Browser tabs as ‘save for later’

It’s a habit that I bet most people has developed, none taught, with only the most organised and OCD prone of people managed to actually resist.

Here’s a screenshot of tabs that I’ve had open on my phone, some for many months now:

And this morning I’ve reached the limit, again, and can’t open any more (my allowed maximum seems to be 33). That’s 33 thing that I’ve planned to re-read, or read properly, and review and file properly for future reference or action.

Sometimes when I reach maximum tabbage I’ll wizz back through and look for ones that aren’t as important as what I want to do next. Usually I’ll find 2 or 3 things that I’ve either lots interest in or can’t remember the relevance of.

What if you were allowed infinite tabs? A quick test, in which I may have slightly lost count, and I can get 59 tabs in Chrome for Mac. The sight this creates, of a tiny mountain range at the top of the browser, or maybe more like an upturned saw blade, is one that I’ve seen many times on other peoples computers, usually with more amazement in the way they are able to remember and find the tab that they’re after than the fact they’ve allowed so many to be opened and remain open.

Note here, how I’m totally evoking the my naive realism, that 33 tabs left open on mobile is fine, but 59 on desktop is somehow odd and extreme. To some extent that’s my point in thinking ‘what would happen if they allowed infinite tabs to be left opened’?

People would surly just leave them all open, never closing a tab, unless it’s one they realise could be embarrassing later on, or if their computer crashes or needs a restart (probably because of the processing power that’s being taken up by 327 open tabs). But then modern browsers are remembering tabs more frequently, so all 327 will try to reopen when they restart.

What or who should the developers be designing for? The idea that people *should* be closing tabs when they are finished with them? In this sense might they see 59 maximum tabs as a limit that hardly anyone should reach? Or is this something that people need help fixing? 

A merging of browser history and tabs left open perhaps? A screenshot tab like history and the end of actual tabs with websites left open in them? Or could we all be encouraged to file and make actions as we go? If I could leave a little note on a tab within the browser, which becomes an effective hyperlink history reminder, then searching back through them would be easier than scrolling through loads of tabs. 

Or a massive ‘save all tabs for later’ button that will take all your tabs and along with a meta description and archive them in your browser for later reference. Yes, there are tools and other services that help with some of these ideas, as does just being a bit more well organised, but when the majority of people (and while I have no stats on this, I would put good money on it) leave tabs and windows open all over the place for various reasons, it’s something that needs resolving from the users point of view. 

I think we’ll see more evolution of the browser tabs and history yet though, as it doesn’t feel long ago that tabs saved the day from having tens of open windows, or seemingly hundreds of minimised ones in a PC users tool bar. In fact, maybe just trying to find new ways to manage loads of windows or tabs is wrong. Given 44 tabs I’d have filled them all. Given a system to make notes, I’d just make more than I can ever read. What if it’s time to stop pandering and take the limits down. Force our hands into better management?