What .Mac Needs To Become

by Giles Turnbull

We've established that we think .Mac is in trouble, at least from the point of view of users; and over at TUAW, Dave Caolo has listed his reasons for ditching .Mac after using it since the iDisk days.



Plenty of bloggers and pundits were hoping that the WWDC keynote might include some updates for .Mac and were disappointed that it didn't.



So let's offer Apple our collective advice. Let's cobble together some ideas for things we'd be happy to pay $99 per year for; let's work out what .Mac needs to become, if it's going to survive.




36 Comments

Small Paul
2006-08-23 14:08:38
I think you've hit the nail on the head "my Mac on the web". As such, I'd add server-side spam filtering using the rules learned by Mail on your Mac (and maybe, optionally, learned rules from other people), and Address Book integration.


As such, I wouldn't be so bothered about .Mac being a hosting provider, at least in the same way as, e.g. DreamHost. I don't see why they'd want to compete in that arena. However, the iLife integration you mention would make sense: hosting for "PhotoCasting" from iPhoto, web sites from iWeb, movies from iMovie and music from GarageBand, all one-click and with the reliability and connection speed that you talk about.

eberhard Gronau
2006-08-23 14:37:27
Hello Giles, I agree with you in all points. .mac´s features are too restricted for a paid service.
Apple´s .mac service was promising with every release since it started but still misses flexibility and seamless reliability. To be honest though, I would miss something when it would shut down.
.mac in its current status should be free to use - as it was in it´s early days.


Your suggestions would bring some value to .mac. And more value should keep me connected.


Here are some of my thoughts:


- Having Groups in .mac is very nice but no potential participant should be forced to a test membership.
- Groups should offer manageable online ical-websites
- more speed
- no warnings "mail service was down for some members..."
- Freedom and flexibility, good ideas like group idisks are not working vor everybody or too hard to understand for windows users (really)
- Better spam filtering
- Some features like multiuser video ichats are only possible with .mac users which restricts again. Sadly (or luckily) the world is not a world full of apples.


So the next version should offer freedom and flexibility. Why? When I switched 8 years ago from win to apple macs I was astounded how much freedom I gained. I want that feeling back.

crw
2006-08-23 14:46:36
Another good iApp would be web-based iChat, gtalk-style. But really it's just the speed and storage issue. Why pay for .Mac when I can have a handful of gmail accounts and use gdrive to store files there?
rb
2006-08-23 14:55:10
I've never seen the appeal of .Mac. I'd rather see Apple come up with solutions for publishing and syncing data between Macs that don't require using their servers.
Kevin S.
2006-08-23 16:43:00
Yes! Yes! Yes! Giles, that is exactly what I want .Mac to be.
Chris
2006-08-23 18:39:41
All of the above and a feature similar to 37 signals "Backpack".
soxiam
2006-08-23 18:42:29
Why such tall order? I have one wish: I want .Mac to lower its price to a point where it's not laughable.
jonblock
2006-08-23 19:48:04
Perhaps this is more iLife than .mac, but...


I want to be able to sync my iLife content between home Macs. Not just read-only access to a shared library -- actual identical copies, properly kept in sync.


Typical iTunes and iPhoto libraries are way too big to push onto .mac, which may be why Apple hasn't bothered making this sync option available. But .mac could somehow be involved in brokering a direct sync between two Macs on the same LAN, perhaps maintaining sync metadata as iSync does (or did, before .mac sync gutted iSync's feature set).


Depending on the amount of metadata carried to .mac, perhaps I'd even be able to manage my playlists online. Changes would move to my Macs during the next sync, and from there to my iPod.


Perhaps this needs to wait for Time Machine. When *all* the content synchronized through .mac is actually stored on .mac, they can restore it all from their backups if a server-side glitch corrupts every copy of the data. With direct machine-to-machine sync of the major data set brokered via .mac, a server-side glitch could permanently delete photos from my libraries.


Backups aside, this might even sell more Macs. Not many, perhaps, but a few. If you *can* keep a desktop and a laptop in sync through easy Apple-built technology, you might actually get a laptop to complement your current desktop, comfortable in the knowledge that you can manage your iLife on either one of them.

