Xmarks — our favourite bookmark-syncing tool — closes its doors in January 2011. That's horrible news for millions of loyal Xmarks users, but the world doesn't have to end. Here's how to continue using Xmarks by hosting your bookmarks on your own server.
The Bad News
Before we get started, here's the bad news: Currently, only the Firefox version of Xmarks supports hosting bookmarks on your own server. That means that one of the primary reasons many of us around Lifehacker HQ use Xmarks — to sync bookmarks across different browsers like Chrome and Firefox — still isn't available. (We hear that Xmarks may consider open-sourcing their extensions, which means this method could work across browser platforms in the future; for now, though, it's Firefox only.)
You've still got a few reasons why you might want to host and sync your Xmarks bookmarks yourself. For one, you get absolute control over your bookmarks — always nice for the tin-foil hat crowd. It also means you can continue using the bookmark syncing tools you're already comfortable and familiar with. For some, that's reason enough. If not, you may want to consider switching to the built-in syncing tools that ship with your browser of choice — Xmarks highlights each here.
You can watch the whole step-by-step setup process in the video above, or go the text-and-image route below.
What You'll Need
- A web host or server that allows you to set up a WebDAV directory
- Firefox with the most recent version of Xmarks installed.
- Roughly 5-10 minutes
Step One: Set Up a WebDAV Directory on Your Server
The steps here will vary depending on the web host you're using. On the hosting provider I'm using, DreamHost, you log into your DreamHost panel and navigate to the Htaccess/WebDAV section, under Goodies.
Click the domain you want to host your bookmarks on, then click the big Set Up a New Directory button. Inside, give your directory a name — I'm calling mine xmarks — and tick the checkboxes next to Password-protect this directory and Enable WebDAV on this directory. In the user accounts section, enter the username and password you want to use with a space between them. For this demo, I'm just calling my username test_user and my password test_pass. Now just click the Configure This Directory button.
Note: Unless you set up your WebDAV folder on a secure HTTPS server, your username and password will be sent unencrypted over your network. If you have access to HTTPS (it costs a little more on most hosts — $US4/month on DreamHost), I'd recommend using it.
Step Two: Add Your Server Info to Your Xmarks Extension
If you haven't already, make sure you've installed the latest version of the Xmarks extension, which supports using your own server.
Once installed, open the Xmarks setup under Tools -> Xmarks -> Xmarks Settings, then click on the Advanced tab. At the bottom of the window, tick the Use own server checkbox. In the Setup Own Server window, you need to enter the URL of the WebDAV directory you just set up, followed by a file name. Any file name will do, but we'll use bookmarks.json. I'm going to skip password syncing, since I prefer using the LastPass extension to manage my passwords. Enter the username and password you set up earlier, make sure the Remember this password between sessions checkbox is ticked, then click OK.
Step Three: Sync
Now simply click over to the Status tab and click the synchronise Now button. If everything went well above, Xmarks should start syncing your current bookmarks to your WebDAV directory.
Step Four: Rinse and Repeat
Now, to setup Xmarks across the rest of your Firefox installations, all you need to do is repeat steps two and three above for each installation. Once everything's set up, you should be able to use Xmarks to sync your bookmarks the same way you always did — the only difference is that it's taking place on your own server instead of theirs.