Social bookmarking is a popular term but what is it? Well, the word social can be a little inaccurate in the strictest sense. It's not just social as in informal or in the personal realm. It refers to linking communities. The concept is relatively simple. I may like the same sites and topics as my friends. Additionally, I may like the same sites as my friends' friends, even though I may not know them. Social bookmarking leverages relationships to point you to things that may interest you. It can access bookmarks through relationships, categories, or interests.
I'm fairly new to social bookmarking. I don't particularly like to share all my bookmarks. And I don't always bookmark everything that is of interest to me. However, I have found some value to this concept. I have been able to leverage it to find new information on particular topics. Within my PLN of professional educational technology educators, I have run across many new sites that I see as valuable and helpful to my professional growth. It has become a way for me to expand my community and find new sites that expose me to new things.
Social bookmarking really steps into the beginning stages of the semantic web, or Web 3.0. It is "smart" and helps you find places that are of interest and value to you. Some social bookmarking applications learn and tailor themselves to your preferences on what you like and don't like. The concept is really not foreign. Do you use iTunes? The genius feature of iTunes recommends music to you according to what music you have in your library and the particular song. It is tailored to you. Social bookmarking is really just making the same types of recommendations, just in a different sense. iTunes is not the first to use this idea...Amazon has been doing it for years.
Social bookmarking works largely off of tags. Users "tag" keywords to sites so they can be searched or are associated as relevant to certain topics. Tagging is a common term and commonly used on many photo sites. It has many uses and makes accessing relevant information easier. Tagging is great when people work together. Instead of waiting for me to tag 1,000s of sites, I can leverage others to help me tag good sites and be able to search and categorize them effectively based on the wisdom the collective group. Tagging is often associated with images because the only way to search the content is through tags. However, it is also helpful in something like this blog to reference ideas. (This concept also links to Wesch's video of The Machine is Us/ing Us.)
Examples of social bookmarking sites might include del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Digg, Diigo, and Ma.gnolia.org just to name a few. I even noticed that Foxmarks, my Firefox add-on, is becoming a social bookmarking application. Wikipedia has a fair list of the many bookmarking tools available.