Between the PlayStation Network fiasco that compromised millions of user accounts and Netflix terminating a call center employee for snooping on credit card records, connected users have reason to be on edge. To top it off, LastPass, makers of the self-titled password manager and form filler, and new owners of the Xmarks browser bookmarks syncing service, recently forced users to change their master passwords as a precautionary measure after witnessing "a network traffic anomaly" that could be hacker activity. Hit the jump for the latest update.
Xmarks, the browser bookmark sync and search service that had a near brush with death, is alive and kicking thanks to being acquired by LastPass, makers of a cross-platform password manager. To celebrate its new lease on life, Xmarks this week officially announced the release of its new Android app.
Available only for Xmarks Premium users ($12/year), Xmarks for Android lets you access your desktop bookmarks and open tabs on your mobile phone or tablet.
"In addition to easy access to your favorite sites, the Android app includes an Open Tab feature that lets you grab the URLs for any active tabs on your desktop," Xmarks said in a blog post. "If you're running out the door and later need access to the sites you left open on your computer, you can easily access and launch them from your mobile device with Open Tab Sync."
For those of you reluctant to shell out $12/year, the Android app is available as a 2-week free trial.
Not that long ago, it looked like the excellent Xmarks bookmark syncing service was toast. After failing to find a business model, the company was making plans to close up shop. The massive outpouring of support from the Internet at large refocused efforts to find a buyer for Xmarks, and now that has happened. LastPass, makers of the cross-platform password syncing tool of the same name, have acquired Xmarks. Seriously, businesses don't get much more complementary than this.
Firstly, the standard Xmarks we've all grown to love will remain free, but there will be a new paid version with more features. This will cost user $1 per month and includes handy features like apps for Android and iPhone, and tech support. Users will have the option to purchase a bundle of LastPass and Xmarks for $20 per year.
New competition from built-in bookmarks syncing with Firefox and Chrome nearly drove Xmarks out of business. Only time will tell if users will be willing to pay for the enhanced features. But over 30,000 did pledge to do so when the initial news of the shutdown broke. Are there any Xmarks users out there planning to buy the paid version of the service?
The story of Xmarks is like a David and Goliath kind of a tale—only, instead of slinging rocks, users of the (seemingly) popular service all pledged to donate untold amounts of money to keep the cross-browser bookmark synchronization tool alive.
Well, I hope you didn’t throw yourself off a duomo at the sad September news that Xmarks was considering shutting its services, because it’s not. In a bit of news from the we-expected-this-would-happen-but-were-still-slightly-concerned department, the pledge slash publicity drive worked and Xmarks is back in business. Huzzah.
Here's my question though: Why haven't any of the "big three" browser makers thought about providing a cross-browser synchronization tool? And here's the real kicker: If Xmarks wasn't already going under, would you have really paid 'em a dime?
Nothing is carved in stone just yet, but it appears that Xmarks, the cross-browser synchronization service, isn't going belly-up after all.
"Thanks to your passion, Xmarks now has multiple offers from companies ready and willing to take over the service and keep making your browser sync better and better!," Xmarks stated in a blog post.
"This is not a signed, sealed done deal yet. But with multiple offers on the table we're pretty confident that Xmarks will continue on with no service interruptions."
That's quite a different tune than what was coming from the Xmarks camp just a couple of weeks ago when it appeared the service's demise was all but imminent. Following news that Xmarks would be shutting down, the company received an outpouring of support from users offering to pay for the free plug-in. In response, Xmarks set up the Xmarks Pledge asking users to sign it if they'd be willing for fork over $10 to $20 annually to keep the service alive.
"We're close to thirty thousand pledges already, and that's without promoting this to our entire user base... Thanks to all of you who pledged so far. This has really helped show the value of Xmarks to potential buyers."
The company said it didn't know how this would ultimately play out, but it appears that the new business model will include keeping part of the service for free with some advanced features reserved for "Premium" users.
Following an outpouring of support and "several" buyout offers, Xmarks is reconsidering shutting its servers down on January 10, 2011. According to James Joaquin, CEO of the cross-browser syncing service, many users wrote in claiming they would be willing to pay for Xmarks. Ready to prove it?
"We're revisiting the idea of Xmarks as a premium service," Joaquin wrote in a blog post. "We've set up a Pledgebank page where you can sign up if you're willing to pay at least $10 a year for Xmarks. No credit card is required, but please only pledge if you are genuinely willing and able to pay."
Joaquin insists that charging users for his syncing services was never part of the original strategy, but giving the number of encouraging emails, he's willing to entertain the idea. But here's where things get tricky. Joaquin says it costs over $2 million a year to run Xmarks, with $9 million already invested to create the technology and grow the data corpus. If 2 percent of the two million Xmarks users would be willing to pony up $10/year, that would only amount to $400,000 of annual revenue.
Nevertheless, Joaquin isn't giving up.
"The overwhelming positive user support from all of you, combined with strong interest by companies looking to take over Xmarks, means that the service might just find a ninth life. Please stay tuned," Joaquin said.
Sad news folks, the developers of the awesome (and free) Xmarks cross-browser bookmark syncing service have decided to pull the plug on the popular project in 90 days, ending a nearly five-year run. In a lengthy blog post detailing the rise and fall of Xmarks, Co-Founder and CTO Todd Agulnick says it just became too costly to maintain.
"For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypotheses that a business model would emerge to support the free service," Agulnick explains. "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."
The decision to kill the service came as a last resort after all other options had been exhausted.
"By Spring 2010, with money running tight and options fading, we started searching for potential buyers of the company," Agulnick said. "Over the past three months, we have been remarkably close to striking a deal, only to have the potential buyer get cold feet."
Agulnick also considered making Xmarks a premium service, but described the prospects as grim, saying "it's hard to see users paying for a service that they can now get for free," in reference to sync features built into Firefox and Chrome.
So that's it. Barring any changes in the next three months, on January 10, 2011, Xmarks will fade away, with no real alternative available for cross-browsing syncing. Bummer.