Bruce Pietsch
2006-08-23 20:21:38
Man- U said less than I would have- how about the stupid HOME PAGE SW that looks like Apple outsourced the early versions of dotMac to some group in Bangalore that had not a clue what a MAC looked or ran like- now Quicktime still only publishes .mov files to HOME PAGE and I can not even begin to tell you what has happened when I link my iDisk to my iWeb pages using the damn External file link pages- it gets a vector exception that the page is NOT EXTERNAL- doh! THen it has the gall to say that it can not display the damn page- and not only that Safari shows it to the user but the other browsers like Firefox that do not have stuff cached that a developer has show U that pages U thought worked are NOT working from the outside- then if you add security you get not one not two but up to THREE layers of PAssword and user ID-yep I had one on iDisk, one on my Sys Prefs and one on the iWeb version 1.1 so that is now user id Public then user id of the site I named to link in to iDisk via a web site page then I tried to do a hybrid photo page and link in iWeb- okay NO WAY_I had to go to all iWeb and then put an external link on my BLOG page to iDisk and then still there is no UPLOAD of pics to iDisk so I have to have people put photos on the BLOG entries-finally the templates BITE!! I mean I tried the kids one- FAVORITE MOVIE-DUH- WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS_-okay iWeb is great but come on 1 gig is insanely small and I paid 29.95 for QUicktime and it does NOT have a menu item to export to iWeb-when I try to sync an .mp4 movie for streaming to QUicktime the SYNC fails as an MP4 for a 40 minute movie uses up 200 mbytes and damn servers always crash ou before sync- forget auto sync- spend all night every time it syncs if you have an Airport net like me--then to add insult to injury I realize I could just have used Apache and my own PC- I looked into Cable providers but they give only 250 MB and require IE forget that too-so nobody gives a crap so I am gonna go to the site you mentioned- then stupid Apple sticks Members only SW which is crap in and gives coupons for softracker which bites- I waste all day now trying to get it up to date and happy that I have the latest widgets that I wish I never downloaded and MAC FIX IT_ well good to read for odd bugs but NOT a sign of intelligent life--dotMAC is the worst- want my 99 back --yes I put up a web site in a month that is great but come on Adobe CS/2 is 100 times better and yes harder but Apple come on man- my Mom could NEVER EVER USE dotMAC and iWeb- forget it- consumers use this? I doubt it- I am SW eng. but avg. people will have a brain aneurysm- I hate dotmac and what is it that I should pay 99 for? Tell me Jobs- to pay for iPod developers iN China 50 a month?? And Quicktimer H.264 proprietary codec along with AAC sounds like Gates taught you to be evil- Apple is morphing into MSFT except for Unix under hood- nice Bonjour which could be named what it is- IEEE bridging and Airport is 802.11g and all the stuff you name as Apple proprietary is open free stuff--dunno- Apple is better but I liked MOT_ now we have INTEL the evil co. how about IBM chips -better than Intel and micron wise smaller- and the price on lap tops 375 for Aplcare- boy- the MAC premium is pricing me out of market----Jobs come on man- get back to being a ciitizen of world and not morphing into Gates..
Give us Real TIme iChat with Video over AOL VOIP and put some IMS APPS over SONS gear and take over the RBOC space as you can write the cool apps not the RBOCS_ give us real time multimedia- THAT IS THE KILLER APP_ just add iMovie IChat and iTunes and give us Multimedia VOIP phones man...
Bruce Pietsch
dustin
2006-08-23 21:08:46
.mac needs to include a Time Machine backup store, and it would be a smash success. It's as simple as that.


I think Time Machine looks great for my mom, except I cringe when I think of how to get her set up on it. To be a success I think Time Machine needs a dirt-simple way of getting it setup for computer neophytes. Having .mac be that dirt-simple way makes a ton of sense in my mind.


$99/year for an off-site backup of my mac is a deal I would easily take. Anything else in .mac is really just fluff.

