Quick quiz: When is the last time you added a bookmark to the browser on your mobile phone?
I actually can’t remember when I did this last. And that got me thinking: Why is that, considering we now have plenty of options that can sync bookmarks from desktops and laptops to mobile devices? Maybe it’s just me, but what was once a heavily used feature is dead to me now.
I wasn’t always like this though. I remember using sync services such as Xmarks and Weave, for example, that kept bookmarks in sync between a computer and my [company]Microsoft[/company] Windows Mobile device in 2009. Google added similar support across devices that use its Chrome browser not long after that, eventually adding mobile support. In 2010, Firefox Home did the same for iPhones as Apple too offered bookmark sync, first through MobileMe and now with its iCloud service.
So what has changed? At least two aspects have noticeably impacted my use of mobile bookmarks. The first is the world of mobile apps.
Nearly all of the websites I used to hit heavily on a handset now have native apps. That ranges from [company]Facebook[/company] and Twitter to my local bank to [company]Amazon[/company] and more. I still visit many of those same destinations on my desktop through the web because for all intents and purposes, the website is the app in that environment. There’s no Amazon app for my desktop, nor is there one for TD Bank, for example. On the computer, the browser is the app and the site is my destination. Not so on a phone or tablet that has an app option.
Even many the websites I read on a daily basis have mobile apps: Think New York Times, CNN, ESPN and other mainstream media providers. Sure, I can hit those sites on my phone’s browser but in many cases, the native apps offer more value, better layouts or important notifications for topics of interest that a site can’t provide. Instead of saving hundreds of mobile bookmarks then, I’ve instead transitioned to hundreds of apps.
But what about websites that don’t have a native app? Unsurprisingly, modern mobile browsers are much better than they were just two or three years ago. Thanks to advanced features such as showing sites that I frequently visit or website autocompletion, I can typically get to a favorite mobile website with a tap or two. That’s not much more effort — if any, really — than tapping a bookmarks button and navigating through a list of saved sites.
I actually do use the mobile browser feature that shows what tabs I have open on other devices. That’s handy for when I’m surfing on a desktop and have to walk away with my phone: I can pick up where I left off on a website with my handset. But that’s more of an activity sync; not a bookmark sync.
Just for fun, I posed the question of mobile bookmark use to my Gigaom editorial colleagues. It’s a small sample size, of course, but we’re a team of highly mobile individuals and our smartphones are often lifelines to our work. Turns out that nobody on the team uses mobile bookmarks; in fact, some of the younger crowd didn’t know there was a way to keep bookmarks on the smartphone. A few folks, however, have created a small number of website shortcuts on device home screens; effectively making a one-touch bookmark.
So maybe it’s not just me after all. Perhaps the app economy and better browsers have slowly killed off mobile bookmarks.
I’d love to hear from readers on if and how they use bookmarks on their smartphones. As for me, I’m disabling app sync between my desktop and mobile browsers: There’s no point in synchronizing the data when apps and browser features have diminished the value of my mobile bookmarks.