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Pinboard Buys Delicious: Selling User Data Is Kinda Gross

Pinboard developer Maciej Cegłowski has announced that he has purchased bookmarking stalwart Del.icio.us for what amounts to a song. In a post on the Pinboard blog, Maciej explains that he plans on shuttering Del.icio.us forever about two weeks from today, on June 15. The idea is to move the site into a read-only state at that time; current users will from then on be unable to create new bookmarks. Maciej helpfully suggests that these users give Pinboard a try, which is a fair enough suggestion for an acquirer to make.

Web sites get sold sometimes, and they can certainly go away. It just happens, and everybody knows it when they create an account on a new site. Right?

It may be a common occurence, but the commonplace nature of this sort of sale doesn't make parts of it any more palatable to someone who uses Del.icio.us every day (assuming a few such people do exist). Maciej is making the right call in keeping it easy for users to export their data or to transport it over to Pinboard easily--nobody is going to be left high and dry, really. And frankly, his decision to keep the site live indefinitely as a historical record is admirable, especially given the fact that it won't be generating revenue. It's a great gesture, in that this data would have most certainly disappeared completely eventually under any other owner's care.

But at the end of the day, doesn't buying and selling user data feel kind of gross? And though Maciej is doing so in what's probably the best way possible, isn't it still kind of a bad thing to buy a site that people are using and shutter it immediately? This sale shows us that even in the best of circumstances, it sucks when a tool that people are using is sold out from under them.

That's why I will never sell LinkLocker, under any circumstances. Because selling your data--even to a relatively benevolent buyer--would make me feel gross.

I'm sure many of you don't believe me when I say this. Just watch and see.