Zac
2006-08-23 21:58:16
First of all, Bruce, ever heard of a line break, or punctuation?


Anyway, I think I might be the only guy here who actually likes my dotMac. Which is not to say it couldn't be improved, but I think it is worth the $99 or close to it. Could I cobble together a variety of free (read: advertising driven) online services and get most of what my dotMac gives me? Yes I could, at least in terms of raw features. However, it would not work as smoothly, nor would it be as stylish. Since I seem to be in the minority, let me first run down what I think makes dotMac worth it.


Backup - It is not the most comprehensive Backup solution out there but it is good enough for me, and the remote storage option is excellent.


Syncing Multiple Macs - Honestly, this is a little thing, but it is sooo convenient to have dotMac sync up my calendars, addresses, and emails on multiple Macs that I'd almost be willing to pay the $99 just for that.


iWeb Publishing - As some one who has done real web design before, I will be the first to accuse iWeb of being limited. However, it is quick and easy, which at this point in my life I love. I can throw something together in a few minutes and put it online. No html, no ftp, just make it and hit publish. It beats the days when I would spend hours in front of SimpleText, and while Fetch was quick enough, just hitting a "Publish" button is quicker.


That is pretty much it. Now, where could it be improved?


- Giles, I definately like the iApps on the Web idea, and I think it is a natural progression for .Mac to make.


- I also like the idea of being able to map a domain to dotMac. A masked forward just doesn't quite cut it. And while the storage and bandwidth could be improved somewhat, I think the current series of options are adaquate considering the other things dotMac offers.


- More freedom in iWeb. The other iApps are defined not only by ease of use, but also a rather large amount of freedom and power, the exception being iDVD. iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband are all powerful enough that they are nearly substitutes for proffesional software. iWeb, unfortunately, has more in common with iDVD than the other three. There are a lot of basic features in HTML (not to mention simple layout design) that are not available in iWeb. I call this the "Why can't I wrap text around an image?" problem. What is going on in the pages should be more transparent and editable. For example, why is it that only one image is previewed with a blog entry, and why can't you change it to another? Also, dare I say it, the HTML should be viewable and editable for those that know how.


- Eberhard is right about groups. It needs to be possible for anyone to join a group. Having people start trail-memberships in order to join a group is such a pain it renders the feature nearly useless.


- Speed and Reliability. A thousand times yes Giles. To be fair, I have seen it improve dramatically since I first subscribed about a year and a half ago, but it still should be better for $99 a year.


Now, with all of that sad, one final note. I don't think dotMac is a geek service. By that, I mean I don't think it is aimed at Mac Dev Center's demographic (no offense). We the computing elite always know, and frequently use the cheapest (frequently free) way to do everything. We have little to no use for the consumer solutions laid out in front of us, because we can do a better job if we just do it ourselves. While dotMac may fall flat for many of us, I don't think that is the case for most consumers. Check out what Gabe from Penny Arcade said about his new Mac:


"I never thought of myself as the sort of hipster that would appreciate the Apple experience. What I am though is a proud dad and it turns out that's just as good. I've already burned a DVD of lil' Gabe, created a slide show of his pictures and sent them off to the grandparents. After a day I had my own .Mac site made using iWeb and I was photocasting by Sunday."


I didn't always think my dotMac was worth the $99, but in the past year Apple has beefed it up a lot and now I think it earns that price tag, even if just barely. I think you have to admit this is a pretty good online solution for your average consumer. It is relatively seemless with an array of features. It puts backing up, web publishing, remote data access and online collaboration at the fingertips of people who probably don't even know what those terms mean. That right there is a pretty neat feature.


I apologize for going on for such a hideously long time. I guess I just had a lot to say.

Paulos
2006-08-24 00:42:10
Simple...


1. Faster responsiveness. Maybe it's because I'm in the UK, but using my iDisk is chronically slow sometimes.


2. Features more like Exchange server - I want to be able to log in and view my calendar with ease from a Windows PC.


Those two simple changes would be more than enough to guarantee my continued subscription.

