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Why I will (probably) not renew my .Mac account

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When .Mac was first announced at the July 2002 Macworld Expo in New York (remember those?) it held the rare distinction of being one of the few Steve Jobs keynote announcements to draw silence instead of applause. Of course, why should anyone applaud when they’ve just been told that something they were getting for free would now cost $100 per year? But when even the most faithful Mac users (i.e. the ones who waited for hours outside the building to get into the keynote) aren’t excited, then you’ve got problems.

I’m not going to raise the old argument that iTools should’ve been free for life. In fact, I was an iTools member who took the 1/2-price incentive that first year and got a .Mac subscription. I’ve continued to renew that subscription each year, but not without some hesitation.

Because the free iTools service ended in October, the majority of .Mac subscriptions also lapse this fall, so us .Mac members have a $99 decision to make. And unless Apple makes a major change or two, I will not be renewing this year.

But why now? If I’ve managed to rationalize the purchase in years past, what makes this year different? In a word: iWeb. You might think that the addition of iWeb to Apple’s iLife suite would be a reason for me to continue my .Mac membership. But instead it’s making me want to drop it.

Prior to iWeb, there was HomePage, Apple’s simple, online web page creation tool. The pages you could create with it were limited in their variety, but it was simple and easy to use. I could select a group of photos in iPhoto, hit the HomePage button and it would automatically create a new web page with those photos in the order I had made and with the captions I wrote. It would also link that page to all the others on HomePage and create a thumbnail link on the main menu page.

The benefit to me is that it’s easy to use and simple to keep updating. The benefit to Apple is that because it uses their proprietary software, it locks me into their system. And if I don’t renew my .Mac membership, my online storage disappears and all my online photo albums go away.

So imagine my surprise when I I tried to easily accomplish this same task after installing iLife ’06. The HomePage button has been removed from iPhoto and replaced with the iWeb button. I gamely give it a try, but the first test has failed: it’s not as easy as using the HomePage function. After publishing the page, I realized that it doesn’t link to my previously existing .Mac pages nor does it link from my previously existing main menu. In fact, it’s not even under the previously existing domain. It’s under the longer, more unnecessary instead of

It is still possible to use HomePage on the .Mac site, and create photo albums, but it’s no longer a one-click operation. It involves exporting the photos from iPhoto to a new folder on the Finder, uploading them via the iDisk, creating a new page on .Mac, re-ordering them and re-captioning them. If I wanted to go through all of that, I could use any of a number of online photo-hosting services. And it wouldn’t cost me $99 per year.

That’s just one aspect of .Mac that affects me individually. But every user of .Mac is affected by at least one of its services, and even if they never use HomePage, they use something else:

Obviously, getting an e-mail address from .Mac is not a big selling point. But the track record of their service is incredibly poor. When it was a free e-mail account, outages could be excused. But it’s been years since users have been paying, and even as recently as last week e-mail was intermittently unavailable for 12 hours. I’ve had an EarthLink e-mail account for years and it’s never been unavailable for more than an hour a year.

iDisk is the most interesting yet poor quality feature of .Mac. When it originally appeared, it was a useful and simple way for Mac OS 9 users to transfer Mac files (containing Type and Creator Codes) via the Internet. The tradeoff was its glacial speed. Now that OS X doesn’t rely on type and creator codes and has given in to filename suffixes that usefulness has gone away. But the speed problem didn’t. Subsequent major updates to OS X have touted increased iDisk speed as a benefit (thus admitting it was slow). But I don’t know anyone that would call it fast. The syncing was a way to mollify that problem, but it’s caused problems of its own (ever seen a rogue process called SynchronizationServer) and at the current minimum of 1GB of storage space it can make things even slower.

The big question at this point is whether Leopard’s Time Machine will turn the Backup application into the next Sherlock. Will Apple simply lose interest in Backup or will Leopard users simply not have any reason to use Backup?

