When 2021 began, I wrote a ton about Google’s super-secret Collections feature and how it could one day replace Bookmarks in Chrome. In fact, content curation has intentionally remained a utilitarian tool in Chrome and across pretty much all browsers for years because people don’t like it when you mess with their bookmarks. Any efforts to spruce up Bookmarks in Chrome in the past have been met with vehement distaste, and I can see why. However, I hold fast to the idea that collecting things needs to have more intentionality and automation built-in so that we’re not all simply stockpiling static links with little to no purpose.
Since I wrote my initial article outlining five improvements that Google Collections could make in order to compete with Pinterest, including the hope that the company would add collaboration to its static content, several things have been implemented including more AI and machine learning for Cookbooks, Google Shopping integration, a completely redesigned interface on mobile, and yes, even the collaborative tools I yearned for.
However, there are still several things about Collections that frustrate me, and until these things are fixed, I really don’t see many people using them day-to-day. This is sad because I believe that the tool has a future, but if Google continues to leave these things unfixed and then goes on to “sunset” Collections altogether, I think it will be a largely missed opportunity to advance the web. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at five more improvements that Google Collections can make going forward!
Add collaborative sharing on desktop
I would say that you’re not going to believe this, but since it’s Google we’re talking about here, you probably will. Collections on the web and on mobile act very differently from one another. On mobile, I noticed that when I wanted to move some items from one of my Google accounts to another where I felt they would be stored more appropriately, I was unable to! Wait, what? Why would that be?
Initially, I thought that Collections that were view-only prior to the collaborative update (which means all of them that were created before said update) were unable to have collaborators. However, I quickly discovered that only the creator of a Collection can add collaborators. Okay, that makes sense – no biggie. However, that brings me to my next annoyance – you can only do so on mobile! That’s right, attempting to add a collaborator from the web is impossible. Instead, you’re only met with a view-only link to share with others when you open the sharing settings.
This means that any time you want to add someone to your Collections in order to let them throw cool images or recipes into them, you have to open your phone. You can’t do so from your desktop or your Chromebook, and that’s just dumb. On top of that, every time you add a collaborator, they must accept a link from you through email or some other means. While that’s pretty standard, this next bit is not – you can’t see existing collaborators when you open the sharing settings for a Collection. Instead of working like Google Drive or any other Google service, it’s just very barebones. Why on Earth would Google half-bake some- you know what? Nevermind.
Transfer ownership of collections
Moving right along, I want to state that you can’t transfer ownership of a Collection – like, at all. This really bummed me out, because I’m trying to clean up one Google account for my game studio since I now pay for Google Workspace to have a custom email address and Google account for all things relating to my company. Because of this, I wanted to transfer all of my custom Collections into the new account so that I could draw inspiration from the scifi and fantasy images I saved from Google Image search.
Without the ability to simply transfer ownership of these Collections, I have two options. First, I can add my new account as a collaborator (on mobile…not the web) forever locking myself into needing to keep the old Google Account as an oddly attached appendage to my digital life instead of phasing it out over the next few years. Second, I can manually go through each and every Collection I wanted to transfer, open each item on the web, and re-save it to the new account. Obviously, this second one is straight ridiculous, but that’s all we have to work with here since Google didn’t even think to add ownership transfers for data that’s not even owned by a specific Google account – it’s literally all just items that you’re linking to on Google’s end!
Add AI to custom collections
I noticed that several of my Google-made Collections in the Google Search app on my Android phone had several new features as of late. On my shopping Collections, videos, links, recently viewed items, and much more had appeared, and I thought this was a fantastic use case for the feature. Increasing the user’s sense of discoverability with data is exactly what I’ve been pining for over the static text and link-based nature of traditional bookmarks. I would love to see these tools added into custom-made Collections using AI and machine learning!
Did you know? Google Collections recently added a custom icon to the service on the web! This means that you can add it to your Chromebook for quick access instead of being stuck with a generic Google logo like you were before. Sweet!
While writing this, I just noticed that a new Reading list Collection appeared in my Collections list, and features recently bookmarked or “wishlisted” books from the Play Books app as well as suggestions for ‘What to read’ and related book searches! That’s what I’m talking about! So far, that makes Shopping, Books, Movies and TV Shows, and a Cookbook. Let’s get more of these great Collections in a future update, Google.
Tie Google News saved articles and bookmarks into Collections
The fact that there is now a ‘Reading list’ Collection gives me hope for future Google News and Chrome Reading list integration! Right now, the Chrome browser’s new Reading list functionality remains separate from Collections, and when you save a news story for later, it gets dumped into a disorganized list in Google News where you’ll probably never read it. In my humble opinion, literally all of these areas should be directly integrated with Google Collections, especially with Assistant Memory on the horizon! For now, that’s not only my hope but also my prediction.
I also think that while most people using classic bookmarks probably wouldn’t want to be forced into Collections as a new system, I would personally very much love to have my bookmarks transitioned into the service. If Google made them appear in Collections, but also left them out as traditional bookmarks for everyone who wasn’t fond of the switch, I think it could appease all parties – food for thought.
Increase load speeds on mobile
Rounding things off, I’ll make note of how slow Google Collections has become on mobile via the Google Search app since the company added more intelligent features and recommendations as of the last update. Not only does it take a while to load up, but going back to a previous page often leads to an unresponsive white screen and you’re forced to quit out of the app entirely. Going back and opening the Search app usually fixes it, but it’s extremely annoying!
If Google’s Collections feature made these improvements, I believe that it would be utilized daily by more people, even those who are reluctant to the idea of the feature in the first place. Microsoft Edge and other browser giants are also implementing Collection-style features in addition to bookmarking, and I hope that Google takes the ‘Edge’ off of the competition. Let me know in the comments if you use Collections, or if you would try them if they were more straightforward!