Back in 2005 Google launched a bookmark management service that was designed to privately store links to your favorite sites. A few months after the launch a Firefox extension called gBrain popped up that used Google Bookmarks in a rather unique way. Once installed it would basically bookmark each and every site that you visited creating a searchable history. You could, of course, exclude certain sites from appearing, but generally speaking every site earned a place in your Google Bookmarks.
The extension has been available for about two years now, and as of a few weeks ago it got retired. The developer of the extension decided to pull it down after Google kindly asked if he’d remove it. Why was it a problem for Google? Here’s what the developer had to say:
The problem with my extension was something I hadn’t imagined: a scaling problem. Hehe, Google had scaling problems :-).
The gBrain extension creates a lot of bookmarks. Several thousands a month. And the Google bookmarks system was never made with this amount in mind. What made things worse (and I didn’t knew that), the bookmarks are connected to the normal web search. Whenever you use the web search, it checks it against your Google bookmarks. You can easily imagine what problems can come up when you have a several 10 or even 100 thousands of bookmarks…
That’s understandable, and very interesting that Google had a scalability problem. I guess Google doesn’t have a lot of resources dedicated to their bookmarking system.
The developer of the extension didn’t mind taking down the extension because Google was nice about the whole thing. He even got to talk to an engineer who explained what the problem was. Plus he got a free shirt and memory card reader unexpectedly shipped to him.
The extension is still available from various sites including the Mozilla FTP, but this probably isn’t something a lot of people would use.