File Under: Browsers, Web Services

Popular Bookmark Syncing Tool XMarks to Shut Down

xmarks tab syncThe free, cross-browser, cross-platform bookmarking sync service XMarks is shutting its doors. Despite some 2 million users, the company has never found a way to make money and can no longer afford to continue.

XMarks will continue to function for another three months — until January 10, 2011 — after which the service will pull the plug, the company says in a blog post. There is no real replacement for XMarks, though the company has set a up page to help users migrate away from from XMarks which lists a few suggestions, like Evernote and Sugarsync.

XMarks started as a Firefox extension for syncing bookmarks between your various Firefox installations. The company then expanded to work with Google Chrome, IE and Safari, keeping all of those browsers in perfect sync.

Earlier this year the company added another very useful feature that syncs your open tabs between browsers (and even your phone, thanks to the web-based interface).

Unfortunately, despite an incredibly useful set of features, XMarks never found a way to make money. Todd Agulnick, co-founder and CTO, writes on the company’s blog that XMarks was always “predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service.”

Agulnick recounts several of XMarks attempts to make a profit, including a smart search tool based on anonymized data from the over 100 million bookmarks stored on its servers. While the search tool “turned out amazing results” writes Agulnick, it only worked well for certain types of queries and was “terrible at finding facts.”

Sadly, a business model for XMarks never emerged and, faced with rising hosting costs and expenses, XMarks has decided to shut down.

Perhaps part of the reason for XMarks demise is that Firefox and Chrome have both added their own bookmark syncing systems to the browser itself, eliminating the need for an add-on. Mozilla has built its Sync service directly into the latest versions of Firefox (including the nascent mobile version) and Google Chrome can now sync your settings to any installation of Chrome using your Google account. Safari’s syncing is handled by MobileMe.

Now, if XMarks were to try charging for its services, it would be competing against free tools that don’t require any effort on the users part.

Of course, no browser vendor makes a syncing tool that syncs data between web browsers like XMarks did. That’s a feature, for those of us that used it heavily, that will be sorely missed.

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