So I just read an interesting post about Technorati Tags on Shelley Powers's blog entitled Cheap Eats at the Semantic Web Café. As I read Shelley's post I kept feeling a strong sense of deja vu which I couldn't shake. If you were using the Web in the 1990s then the following descriptions of Technorati Tags taken from their homepage should be quite familiar.
What's a tag?
Think of a tag as a simple category name. People can categorize their posts, photos, and links with any tag that makes sense.
The rest of the Technorati Tag pages is made up of blog posts. And those come from you! Anyone with a blog can contribute to Technorati Tag pages. There are two ways to contribute:
- If your blog software supports categories and RSS/Atom (like Movable Type, WordPress, TypePad, Blogware, Radio), just use the included category system and make sure you're publishing RSS/Atom and we'll automatically include your posts! Your categories will be read as tags.
- If your blog software does not support those things, don't worry, you can still play. To add your post to a Technorati Tag page, all you have to do is "tag" your post by including a special link. Like so:
The [tagname] can be anything, but it should be descriptive. Please only use tags that are relevant to the post. No need to include the brackets. Just make sure to include
<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/[tagname]" rel="tag">[tagname]</a>
Also, you don't have to link to Technorati. You can link to any URL that ends in something tag-like. These tag links would also be included on our Tag pages:
<a href="http://apple.com/ipod" rel="tag">iPod</a>
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity" rel="tag">Gravity</a>
<a href="http://flickr.com/photos/tags/chihuahua" rel="tag">Chihuahua</a>
If you weren't using the Web in the 1990s this may seem new and wonderful to you but the fact is we've all seen this before. The so-called Technorati Tags are glorified HTML META tags with all their attendant problems. The reason all the arguments in Shelley's blog post seemed so familiar is that a number of them are the same ones Cory Doctorow made in his article Metacrap from so many years ago. All the problems with META tags are still valid today most important being the fact that people lie especially spammers and that even well intentioned people tend to categorize things incorrectly or according to their prejudices.
META tags simply couldn't scale to match the needs of the World Wide Web and are mostly ignored by search engines today. I wonder why people think that if you dress up an old idea with new buzzwords (*cough* folksonomies *cough* social tagging *cough*) that it somehow turns a bad old idea into a good new one?