Creation of Folksonomy Term
On July 23, 2004 in the IA Institute (then called the Asylomar Institute for Information Architecture (AIFIA)) closed list serve Gene Smith asked, "Some of you might have noticed services like Furl, Flickr and Del.icio.us using user-defined labels or tags to organize and share information.... Is there a name for this kind of informal social classification?". After a few other people answered some other related questions Eric Scheid of Ironclad Information Architecture responded with "folk classification".
On July 24, 2004 I responded just after that with, "So the user-created bottom-up categorical structure development with an emergent thesaurus would become a Folksonomy?".
I am a fan of the word folk when talking about regular people. Eric put my mind in the framework with one of my favorite terms. I was also thinking that if you took "tax" (the work portion) of taxonomy and replaced it with something anybody could do you would get a folksonomy. I knew the etymology of this word was pulling is two parts from different core sources (Germanic and Greek), but that seemed fitting looking at the early Flickr and del.icio.us.
On August 3, 2004 Gene Smith posted in his blog Folksonomy: Social Classification. This blog post received a lot of traffic and opened up the term folksonomy for others outside the closed IA listserve.
Definition of Folksonomy
Folksonomy is the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one's own retrieval. The tagging is done in a social environment (usually shared and open to others). Folksonomy is created from the act of tagging by the person consuming the information.
The value in this external tagging is derived from people using their own vocabulary and adding explicit meaning, which may come from inferred understanding of the information/object. People are not so much categorizing, as providing a means to connect items (placing hooks) to provide their meaning in their own understanding.
In a few conversations around folksonomy and tagging in 2004 I stated, "folksonomy is tagging that works". This is still a strong belief the three tenets of a folksonomy: 1) tag; 2) object being tagged; and 3) identity, are core to disambiguation of tag terms and provide for a rich understanding of the object being tagged.
By: Thomas Vander Wal
On: 2 February 2007