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Are bookmarks passe? January 12, 2010

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
Tags: , ,

Someone once said to me “I don’t remember things, I remember how to look them up”. At the time, I thought it was an interesting way to organize information. On the web, bookmarks are an electronic equivalent. You don’t need to remember the exact URL, only the name of the bookmark. I may not remember even a shorthand URL address, but I know I can look it up if I save it as a bookmark.

In the frontier days of the internet, bookmarks were a wonderful way to manage the growing number of sites you wanted to visit on a regular basis. Browsers were very strict on the URL format – capitals mattered. As browsers upgraded, you ‘ported’ your bookmarks for use with the latest version. You did not want to lose that list! That bookmark list had lots of valuable sites listed the accumulated over time. As other browsers were introduced, they included a way to import your bookmarks from another browser. Thus, users came to expect Netscape and IE could import bookmarks from each other.

Other browsers came and went as the web grew up. Here’s a great list of browser comparisons from wikipedia. Netscape is gone of course. Moved to the web’s bit bucket / recycle  bin. It is not a surprise that today, IE is the browser used most often.  Mozilla’s FireFox is 2nd and Safari rounds out the top three. The good news is that all three are supported on PC and MAC platforms. Every day, I use FF, Safari, IE  and Chrome as well (and, in that order). If I don’t have the URL in the history of one browser, I fire up another browser and copy the URL from that one. I hear you – why do that? Well, I like to see how sites support each browser. Also, some sites dictate what browser to use as they are coded only for type (e.g. – card game sites want IE).

Today, browser upgrades are routinely easy with bookmarks, along with your other setting, automatically migrated. They grow up so fast, don’t they? Now, you don’t have to be exact on the URL.  With the advent of browser history and cookies, the browser will fill-in the URL for you. Like that feature a lot and use it often. Of course, that doesn’t work so well if you use multiple devices. Or, if you use a device shared by others, as in, say, the Public Library.

I have bookmarks from sites that I regularly visited in the mid-90’s. Fun to reminisce once in a while. Not sure if many of them exist anymore. If the urge struck me, I have the URL to visit their site.

So it occurred to me the other day – when did I last use a bookmark? Seems like a long time. I don’t check my bookmarks anymore. Instead, I will use a search engine to find a web site. I let google or yahoo or bing do the walking, to mix metaphors. Maybe my friend was right. Remembering how to look up things is better. Previously, bookmarks did that. But I think their usefulness has declined. I know there are sites like digg and delicious that save URLs and serve as a ‘bookmark’ to share in the clouds. I have accounts on those sites and post URL there often. So I use bookmarks but now they are public.

I submit that the common web behavior is to use a search engine over a bookmark. Seems so much easier to type in a term and pick a site from the ever changing list. Another change I have made is I would exchange bookmarks with others vis email. Today, I tell them ‘use this phrase’ to search on and pick a site from that list. Search engine use is now so common that ‘google’ is a verb and was recently cited as the word of the decade.

How’s your mileage with bookmarks lately? Are the passe? Will they be an artifact of using the web during its’ frontier days?