Thursday, April 2, 2009

Privacy Enhancements: You Asked, We Listened

It's been nearly a month since our launch of Xmarks at the DEMO conference and already hundreds of thousands of existing Foxmarks users have upgraded to Xmarks. Many of you have shared great product feedback with us and we thank you for your praise, suggestions and support.

Among the comments and questions have been a few on the topic of privacy, and how exactly we use aggregate bookmark data to power our new discovery features. You've raised some important issues and we've been listening. With this post, we hope to address your privacy concerns and show you that we are dedicated to building a great product that you can enjoy for free.

First off, a number of you have asked about the motives for adding sync and discovery features, and pondered “why not stay a pure bookmark sync utility?”. The answer is simple: we think there's immense potential for creating a discovery engine based on the wisdom of millions of people (like you), and have been in pursuit of this goal since day one (view our privacy policy from 2006). Our co-founder Mitch Kapor originally described this as “a user-driven approach to finding the information that matters on the Web”. Today we simply say that our goal for Xmarks is to help users discover the best sites on the Web.

Beyond our belief that bookmark-powered discovery can make your web searching and browsing experience better, our launch of Xmarks is important to our business. Our new discovery features have the potential to generate enough advertising revenue to allow us to keep our incredibly popular synchronization and backup service completely free. Just as Google provides a world-class search engine for free by complimenting it with advertising, we see similar opportunities for our discovery service. We have no hidden agendas - our goal is simply to build next generation tools that help people find great content online.

So how do your bookmarks fit into all this? In the same way that Amazon uses purchase trends to recommend products to millions of other shoppers ("people who bought this also bought"), or Netflix uses movie ratings to help others find great films to watch, we analyze bookmark trends to help you and others discover the best sites on the web. Just as you can't learn about individual details from these discovery features on other sites, you cannot learn about an individual's bookmarks from We simply use the collective wisdom across bookmarks to power our service and in return we provide you with our best-in-class synchronization service free of charge.

We understand that some of you are concerned about private sites leaking out to the world, but rest assured, we only make a site discoverable on if a sufficient number of people have bookmarked it – a site with a small number of bookmarks gets automatically ignored. To help address your privacy questions in more detail, we've prepared a Privacy FAQ. Please take a moment to read it and let us know if we've missed something.

Finally, we’ve heard from some of you that you do not want your bookmarks to be included in aggregate by Xmarks. In response to your requests we're adding an opt-out feature that will exclude your bookmarks from our discovery engine. We'll make this available within a week in the My Account section of our website to users with a valid email address on file.

Keep the feedback coming. We’ll keep listening and working hard to make Xmarks better.


James Joaquin
CEO, Xmarks Inc.