Furl combines the best features of a bookmark manager and a weblog with your own, permanent online cache of web pages -- and makes them searchable, to boot.
Furl ("file URL") is a promising new service that's unlike any other I've come across. It solves the "disappearing bookmark" problem -- pages that for one reason or another vanish, making your bookmarks useless. It does this by actually storing a copy of the page for you on Furl's own servers.
It also makes these pages searchable -- something that programs like SurfSaver also let you do. The key difference is that Furled pages are accessible from any web-connected computer, while SurfSaver pages are for the most part available only on your local hard disk.
And like a weblog, Furl lets you annotate the pages you're saving. It's an interesting concept, and I plan to use it to keep track of suggestions we get from Search Engine Watch readers of search resources that we don't have time to investigate or write about in depth. To take a look at my (currently very short) list, click here.
This ability to share saved pages with others is a very powerful feature -- but it can also be a bit disconcerting, since any Furl user can look at any other user's saved pages (except for those that are saved as "private" pages).
Critics will contend that this opens the way for crass marketers to harvest even more information about your personal interests. That's true, but it's not much different from what you reveal if you have a weblog, or participate in a social networking group like Friendster or Orkut. If you're on the web, what you post is visible and public, regardless of the tools you use to express yourself online.
The next step is to install the Furl tool into your browser. There are two versions: a simple bookmarklet, or a toolbar that offers a Google and Amazon search function. Since I've already got too many toolbars, I opted for the bookmarklet, which installs in the "links" category of your favorites.
Now you can begin saving pages to your own personal cache. When you click the Furl It button on the toolbar or use the bookmarklet link, a popup window opens up that lets you store additional information about the page. In addition to the title and URL, you can give the page a rating from 1 to 5, and assign it to a topic.
There are ten preset categories -- you can also create a new topic if none of those match.
Next, you can add comments and keywords that can help you find content later.
Once you've furled web pages, it's easy to get back to them. First, click the view tab. If you've signed up for the service, you'll see a list of your own furled pages, with the most recent entries at top. You can sort these pages by title, date, topic, rating, or the number of views the page has had by other users, simply by clicking the hyperlinks at the top of each column.
A search form at the top of the page allows you to search for content by keywords. You can also filter results by limiting the search to particular topics or dates.
Popup blockers cause problems for Furl, both in the installation of the Furl tool, and for saving Furled pages. Furl acknowledges these problems and say they are working on fixes. In the meantime, should you decide to try Furl, you'll want to read these instructions for installing Furl in popular browsers. And remember to hold down the "allow popup" key (usually the control key) whenever you're Furling a page, to allow the popup window to save a page to appear.
If you need to revisit or save web pages, give Furl a try. It's free, easy to use, and offers some useful features that you're not likely to find elsewhere.
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.
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