Google Browser Sync: Buggy and Vengeful Yet Loved

closeThis post was published 13 years 10 months 23 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

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…


I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.


  1. Odd, I’ve never had a problem with GBS, aside from it once putting in a whole bunch of spacers for no reason.
    I’ve got maybe 100-200 bokmarks, spread among a bunch of folders and my sync times are about 2s, ie, just short enough not to annoy me.
    Even worked between my windows desktop and linux laptop without falling over, which was nice 🙂

  2. John L. Galt

    I have to agree with fuzz – but I have some stats that will probably amaze you.

    7000+ bookmarks (including RSS feeds that are saved in a folder called, appropriately enough, “Sage Feeds”

    Browser history set to 90 days

    Closed tab list set (via TabMixPlus) to 50 tabs

    regularly having 9-18 (mostly forums) tabs open at any given moment, unless I am visiting BetaNews / FileForum, or VersionTracker – then it is more like 50-80….

    GBS takes me a mere second or 2 to update – however, this is after the initial update – and I have turned off encryption of all the non sensitive data, particularly bookmarks, as none of those are sensitive, and I don’t save any passwords in Fx (in fact, the PM is completely turned off).

    However, I have noticed every now and again that the system seems to freeze up – but if it is because of GBS, because of aggressive AntiMalware software, or because of other issues in Fx, such as profile problems, extension conflict, memory leaks, or what not, I don’t know – but as I am moving to Fx 3b4 as of today, GBS can safely be counted out of the mix.

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