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March 20, 2008

Google's Broken Bookmarking Systems

Google hasn't yet launched a proper bookmarking system. Google Bookmarks was just a small extension of Search History and became more useful after the integration with Google Toolbar. Notebook lets you clip content from the web, but it's more useful for research and not for bookmarking web pages. Google Reader's shared items are limited to your subscriptions or to web sites that have feeds and they're not structured. The not-yet-officially-released Shared Stuff widget wants to unify the ways people share web pages and it's more like a meta social bookmarking service.

In this guest post, Michael Searcy expresses his frustration with Google's failed attempts to develop a service for bookmarking and sharing web pages.



Like most people I want Google to add a social aspect to "Google Bookmarks". The crazy part is they already have a disassembled version of a social bookmarks network. The parts are: Bookmarks, Reader, Notebook & Shared Stuff.

Share

Web Pages

Feeds

Tags

Contacts

Bookmark

Profile

Bookmarks

no

no

no

yes

no

yes

no

Reader

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

yes

SharedStuff

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Notebook

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

yes

no



Bookmarks: it's great for across computer access but has no sharing, or interaction with other Google services.

Reader: It is awesome. It has changed my life! I find and share more stuff with it, than with normal browsing. You can "star" items that you want to lookup later for reference, but if you want to bookmark something you have to invoke some hackery (you can open the item outside of reader and bookmark it with a toolbar shortcut, or use a Greasemonkey script which doesn't work). Another limitation not shown in the chart is that you can't share anything you are not already subscribed to. Also on a shared reader page you don't get a summary view (for people with lots of posts), you can't search and you definitely cant slice it up by tags/labels.

Shared stuff: It's interesting because if you find something cool in Reader you can star it, then later when you get around to reading it again you can open it separate and bookmark it. Then if you open it from your bookmarks you can use the Email/Share toolbar item to Share it and it will Show a "star" saying its bookmarked. Other cool aspects are that you can Share through Google, share through other social networking services, email it to your low-tech friends, and you can even tag your items! You can do all that, but you can't bookmark with Google Bookmarks? You can use every bookmark service except Google. You're kidding me right? So now we can share bookmarked Items in a round about way, but we can't bookmark shared items!!!

Notebook: Its nice for a web notebook/clipboard with multiple headings or "notebooks" (which is repetitive but that's what they are called) and the sharing function is nice, if your into sharing notebook type content. Then they tried to incorporate bookmarks, but they imported them and called them "Unfiled Bookmarks", which means it's a bookmark and it's not associated with a "notebook". Which is extra weird if you "move" a bookmark to a notebook. Then you get your Markbooks confused with your Booknotes and ..... Wait. This is just madness. Its just 2 different classes of labels. But you can share "notebook" class labels but not "labels". So close.

31 comments:

  1. What I want is what my friend Aaron has written about - unified tags across all (ALL) of the Googleverse. THAT will be the killer Google app, IMHO.

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  2. Here's how I use things, and it is great. If I come across a website that I want to reference later (but it isn't necessarily part of my daily routine of sites) I use Google Notebook to CLIP it. I don't need to select any of the text on the page to do this, and this new "note" links to the page.

    If this process is too slow, and I'm being lazy, I'll just bookmark it without giving it a label (all of my bookmarks are labeled.)

    On a regular basis, I visit my "unfiled bookmarks" and file them away where they belong. Sometimes it is just a funny site I came across and may want to check it out more, or tell a friend about it. I'll file this in a "funny sites" notebook.

    Filing these notes takes them out of my "bookmarks" which is exactly what I want it to do. I use bookmarks for sites I visit frequently. If I kept every interesting site as a "bookmark" I'd have 500+ bookmarks, which would make it so cluttered that it wouldn't be very useful as "quick reference" at all.

    My only concern at the moment is that this doesn't work very well in the latest version of the toolbar for IE. The toolbar in IE is nice, but it treats "unfiled notes" and bookmarks and regular notes (as well as their associated labels) differently. So, my philosophy works only with the FireFox toolbar. I can change my philosophy to work nicely with the new IE toolbar, and I would actually prefer that... but since I use FireFox more, I would really just prefer that the FireFox toolbar "catches up" to the IE one.

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  3. A really good bookmarks killer app would take people away from search.
    Its to google's benefit to not allow very good portal/destination type sites, or equivalently, bookmark collections.

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  4. I use Google Browser Sync so that I do my normal bookmarking, but the bookmarks are sync'ed between my computers.

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  5. Great :)
    I use gReader and gNotebook all the time. I think I'll try Google Bookmarks instead Del.icio.us :)

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  6. I believe Shared Stuff and Google Reader should mix into one some day - the former is just a sinple byproduct that can easily be integrated in Google Reader's sharing.

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  7. I continue to be disappointed that these tools don't work as if there were some overall design guru at Google.

