Replacing Google Browser Sync with Weave

Google Browser Sync was one of the handiest things for people who use Firefox 2.0.  For those who are unfamiliar, it synchronizes bookmarks, passwords, history and persistent cookies across installations of Firefox, using Google’s own servers.  Google announced that they are dropping support for Google Browser Sync effective in 2008.

Weave picks up where Google Browser Sync left off, and then some, effective today.  Unfortunately, Firefox has closed registration to their own synchronization server, which appears to be one of the few ways to install the extension.  However, you don’t actually need to use their server to store and synchronize your browsers — you can use your own WebDAV server.  Doing so requires a little finagling, but it’s well worth it.

On a side note, if you don’t have your own WebDAV server, you can get one from GoDaddy.  They have an “online file folder” which fits the bill nicely.  The 50MB edition should be enough for most people; my probably-normal use of Firefox puts a little over 4MB on a WebDAV server.

Since you can’t register right now, the first thing to do is to acquire the file weave-0.2.4.xpi.  This is the extension itself; if you download it within Firefox, you call install it directly.  Alternatively, save it to a file, and from within Firefox, File->Open will allow you to install the xpi file.

For it to be useful, you’ll need your own WebDAV server with https installed.  I assume you either have one set up, or can set it up yourself — note that if you use a self-signed certificate, be sure to browse there first, and make sure you create an exception so that you can utilize the server with Weave.  (An exception is a way of loading a cert into Firefox so that it can trust a site that’s not chained to a root certificate.  You can set one up at Tools->Options->Advanced->Encryption tab->View Certificates->Server tab->Add Exception.)

On the server, create a directory called user/[username] where [username] is a valid WebDAV account.  This is the directory where everything will be placed, so make sure it’s writable from the WebDAV account.  (Test this with any WebDAV client if you’re not sure, like cadaver.)

Once you’ve installed the xpi and restarted Firefox, Weave will come up with a screen where you can create an account.  Hit [cancel], since there’s no way to specify your own server at this point.  It will also try to navigate a browser window to, which may or may not work, depending on how their servers are holding up.

There should now be a Weave submenu under the Tools menu.  Tools->Weave->Preferences->Advanced tab will take you to “Server Location,” where you can fill in the URL of your WebDAV server.  Change the server location, and hit [OK] to close the preferences.  (Until you do so, it won’t pay any attention to the location of your new server.)

Tools->Weave->Sign In will now take you to the registration window, but it will be using your WebDAV server.  Select “Set Up Another Computer” (even if it’s your first one.)  Weave will look on your WebDAV server for api/register/regopen, but if it’s not there, it will assume everything’s fine, and let you enter a username, password, and encryption passphrase.  Password is your webdav password, and “passphrase” can be anything, as long as it’s consistent across machines.

That’s it! It will take a while to synchronize initially, so some patience is warranted at this point.

In addition to synchronizing everything Google Browser Sync did, it also adds the ability to synchronize tabs, which is just nifty.