bit-tech.net

Xmarks fights to stay alive

Xmarks fights to stay alive

Xmarks isn't giving up without a fight, and hopes to convince its users to pay to keep the service running - before the 10th of January deadline.

Cross-browser synchronisation service Xmarks hasn't given up the ghost quite yet, and although it's still working towards its deadline of January 10th has begun a fresh drive to keep the project alive.

Xmarks is continuing to e-mail its estimated two million users regarding its planned closure on the 10th of January following a failure to monetise the business, but it looks like the company may get a reprieve after all - thanks to its many fans.

Forums across the web - including here on bit-tech - reacted with disappointment to the news of Xmark's closure, and one common theme that ran through the ideas to keep the service running was Xmarks Premium, a paid-for service that would give the company the income it needs to continue to run its cross-browser synchronisation servers.

It's an idea which Xmarks has toyed with before, and chief executive James Joaquin has discussed the option on the company's official blog.

Joaquin explains that the 'freemium' model - where a free service is offered to tempt users in, and a more feature-laden premium service added later - often results in poor returns, with around 1-3 percent of free users converting to paid. "2 percent of our two million users paying $10 a year would generate $400,000 of annual revenue," he explains, but adds that "today Xmarks costs over $2 million a year to run."

Joaquin also points to a 'Donate' option on the Firefox plugin page for Xmarks: "Participation was abysmal," he states, and "less than 0.001 percent of users contributed."

The move to a paid-for version would also face stiff competition from the rapid growth in native synchronisation solutions for browsers including Firefox and Chrome - although Xmarks would retain the selling point of offering cross-browser syncing.

In order to gauge interest in saving Xmarks, the company has set up a pledge system, where users can agree to pay $10 a year to keep the service running. The money will only become payable as and when enough people sign the pledge to make it a viable option for the company.

Should the pledge fail, Joaquin explains that Xmarks has "received a lot of credible interest from companies interested in acquiring the Xmarks assets and taking over the service – no guarantees, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the volume of interest and we may yet find a path to a continued Xmarks sync service."

Although things still look bleak for fans of the service, there could be light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Are you pleased to see Xmarks fighting to the bitter end, or do you believe it's going to struggle to find a way to pay its $2 million annual running costs? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

15 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Eriku-Kun 1st October 2010, 08:53 Quote
Is this the next big thing to get PR?
day 1:company:"Oh, we'r closing down because you didnt love us enough"
day 2: fans: "Oh no! I've never heard of you guys and would love to use your service!"
day 3: company: "But you still can since we were only kidding about the closing to get publicity"

First gog.com and now this...
logonui 1st October 2010, 09:00 Quote
Consider me pledged, at £10 - £20 a year it hardly makes a dent in my bank balance and I'm getting a great service that's unrivaled. Here's hoping its enough to keep them going if they reach they're mark
proxess 1st October 2010, 09:12 Quote
I highly doubt this is a scheme. I've been using Xmarks for well over a year, since the monkeying times of Foxmarks. $2million/year is a lot of cash for a free service. 10 quid to keep it alive is by no means a brainer.
mclean007 1st October 2010, 09:45 Quote
Right, colour me sceptical but how can it possibly be costing them $2m a year to run? 2 million users is a reasonably sizeable user base, but their infrastructure requirements can't be that outrageous - they are only synchronising a relatively small amount of text based data.
MrJay 1st October 2010, 10:06 Quote
I'd pay $10 a year for this service.
I use atleast 3 different browsers across no less than 5 computers both at work and at home.
I dont know how id cope without it tbh.
And i cant see the major browser contenders coming up with a solution that is cross platform...i mean thay would have to work together and play nice and everything..
proxess 1st October 2010, 10:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Right, colour me sceptical but how can it possibly be costing them $2m a year to run? 2 million users is a reasonably sizeable user base, but their infrastructure requirements can't be that outrageous - they are only synchronising a relatively small amount of text based data.

