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We need a standard tag delimiter!

Problem

Various tag-enabled services use different delimiters to separate multiple tags (a.k.a. labels, topics, keywords)

Example of tag delimiter problem

This makes switching between the services inconvenient, and decreases usability for the many people who use more than one tag-enabled service.

Solution

Standardize on a single tag delimiter

I'm writing to ask those who provide these services (and software that uses tags) to start the ball rolling toward standardizing on a single tag delimiter. I know this isn't a trivial task, but now -- while tagging is still relatively "young" -- is the time to invest in improving the usability of the services. I'd argue that Yahoo! has good reason to seriously consider initiating this effort, since MyWeb2, flickr, and del.icio.us -- three popular tag-enabled services -- are all Yahoo! services.

Benefits of having a standardized tag delimiter

  • makes switching between tag-enabled services easier
  • helps people who are new using tags feel more comfortable using different tag-enabled services
  • improves developers' ability to write software that works with multiple tag-enabled services

I know there are often good reasons for using different delimiters; for example, Furl permits spaces in a "topic" (tag) name, therefore, the space can't be a delimiter. By contrast, del.icio.us doesn't permit spaces in tag names. Which approach is best is another discussion -- one I hope will be undertaken by the providers of tag-enabled services -- but I'm sure that with a bit of collaboration, there could be agreement on a good, universal standard. I'll save my thoughts on the need for a universal name for tags (let's just call them tags, not labels, or topics, or keywords) for another post...