    Theoretically, there are people there with the talent to make it all fit together in an "Aha!" sort of way, but they are either slacking off, or are not actually as talented as their resumes would suggest.

    Flight of some of the early superstars to new start-ups may also be a factor.

    Unlike Microsoft that can produce year after year of mediocre products and still be successful due to past lock-ins, Google has to continue to produce top-notch products or they will rapidly decline.

    I assume that the founders of Google and other new web start-ups are smart enough to realize that by not being evil, they have made it as easy for a customer to leave as it was for them to arrive. This is why I'm sticking with them, even though some of it still needs work (and probably always will). So far they have the most complete package of online tools that (mostly) work together. Will be interesting to see if Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft or Facebook (or the like) ever rise to the challenge.

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  8. this pretty much sums up my thinking. i'm amazed google doesn't have a credible bookmarking product.

    on the other hand, i been extremely happy with del.icio.us, so i'm not too upset.

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  9. del.icio.us is just perfectly doing its job... even if it's not google.

    google bookmarks definitely doesn't stand the comparison.

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  10. I'm also frustrated by the lack of integration with Bookmarks. I eschew web history and toolbar, but have a Google Bookmarks bookmarklet in my browser bookmarks bar. But it's very frustrating not to b able to share tags across services, and not to b able to share bookmarks. I don't use Notebook much since it's not supported in Safari. Reader is great! All of these services deal with URLs, there's no excuse for them not to be seamlessly integrated.

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  11. There is other (but linked) problem: searh throughout ALL personal gServices (mail, docs, notes, marks, history, reader, stuff...). I've tried to set Custom Search to my services, but... It doesn't work. Google can't search :-( in my google stuff.

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  12. I think sharedstuff is the best of the lot. It has tags. Really this bad. Awesomely bad. I lust del.icio.us. I can bookmark, tag, share and search. You know searching on delicious is the best! Because it's users are very serious about bookmarking. The results are totally focussed. It is that simple. And all those damn google ads could get stuck into a delicious clone as well. That is a win win for google. For it to be win win for me, it would have to include what I mentioned plus have rss and be able to import mbookmarks from magnolia and delicious... integrate the bookmark tagging into google reader as well (wow!)

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  13. I use reader and shared stuff. Reader is basically my bookmarking utility to tag items (also enabling them to be searchable). If I come across something out of my normal feed rotation I can either add the feed or use shared stuff to link to it. I've got the feed for my shared stuff in reader, so once it shows up I can tag it however I want and it becomes a part of my faux-bookmarking ecosystem. As for sharing with others, obviously reader has a shared feed which I have posted to facebook and my blog so my friends or other passers-by can peruse things I think are interesting. For close friends I have a specific tag in reader for each of them that is also shared,
    thereby enabling them to link via webpage, livebookmark or other rss reader. Since reader is accessable anywhere it negates any function purpose that Google bookmarks might serve.

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  14. After many attempts to use the various Google tools, I've just settled on del.icio.us for all my bookmarking and sharing needs. Between the del.icio.us toolbar for Firefox and a Greasemonkey extension for Google Reader to facilitate del.icio.us posting, I have no need for Google's awkward tools.

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  15. I am Michael Searcy btw

    @Jim
    a page that would represent all those tags is exactly what I imagine as long as some could be shared and some kept private

    @Jacky Zhao
    But don't you hate that you can't share your tags

    @Bob
    I may try your implementation. Sound nice-ish. The only problem is to keep your unfiled bookmarks clean you are giving your bookmarks a tag first then sorting into a notebook. That's 1 too many sorts but it may be a necessary evil.

    @Anonymous
    Your just wrong. Google's mission is to make the worlds information organized and easily accessible. book marking (self organizing) is very important to that and they could easily serve the exact same ads next to the "public facing" version of your shared bookmarks

    @Matt Cutts
    I do too (use Google browser sync) and I think everybody should but what about when your forced to use IE, safari, Opera ect. Also you may want to have a social side to your bookmarks, which is why Google should do this.

    @Prasoon
    Agreed

    @macbeach
    This is the reason I WONT try dig or del.icio.us

    @vlvlx
    Yeah that's another problem. That should come built in with Google toolbar

    After looking @ bobs suggestion I think they will probably use Google Notebook to eventually integrate this. Basically they just need to drop the "Unfiled bookmarks" and name it "Bookmarks", add a "Sharing options" link to it and then allow rss feeds per each tag and then bring in the profile and let people automatically see shared their bookmarks from their "contacts". Some other way of rolling into a browsers bookmarks or including your own and your friends bookmarks in your Google searches would also be helpful

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. After some testing Bobs solution is very elegant. The thing that's so awesome about it is that you CAN Bookmark from Google reader. With no text highlighted just open a post in Google reader then hit your notebook button (you have to have google toolbar or the notebook extension) and make sure you are in the "unfiled bookmarks" category, then hit your "clip it" button. Whichever post you have selected is automatically bookmarked.

