Liz Gannes

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Delicious Relaunches: Exclusive Q&A With CEO Chad Hurley

Tonight is the relaunch of Delicious, the little bookmarking site that helped inspire a wave of social companies in the eight years since it was founded. New owners Chad Hurley and Steve Chen (a.k.a. the creators of YouTube) have ported Delicious over from previous owner Yahoo, and are ready to show their first revision to the public.

Expectations aren’t terrifically high for the new Delicious, given the rareness of tech comeback stories and the fact that Delicious was never really that popular. But we can’t help but watch, given Hurley and Chen’s magic touch at YouTube.

The new Delicious retains a lot of visual elements from the old site, but it tweaks the core user activity to be about creating “stacks” of content. In an interview on Monday, Hurley compared stacks to YouTube playlists, saying he thinks the way to go mainstream is by enabling users to express their interests.

(Click to see a larger version of the fantastic “Dog Costumes That Should Be Illegal” stack pictured at right, and check out more screenshots and a demo video at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s a write-up of my chat with Hurley:

AllThingsD: How does it feel to be starting over again, and with a product many people have expectations for, rather than your own fresh new idea?

Chad Hurley: For the product — and for myself and Steve — we’re both starting over and we’re really excited about it. In Delicious’s case, it’s a great brand that belongs in Silicon Valley. We look forward to providing a great service and hopefully introducing it to a bigger audience. From myself and Steve’s perspective, it feels good to be engaged again on finding a simple solution to a difficult problem, which is discovery.

How is this different from the original Delicious?

It became hard when people were adding all this information, tags and links. We’re applying a new layer of ways for people to explore the information. Relating to YouTube terms, playlists were an underappreciated feature of the site, and we saw an opportunity to introduce that concept in a broader sense against all media.

What of the old Delicious did you make sure to keep the same?

We’re keeping the brand and the logo and the utility — having a bookmarklet and all that will stay intact. We’re trying to add one layer of functionality, initially, to explore the links contributed on a daily basis. For us, this is really just the start. We have a lot more features waiting in the wings. We spent a lot of time rewriting the code, redoing the infrastructure and migrating the site over.

Do you think people have a fundamental desire to make lists and bookmark things?

With YouTube — with the Internet in general — you have information overload. The people who don’t necessarily get credit are the curators. We had the YouTube stars, but I always wanted to start a program called YouTube scouts.

It’s interesting that you’re emphasizing curation in a week when Facebook is pushing a new agenda of automated sharing.

At Facebook, they want as many signals in as possible, and that’s great, but right now it’s really noise. We’re really looking for the signal. It’s great to have passive links to share information, and I’m a fan of what they’re doing. I think people get burned out of actively participating. That’s what we did at YouTube, in a way — a really open viewing and sharing experience, where we never asked users to sign in. At Delicious, we’re trying to do that again here — people can get value without signing in.

Back to the original Delicious, there seem to have been a lot of services over the years from then to now that help you bookmark things and create lists. None of them in particular seem to have been that popular, though Pinterest seems to have been doing well lately. Why do you think the timing is right for you guys to pursue this?

There’s a lot of people working on this problem, a lot of people trying to address the problem of discovery and leveraging curation. We’re trying to create a broad functionality and audience. Some of these services are great, but they end up being restrictive. We want to celebrate diversity and we want a global audience with many different interests. This is just the initial stack we’re introducing on top of Delicious, and there will be many more features.

What are your plans to spread and grow the new Delicious, especially based on your experience of encouraging virality at YouTube?

I think actions speak louder than words. We want the product to hopefully grow on its own. We’ll do some traditional forms of marketing, but I feel if we have a compelling product that adds value, we’ll hopefully make it increasingly more attractive for people to spend their time with us.

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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post