Untangling the Web with Mozilla Weave

Syncing bookmarks? That's for amateurs! If you're ready to get real, you can sync your bookmarks, passwords, history, tabs, and more with Mozilla Weave Sync for Firefox and Fennec.

Syncing passwords and bookmarks is old hat. Mozilla Weave, a Mozilla Labs project is a tool designed to let you sync everything down to your tabs and do it securely. If you’re one of the many “road warriors” depending on Mozilla browsers, Weave is your ticket to a seamless Firefox experience across all your machines.

If you only have one machine where you use Firefox to browse the Web, you probably don’t have much need for Weave. But if you’re using Firefox at home and at work, or any other scenario with multiple machines, you’ll definitely want to take a look at the latest iteration of Mozilla Weave. The project recently released Weave Sync 0.7 for Firefox 3.5 and later (including the 3.7a1 release).

Even though Weave is the answer to a lot of my problems, I haven’t been using it previously. I’d tried Weave before, but stopped using Weave pretty quickly because it seemed to make Firefox enormously sluggish. However, the most recent release seems quite snappy.

Using Weave is simple: Install the extension and restart Firefox. Then create a new account or enter your username, password, and passphrase if you already have an account.

One word of caution — you need to keep your passphrase handy. You apparently can’t recover the passphrase, only reset it and delete your data. This is a bit of a hassle if you (like me) have gone a longish interval between using your passphrase and have forgotten it. I have a number of “stock” strong passwords I use for services like Weave that I can cycle through, but passphrases aren’t terribly common — when I started looking at Weave 0.7, there was pretty much zero chance I’d remember what I used last time I set it up. I do know for certain what it wasn’t at this point, but that did me little good. Since I was only reviewing Weave and not depending on it previously, that wasn’t a big deal for me — but if you’re going to depend on Weave, make sure you have picked a passphrase you won’t forget!

What Weave Syncs

As mentioned, Weave does more than just sync passwords and bookmarks — though it does that. It also syncs history and tabs, and does so continuously. So, if you’re at home and logged into sync and surfing the Web at home, you should be able to pick up the same session at work after your commute.

Of course, you don’t have to sync all that. You can opt out of syncing certain things like history, tabs, passwords, etc. So if you want to sync history and bookmarks but don’t want to have your passwords backed up, it’s totally doable.

The data is also encrypted, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your data being exposed on Mozilla’s servers. If you’re truly paranoid, it gets even better. Individuals or organizations that would like to deploy Weave Sync without sending data to the Mozilla mothership can set up their own server. Yes, you can have your cake and sync it too!

The long term prospects for Weave are even better, though. Weave is actually being developed as a platform that will allow other extensions to sync data as well — so the possibilities for Weave are pretty exciting, if Mozilla can get the same kind of buy-in with Weave that they have with Firefox add-ons.

Finally, Weave also has a great story for mobile users. Weave also works with Fennec, the Mozilla Project’s mobile browser effort — so as users take up Fennec on mobile devices, they can sync with their desktop browser and mobile device. The most obvious advantage here is the ability to sync passwords with mobile devices to avoid retyping passwords on devices with tiny keyboards.

Overall, I was much more impressed with Weave this time around. Users who have a mobile lifestyle should definitely take the time to take it out for a road test. Some things remain unsynced (like extensions), but Weave Sync is a definite improvement over simpler tools like Xmarks.

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