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The End is Nigh for Xmarks Browser Bookmark Synchronization

By Craig Buckler

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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?

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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