My Little Corner of the Net


I started using Xmarks to sync my bookmarks between multiple browsers and computers so long ago that it may have still been called Foxmarks when I started using it.  While I had a handful of problems with it from time to time–mainly with syncs failing and leaving my bookmarks corrupted in a given browser–the tool worked very well for me, so I was quite disappointed when LastPass announced that they were discontinuing the service back in May.

Today I think I may have found my replacement in xBrowserSync.  xBrowserSync is a open-source, anonymous, encrypted, and decentralized bookmark syncing tool that works a lot like Xmarks used to. xBrowserSync doesn’t do everything that Xmarks did, but it syncs bookmarks (which is the only Xmarks feature I ever used), works in Chrome and Firefox, and treats bookmarks as bookmarks (as opposed to making you have to access them through a website), so it meets my needs.  There’s also Android support that I might check out.  I added a few bookmarks in one browser after installing xBrowserSync to one of my machines today and confirmed that they synced to other browsers, so it seems to work.

xBrowserSync is completely anonymous and doesn’t require any signup to use.  Instead, you simply provide the extension with an “encryption password” that is used to create an encryption key, used to encrypt your bookmark collection before it is sent to the server.  When you set up your first browser, the extension generates a unique “sync ID” that identifies your bookmark collection.  On subsequent browser setups, you simply provide these two pieces of information and xBrowserSync retrieves and decrypts your bookmarks.  Encryption and decryption is done in the browser via the cryptography API, and your password and encryption key never leave your browser.

There are currently three public xBrowserSync service providers to choose from, which, combined with the fact that the code is all open source, helps alleviate concerns that this service may too go the way of Xmarks.  If the developer decides to no longer support the project users will just need to move their bookmark collections to another service provider.  Switching is easily done via the extension’s settings.  The server code is also available on github, so it’s also possible to run your own server if you are truly paranoid.

The only “complaint” I have about xBrowserSync at this point, now that I’ve installed it on several browsers on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, is that when pulling down the bookmark library for the first time in a new browser, xBrowserSync wipes all of your existing bookmarks and replaces them with the copy from the server.  This wasn’t a big deal for me as all of my bookmarks were pretty much in sync across systems already, but a first time user, trying to merge work and home bookmarks for example, might be in for quite a surprise when one of the two collections gets wiped out.  To xBroserSync’s credit, though, the extension does give ample warnings about this.

Complaints aside, xBrowserSync seems to do exactly what it says it will.  If you’re still wondering what to do now that Xmarks is gone, give xBrowserSync a look.

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