.Mac in trouble

by Giles Turnbull

If recent reports are anything to go by, .Mac is in trouble.



Stories of outages and breakages do nothing to improve the already fairly poor reputation of Apple's online services package. And everyone who has invested money in a .Mac account, and perhaps in third-party apps that take advantage of it, ends up frustrated and locked in to a single machine, since they can't sync stuff between different Macs as they expected.



Steve Jobs might announce all sorts of things at WWDC next week, and to be honest I don't expect .Mac to feature among them. But Apple really needs to address .Mac soon (and not just by introducing a whole bunch of .Mac-only new features in iApps and Leopard).



The service needs to be re-thought and re-vamped completely. There's nothing like it in the Windows world, and .Mac is a superb idea, a wonderful feature to attract new users to Macs; it's just the the reality of using it offers little other than frustration, disappointment, and bemusement that other online services offer so much more (often for a lot less money).



Even if .Mac gets zero attention next week, I'm hoping that something drastic is done to it before the end of the year. Even if that means simply putting it out of its misery.


26 Comments

Jeremy
2006-08-01 14:57:12
I couldn't agree more. I've been a .mac subscriber for the last year and a half and next year, I think I'll opt out if they don't do something better. Admittedly, it's hard to keep with free offerings out there, but they just don't seem to be giving the service the attention that merits the $99/year price.
Jeremy
2006-08-01 14:57:44
*keep up with free offerings...
Lee
2006-08-01 15:20:12
I had .Mac since it's inception, but reluctantly let it expire last year. In my estimation and given the current cost, the value of .Mac may well become questionable for the casual user, especially at renewal time. The many services are great but, other than email, I suspect that not everyone can muster up a frequency of usage circumstance that justifies the ongoing annual investment.
Raymond Brigleb
2006-08-01 15:56:31
I think Apple should buy Joyent, or another similar but solid Web 2.0 type company, and use that technical knowledge and software as a foundation for a .Mac 2.0. I would love to see Apple give .Mac a little love. Great idea, poor service.
Simon
2006-08-01 16:07:27
Here here mate. Too many times the sync service is unavailable... and if you sync Safari bookmarks... your RSS feeds break !


Mail is OK but I get spam from ONLY my .mac account... why ??? Its far too easy for the spammer to randomly generate .mac address's.

Mike
2006-08-01 16:39:19
I've been a Dot Mac user since it was introduced as a free service. At this point I'm only keeping it because I can't be bothered to change the several e-mail addresses associated with the account. Needless to say I am not happy with the numerous outages and the fact the Safari Bookmark Syncing breaks and has to be completely reset at least monthly.


For what we pay it ought to work reliable, all the time.

Mark Bernstein
2006-08-01 17:35:29
This is a foolish idea. Synch manager is *essential* to iLife, it's essential to business apps, and it's a big investment.


There's no way .mac would be scrapped.

Dan
2006-08-01 19:27:36
.Mac needs more 2.0.
Mike
2006-08-01 19:41:17
Honestly, I've had a .mac account for as long as its been around, and I love it. I use it for work and have never had a problem. I've got a gig of memory on my iDisk and use it to post files for clients and co-workers. I use 4 different macs in my job and the reality is I feel as if I'm using one machine at all times and all locations. God help us/me if Apple ever abandons Dot Mac!
artMonster
2006-08-01 20:18:27
I really wish people would stop referencing those gasbags at C/Net New.com. "Some users are claiming". "Some posters wrote". Blah Blah Blah...
While I am quite sure these people actually made these comments, a little more in-depth reporting on exactly how widespread the problem is would be nice. Honestly, if I had no personal experience with Apple and their products, these stories would certainly make me think twice before buying from them. Perhaps that is the real agenda behind many of these stories, or just looking to increase their hits.
I am quite happy with .Mac, I do not think the price is too high. I get more spam in my Gmail account than in my .Mac account. I have had some problems with a couple of Apple products, but they have always made it good. That has been my experience. Otherwise I would switch to the "superior" alternatives, whatever they may be...
akatsuki
2006-08-01 20:26:18
Perhaps they should hand off storage duties to S3 or Google or someone else since they have never been able to manage QoS with .Mac.
Kelmon
2006-08-01 23:51:17
Spam is turning out to be my .mac problem. I know that there have been a few people talking in blogs about the amount of spam they were receiving via .mac and now I seem to be getting the same problem and Mail.app really doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of catching it. Apple, as far as I am concerned, needs to do some rigourous server-side spam checking in order to add value to the email service (which practically all the competing services already do).
daddydoodaa
2006-08-02 06:13:25
I've had no problems with .Mac recently. We use email, synching, iWeb with .Mac - no problems. I'll renew in October.
Andrew
2006-08-02 09:54:45
What I would like to see is for Apple to add all of the .Mac services to OS X Server and modify all of the apps that currently use .Mac so they could be pointed at any OS X Server running the .Mac server app (great for small businesses). Actually I would prefer it if they opened up the interfaces and protocols so that anyone could write their own version of the server app (better for individual users), but that probably wouldn't be in Apple's best interest.
Chris
2006-08-02 09:55:53
I have had a .Mac account for 2 years, but certainly will not be renewing.


