Xmarks is currently a free application that I’d pay for. Unfortunately I might never get that opportunity, which boggles me. How can an application that reportedly has 2 million users on 5 million systems, a good product, and apparently strong supporters, not survive in some form or another?
Xmarks (originally Foxmarks) can among other things backup and sync bookmarks across Firefox, Safari, IE, and Chrome, and across multiple platforms. As I write this their website reports they just hit 1,220,022,504 bookmarks backed up, and the counter keeps growing. I like Xmarks because it solves a specific problem I had and does an effective job in my opinion. Admittedly I rarely use the search or web-based backup access, but it does exactly what I need it to do.
Recently Xmarks announced that they will have to close shop, letting their sync services run for another 90+ days, with the plan to pull the plug after that. Their blog posting currently has over 1,500 comments, many of which state something to the effect of, “we’d gladly pay a small fee to use Xmarks.”
Xmarks commented on things they considered for a revenue model, as well as ways they explored what they could do with the data. Ultimately it appears they have no choice, and for some reason paying for the service itself wasn’t listed as an option:
For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service. With that investment thesis thwarted, there is no way to pay expenses, primarily salary and hosting costs. Without the resources to keep the service going, we must shut it down.
If 20% of their users paid $5 a year, that’s $2,000,000. My assumption is either the payroll and hosting costs are so high they can’t meet that, that they don’t really have that many potential paying customers, or they don’t want to be in the sync business. Or maybe there’s something else I’m missing. Regardless, here’s hoping something good happens with the code and intellectual property. I could see the solution becoming peer-to-peer or decentralized to address bandwidth issues, or someone like Abine or Evernote acquiring the technology and incorporating it into their offerings.
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