Back to Bookmarks

I’m definitely going through a thing. A few weeks ago I called it a season of reconfiguring, but as one season turns into another I may have to widen that scope a bit. So, fine, it might be a year of it.

Bookmarks! You know, for when you like a website and would like to see it again someday, but don’t want to remember every address for everything you like.

In the before time, browsers let you save bookmarks for quick access. At some point, they added folders for people who wanted to organize them a little better. At some point, Delicious bookmarks showed up and people liked it. You could save your bookmarks there and get at them from any computer. Then yahoo bought it and slowly ruined it until it got sold several times and eventually purchased and shut down by the guy from Pinboard, a site that started out as a clone of the original Delicious.

Somewhere along the line, browsers themselves let you sync your bookmarks so all you had to do was log in to chrome or Firefox or whatever and they’d all show up wherever you were.

But as time went on, the whole bookmarking thing became less prevalent than social media. Social media is basically bookmarks with live updates. It turns websites, services and people into a feed instead of a list of locations. Instead of saving a bookmark, you followed a feed, and this feed would mostly be made up of updates to sites you likely used to have bookmarked. Now, instead of going to a website, you just stayed on this feed.

This happened so gradually that we didn’t really notice what was happening. What used to be 100% in our control slowly became something we gave up.

Sometimes the feed would be in an RSS reader like google reader. Those kinds of places would give you a big number, indicating how much stuff you had left to read. That number went up over time. It gave some of us anxiety. Sometimes the feed was Twitter, but for most people the feed was and still is Facebook. Facebook is just a fancy RSS reader that lets you post to the feed from the site itself. Facebook doesn’t have an unread indicator. You have no idea if you’ve read it all, and this mostly just keeps people scrolling the feed.

Bookmarks are active. You have to save them. You have to click on them. You have to organize them. The feed is passive. It’s easy, and it’s much more addictive.

Over the last few years, the feed has transformed into a thing that will give you things you didn’t ask for, gives you what you want but out of order, and will restrict what you see unless the person you follow pays the feed provider to show it.

I’m frustrated and tired of the feed.

Maybe it’s this small wave of mid-aught nostalgia I’m feeling, but I’ve been looking back at bookmarks as a way to feel sane online again. The feed isn’t my friend. The feed doesn’t have my interests in mind. But the bookmark is and remains unbiased. You make a list and click on the links whenever you think to.

The missing part here is a workflow. How often does one click on a bookmark? How do I know when there’s new stuff? I don’t have a solution yet. I am looking around though. I’m gonna try some things. I’ll let you know.


March 26, 2018