Paolo
2006-08-24 05:29:34
We can view the article also from another perspective: why on Earth Mac users are paying 99$ a year for services they can get for free or at a much lower price elsewhere on the internet? (and as long as Apple gets the money from these people, the service will never be free or more reasonably priced).
Better, why can't .Mac be just simply FREE like many other services out there? That would be another COMPELLING reason to buy a Mac.
At this point in time I see .Mac as a simple way for Apple to earn some more easy cash from people who do not have the time or the experience to look around for similar services offered for free or at lower prices elsewhere on the internet.
James
2006-08-24 07:35:50
You know the 4th one already exists. Just enable it in your .Mac preference pane.
closethipster
2006-08-24 08:02:56
This past year was a bit of a disaster.. messages never arrived, messages had huge delays (hours, days) sending/receiving.. and of the maybe five pleas I sent for assistance, Apple answered only one, assuring me that no messages are ever lost. A year later, I'm still waiting to receive several test mails I sent to my .Mac account. For $99/year, isn't fair to at least expect a response to every problem reported to support?
Stephen De Gabrielle
2006-08-24 08:11:12
I wish they would just fix the whole syncing debacle.
Jeffrey
2006-08-24 08:26:56
I think Zac summed it up pretty well. As for someone's suggestion of making it 'free' like it once was, that's a bad idea for two reasons. First, it overloads the system and servers with an extra few million accounts that would cost a small fortune to support and secondly, those who buy Macs and have no interest in .mac are essentially paying a 'tax' to support a free service they don't intend or wish to use, because those services do cost money. I'd rather keep the price of admission to the Mac User Base as painless as possible. If you want to get technical, there is a 'free' status, which gives you access to the music store and Apple store, and .mac groups, etc.


That said, I do value our .mac memberships. As a host provider with 10 years of experience providing dedicated servers and customized solutions as well as a host of off-the-shelf 'easy to install/uninstall' scripts for clients, I have yet to see anything as comprehensive and simple to use as .mac. But it needs to evolve further, possibly into a tiered system with better flexibility to allow subscribers to select the level of services they need. The family plan was a start in the right direction. I think they need a more basic set of services for the 'sync' crowd that needs just a few of those features and will not be doing a lot of photo storage/web services stuff; maybe at $25/year. Then the current level of services could also be priced more competitively: perhaps similar to the iApps at $79. For those who need online stores and/or community driven/group centric and photo display features, their services would start at $99 and move upward depending on bandwidth and storage requirements.

James
2006-08-24 08:41:47
Here's my point-by-point rebuttal: http://them.ws/post/1954/in_defense_of_mac


You don't score too well.

Steve
2006-08-24 08:41:49
What .Mac Needs To Become...


It needs to become FREEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

JHooker
2006-08-24 08:42:35
I have only one suggestion for the .Mac service that I AM paying $99 / year - reliability! The .Mac is a premium service but recently I can depend more on my FREE Gmail account than my .Mac mail service (and, unfortunately, they both get about the same amount of spam :-( ).


There are numerous other half-implemented .Mac services but I would think the core service that most users joining .Mac for was email and storage, with email being a front runner!


I love my Macs and iPods - but Apple clearly does not know how to run an end-user service! (AOL is canning a bunch of people - AOL can't build software but they know how to run a service - maybe Steve needs to hire some of the ousted AOL service & operations folks)

gilest
2006-08-24 09:07:11
@ James: Thanks for your rebuttal. My only rejoinder is that I *do* know about the existing sync features in .Mac; I just think they could be improved, and made more invisible to the user.


I disagree with you on the Dreamhost comparison. Apple is a big company with big ideas; I see no reason why it couldn't offer a hosting service to compete with the best of them, and make similar assumptions as those made by the likes of Dreamhost.

Dan - Chicago
2006-08-24 09:35:23
If you have your own domain name registerd, but not hosted somewhere, for $99 per year, you should get your own domain name hosted on your Dot Mac account.


Basically, dot mac is hosting. Plus extra services.


