Observation: Bookmarks Dead

19 Comments

safari512px

Going through the day-to-day realities of web crawling I find myself using the Favorites or Bookmarks feature of browsers less and less. Oddly enough, however, this statement is coming from the same guy with thousands of them backed up on multiple drives.

Early this week, I had an epiphany that resulted in me deleting thousands of old Bookmarks from Firefox, as I started filtering through a list which has been gathering digital dust for years. While narrowing down a list of seemingly endless Bookmarks, I noticed all of these web sites I no longer visit or, for that matter, remember. Many of these sites no longer existed or had since been left to ruin, and I began to remember how only a few years ago I typically carried a copy of my Bookmarks on a flash-drive wherever I went. But then I looked at a few of these old sites and started thinking… I started thinking about how someone such as myself can go from utilizing thousands of bookmarks to only using a select few.

I have noticed that many people such as I have began to use bookmarks less and less, but why?

RSS was one of the first widely used formats that allowed people to retrieve their information in quick truncated lists. Now that RSS has become mainstream, people have turned to Digg, Reddit or Delicious to not only uncover new Bookmarks but to store personal ones as well.

People are turning to more outlets for information than ever before. Services such as Facebook and Twitter have drastically changed how people receive information over the Internet. Allowing people to get vast quantities of information at any time, and thanks to the iPhone Apps for services such as these, we can now access this information anywhere.

The point is, people are moving away from using the Bookmarks feature of browsers and choosing a more advantageous route. People naturally want to find easier ways to accomplish tasks, and using services like Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious someone could find a link, a quote, song, or any other bit of information at any time of day. Where it is commonplace to update your Twitter status via your iPhone in the morning before brushing your teeth, and where people no longer mail invitations to a party, instead sending them via Facebook, it is in this same world that browser-based bookmarks have become obsolete.

19 Comments

Joe L.

@Rob – well, to clarify…..
Google Reader has basically replaced my bookmarks, because most of the sites that I used to have bookmarked (Ars Technica, The Apple Blog, etc) now have RSS feeds. I used to go through my bookmarks one at a time and check out my favorite sites, then would have to look through them to see what had changed since the last time I was there.

Now with GReader, I know when something has changed. Sometimes I read directly in GReader, but most often, I click on the link to go straight to the site and directly to the new post, and read it on the site.

Maybe you haven’t used a reader before, and you’re misunderstanding what they do or exactly how they work. But they don’t force you to read everything inside the reader. They can basically replace your bookmarks for most sites – you won’t “forget” about those sites just because they’re not bookmarked. On the contrary, the Reader will alert you when something on any of those sites have changed, so you won’t miss anything.

As kind of a hybrid between a full Reader and Bookmarks, Firefox has “Live Bookmarks”, which is a RSS reader, but the new posts show up as bookmarks inside FireFox. Maybe you would be interested in that.

Steve

Bookmarking is great way to building website traffic but there are many websites where Google can not cached bookmark page that’s why its waste of time. So finally I do bookmarking only popular sites where spider can reach.

Rob

I totally disagree the majority opinion here. I have a certain set of sites that I like to visit regularly and keeping them bookmarked allows me to remember what I’m interested in. I know I could use a reader but I like to see the entire page, not just the text. I do understand the problem of having too many bookmarks, many of which you no longer use, but when that happens, just prune them.

Safari’s lack of a bookmark pane on the left is why I’ve always used Firefox. Long live bookmarks!

PoBoy

I generally use the bookmarks bar, so I can hit cmd-1 through cmd-9 to access most commonly-viewed sites from the keyboard. Other than that, I’ll just hit cmd-L and start to type in the URL, letting my history autocomplete commonly viewed sites. If that doesn’t work, option-cmd-F to Google search.

Nathan Gilliatt

For day-to-day use, sure, bookmarks aren’t the right tool. But look at the other end of the distribution–sites that might be useful someday but aren’t well-known and aren’t important today. A real example from my experience is sites related to my dream home–specialty suppliers that I don’t need today, but that I’d like to have occasion to buy from in the future. I need somewhere to save those addresses for future reference, although it will be years before I need them.

I have three ways to save them today (bookmarks, Delicious, and static HTML pages I keep–these lists go way back), so I’m not about to lose them if any one tool goes away. But I encourage thinking about little-known and infrequently-used bookmarks as one reason people might want to keep the feature.

DJ

I use bookmarks all the time, but in practical terms the ‘dailies’ number no more than 20-30 or so. I quite like the coverflow features of the latest Safari, which makes the busiest ones available in easy-view format, albeit in a slightly random way.

Not sure how can accumulate 1000s of ’em though — regular pruning keeps mine mown nicely!

