Furl is – well, was – a popular social bookmarking site that had allowed users to share their favorite bookmarks in a social manner. The run lasted four years, apparently, as tonight Furl has announced that they’ll be shutting down their site and transferring accounts & bookmark lists over to Diigo.com.
Social media sites have been notoriously bad for generating advertising revenue, and at the same time they can attract huge amounts of traffic and server activity with the fact that just about any random person is allowed to sign up and generate content pages. For Furl, it appears as though the few Adsense-like ads they were displaying simply didn’t create the kind of income the website needed to survive.
Furl – A loss for SEO
While Furl’s bookmarked links redirected, they weren’t attached to a nofollow attribute. Bookmarks were usually picked up by Google and while I can’t be certain, it did seem as though they had a positive effect on getting new pages indexed and ranked in a place they could get some traffic.
The recent addition of Furl groups, about mid-year 2008, also allowed users to have related niche communities where relevant links could be showcased for a longer period of time.
With a home page PR of 7 and almost 1,000,000 indexed URLs at its peak, Furl was no doubt a powerhouse among crowd-sourced web democracy. At one point, my user profile even (and its RSS feed) got a PR of 4. I’m not looking forward to the fallout of this loss on my own blog’s rankings and traffic volume…
So I received the email at midnight on March 18th and went to check out what’s left of Furl. Basically, they’ve got a few links to (vaguely) explain the shutdown, and a huge prominent link to Diigo – a similarly themed social bookmarking site.
At first glance, Diigo won’t offer the same kind of opportunities that Furl did – not for SEO at least. To start with, the links are all devalued with the nofollow attribute, so even though they’re direct as opposed to Furl’s redirected links, they probably won’t carry as much weight in the search engines (Frankly, I don’t think nofollowed links carry any at all worth mentioning but some say its better than nothing).
Waiting for Import
Furl has (theoretically) made it easy for ex-users to transfer their bookmarks to Diigo. The first step, account set up, went through immediately and without a catch.
However, I’m currently still awaiting notification that my bookmarks have been imported to the new service. While I have an active account that uses all of my old Furl information, it still hasn’t brought my old records with me.
Is the Community Buzz Worthwhile?
Although Diigo isn’t going to help me with search engine traffic (my favorite), the community may now be large & active enough to deliver real social buzz through cross-linking at other social sites, blogs, and forums. (The key here is maybe)
Then again, you could get the same thing with normally followed links at Digg, Propeller, Reddit, etc… For another nofollow bookmarking alternative with probably even more traffic and web-wide buzz, there’s also Delicious.
Economic Shake Out
Don’t be surprised if more and more social bookmarking sites crash under the weight of a sinking economy. As I mentioned earlier, the profitability of such domains is questionable. In many ways, it is the users who derive the greatest value out of such a website – and that can be hard for the owners to translate into the cost of running and maintaining a really popular online social destination.