Just when we all thought we’d never see it again, the cross-browser bookmark syncing service Xmarks has received a life-saving injection.
The company has been acquired by LastPass, maker of a cross-browser password manager and form filler add-on. The deal was announcedThursday, and terms were not disclosed.
Xmarks will live on as a freemium service. The initial cross-browser syncing tool you’re already familiar with will be free, but users will be encouraged to upgrade to a paid subscription to unlock more advanced features. It’s the same model employed by LastPass for its own Premium version of its (otherwise free) password-syncing service.
Xmarks Premium will be offered for $1 per month ($12 per year) and it comes with some new features like apps for the iPhone and Android phones, and technical support. You will also be able to bundle the premium offerings from LastPass and Xmarks together for $20 per year.
There’s already an iPhone app for Xmarks, and the company just recently released an Android app, too. Xmarks says anyone currently using the iPhone app can continue to use it without upgrading to the premium service, but they will have to buy in to the $12 per year plan to get future upgrades.
It looked like curtains for Xmarks in September, when the company announced it would shut down its service in early 2011.
In a new blog post thanking users for their outspoken support, Xmarks CEO James Joaquin, says “Xmarks now has multiple offers from companies ready and willing to take over the service and keep making browser sync better.”
Although Joaquin cautions that no deal has yet been signed, he seems confident that one will emerge in the near future: “With multiple offers on the table we’re pretty confident that Xmarks will continue on with no service interruption,” he says.
That’s good news for the some two million users who rely on Xmarks to sync bookmarks and open tabs between web browsers like Google Chrome, IE, Safari, Firefox, as well as mobile devices.
Many of the users have already but their money where their mouth is — or at least pledged to put their money where their mouth is — using Xmarks’ PledgeBank page to promise their support for a premium version of the service. That’s no doubt had a positive effect on Xmarks perceived value and convinced at least a few companies that service might be worth buying.
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.
The 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.
When I was a nipper with a Commodore 64, there was a brief mania for things like Pinball Construction Set, Adventure Construction Set, and Garry Kitchen’s GameMaker, which allowed patient amateurs to piece together their own clumsy game creations without having to learn a word of assembly or even BASIC. In those days, we had plenty of free time, since the web hadn’t been booted up yet (although I ran a BBS on dial-up, with an average uptime of three hours per day).
Nowadays, of course, we spend all our waking hours in massively multiplayer virtual interactions, commenting on each other’s profiles and collaboratively filtering each other’s kitten photos. And naturally, a new set of construction sets has arisen to correspond with the latest hobbies. Ning was co-founded by Marc Andreessen (is he still a household name in the Web 2.x era?) in secrecy and dramatically unveiled a few months ago. It’s a meta-application that lets would-be webpreneurs make their own social web apps.
Have you ever admired Craigslist but just wished that the ads were collaboratively filtered a la Digg? Or thought OKCupid just needs mapping, video, and live searching to be truly great? Now’s your chance to put your brilliant ideas in front of a web-hungry world without the bother of looking for investors, designing shoddy classes and whatever else typically goes into making a hot-shot social web application.
In practice, Ning handles a lot of the aspects of web apps that are tedious to code oneself — user authentication and data structures, for example. This leaves you, the creative genius, free to plunge right into what you do best. Is it an idea the world’s been waiting for? Let’s take a look at how to get started Ninging it up.