Encryption power for your passwords, and everything else for that matter. Also if you're like me, you've got hundreds of bookmarks, it's not all that "small" anymore if you have 2 million doing that. Also imagine 2 million users with a home PC, a laptop and a work PC, that's 3 different sync spots. Plus bandwidth, which must be insanely high. Also, if you're mad enough, and you like it syncing between your Firefox, your IE, your Chrome and your iPhone, there's even more...
mclean007 1st October 2010, 10:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
Encryption power for your passwords, and everything else for that matter. Also if you're like me, you've got hundreds of bookmarks, it's not all that "small" anymore if you have 2 million doing that. Also imagine 2 million users with a home PC, a laptop and a work PC, that's 3 different sync spots. Plus bandwidth, which must be insanely high. Also, if you're mad enough, and you like it syncing between your Firefox, your IE, your Chrome and your iPhone, there's even more...
Bandwidth won't be outrageous - if they have a remotely efficient sync algorithm (which I assume they do) it will only sync changes, and I don't know about you but I don't go around bookmarking hundreds of sites every day. Usually it's maybe two or three, so that's all that should need to be replicated. Also it is only syncing text content, which is bandwidth light - a single bookmark consists, in essence, of an url (maybe a couple of hundred characters at most) and some light metadata (tags / folder, friendly name, etc.). I expect it will be well under 1 kB per bookmark, especially with a bit of compression.

As to "encryption power" this is trivial too. First off I expect most of the encryption is done client side when using browser plug-ins, so the server workload for these jobs is nil. Only when you log in to view bookmarks on their website (relatively rare, I imagine) would the server need to do any crypto work. Secondly, encryption and decryption workload scales more or less linearly with data size. As noted above, the size of bookmark data is very small.

I'm not going to argue their numbers - they must come from somewhere. I'm just curious as to how it breaks down, because $2m buys a heck of a lot of hosting and bandwidth, and I can't see how they are possibly using that much. I'm speculating that their $2m figure factors in payments to developers (which aren't really "running costs", since they are one-offs) and some kind of return to investors.
eddtox 1st October 2010, 11:44 Quote
I can see how they would have that kind of running costs. It's more or less what I thought it might be. And I would probably pay £10 a year for xmarks - it rocks!
mclean007 1st October 2010, 13:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by eddtox
I can see how they would have that kind of running costs. It's more or less what I thought it might be.
Care to expand on that? I am really intrigued as to how they manage to hit that kind of figure. The big ticket items must be hosting and bandwidth, which by my reasoning above can't be outrageous. They don't have huge marketing spend; I don't imagine they have a huge ongoing administrative burden; so their only other substantive cost is likely to be software development, which is a capital rather than revenue expense.
wuyanxu 1st October 2010, 13:51 Quote
i still think my advertise method is better: ad folder insert into your bookmark menu.
mclean007 1st October 2010, 14:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
i still think my advertise method is better: ad folder insert into your bookmark menu.
But who will ever look in the 'ad' folder? They could add a small banner ad to browsers as part of their plug-in, but that won't endear them to users (though of course 'premium' users paying $10 a year could get rid of the banner).

Personally I don't use Xmarks any more. Google bookmarks does everything I need it to do, and the fact I can log in with my Google account saves me having yet another login to remember! But if I was an Xmarks user, $10 a year would be a small price to pay for a decent product. I don't think the 'pledge' idea is particularly good - they should just give users ample warning then go to a 'paid only' system, or implement a 'freemium' service where you're restricted on number of devices or features unless you pay, and then see what the uptake is and whether it's commercially viable.

On another note, going back to the $2m running costs point, assuming a significant proportion of that is bandwidth / hosting (which I don't believe), their argument is flawed - if $2m is their cost to run a site with 2m users, then the cost will fall dramatically if they exclude the 98% of those users whom they don't believe will pay to use the service. So an annual income of $400k might be enough to cover the reduced running costs, and they can build the service from there to increase profitability.
delriogw 1st October 2010, 17:19 Quote
no brainer, this is by far the best programme of this type, and i have memory issues so for me it's invaluable

$10 is nothing to me even on my small income - just hope enough people pledge
rickysio 2nd October 2010, 05:25 Quote
I don't see the point now. I've already switched over to Firefox Sync, which too has encryption, tabs sync, bookmark sync, history sync, passwords sync, etc. And for free.
tad2008 2nd October 2010, 11:28 Quote
So they have 2million users and they want to charge $10 a year? A nice $20million in their pocket less their paltry $2million for costs leaves them sitting pretty on $18million!
Farting Bob 2nd October 2010, 11:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tad2008
So they have 2million users and they want to charge $10 a year? A nice $20million in their pocket less their paltry $2million for costs leaves them sitting pretty on $18million!

No if you carried on reading past the second paragraph you would see that usually only 1-3% of users of a free version will upgrade to the premium version. Lets be overly optimistic and say 5% do. Thats 100,000 users paying $10 a year (or whatever they charge). That optimistic 5% will generate half the required revenue....
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums