boost the relevance of search results.

Folksonomy makes the NY Times Magazine “Year in Ideas” list (Decemember). Despite its humble origins and many doubters (I’m looking at you Morville), folksonomy is named one of 2005’s best ideas by the New York Times Magazine.

Back in April, Tim Bray asked some important questions:

Are tags useful? Are there any questions you want to ask, or jobs you want to do, where tags are part of the solution, and clearly work better than old-fashioned search? I really want to believe that tagging is big, a game-changer, but the longer I go on asking this question and not getting an answer, the more nervous I get.

2005 has proven that tags are both big (in the financial sense) and useful. Whether or not tagging is a game-changer will, I think, depend on what Yahoo, Amazon and Google do with tags in 2006. But with three big players in the tagging game there’s a lot of opporunity for innovation.


  1. Was war 2005 (2): Tags

    Da wir gerade von Etiketten sprachen: Auch Tags sind ein Phänomen, das in diesem Jahr das Web prägte, auch wenn die Idee schon älter ist. Gene Smith repetiert The Year in Tags. Erst im Januar war es, als Technorati Tags

    Trackback by Fischmarkt — December 22, 2005 @ 8:51 am

  2. [...] at I had to post about the subject, but luckily Gene Smith over “You’re It” blog has posted a roundup of all tagging news this year and saved me the effort. Here are the most impor [...]

    Pingback by Technoogle » Blog Archive » This year in Tags — December 22, 2005 @ 9:22 am

  3. [...] e available The Year in Tags Gene Smith gives a quick rundown on The Year in Tags. This entry was posted on Thursday, Dece [...]

    Pingback by Planblog » Blog Archive » The Year in Tags — December 22, 2005 @ 3:31 pm

  4. [...] 2005 Jaar van de tag Gene Smith vat een jaar ‘tagging’ samen: You’re It! » Blog Archive » The Year in Tags Dit artikel werd gepos [...]

    Pingback by Twan van Elk » Artikelen » 2005 Jaar van de tag — December 22, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  5. [...] Cloud Font Distribution Algorithm | Echo Chamber Project (tags: tag-cloud Visualization) You’re It! » Blog Archive » The Year in Tags (tags: tagging folksonomy article) laolu前 [...]

    Pingback by Jackie’s Blog | 泥鰍 » [Links]tag造反? — December 25, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  6. [...] s Tags
    28 Dec 2005
    Nota de jesus en Usabilidad 

    Me parece acertado el post de Gene Smith sobre lo que ha acontecido en el 2005 con el tema de las tags. No en vano los grandes [...]

    Pingback by » El año de las Tags — December 28, 2005 @ 10:02 am

  7. [...] ags’ very well here are two good posts ‘Tagging is expensive‘ and ‘The Year in Tags‘ Check out ‘ my ‘ tags (my only bookmark site!) a [...]

    Pingback by Vinu’s Online Cloud » cleaning up the mess … aarggh — December 31, 2005 @ 1:53 am

  8. [...] (tags: web2.0 podcast blog) You’re It! A blog about tagging (tags: tagging) You’re It! » The Year in Tags (tags: tagging blog) Hide your iPod Use an old school ta [...]

    Pingback by » links for 2006-01-02 — January 2, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

  9. [...] ten better at organising itself. Speaking of Tagging, Gene Smith has a very nice recap of The Year in Tagging. Barry Welford’s post at BPWrap on the Internet and the Enigma Machi [...]

    Pingback by Saw it on the web » SEO by the SEA — January 3, 2006 @ 9:36 pm

  10. [...] You’re It reviewing the past year in tags

    I recommend reading the summary of the year’s activity in tags as written by Gene Smith at You’re It. Very i [...]

    Pingback by Family Man Librarian » Blog Archive » Posting from You’re It reviewing the past year in tags — January 4, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  11. [...] cts of TAGs is that they helped to classify information, get data and creating relations. Have a look at a brief, but cool, summary of 2005 in TAGs! This entry [...]

    Pingback by mentegrafica has blogged » Blog Archive » TAG overflow… — January 10, 2006 @ 12:09 pm

  12. [...] scovery takes flight. A French women receives the first full facial transplant in history. Tags hit a wave of popularity. Video Google launches among many other very notab [...]

    Pingback by All Day I Dream : New Year’s 2006 Commemorative Post — January 30, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  13. More Thoughts On Social Bookmarking From The Road

    It’s your overstuffed, George Costanza wallet of annotated links. But unlike Costanza’s wallet, your online bookmarking account can stay pretty organized pretty easily, because each time you add a link you are encouraged to “tag” it with a word tha…

    Trackback by Earthling - EarthLink blog — February 10, 2006 @ 9:52 am

  14. [...] s with a Web 2.0 twist. The short overview of history of tags can be found here, and here is an example of tagsonomy in use – a tag cloud; Blogs – they took the web by sto [...]

    Pingback by IrishWonder’s SEO Consulting Blog » Blog Archive » Social Bookmarking and Tagging for SEO — February 13, 2006 @ 10:47 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.