What’s Wrong With .Mac and How to Fix It

by James R. Stoup Jun 23, 2005

When looking over Apple’s .Mac service I always come to the same conclusion: “Cool features, good implementation but for $100 it’s just not worth it.”

And that’s a really big problem. Because iDisk has the chance to be so much more and if Apple doesn’t get a move on it then Google is going to come in and snatch up this glowing opportunity. But I will leave Google and their ambitions for another article. Instead lets focus on what .Mac does well, where it could improve and whether or not any of that will ever happen.

The Good

Mail, address book & Sync:  This is a nice way to keep everything organized. If you find that you need to regularly update/sync information from between your Macs then this feature is very helpful.  The tight integration allows you to never be without the phone number of your aunt’s neighbor’s partner’s favorite hairdresser.

Support, learning center:  Useful for people who are new to Mac and need some help getting around. The problem with this feature is that it becomes less useful over time. Since Macs don’t really have that many problems you aren’t going to visit this section much. Plus, once you figure out how to solve those issues that do crop up hopefully you will remember the solution and not need to go back.

The Bad

Homepage, iCards:  Nice idea but worth $100? Not hardly. There are plenty of free alternatives out there and given a choice most people would be more than happy to go with the non-Apple stuff and save that wad of cash for something more useful.

And The Ugly

Bookmarks:  Useless. Well, for me at least it’s useless. Maybe you get quite a lot of mileage out of this feature but not me.

iDisk, backup:  This is actually a great idea. You pay to have a remote server that you can store lots of important files on for recovery later. Plus, it has Apple’s polish and integration, which makes it even slicker. In fact, everything is going along smoothly until you see the just how much storage your $100 has purchased: 256 MB. My reaction was something along the lines of “what the heck?” You see, I can go out to CompUSA and get a 160 GB hard drive for $100. Kind of makes that 256 MB look really pitiful in comparison. How could you actually pay for that kind of service? 256 MB? Damn, why not just carry USB jump drive around? I am sure you could get one for under $100.

The biggest problem with .Mac is that Apple offers no compelling reason to buy it. I use gmail for all of my email needs and it has 2 GB of storage (quite a bit more than .Mac’s 1/4 GB) oh, and did I mention its free? Same thing goes for homepage, icards, the learning center and the support pages. They are nice, but I can get the same features from other sites for free. So, when one boils away everything that can be had elsewhere for no cost, one is left with the realization that .Mac just isn’t worth the price. In fact, if you pay$100 for .Mac then Apple is raping you something fierce.

But what could they do to fix this problem? Well, here is what I would do:

Mail:  Take a look at gmail and then Applefy it. Bump the storage up to 5 GB, throw the gauntlet down and proclaim to the world that .Mac users have the biggest mailbox period.

IDisk:  Every .Mac user now has 100 GB worth of storage to play with. With hard drive prices as low as they are there is no reason why $100 won’t buy you at least 50 GB of server space. But let’s assume for a moment that Apple is going to be generous so we will stick with 100 GB.

Specials: Being a .Mac customer entitles you to special sales from Apple. They post (not email because that would be too close to spam) hot deals on a member only page which you can shop from.

Eye Candy:  Desktop patterns, screen savers, widgets, etc. These are nifty little things that you get free just for being a loyal customer.

Discount: Automatic 5% discount off every purchase at the Apple store.

TKS: The kitchen sink. By that I mean all of that other crap that Apple bundles with .Mac, it works ok now so there is no reason not to bring it back.

If Apple were to try something along these lines then .Mac sales would improve drastically. People would suddenly have a reason to purchase their product. As it stands now .Mac is a cobbled together pack of marginally attractive features interspersed with completely useless crap and ultimately hamstrung by its unbelievably miniscule storage space. Here’s hoping Apple wakes up and does something to improve this potentially useful service.


  • First off, James, thanks for the great piece!

    I’ve been a .Mac user since it first came out and correct me if I’m wrong but iDisk used to be free (and .mac mail too?).

    I think what is happening here is Apple is being outpaced in online services by the likes of Google, flicker, del.icio.us, and countless others. Webservices have innovated at such a fast pace and .Mac is still, well, .Mac.

