Barney's Rubble

Internet Brower Bookmarks Need a Facelift

Six years ago I complained about how poorly Firefox handled basic bookmark functions. Right after that I just happened to meet with a couple of Mozilla gurus, and I floated the idea of actually bringing some kind of rationale to bookmarks. I was talking about having a logically categorized history of searches and bookmarks, one that could be gone back to and shared with others. All we really had were folders and the ability to sort by name. Big whoop!

The Mozilla gurus assured me this was coming in the next rev of Firefox. I was flattered, but really, they made it sound like it was their idea to begin with. Once the new version came out I was no longer charmed -- instead, I felt misled. The bookmarks were utterly unchanged.

I'm about three more versions in, and bookmarks -- whether in Internet Explorer or Firefox -- are lamer than Quasimodo.

Bookmarks remain just a bunch of URLs you happened to save, kept in what amounts to a flat file. Hey, the '60s called, they want their database back.

But don't bookmarks represent the important places you've been to, and shouldn't they reflect your process of learning? Why, after so many browser versions (Internet Explorer is nearly up to version 10), are they so random, and handled so poorly?

I can't for the life of me see any true browser advances since Netscape. Video is easy and social networking is an application based on what the browser provides. Come on, guys!

Where's the browser revolution? Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox... they're all minor variations on the same old cola. RC, Pepsi, your house brand. Not a lot of differentiation.

Let's face it. We spend more time in our browsers than most any other app. New Web sites are cool, but the browsers themselves are lamer than the first round of "American Idol."

The heart of the browser is browsing, and bookmarks and history are our records. But there's virtually no intelligence in either. How about my idea from my June 2006 column ("The Barney Browser")? I wrote: "The Google Barney Browser integrates searching with a file system so the intelligence that comes from searches can be organized, used, shared and built upon. Perhaps these strings of pages can be cached, so if the site goes down the information isn't lost."

Is there truly a lack of browser innovation, or am I just jealous of the folks who bring us few or lame new features? Biased opinions are especially welcome and reasonable thoughts should be sent exclusively to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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