Unless, of course, they by 37signals and turn Backpack into .Mac ... !!

Kevin S.
2006-08-02 18:11:13
I've been a .Mac member for two years now. My subscription is up for renewal in three weeks. I won't be renewing (unless .Mac is completely overhauled to my liking during WWDC, or shortly thereafter).


I use all the following .Mac features: iDisk, Backup, Webmail, Sync, HomePage (for photo albums), iCal publishing and I even maintain three iBlog/iDisk based weblogs. It has been a huge pain to move these things out of .Mac and into other places in preparation for canceling my subscription. The time I have spent doing it actually is probably worth more than just paying another $99 for another year's subscription. (I suspect a lot of continuing .Mac subscribers find that the time they would need to spend transferring from .Mac is worth more than $99 and therefore just keep sticking with it.)


However, for myself, I really can no longer justify spending $99 (less if you buy from Amazon.com) for services that I can find free, and often better, elsewhere:


iDisk - gDisk, http://gdisk.sourceforge.net/, a Gmail hack; or try http://box.net. Both are free (box.net offers more features for $) and offer a gig of online storage.


Webmail - so many to list; Gmail is probably the best, http://mail.google.com.


Backup - Carbon Copy Cloner is donationware, http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html; SilverKeeper is freeware, http://www.lacie.com/silverkeeper/.


Sync - try MySync, currently a free beta, http://www.mildmanneredjanitor.com/mysync/; For online backups of bookmarks there is http://del.icio.us - free.


Blogging - I use WordPress.com, which is free; there tons of other free alternatives available too.


HomePage (photos) - Flickr.com - basic account is free.


iCal Publishing - Google Calendar, http://www.google.com/calendar - free.


In other words, everything I pay $99 for with .Mac is currently freely available somewhere else. There is a cost involved with time in moving everything off .Mac, but once that is done it's done, and I don't have to pay $99 more every year for the rest of my/.Mac's life. What's more, the alternatives to .Mac are generally better than the same service from .Mac.


.Mac was nice for the first two years I used OS X, and a lot of the above-listed alternatives didn't even exist two years ago, but now that there are so many free, robust alternatives, what reason aside from the momentum of already having everything on .Mac and a little bit of added convenience with the integration of .Mac into the OS and iLife apps is there for me, and others like me, to renew their .Mac subscription or even subscribe to .Mac in the first place?

Domingo
2006-08-02 19:06:42
I am very disapointed with the service too. As a home Mac user I decided to switch at my personal expense to a Mac in my work enviroment. In order to achieve the maximum of flexibility I also opted to use .mac as my web based platform for my business communications (instead of outlook web access et al), file and web sharing. What I have found is an important performance problems that match with my previous situation with the microsoft platform. I also have an unstable behavior of the mail application and the ical simply doesn't work as expected. This is one of the few areas where Apple is really below the average on quality, stability and performance.
A.T.
2006-08-03 10:20:10
I'm a relative late-comer to .mac, this being my second year. With the exception of the period around the release of 10.4.7 (?) where the sync services really went south for a while, I have found .mac to deliver reasonable sync and backup services. I use and rely on these and haven't noticed my calendars or phone books out of sync for any substantial period. I even use syncing with entourage too. I am in fact thinking of a family pack. And by the way I do NOT pay $99 for it. There is always a retail pack somewhere going for around $69.
Michael Heinz
2006-08-03 21:07:47
What I find annoying is that Apple *used* to throw in lots of free stuff with .Mac - every couple of months there'd be a special version of some software package or other, free to paid .Mac users. I still have my copy of Sticky Brain v2 that I got that way, and I remember lots of others.


