Google: The Next (free) .Mac?


I never subscribed to .Mac, not even the free version, so when I read all of the recent editorials floating around, I really don’t have much to compare to. From a distance, .Mac looks pretty slick, but despite it’s appeal as an Apple product, ripping on .Mac seems to be the new hot thing. So, excuse me as I jump on the bandwagon for a bit.

After reading Michael Heilemann’s recent rant on .Mac, I’m beginning to think it’s official: Apple’s .Mac offerings just aren’t enough to go head-to-head with Google.

.Mac v Gmail

What Apple is Up Against

Apple’s .Mac is great. For a hundred bucks a year you gain a email address, remote storage, a few web services, and all kinds of seamless integration with OSX and third-party applications. It’s “Your life. On the Internet,” as they say. Their features work as advertised, and all told it seems like a pretty nice package. Until you take a look out your window and see what the competition has been up to.

We all know Google, the veritable 800 pound gorilla of the internet, but not everyone is familiar with the wealth of offerings that Google has made available. For starters, there’s GMail, complete with integrated Google Talk (their Jabber-compatible chat client). Anyone can sign up, and it’s completely free.

Google sweetens the deal with their hosted solutions, providing anyone with a web domain the option of using GMail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar with their own email address. You can also browse your RSS subscriptions from within GMail, a trick I wish Apple’s Mail would’ve learned long ago. If you’re lucky enough to have your own domain, Google lets you set up as many email aliases as you’d like, each with their own GMail interface. We’ve been using it over at Fresh Pursuits for a while, and it’s brilliant. I only wish Google would offer IMAP services.

Google, of course, has a plethora of other services, though none offer the remote-storage functionality that you can get with iDisk and iSync. So, two points to Apple for seamless integration, but negative 5 points for making me pay for it. And another negative ten for missing the bandwagon on social networking and real-time chat.

As Rui Carmo aptly put it earlier this month, “it’s not about the cash, it’s about the functionality.” Sure, the new .Mac webmail is soon to be released, but in the face of Gmail and Yahoo’s spiffy Javascript-packed interface, it may be too little too late. (In Apple’s defense, the new .Mac webmail offers a few very nice features).

It’s only a matter of time before someone unlocks the Google API and builds OSX syncing software for us all. Good luck, Apple.

Give (Your) People What They Want

There have been literally hundreds of rants on .Mac, including a wonderful piece by our own Eddie Hargreaves. I’m not here to add to the pile of criticisms, but I’ll do my best to summarize what I’ve noted.

It seems to me that Apple has doomed .Mac by forgetting to uphold three relatively simple rules.

  1. Listen to your users.
  2. Deliver on your promises.
  3. Make your die-hard fans feel special.

The list of insults and broken promises from Apple with respect to .Mac is long, and makes me wonder who’s idea this whole .Mac thing was in the first place. For a company that has been brought back from the dead by it’s die-hard fans, it seems ludicrous to deliver these same mavens a slap in the face when it comes to integrated web service. Where’s the tiered membership? Why do we all have to be treated like Mac-novices?

Maybe we need .Mac Pro to match the rest of the “pro” line.

Integrate, Don’t Recreate

We’re living in an era of connectivity and open-source development. The big names in internet media and search tools have some many simple open APIs, that it’s becoming hard to find a personal website that doesn’t integrate Google,, and Flickr. Flickr and focus on what they do best and continue to develop their strengths further.

Why, then, does Apple continue to reinvent the wheel? What .Mac needs is so much more than a new interface — it needs integration, or it will fail. It’s going to take a whole lot more than the horrendous rollover effect on the .Mac homepage to entice a true user base.

It’s just like what Merlin Mann wrote last month, .Mac needs to become a hub. Surely, “my life online” consists of much more than cheesy photo galleries and e-cards.

It’s Hard to Argue With Free

I can honestly say that I don’t ever forsee myself purchasing a .Mac subscription. I’ve better ways to spend my money, especially when folks like Google do social networking, RSS, and email better than .Mac — all for free.

The future of .Mac is truly up in the air, as more and more Apple regulars drop the service from their internet repertoire, the uphill battle that Apple is already fighting will become more futile. Unfortunately, Apple continues to treat this corner of their product line shrouded in the same cloud of mystery that their hardware is developed under, making it next to impossible for them to gauge what we want or how we’re react to it. If you build it… well, you know.


jesper V.

