Everyone in the country has heard of Gmail by now (and if they haven’t I’d like to meet them and find out why), and people have definitely heard of the Google Toolbar, but Google has lots of other services and browser extensions. One of those is Google Browser Sync, an extension for Firefox that (supposedly) synchronizes your bookmarks, search history, browsing history, passwords, and sessions across computers.
I say supposedly because it doesn’t always do its job. There have been numerous reports on the Google Firefox Extensions group that Browser Sync deletes bookmarks, or adds in loads of additional spacers. It has also been known to corrupt bookmark lists. issue cryptic error messages, and create gigabytes’ worth of log files. So why do people still use it? Some are even pleading to have it updated for Firefox 3.
Back when I first started using Firefox and Gmail regularly, I installed GBS on my then-latest Firefox 1.5 and set it to synchronize everything it could. It was nice, basking in the knowledge that my settings were safe should my computer go under (which it did, much later), but there were too many errors and glitches, so I got rid of it. I didn’t even have a second computer to sync with, so what was the point?
For me, it was the inordinately long synchronization times; GBS would insist on synchronizing at session start and session end, and the process took anywhere from five seconds to five minutes. I couldn’t have that; I needed to be able to hit the Close button on Firefox and shut off the machine within ten seconds, which Browser Sync wouldn’t let happen. I am glad I never ran into the bookmark glitches others describe, but they probably arise from trying to sync multiple computers.
So, despite its glitches — GBS seems like an almost pre-alpha release from a company that takes pride in its nearly bug-free public betas — people actually like Browser Sync. Good for them. If only Google provided some support now and then; the extension hasn’t been updated since 2006…