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August 4, 2009

Google Chrome's Browser Sync

Google Browser Sync, the Firefox extension that synchronized your bookmarks, cookies, passwords and sessions across multiple computers, is about to be resurrected in Google Chrome.

Google works on a feature that will initially synchronize bookmarks, but it will be extended to additional data types.

"To make this sync infrastructure scale to millions of users, we decided to leverage existing XMPP-based Google Talk servers to give us "push" semantics, rather than only depending on periodically polling for updates. This means when a change occurs on one Google Chrome client, a part of the infrastructure effectively sends a tiny XMPP message, like a chat message, to other actively connected clients telling them to sync," mentions a Google document.

The feature will not be limited to Google's sync service. "When we fully land the sync code (hopefully in the coming few weeks), developers will certainly be able to pass in an alternate sync server address via a command line flag and use that to develop their own sync server," says Idan Avraham.

Ars Technica thinks that the sync service is related to Google's plans to release a browser-centric operating system, but I still find it intriguing that Google decided to discontinue Browser Sync, instead of improving it and making it available to other browsers. After all, not everyone will use Firefox, Google Chrome or Google Chrome OS and the seamless synchronization of browser data between all your computers and mobile phones will make you feel at home, no matter what computer you're using.

Synchronizing user data will certainly become a standard feature in all browsers, but it would be useful to build a service that synchronizes data between multiple browsers. Opera is the first major browser that added a sync service for both the desktop software and Opera Mini, while Mozilla Weave is a prototype of a future Firefox feature.

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