Are We Taking Free Services for Granted?

Today I found out some upsetting news.  Xmarks, the all-in-one sollution to sync all your bookmarks, passwords, tabs, and histories across multiple browsers and across multiple platforms is going to be discontinuing service in January, 2011.  I have been a loyal Xmarks user for years.  I even bought their iPhone application so that I could have my browsing session available to me wherever I go.  According to Xmark’s blog post, service is being discontinued because they could not find a buyer and keeping their service free was no longer an option.  Since they could not find a business model that kept their service free, they are discontinuing operations.

This makes me really sad because Xmarks was the only solution that provided seamless cross platform/browser syncing of bookmarks, passwords, histories, and tabs.  Sure there are services baked within most of the major browsers that sync your bookmarks but you have to use the same browser on all platforms to keep those settings synced.  Firefox’s Sync is the second best after Xmarks but still doesn’t live up to my expectations.  I recently made the jump to Google Chrome so that definitely doesn’t help.

This got me thinking.  Are we taking free services for granted?

I would gladly paid for a service like Xmarks.  $20 a year would have been the most I would pay and I’m sure others would pay for the great service as well.  I have no problem paying a subscription fee for services that I actually use.  I pay every year for Flickr Pro and Remember the Milk because they provide me with enough utility to justify the price.  In this world of free content, free services, and free software, are we conditioned to think that everything should be free?

I’m really surprised that someone like Google hasn’t snatched up Xmarks and integrated it into their own browser.  I’m also surprised that Xmarks has not given the option for people to pay for their service.  In any case, I’m sad to see Xmarks go.  If you are a Xmarks user, make sure to back up your bookmarks, etcetera before service is discontinued.

UPDATE [11/4/2010]: According to the Xmarks blog, they are finishing up the final stages of selling their company.  This means that Xmarks will continue to provide service to its users.  This is great news!  They also state that there will be premium services for a fee once Xmarks transitions to its new owner.

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