Goodbye Xmarks, I Hardly Knew Ye

Xmarks, I Hardly Knew Ye
In a sad case of many users, but no business model, Xmarks announced that its free bookmark and tab sync service will shut down on January 10, 2011.

My acquaintance with Xmarks - formerly known as Foxmarks - came recently, when Mozilla announced the Firefox Home app for iPhone. The app lets Firefox users store their bookmarks and open tabs to the cloud for easy access on the iPhone. Because I regularly use Chrome, I wanted to see if any other apps provided a similar service for all browsers. Xmarks got the job done, and its iPhone app only cost a buck.

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Syncing bookmarks and tabs to a smartphone is not the main purpose of Xmarks. Of the service's 2 million users, I'm guessing the majority used Xmarks to keep their bookmarks synced across multiple computers. Xmarks' list of browser sync alternatives, offered to its displaced users, suggests as much. With bookmark sync now available from all the major browsers, Xmarks' main hook was starting to look irrelevant. The company had no chance at revenue and no interest from buyers, sealing its fate.

Meanwhile, I'm lamenting the loss of tab syncing to smartphones, and thinking this is where Xmarks could have excelled. Too often, I've got a mess of tabs open on my laptop - mostly articles to read - and would love to send all of them to the iPhone or iPad for later. Xmarks provided the basics, displaying all your computer's open tabs in a list, viewable through a built-in browser. Still, the app didn't go far enough. You couldn't send open tabs in bulk to Safari or another mobile browser, and you couldn't send links from iPhone Safari back to the desktop.

Maybe Xmarks never had a chance at making money. Browsers themselves are in the best position to create browser sync features, without the pressure of generating revenue directly from those services. But despite its shortcomings, Xmarks was unique in providing tab sync across platforms, for multiple browsers. Until Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome catch up with Firefox Home, Xmarks will be missed.

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