Xmarks fights to stay alive

October 1, 2010 | 08:32

Tags: #add-on #browser #extensions #firefox #foxmarks #internet-explorer #plug-in #synchronisation

Companies: #chrome #opera #xmarks

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.
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