The End is Nigh for Xmarks Browser Bookmark Synchronization

Contributing Editor

It’s been a bad month for online service closures. Bloglines, my favorite RSS aggregator, is closing this week and now Xmarks has reached the end of the road.

Xmarks is a free synchronization service which backs-up and replicates your bookmarks across Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari. The product launched in October 2006 as a Firefox-only extension named Foxmarks. Additional browsers were added in 2009 and the company re-branded itself as Xmarks.

As well as bookmarks, the plug-in can also synchronize passwords, browser history, and open tabs. Early on, the company realized they were sitting on a gold mine of 100 million user-verified page links. They experimented with their own search engine but the system failed usability tests. Although it could provide spam-free categorized links, it couldn’t answer the specific questions people entered in typical search engines queries. However, the plug-in can append information to Google results to indicate the popularity of a link.

For me, Xmarks remains the best and most reliable bookmarks synchronization service. It’s invaluable if you’re using multiple PCs and it’s the only Firefox add-in I religiously install on every browser. It has 2 million users, supports 5 million desktops, and receives 3,000 new sign-ups every day.

Despite it’s success, co-founder and CTO Todd Agulnick explained they have struggled to monetize the service. The company has been for sale since early 2010, but no potential buyers have come forward. The business model may not have a viable future now that Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Opera all offer free synchronization with their browsers. Unfortunately, few of these options are as good as Xmarks and none provide cross-browser functionality.

The company is sending emails to users and the Xmarks service will shut down at the end of 2010.

Do you use Xmarks? Will you be affected by its demise? Are you using a good alternative?

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  • Gaurav Mishra

    Sad!
    to see its going down

  • RennGent

    Very sad news indeed! I’ve been using the service since it was called FoxMarks and have continued to find it a valuable service. The cross browser ability is paramount and allowed me to sync my bookmarks with my iPhone even though I don’t use Safari as my main browser. I hope they are either bought or someone else fills the void, Xmarks adds a lot of benefit to my bookmark management needs.

  • Eevoh

    Sad, sad, sad,….!
    XMarks is the first addin I install in my browsers. I use Firefox, Safari and Chrome and love the syncing of bookmarks between them using XMarks.

    Sad to see it go.

    I hope that someone will continue it. I will pay for the service right away.

  • ahallicks

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Xmarks is absolutely brilliant for someone like me who works for a few locations sometimes. Everything I need is just there when I need it. What a major blow :-(

    Could someone please buy them out? That’d make my day :-)

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I feel your pain, ahallicks. I’ve been wandering around in a daze since hearing the news. I never want to return to the days of manually copying my bookmarks file onto a memory stick!

      Let’s hope a company with deep pockets considers a takeover. Surely Google would be interested in a new acquisition? Xmarks provides a route into every browser … they could show Chrome adverts!

  • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

    Given it doesn’t support the browser I use, a browser that already includes syncing across platforms…

    … and that I never even HEARD of it until this poll.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Where have you been hiding?!

      Foxmarks was a Firefox-only add-in, so you may have missed it if you used another browser. As far as I’m aware, it was the first bookmark syncing and backup system — and it’s still the best.

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        In Opera-land where 99.99% of these types of Add-ins have been built into the browser since before Firefox was a twinkle in a FLOSS fanboy’s eye.

        I also don’t need to sync between devices a whole lot because I don’t do the same things on handheld that I do on the laptops… or the same things on my travel and bedside laptop, or on my workstation PC, or on my garage workshop PC.

        Of course, I don’t use a lot of ‘real’ bookmarks, since I favor Opera’s drag and drop favicons with about twelve or so next to the navigation buttons and another fifteen or so in the start bar.

        Hell, given the memory chewing cpu chewing unstable train wreck FF was prior to 3.5 (I was one of those lucky ones who whenever FF’s memory use passed 256 megs it shot to 100% CPU and stayed there even when the only tab open was google’s main page) the ONLY reason I have it installed is for web development testing — and then I use the drag and drop ‘launch in FF’ buttons in Opera — along with launch in Safari, Launch in Chrome and launch in IE.

        In fact, I only have FF installed on ONE machine, with no need for bookmarks installed in that buggy pile of manure that is next to useless WITHOUT modding it to the gills. [i](Firefox, the phpBB 2.x of the browser community — no, that’s not a compliment)[/i]

        Of course I’m still running 3.5.x because they screwed up the web developer toolbar (one of two reasons I even bother with it) in 3.6…

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        Fox/Xmarks must have been one of those 0.01% then — Opera Link appeared a year later in the 9.5 beta (2007).

        This is going a little off-topic, but I take it you’re not keen on Firefox? Fair enough. Although you should note that Firefox’s memory usage is now far lower than all the other browsers (with multiple tabs).

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        >> Fox/Xmarks must have been one of those 0.01% then
        >> Opera Link appeared a year later in the 9.5 beta (2007).

        Yeah, but I’ve been able to copy bookmarks.adr to ANY version of Opera including mobile on any device since Opera 3… along with every other user specific configuration file including custom toolbars,

        I guess that’s what I don’t really get about all these types of programs — I don’t need to sync often enough to need more than that.

        What, are people too lazy to copy one file or directory? I think I actually said that 3-4 years ago… My reaction has always been “Ooh, sync up your bookmarks… impressive… and this is worth money HOW exactly? It’s worth needing a add-on to do HOW exactly?”

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        Oh, I also **** on Opera Sync as pointless too. I don’t use it… don’t need it, dont’ get it.

        But I’m the guy who doesn’t “get” 90% of the third party bookmarking malarkey — Someone sends me a digg or delicious link via email or IM my typical response is “Oh for **** sake, just link me to the ACTUAL article”.

        See my attitude about tiny url’s.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        I’ve been able to copy bookmarks.adr to ANY version of Opera

        Most browsers, with the exception of IE, use a single bookmarks file (although they tend to adopt a smaller JSON format rather than the previous and more useful HTML file which could be opened in any browser).

        However, Xmarks adds another level of sophistication:

        1. You don’t need to manually copy the file. I often have 4 or 5 installations at any one time — handling it manually is a chore and error prone.

        2. My bookmarks file is several MB, but only the changes are synced across the cloud. That’s far quicker than transferring the whole file.

        3. Xmarks can copy bookmarks between browsers, so all your installations of Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE are synchronized. (I’m sure they’d considered an Opera version, but that’ll never happen now).

        4. It works well — and better than all other products if the comments on the Firefox add-ons site are to be believed.

        That’s the reason we’re all shocked by Xmarks demise. Losing it means a backward step for many of us.

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        Well, to me if you have MEGABYTES of bookmarks, you’ve already taken a step backwards. Mein gott, I don’t care how well you organize it into directories and subdirectories, that’s GOT to be so unwieldy as to be disastrous… How much of that is web rot? At that point wouldn’t a search engine be faster than trying to navigate what would be several tens of thousands of links?

        I mean seriously, how often do you visit these MEGABYTES of bookmarks? Is this ‘bookmarking every site I visit’ akin to the people who ‘save as complete’ every site or something?

        I don’t think I”ve ever had my bookmarks file for any browser break the 200k mark and that’s on my workstation that still has all the crap links transferred from one browser to another since I first went online over a decade and a half ago…

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        How often do I use bookmarks? Some daily. Some weekly. Some rarely — if ever. Some will have rotted away but I delete them when I find them (and there are automated tools if necessary). Also, most browsers offer an excellent “search bookmarks” facility when you need it.

        You should also note that bookmark file sizes grow more rapidly than they used to. Multiple megabytes isn’t uncommon for a few hundred bookmarks because browsers save the favicon, descriptions, tags and usage statistics. Firefox now uses a fast SQLite database to manage the data.

        Of course I use Google too, but I bookmark the useful stuff (and it’s got to be good). My bookmarks collection contains a selection of quality, relevant, and verified links — you can’t always say the same for search engines results.

