Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 13 Issue 1
January 2019
Web Page Bookmarks and Favorites Don't Always Work, Here's Why

Some web browsers call them Bookmarks, others use the term Favorites

Regardless of what your browser calls it, when you create a Favorite or Bookmark of a web page, your web browser records the address of that page (not its content) so you can return to it later without having to type that address back in manually. This is similar to adding an email address to your email address book or Contacts list, which also enables you to use that address in future messages without having to retype it.

A more technical term for "web address" is "URL," which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, sometimes (less accurately) called a Universal Resource Locator.

You also could store and reuse web addresses yourself by retyping (or copying and pasting) them into your own file, like a text file, word processing document, or spreadsheet, and then later copying and pasting that address back into your browser to revisit the given page.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the term "bookmark" to refer to any method you might use to return to a web page by entering a previously stored address, whether you use your browser's built-in function, your own method for storing and retrieving previous web addresses, or you simply type in the address yourself.

Bookmarks may or may not work, it depends on the type of web page

For bookmark purposes, there are roughly 4 types of web pages:
  • Stable: Such a web page is publicly visible, has a fixed address, and stable content. Unless the web site changes or gets taken down, using a bookmark to return to a web page like this later will probably work.
  • Computer-generated: This type of web page might have a long or complicated address, but its key feature is that its content is custom-made in the moment, just for you. If you bookmark a page like this, it might or might not work, i.e., you might be able to use a bookmark to return to it later, or you might get an error, depending on how the web site works, as well as whether you return to it minutes or days later. The most common examples you have probably already seen are the "Thanks for your order" page that you would see after placing an online order and the search results pages generated by Google or Bing or some other site. On the other hand, on some web sites the addresses for their particular search results pages are actually designed to re-run your search, and would work later if bookmarked (assuming the web site wasn't redesigned). For example: www.amazon.com/s/field-keywords=shoes and help.mapquest.com/hc/en-us/search?query=layers and www.landsend.com/shop/sort/lowTohigh/search?Ntt=men+oxford
  • Layered: Some web pages have "layers" (technically called "overlays") of information that you can explore. As you click different links or buttons on the page (which might represent related categories or variations), the information you see changes as a new layer replaces the current one, but the web address remains the same. If you change to a different layer and then bookmark the page, when you return to that web page you'll probably land on the first (or default) layer. For example, on Google's image-search page (http://images.google.com), if you click the "camera" icon, you'll reveal their "Search by image" page which has two layers: "Paste image URL" and "Upload an image," but no matter which of the 3 layers you visit, the web address remains the same.
  • Password-protected access: This is a page on a web site that you can only access after you have signed in with a password or some other type of restricted security. If you sign in and then bookmark a page "inside" the security, and then later try to return to that page, that may or may not work. If you do it soon enough (so that you're still signed in), or if you sign in first, before using the bookmark, then it will probably work. However, you have signed out (or you switch to a different web browser or computer), when you try to access that page without signing in you'll either get an error, or (if it's a more sophisticated site) it will require you to sign in first and then redirect to that page. Common examples of this include bank, credit card, and investment sites, paid-content sites (like newspapers and magazines), and many online shopping sites.
Other things that can affect whether a bookmark will work

When you return to a web page using a bookmark (or any other stored-address method), there are a number of things that might go wrong or give you unexpected results:
  • The website owner may have changed the content of that page, so while your bookmark still technically works, the page you'll land on no longer has the information that originally interested you.
  • Or, they may keep the page content but moved it to a different address, especially if they're reorganizing or redesigning their site, which will probably give you an error for using a nonexistent address.
  • Or they may have simply removed that page from their web site entirely, which would give you the same error.
  • Or they may move or close down the entire web site, which would give you a different error.
  • On the other hand, getting an error when loading a web page can also be caused by server, internet, or other problems that may not be related to that web page at all, so before you conclude that your bookmark is out of date and should be deleted, at least wait a few minutes and try again.
Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Copyright (C) 2019 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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