iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

Summary: iCloud bookmark syncing is a first-class disaster that Apple has yet to acknowledge. Luckily there are a couple of software tools that can help clean up the mess.

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I knew something was amiss when I touched the Bookmarks button on my iPad about a month ago and saw something like the screenshot at right.

In place of my normal bookmarks were literally thousands of duplicates of my Bookmarks Bar and Bookmarks Menu folders -- and it gets worse, read on.

One of the main reasons that I use Safari as my primary desktop web browser is because it's the only browser that syncs its bookmarks automatically with the iPhone and iPad.

The benefits are pretty obvious, create a new bookmark on your Mac and boom, it's on your iPhone and iPad. Convenient, and sure beats remembering (and typing) long URLs on your mobile device.

Bookmark syncing used to be a feature of Apple's paid MobileMe service, but it's now relegated to the back burner of Apple's iCloud service. Apple doesn't mention bookmark syncing anywhere on its iCloud overview, what is or features pages. It's also not part of iCloud's Web interface.

In fact, the only place you'll find any mention of bookmark syncing is in the Mac OS and iOS settings. Here's System Preferences > iCloud on Mac OS (notice that mine is unchecked):

iCloud bug creating thousands of duplicate bookmarks

Today, iCloud bookmark syncing is a first-class disaster that Apple has yet to acknowledge.

Here's a sampling of some of the comments on one of the Apple threads:

"iCloud has created a MESS of horrendous proportions with my Safari bookmarks in my iPhone, iPad, MBP and iMac."

"right now, icloud have manage to creat about 18.000 dublicats of my bookmarks, and I have NO chance to reset this."

"Similar problem here. Had too many duplicates so I started deleting the duplicates and then everything disappeared. I can restore what I have from a back up but when I do, iCloud just rewrites it again. I'm a little bitter."

"I've got over 38,000 bookmark entries (should realistically be about 200) where iCloud has synced incorrectly. Having deleted bookmarks across all my devices except one, deleted all the duplicates etc and then re-enabled syncing I'm back at 38000 entries again. It seems impossible to delete the iCloud records. Can Apple support delete iCloud data?"

Unfortunately, my solution has been to:

  1. Uncheck bookmark syncing on my Macs, iPad and iPhone
  2. Manually delete the Safari bookmarks on my Mac (by deleting ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist)
  3. Make a clean set of bookmarks
  4. Manually put them on both my Macs
  5. Forget about syncing bookmarks to my iPad and iPhone
  6. Wait for Apple to acknowledge/address the issue

There are a couple of excellent software tools that can help mitigate the damage. I'm testing Sheep Systems' BookMacster ($22.95) a standalone bookmarks manager and cross-browser, multi-Mac bookmarks synchronization tool that plays nice with iCloud. Another is Balooba Software's Safari Prairiefire ($6) which lists all bookmarks, scans for dead and missing links, duplicates and allows you to test, delete or edit any bookmarks. More on them in a future post.

What's been your experience with iCloud bookmark syncing?

(Screenshots are courtesy of EliNOVA who posted them in a thread called "How do I delete my iCloud bookmarks and upload a new bookmark file" on the Apple Support Community forum.)

Topics: Cloud, Apple, Operating Systems

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20 comments
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  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    this is weird.. i have bookmark sync since mobileMe, and now on icloud??? and that never happened to me.

    It works absolutely flawlessly. I don't understand why is that happening, but maybe it's only the first time you sync, and then it??s ok?

    The only thing i notice is that the sync is not as fast as push (mail, calendars, contacts). It can take 5 or 10 minuts for the bookmarks to be synced on all devices.
    ruiforevai
  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    "iCloud bookmark syncing is a first-class disaster that Apple has yet to acknowledge."

    iCloud and [B]EVERY OTHER BOOKMARKING SYNC SERVICE KNOWN TO MAN.[/b]

    And not just bookmarks - I'd say any syncing service I've ever encountered has had this issue and absolutely refuses to take any anti-duplication efforts or make any de-duplication tools available.

