#9 Xmarks Review

Xmarks retired their service on May 1st, 2018. If you are looking for some useful Xmarks alternatives, click her: http://www.xmarksalternatives.com.

Xmarks screenshot from 2011
Xmarks screenshot from 2011

Once upon a time, this Firefox Add-On was the biggest player in the world. The company offered its extension for free, and since it served a clear need, everyone wanted it. Monthly downloads ran up to the 150,000’s, and the user numbers eventually reached dazzling heights of over 150 million. Amazing numbers, at the time! So where did it all go sideways? Our analysis shows at least two big problems.

Xmarks synched between desktop browsers

It started out as Foxmarks, a solution for Firefox users. In that capacity, it did what no other syncing solution managed to do: to bridge the gap between Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Not bad! But then the browser market changed (2009) and went more mobile than ever (thanks iPhone!), so the need to sync between desktop browsers decreased. People still used their desktops, but now you had to sync with handhelds too. The market splintered into many different solutions.

Wrong business model

Coming from Firefox, the Xmarks business model used to be donation-based. Very sympathetic, we have to admit this. But not very sound from a financial standpoint. So, when they decided to make the jump to a paid version, they turned to Pledgebank to make it happen. Their goal was ambitious, even though it looked like they really had the numbers. 100,000 paid customers, was their goal, to pledge 10 USD to get the party going. As they managed to get no further than 33,000, their future turned sour.

Discover death by Google

Another tricky question was the giant database of bookmarks they built, in order to sync the bookmarks of their users. What to do with this information? They decided to give back to the public, in the form of a suggested website option. It worked a bit like StumbleUpon, another now-defunct way to organize and share information online. Hit a button, and the database will suggest some interesting sites to you. It worked well, but it wasn’t really searchable. Not like Google that is.

And that’s where the big problem with the Xmarks Discover section became apparent. It looked a lot like a curate Yahoo Directory, and that was great to click through, but not so great to search in. Because people don’t search in keywords, but in questions. They look for themselves first, not for some abstract category name. And so, even though Xmarks offered a lot of high-quality websites, they didn’t have what it took to take on the highly sophisticated and intelligent algorithms of Google. They lost that fight and didn’t even get to sell their search engine.

Xmarks sold to Lastpass

So what did they do? They did what they could. Sell their service to Lastpass, a well-known password manager. The choice made sense, at least on a basic level: their service also stored personal information in the cloud and dished it out to different browsers. Still, their core business was a different one, and where people are concerned about protecting the high value of their personal passwords, they are definitely less interested in keeping their bookmarks safe. So they decided to discontinue the Xmarks brand.

And so, yet another web 2.0 app bites the dust. Time to move on. To start.me perhaps? That’s what we did!

This article has last been updated on: Feb 24, 2020 @ 4:04 pm.

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