Howie Isaacks

I don’t understand why or how someone would accumulate so many bookmarks. It’s one thing to bookmark a page that is several levels down into a website, but to bookmark common sites (apple.com, cnn.com, etc.) is just dumb and useless. I have ran into people with years worth of bookmarks who panic when they lose their bookmarks. It’s then that I remind them that by the way… you can TYPE the addresses into the address field. You don’t have to only use bookmarks to get around.

andrew

10 years ago there was a study that said most people visit no more than 10 sites a day. That was down from just a few years previous. I suspect that routine human behavior is also a main factor in the OP’s thesis.

I think you are wrong to call for removing bookmark capability from browsers. There are many people behind corporate firewalls who are denied access to these ‘social’ bookmarking sites. Heck, many of them are still using IE6. No amount of arguing will convince the bean counters and IT arbitrators to allow more effective technologies in the corporate world.

Michael

I have 32 bookmarks (I actually counted them) and all of them are websites I visit almost every day (Google Reader, Flockr, Netflix, Gmail, etc.) where I don’t really want to have to type in the URL every time but the website doesn’t lend itself to RSS very nicely. For almost all other instances where I might have used bookmarks 3-4 years ago I now use RSS for, it is a much more efficient way of looking at news and keeps all of the content in one place instead of spreading it across many websites.

Joe L.

yep, me too. Just last month I deleted hundreds of bookmarks I’ve been dutifully copying from computer to computer since college in the late 90’s.

RSS and Google Reader (well, I started on Bloglines) has completely transformed the way I use the internet. When my GReader “unread” count hits 0, i just stare at my browser and think “…..what am I supposed to do now?”

I did keep a couple bookmarks in my Bookmarks Bar, for some forums, facebook, and some banking sites. But now with Safari 4 and “Top Sites”, I keep the Bookmarks Bar hidden and I can reach 90% of all the sites I visit directly from the Top Sites page in Safari.

I do have a Delicious account and still do sometimes add pages to Delicious, but I find that i rarely ever even go back to look up pages in delicious

Chodite

And oh yeah, how could I forget Digg? That’s really the catch-all for all things interesting and news-worthy for the day.

Chodite

Awesome post.

Same boat here. I’ve got my 4 or 5 true “go to” bookmarks… a far stretch from the 100’s I previously had. RSS feeds are now my #1. For news, Google News is the best of all news worlds. And Facebook keeps me up-to-date on what my friends and colleagues are up to, along with any other interesting info/articles they like to share. Bye bye old bookmarks. You were so good for so long!

Scott Jarkoff

I completely agree and recently wrote a similar article wondering if browser bookmarks really necessary any longer. I believe Firefox, Safari and all the major browsers should really forgo local bookmarks in favor of something more “cloud based” like delicious, reddit, etc.

Of course, getting Mozilla, Apple, Microsoft, et al to agree on a network-based bookmarking standard is nigh impossible, so this is probably a pipe dream. Nonetheless, I think the important point is that local bookmarks are largely pointless these days.

For me, I can’t live without the Delicious Bookmarks Firefox extension. I live and die by that baby. ;-)

dave

I’ve found that now, it’s more useful to save the actual information from the web page, rather than just the link to the web page, as lots of web pages will come and go (I’ll still save the link to check for updated information, but I’ll still have the original info I found if it goes away).

Weldon Dodd

I agree. I never use bookmarks, largely because I like typing and avoid mousing, but also because searching has replaced browsing over the last couple of years (at least for me). I stopped saving my emails into folders for the same reason – it’s faster to search in gmail in the cloud than it is to browse through email folders on my desktop.

I still store interesting things in Delicious if I think I might want to reference that site or page in the future. The reason I use Delicious? I can search the bookmarks I save there by title, URL, notes, or tags and I find that faster than browsing my list of bookmarks.

I also search my history to find sites, often just by typing in the location bar in Firefox 3 or Safari 4 far more often than I reference Delicious or Google.

cjf

The only thing in my bookmarks list are bookmarklets — little chunks of javascript that do stuff. Everything else is tagged and stored in Delicious. I eventually got tired of managing hierarchical folders of bookmarks, and have never looked back.

Jean-Francois

I realise the same thing. I have something like 4 000 bookmarks, none of which I ever use. Like a turtle I have been carrying this comforting illusion of knowledge for at least 15 years.

Good tools to manage these are few and far between, specially if you use a Mac. That makes this link haystack useless. I use RSS (which gets to be a problem by itself – who needs to post more than once a week or worst repost someone elses stuff) and Google to find stuff.

Let’s conclude by saying that average boolean and search terms are better than a good haystack (depending of what you are intending to do!)

JF

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