The demise or otherwise of social bookmarking service Delicious has set tongues wagging across the Internet. Does it mean we can't trust cloud services? Or nothing of the sort? In reality I think this story shows us nothing new, it is just another manifestation of an age old problem. As the old saying goes “if you want something doing, do it yourself”, but you can't do everything yourself so you have to trust other people at some point and that is where risk comes in. One way to reduce that risk is to have alternatives that you can switch to easily (and consequently this is why vendor lock-in can be so dangerous). Fortunately with Delicious there are a number of ready to go alternatives and one I have been experimenting with a self-hosted solution called Scuttle.
I've been a great fan of Delicious for years and have amassed a huge collection of bookmarks so any suggestion that these could be lost is mildly distressing to say the least! Unusually for me I am more or less completely happy with the way it works. Scuttle is an open source solution that is very close to offering a drop in replacement for Delicious. It has a great array of features; full support for tagging, the ability to import bookmarks from Delicious, customisable looks and even an API. One of my favourite features is a bookmarklet that you can drag into your browser toolbar so you can easily add bookmarks to your Scuttle installation. If you happen to have a hosting account anyway that supports PHP and MySQL this might be a good option if non of the alternatives to Delicious appeal.
Delicious is a social bookmarking service of course which made it slightly different to local bookmarking though your browser. You could search everybody's bookmarks for information on a topic or build up a network of people and see what they were bookmarking. This was quite useful at times as it meant human beings were making a relationship between a tag or search term and a bookmark which occasionally could be an interesting alternative to search results generated by machine. With a self hosted solution you will of course lose this dimension. Scuttle does have the ability to have lots of users sign up and have similar networks (called watchlists in Scuttle) and functionality to search the entire user base for an installation, but unless you fancy launching a full scale alternative to Delicious and having millions of users this might be of limited use. That is not to say the social functionality of Scuttle is not useful, it will just be helpful in different and possibly more specialised scenarios than Delicious.
Installing Scuttle was reasonably straightforward with full installation instructions included in the download. One you have it up and running you will need to register on it. You might also want to restrict who can register, support for this is in the configuration file. Once you are logged in go to the “add a bookmark” page and you will see a page where you can (unsurprisingly) add a bookmark, but also bookmarklets for your browser and instructions on importing bookmarks from Delicious and popular browsers.
You can grab an import file from Delicious by entering this address into your browser (remembering to supply your username and password):
Once the page has loaded do File → Save As and save the file as bookmarks.xml. This creates a file that can then be loaded into the Scuttle installation. File uploads are limited to 1MB by default so if you have been a heavy user of Delicious you might want to reconfigure this. That said I've heavily used my Delicious account for about four years and the export file weighed in under the limit.
Scuttle looks pretty good so far. I haven't decided yet if I am going to migrate away from Delicious or what to (suggestions and experiences welcome!), but it is good to know there is an open source solution that can act as a drop in replacement and importantly, one I can set up pretty quickly should the need arise. It might make a good solution if you have some space hosting available and fancy hosting your own bookmarks (but remember to make regular backups!) or you wish to provide a Delicous-like service for a group or organisation. As it is open source you could even extend it in new directions too.