What? You aren’t aware of any widgets that come with .Mac membership? That’s because Apple never released any, though they promised to. After Tiger’s release, Apple promised its .Mac members they would be getting exclusive widgets. To this date, they have never arrived. Is there a legitimate reason for Apple vaporware?

Overall, .Mac has gone through a number of changes over the years, but it hasn’t improved much. And when the Macintosh faithful are still not excited (nor even resigned to ponying up the annual fee), it’s time for Apple to re-evaluate what .Mac is and does.

Apple, you’ve got one month to pull out something new and exciting to convince me to renew my .Mac account.

63 Responses to “Why I will (probably) not renew my .Mac account”

  1. I have to say that my experience with Apple’s mail app is stellar! Of course i can use with any ISP, i don’t need to use the .mac mail server… but all my .mac mail and experiences have been exceptional.

    I have just ordered my .mac software from Amazon ( found a way to get delivery just across the border ) and will be renewing my account _one_ more year. In the meantime i have contacted an Apple Manager and have voiced my displeasure with the .mac service ( slow idisk, unfair pricing for non-us residents, the inadequate function of Backup ( there is no way to set it to overwrite existing back-up files…it keeps saving versions, in spite of what my “plan” says) and other concerns. I have directed him to this thread, as well as others. I think Apple mangers need to hear about our frustrations with DOT MAC. Apple Marketing managers are out of touch with the various other and just as good services we can switch to for free or in some cases less money. In the next year I will be ensuring that all my contacts will have my Gmail email account. So if things are _not_improved by next year at this time, it’s bye bye .Mac…. for good! I encourage other to contact Apple about their experiences with .MAC

  2. p mcgillian

    I am dismayed that some emails I send are not received. No method to the madness, either, as some to the same recipient are received, others are not. And none are returned to me so I have no way of knowing that recepient did not receive my IMPORTANT emails. Not good. Now I have to initiate another new email address? Oy.

  3. Sync is one of the big reasons I like .Mac – it’s also one of the reasons I dislike it. When I had to do rebuild my system, using .Mac to get my email accounts, contact, bookmarks, etc. back up and running was a snap.

    Of course, the problem as mentioned by Florian above – the “automatically” options doesn’t work! I always, always, always have to manually update in order to revise my bookmarks, contacts, etc. from my desktop to my laptop. (It even says it synced earlier that day, but it doesn’t. Very frustrating!)

    .Mac is in need of a MAJOR upgrade. I can justify the .Mac account as a business expense, but I also don’t like to waste $$$s. C’mon Apple – an online extension of your great Mac products deserves a better online experience.

  4. I too will be leaving .mac this month, been a user from the beginning. I can get all the useful features elsewhere for close to free. The excess spam is my reason for leaving, as is the email being down way too much.

    Steve J., give us a reason to stay!

  5. Yes, i do. I’ll have the package ordered and paid by her visa, as i don;t think my cdn visa will be accepted for delivery to us destination. then will have her email me the code. sweet. AND I’ll double check with Customer Service on monday. THX!!

  6. Vanni — can you ship it to a relative or friend on the US? You don’t actually need the box, just the code that comes in it! Call customer service and see if the code will work.

    Good luck!

  7. Floww-up: Bummer. Just went to and it says “Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S”. So I am out of luck. And even if i ship it to an US address, bet it would not allow me to us it on my canadian account. …. i am getting steamed under the collar!!!!

  8. @RichS: Thanks! I had not read your earlier post as carefully as i should have! So what you are saying is that A) i turn off automatic renewal of my subscription (which is set to expire on Oct 5th). B) before that date go an purchase an annual subscription at the lowest price possible, C) Then simply renew using my new purchased reg code. Sweet!
    ( So i should purchase early as it sounds like a physical box has to be delivered AND how do i renew my wife’s email only account? any info on this? ). I wish that Apple would automatically give their long-time customers this as an option. i.e. as an “upgrade” price-point. BTW. I spoke to an apple Rep on friday who was on campus doing Product demos. He said that he would be bringing up these points at their monthly points. i provided him links to this thread and a couple of others as well were there is grousing about apple’s pricing and poor iDisk performance.

