Folks can laugh about the "sky is falling" reaction to Yahoo's leaked information that the social bookmarking site Delicious was being sunsetted, but given how reliant those of us who are active on the social web are, and how much of our information is logged and stored by entities outside our control, it holds some lessons, both for users and service providers.
1. You as a provider are not unique, and your users will bail if you shaft them, are perceived to have shafted them, or if there is a rumor you may shaft them. I don't know if there's a report yet on what the number of signups over at Diigo, Pinboard, or even Google bookmarks
2. You as a company should not assume that any confidential meetings are confidential. Especially if those meetings entail laying off 10% of your workforce. Be PR-ready with such announcements. Come on, guys. If Apple can't hold out without a leak, doubtful that you can, particularly when you've just majorly pissed off the product developers. Transparency isn't just good corporate citizenship, it's also a great CYA strategy in the land of instant updating. To have been caught by surprise and say, "Speaking for our team, we were very disappointed by the way that this appeared in the press" is disingenuous. You should have had a press announcement ready as soon as you showed a slide sunsetting any of your products, but particularly one folks are actually interested in and using. Once your employees know something, it's a matter of time before it hits their airwaves. Once your disgruntled or former employees know something, expect to be asked about it as you walk out of that meeting on your way to the ladies' room.
3. Take note, Important Internet Companies: your audience is fickle. Unless you have tied your users to you with unadulterated loyalty (Apple) or enthusiasm (Google), you're not immune to people flat-leaving you at the drop of a hat, no matter how popular your product. How have you grown your users? How have you made them part of your brand's family? Yahoo could have had very good answers to these questions with delicious and Flickr, but seems to be faltering. Hell, some of us even PAID for a similar service. Why wasn't delicious monetized? Seems a shame, and a waste.
4. CEOs: When you lay folks off, people will want to know how you're raking in $47 million and not feeling badly about it. It may not be fair, but it's true. If you're going to lay folks off and not take a pay cut yourself, you'd better have some damned good decision-making backing you up along the way so that you look like you're worth it. Good decisionmaking like, say, actually having accounts on services your company provides.
5. You as a user should be more invested in backing up your data. This one is child's play to some folks and may be assumed by others, but many of us sign up for a service in the cloud and assume it will be there forever and ever, amen. Yes, that may be naive, but even savvy social networkers don't always back up all of their info. The delicious leak was a huge wakeup cal for even those of us who are casual users, and a reminder that unless *you've* got your data, you can't guarantee your favorite service will have it tomorrow for you.
I'll be very interested to see how this plays out in the long run, especially after Yahoo's non-response where they say nothing more about delicious than that they hope they find a home for it. Somewhere. Sometime. Maybe. Will folks stay with delicious, or will those already fooling around cut their ties and move along? As for myself, I have to admit that I've already exported all of my delicious bookmarks and am fooling around with Pinboard and Google bookmarks. Should Flickr meet some awful fate, I'd be Yahoo-free.