In the world of Web 2.0 technology, a user’s ability to interact with information on the web is greater than ever before. Users can use the web to publish their own ideas or interact with others that share a similar interest. Social tagging and bookmarking have become approaches that users can establish access to web-based material and share that access with other users.
Social tagging is the application of tags in an open online environment where the tags of other users are available to others. A folksonomy emerges when users tag content or information, such as web pages, photos, videos, podcasts, tweets, scientific papers and others. Social bookmarking services, on the other hand, allow users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, social bookmarking sites can greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.
Social tagging and bookmarking has made classifying, organizing, and sharing bodies of information on the web quite easy. Users are able to navigate, browse, and retrieve information with relative ease. Users not only use tags for the organization of information, but they use them for purely social reasons as well. There are several studies in the literature that seek to understand why people choose to use the tags that they do. Most researchers argue that users use tags to embed themselves in a social environment in order to be watched by others and receive feedback, to assist in the formation of like-minded groups, or to simply make a statement about something that will be publicly accessible.
Again, a folksonomy is formed when a certain tag forms a body of information about a specific topic. When shared with others, or viewed in the context of what others have tagged, these collections of resource identifiers, tags, and people begin to take on additional value through network effects. Searching tags can enable the discovery of relevant resources, and the social relationships that develop among taggers become a means of information discovery in and of themselves.
Social tagging has a number of advantages for the user:
- Tagging reflects users’ vocabulary
- Classification of large amounts of content at little cost
- Current and flexible
- Formation of Community
Of course, on the other hand, social tagging has its disadvantages as well:
- Lack of control
- Lack of recall
- Lack of precision
Social tagging and bookmarking have not only changed the methodology of classification in terms of retrieval information, but it has also changed the way that classifiers organize information. It has removed all concept of hierarchy from the scheme of knowledge organization, facilitating knowledge discovery and web indexing. Proponents of social tagging feel that it reflects the vocabulary and conceptual associations of users making it easier to find information for the average user.
At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see how social tagging and bookmarking evolve with the next major evolution of the Internet. With most all social media sites allowing tagging, large amounts of information can now be classified and searched using these social tags. There is a potential here to revolutionize the way that we conduct social research.