  9. CDN currency conversion and 139CDN for basic membership comes to 124.00 US. And yet some folks report getting it fr as low as 79$US.>>

    Your .Mac account is set to “auto renew.” It will do that at the standard Apple list price. Login to your account and turn off the auto renew option. Buy a year of .Mac from (or anywhere else you prefer) for $79US, and when it arrives, login to your account, and use the enclosed registration code to pay for your renewal. Apple provides instructions for that renewal process inside the box.

  10. I just received my “renewal notice for my .mac account” Its for $169CDN, which includes one additional email account. I just did a US -> CDN currency conversion and 139CDN for basic membership comes to 124.00 US. And yet some folks report getting it fr as low as 79$US (I was wrong in my earlier post that my cost was will be 160$CDN). Something is not right about all this. And before i cancel my subscription I would like to Contact Apple and let them know that their service is now way over priced. Anyone know how I contact them? Is their an email address that I will get a response from?

  11. Wait a second – doesn’t anyone remember Virex?? This was the absolute MAIN reason that I subscribed to .mac – the vrius protection is what justified the price tag. Then the next year (or was it 2) Virex was no longer comaptible with OSX and we were forced to get Symantec. And there was not one word that came from Apple regarding this! It was just suddenly and quietly removed. So by that time of course I was attached to my .Mac address – but at this point forget it. I mean what’s the point? Google gives us gigs and gigs of email space for FREE – why pay? Web space is practically free. .Mac is over priced and this will definitely be my last year.

  12. I agree. I’ve paid for the .mac service for 2 years now and plan on ending that fiasco when my account expires. not that i’m against paying for a service, it’s just that if i do i expect some benefits and i don’t mean a bunch of useless garage band loops.

    i actually do use the iweb feature so i can upload pics of my neworn daughter for the family to see and allow them to post comments, but because that program is so limited, i just can justify continuing to use it. which brings me to question i’ve been pondering,

    Does anyone know a decent service that would allow me to have a blog that’s password protected? i’m willing to pay at least $99 a year.

    oh! and don’t even get me started on idisk. i’ve stopped using that altogether cause it’s so damn slow. you think the apple corporation has ever heard on flash drives?


  13. .Mac can be had for less than $99. Apple will sell you .Mac for $69 when you buy a new computer. The boxed product contains a code the allows you to register a new account or renew an existing account. Amazon has it for $79 for a new account that will also renew an existing account at that price. I’ve had a .Mac account for several years and have never started or renewed an account at the full price.

  14. I feel for you, as I once had a .Mac account and let it lapse I believe after the first year. There were two features I liked about it, the iSync and the iDisk. iDisk I find pretty much useless now with Gmail’s large storage, USB drives, and online file storing sites like YouSendIt. Now that web apps let you do so much via a browser, I think Apple really needs to beef up what is available on .Mac to compete with the changing scene, or just kill it.

  15. Yes, the quality of .Mac email has been disappointing but for me the value of .Mac is in the sync services between multiple systems as well as a partial automatic backup of key elements within ~/Library.

    I’ll renew .Mac but it is my hope that the quality and particularly the availability of the service will improve significantly.

  16. Wow – this is the 2nd blog post I’ve seen in about as many weeks decrying the state of .Mac – and this is even as I’ve been seriously considering ditching the whole thing myself.

    Like some of you guys, though, I keep coming back to syncing, which is great when it works (I have data shared across 3 computers) and Backup, which is so easy. The Backup thing has been seriously tested for me in the last couple of days, though, because of a nightmare experience with my wife’s iBook: anyone know how to recover data from a .sparseimage file that has no mountable filesystems? I’d suggest that all of you who are happily backing your stuff up to external drives and haven’t had to restore the data yet make sure that they’re formatted as HFS , and not fat32. Oh – and then there was the task of restoring Personal Data and Settings from iDisk. What was the word someone here used – “glacial”. In fact it was so glacial that it kept timing out and making me locate the various 100’s of parts of her backups.