So if you want to have all the goodies of a dot mac account, why can't you use your own domain name, just like a real hosting company?


It should be easy and seamless. Click over here if you want to use the dot mac name. Click over there if you want to use that new domain name you just snagged from GoDaddy or wherever. Badda Bim Badda Boom.


- Dan, Chicago

rjschwarz
2006-08-24 11:22:33
I would like to choose my email account name rather than get one chosen based on an OSX setup I did a year ago.


I would like to see a two-tiered system of free email and then .Mac.


I would like to see Apple sell domain names and email based on that in combination with .Mac services. .Mac just looks unprofessional on a work email or website.


Probably not possible but I would like to see a way that .Mac could host iTunes allowing for transfer from computers, recovery from disk crashes, and streaming at work or other places.

James
2006-08-24 11:35:34
"I disagree with you on the Dreamhost comparison. Apple is a big company with big ideas; I see no reason why it couldn't offer a hosting service to compete with the best of them, and make similar assumptions as those made by the likes of Dreamhost."


Apple can't make that assumption because of their products. No web hosting service creates tools that easily allows their customers to create content. Apple does. Did you read that Dreamhost blog post? For the customers that do use what they offer Dreamhost losses a lot of money, they just make up for that by the 99% of people who don't even come close to that.


Say Apple offers up 10GB of space (and similar bandwidth increase) for the same price, a much better deal. Now all these people who don't use will start using it. They start publishing family photo albums and family groups and uploading iMovies and using Backup to backup their important files and all the other kick ass things .Mac can do. Now they are using all that space and all that bandwidth and Apple is footing the bill on a very expensive service.


gMail can offer so much space because text can be compressed very very effectively, pictures and archives and movies can not. Dreamhost can offer that because 99% of their costumer base will never use it.


Apple makes the tools to use all that space, no one else does.


Also, how could this syncing not be more transparent? You enable it and you have an iDisk that's always available and will automatically sync whenever it can.

BDK
2006-08-24 13:27:12
Basically, Apple needs their own MSN. I'm so sick of using crappy MSN, Yahoo and AOL homepages. I've been bugging Apple for 3 years.
Vance Dubberly
2006-08-24 13:38:14
Ya. All the above and a real backup solution. Failing that I'm not renewing that absolute waste of my money.
David
2006-08-24 15:26:50
i'd really like to basic fileserver operation improved. If you drag a big file to an iDisk its not able to track file transfer progress. Instead it looks like the file has been moved but then it can't close the file. According to Apple - this is normal. No, its just bad UI.


Also, I am not sure why but I used to be able to do things with iDisk I just can't do anymore. LIke I used to be able to have a Filemaker file on the server and open and use the file from the server. It was fine in 10.3. But then something changed and now Filemaker hangs when I close the file. This is easily reproduced on different systems. I really like to see this work well.


This is basic stuff. I would much rather see the ordinary functions work before getting all sorts of new apps created on .Mac.

C Daugherty
2006-08-28 17:18:51
.mac should be a way for me to get a cut-above-free email, webposting, group gathering system. I paid a 100 bucks two years in a row on the hope Apple gets it right this year. The email works on my Thunderbird app fine, the web building is a bit basic but works but the group setup requiring a .mac account is just wrong. Why not have a 5 or 10 buck sign up for group-only members? I pay 100 each year so let me have 5 members in a group or even let me pay to add additional members? Something outside of making them sign up for a WHOLE membership. This is the last go a round with this setup before I junk it all together.
huy
2006-10-02 01:11:23
dot.mac:
for web-hosting/web space- SEVERELY overpriced
for email- SEVERELY overpriced
for backup- SEVERELY overpriced
for misc (photocasting, syncing mult macs ect.)- SEVERLY overpriced


dot.mac overall- expensive, but quality.


Why? Because .mac is one of those many things that cannot be based on the sum of its individual parts. The integration is good and the services are quality, if not too simple. Think of it this way, .mac is the ilife of the web. ilife can edit photos, make movies, make music, make webpages. But there are better photo editors (gimpshop is downright great and it is free), better movie editors, better music programs, and better webpage editors. But ilife is still an amazing software package.


