History, evolution and future of markers

General description

Markers, in computer terminology, are similar to those in the real world. Just as a bookmark inserted in a book allows you to return to where you left off later, bookmarks allow you to return to specific web pages or, in some applications, to specific places on a page.

Over time, bookmarks have had different names in different browsers and applications, offering users many features and headaches. At their core, they allow you to keep track of which web pages you want to visit again later, without growing a forest of open tabs in your browser.

The evolution of bookmarks

Bookmarks were conceived before the World Wide Web existed. In 1989, Craig Cockburn drafted a proposal for a touchscreen device called “PageLink” that would function as a combination of what we now think of as an e-book reader and a full browser with bookmarks.

Cockburn applied for a patent in April 1990, but it was never developed. (Cockburn has posted his patent application online here.)

Bookmarks as we know them today first appeared in 1993, as part of the Mosaic 1.0 browser. Mosaic kept track of each website user visited, and colored links differently if they led to a page users had been to before. The idea of ​​curating a list of “bookmarks” was obviously already under discussion, as evidenced by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee’s discussion of Mosaic bookmarks in the May 1993 issue of his “World Wide Web News»:

The list of bookmarks, known as a “hotlist”, is saved between sessions as a private list of places of interest. You can even add personal annotations to any document, which will appear every time you read it (but only you)…Marc Andreesen, the author, has done a really good job here.

Other older browsers, such as ViolaWWWW and Celio, had similar bookmarking capabilities. But it was Mosaic’s explosion in popularity that helped ensure that bookmarking functionality would be a staple of future browsers. Andreesen included them in his next browser, Netscape Navigator. Over the years, and with different browsers, bookmarks have come to have names other than “HotList”, such as “Favorites” and “Shortcuts”, but bookmarks have become the de facto generic term for these. functions.

Whatever the name, today bookmarking capabilities can be found prominently and easily in every major browser: Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

No wonder browser developers continued to tweak and try to improve their own bookmarks to compete with their rivals.

Some browsers allow users to group multiple bookmarks together so that they can all be opened at once, with a single command; useful for users who know they want to start their sessions with the same set of pages open each time.

In 2004, Firefox introduced “Live Bookmarking,” which allowed users to create bookmarks that automatically populated dynamically via an RSS feed.

Bookmarks aren’t the exclusive province of browsers, either. Many programs offer information bookmarks within their programs, especially e-book readers.

As the popularity and capabilities of smartphones grow, and more and more computer users find themselves using multiple devices between their time at work, home, and on the road, websites have begun to offer bookmarking capabilities to which users could access no matter what device they used to log in.

The natural next step was for different users to share and interact with each other’s favorites. Delicious, founded in 2003, helped popularize the terms “social bookmarking” and “tagging” to describe these interactions.

In 2005, Google launched Google Bookmarks (not to be confused with browser bookmarks), which not only offered bookmark portability, but also allowed users to search across all the pages they had bookmarked.

As with much of the Internet, questions of privacy and ownership of bookmark information remain unresolved. At the moment, social bookmarking site and app owners can collect, share, and sell data about what their users are tagging and sharing with advertisers, marketers, political campaigns, and anyone else interested in tracking such information.

marker types

In addition to the bookmarking variations discussed above (social bookmarking, browser bookmarking, bookmarking applications, and bookmarking websites), there are technical differences that may not be immediately apparent to most computer users.

Specifically, there are different ways that computers can manage and store the information that makes up users’ bookmarks.

They can be stored in an HTML file, typically bookmarks.html. Some browsers store bookmarks in a secure database format. Others store each marker as its own file.

Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to managing user information.

The future of bookmarks

As far as markers have come since their inception in the early ’90s, there’s still room for improvement. (You can find a good inventory of complaints here.)

On the one hand, thanks to commercial incentives, browser manufacturers continue to load their favorites lists with sites that may be of little or no interest to their users. For that reason – and for obvious proprietary concerns – while browser makers have improved portability when it comes to moving and syncing your bookmarks from one device to another, a lot remains to be done when it comes to retaining your bookmarks from one device to another. browser brand to another.

Additionally, the auto-generated names for bookmarks often leave a lot to be desired, as they come from web page metadata that is often composed primarily to reward keyword searches, rather than presenting a clear, concise, and consistent page title. easy to read.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with bookmarks is one inherent in any memory system: as information increases, it becomes more difficult to find and access exactly what you want. For that reason, some have suggested that bookmarking functions could be automated to find and remove dead links, or to sort bookmarks by how often they are actually used.


social bookmarking

How to use multiple bookmarks

How to add bookmarks in Safari on your iPad

How to add bookmarks in Safari on your iPhone

How to manage Safari bookmarks with folders

How to sync your Safari bookmarks using Dropbox

How to use bookmarks in Explorer

How to use Firefox Live bookmarks

How to import your favorites and settings to Chrome

How to import bookmarks from Firefox to Chrome

How to import bookmarks from Firefox to Opera

How to use bookmarks in Nautilus

Online Bookmarking Tools

How to use Delicious to share your favorites

Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics


Show “bookmark” dropdown menus from Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, Safari.