    Anyway, despite all that, I’m *still* considering renewing, because I want to like .Mac, and I naively keep hoping they’re going to do something awesome with it that will give me the hallelujah moment I’ve been hoping for since they took my iTools away from me.

  17. in canada we get hosed to a tune of $199 for a .mac account with an additional email address. No MORE!! I will be ditching my .mac account. We have spent the past three months switching our email address to our mail accounts…and as for the rest of the .mac features… so what. the only one that i would miss is the SYNC feature. But it ain’t worth the money that we are currently paying. no this time apple has failed… it just is not offering enough compelling reasons to stick with .mac.

  18. The quality of service is truly awful. Just to quote the offical .Mac error log:

    For 8 hours iWeb publishing produced a network error message for some .Mac members. 07/25/2006
    EMail was unavailable for 1.5 hour(s) for some .Mac Members.
    Sync services were unavailable for 3 hours to all .Mac members.
    EMail was unavailable for 2 hour(s) for some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 45 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 3 hour(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 15 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 15 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 15 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was slow for 30 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 15 minute(s) to some .Mac Members.
    EMail was unavailable for 1 hour for some .Mac members.
    EMail was unavailable for 30 minutes for some .Mac Members

    Nuff said ;)

  19. You hit the nail right on the head. The service just isn’t worth it. I can use Google Calendar and subscribe iCal to it, so my laptop and desktop are always synced and I can update my calendar anywhere, on any machine. Google Mail is excellent – gets rid of spam very nicely. And now there’s a utility called gDisk that lets you use some of that excess Google space as storage or for transfer, just like iDisk.
    Rapidweaver is cheap and better than iWeb.
    Enough is enough – goodbye .Mac in about 30 days.

  20. I was an iTools user that left when it became commercial. About a year ago I got a free membership from Apple and I’ve been using it ever since.

    I really like it. I think it’s more useful than it’s ever been. I use Backup every day and really like the way it integrates with so many programs. I don’t use iWeb, but RapidWeaver and I don’t need an FTP account. I don’t remember having problems with their email and I really enjoy the authenticated SMTP.

    I like the Groups feature and see how the Learning Center could be very useful for many people.

    Ofcourse, there is always room for improvement. I’m definitely extending my subscription.

  21. Apart from the usual complaints about the whole thing I’d point out that new .mac membership is $79 from Amazon (US)…. about £40 in UK money. This morning I received my renewal letter from Apple….. for a shade less than £70 (almost $140 at the present exchange rate). Goodbye .mac.

  22. Ken – “Backup purchased music from iTMS.”

    Someone buy that man a beer. That is exactly the kind of KILLER feature that .Mac needs to adopt to differentiate itself from the excellent FREE offerings from Google and the likes.

    If Apple want us to fork out $100 a year, they need to provide something no-one else can. Currently, others can and are; and the alternatives are better & free.

  23. I’ve used a couple of trial accounts of .Mac during the past few years, and I have to admit that few things really exited me. Homepage was my favourite though, as it was an easy way to build good looking pages, with no software at all.

    It would be great if we had a bunch of online applications like photo managers, calendars, notes, webpage editors, mail etc. that integrate with OSX and iLife. But that would lead to potential problems for Apple and possibly for users as well.

    Having two versions of an application, i.e. iPhoto and iPhoto Online can be confusing at times. No matter how well you do it, an online application cannot share the same features with common computer software. So, the iPhoto Online will either be a visibly crippled version of iPhoto, or it will make it hard to the user to find the differences between them.

    Apple on the other hand needs to keep the focus on its Mac platform (hardware software). Rich computer-less apps (that have their equivalents in OSX, too) just don’t help. They’d give a portion of the Apple experience for the cost of a .Mac accounts, but the temptation to switch to Mac (without dot) starts fading.

