Keep Xmarks alive: Pledge to pay for the Service

Xmarks, the popular Web browser bookmark service and utility, may yet live, if you're willing to pay for the service. I've already signed up.

So, there I was, feeling blue about trying to replace Xmarks, my favorite Web browser utility, when I heard some good news. Xmarks may yet live on. Yes!

According to a blog posting by James Joaquin Xmarks' CEO, "Many of you have cried from the rooftops that you would be willing to pay for Xmarks." So, "We're revisiting the idea of Xmarks as a premium service. We've set up a PledgeBank page where you can sign up if you're willing to pay at least $10 a year for Xmarks. No credit card is required, but please only pledge if you are genuinely willing and able to pay:"

Juaquin added, "This is not a scientific experiment to predict what % of our base will pay, but it's a data point that will definitely help." In other words, they want to know if you're serious about willing to pay at least ten bucks a year for Xmarks. I've already signed up. I'm more than willing to pay for Xmarks.

Sure, there are other services that can do part of what Xmark does like Firefox Sync; Google Sync; Windows Live Essentials; and Apple's MobileMe. None of them do everything that Xmarks does though.

Xmarks does far more than just save your bookmarks. It lets you sync them with multiple browsers, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, on multiple operating systems, such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It also syncs all your passwords between systems. On top of that, it automatically and invisibly backs up your bookmark and password changes. There's nothing to think about, nothing to do, Xmarks just makes sure that you always have your freshest bookmark list and passwords no matter what your system you happen to be on.

Xmarks will also let you set up different profiles. So, for example, you can have your work bookmarks, with the Wall Street Journal and ZDNet, on one profile and your home bookmarks, with World of Warcraft or Farmville fan sites, on another. You can even get to your bookmarks via the Web site on a hotel PC or the like. If you're like me, and always hopping from one PC to another or to an iPhone or iPad, which it also supports, you can't beat it.

So why didn't they explore this option before? Juanquin, in his surprisingly frank blog posting, explained that it was many factors. These included that "Charging users for sync was not our original strategy. Foxmarks started, before I joined, with a strategy to crowd-source bookmarks at scale and then aggregate and analyze that data to create valuable new web services that tens of millions of users would use every day. As CEO, under the direction of my investors, I led my team to execute on that original vision."

But that vision didn't work and this model they're exploring now didn't look like it would work. "For Xmarks, 2% of our two million users paying $10 a year would generate $400,000 of annual revenue. Today Xmarks costs over $2 million a year to run. For two developers in a garage this could be a nice business, but we had big aspirations and have already invested $9 million dollars to create the technology and grow the data corpus. If $2M / year seems crazy high to you, remember that we staffed senior engineers to keep up with changes on multiple browsers and operating systems, plus a team building our search features."

Now, however, "For a new company taking a fresh start with Xmarks, a freemium model could be really compelling. The overwhelming positive user support from all of you, combined with strong interest by companies looking to take over Xmarks, means that the service might just find a ninth life. Please stay tuned."

I'm doing more than that. I've pledged that I'd be willing to pay for the service. If you agree with me, click on over and pledge your support for Xmarks as well. Like the CEO said, they're not asking for your credit-card number or any pre-payment. Xmarks just wants to know if you'd seriously pay an annual fee for the service. I am so there.

For this to work, they'd like to see 100,000 pledge their support. As I write this, on October 1st, they're up to just over 10,000. Let's make this happen and keep a great Web service and program alive.

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