I have been thinking about dotmac for a wile. its a lot of money for something you can get for free.
On the other hand its dead easy to use and if you look at the price for 10gb off webspace dotmac is not bad.
My probleme with dotmac is the lack off choice.
I have all my bookmarks on delicius, my photos and mail and rss at google.
I just want to make tings easy, not move all my stuff to dotmac.
so steve don’t reinvent the wheel just make it dead easy to be a mac user.

Steve M

LOL Mushu … v funny

Just ditched .Mac, just not worth it. Bookmark syncing hasn’t worked properly for me ever on Tiger. Trashed my address book twice (fortunately had a backup), iDisk WAY slooowww, Homepage is slow too.

Annoyed that Apple charge a higher rate of VAT in the UK just because they are based in Ireland. To those that say ‘it’s available cheaper if you look’, WTF should I have to look around just to get it at a reasonable price?

Trying Gmail for email, much faster interface, nice Tiger widget, even faster than .Mac via Mail! Will use for remote storage, probably Flickr (maybe Picasa) for photos and for bookmarks (not mad keen on the tagging/layout but it’s not a biggie).


listening to some of you here speak about .mac is a joke and you call yourselves Mac users ?

you pay $99 to support apple, its not about you, what you receive in a .mac is well worth the 8 freaken dollars a month.

if i didn’t know any better i’d sear you guys are pc users, i want this, give me that, i want more, i want it free wah wah geeze get some mac balls will ya ?

go back to windows cry babies, let apple do its thing, mac is for the elite not for the poor and pathetic losers who want everything free

.mac membership is outstanding, its the icing on the macake

google will never come close to apple godlike status,

some of you panzies need to get spanked


mac mail sucks and thats all there is to …sucks. return receipt………nope ……… sucks


definately the next .mac.. the only thing missing is the syncing.. but other than that i think everything else i need is there..


Chris G., Multiple comments have been made here as to how to get it for much less than retail. Maybe if you read the previous posts you would have seen that the ability to get it at half the price is there.

Chris G

My .Mac account is coming up for renewal in about two weeks and I – very reluctantly because I LOVE all things Mac – decided not to renew it. It’s insanely expensive for what it provides which is not much. It’s cranky, Mac mail has been a mess recently, the storage offered is ridiculous when you can now easily find other services offering up to 5GB free storage, and there are serious problems with almost all the other services it offers, such as iWeb. Apple needs at the very least to boost the amount of free storage offered, but it really needs to take a look at the whole thing. For $49 it might, might be worth thinking about. For $108 (including tax)? They gotta be kidding.


>If you guys hate is so much, don’t buy it. You’re free to choose. But stop ruining it >for the ones that use it on a daily basis.

I think the criticisms offered come under fair comment. I use it, and I think it can be improved, and I welcome comments that are meant to improve the product. And I hope Apple listens ;-)


I spend half of the asking price for a dotmac-Box on ebay. The guy in China just provided me with the code and it worked. Be realistic – 99 Dollars is the maximum anyone ever payes for dotmac.

Love to have my contacts in sync.
I use iDisk syncing while working on my masterthesis on 2 Macs. It works like a charm.

If you guys hate is so much, don’t buy it. You’re free to choose. But stop ruining it for the ones that use it on a daily basis.


@heather: google’s raison’etre is free because of eyeballs on ads. I don’t see that changing any time soon if ever. If they do it’s like commiting hari kari.
@KD i had the fortune of having good advice on buying my .mac account on Amzon for 79US and then having it shipped to a US address, where the account was emailed to me… my cost 99CDN!

But i agree with the thrusts of the comments herein. DOT MAC needs to be A) improved, eg. iDisk is too s l o w w w w … and B) updated to current web standards. And there has to be a way to get to use the hompage / i web feature more robustlly. If you ever use the iLife tools to publish you end up having al of your custom pages overridden or lost! grrrrrr! this part of homepage B U G S me to no end! Any way i am in for another year, because i got my account at a reasonable cost. But i am keeping my options open.

gDisk btw is a piece of junk. it never manages to upload big files, and even downloading fiels is buggy.


The last two years I have been buying my .mac discounted for ~75, punching in my code, and letting it renew with that code rather than the 99 tax apple charges. At those rates, I find it to be a great service. I wish they would open iChat encryption to all .mac accounts and not just the paid ones. Because of that, it NEVER gets used.


With their acquisition of YouTube, I’ve been left wondering something about Google. What’s going to happen when we’ve all become dependent on it for our mail, calendars, etc. and then they start charging for these things?

Yasser Dahab

Point taken, Myles. I’m actually not a huge Google fan either (the whole fear of the new evil-empire thing), but their services really are kicking some tail right now.

