Like many people going online for work or entertainment, I rely on Google search to quickly find answers to most of my questions. A while back I imagined how cool it would be if I could bookmark pages directly from the results, to find them easier the next time. I don’t know if Google’s technology now includes mind reading, but after a couple of week, they released something even better: one-click bookmarking of search results with stars.
I haven’t used Google Bookmarks for some time and also disabled Web history years ago, but with this tight integration with search, Bookmarks are back in my personal spotlight. It’s a great way to keep track of links and useful articles especially if you use several browsers or work on mobile devices. This launch may be another piece of the Chrome OS puzzle, but I suspect iPad users will also find stars very easy to use on the big touch-screen.
Up until now, my system of bookmarking information from the web wasn’t very well organized: I use stars in Google Reader or Twitter, email links when I’m not on my personal computer, clip to Google Notebook or bookmark it in the browser. The easiest action available actually. The problem is that the information is harder to find later, because I often forget where I discovered it and end up searching for it on Google… I plan to slowly centralize all these links to Google Bookmarks, where will be accessible pretty much everywhere.
You can integrate the service relatively easy in most browsers. To save a link, Google Bookmarks offers a bookmarklet and the toolbar for Internet Explorer or Firefox. There is a custom button for Opera and several third-party extensions for Firefox and Google Chrome. My currently favorite extension in Chrome is ‘Add Google Bookmark’: it adds a star to the right side of the toolbar and this icon changes to show if you are logged in or if the page was already bookmarked. You can even bookmark articles inside Google Reader with a custom Send-To link. Searching the online bookmarks is also straightforward: most modern browsers (well, except Safari) will let you add custom search engines or even auto-detect them after you use the search box from Google Bookmarks. Or you could just do a regular Google search and use the starred results.
Another recent addition to the service are bookmarks lists. In addition to making them public for the whole world to find, users can also invite others to add links and start discussions about them. It’s another step (a rather small one this time) in a long line of collaboration initiatives launched by Google, starting with Google Docs back in 2006, collaboration on public maps and the launch of Wave last year. I don’t think this new feature will be adopted by a large number of users, but maybe it’s simplicity will help it get popular. The options are somewhat Spartan right now: you can follow lists, but there is no way to find lists you followed other than searching for them. Lists also don’t show up in the main Google search results, like individual bookmarks do. I think adding lists to the personalized search results would be a good move to improve their discoverability and usefulness.
I can imagine lists becoming a new type of curation tool, like Google Reader shared items or Twitter favorites. Their creator(s) probably had something similar in mind, since they chose the Twitter “follow” terminology. They would have a great advantage in this role, because they are more long-lived than any of those other options. Twitter is completely focused on new content, tweets are constantly pushed down the page by newer updates and are practically gone in a matter of days; Google Reader or Buzz items only survive as long as people keep the conversation going through new comments. But the lists will always be just one search away.