Too Good To Be True

Well, easy come, easy go. Such is the way of web life and reliance on cool, free web tools. I just wrote the other day (link here) about the great third party bookmarking service called Xmarks, successor to Foxmarks, that syncs your bookmarks across browsers, plus offers lots of other goodies and features. Today, I saw this blog post from Xmarks (link here) in the news. I’ll just cut to the chase with the following quote:

By Spring 2010, with money running tight and options fading, we started searching for potential buyers of the company. Over the past three months, we have been remarkably close to striking a deal, only to have the potential buyer get cold feet. We also considered refocusing Xmarks as a freemium sync business, but the prospects there are grim too: with the emergence of competent sync features built in to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, it’s hard to see users paying for a service that they can now get for free. For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service. With that investment thesis thwarted, there is no way to pay expenses, primarily salary and hosting costs. Without the resources to keep the service going, we must shut it down. Our plan is to keep the service running for another 90+ days, after which the plug will be pulled.

Oh well. The loss of a bookmarking service and resulting collection is hard to swallow, as Magnolia users will attest. Sorry to see you go, Xmarks – it was good while it lasted. Hurry up and back up your Xmarks!

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Are You In Sync?

A touted benefit of cloud life is open access to your information from multiple access points. Files in DropBox can be had from your desktop, your mobile phone, your laptop, the library’s computer, your work set up.

But, how about syncing your key browser settings? Do you ever find yourself frustrated trying to find one of your favorite links from a different computer / browser? How about visiting a site you rarely access on a computer you don’t frequently use and being forced to wrack your brain to remember your password

for the site? Oftentimes, the inability to find the link or say the magic word at the gate shuts down your elegent plan.

There are two very capable third party services that can assist you in your time of need. Xmarks (link here) will sync your bookmarks across browsers and LastPass (link here) will provide similar service for your passwords.

First, Xmarks, previously Foxmarks, works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE. Install Xmarks on each computer you use, and it seamlessly integrates with your web browser and keeps your bookmarks safely backed up and in sync. It will sync across browsers too, so if you use Safari, Chrome and Firefox on one of your computers (or more than one) like I do, you can still find all your favorite links no matter which browser you find yourself. It has aspects of Delicious and Diigo’s social bookmarking, with the ability to see how other Xmarks users mark and rate the sites that pop up in your search results when you hover over the little Xmarks icon.

It also incorporates aspects of the Firefox extension “Similar Sites” – if you click on your Xmarks button on your browser bar while on a site, it will show you detailed information about the site you are on and other sites similar to it.

All of these features beg the question: why would you use your built-in browser bookmarking function, when you can save once and access your marks on whatever machine you happen to be using?

How about them passwords? I swear they are the bane of my existence. While 1Password does a pretty able job for me, it still requires me to open my phone, my app and type in the information into the site I happen to be visiting on an unfamiliar device. With LastPass, you simply need to remember one password in order to unlock access to all of your passwords.

LastPass offers (for free) one-click access to all of your passwords, automatic form filling, and secure note storage.

Like Xmarks, LastPass can sync across browsers on your same device or over many different devices. Your data is stored on your main PC – LastPass simply gives you access to that data from anywhere.

For a dollar a month, which really is peanuts in the overall scheme of things, you can get LastPass for your mobile operating system of choice, multifactor authentication for USB thumb drives, YubiKey support, and, for those burdened at work with IE and a firewall greater than the Great Wall, IE anywhere access without the need to download software. Premium users also avoid ads and get priority support. But, bear in mind, if the most important feature is mobile, you can still access Lastpass on your mobile phone by going to their mobile site.

Mobile tools like Xmarks and LastPass can make your web life a whole lot easier. Move beyond your browser’s built-in bookmarking and password saving tools and you will wonder how you ever lived without these able, third party sync options.