File Under: Browsers, Web Services

Xmarks Mulls Switch to Premium Service

XmarksXmarks has had a change of heart.

The free bookmark syncing service had previously announced it was shutting down, but according to a new post on the company’s blog, there’s a chance Xmarks may soon be reborn as a paid service.

It was an outpouring of support from users that flipped the script. Xmarks has a small army of faithful fans, many of whom said they’d be willing to pay for the service after hearing Tuesday’s shutdown announcement. Based on the amount of interest, the company it decided it may be able to make a subscription model work as a sustainable business.

For now, Xmarks is asking users who would be willing to $10 a year for Xmarks to register their support on a new Pledgebank page. If you’d be willing to give Xmarks a few dollars to keep the service alive, you pledge your $10 over at Pledgebank (no credit card required).

There’s no guarantee that a premium version of Xmarks will happen. In fact, Xmarks CEO James Joaquin says company would need at least 100,000 pledges — five percent of their 2-million-strong user base — before Xmarks would consider a premium service. Even if all those pledges turned into real cash that would still only amount to half the $2 million Xmarks says it needs to break even each year. And as Joaquin points out, the conversion rate from free to premium users is typically more like 1 to 3 percent.

That’s a long way from Xmarks stated goals, but stranger things have certainly happened in the world of web startups.

Xmarks started as a Firefox extension for syncing bookmarks between your various Firefox installations, but soon expanded to work with Google Chrome, IE and Safari, keeping your bookmarks in perfect sync across all those browsers.

Unfortunately, despite an incredibly useful set of features and a 2-million-strong user base, Xmarks never found a way to make money. After failing to find a buyer and facing increasing costs with little or no way to recoup them, Xmarks announced that it would shut its doors in January, 2011. Over the following two days, Xmarks was inundated with users begging for a reprieve in the form of a paid version.

Now it seems the company is testing the waters to see how many of its enthusiastic users will actually put their money where their mouths are.

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