Xmarks Lives!

I’ve been using a browser synchronizer for a long time now. I tried a few, finally settling on Google Browser Sync from Google Labs. They eventually pulled that product, as part of their initiative to stop pushing standalone tools for other browsers, and instead push either the Google Toolbar, or Chrome, the Google browser itself.

When GBS was no longer supported, I went looking for a replacement, and after trying a couple I don’t even remember now, I settled on a product called Foxmarks. As you might guess, it was a Firefox add on, but it also had the benefits of A, not slowing Firefox down, B, not throwing errors, and C, actually doing everything it was supposed to do, and doing it well. Eventually Foxmarks became multi-broswer, and rebranded itself as Xmarks. I’ve been using it for about three and a half years.

Browser synchronization is useful to me, and here’s why: I use several different workstations. By that I don’t mean I am constantly getting new ones, but that I use several workstations as part of daily routine. The minimum I’ll use in a day is four. My home desktop, my MacBook, my work desktop, and my Windows 7 x64 VM on my MacBook. Beyond those four I have my domain controller at home, a couple netbooks, and even profiles I have on my children’s laptops and Mac Mini’s. Since I use a great many of the same web resources repeatedly, having my bookmarks, history, tabs, etc. synchronized from one machine to another is very helpful. For such a niche product, I get a great deal of use out of it.

I realize that the major browsers do this natively, but there are several reasons why I prefer Xmarks. First, it is multi browser, and I use Firefox, Safari, and IE depending on what sites I’m hitting. Second, I can hit my bookmarks via URL from workstations that aren’t mine, or from a mobile device. Third, the free version does everything I need, (even though I may upgrade to Premium just to be supportive of the product).

Last September, Xmarks announced that they were shutting down at the end of the year. They hadn’t been able to capitalize on their userbase in such a way to create a sustainable business model, and after trying to raise funding, had instead decided to close down. I looked around at other options, and after not finding anything else I liked as much, had decided to keep my bookmarks synchronized through Dropbox. It wasn’t as elegant, but at least I would have the bare minimum available everywhere I needed, even though I would lose my history and password synchronization.

Now just yesterday I received an e-mail from Xmarks. I assumed it was their “we’re shutting down soon, come get your data e-mail”. I was expecting it, because back in September they told me it was coming, instead of just shutting down one day with no warning – one more thing I respect from the group behind Xmarks.

No! It was an e-mail letting me know Xmarks had been acquired by LastPass, and would continue to operate!

This was happy news indeed. So, if you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. I’ve found it immensely useful.


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