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Search results show Delicious remains a tech niche

Cascading Style Sheets makes the list of 2008's top search terms at Yahoo's social-bookmarking site; Britney Spears is nowhere in sight. It doesn't bode well for such services.

There's no doubt the Internet enables a new level of social engagement--e-mail was, after all, its first killer app--but social bookmarking looks to me like it's been relegated to a techie niche.

I'm not the first to have this thought--Gordon Haff first planted the idea in my head. But Yahoo showed some evidence Thursday by publishing the top searches of 2008 for its Delicious service, which lets people store, tag, and share bookmarks.

Nowhere on the list was Britney Spears, the prevailing top result for mainstream search engines. Instead, Delicious shows a search profile with a tech-savvy tilt. Here's the top 10 list for 2008, according to a Delicious blog post on Thursday:

• news br>
• blogs br>
• reference br>
• wiki br>
• restaurants br>
• hotels br>
• CSS br>
• Web 2.0 br>
• artists br>
• music br>

Yes, restaurants, music, and hotels are relatively mainstream, but CSS, the Cascading Style Sheets standard for crafting a consistent style across Web pages, is pretty deep in the tech weeds. For CSS to be in the top 10 indicates to me at least that the mainstream searches for music and the like are probably something techies do rather than a reflection that mainstream folks are using the site much.

There's nothing wrong with a tech-focused user base. After all, it's just one community among many on the Net whose members want to share information with like-minded folk, and some of us relish the opportunity to avoid celebrity gossip. But the search results don't translate into social bookmarking escaping a niche.