No more Xmarks!? No!!

No more Xmarks!? No!!

Summary: Xmarks, my all-time Web-browser plug-in, is pulling the plug. Damn it.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Browser
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I love Xmarks. To me, along with the Google Toolbar, it is an essential Web browser extension. And, now-sob!--it's on its way to the Web history junk-pile.

All Xmarks does is synchronize your bookmarks and passwords across every computer you have. Doesn't sound like much? To me, with over half-a-dozen computers I use every day, it's a life-saver.

You don't need to be able to keep your house warm in the winter with PCs alone to get value from Xmarks. Just being able to keep your home and work PCs bookmarks and passwords in sync is invaluable. Better still, Xmarks works with all the major Web browsers-Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer-and all the major desktop operating systems: Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. So you could, and I have, keep a common set of Web browser bookmarks and passwords on Chrome running on Mint Linux on my ThinkPad; Internet Explorer on Windows XP and 7 PCs; and Safari on my MacBook Pro. So, instead of having to manually drag my collection of bookmarks with me from one PC to another, and try to keep a few dozen passwords in my head, Xmarks let me keep my Web stuff neat, tidy, and best of all, mindlessly easy, no matter what PC I happened to be using.

That's all about to change. Last night I got an e-mail reading, "Xmarks will be shutting down our free browser synchronization services on January 10, 2011." Then, to the Xmark team's credit, they included a link to substitute programs and services. This includes: Firefox Sync; Google Sync; Windows Live Essentials; and Apple's MobileMe.

These are all fine programs, but they also all have one problem in common: They're not Xmarks. None of them do everything that Xmarks does. Only Firefox Sync comes close, but, like the name says, it only works with Firefox. While MobileMe can do both bookmarks and passwords, Google Sync and Windows Live Essentials only handle bookmarks.

So why is Xmarks doing this since I, and many other people, love Xmarks? It's the old bottom line. Xmarks was never able to work out a way to make money from their great, free add-on program.

As Todd Agulnick, co-founder of Xmarks and CTO, said in a blog posting, "For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service. With that investment thesis thwarted, there is no way to pay expenses, primarily salary and hosting costs."

Why not charge for it, or say, charge just for password synchronization or other high-end features? Agulnick wrote, "The prospects there are grim too: With the emergence of competent sync features built into Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, it's hard to see users paying for a service that they can now get for free."

Agulnick have also tried to sell Xmarks, but "Over the past three months, we have been remarkably close to striking a deal, only to have the potential buyer get cold feet." Then, the money clock ran out" "Without the resources to keep the service going, we must shut it down. Our plan is to keep the service running for another 90+ days, after which the plug will be pulled."

It's a sobering moment. Here we have a great program that provides an extraordinarily popular service, Xmarks has over 22-million downloads for Firefox alone from a single Firefox site, and its developers can't pay the bills for lack of a successful business plan.

Twitter, and other popular services and programs that don't have a business plan, should take note. Popular success doesn't mean money in the bank. Sometimes it doesn't even mean being able to keep a roof over your head.

I can only hope that someone will come along and invest in Xmarks and work out a real business plan for it. It would be a shame for this wonderful program and service to disappear.

Topics: Hardware, Browser

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91 comments
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  • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

    Oh well, it isn't 1999. Somebody has to pay the bill.
    paul2011
    • OpenSource it?

      I dunno if anyone has heard of OpenSource software? Of course it's a dumb idea, how could OpenSourcing it work when it has been so successful for so many others.
      Tom6
      • Re: OpenSouce isn't likely the answer to this one.

        @Tom6 making a project open source dosen't guarantee anything for a project that requires physical assets (e.g. server hardware and comms infrastructure).

        Making the project open source would probably assure the project access to developers (it is a useful and interesting, cross-platform project). But if there is a need for servers and communication hardware, then you still need some kind of income stream to cover those costs.

        That said, if the project were to be open sourced, I could see it being useful for some interested party to make a home-brew linux service for it that could be plugged into an existing apache/web server. We linux buffs would be right into that kind of thing, but the majority of the web going public aren't interested in running their own services, they're interested in mindless consumption of existing services.
        blakjak.au
      • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

        @Tom6
        If you open source Xmarks, you need to open source the cloud-server aspect of it too. Google funds their servers by advertising. Failing that, it might be possible to set up a bit-torrent like distributed service, by having the users serve (data to) each other. But that would take a major rewrite I fear.
        homemade@...
      • Just use your own server.

        This is why relying on third-party servers is a bad idea. It's bad for bookmarks, it's bad for your financial data (yes, I mean Mint), it's bad for your application data (yes, I mean MobileMe).

        XMarks introduced a "BYOS" (bring your own server) version a while back, which stripped out all of the subscription crap:

        http://blog.xmarks.com/?p=1035

        This is what should be open-sourced.
        dgurney
  • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

    I believe XMarks was a Firefox addon. However, starting in Firefox 4X Mozilla has I believe incorporated Firefox Sync into the browser
    Nesivos
    • Yes but

      @Nesivos Xmarks also syncs across multiple browsers - Firefox to Chrome for example - so it is very useful when using multiple browsers on multiple devices.
      Nihon8888
  • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

    I guess you can use LastPass now. I think it's pretty good (has been mentioned on zdnet), and I do think they have a pay model...
    AllAroundIT
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      @AllAroundIT yea but they still lack bookmarks sync support but i bet they are going to start work on it now.
      bnlf
  • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

    Let me be the first to say "B*tch say what???" Noooooo! I love Xmarks. I can sync my work and home firefoxes together. It was quite handy. This sucks.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      @Loverock Davidson it's the first time that i agree wth one of your comments...I love xmarks too :(
      joemun
      • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

        @joemun

        I concur, although toolbars are the most useless garbage ever and so is google.
        audidiablo
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      @Loverock Davidson I completely agree with you - this totally blows.
      athynz
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      Completely agree - I LOVE Xmarks, and would pay for it, because the other sync tools I've tried don't come close. I want one that syncs across browser/platforms. Whaaaa....
      Turntwo
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      @Loverock Davidson aww no IE for you?
      tehpea
      • This doesn't just affect IE

        @tehpea So stop with the trolling.
        athynz
    • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

      @Loverock Davidson

      For once, I agree with you.
      CobraA1
  • RE: No more Xmarks!? No!!

    Time to set up an iGoogle or myYahoo page with all your favorite links
    rewand
  • Xmarks must not die!

    We need your help/support: Our favorite Firefox tool need to survive! Help to keep it alive on http://bit.ly/xmarks-must-not-die
    Jo Sag
  • Cross Platform

    AFAIK this is the ONLY cross-browser bookmarks sync. I would pay a monthly fee just for this feature. How else can I sync my Safari on my Mac to my Firefox on Linux to my Google Chrome on Windows?
    ceagan