Towards Better Bookmark Syncing: del.icio.us and diigo

May 3rd, 2008

I use Firefox (well, Iceweasel) from several machines. On a daily basis, at least three: my workstation at home, my workstation at work, and my laptop. I have wanted to have my bookmarks synced between all three of them for some time. I’ve been using unison to sync them, which mostly works. But firefox likes to store a last-visited timestamp in bookmarks.html, so if I have a browser open at more than one place, I get frequent unison conflicts.

I started searching for better alternatives again, and noticed that the new alternative del.icio.us plugin for Firefox supports a del.icio.us version of the traditional Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar. I use that toolbar a lot, and anything I use in place of standard Firefox bookmarks absolutely must support something like it.

I imported my Firefox bookmarks (about 900 or so) into del.icio.us. They arrived OK, but flattened, as del.icio.us doesn’t have a hierarchical structure like Firefox does. After a good deal of experimentation, I have mostly gotten it working how I want. I’m using the bundles mode of the extension toolbar in Firefox, and simulating subfolders by using certain tags. It works fine; not quite what I’d want out of it ideally, but everything else is so much better that I’m happy with it.

The social bookmarking aspects of del.icio.us sound interesting, too, but I haven’t started trying to look at that stuff very much yet. Delicious also has a new “Firefox 3″ extension that also is documented to work fine in Firefox 2. It has a few new features but nothing I care all that much about.

My main gripe at this point is that the Firefox extension doesn’t allow me to set things as private by default. It also doesn’t propogate my changes to the site immediately, which led to a considerable amount of confusion initially. On the plus side, it does do a synchronization and store a local cache, so I can still use it offline to load up file:/// links.

Some things about del.icio.us bug me. There are very limited features for editing things in bulk (though Greasemonkey scripts help here). It has a published API, but seems quite limited (I couldn’t find out how, in their documentation, to add a tag to an existing bookmark, for instance.)

del.icio.us lets you export all your bookmarks, so you have freedom to leave. Also, if you poke around on freshmeat.net, you can find Free Software alternatives that actually emulate del.icio.us APIs and sites.

I also looked at alternatives, and it seems that the most plausible one is Diigo. But I’m going to refuse to use it right now for two reasons: 1) its Firefox plugin has nothing like the Firefox bookmarks toolbar, and 2) its hideous Terms of Service. If you go to their ToS and scroll down to “Content/Activity Prohibited”, you’ll see these gems:

6. provides any telephone numbers, street addresses, last names, URLs or email addresses;

7. promotes information that you know is false or misleading or promotes illegal activities or conduct that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory or libelous;

11. furthers or promotes any criminal activity or enterprise or provides instructional information about illegal activities including, but not limited to making or buying illegal weapons, violating someone’s privacy, or providing or creating computer viruses;

So, in other words, they can delete me account if I bookmark the Amazon.com contact page, or if I bookmark the opinions of someone I disagree with. Good thing the Vietnam War protesters in the 70s didn’t use Diigo, because they’d be kicked off if they wrote about their sit-ins at Berkeley. Also, I didn’t even quote the other section that says they get to remove anything you post that they think is offensive, in their sole judgment. Goodbye, links to EFF’s articles about RIAA.

Since we can’t use last names, I guess it’s just “Hillary” and “John” instead of “Clinton” and “McCain”. Oh, and don’t get me started about the folly of operating a social bookmarking site where you aren’t allowed to post URLs. That’s right up there with Apple releasing a Windows version of Safari that you aren’t allowed to install on PCs.

Compare that to the del.icio.us terms and privacy policy and the contrast is stark indeed.

Categories: Online Life, Reviews

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Comments Feed8 Comments

  1. Bas Zoetekouw

    Hi John!

    You might be interested in the foxmark plugin [1] to synchronse your bookmarks. Although they offer a commercial service that lets you store your bookmarks at their site, the plugin is OSS, and it allows you to store the bookmarks on any ftp or webdav site.
    I’ve been using it for a while, and it works pretty well. Only disadvantage is that it doesn’t have a firefox 3 version yet.

    Bas.

    [1] http://www.foxmarks.com/

    Reply

  2. asdf

    http://debaday.debian.net/2008/04/20/sitebar-centralized-bookmarking/

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    I’ll second Foxmarks. And they do have a Firefox 3 version in beta test right now.

    Reply

  4. madduck

    None of the tools I’ve seen so far support true decentralised operation. As strange as it may sound, I want my bookmarks to be available when I’m offline.

    I am not ready to give my bookmarks to any site out there, for various reasons.

    So far, bookmark management is one of those areas that need a lot more work and more brains than those of PHP hackers.

    I actually prefer the Internet Explorer approach of having a bookmark per file to Mozilla’s horrific bookmarks.html approach. Once we’re at that point, a tagging system could be used, ideally one that integrates documents, bookmarks, and mail… so far, that’s just a dream.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I agree with you; I have some file:/// URLs bookmarked.

    The del.icio.us has a syncing algorithm, and I have found the local XML file where it keeps a cache or all your bookmarks. I haven’t tested yet, but it would appear to work fine offline.

    Reply

    Lars Wirzenius Reply:

    I’ve been thinking about setting up an
    ikiwiki site to handle my bookmarks.
    I’m currently using a wiki page on
    my site for (public) bookmarks, but
    it’s just a list. It would be possible
    to use a “blog” for links, one “post”
    per link. Tags would work as they
    usually do in ikiwiki. With a good
    DVCS backend in place, sharing between
    different computers would be easy.

    Reply

  5. Cameron Dale

    I use the Google Browser Sync firefox extension on all 3 of my computers. It syncs everything: bookmarks, cookies, history, and (most importantly) open tabs.

    Reply

  6. Ahmed Jawad

    Best is diigo, just install it and you will love the new features (on top of delicious ) like comments, highlighting, etc.. you can easily import from delicious and also diigo simulataneously updates book marks on delicious, so you will not loose any thin

    Reply

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