Romain Guy

I actually like my .Mac subscription. Sure, I’m quite unhappy with the current webmail UI, I don’t care about the personal web pages and iDisk/iSync is not always working perfectly. But I get an IMAP mail account, my adress book and my bookmarks online and that only is totally worth the price to me.

Graham Hind

There’s a utility called gDisk that does allow you to use part of your Google Mail space as an ‘iDisk.’ And when you add Google’s menu bar notifier, plus how well Google’s calendar works with iCal, you hardly need the sync services .Mac offers. Just import your iCal into Google Calendar, and then subscribe to the Google Calendar via iCal. Sync’s regularly and easily and not only can you get it on any Mac you own, but any computer at all with an internet connection. (I’ve also made my Google Calendar my home page, just for convenience).

Add to that Gmail’s consistently good spam filtering, and .Mac has a long way to go to catch up. It’s OK, but it is in no way worth 68gbp (incl tax).


I recently unsubscribed to .Mac after 2 or 3 years. It is a nice service, but just isn’t worth it. In Canada, after taxes and everything the cost is about $160 a year. Gmail’s big advantage is (unlike Yahoo), it offers free POP access with your regular mail program. Plus THREE TIMES the storage for free. My favourite part of .Mac aside from the E-mail was the integration with iPhoto. But using the iPhoto plug-in for Google mentioned here:

I can do the same thing. The pictures are nice and big and the interface is VERY similar to Apple’s (almost actionably similar in fact). I had started to play around with iWeb and I’m sure I’ll regret not having .Mac for that, but perhaps it will lead me to learn FTP web site updating.

Like I said, I had no problem with .Mac’s features, just their pricing model.

Rick Thompson

I’m not sure the prognosis is as dire as some of you may think, but .mac is definitely not living up to its potential. Technologically, the tight integration with Mac OS X and the use of WebDAV are superior to anything I’ve seen from Google. But it does seem like the .mac division lacks the same innovative vision that we’ve come to expect from Apple. Perhaps a change in management is what is needed….

Yasser Dahab

That all depends on how you manage it, Jamie. There are some nice FTP clients out there that will automatically mirror folders for you. And at breakneck speeds compared to iSync.

But you’re right, it wasn’t the nicest statement.


“Google, of course, has a plethora of other services, though none offer the remote-storage functionality that you can get with iDisk and iSync. So, two points to Apple for seamless integration, but negative 5 points for making me pay for it. ”

Come on man, thats a ridiculous comment. Who else is offering anything as good as iDisk (complete with automated Backups) and iSync for free?

Im not saying .Mac is worth the asking price, but for this specific feature, you cant shit on it for not being free.


I agree, it needs to be free.
I am in the process of working for an apple store (fingers crossed) and i was told that encouraging .Mac sign ups is part of the job… I never saw a need for .Mac, and after reading over the features I too came to the conclusion that Google makes .Mac look like a rip off. I really hope .Mac goes free because I can feel good encouraging people to sign up!

Derek Punsalan

I tried .Mac for the first time because I thought that I would enjoy the convenience of having all of my machines in sync. To my horror, .Mac did more harm then good trashing the settings on one machine despite being synced first with my main machine. I’ll stick with my own homebrew solution syncing directories whenever I see fit.

Mike Major

The only reason I keep my .mac is for the sync. I have a mac at home and at work and that alone is worth the money.

Yasser Dahab

Absolutely. If Apple listens to much of the commentary on the web right now and started offering larger remote storage drives and seamless integration of services, .mac just may survive the quarter.


.Mac has been left to wither on the vine, it seems. From .mac-only dashboard widgets that were promised and never delivered, nor acknowledged or explained by the useless .mac blog, to falling behind on a richer, better integrated and more complete experience, this product has just fallen way behind Apple’s other offerings.

Apple does, however, sometimes turn such problems around, so I’m hopeful that .mac will become worth the money at some point, but right now it feels like something from 5 or 6 years ago.


The only reason I renewed my .Mac subscription this year was because I got too damn lazy to change my e-mail address in all the places I’ve used .mac.

That won’t happen next year. dot-Mac is a bummer, and I could learn to live without iSync if I had to.

Sad. So freakin’ sad. It’s the one thing Apple can’t seem to get right.


I did get the free .Mac account, which continues to allow me to use iChat. I never bought a .Mac account because I could never see a purpose.

I use my Gmail account with the Mail program. In fact, this mix works far better than I had hoped when I first tried it. Even outgoing mail from my desktop ends up in my Sent Mail “folder” on Gmail.

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