When I find a resource on the interwebs that I use more than once, I create a bookmark to keep it close at hand. Just like everybody else. It works great. Except that, of course, also like most everyone else, I use Firefox for some sites and Google Chrome for others - depending on which site works in which browser. And then I have both a laptop and a desktop. And a Chromebook. And a work laptop and several development laptops running linux, BSD, illumos, etc. Okay, so perhaps I’m not just like everybody else but still …

Where these bookmarks fail is in both accessibility and management. Create a bookmark in Firefox on your laptop, and that’s where it stays. That bookmark is not available in Chrome, and not on your desktop either. Over the years several solutions have been tried. I used to add links to a web page that I could reach from most places. I’ve backed up bookmarks on one computer, and restored on another. Both Firefox and Chrome are now able to synchronize bookmarks (and other things) between devices - but each browser is incompatible with the next. Lots of bookmark managers have come and gone, and years ago I found and started using Xmarks. The Xmarks browser plugin/extension synchronized your bookmarks with a server on the internet, and worked with Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers - and on linux, Mac, Chromebooks, and (shudder) Windows. Xmarks was a big win! Well, it might have been if it worked at least most of the time. And if it didn’t cost money. As of now, none of that matters because Xmarks was purchased by a company who just shut killed the project.

So … off to reinvent the wheel, yet again. Let’s recap what it is that I’d like to see; maybe not what you want, but what would work best for me. Hey, it’s MY blog …

  • open source, and the ability to choose where your data lives (someone else’s server, or yours)
  • cross-browser support
    • Firefox
    • Chrome
    • Safari
    • others would be nice, but I currently only use these three
  • cross-platform support
  • mobile device support
    • Android (phone/tablet)
    • iOS (iPhone)
    • others would be nice, but these are all I currently use for web access
  • encryption, for both storage and sync traffic, so that only you have access to your data
  • the ability to store bookmarks (duh)
  • the ability to store things other than bookmarks
    • passwords (to replace LastPass and/or others)
    • general notes
    • tags/categories/folders for bookmarks and everything else
    • Markdown (preferred) or similar for rich formatting
  • browser integration that allows easy addition/removal/management of these items
  • browser integration that allows capturing and populating web forms
  • the ability to share some items with others
  • availability outside the browser (eg. from the command-line)

Some of these are definitely pie-in-the-sky items, but this is what I’d like to see. I’ve found some products which provide some of these, and will provide notes for just a few of them here.

  • LastPass covers quite a bit of the list, but costs money and is not really geared for being a bookmark manager. I will continue to use LastPass for what it is good at, until I find something better:
  • BookmarkOS is an interesting paid service, providing minimal browser integration (bookmark creation/tagging/folders and search).
  • Turtl is quite neat as well; it is young and not yet full-featured, but it looks to have great potential. It runs as a desktop process which syncs with the server, and the browser plugins/extensions talk to the local process.
  • Laverna is an attractive project which also led me to remoteStorage.
  • remoteStorage looks promising for lots of other apps which could use distributed/synchronized data. I’m looking forward to digging into this a bit, but is only a storage backend and does not fit this list.

Again, this list is only a short sample of all the related software out there, and I have not yet fully dug into even this short list.

LastPass BookmarkOS Turtl Laverna
cross-browser ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
cross-platform ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
mobile support ✔️
encryption ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
bookmarks ✔️ ✔️
passwords ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
notes ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
tags/categories ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
markdown ✔️ ✔️
browser mgmt ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
browser forms ✔️
sharing ✔️ ✔️
command-line