    The problem is... Its still a little hackerish and your average user will not use it like this, but it solves the issue of not being able to bookmark through google reader.

    Now lets hope Google figures out the sharing part and simplifies it and links to the profile thingy

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  18. Have you noticed that in the recent IE beta of their toolbar, Google Bookmarks is now integrated into Google Notebook? When you categorize your notes now it puts them into a notebook. This should let you share your bookmarks easily.

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  19. Last time I checked you COULD get a feed of your Bookmarks :-/

    I would like to share one tag of Bookmarks with friends, as I regularly bookmark things I want to send to them.

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  20. @Mrrix32
    Your right it technically has a feed, but not one you can subscribe to or use for sharing or anything else useful. It is essentially a feed for programmers to use (like in the GMarks FF extension)

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  21. Here is one thing that I don't like about how IE's toolbar is moving forward and FireFox's is being left behind. My method works well in FireFox. If I bookmark a site, it shows up in the bookmark drop-down list in my Google Toolbar. Since I prefer everything to be under its own "folder"... I add a label to each, so I don't have a lot of scrolling going on.

    However, in IE... every label associated with a bookmark (unfiled note) *AND* every label associated with a FILED note... shows up in the list. This list of labels is MUCH LONGER. So, I suddenly start having issues with scrolling through many choices.

    A solution (since IE's new toolbar shows your notebooks) would be to create a "Bookmarks" notebook, and put your actual bookmarks in there, and use sections to organize them. The problem is, if I do this, I won't have any "unfiled bookmarks"... so when I use FireFox, my bookmark list will be empty.

    So, really... I LOVE IE's toolbar better... HOWEVER, since I use FireFox MORE, I have to keep my quick-access bookmarks as "unfiled"... which makes them hard to find when I am trying to use IE.

    I really want FireFox's toolbar to catch up to IE's latest toolbar... OR for there to be an option in IE's toolbar to ONLY see labels that are associated with unfiled bookmarks... at least until the two toolbar methods are in sync with each other.

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  22. I fully agree that the lack of integration between these services and not having added social components to them is bad (a blind spot for search-centered Google, I think).

    However, I don't have a problem in having to open an item I read in gReader and like in a new tab and bookmarking it from there. This also records my visit to the site's traffic counter (which reading a feed item doesn't AFAIK).

    Another tweak that I use in not only reader but also bookmarks is dedicated tags for "social interaction" (e.g. 2share, 2blog, 2email, 2bookmark) - and then doing the action in question as a batch. This is useful e.g. when I can't or don't want to do that immediately for a reason or another. (I may want to bookmark something to my own computer's browser, blog about or email something with better time, or do some action at a given time.)

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  23. @lzyfshnt
    Sorry for the nitpicking comment but..

    You can subscribe to it using Firefox Live Bookmarks if your logged into Google all the time (as I am).

    I would guess if it's the same account you could also subscribe in Google Reader then share them from there (Bit too much effort though)

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  24. Just a quick follow up. You can't subscribe in Google Reader even if it's the same account.

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  25. I don't think the next updates of Google Bookmarks/Shared/Notebook will update until the next version of Google Toolbar comes out (firefox). Since Google Toolbar is the link to those services. It only makes sense to revamp them once the next Toolbar comes out.

    Google Reader's sharing capabilities and Google Shared Stuff should definitely be combined. It's confusing. It's not as useful.

    There should be a share button integrated into Google Toolbar. Having a bookmarklet feels ghetto, honestly.

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  26. I don't agree.
    Google bookmarks works flawlessly in IE, Google toolbar. Google bookmarks works even better in Firefox (add-on: GMarks) I saw someone complaining about lack of search capability, history, etc. I can only say, have a look at GMarks. The only thing I have to do occationally is to log-in again.

    I might as well mention another top Firefox add-on: Update scanner. Couldn't live without it.
    What a lift it would be if Google bookmarks could integrate GMarks with Update scanner.

    And I can see the point of labeling GMarks as Shared. That would add another great feature.

    So in short:
    1. GMarks for Firefox is great
    2. Integrate with Update scanner
    3. Enable a label for Shared GMarks

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  27. In all seriousness, google shared stuff parallel to reader's shared items seems to me like some PM at google took a way to long holiday.

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  28. Anyone know how to expose tag's on the shared stuff page or are they only visible to the author?? I know I can set defined tags to automatically share an item but I want other people to see what tags I have assigned to an article

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  29. I really want FireFox's toolbar to catch up to IE's latest toolbar... OR for there to be an option in IE's toolbar to ONLY see labels that are associated with unfiled bookmarks... at least until the two toolbar methods are in sync with each othe

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