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Saturday, 17th of September, 2011

Bookmark syncing and tagging (9:24 pm)

I've been using social media only for so long that it was only after I wrote this big post on Google+ (after a short series of tweets) that I realised I could blog it! OMGZ! Old media!

OK, so Delicious' Firefox extension was crashing my browser too much and I had a spack attack and removed it. I was never interested in "social" bookmarking anyway – I just want my bookmarks, nicely tagged, available in all my browsers.
I want them to come up in the Firefox Awesomebar and the Chrome Thingybar when I start typing.
I want a nice sidebar with a tags pane and a bookmarks pane (which the Delicious extension does very nicely).
And I want to be able to access and add to those bookmarks whatever device I'm on or browser I'm in.

The last thing is still an issue, but I've solved everything else with Xmarks and the Firefox TagSieve extension.
TagSieve makes Firefox's tagged bookmarks into what they should be – no more heirarchical folders, just tags which you can search in the top pane in the sidebar, and then display the relevant bookmarks in the second pane below. It's simple and lovely.

Xmarks is nicer than Delicious in one way: it's all about browser syncing, so it lets me choose different profiles for different browsers (with exclusion functionality down to single bookmarks, or folders (but not tags)). My work browser has work bookmarks which I don't need sync to my home one, but also shares all my home stuff, my Quicksearches, etc. So when I get the bright idea at home to create a few currency converter shortcuts, I get to work and I can still type "eur 78.30" into the Awesomebar and get xe.com's current AUD conversion of €78.30. Nice.

Where Xmarks falls down is in two ways: firstly, it's still all about folders, not tags. The tags are synced, and in Firefox the tagging box your tags come up as you start typing. Pleasant experience. But at my.xmarks.com, and the iPhone/iPad apps, you're only seeing the folders view, which sortof defeats the purpose of using tags.
The second failing is far worse: there's no API, and it doesn't really seem to be on the roadmap. So my favourite apps like Instapaper (for offline reading of interesting articles I find, short stories, etc), and Reeder (the kickass third-party iPhone/iPad/Mac app for Google Reader) have no way of saving to Xmarks. Not to mention the iOS browsers – I use iCabMobile, which ought to easily be able to have a module to do it, but no can do.
Added later: Ok it's worse than that even. The iPad app doesn't even let you add new bookmarks! I think I'll be investigating Firefox sync for the interim and hoping Delicious get their act together and fix their Firefox extension soon…
Yet later: Nope, Firefox sync is pretty basic and lacks Xmarks' sync profiles, where different computers/browsers can sync different subsets of your bookmarks. Crazy that there's no single solution that's not sucky in some way. This isn't rocket science.

I'm still much happier with Xmarks and TagSieve – it's more natural to just be syncing the actual browser bookmarks, and Xmarks' background syncing is far more efficient than Delicious, plus Delicious was locking up my browser and crashing it allll the time.
But if there's a better solution out there, I'd love to know! It's got to be cross-browser (at least FF and Chrome), cross-platform (OSX, Windows, preferably Linux, iOS). And it has to have an API so that other apps can save to it. Surely not too much to ask! :)


4 Responses to “Bookmark syncing and tagging”

  1. Mike Lynch says:

    I migrated from Delicious to Pinboard after the big OMGYahooDeth scare earlier this year. I used to use Firefox's live bookmarks feature for customising bookmarks in browsers – I have a bunch of dedicated tags like b_work_admin or b_${CURRENT_PROJECT}.

    I'm getting almost the same functionality in Chrome with Pinboard using "Pinboard Bookmark Bar Sync".

    One thing that's been helpful is IfThisThenThat (http://ifttt.com/) – which I'm using to backport Pinboard bookmarks to my Delicious account. It's a very handy way to sync lots of different webservices.

    Overall, iOS support for bookmarking seems to suck.

  2. Peter says:

    Ah cool, well yeah I like the look of Pinboard, but couldn't use it (or wouldn't) unless it synced with my browser's bookmarks. That's the key, and I see that it does with Chrome, but I really prefer Firefox for extensibility still. There are just a bunch of things I can do for user experience & customizability that Chrome won't allow.

    Unfortunately Pinboard just doesn't have a comparable FF extension to Delicious's one, but Delicious's one is exquisitely broken at the moment (it works, but frequently b0rks the net connection, ramps up CPU and then proceeds to crash the browser – yay!)

    But there's not really an open Firefox bookmark sync service of any sort – Firefox Sync itself is very closed (they want it that way), and in any case not really compatible with other browsers etc. Xmarks have plugins for most browsers plus (really crap) iOS apps, but because they have no API, services like ifttt are no use.
    This is the key in the end – no API, nothing doing. In the end Xmarks is still the best solution, simply because it syncs my bookmarks and tags across all platforms without crashing the browser like Delicious.

    Meh, I say! Meh.

  3. Mike Lynch says:

    Looks like I jumped ship from Delicious/Firefox at the right time, because that's what I used to use, and it was great.

    I had been keeping all my bookmarks in Delicious for a few years now so brower sync isn't an issue for me, but I can see how it would be.

  4. Peter says:

    I like browser sync because I like to have my bookmarks appear in my URL bar as suggestions and suchlike…

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