Firefox Un-Synced

Boy am I boiling mad. You’d think after all the hard work the Open Source community (and Mozilla in particular) get from contributors, you’d have a deterministic, working service, but it seems I have been mistaken.

So here’s what happened. My work laptop got kind of messed up due to some Virtual Machine (Virtualbox, in case you’re wondering) configurations and that introduced a bug in my Network centre, thus leading me to format my OS. Now, as any good hacker, I have over a dozen tabs open in my Firefox browser with sites pointing to code, articles, documentation, youtube, you name it, so I have to make sure that I have these links saved somewhere so I can reload them after I re-install Firefox. Delicious is too slow for my liking and while Pocket would get the job done, the tediousness of cleaning up later was something I dreaded.

In comes Firefox Sync, where I already have an account thanks to years of using Firefox on a Linux machine. I could simply create a folder in my bookmarks, save all the links there, hit ‘Sync Now’ and then have all my bookmarks magically restored. This option isn’t there in Internet Explorer (atleast it doesn’t seem to be) so I had to export all my bookmarks from IE to a different partition.

Now, once I was done reinstalling Windows, I signed in, booted up IE and installed Firefox. While Firefox was installing, I decided to import my bookmarks back into IE, but lo and behold, all the bookmarks were already there. It seems Microsoft added a cloud sync to IE right under our noses, so the only extra work I had to do was delete the exported bookmarks. Microsoft 1, Mozilla 0.

Back to Firefox, I quickly sign in and activate sync. I wait with anticipated breathe as my theme and bookmarks start populating. Then I try to find my backup folder, but wait! I can’t find it anywhere!! I open the Bookmarks manager and to my dismay, I see that the bookmarks are the same as the one on my Linux machine and the sync from my work machine seems to have been overridden, hence losing my saved bookmarks. This almost made me cry, and I am sure if you were someone like me, you’d feel the same way. Thus, it turns out that due to a change in the Sync system in Firefox from an older version to a new one, there was some craziness going on and that made my sync account on my work machine invalid. Microsoft 1, Mozilla -1.

After this, the only damage control I could do was remember as many links as I could (which weren’t a lot considering how dependent I was on Sync) and then unlinking and relinking the sync accounts on both my machines so that they both would be in a stable state. Ironically, I noticed that the Firefox version on my Windows machine is greater than the one on my Linux machine. Now hopefully, Sync should work for me without glitches.

However, this was a very disappointing scenario since failures like these in today’s age is almost unheard of. I have learnt my lesson to never depend on Sync again and always export and import bookmarks explicitly. All I can do now is move on and continue with my work, treating this as a cases similar to a HDD failure. I just hope anyone else using sync doesn’t have to face this situation.

Shame on you Mozilla.


2 thoughts on “Firefox Un-Synced

  1. It appears that after exporting the tabs to bookmarks, you immediately closed the Firefox without letting it sync the newly created bookmarks. Firefox uses more conservative sync frequencies by default. If you check in the about:config box, services.sync.scheduler.activeInterval has the default value of 600 secs. That’s how frequently Firefox triggers a sync during normal browsing. In cases like yours, like creating new bookmarks, it triggers another sync outside normal sync, whose frequency is governed by the setting services.sync.scheduler.immediateInterval. This setting has a default value of 90 secs. If a sync was triggered just before your creation of bookmarks and you closed Firefox within 90 seconds of creation, those bookmarks would not have been synced. If you wanted to make sure they were synced, perhaps you should’ve waited for sometime to let it sync, or should’ve manually triggered a sync.

    • Thanks for the info Varun, but after exporting the tabs to bookmarks, I continued using the same browser for another day or so, doing teensy work here and there so there would be no loose ends at work before I formatted my machine. Each session after saving the bookmarks was atleast 15 to 20 minutes, and this despite clicking Sync Now. If Firefox needs more than a day to sync, then God help its developers.

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