Paying $100 for email and a very limited website is just getting too annoying.

T.M.
2006-08-04 13:37:01
IMO, Apple should structure .Mac into two levels: a free level with basic (but usable, attractive) services and a premium level with enhanced features that a user pays for. iTools, .Mac's predecessor, was free and positioned as a unique feature of the Mac OS, an inducement to upgrade to the latest OS. When iTools became .Mac, it suddenly became a pay service (and a rather expensive one) under the premise that the net landscape had changed and no one was offering iTools services for free anymore. Maybe that was true to a certain extent back then, but, once again the net landscape has changed, and free, web-oriented services (and applications) are coming back with a vengeance.


I think Apple needs to seriously reevaluate .Mac and position it, once again, as another irresistible carrot to dangle in front of users thinking of switching to OS X (and iLife). Therein lies the potential to sell even more copies of OS X and iLife, and the stampede of fresh new Mac users (and exisiting Mac users) exposed to .Mac will provide a fertile market for .Mac premium services.


But the present all or nothing .Mac $99/year pricing strategy is quite simply a significant barrier to entry that, in addition to the costs associated with a new Apple computer purchase, or an new OS X update, or an new iLife purchase, doesn't appeal to much more than a fraction of Mac users. It's wasted potential. Apple could get virtually 100% .Mac adoption and millions of additional .Mac users who would, as "official" .Mac users, be much better converts for upselling value-added services than Apple's present strategy.

Chris D
2006-08-04 17:26:11
I too have been using .Mac since inception. I like a lot of the features which are integrated into the iApps, but Apple really needs to consider as one of the previous posters pointed out an application/web utility like BackPack (37signals) in order to get my $120 in October
MactOSiX
2006-08-05 20:53:45
Been a .Mac user since it's iTools day. Paying $99, which fortunately I've never had to pay in full, is too much now! I kept it this year because I wasn't quite ready to switch my e-mail accounts. Plus I had an activation code I hadn't used. I use e-mail the most but the second, and my favorite feature, is the photo album as webpage with upload via iPhoto. The third feature I use is the Homepage feature for file sharing with a password. It's great for sharing PDFs that are too big for e-mail and customer/client doesn't have FTP account(how many do?). I haven't quite found that service available elsewhere (if you know of one shout it out!).
However too services are now offered by Google that can make the e-mail and iPhoto/Homepage option no longer a good payfor value. Except for the no @mac label gmail is a great alternative. Unless you want IMAP access to it. With the new plug-in for Picasa and Picasa web albums released you now have a way to put your photos up, even using iPhoto. I haven't used Flickr or SnapFish so can't comment on those.
So I'm really paying for an @mac e-mail domain and the Homepage File Sharing at $99. Way too much!
MactOSiX
2006-08-05 20:55:18
One more thing ... I've found that Transmit FTP app does a superior job to the Finder at uploading large files. That's sad :-(
Tommer
2006-09-14 13:12:02
>One more thing ... I've found that Transmit FTP app does a superior job to the Finder at uploading large files. That's sad :-(


Yeah you are right. I notice that too

Mark
2006-11-20 14:48:42
I have used .mac for around a year. It never manages to keep two macs in sync for more than a few days before I discover one or other has stoped synching and is waving its hands complaining about keychain errors.


So then it's delete the offending keychain, log in to .mac to get synching again, only to have the whole process repeat in a week or so. I will not be renewing in any way shape or form.


The service as it stands now is not something I would use even if it were free.

Tom
2006-12-01 15:41:21
I have a program called Image Recall that won't open on my Mac G-5, it crashes! It works on my Apple laptop just fine