    That said, there are still some things about .Mac I like to use. The first being iDisk. And Apple has done a great job of integrating into the OS. When I was writing my book, iPod and iTunes Hacks, it was the handiest way to get large files from writer…..until gmail came along smile

    What is lacking in the .Mac area is the fit and finish we’ve come to expect from OS X. Integration is there, but it is often half-done. Want to create a webpage from iPhoto of some snaps? You can, but they won’t integrate nicely with your already created homepages within .Mac. Suddenly Flickr is looking mighty enticing.

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Jun 25, 2005 Posts: 114
  • Maybe some of you guys who think .Mac is behind the times can give me links to replace it. Here is what I want.

    1) 250MB or better WebDAV storage.
    2) Simple Drag and drop/point and click photo publishing.
    3) Simple video hosting.
    4) Simple iCal Calendar sharing
    5) Web Sync with Address Book
    6) No advertisements

    Now I’m moving to the Family Pack, so I actually need 5 such accounts and I don’t want to spend more than $150/yea.

    Oh, yes! Make sure it is fast! Nothing worse than people coming to your media rich site and having to wait for downloads.

    Doug Petrosky had this to say on Jun 26, 2005 Posts: 26
  • As a potential customer of .mac, I have yet to see anything worthy of the price.  250MB of backup storage should be free, with maybe additional costs for upgrades.  Syncing between Macs should be free.  I just can’t see paying for what they offer, and I consider myself kind of the threshold target: I’m a Mac user but not the kind of zealot that will buy anything they put out just because of the Apple logo on it.  I need some real value here and I just don’t see it yet.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 26, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I use both .mac and Spymac’s Wheel and feel that I get my money’s worth.  I agree that Apple needs to refresh and update .mac to keep up.  As Spymac get more mature and stable I may rethink .mac but currently it is my main email account.

    Mark Fuller had this to say on Jun 27, 2005 Posts: 1
  • .mac in its current incarnation is really meant for a person with several computers who needs to share frequently updated information with a wide assortment of people.
    I move between at least 5 macs several times a week—between time in a classroom, apartment, work, parents house, etc… and iDisk is ideal for taking notes in class on one computer and then accessing them for a homework assignment on another computer. iSync is great for scheduling an appointment on my work computer and then syncing it to my PDA on my home computer.
    If I need to share a file with a mac user, it would go in my iDisk/Public folder. If I need to share a file with a windows user, it would go in my iDisk/Sites folder (to share over http). I do both of these constantly… and in a collaborative work environment, iDisk is priceless, and alot cheaper to purchase, set up, and maintain than any external fileserver. Plus: .mac doesn’t have any bandwidth limitations like you would find on an intranet or if you were serving the files on some ISPs or most hosting companies.

    I use the bookmark sync feature all the time… I can be researching something on the internet at work, and resume my research at home easily.

    The web interface to the calendar, address book, and bookmarks has been helpful too. I frequently come in contact with computers running OS 9 or windows.

    joeeasterly had this to say on Jun 27, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I see your point, Joe.  I only have one Mac.  Maybe that’s why I just don’t see the point.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 27, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • From all of the comments here and on MacDailyNews.com it would appear that most people don’t think .Mac is worth the money.

    Thanks for all of the responses though.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Jun 29, 2005 Posts: 122
  • My initial draw to .mac was its integration into iPhoto (the homepage feature). I liked being able to instantly upload my albums without having to manually resize images and create thumbnails. I know there are other services like flickr but I liked the clean look homepage created. This adventure only lasted as long as my 60 day trial as I could not justify the $100. When I get my new powerbook for school I may invest in it to help keep my two computers syched. We’ll see.

    d e l e t e p l s had this to say on Jun 30, 2005 Posts: 5
  • nerogtr,

    Can’t you get a discount off of .Mac by being a student?

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Jun 30, 2005 Posts: 122
  • With the current offerings, it’s worth $19.95. With the additions mentioned, maybe $39.95. I tried .mac for the first year after I got my Mac. I felt like I was being ripped off, so I got rid of it.

    ogman had this to say on Oct 24, 2006 Posts: 2
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