Google has a well-deserved reputation for unceremoniously killing off its services. The Killed by Google website keeps track of the Google victims of Google. I have used a few on the list – notably Picasa, Google Reader, iGoogle, and Google Deskbar. As I scroll through Killed by Google, I note that I have not heard of many, if not most, of Google’s involuntarily retired services – so I suppose that I have been less affected than most, especially since I have not used many Google services in the last six years or so. This article was prompted by the recent killing of on such Google service I had never heard of (or so I believed) – Google Bookmarks.
What Is Google Bookmarks?
Your guess is as good as mine, honestly. Mr. Ian Dorfman published a short piece on AlternativeTo, where I have an account, about the killing of Google Bookmarks. The service is due to be put out to pasture in September. For those of you reading my article here close to its publication date of July 30, 2021, you have about two months to enjoy the Google Bookmarks service that you (probably) never heard of.
But what is the service?
Google Bookmarks was launched on October 10, 2005. At that time I still had a desktop running Windows 95 with no working internet connection, so I was understandably not privy to the exciting development.
On March 6, 2019, Guiding Tech published a helpful article explaining the difference between Google Bookmarks and Chrome Bookmarks – “helpful” in the sense that most internet users have heard of the latter, but not the former. As the Google Bookmarks name suggests it is (or soon to be, was) a cloud-based online portal for storing links from around the web along with notes. It requires a Google account to use. Perhaps the strangest aspect of Google Bookmarks is that, according to Killed by Google it is “not integrated with any other Google services.”
My jokes about the obscurity service aside, one Reddit thread suggests that Google Bookmarks had a few loyal users over the years. Was Google aware of this? Did Google remember that it had such a service?
What is a Google Bookmarks User to do?
Because I had never heard of Google Bookmarks, I am not perfectly qualified to advise those who have been using the service on how to proceed. However, on the off-chance that one of the select-few users of this niche service learn about its impending demise from our humble website, I will append a few notes from a reputable secondary source – 9To5Google.
Firstly, unbeknownst to me, starred locations on Google Maps (another feature I never used) were stored in Google Bookmarks. This may be news to many Google Maps users as well. However, Google informed 9To5Google that starred locations on Google Maps would be unaffected by the demise of Google Bookmarks.
People who used Google Bookmarks directly will be able to export their saved data. In what format I know not, for I have never used Google Bookmarks.
Alternatives to Google Bookmarks
It is not too late to begin looking for a Google Bookmarks alternative (“not too late” depending on when you read this). As always, I recommend AlternativeTo as a good place to start a search. It is worth noting that Google Bookmarks is not a social bookmarking service – meaning that it was designed for individuals to keep track of links in a personal connection.
I happen to use a non-social bookmarking service for my own link collecting – so I will offer it as a personal recommendation not only for Google Bookmarks users, but for anyone looking for a neat way to store links from around the web.
Wallabag is free and open source bookmarking software. There are two ways to use Wallabag. Firstly, it can be self-hosted for free by people who administer their own servers. Secondly, the company behind Wallabag offers a hosted Wallabag service with their own servers in France. Subscriptions for the hosted service are offered for 9 euros annually or 3 euros for three months. I have a one-year subscription to their hosted service. Wallabag also offers a 14-day free trial to try the service.
Wallabag is a simple service. It allows you to save links to any interesting web pages. When possible (it works for the vast majority of the sites), Wallabag makes the entire text of an article available in a good reading format without leaving Wallabag.
The service can be accessed with a web browser or in applications for Android (including on F-Droid), iOS, or Linux. (There are also applications for PocketBook and Kobo. The former does not seem to work with my version of PocketBook and I do not have a Kobo to test the latter).
For the majority of people who use Chrome-based or Firefox-based web browsers, there are Wallabag extensions available to make it easy to save articles with a single click. There is also an extension for the Opera web browser. Articles can be “shared” to Wallabag on Android devices if the app is installed.
It is possible to annotate articles stored in Wallabag from the web client, but not in mobile apps. Articles can be tagged for organization in the web client and mobile apps. Wallabag also provides users with an RSS feed for their saved articles.
Wallabag is likely not right or necessary for everyone, but it is worth considering as a solid open source bookmarking application. I recommended it in the context of controlling one’s own content consumption in my article on RSS as an alternative to reading news on Facebook (scroll down for Wallabag section).
Did I Really Never Hear of Google Bookmarks?
At the top of the article, I stated that I had never heard of Google Bookmarks. That was true to the best of my knowledge. When I copied the text of my draft into the WordPress editor, I navigated to Google Bookmarks to find an image. I was signed into my personal Google account, which I have had since 2007 or 2008. In that account, I found that I had four bookmarks in Google Bookmarks, two from 2008 and two from 2010.
Google Bookmarks did not leave much of an impression on me during its long sixteen-year existence. In fact, it left no impression on me because I do not remember having heard of it. Had I been aware of its existence a long time ago, I may have used it intentionally in addition to having apparently used it by accident. Alas, it was not meant to be. In dropping the service with little notice, Google reminded its small-but-loyal user-base that you can never be sure which service Google will defenestrate next (Google may have reminded itself that Google Bookmarks existed). Fortunately, there are many other established and growing bookmarking services available for people to discover and try in the wake of the demise of Google Bookmarks.