In a move that will definitely surprise a lot of people, Xmarks – the popular bookmark synchronization tool, has announced that it will be shutting down in approximately 3 months.
Xmarks, which started off as a Firefox extension called Foxmarks, offered free cloud based bookmark synchronization for Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. In spite of the introduction of out of the box bookmark synchronization to recent versions of Firefox and Chrome, Xmarks managed to remain wildly popular due to its ability to cross-sync bookmarks among different browsers.
Earlier today, in a lengthy blog post, Todd Agulnick, the Co-Founder and CTO of Xmarks, explored the events that ultimately led to the demise of Xmarks.
By Spring 2010, with money running tight and options fading, we started searching for potential buyers of the company. Over the past three months, we have been remarkably close to striking a deal, only to have the potential buyer get cold feet. We also considered refocusing Xmarks as a freemium sync business, but the prospects there are grim too: with the emergence of competent sync features built in to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, it’s hard to see users paying for a service that they can now get for free. 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. Our plan is to keep the service running for another 90+ days, after which the plug will be pulled.
There’s nothing unusual about startups collapsing due to the lack of a viable user model. Yet, one can’t help feeling sorry for Xmarks, simply because it was a damn useful service. It’s a pity that they decided to fold even without trying the freemium model.