Google said it has compiled a new software library to synchronize browser data in the cloud. It also said it has developed the server infrastructure for synchronizing the data to the Google accounts of Chrome browser users.
The twin developments enabled Google to add bookmark sync to the developer-channel build of its Chrome 4.0 browser on Monday. The technology promises to eventually give Web surfers easy access to their personalized resources across multiple computers.
"Many users have several machines, one at home and one at work, for example," said Tim Steele, a software engineer working on Google Chrome. "This new feature makes it easy to keep the same set of bookmarks on all your machines, and stores them alongside your Google Docs for easy Web access."
Syncing in the Cloud
Once a user has set up sync using the browser's Tools menu, Chrome will then upload and store personalized bookmarks in the user's Google account. Thereafter, any time the user adds or changes a bookmark, the changes will be sent to the cloud and immediately broadcast to all other computers for which the user has activated bookmark sync, Steele said.
According to Google, the open-source code uses the same XMPP technology as Google Talk. The original aim of this open, XML-based protocol was to enable near-real-time, extensible instant messaging and presence information, but more recently it was extended to include Voice over IP and file-transfer signaling capabilities.
Right now Google's bookmark sync technology is only available to developers working on the Chrome 4.0 build, and there's no word about when it might be available to the public. But when it does reach mainstream users, it appears that Google will have some competition.
Xmarks says its browser add-on for bookmark sync, which is compatible with the Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari browsers, has already had more than 14 million downloads. On Monday, the software developer rolled out its own version of Chrome bookmark sync.
Multiple Browser Syncs
The good news is that Xmarks' bookmark sync technology isn't just about Chrome. "The extension will synchronize your Chrome bookmarks across computers running Firefox, IE, Safari and/or Chrome," said Xmarks software engineer Colin Bleckner.
Just like Google, however, Xmarks is only for developer use right now. Moreover, the current version of the Xmarks extension for Chrome -- which is being released to developers who sign up to participate -- does not include support for developers' servers, sync profiles, or Xmarks' own discovery features.
Xmarks says its discovery technology is powered by the hundreds of millions of bookmarks that the company already manages for its users. "By analyzing bookmarks, we can determine the popularity of a Web site based on how frequently it is bookmarked and what topics a site is about, based on bookmark folders and tags," Xmarks said.
But the final release of Xmarks' technology for Chrome will have to wait until Google updates its extension functionality, which is "currently only available on the development channel of Google Chrome," Bleckner said. "At some point they'll release an update to the beta channel that includes the functionality we need as well, which will be a good first step. And eventually they'll update the mainstream version of Chrome."
Google has been working pretty hard to get the extension system working, Bleckner said. "If they keep pushing at the same pace, hopefully we'll see an extension system available for mainstream users in the not-too-distant future," he said.