Voyurl – The Slightly Creepy Stepchild of Delicious
First thing first, I love Delicious. I’ve saved selected links on the bookmarking site every day for years, building up a collection of wonderful things that I rarely, if ever, go back to look at. What I’m really doing here is hoarding information. Before Delicious, I saved a lot of bookmarks in my browser. It took time to keep things organized and categorized, but information management is important.
However, as the wonderful world of technology evolved, I went from using one computer, to using two, and then three. And low and behold, people came up with more than one browser that worked on a Mac, and suddenly I had bookmarks saved all over the place. I still did my part to try and keep things organized in a singular location, but even structural unity can’t always survive complete hard drive wipeouts. And I’ve crashed hard drives a few too many times. There is little worse than knowing you’ve lost incredibly important information, but you have no idea what it was.
Enter a little online service whose domain name hack I could never type right. Delicious solved the problem of multiple computers, multiple browsers, and multiple crashes. As a bonus – and a high point for me – Delicious had a tagging classification system. This service solved my bookmarking problems and amassed a wealth of data on how humans classify information.
When Yahoo not-so-publically announced their plans to sunset Delicious, I was very disappointed. Like many other users, I think the information contained within the bookmarking platform is incredibly rich and interesting. While the site is still up and running for now, I have stopped saving things as often, and I’ve fiddled around with various open source installs of bookmarking alternatives. And today I turned on Voyurl.
Voyurl is not a Delicious replacement, but that’s not what they’re trying to be. It is, however, a collection of links from other users. Namely, it’s every single link you browsed. Voyurl is one of several new services that have been dubbed “real-time clickstream sharing.” It’s not edited, it’s not classified, and it’s not curated by the user – at least, not initially. As the name suggests, Voyurl offers a voyeuristic look at every site you browsed and how long you spent there, open and streaming for all users to see.
Sound a little creepy? I think the Voyurl team is playing to that angel. Sound a little intriguing? It is.
For all the privacy trolls out there, it’s an opt-in service. You physically click a button to signal that you’re willing to share your browsing behaviors. I imagine however, that it’s pretty easy to forget that the little button is clicked on as you are going about your day online.
What is Voyurl exactly? At present, the startup is a beta service that is funded, in part, by a Kickstarter project and known by some for the stalker ads they ran on Google this past summer. Once you’re a member of the site, you download a Firefox plugin, turn the plugin on in your browser, and then bounce about the internet as usual. All the sites you visit and the links you click on quietly get stored away in your Voyurl account.
If all that sounds less than captivating, here’s the juicy part: Once you log into your account, you get a real-time stream of every page you visited, along with info on how long you were on the page. And…you can see the same for all the other members.
Click on the eyeball icon (yes, it’s an eyeball) and there’s your voyeur view of everything members are looking at. You can drill down and see specific individuals’ streams, scope out their profiles (if they’ve filled one out), and check out any interesting links. As good website people know, users spend 99% of their time online not at your site (unless you’re Facebook). Now you can peak at the other sites they’re hitting.
It gets better (or worse, depending on where you stand). There are stats of all the links that have been visited by Voyurl members. Marketers and data nerds should take a gander, because you can sort by top users, top categories, and top URLs. Everything is split up by both time on site and number of total visits. If you were wondering, the top site – by both time on site and number of total visits – is….Facebook. Twitter and Google Reader fall in shortly there after.
I can see immense possibilities for gathering a little competitive and demographic insight from just poking around in the links and clickstreams, but right now the “sample size” of users is very small and skewed toward the, “I like early-adopter tech startup beta stuff” crowd. If that’s your market, it looks like your users are into Facebook, NYT breaking news, Twitter, more Facebook, Tumblr, Hacker News, fantasy football, and Facebook.
There are still some bugs and oddities about the site. There’s a sidebar for filtering links by a whole list of categories, but so far when I’ve selected options, nothing has happened. Links are being assigned categories and they’re color-coded by group. There are some navigational things that could be cleaned up, and some icons aren’t exactly clear until your start clicking on things.
You can click on links in the stream to get to a page with a screenshot and various stats, like who first visited the site, and how many times it’s been visited and favorited. There is also the option to add tags to links, although this feature is so buried that I doubt it will gain the same level of usage as a site like Delicious.
Overall, I find Voyurl interesting to poke around in but less useful for finding quality information. There isn’t currently a strong way to filter out the signal from the noise, and I really don’t care how many pages of Facebook pictures everyone looked at and how long people spent playing CityVille. When I first logged in, there weren’t many users but most seemed to be from the New York area. Now I’m seeing more users, but almost all have updated their settings to be anonymous.
For those that aren’t anonymous, it’s pretty easy to grab that user name and location and tie the person back to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. The site also grabs whatever is in the page title, so even if you’re set to “anonymous,” I’ve seen a fair number of email addresses and usernames for various sites go by.
If you’re interested in trying out Voyurl yourself, I have three invites. Hit the comments if you want one.