Bookmarks and the Falling Leaves of Uniform Resource Locator Best Intentions

It’s that time of year again. The leaves begin to slowly brown and you feel hints of a shiver as you see them begin to lay there dead and shrivelled on the pavement. It’s the same time of year where I’m confronted with having to pay for a thing that I don’t think works anymore because there really aren’t that many alternatives.

I get the email saying I have to renew my subscription to Pinboad, the indie bookmarking service that I’ve been using for a while now. Every year I renew largely out of indecision and cowardice and use it less and less throughout the year. This drives me crazy.

So what are bookmarks anyhow? They are a way of saving URLs for later in your browser. They are standard. There is a sort of interchange format where you can download and install them in other browsers. They’re from another time and still work. But also sort of useless. Because search. Also because we’re human and lazy.

Our brains over the past decade or so have been rewired to look for things over and over again, rather than have this saved index of web locations. We no longer keep, but keep on searching and acquiring, starting over again and again. In contrast, bookmarks require pruning and care. You have to put them in folders or whatever you need to do so you can find it later. But you don’t find it later and you don’t care. Because it’s 2023. We may have had boatloads of folders and links and hours upon collective hours thrown at how can we track where might have mattered seven years ago.

So what now? I think we need to start rethinking some basics here, with the web and with browsers in particular. Something like how our brains work for the internet now and not when Netscape came out. We need something that reflects some of these principles:

  • I’m looking for something and probably more than one thing at a time
  • Chances are there are lots of possibilities (websites/URLs) that match what I’m looking for
  • I use search for most things
  • I need to somehow, mentally or in tabs, gather all these and then triage them
  • I might need this in the future but maybe not - at this point I have no idea
  • There is a likelihood I’ve done this for the same situation before
  • There is at least a 50% probability things I save and then look for later will be irrelevant
  • Folders seem like a good idea until a year later

What does all this mean? Not sure yet. Should we be saving bookmarking searches instead of pages? Should we be storing and managing intent rather than hardcoded locations? How do you have a thing/system/whatever that can deal with internet rot? Locations as an idea work pretty well in geography because places don’t change that often, although the meanings can.

The idea of the browser, our gateway into all the verses and tubes and nets, is far from stolid and the fact that there are probably more browsers now than ever, and that some are trying to rethink things like Arc points to maybe we’ll get somewhere with some of this rethinking how we move around information online and maybe elsewhere.