    .Mac has to be improved though, but it has to be in a way that it doesn’t “compete” with current Apple software. And it has to be with features that are trully useful.

    Apple could offer a domain name for every .Mac accounts. One click publishing to your would be perfect for everyone, wouldn’t it?

    Make it work better and sync more: notes, application preferences, folders, everything.

    Remote access:
    Log in to your .Mac accounts to gain access to your computer

    The users need more space to play with.

    Free songs for .Mac members. Backup purchased music from iTMS.

    Get help from Apple via mail, chat (iChat) or phone.

    Member Benefits:
    The current .Mac features page mentions member benefits, but apparently these were never so important as to be mentioned by any user until now.

  24. I too was a .Mac user from the days it was free. Last year I decided not to renew. Yeah I liked my mac email id and I had had it for about 4 years but armed with a new gmail account I decided that it was worth the trouble to inform all my friends about a new email id. I saved 99 dollars and spent some of it on a Flickr Pro account which I’ve found to be well worth it. I also decided to stop upgrading the OS every year. Another 129 dollars saved! So I’m still on Panther and until I upgrade my hardward I’m not going to waste my money on upgrading the OS every year. But then in a moment of madness I bought a copy of iLife. I have now resolved to stop that too.

    I’ve had a look at the Leopard page on the apple site and judging from my past usage and needs I think I can safely skip it! It’s taken quite a few years and the feeling of having been taken of for a bit of ride for me to get this way.

  25. Well, I just see that youre page does not support international characters as well. Please fix this. It is so frustrating to see that many native english people just don’t care about the rest of the word who use also other caracters than US-ASCII!

    A good start would be to have a fully UTF-8 capable filesystem/database and encode your page as UTF-8 instead of default.

    Put this into your HTML page header:

    You could also tell apache to use the right character set right from start using this directive:

    AddDefaultCharset utf-8

  26. You forgot about the sync feature that is the only reason for me to pay for the .mac account. And it just doesn’t work. With each OS update it gets sometimes better, somtimes worse.

    I don’t understand why it is so difficult to synchronize bookmarks and mark the already red RSS items accross two clients.

    The best solution so far is to invoce the sync manually everytime I switch between laptop and desktop.

    Worth 99$ ? Certainly not. As you said, iDisk is so ridiculous slow, the homepage can’t deal with non-US characters (I once published a photo gallery from Aperture that contained some äöü). Really, what kind of
    service is this!

    I wouldn’t mind to pay for iDisk, sync and backup, however it must work much better and be fast.


  27. In times of Gmail with a free 2,7 GB, a multitude of online storage solutions and cheap webhosting, .Mac seems rather outdated.

    For 100 bucks per year, Apple should at least offer a high uptime, twice the storage and some extra bells and whistles to justify getting paid for.

  28. TimStalin

    I’ve renewed .Mac twice now, but I will not do it again. The first time I renewed it was strictly because Apple promised the extra widgets. And we’re still waiting. The second time was because I used my .mac mail on my resume, and still needed the address even though I already forward all my mail to my gmail account.

    The only .Mac service that I actually use is backup, and that is only because it is automated and haven’t sought out an alternative just yet.

    I think Apple needs to seriously consider merging .Mac into the OSX purchase for it to retain any relevance/value, but that might not even be enough. At this point I wouldn’t even use .Mac mail or iDisk even if they were free. Using iDisk through the Finder is just an exercise in frustration, although the new web interface is at least serviceable.

  29. Why don’t you just use Flickr?

    I’ve never used .mac so I don’t know the ins and outs but it sounds a lot more cumbersome than flickr. iPhoto also syncs with Flickr using the wonderful FlickrExport tool.

    It’s also cheaper, Flickr is free and has limitations, but if you want to pay its $25 a year and the Flickr export tool is $21.87.