.Mac is back, bigger, brighter, bluer
by Francois Joseph de Kermadec
Related link: http://www.apple.com/dotmac/
When Apple first introduced *cough* iTools *cough* .Mac, the idea was to allow Mac users to collaborate online in a way that was previously unknown to Windows users. Indeed, at the time when iMacs didn't have floppy drives, it was essential to provide users with an easy way to share files that were too large for attachments (iDisk), create websites to share ideas and images (HomePage), put an e-mail account in their hands for the rest (.Mac Mail) and entice them to increasingly rely on the Internet for their social occasions (iCards).
Through the ages, .Mac has evolved to feature syncing, first through iSync, then as a system-wide service, has embedded itself into the operating system to provide users with seamless connectivity and has continued to stay an easy to use service. Anyone who has used iPhoto or iMovie to HomePage sharing will know that these features are a true blessing and that many users who would never publish anything otherwise have great fun exchanging files with friends, family and colleagues thanks to .Mac.
.Mac, though, was aging and none of its services had known a major overhaul in a long time. Additions like Virex, the removal of support forums, and a general discrepancy between the marketing pushing the service and what it really provided disappointed many users. I have stayed a .Mac fan through the ages, for having seen this service grow and, I think, understood what it was all about, but I had to admit that, while .Mac always stayed a great suite of services, it no longer seemed like it to the outside world. (The tragedy of marketing hype when it slips and destroys the very service it is supposed to promote.)
Today, a clean breeze is floating on .Mac. Sure, it is still dusty looking at places (can anybody tell me why .Mac still uses Apple Garamond on some freshly updated pages?) but I hope users will be ready to overlook that fact: poorly supported software has been cleaned up, HomePage templates have been updated, login and help pages have been dusted and the service feels overall a lot snappier. It is even partially translated en Français and auf Deutsch, an effort one can only welcome.
More storage means .Mac compares more favorably to other online services and, therefore, will attract more users who pay close attention to raw numbers — something I can't bring myself to really do but it is important to stay afloat in that aspect as well.
.Mac groups are a little gem and allow users to easily create protected collaborative sites, featuring a forum, a mailing list, a linkroll, calendars, file sharing capabilities, web publishing… Is it a full blown content management system for large multinational corporations? No, but it is not what it is supposed to be and, as a small business owner, I could totally see myself using it. It is without doubt perfect for students working on class projects and I would have died only a couple years ago for that feature to exist.
Now, another thing that has me really excited about the latest release of is that, once again, Apple has become adventurous with web development. Indeed, since the dynamic HomePage site re-ordering system made its appearance a while ago, .Mac had stayed more or less the same (including the webmail interface). Group pages finally feature online editing, which one can only hope will extend to other areas of the .Mac site.
Is .Mac perfect? No, but nothing is. It certainly has gotten a lot better with this new upgrade and I'm eager to see everything that is in store. Of course, as with everything .Mac we'll need to give it a bit of time to see how it reacts under pressure and in the real world.
But I have hopes. I want to believe in it. Tell me .Mac is still alive!
Everyone you want to be able to access your .mac group has to have their own .mac address. You can sign up for a free 60 day trial and the address will remain good for group purposes after it expires, but I don't see many people being willing to fork over all of that juicy marketing data unless they're already a .mac member.