Xmarks is Shutting Down

Back in 2006, a free extension for Firefox named Foxmarks made its debut. The service exploded in popularity and was later re-branded as Xmarks. Today they have a version of Xmarks for all of the major web browsers. I’ve been using it for years to keep the bookmarks on my desktop computer in sync with those on my laptop. It is always the first extension I add when installing a new browser.

To my disappointment, Xmarks notified all of its users last week that they are shutting down the service in January 2011. The company said they are out of money and cannot continue operations. They are directing users to the built-in sync features in Chrome and in the upcoming Firefox 4. Firefox 3.x users today can download the Firefox Sync add-on from Mozilla. I’m pleased that bookmark syncing is starting to be included as a standard browser feature, but that doesn’t address syncing across multiple browser types which Xmarks currently provides.

So long, Xmarks. Thank you for providing such an awesome service for free for all of these years. It’s been a good ride.

Browser HTML5 Testing

HTML5 is still being developed as the next major revision of the HTML markup language. You can test your web browser how well it already supports HTML5. Visit html5test.com and put your browser to the test. There are 160 elements that are tested on the site. I put all of my Mac browsers to the test: Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Chrome scored the highest by far.

In addition to my Mac, I also tested Internet Explorer 8 on Windows XP. Its score was absolutely abysmal. If I were a Windows user, I’d never use Internet Explorer, regardless of the version installed.

I’ve listed my results below.

  • Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 – Score 101
  • Apple Safari 4.0.5 – Score 113
  • Google Chrome 5.0 – Score 142
  • Internet Explorer 8.0 – Score 19

Flash Blocking Browser Tools

In the past, I’ve often used an ad blocker in Firefox. I’ve recently come to find that I don’t need to block all of the ads to speed up the loading of pages. The payoff comes in blocking Flash. I’ve started using a Flash blocker in Firefox and Safari, and the outcome has been a faster, more controlled browsing experience. Once Flash content is blocked, a single click on a Flash container within a page will enable it to run.

You’ll soon realize how much Flash is overused on many sites. After I started blocking Flash, the static ad images that appear on sites don’t bother me enough to continue running my ad blocker. Try it yourself.

LastPass

I recently read a magazine article regarding password management techniques. LastPass came up as a potential winner. Unlike traditional password mangers, you can access your passwords from any computer by signing in to LastPass. After reading that you can access your passwords online, I was immediately skeptical of such security.

My security doubts were laid to rest when I read the details. My passwords are stored locally in a highly encrypted file. The owners of LastPass only have an encrypted file of your passwords and can never see them. At no point do they see the unencrypted version of your passwords.

Until now, I’d been using the Firefox password manager to store my basic web passwords. I bit the bullet and downloaded LastPass. I opted for the simple Firefox extension, not the executable download. I am thoroughly impressed.

One cool feature of LastPass worth noting is that you can use a graphical keyboard via their web page to click out your password with a mouse. This would be very handy in public computing situations such as hotels or Internet cafes, where dubious computer users may attempt to capture your keystrokes.

I’m now a happy LastPass user. I can now access my passwords from any machine where I sign in with LastPass. This enables me to use complex passwords for all of my sites and not have to remember each one. And my sensitive data is stored on my machine much more securely than the included Firefox password manager. Bravo.

Firefox 3.0 Final Coming June 17th

The final release date for Firefox 3.0 is June 17th! Don’t forget to visit SpreadFirefox and join in for the world record attempt. According to Mozilla, Firefox 3.0 has been in active development for 34 months. Firefox is a fantastic product, and I am very grateful to Mozilla and the open-source community for creating it. But 34 months strikes me as a bit ridiculous. I’d expect an entire operating system could be written in less time.

Firefox to Attempt World Record

The folks over at spreadfirefox.com have started accepting pledges from users to download Firefox 3.0 the day it is officially released. So far, no concrete date for the final release has been set. They are hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the number of software downloads in 24 hours. For all the details, and global pledge totals, head to the Download Day page at Spread Firefox. I’ve pledged!

Firefox 3.0 Bookmark Handling

If want to try the new Firefox 3.0, and plan to copy bookmarks between different computers, there is something you should know. Firefox no longer stores its bookmarks in the traditional bookmarks.html file. It is now using some type of database system to make up Places, a new way of managing your bookmarks and browsing history. While this new system is a big step forward from the days of old, it gave me a lot of grief when trying to move my bookmarks from one computer to another.

The problem was, I had no idea about this new system. I kept trying to copy my bookmarks.html file between computers, only to find that when I loaded Firefox, the same old ones kept appearing in the browser. It took me a long time to nail down what was causing it, but after some research online, I found out that you have to go about this in a slightly different way.

First, within Firefox, choose Organize Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu. Then, export your bookmarks from your source computer. You’ll find importing and exporting options within the pull-down icon displaying a star within the Organize Bookmarks Library window. You may notice that the file size of the exported HTML file is half the size that it used to be in the past with Firefox 2. (I don’t know the technicalities of why this is, but it’s all the better.) When you get to your source computer, choose to import bookmarks and use the HTML file as the source. Done. I only wish there was an option not to duplicate existing bookmarks. I found it necessary to delete all of my old ones before importing the new ones to avoid having a duplicated mess.

I was not aware of any of this until I failed repeatedly at trying to copy my bookmarks after upgrading to Firefox 3. This may explain why the Foxmarks extension has not yet been updated to support Firefox 3.

Firefox 3.0 RC1 Released

The release candidate for Firefox 3 is now available from Mozilla! I have downloaded it, and I’m very impressed. I’m very happy with the new default theme. This new interface is especially good on the Mac. It finally looks and feels like a true OS X app. So far, I’ve found Firefox 3 to be incredibly fast, and page scrolling is now silky smooth. I only hope that 3.0 compatible expensions are soon available for all of my favorite add-ons. Some extensions, such as Adblock Plus are already available for Firefox 3. Others, like Del.icio.us Bookmarks and Foxmarks, are not.