Monday, September 27, 2010

The End of XMarks

Today Marks announced that they will be closing their doors soon. They had a great bookmark syncing service for Firefox which made it possible to share bookmarks across multiple computers and access them on the web. It was great for people who had more than one computer (at and at work for example) or who simply wanted an easy way to import their browsers when they upgraded their computers. You could even access your bookmarks on your cellphone through XMarks' web interface.

It was a great, innovative service—real cloud computing at a time when most people had not even heard of the term. But their support page for the shutdown shows quite dramatically, why XMarks will cease operations soon. Simply put, the functionality of XMarks has been taken over by web browsers. Beginning with Chrome, all of the major web browsers today have added a syncing solution for bookmarks in recent months. While XMarks could also sync bookmarks between different web browsers, most people tend to pick a browser they like and stick with it.

That's certainly what I do. While I occasionally run different browsers just to compare and keep on top of what's out there, I've mostly stuck with Chrome over the last couple of years after having been a loyal Firefox user for many more years. And before that, I had stuck with Netscape for the better part of a decade. In fact, even though I have fond memories of XMarks, the truth is that I haven't used it in years. And even if I was a big browser slut, I could always use a social bookmarking service like Delicious without installing XMarks. So while the closing of XMarks seems surprising to me at first, perhaps it shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

But the end of XMarks causes more than just nostalgia; it also raises concerns. While it came into existence before "cloud computing" caught on, XMarks is essentially a cloud service. It stores your bookmarks on a remote server and allows you to download them on whatever computer you are using. XMarks is not the first cloud computing service to be shutdown after going out of business or being bought out but it will not be the last. And that is the issue that we all must grapple with as more and more of our data migrates from our computers and our control and onto remote servers which companies which may or may not be financially stable control.

This is going to keep happening. Cloud computing services will come and go and users will be forced to scramble to save their data when those services go. Ultimately, the only solution is that age old solution that we always seem to be too lazy to do; set up a backup plan and stick with it....

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