I think .mac is the same way. It brings that mac feel to the web and just like ilife it is constantly improving and it can always get better...


Just one more closing and irrelevant thought, Spymac tries to offer a service with more webspace and better features and integration than .mac for only $30 (I think). Try it out. I promise dot.mac will look like a bargain.

john
2006-10-14 12:16:54
The syncing thing could be improved so that dot mac users could have the 'home directory' feature that's in OS X Server. That, as far as I understand it, will sync all of a users home folder to other computers across a network. Come home, start up the laptop and sync it with the desktop. Work there some, sync, leave with the laptop and everything in sync. I think this sort of functionality will arrive some time to computers, and in households/offices where one user may work back and forth between two computers, it's also worth some premium.
Gary Lester
2006-11-22 16:46:43
I am completely comfortable with paying $99 a year for .MAC services!
What I get for that is the ability to...


- publish web gallery pages directly from iPhoto in less than a minute.
- make subsequent changes to sites digital content via internet enabled device.
- send and receive email from up to 5 accounts centralized at .MAC
- create iCards with images from my gallery or iDisk and with one click and choice of fonts.
- integrate with my Apple G5 and applications.
- experience 2 years of trouble free service with my .MAC account.
- publish and be accessable to anyone regardless of platform, search engine or browser.
- enjoy upgrades without upcharge.


That having been said what surprises me is that .MAC hasn't offered me the kind of services would eagerly pay more for such as...


- domain name integration.
- customizable and 3rd party templates(.MAC and iWeb)
- e Commerce solutions.
- ability to publish QuickTime, PDF , iMovie content as well as music authored via GarageBand.


If they want to offer me those kind of features with similiar efficiency than I could easily commit $99 a month or even $199 a month towards .MAC!
Just give me the bandwith please!

csjwolfe
2007-03-29 12:45:20
I am impressed with iWeb's simplicity and ease of use. I would like to see Apple offer .mac as a competitive hosting package and upgrade iWeb to an e-commerce package. I am now using 1and1 for hosting. They have server-side software called WebSiteBuilder that is OK, but very clunky compared to iWeb. I could use GoLive or Dreamweaver, but I'm not an experienced designer and it takes me a long time to design and implement with them. With iWeb I could get my e-commerce site up and running quickly given the right feature-set. I wonder how many other Mac users would try iWeb and use .mac if they offered what we need?
Gary Lester
2007-03-31 12:23:40
It's now April 2007 and I wanted to add to my earlier comment by saying that .Mac is indeed offering me more services now than ever before.
Contrary to the OP I have been satisfied with my overall experience wth .MAC. In fact I am more even pleased this year than the previous two!
In all fairness I care very little about syncing my bookmarks or calendar.
What I do consider of primary importance is the ability to deliver content to my .Mac and iWeb sites from numerous creative applications available via my desktop computers. Just as high a priority to me is easy accessability to change or configure my sites as necessary. I can do so from any computer connected to the net.
Integration with applications like Garageband, iMovie and iLife as well as the iTunes Music Store have enabled me to publish content in new and dynamic ways including via Podcast and in tandem with original music.
All in all from where I sit the service has been terrific and the options available to the creative continue to increase at an amazing pace.
Good luck!
Maverycke
2007-06-18 20:23:39
I'd like to be able to work on my iWeb site without using iWeb, if anything, just the blog side of things, is that so much to ask?
Patricia Cerasoni
2007-08-17 02:46:16
Have you seen .MAC lately?
A previous comment was left by Gary Lester and when I clicked on his name/link it took me to a site that impressed the heck out of me.
The ability to have a website displaying fast loading movies, music and photography for under a hundred dollars a year seems like a pretty good deal to me.
This guy's site even had a page with one click links to his other sites. One is his musician site and another goes to a gallery of photographs with 10 or 15 pages holding 30-40 pictures each.
It seems a picture is worth a thousand words!
james
2007-09-18 08:56:19
speed, speed and more speed!