Kara Swisher

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The Long Goodbye: Xmarks Tried to Sell Twice, Before Closing Down With Class

Yesterday marked the end for Xmarks, the Mitch Kapor-backed social bookmarking start-up that was founded in 2006.

What was most remarkable to BoomTown was the classiness and honesty of the goodbye, especially in Silicon Valley, which is loath to call a failure just that.

That was certainly clear in a terrific blog post about its history, titled “End of the Road for Xmarks,” written by its CTO and co-founder Todd Agulnick.

After noting Xmarks’ substantive growth as a browser synchronization service, he wrote:

“Tomorrow, however, will hardly be anything but typical, for tomorrow one of our engineers will start a script that will email each of our users to notify them that we’ll be ceasing operations in around 90 days.”

In the fascinating post, Agulnick did note that the company came close to selling recently. Actually, I heard it had gotten close twice and to no avail.

The San Francisco-based company–which had been called Foxmarks initially–had been seed-funded by Kapor, the well-known tech entrepreneur, and also got an additional investment from First Round Capital.

Xmarks garnered another $5 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures in 2008,

That year, it also hired Silicon Valley entrepreneur James Joaquin as CEO, whose job it was to carve out a business with Xmarks’ assets, including using its mass of data.

Xmarks had certainly been growing its user base and bookmarked Web addresses strongly, via a browser widget that recorded bookmarking information.

Earlier this year, it tried out an advertising product called SearchBoost, which gave advertisers additional analytics about their ads, as well as organic search results.

But all that ultimately did not translate into a viable business model for Xmarks.

At the time of launching this money-making effort in April, Kapor said that after growing its user base of actives, this was the next logical step for Xmarks.

“This is the effort to move from that category to the category of sustainable enterprises,” he said. “And that is certainly a good thing.”

But, as Agulnick concluded:

“We built it and it put it front of potential advertisers. Many were interested, but ultimately the feedback was negative: our user base was too small to be worth their time and attention.”

After thanking investors, employees, users and others, Agulnick ended:

“In the words of Douglas Adams, so long and thanks for all the fish.”


Looking back to happier times, here is a video interview I did with Joaquin in late 2008 about Xmarks’ prospects:

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