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Whither Google Browser Sync?

the Google logoSince making the switch to Firefox, I’ve been on the hunt for good, reliable Add-Ons to get the most out of my browser.

When selecting an Add-On, I’m bound to exercise some caution. I much prefer to pick Add-Ons from reliable sources, such as the near-perfect Add-On from, for example. Although the big names don’t always guarantee good quality.

And so it goes that I should happen upon the Google Browser Sync Add-On, which looks set to add one more piece to the puzzle that is keeping my MacBook Pro in sync with my G5 at work:

“Google Browser Sync for Firefox is an extension that continuously synchronizes your browser settings – including bookmarks, history, persistent cookies, and saved passwords – across your computers. It also allows you to restore open tabs and windows across different machines and browser sessions.”

While looking like an excellent tool to help keep my web browsing habits aligned between work & home, there’s something else about Google Browser Sync that could have profound implications “and potentially a real breakthrough for analytics vendors and ad-tracking services. They stretch into Web analytics, anonymous behavioral targeting, affiliate marketing, accurate counting of unique site visitors, and likely a few more issues.”

As usual, Google aren’t particularly vocal about their good work. But for me personally, whether this Firefox Add-On is any good or not remains to be seen.

“It is syncing your persistent cookies (tracking cookies), all of ’em, be they first party or third,… So people who have Browser Sync are already being tracked much better by analytics vendors (or DoubleClick or whomever), but the vendors don’t quite realize this yet. It certainly has the potential to make tracking unique visitors more fun.”

This is Google stepping out of line again, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They do have a habit of rolling out disruptive technologies.

However, what Google need to do is use something like their Browser Sync as a key differentiator in conjunction with Google Analytics, as well the likes of AdWords and AdSense, where such specificity would be most beneficial.

Problem is, Google don’t do the evangelistic thing. They prefer others to talk up their wares:

“Google is fantastic and innovative at creating products, evangelism has to come from more than Google. There have to be other layers of evangelists. Google probably won’t do as much of it.”

Which is odd when you look at Microsoft and how evangelizing their products is a key box-shifter for them.

I think this is where Google are probably showing their immaturity, more than this just being a sign of their perceived philosophically different take on things.

If we were to see Google push this stuff and push it hard, there’s no reason to assume that Google couldn’t help widen the market share for Firefox. And given that Google are currently promoting the Google Toolbar, why not roll the two into the same product?

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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