    [b]IT'S AN INDUSTRY WIDE PROBLEM THAT EVERYBODY REFUSES TO FIX.[/b]

    /grump
    CobraA1
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @CobraA1 I have been using XMarks (Formerly Foxmarks in Mozilla) and am now even a paying member. It is brilliant and I've had no problems with the service itself.

      It keeps Firefox, Chrome, IE and Safari bookmarks all Synced - and even has an iOS app for my iPad/iPhone.
      fshtank
      • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

        @fshtank I use xmarks too - and I'd love them to add some de-duplication support. While it is true they usually don't duplicate bookmarks themselves, I've managed to get duplicates via experimentation with other things, and yeah I'd love to just get rid of duplicates and broken bookmarks.
        CobraA1
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @CobraA1 then why does SkyDrive work flawlessly? Maybe because Microsoft actually knows how to write software.
      Stephen-B
      • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

        @Stephen-B I'm talking more about "information sync" (bookmarks, contacts, etc) than about file sync.
        CobraA1
      • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

        @Stephen-B Microsoft knows how to write software? Yeah, like Kerberos - oh wait, they changed it to make it Windows-only. Like Javascript. Oh wait, they changed it to only work with Windows. Internet Explorer 6...

        Sure, they write some good stuff (IE 9) but please. Let's be a little more honest, m'kay?
        ewelch
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @CobraA1 I have to admit I have not had that issue with XMarks... I have not tried to use iCloud bookmarks because XMarks works for me.
      athynz
  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    I did not have the same issue but:
    1. iCloud sync erased all the Outlook contacts from my PC (they were brought to iCloud but removed from my computer).
    2. iCloud sync did the same with my Outlook calendar.
    3. ICloud sync duplicated all my contacts (some are duplicated once, others ten times) AND Apple does not provide any function on Icloud or iPad to remove duplicates (which seems a pretty basic requirement).

    "It just works" : only if your expectations are very low.
    JB5645
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @JB5645 "It just works" is actually kind of funny. it should read"It sort of works, sometimes."
      Stephen-B
  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    They should give up on the software and just license Windows. I always suggest that people buying MACs. Windows is more stable, much more Secure and more compatible, with the rest of the world.
    Stephen-B
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @Stephen-B
      [i]I always suggest that people buying MACs. Windows is more stable, much more Secure and more compatible, with the rest of the world. And then they just shake their heads at me with a look of pity and then go on with their lives... [/i]

      fixed it for ya' ;)
      Tigertank
      • I'm finding this quite amusing

        @Tigertank
        It is quite funny to see 2 people who hate Microsoft argue opposite sides when only 1 person (that would be you) realizes what is actually going on. Stephen-B is Rick_Kl and hates MS just as much as you do.
        toddybottom_z
      • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

        @Toddybottom_Z

        I was wondering when you were going to show up again. Good vacation?
        kenosha77a
      • Great vacation

        It seems that nothing has changed here though. Except for Rick_Kl's screen name change and reverse trolling.
        toddybottom_z
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @Stephen-B So WHAT would you suggest to people buying Macs? <br><br>[i]I always suggest that people buying MACs.[/i] The sentence is not finished so I have no idea where you are going with this. Actually that also applies to the rest of your post.
      athynz
  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    I have not had a problem with iCloud bookmarks syncing but, I'm on a Windows PC. It works flawlessly between IE 9, my iPad and iPhone.
    RollTide1017
  • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

    iCloud? Gathering all your personal data on Apple servers?

    Where's the outrage, like Google sync was subjected to?
    radleym
    • RE: iCloud bug creates thousands of duplicate bookmarks

      @radleym

      iCloud is an opt-in service. Do you not think that every other web based service that you use has your personal data on their servers????
      gribittmep
  • ericwelch@mac.com

    I have not had this problem at all. Works pretty good for me. But thanks for the Bookmark management software idea. I do need to clean up this mess of Bookmarks I've built since OS X Public Beta in 2000. Way too many of them are outdated.

    But $22 for bookmark management software? Does it go to Starbucks and buy me coffee too?
    ewelch