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The History of Tags on Websites and Their Future

Posted on the 03 August 2012 by Dfennell @BloggerGo

History of Tags imageEvery single Internet user on the planet has had the unpleasant experience of browsing from page to page on a website; searching for information that we know is this somewhere, but the information eludes us to the point of giving up.  This was an extremely common problem in the early history of web-development.  The history of tags began when developers had the foresight to add a capability that would make it easier to find information online.

The Internet became available to the public in 1992.  With the emergence of the world-wide web, websites began to pop up like wildfire, and with the increased number of websites came an increased level of complexity.  To battle this complexity, tags were introduced in the online world around the turn of the century with a mission make it easier for visitors to find information and locate relevant content.

In the early days of tagging history, tags were first utilized by Online and Internet databases as well as some of the earliest websites to assist users in exploring and finding content.  Publishers would attach keywords to records, content, and uploadable files that visitors could locate through browsing and searching. 

Websites leading the way…

However, tagging did not become a prominent user-friendly navigation strategy until 2003. The practice of adding tags was made popular by Delicious in 2003 by providing the capability for users to add tags to their bookmarks as a way to help members find them later. 

Soon after, Flickr began providing users with the capability to tag uploaded images to make them highly searchable. 

Last but not least, YouTube began providing the capability for users to tag uploaded videos for these same purposes.  Following the example of these three authority websites, the history of tags began and became a global practice of bloggers, web developers, and publishers. 

Additionally, since tags and tag archives became a physical component of a website, search engine bots began following and indexing these tags in their index.  As a result, these tag archive pages began to generate considerable traffic.

In other words, in the early days of tag history, tags not only provided easier navigation for users, but increased traffic for site owners.

Where are tags heading in the future?

As with anything in life, there is always one rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel.  Once bloggers and publishers began to notice the SEO benefits of tagging and their rewards for driving traffic, abusive tagging strategies emerged.

How many times have you visited a webpage and noticed upwards of 30-50 tags?  You can bet that these tags were not added for the benefit of the visitor to quickly locate information.  At least I hope not!  No, they were added in an effort to increase keyword density to hopefully rank higher in the search engines.

For this reason alone, tags have lost their significance.  This tagging abuse has caused visitors to lose confidence in tags as a searching mechanism.  As a result, visitors have got out of the habit of using tags to locate information.  In our modern day and age, we all want information and we want it now.  Tags no longer provide that internal need on most sites, so we stopped using them. 

Additionally, Google has been on a tear lately to change their algorithm and how they present quality websites to their search users.  One of the many problems that they have cracked down on is the abuse of tags.  Since nearly everyone and their dog has been misusing or abusing tags, Google and others search engines no longer look at tags in their determination to rank a given webpage.  Tags have lost their SEO benefits.

I do believe that tags will continue to be used on social media sites, bookmarking sites, and other websites that provide some sort member oriented experience.  However, in the world of blogging, I believe that tags are going to become a thing of the past.  They have lost their importance and have been replaced as a navigation tool by categories.  More and more authority sites have already stopped using tags; myself included.

Where do you see the history of tags going?

What about you?  What are your thoughts regarding the history of tags?  Where do you see tags heading in the future?


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