A Bookmark Feed

I've been using Mastodon as my main channel for social media, news, and online discussion for over a year now and, overall, I'm really enjoying the experience. I continue to use Elk as my main client, and have seen some useful features come to both Elk and the platform as a whole, including some recent changes to how Lists work that I'm pretty excited to explore.

However, right from day one, there has been this annoying little niggle with Mastodon; a missing feature that seems so obvious and inline with the platform's main goals that I'm honestly more confused than annoyed at its absence. What feature is this? An RSS feed for your Bookmarks list!

The Problem with Bookmarks

I love that Mastodon comes with a bookmarking/save-it-for-later feature baked in, and I use it a bunch. It helps me quickly triage my feed without having to constantly jump out to read things or save links elsewhere. But in a very anti-Fediverse move, those bookmarks are completely trapped within the silo. Whilst I can subscribe to individual Mastodon accounts via feed technologies like RSS, and even get access to more personal, unique functionality like the aforementioned Lists, bookmarks are completely trapped behind the login wall, only available from within a Mastodon server or client, and only visible to the one user.

Now I don't overly mind the privacy of that as a default, but it does mean that a lot of bookmarks simply get sent into this ether to be lost in the sands of time, so I wish there was some kind of user-override. Being able to set my bookmarks to "public" somehow would likely solve this issue, as I imagine that could just be converted to a feed or even scraped directly at that point. Alas, for now though, they appear to be purposefully fenced off from external eyes. Or at least, that's what I thought.

A Functional Workaround

Searching around the web has shown that I'm far from the only one looking for some way to automate sending bookmarks out of Mastodon and into other services. These mainly cover my use-case (feed readers) but there are plenty of people who'd like direct bridges to note-taking apps like Obsidian and Notion, as well as more classic read-later services like Pocket. Each discussion that I found came to the same conclusion: why isn't there just a bookmarks feed?

Well, it turns out, there sort of is. Whilst you can't find an RSS or Atom feed of your bookmarks (again, likely for privacy reasons), you can query your server's API for a list of them. So if you have some kind of web back-end that can consume various data sources, you can, in fact, pull in your bookmarks and then ping them back out wherever you want. In theory, this means you should be able to create direct application-level bridges, such as a Mastodon -> Obsidian link, which periodically pings your server for any new updates and then downloads them, but I haven't found anything that integrated just yet.

What I have found are a few people that have successfully taken that API feed and converted it into a publicly visible RSS feed. And one of these has even been turned into a little free service. You can self-host it if you want (see "further reading" below for a link to the Git repository) and I've also found a write-up on how to DIY a similar setup yourself in PHP (also linked below), but the simplest method is to use the simply-named Mastodon Bookmark RSS service hosted at Woodland Café.

All you have to do is plug in your Mastodon server, at which point you'll be redirected there to give the app permission to connect to your account, and hey presto, you have an RSS feed. I copied this into my current feed reader and it immediately picked up the most recent bookmarks. Saving new posts as bookmarks is not immediate (what RSS feed is), but they slowly trickle through, which is exactly what I want.

There are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • The service is rate limited, so if you control how often your feed reader requests a feed you may run up against some minimum intervals (which is more than fair);
  • and the feed only stores the latest 20 bookmarks, again to reduce resource usage, but this time mainly to limit the requests going to your Mastodon server.

This does mean that you won't be able to import all of your existing bookmarks at once (unless you have less than 20), but it seems like a fair compromise. And so long as your feed reader saves the links to its own database, you'll be able to store all bookmarks going forward there, even as they cycle out of the feed itself.

At any rate, this monkey-patches a much-needed feature for me, and if the limitations begin to become problematic, it looks like it shouldn't be too hard to put something a little more bespoke together. I do love the open web!

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Further Reading & Sources


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  • <p>Mastodon makes saving interesting links for later very easy, but getting these into a feed reader or note-taking service seemed impossible until I came across a neat little hosted solution.</p>
  • Murray Adcock.
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