        You don’t like bookmarks. Some people don’t use them effectively. But, if they’re so bad, why do vendors continue to improve bookmarking facilities and why was there such an outcry over Xmarks?

        I guess we must have different working practices. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all the same!

  • Jeffrie

    I really enjoyed using Xmarks and am sad that they couldn’t find development fork to call home. I was able to keep my work and personal stuff separated by profiles with 2 different browsers. Really an awesome idea that consistently worked and was free. I would like to see a bigger company incorporate the core into an already existing model. However, I don’t see how Xmarks can be brought to the market successfully as a revenue generating service. Xmark was a bolt-on feature/solution set that worked better than what the market had offered at the time. Now, it looks like core systems have incorporated the generic bookmark sync feature set and made Xmarks obsolete or just another app (ja2).

    It’s a great product, great company, with a great lesson. Not every killer app or feature add-on can outlive the core it is attached to.

    What will happen to NoScript or AdAware if browser systems start to incorporated their own algorithmic suppression interpreters into the browser (aka Intelligent Browsers)? Very few ideas, even if really good, will outlast time or the market. Maybe Xmarks should have been more innovating on complimentary ideas to survive.

  • mcksmith

    This news is a major drag. I use it because it is a convenient way to keep my bookmarks synced among the three different browsers I use, and between my desktop and laptop.

    The ability to create different profiles was great for keeping work and personal bookmarks separate, especially since I have different sets of bookmarks on my toolbar for each.

  • BillyBubba

    Gah! WTF? This bites the proverbial big one. I have been a religious use long before it was xmarks.

  • E.H.

    It’s really sadddddddddd.

    Since I use Linux and Windows, Xmarks for me is a dream I can not live without it. I use FF as my main browser just because Xmarks — once it does not work properly on Chrome.

    As alternative I use the sync in from Google to Chrome, only.

  • Anonymous

    Oh for the love of….DAMNIT!

  • lfa

    What about Delicious? I use their service with no complaints… Seems to have the same functionality.

    //Fredik

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Delicious is great and there are some useful syncing extensions for Firefox and other browsers.

      But … I like bookmarks. I’ve been using them for 15 years and have a huge collection of hierarchically organised links. It’s also quicker to search and locate bookmarks on your local PC than on a website. With Xmarks, I can use bookmarks and have the accessible-anywhere benefits of the cloud.

      • Guilherme Garnier

        I use Delicious for a long time, as a bookmark tool. The most recent versions of the Firefox addon have a better integration with Firefox address bar. If you type anything in there, is searches your Delicious bookmarks too.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    NEWS UPDATE!

    Xmarks is officially closing on January 10, 2011.

    An updated add-in has just been released which removes the search and discovery features (which weren’t especially useful anyway).

    If you’re using your own server, you can continue to use the service after the closing date. However, Firefox 4.0 should have been released by then, so check you’re using the latest add-in.

  • Hank

    Damnit! I use it all the time, I’ve got windows with IE and firefox and ubuntu with Chrome and Firefox and home and work. How the hell am I going to keep this organized now? This sucks!

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      You can set up your own server in the short term. However, the plugins will eventually become incompatible as the browsers are updated.

      Let’s hope someone takes it over PDQ!

  • webnician

    JUST NOW, I’VE INSTALLED IT on yet another browser and AS I TEST IT, I find this news.

    What will I do without it? What is a good alternative?

    If they have 2 million users, perhaps they could use the ol’ “premium service” scheme — maybe charge for more than 5 browsers, or more than 100 bookmarks, etc. I’d be willing to pay $20-40 per year.

  • Jan M

    I really would like to see Xmarks stay…please help them to stay:

    http://www.pledgebank.com/XmarksPremium

    This isn’t spam, it’s just that I’m a bit passionate about Xmarks, it’s halped me to organize my life…I voted in this poll earlier this morning and later on tonight I signed the pledge and thought that anyone who was discussing Xmarks and their imminent shutdown should probably know that they’re making an effort to stick around…

    It’s a great service..